Monday, June 30, 2008

2 articles worth noting

However, before I note them - I would like to send a very heartfelt THANK YOU to my friend Carmen!! It was Carmen who recommended "The Stick" (Mel, your comment cracked me up!!). Oh my goodness. While I had some slight pain return about 20 minutes into my short run on Saturday, the first 20 minutes were incredible. It was like I had never had ANY PAIN AT ALL! I'm just going to keep workin' it every day and I really think it's going to get better. THANK YOU CARMEN!

The first article is this: "Not a suitable week for swim team" - from the SF Chronicle last week. The article discusses the whole issue with the new Speedo LZR Racer suit and how it came out after swimmers had already signed contracts, etc. What's the big deal, right? The big deal is that at the Olympic trials yesterday, Phelps and Hoff both broke records - and both were wearing the new suit.

What is the Speedo LZR? I think this quote aptly describes what the noise is all about:
The star attraction was the much-ballyhooed LZR Racer, which was designed with NASA's help and has been worn for 38 of the staggering 42 world records that have fallen since its unveiling in mid-February.
-"Swimsuit battle calls uneasy truce in Omaha"- AP

I guess this comes back to the whole issue that I've hashed out before: can you buy your speed? Is it ethical? True that if I put on the Speedo LZR the only record I will break might be my own. Same goes if you put a beginning cyclist on a top-of-the-line tri bike with disc wheels and an aero helmet. It's really about the engine inside.

But the issue I have is that unlike in triathlon, where all of the top pros DO have an even playing field with equipment, it seems unfair that swimmers who've signed contracts and must stick with their brand will be at a slight disadvantage because of this suit. True that Nike is allowing its swimmers to choose what suit they want. It just seems so unfair to me that we're getting to the point where suits are starting to be designed with some buoyancy and not just for the sake of being smooth. I remember hearing about this blue seventy suit and just thinking it was so ridiculous because they actually did add some buoyancy to it (but still under the legal limit).

Um...hello? I've always thought swimming was one of the few pure sports left (not counting all the steroid stuff). That equipment wasn't really much of a factor; that it was all the athlete and none of the 'stuff.'

In a sport where milliseconds actually matter, it just doesn't seem right. And that's all I have to say about that.

The second article worth noting was in today's paper: "Slow Food Nation Comes to San Francisco." Slow Food Nation is going to be a big 4 day event held at Fort Mason and the Civic Center where they'll have speakers and food demonstrations. I'm really hoping to go and listen to what people like Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan (one of my heros) have to say.

So why bring this up?

Well...I am a self-proclaimed foodie. My mom thinks I'm a food snob. I agree that I probably come off that way. But after living in Berkeley for 8 years - where Alice Waters and Michael Pollan live - you sort of can't help becoming one.

Yet I think that one of the biggest misconceptions is that this Slow Food Movement is elitist. True, Alice Waters has a very high-end restaurant that costs a lot of money to eat at. But she has done so much good work within the community; she started the Chez Panisse Foundation which works to underwrite cultural and educational programs around food and sustainable eating. She has done countless other things that I won't go on about.

But the bottom line is that she has emerged as a leader in this movement of fixing our very broken food system.

I think Michael Pollan says it best when he remarks "There's something terribly wrong when it's cheaper to buy a double cheeseburger than a head of broccoli."

The article goes on to say that "
Countries like Haiti and the Philippines have become so reliant on imported rice that they've stopped growing their own, said Pollan, who blames globalization. Now their citizens are going hungry."

After reading Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation several years ago, I think that was really the turning point for me. The point where I just felt so angry and so bitter toward our government and big business for allowing our food system to get to the point at which it has.

One of the things I look forward to being more involved with when I back off from triathlon a bit next year is to be more involved with this food movement. I want to help educate people on how easy it can be to cook. How much better locally grown food tastes. Why it's important - not only for the taste but for the health and political reasons as well.

My interest in all of this ultimately goes back to my fascination with food science and nutrition. How we eat is so important, and a nation we abuse ourselves daily. I can never get over the long drive-thru lines I see at McDonald's. The heaps of processed food in people's grocery carts. The humongous platters of food at chain restaurants. It's alarming not only from a foodie perspective but from a health perspective as well. I care so much about the health of our country but honestly - we would be so much better off if we could only care more about the food we eat.

I couldn't resist saying something in response to the great comments this post has solicited. Just as an FYI, let me be clear - I wholeheartedly agree that there are aspects of this food movement which ARE elitist. Whole Foods Paycheck is one place I absolutely LOATHE for the same reason everybody else here does. They perpetuate the notion that eating healthier is exclusive to those who can afford it. They foster the idea that anything 'organic' is somehow automatically healthier. They make it seem 'cool' to be shopping at a natural foods store that is insanely overpriced. Ugh.

Just the other day somebody was giving me directions and said "okay, well you know where Whole Foods is, so..." and I said "no. I don't." The response was "oh, I thought EVERYBODY knew where Whole Foods is!" No. Not me. I boycott it.

Anyway, there are massive problems with the new food movement, too. I don't like that this label "organic" has become so ubiquitous and freely-used. I don't like that healthy food is so out of reach for so many people. I may just write another post about this since there is so much to say; I just wanted to make it clear that while I wholeheartedly support this slow food movement, there are many problems with it, too. That's one thing I'd like to work more with down the road.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Yet another Fabulous Friday - a week in review

In spite of the nasty fires, I've had one of the best weeks I've had in a long time. The rest last weekend really did more than I think I realized when I wrote on Monday and Tuesday.

It's one of those weeks where you're really able to look on the bright side of things and remain positive. A week where you stop to smell the flowers, have a look at your life and spend a few moments being grateful for all the things and people in it that make it so rich and so rewarding.

Training-wise, I made all my workouts but one - and that only happened because yoga was canceled! The workouts themselves were solid. As I mentioned in my last post, my Tuesday swim was so confidence-boosting. Things seem to be sticking a little more. Today's swim was good, too. I love Friday swims and I felt pretty strong in spite of being a little tired by the end of the week. AND IT WAS A LANDMARK DAY: I FINALLY DOVE OFF THE BLOCKS WITHOUT HAVING MY GOGGLES SLIDE DOWN MY FACE!!!

Running, I'm still dealing with some knee pain. I'm a tad worried about Vineman, I'll be honest. But I'm hoping that by going down to Fleet Feet later and purchasing "The Stick" to stretch out my quad a little, that may be my ticket. I really don't think it's my knee. It's a pain I'm having BEHIND my knee and only hurts for part of my run as well as going down stairs. I think I overstretched my quad in yoga a few weeks ago, and that was right when this pain began. It will be worth a try; if it still doesn't get better, then I'll go see a doc.

One of the best parts of the week: I GOT A COMMUTER BIKE!!! I have been talking about this for about the last three months now. I am SO THRILLED! The best part? Riding to work takes one minute longer than it did to drive. Riding to the pool takes one minute longer than it did - both are now 6 minute rides instead of 5 minute drives. YES!

The other cool part of my bike that I still haven't gotten over is that IT HAS A KICKSTAND! The moment I hopped off my bike after my first ride, my instinctual habit was to find something to lean the bike against. And then my eye caught that silver piece of metal next to the pedal. As my foot made contact and gently pushed the kickstand down to the ground, I was immediately transformed to my childhood. The long summer days of riding around the neighborhood with my friends, stopping and hopping off to look at something or play tag or buy ice cream from the ice cream man, putting our kickstands down so we could temporarily leave our beloved bikes all came back to me in that one short moment, and I still can't stop smiling when I'm on the thing.

It's heavy as all hell. It's not fancy. I won't have to worry about paint scratching. It's got a pie-pan on the rear cassette that any serious cyclist would be ashamed to be caught with. There are no aerodynamics whatsoever.

And I love it. I haven't sat UPRIGHT on a BIKE since I was a kid, either! This morning, as I rode back from the pool, taking in the sights and sounds of the early morning, I thought about the civility of riding around town and how much more relaxed I was. I wasn't holding my breath as I urged the driver in front of me to speed it up. I wasn't feeling angered by the jerk riding my bumper. I wasn't feeling dumb about driving one mile to the pool. It was truly fantastic. I have officially joined the ranks of the bike commuting world!

Food-wise, it was a great week. I tried out some new recipes that turned out pretty well. Monday evening I made "Grilled Halibut with Red Pepper Harissa" It turned out pretty well. I made the "Green Bean and Hazlenut Walnut Salad" (I hate hazlenuts! Used walnut oil instead of hazlenut oil, too) to go with it, adding some snap peas to it as well. I would make it again, though I think substituting my Foreman grill for a real grill isn't a perfect substitute. Still, it turned out nicely. I think I would like to find a better compliment to the fish than my green bean salad. It was good, but not quite right to go with the fish.

Wednesday was great: for the second time ever, I cut up a whole chicken. I was *so* proud. This video helped quite a bit. Amazing what technology can help us with, hm? Then, with the chicken breasts, I made "Chicken with Fresh Herbs and Sherry Wine Vinegar." It was SO easy and SOOOOO GOOD!! I used the leftover chicken in a sandwich today and it was STILL good! I still have to figure out what to do with the leftover chicken legs...but I was amazed at the difference in price of buying a whole chicken (one that was raised locally, vegetable-fed, the whole shebang) vs. pieces of chicken. WAY cheaper. I figure the more I buy whole chickens, the easier it will get to cut them up and it saves me a lot of money.

I also made this Avocado and Watercress salad last night to have with friends. Again, it was pretty good, but I don't think I'd use as much soy sauce as the recipe called for. A bit salty for my taste. I added walnuts to it to add some crunchiness to the softness of the avocados.

Cooking is kind of like racing. Having a perfect race is hard to do, but when it happens, it's incredible. Finding a recipe that is perfect as-is is difficult to find, but it is always SO EXCITING when it happens, and I'm always on a quest to have it turn out as such. Yet, it rarely happens, and instead, I'm often left to ponder what might have made it better, what was missing, and whether I would make it again.

And now the weekend is here. I was originally supposed to do the Lake Mendocino 2-mile swim tomorrow morning. Two friends from Berkeley were coming up to stay tonight and I was going to make dinner for them and we were all going to carpool up tomorrow morning. But in light of my last post, there are still lots of fires burning and they have officially declared a state of emergency in Ukiah, where the swim is. The air quality is REALLY bad and they're telling people to stay inside; therefore, no swim tomorrow. Rescheduled for July 26 - the week after Vineman. Perfect!!

I think I'm going to go see Wall-E tonight. And that's that! Have a great weekend, everybody!

Oh and since I'm writing a Friday post, I thought I'd put a couple recent song favs for workouts:

1. 4 Minutes - Madonna & Justin Timberlake (p.s. is it just me or is this video just downright STUPID?!?!)
2. Children - Robert Miles
3. Mercy - Duffy (good for hill climbs)
4. Good Excuse - John Butler Trio (these guys are SO FREAKING AWESOME IN CONCERT)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

California is on fire.

We've got the Mississippi breaking levees in Missouri and flooding the place.

If that wasn't already bad enough, a bunch of weird freak lightning storms that happened on Saturday morning sparked about oh, EIGHT HUNDRED fires all over the state.

Yes, California is one big giant BBQ pit.

I'm really hoping they can get things under control soon.

This was a crazy picture from the SF Chronicle I just had to post to illustrate the point:

Sigh. I'm going to go do a raindance now.

The wonders of rest: why such a difficult lesson to learn?

You would think this is the first time it's happened.

I leapt from the pool deck into the water and began my warm up. I felt like I was literally gliding effortlessly through the cool water. My arms felt light as a feather and before I knew it I was pushing off the wall to start another lap. My stroke count stayed down by one without any particular concentration of effort.

[On a side note...we witnessed an INCREDIBLE sunrise this morning from the pool. However...the incredibleness had to do with the fact that the air is so smoky from all of the fires nearby. It was a deep, blood orange red sun that was just unlike anything I'd seen. Sort of like this photo that I got from goldencompass' Flickr page.]

The ENTIRE WORKOUT this morning I felt simply incredible! Refreshed! Full of life! My muscles had no traces of soreness, tightness or any of that general "oh crap, are you really making me do MORE?" feeling.

In fact, our coach had us doing a very looooooong set of 100s where they had to get faster and faster (by one second). It was a landmark day for me - I have never held so many consecutive 100s at the speed I did in my entire swimming life. Not to mention the fact that I felt like up until the last one or two, the integrity of my stroke remained pretty intact.

Yesterday, during spinning class, I noted to everybody how I typically have my long ride on Sunday, but since I hadn't been feeling well over the weekend, I'd rested instead. "It's amazing how FRESH I feel!" I remarked. (Then one of my students snickered back "OH GREAT, TAKE IT OUT ON US WHY DON'T YOU!)

Last week was an intentional rest week for me - I had done the 3 weeks of build, and it was a fourth week of recovery. However, the weekend had more rest time than I had originally built in, as I wrote about yesterday.

And I am so...recovered.

I don't know why I feel like a kid with a new toy every time this happens. OHMYGOD OHMYGOD OHMYGOD!!! THE REST ACTUALLY DID ME WELL!

How about that? The rest did me well.

Gee, what a freaking amazing concept. To write it out seems so, well...duh.

And YET - it is such a difficult practice to master. We want to keep pushing and pushing because we believe (well I know I believe) that pushing makes us stronger and pain is the weakness leaving your body (quote I absolutely love that I was reminded of this morning by my teammate Tom) and no pain no gain, right?

Sort of. But it's so much more complicated than that. There's a time to push and there's a time to rest. I've got the push part down, no problem! I KNOW how to push!

I just don't know how to rest very well. Half the time I take these 'rest' weeks I fail miserably and don't do it right so that I start the next build phase still feeling kind of wrecked and not refreshed the way I felt yesterday and today.

When I do right, I get so excited and giddy and I try to tell myself "remember this. This is the REWARD for resting. REMEMBER how good you feel. REMEMBER how strong you feel. REMEMBER!!"

There are so many articles out there on the perfect taper. People constantly find my blog searching about triathlon tapering. It's everywhere. Unfortunately for all of us, it's a concept that is continually evolving and changing. It's different for everybody and it changes for us as individuals as well. That's why they say the taper is as much of an art as it is a science.

So...three weeks from now, as I wind down for my big day, I will do my best to remember. Remember my amazing strength in the pool this morning. Remember the freshness and renewed vigor with which I swam each lap. And remember what it's like to truly enjoy what I do.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Last weekend's lesson

I've kind of been waiting to see how I stacked up against everybody else on Saturday. Between wanting to get out to see Lee on the Geysers and just feeling so awful, I left pretty quickly after the race was finished.

So hey, I got 4th in my age group. Not bad, I lost 3rd by under a minute. Not bad at all given my condition!

Was it worth it, though?

Ultimately I say NO!

Saturday taught me a very valuable lesson (for me) - when in doubt about your body, just say NO!!! I (along with many other athletes, I am sure) tend to think I'm wussing out if I rest instead of participate. I reason that it's possible the activity I'm intended to do might just make me feel BETTER instead of worse.

However, even the litmus test of swimming (sometimes if I feel a cold coming on, a good 40 min swim often makes me feel better, not worse) on Friday evening had failed. I couldn't make any intervals, my swim buddies were chiding me and asking "hey, isn't Masters swimming supposed to make you FASTER? Maybe you should come back to swimming with us!" and I still had zero energy.

In that, the event was simply no fun. I attempted to take in the beautiful views from the tops of the hills I had to work so hard to climb. I tried to look out to Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo and be so excited to see so far and feel like I was halfway up to the top of the world! But in the end, I just wasn't feeling it.

In a race that isn't going my way for some reason or another, I can still do my best to enjoy some aspect of it, and choose at least one thing to succeed at. But when health is the limiter and every step is a collective effort of the body and mind - it's not a race I should be running.

Next time, I'll be sure to sleep in and get my rest. :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In the spirit of brevity...

Okay, okay OKAY!!!!!


I still think I didn't write very much in that last post - it was really just the videos that made you all think it was long.

In ANY CASE, I have a spin class to teach tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. and still have to write the class/put music to it. So I'll keep this brief.

This weekend I:

> Ran a 10K on Saturday. It sucked. It had 1500 feet of climbing, was wide-open with no shade and at 8 a.m. at the start it was already nearing 85 degrees.

The sun was already high in the sky at 7:00 a.m....

Normally I wouldn't gripe about this too much but what made it worse was that on Friday I began to feel...weird. I wasn't hungry (not like me AT ALL!). My stomach hurt. My lower back hurt. Friday night I was running a low-grade fever and couldn't sleep. I took two asprin (finally caved...) and slept.

Woke up and said "oh, I feel alright. What the hell?"


The hills came one after another. All I could think was "oh not another f-ing hill. " I would stop to walk up and every time I did I was getting lightheaded and dizzy. I silently cursed myself for going. Anyway, it took me 1:10 (I think the woman who won did like 57 minutes) and a lot of determination. I was just glad I'd opted for the 10K instead of the 13.1 miles (two loops). Ugh.

>Went to cheer Lee on during the Terrible Two on Saturday.

What a mother f-ing HOT DAY. It was easily into the 100s by 11 a.m. I hightailed it from Vallejo up through Napa and back into Sonoma County so I could get up to the Geysers to cheer Lee. Unfortunately I missed him by 10 minutes. Still, my friends were there helping other cyclists out with water and scaring them up the hill in their costumes of speedos and wigs (these are grown men, mind you). Hilarious!

Then we went over to Lake Sonoma to wait for Lee at that rest stop - mile marker 112. The time ticked on but no Lee. We began to be worried. The cut-off time was 1:45 p.m. - if you arrived after that, they said you could not go on. Lee arrived just after 2, completely exhausted from the heat. Physically, he was okay, but he said his bike computer had been showing triple digits for the last 3.5 hours. Ouch!! We were pretty bummed for him but I am so proud and impressed by all of the training and commitment he put into preparing for this ride.

>Spent Saturday evening being sicker. Apparently it's NOT a good idea if you don't feel well to go run a 10K and then spend your day traipsing around Sonoma County following cyclists in the extreme heat and sun. Still NO APPETITE whatsoever (so weird for me) and fever. More ugh.

>Woke up Sunday feeling better. I played in the garden with my tomato and cucumber plants I
(Me and the Ace tomato plant)
transplanted last weekend. They are getting SO TALL WITH ALL THIS HEAT!!! I've gotta get some stakes for them!

These are my SunSweet tomatoes!

My parents came to visit and that was great. Then I rested more.

That's all I got. Happy wishes for a great week!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Back into the swing of it

I haven't been blogging, I know.

Let's say that between the fact that summer season is in FULL SWING (i.e. events all the time, training is in full effect) and the other fact that really, the last thing I want to do in this awesome weather is to sit at my desk at home, it hasn't left me much time to write.

Then there's the issue of coming back to it. Theoretically, after all the great comments people left from the last post, and the fact that it's been 8 full days - I should have a ton to write about.

And I do...

But it's like this: when I take a long time off from something - we'll say swimming here - it almost becomes the elephant in the corner of the room. I know I have to get back to it. To practicing it. To enjoying it.

But I'm scared! I feel so out of practice! I'll be so slow! My stroke will be crap! Oh, maybe I'll put it off one more day. Really give myself a day to prep for it and start thinking TODAY about stroke mechanics, so that when I jump in the water tomorrow, it will float back to me. Yes, that's the answer. Put it off another day.

And writing my blog has sort of been like that. In the last post I wrote, I wrote about the challenge of getting to a workout when there's other things you'd rather be doing. I felt so expressive and it was nice to write about something that was sort of tri-related but wasn't just about training or a race report.

Then I thought "yes, but this blog is titled "Sarah's Triathlon Adventure." That's what you're SUPPOSED to write about." Right?

Yes, true enough. But I also want to get away from just writing about a great run or ride. Things that could go beyond the scope of training and racing and be mildly interesting to a non-tri reader. Sure, there's cooking, but I'll be honest - I haven't done much of that lately, either.

And THAT is when I began to think about putting writing off another day. I used the excuse "Oh, I don't really have anything interesting to write about." BOLOGNA!!! I have plenty of interesting things to say and write about.

I'm just being lazy and wussy.

So, just like last week, I'm running away from another challenge until I force myself to face it.

As I recognize the trend here, I realize that there is a distinct possibility I'm getting a little burnt out. I JUST WANT VINEMAN TO BE HERE ALREADY. I'm sick of doing the same things. I just want to swim more, bike more and yoga more. Less running (have I mentioned I think I hurt my knee last week?). More adventures in hiking and camping. Less of being chained to the training plan.

Summer is in full swing in Sonoma County and I want to be everywhere at once. I want to be riding through the green vineyards. I want to be kayaking on Spring Lake. I want to be running (climbing, I should say) the trails of Anadel without worrying how sore my legs will be for my bike ride tomorrow. I want to exploit every last ounce of sunshine from 5:45 a.m. until it finally sets at 8:45 p.m.

This might sound like I need some cheese to go with my whine.

I've just come to the realization recently that I really do have athletic ADD. I just get BORED!!! I get sick of doing the same old thing all the time. I want bike tours. Adventure races. Cross country running.

And I think that I've finally come to the conclusion that while I love triathlon with all my heart, I am not meant for long seasons. I need to start planning in the future for shorter seasons that will allow me to enjoy it for every reason I do, and then go off into the sunset to explore other means of exercise and fulfillment. Then I come back to it a year later.

Sounds reasonable enough.

Finally, I will finish with some GREAT AMAZING videos I was sent this evening!!

First - my friend Dan posted this on Facebook. It truly is...incredible. I swear these guys must do yoga or something. How do they learn how to do this?!?!

Awesome Hip Hop Battle


Second - has everybody but me heard about Stephen Colbert's "McCain Green Screen Challenge?"

For those of you who aren't in the know like me - here's what I read about it from a blog on Wired:

John McCain let off a rhetorical firing shot Tuesday night when he outlined some of the policy differences between himself and Barack Obama.

McCain explained his differences in front of a striking green backdrop, in New Orleans, La.

After hilariously mourning the end of the Democratic primaries Tuesday night, Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, The World's The Universe' Loudest and Most Unabashed Political Pundit, on Wednesday challenged his viewers to further enliven McCain's Tuesday night address by adding humorous backdrops that would replace the green screen.

Okay so now we know what this 'challenge' is, here are some of the YouTube videos that I was sent earlier this evening (you can find more on YouTube - lots of 'okay' ones, but a few gems in there):

(I think my fav are the asteroids and the pulp fiction)

Blue Suede Shoe edition:

Animation edition:



John McCain: He Was There

Asteroids (Yesssssssss):

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The struggle of arriving

It began around 3 p.m.: "'s going to suck to do this track workout alone." I pondered which track to use - the JC is closer, but the high school track is much better, especially since the two inside lanes are open for use.

There's an all-comers track meet tomorrow. Unfortunately, I have plans tomorrow evening so I can't do the meet. BECAUSE of the meet, track practice tonight for the group is canceled.

That leaves me with resuming my usual Tuesday Track workout - but alone.

Oh sure, I'm willing to bet a couple people from the usual group showed up today at 5:30 p.m. to run the track since they aren't planning to go to the track meet tomorrow. But it's now 5:45 p.m. - a result of this struggle I've been fighting all afternoon - and I'm left to my own motivation to get me to the track.

See, I didn't manage to get yoga in last week because of oversleeping; oversleeping caused a 'more important' bike workout to bump yoga off the schedule for Wed evening. Saturday yoga got bumped for the Lake Berryessa swim.

My body is craving yoga like a kid craves the ice cream truck in the heat of summer. Just need

My mind wandered...maybe I could do yoga tonight instead? I looked at my schedule for the week. Every morning and evening are booked solid - mostly workouts, but a couple of fun things in there (Giants game on Friday!!). The bargaining had begun: I briefly attempted to strategize a way to make this work.

"Well...if I moved this workout to there...then did that bike, no NO." End bargaining.

It just wouldn't work. I MUST do this track workout tonight. No exceptions.

Then I walked out to my car. Holy CANNOLI it's hot and windy out here! Oh, how am I going to run in this?

Then the doubt set in. No, I couldn't run in this weather. Too hot. So windy!

As I drove home, doubt turned into denial. I thought if I hurried I could still make 5:30 p.m. yoga. It would be great! "What's a track workout, anyway," I thought. "I'm going to get plenty of running in this week, and I had a great track workout the last few weeks and...and..."

...No. NO. EXCUSES. I had to GO, DAMMIT!

I opened up the house. Nice and cool inside. I opened up the fridge to grab a quick snack. As I reached for the carrots, I saw it.

Oh, Sierra Nevada Summerfest, why must you stare at me that way? I immediately saw myself lounging in the backyard, plucking that silver cap off, putting the cold bottle to my lips and enjoying the first taste of this smooth, light ale that is so aptly named.

Oh! How civilized it could be! I could be like my neighbors, whose barbecue had already been fired up, and start a nice light summer dinner, sip my beer and enjoy the warmth of the long evening.

I shook my head, grabbed the carrots, and left the beer and my daydreams alone in the darkness of the closed fridge.

No, I was going to be good. I had my day of rest yesterday. It's time to move forward. Upward.

This is what will separate me on race day, I am convinced. Even if it doesn't - even if my day doesn't go my way - at LEAST I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I DIDN'T succumb to my temptations or my desire (in this case, yoga and/or beer). That I stuck to the plan. That I did EVERYTHING I COULD to be ready on race day. To perform.

I think most triathletes are used to hearing that they're crazy for doing this sport. And people think that we naturally have these personalities that make us so driven ALL the time and that we're just machines who are able to get out there and train endlessly. They also seem to think that training is the hardest part.

And while I acknowledge that there are certainly training days where I'd wished I'd stayed in bed instead, or later felt so sore and exhausted I didn't think I'd ever recover...there is another hard part. It's not always easy to get to your workouts (esp if they're solo). It's not always easy to make the choice to train instead of see friends. To make the sacrifices you have to make - another beer, that extra slice of pizza or staying up late to watch a movie. Sometimes just showing up is a struggle. Not because I don't want to; but I'll be the first to admit that sometimes options present themselves that are much more enticing than training (like sleeping in or yoga!!).

But more often than not, I stay the course. I stick with it. Why? I love it! No other sport or activity has given me so much - humiliation, satisfaction, disappointment, exhilaration, motivation, hysteria, growth and achievement, to name a few.

Even the simple mental challenge I experienced today was an exercise in growth and strength. I enjoyed my mind trying to convince me to do something else. I loved entertaining some enticing alternatives. And I smiled when I struck a deal with myself:

Throw my running clothes on, write about this experience (while the sun goes down a little more and things cool off), and go run.

So off I go.

Monday, June 09, 2008

And another week begins!

The weekend has come and gone. Just like that. When my head hit the pillow last night, I think I immediately fell asleep - really - it must've been no longer than a minute before the lights were OUT.

I was utterly exhausted.

Last week was a tough training week for me. I started following a new plan from my friend Tim the Coach, and I could really feel it by the time Saturday rolled around.

Saturday was the annual Lake Berryessa 2 mile swim. I decided at the last minute that I would do it. It would be a good opportunity to just practice more open water swimming, a chance to get to know more Santa Rosa Masters swimmers, as well as visit with old teammates from Berkeley who would be there.

When we arrived at Lake Berryessa Saturday morning, the wind was howling and the water looked incredibly choppy. It was freezing out! We all hoped the wind would calm by the time it came time to swim. No such luck for the 2-milers who started at 9:30 a.m.

Sure enough, as I made the turn for the 3rd leg of the swim, this 'lake' swim turned into what felt like a bay swim! In some ways, I was glad, if only for a change. To be totally honest, swimming for longer than 30-35 minutes in the open water just plain bores me.

My mind continues to focus on my stroke while simultaneously searching for other things to think about: "Should I run after this? Make sure your elbows are up. I wonder where our ride is going to be tomorrow. Keep the rotation going. Maybe we'll do something out toward Sonoma Mtn. Rotate those hips, Sarah!"

Okay, maybe it's really ADD - do other people do this? I can't help it. I try to keep my thoughts on moving forward and JUST focusing on my swim, but then my mind wanders on to other things, too.

So the swim - meh. It was a slow 2 mile swim for everybody who did it. Between the incredible chop, the current pushing us away from where we were trying to go and the course being longer than 2 miles (not sure why but it was) - everybody had slower times. In spite of that, I was still horrifically slow.

It's funny because in the pool I can hold a much faster pace, and I don't think it's only because of flip turns. I seem to be able to feel okay about moving faster. But in the open water, I tend not to push myself as hard. I don't know if it's because I'm afraid of pushing too hard and then not having enough left to finish, or what.

The other thing is that with any of these longer swims - 2 miles, 2.7 miles (Donner Lake) - my hip flexors start to hurt about 45 minutes in. Then sometimes my wrist starts to hurt (my right wrist has some slight repetitive strain injury from the mouse - on a side note - if anybody has mouse issues at work, I HIGHLY recommend Evoluent's Vertical Mouse. It has saved much of my wrist problems and I don't have any more wrist pain; I was to the point where I could no longer use a regular mouse, so just FYI).

So usually around an hour, I'm just ready to be done. My 2-mile swims have historically been about 1 hr 5 minutes or so. Not today. Tack on 10 minutes to that. Yipes!!! Like I said, everybody was about 10 minutes slower because of the crazy water and longer course. But I just didn't enjoy being in that much longer.

I also realized that when I do open water swims that don't involve triathlon, I tend to just take my time more. I'm never going to place in a swim-only event. I'm just not that fast and I never will be. It's not a priority for me. So I tend to think "I'm just going to enjoy this and focus on my form and use this as a training swim."

Why do I do it then? Well - really for the training. Swimming is a real challenge for me. I didn't swim as a kid and really came to masters after college. Swimming takes time, hard work and dedication. It takes a willingness to keep practicing the same thing, over and over and over until your body finally adapts to doing it without thinking about it. When I swim in the pool, I count my strokes on every single lap. I think the ENTIRE TIME about one thing or another. I'm always trying to improve, and yet, I'm still not that great at it.

Yet...I just enjoy it a lot. Even though those longer swims kind of get boring for me and make me hurt, somehow I still enjoy it. I love being in the water. I always have!

So, I was slightly disappointed on Saturday but not too much. It just motivates me to work a little harder in the pool and talk with my coach more about my stroke and what else I really need to work on.

After the swim I changed and went for a 25 minute run to stretch out my legs and hips, and that felt great! The wind died down and it had turned out to be a gorgeously warm sunny day out on the lake.

I don't even remember much of the rest of Saturday. I got home, relaxed a bit and then pulled the bike out into the backyard for a nice cleaning. I love cleaning my bike on a sunny afternoon!! It's like cleaning the car but better.

Sunday we had a group ride - 40.7 miles and 3200 feet of climbing, which was far more climbing than I really wanted to do, but I stuck with it. It was one of those days where, 15 minutes in, the guys are all doing about 19 mph already and I'm thinking "oh sh**. I should just turn around and go home or do my own ride. There is no way my legs have it right now." I kept mulling it over in my head and knew they wouldn't have that and they'd feel bad for me, so I kept my mouth shut. I was just going to 'man up' and suffer through it.

I made the decision to just climb at my own pace and keep my HR balanced so that on the flats I could really do some speed work and push it a little.

I was glad I stayed. Even though it was more climbing than I'd really intended, each climb had its own reward of GORGEOUS VIEWS (really gotta get a small camera to bring along...) of Sonoma County and all the green vineyards and hills, as well as FANTASTIC descents with very little traffic to worry about. It was heaven.

I had one more moment of self-doubt. We were leading up to a big climb and I had been pulling the group while I practiced keeping a nice high cadence and good pace in my aero bars. When the trees appeared I thought it was the beginning of the climb, so I immediately downshifted into the small ring and sat up.

Bad choice.

The guys all zipped past me and as I rounded the turn, I was dismayed to see that no, in fact the road stayed pretty flat (about 1% grade). I just didn't have it in me to catch them and at one point, I really considered saying "you know, I"ll just wait for you guys at the bottom here" (it was just a big climb that dead-ended at the top so you came back down it).

Yet again, I thought "no, I need to push through this and find my rhythm and just deal with it."

So I did, and it all came out okay. Somehow I found my second wind about halfway up the climb and finished it strong. After our descent, it was pretty flat all the way back to Brian's. We were all hanging together for awhile and then Scott, Brian and John all pulled out from the back and led an attack on Roddy (who was pulling) and I (right behind him). WTF?!?!?

I didn't have the strength to haul-ass after them so I tucked down and just did my thing. Pretty soon we regrouped and I just kept moving, leading the train for a few more miles at a nice clip. Then John took the lead the rest of the way and I stayed right on his wheel, eating up the fantastic draft as we FLEW down the road back to Brian's.

It was great to finish strong like that on such a high note!! I was really happy I'd stuck it out.

After that, the rest of the day ended up being one thing after another and I didn't get to go to Soda's BBQ , which I was pretty disappointed about. Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in a day!!

That's a wrap. Next weekend: Vineman ride!!

Friday, June 06, 2008

It's coming together

What's 'it?'


But specifically I mean community. The coolest thing happened last night on my long run: In the first 2 miles, a cyclist passed me and I immediately looked first at the bike. I looked away. Then I thought "that looks like Lee's bike." I looked at the rider - it was Lee (from my bike group)! I shouted at him and he turned around and we chatted briefly. He went on his way.

On my entrance to Howarth Park, I saw two runners coming toward me. It was Scuba Steve and Mel from Tuesday evening track workouts! I waved at them and smiled.

On my way back home toward the end of my run, I heard a "woo hoo!!!" - I looked and it was Lee on his way back from his ride. Then, about 5 minutes later, I heard a car honk - I looked over and it was my friend Rachel from the pool! Wow!

I guess my community is finally forming here...

Why was I doing a long run on Thursday? Well, my plan is finally coming together. I sat down with Coach Tim and we went over my schedule. He felt that doing a long bike and a long run on the weekends is too much and I don't get enough recovery time to do such big training sessions. So we set my long runs for Thursdays now. This was really my first week on Tim's plan and so good...but damn I'm tired! In a good way, though. :)

What's up for the weekend then?

Saturday: Lake Berryessa Swim - 2 mile swim. I may do the 1 mile also if I feel like it, but I'll decide tomorrow morning.

Sunday: Long bike out in Sonoma somewhere.

To everybody racing this weekend - Mel, Loren, Soda, Eileen, Ben - GOOD LUCK, HAVE FUN AND KICK SOME BUTT!!!!

Me at the Chicago Art Institute last month...what a PHENOMENAL CITY! The AI was pretty damn awesome, too. I could use another fun trip!!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Vineman 70.3 Tips

For anybody who just found this post and is reading about Vineman, I've also done a "Vineman 70.3 Tips Part 2" that you can read here when you're done with this. Good luck!!

So...Vineman 70.3 is nearly here!! I know a bunch of people are racing it. I wrote this up for people on a Fitness Journal discussion board, so I thought I'd post it here, too. It's my take on the Vineman 70.3 course from doing it the past 2 years (and riding the roads all the time)...feel free to add any tips/advice if you've done it!

Day Before: Pick up packet, drop off your T2 stuff. When I have a two-transition zone race, I make a list of everything in T2 and double-check that I have everything so that I'm not panicked the night before or morning of that maybe I forgot to put something in T2. Most important things you need: Running shoes and a hat/visor (the sun will be beating down...), probably a couple GUs or whatever nutrition you like on the run.

If you can, stay more to the right on the way out. There is a TINY current that is stronger to swim against up the middle, so if you stay more to the right, you'll have slightly less to swim against (and less people to run into...arrrrgh...). Then, on the way back, scoot into the middle and use that propulsion to go a little faster coming back. Or if you're like Jim and can't swim...just walk it.

You have to put all your crap into a bag so they can bring it back to the finish for you. This won't be your quickest T1 time ever, which is all the more reason to not waste time. If you have a friend/family member who is standing right there outside the zone and you want to hand them your bag, that can be really helpful so you don't have to worry about it after the race is over. T1 Vineman isn't really the place to do the hop-on-the-bike-with-shoes-already-clipped-in trick. You've got a nice steep little (LITTLE AND SHORT) hill, so REMEMBER to put your bike gear into a nice low gear (not all the way down, but probably 2 up from your lowest) so you're ready to hop on and get up that hill.

Bike: While the Vineman course is undeniably one of the easier courses out there, don't let that fool you. It will be warming up quickly out there so it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that you have your nutrition down and you don't forget to drink, drink drink. Salt tablets too, if you take them. Also, there are rollers on Westside road. Not hard ones, but my personal opinion is to conserve a tad up until you get to Dry Creek. Use Westside to spin, warm up, and find a nice pace without powering too hard over the rollers. You need your power in the second half. Once you hit Dry Creek, it's all flat except for two hills: Canyon (not a big hill - starts very gradual and has a little more steepness at the end) and Chalk Hill (small, SHORT hill that a lot of people would probably classify as medium, but compared to other Sonoma County ranks small in our book; that said, you will still likely get down to your 25 or 27 to spin up it and may even stand up at the very end of it). In any case, besides those two, it's pancake flat. So use that power you've built up along Westside, get into that big ring, into those aerobars and take it away! You'll love zooming past the vineyards along 128 through the Alexander Valley. Remember to take it all in and enjoy the beauty of it - I always feel like it is unlike any other place I've been.
(Top of Chalk Hill)

So you're coming into Windsor, ready to get off that bike. If you know the hop of the bike without your shoes trick, this is a good place to use it. I still need to get that down. You'll have a long run from the dismount stop back to T2, so like I said...if you can do it'll save time and your cleats.

T2: Drop the bike, get the shoes on and go run!

Run: It will likely be very warm out by the time you begin. My advice for people not used to running in warm weather is to stop at every aid station and drink. Last year I found that I was drinking Gatorade at every stop and around mile 7 I realized I just needed water, not Gatorade. Try to keep that in mind - it's all about keeping your electrolytes in balance, so you don't want too much water and you don't want too much Gatorade, but you DO want to stay hydrated! As far as the run itself - there are two real hills, neither TOO long, but both a little steep. The first is right around mile 3-4. I say shorten your stride, keep your cadence high and run up it. It's not long enough to walk and not so steep it will drive your HR way up to run. The second is a little longer and steeper around mile 5 - if you're not a hill person, perhaps walk up this one, otherwise just back it off a little and get up there.

Mile 6 is La Crema Winery - the turnaround. There are misters there, which is always something to look forward to. I like to take a 3 second walk break through the misters just to briefly recharge and then pick it up again.

I think Vineman is a run where you could do a negative split because it's an out and back and mostly flat; so again, like the bike, if you go out a tad conservatively on the run, you can leave La Crema feeling good and ready to go finish strong on the second half. Use the first half to judge how you're feeling, to get your running legs, to stay hydrated (I'm not saying go slow, but just to stay within yourself) and then, if you feel great after mile 7, GO GO GO!!!

The first year I did it I went out a little too hard and by mile 10 I was just dying. It hurt so bad. It is very unforgiving out there because of the heat.

One word of caution as you come to the front of the high school: people, in their best effort to be helpful, will be saying "WAY TO GO, YOU'RE THERE!" If you're not feeling your're not there, and you still have a little ways to run. I'm just saying...if you just want to be're not there. You have to run through the parking lot to the BACK of the high school and still a ways further down to the chute. If you feel great, it's nothing, but if every step takes's a long stretch.

Finally, as you go that final mile, whether you're hurting, happy, strong, dying, upset, elated...think about how awesome you are to have done it. Think about all the beautiful scenery you passed today. Think about what you just accomplished. Think about all the training you did to get to where you are. Think about all the people who've supported you along the way. And remember that no matter what the outcome is, there will always be more races to be raced, and that today, you gave your best. That today, you came out and experienced, performed and learned and you will take that with you wherever you go. Even if it hurts, put a big smile on your face, and be proud as you run through that finish line.

Happy Training, everybody! T-6 weeks!

Monday, June 02, 2008

...and then you have AMAZING days...

My ride around Lake Tahoe was one of those.

I've thought about writing this since I came down that home stretch to Stateline yesterday, all afternoon and some of the way home on the drive today.

My challenge has always been brevity; I love words just like my mother does (and my grandfather...), and constantly fight in my speaking and my writing to say what I want to say with half the words I would like to use if it were up to me.

There were so many amazing things about yesterday's ride that I'd like to express in full detail, but that would take forever, not to mention go on for pages. So I'll try my best.

This was our 3rd year as a group doing the ride around Lake Tahoe, an organized ride produced by a group called Bike The West. The 1st year we did it in September as the "Tour de Tahoe." The last 2 years we've done the one in June called "America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride." Indeed, I think it could certainly be nominated as ONE OF America's Most Beautiful Bike Rides.

Lake Tahoe is blue like no other blue you've seen in real life. And there are different types of blues as you make your way around the Lake. From South Lake Tahoe, the water close to the shore is a green-blue. When you approach Emerald Bay the Lake is a deep royal blue that looks so clean and pure it's nearly unreal. Coming off the hill from Emerald Bay and closer to the North Shore, it begins to take on a deeper shade from the royal blue; almost navy but not quite that dark. As you make your way toward Incline Village past the north point of the lake and to the east side, the lake takes on a sea green again, but this time so clear you can see right down to the rocks and sand below. Coming down Spooner Grade with the wind in my face and taking a quick glance over to my right I spied a big piece of the middle of the lake: a deep dark blue, but still just a hint lighter than navy. It was so piercing and so pure-looking, it was difficult not to keep staring. But my eyes had to stay on the road ahead of me.

That was the story of much of the day; quick peaks to my right to take in the deep blue lake and the snow-capped mountains above it.

Guys and the FJ Mobile...I was a little late for this picture...:(

We left promptly at 7:30 a.m. from the Horizon Hotel parking lot behind the hotel. 72 miles to go and 8 riders all in Fitness Journal jerseys, committed to staying together through the morning and enjoying the ride.

I wasn't sure what was going to happen to me. I felt like I was in good cycling shape, but I've been slightly disappointed by my race performances on the bike this year. I went into this ride feeling cautious but ready to work hard.

First rest stop was in Emerald Bay, about 45 minutes in. My chest was hurting but otherwise I felt great. Quick sip of coffee, fixed a couple loose screws, and we were all off. I lamented not taking a picture there but it just wasn't long enough.

(Me at the top of the climb at Emerald Bay - photo courtesy Pat!)

The group reconnected at the top of the hill and we stayed together the whole way down the long descent. At one point I hit 50 mph as I remembered to tuck in my elbows and get a little further down into a crouch; I was gaining on Tim and Jim VERY quickly, yet they were close to the yellow line because they were passing other riders. I made a quick decision to brake instead of attempt to pass; it just wasn't worth it.

By the time we got to lunch in King's Beach at the other side of where we had started from (north side of the lake), I was beginning to really feel better in terms of the altitude. My chest still hurt, but I didn't necessarily still feel like the oxygen tank from which I was breathing had been half-capped.

(Group photo at King's Beach)

One thing the guys had been preaching was salt. At this stop, we refilled our water bottles and I sprinkled some salt into my drink, along with eating a few salt-sprinkled potatoes. A little stretch, group photo, pee break and off we went. We couldn't have stopped longer than 10 minutes or so.

One of my favorite parts of the ride is from King's Beach onward. I love the views from the road, and I love the climbing and rollers. This is a picture Pat took from Incline Village - love it!

As I gazed across this expansive lake, I couldn't believe that just a couple hours before we had been on the complete opposite side. Incredible!

At this point I realized I felt pretty damn good. The only times I'd been in the big ring were descending. I was keeping pace very well in my small ring and spinning at a nice high cadence. My legs felt fresh. I felt strong. YES!

Then the real climbing began. Spooner Grade.

The group split as we do on climbs. Pat, the king of all mountains in our group, quickly passed me. I passed a couple of other guys. I was simply content to stay within myself yet push just enough to know I was working for it. I kept it in my 25 for as long as I could and then thought "'ve got a 27...USE IT." Once I knocked it down to the 27, I began to gain on Pat just a tad, which surprised me. He is typically long-gone from my sight on climbs.

Up, up up we went. And I could still see Pat. He began to get a little further from me, but I knew I was still holding a pretty good pace. I just tried to use him as a guide, but not my motivator. I had my motivation inside me.

Later, after the ride, Brian told me this story from Spooner Grade, which pretty much made my day:

"So I was about 50 yards behind you on the climb. You passed this group of people. This one guy in the group looks at you. Then he looks again. THEN HE LOOKS AGAIN and decides to jump out of his group, gets out of his saddle and pushes hard to get on your wheel. He stayed with you for about 2 minutes and then you began to just ride away from him. It was SO AWESOME."

One of the great things of riding with a group is that they can tell you what goes on behind you. I had no idea that guy was ever there. I was simply in my own world, climbing MY climb, and just happy to be where I was.

We reconnected at the top of Spooner - the last rest stop of the day. I looked at my watch and I simply couldn't believe our time. About 3:20 in and only 12 miles to go - and I was still feeling so...fresh. I really couldn't explain it. I didn't feel tired. My legs weren't burning. Admittedly I hadn't done a lot of pulling through the day, but I had still worked hard.

Was it the salt? Stopping for brief moments? Spinning in my small ring?

I didn't know. But I was ready to head down the hill.

Jim, Matt and I pulled out ahead as we began the descent. Then I just saw Jim in front of me, along with some guy. Pretty soon it was the three of us side by side down this HUGE mountain, the wind blowing HARD. I spied the lake quickly and smiled as I took in a huge gulp of air.


I pulled out ahead as I tucked a little further, pedaled a couple strokes and pulled my elbows in. Ripping down a mountain at full speed with the wind in my face and a beautiful lake sitting beneath me is simply one of my most favorite things in cycling. It was such a pure moment, I felt like I was in church.

Finally it began to flatten and I was riding fast. I decided to keep going. I felt so strong and so great. I looked back quickly to see that Jim was further back but I had the other dude on my wheel.

After another few minutes, I heard the guy say "NICE PULL!" and he backed off. What happened? I didn't know if he just didn't want to hang on or what, but I kept going for a little further before I decided to stop and let the rest of the group catch up so we could regroup.

Once we were all eight in, we held together for the last 8 miles or so. Up and down the short kind-of-steep rollers, I continued to feel strong. I was leading the pack for much of this last stretch and recalled how I'd felt in previous years at this point; typically those last 8 miles were so tough because my legs were so tired.

We rolled through the finish line at the Horizon in 3:54 - I think our best time ever, but I'm not certain.

In any case, it was certainly the best year for me. We were truly a team. When we got scattered after a hill or a few rollers, the front folks would slow up a bit and once the back rejoined, they would yell "ALL IN!" and the front would confirm "All in" and pick up the pace again. We supported each other on climbs. We were all there to have a good time and enjoy the beautiful ride.

Not only were we a real team and had real team energy, but I truly enjoyed myself. Every ounce of me was so happy to be there to experience this.

Finally - I can easily say this was the best ride I've had all year. I feel strong. I feel confident. I still have work to do, but who doesn't? It was such a rewarding ride. My only lament is that it went by WAY TOO FAST!! I simply couldn't believe it when it was over. The time flew by and the whole time I was marveling at how quickly the minutes were passing.

I've also decided salt is my new best friend. I've always known I'm a salty sweater but never fully took into account how that affected me. I always just assumed I was SUPPOSED to feel tired after 3 hours of riding. Sure, I was tired yesterday, don't get me wrong. But I still had energy when we finished and I felt somewhat fresh. I really think the salt had something to do with this.

Another year of Tahoe under my belt...and it just keeps getting better.

Me and a nice cold beer at the of life's finest moments. :)