Sunday, October 20, 2013

Three Bears++ and the Dirty Dare

It wasn't intended to be an all-out endurance pushing weekend, but sometimes it just happens.  

Intending to ride about 35 miles, as part of a slow progression to getting to a strong 55 miles, I had the knack to ride the three bears loop.  But I also wanted to ride down pinehurst again, because it's close to home, gorgeous, and fun.  And I wanted to try some things I'd been reading, about taking downhill curves at higher speed. So on a whim, my 35 mile ride became 42.  Not always he best idea.

The first 35 miles were great, starting down pinehurst, canyon, and moraga.  The three bears loop was a fun ride.  It crosses through a lot of different landscapes, past reservoirs, into hills in the middle of nowhere, past farms, and then up and down some long hills.  I stopped for a snack somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and there was just about nothing there.  Except an occasional other cyclist.  The hills were steep and late enough in the ride that I rode intervals up them instead of riding steady.  The last uphill was hard, as I was at about 30 miles, and my legs were getting tired.  But there was more to come.  

The ride back down through Orinda, Moraga, and Canyon was smooth sailing.  After passing canyon and heading north, at about 35 miles, it was not.  I was just spent, with legs giving out every few hundred yards. So I took a lot of slow intervals, finishing in just over four hours.  The last hour was about the last five miles.  

So I did this on a whim the day before running the Dirty Dare 25k put on my Inside Trail racing.  After the ride, I expected this to be a painful just-finish-it race, but it pleasantly wasn't.  It was a hard course; a number of other runners were feeling it hard after it was over, but it was the level of difficulty I wanted.  It started with a big uphill.  That just kept going.  It started out very cold, but that didn't last long.  I did a lot of slow running uphill intervals on this course, which was actually easier than slowly running all of each hill or walking the the hills.  After the first uphill, the downhill run was fast, fun, and great.  And then it was uphill to the first aid station.

I drank more cola at the aid stations on this course than any race so far, keeping the sugar going in to make up for the overall amount of weekend effort.  After the first aid station, it was more uphill, and then more uphill.  Somewhere in there the course went from difficult to hard.  The views were amazing, and in an area I never make it out to.  Cows and turkeys and backpackers.  Single track, some of it on very precarious slopes, and trails in open grass-covered hills.   

After the second aid station, I made it another mile or so uphill, and was running out of energy.  Stopped for a minute, had a gel, and kept going.  This part got really mediative, in that I passed through a lot of distinct scenery, but I don't remember in which order.  Feet were getting sore, but only really annoying-sore, and I slowed a bit to spread out my energy use.  At some point I was looking for the next huge uphill, when the third and final aid station, only two miles from the end, appeared.  I didn't realize how far I had gone.  Then I ran the last two miles, finishing the 16.4 miles in 3:48 or so.  28 out of 46 runners. Below my current medium-term goal (top half), but far better than the last comparable run, which was a finish-it-despite-a-lot-of-pain run (grizzly peak, 22 out of 26).  The ride had less effect than I thought it would, in that nothing was really sore after all was said and done, just the usual tiredness. 

Overall, a good weekend, and the first with an eye toward building milage for longer spring races.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The 2013 Running/Swimming/Tri Season

This year started off with some modest goals:  run the oakland half marathon, run the SF marathon again, get comfortable with open water swimming, try a triathlon, and work a lot on kite jumping.  The latter was "easy," in that it takes practice and patience, but has been coming along quite well.  The others I all more than met.  A mental recap as this season wraps up is what's in order here.

Brazen Coyote Hills 10k, January 26.  I signed up for this as a first experiment in trying one of he organized trail racing companies.  It was early, windy, sunny, and chilly.  And the park was right on the bay, which was great.  I was a little addicted after this.  And I went kiting afterwords at Third Ave, given the out-of-season wind.  I remember my legs being sore and being rather cold.

Coastal Golden Gate Half Marathon, Feb 10, Marin Headlands.  Trying another trail race.  I got ambitious and signed up for the half marathon, in part since I had passed my training goals for Oakland, and in part because I wanted to run the longer loop of this race.  This was an awesome course.  It started with a steep uphill and kept going.  It was cold, I ran in running pants and a jacket.  But the surfers were still out at Rodeo Beach.  I thought them crazy at the time.  But I wasn't open water swimming yet.

Brazen Bay Breeze 10k, Feb 16, at Quarry Lakes.  Warmer this time!  A flat course, and the first race where I felt competitive.  I blame that guy who asked what age group I was in during the last mile and then said that he needed to beat me.  I opened up and ran hard through that last mile, and I ended up third in my age group.  JB and DL also ran this event.

Brazen Badger Cove 10k, March 16, Del Valle Regional Park.  At this point I was getting addicted.  This was another chilly morning, but with a great St. Patrick's Day theme.   The hills got me on this one.

Oakland Half Marathon, March 24.  2:04 something.  My "lightweight" goal was 2 hours, but I'm not crazy strict about time goals.  And Lily wanted to go to Point Reyes the day before, where we ended up doing a 9 mile hike out to Arch rock and back.  Priorities.  :-)  I was strength bound on this one.  And I got arrogant here, with a tight tendon in my left foot acting up a bit after.  Something new to learn about that took six more months to figure out.  But yeah, a fun run, I love that this is in Oakland, and that it takes you through all kinds of interesting neighborhoods you might never intend to visit.  Somewhere here is also where I got that idea to run a half marathon a month for a year, which I'm still doing.

Coastal Grizzly Peak 30k, April 7, Tilden.  This is where I got really stubborn.  I considered bailing, since my foot was still bothering me after Oakland, and the SF Marathon was getting closer.  But then I decided to take it slow and just finish it, since I was excited for the course, ad I needed to get my distance up.  It was foggy, so the expected views didn't happen, but the fog in Tilden was great.  Took a number of intentional walk breaks to loosen up my foot.  Crossed paths with BT at one point too.  Finishing the first loop, I was tired, and no, I didn't want to run back out for the second loop.  So I just did it anyway, which has become a kind of theme for how I do these things now.  But that second loop hurt.  I then decided to abandon my SF time goal altogether, and I took off running for almost a month, with the aim to finish SF without any damage.

Swim Art Trans Golden Gate Swim, May 18.  MU wrap party day!  Or "Oh yeah, the MU wrap party is happening too" day.  This was my first significant open water swim.  I had trained well for it, since I was progressing fast enough that I wanted to get a sizable swim in before America's cup took over the bay.  I remember crazy shark dreams and strange dreams about looking down while floating a couple hundred feet off the bottom.  And not sleeping much the night before.  This swim was a big psychological achievement, more than anything else.  SMS was also out, in MF's group.  A freighter and a changing current had us repositioned a few times. I bailed on trying to make it to the rock at the end, since I was caught in a strong current.  Overall, I was more than happy, despite it not being the intended straight shot across (yay freighters!).  I'll go back to do this one again next season.

Coastal Canyon Meadow 30k, June 2, Redwood.  A race in my backyard!  Well not quite, but very close, and my trail running training ground.  And the race I stumbled upon last year that made this racing thing catch my interest.  I signed up for this to get ready for SF, and counted it as my May half, since I didn't find anything in late May that fit in.  I took it slow, especially the second loop around the East Ridge Trail, which was scorching that  day.  Foot still sore at the end, but much better off than at Grizzly Peak

SF Marathon, June 16.  Started slow, got slower, and persevered.  The second half had a walk break every couple miles to keep things loose.  I know I walked less than last year (which was every mile for the last two thirds), but my time was way down.  Original goal of 4 hrs I had changed mentally to 5:15. And I think I ended up with about 5:45 in my determination to not injure myself.  Which, in the end, was probably the right call.  But yes, the race!  The second time though was less exploratory, but there was something great about running across the bridge after having just swam under it the month before.  I felt much better after this one too.  Last year's had me walking slow for three days.

Coastal Golden Gate Half Marathon, July 14.  I returned to this, since I loved the course.  Challenging again, I don't know that I fared any better than the last time around, but this felt like the first race where foot tightness was no longer a limiting factor.  I didn't train at all.  In part to get forced recovery time in.  And in part to go to Hawaii to hike, kite, eat, drive, boat, snorkel, etc for a while.   I think I only ran once to warm up, the Tuesday before, and I was about the same, time wise, as February.

Tri For Fun, August 17.  I signed up for Malibu, in part, as a forcing function to buy a bicycle.  I went out and bought one just in time to do this, not wanting Malibu to be my first time through competitive cycling or transitions.  And it was fun.  I had a panic moment at the first buoy during the swim, not really understanding the crowd.  It took half the swim course to get my breathing under control to get my speed up, but I eventually did.  Cycling was fun, and we just had an earthquake as I'm writing this.  But yeah, cycling was fun.  RN was out too.  Running the 5k after the ride was hard though.  My legs felt like I was trapped in molasses.

Coastal Cinderella Half Marathon, August 18.  Back in the backyard, at Redwood Regional Park.  This is also the point where I had stopped training toward running these half marathons, and had returned to focusing on training for speed.  It was hot.  Very hot.  I recall my time being not so great, and far from where I thought it was.  But I read that about others too.  And the course was great, especially the long stretch along the french trail.

JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge, Sept 3, 3.5 mile.  Because short races where it takes 8 times longer to drive a there and back than to finish the run are fun!  Especially when it's only a ~3 mile drive.  When you think about it, my running pace was far faster than my driving-there-and-back pace.  Lots of work folk, of course, and being in the evening make this one fun.  Next year bart.

Malibu Triathlon, Classic Distance, Sept 8.  Road trip!  And fundraiser, went as part of the work team.  Started early, the swim was fun.  I took a wide swing around the first buoy, which completely changed the swim for me.  Much better this time, especially given the longer half mile swim course.  The water was cold, but not SF cold, and clear, which I'm not at all used to in the bay.  The ride was a little challenging.  I didn't get much experience on longer more gradual hills before this race.  And the run only felt like molasses for the first mile, having gotten some brick workouts in before this one.  Listened to Born To Run audiobook on the drive down and back.  This pointed me toward walking in lesser soled shoes (xero), which seems to have mostly solved the tight foot problem, since most of the pain was happening not while running, but while walking on heels in cushioned shoes.

Brazen Drag-N-Fly, Sept 21, Contra Loma & Black Diamond Mines.  This was fun.  I got to see the Sherman Island kiting area from the hills, which is new.  And I felt great the entire run.  A hard course, but through an area of interesting history with great views. And a constantly changing course, with one very vertical section.  First rain of the fall a half hour after I finished.  The second run with a large aid station craving for coca cola and gummy bears, after Cinderella.  Something about warm days.

Tough Mudder, Sept 28, Northstar, Lake Tahoe.  COLD.  Snow on the Ground COLD.  I was running extra distance back and forth between some obstacles to warm up.  Electic eel, that thing where you climb under electricity, just plain sucked this time.  And my hands had stiffened up enough that I just plain failed at the monkey bars.  Otherwise I finished them all.  I was contemplating bailing on the dumpster of ice, but 1) there was an Alcatraz swim coming come and the moment of over-re-acclimatization couldn't hurt and 2) I had started sprinting intervals instead of running the course to warm up.  But yeah, COLD, and the electricity sucked a lot this time.  I'm skipping that one if I go back.  We all finished in 6:05 or so.  And oh yeah, COLD.

Other things of note:  Long stretch of Swim Art group swims to get open water swimming down, kite jumping lesson from Dante at Coyote point, kite surfboard clinic from Donny and Sandy Parker at Coyote Point, lots of early season , learning to swim in choppy water on Maui, kiting on Maui, snorkeling off Lehua.

As for the rest of the season, at least the confirmed part:
Alcatraz Swim (done, already written up)
Inside Trail's Dirty Dare, 25k.
Marin Counry Triathlon, olympic
Berkeley Half Marathon

And some high points for next year:

Big Sur Marathon, April 27.  I've been wanting to run this one for a couple years.  Timing finally worked out.
Hawaii 70.3, May 31.  I realized around the time of Malibu that this is a distance I could finish.  And this had caught my attention, so I signed up.

There's a sketch of more to come, other tentative goals for next year are a 50k and, if timing works, a bridge to bridge swim.  And diving back in to learning to kite with a surfboard.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Alcatraz Swim

I did an Alcatraz swim this weekend, with Swim Art.  It was my third significant open water swim this year, after the Golden Gate swim early in the summer and the Malibu triathlon.   

I didn't train specifically for this, so I was mildly nervous in the few weeks leading up to it, but nothing like the Golden Gate swim.  Being the second time well out in the bay made this a bit easier.  And I'm a much stronger swimmer than I was in the early summer, since I've had a fairly heavy swim training schedule through the mid summer and into the fall.  

But on the morning of the swim, I wasn't at all nervous, and completely excited.  We rode out to just off the warning sign, alerting us not to bring back prisoners.  And started jumping.  I keep thinking that there should be a more drawn out getting-ready-to-go break before starting, but no, it's suddenly time to jump in the water.  And I eagerly jumped off the boat, realizing on the way in that I hadn't put my goggles all the way on.  Fortunately I caught them--note to self, hold them in your hand or around your neck next time!  Or better yet, just wear them!

And again, the cold didn't grab my attention too much, since it was time to swim.  57 degrees on a cold morning 7:30am jump.  Easing in from the beach can be so much worse, since you have time to think about it.  Anyway, I spent a few moments memorizing the layout of the other swimmers in the group, the kayakers, and my landmarks and took off.  Early on I was ahead, but I think I mixed well in with everyone, since I took an occasional moment to just look around and take things in.  Swimming in the middle of the bay.  Between Alcatraz and SF.  Between the Golden Gate and Bay bridges.  As the sun is rising above the morning clouds.  Yeah, it was kind of gorgeous.  

Overall, I felt strong, especially in the last third of the swim.  Hands got cold, and I still need to work on body rotation more when wearing a wetsuit, but the whole swim felt good.  Getting to shore was great, it's awesome that it no longer feels mostly like relief from crazy cold at this moment.  Dried off, found some coffee, and headed out.  

Great swim, I think I need to go back for some more next year.  Next up will be 1.5k at the Marin Tri in two weeks, the last open water swim for my season.  

Oh yeah, 1.31 miles in 55 mins.  But I wasn't thinking about that much, I was there to swim, not race.  It's funny to think that I first started seriously learning to swim a little over a year ago, and first swam in the bay back in March.  I had some modest goals for this year, but have gone well past them.