What Now?

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This is what our living room looks like right now. Except you can’t see the bags behind me or stuff still in our car. It’s only getting worse as I try to unpack and move back in. It sounds like everyone has big plans after graduation and big plans for what’s next. My only immediate plan is to sleep and let my brain rebuild and then to get started on the millions of things scheduled for this summer:

  • Vacation to Ireland
  • The Kids coming to stay with me for Escape from Alcatraz
  • Ragnar Relay in Utah
  • My roommate’s wedding in LA
  • The Women’s World Cup Final in Vancouver (yes!)
  • Week-long family reunion in Florida
  • Steve doing Tahoe 70.3
  • Followed up immediately by a wedding in Boise

Oh, and I basically made it four days of being bored before enacting the next part of my “creating my best life” plan. I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin. So there’s that.

Training Week 8: Dec. 22-28

Yes, I am doing almost all my hard workouts running and almost all my volume biking right now. This is deliberate — almost as if I actually make concrete training plans and sort of know what I’m doing, in a fashion. Largely it’s because I don’t want to get hurt with too much run volume, but also my bike volume is a known weakness. As long as I get enough work on the bike in, then it all translates reasonably well. And, swimming, ugh, who cares about swimming.

Monday

Oh man, I didn’t even get out of bed until noon after throwing up all night.

Tuesday

Swam 2,000 yards easy and did some light strength/core work just to get moving again. After being sick, you got to have an easy day before any real days.

Wednesday

Ran 10 miles with [6 x 5 minutes at 6:35-40ish pace]. It was surprisingly hard. Usually I do seven of these repeats, instead of six, but maybe I usually take more rest in between. Or, maybe I just don’t remember how much it usually hurts. Usual is so hard to pinpoint. Of course, the one hour it rained was encompassed within my run. And, of course, as I was doing my hard efforts it was getting windier and rainier and branches were falling and I was squinting. Maybe that’s why it was hard. Who knows.

Light yoga and rolling after.

Thursday

Rode about 20 miles easy with Steve.

Friday

Swam 3,550 yards at Masters in the morning. Oh, man, how I hate/love Masters. And it was just so Masters Classic on Friday: everyone cheated the warm-ups and drills until I was super far behind, then they couldn’t actually maintain the pace for the main set so they kept “resting” 50s, and then I was stuck making up the gap as I has to pass them. And, everyone was confused and wanted to talk about the workout more and what number were we on and what pace should be go and then they all just swam as hard as they could anyway, cutting the interval to make it. Solid thinking, guys.

Ran five-and-a-half easy in the afternoon at China Camp. It was cold.

Saturday

Rode long with one of my old high school kids. We went 83 miles out to Tomales and back down Highway 1. It’s one of my favorite rides, but there were so many cars and tourists out this weekend. Stupid holiday weekends. It wasn’t the hardest I’ve done this ride, but it wasn’t super easy either. Just a solid long ride. And, halfway through it occurred to me: five hours doesn’t even feel that long anymore. What.

Sunday

Rode about 18 miles moderately easy — mostly because I was tired; it wasn’t supposed to be easy. The whole goal was to substitute the ride for a long run and go into my hard tempo fatigued. Mission accomplished.

Ran seven miles, descending down to Goal Marathon Pace with four miles at GMP. I had given myself up to a half-hour to get down to Goal Marathon Pace (GMP), which is 7:05 to 7:15, depending on my mood. But, it’s actually harder to run easy first and then go fast. It’s almost easier just to run hard from the start, because then you never have the chance to realize that you could go slower. So, I did two miles in the mid-7:00s and then when my third mile was at 7:04, I figured we’d just call that the start of the tempo portion of the event. Then, after the 7:04, I ran a 6:52, 6:49, 6:53. That’s basically OGMP (very Optimistic Goal Marathon Pace). It was hard, but it was hard in a way that wasn’t hard. If that makes sense. It just felt like my body was going without me. And, it did not feel like that at the start. I was pretty sure, at the start, that I wasn’t going to be able to do any of the GMP miles. That’s the difference your mind makes.

TOTAL: 13:25

This week was nearly as perfect as could be, with being sick last weekend. The only problem now is the next 10 days are a little bit nuts to get in a ton of training before I head back to L.A. Hmm.

Training Week 7: Dec. 15-21

Yes, I am aware I have not been writing much lately and particularly not anything wildly interesting. I’m worn out by all the hand-wringing pseudo-intellectual “takes” on everything. The internet is boring me and I need/needed a break. Nothing but YA novels and TV marathons. And ideas, lots of ideas.

The holiday break is almost halfway over and I’m not in the most best shape ever yet. Commence freaking out.

Monday

Swam 1,500 yards easy. Sometimes after races my body gets really messed up and I can not get warm. This seemed to be the case Monday after the Christmas Relays. (It also happened after the UCLA race and is why I am now the proud owner of a USC sweatshirt and pair of tights bought in an emergency from the student store.)

Tuesday

Off. Of everything. Laid on the couch.

Wednesday

Ran six miles easy (like really easy) around the neighborhood to test my legs. The answer was my legs still felt terrible.

Thursday

Rode 37 miles around Nicasio, at a moderate effort. I finally fixed all the dead batteries in my PowerTap, so that was a plus. On the downside, it turns out I’m not holding very high power.

Steve and I went to TRX in the evening. And, then I swam 1,100 yards easy.

Friday

Ran five miles. I was going to go to Masters, but it was storming when I woke up, so there was no way the pool wasn’t closed. Figured I’d do my tempo mile repeat workout I’d been planning instead, but I wasn’t sure if my body was up to it yet. And, it turned out it wasn’t. After one miserable mile at 6:38 pace or something (which was not exactly the intended pace), I bailed. Easy jogged the rest and then did some yoga and rolling my legs out.

Saturday

Justin was visiting, and him and Steve are having a debate about where the best riding is, here or L.A. That meant that even though we didn’t go to bed until 2 a.m., we headed out to ride the five hours to Tomales as a test of the question. Of course, it started raining and we opted to cut it short and ride Marshall instead — only 66 miles. There was lots of stopping and dicking around. And, I managed to hit a pothole, which popped my water bottle out of my seat cage and wedged it in my wheel, without crashing. Then, after I made fun of them for soft-pedaling too much, they basically dropped me on the way home.

Sunday

Since we again didn’t go to bed until after 1 a.m., I slept through swimming in the morning. Rode the 25 minutes over the hill to pick up the car and ran at Phoenix Lake.

Ran just under two hours, with a variation of my favorite loop. With all the mud and puddle-jumping and ducking under fallen trees, it was slower going than usual, but that was fine by me.

TOTAL: 12:30

And, then, I got really, really sick Sunday night. So even though yesterday was supposed to be my fresh start, when I got back to work after taking a few days break, I ended up lying on the couch all day. Oh well.

Training Week 6: Dec. 8-14

I have this plan, see. My plan is to put in big training over the break, take advantage of the Marin riding and trails — we are, after all, the new secret trail running hotbed of the country — and then go into the very busy spring semester with a solid base, so that I can cut back on my volume and focus just on the intensity to prep for the L.A. Marathon and USAT Collegiate Nationals.

This is a super awesome plan. But, one of the key parts of the plan is not to overdo it too quickly this month, or the whole thing will be shot.

Monday

Steve wanted to run at Phoenix Lake before going to Nate’s Strength Class, but I wanted to run longer, so it seemed logical that I could run over our hill and meet him at Phoenix. However. I vastly underestimated how long it would take me to run there. It’s been a long time since I’ve done it and I thought it’d take about 35 to 40 minutes. About 15 minutes in, I realized it was going to take much, much longer. There’s nothing quite like running full speed down the street, cutting through downtown San Anselmo and dodging holiday shoppers. When I caught my breath after coming across the Ross Bridge, I did four more miles around the lake at ‘Steve speed.’

Then, we went to the strength class. Shockingly, I was kind of tired after all this.

Tuesday

Biked about 20 miles through China Camp just easy, just to get moving.

Some yoga and rolling. So tired.

Wednesday

I was not ready for a hard workout, but The Storm was coming, so what are you going to do. Ran about eight miles with four x [four minutes at “goal” 10K pace (6:20) – one minute rest – 30 second hill sprint]. I did the whole thing with two to two-and-a-half minutes rest between intervals, but when I got home I realized it was supposed to be three minutes rest. So. There.

Swam 2,200 moderately easy in the evening.

Thursday

NOTHING WAS OPEN. Because #hellastorm. Did about 20 minutes of yoga and light core work.

Friday

Ran the four mile hilly trail loop from my house, followed by drills. I messed up my hamstring at some point this week and was doing a weird gimp run. Not good.

Swam 3,000-ish yards at the YMCA. Why “ish?” Because the Y is ridiculous.

Saturday

Biked the Alpine Dam loop. It’s one of the best Marin bike routes, even though there’s a decent amount of stopping as you come and go through town, which I typically try to avoid. It was even better on Saturday, though, because Ridgecrest Road (where plenty of commercials are filmed due to the awesome-ness of the road) was closed to cars thanks to #hellastorm. Even the gate at Pantoll, where it connects to Highway 1, was closed. People were picnicking, hiking down the middle of the road, enjoying the emptiness. It was fantastic.

Sunday

Christmas Relays.

I ran the 4.55 miles in 28:58. That’s pretty much the fastest I’ve done it — maybe I did it a few seconds faster two years ago. But, last time, I felt great. I was just rolling on people and enjoying myself. This time, I felt miserable and my messed up hamstring was sharply painful. I wanted to quit, but that’s hard to do in a relay. So, I slowed down and then hung on. And, then, oh look, I guess I didn’t run that slow after all. Not too bad.

TOTAL: 12:00

Look at that. I’m coming along. The Plan is working.

What to Do When Weather Ruins Your Workouts

The storm about to hit the Bay Area, according to the weather people.
The storm about to hit the Bay Area, according to the weather people.

 

#Stormaggedon is coming. Tomorrow.

Since this is the biggest storm we’ve had in five years — ignoring the fact that we’ve mostly been in a drought for the last two years — people are freaking out a little bit. If it’s as bad as they’re saying, then we could get four to six inches of rain, 20 to 30 mph winds, mudslides, flooding, power outages, and worse. (It is not clear yet what “worse” is.) We’ll probably get some of that, but it’s hard to believe we’ll get all of that as bad as people think, since people seem to think this is The Big One, the one that’s going to wipe us out — and I always sort of felt like The Big One probably wouldn’t come with enough warning for every store in Marin to sell out of sandbags.

But, when the weather gets bad, it can throw training up in the air. Yes, you don’t want to bail at the first sign of a drizzle. And, we’ve all done that, been the person sitting inside arguing with ourselves that ‘I dunno, it looks like it might be cold out.’ But, I’d also argue that athlete-people too frequently try to tough it out, thinking that it’ll toughen them up. It might. Or, it could slowly wear them down and break them.

Besides the last two years, every winter I’ve trained in the Bay Area has involved a lot of riding in the rain. Because of this, I go out of my way to not ride in the rain. I will get enough toughening up on accident or when it can’t be avoided. I do NOT deliberately bike in the rain. When we were at training camp back in the spring and everyone wanted to ride, even though it was raining, I was like, “Nope, sorry, I get rained on too much to ride in the rain in Arizona.” Seriously. No.

While biking in bad weather is incredibly terrible — risks include hypothermia, possible major injury, or death — running isn’t that bad. (I mean it’s not enjoyable, but it’s do-able.) I’ve run in some pretty insane rain. However, that wasn’t always a great idea actually. In retrospect. Sometimes, you really should know when to not be stupid.

Tomorrow, I am trying to not be stupid.

#Stormaggedon has already prompted school closures. (I know. Weird.) The usual flood spots are barricaded, hopefully. People have bought out all the bottled water and flashlight batteries. Most of the gyms are closed for the morning. Social events are cancelled. Everyone is just going to batten down the hatches and sit inside, apparently. Given that, it seemed like a bad idea to get in my hard run in the midst of a mini-hurricane.

That’s why you’ve got to get creative and be flexible with your training sometimes. This is one of the best things about being your own coach. If you trust yourself, then you’re probably the person who knows best what you can and should do.

So, today, I did my hard run workout, even though my legs weren’t exactly ready for a hard run after massively underestimating on Monday how long it would take me to run to meet Steve and having to go full-out for 20 minutes to make it. But, I had to do the hard run today, so oh well.

The only problem is I was going to swim tomorrow (since I’d already be wet), but now all the pools are closed — even the indoor ones. Guess I’ll take it easy tomorrow with some yoga at home, wait and see if it stops raining by Friday to ride, and figure it all out as I go.

Here’s what I do when I’m trying to figure out my training in bad weather:

  • Evaluate how bad it really is.
  • Do not start a ride in actual rain, if it can not be avoided.
  • Re-arrange your schedule as best as possible to get your rides in before or after the storming.
  • Stop being so rigid. Good rule for life too.
  • Try not to do hard workouts in crazy weather; it’s just not going to go well.
  • Know that any workouts in the rain or snow or a storm are going to take more out of you. It simply is more stressful.
  • Dress appropriately. That especially means gloves. (I know, duh. But, some of the worst rides I’ve ever had were because I was stupidly under-dressed and refused to go back for more clothes.)
  • If things get bad bad — like you need to help with flood control, pitch in at neighbors’ house, or clean up the streets — then do that! Training is still just training.

Do you train in the crazy bad weather?

Training Week 4: Nov. 24-30

This past week was pretty close to as ideal as I could get it. The only thing I could have not screwed up better is if I actually swam more. I’m building my volume back up and easing in to bigger training. I got out on Marin trails and a few Marin rides, without too much rain. Now I just need to make sure I don’t overdo it too quickly.

Monday

Swam 2,000 yards easy with some drills and band swimming. (It was supposed to be more, but it wasn’t.)

Tuesday

Ran about two-and-a-half miles with drills and strides. A series of unfortunate circumstances stopped me from swimming — which is such a shame — so I just did light core and physical therapy instead.

Wednesday

Biked about 28 miles out to Nicasio and back on the time trial bike, just because I was so excited to be back in Marin.

Thursday

Turkey Trot!

Friday

Biked the 63-mile Marshall Loop with Steve. This ride used to take me well over four hours. I’d call it a four-hour ride, but it was always closer to 4:30. This is the second time I’ve ridden it with Steve in under 3:50. Good times.

Saturday

RAIN! I am not working out in the heavy rain yet. Also, I was tired.

Sunday

Swam 3,200 yards at Masters in the rainy morning. People say swimming in the rain isn’t bad, because you’re already wet. These people are wrong. It was also the longest I’ve swum in months. And, the ugliest. It was not an amazing morning.

But, the rain cleared up, so headed out for a trail run at the watershed with Steve and Ilyce and Pete, because Marin. We did a bit under 10 miles in pretty much perfect running weather on pretty much perfect running trails. But, by the end, my legs were dragging and my left Achilles hurt and my neck hurt from swimming and I just wanted to sleep.

TOTAL: 10:35

This is the start of a more building base period — if that makes sense. It makes sense to me.

Turkey Trot Race Report: On the Art of Returning

Steve won the Turkey Trot 5K we did on Thursday, which surprised everyone — including him. Since he hadn’t run in years until I made him do that Turkey Trot last year (at which he would like you to know he beat me) and now he runs just a couple times a week casually, I don’t think he thought it would go great. But, maybe none of us should have been that surprised that it did. After all, he is a very, very good athlete and that is always in there somewhere.

I won the women’s race too, but it was hard. (Here’s a video of me crossing the finish line, if you really want to see what I look like getting outsprinted by a 14-year-old boy.) It was a classic cross-country-style course. We ran across a field, over a hill, on a path, through a parking lot, down a trail, up another steep hill, and around a soccer field. I ran pretty fast at the start, but it felt easy. Then, it felt really hard. When Ilyce went by me around halfway, I was sure I was done. Mentally, I threw it in and figured this seemed like a good enough pace. Only, then I came back.

Having done three 5Ks in three weeks, among other races too, I think it’s probably time to stop now. But, one thing I have learned in this spate of racing off very little fitness is that it’s always in there somewhere. I’ve learned that I have more capacity to come back than I even realized.

After being a huge bum for August and some of September and then being sick for a month, I wasn’t sure how long it’d take me to come back or how out of shape I was. The answer is: not as much as I was worried.

It turns out the base I built training for Ironman this summer, the years of working out and getting just a little bit better at a time (and then a little worse and then nothing), the miles and miles are all in there. And, then, Friday, Steve and I went for a long bike ride to Marshall. It’s a ride that’s a Marin classic and litmus test — one of the first ones you do when you move here. For me, it used to be epic and take all day. I still think of it that way and so I wasn’t sure if I was in any shape to do it with Steve. But, we did and it was hard, but not that hard. The Marshall Wall didn’t even seem like a wall. It seemed easier and smaller. The Return was scarcely a return. It was just another day to add to the stores.

Hello, I Am A Trail Snob

The trail above my house that connects to the other trail.
The trail above my house that connects to the other trail.

For all that I’ve written about how the biking in LA isn’t great, it’s not the main thing I miss about training down here. Yes, there’s some nice mountains to ride in (and I understand I still need to check out Palos Verdes and more of Pasadena as soon as I actually have some free time), but none of that is super time-efficient for everyday training. And, yes, I’m commute biking less than usual, because it’s just not as easy or safe as I’d like here.

That’s all true. And saying that it is true is a completely legitimate complaint. But, biking is not actually my favorite thing. Unless I can go somewhere cool, I don’t usually love it. I didn’t even ride for almost all of 2012 because I just didn’t feel like it.

What I really like is trail running — except not of the running-through-the-dark, total wilderness variety. Since I’m scared of mountain lions, bears, snakes, and pretty much all of nature, and since I hate hike-running straight uphill, and I don’t do well in extreme heat, I’m a little picky about my trails.

It turns out I am a huge trail snob.

  • If it is paved, it is not a trail.
  • If a truck can drive down it, it is a fire road, not a trail. (Fire roads can be fine, but not exactly something to brag about.)
  • If you can’t tell where the trail is, it’s not a trail.

This is a trail:

Shortly after I decided not to quit afterall.
This isn’t even my favorite trail.

 

It turns out, many of the trails in LA do not meet my standards. I have been to all the famous ones that people brag about. For the most part, they are exposed, hot, open fire roads that go up and up and up. This is not my thing. It is some people’s thing, but not mine. I generally avoided even running on the trail right outside my door in Marin, because it’s an exposed, hot, hilly fire road. It’s just not fun. I have been to the trails by the beach in LA, which are really just bike paths. I hate flat crowded bike paths. I generally avoid those too. I found one trail I liked a lot in the Santa Monica Mountains, but it’s far from my house.

Without nice wooded single- or double-track lake trails, it’s hard for me to get motivated to run. Logically, I remember a time when I used to run almost exclusively on boring roads around neighborhoods, stopping at lights, and dodging people on the sidewalk. I remember this, but it feels like another person. I can not fathom doing all my running like that now.

Of course, I’m about to sign up for the LA Marathon, so I’m going to have to either find some good trails, get better headphones to run with up and down the bike path, or re-learn how to run on sidewalks.