Thursday, April 30, 2009

Homework Assignment!

In preparation for my first trail ride, my mentor, Joanie, gave me a bicycle riding homework assignment. She was kind enough to mention that I should practice on the grass (see field to the right - also noticethe long pants in the event that I fell).

Those of you who know me know that I take things like homework very seriously. I was the only kid who would do my homework twice each night to make sure that I not only had all of the right answers, but that my penmanship looked perfect.

I invited my brother over to "play bikes" like when we were little kids, and to be my adjudicator and assesor for my homework assignment. My brother road a fixed bike in Boston, so he's very good with bike tricks, though he's never offroaded. Still he was a great judge. As Joanie said, "I'd rather run with the bulls in Pamplona than ride a fixy in Boston!"

Here's my assignment and assessment:

Prelim assessment - pre homework that my brother required:
- I need to be able to get on my bike with one foot and ride it comfortably before swinging my leg over. I cannot tell you how much time I spent looking at my foot and the peddle and saying "no, I can't even imagine it". I've seen people do this for entire parking lots. Currently I can do it for about two inches, but it's progress. At least now I feel comfortable with my extended hand being on the handlebar and not the seat. I plan on practicing this for 10 minutes before every ride.
- I also need to practice standing up on my bike to start, move, go uphills, and downhills (is there anything else?) I did feel more comfortable with this by the end of my first homework practice.

For the actual homework my brother gave me these grades -he's much more generous than I am, counting level of effort and improvement, where I look at current level vs. the elites. :)

Figure 8's - B+
I used a basketball court by my house, and did my figure 8's around the free throw circles and the middle of the court as my pivot point. I tried to do them completely standing up. Need to improve speed, and get deeper in turn, but overall I could do it with a fair amount of control. Really confidence is the key for me in all of these, but especially this one.

No Hands - A
They say you never forget how to ride a bike - I could disagree with that, but I guess you really don't forget how to ride no hands - this one was a piece of cake. I rode my entire street no hands (it's like .2 miles, but it's better than the 2 inches riding on one pedal) and made sure to move my arms in different positions, no issues. I love riding no hands!

Water Bottle Pick-up - N/A (F)
For this trick, I was supposed to be able to bend down while riding, and pick up a water bottle from the ground. I even cheated and used really tall water bottles. No dice. I wasn't able to do it, nor was my brother, although he tried this funky trick where he went one pedal, and then used the wrong foot on one pedal, squatted down, all while the bike was coasting by the way, but he still couldn't get the water bottle. It was like a walk-the-duck ice skating move on a moving bike. However, when I asked Joanie for clarification, she said that she had only ever done it on a road bike, and to skip this one since mountain bikes are a little bit taller.

Stick Wheelies - C
Score One for the HOA, I couldn't find a stick anywhere at the park in my neighborhood. My brother grabbed a boulder, but I baulked, so we used an "imaginary" stick. This was not a natural trick for me (and I'm not even mentioning that I actually read a "how to do a wheelie" article on line to prep for this - I take my homework seriously!) I tried to move my body forward, and then rock back and pull, no such luck. After a while, I'm certain that my brother was lying that I was getting off the ground because he wanted to go swimming (it was hot), but I wanted to get at least one good one before turning in. At one point he told me to try a bunny hop, which actually somehow produced a fairly good front wheelie on the first try (at least 3 inches, which would have gotten over the imaginary stick). Needs some serious work, and we'll have to figure something else out when I really need to do a bunny hop, but for now I have a plan of action.

Overall: I did better than I expected, but there's still plenty of room for growth. Starting at the bottom is always a lot of fun because you get to see huge improvements in the beginning - like wow, I can get on my bike without looking like a tard now! And best of all - I didn't fall down one time, which means I also didn't break anything. I did bail a couple of times, but I think that's par for the course. How else can you learn your boundaries?

I can't wait to get back out there and do more practice!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Next Chapter...

This is an old picture, but it's one of my favorites. It's Lilac and I at South Mountain, having bombed down the last hill. It was one of those rare perfect days where the weather was great and we were both feeling awesome. It was actually not at the Moon Valley Grasshopper Bridge race, we just happened to be wearing the same t-shirt- which happens much more frequently than it should considering that we have about 30 race t-shirts in our rotation.

Of all of the things that we do together, South Mountain is one of my favorites. Whether we're walking leisurely, hiking hard, shuffling along in a run, sweating bullets in the heat, or standing at the outcrops looking at the gorgeous panaramas, it is a place that just feels good and uplifting. I've been running there for 5 or 6 years now, and it's always a challenge that makes me feel good afterward.

Today, I ran it by myself, and I challenged myself to run about 3 miles of the 4 mile loop I do there. For the record it's about 400 feet in elevation change up to the top. I got close and I worked my butt off. I sang out loud to my iPod to remind myself to stop holding my breath, and got some giggles out of other people hiking by me. It was another beautiful AZ morning. We've been so lucky this spring.

So why am I telling you this?

With all of the traveling I've bee doing, and the recent down turn in health again (if they could ever figure out what is wrong with me) I'm feeling exhausted pretty much all the time. You all know I haven't been training consistently since the 1/2 marathon. It's funny how whatever it is that's wrong works. If I'm not traveling, I can focus on my sleep schedule and my workout schedule and do amazing things (for me) like the half marathon. I can challenge myself and most of the time I feel ok. However, as soon as I start traveling, it messes up the amount of sleep that I get, and the wheels come off immediately. It takes so long to get them back on. I have been home for a full week, and I can NOT get my ass out of bed before 6am without starting to get sick feeling. It's the kind of tired that you can feel in your upper back and shoulders. I'm getting 11+ hours of sleep at night, and if it were any less, I wouldn't be able to function.

So what do I do? I know that the next two months are going to be non-stop travel. I know that I need my sleep to get through it. I also know that I'm putting weight back on at an alarming rate. I need to work out, but I just can't put two hours in every day.

I've decided that I'm going to train for an XTerra offroad triathlon. How does this make sense? I'll tell you.
1. It allows me to enjoy the activities I'm doing when I have the time to do them (read the South Mountain description above)
2. I can continue to ride my mountain bike, and not worry about the looming need for a road bike that I just know I'm going to hate.
3. Because it's a sprint distance, it allows me to get in some extra "short" workouts and not feel like I'm dropping the ball while training for a longer event.
4. It's more of a challenge physically, so even though some of my workouts will be shorter, they will be more intense.
5. It continues my goals to get outside more and do hill work.
6. It will allow me to stay sane and focused and not disgruntled about long training sessions that I just don't have time for right now.

There's one problem. I don't know how to ride my mountain bike on anything other than the pancake flat canals. However, Landis is offering a *free* mentor program, and I've been matched up with a hard core X-Terra girl - "Joanie". She has agreed to take me out on some baby rides, and teach me some of the technique to mountain bike riding.

I have to admit, it's the first time I've been excited about training since 1/2 was over.

So here's what I'm looking at. There's a PBR (Pabst(sp?) Blue Ribbon, not Professional Bull Riders like I thought) race at Papago in October. It's going to be my test race. That gives me 6 months to make myself and offroader. It will be the indicator for whether or not I'll be ready to do the XTerra Offroad Tri in Del Valle, CA next May. I think a year should be adequate to focus on, and challenge myself with a new skill.

What about my existing goals you ask?

If you recall at the beginning of January, I had 6 goals for 2009. They were:
1. Stay Healthy
2. Complete a 1/2 marathon (Check!)
3. Push hard at Tri for the Cure (mmmm, well I went...and pushed hard having done no training)
4. Take one for the team at Club Championships (I forgot Autam's wedding is the night before...)
5. Do all the Summer Series Races
6. Complete and olympic distance tri- Nathan's.

#1 is the key here. It said "This supersedes all other goals listed here. If I do nothing but Goal #1, it will be a successful year."

So I'm taking that, and modifying the list. The new list is:
1. Stay healthy
2. Complete a 1/2 marathon (check!)
3. Prove that a sprint is well within my abilities (check!)
4. Do a splash and dash this summer (I'll talk about this another day)
5. Do all the Summer Series Races
6. Do an offroad triathlon - PBR
Optional: Complete an olympic distance tri - I'm not taking it off yet. If I feel like the distances are manageable, I will go for it, but it's no longer the prize at the end of my race season.

*The first lesson in trail running is a short memory, and looking only one foot in front of you. If you try to take in the whole mountain, it kills your concentration.

I'm looking forward to training for it and chronicaling it!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Race Report: Tri for the Cure 2009

Pre-Pre-Race: So with all the travel I've been doing, I've been getting a lot of reading in, if not a lot of working out. I'm almost finished with the book Mindset, which is written by a woman who has spent her entire career in Psychology studying the effects of failure on people in society. What she's found is that there are two different mindsets - the fixed mindset, and the growth mindset. If you're reading my blog, I'm sure you know by now that my time sensitive, ultra planning, super efficient, perfectionist self - well I am the definition of a fixed mindset. I am what I do, not WHO I AM!

I've read people with the growth mindset - people who take (enjoy?) set backs and use them as challenges and opportunities for growth, and it's always inspired me, but I can't keep with it, because damnit, I wouldn't be perfect then. You can say this book has been a game changer for me, and you would be right.

So, with that said, I went into this race woefully unprepared, untrained, having done zero swimming, little running, and even less biking. Was I terrified? No. Nervous? No, I can't say that I was. I said "What the hell? I paid $100 for this race, at least I can have a good time, right? We're curing cancer here!" So that's what I did. Shockingly I had a way better time than normal!

Pre-Race: The race was at Chandler High, which was oh- less than 10 minutes away. I think I'm in love with this race solely because it's so close to my house. :) We had to get into and out of transition before 6am. I showed up at 5:15, AFTER Lilac, which shows you that I wasn't worried about the time. In fact, I set my alarm for 5am, so I just got up and got in the car.

We set up, and because our race didn't start until 9:13am, we went home, and went back to bed. Literally. Lilac jumped into the princess' bed, and started sawing wood, and I decided that was a good idea, and followed along.

We got back up at 8, and were feeling incredibly unnervous. We got dressed, checked our stuff, and left for the race. We parked across the street, and went to see the sights. We snuck into transition to put our clothes in our bags, and checked out people who were already racing. This is such a fun event because it's all women, all for a good cause, and frankly not a lot of "athletes". I felt entirely comfortable walking around in my bathing suit and swim cap. So did every other lady out there. It was a rare day that was judgement free. We all need a day like that to celebrate being women.

So, about 5 minutes before the race, Lilac and I got into queue, and started putting on our swim caps. We actually both put our caps on with our nose plugs in our hair. We took them off, found our plugs, and started over. Mine was not staying on my nose, but I kept messing with it. The funny thing was that I was so intent on getting my nose piece on, that I didn't even really care that we were quickly moving up in line. Before I knew it, Lilac was shoving off the wall, and I was 15 seconds behind her.

*Note, Tri for the Cure start times go by age. In order for us to race together, Lilac had to be aged up a couple of years. The people running the race knew what happened and didn't seem to care. Neither do I. This race is about being together.

Swim: Again, I've done no swimming. The pool was the perfect temperature, and incredibly clean. It was a good 50 meter pool, and we were to swim 8 snake laps, meaning that we hit the wall, went under the buoys, and swam up to the other end of the pool where we'd hit the wall swim under the buoys. It was a 400 meter swim. As part of my new growth mindset I decided that it wasn't necessary to pass Lilac, just to show that I could. This was about us doing this together, so I had a very leisurely swim. I lost my nose plug in the water about halfway through, and wasn't worried about it all. I just plunged back in. When I caught up with Lilac, I decided to do a nice easy breaststroke, because it was slow enough that it didn't make her feel like I was all over her feet. As always the first 200 stink mentally, and then you get in the groove.

12:13, which is at least a minute slower than last year, and I couldn't have cared less. It was 29th of 44 25-29 year olds, and 25th of 43 in the Athena division.

T1: We trotted all the way to our bikes, which were as far away from the pool as you could be - they were assigned spots. However, the ladies around us had been very nice, and all of our stuff was laid out perfectly, as it had been at 6am. Bra, shirt, skirt, socks, sneakers, sunglasses, helmet, (moisturizer, deodorant, those little gummies, and a bit of water) and we were off! Transitions were untimed in this race - yeah!

Bike: The bike was 8 miles, two loops of the city block from AZ Ave to Chandler Blvd, to Alma School Rd, to Ray Rd, back to AZ Ave. Alma School was a beast with the wind pounding down, and likewise AZ Ave was like rolling downhill - it was quite fun. Aparently my brother drove by during one of our loops - he noticed the running skirts - but smartly decided not to honk, and prevent the freak out, spin out incident. The cops were cheering us on, there were plenty of ladies that passed us, and again, I passed no one, but eventually I'm going to figure out the secret to biking. Until then, I'll just keep cheering people on, and enjoying being out in a beautiful day!

45:38, 41 out of 44 age group, 37 out of 43 Athena. So hey at least three other people (including Lilac) don't know the secret.

T2: off with the bike, off with the helmet, more gummies, more water, feeling good!

Run: The run was a great course. One mini-block traversed twice, small enough that we could easily see each corner. Then you get into the stadium at Chandler High, run around the track and finish off with a bang. I'll admit that the travel weariness/lack of fitness caught up with me a bit here, but I hardly noticed, because we were having so much fun! The volunteers were rocking, we were dancing to the music in the stadium - the Dirty Dancing song was great, if you had seen us doing the mashed potato and the twist while we were running. Great times! At the end, they announced us, we crossed the finish hand in hand again, and got some great pink ribboned medals, and best of all the coldest water I've ever consumed. It was perfect for a 95 degree day.

27:08, 39/44 age group, 33/43 Athena. Go me!

Overall: 39th of 44 age group, 34th of 43 Athena, with a total time of 1:24:59. I enjoyed every minute!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Home Sweet Home!!

Wow, it's been a roller-coaster couple of weeks, and I feel like I need a post just to remind myself of all that has happened. So on Tuesday March 10th, I was in Albuquerque, NM for a tech support F2F. Jason was hunting for homes, as he has been doing for the last few months while we waited on the longest "short"sale of all time. He found the most beautiful home, but it was listed for more than we wanted to spend. He tried to talk himself out of putting an offer in, and eventually asked me to go look at the house when I got home on Wednesday the 11th. I went to the house straight from the airport. I loved it. We said what the hell, we'll offer what we're willing to pay, and who knows, sometimes you get lucky. We submitted the offer on the 12th, and to our intense surprise it was accepted by the owner (another real estate agent) on the 13th, and the bank first thing Monday on the 16th. I was in Chicago at this point, but it was sure exciting. Aparently the other offers had been higher, but the bank approved letter for required price was just below what we had offered, and it expired at the end of March - no one else could close quickly enough for the approval letter to still be active. We were now in escrow So I'm in Chicago for the week, frantically writing down lists of everything that needs to be done - all the addresses that need to be changed, the updates to our utilities, rental trucks, cleaning crews, landscapers, the whole shebang. We actually get the inspector to come on Monday the 16th, and he gives it a very good bill of health, with just a few minor issues - AC needs servicing, there's an electrical outage in the 3rd bedroom, and one of the outside faucets had a small drip. I get home from Chicago on Thursday the 19th to find that the entire house has been packed. I have exactly three work outfits laid out for the following week, and peanut butter and almonds in the cabinet - which is really good for those mono-unsaturated fats, but where the hell are the pretzel fishies?! That's about it. Everything has not only been packed, but staged in the garage for a quick move. That weekend we get our new appliances, and some other shopping done. Monday the 23rd, my boss is in town, and we're doing another pilot - this time in Chandler - which means I'm once again unavailable for house stuff. Tuesday we close. Wednesday we get the keys, Thursday "we" (being J and my brother) move. Friday and Saturday we un-pack. Sunday we rest. Count the days... we were in escrow for a total of 10 days. 5 of those days I was gone. The details on the house? 2970 sq. ft. on a very nice sized corner lot. 4 bed, 2 1/2 bath. Pebbletech pool, outdoor fireplace and built in grill, courtyard, office for me, lush tropical vegetation, and upgraded tile, granite counters, crown molding, and plantation shutters. And we stole it. Does it get better? I feel like I'm staying at a nice hotel. The best news of the whole thing is that one of the bedrooms is pink and purple, just like Sydni wanted, and she's going to come out in July to spend a week with us. Yay!