Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CA: Monterey down to Ventura

Jeremy once again is on the ball and blogging before I wake up in the mornings. So he has all the good pictures and stories of our adventures. I'm not sure I can even add anything to what he's said, except he's such a good travel buddy. It seems we get hungry at the same times, need a restroom break together, and want to do the exact same stuff. And what else do you need in a husband?? :)

Monterey was an awesome city, with a bike path stretching at least from one end of the other. We actually never saw either end; it was left to the imagination. Around Fisherman's Wharf, it was crowded with walkers and those 2 seater side by side cart bikes where you can put your 4-year-old sister in the front basket and do all the pedaling for you and your older sister who pretends to be carrying her weight... sorry! Memories of pedaling around Point Clear, AL.

Anyway, I loved Monterey and all of its coastal bike paths, people, historic canneries, mansions, and flowers. I think I might do this with my front yard instead of the multicolored rocks.

After an amazingly filling breakfast (we didn't eat again until dinner) on Sunday morning, we headed south on Highway 1 along the breathtaking cliffs high up over the water. I found myself actually holding my breath along the winding route, pushing that imaginary brake pedal that only driver's ed instructors actually have (mental note, add one to the Jetta).

Jeremy had picked for us 4 state parks to stop by, and I have to admit the first one looked boring upon entrance. It was the most scenic, beautiful park I've probably ever visited. We decided to do a slow run along the smooth dirt paths through flowers, over hills, and along the shoreline. At some point I realized that I take pictures mostly of flowers and/or cliffs. Usually both.

Big Sur state park was pretty impressive as well, though we spent less time here, and even less at Julia Burns park. This was the site of a house in the early 1900s, and it overlooked this waterfall onto the beach.

We finally finished most of the day's journey in San Luis Obispo, where there were many restaurants to choose from, and Mama's Meatballs won our vote. We took a short drive to Lompoc, right next to Vandenberg AFB to spend the night. That got us close to our riding destination for today, which was to Solvang. If you saw the Tour of California this year, or you know Gary Ironman, you also know that Solvang is in some great riding country. We did an out and back to the Danish settled Solvang to have lunch and see the town, then rode through the vineyards and flower fields back to Lompoc.

Our last side trip of the day was to the beach in Carpinteria, which supposedly is one of the safest for swimming. And there were many people doing just that. With the water nowhere near the 70F mark, and the air in the mid 60s, a toe in the water was all I needed to convince me that I was not joining the hardened local kids in that surf. A lounge in the sand was how I spent my time.

And tonight will be spent in Ventura, where 5 large sushi rolls were consumed by the two of us before retiring to our hotel. Tomorrow's ventures may include the Channel Islands, and who knows where we'll end up. Until then.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

CA: LA to Half Moon Bay

Jeremy has done a good job of blogging our adventures the last 2 days in California, but I'll attempt to give my side. Plus some more pictures.Thursday was a long day of driving, for Jeremy. I dozed on and off through Arizona and a little in California. The landscape wasn't too exciting, mostly desert and more desert. I was surprised at the size and number of hills around Los Angeles. My only previous experience in LA is a layover at LAX, and besides the smog I had very little in the way of impressions of it. I still don't really, since we circumnavigated it and headed to Santa Clarita to stay overnight.

As J mentioned, it got hot in the desert, but hot and dry, so one of the first things I noticed upon exiting the air conditioned car in Santa Clarita was the humidity. My hair immediately curled back up to its usual humid look. It's been a while. The second thing I noticed was how cold it was. Wow, I thought it was June.

Friday we drove inland up I-5 through farms growing strawberries, cherries, some type of greens, onions, garlic, cherries, nuts, and many unidentifiable (to me, while speeding along) fruits and vegetables. Off the interstate for a piece on a winding country road, we passed a farm stand selling cherries every quarter mile it seemed. Heaven! That's what heaven will have, fruit stands everywhere you look.

Finally we made it to the ocean at Half Moon Bay State Park.

Overcast and gray, we noticed the temperature was about 58F so we put plenty of clothing on and headed south on our bikes along Hwy 1. The shoulder was wide and smooth, and for most of the 28 miles down, right along the coast. It was lined with yellow flowers, some tiny dots, some large bulbs that contrasted the grayness of the sky and water. A few splashes of purple and white flowers were thrown around in the mix as well.

At a few points on the road, the shoulder we were on was as far as the cliff extended. Just beyond the pavement, a few feet from my tires, I could see many dozen feet down to the rocky shoreline. It was dizzying, so I did my best to look away. Past many beaches, more farmland, and a lighthouse at Pigeon Point, 

we arrived at Ano Nuevo State Park, where we parked the bikes and did a short trail run to the beach. We knew we were on the right path when we heard the barking seals from the shore. 

It was a spectacular sight to see dozens of elephant seals lounging on the sea grass just 30 feet away from us. They couldn't be bothered to pay us any attention, which was just fine with me. Watching a 2000 pound animal wriggle its way toward the water was fascinating. 

I could've stayed hours and watched them, but we needed to get back to town, so we headed back along the same route we'd come. I tried to snap a few pictures of my view most of the way back, along the ocean, through some arches of trees, over a few hills. The hills weren't steep or long, and we made good time.

Dinner was with Laura and Steve in Half Moon Bay! I didn't know they were so close by, but we are going to  make a trip to just San Francisco soon. There's too much to see there to only give it half a day.

Today started as a beautiful sunny day but  has already clouded over. The temperature is bearable, but still reminds me of February back in New Mexico. Monterey is our next stop.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Racing at 7000ft

Just an hour away, up in the mountains, lies the great little Village of Ruidoso. It's completely different from my town in atmosphere, weather, landscape, and altitude. Where we have cacti, they have pines. Instead of IHOP, they have delicious local bakeries. It's a little ski resort town at the bottom of Sierra Blanca, shown here:

The Ruidoso Sprint Tri was Saturday, so we traveled uphill that morning to much cooler weather. The car said 37F at one point. Since there is little swimmable water in this state, it was to be a pool swim, with the run around a cute little fishing lake nearby. Distances advertised to be 3.5 run/ 10 bike/ 400yd swim.

The women started off 10 minutes behind the men, running, of course, up a hill. I recognized about two of the women, one of whom is a super fast 50 year old, and the other a blond woman who ran in just ahead of me at my DNF race a few months ago. I didn't know if I'd have been able to catch her on the bike then since I didn't get a chance. At the starting horn, a well-tattooed chick took off up that hill and held her lead. I settled into 4th behind Tattoos, the fast blond, and another woman, with the 50 y-o behind me, like I expected her to be until the bike. About 10 minutes in, we turned off a perfectly nice fire road onto a rocky, dirty, 20% graded trail. I was trying to keep the two right ahead of me within a reachable distance, and found that even though they were running, I could walk and not lose time on them. So I walked.  Multiple times, in fact. I twisted an ankle only once and never fell down the sloping hill into the lake.

Here is the scenic Grindstone Lake. Too bad I was too busy looking at the rocks in front of me to enjoy the views.

I ended up passing the woman just in front of me at the end of the run, but never caught the blond or tattoos. But I could see blondie from the start of the bike. I noticed that I would slowly pull her in on the steeper sections of the uphills, but when it flattened out, she'd pull away. Maybe all those hills have been helping! But still I couldn't keep my speed above about 9 mph, and it didn't seem to be that steep of a grade. At the turnaround, I found out why. It was not only more of a hill than I'd realized, but we had also had a headwind! The 50 y-o had passed me just before the turnaround, and she and blondie took OFF down that hill. I thought my 35mph would be plenty fast, but they were gone. I get a little scared and wobbly over 35, so the brakes came on then. Tattoos had been just a little ahead when I saw her, but I wasn't sure that my downhill abilities were going to be enough to catch anyone. 

About a mile before the finish, blondie was pulled over messing with her bike. Turns out it was just rubbing a bit when she stood, but I still had to pass and move on after making sure she was ok. Now I had someone chasing me, which helped me not get complacent.

After T2, for which I was not ideally positioned, we had a carpeted run up onto the road, across the road, down a hill, through a parking lot, between some buildings, and into the pool. I had plenty of time to pull on a cap (it makes me feel faster when my head floats) and my goggles. I jumped into a mass of chaos. Men were everywhere thrashing around, passing, clocking me, breaststroking. I was somehow able to get a few good strokes in when not getting backed up on a wall. There were very few chances to pass, except when you got to the end of the 4 lanes and had to get out, get marked, run around the pool, and get back in. When I caught a glimpse of Tattoos, I thought I had a chance to catch her. If she had planted those men to fight me back they couldn't have done a better job of slowing me down. I even started yelling at one point while standing behind 4 guys at the wall, "It's a race! Go!" Out of the pool, we had to run another couple hundred carpeted yards to the finish line. And by the time I got there, Tattoos was out of sight. Turns out she beat me by 20 seconds, while I had beat 2 of her 3 splits. Why can't I run faster??

But thanks to mechanical failures of others' bikes, I maintained my 3rd OA position and got the best trophy ever -- a carved bear that stands on my mantel at about 2 feet high. 

Jeremy and I both checked our bike splits after the race to find the exact same time on our computers. But turns out he beat me by a few seconds in the official results. He also beat me in T2, which was essentially a cyclocross practice of carrying my bike over spots of carpet that covered large, sharp gravel. I wonder if everyone did that. He had a smoking fast "swim" time, which included that adventurous carpeted run x2, and finished just out of the bears.

At the end of this week, we're off to California with our bikes to enjoy the Pacific coastline for a while.

Monday, June 6, 2011

That Gray Area

Too bad training and racing isn't all black and white. I'm typically a very concrete thinker. I like my right and wrong answers; physics was always fun to me because there was a single right answer. Lately I've been a fan of the gray area. Just ask my coworkers. I'm always giving times and amounts in "ish"es. What time are you going to lunch? 11ish. How many people were in your class? 20ish. If I don't know the yes or no, right or wrong, down to the decimal place answer, it's an ish.

While exercise physiology is a hard science, there are a lot of unknowns. Think about the huge combination of biochemical reactions going on all the time. Individuals are so different in their specific physical structures and muscle fiber make-ups, their VO2maxes, their hormone balances, their need of rest and recovery, etc.

Why is it that one athlete can race Ironmans month after month for years, never going over the edge, while another can have years of success only to hit some sort of wall suddenly? What makes me need 10 hours of sleep while others do great on 7? Why can't I do over 50 miles per week and not have hip pain? Is one little virus responsible for pushing me to the point of no return, stuck in the nightmare of overtraining syndrome? 

One thing I've learned in my decade of triathlons (I honestly didn't train for the first 3 seasons) is that while there are guidelines of training for specific distances, there are a lot of right answers. There are a lot of wrong ones too, as I've learned the hard way. 

The problem is figuring out what exactly goes wrong. Why after years of successes, can changing a few things here and there cause-- bam!-- Failure. With a capital F. That gray area. That darn ISH area. So without pinpointing a virus or the two Ironmans 6 weeks apart, or any other method of my training, I will go delving into the gray, hoping to find the answers to get out. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Out of Towner

I've been making the habit of being out of town a lot lately. Last weekend was Santa Fe with Jonathan and Colleen, who were amazing tour guides in a city they'd never been to. Colleen had trips and tours planned for us, and Jonathan has this sixth sense for directions. This was my third time to the city and I couldn't navigate without Jonathan's help. 

We had some great food and saw some old stuff. The Taos Pueblos are the oldest continuously inhabited residences in the country (at least 700 years, maybe 1000). The oldest house, the oldest church, and the oldest government building are all right there in the middle of Santa Fe, so I ran by. This is the "oldest house."

I continued my run right in the middle of downtown along the river trail. Seems hard to get lost out there, but without Jonathan, I did. Only for a few minutes.

This trail is right in the middle of downtown, did I mention that? How jealous am I? I mean, trees everywhere!

Yesterday we traveled to Roswell for Jeremy's race. I do like a city with a theme. 

Just outside of the suburb of Dexter, right beside lines of crop-circled pastures, you have the small, clear, sparkling Lake Van. Yes, we are getting out in the middle of nowhere here. But they had an old school, first class race, Milkman. Speaking of themes, check out the RD's pants! And yes we got our fill of milk and ice cream following.

Jeremy raced fast and only got chicked by only one girl, who is incredibly fast, along with being one of the nicest, most humble people I know. He also baaaarely lost to that 2nd place guy because he started his kick a bit early.

There were no live alien sightings, although one might ask if that was really a deer that hit our car, made a huge dent and crack in the windshield, then disappeared into the field. 

We're planning on going back next month to visit another, "bottomless" lake, which is right up my alley (sarcasm font intended). But next weekend, it's up to the mountain for a little racing at 7000ft. I'm packing my extra set of lungs.