Last night, I skipped yoga and went to an event at Clif Bar Headquarters. It was a reception and talk with four professional triathletes: Tim O'Donnell, Terenzo Bozzone, Linsey Corbin, & Ben Hoffman. This is a star lineup and I was very excited to get inspired for my upcoming return to multisport after a year of consistently running and doing yoga to rebuild fitness.
Then I saw an older guy and I recognized him. I thought "No Way! If he was here they would have said so on the announcement. No Way!"
So I ate and drank and chatted and didn't have the courage to walk up to one of the athletes who was there to be talked to (sigh). We sat down for the program and they announced that Mark Allen was there to tell us about his new book! Mark Allen, The Grip, the man who won the IronWar, Six time Ironman Hawaii winner. Holy crap! He was cool and funny and down to earth. The dude is a legend.
The other athletes were super cool and gave a pretty good talk. The event was shamefully under-attended. There was capacity for 200 and their might have been 50 people there. There was a raffle and I won some stuff. After the talk they had copies of magazines that the athletes had been on the cover of for them to autograph. I was not shy! I grabbed one of each and got autographs from each of them. They were all really nice and down to earth and (surprise!) actually wanted to talk to me. I had a nice little chat with Tim O'Donnell and we made Zoolander jokes about his cover.
As I was saying goodbye and shaking hands, Mark Allen jumped on stage. I reached out to shake his hand and taught him a fun, Oakland style, handshake. He totally did it with me and then threw me a shaka and a smile. Fangirl Squeeeee!!!!
It was amazing and I am now totally a fan of all these athletes. I am so hyped to race again!
There is an event this week that is so cool and unique that I will not be at yoga on Thursday night. I cannot specifically remember the last time I wasn't at yoga on Thursday night. I have missed yoga once or twice in the last nine months. My consistency and dedication have yielded great results in my yoga practice. I am physically stronger, I am more flexible, I have carved out personal time, and am practicing self care.
This week's self care is about taking time to go to see a bunch of pro triathletes talk at Clif Bar this Thursday. The perfect thing for my triathlon life right now as I am starting to get back to multisport training. Woot Woot!
In order news, I have applied to be an ambassador for a popular triathlon blog. It was a big step but it struck me as something I would be really good at. If I get in, there will be copious details!
The good news for today, which is the time that counts, is that I'm short circuiting my carb cravings. I used to graze in the kitchen at night, eating dried fruit and bread and wondering how I could never feel full no matter how much I ate. Unless I ate ice cream or butter. Which have protein and fat. Really, protein. Last night I was hungry, so I scrambled two eggs. That did it. Ate it up, done, full. Most nights I have a protein shake for dessert instead of ice cream. Full. Not bloody hungry.
Tracking calories is a mainstay of dieting but it should be a mainstay of training. I really wonder how I would have felt and the results I might have had if I'd realized years and years ago that if I wasn't taking in enough protein it didn't matter how hard I trained, my body would be unable to respond with muscle growth. All these years of working out and I never really paid attention to the information on nutrition I was given.
I have these muscles in my quads now that I never remember having before (OK. The muscles were there, now they are defined and harder than I can ever recall them being). I can do bound side angle pose without thinking "OMG this is crazy!" I keep my knee up for lunges in yoga. I take chaturanga sometimes instead of just always lowering to the floor.
I still get upset if I weigh more than 175 pounds, working on that. Transforming the body takes time, transforming the mind takes time.
A first! I got a bee sting. It sucked, Jon was awesome, I am not allergic. So that's done with. But oh, did that hurt!
I was stung by a bee while swimming. I remembered to take my goggles out to my father in-law's pool. I usually just mess around because I do not like any "serious" swimming (read: open my eyes under water) without goggles. This is a lingering aspect of my fear of water. I had not done any front crawl for several months, maybe a year. I can't remember the last time. I got a bit of a surprise.
I'm an elbow dropper, I admit it. My right elbow drops badly on my front crawl on the pull through the water. I also don't kick strongly. My thighs are big, big muscles working take a lot of oxygen, combined with less than optimal cardiovascular condition and you get an out of breath swimmer with water anxiety - or a panic attack. Well. Nine consistent months of yoga and good gravy is my pull strong! Strong and _effortless_. Just slicing through the water with a light, six count kick. Like, nothing, just swimming really easily over here, no efforts, no struggles, just gliding along through the water like the marine ape I am.
It was sweet. Almost like I'd never left the pool. So if my alignment and stroke feel this good, without any practice, imagine how good it's going to be once I get some solid yards in to really refine my stroke and build my endurance. It's gonna be dope! Now I really want to get that wetsuit back on! The only worry I have is that my right shoulder has a nag in it. I think it's from having terrible computing posture, it rolls forward and I have to consciously pull it back into alignment a lot. We will see if swimming helps or if some targeted work will be required.
Yoga is not just asana. It's meditation, it's pranayama, it's a lot of things. The asana practice, what we generally think of as yoga in the States, is focused on making the body a better seat (or "asana") for the soul. Literally, making your body a better place for your spirit to inhabit. I find it meditative and healing. My asana practice is not focused on getting to any particular pose. It's about strengthening and relaxing my body and my mind. When I am in class I let all other concerns drop away. It becomes apparent pretty quickly if I am distracted when I am in a balance pose. It is practice in being fully present and fully aware of the moment. It's also a very good strength and stretch session for my running/biking/swimming/mommy self.
I love Sparkle as a teacher. She has very welcoming, energizing prana (energy, vibe). I feel very safe in her class. Another benefit to consistency is that Sparkle and I have talked about my particular challenges (hello hips!) and she has observed me over time. She offers excellent hands on adjustments. She also offers the most advanced asana practice I've ever taken. There is no standard class, every time I go it is different, there is no auto pilot, no coasting through (unless that's where you are today!). She offers variations on asana that are far beyond anything I've ever seen outside of a magazine or promo shot. It's nice to be humbled by how far there is to go, to know that I'm nowhere near topping out so it's fine to keep working.
Last night we were working on headstand. I'm not confident in the strength of my upper body. After nine months of downward dog the strength is there, I have some serious guns. I just don't believe in them yet. So we set up for head stand and started kicking up. A couple of weeks ago we did headstand and Sparkle helped me up into the pose and supported me. It was helpful to feel where I was trying to go. I just gently kicked up with my head on the ground and my hands clasped behind my head. I knew I wasnt' going to go all the way up on accident so I was relaxed. My kicks were effective and I was getting good air time. I kicked a little bit more and I felt the weight come into my arms and neck. I didn't panic, I laughed. It was awesome! I had good hang time but I didn't push it and came down and relaxed into child's pose. It was very significant for me and I'm looking forward to where I'm going to be with headstand next year!
When I'm hungry, I head for carbs. Lately I've been paying attention and carbs don't fulfill me. I'm still hungry after I eat them. So my mouth says sugar and my stomach says that wasn't it. When I grab some protein I am satisfied with far fewer calories, for longer. I am adding protein in the morning, tracking my nutrition, I am eating to support my level of activity. I am not calorie restricted in any way. I know how much I've eaten and generally what I plan to eat. I'm working to increase protein and vegetables and reduce meat. Right now there are just a lot of carbs sitting in there not doing much. Not that I'm gonna cut them out, I just really like the changes I'm seeing my my body and want to support those.
I'm not thinner, I don't weigh less and I could give a shit. I have muscles in my thighs that I didn't have when I danced five days a week. I'm starting to feel my hamstrings and glutes activate when I call on them during a run. I can still carry my toddler on my back for miles, sometimes without a carrier, just piggyback or on my shoulders. I can do side plank again! I choose to include lunges in my yoga practice that do not include my back knee on the ground.
I freaked out last week when I stood on a scale and I was three and a half pounds heavier than the last time I stood on that scale. So there's some work to do!
Good, got all that out. Onward!
The days leading up to my race and especially the day before were difficult. It has been a couple of years since I "really" raced. I have been doing some 5k races over the last year or so but I have excused myself from worrying about them because they were short or I had the stroller so I wan't trying to go fast, etc. The difference is that this race was long enough and hard enough that there genuinely a chance that I would not be able to finish. I trained very purposefully for this. I logged miles training on the actual race course, I did course preview runs to familiarize myself with the terrain. I knew that if I was not well trained, the experience would be miserable.
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In my Pre-Pip running life I never tried to go fast. I sat back and went slow and was happy to just finish. In my Post-Pip running life I'm not happy to sit back and stay at the same level all the time. I want to get faster and stronger. I told myself I was in better shape for the race this time than the last time I ran it. This was only half true. The last time I ran this I had a larger endurance base. I was regularly running more than 10 miles and was coming off a ten miler and a half marathon in the previous 6 weeks (The East Bay Triple Crown Trail Championship - so many long names!). I was concerned that my longest training run had been 7 miles and that the three weeks of training before the race were disrupted when I went back to work. I accepted that this was my life and we have to work with what we've got.
The day before the race I felt awful. I was tired and had a headache. I was anxious and I now remember that this is what I feel like before a big race. My body goes into conservation mode for the week leading up to race day. It is as if my body refuses to burn any glycogen beyond the minimum. I feel shaky and weak, especially in my quads. I thought I was getting sick and wouldn't be able to race! Quite typically, I could not get to sleep the night before and spent a lot of time visualizing the course and talking through my race plan. The old mental channels were very strong as I set out my gear the night before. I loaded up my gel flask, laid out shoes, socks, & hydration belt.
The race had an human start time of 9 AM (luxury!). I set my alarm for 6 AM. I got up, made a bowl of oatmeal, raisins, brown sugar, & milk ate it up and them went back to bed, if not to sleep. Pip came in to our room around 7 AM and we had our morning cuddle. My second alarm went off at 7:30 and I got out of bed at 7:45. It seems anal, but meeting little milestones on race morning goes a long way to making me feel in control and as if I know what I am doing. Training isn't just miles, it's habits, dedication, getting out the door with the gear. I got dressed, got everything together and was out the door exactly on time at 8:15.
A ten minute drive up the hill, easy parking and I was at check in. Weather was great! Mid-sixties, no cloud cover but most of the race is wooded. The race had less than 150 runners, so it was quick and easy to get my number. There was no line for the ladies room! There was no toilet paper either but I'm not squeamish. First step of the race plan, I waited until 20 minutes before my start time and went for a warm up run. Instead of timing it I listened to my body. I went at a mellow pace out the course until I started to sweat in my sweatshirt, then I turned and came back at the same easy pace, getting warm. I dropped the sweatshirt and it was time to get talked to before the start.
Wave one went out and I waited an easy four minutes. Before my warm up I had talked through the course for a couple of first timers. I have found that small races tend to be very social events. People are very chatty and friendly, myself included! And we were off! I turned on my run tracker for a timer. I know the GPS is inaccurate but it's got a time interval set and I use that to take in fluid and nutrition (water every 10 minutes, gel every 40 minutes). Then it was go time! I kept my pace slow and stayed to the side to let the faster runners go out ahead of me. I hooked up with four women, two friends who were under trained but out for the fun of it and a mother-daughter team who were doing the East Bay Triple Crown together, how awesome is that?
The friends asked about the course, so I described the general profile - flat, BIG HILL, nice three mile easy net downhill, BIG BIG HILL, nice, three mile easy downhill. We came to the first hill and all started up. I stuck to the plan and got walking up this hill. I had trained to walk it and it paid off. I could hear the other runners huffing and puffing. The mother and daughter were doing their best to keep running and I walked past them. I stayed steady and slowed down when my heart rate got too high. The mantra for the day was "Active Recovery!" Rest doesn't equal stop. As we were slogging up this hill the next wave started to pass us. I made way and cheered these strong runners! Passing runners from behind was regular until around mile 3.
The slope evened out a bit and I got running. I was still walking any steep slope and my shin was cramping from the climb. Even with the warm up run I knew that I wasn't full warmed up. I was worried about it but I knew I had a big break before any more serious climbing. I kept walking the steep slopes as we passed up and over Skyline and turned at the Chabot Observatory. Once we crossed the Chabot Driveway I knew it was good times and got moving. I was going well down West Ridge. The familiar territory flew by. I took in my nutrition and cheered on the scratch runners, the very, very fast male runners. Boy were they going! I struck to my pace. I took a bathroom break at Skyline gate and then jumped back on the course. In just that little break the mother and daughter had caught me!
I headed out East Ridge and knew it was easy going for another mile and a half. I hooked up with another racer named Janet and we stuck together for the next three miles! It was great, she was faster than I was on the flats but I was faster on the downhills and the steep up hills, glutes versus quads! We chatted about all sorts of stuff and I know that I was much faster than I might have been because of her pacing. We turned down Prince, which is so steep it isn't restful and then up the Stream Trail. I fell back from Janet here for a few minutes but caught up to her quickly when we hit the Woodmonster. We walked slow and steady upwards. Once again, the mom-daughter duo was near us, as were several other runners. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery (it is a gorgeous course) and kept talking to pass the time and keep our minds off the difficulty. Janet fell back towards the end but she was in sight when I reached the top and raised my hands in victory!!
My training showed when I was able to get running again right after climbing the hill. I still walked the steep climbs for a few minutes but we got running and went for it, know that what was left was easy running. I stuck on Janet as long as I could, with a mile and a half to go I dropped off and wished her luck. I was getting tunnel vision and I was a lot of work to open my field of vision and keep my head up.
For the last mile, I was very tired. I had some discomfort in my right ankle and hip that was fatigue and it was just plain hard to keep my legs moving. Time was slowing down. I knew I had about a mile left and I had ten minutes until two hours, my time goal. It was a fight between being so tired and wanting to walk and wanting to beat 2 hours. I took a walk break about a half mile before the finish. It was refreshing! Then I turned down Palos Colorados.
Part of racing well is pacing yourself. Part of pacing this race is ensuring that your legs have enough strength left to go safely down this trail with any sort of speed. I was going well and with due caution but I took a bad step. I thought for sure I was going to take a header and was fortunately faced toward the uphill side of the trail. When you are falling, your body gives everything to keep you up. It worked, my legs stretched in front of me as my core and back yanked me back and I pulled out of the fall. I walked a few steps to give my tired ankle a rest and then proceeded apace down the hill. I turned onto Sunset and had three eights of a mile left. I started to run! and then went back to my slower pace as my heart started to explode and my legs yelled at me.
I kept going and then I could see the finish line, then I ran it in. I turned off from the finish line and after a minutes, my legs gave out and I melted to the grass. It's good pacing if you've got enough left to run it in to the finish line and then drop to the ground! I was pretty wrecked but happy. My execution was spot on. I raced as I planned, which I find just as satisfying as racing as fast as I can. I stretched in the grass, chatted with Janet and then went home for some well earned rest. As each runner came in behind me everyone who was hanging around would turn and cheer for them. The Mother-Daughter team finished holding hands, the two friends finished together with huge smiles on their faces. Small races are awesome!
This was a great race! My time was 2:03:48 good for about 118th place. That was an improvement of about 18 minutes from my previous result! I stuck to my training as well as I could. I made good choices about terrain and preparation. I made a race plan and stuck to it (including telling myself I was a goat!). It was a great day and I'm very proud of myself.
I ran this race four or five years ago and I can tell you that it is challenging. I have been training on the trails this race is run on in Joaquin Miller and Redwood Parks. It is nine miles and they are no joke. Based on my previous experience and my training I have written out a race plan which I am sharing with you. Yes, this is what goes through my head when I am racing.
"Warm up! You NEED to warm up for this, do your warm up, do it!!"
"Ok, little under a half mile of easy trail, get moving, get warm, keep your heart rate under control."
"Hill 1 - 20% grade with stairs. Walk at a steady pace, steady, steady, steady, find the pace that you can maintain that isn't comfortable but isn't blowing up. WALK - no pride, walking is faster right now."
"Here come the other runners (this race has a handicapped start so faster runners will be passing me in packs through the first two to three miles) don't chase them, just get out of their way."
"Hill 1, done, grade levels then flattens, get running, shake the hills out of your legs and get moving. Cadence, quick turnover, get your heart rate steady, get moving."
"Up and out, over Skyline, turn left, one little up and down section and then it's net down hill for three glorious, familiar miles. Jam!! Run!! You know this part and you know this is where you put in the time because there is another heinous hill you've got to get up. Go, Go, Go!"
"Down Prince, slow down, perilous descent, it's just too damned steep. Careful, you won't finish if you break something, so slow down, don't pound the crap out of your knees and back, controlled descent. I am a mountain goat!"
"Right on Stream, legs will be shaking from the descent, get your cadence back up and shake out your legs. Get moving but don't push too hard, this is uphill for a bit and you don't want to blow up before the big hill."
"Ok, over the stream at the fallen tree and it's the Woodmonster (900 feet elevation in about a half a linear mile, the only word is vicious). Slow and STEADY! Keep running until you make the left turn on French then it's a power walk to the top. Steady heart, Steady Heart. Pride comes after not during, keep moving."
"Oh god it's long. Don't check the map, don't check the mileage, don't check the time. It's as long as it is and it takes as long as it takes. Steady heart, Steady heart."
"Stabilize the hips, lead with the tailbone, consciously engage the hamstrings & glutes. Keep your head up, keep your head up, pump your arms, keep your head up, lean into the hill. I am a fucking mountain goat!"
"Right turn and suddenly it's over. Lovely wide fire road! Get jogging lightly, shake the hill out of your legs, little hill up to the left, back down to Joaquin Miller. Three miles down hill from here."
"Sequoia Bayview Trail. Wide and smooth and shady, go go go, I am a gazelle! I am a wolf in the woods! This is my home, god this feels so good, no more climbing!!! Go Go Go, don't relax too much, you're not done yet."
"Palos Colorados, it's right at the end and you're tired and your legs are shaking. It's just tree roots and suck for 400 yards down a steep ass hill. Don't trip and fall, keep going but don't take huge risks. Am I a goat, fuck yes I'm a goat!"
"Sunset trail, 400 yards left, all flat and smooth. Afterburners, everything you've got in the tank goes now. Let the pride in now, let the success in. Smile!! You did it and this is just a time to let your legs lengthen and run joyfully to the finish."
"Raise your arms, look up, smile. Yay!!!!!!!"
My previous time was 2 hours, 21 minutes and some seconds.
My first goal is to finish, injury free.
My second goal is to beat my previous time.
My third, stretch, goal is to make it in 2 hours, which would be on the order of 2:18 faster per mile than my previous attempt. I think this is doable but I would be perfectly happen to abandon this goal if the flesh is not able on the day.
Tune back in for the race report after Sunday!
I went running with Archie yesterday. it was the afternoon and when I left my house it was in the mid-eighties. It was the mid afternoon, the hottest part of the day but it was long slow run day so I figured we would take it easy and be fine.
We drove to the park. It was very warm but for some reason I kept thinking that it must be the same temperature as at our house on the other side of the ridge. we got out and got going. it felt so hot. I was going very slowly up a hill that I felt I should have been able to run up. My skin was burning in the sun and Archie was tracking to every spot of shade he could find. He did not resist when I soaked his undercoat with water, a sign that he knew it was dangerously hot. I thought that my fitness was much lower than I expected. I has to stop running and walk and I was getting nauseous, a sign of heat illness.
Fifteen minutes into the run I decided to bail out to a downhill, shaded trail. I didn't have enough water for the conditions, I was feeling sick, my legs hurt. the biggest reason was Archie. self care is hard, pushing and sometimes even punishing myself can be too easy. if I said I would do eight miles and I don't do eight miles there is a lot of doubt and abuse I can throw at myself. But I will not hurt my dog. I love running with him and the thought that he might be hurt made my choice to turn back easy.
Know I have a model for self care. Would I do this if Archie were here? Would this be safe for him? How would Archie do this? he is a master at descending tricky slopes, sticking to the shade,
running at a sustainable pace in hard conditions, and he is loyal. not a bad role model.
in my three month spring vacation I spent a lot of time in parks. most notably those that are part of the east bay regional park district. I have spent many hours running and hiking in Redwood, Anthony Chabot, Huckleberry, Sibley, Roberts, Doable Foothills, & Tilden Parks.
These parks are fantastic. They offer something for everyone. Tot lots and picnic areas for rambunctious Pippi-monsters, trails for family walks with the dog and mighty challenges for the momster to tackle with the Archie-beast.
each park has a unique character. Redwood Park- truth in advertising, mighty trees hundreds of feet tall, Anthony Chabot, scrub and grass and live oak, all driving you to the Lake, Tilden- glorious views, Huckleberry- peaceful ferns, Sibley-all about the rocks. now they are becoming friends. each trail as I come to know it becomes an extended part of my home, a place to be comfortable even when I'm not comfortable.
Sunday morning self care isn't easy, its hard to leave the bed and the family. it's hard to think about running for hours and miles and feet of elevation. But I never regret it, it has yet to be the wrong choice to go and work and struggle and sweat. I gasp at the beauty and I gasp for breath and I gasp when truths find their way to the surface in the middle of nowhere.
running, enduring, is when I let go of enough of the mental chatter to feel things that are hard to feel. its where I cry and smile and realize. its a safe place to be, as an emotional being.
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