Monday, July 30, 2007

Sometimes you just have to go for it

I came up with a million reasons why I couldn't or shouldn't or didn't need to do a 30 mile bike ride yesterday: I've been sick... I had to get back to fulfill another commitment...a 12 mile ride did me in earlier in the week and I'd never gone farther than that...that last 4 miles was going to be REALLY HARD... but in my heart I really wanted to try it, and when I got to the point when I had to decide: turn around and come back along the nice flat rail trail, for a total of 22 miles, or keep going on hills and main roads, for 30, I went for it, even though I'd just fallen and given myself a nice deep bruise on my calf, even though my shoulders and neck were already aching.

This was the Harlem Valley Rail Ride, an annual event sponsored by Bike New York and our local rail trail association. It started and ended in Milllerton, and depending on whether you chose the 22, 30, 55, 75 or 100 miles rides, you covered up to 3 states and at least 6 or 7 towns. (I learned, to my amazement, that the hundred-milers also got to do a time trial up Winchell Mountain - that is STEEP.)

The first part, along the rail trail, was pretty easy, though I was constantly annoyed by a little boy who was zooming all over the trail, stopping unexpectedly, racing other kids, and generally not following rules of the road. I had no idea who he belonged to and really wanted to give him a talking-to. But I decided not to let him ruin my day, and put on a burst of speed to leave him behind. The rail trail is a lovely ride - mostly shaded, and it goes past farm fields and lovely vistas of the Harlem valley. At the first rest top (10 miles in) I fell off my bike and got a nice ugly bruise - it cramped up at first (a charley horse, I guess) but I shook it off.

My nutrition plan, such as it was, was to drink Cytomax (I liked it - the cranberry grapefruit is tasty and sat well on my stomach) tons of water, have gu's that I brought and whatever I could scarf up at the rest stops. The first one offered bananas, accelerade (ICK!) cookies, and peanut butter sandwiches. I had a banana and cookie and threw a sandwich into the seatpack for later.)

The next section of trail, still flat, went all the way to the Wassaic train station, alongside the trains. For some reason at that point I thought I was the very last rider - it seemed most people at the rest stop were turning around, and I'd started late so most of the 30 milers and up had already passed. I got lost for a moment as I entered the village of Wassaic (after a brief but hair-raising moment along Route 22, the very large, very fast main road) but it's such a sweet little town, with adorable ramshackle country houses, meandering gardens, (I had my camera but almost never took it out, except for the rest stops) and winding roads, that I stopped worrying about anything. My legs felt strong, I wasn't getting too tired, and my arms and shoulders were holding up OK.

The road curved back north through the Oblong valley - there is no prettier landscape anywhere, I dare say. Rolling hills, ponds and streams, fields of corn and wildflowers - Every hundred feet was another perfect postcard view. I realized there were a lot of other bikers around after all - I was catching up to some, and the 50 milers were rejoining the group after an extra loop down to Kent. Most of the people who passed me were on sleek and skinny road bikes (I've been really wishing to get one to replace or add to my heavy clunky old Trek 830, which probably weighs 35 pounds).

I realized that with sufficient rest stops for refueling and stretching, I could keep going for the 3 or more hours it was going to take me. The longest I'd worked out since I started on this journey was the 2:10 of the Pawling tri - if I'm ever going to move up to the next level I'm going to have to know what it feels like to go for 4 hours.

At the second rest stop (at Troutbeck) I had more accelerade (yuck), a snickers energy bar (not bad) and some orange pieces. I'd gone through about 3 16-oz water bottles, and all my Cytomax, so took a port-a-potty break too. I knew the last bit would be the hardest as I was close to home and I knew these roads best. Up 343 to Sharon Valley, onto 361 and back to Millerton up that long, long, long hill. It seemed much longer when I'd already gone 25 miles, but there was never a point when my cardiovascular endurance failed me. I took happy note when I passed mile 26 - the Olympic bike distance! I took another break under a tree to stretch and massage my shoulders and wrists, and got myself to the finish line. My cateye says I averaged 10.8 mph - I'm pleased enough.

Back at the field, where a little festival was going on, I put my name down for a real massage, and two hours later finally got it - the first since I've started training and so very welcome. While I waited, I opened up my face painting booth - I'd done it last year (when I hadn't ridden) and painted many dozens of small children. But I didn't have many customers this time - a good thing too since it was hard to even lift my arm!

Today I'm tired and moderately achy - but my legs are fine (other than that nasty bruise - which I'm quite proud of - it feels like a badge of honor and an obstacle I'd been waiting to overcome.) I think the moral is: I do need a new bike if I'm going to ride longer distances, one that fits me a bit better. Time to start trolling eBay and the classifieds! Recommendations, anyone, for a good road bike?

Friday, July 27, 2007

What it's really all about!

Today I had a crappy, crappy day. I felt sick, still, and didn't get myself to work til after lunch. (I'm the boss, so I get to do that sometimes.) Once there, I got progressively more freaked out by various pressures weighing on me, til I was in a near-panic by the end of the day. Trying to keep calm, I went to get my kids, but my bad mood rubbed off on everyone so my husband was in a giant grouch too. As dinner cooked, I lay down on the couch, wishing I could go straight to sleep. Instead, I got up and went running. The second I kicked into a trot, I knew I'd feel better. I felt strong (despite my very difficult bike ride 2 days ago and the almost-bronchitis) and was able to keep a decent pace. I didn't go terribly far - less than 3 miles overall, but it's quite hilly. The point is, I feel better now. Much better. Calmer, more optimistic, less depressed. Ready to go back to work tomorrow and solve my problems. All thanks to a 40 minute run. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's been a while...

Since I've posted, but I haven't stopped working towards my goals, of increased fitness, weight loss and eventually another triathlon. Time seems oddly less available in the summer, especially on weekends lately. I've been running a farmer's market on Saturdays, which takes away my morning workout time, and it's utterly exhausting. Many other big events at work - an arts festival, our Harry Potter party (see my other blog for details on all!) and the kids' weird schedule (and a nasty cold I'm fighting) have all made it harder to squeeze in the time. But when I run, I'm trying to run faster to make up for it being shorter, and when I swim I'm really focusing on my TI technique. Today I took a long hard bike ride (long and hard for me, that is) t0 guage my readiness for the Harlem Valley Rail Ride on Sunday. I had planned to do the 30 mile trip (you can do 22, 30, 50, 75 or 100) but tonight's ride, at 12 miles, whipped my butt so I think I might do the 22 instead - don't know how I could manage 30 in only 5 days! Here's the profile of what I did today. To those of you who are serious bikers, does this look hard to you? The hills seem steep to me, but I don't have anything to compare it to! BIKE LOOP
I don't know how all you other bloggers manage to post these (I guess you download from your Garmins?) I have to map it at the USATF website, then do a complicated bit of copying, pasting, cropping, cutting, pasting, uploading, etc. to get it in my blog!

All in all I feel I've come out of a slump - I'd gained some weight back but have lost it and a bit more, arriving at my lowest weight in quite a few years. Overall progress is slow - it's been almost 30 pounds since last May, but only 5 since January. I really need to lose another 10 (for health) to 20 (for vanity) to maybe even 30 (for serious athletic performance!) but I'm genuinely proud of how far I've come, since I'd basically given up on myself! I'm still not sure yet about my next triathlon - it's hard to find the time for the intensive training and there is that swim issue... but I know I'll do another some day, maybe August 11, maybe sometime after!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Total Immerson ROCKS!

So cool! I'd been wanting to make it to the TI studio in New Paltz for months now - it's only an hour and a quarter from my house, but I had to justify the time and money to myself. Then a week or two ago I realized I had a very good reason to go there for work -- a 15 minute errand that was actually very important, and that took me to less than five minutes from the TI studio. In a perfectly karmic setup, I called for a lesson and the only time they had available was 4:30 pm (end of workday) on the only day this week that I could actually go. They booked me with this fine fellow - a pro triathlete (he's headed out to the Vineland 70.3 in 2 weeks, and finished 5th overall at Eagleman) who also happens to be, well, easy on the eyes and a very good teacher! It's one thing to read the book, but I can tell you, actually doing it is SO different. I never quite got the hang of the "underswitch" and "zipper switch" from reading a description, but when you're in the endless pool, watching videos of yourself doing it wrong and an expert doing it right, slowed waaaaay down, you GET IT. Once I got the head and arm position right, my hips and legs floated right up to the surface. There is a mirror on the floor of the pool too, so you can watch yourself and make corrections immediately - it's fascinating. Even watching myself in a bathing suit wasn't too painful since I could focus on something other than the size of my thighs. (And the camera was at my head, so my better parts were in view and my nether parts mostly unseen.)

I finally understand why you MUST do those tedious seeming drills again and again and again - you have to get your muscle memory engaged in little pieces before you put it all together. So - it's back to the pool for me tomorrow - I'm going to really WORK THIS for a few weeks before I decide if I'm ready for another triathlon on August 11. Greg recommended I focus on pool drills now, but that the only way to get used to open water is spend a lot of time in it. So - maybe that will be my focus this year - the Harlem Valley Rail Ride in 2 weeks, the 10K run in Rhinebeck on Labor Day, and another triathlon at some time to be named later when I see how the swim develops.

One immediate benefit, by the way: I found I could breathe every other stroke instead of every, without running out of breath, after only the 2 hour lesson.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Back in the Game

Sometimes all that throat-clearing before I finally get out the door can really cause problems. If I'd gone out at dawn, when my sister-in-law did, or at 8:30 when I got up after another night of crummy sleep, or even at 10:30 after she and her carload of kids (including one of mine) had gone, I'd have enjoyed cool weather for a nice run. But by the time I got myself out the door it was past noon, and the sun was beating down - at least 85 degrees (it felt hotter on the pavement.) I let myself off easy - a 2.3 miler, figuring it was my first time in this heat in a while. (Not since the triathlon, in fact.) I put bandaids over the spot where I keep getting blisters, and my shoes and feet felt fine the whole way. After, I did about 20 minutes of weights and abs using my new stretchy bands, the big ball, and my dumbbells, which have all been gathering dust for months.

Considering I was so tired yesterday I was convinced I had some dread disease, I'm pleased. This has been an easy few weeks, workout wise, but it's time to step it up with another tri a month away.

So, to borrow a phrase, the plan is this:
Monday swim a.m.
Tuesday: spin a.m. TI swim lesson pm
Wednesday: run a.m.
Thursday: personal training session to get some new workouts from Helen that I can do at home to strengthen arms, core, etc and bump up my metabolism a bit. I'm taking the day off, so might add biking and open-water swimming (to practice my new skills) if Tina wants to go the very day after her latest triathlon.
Friday: Either swim or run, depending on what I did the previous day.
Saturday - nothing - I'll be working from 8:30am to 9:30 pm. If you're in town, come to the Greenscape Market and the Family Arts Festival!
Sunday... if I live that long! -- some kind of longer workout - swim or run plus open-water swim. (I've decided that, once I've done that TI workshop all my open-water problems will be over!)

Stay tuned - I'm back in the game!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Running: cautious optimism. Swimming: so excited!

First the swimming - I have an appointment at the Total Immersion swim studio in New Paltz next Thursday. I'm going to take a 2-hour lesson and learn from the source what I'm doing wrong and what to work on! I couldn't be happier. All my local friends give me advice that is 100% contrary to the TI approach (i.e. use a kickboard, kick harder, etc.) and I think I want to go the other way (i.e. swim easier, not harder!)

Now to the running. My last run, you may recall, was AWFUL - trying out new shoes I got about 6 blisters and ended up walking in my socks the last half-mile. I also was about to go to the doctor to figure out what was wrong with the joint under my big toe, which had been aching/hurting for a few weeks. But I stopped running for about 10 days while the blisters healed, and went on high-ish regular doses of ibuprofin. The toe hasn't hurt in a few days now, so I decided to do a short slow run today - it was probably not much more than 2 miles, which I did in about 28 minutes. No pain, no blisters!!! I'd been feeling awful, physically - gained about 5 pounds back (from an injudicious purchase of tortilla chips and general out-of-control binging on everything) but after this, I'm feeling like maybe, just maybe I can get back on track. And with my swim lesson, maybe that August 11 triathlon isn't out of reach! There are still a few others I'm considering too - I just need to be sure I can do the swim before I sign up.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Oh, the carnage, the bloodshed!

I often notice wildlife as I'm cycling (eg the skunk the other day) but for some reason last night I particularly noticed the wilddeath - i.e. roadkill. I passed a dead woodchuck (he deserved it, probably), a baby raccoon, countless squirrels and chipmunks, and then, horrors, a tiny bird flew out from the grass at the side of the road and was crushed under MY wheel! My husband is a birder, so I took a moment to note its characteristics (grey head, yellowish body, etc) thinking he could quickly ID it for me. He gave me a tentative label of warbling vireo, but wasn't quite sure and I didn't want to go back and take another look!

It was a nice ride, though - 10 very hilly miles, after a day of a huge allergy attack (I cleaned under and behind my bed, kicking up a LOT of dust!) I felt pretty strong, which is good since lately I've been feeling just the opposite. I haven't run in a while - I'm inhaling NSAID's trying to self-treat my foot. (But will go to the doctor too, as soon as she'll see me.) And I'm swimming a lot more. Today I tried to do that kicking thing (i.e. move my legs while I swim) and it is HARD to sustain. I also don't think I was actually moving much faster, but it's hard to tell. (My usual glacial pace is 6 lengths, or 150 yards, in 5 minutes.) I'll do spinning class tomorrow (despite the fact that my shoe, only 7 months old, is almost completely separated from its sole (just as Lord Voldemort is separated from his soul, but now that's a completely different blog - I can't wait til July 20, can you?!) It's always something as the great Roseanne Rosanadanna used to say.