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?