Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stay on target...

Well, I'm still biking, still running a bit. I'm trying to pick out a new bike seat in the midst of all this training - it's daunting to commit to riding five hours on a new seat, without being sure it will be remotely comfortable! And sometimes..it's really not! But a local bike shop has a seat lending library, so I don't have to commit without testing, and that's fantastic. I've managed to get just about 100 miles in on each of the two seats I've tried so far, and I don't think I've found my one true seat yet but the process is pretty great.

According to my gadget, I've biked just shy of 600 miles so far this season. That's great, since my goal before Cycle Oregon is 1,000 (1,200 would be even better). I think I can pretty confidently say I'll get another 400-600 miles in the next five weeks.

The hills will still be brutal, and there's no help for it. Sunday I rode 25 miles in the West Hills:

I'm proud of the fact that it's a figure 8. You know what that means? It means we absolutely killed ourselves getting up into the hills (that wiggly bit on the bottom-right was crazy crazy steep), and then we went down some and opted to go back uphill again. Woo! Here's the elevation profile (in meters, but you can see the gist of it): 
Brutal. The worst bit was a quarter-mile at a 13% grade. I was in my smallest gear, could barely bring the pedals around, going under 3mph, and I accidentally lifted the front part of the bike right off the ground in my struggle to keep going. Yikes! But hey, it's over now. And that whole ride was 25 miles, 2200 feet of climbing - one-third the mileage and one-third the climbing on the worst days. 

I honestly don't know how on earth I'm going to get through that ride in one piece, without sagging. One of my friends has already dropped, but the rest of us are holding firm so far!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The time I: tried a float tank

I have a friend who is raising money so she can go spend two months volunteering on an elephant preserve in South Africa - how cool is that?! A few months ago, she coordinated a fundraising raffle and got lots of good prizes donated. In fact, I donated my cake-baking services as a prize, and the winner claimed it two weeks ago for a coworker's going-away party. She never let me know how the cake was.. hopefully it went over well!

Anyway, in my opinion one of the best things about the raffle was that you could pick from the available prizes if your ticket got drawn. I won very early in the evening, so I chose the gift certificate to a local float tank center.

I know: a what? I'd heard randomly about sensory deprivation float tanks from a friend, who back in the 1990s went on a couple of dates with a guy who had one in his basement. (I found that very weird and Very Portland.) The idea is that the tank has about 10 inches of extremely salty water in it, heated to about body temp, so when you go in and close the door you feel weightless and isolated from the world.

When I lived in Oakland a float tank shop opened near where I lived and I often walked past it - I decided I was intrigued by the idea of a float, but too cheap to shell out for it, even though some of the benefits sound great, like feeling really relaxed,  having an amazing nights' sleep the night following the float, and even getting some meditative insights. So when I saw that a float certificate was an available prize for my winning raffle ticket, I was all over it!

The float center I went to has three styles of tanks: a small open room, a tank that has a lot of head room so you could almost stand up if you wanted to, and a traditional tank you have to squat to get into. The certificate I won was sufficient for three floats, so I decided I'd try all three tank/room types before I was done. Sunday was my first float, and I went in the tank with the head room.

I read Lisa's description of a float at the same center, and it's very accurate - each float tank is in its own room, which has a changing area (that is, an undressing area) and a shower, and then the tank. They give you wax ear plugs to put in, to keep the epsom salt-water out of your ears. There's a dim light on in the room which they tell you to turn off before you get in the tank, and there's a dim light in the tank you can turn off when you're ready. And then.. you float.

At first I felt a little confined by the space (even though it was big) - I think because the air was humid, it felt a little hard to breathe at first. Then, because it was dark and the water and the air and my body were all the same temperature, I realized I really couldn't feel what parts of me was in the water and what parts were floating above - even when I had my hand half-in, half-out, I couldn't feel the difference. Very trippy!

The water was CRAZY buoyant. It was probably waist-high if I sat up, but I was physically unable to sit - I kept floating up to a reclining position when I tried to sit cross-legged in the water. It takes no effort or thought at all to stay on the surface, which was a pretty amazing feeling! 

However, mostly I was a little bored. I was already well-rested (since I'd gone on hard bike rides the previous two days and slept like a rock each night) so I don't think I dozed. My mind wasn't racing, exactly, though I did think of a few things to keep on my to-do list. I thought about some blog posts I might write (namely this one, but perhaps some other experiential ones, like the time I went skydiving, or got open-water certified to scuba dive, or moved cross-country on the train), and I thought a tiny bit about my career path (no blazing insights, alas).

For the most part I sloshed around and wondered what time it was. The tub was long enough that I could extend my arms over my head and not touch either my feet or hands to the edge, so I spent time pushing off from one end and gliding to the other, then bouncing back to where I'd started. It's as close to weightlessness as I'm ever likely to get, and I guess if I ever DO get to space I'm going to spend a lot of time gently ping-ponging myself around.

Eventually some music came on to let me know it was time to get out. Then I was a little reluctant to wrap it up, but I do have two more floats left. I felt very relaxed the rest of the day, but I did NOT have an epic nights' sleep - in fact I woke up a couple of times disappointed that my sleep wasn't being amazing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Another three

Yesterday I ran another three miles during my lunch break. This time I ran solo, at the track near my home, and only walked about ten steps of it.

Goodness, is running any distance on a track BORING. It was nearly empty so I ran part of it clockwise instead of the traditional counter-clockwise, but it only helped alleviate the boredom a little. But mostly I just kept plugging, and finished at a slow and steady 13:30 pace.

So now what? I guess I learn how to do it better. The first  mile and a bit was brutal - I just wanted to STOP - but I pushed through it and was reasonably okay the rest of the time. My knees were tight yesterday and today as well, so my exercise today was 30 minutes of swimming which seems a good alternative.

Tomorrow, assuming my knees are okay, I think I will return to the track but do intervals - what, specifically, I don't know. Perhaps running fast on the straights, trotting the rounded ends, and alternating running and walking laps? I'm totally making this up as I go.

Tonight I'll be spending time with friends as it's the third anniversary of my friend's husband's death. I will be really appreciative of life and fitness and being with good people. I will also marvel a bit at how much has changed in three years - it was one of the nudges I needed to move back to Portland, but I sure wish he was still alive!

Monday, June 23, 2014

A routine? and a milestone!

I might be settling into something that resembles a fitness routine. My top priority is biking, but I do want to do justice to learning how to run. Right now it looks just possible that my weeks will look like this:
Saturday & Sunday - bike rides, of increasing length and hilliness
Monday - rest
Tuesday - run
Wednesday - swim
Thursday - run
Friday - rest

I want to enter both the biking and running with relatively fresh legs, and swimming seems like a good alternate way to exercise and burn some calories. We will see if I can settle into this pattern!

Something crazy happened on Saturday. As I said in my last post, I rolled back my c5k training and last Tuesday I spent time on the track alternating between running and walking. When it was time to run, I pushed myself pretty hard for 30 or 45 seconds, and then jogged the rest of the 90-second interval. It seemed to go pretty well, and my run time was an impressive sub-10-minute mile! But I didn't feel like I could sustain that pace for ANY amount of time. On Thursday I focused on sustaining a pace for the entire run time, and my pace was more like an 11-minute mile, and I was really ready to drop at the end of each chunk of running.

My running friends were certain I was running too fast and needed to try a slower pace, but I don't know how to gauge that. So on Saturday (instead of biking!) I went for a run with them. People, I ran three miles! That's 5k! We stopped at the midpoint for a little water, but I didn't feel like I HAD to stop. On the way back my ankle hurt a bit so I walked for maybe 15 seconds before resuming our very slow trot.

So, this running stuff is definitely coming together. Crazy.

Then on Sunday I did a 40-mile bike ride that has me back to being nervous about my ride in September. So this weekend, no easy 3 miles of running for me, no sir, back to the bike I go.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Back to it

Well, I'm back in town after two absolutely terrific weeks in Hawaii! The highlight (of course!) was my brother's wedding, which was SO lovely and SO fun and just perfect in every way. It was fun getting dressed up in a really pretty dress, I liked all the people I got to meet, and the rental house I shared with family & friends on Oahu was just terrific. After the wedding week I spent nearly a week on Kauai with friends and that was also great.


But now I'm back and fitness is the name of the game. I ate pretty healthily and swam a lot on my trip, but only tried running twice and it was pretty close to a failure both times. I was in theory on week 5 of Couch to 5k and just couldn't make it through either workout I tried. So, I'm going to have to roll back the calendar and ramp up again.

I'm signed up for a 7k on Saturday August 9th. I already know it's wildly unlikely I'll run the whole thing, but I have eight weeks to prep for it. I can't seem to fit a week of c5k training into a calendar week, but I think I'll start at either week 2 or 3 and just do my best to fit in what I can.

More important is the bike riding. I returned from my trip on Friday night and hit the road both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Saturday I did some hill riding - any route with a street named Skyline in it is going to be hilly! We rode 20 miles and did about 2500 feet of climbing. I didn't do too badly (or my friends were struggling more than I was...) and I attribute my relative strength to the running. However, Sunday my buddy and I did 35 miles of flat and I was just. not. feeling it. I got a flat at mile 6, and struggled to settle into the ride for the rest of the time we were out there. My friend was doing better than I was, but we were both feeling pretty whipped by the end of the ride.

When my alarm went off Monday I had no idea where I was or why I was getting up! I guess it was a triple whammy of jet lag, vacation ending, and sheer exhaustion from the biking. But, onward and upward from here!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Busy weekend!

This weekend was super busy. On Saturday I rode 55 miles on my bicycle as part of an organized event called Reach the Beach. I rode this several times in the early 2000s and it's always been my favorite ride. For the most part, it's super beautiful, and it's very well organized with rest stops every 12-15 miles. May can be a risky time to do a bike ride in Oregon, but we got crazy lucky with the weather this time!
Saturday at the coast
I was riding with a friend who's been dealing with a pretty big range of life, work, and medical issues, so she didn't have a lot of energy and hadn't been able to ride much lately. She tried so so so hard and managed to ride 40 miles. She decided to stop at the third rest stop, since she'd been reduced to stopping every mile to try to gather some energy. I felt badly for her but agreed it was definitely the right call!

That left me to do the final 15 miles solo, but I didn't mind very much. At least it was sunny and warm, not rainy and cold like it's been on previous rides! There are some stretches of really hideous headwind in that final leg of the ride, and my butt and legs were sore from already being on the bike nearly 5 hours, but I dug out my last bits of energy and actually finished the last leg in 75 minutes, which was quicker than I'd estimated. It remains clear I have a LONG way to go before Cycle Oregon.
Sunday at the work party
Yesterday I spent three hours on a work crew in that same friend's yard - for the same pile of life, work, medical issues, her massive yard has gotten well and truly out of hand. About ten of us turned out and spent time in the cloudy rainy day taming that land! It's more yardwork than I've even done at my place! I didn't mind working in the rain at all - way better than biking in it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A try-athlete

I've been a cyclist for a long time - I was fortunate enough to work with biking-obsessed friends in the late 90s, and they pulled me along into that world. I certainly have many years of relatively few miles, but this year will be more high-mileage as I train for and ride in Cycle Oregon in September. Including the 400 miles ridden during that week, I should do more than 1500 this year - one of my highest-mileage years!
I've already been training some this year, though I've also been a bit busy. I'm doing a 55-mile organized ride this weekend which may be interesting, as my longest ride so far was a few weeks ago and was 30 miles. So.. we'll see. It's my favorite ride, I'll be with a friend, the weather looks acceptable, and we can take lots of breaks if we need to!

But I'll admit, Cycle Oregon has me worried. Add to that the fact I have lots of weekends when I will not be in town, and only some of them will be road trips where I can bring my bike... I've got to do something else to help increase my fitness!

Enter: running. I've never run before (I like to joke that I run when chased) but it's appealing in its simplicity - strap on the shoes and head out! However, like so many things in this life, I'm finding that it's not quite as simple as that. I've been following the Couch to 5k program and completed week 3 on Saturday. Just as I hoped, I did two of the workouts while traveling for work. However, apparently it's not right if your lower legs are on fire while running, so today I got fitted for different shoes. I'm hoping this will make it easier and more enjoyable! I haven't minded the time at the track, and I get a kick out of watching the insanely fit and speedy teenagers who are there working on various skills with their coaches. I don't really know how to figure out pace and form, but I think the most important part is to learn to run without my legs aching after thirty seconds - I can worry about technique after that. 

Finally, because I'm not being complicated enough, I've started doing a little bit of lap swimming. Wow is that good exercise - my app that I use says 30 minutes of swimming is about 500 calories, vs about 200 for my slow run/walk or about 300 for my non-speedy biking. Not that I actually swim continuously for 30 minutes, mind you! But I can do a full lap, stop and breathe, and then do another. I'm almost always doing the breast stroke with some side stroke or crawl mixed in.

Right now my biggest problem is figuring out when to do all the activity! Since I'm so new at it, I always want to run on fresh legs, so I can't do it after any volume of biking. Biking is most important because of Cycle O. Swimming is a good rainy-day exercise, but we're moving into our better weather. I ought to be running 3x/week, but it's already having to slide a little for cycling. I'm mostly going to do the best I can and take it from there.

I'll be in Hawaii for two weeks in a little while, and will definitely continue the running and swimming - I already found a community pool a mile from where I'll be staying that offers lap swimming, and perhaps I'll get to test that theory about the simplicity of running. September is coming! Gotta be fit!