Tuesday, July 1, 2014

And Then I Drove All Night For This

It's like a kilt, only shorter

After the Huntsman 140 and our family celebrations, I drove to Ellen's house to get my things and take a shower. Then I drove all night, with only a one hour break/nap, so I could beat the worst of the Las Vegas --> LA traffic - always horrible on Sundays - so I could be home in time for my tap dance recital that night.

This video pretty much only captures the middle part, so you don't get to appreciate all our brilliant talent, but it's enough until such a time I can get the full thing up here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

H140 2014: Team Sandra Recap

If you read this blog, then you've already seen the video, because we're Facebook friends, and that's where it's been posted. But just in case there is some cosmic weirdness that makes it so you haven't seen the video I made recapping the day, here you go:

Now for some details not shown in the video:
From Alberta to Saratoga Springs is about 30 miles. This is the part I was using Ellen’s bike for, and that I was  unable to complete because my knee and periformis muscles – both sides – started hurting. I didn’t want to cause further injury, which is why I chose to only do 16 miles of it. What you don’t see is the smell of those 16 miles. It smelled like there was a giant herd of farting cows in front of me. I pointed this out to Jim and Ellen as they drove by me during part of it, and they cheerfully said that’s because I was riding next to a giant herd of farting cows. Alrighty then!

When the SAG vehicle picked me up on the Eureka hill, there were already two riders in it, and room for only two bikes on it. Both of them were there not because their bikes were broken, but because they were too tired/whatever to ride. One of them was about my age - Dave; the other was in his late 20s/early 30s. When it became clear that my bike wasn’t fixable without proper tools, Dave opted to get out and start riding. I assured him that to climb Eureka would give him serious bragging rights. I offered to give him a pushing start since he was starting on a hill. He declined – more out of pride I think than anything else. I saw him a few other times during the day, and it looked like he was riding as much as I was. I was there when he crossed the finish line and made sure to congratulate him. It takes guts to start riding again, and he tackled a really tough part of the course.

On Louise
When I got in the SAG vehicle and we headed towards Eureka, we drove past Louise and Jeff. I turned to Jake and said, “Look at her. That’s my awesome sister who I admire and look up to in just about every way. She is climbing Eureka. She is freaking sixty-six years old and climbing Eureka.” We all paused, considering this fact. I wasn’t saying it to be disrespectful to the young kid who was NOT climbing Eureka, but who had, in fact, been in the SAG vehicle ever since Silver Springs, some 25 miles behind us. But if he took it as such motivation, that’s okay too. Anyway, after a few moments consideration on the awesomeness of Louise, I turned to Jake again and said, “Seriously. Sixty-six. What are YOU going to be doing when you’re sixty-six?” He said, “I hope to be climbing Eureka!”

When we stopped in Eureka, the kid in the SAG car said, “I’m going to ride now.” I encouraged him and told him he was going to really enjoy that downhill, but to be careful because you can get going pretty dang fast. He didn’t say much. I don’t know if he wondered how I knew so much about the downhill, or thought I was picking on him for not riding. I don’t know if he wasn’t feeling well and that’s why he couldn’t ride, or was just under-prepared/trained. But I do know I saw him later on in another SAG vehicle.

Seriously. Louise sets the standard for determination, courage and just-do-it-ness. Watching her cross that finish line was the highlight of the entire day. Even some days later as I reflect on that day, that moment warms my crusty heart.

On Reo
Story #1: When Reo was 18 months old he contracted polio. T his was in the days before a vaccination was available. It was also in the days that it would kill or paralyze more than half a million people each year (worldwide). Thankfully, neither happened to him, but it did affect his legs. Sandra and Louise, his two older sisters, each had a tricycle. To help facilitate the rehabilitation process for Reo, they both agreed to give up their trikes for him. My dad took the larger wheel off each and made a bicycle for him to help his legs get strong. One leg was shorter than the other, so my dad put a block on that pedal and at certain intervals would shave some height off the block to encourage his leg to grow stronger and longer.

Story #2: In January when Reo decided for sure he was going to participate in the Huntsman 140, we knew he wouldn’t be able to ride that distance using his current bike – a heavy-duty mountain bike. (Seriously. I hefted that thing and it weighs a good 30 or 40 pounds.) Neva and I looked through the classified ads for a used, good-condition, reasonably-priced road bike. We made some phone calls, and located on that seemed like it would be a good fit and price in Park City. We made plans to go there (which fit in nicely since we were going to go cross-country skiing that day anyway) and look at the bike. We met the seller at his house to look at the bike. Neva lifted it with her hand and declared immediately, based on its weight alone, that we would take it. The guy was taken aback by our enthusiasm and started hemming and hawing that maybe he should charge us more because he was selling it for someone else, and maybe the asking price was too low and… I said, “Look. This bike is 10 years old. Ten years ago it would have cost x-amount of dollars. Considering time and depreciation, you’re getting a fair return on its value now. You advertised it at one price; we’re not going to pay you more now. Take it or leave it.” He took it. We paid him cash, and agreed that we would split the price so Reo could have a road-worthy bike for the Huntsman.

The first time Reo saw that bike was on the Thursday before the H140. He swapped the pedals and seat from his old bike onto his new one, and zoomed off. He said it made him feel like a kid again to be able to ride that fast and easily. We were all amazed that he had done as much training as he had on the old one.

Story #3: That Thursday we did a family get-together/training ride. We met in Salt Lake and rode out to the Great Salt Lake Marina (not sure if that’s the official name) and back again – about 30 miles total. On the way back Reo told me the story about the two tricycles and his polio. He reflected on how much he was enjoying his new bike and observed, “It does not escape my notice that both times my sisters have sacrificed to get me a bike. In fact, I can scarcely think about it without getting emotional.”

On Neva
She is the center of our team. We appointed her team captain – both because she started this craziness three years ago when she rode in her first Huntsman 140, and because she is the most experienced cyclist. She not only was our team captain, but our coach and cheerleader. Distance didn’t allow all of us to train together, so she encouraged and coached us from afar, and from anear when circumstances allowed – by doing training rides with Ellen up Emigration Canyon, and Louise when she was able to go to Utah to visit other family members. Neva was also one of the official Huntsman Hometown Hero coaches; we would have been stupid to not take advantage of her knowledge, expertise and experience.

Besides being a great coach and mentor, she is a caring and loving person and sister. For the day of the ride, we had agreed to stick together for the first 12 miles – up to the chalk memorial point, then would ride according to our own comfort levels and paces.  It was understood that she and James, being the strongest riders, would go on ahead and likely finish hours ahead of the rest of us. I was cognizant of that fact when my chain broke, and really did tell them to please just go on. I knew how important it was to Neva to ride strong and finish strong (and early). I didn’t want to impede them in any way. They both just shrugged that off and kept working carefully and oh-so-patiently on that chain. When they got it fixed, I told them again to please not worry about me. I’d keep up for as long as I could but to not worry about carrying me along.

They ignored that plea as well, and not only kept me with them, but let me lead the train sometimes, making me feel like one of the “big boys,” in helping draft for them. I didn’t go as fast as they were capable of, but they let me stay with them anyway – not just to the first break in Lyndyll but all the way to Silver Springs as well. Neva finally agreed that if I couldn’t stay with them after that to Eureka, they would keep their pace and meet me in Elberta.

I am personally very glad they weren’t with me when the chain broke the second time because it would have been more of a sacrifice for them than it already had been.

When I joined them again in Jordan, they still let me feel like an important part of their team, as we took turns drafting and pulling. Neva continued to coach me on my bike, as I learned how to better and more appropriately use the gears. And as you saw in the video, she and James stuck with me up that last brutal hill. It was only pride that kept me on the bike at that point – I really did not know how I was going to make it, but I wasn’t about to quit while Neva was around. I have admired her my whole life and wanted to do her proud.

When we crossed the finish line, she kept pedaling. “Why are we still pedaling? The finish line is back there,” I complained.

“Come on, Laura. We’re not done yet! This ride is about making it to the steps of the Huntsman – that’s where we’re going.”  And we did. Another quarter or so mile up to the cul-de-sac and back again to the “finish” line. Because when you’re with Neva, that’s what you do – you finish.

She has overcome obstacles in her life I would not care to face, and she has finished each one of them with grace and aplomb. The Huntsman 140 can be a parallel to her life – a tough ride, with hills and valleys, discouraging moments and exhilarating downhills. One pedal stroke at a time will get you through every mile.

Neva is not only a Huntsman Hometown Hero – she is mine.

On Ellen
Ellen and I provided road support for Neva in 2012. The ride wasn’t as well organized as it is now, and I was frustrated watching Neva pedal through those miles with no one by her side. When I told Ellen that I was considering doing it the next year, she said, “Really? I would NEVER do that.” She was very emphatic. “But I will ride support for you,” she said.

You could never ask for a better supporter on the road than Ellen. She anticipates your needs, protects you from traffic, refills water bottles, cheers, offers encouragement and praise. She did all those things for me in 2013 – my first Huntsman 140. And she was just as emphatic about NOT riding in it as she had been the year before.

I don’t know what changed her mind – that would be her story to tell – but when she decided to participate, it tickled me. Not just because of the whole “Never say ‘never’” thing, but because she was determined to get ready. She knew from the beginning she wasn’t going to do the entire 140 miles – for her, it was more about family togetherness – but she trained and got ready beyond what she thought she was capable. Along the way, she shattered her own preconceptions of herself and realized she’s an athlete. A very determined athlete and amazing person.

You would all be so lucky to have her as your sister.
Not pictured: Ellen, because she's taking the picture. 

On Jeff
First of all, that's not his name. Rather, it IS, but not to our family. Long story, but if I'm talking to you in person, I will probably never tell you about Louise's husband Jeff. To not confuse you further, I will simply say,  that "Jeff" is unspeakably awesome. Being around him makes me more intelligent, for one thing. Actually, it just makes me feel smarter, because he's so dang smart that all I can do is smilingly nod as if I have any idea what he's talking about. He is indescribably awesome, and our family is beyond blessed to have him be part of it. He's a wonderful teacher, athlete and knows 38 different ways to kick your butt in five seconds or less. 

On James
You’ve already heard a little about how great he was and encouraging and just fun to have on the ride. I have known James his entire life, and have never heard him talk as much as I did in that one day. It was so great to see him in his new element. He thought I was kidding when I said he could do this professionally, but seriously. He is grace defined on a bicycle. Not only as an athlete, but as a person. What you don’t see on the video is that two miles into the ride, Louise got a flat tire. James stayed behind and helped fix it, then caught up to the rest of us. You already heard how he stuck with me and was so great to be willing to help his several-years-older-than-him aunt make it through. He could be with the “cool” kids, but chose to stick with an old lady.

When he would take the lead in the front of the train, he would sit up in his saddle, take both hands off and use those times to eat and drink. Effortless. It made me jealous that he could take it that easy when compared to the times I was in the lead. It was a challenge for me to keep the pace that he could do easily no-handed. Punk. I am immensely proud to be his aunt.

On Rachael
Rachael is a friend of one of Neva’s daughters. Neva’s enthusiasm is contagious enough that she makes anyone believe in themselves. She convinced Rachael to be on our team, and Rachael started training only back in March. She’s newer to this sport than I am. I didn’t have as much opportunity to get to know her as I would have liked, but I know she set new records for herself that day. She struggled with some physical challenges, and kept pushing herself beyond what others would have. Jake confirmed what I suspected, which is that she keeps going when others would quit. She wasn’t able to complete as much of the ride as she would have liked, but she did more than she thought she could.

Laura, Rachael, Reo, Neva, Coralee

People who have watched the video tell me they wish they could be part of my family. They see the wonderful support and love we lent to each other, as demonstrated in the final hill and getting Louise across the finish line. That’s the wonderful thing about events like this. It’s not an individual effort – it’s the efforts of many that make finishing possible, wherever that finish line is.

The best thing about the day wasn’t that I got to ride my bike across Utah, through smelly cow farts, with muscle pain, and mechanical difficulties. No, the best part of the day was watching Greg run alongside Louise, and Don and Jared and Josie push and encourage her. It was seeing Jeff and Neva take turns pushing her even though they had just pushed themselves physically beyond their limits. It was watching James’s children wrap their arms around him, and Julie welcome everyone with the same warm hug at the finish. It was Talena playing “Let It Go,” for me from her mini-van while I struggled on the road to Saratoga Springs. It was Kristina and Coralee making up cheers for us at every intersection and making us laugh, and keeping their good spirits even when I ran out of my own. It was watching Jeff ride alongside Louise when he was enduring his own pain – just so his wife could have someone to ride with. It was Nancy Beth crying with me as we emotionally watched our team push Louise up the hill, and saying she would deny it (I have video proof of this). It was Caleb and Micah and Liliana proudly holding signs to encourage Grandma Louise. And I know I’m leaving people out of this list – it’s not intentional – it’s just that there are too many moments for me to accurately capture and document. It was that every family member wore a purple Team Sandra t-shirt with a lightning bolt and cheered and encouraged us, even if they weren’t in Utah.



The best part of that day was love. 

We weren't all quite ready for the photo yet. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

H140: Tour de Long Beach Lessons

The morning started off cool, as a southern California beach-side morning does. Some riders were complaining it was cold, but I didn’t think it was, probably because the humidity was so high. Regardless, I had a lightweight windbreaker on because I knew once we got started the wind would make it a little cold.

It was uneventful for the first nine miles. I was keeping up with people, or at least still had riders from my ride in sight. At about mile nine I became aware that my left pedal felt a little wobbly. Wobbly like it felt like there was a little hitch in its getalong on the upstroke. We had just passed an aid station two miles back, and I knew the next one was coming up at mile 16, so figured I’d wait until then to have the volunteer bike mechanic look at it.

We turned down a road behind the Long Beach Airport and something went wrong. I wasn’t sure at first what it was; all I knew was that I was fighting for balance and wibbly-wobbling all over the place. I tried to put my feet back on the pedals, because somehow I wasn’t on them, and realized there was nothing to put my left foot on. I braked, gently, trying to avoid other riders, and steered over to the curb. I heard some riders saying, “She threw a pedal,” and “Look out!” for other riders to avoid hitting my pedal. Not just the pedal, but the entire pedal/crank shaft had come flying off. I jogged back about 50-70 yards to retrieve the pedal.

Mini-miracle #1 – I wasn’t clipped into my pedals because I didn’t have those pedals on. Haven’t had them on for quite some time, actually, which is a story for another time. If I had been clipped in, who knows what kind of havoc I would have wreaked.

Mini-miracle #2 – the pack had thinned so even with my erratic driving for several yards, caused no accidents. And didn’t crash myself.

I frantically called Linda, who was back at the start/finish area. She willingly and quickly asked some ride officials about SAG or ride or mechanical support out on the course. Knowing I was several miles in either direction from an aid station, and being in an industrial area, there was no immediate help available. After speaking with someone, she learned that there were ride marshals out on the course and someone would see my plight shortly and be able to help. I was doubtful because I wasn’t exactly at the head of the pack and was sure that everyone would have already passed me by.

About 10 minutes later, a woman stopped, identified herself as a marshal, and proceeded to make some phone calls. She assured me that someone would be along to “SAG” me forward to the next rest stop where a bike mechanic would take care of the problem. While several riders carried hex wrenches with them, they were all too small for the type of repair I needed. The marshal gave me the phone number of who she had spoken with “just in case,” and proceeded on her way.

Another 10 minutes after that I got a phone call from another woman who said she was SAG support and would be along in about 15 minutes to come and get me.

Twenty-five minutes later, she showed up. She asked me if I wanted to go back to the first aid (not first-aid) station or forward to the next. I declared in no uncertain terms that forward was the right direction. She seemed to lose a bit of respect for me as that would mean missing out on six or so miles of the ride, but I didn’t want to backtrack too far. In fact, the second wave of riders for the metric century (62 miles) had already mostly passed me, so I knew I was losing too much time.

Life Lesson: Help is on its way. It may not come in the way you thought, or especially in the time that is most convenient for you, but someone will help.

The aid station was at mile 16. Someone else was already getting a flat tire repaired by the capable, if not exactly time-efficient mechanic, so I impatiently waited my turn. He not only put the pedal crank on, but gave my bike a mini-tuneup as well. My brakes definitely felt tighter and better and more controlled by the time he was finished.

The downside? Somehow my seat got lowered, which didn’t register until I was several yards on my way, and didn’t want to turn around and go back,  knowing there had been other people in line for his services. So I rode the next 17 or so miles with a seat that was too low for comfort.

Life Lesson: Take care of problems when they arise, instead of waiting when it’s convenient. I can’t be certain, but had I taken care of that problem immediately, my low back may have not seized up much later in the ride.

For the next several miles we’re on a bike path that runs parallel to the San Gabriel River. There are two lanes for bikes, and a side lane for pedestrian traffic. There is no easy street access, except at certain intervals where the path intersects major roads. Between the side of the path we’re on and the river, there are large rocks, even boulders, with a lot of sharp edges. There is nothing friendly about those rocks. At Mile 21 I see several riders off to the side and realize that one of them is bloodied. The others were either in his group or had stopped to help. One is a few yards back helping to direct bike traffic around the minor path obstruction that their group was causing. I stopped because I have a first aid kit in my gear.

However, when I saw how bad his injuries were, I knew I didn’t have anything to help. By eavesdropping listening carefully, what I gathered had happened was that there was a tandem bike that was going slow. The lead bike in a group of riders behind the tandem braked suddenly, causing the others to have to react quickly, apparently in not such a great way. The rider most affected was the one who landed in the sharp boulders and bloodied his face/nose. His knee was scraped up too, I noticed, but he probably wouldn’t even notice that injury until much later.

Life lesson: Don’t ride too close to people you don’t know and/or trust. You never know when someone else’s dumb choice is going to throw you off the path into the boulders.

By this time we were completing a loop through Cypress and headed to Seal Beach and Huntington Beach. The next pit stop was at Mile 35-ish, which seemed to take forever. Once we hit the coastal road – Pacific Coast Highway – there was nothing but breeze. Sadly, it’s the coastal variety that only seems to blow one direction – as a headwind. It was a flat road, but a grind. Huntington Beach welcomed us with signs “Surfer City,” and it was beautiful to be sure. It also seemed like the Longest. City. Ever. It took forever to transverse, it seemed. Just on the other side of Huntington Beach was Newport Beach and the next rest stop. I found a rider with a small wrench set and adjusted my seat. I availed myself of facilities, refilled water, ate a Power Bar, and headed out again.

At this point the 100-milers were still on the same course as the 62-milers. One woman hollered at me, “Excuse me! Do you know if this is the right course for the 62-mile ride?” I said, “I don’t know. I know I’m on the right path for my ride. Do you have a turn-by-turn?”

“Yes,” she confirmed. “But I don’t know how to read it.”

And later still, after the 100-mile course separated from the 62-mile course, I was on a hill (more on those horrible hills very shortly) when another rider pulled alongside me. “Is this the right course for the 62-mile ride?”

“No,” I huffed and puffed at him. “The turnoff for the metric was a couple of miles back at Bayside.”

“Oh,” he said a bit sadly. “I guess I’ll turn around then.” He had gone several miles out of his way and climbed unnecessary hills before realizing his mistake.

Life Lesson: While you may be on the same path as other people around you, that doesn’t mean you’re on the same course. Everyone has a different race to run, different path to follow. Don’t assume that your fellow travelers are riding your course.

In a race or a ride like this where there are different distances being traveled, the course markers are generally differentiated by different colors. In this case, the bib that each rider wore was a certain color labeling which course they were doing – 100, 62, or 30 miles. At each intersection or turn, there were adhesive arrows on the road that matched the color of bib you wore. If you wore a yellow big, follow the yellow arrows. Purple bib = purple arrows, etc. That’s how I knew where I was supposed to turn for my 100-mile course at Bayside. I followed the yellow arrow.

Life Lesson: The road is marked for your journey with clear signs on where you’re supposed to go. You have to know your destination if you’re going to arrive at the right place, having taken the right path. 

This is where the horrible part of the ride started. It takes some nasty loops through Irvine. The ride organizers obviously wanted us to be as safe as possible because it went through largely residential areas with bike-friendly roads. “Bike friendly” meaning not a lot of auto traffic. The terrain was anything but friendly though. Starting at Mile 42 to 48, there was 5% grade. The Map My Ride link shows it as a Cat: 4. Only to be followed by a 9% climb. NINE PERCENT. That one doesn’t show a climb category number, but I have unofficially designated it as Cat: Hell. (Not feline hell, as that’s something completely different.) I had to get off and walk for the worst part of it. Remember, I had just finished a Cat:4 climb. Even walking I couldn’t recover my breath. I saw an older gentleman out for his daily exercise and said, smiling, “Does this hill ever end?” because you couldn’t see the top. It wasn’t straight up; it was straight and curvy up, so it appeared infinite. He looked at me, not smiling and said, “No. Not yet.”

He wasn’t kidding. It went on and on and … it was like a bad (any other kind?) Celine Dion song. Then there were some 4%ers, followed by a short 7%. (See elevation and course map here.)

Because I had burned a lot of leg energy on the first, nasty climb, I didn’t have enough to get up the second part.

Life Lesson: It’s okay to get off and walk. Listen to your body. Don’t be stupid.

At one point in a lovely residential area, there was a local woman out for a leisurely ride on her leisure (that’s how I knew the ride was leisurely) beach cruiser. She was considerably overweight (probably what someone would say about me who was riding behind me), and had not-great form (not something I can be accused of). I thought, as I huffed and puffed to myself, “Ah, finally someone I can catch up to,” knowing full well she wasn’t a part of the ride.

Sure enough, I pulled pretty close to her. Then another hill started. She geared down. I geared down. She pedaled. I pedaled. She pulled ahead. And ahead some more. I fell back, and watched despairingly as she put distance between us. The only thing that made me feel better was when she pulled off down a side road and I didn’t have to watch her anymore.

Life Lesson: Ride your own race. Don’t compare yourself to other people. She may have been riding for only ten minutes and had fresh legs. It didn’t matter that her bike wasn’t road-efficient as mine is (supposed to be). What mattered was that I had been on the road for 45 or so miles already that day. Comparing myself to her negated any accomplishments I had achieved that day. (And good for her for absolutely killing a hill in her heavy three-speed bike.) “Comparison is the thief of joy.” -- Theodore Roosevelt.

Mile 50-ish: Rest area #4. There was a super nice woman there, a volunteer, who identified herself as a nurse. She also assured me that at each aid station there was a nurse and/or EMT person, along with other volunteers who were handing out snacks and water. I asked her what would happen if you’re out on the course and something happened. Her husband quickly snarked, “Call 911.” She politely interrupted him and said, “Here’s my cell phone number. Call if you need. I won’t be the one to come help, but I can call someone who can.” She was lovely. When I said I thought for sure I was the last one out on the course she reassured me, “Oh no. There are still others. And we won’t shut down until 2:00 or the ride marshal comes along and tells us it’s time to go.” This was in stark contrast to the woman at the next rest stop (Mile 73) who was packed up and ready to go at 1:00 because that’s what time she was told to expect. She was completely unhelpful when I needed assistance, and even left while I was in the restroom.

Life Lesson: Just because someone’s wearing a volunteer shirt doesn’t mean they can be counted on. On the other hand, other people are lovely and helpful when they’re supposed to be. Learn to trust the right people.

The nice lady had also assured me that there was only one more climb to go, but it was shorter, and the rest would be easy. She lied. But I know it wasn’t intentional.

Life Lesson(s): Just because someone has driven the road before doesn’t mean they’ve ridden the road before. Also, they don’t know your capacity, ability, or capability. Take everything you’re told with a grain of salt. Don’t let it turn you into a pessimist, but don’t be stupidly optimistic either. (This one varies by situation, and as with all individual lessons or rules, there is always a corollary.)

The next 20 miles or so can only be described as painful. They weren’t the hardest part of the course, but they were for me. My legs were already shot from the horrible climbs I had done. The wind didn’t help either. I never felt a tailwind once that day. And even on that part of the course that looked like it should have been downhill and easy, I still had to keep the bike in a lower gear than I’d like to admit and pedal just to keep forward momentum. The wind was that bad. (This was on Laguna Highway.)

It was at this point that horrible noises started coming out of my mouth. Loud groans and wails. I knew no one could hear me, so felt safe doing so. There was some relief to it, but it didn’t really help physically – just emotionally. It was also at this point that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish the entire hundred miles, and started reconciling myself to that fact.

It wasn’t hard, actually – the reconciliation. My body was shot. Low back was hurting, leg strength was gone. It would be stupid to keep pushing myself beyond what I was capable of that day. I figured I’d make it to the next aid station (the aforementioned mile 73 with the unhelpful volunteer) and inquire about SAG support. I texted Linda to put her on alert in case SAG wasn’t available.

I desperately kept checking my turn-by-turn to see how further was left. I knew I was close to the turn for PCH, and after that it would only be another two miles. The turn came, and all I saw was another hill. I had to get off and walk again. Even when it flattened out in parts, the thought of getting back on the bike made my legs rebel. Walking was easier. Slower, but easier.

I made it to the rest stop (riding), had the aforementioned experience with the not-helpful volunteer, and finally agreed with Linda that she would come and get me as it appeared that course support had ceased for that part of the ride. I kept wondering if I could make it just another six miles to the next rest stop, but all I could see was another elevation increase in front of me, and knew I couldn’t. It was frustrating, yes, but the relief my body felt at not having to continue beyond what I was able to far outweighed the frustration. As an indicator of how bad it was, I cried as I talked to her. I don’t do that often, which is how Linda knew that I was done, and there were no words of encouragement that could overcome the realization that my body was done.

Life Lesson: The end of your course isn’t always marked by cheering fans and checkered flags. Only you know when it’s over. As long as you haven’t quit and know that you have done everything you can, it’s okay. Tapping out is different than quitting. Know the difference.

When Linda arrived, having driven the last 25-ish miles I was unable to complete, she agreed that it was tough. In fact, she drove me back part of that same way, and even in the comfort of a car, bicycle safely behind me in the back seat, my legs screamed. I would not have been able to do the rest of those hills. Sure, it would have gotten easier and doable AFTER the hills. But not before.

Linda had food and water for me, as well as a listening and sympathetic ear.

Life Lesson: Have a good support crew. These are people who encourage when encouragement is needed, and empathize when empathy is needed. They don’t judge, but are willing to help however they can.

Bonus Life Lesson That’s Just Downright Practical: Wear sunblock.

I worried that I wouldn’t be able to complete my usual four-mile run this morning. I’ve been struggling with my runs, knowing that I’ve lost a lot of the fitness that I had gained last year when preparing for a half-marathon. Once I got started this morning though, I felt great. Stronger than I have for a long time during a run.

Life Lesson: That old German philosopher was right. What doesn’t kill you DOES make you stronger. It’s not often pleasant to get to that point of being beaten down to the point of submission, but you will be stronger in ways you can’t anticipate.

Overall, I’m glad for the experience. I’m not thrilled that I had to tap out after 73 miles. And if I compare myself to my sister who knocked out her own 72-mile ride on Saturday, it gets a little bit more depressing. But that’s the comparison thing working against me again. If I put it into perspective of readiness for the H140, it’s discouraging. If I put it into the perspective of, “Hey! I rode a really tough 73 miles on Saturday!” then it’s okay. I also believe that this course was harder than the H140 course is. I don’t know if it’s because I was in better shape last year and physically more prepared, or if it’s actually a harder course. It was a good day, made better by a chocolate shake and a well-earned two hour nap on the floor.

I figured going into this ride that since I had done 110 miles last year in the Huntsman, at Utah elevation, I’d be able to do 100 miles this year at sea level.

Another Life Lesson:
 You can’t compare past accomplishments to future goals. Just because you’ve done something once doesn’t mean you can again – at least, not without putting in the effort and training necessary, or because you’re just not able to even if you have trained. But did you accomplish good things? Did you do your very best? If you made it to Mile 73 when you wanted to give up at Mile 63, you succeeded.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

H140 Training: The Best Laid Plans

Yesterday was going to be the day I pedaled to Ventura. I had the route all planned out. I had my support crew ready to go, even after some logistical rearranging of plans thT needed to be done on he part of one of them. My Camelback was packed with energy bars and electrolyte drink mix. My water bottles were chilling in the fridge filled with electrolyte goodness. My goal destination awaited, with the planned end point being a friends house where I would shower, then we'd all go celebrate. Everything was ready.

And then Friday night came, and one member of my support crew had to take the other to the emergency room with a kidney stone. We've known about this particular one for a couple of weeks, but it was now turning into a crisis situation. Sure enough, she was admitted to the hospital, but wanted me to still do my ride. 

Saturday morning came and I decided I would still do it. I needed the time in the saddle and the miles. I geared up and headed out the door. Then I saw the rear tire was completely flat. Weird. I hadn't been doing so much riding to justify that. I filled it up win my foot pump and left. 

The first part of the route I had planned is all uphill. Sometimes it's just a gradual climb, and sometimes the hills are steep and tough, but the entire first 25 miles is a steady elevation increase. I felt every inch I was gaining. It felt just so much more difficult than it should have. Some parts of the road,even with a marked bicycle lane, aren't great either. It's heavily traveled by trucks, so there are lots of ruts and ridges, not to mention gravel. Pretty soon, it felt like evey bump was making its way to my teeth. They started to rattle around in my skull more than usual. I looked behind me, and darn it if that rear tire wasn't flat again. It wasn't completely flat, but it was just a matter of time until I was riding on the rim. 

I stopped and debated. I had a tube with me, but no air. I could change the tube, but with no air, wouldn't be sure if it was the wheel or the tube that was problematic. There was a gas station, I thought, a half mile or so ahead of me, so I could walk the bike that far and try to change the tube there then get air, or change the tube where I was and walk to the gas station, or call it a day and turn around for home. I knew there was no way I could make it another twenty miles to where my support crew (reduced by 50%) would meet me with a foot pump. My biggest concern wasn't walking the bike, it was changing the tube on the REAR tire. I messed up some rear tires last year when I didn't remount it correctly, and didn't want to run that risk again.

I weighed all those factors, and decided to go home. I was over five miles out, so running home would still be a good training season, even if it wasn't the one I planned. I would pretend I was training for a duathlon.

New plan in mind, I started running. Almost a mile into that activity, a huge pack of cyclists came storming my direction. I lifted my hand in greeting. The lead guy hollered, "You okay?" 

"Yeah," I hollered back.

Someone else said, "Need a tube?"

I chuckled and said ruefully, "No, I'm good. Thanks, though!" And kept running. Then I heard bike tires behind me. I turned to look, and saw that two riders had peeled away from the peloton to see if I needed help. First I recognized that the kits they wore were from the bike shop where I had purchased my bikes. Then I recognized one of them as the owner, Rob. 

I thanked them profusely for turning around to help, then apologized profusely that they had tuned around, and basically alternated between those two themes. I explained that I had a tube but no air, and that I was going to be at the shop to get the flat repaired, and he said, "We'll just do it now." Like a well-trained pit crew, they had the tire off and tube replaced lickety split. The thing that took the most time was them trying to figure out which one had a Co2 cartridge. Turned out neither did, thinking the other one had packed one, but one did have a pocket pump, which was enough to get it full enough to make the trip home. Rob left the rear brake lever loose for some reason that made sense to him but that sounded like "fwah fwah fwah" to me. He told me to stop in at the shop later and he'd take care of it.

I happily started pedaling home, and it felt great to have air in that tire. I saw a gas station and briefly pondered stopping, getting a full tire and continue with the plan, but with the brakes being kind of wonky, knew that wasn't such a great idea.

All told I did about 16 miles, as I took an intentional detour just to add some miles- so far less than the 65 I was planning on. I suppose it could be considered a failure. But the good things were:

I wasn't so far away from home that i was uncomfortably stranded.
No mechanical failures at a dangerous part of the road, like a steep downhill, which could have been disastrous.
Good incentive to get Co2 cartridges, which I did later when I took my bike to the shop, as well as some more tubes.
I was able to spend more time with my hospitalized support crew, which was important. 
Got to see at there are good people in this world who are willing to help, even at the expense of their own goals and schedules.

This week's goal: TBD.

Happy training and riding!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Should vs Must

I haven't read the whole thing yet, so read and form your own opinions. But this bit showed up on my RSS feed this morning, and it's intrigued me all day:

Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us. When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk is small.

Must is different—there aren’t options and we don’t have a choice.

Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us. Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own. Because when we choose Must, we are no longer looking for inspiration out there. Instead, we are listening to our calling from within, from some luminous, mysterious place.

Full article here.

If fully implemented, this could change a lot of how I think and act - what I choose to eat, when I choose to exercise and what type, etc.


Monday, April 14, 2014

H140 Training: Better Than Last Time

This was one of those weeks where nothing really went as planned, training-wise. That's okay.  I didn't get a bike ride in on Saturday, my usual riding day, because of a commitment I had made (emceeing a Girl Scout Pinewood Derby), and even though I usually don't do much of anything on Sundays, I know that if I'm to complete my planned 70 mile ride this next Saturday, I can't not get on a bike and expect it to be easy. To clarify, I don't expect it to be easy anyway, but I don't want to unnecessarily make it more challenging than it already will be.

ANYway. I hopped on my bike to get a quick ride in this morning before church. I did about the same route I did last week - LA Zoo/Griffith Park.

When I got to the hill that I hadn't been able to complete before, I told myself I'd be doing great if I could get a little further than I did last time. I was focused on trying to remember where I had gotten off last time, so that worked well as a distraction technique. I thought I was about ready to get off, but then saw a speed limit sign and told myself to just make it to that sign, then see how I'm feeling.

Before I knew it, I was at the sign, and still going. "Okay, just a bit further, then I'll get off and walk." Then someone passed me on his bike, and I didn't want to get off in front of anyone, so kept going.

THEN before I knew it, I was at the toughest part of the hill, and still going. By then, I could see the top of the hill, and figured it would be stupid to get off when I knew I was nearly there, so I just kept going.

The payoff is always worth it - the sweet downhill of 32 mph. That always feels great.

My lessons learned - Don't think about the entire distance at once. Just give yourself little chunks to bite off. Do a little bit at a time. Those little bits all add up to one big accomplishment.

Secondly - I am stronger than I think I am. I know that I struggled with this ride last week because of a fairly heavy duty leg workout I'd given myself earlier that week, but the fact that I could do this just one week after not being able to - that gives me hope.

Also, recovery is so important! I am still trying to find the balance between training sufficiently when I don't have time to do all the bike rides during the week I know I probably should so I load up my training schedule in other ways, vs recovery. And sleep. Oh, sleep, how I miss you. I need to figure out how to get more. What I get is quality, I'm just lacking quantity.

"Should" vs "Must" - thoughts coming soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Back story - a nice guy at work brings bananas for everyone. Well, not EVERYone, but he brings a lot of bananas, a bunch of them, if you will, and gives them to people. I sit right outside his office, and he likes me, so I get one just about every day. His name is Steve.

I had to apologize to C for delaying an IM response: "Someone came by to chastise me for having bananas on my desk."
C: whaaa?

EllJayPea: Well, you know Steve the banana guy. He frequently isn't here on Fridays. And he likes me, so he gives me two bananas on Thursdays. So there are 2 bananas on my desk, and a woman walked by, saw them there, stopped, backed up, picked one up, waggled it at me and said, "These are SO bad for you!"
She then proceeded to tell me that she has started juicing

C: Oh brother....

EllJayPea: So she was putting 1/2 banana in each "juice,"and she gained weight. She cut the bananas out, and can already tell a difference.

CinniMinion: Yeah, okay crazy juicer lady

EllJayPea: 1. I am busy, on my lunch, with my back to the aisle. Leave me alone;

EllJayPea: 2. Don't look at my desk and think you need to lecture me about stuff on it;

EllJayPea: 3. Shaddap;

EllJayPea: 4. I think you have "juicing" confused with "smoothy-ing."

Friday, April 11, 2014

H140 Training: Movies about Cycling

Yes, I believe watching movies, or reading books or learning about the sport you’re participating in is just as valuable as actually doing the sport. Whatever will get you motivated. I’m a sucker for sports movies. Seriously. Love ‘em. Here are three movies I’ve watched recently that are about cycling.

“Wadjda” -  An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school's Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest. (IMDB)

If memory serves, this is also the first feature film directed by a Saudi woman, which is noteworthy of itself. This was a good story with a lot of different layers. I know some family members who lived for several years in Saudi Arabia who may really find it interesting on even more levels than I did. Sure, there are some areas where the story could have been edited a bit, firmed up if you will, but it was certainly thought provoking.

Warning – it is subtitled, so you can’t multi-task and watch at the same time. Unless your Arabic is better than mine.

“The Armstrong Lie” – A documentary chronicling sports legend Lance Armstrong's improbable rise and ultimate fall from grace. (IMDB)

This was very compelling, if you’ve ever seen a headline in the past five years about Lance Armstrong. Even if you aren’t a headline reader, this was really good. It makes me mad that I ever held a shred of hope out for him not being liar, when it’s very clear he is and was. He also appears to suffer from a severe case of megalomania, or in my family, “big headedness.” It’s surprising there is ever enough space for him AND his big ol’ noggin in the same room. Give it a watch. It’s a great story, well shot, neutrally told, and a nice insight into the world of professional cycling.

“Rising from Ashes” - Rising from Ashes is a feature length documentary about the first Rwandan national cycling team in their bid to make history and represent their country at the 2012 Olympics. Competing in a white man's sport, reserved for the privileged, a rag tag group of cyclists coached by the first American to ride in the Tour de France, are transformed into a powerful symbol of hope for a country recovering from one of the world's most devastating genocides. (IMDB)

Of the three cycling movies I’ve watched in the past three weeks, this one was by far my favorite. The others were good – don’t get me wrong – but this one was inspiring and heartbreaking and beautiful.

Here are some great quotes from it:

"Cycling is about suffering. You cannot be a cyclist without going through a tremendous amount of pain. You can’t escape it." – Jock Boyer

“If you want to not suffer, you cannot survive to do cycling.” One of the Rwanda team members

“Trophies have no value, unless you use them to better other people.” Jock Boyer.

Watch it. You won’t be sorry.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Conference Training: Update

I haven't checked with the other people yet to see how our conference workout plan went. Ellen has been leaving comments as updates (thanks, Ellen!), so I know that for two of us, at least, it was successful.

My Saturday morning started with a bike round to and around Griffith Park (home of the Los Angeles Zoo, among other things) before conference. It's not a very long ride, but there's a nice little climb right in the middle of it. A climb that was so nice I didn't bother killing myself trying to complete it on the bike, but got off and walked/ran up the hill instead, when my cycling legs gave out. The whole route was about 16 miles, which I underestimated how long it was going to take me. Or overestimated how late I could leave the house and still make it home in time for conference. I got home about halfway through the first talk, so missed some of the exercises, probably.

But I picked up right where I came in, and overall for that morning session, did about 50 squats, four tricep dips, one plank and six or seven push-ups.

To recap, we were to do a squat for each "Jesus" or derivative thereof, and a 30-count plank for Joseph Smith. As Ellen and I observed together, anyone who says our church doesn't believe in Christ is crazy, as evidenced by the fact that the squats far outnumbered the planks.

Linda enjoyed reminding me that I needed to do a squat if it looked like I was getting complacent about doing one, or missed that I was supposed to be doing one. And both Linda and Cim were a little critical about my form if it looked like I was getting too lazy. As a note - neither of them showed any inclination in doing any of the exercises themselves; merely told me when to do mine. So supportive, those two.

In the afternoon session, the squat count was about the same, coming in at around fifty. I did five 30-count planks, and I'm not sure how many dips and push-ups.

Confession: I still owe doing Saturday afternoon's squats.

I didn't do anything for Sunday's sessions, other than listen. I'm at peace with that.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Conference Challenge

As I left my exercise session with my friend on Wednesday, we were chatting about watching conference. Recognizing it's challenging sometimes to stay awake, and both cognizant of individual goals to become more physically fit, she suggested that each time a certain word is said, we do a pushup or something similar. Together, we agreed on four words and an exercise to do each time one of those words is mentioned. Feel free to join in, if you'd like.

Atonement = 1 push up
Jesus (or any derivative) = 1 squat
Book of Mormon = 1 tricep dip
Joseph Smith = 30 count plank

One friend points out it will be difficult to take notes, but knowing myself as I do, at least I won't have my attention directed elsewhere (iPad, Facebook, etc.) so will be listening more than I might be otherwise.

(For those who may read this and aren't aware of what this "conference" is that I'm talking about, twice a year, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints get to hear from a living prophet, apostles, and other leaders of the church. Here's a little video that introduces what it is:)

Monday, March 31, 2014

H140: Transportation

The other day when I was getting ready for my training ride, I told Cim where I'd be and reminded her that she's listed as my emergency contact bracelet, the Road ID, I wear whenever I'm out. She said, "Fine. But we have to put a sheet or towels in my backseat, because I'm tired of your bike getting my car dirty and torn." It's true - there's a gouge in her backseat console where my pedal bit into it once. I feel badly about that. 

To save her backseat, and mine, and to make it all around easier to transport my bike(s), I am now the proud owner of an after-factory roof rack with bike fittings. Woo! 

I was able to purchase some of the components at the last REI garage sale I went to at a significant savings. Then with part of my income tax refund, I bought the rest of the parts and paid for installation. (No way do I have the patience to measure and accurately install one of these things.)

Here's the finished product, sans bike, just after installation. You can see the REI sign in the background. They have great customer service. Yes, they were running behind schedule today and made me late back to work after my lunch "hour," but Adam was professional and courteous and took the time to show me how it all works and explain everything to me. 

Yay for no more torn seats! Now I'm THAT person. You know the one - you see a car with a roof rack and you say, "Aha. There's a biker, or kayaker or surfer..." or whatever that person has on their car. Yep, I'm that girl now. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

H140 Training: Saturday Ride

This was a tougher ride than I thought it was going to be. Some of it was that it was just tough, and some is that it's tougher than where I should be at this point, which is a nice way of saying, I'm out of shape.

Remember yesterday when I said, "Up = north," as though to make the distinction between up/north and up/elevation? Well, it was both. The last half of the "to" trip was uphill. It was very difficult. I think that it was good training for the Eureka climb - a steady incline with a couple of unforgiving steep parts. At mile 15 I stopped at a relatively flat part and just rested. I was staring at the next bit of the hill ahead of me and thought, "If I can't make it all the way up there, I'll just get off and walk my bike. At least I'd be making forward progress still." And then I started on that hill, and it was worse than what it had looked like, because it curved and kept going, and I thought, I can make it another 100 yards. And then I can make it the next 100 yards, and I found a lower gear and just kept going.

And going.

I was familiar with the route as I've traveled it in a car before, or at least, I've traveled it many times on the freeway in a car, whereas the road I was on ran parallel to and underneath the freeway. You just don't notice those hills in a car. You feel every single pedal stroke on a bike.

At one point I hit a really nice downhill, even getting up to 38 mph at one point without pedaling. That felt good. And then it went back uphill. And up some more.

About that time I started getting texts from my home base support group, wanting to know how I was doing. "Almost at the Walmart," I replied. "Pretty tired. Not sure if I can make return trip." Not because I wanted to give up, but because I and just hit that sweet downhill, and knew I would have to make it back up.

A few texts later they decided they'd come and meet me at the Walmart, right after I decided that I had just hit another hill I didn't want to climb back up on the return trip. I told them I was turning around, but then they said they needed to go to Walmart anyway, so I turned back around to finish the trip.

The good news about that was I got another wind. Not a second wind, because I was way past that. And a hill that I hadn't been able to climb before I was now able to go back up somewhat easily. It's amazing what knowing that the end is near can do for your motivation.

Bottom line - I completed 24 miles, with (what seemed like) the majority of it being uphill.

That's the same route I'll travel when I go to Ventura, but it won't be as tough that time, because for one thing I'll have already traveled it and will be more familiar with it, and for another, I won't have to go back up all those hills.

Yes, I'm disappointed I didn't get the mileage and time in the saddle I wanted, but the hills were good training too. Really good training.

Post-training note - while I waited for the girls at Walmart, I went to the McDonalds and got a chocolate shake which I enjoyed greatly.

After doing some shopping, we went to another part of town to get some lunch, and ran into some LDS missionaries - one of whom had just been transferred from our ward, and we love him. We sat  with him and his companion while we ate and got caught up. That was fun.

So even though I was disappointed with my performance, the day overall was a success.

Friday, March 28, 2014

H140 Training Update: Tomorrow's Plan

Here's a Map My Ride map of my planned ride for tomorrow. 

Twenty-three miles up to Santa Clarita ("up" = north) to the turn off that goes to Ventura. Why is that important? Because I'm planning on going to Ventura on April 19 - roughly 72 miles one way. I will not be making that return trip on my bike. But tomorrow, 23 miles up, 23 miles back. That should be a good boost in getting ready for 72 miles in three weeks. And then 100 miles three weeks after that. 

Meanwhile, I continue grinding away at it on a daily basis: 
  • Monday morning:  run 3-4 miles
  • Monday evening:  weights/cross-training with friend
  • Tuesday morning:  bike ride to friend's house, weight/cross-training, bicycle home
  • Wednesday morning: run 3-4 miles
  • Wednesday evening: weights/cross-training with friend
  • Thursday morning: bike ride to friend's house, weight/cross-training, bicycle home
  • Thursday evening: hour tap dance class
  • Friday morning: run 3-4 miles
  • Saturday: long bike ride

No, it's not ideal, and I'm not putting in probably nearly enough hours and miles to be ready for 140 miles in one day. Instead, I am stupidly (naively?) betting on the fact that long Saturday rides will build my endurance and the indisputable fact that I am extraordinarily stubborn and willing to push myself and know how to endure.

That's my formula for success - Stupidity x Stubborness = Success. I guess that means S2 = S.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A 100-Mile Goal

One thing that I've learned about myself is that I need the proper motivation to get ready for a huge goal. For me, this means committing to something. Specifically regarding the goal of getting ready for the Huntsman 140 ride in June, I have just registered to ride in the Tour of Long Beach - the Cruz Granfondo version. That means one hundred miles. They have shorter distances available, but by registering for the toughest one, I will force myself to be ready, which means more training than I'm really comfortable with, but that's the idea, right? That's why I signed up for a half-marathon last year when I wasn't ready. But having the commitment, the PAID commitment meant that I WOULD be ready when it was time to be.

Here's a map of the ride I'll participate in. It's not awful. The elevation is all totally doable. But the distance will be a nice challenge.

The toughest part of registering for this, besides saying, "Yes, I CAN do this," was selecting which child to ride for. All the proceeds benefit pediatric cancer research for a hospital in Long Beach. On the registration page was a drop-down list of some patients you could choose to fundraise for. Some of the options were:

  • Celeste - diagnosed with leukemia 4 years old
  • Alexis - 3 years acute lymphocytic leukemeia
  • Bela - 1 month diagnosed with acute myleoid leukemia
  • Aidan - 4 years diagnosed with acute lymphcytic leukemia
  • Jonathan - 22 months acute lymphocytic leukemia
  • Nika - 2 months acute blah blah something sad...
  • Danny - 17 years acute blah blah something sad.....
  • Sarah - 4 years lympblastic leukemia
It's heartbreaking to know that each of those children has a story, with parents and family and friends and challenges and strength and sadness and joys. I chose Danny, because I don't know any 17-year old boys that are cute in the sense that you go, "Awwww, poor Bela diagnosed with leukemia at one month old." Teenage boys just don't garner that kind of attention. No, I'm not officially fundraising for this ride, as I'm saving those concerted efforts for the Huntsman ride. But I hope the event raises a ton of money for these and other kids. 

Cancer sucks. But that's a topic for another day. 

Meanwhile - I have a new goal! Be ready to ride a hundred miles on May 10. Woot!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Get a Little Smarter

I am a little smarter today, just because I watched these two videos. Well, that's not exactly true. The first video made me make the same face the guy in it is making. It's a face of, "Huh?" mixed with "Whoa. Cool!" This is a demonstration of how a string of beads can be made to look like a fountain. Go ahead, watch.

Cool, right? Did you find yourself making that face? Wanna know how it's possible? (The fountain effect, not the expression.) A gentleman from the New  York Times will break it down for you here. Then you can thank Newtonian physics for being a little smarter today.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Your Brain Is Playing Games on You

Many times we make the mistake of thinking that we can overcome mental obstacle with sheer willpower, but our brains are actually programmed against us. Our brains are ancient (or so scientists keep telling us) and so are programmed to act as though we are still ancient creatures living in primitive conditions.

For example, ancient humans, to survive, couldn't afford to lose. Our brains remember that, even though we are modern creatures. For example, have you ever ordered something in a restaurant and then feel like you have to eat the whole thing, even if you're not enjoying it are full? Of course you have. That's called the "sunk cost fallacy" and makes us prioritize what we've lost over what we could possibly gain. 

There's also the "optimum bias" phenomena, as well as "confirmation bias. Here's the full article, including a short, three-minute video that explains it better than I could.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Some Thoughts on Endurance and Training

Endurance races or activities require a certain amount of crazy. Last year I read about a woman who does ultra-marathons (100k) and can complete them because there's a part of her brain, the part that's supposed to tell her body when she's feeling pain, that shuts itself off. So she can keep running past the point "normal" people would give up, because her body doesn't know any better. 

Then there's this story about a young woman recently diagnosed with MS whose legs go numb during races, so her body goes into auto-pilot mode and just keeps running, even when she can't feel her lower extremities. The problem is when it's time to stop running, at the finish line, that she collapses. Her coach and/or parents are generally there to catch her, then ice her legs down until feeling returns and she can walk on her own. Read the whole article. It's quite fascinating. 

Then there's this REALLY disturbing (my interpretation) story about endurance cyclist from Jure Robic of Slovakia. He sleeps 90 minutes or less during an endurance event lasting a week or more, and quite literally goes crazy because of the lack of sleep. When he goes insane during those times, his support crew makes all the decisions for him, an arrangement that allows Robic's body to keep going even though his mind would have told him to quit long ago

His system is straightforward. During the race, Robic's brain is allowed control over choice of music (usually a mix of traditional Slovene marches and Lenny Kravitz), food selection and bathroom breaks. The second brain [AKA his support team] dictates everything else, including rest times, meal times, food amounts and even average speed. Unless Robic asks, he is not informed of the remaining mileage or even how many days are left in the race. "It is best if he has no idea," Stanovnik says. "He rides -- that is all."
Yes, it takes a unique mind and body to be an endurance athlete. I don't possess either of those things. I think the third element that's required is the will to do so, and while I have a slight curiosity about it, i believe I sated that when I did my half-marathon last year. I remain intellectually curious about it, but not so much personally so. For me, an endurance sport is anything that requires me to complete an activity beyond what my interest level or current desire is. 

That means, just about any activity I participate in. Well, that's not exactly true. That means any activity that feels forced or that I'm doing because I feel an obligation of some sort - either to someone else, or to fulfill a goal I set for myself when I was wide awake and felt like I had energy at the time I made the goal. And don't say you don't know what I'm talking about. We've all done that. 

So how do you get better at something? Or improve in an activity at which you already possess the basic skills? Let's take running, for an example. We can do that. Everyone does, or knows how. ("Everyone" in this example assumes people with working legs.) Even if you're one of those people who mocks "real" runners and says, "I only run if a dog is chasing me," you still know how to run, and have done it on more than one occasion. 

Someone recently asked me this question in the context of training for distance running. "I'm stuck at a block where I run 1/4 mile and then just start walking, start running again, walking, etc. Need to get consistent!" I guess that's the answer - consistency. And that will vary for different people. For one it might mean setting a goal of jogging consistently for one mile before taking a walking break. For some it might mean that walking after 1/4 mile is okay, because you know you're going to be running for five or six or three - or more than you've done before. 

As cliche as it sounds, the answer is to just don't give up. At least, that's what's worked for me. When we read or hear stories about people who are running or biking or doing whatever else "better" than we currently are, just remember - they weren't born being able to do that, and they also certainly didn't start doing it one day. Just because you can't run a marathon the first time you decide to start running doesn't mean you eventually can't. Every marathoner had to learn to run a mile first.
  • Give yourself credit for the good things you ARE doing.
  • Give yourself a break if you're not hitting your goals or self-expectations as soon as you'd like.
  • Be willing to adjust those timelines as you learn about your body's limit and capacity. 
  • Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. 
  • Don't be stupid. Just because I've cited some examples of people who don't feel pain, doesn't mean you have to keep going when your body is telling you to stop. STOP. Listen to your body.
  • And if it helps motivate you (it does me!), go buy a new pair of running shoes or cycling shorts!
What's worked for you? What keeps you going when you want to stop? What gets you up in the morning?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

H140: Training Attack Plan

Some of the obstacles I need to overcome
  • Soft bicycling butt
  • Shortened endurance since last year
  • Overall conditioning
  • Stupid periformis muscle

Plan of Attack
  • Resume weekly rides
  • Cross training plan to increase regular runs, including fartleks to increase speed and endurance
  • Be more consistent in time and energy strength training sessions. In other words, do it instead of finding reasons to not be as focused or distracted by Facebook or TV
  • Continue with the exercises and stretches I learned in physical therapy to keep the periforis muscle injury-free

What I’ve Done So Far
Last week I put my bike into the mag trainer I purchased last year but haven’t used yet. After 45 minutes, I remembered why starting spin classes are so hard. My butt was not used to that! And I found that I’ve lost a lot of my cycling legs. 

On Monday, a holiday, I went on a 20-mile ride. There were some good climbs thrown in my route for good measure, but not so much that I had to give up. I still have some work to do to get back up to my climbing ability I had last year, but it will come back, probably sooner than I initially thought. 

I put a clarion call out on Facebook to see if any of my local friends wanted to train with me. I’ve traditionally set aside Tuesday and Thursday mornings, my non-running days, for some strength training at home, but with no one to be responsible to, find it too easy to under-train and make excuses for not pushing myself as far as I know I should and could go. Two friends responded, and so I have added a Tuesday and Thursday morning workout with one friend, and Monday and Wednesday evenings with another. We will focus on weight/strength training, and some circuit-type stuff. Today was my first day on that new schedule. It will be good, and they’ve expressed appreciation too at having someone to be accountable with/to. 

Coming Up
In addition to everything else, nother bike ride on Saturday. I’m shooting for a 30-miler this time around. 


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

H140: I'm In Training

One hundred and forty miles in one day. Not that big of a deal if you’re in a car. A lot of a bigger deal if you’re doing it on a bike. 

Last year I completed most of it - a hundred and ten miles. We had to forfeit the middle thirty miles due to time constraints. It was frustrating at the time knowing that I wouldn’t have full bragging rights, but those thirty miles are brutal. BRUUUU-TAAAHHL. They’re across some undulating hills next to Utah Lake, and subject to nasty cross-winds. I was actually just fine not having to complete that part. The rest of the ride was still challenging, and I conquered what I knew was going to be my nemesis - the Eureka climb. 

To be honest, I’d be fine completing the same amount and the same portions of the course this year. Regardless of if I do the same 110 or the full 140, it’s going to be that much tougher this year because I’m not in the same shape coming into the training season that I was last year. 

Last year at this time I was training to run a half marathon. I was a on fairly regimented schedule, completing weekly “long” runs and doing a ton of hill running. I was also teaching spin classes twice a week, so my butt muscles, the tender sit-bone parts, were toughened up. 

After the half-marathon in March, I turned more attention to cycling, replacing my weekly long runs with long rides, the longest of which was 80 miles - down to Long Beach and back. 

This year, I haven’t been teaching spin for six months. The last time I was on a bike was in September. My longest run has been a little over four miles -mostly due to necessity while I rehabbed my busted performis muscle. I’ve also gained some weight, which I’m working on with both my regular physician and a nutritionist. In other words, there’s not a lot of logic behind why the pounds have decided to pack themselves on, and they’re stubbornly resisting coming off. 

There are four months to get ready, and I’m going to need every single one of those days. 

My mantra is now, “I’m in training.” It applies for foods I know I shouldn’t have (or have as much of as I’d like). It applies for when I want to stay up late to watch the outcome of a particular Olympics event. It applies for when i want to sleep in on a Saturday morning instead of getting in another workout. It applies for wanting to skip doing some pushups when I come in for a run. 

I’m in training. 

The cool thing about this mantra is the multiple layers of meaning it has. 

I’m training to be more fit, both emotionally, mentally and physically. I’m in training to be a better me. 

What are you training for?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

H140: This Is Happening

In case you thought you were done with listening to me talk about my hugest goal of the year - riding 140 miles on my bike in one day - you were wrong. Yes, it happened last year, and it's happening again this year.

Memory refresher - in 2012 I watched my sister Neva do this bike ride. She participated partly to raise money for cancer research (all contributions go directly to the Huntsman Cancer Institute), and partly to prove to herself she could. She had just recently finished all the treatments you can imagine for breast cancer, and this was a way for her to prove to herself that she could continue conquering physical and mental obstacles. I was part of her support crew for that ride, and I was glad I was there, because the ride organizers didn't have a lot of support on the actual course. I vowed that I wouldn't stand by and watch my sister do that again on her own, and determined to do the ride the next year.

2013 - two of us sisters joined Neva in the ride, and another provided road and emotional support, along with a ton of other family members. It was a tremendous event and cemented many family relationships. (You can see a video summary of that here: Huntsman 2013 .)

January 2014 - my eldest sister, Sandra, passed away after a short battle with breast cancer. In her honor, and to continue proving to ourselves that we can conquer physical and mental challenges, all of us remaining siblings are going to participate in the ride. We are Team Sandra, and besides the five of us siblings, some nieces and nephews are joining in on the fun also. You can see some fun videos about our goals here

and here.

These ones are a lot shorter, and serve to introduce you to the team. Team Sandra.

I know that most of you readers are family members, so you've seen these already on Facebook, so this post is more about a prelude to many other posts that I anticipate coming in the very near future about what I'm doing to get ready for this ride. It's going to be a different experience than last year, with different goals. The goal is tougher, which means I've got to toughen up this body that's gotten very soft in the past six months.

More to come.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Early Morning Phone Calls

I grew up in a time when phone calls were not the common occurrence they are now. Sure, each home had a phone, but usually only one. Sometimes bigger homes had an extension - two or more phones that were connected to the same line. This meant that more than one person could be on the same call at the same time, wh ich was convenient for big family calls like on Christmas day, or other similar events. It was inconvenient when you wanted to call your friend to see if she could come play, but your mom was on the phone. If you were sneaky and a light breather, you could listen in on calls that you shouldn't be. Fine, it was eavesdropping. 

Long distance was a luxury. Those calls were reserved for either very special occasions (the aforementioned Christmas Day) or emergencies. The cost was measured by the minute and distance, so not a lot of time was wasted on idle chit-chat. You got on, established the other party was who you wanted to talk to, said your piece and listened to theirs, then got off. This led to some very sudden endings to calls, and even when long distance charges were turned into one monthly flat rate, my mother would still end calls abruptly, leaving me looking at the phone, perplexed, wondering if I had said something offensive.

The social norms for calling times were very well established. If you knew someone well or were family, you could call starting at 8:00 a.m; otherwise, nine o'clock was the general accepted rule. And if someone called after 9:00 p.m., they'd better have a darn good reason.

Long distance charges were allowed to stretch the call times for family members. My parents were both early risers, and since long distance charges rose substantially after 7 a.m., most family calls were made before that time. It helped that we lived in an earlier time zone than most of my family. So it wasn't entirely uncommon for our phone to ring before 6 a.m. We were all up anyway. 

But when phone companies started competing with the original Ma Bell for business and the flat rates were instituted, the practice of early morning calls lessened. It got to the point where if the phone rang before 8 a.m., you emotionally braced yourself for some bad news.

This morning our house phone rang at 5:15 a.m. Linda was in the shower, getting ready to go teach seminary. I was awake, but only just, and certainly hadn't made any overtures towards actually rising. At first I thought maybe I imagined the sound.  I listened carefully, and heard it again. I flung the covers off, opened my bedroom door and stumbled into the living room. (I haven't had a phone in my bedroom since I was the early-morning seminary teacher, as my roommate would receive calls after I had gone to bed.)

The person on the other end couldn't understand why Linda hadn't answered the phone and kept asking me if I was sure I wasn't her. I couldn't understand why the caller wouldn't identify himself. Phone etiquette - one of my pet peeves. After we finally established each other's identities and I assured him that I wasn't going to hand the phone to my showering roommate, but would instead relay the message, things went much better. 

On my way back to my room, I paused at the bathroom door and hollered in, "That was the chapel custodian. He wants to know if the heater is working today, so I told him you would call him when you got up there." I paused, and she acknowledged she would do so. Then I said, "And if you could please tell your friends to not call at five-fifteen in the morning, I'd appreciate that."

She laughed, "Yeah, Vern and I are best buds." We both chuckled, and I went back to bed. 

I'm still expecting that bad-news phone call, though.