Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Sarah’s Birthday Ride & Lunch: Sat, 12/5/09

Come join us!

We’ll be meeting at the Bear Republic Brewery at 8:30 a.m. on Sat and heading over to the Flying Goat for coffee. At 9:00 a.m. we’ll gather and push-off for the ride.

There are three routes to choose from:

-The Appetizer Course – 40 hilly hard miles (includes the climb up and over Sweetwater Springs Road). This will be a ‘drop’ ride meaning if you flat or are slow they um, won’t wait for you. Jon Erickson will be leading this ride.

Route info is here: Appteizer Route - 40 Strong Hilly Miles

-The Main Course – 41 lumpy easier miles
This will be a no-drop ride – meaning if you flat we will be nice and wait for you. We’ll head out West Dry Creek up to Lake Sonoma and continue north up Dutcher Creek to Asti. Then back down through Geyserville along 128 and back to Healdsburg.

Route info is here: Main Course Route - 40 Nice Rolling Miles

-The Dessert Course – 30 Flattish Miles
This will also be a no-drop ride for those who prefer a more leisurely pace and like to stop and smell the vineyards.

Route info is here: Dessert Course Route – 30 Flattish Miles

Once we roll back by 12:00 p.m., we’ll put the bikes away and head into the Bear Republic Brewery for LUNCH AND BEEEEEEEEEEER (hello, RACER 5!).

If you want to join in the fun, please let me know. I’d LOVE to see you!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No, I didn't die.

030 Early Bird Women 2009 Team.
Love these ladies!

I'm sure somebody out there began to wonder if, maybe, something awful had happened, right?

Nope. Nothing awful. Just the insanity of life over the past two months.

Between buying a house, moving the office, renovating extensively and having several other things to keep me busy in between, there really hasn't been much time for writing.

Sarah Side Angle Yoga keeps me grounded.
I got to pose for Three Dog Yoga as they build their website up!
Photo credit: Shelby Erickson, Erickson Design


Besides plain busyness though, there has been something else on my mind that I think has kept me from writing:

Contemplation of change.

The longer I went without writing, the more I began to think about blogging and whether to continue. One thing that has troubled me over the past year is that I don't have the time to be part of the blog community the way I used to. All those links you see on the left-hand side of this entry are people's blogs I have enjoyed reading at one time or another. Some of those people became Facebook friends. Others have become awesome real-life friends. I've made real friendships from this blog community! I miss it!

True, ultimately I write for myself. I started this blog 4.5 years ago that way. But as I got to know others around the web and the triathlon community, it gave me an added incentive to write. I found inspiration and great advice from others.  Sharing my story was a way to be part of that community, to offer my own mistakes and experiences to the mix.

Additionally, my life is rapidly changing before my very own eyes. Hard to believe that indeed, I started this blog nearly half a decade ago, during a very different time in my life. It began as a way to record my adventure into this strange world of triathlon, as a way to log my experiences and remember them as I went forward.

As I ready myself to begin the last year of my 20s, I find myself embarking down a new path to start new journeys. Similar, but different, with different goals. I'm different:

I don't feel the need to prove myself as much as I did 5 years ago.
I've got more confidence than I ever have.
I'm aware of where my athletic talents lie (5 years ago I didn't even think I was capable of running a 10K. In fact, I was contemplating SWIMMING a 10K!).
I have a better sense of direction in my life.
I know what sport is my favorite (cycling).
I am SO much better at listening to my body. I know when it's telling me to rest and I know how to obey it.
I don't freak out about missing workouts.
I know what Gu is.

And so on. Reflection is a lot of fun when you realize you've come a long way.

In fact, perhaps I've neglected writing because I don't identify with this blog the way I used to.

"Sarah's Triathlon Adventure?" I think. "But I haven't done a triathlon in over a year!" The words 'Sarah' and 'triathlon' in the same sentence suddenly seems strange. Past races are foggy memories where only the best parts seem to shine through, the way the photos on your walls all remind you of a happy or joyful memory in your life.

So I guess you could say I'm movin' on. Not to say I wouldn't ever race triathlons anymore. Never say never. But racing my bike this year was absolutely, phenomenally fantastic and I can't wait for more next year. I can honestly say that I wait for winter training to start, either! 

As for the blogging – I DO want to continue to write, even if I don’t have as much time to go out and read others’ adventures. Still, something has to change: it is time for a new blog. It's kind of like a photo album, where I'd label this one "Triathlon Years, 2004-2009". Nothing wrong with this one, simply time to start a new one. One that will include not only bike-related adventures but also many of my culinary adventures. My friend Jo Ann inspired me recently to get back into the kitchen and I've been having a great time with it. I want to have a blog where I can do a better job of recording my recipes and making them easier to archive and find.

Until that time, however, my goal is to write at least once every two weeks. Life is finally beginning to settle back down and my time is becoming a little freer. It's time to pick up the pencil (keyboard) and let the thoughts flow.

Feels good to be back. :)  

Sarah Giro SF 1

   9/7/09: Giro de San Francisco. I placed 12th out of 40. Was definitely hoping for Top 10 but I’ll have to save that for next year!


<---- Me in a 4-woman breakaway with 5 laps to go! (They caught us a lap later)

Photo credits: Veronika Lenzi, http://www.veronikalenzi.com/



Sarah Grio SF 2

Thursday, July 30, 2009

August Races

Kelly asked if I was going to be racing soon and I thought it might be good to put a final schedule up.

-Timpani Crit (8/2/09) - yes!
-Patterson Road Race (8/9/09) - likely
-Suisun Criterium (8/16/09) - yes NO (found out it's only Cat 1/2/3, BOO!)
-Winters Road Race (8/29/09) - yes
-Vacaville Grand Prix (8/30/09) – maybe
-Giro de SF (9/7/09) - yes
-Folsom Omnium (9/12-13/09) - yes

I am SO ready to get out there next month and just race, race race! Ego has gone out the door. For the rest of this season it’s all about having fun and learning absolutely as much as I can for next year.

2009 began with me feeling like I just needed a ‘little’ break from things, but was so sure I would be able to get back into the swing of things in March. March rolled around and I thought was ready to jump back into triathlon training mode. Yet the motivation was still lacking.

Then Laurel came along and saved the day by recruiting me to the Early Bird Women’s Cycling Team.

While the prospect of racing was thrilling and exciting, I took a laid-back and cautious approach to all of this, which was not very typical for me. Often times my modus operandi is to simply jump right into things without much forethought. If it’s fun, why not do it?

However, as my posts over the past few months have indicated, I’ve been much more observant and introspective, and kept somewhat of a safe distance from becoming fully immersed with bike racing. I’ve thrown any and all expectations out the door and merely gone into every race willing to have an open mind, being ready to learn, ready to have fun and not wanting to crash. Four basic goals.

So in fact, 2009 has been more of a ‘break’ year. Letting go of what I thought I ‘should’ be doing (triathlon, training 2x/day, etc.) and slowly adjusting and contemplating what other directions I would like to go.

In taking this approach, I feel like I’ve come to fully embrace what it is I truly want without constantly questioning my decision. What I truly want is to go into this winter with goals in mind for next year. I want a winter training plan. When 2010 begins I want to know what races I intend to do (at least in the first 4 months of the year) and I want to have a plan to stick with. I FINALLY feel like I’m truly okay committing to a set plan and willing to put in the time.

The weight isn’t on my shoulders anymore and instead there is a lightness that comes with the confidence of knowing this is good for me and that I’ve taken the time I needed to consider it all. That I’ve taken the physical and mental rest I so badly needed after four long and hard years. It feels incredible.

(Oh, I also really want/need a new bike. Working on that one. If you know anybody with extra $ to share with me, let me know. ;) )

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blog neglect

July 007 Lake Tahoe, 6:30 a.m., July 18, 2009

I fully admit my guilt. I’ve been neglecting my blog. Is this what falling off the exercise and/or diet bandwagon is like for the New Year’s Resolution folks? You begin to neglect your commitment and the further and further out you get from it, the scarier it is to get back to it. That’s happened to me with swimming before.

You think “oh god, I haven’t been in the pool in 3 days. What’s one more at this point?” Then it’s a week. “Now I can’t possibly go back to master’s – I’ll be too slow for my lane!” Two weeks ago by: “Am I even going to remember how to swim?”

July 011 After the first leg of my relay swim.
Yes! I DO remember how to swim in open water!

Of course I will. But it’s been a similar thing with writing and the excuses flow even faster than all the topics I want to write about. “I can’t possibly blog now because there’s too much to write about. Where do I start?” “Don’t have enough time. This post will take forever.” “I haven’t even uploaded my photos from the Trans Tahoe Relay, how can I write about it yet?” Then I begin to become scared of checking my site meter because I figure nobody is even reading my blog anymore due to inactivity. “It better be one damn good piece that you write so you can make up for weeks of NOT writing, Sarah.”

So the endless self-feeding cycle goes.

There is also the issue of blog-volution. As we grow, change and embark on new paths in life, for many of us who only have one blog, those blogs also begin to develop and change. I began this as a way to record my triathlon adventure. When I first began this path 4.5 years ago (yikes!), it was all brand-new to me. My life was completely different! As I look back to old posts, it’s exciting to see how much my life has changed and evolved and it reminds me that I AM making forward progress.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about where this blog is headed. My triathlon future is uncertain but not being counted out. My cycling future is cemented and it is without any hesitation I can say that I continue to love it more all the time. After Sunday’s ride I realized that my cycling fitness is quite possibly the best it’s ever been and that it’s really fun to climb monster hills and go 27 mph on flats when you’re in good shape.

I’ve briefly visited this topic before when I pondered renaming my blog. But should I rename it? Or start a new one? Or just amend it slightly? And how can I make it more meaningful to ME? Writing my cycling race reports is quite enjoyable, as I learn so much with each one I do. Still, I wonder if there’s more I should be saying than simply recounting my experiences.

This is where this post begins to take a personal turn. There are a lot of big changes happening in my life right now – many positive, big changes. As we get ready for them, I’ve begun to think more about my strengths as an individual, as a friend and as an athlete.

If I could somehow use my blog to extend those strengths to others through the web, then wouldn’t that be awesome? People who read this and know me in person know how dearly I love teaching spin and cycling out on the road. Lately I’ve been hearing people talk to me about my ‘energy’ and how positive I am. But how can I extend that through my writing?

Should I share more spin workouts/playlists? Mental training? Be better about sharing what I learn all the time so maybe I can help others? Post more riding routes in Sonoma County and file them for visiting folks to find? More cooking recipes?

July 015 Mmmm tomatoes are finally here!!

This is all just stream of conscious writing here. I don’t expect answers. Simply writing about wanting to find ways to inspire and influence those who care to read this. If I wanted to write about my experiences solely for personal gratification and the memories, I might as well keep it private. I know it’s a way for friends and family to read up on what I’m doing, but as Facebook has grown over the past year, I see that friends and family tend to stay up on what I do through that medium (which is totally fine).

Maybe this all just means that I should learn how to write shorter posts so I don’t feel like each time I write it’s a time suck. :)

In any case, I just wanted to check in. Life’s been a blast lately. Had Trans Tahoe Relay two weekends ago (and THAT was an adventure I will be posting SOON!), went to Vineman the next day to watch Beth, Ron, Rocketpants and a few other friends finish. Got to hang out with Beth and James, as well as Rocketpants a few days later. Last weekend was packed with more cycling. And of course, let’s not forget that this little race called the Tour de FRANCE was filling up my mornings over the past three weeks! That was an incredible race to follow.

Life is good. The blog will continue, in whatever direction it evolves. For those of you out there with blogs that I haven’t been too up on – don’t take it personally. I would love to be reading more race reports, adventures, recipes, gadget reviews, travel stories and just general life stories from all of you. I really do enjoy it but the next couple of months are about to get REALLY nuts. So if I go away for a bit, just know I’m sending great energy to all of you and keeping you in my thoughts.

Oh – and don’t forget to turn the corners of your mouth up several times a day. It really WILL improve your mood!

July 017

Nothing better than cycling with friends and
stopping at the best bakery in Sonoma County for an espresso and a scone!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Goals for the rest of 2009

The Early Bird Women’s Cycling Team is having a “Team Camp” this Saturday. Woooo! Besides being excited to see all of these fabulous women again, I’m really looking forward to riding with them and all the things I will learn tomorrow.

Our team directors asked us to write down our goals for the rest of the year and share them with the team. Sharing them on my blog seemed like a good idea as well, so here they are. Maybe now that I’ve shared them with, well, everybody, I’ll be more apt to reach them!

My goals for the rest of 2009 and how I'll achieve them:

1. Continue to work on getting myself in better bike racing shape. This means working with my friend Tim on a cycling plan for the rest of my races and sticking to it. Additionally, I plan to achieve this through reading The Cyclist's Training Bible by Joe Friel. I read his Triathlete's Training Bible and it really made a big difference for me, mentally and physically. I like to learn about the things I'm doing and I know that if I read more about bike racing and understand more about how one trains for it (and races in it!), I will be much more inclined to want to stick to a training plan.

2. Lose 5 lbs. It's not that much but I think it's enough to help me out considerably up climbs as well as in crits. Doing this means really making a commitment to drinking less beer and wine (ugh!), eating less peanut butter (ugh!!) and sitting down every weekend to plan the week's dinners a little better. I know that if I do this the weight will come off, so I really need to find a way to hold myself accountable and stick to it. Any ideas on holding oneself accountable?

3. Race at least 2 more crits and 2 more road races through the rest of the season. It's not much in the bike racing world, but I've got a lot of other things going on outside of bike racing and I think it's a commitment I can stick with. I've planned out three of the races; just need to find one more crit. (Ohlone Crit, 7/25; Santa Cruz Road Race 8/23; Winters Road Race 8/29)

4. Ride two bike events that aren't races. This would be the Tour of Napa Valley 65 mile route (8/16) and either the Marin Century (8/1), the Auburn Century (9/12) or the Riverbank Wine & Cheese Century (10/11).

5. Continue to keep learning and taking it all in, being kind to myself when I make mistakes and remembering that this is all a new learning experience. Reminding myself that even little improvements are victories that should be celebrated.

6. Keep swimming and yoga in my training. It's hard to do but it's so important to me and I always feel better when I'm doing them.

7. Get more sleep. Achieving this means getting to bed earlier. Yikes!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Staying the Course

After entering the world of bike racing this year, I thought that my race reports would undoubtedly be much shorter. After all, there’s only ONE event to write about, right?

Indeed, there’s only one. But the miraculous thing is that I’m finding myself mulling over so many more things, that even days later, I continue to have little epiphanies and think “oh, I’ll have to include that on my blog, too.”

Here again, my ever-present challenge is brevity; saying more with less. I’ll keep trying.

Race: Cytomax Benicia Criterium
Date: Saturday, June 27, 2009
Field Raced: 3/4 (I’m currently a 4)
Teammates Present: Stephanie and Michal
Teams Present: Early Bird Women, Dolce Vita, Sugar CRM, NorCal, Colavita, MetroMint and a few others
Temp: At my race time (10:00 a.m.), low-mid 80s

Goals for this race:
1) Stay in the pack as long as possible in spite of how badly it hurt
2) Have fun this time
3) Practice cornering
4) Don’t crash

I would also like to say that the fabulous photos below were taken by Warren Lane and all of the Benicia Crit photos can be found at his website: Casadelane Photography. THANK YOU to Warren for sending me these great photos – much appreciated!

Stephanie and I take the line!
(Photo Credit: Warren Lane)
Taking the Line

As we took the line I was relieved to hear them tell us that we’d get a neutral lap to scope the course out and go through the turns. Earlier that morning I’d witnessed a crash on what looked like one of the hairier corners and was a bit anxious about how this would all pan out, especially given that the corners in the 2 Wheel crit were MUCH rounder than these. These were real street blocks with Bots Dots through the center, dips in the road for water drainage and just generally sharper turns.

In spite of the first lap being neutral, my heart rate was through the roof. I knew it would just take time to come down but I was so nervous. As we came up toward the line for the first real lap to begin, all I could think was “here we go. This is it. DON’T back down, Sarah. Just go with it and don’t give up!”

After two laps, my heart rate was even higher in mid 180s. This was not a purely flat course. The street with the starting line (1st street) was a gradual incline and it was about three blocks long. After a left and another right, we went up AGAIN, but this time a little steeper for another block. Then it would go down, down, down into the hairy turn from E. I street onto E. 2nd (which I came to love), another couple of rights and we were back on 1st street going up to do it all again.

See map:

Benicia Crit

The red line is the start line; we went north on 1st street then left and right on W. 2nd street, which is was more up! Basically heading away from the water was up; heading toward the water was down.

As we finished the 2nd lap, the officials were ringing the bell – the 3rd lap would be a Prime Lap. Oh no. Buckle the seatbelts and HANG ON!

I told myself that if I could just hang onto the pack for the 3rd lap, it would all be okay. I just had to stay the course and keep on, no matter what. Halfway through, I glanced at my watch – HR read 185. Wow. “It doesn’t matter, Sarah. Just HANG ON.”

We made the turn onto W. 2nd street to go up the steeper hill and it was there I began to fall behind a bit. Another woman passed and said to me “go on, you’ve GOT to go catch them.” Summoning every ounce of energy and strength I had, I got up out of my saddle, gritted my teeth and pushed, pushed as hard as I could up that hill. Cresting the top and heading right around the turn, I quickly shifted up and dug a little harder as we hit the flat and prepared to round the next corner.

Relieved, I had caught the back of the pack. My shoulders relaxed a little. It was all downhill for a bit. I could hang here, knowing that the next lap should be a little less fierce since it wouldn’t be a Prime Lap.

Except that as we came up to the line to begin the 4th lap – there was that damned bell – they were ringing it again! “Double Prime Lap, ladies! Keep it up!” yelled the race official.

I wanted to punch him. WTF? DOUBLE?

Knowing that I just would not be able to sustain a heart rate that was soaring in the 180s for another 25 minutes, I backed off my charge up the hill. At that point it was only one other woman and myself. Halfway through that fourth lap, I wanted to quit. The desire to just pull over, get off my bike, sit on the curb and relax was so intense it began to fill up all the space in my brain reserved for focus.

Sarah Pain 1

“NO! I am NOT QUITTING,” I told myself. Still, I hated being one of only two women off the back. But it didn’t matter. I came to race no matter what, and I had to stick with it.

After one lap, we managed to catch two other NorCal women who also had fallen off the back. The four of us worked together the rest of the race, and throughout the next 25 minutes, I began to see the entire field was completely strung out. Sure, I was still in the last group, and we did indeed get lapped by the race winners, but so what?

(Photo Credits: Warren Lane)

Interestingly enough, that desire to quit never quite went away. The four of us still raced and my average heart rate for all 40 minutes was 174. Translation: that was HARD and the intensity never went away! But as each lap went on, my focus became better. I started getting more comfortable with each turn and practiced braking less and cornering better. Renee from NorCal and I worked on taking short pulls. I worked on keeping my mind occupied with other tasks and not worrying about how uncomfortable I was.

Sarah Pain 2

Yet with 2 laps to go, it still felt like the race would never end.

Finally, though, we rounded that last right turn. I began to contemplate when to sprint for the line. Sure, I was almost dead last, but why not have some fun with it? Renee had the same thing in mind. I began to pick it up about 25 yards from the line but I think it was too soon.

About 4 yards from the line, Renee flew past me and beat me out for 30th place. I took 31st. Out of 34. ;)

As I previously mentioned, I’ve been thinking a lot about bike racing since last weekend. The biggest thing I’m learning is that it just takes practice. Lots and lots and LOTS of practice. So I’ll keep training. And practicing. And LEARNING! One thing that was absolutely awesome was that I walked away from this race feeling happy with how much I learned.

Additionally, I came to the realization that I’m actually really good at cornering. Corners don’t scare me, and, like going downhill, the more speed I can get and still be comfortable, the better!

What my body is used to is going long. Endurance. What I need to teach it how to do is to SPRINT! So that’s where my training is going to have to be a little more focused.

Ultimately, I walked away from the race feeling positive about crits, feeling positive about my experience and having a glimmer of hope that this could actually start to get really fun.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A testament to the benefits of Spinning

Recently one of my spin students, Elliot, shared a little piece he wrote for the Airport Club newsletter. It was about his recent completion of the SF->LA AIDS LifeCycle Ride and how spin class had really helped prepare him for this huge endeavor. I enjoyed the piece a lot – not only because it was so fantastic to read of his success on the trip, but because it is so wonderful to hear the impact we as spin instructors can have.

I love to teach spin for a variety of reasons (I always was a bossy little kid so I'm sure there's something in there about enjoying being in charge!). One of the biggest is that I truly feel that over time, people DO benefit from it. Whether it's the benefit of being ready for a big ride like the one Elliot did, or they see an improvement in their climbing, or that they just feel BETTER because of the increased cardio health and strength, all are successes in my book. When people share them with me, it really helps me to see that I’m doing my job well and that it’s so worth getting up at the horrible hour of 5:00 times three times a week (and fighting my way through commute traffic after work once a week), not to mention the hours I spend carefully planning workouts and thinking about good songs to put with them.

Thank you to all of my students who manage to make it to those early morning classes or make it to the gym at the end of a long day and bring such positive and committed energy. No matter how I feel when I show up to the gym, I always leave feeling so much better and with a big smile on my face.

Below is the short piece Elliot Daum wrote. Enjoy!

Having recently completed the SF to LA AIDSLifeCycle ride, I want to extend my gratitude to the Club for all the support and encouragement I received along the way. I especially want to thank the spin meisters for all the training tips and the conditioning boost, especially during those dark and rainy winter months when long rides become impractical or merely dangerous.

If you are contemplating such a ride, check yourself in to the spin class ASAP. The translation from the stationary spin bikes to the road is remarkably true, particularly if you follow the excellent instruction of the class leaders. You will find that the transition to the road will start to gel in ways that will surprise you.

Once I began the long days between here and L.A., the lessons and the voices came back to haunt me in the most positive ways. Mary’s exhortations to “keep my knees over my feet” and “go, go , go!”, Anna’s constant challenges to turn th dial up, stay with her, and “n-i-i-c-e! encouragement, Sarah’s peremptory “Stand it up! Spin it out!” and, of course, Paul’s drill sergeant orders and demands for “100%” all stay with you on the ride. The form and the motivation keep coming long after the music has died and the Club is hundreds of miles away.

Also I found Anna’s “core” tutorials to be of enormous assistance as both body and mind come to learn how the conquest of long steep hills requires much more than quads and hamstrings.

The entire experience was a most positive one in all respects. It’s a great cause, a marvelous experience and a terrific way to get in shape. And the Club members and staff surely helped make the actual ride a joy. So “Stand it up and spin it out!”

Elliot Lee Daum

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Round #2: The Cytomax Benicia Criterium - next Sat!

2 Wheel Crit pre race

2 Wheel Criterium – Pre-race
I seem to be looking very tentative here…
…"wtf am I getting myself into??!”
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

What I haven’t said here is that I pulled out of my first crit (The 2 Wheel Criterium in Rohnert Park on 6/7/09) after 6 insane laps. Upon seeing the “6 to go” sign I thought “ugh. I can’t do it.” Then changed my mind. “YES YOU CAN. YOU CAN DO IT AND YOU WILL DO IT, SARAH. HTFU!”

But as the pack rounded the corner we began to string out and I found myself falling off the back. Again. This time, as I shifted up and prepared to step on it, I had a pit in my stomach as if I was about to puke any second, not to mention my right quad screaming in pain and in that instant, I just gave up.

It takes a lot for me to give up. But for 20 solid minutes, I was not having any kind of fun. At all. In fact, the idea of staying with it for another 20 horrifying minutes was in itself enough to make me puke.

I realize I’m giving crits a bad name here. It’s not that they suck that much. But I really had no idea what I was doing out there. Blindly, I just assumed people would be nice and keep a wheel open for me to grab! Naively, during the 2nd lap I attempted to make my way up through the pack along the right side and before I knew it, they had all jumped BEHIND me. NO! I didn’t want THAT! When I attempted to drop back, it was as if I could hear all the other women thinking “HA! ROOKIE GIRL! You tried to move up and now YOU’RE on the front, girlfriend! Mush! Mush!”

Sarah 2 Wheel 3

What a rookie I was.
Photo credit: Nick Gaetano

Mush, I did. Except it was a prime lap, which is a lap where they give prizes to the first three people across the line (they’re like mini prizes for people who may not win but like to attempt some sprints across the line midway through the race). As we rounded the second-to-last corner, my ears began to pick up a slight ‘whoooosh’ and sure enough, the Cat3/4 women began to surge past me and I was about to be chop liver if I didn’t hang on. Yet I had no ‘get up and go.’ So I did get up, but I didn’t really go.

Pretty soon I was off the back and going across the line a good 25 yards behind the entire pack. Mortifying and also disheartening. This was a local race and all my buddies were out there cheering for me and here I was, behind already – only in LAP 3! UGH!

Sarah By Herself 2 WheelI would guess that it’s usually rare to have a solo photo from a criterium.
Unless you’re off the front or off the back. Here, I’m off the back…
…and hurting as I try to catch up!
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

Still, I HTFU’d and used everything I had to catch the group again, about 2/3 through the third lap. I was pretty much redlining there, too. After two more laps of hanging on for dear life and still falling back, I’d had enough for one morning.

One thing that absolutely attracts me to this sport is the strategy that is involved. It is not simply telling your trained body to move it. It goes far beyond that. There’s teamwork, plotting, strategizing, and also practicing the art of being firm in your position or forcing your way in. I really like that.

What is not quite so comfortable is the element of high intensity that is involved with this. Not only must I refocus my training on teaching my body how to surge better and more often, but also how to be comfortable with higher intensity for longer periods. I am constantly preaching to my spin classes, “get OUT of your comfort zone! A little pain is OKAY!”

Now it’s time for me to start walking the talk.

I’m actually okay with that. As I said before, I wanted a new challenge. Not only a new racing challenge, but changing up how I train. This accomplishes both.

So, onto next weekend! I’ll be racing in the Cytomax Benicia Criterium. One thing that’s kind of cool is that I spent tons of time in Benicia all through high school, so it’ll be like racing on my old stomping grounds – nostalgia always adds a little bit of motivation, right?

As for what I learned from last time, I will attempt to be better at:

-Finding a wheel early and IN THE MIDDLE TOWARD THE FRONT
-Maintaining my position, EVEN IF IT HURTS
-Staying in a higher gear and not pedaling at such a high cadence
-Know that the pace is going to start out strong. Therefore, WARM UP FOR A GOOD, LONG TIME. This is crucial and I think a HUGE reason why I felt like such sh** at the first race. Definitely not enough warm up and I think I paid for it. It generally takes me about a good hour to start feeling great on the bike.
-Celebrate the little victories
-Know that if I fall off the back, just keep racing. Unlikely they will pull me off the course so I might as well keep riding.

Sarah 2Wheel 2 Next time, Sarah – STAY THERE!!
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

Okay! Let’s DO THIS!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting it together

Originally last weekend was supposed to be a catch-up of sorts. Catch up on housework. Catch up on emails. Catch up on blogs. Catch up on my own writing. Catch up on revising the year’s goals (yet again).

Somehow, however, all that catch-up went out the window. I DID manage to pare down the email inbox and get a lot of responses in. I was also able to meet with my friend and cycling coach Tim to discuss what the rest of the year might look like. It was *so* helpful. He said “so, Sarah. What ARE your goals for the rest of the year?”

Lately I’ve been avoiding that question. After my first few races a lot of confusion ensued. Racing is stressful. Difficult. Challenging. It also has a way of either making you feel like you’re on top of the world or like complete crap. How badly did I want to do this?

In complete honesty – racing bikes is harder than any triathlon I’ve ever done. Well, sort of. It is important to remember that triathlons – especially the longer ones – have definitely had their moments. If I go to the memory bank and look in the dark corner underneath all of the other, happier, prettier moments, I can start to remember some of the not-so-happy times. Ones where I felt like quitting. Where my body just couldn’t go. When I had tears coming down my face because of cramping. When five more miles of running seemed like a near-impossible feat and it was all I could do just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Yeah, it’s been pretty tough at times.

But with bike racing, there’s something else that can hurt besides the body that never seemed to phase me in triathlon. It’s called my ego.

(My race report from my first crit is still in editing phases. I’m working on not just unleashing the first draft of race reports onto my readers but rather, revising and making each one more of a writing project.)

Part of the reason I did not finish was not due to my screaming quad pain or my heart rate blowing up beyond my wildest dreams, but because my ego got the better of me. It’s completely embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. More on that in the race report.

Bike racing has made me push and suffer harder than I ever did in triathlon (at least on the bike, anyway). It’s made me pick up the (very fast) pace before I was ready to. It’s made me dig, dig, DIG down HARD and ignore the pain and pure shock my muscles felt and instead try to find a little more to give.

Yet, the road races were kind of fun. Fun in that “wow this is SO hard but maybe if I just work a little harder and train a little better and seriously work on selling my bike and buying a better one and if I just commit a little more and focus a little better…maybe I will get better” sort of way.

With the crit, however, it was all just hard. My body hurt and my ego was bruised. It wasn’t really that fun. In fact, after the race, I was downright miserable. And then the “Uncle Rico Effect” began to set in.

Remember Uncle Rico from “Napoleon Dynamite?”

Ahhh, visions of past grandeur. Or should we say, delusions of past grandeur?

As the going gets tough, my mind begins to wander this path over the last four years. “You know…I was pretty good. For training at the level I was training (in other words, working full-time and putting in 12-15 hrs/week), I was pretty strong and competitive. I took THIRD OVERALL AT THE UKIAH TRI (reality check: uh, small local race, hello!)! Damn straight! I came close to a sub 5 half-ironman. HELL YEAH!”

This kind of thinking makes me laugh at myself. Somehow my mind begins to delude itself into thinking that I did it all effortlessly and in fact, I was pretty competitive and maybe, in fact, I should just go back to tri because I’m better at it. Yeah. Oh and that even though I’m kind of sucking at bike racing, you people should all know what an amazing triathlete I was, and that, you know, if I actually decide to really train for bike racing I will be amazing at that, too.


WTF? Go away, Uncle Rico Effect!

Let’s get it straight. Triathlon helped me to see that:

I am a good athlete (especially when I train well).
That I can complete goals.
That I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to.
That no matter how much I run, I will never enjoy it the way I do swimming and cycling.
That I am not as Type A as I thought I was.

…and a few other things. But those are some of the big take-away things. What I’ve realized is that I need to be more confident in myself and my abilities and in the end, nobody gives a damn how ‘good’ you really are unless you’re going pro or whatnot.

What matters the most is that you’re having fun and you enjoy the challenge you’ve set out for yourself. I chose to race bikes this year because I wanted a NEW challenge for myself. Something different. Something centered around what I love most.

Now, just because I’ve realized this is quite possibly the hardest athletic endeavor I’ve ever undertaken, I want to backpedal? No. Not an option.

It’s time to stop being a baby and suck it up and throw the ego out the window. Triathlon came somewhat easily to me and now I’m faced with doing something I know nothing about and it’s time to put on the big girl pants and just get out there and race. Again and again. With experience comes knowledge and also more know-how when it comes to surging and digging REALLY deep!

So, that’s that. I’m getting it together. The race schedule is just about set. I’ll post soon – a mix of crits and road races for the rest of the year. Instead of running back to triathlon and being comfortable, I’m going to stick with the challenge and go for it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finally - a post (and a rock & roll spin list!)

So this is a spin list in the guise of a post. I'm working on a couple longer pieces but things have been hectic since we got back from Mexico. Catching up on email, regular mail, work - all the fun stuff that one gets to do after relaxing for a week. It was worth it. No swine flu, but likely giardia - how's that for bringing something back? It's not horrible but my stomach still isn't 100% again. Ugh. We'll find out in a couple days.

On tap for future posts over the next week (promise!):

-Why is fear so paralyzing?

-My first criterium race report: a big fat DNF!

-Product review: Skweet!

As for this post - one of my spin students is such a good sport about 'my' music. He really loves rock & roll but I can never seem to play enough of it for him. I throw him a bone here and there, but some days (especially recently) I'm really in a dance-remix mode and the chance of hearing anything resembling a guitar riff in that 60 minutes is pretty much nil. Those are the days I actually have to prep him: "So Sean, I'm sorry to say...today is not a Sean music day."

Still, he is such a good sport! On Monday I said "okay Sean, Wednesday I am dedicating my spin list to you. No dance remixes!" The smile on his face was priceless. As I got down to putting a class together, however, I realized that being a child of the 80s, I know little of rock and roll. Sorry folks! Not my fault! My ears are always open, though, to new ideas and I try to listen whenever people throw suggestions my way.

In spite of some good 'classics,' however, I realized my iTunes library was lacking. I Googled "rock and roll spin list" and found Cynthia's website - "Spinning Music." What a great find! I took a lot of the suggestions for my class tomorrow from her list. Thanks, Cynthia!

Spin class 6/10/09 - focus is on cadence, hills and sprints at the finish.

->Warmup - 6:00 - Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)

->Cadence work - 10:00 -
2:45 - Where Are We Runnin - Lenny Kravitz
4:20 (ha) - Smokin' - Boston
3:30 - Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf
[alternate 1:00 on/1:00 off, spinning with a max cadence at a resistance of 4 - a hard flat. You should be able to spin 95-110 without getting HR way up - in the 65-70% range]

-> Hill Climb - 6:00 - Fool in the Rain - Led Zeppelin
Every two minutes add a little resistance; pick ups out of the saddle for 0:30 at 1:45, 3:45, 5:45

-> Recovery - 2:00 - Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater

->Another Hill Climb - 9:00 -
4:15 - Sex Machine - James Brown
4:45 - More Than a Feeling - Boston

Here you are switching resistance every two minutes going between a 6.5 and 7.5 - medium hill to steep hill. HR stays constant at 80-82% but cadence will vary as you switch.

-> Recovery - 2:25 -Break on Through - The Doors

-> Flat cadence work - 3:40 - Rock & Roll - Led Zeppelin
Resistance will be at a 4.5-5 (hard flat to very small hill); working on alternating cadence between 85-95 and 95-105

->Short hill climb - 3:20 - War - Edwin Starr
Resistance will be at a 5.5-6.5 (small hill to medium hill); working on alternating cadence between 60-70 and 70-80 - in the saddle the whole time

-> Flat cadence work - 3:00 - YYZ - Rush
Resistance will be at a 4.5-5 (hard flat to very small hill); working on alternating cadence between 85-95 and 95-105

-> Recovery - 1:30 - YYZ - Rush

-> Sprints! - 4:30 - Welcome to the Jungle - Rush
4x 0:20 sprint / 0:45 recovery

Recovery -
2:37 - For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield
4:45 - Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd



Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I am SO ready for vacation.




Top 10 Reasons I Know I Need a Break (in no particular order, they're all good reasons):

10. I have fallen WAY behind on reading people's blogs. This happens not because I don't care, but because I'm really tired of sitting in front of computer screens. When the router went down at work yesterday, was I eager to turn the computer on at home and take care of emails and Twitter and blogs and Facebook? Nope. Put my bag down, looked at the computer, shook my ahead and cursed silently, then went into the other room.

9. I'm beginning to skip even the things I love most. I wanted to go out to the Tuesday Night Twilights tonight, just to cheer people on. Nah. Got too much to do before vacation, not to mention I just want to have a 'normal' evening and come home, make dinner, relax and get to bed on time.

8. I'm saying 'screw that' to my 'no alcohol on weeknights' rule. I've been trying to be good lately and skip the post-workout beer or glass of wine. Tonight I said to hell with it. Vacation is 3 days away, that's good enough for me.

7. I'm having a hard time managing my anger. Oh, you didn't know I had anger management issues? Yeah, when it comes to stupid, intolerant, dumb-ass drivers who start to HONK AT YOU (and you're on your bike, enjoying one of the most gorgeous bike rides in Sonoma County, happy as can be) when they're 100 YARDS AWAY and keep blaring as they drive all fast around you...it pretty much makes me angrier than I've ever been. As I began flipping the jerk off and yelling at him as he drove past, he attempted to scare me by slamming on his breaks, as if he was going to back up and do something about it. I threw up my hands as if to say, "BRING IT, ASSHOLE." My scared friends reminded me that it only takes one crazy to actually do something about it, and you never know who that crazy is going to be. Oh, I was SO mad. But they're right. He's in a 2000 pound car and I'm on, well, my bike. In bike shoes. I need a break.

6. All I want to do is sleep. Seriously. Granted, I've raced two bike races in two weeks and that is not something to sneeze at. I need to plan this stuff better because racing at that intensity that often just isn't going to cut it. Yesterday I was asleep by 5 p.m. and only woke up at 9 p.m. to eat some dinner then crashed again by 10. By this evening all I wanted to do again was sleep. And I'm still sore from the weekend, wtf? All I did was Sat morning bootcamp at the YMCA and Sun an easy 45 mile ride. There is NO reason for me to be sore. Except that my body has had ENOUGH!

5. Lack of focus. I can't seem to do anything without losing focus and starting something else. I started this blog post 45 minutes ago and checked email and Facebook 3 times since.

4. Lack of desire to cook. It's starting to be this amazing time around here when the Farmer's Markets start to have more than winter greens and squash and yet I don't feel like making a damn thing.

3. Lack of desire to write. I haven't been writing much lately, I know. Just with so much going on, I haven't had the mental energy to sit down and blog. Sort of goes with #10, too, of not wanting to spend even more time at the computer.

2. Starting to feel fatigued with spin workouts. Just kind of feeling like I'm tired of my workouts and sick of my music and how can I be motivating and inspiring if I'm not truly feeling it? Definitely the sign of needing a break.

1. Have I mentioned sleep? #6 was race and exercise related but #1 here is really about just sleeping. A lot. Naps. No alarm clocks. For several days. It's been quite awhile since I got to have that kind of sleep. I just drooled on my shirt writing about it.

Can't promise a blog in between now and May 30. Leaving Thursday night for Cozumel for one full week of naps, massage, snorkeling, beaching, reading, drinking, and best of all: relaxing.

I can't wait!

(I'm also resolving to bring a journal with me and write every single day! One thing I'd like to do is write my Berkeley Hills Road Race Report from last weekend and post it upon return.)

Me at the Berkeley Hills Road Race

(Thanks for the photos, Ronnie!
Photo Credit: Veronika Lenzi)


Monday, May 11, 2009

Do the Test (part 2)

It's Bike to Work Day on Thursday, May 14, 2009! Hooray!

However, I'm going to declare it Bike to Work Week and make my blog all about bike-related stuff this week. Oh, wait. I've already been doing that lately. Well...I guess it's intentional this week!

As an aside, I raced again last weekend - the Berkeley Hills Road Race. Actually I also raced last Tuesday in an informal Team Time Trial. Race reports to come in the next couple of days. Short story: I had SO much fun. Earlier today I got to thinking, and came to the realization that both Berkeley and Wente were races that I just sort of threw in there for fun. In other words, my training over the last several months has been incredibly non-specific and not periodized, nor did I taper for either race. So that said, I'm pretty damn proud of myself for how it's all worked out! There's a lot to learn and a lot of little things I need to do for my next races. Now that I know which direction I'm headed, it's time to buckle down, figure out my race schedule and throw down a plan!

Back to the subject here - Do the Test. Last March I posted an entry with this video:

If you haven't seen it yet, go on and check it out. It's cool!

But if you had already seen it, DID YOU KNOW THEY MADE MORE?!?

Yeah!! I still think the basketball one is my favorite, but these are kind of cool:

In the spirit of cycling, please remember to be aware. Whether you're cycling or driving - we all have to be incredibly aware of our surroundings.

Be safe out there. Wear a helmet. Use lights at night. Signal. Watch your car doors when you're opening them on a street. Look over your shoulder, not just into your car mirrors. Be aware!!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Race Day Thoughts

A lot of folks (Soda, Amy, Courtenay, Alexis, Jocelyn, Eileen…anybody else??) are racing Wildflower this weekend and my great friend Carmen is racing the Lake Berryessa Half (also similarly difficult and at a lake but in Napa County, not in the middle of the state). Originally I had a post all set to go in my mind titled “Mexico or Bust” but I’ll save that for Monday. Let’s just say I am still planning on going to Mexico in three weeks and the media and their over-hyped B.S. can KISS MY A**!! (FYI did you know that 36,000 people in the U.S. die EVERY YEAR from flu-related illness? And that so far there have been 8 CONFIRMED H1N1 flu-related deaths? That's all for now...)

I also had a post set to go about an article in the New Yorker this past week on the use of ‘neuroenhancers’ and I have to ask, how is it different from steroid use in athletes? But I will also save that for next week. Go read it and help me weigh in on this ridiculousness.

Yes, a lot of editorializing on my part but both are topics that really get me going.

Oh and there’s also a post in the works on a review of SKWEET! (preview: I give it two thumbs up!), too!

BUT in the spirit of all you fabulous people who are racing this weekend, I wanted to share some wise race-day thoughts that I’ve always loved and helped get me into the right frame of mind. With that said, here you go:

Mental Health: Confidence! You didn't train all these weeks just to be a wallflower competitor come race day. It is a RACE. Go out and be competitive and ready to push yourself out of the comfort zone. Make it different from an ordinary training day.

Recognize that 99% of the time, things will not go as planned. Expect to be ready to face whatever surprises come your way, whether it’s nutrition, mechanical or whatever else may crop up. You've trained through all kinds of conditions and situations so use that strength to your advantage and say “BRING IT ON!”

RACE DAY IMAGE: Strong, fluid, smooth, tons of endurance, lean, and willing to suffer!

POSITIVE self-talk. If you are thinking ‘I suck. All these people are passing me.” Or “Oh god these hills are going to suck because I can’t climb” then how do you expect other people to root for you if you can’t root for yourself? In fact, be so positive and confident in yourself that you occasionally cheer others on as they pass you or you pass them.

BE PRESENT IN THE MOMENT. If you had a bad swim, suck it up. It’s done. It won’t do you ANY GOOD to think about how you could’ve swam faster or ‘if only I would’ve…” NO “if-only”s!!! Focus on the HERE and NOW. On the bike, keep those pedals turning over, be SO SO proud of yourself because you are HERE. You SHOWED UP. Now focus on kicking ass – whether your goal is just to kick your own or somebody else’s. Once you hit that run, don’t look back for one moment. What’s done is DONE and you can’t change a damn thing. Not only that, you still don’t know how everybody else’s race is going. There’s no way to know so the only thing you need to do now is focus on YOURSELF and finishing strong! You CAN do this!

Some technical tips:

Swim--only concentrate on navigation and keeping a clean stroke. Decent swim times will come directly from fixating on these two things. Forget these and it won't matter how hard you're pulling.

Bike--think negative split on the second half of the bike, that is ride the 2nd half faster than the first. This means going easy the first half! Overall pace on the bike should not feel exhausting as the goal is to not have to walk any of the run due to exhaustion. A 5 minute faster bike split is killed if you have to walk 20 minutes during the run. Allow 5-10 minutes of riding before consuming fluids or fuel. After that, follow the hydration plan you've been doing for long rides, adjusting for temps and higher intensity of the race.

Run--constantly monitor calories and fluids and try to even split each half of the run as closely as possible.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Hope it helps and peps some people up. NOW GO RACE AND HAVE FUN!!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sleep and change

Racing is hard – mentally and physically. Now I remember why rest is so important, both before and after. And it SHOULD be hard! After all, if it’s not hard, then how is it different from another training day?

That bike race, while one of the most fun days I’ve had, was apparently one of the most taxing things my body has gone through in quite awhile and I am still recovering! It’s clear why it took so much out of me: my average heart rate for nearly two hours was 163 and I maxed out at 184. It was truly the first race effort in about 5 months and my body is just now getting over the shock of being back to racing.

I overslept for spin class on Monday. The first time ever. Ugh. It was an AWFUL feeling, especially to walk in this morning and have people say “oh so you got up this morning, huh?” D’oh.

Yesterday was even worse. I felt like a zombie. It was impossible to concentrate on work, I had visions of crawling under my desk and taking a nap, and by 4:00 it was time to hit the post office and head home. By 5:30 I was crawling under the covers with my crossword puzzle and after filling in one word it was lights out until 9:30 p.m.! Woke up, ate some dinner and went back to bed by 10:30 p.m. 

It’s cheesy to this, but the way I feel today compared to yesterday is the way a spring morning in Sonoma County can seem so SO grey with the fog and by noon the sun is shining and suddenly everything feels right again.

Today it feels like I’m alive again and it is amazing to think clearly and not want to just lay my head down on the desk.

With all of this clarity in my head, my summer of racing began to enter my mind. The path is clearly headed in the direction of cycling races and open-water swims and hiking treks and not so much in the direction of triathlon.

Never fear, dear readers! I am not forsaking triathlon forever! One of my awesome new teammates Beate said it best:

“See, it’s like this: triathlon is a virus. And you’ve got it, but it’s just going into its dormant phase for you!”

I LOVE that analogy! It’s not the end as far as I can tell. Like Rocketpants, I seem to have athletic ADD and like to mix things up, try new things and always have new and different adventures. Life is like that for me as well. In cooking, I’m always looking for new recipes to try and never like to cook the same thing. While many people dislike change, my appetite for it seems to be strong.

That said, last night I tweeted about whether my blog title ought to be changed. If there are no triathlons in 2009, shouldn’t I consider renaming it to reflect that?

It would be fun to have a poll on that - everybody loves polls! But first I need some good possibilities. So far I’ve got two that really made me smile: Maggs had a great one - “Sarah Tris Cycling.” Ron says “"Sarah's Cycling, Swimming, Cooking, Yoga, Running (sort-of but not really), Hiking, Spinning Adventures."

(Jen H.’s suggestion also cracked me up: “Sarah is the smart one!” Hee hee!)

How about some other suggestions?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Climbing, wind and teamwork

Name of Race: Windy Wente Road Race

Date: April 25, 2009

Category Raced: Cat 4 Women

Weather Conditions: Windy. Chilly. Windy. Warmer?

Field Size: 47

Today I finished my first bike race. Last year I attempted a bike race but that didn't work out so well due to having a flat tire 20 minutes into the race. Today was the REAL DEAL!

The day was a big 'IF' - being #15 on the waitlist, it was important for me not to get my hopes up too high, just in case I didn't make the cut. Still, I had to go through all the motions as if I was really going to ride because I would not find out if I had a spot until 15 minutes prior to the race. Oh, the stress!

My team director Laurel, Christine and I arrived with plenty of time to hang around. Getting out of the car, I noted that it was a LOT chillier than expected. Remembering arm and knee warmers was a good call! I knew it would be windy (the race was located at the Altamont Pass - also the location of many wind-powered turbines) but I was skeptical of how cold it would be, given that earlier this week we had temperatures in the 90s.

Going into this race, I had two main goals:

  1. Have FUN!
  2. Work hard and don't wuss out!

Having this mindset really allowed me to relax and not worry too much about the multitude of things Laurel had coached me on prior to the race. The race would unfold as I went through it, and it was important not to have too high of expectations for myself because this is a WHOLE other world from triathlon. Today was about going out and enjoying the experience, learning from it, and racing!

At 11 a.m. (Race time was 12:15 p.m.) Laurel, Christine and I headed out on a warm-up ride. My legs were so stiff at first so I was grateful for the time to spin them out and get my HR up. According to Laurel, the MORE fit you are, the LONGER it takes your body to get warmed up. I also really wanted to check out this 'hill' that was going to be the bane of my existence three times through.

Post warm-up it was almost noon. Women were beginning to gather toward the front of the staging area. Admittedly a small part of me hoped I wouldn't get a spot and I could put this off just a little longer! This was going to be a painful experience and I would be JUST fine if I didn't get to enjoy it today. But actually, most of me really DID want to race. Thankfully, good karma was with me for the second day in a row and Christine and I got the last two available spots. PHEW!

The race started and off we went. Unlike Winters last year, the pace lifted almost immediately. These women were chomping at the bit and it was TIME TO GO! I did the best I could to just stay mid-pack even though I had a very good feeling I would be dropped like a bad habit on that first climb.

Sure enough, as the pitch began, riders began to engulf and pass me and I was sliding back in the field. "DAMN!" I thought. Still, I couldn't do a thing about it. I was going hard as Laurel had told me to, but when your HR is already at 180 and you're only 1/3 up the hill, you have to just accept it and keep moving.

Instead, I opted to be positive with myself and say "just get to the top. Spin it out. Don't let up no matter how hard you're breathing. You'll catch some of them so just keep GOING!"

As I reached the top there were two other women who made it right when I did and we decided to work together. Christine and another woman eventually caught us and I was glad she was in so we could hopefully break away from this group at some point.

What Laurel DIDN'T mention was how the hills KEPT...going...UGGGGGHH. Actually Ron sent me a really great ride report of the whole course along with elevation data so I knew there would still be climbs to come. I guess I didn't realize they'd come so soon after the initial climb.

About halfway through the rolling hills I looked back and realized Christine was no longer with us. Damn! It was me and three other women. We committed to working together and reeling as many women in as we could. On the first lap, it was a good plan.

As we came down out of the hills and back to the SUPER WINDY flat we were taking turns pulling and I began to get agitated that we weren't moving faster. I wanted to GO! We only had two laps to do this and this first one only had about 6 miles left in it. As I took my turn up front, I lifted the pace a bit and made a decision to just keep moving forward.

One by one, we kept reeling women from our field in. It was AWESOME! In my head, I could hear Laurel's wise words echoing "do as little work as possible. Stay OFF THE FRONT." Oops. But I knew I had to do this because these women were not doing what I needed them to do and with only one lap to go it was time to get down to business.

Suddenly, I looked up ahead and saw some familiar red and white colors. Sure enough, it was Stephanie from my Early Bird team. YESSSSSSS! Like a horse getting close to the barn, I picked up the pace a little more, eagerly anticipating the teamwork we could pull off together.

"HEY EARLY BIRD!" I called out. Stephanie looked behind her and saw me and she said "OH MY GOD I am SOOOO glad you are here!" She had been riding alone for awhile and was beginning to consider canning the entire sport and selling her bike for golf clubs. Enter me to the rescue! (You're welcome, Steph)

Catching Stephanie right near the bottom of the climb, my resolve was to keep up with her through the climb and have us work hard on the second lap together. We dropped all but one of the six other women who had been with us on that climb. The hills were just as hard this second time through but I actually felt better staying out of my comfort zone and I just kept pushing, pushing, PUSHING! NO WUSSING OUT!

Before I knew it, we were headed toward the Hill for one last final effort up (the finish line was at the top). It was me, Stephanie, the third woman and a fourth we had picked up. Quick flashback to an XC race from last year - I was coming into the final 1/4 mile of the race and a woman and I were gunning for the finish and I thought "well what's the WORST that can happen if I push harder?" So I did and it hurt like hell and I got my HR up to 193 and I thought I was going to throw up but I BEAT HER!

Back to this moment before the hill. I did NOT want to let woman #3 (who had been with us for much of the 2nd lap but didn't like to do her share of pulling) beat ME. Uh-UH. Figuring, however, Stephanie probably would beat me, I thought if I could just try as hard as I could to stay with her and just go ALLLLL OUT then it might work. And, really, what's the worst that could happen?

Well: the difference between pushing yourself above and beyond anything you've ever done before in running vs. cycling up a HILL is that if your legs are spent, you can push all you want but it may not really translate into moving faster.

BUT I DID BEAT THAT WOMAN! HELL YES I DID! I tried to keep Stephanie close but she managed to maintain some strength through the last part of the climb. I was further back just trying to keep turning the pedals over, find any semblance of power and focus on being done. Hitting the 200 M mark, I tried to stand up and sprint but legs were saying "SIT YOUR BUTT DOWN, GIRL!"

In the end Stephanie and I came in 31st and 32nd, respectively, out of 47 riders. Not exactly in the top 15 as I had sort of maybe hoped I might have SOME chance at. But honestly, it fills me with so much hope. Hope for development, for improvement, for potential.

Honestly - today was one of the best days I have EVER had on my bike. The strategy involved, the teamwork, the way I kept thinking about my next move, the way I kept on pushing myself and made decisions on when to push harder than other times. It was all just totally amazing. I also had FUN and I was SO inspired by all of the amazing cyclists who passed me today.

It also reminded me of those training days on your bike when you ride with people way better than you and you're gasping for air most of the time and you hate it and you think "why did I do this?" and then an hour after the ride you think "wow that was the BEST RIDE EVER!" It was totally like that. Except that even when it was hard, I was still having fun.

Today gave me such a great sense of direction. I want to do more of this. I want to be a better climber. A smarter racer. I want to see how much stronger I can make my body. It's a good feeling and ABOUT TIME I got that appetite back!

So that's that. The next road race is May 10 - the Berkeley Hills Road Race. The route will take place over the infamous "Three Bears" route which I used to ride ad nauseam when I lived in Berkeley. I'll get to relive my first couple years on the bike!

Thanks to everybody for all the support lately. It was really with me today in the confidence I felt and the mindset I went into the race with. Special thanks to Laurel Green of Wenzel Coaching and my Early Bird Women's Developmental Team Director - your pre-race tips were invaluable to me and I am so grateful to have you as a mentor! Also thanks to all of the Early Bird Women who showed up today and rode strong and cheered for me afterward. Having a team is SO FUN!


The 2009 Early Bird Developmental Team

Friday, April 10, 2009

A week of firsts

Let’s start with Tuesdsay evening: as I was finishing up Wednesday’s spin class, I was bending my toes on the carpet and suddenly felt a pull on one of my toenails. Ouch! Felt like it was kind of ripping so I immediately walked into the bathroom to grab some clippers. As I bent over my foot, there was my second toe with ITS TOENAIL HANGING OFF.


I have heard about you runner folk and your black toenails that fall off, but it has NEVER happened to me before! In all the years of tri I always managed to have shoes that never caused black & blue toenails. But back in January Matt and I had gone on a hike and as we were running down the trail to beat darkness, my left second toe kept jamming into the front of my hiking shoes; I definitely had a hunch it would be bruised. Sure enough, it eventually turned black.

Little did I know it would FALL OFF. How WEIRD is that?! It’s like my toe managed to form a protective layer between the skin and the nail so that when the nail DID come off, it was kind of no big deal. But I’m still weirded out by the fact that my toenail just kinda…fell off!

Onto Friday: my first ART session. For those not in the know, that’s Active Release Therapy (ART). Matt has been going to Patrick Pisenti, DC for a few different ailments and I know plenty of other people (including Holly) who have sung his praises for whatever injuries they were dealing with.

I’ve been dealing with this scar tissue in my right quad for awhile now and it hasn’t ever gotten any better. It affects me most when I run but I still feel it when I swim and bike and even in yoga. My right quad generally feels weaker than the left. I was just tired of feeling it and feeling injured.

Last November I felt so angry after my last XC race because it really flared up to the point of causing so much pain I had tears in my eyes and it was all I could do just to finish the damn thing. This stupid injury essentially ruined what should have been an awesome race for me. That was really when I decided to hang up running for awhile.

So I decided it was time for me to visit Pat. ART is PAINFUL! But I’m hoping it works. I’m supposed to follow up my treatment with the good ol’ foam roller and see how it goes for a couple weeks before I make any follow up appointments.

Onto the weekend! Hope everybody has a wonderful Easter weekend and gets some great rides/runs/swims/egg hunts in!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

2 Recipes for healthy people on the go

I know, I know, I’m waaaay overdue. Things have been nuts lately. My cooking has been much more of the “how can I make this as healthy as possible while still making it as quickly as possible because it is already 8:00 p.m. and I am STARVING?”

First up: Stir fry

No special stuff here but this is my ALL time favorite go-to ‘hurry-up-i-need-something-healthy’ meal.

-I start with a base of Trader Joe’s Chimichurri Rice. If you are a TJ’s shopper, YOU MUST BUY SOME OF THIS! It is a frozen rice mixture with some great spices. Re-heats REALLY well and serves as an excellent base. I do all kinds of stuff with this.

-In another pan, start braising tofu or saute some chicken or ground turkey or turkey sausage…etc

-Meanwhile, start cutting up all the veggies you’ve got:

  • Bell peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Chard
  • Whatever other great veggies you might want in a stir fry

-I often will actually use a third pan and get my onion and mushrooms going by themselves

-In the Chimichurri Rice pan, once it’s been on heat for about a minute, start throwing in your veggies based on how long they need to stir-fry for. Carrots first, Asparagus and bell peppers next, then once the mushrooms and onion are almost done, throw them into the mix. Time it so that about two minutes before everything is all done, you can throw your meat or tofu into your wok also. Then about one minute before it’s all finished, throw in the chard. Chard cooks quickly so be sure everything else is done. Keep turning the chard over so that it cooks evenly but usually you never want more than a minute before it will become over-cooked.

That’s about it. In about 15 minutes of prep and cook time, you’ve got a pretty solid meal of protein/carbs/veggies and it tastes REALLY good. Sometimes I’ll wrap it in a tortilla, sometimes I’ll eat it alone. Mmmm.

April 041

Next up: Quinoa and Black Beans Salad

I heart this SO much. This recipe makes enough salad for two people to stretch out for about 2-3 days so you may want to halve it.


  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa 
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed, if canned
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked corn (cut from about 2 large ears) *
    (I used TJ’s frozen corn and it was great; also use TJ’s ‘Soycutash’ mix and that works really well in this, too)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups tofu, chopped into small blocks (something I added on my own, definitely optional!)

For dressing :

  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1/3 cup olive oil


Rinse and cook quinoa. (If you’re not familiar with it – rinse a few times as you would rice. Can use a 1-2 ratio – 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water; bring water to boiling, put quinoa in, let simmer for 15 min or so until all the water has been absorbed)

While quinoa is cooking, in a small bowl toss beans with vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and cool. Add beans, corn, bell pepper (and tofu) and toss well.

Make dressing: In a small bowl whisk together lime juice, salt, and cumin and add oil in a stream, whisking. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss well with salt and pepper to taste. (*Note: I used about 3/4 of the salad dressing)

Salad may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salad to room temperature before serving. 

April 038

Doing without

Without what?

A lot of things. The last two weeks have been all about extreme control and conscious restraint. Yet, I still seem to be in a good mood!

Matt has been having some stomach issues and thought it might be a good idea to try giving up alcohol and coffee for a month. Figuring that I would probably also benefit from such restraint, I decided to go along for the ride.

It’s been a little over two weeks so far and here are the results:

Alcohol: I mean yeah, I get jealous when James updates his Facebook status with what type of beer he’s relaxing with or JP mentions having noodles and beer. I passed by the Russian River Brewing Co the other day and thought “oh…that sounds GOOOOD.” But overall, I think it’s good to give the ol’ liver a break.

We went to a mixer last week for an organization called GoLocal (all about promoting the support of local business) and the theme last night was “Drink Local” – supporting local beverage makers (and while Sonoma County IS wine and beer country, they also were talking about some local tea/coffee importers, etc.).

So we go to pour ourselves a glass of water and what is sitting next to the bottles of water?

A BIG jug of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. I let out a little whimper as I spied it. Taking a deep breath, I said confidently to Matt “I’m fine. It’s fine. Just give me the water.”


But after that, I really WAS fine. The evening went on without another thought of the matter. Which shows me that a) I’m not that addicted to beer and wine (that’s good!) and b) It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.

Coffee, on the other hand, has been a completely different story. MY GOD am I craving my fresh French-pressed brew!! We’ve been drinking black tea in the mornings instead but it just isn’t the same. And since I’m not the one with the stomach issues, I think lasting through two weeks of experimentation has been enough for me.

In all actuality, I haven’t really completely given it up. The other morning Matt felt bad for me and made me a pot. The day before that I had a breakdown and went to Peet’s on my way to FedEx (they’re next door to each other, how convenient) and got an Americano. At the GoLocal mixer you’d better believe I was ‘sampling’ (if that’s what you could call getting a refill three times) the decaf blend.

If that’s what ‘giving up’ coffee has done to me, then I think I was better off with my one-cup-each-morning habit!

Besides restraining from coffee and alcohol, I’ve been counting calories. Fitness Journal has a really cool food diary that can either be really detailed or really simple. The detailed version is cool in that a lot of foods are already in there from other members (i.e. Clif Z-Bars). I’m not so much wanting to ‘diet’ as more wanting to understand exactly where the calories come from and what my daily percentages of carbs, fat and protein are. Further, I want to make sure I’m doing enough to get the majority of my carbs from veggies and fruits rather than starches. I’ve actually really enjoyed doing this and it’s helping me to make more conscious choices during the day, especially if I can see that I’m lacking on the protein or the carb/fat/protein ratio is a little out of balance – I can adjust meals accordingly.

Overall, training’s been good. Still not much running to speak of. Fine by me! I got in a great swim last Saturday on my own and decided that I can’t be a wimp about it anymore. If I can’t make a Tues/Thurs eve master’s workout, I just have to suck it up and go early those mornings on my own. I CAN push myself and I CAN be disciplined. I don’t necessarily enjoy it as much, but I need to do it and I’m always glad when I did.  I decided that I definitely want to get some open water swims in this summer and when Shan moves up here I want to round her and some other folks up and go BAY swimming! I haven’t swam in the Bay in quite awhile but it’s really an awesome experience (cold, but awesome).

Finally, I should announce that I have officially joined the Early Bird Women’s Racing Team and may be racing as early as April 26 at the Wente Crit Race! YEAH!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

What is the meaning of life?

Whatever you want it to be.

That was the question/answer on a card I wrote today. I love it. It couldn’t be more true.

This week has been nuts in the most awesome way. It started Saturday and has been pretty much, well, great, every day since. I don’t even know where to START! After such an incredible weekend, I began to reflect inward a little bit. Last month I mentioned a few things about how our attitude is everything. I am starting to see the difference my positive thinking is making on my life and my actions. Not only is it helping me to see the brighter side of things more easily, but I can see it in my confidence as well. I’ve been making decisions recently that are the direct result of more confidence in my feelings and direction I want to be going. It feels so good to make a decision and not question it or wonder if I should be doing it differently.

I looked at a blog post I remembered writing almost a year ago to this day. I was feeling pretty alone here in Sonoma County. Frustrated that my relationship with my students at the YMCA wasn’t forming immediately (patience is something I constantly work on). A little disappointed in my Oceanside 70.3 race (btw GOOD LUCK TO YOU FOLKS RACING!). Missing my friends in Berkeley and Oakland. Lamenting on my former life.

A year later, I can honestly say my life and outlook are 180 degrees from where they were one year ago. Take spin: several hours later, I am STILL on a high from spin class this morning. A year ago I was doing everything I could to look forward to spin on Mondays. And a year ago, when I was stoked that spin was 85% full? This morning’s class was full by 5:35 a.m. - for a 6 a.m. class. As I think about why I feel so fulfilled by teaching spin, I realize it’s something that I have worked so hard for. The comments from my post last week about Wednesdays were interesting to me. People seemed surprised that I’m always changing up the workout and playlist. But just like the quote at the top of my post today says: you get out of things whatever you put into them.

One of the things I know I am good at and love doing is building relationships and friendships. In spite of that, I am also impatient. The former takes time and yet, my personality likes things to happen YESTERDAY! Especially when I get EXCITED!

Just as it took a good 6 months for my relationships to really deepen with my spin students, it’s taken time for me to build my community here in Santa Rosa. To build friendships. To figure out what I wanted out of my new life up here. But I was so thrilled to be moving up here, to get out on my bike and learn every road in Sonoma County, to enjoy all this beautiful place has to offer, I think I expected it all to happen overnight.

I’m kind of interested to go back to another post from March of 2008 where I said:

After this year, who knows? As much as I love this sport and love the fitness that comes along with it, there are a lot of other things I'm interested in doing. I'm interested in cooking more. I'm interested in growing a garden to use my own veggies. I'm interested in becoming fluent in Spanish. I'm interested in reading more. I'm interested in getting into cycling racing. I'm interested in more yoga. I'm interested in learning more about web design and learning CSS. I may even be interested in running a marathon at some point.

I don't think I'll give up triathlon after this year, I just think I'll back off the intensity and just have fun with it. Pick a couple key races to do every year and do them for fun.

Kind of funny to look back on that! I was already gearing up for 2009 and yet, a few months ago, I was STRUGGLING SO MUCH with the idea of letting go! A WHOLE YEAR AGO I KNEW what I wanted. And yet up until about last week I was still hanging on to the last threads of somehow feeling like I NEED to do triathlon. Or that I NEED to run.

Yet the only thing getting in my way of pursuing other, just-as-exciting things was ME. Life is what you make it.

Now that I’ve set the stage (no this post isn’t over yet), let’s look back at what I said in March 2008 that I wanted to do:

  1. Cooking more – have to say I’ve been really lazy lately. Haven’t been posting recipes at all lately and my cooking has lacked pizzazz. Time to step it up! I’m going to try and plan at least two great meals a week that involve a little more extended time in the kitchen. I’ve got PLENTY of inspiration from JP and Devon!
  2. Garden – possibly working on doing a community garden with Carmen, yeah!
  3. Spanish – nada. Still have to table that one for a little while.
  4. Reading more – reading at least 15 min a day from a BOOK and it’s working out great! (in addition to Bicycling…New Yorker…Gourmet…Swimmer…)
  5. More yoga – yes! I’ve totally picked this up this year! Going to keep rockin’ that one…
  6. Web design and CSS – another one to be tabled. Maybe someday…
  7. Marathon – nope, certainly not right now.
  8. Cycling Racing – funny this should come up…

On the topic of road racing: last week on that FANTASTIC Riviera Ride from West County Revolution (an absolute MUST for anybody remotely nearby – I will let you know the details for the next one), I met a woman named Laurel Green. I told her about my desire to race this season and she said “Do you have a team?” I said “No.” Her: “Want one?” Me: “well…YEAH!”

Laurel is running a development team for women in their first year of road racing. How PERFECT! As the ride went on we spoke more about what’s required and what I could expect to get out of this experience. The result? All that’s left for me to do is send my team dues in. Count me IN!

Besides it being a great ride for finding myself being recruited to a racing team, it was truly one of the most gorgeous days in Sonoma County I’ve seen this year so far. A perfect day for riding, and boy did we RIDE! I found myself feeling feisty and got into a few pacelines and attacking up a few hills. It hurt SO good. I posted the pics below!

After and incredible lunch at Riviera, that evening I went to my FIRST professional hockey game! We watched the Sharks beat the Phoenix team. GO SHARKS! It was awesome. And I couldn’t believe they just LET them keep fighting!

Sunday I did more riding with Soda. She came up around 2 p.m. and we set off to do about a 40 mile, 2 hr mostly flat ride. Well…it ended up being 53 miles and 2 hrs 40 min. Oops. We got into Occidental and she had never turned right on Bohemian Hwy from there. We were both on TT bikes and I said “oh…Soda…that is THE BEST ROAD FOR A TT BIKE! YOU WILL FEEL LIKE YOU ARE FLYING!” I thought we’d go down from there to Monte Rio and take River Road in – a long flat ride back – perfect, right?

Kind of. We enjoyed Bohemian Hwy all the way down. We hit upwards of 3o mph! Once we were on River Road about 4 miles from Guerneville, we were moving along at a nice clip of about 21-22 mph. I was letting Soda do all the pulling since she’s the one racing next week. :) I decided to kick it into my big ring and slow down the cadence a tad. As I pulled the left gear toward me, it, well…kept pulling back! “What the hell?” I thought. I looked down and my chain had gone nowhere. Damn. Front derailleur cable had snapped! Still, worse things could have happened. With no bike store in Guerneville, we decided to just focus on getting back. I didn’t want to slow Soda down so I just decided I’d practice my spinning all the way home (I should also point out I couldn’t shift up to any of the last 3 gears on my rear cog because the chain would start rubbing against the front derailleur, so I was pretty much stuck with one gear on the flat).

Home – guess I kind of forgot it’s about 20 miles from Guerneville. Oh well, we still managed to do about 19 mph with my legs spinning the whole entire way!

Once we got there I had planned on doing an easy 20 minute run with her afterward. As we embarked down the block, my legs were SCREAMING. The thought of running another 18 minutes seemed like a feat I would not be able to conquer today. I apologized and told her I just had no strength left in my legs. All in all, it was a great ride and I definitely wasn’t concerned about missing out on the run.

This week started off really well, too. Monday spin was great. Went to yoga that evening and it felt so good but my legs were still hating me and for the first time in a LONG time I had to come out of my warrior poses to massage my quads! Oooohhh so sore.

Tuesday, in spite of still sore legs, I willed myself to go out at lunch at get a 20 minute run in. I won’t lie. The first 10 minutes sucked eggs. I spent every step plotting how I was going to describe the pain in my blog entry. The muscles right above my knees especially – just so tight. I’m wondering if that’s soreness from using the TT bike which I haven’t ridden in months? After the first 10 minutes it wasn’t so bad, but folks…it was dreadfully slow! I haven’t run that slow in AGES!

I sort of smiled about it all. Perhaps doing a 10K in two weeks might be out of the question. Of course I have the cardio strength for it but not sure my legs have it. And honestly…I don’t really care. I am really beginning to think that I may just take a total break from triathlon this season. I am TOTALLY FINE WITH THIS, FOR THE FIRST TIME ALL YEAR! On my ride on Saturday, about 20 minutes before I spoke with Laurel, I said to Lee “you know…I think I might just be okay if I really just focused on bike, swim and yoga this year.” Kind of funny how it all worked out.

Life is like that. It seems to work itself out. Things don’t always happen as quick as we want them to, but I am coming to the full realization that if you just set some goals and gain a clear understanding of what it is you really want, put it out there for the universe to hear, and work at it, everything will be okay. Obviously there are always hiccups and roadblocks along the way, but nobody ever said succeeding was easy. I know more times than not I wish life were easier, but when I look at the big picture I know that life really is good and I can make it into whatever I want. I like that.