Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ouch… Indianapolis Marathon Race Report

You know that saying "The hay is in the barn"? Well, that's what I should've been saying to myself while I was driving down to Indianapolis yesterday, and I would've been saying it if it was true. There was some hay in the barn, but only enough to last until about January of a Michigan winter, or not quite halfway through. I could blame class, or The Crud I had back in August, or the absence of a running group to inspire me, but I'm not going to blame anything except myself and my seeming inability to prioritize training for any event at all.

This was my 28th marathon and 22nd state. Almost halfway done! It was also my first marathon in over a year. My last one was Lehigh in September of last year. How does a year go by without me doing any marathons? I don't know, but that really can't happen again, not if I actually want to finish 50 States and beat Thomas. Whoops, how did that get in there? Anyway, I picked this one for proximity and value. I think Indiana is a boring state and Indianapolis is a boring city, and my impression of racing in Indiana is limited to that night when I did one loop with Kamran while he was doing his 100-miler. Wet and cold and a little boring is what I remember of that course. Well, this one was a little wet and a little cold and a lot boring. I did not have the impression that this would be an exciting race, but I thought it would be an okay one. I mean, it has generally good reviews and I like changing leaves as much as the next person. I should've known, though, when I got halfway through the the YouTube course video and had to turn it off because I got bored watching it, that this would not be a great course for me.

Let me say that it would not be boring for a lot of people. Midwestern or Northeastern transplants who have moved to the Southwest and miss fall terribly every year would probably love this race. It's nothing but gently rolling hills and green grass and so, so many glorious leaves. I feel like we ran in showers of leaves the whole time. The weather is a roll of the dice this time of year -- on Friday it was 70 and sunny, and tomorrow it's going to be 40's and rainy, but today it was right around 50 and overcast with a few sprinkles basically the whole day, pretty much perfect marathon weather. For people who don't need any changing scenery, or any crowd support, or any glimpses of the actual city, this would be a great race!

Packet pickup was super easy, and the Expo, the race start, pretty much every single lodging option anyone could want, and pretty much every single restaurant option anyone could want were all located right next to each other in about a 5-mile radius. Oh, and everything was right off the freeway too. That was nice. The race start wasn't till 8:30 although the website said everyone needed to be there by 7:30. Paranoid because of last year's parking disaster at Lehigh, I was there at 6:45. (NOTE: According to reviews, Lehigh's logistics problems were all fixed this year, very good news since it was a great marathon except for those things.) There was virtually unlimited parking. I sat in my car and read for a while. I didn't get out of the car until 8:00, taking a guess at how much time I would need to stand in the Portajohn line before the race started.

My blood has definitely thickened since coming to Michigan. I was wearing shorts and T-shirt in 50 degrees and was a little on the chilly side, but not shivering while I stood in line. I was in line with a bunch of Marathon Maniacs, but I was incognito because I was wearing my SAR shirt instead of my Maniacs shirt. I listened to them discuss the race they had just done (Prairie Fire in Kansas) and the one they were doing next (Route 66 in Tulsa, two weeks from now). It was getting closer and closer to 8:30 and people kept jumping out of line because they didn't want to miss the start. The Marathon Maniacs and I were unconcerned; after this many marathons I do not care if I'm on the start line when the gun goes off. That's what chip timing is for, and I would much rather not have Portajohn time deducted from my chip time if I can get it in before the race starts. Today, though, so many people left the line that I was ducking under the rope for my corral at 8:30 exactly -- perfect!

The race takes place in and around Fort Harrison. I really hope that runners who live by this park know how lucky they are to have such a nice place to run! It is full of trails, both paved and dirt, and has a nice mix of hills and flat. The only problem was that I just didn't want to be there.

I had briefly enjoyed the atmosphere at the start line and was thinking how much I had missed races and runners and how I really needed to stop making excuses and start getting to know the running community out here… and then the race started and all I could think was that I didn't feel like doing this and couldn't I just go home? I felt like this all the way from Mile 1 to about Mile 5. Things got a little better after Mile 5, and I was feeling okay until about Mile 12. In this race, the half marathon course is the same as the first 13 miles of the marathon course, and the half marathon turns left and splits off just past Mile 12 to go back to the finish line. Just knowing that most of these people were going to get to be done, while I still had 13 more miles to go, made me depressed. Right past the point where the half marathoners split off, there was a guy holding a sign that read: "Pussies, make a left, badasses, straight ahead." To the guy with the sign: You, sir, are an asshole… and also hilarious. I laughed for almost a quarter mile, and hated the half marathoners a little less for being almost done. (Let me explain: a half-marathon is no small accomplishment; NO race is, not even a 5k. Every time I do a half, I reach the end wondering how I ever do twice that distance. I would never call anyone a pussy for doing any distance of race, and I don't think of myself as a badass for doing a marathon when I have friends who do 100-milers. It's just a little marathon black humor, if you ask me, and I for one appreciated it very much, and am pretty sure I still would've thought it was funny if I was running the half.)

The second half was pretty much one long -- really long -- out and back. It was at first mildly depressing, and then extremely depressing, to see the people coming back when the turnaround was nowhere in sight. It only took me a couple of miles to start feeling like I had had an acceptable first half and now if I wanted to walk I was just going to go ahead. Nothing was really hurting -- I mean, of course, nothing specific was hurting in an injury way, not that nothing at all was hurting. Everything was kind of hurting -- my knees, my internal organs, even a faint pain from my IT band, which hasn't even twinged in years -- but nothing outside of the usual pains. There was no reason why I couldn't keep running except for a strong desire not to. Out and backs are my least favorite things on a marathon course. I don't mind the "back" part, but the "out" part is pure torture. It's bad when they're a mile or two long but five miles sapped whatever spirit I had left completely. This one took place almost entirely on a road called Fall Creek Parkway, with the "out" portion being on the road and the "back" portion being on the gorgeous bike path. There were big, beautiful houses all along the route and not a spectator in sight, more cause for depression. The last worst thing was the headwind. Yes, it was causing the leaves to swirl down from the trees in a nonstop shower of red and yellow, but it was still a headwind. A chilly rain fell every now and then for a few minutes at a time. I wanted to be done with this, so badly! I contemplated all kinds of things -- thumbing a ride back, hiding in the bushes for several minutes, pulling off my tag, getting to the finish line and claiming it fell off somewhere -- but of course I didn't do them because I wanted the stupid medal and I wanted to do 50 States.

Finally I got to the turnaround at Mile 19.5. After that I was finally, finally able to sort-of run. A slow shuffling jog, really, but I will count it as a run. I did this off and on until I got to the last two miles, which were all uphill, and then I said forget it. I was tired and cranky and cold and my stomach and knees both hurt and just NO. No running. The 4:30 pacer jogged past me with less than a mile to go and said, "Come on! 4:30! You can do it!" And I totally could have done it -- I had like 16 minutes left -- but I just shook my head at her. Nope. So she kept going. I walked almost the entire last two miles although I did manage to jog the last tenth of a mile. Painfully. I finished with one of my worst times ever, 4:32.

I wonder if I'm ever going to care if I run fast again or not? I don't really have any running friends out here, so it's not like I'll feel embarrassed about a lousy time. People out here just think it's cool that I finished a marathon at all. I also think that if I really want to finish 50 States, I am going to have to start doing a few more marathons, including probably a few back-to-backs, and in order to save my body I feel like I will have to do them slowly. And also I don't have any way to really know what effect the amount of walking at my job -- at least 6-8 miles per day on most days -- has on my running abilities. Add to that the fact that I don't have any running group friends to push me -- I miss you, WOG!! -- and it looks like I might just be slow forever.

I am up at 3:00 a.m. with sore legs but wide awake and in a sort of post-race funk that has nothing to do with my lousy time and more to do with the fact that I don't know when my next marathon will be. I am thinking about maybe doing the Marshall University Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia in two weeks --it's one I can drive to, and with as slow as I was in this marathon, I could probably have enough recovery time to finish another one (though probably not with a better time). We'll see.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I Miss Mountains

This is the weekend of the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado. That is the one race that, for some reason, I can never get out of my head. I did it in 2012 and 2011 (race reports here, here, and here), and out of all of my race reports, those are the ones I reread the most, not Boston, not San Diego where I qualified for Boston after trying and failing to qualify 15 times, not either one of my two 50-mile races. There is something special about the Pikes Peak Marathon. My brain seems to have taken dozens of perfect-recall snapshots of that race (and then I also have this to remember it by). I remember how it felt standing at the start line looking up and up and up, at Pikes Peak all naked of trees and impossibly far away, and that brutal, breath-sucking climb out of town which I still think is the worst part of that course, and the moment when you break out above treeline and start picking through the boulder field, and the dizzying feeling of being on top and looking down and dimly thinking, if there's enough oxygen for your brain to think, that at least on the way down it will get easier to breathe with every step. That does not really sound like fun, and I admit it wasn't 100% fun while I was doing it, but even while I was suffering through it I knew I was doing something epic that I would never forget.

There are no mountains in Michigan. Where I live the elevation is around 600', and where I work it's between 800' and 900'. You can't even get to 2000' in the whole state of Michigan! There are nice hills where I work, lots of them, and I can get a nice roller coaster run just about anywhere I go around there. But I really, really miss mountains.

I grew up with mountains, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. I missed them while I lived in New York and New Jersey, but honestly, in both of those places there were so many trees everywhere that I felt like I was always in a green tunnel with limited views of the sky anyway, so I missed the feeling of open space more than I actually missed mountains. Tucson was a perfect combination of openness and mountains. Tucson was ringed by mountains on all sides, and one of my favorite things about it was that I could run up Mount Lemmon or Wasson Peak or Mount Wrightson or Rincon Peak and look down on the city from the north or the west or the south or the east. I didn't always love running in the mountains -- the heat! the rocks! the climbs! the snakes! -- but I always loved having run in the mountains. And those moments up on the peaks were glorious.

Michigan is better than New Jersey and New York in that there are not quite so many trees so close together, and it is still possible to see the horizon. I didn't run trails in New York, and I only ran one trail -- the Patriots Path -- in New Jersey (which always had kind of a Blair Witch-y feeling about it, to me, because of all the trees and how it was always darkish in the forest, even in mid-day). I have run a few trails here. The soft footing, the fact that trails nearly always seem to run along a lake or a river, and the ever-present cool breeze in summer are good things. But the absence of mountains makes trail running here seem almost pointless. In Tucson, you accomplished something with trail running. You climbed a big-ass mountain! I used to think of the difficulty of a trail run in Tucson in terms of how many thousands of feet of elevation gain there was. So, for example, a run where you gained less than 2,000 feet of elevation was no big deal, and a run where you gained 5,000 feet kind of was a big deal. A run like Pikes Peak, where you gain 8,000 feet, was a REALLY big deal. Out here, I guess you just have to go either super long (which I will never do; I don't have the time for that kind of training) or super cold (which I will also never do; I hate the cold too much) if you want to make yourself feel like a badass.

I miss mountains more than I hate winter, and that is saying a lot. One thing is for sure, if any part of my life in Michigan ever went south, I would be running back to a place with mountains as fast as I could.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

One More Marathon; I Can Do This

A few things I have figured out during the past six weeks of not officially training for anything:

1) If I'm not training for something specific, and don't have a paper schedule hanging up on the fridge, my training will be haphazard and I will skip a week at a time and justify it by saying that I'm not training for anything and am taking a relaxed approach to working out. If I am not faced with either doing the workouts so I can cross them off, or else having to live with the knowledge that I'm lazy and a slacker, I will not be accountable to myself and will do about 25% of what I should be doing. I need a paper schedule. If you don't, I'm impressed and jealous, but I do.

2) Despite my prior rationalizing of why I didn't need to be spending so much time doing something I didn't like, and should spend my time doing stuff I do like, the truth is that I do not like myself when I'm fat and lazy. Part of my identity is "athlete", and if I give that up, everything that I was trying to give more time to by cutting out workouts suffers. I think that even when I'm not enjoying training, it gives me the energy to enjoy everything else, in some weird way.

3) I can train for something without training obsessively. There is no reason at all that I need to do two to three hours of cardio every single day -- on top of this job where I do so much walking. No wonder I burned out.

I decided I will train for a fall marathon -- nothing crazy, just a regular marathon. Since 2005, I have done at least two marathons every year -- most years four -- and this year I haven't done any. I'm going to plan on the Indianapolis Marathon in October. Short drive, low entry fee, nothing terribly exciting or elaborate, but that's the kind of low-pressure race I want. At least it will be another state! Maybe this will get me more excited about getting back to trying to do 50 states.

I'm going to use one of Hal Higdon's schedules -- Marathon 3 -- which includes two days of cross-training (bike and elliptical for me -- no more swimming, EVER!) and three days of running, with a low total weekly running mileage. I totally believe high running mileage is unnecessary, considering  that I had my fastest marathon ever on less than 40 miles a week, and with all the time I spend on my feet at work, I really feel like I should be as nice to them as I can outside of work. I used one of Hal Higdon's schedules for my very first marathon, the Chicago Marathon in 2005, and following that schedule was a great beginning for all the years of running between then and now, so I figure there's no harm in going back to one of his schedules. (Of course, I also believe just about any schedule will work, given the variety of schedules I have followed over the years and the fact that I've done pretty well with all of them, so I just pick the schedule that matches most closely with the kind of training I'm in the mood to do.)

One thing about this schedule -- it is a 24-week schedule, and I started it at Week 13, so when I looked at the scheduled long run of 17 miles for this weekend, I was scared. I ran 21 miles last November and since then have not run more than 10 miles at any time. I know I ran 10 miles in Tucson in February, and also one day in June up at the lake, but I think that's it. It was shocking to realize that I'm not really a long-distance runner anymore! I have a theory, though, that when you've done as many marathons as I have, the body "remembers", even if you're not exactly ready for the distance. Happily, I was right, and today's 17 miles was perfectly fine. Well, it was slow, 9:30 pace, but I expect that, with as much extra weight as I have right now and as little practice as I've had lately with any kind of distance. Most importantly, I felt all right at the end and even felt like I could've gone ahead and done marathon-distance if I had to.

Even though I'm excited at the thought of having a race to train for again, I'm not going to register for this race until October when I know I've actually done the bulk of the training. I am too familiar with and resigned to my own flakiness to continue throwing money away on race entry fees until I'm sure I'm going to do them. I'd rather lose an extra $10 by registering late than lose $70 by registering early and then getting lazy or lame and deciding, Nah.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

I Quit, and it Feels Soooooooo Good!

I have a theory about life and exercise, proven over and over throughout the past 10 years as I cycled in and out of the normal ups and downs of life, and my theory is this: the better my life is going in general, the worse my training is going. When life is crappy, working out is an outlet for all the negative energy that I would otherwise just sit at home and wallow in. It generates endorphins that make the crap feel not so crappy. Training for a race gives me the feeling that I can control something and be successful at something even if I have no control over, for example, the decision of someone else to walk out of my life. Those are all good things. But the corollary to this truth is that when life is going good, working out assumes a much smaller role and becomes much less important when compared to the things that are making life good.

Maybe this is not true for someone who actually enjoys working out, but we all know that I don't. Nothing more needs to be said about how much I don't, because I have said it all already. What has always kept me going is that being an endurance athlete is part of my identity, and having the body of an endurance athlete is part of it as well. But I am coming to believe that maybe other things are more important than that. We all have limited time to be alive, and even more limited time to be alive, healthy, and able to do whatever we want as long as whatever we want falls within our financial means. When looked at that way, I am beginning to think I can't justify any longer doing what I dread doing and don't get any enjoyment out of, when that stuff uses time that I could be using to do what I love doing and believe I am meant to be doing. Does that make sense?

What happened with my training schedule was that dread of it began taking over my life. I went to bed at night dreading the next morning's workout, and as soon as I had completed the morning workout I started dreading the afternoon one. I figured that would pass because it usually does once I get acclimated to the schedule. This one just got worse and worse. People pointed out to me that I did not have to do this, that no one was making me do it. I thought about how much I want to be able to some day say I'm an Ironman. I mean, it's one of my life goals! I only have three; can't I knock that one off? But life goals are subject to revision like any other goals. This one needed revision. (Besides, the pursuit of this one made it virtually impossible to pursue the other two.)

Making that decision, and tearing up my training schedule, was one of the best feelings I can remember. The freedom was pure joy. The fact that I can be sitting here writing in my blog with all the windows open on a beautiful, cool morning, drinking coffee and listening to the birds sing, instead of torturing myself through another dreaded ride or swim, is amazing. The fact that I can say yes when invited out for a drink is a big deal. Knowing that I can roll over in bed at 3:30 a.m. and know I don't have to force myself to put my swim suit on and drag myself to the pool is sublime.

I'm not quitting working out all the way. I couldn't; I can't get any fatter than I am right now just because I would have to buy all new clothes. I'm still going to run and still going to do long runs on the weekends and still keep on lazily pursuing my 50 States goal. Marathon training I can do, without too much difficulty. But no more obsessing over it. Instead, I am going to spend time writing (like I have every single day since I gave up the idea of the race) and training my dogs and enjoying the amazingness of my life here right now.

I think that is the smart thing to do, don't you all?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Questioning My Sanity Again

WHY did I sign up for this stupid half-Ironman again? I swear, this training is ruining my life.

I live in a constant state of dread regarding the training schedule, which is entering its highest-volume weeks. It has totally taken over my life. Eleven workouts per week, some of them very, very long. I hate the pool. I still suck at swimming. Not only am I not getting better, I am actually getting WORSE if I look at my times for the same distance between March and now. I hate riding on Michigan roads (because they are dangerous), but not quite as much as I hate riding on the bike at the gym (which isn't the same as road riding anyway) and I also hate driving my bike anywhere to ride it. For those who know how I just love to run (said in a voice of deep sarcasm for those who don't know how much I hate to run), it should be very telling when I say that the run is the thing I dread the least. Well, that was true until I got a giant blister on the side of my foot and finally accepted the inevitable and switched to the men's version of my Mizunos. Now I dread running too.

Saturday was a great day involving canoeing, an island, a hammock, and a shady and flat 10-mile trail run on a surface of crushed leaves. Paradise. I would've loved a repeat of Saturday on Sunday. Instead I was supposed to ride 50 miles, but it was raining in the morning and in the afternoon I was going to go to a new puppy welcome party. I turned over in bed and went back to sleep when the alarm went off Sunday morning and I heard the steady rain outside. Then, wracked with guilt over skipping a 50-mile ride, I headed to the pool before the party, figuring I would punish myself by doing the 2250 swim on the books for next week since I hadn't done the ride. (The rain, by the way, disappeared and was replaced by sun and cool breeze exactly at the time when I knew it was too late to start a 50-mile ride and still make it to the party.) Anyway, the pool was cold. 74 degrees. I swam 100 and got out. Forget it! I went and bought my new running shoes instead.

The next morning I made it 500 yards before quitting. But they were 500 yards of misery. I couldn't get my breath -- had to stop and stand up in the lane a few times, which I pretty much never do -- and pause at the end of each length to catch my breath again. I have no idea why that was happening -- unless maybe my brain just hates swimming so much that it was like, screw you, I am just not going to regulate your breathing anymore. I will regulate it again when you get out of this water and back into bed with a book where you belong.

After that swim fail I was really ready to quit. Just say screw the whole thing, eat the cost of registration, and decide I do not have to have Ironman on my bucket list anyway. I mean, aren't life goals always subject to revision? I have totally backed out on races and training before when there was too much else going on in life, and never felt the least bit of shame or regret about it. I allowed myself the day to fantasize about it, about how good it would feel to just tear up that training schedule and throw it in the trash. Michigan summers are like sweet dreams, beautiful but fleeting. Why not enjoy this one while it lasts by hanging out with the dogs, sitting outside and reading and writing, actually saying yes to the nine out of ten invitations to social events I turn down now? You know, doing the things I enjoy rather than the things I don't enjoy. There's a swim cutoff time in the race that, in all honesty, I am probably not going to make, considering I have never made it in the pool. If I bail out now, who cares about the swim cutoff? I ordered a wetsuit but am intimidated at the thought of putting it on, let alone using it in a real lake. I mean, how will I see where I'm going, what if I swim at Stoney and bump into, like, a detached finger from that guy who drowned in there last weekend? How about just send the wetsuit back and forget the whole thing?

I was supposed to ride 35 miles after work yesterday and that almost, almost did not happen. I sat at my desk as the work day came to a close and thought about how much nicer it would be to take the dogs down to Clinton River and let them swim, or read a book till I fell asleep. But then the thought of my winter coat of fat sprang to mind. I have lost 9 lbs of it, and even though I still have 8 more lbs to go, I feel so much better than I did in March. That thought got me on the bike and out the door. And once I was out the door, things improved. I did the whole ride on the Macomb-Orchard Trail, which is a flat, shady, paved multi-use path that goes out into farm country. By the end of the ride, I had to admit that I had enjoyed it and that it is impossible to get the post-workout feeling from anything else. Nothing makes me feel as virtuous as I feel at the end of a day that started with getting up at 3:30 to go to the gym before work, then walking six to eight miles at work training my dogs, then busting out another workout after work. True, I am so tired when I get home that I have to race to eat dinner before I pass out, and in the morning it feels like the alarm goes off two minutes after I have gone to sleep. But still... I am tired because I am Virtuous Ironman Training Woman! (Okay, Virtuous HALF Ironman Training Woman.) I figure that even if I don't make the swim cutoff, I will at least have survived that horrible training schedule, and gotten rid of a little more fat, right?

Besides, one reason I have this blog is as proof that liking to work out is not at all required in order to do even hardcore endurance sports. I mean, is there ANYONE who hates exercise more than I do or who would rather be ass-to-couch all day long? No! I HATE this sh*t... but I do it anyway. So. No bailing on the race yet. I will continue to train for it and get myself to that start line, and if I don't make the swim cutoff then I will have to reevaluate just how important it is that I some day be able to call myself an Ironman. (I.e., is it worth committing to a winter of swim lessons and focused swim practice. Ugh. I hope I just make the cutoff and do not have to answer that question.)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I Didn't Like That!

I totally believe that, no matter what we're talking about -- dog training, food, sex, or, here, triathlon -- that you should always try something before proclaiming that you don't like it. (Except for sauerkraut... I will NEVER, EVER, EVER try that, and I KNOW I don't like it even without trying it! Sauerkraut is an exception to my rule.) So yesterday I tried an all women group ride.


Let me be clear that I am not saying anything bad about Fraser Bikes, the shop that hosted the ride. They did a great job with the ride, and they also have a great shop. They set up a food tent and a bike first aid station for us at the turnaround point, they fixed me up with new cleats for a good price and put them on for me, they even gave me a free Gatorade from the cooler because I had to wait while they put on the cleats. I am sure that for a lot of people on the ride, it was, like, an epic event. I totally accept that it was my mistake that I ever would have thought this type of event was something I would enjoy, and I would never say that Fraser Bike sucks or this event sucked.

It was advertised as a free, no-drop 25-mile ride (celebrating Women's Ride Day) from the shop to Metro Beach. The wording of the announcement was something along the lines of " drop (so you'll never have to ride alone!)". I assumed that what this meant was that there was someone who would commit to riding with the slowest people in the back, but that everyone else would kind of spread out and go at their own pace. I also thought since the food tent at Metro Beach would be open from 9-10 a.m. that we could just stop by, grab a snack, and move on. I was wrong on both counts.

We headed out at 8 a.m. The shop had orange juice and bagels and yogurt pre-ride, which was nice. There were probably about 25 women there. Let me just say that in general, the more women there are present in any group, the less happy I usually am in that group. (The only exceptions to this are [thankfully] my workplace, which is like 5:1 women: men but with the highest concentration of awesome women I have ever seen anywhere, well over 90% awesome, and the Women of WOG in Tucson.) I like individual women perfectly fine but there is something about being in a group of too many women that puts my hackles up. I get quiet and critical and don't want to talk to anyone, and it's like I start with a mindset that anything the group talks about is going to be silly and uninteresting. Obviously I am the bitch here, not them, but rather than work on it and try to improve my attitude, I just  try to hang out with groups where men outnumber women. Really I wouldn't have even gone on this ride at all except that I needed a 25-mile ride and I really, really wanted to know how to get to Metro Beach on the Metro Parkway bike path, because this is supposedly a bike path that I can actually access from my house with a minimum of Michigan road time on the bike. So I figured, perfect, I can learn the route, take advantage of the free bike support, and just go at my own pace.

Not two miles after leaving the shop, the cyclists in the back stopped for some reason. The rest of us stopped, too, but further ahead. We couldn't tell exactly what happened, whether they were out of energy or had a mechanical problem or what, but as the minutes dragged on I got more and more impatient and annoyed. This should have been AT MOST a 2-hour ride -- and that would be taking stop lights and traffic into account -- and here it was 8:30 already and we hadn't even hit two miles. Not only that, even though we had beautiful weather for a ride, just sitting there in full sun was pretty miserable. It seemed like whatever the problem was, those people should just gracefully bow out. I know I would. Hell, I could have a mechanical problem ten miles into the ride and I would tell everyone to leave without me and I would somehow get me and my bike back to my car by myself. Even if I had to walk the ten miles in bike shoes or call a cab. I totally think it is wrong to make the whole group wait for me.

We finally got going again. I never did figure out what happened to whoever was having the problem, or even whether the person (people?) with the problem dropped out or stayed in to bring up the rear. I was riding towards the back of the group because it had dawned on me as we set out that I had not actually ridden in any proximity to anyone else since El Tour, and that was, like, two years ago. So my group riding skills were not great and I didn't trust my reaction time. It turned out everything came back and I did not have to worry about riding too close, not paying attention, et cetera. Which brings me to another thing I don't like about group rides. Why is it necessary, when, say, another cyclist or a runner approaches from the other direction, for EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the line to say, "Cyclist up!" or "Runner up!"? It's like a giant game of Operator at full volume -- in other words, an un-fun game of Operator. My belief is that if you're riding on a wide bike path with great visibility, at most two abreast, is it too much to ask to just, I don't know, look at the freaking bike path in front of you so that you can see there's a cyclist coming? And shouldn't you just, like, stay on your side of the multi-use path rather than taking over the whole thing so you can ride three or four abreast and chatter non-stop while you cruise at adult tricycle speed? (Okay, I am cranky, I admit it. The training schedule for Steelhead is getting ridiculous and I resent every moment of wasted training time because that's time I can't spend reading, writing, napping, or hanging out with Frieda and Duncan, and I think that resentment is the source of this cranky, bitchy blog post.)

I don't think my heart rate ever topped or even nudged 100. I thought about just saying, "See ya," and taking off, but I couldn't quite bring myself to be the one to do that. I should have; I should have just invented some event that I had to be home for at a reasonable hour. Instead I just slogged along in cranky silence. We waited at every light for the second half to catch up. It wouldn't have done me any good to move up in the group -- the leader just wasn't going any faster. And, judging by her amazing body, her bike, her wheels, and the fact that I never even saw her pedal her bike -- it looked like she and her bike rolled along on awesomeness alone, no work required -- she could have dropped me in a second. She seemed to be enjoying this leisurely ride even though she appeared capable of doing the route three times before the group had even finished it once.

Once we arrived at Metro Beach, I felt a little better. It was a gorgeous, breezy, Pure Michigan day and Lake St. Clair was huge, sparkly in the sun, and absolutely amazing-looking. The food tent was set up in the parking lot and we rolled up to it and stopped. My watch said 10.5 and I was confused; this was supposed to be a 25-mile ride. The guy at the truck offered food and water to everyone and then said, "You've still got a half mile to the point, you can fuel up now or when you come back." I wanted to ask why we stopped at the truck -- and were still stopped there! Why not just go to the point, turn around, and come back and eat and drink THEN? I must be missing something. After several minutes of standing, we finally rode off to the point, where we all posed for endless group pictures and then rode back to the truck and proceeded to kill almost half an hour there. I appreciated the banana and the opportunity to fill my water bottle. But I did not appreciate the standing, standing, standing while the group talked about pregnancy, Lululemon, vacations, and all sorts of other stuff in which I had zero interest. I didn't even try to participate. I read Feedly on my phone and thought every second that NOW was the time to apologize and leave, saying I had to get home. But I didn't. I told myself to just suck it up, finish the ride, and never do another one.

Finally we took off again. To add insult to injury, I had stupidly forgotten to restart my Garmin when we left the point after taking pictures there, so I was now behind on miles. The ride back was better than the ride out. We had a tailwind and we went a little faster than the first time. Like, maybe 10 mph instead of 8. Someone got a flat tire a mile from the shop and they called the shop SAG wagon to come pick the bike up. The rest of us waited until that was done. (If it had been me who flatted, I would've ordered the group to go on and walked the bike back myself.) When we got close to the shop again, I excused myself from the group to get my Garmin to 25 exactly. The freedom of being alone was glorious! Those were my favorite 2.5 miles of the ride.

I feel like I can barely count that as any type of workout, but honestly with the schedule the way it is now, maybe it was good for my body to have a "workout" where absolutely nothing but staying upright was demanded of it. Also, some good did come out of the whole thing. I found a bike shop I liked much better than KLM (not only a bike shop -- it also sells tri supplies, and the owner is an Ironman), and I now know how to ride to Metro Beach and know I can do it from my house for a nice, long, safe ride. I am definitely not doing any more group rides. I pretty much always hate them because I'm either too slow for the group, or too fast. (Usually, almost always, the first one. Trust me, I have no illusions about my ability or lack thereof on the bike. Among people who do any type of racing at all, I suck on the bike and have no technical or mechanical bike skills at all.) It's just going to be me and my bike from now on.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Training Update: Doing Good, Then Doing Nothing, Now Maybe Doing Good Again

I did so good for the first week -- no, eight days, I need every bit of credit I can give myself -- of class. I had purposely started my training schedule a week early so that I could have some "wiggle room" while I was in class, but for the first eight days I honestly thought I might not need it. I was inspired, I had energy, the weather was nice, I felt better starting the work day when I had worked out first... I was doing double workouts every day when I wasn't on duty, and I was sure it was going to last.

Then, something happened on Day Nine. I don't know what it was. Frustrating day with clients, maybe, or maybe just lack of sleep catching up to me, but I was faced with a 30-mile ride after work and I just plain didn't want to do it.

Okay, no big deal. I was a week and a half ahead in my schedule, so no harm in skipping a workout, right? I mean, that was why I had put all that room in my schedule to begin with, because there are ALWAYS days like that in class, and usually more of them as class goes on, so I was totally entitled to skip that one afternoon (an afternoon with perfect weather, by the way) and sleep all afternoon (and all night) instead. It was also okay to sleep in the next morning instead of going to the pool, because my body needed it, right?

Well, maybe it did, but that break in routine combined with some inarguably shitty weather for the next week or so was like a sledgehammer to my discipline. I would get up to swim a couple mornings a week, or go out for a run a couple afternoons, but didn't do any biking at all. I hate riding in the rain, and it really did seem like there was nothing but rain for a big chunk of class. A couple times I sucked it up and went to Lifetime and forced out 20 or 25 miles on the stationary bike, but you, me, and everyone else knows that miles on the stationary bike are nothing like miles on a real bike. I watched my cushion get smaller and smaller until, finally, there was no cushion left. It was obvious that I was never, ever going to make up those missed rides. The runs, maybe. I was going to Disneyland and California Adventure for a week and could totally run every day while I was there. The swims I was actually caught up on. I figured I could just let the bike go because I also happen to believe that the amount of training I do, or do not do, on the bike has the least effect on how fast I ride. The speed I ride seems to be mostly determined by how fat I am, and oh! I forgot to mention I had done really well with diet while I was in class. I told the kitchen only egg whites and fruit and salad for me, and that was what they gave me so that was what I ate. I finally lost about seven pounds of my "winter coat" while I was in class.

So I headed to California for vacation with all my running clothes packed. I had the best of intentions, really I did. But once I got out there, I was busy all day long. Every single day. We were staying at a house a mile from Disneyland (.6 miles if you took the tram, which I never did because the tram line was just ONE MORE LINE in a day full of waiting in lines, and it only saved .4 miles), and every day I walked to and from Disneyland twice a day. (Naps were absolutely mandatory at Disney. I can't imagine getting through one full day at Disney without a nap.) Between the four miles of walking every day, and the fact that I was on my feet all day long except for the 2-minute intervals of sitting down on rides after waiting an hour to get on them, I was completely exhausted at the end of every single day, and by Day Two I knew running was not going to happen while I was there, not at all, not unless you count the running I did when I knew I was about to miss that forever-long light at Magic Way and Disneyland Drive.

So! In total I missed four scheduled runs and six scheduled bike rides. To put this in perspective, the schedule has 59 runs and 59 bike rides. I have decided I can live with missing those. I will just do better from here on out. It shouldn't be that hard. My life is back to normal again, no vacations, no class, no new puppies, no buying a house, good summer weather coming up, none of those things that have derailed past training schedules. On my first "real" day back in Michigan (I don't count Friday, because I got home at 5 a.m. after a hideous day and night of screwed-up travel and slept almost the entire day), I managed a double workout, swim in the morning and 35 miles on the bike in the afternoon, and hopefully I can do the same tomorrow and Monday; we shall see. In any case, the race is still nearly three months away, so I have time to redeem myself, I hope.