An Inauspicious Beginning

Yesterday was the official start of Ironman training. Already, it is not going well.

Instead of riding my road bike, I decided it’d be more fun to mountain bike, because road biking is boring (which is not an encouraging attitude for the start of IM training). Mountain biking was more fun, right until I fell down some rocks.

The fall was actually really pathetic. It was somewhere between these two crashes:

I was on a fairly easy section of single-track and shifted gear as I started uphill, but the gears didn’t catch. Instead, my chain started jumping and I abruptly was spinning out. That meant I lost momentum all of a sudden and began to tip over. This really wouldn’t have been a problem, since mountain biking basically is a synonym for falling and I should have just gotten a little dirty. But, when this happened, I somehow managed to be biking right over a pile of rocks off the side of the hill. So, when I tipped over, I fell directly on top and then down these boulders. My bike went over my head, simply from the steepness of the drop-off. It landed at the bottom of the rocks and I landed upside down on top of them.

When I sat up and tried to gather myself, I also managed to sit directly on a thorn bush. That meant I also had little thorns stuck in my ass, which had to be picked out. Good times.

I was surprisingly fine. Just cut up on my back and my head hurt a little. But, for the first time in possibly ever, I crashed my bike hard and DID NOT pass out. That’s got to be some kind of improvement.

When I was sitting in this thorn bush and trying to gather myself to make sure I didn’t pass out — since I usually pass out after shit goes down — I decided I needed to tell someone I had crashed, since I was out in the middle of nowhere and there was no one around. So, I texted Steve, “I fell down some rocks.” Which was some of the key information, but it really wasn’t all of the key information.

Eventually, I made it home. And, I went to a weird Feldenkrais class and then to dinner at The Counter. The only problem with dinner was we sat at the bar next to this middle-aged guy who really was not picking up on the fact that I didn’t want to talk to him about his opinions on football, traffic, politics, current events, what I had ordered, what he does for a living, what I do for a living, the waiters, the food, the TV. It was basically my nightmare.

Then, I got sick. I had a sore throat by the time I went to bed last night and could barely swallow overnight, waking up every 30. And, now, my start to Ironman training is me sitting on the couch in sweats.

Apparently, today is also the year anniversary of Sunny Running. I started the blog on Dec. 24, 2012 with this story about trying to run in the Headlands in a goddamn hurricane. At least this year, I didn’t start Christmas Eve clinging to the side of a rock face. Take the victories where you can get them.

A Conversation About Gender Roles and Cycling

Lately, Steve and I have been riding with him on the mountain bike and me on my road bike. This evens out the playing field some, since riding a mountain bike on the road is slower, which is probably good for the health of our relationship. But it also makes us look pretty recreational, since he’s sort of dicking around on the mountain bike instead of all being decked out in his fancy gear like usual.

This past weekend, we were riding and a guy with a backpack and a bell sprinted to pass us, after we passed him at a light, and then slowed down right ahead of us. Steve and I basically had this conversation then:

Steve: That was weird.
Me: That doesn’t happen to you? Happens to me all the time.
Steve: No. I usually get respect.
Me: Yeah, well, middle-aged weekend warriors always feel the need to sprint past me. The problem is it’s just enough work to beat them that it’s sort of hard. On the other hand, though, cars don’t harass me as much since I look little and female.
Steve: It’s a trade-off.

Dying Kittens, Biking by Myself and Hearing Alarms

McInnis. Sort of.
McInnis. Sort of.

Friday afternoon this is where I rode my road bike (not mountain bike) — this + the Shoreline Trail, which is much more challenging and rutted and rocky and hilly. I get bored of riding my road bike on long rides by myself. Sometimes I love it. But, sometimes I just can’t spend any more time in my own head (not a good sign with 8 more month of training…). So, instead, Friday I took my road bike and hit the trails. This isn’t aerobically challenging, but it’s technically hard, because your road bike simply isn’t designed for the trails. You have to focus to not fall over or get a flat or accidentally stick your skinny tire in a rut. And, the whole thing shakes your body constantly, every bump, shattering your boredom.

This is actually about three miles from our condo. You just ride past the mall, under the freeway and beyond the water treatment plant. And, then you keep going until you’ve gone far past all the recreational bird-watchers. The trail goes all the way out into the middle of the marsh that covers the blurry line between land and the Bay. You go until suddenly you’re standing on top of a marsh, surrounded by nothing, all by yourself.

I didn’t ride as far or as long as I wanted. I could say it’s because I had to take Biggie to the vet, but I was just bored. I just didn’t want to.

I did take Biggie to the vet, though. And, they said the problem wasn’t just stress from Tupac or the new situation. They said he has the same 100% fatal illness Floyd had (F.I.P) and he’s going to die just like Floyd did. Yes, it’s an extremely rare disease. Yes, it’s weird they both got the same mutation. Yes, it sucks.

I want to have a better way to say that. I want to make it mean something and have a point or a lesson. Isn’t that what writers are supposed to do? Take our own small pains and make them bigger, make them matter to other people, make them something. Instead, I cleaned. I cleaned the whole house Friday night. Because the only thing that’d be worse than having two cats die would be having the third one get sick too from a kitten that we only got to keep him company. If this was literature, there’d be a word for that.

We had to leave for a wedding Friday, after I finished cleaning. What do you do with a dying kitten when you’re leaving? One who has an infectious disease? We brought him with us. He’s not moving much, so it wasn’t hard. He just slept on the bed, walked around the room a little, enjoyed Carmel. And, we went to a wedding. We danced and partied and drank and then came back to the room and sat with the sick kitten. Then, we took him to the beach.

I tried to take a video of him running with Steve across the sand, but I accidentally took a video of what I thought I wasn’t taking a video of and didn’t record what I thought I was recording. Of course.

When we got home I went for my two hour run, barely beating the sun setting. It was ok, in that I never felt worse than I already felt. But, near the beginning, as I ran through a neighborhood and into the woods, an alarm inside one of the houses was going off. And, for ten second I wondered if it was my alarm, if I was asleep and I’d just been dreaming all this. I didn’t feel very awake; it seemed possible. I actually did a whole body check, tried to feel my pillow under my head if I was really in bed dreaming. But, I wasn’t. This was all real and that wasn’t what my alarm sounds like anyway.

Fun at the beach.
Fun at the beach.

Cycling in the Dark

It sucks. I hate it it. It’s the worst. I do not do it — unless I am stranded and the alternative is hitch-hiking, which I really do not do because my fear of crazy rapists in cars outweighs my fear of crazy rapists lunging at me from dark street corners.

At Cal, there was a guy on the triathlon team, a grad student who was pretty fast, who did all his cycling in loops around the Oakland Airport at night. Until that point it had literally — actually literally, not figuratively literally — never occurred to me that people would ride bikes in the dark. After that it appeared only crazy people rode their bikes at night. Why? Because you need to SEE to ride your bike and you can’t see in the dark.

I don’t know what riding in the dark looks like to all the early morning commuters and late night athletes, but this is what it looks like to me most of the time:

Isn't your bike light so good.
Isn’t your bike light so helpful.

Things that suck about biking in the dark:

  • Not being able to see what you hit before you hit it
  • Not being able to see potential murderers or bears that lurk in the shadows
  • Not being able to see the skunk before it tries to spray you
  • Getting a flat, but not being able to see to fix it
  • The cold
  • The dark

Things that don’t suck about biking in the dark:

  • Getting where you need to go (hopefully)

When we lived in Sacramento after college I didn’t drive, so I biked everywhere. In the winter, I routinely biked three miles on the dark, unlit bike path through the woods from the pool/gym to our house. It was shorter than biking on the road, but way, way sketchier. One time, on my way home, a helicopter with search lights started circling overhead looking for a missing fugitive/alleged murderer. After that I took the longer route on the lit road.

This morning I got up at 5:45 to bike to the ferry, take the ferry into the city, and bike from the ferry to work. Apparently, it’s been a month since I biked to the ferry at 6:25 a.m. Apparently, it’s dark at that hour now. And, apparently, if you accidentally close the garage with your gloves inside as you try to find lights so that you can bike in the dark, you should take the two extra minutes to go back upstairs and re-open the garage and get the gloves, because it is cold in the dark at 6:25 a.m.

Pretty much everywhere that has tips about cycling in the dark says: wear warm clothes (sort of check), make yourself visible (sort of check), have lights (check), look straight ahead — otherwise your lights point at not what you want them to point at (check), don’t do anything sudden or stupid — cars can’t see you in the dark either (god, I hope, check).

Every now and then someone asks me to go mountain biking in the dark, which sounds like a terrible idea and always makes me think of the Ben Stiller story about night mountain biking. Amazing:

Training: Sept. 16-22

Today, a guy at the pool asked me if I was training for something. I said, “Well, sort of. Yeah. It’s complicated.” Which is probably more descriptive of my attitude than my race schedule.

This week I felt like a pile of shit. At one point yesterday I was sitting on the couch watching TV and drinking a Bud Light Platinum (the official beer of Sunny Running) and my legs just started to hurt. They were throbbing with pain. For no obvious reason. That’s pretty much what this week has been like. So, instead of stressing about my training schedule, I decided this week was going to be more of a “listen to your body” week. My body, apparently, said: Don’t swim.

Monday

Planned rest day. My body said, Word.

Tuesday

2,500y at Masters. There should be some kind of warning when the workout’s going to be long endurance free, because I’m totally middle of the pack in my lane for most Masters workouts that are 50s and IMs and stop every minute to talk about it, but if it’s going to be multiple 400s of free then I suddenly get the equivalent of two lanes faster. Endurance is totally my specialty, even if endurance in this case is like 5′. I was killing this workout, even easily swam a 5:32 400y, and then abruptly my arms and legs reminded me they were wrecked from racing. My body said, Get out of the pool. So, I did.

Wednesday

22′ of running. It was painful. My broken-ish toe is not getting better.

Crossfit at SF Crossfit with Nate. Things were hurting.

Thursday

Halfway through my bike ride, after I realized I had locked myself out and after I rode over to Steve’s parents and went through a whole ordeal of finding their spare key to get into the house to find my spare key, my body said, Do not do your hard run after this. So, I didn’t. Rode 55′ in total. Was exhausted.

Friday

My body said, Go back to sleep. So, I didn’t swim.

Saturday

It was pouring rain when I got up, which made riding four hours sound incredibly unappealing. Also, it is September. I only deal with getting rained on while riding in December, January and possibly February. It’s too early for that shit on Sept. 21. Instead, I decided to do the run my body told me not to do on Thursday. By the time I got out of the house it had stopped raining, but, well, oh well.

Ran 9.25 miles with 20′ at marathon pace, which ended up being 7:13, 6:59, and then 6:57 for the last bit of a mile. It was windy and uphill one direction, which is partially why the first mile was slow, but the whole thing was also un-encouragingly hard. I even wanted to throw up just during my warm-up at 9:00/mile pace. It did not feel awesome. After the 20′ I felt pretty terrible and couldn’t decide if I should throw in another 20′ (which, just to be clear, would have been extra) or just throw up. I ended up deciding to run one mile hard. Why? I don’t know; my body said to. I did a 6:32 and called it a day. I then ran 9:10s back home.

I did 4′ of core. Literally. I did not swim.

Sunday

Slept through meeting Jordan in the morning, which I guess I needed. So tired. Then, rode 56 miles in 3:50. I really thought this ride would be 4:15 (went out Wilson Hill, Chileno Valley, through Sonoma), so I can’t decide if I rode fast or if I’ve just forgotten how long different bike routes are. The ride went by in one of those blurs of long training, where you don’t really think about anything but just repeat nonsense sentences over and over in your head. The last 30′, though, that sentence was pretty much: “Almost done. Almost done. Almost done.”

This week is back to not listening to my body. So there.