Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Signed up for Ironman Tahoe!

Posted by Rachel

Don't let the title fool you. I did sign up for Ironman Tahoe.... but as a volunteer. If you've never signed up to volunteer at an Ironman, believe me when I tell you it's more complicated than applying for a job. I had no idea what I was doing, or how they could possibly need a week's worth of volunteers, but I finally settled for a 9:30 am - 6:00 pm shift at running aid station 1 on the day of the race. I'll probably be hungry and tired at the end, and I hope that other volunteers aren't lame because that's actually a pretty long day!

This year they are doing a 70.3 at the same time as the 140.6. Many people from our "team" are doing it, but I decided to go with volunteering instead. Here are my reasons for volunteering instead of participating:

1.) This one goes without saying, but I really appreciate volunteers at all the races I do.

2.) I get to immerse myself in an Ironman experience without actually having to do one (yet). I anticipate I'll be learning quite a lot.

3.) The altitude at Tahoe is too high, and I like to be able to breathe while I'm racing. No joke, one time I passed out running 1/4 mile at high altitude in Yellowstone park. It was summertime and I was dehydrated, but it's still not something I'd like to repeat. My sister had to run through a pack of buffalo to go get me some gatorade. On the plus side, needing medical attention really helped pass the time until Old Faithful's next eruption.

You're welcome, family. If it weren't for me we wouldn't have been here for this!

4.) I'm setting my sights on a fall marathon (November), so after August I'm going to be primarily a runner for a short time. A 9/21 triathlon doesn't fit well into that plan.

That's all for my quick update!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ride Report: Primavera Century

Posted by Katie

Today I rode the Calaveras 65K loop (read: NOT the full century) of the Primavera Century, hosted by the Fremont Freewheelers Bicycle Club. This being my first organized ride I wasn't sure what to expect. I have to say this ride totally exceeded my expectations and I would love to do the full century next year! 

My preparation for this ride was pretty dismal. The only long ride I've done in 2014 was the wine country 40 miles (broken up by lunch and wine tasting), last month. Besides that I think I did 15 flat miles outside once, and the stationary bike… maybe twice? 

Totally ready. 

Luckily my riding companions for the day were willing to take it easy to fully enjoy the ride (and all the free food!). 

Start pic!
About a week ago the forecast was predicting 90% of rain, so we were happy to have cool fog at the start. The weather was actually great, foggy and cool for the hilliest part of our ride, and the sun came out for the finish. 

Calaveras 65K Route
What is nice about the 65K route is you get all the climbing out of the way early on. From miles 10-14 there is a 1,000+ ft climb up Calaveras Rd, culminating with the infamous “Wall” which maxes out at 13.9% grade. Rest stop #1 was part way up the climb. At first I thought this was sort of odd, why would you want to lose momentum on the climb? Turns out it was genius and allowed us to rest up and regroup before the toughest part (“the wall”). Also rest stop #1 had the most amazing pumpkin bread. Ever. Seriously ever. The picture does not do justice to the glorious spread of homemade goodies and coffee/hot drinks. We were also told at this stop that they are famous for their breads (pumpkin, chocolate nut, zucchini, etc) and rest stop #2 is famous for their cookies. This would end up being false but we were so pumped up on pumpkin bread and the thought of cookies that we flew* up the hill! 

*And by flew I mean struggled in the granny gear… 13.9% is no joke.

Done with the climb!
After the hill we were treated to the most amazing part of the course. Calaveras road had all sorts of curves and was only slightly rolling but mainly flat. The whole way we had a great views of the hills and reservoirs. Another amazing thing about this road is that we saw 3 vehicles the entire time and they were all SAG support vehicles! Awesome biking spot, very much worth the hill up. 

Next we descended into Sunol to Rest Stop #2, unfortunately this year it seems they went with oreos instead of home baked cookies. They had a ton of other food… but we had been talking about cookies for 16 miles, so that was a slight bummer. We actually saw the kind volunteer from rest stop #1 at the end of the race and she asked how the cookies were, and was equally shocked by the oreos. Rest stop #2… just saying… let’s step it up next year with the homemade cookies. At this point the 100K and 100 mile route splits off and our 65K route goes back towards the start through Niles Canyon and the town of Niles. Niles canyon can be a bit dicey on a bike because there are spots with no shoulder. Still not a ton of cars on the road, and staying in our group I felt comfortable but it would be so great if that stretch had a better shoulder.

Then, the finish. Finishing an organized ride is sort of weird when you are used to running races. There is no real finish line or clock you just sort of stop. Luckily this finishing chute went directly into a row of waiting food trucks and smelled delicious. A hot meal is included with the ride so after we checked in and got our voucher we were faced with the daunting task of deciding which food truck to go to. After thoroughly investigating all the choices (4-5 trucks) we all went with Philly cheesesteaks and they were amazing!

Ready for some tasty food..
Food trucks are such a brilliant idea for post-race food. I imagine they are cost effective, and it gives riders a choice. I am a huge fan. Also I just love food trucks in general. For dessert, the Fremont Whole Foods provided a sundae bar with was also amazing, AND they had cake, brownies, blondies, all sorts of baked goods. 

If all my long rides could be this fun, Ironman training would be no problem :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Race Report: Boston Marathon (Part 2)

Posted by Sandi

As I had mentioned in my last post, Will and I arrived in Boston on Thursday afternoon, leaving me with a few days for a couple of short shake-out runs and final race day preparations. In consideration of last year’s horrific events, this year’s Boston Marathon held greater meaning for all of the runners, volunteers, and spectators. On a personal note, this is the first marathon that my family planned to come and spectate. My parents arrived on Friday evening, Chen arrived on Saturday morning and my sister and brother in-law arrived on Sunday afternoon.

After Chen arrived on Saturday, we met up and went together to the marathon expo. With our runners passports in hand we entered the cordoned bib and packet pickup line. We waited in anticipation as a friendly volunteer went over a detailed recap of the course with the runners immediately ahead of us. Once we picked up our bibs, packets and shirts, we headed into the largest, most amazing and overwhelming expo I have ever seen. First, we wandered through the official Adidas race gear section and then headed over to the other merchants. There were so many vendors and so many people! Yes, I should have expected the large crowd, but it was busier than I could have imagined. I have to give a shout out to Brooks for their set up with mechanically operated running manikins elevated above the expo and faux port-a-potty fitting rooms (super cool). Attempting to exit the expo was an experience similar to exiting Ikea (no joke).

Chen and me infront of the Boston Marathon banner.
 On Sunday, Chen and I went out to get pre-race food, fluids and additional throw away clothing. We checked out with two loafs of bread, bananas, apples, half-sour pickles (which I am told are quite rare) and vitamin enhanced water with what we thought were sports bottle tops. We were planning to fill the sports topped bottles with diluted Gatorade for the beginning of the race. Then we headed over to CVS in search of cheap throw-away (donation) clothing, where we found $6 sweatshirts!

Once we got back to the hotel we prepared our race attire. We each had brought outfit options for race day knowing the weather forecast could change. I planned to wear Boston booty(ish) shorts I bought for the race, which have one small pocket for nutrition.  Knowing this, I had picked up a Nathan’s fuel belt at the expo for the race. Chen and I both put on our race day attire and went for a jog down the hotel’s hallway where we met friendly hotel staff who were kind enough not to laugh at us and even congratulated us and wished us luck for the upcoming race. Next step was to drink the vitamin water so we could reuse the bottles. Unfortunately, what we thought was a sports bottle top was actually a vitamin powder filled capsule that released its contents into the water when you twisted it. The enhanced water tasted like medicinal, citrus flavored vodka…yuck. We engineered sports tops by poking a hole in the cap with a safety pin!

Chen modifying the bottle cap for a make-shift sports bottle.
Fast forward to race day morning. My alarm went off at 6 am. Shortly after, we adorned our race day attire and started our pre-race carb feast. Will stayed in bed with pillows shielding his face from the lights as Chen and I continued readying ourselves for the race ahead. Once Will awoke we turned on the TV for live coverage of the race start in Hopkinton. Just before we left for the South Street lot, my parents came over to wish us luck before the race.
 After we were dropped off at the South Street lot, we entered into security checkpoint lines. The security guards were armed with a sensor that, oddly enough, was set off by GU…go figure. We were glad to get out of the cold and onto the heated bus that took us over to Athletes’ Village. On our way to the Village, we overheard the man across the aisle from us telling the runner next to him that he is an Ironman…so awesome. Neither of us wanted to admit that we were eaves dropping, so we did not ask the many questions that we had for him.

Athletes’ Village was remarkable! There was a large tent in the center of the Village with bagels, coffee, and water made available to the runners. Thankfully, the Village was surrounded by port-a-potties. The wait for our wave and corral seemed endless, but eventually we headed over to the race start. One of the unique aspects of the Boston Marathons is the start; you walk up to the starting mat and just start running.
Chen and I started the marathon together, and initially the make-shift bottles were promising.  It was strange to be surrounded by runners all running the same pace. The first four miles or so were net downhill with some unexpected climbs. Every time we went downhill you could see what looked like an unsurpassable wall of spectators and runners (in a word, daunting). Too many splits to recap so I will provide check point updates and average paces.

24:30                     5k                           (7:53)

49:53                     10k                         (7:57)

1:14:17                  15k                         (7:58)

1:39:30                  20k                         (8:00)

This is about the time when Chen ghosted out on me. What does this mean? It’s a term Chen created to describe the act of intentionally blending into the crowd so your running buddy cannot find you.

1:44:50                  13.1m                    (8:00) 

At about 14.3 miles, I spotted my husband and family! It was so great to see them as I neared the dreaded Newton hills. 

Picture of me as I continue onward.

Family Cheering Squad.

2:03:58                  25k                         (7:58)

2:29:27                  30k                         (8:01)

2:55:48                  35k                         (8:05)
At the top of heartbreak hill I recognized the cheers from my college friends who came to cheer for the marathon! Unfortunately, I heard them after I passed so I had to turn and wave to say a quick hello and thank you. This was also about the time when I opened my third GU and quickly realized that I was in trouble…my body started rebelling and refused to take in nutrition and fluids. I resorted to pouring water over my head to cool off. 

I thought the hills were over after 21 miles, but I was wrong.  As I climbed yet another hill just before the 23 mile mark, I acquiesced and gave myself a 30 second walking break.  The 30 seconds went by all too quickly and I started running again…3.2 miles to go. 

3:21:59                  40k                         (8:08)

3:33:17                  26.2m                    (8:09)

Finally, the race was over and all I wanted was to find my husband, but I had to get through the finish chute first. Glad to be walking and not running, I made my way over to the volunteers handing out medals and capes. Once I had both, I stopped to stretch my calves, and that’s when my breathing became shallow, I started shaking and my lower legs started cramping. I must have looked like death because one of the volunteers came up to me offered me water and a wheel chair ride to the medical tent.

Fast forward, after some necessary time in the shade and some electrolytes, I made my way towards my family and friends.
In closing, I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon!  All in all it was an amazing day, and if you didn’t pick up my hints at my current condition, I am sick and a bit sore. The week ahead will be filled with work, rest and some light cross training. 

Post-race lobster roll, fries and celebratory glass of Zinfandel from Anderson Valley.

Race Report: Boston Marathon

Posted by Chen

Most of you reading this already know that I fell way short of my sub-3:30 goal for this race. While I’d normally be somewhat upset and disappointed after a performance like that, this time, I’m nothing but content and grateful. Yesterday was a great day, plain and simple. For 26.42 miles (need to work on those tangents), I was in awe at how many people had come out to cheer and support us. Boston needed a day like yesterday, and Meb winning for the men made it that much sweeter. And did you hear about the runner who collapsed mere meters from the finish line and the four runners who helped carry him across? #thereisstillgoodintheworld

Anyway, backing up a bit, Sandi and I woke up at 6am and started our usual routine of bathroom visits and baguette eating. Will drove us to a shuttle stop in Hopkinton, and we boarded a bus to the athlete’s village. (Side note: before boarding the buses, every athlete had to go through a security checkpoint, but I was very impressed with how efficient the process was. Overall, I think the race organizers and the city of Boston did a fantastic job of taking every precaution to ensure that the runners and spectators felt as safe as possible all weekend – kudos to them!). Most of our time in the village was spent eating more bread and waiting in line for the porta-potties. 10AM came around before we knew it, and it was time for our wave to walk to the start. As we were walking, I mentioned to Sandi that I really needed to pee again and was pretty concerned about it, as they had warned us over and over that there would be very few porta-potties near the start (which I assumed would each have a line a mile long). Luckily, that was a flat out lie, and a beautiful sea of gray and white plastic toilets with no lines appeared right before the entrance to the corrals. I made a quick pit stop while Sandi waited, and we headed over to the start together. After another short walk through the corrals, we crossed the start line and were off.

 Pre-race shot in the hotel room

While Sandi is capable of running much faster than me, she graciously ran my pace so that we could run the race together. She said it well when she told me that this day was bigger than her, and that she just wanted to enjoy the experience. We ran the first several miles at or around my goal pace (7:50-7:55), but within the first 10K, I knew it wasn’t going to be my day. I should have backed off earlier, but I thought maybe my legs were just getting warmed up and that I could shake the feeling of fatigue. No dice – even 8:00-8:05 miles were feeling like a tempo effort. The temperature was also heating up way earlier than originally forecasted, which wasn’t helping the situation. By mile 11 or 12, I told Sandi that I was going to have to ease up and that she should go ahead. Sandi’s too nice of a person to leave me, though, so as I did at CIM last fall, I had to ghost out of the situation (i.e., fall back without telling her). Sorry, Sandi – it was the only way J.

Photo credit: Super fan Will

I managed to keep a decent pace until I saw Sandi’s family around mile 14, but after that, the wheels quickly fell off. Like, way off. I had pushed too hard for too long, and when I do that, there’s no turning back. As you’ll see in my splits, from mile 15 on, my legs faded like whoa, which was terrible timing given the Newton Hills I had ahead (miles 16-21). I usually get really down on myself as soon as this happens in a race (and it has happened many, many times – I’m not very good at that lesson-learning thing), but I decided I was just going to keep it “easy” and enjoy what was happening around me. Of course, nothing felt easy during the second half of the race, but I did manage to smile at the spectators and wave at the cameras when I could. Heartbreak Hill was longer and more difficult than I’d remembered (same goes for the entire course, really), but I managed to run all of the hills without walking, which I was proud of. Despite what my splits might imply, I actually managed not to walk any of the course, save for the water stops, which I normally walk through anyway. Slowly but surely, I saw the iconic Citgo sign, followed by Hereford, and finally Boylston. I gave everything I had left (which wasn’t much) to the final stretch on Boylston and finally crossed the finish line in 3:47:10.

My friend from college was tracking me from work and managed to capture this shot of me finishing. See if you can find me!

1: 7:46
2: 7:49
3: 7:51
4: 7:55
5: 7:58
6: 8:01
7: 7:57
8: 8:00
9: 8:00
10: 8:03
11: 8:13
12: 8:12
13: 8:18
14: 8:28
15: 8:35
16: 8:37 (Good-bye, 8:XX miles. It’s been real)
17: 9:11
18: 9:10
19: 8:58
20: 9:17
21: 9:43 (Oh hello, Heartbreak. So nice to see you again)
22: 9:01
23: 9:16
24: 9:38
25: 9:44
26: 9:39
26.42: 9:09

Races like this one are always SO much harder than any of my PRs or perfectly negatively-splitted marathons. While they’re usually pretty frustrating, they also remind me that I’m strong enough to push through, even when everything hurts and I just want to curl up in a ball with a beer. They also remind me that 26.2 miles is a distance that needs to be respected, even if you’ve run it 21 times before. And they mostly remind me of why I started running in the first place a couple decades ago: because I like the challenge. Running didn’t come naturally to me when I first started, but I liked the feeling of accomplishment I gained every time I completed two or three miles without stopping. Today, I’m not always guaranteed that I’ll feel strong in a marathon even if I’ve had a perfect training cycle, but I do know that, barring any major catastrophes, I will finish what I started.

So what happened to make me crash like that? Well, friends, while some factors are always out of our control (i.e., the weather), I really have no one to blame but myself. Between the three races that I ran in the four weeks leading up to Boston and the red-eye flight I booked that screwed up my sleeping schedule during the three days before the race, it really comes as no surprise that I didn’t meet my goal. There’s always the next one, though, and now I’m looking forward to tackling that sub-3:30 with Rachel in the fall.

In the meantime, though, I suppose I should get in a pool to see if I can still stay afloat. Triathlon training – here I come!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Santa Barbara, how I miss thee

Posted by Matt

Colt, Kona, and I going for walk on the beach in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is my favorite place to run in all the world, hands down. I have so many great athletic memories from my 4 years in Santa Barbara  - I completed my first triathlon in Santa Barbara, trained for my first Marathon there (at the time it felt more like dragged on long runs by Chen - but in hindsight it was a great experience!), and qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time at the inaugural Santa Barbara Marathon. And on top of that, it's absolutely gorgeous - with great views the ocean, perfect weather, and miles of flat trails perfect for running. Luckily, Katie and I got to return to Santa Barbara with Kona and Colt (we're watching Sandi and Will's dog as they head off to the Boston Marathon) for a good friend's wedding and got to spend time running on the bluffs and on the beach!

Kona running on the bluffs in Santa Barbara. Not that it needs to be said, but much cuter than a picture of me running. 
Good luck to Sandi and Chen in Boston tomorrow!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Boston: Pre-race thoughts

Posted by Chen

I started this post yesterday from SFO, 15 minutes before boarding my redeye flight, and it still hadn’t hit me that marathon weekend had actually arrived. Even now, after having walked around Beantown all day like the sleep-deprived zombie that I am, I’m mostly in denial that I’ll be running 26.2 miles in less than 48 hours. Whether I like it or not, though, this thing is happening, and it’s probably time that I put into writing the various Boston-related thoughts that have been circulating throughout this jumbled brain of mine all week.

This is probably sacrilegious for me to say, but Boston isn’t my favorite marathon. Far from it, actually. I can easily see why people hold it in such high regard, but I've personally found it somewhat difficult to get super excited about the race in the past. To me, marathoners are generally pretty type-A people, and Boston only amplifies this by plucking the type-A+ folks from the crowd and corralling them all into the same super-hyped event. I consider myself to be type-B+ on a good day, so my one and only Boston experience so far (2011) was pretty overwhelming. That year, my friends had arrived a day or two earlier than I did, so I went to the expo alone. While I had planned on nabbing all sorts of awesome Boston gear that morning, the crowds frightened me so much that I grabbed my bib and shirt and bolted like a bat out of hell. The race itself certainly had more crowd support than any race I’d ever run before, which was great to see, but other than that, my experience left me feeling a little bit ‘meh’. Maybe I had over-hyped the event in my own mind; maybe it was that I bonked after heartbreak hill and crawled to the finish line, but after the event was over, I didn’t exactly feel the need to return anytime soon.

But then last year happened. So much has already been said about the events of 4/15/13, so I won’t go into too much detail here. What I will say, though, is that even though I didn’t personally know anyone who ran the race last year, I still found myself deeply affected by what had occurred. I was glued to the news for days and couldn’t stop myself from looking at the gruesome images that popped up all over the internet. I was horrified, saddened, and in disbelief that a day typically associated with achievement, triumph, and joy could be marred by such senseless terror.

I think every entrant this year has his or her own personal reasons for running. For me, Monday’s race will represent the next step forward in bringing the Boston Marathon back to what it had always been before 4/15/13 – a day to celebrate all of its runners’ accomplishments, whether that be training diligently to qualify or raising thousands of dollars for noteworthy charities around the greater Boston area. It will be about making sure that runners’ biggest worries revert back to whether they remembered Body Glide or whether they timed their porta-potty visits properly. And it will be about encouraging all of those dedicated spectators to come out and show their support without fear.

So while the expo was equally as overwhelming this year, and while I still feel supremely inferior compared to all of the runners here who have competed in Boston year after year, I can honestly say I’m super excited to be part of this year’s race. I have no idea how I’ll perform, but it really isn’t about that anyway. I’m eager to toe the line with the marathon community and celebrate my favorite sport in the world.

Sweet Boston swag

Winning at high altitudes

Posted by Rachel

I visited Denver once a few summers ago for a wedding. I had intended to do a single, 7 mile run when I was there but recall almost keeling over from lack of oxygen at mile 2.8 and quitting immediately. Fast forward to this week, when I had to leave for a conference in Denver mid-day Tuesday. I packed three hard workouts (one in a each tri sport) into the span of 27 hours (Mon-Tue) precisely to avoid having to exercise at all in Denver. To summarize what I mean by "not exercising at all" in Denver, I did one stationary bike ride, one solid but easy run, and one miserable run (mimicking my past Denver experience). Now that I have done 4 workouts total in Denver and am clearly an expert, I will provide you with the keys to victory over your workout at high altitudes:

1.) Run when it's 40 degrees, not 75 degrees
2.) Run before you start drinking, not the morning after (true at all altitudes, but exaggerated at higher ones)
3.) Bike instead of run (especially in the gym, and especially if you can watch Full House and Fresh Prince while you're riding)

For those of you that have never visited Denver, it's not a bad place to run besides the lack of oxygen. Here is a picture of one section of their extensive trail system. It goes under all the city intersections so you never have to stop running (which could be either a curse or a blessing). You can even run to a Broncos game or a game of whatever sport team plays at the Pepsi Center, since both stadiums connect on this trail.

Denver running/biking trail 
When I wasn't exercising (which was most of the time), I was doing only one of two things- attending the conference or drinking (or both). Science conferences can actually be pretty fun. "Biomaterials Bash" may sound nerdy, but picture 3 hours of a full open bar and unlimited food with this view:

The "Grand Hyatt" was appropriately named. Note: mountains are actually larger than they appear in the background of this picture.

Not too bad. My only disappointment of the night was that I was being so social that I forgot to hit the dessert buffet. Can you imagine? (If you know me, you probably can't.) And since this is a training blog, I will also mention that I may have successfully convinced someone at this conference to do the Ironman with us (another win. Background- I already knew this person and even exercised with them in the past through a mutual friend. I did not start randomly harassing scientists to see which ones would do an IM). And to wrap up with my final win of the week, I was able to get this in the airport (disclaimer- this is only exciting for an East-coaster-turned-deprived-Californian):


Finally, BEST OF LUCK to the Boston Marathoners!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Taper Time!

Posted by Sandi

In a few days, I will be running my first Boston Marathon! I am excited, anxious and nervous about the upcoming race. I think the excitement part is easily understood, but the anxiety and nervousness may need a little embellishment. I have TERRIBLE pre-race anxiety, no matter the distance or importance of the event. Heck, I even get nervous before intense track workouts and time trials. My pre-race anxiety starts as butterflies in my stomach (accompanied by self-doubt), and generally evolves to frequent trips to the bathroom L.  Hopefully the BAA has planned for the extra 7,000 or so participants this year.
I attribute my nerves to my training choices leading up to the race. As my training buds know, I ran the Oakland Marathon (dubbed my nemesis) about four weeks ago. Fingers crossed, this is the third time I have run Oakland, but the FIRST that I finished without injury! I should probably thank Rachel for keeping us under control-Thanks Rach! After running Oakland in 2011 and 2012, I spent most of the spring and early summer months cross-training and rehabilitating from tibial stress reactions and hip flexor strain/pelvic misalignment, respectively. The injuries were more than likely due to overtraining…something Chen and I are notorious for.  So with my previous mistakes in mind, I was determined not to overdo it before Boston.

I have cut back on running the past three weeks, with weekly training mileages of 35.2, 34.7 and 33.2; and for this week so far, I am at 16.2 miles. While I am confortable in cutting back on my weekly mileage, I am nervous about how much I cut back on my weekend “long runs,” which peaked at 12.5 miles. Sure, I threw in some swimming, spin classes, and a long or hilly bike ride to compliment the running, but I can’t shake these nerves. Here is a breakdown of my training since our “Tour de Bagel” last Saturday.

·         Sunday:              12 miles at 8:28 pace (3 miles of climbing)

·         Monday:              8 miles (4 miles at goal pace of 7:47)
                                1 mile swim time trial (just under 40 minutes)

·         Tuesday:             45 minute spin class
                                5 miles (3 miles at goal pace)

·         Wednesday:        3 miles (2 miles at goal pace)

Today is a rest day! I am travelling to Boston and have no workouts planned. With a couple of shake out runs standing between me and race day, I hope my anxiety will begin to dissipate.  If not, then I will have to rely on my customary pre-race (the night before) margarita to do the trick!
Be sure to check in for a race report.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Race Report: Presidio 10 miler

Posted by Chen

Before I get to my race report, I just want to say that I was one of the "newbies" mentioned in Rachel's post yesterday (the only real newbie to cycling in the group), and I would hardly classify my performance as "great," though I appreciate the optimistic review. A few thoughts:
  1. I'll take biking uphill over downhill any day (Breathing hard with burning quads vs. death? Uh, breathing and quads, please).
  2. Evidently, turning/steering on a road bike (especially downhill) isn't quite as easy as it used to be on my Kmart Huffy mountain bike
  3. My bum isn't any more used to biking yet. I hear this will take quite a while.
  4. I really need to learn how to stop at stoplights / stop signs properly. Currently, I stop approximately 50 feet too early (for fear of biking into traffic) and still need to clip out of both sides for balance. Starting up again once the lights go green is equally as comical.
  5. While biking is overall still quite stressful for me, bagels make everything OK.
Onto my much preferred sport, I ran the Presidio 10 miler this morning for the second year in a row. Having run it before, I knew the course was going to be quite challenging, so my one and only goal was to NOT race it, as Boston is but a mere 8 days away (yikes). I can't find an accurate elevation profile to show you because the course takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge, which doesn't register on most apps/websites, so they all assume that you plunge thousands of feet into the ocean as you cross. But you can trust me when I say that the course isn't exactly designed for speed. The first few miles take you up into the Presidio (hence the race name), followed by an out-and-back over the Golden Gate Bridge, which is essentially one long hill. While the last 4 miles are actually flat, they run along a gravel path that more or less feels like sand when you're trying to run at a faster pace. I remember feeling completely dead by mile 8 last year, so my goal was to avoid such misery this time around.

Throughout the race, I tried to control my pace by making sure I wasn't breathing too heavily at any point. This worked until we came down from the bridge around mile 6 or 7 and unexpectedly merged with the 5K race. I say "unexpectedly" because I don't remember this happening last year, or if it did, we certainly weren't merging with walkers and strollers like we did this year. Things got real crowded real quick-like, and I found myself trying to stay on the tail of other 10-milers I recognized in an attempt to find a quick way through the pack. In doing so, I picked up my pace quite a bit and ended up running the last 4 miles at tempo pace (sorry, Rachel). Splits:

1: 8:53
2: 8:26
3: 7:50
4: 8:15
5: 8:28
6: 8:07
7: 7:25
8: 7:34
9: 7:38
10: 7:24
10.1 (guess my Garmin isn't measuring everything short just yet): 6:52
Overall time: 1:20:42 (~7:59 Garmin pace, ~8:04 official pace)

While my average pace was a bit faster than planned, I was happy that I at least felt controlled throughout the entire race. I ran 3 easy miles to cool down and then headed to a delicious brunch with the race crew (dungeness crab benedict and an ice cold beer for the win).

Going into this last week before Boston, I certainly have my doubts that I'll be able to run a sub-3:30 or even PR, but I've had a decent training cycle and figure I may as well try. I'm hoping to post again before the marathon to share my thoughts on the event. Beyond my own race plan, this year's Boston clearly has more meaning and significance than any marathon I've ever run before, and I'm sure I'll have lots of random musings to ramble about.

Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

East Bay Tour de Bagel

Posted by Rachel

This morning, 6 of us completed a very important workout- a bagel challenge, dubbed "Tour de Bagel" by Brandon, one of the supposed authors of this blog who has actually not written a single word in it. (YET).

It began with a bike ride into the hills. Many of us in the group have done this ride before, so we pretty much knew what to expect. It's basically a good bit of climbing followed by a terrifying downhill, all of which we'll need to practice given the hilly IM we're considering.

I wonder if all this "we have to take a picture for the blog" is going to be disruptive to our actual training

The newbies did great, and that's all I really have to say about the bike ride because I'd much rather talk about bagels (obviously).

After descending from the hills, our first stop was Stag's Lunchette. This is an amazing place where every single thing I have ordered is awesome, and it changes every week. But as easy as it could've been to get distracted by their other offerings, today we were here with a dedicated purpose- a comparative bagel evaluation. (Which, for the record, the staff thought was a ridiculously cool idea.) My personal strategy was to order the same thing at each bagel place to have a benchmarked, controlled experiment. Not everyone took this approach, but you will see all of my pictures are the same so now you know why. And without further ado:

 The everything bagel + cream cheese at Stag's

Since I'm not a food critic I'm not going to try to articulate the taste and texture of this thing, but it was a bagel and it was delicious. Next we moved on to Authentic Bagel Co., which is only about a mile down the road.

The everything bagel + cream cheese at ABC

It's clear that this bagel is rocking the everythingness of the toppings, but what you can't see is the hint of salt that really puts it over the top. The texture and chewiness were ideal as well. I'll note here that I split my bagels at each stop so I only had 1.5 total throughout the tour, not 3 as it may appear (just in case you were secretly judging me as you read this). We completed the final leg of this journey with a stop at Beauty's.

The everything bagel + cream cheese at Beauty's

The line here was by far the longest, which was ok since we had already eaten an entire bagel before arriving. I'll mention that these are Montreal style bagels, although despite growing up near the Canadian border I don't have a clue what that means. The toppings look unimpressive in the picture but they were actually pretty good. This bagel did present the eater with subtle hint of caraway seed, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I have been to all of these places in the past but not on the same day. They are all really good bagels. Here is my personal summary:
Stag's- the bagel is great, but their other menu choices also really shine. Bagels are one of my favorite foods, yet if I get here slightly past noon when the bagels are unavailable (damn breakfast menu cutoffs) I'm not really that disappointed.
ABC- I think this is the best everything bagel + cream cheese I've found in the East Bay.
Beauty's- When I go here, I order their bagel with cream cheese and veggies on it. Their cucumbers are salted and make their veggie-topped bagel + cream cheese the best I've ever had.

Of course after all this work we needed some way to quantify the results, so each of the 6 of us had 10 points to allocate among the 3 bagel joints as we wished. Here is the result:
ABC- the winner with 23.5 points (3 people voted this as their favorite)
Beauty's and Stag's- holding their own with 18.5 and 18 points, respectively (1 person voted Beauty's as their favorite and 2 people voted Stag's as their favorite)

After all of this bagel tasting, we actually went new bike shopping. It was fun test riding some new types of bikes, and while I selected the one I probably want, I didn't make the purchase quite yet. I'll talk about this in a future post.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

First bike commute of the year

Posted by Rachel

I’ve been noticing that our blog lacks updating a bit during the weekdays, so I’ll make an entry here to spice things up. Monday I went for a “brick”- a swim directly followed by a spin class. Actually, here’s a side story about swimming. I grew up on the east coast, where we trained outside maybe three months out of the year. When I moved to California, it was the strangest thing to me that all pools are outside. Even though it does get cold(ish) in the “winter” months, the pools are heated and people still swim outside. In fact, one of the funny memories I have from the Boston Marathon is from right after we checked into our hotel, and on the way to our room Travers (my native- Californian husband) asked, completely dumbfounded, “They have an indoor pool?!” The reason this side story is relevant (sort of) is because Monday it was warm and sunny out and the pool was PACKED. The previous Monday it was raining and at the same time of day, Travers and I were the only two people to be seen anywhere near the pool. I really just cannot understand how a little rain deters people from a sport where you’re completely submerged in water, but I digress.

Moving on in the week, I had a fun track workout yesterday since there was a large group of us running it together. Then today Travers and I picked up an old habit that we started last summer. On Wednesdays, we bike home from work (about 29 miles, almost 2000 ft of climbing, almost always into the wind). It was our first full bike commute of the season and it went pretty well. Somehow, it was faster than all of my commutes last summer when I was in much better shape. I did try a new strategy of ducking to get “smaller” into the wind, and that seems to have gone well so maybe I’ll try that more. I guess I can see why people get those fancy triathlon bars for their bikes. I’ll leave you with a picture from our commute:

(It looks like a picture of a silver car, but I promise it’s the sunset over the San Francisco Bay)

I’d also include a picture of my dinner here, if I hadn’t scarfed it down (scarved? what is the past tense of food scarfing?) immediately after it hit my plate. Also, our next bike ride is the East Bay bagel challenge, so stay tuned for THAT (intrigued yet?).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Race Report: Napa Valley Silverado Half Marathon

Posted by Chen

Today I ran my 14th half at the Napa Valley Silverado Half Marathon.  Going into this race, I had no idea what my plan was. I had originally planned to practice marathon goal pace for Boston (optimistically, that would be ~7:50-7:55, ish), but then I decided to view the race results from last year a couple nights ago and saw that the winning time in my age group was right around my PR. So obviously I started to toy with the idea of trying to place in my age group because I've never been able to do so in a half and also because that's totally a logical decision to make when you're two weeks away from a marathon.

A few things made me skeptical that I could actually race well, though, one being that my shake-out 7 miler yesterday felt alarmingly sluggish, and two being that I knew the course and knew it wasn't nearly as "flat and fast" as the race directors were advertising. Three, in trying to do my shake-out run and also pack and also drive over to my friend's place in time to pick some people up for the ride up to wine country yesterday morning, I didn't end up eating breakfast or lunch, save for a couple oranges and some handfuls of high-fiber cereal (which is HIGHLY unusual for me. The not eating part. Not the high-fiber part. Fiber rocks my world.). Four, the highs were forecasted to reach into the 80s this weekend, and if there's anything that will bring me to my knees in a race, it's heat. And lastly, I spent most of yesterday lounging poolside with the other ladies who would be running with me, which left me mildly-to-moderately dehydrated by the end of the day. So really, all signs pointed to me bonking, quitting, hopping off the road, and hobbling into a winery instead. Still, I figured I would just start the race at race pace and wait to see what happened. Because logical decision-making!

I prefer my "flat and fast" routes to have at least 3 dozen fewer hills

Race morning was pretty uneventful, though I didn't have time to do the 3+ mile warm-up I had wanted to do to bring my long run total up to 16, which is the distance that I normally run 2 weeks out from a full 'thon.  I wasn't too concerned, though, and figured I could run it later if I really wanted to. One thing I found comical about the race site was the "Anticipated start time of 8:00am."  I prefer more commitment, please.  Otherwise, how am I supposed to properly time my rigorous porta-potty visits???  Luckily, the race only started 5 minutes late, and we were off.

I started out too fast (of course), but I also had in the back of my mind that this route was an out-and-back with a net downhill first half.  Negative splitting went out the window early on, and I figured I would just go out at tempo effort and then try to hang on once we turned around (rookie move). My legs have been feeling more tired than usual ever since we ran the Oakland marathon a couple weekends ago, and I could definitely feel some residual fatigue during the first few miles, which did not bode well for the uphill return.  I eventually settled into a more reasonable pace while still trying to take advantage of the relatively long downhill portions.

First half splits (caveat: my Garmin is getting old and has been falling behind lately, so it ended up measuring the course as being quite short today - 12.96 miles.  I get the feeling the course was actually short, but probably not by as much as my Garmin said):
1: 7:24 (dumb)
2: 7:28 (still dumb)
3: 7:46
4: 7:39
5: 7:38
6: 7:39

We hit the turnaround point, and, as expected, everything felt significantly harder on the way back. I was temporarily distracted as I ran by all of my friends who were running the race as well, but once that excitement died down (which also happened to be when it started to get hot out), I quickly realized that I had a lot of work ahead of me.  I think at some point I confirmed that a PR was well out of the question, so I let myself ease up a bit and settled into marathon goal pace, though that sadly still felt like a tempo effort given the terrain. It also didn't help that I had to go to the bathroom (in THAT way) for the last few miles - this has always been my nightmare, but luckily things stayed in place until after I finished. Have I mentioned that I talk about poop a lot? I'm happy that I didn't totally throw in the towel and only had 1 mile above 8:00 pace, but I was a little irked that I let myself go out too fast, resulting in a bit of a slogfest on the way back. The only nice part about the 2nd half was that either because of my old, dying Garmin or because the course was actually short, the finish line came out of nowhere and the pain was over sooner than expected. I crossed the finish line in 1:39:43 (just about a minute slower than my PR), relieved to be done.

2nd half splits:
7: 7:37
8: 7:43
9: 7:54
10: 7:51
11: 7:43
12: 8:03 (everything is terrible)
13: 7:38
13.1: N/A (my Garmin measured so short that this tenth didn't exist)

I joined my friends who were waiting at the finish and cheered the rest of our friends in, which is always a great time. I also learned while waiting that I had somehow placed first in my age group, with a bottle of wine being the prize (yay booze!). Last-minute-goal accomplished :). So, while I ran a pretty stupid race, I still had a great time overall and was very happy to have spent a beautiful weekend up in wine country.

My age group prize - Sharkfest Bloody Red. I've never heard of it, but I'm sure I will enjoy it thoroughly. In one sitting.

And as for that 3+ mile warm-up I didn't get to run, I managed to squeeze in an easy 4.5-miler once I got home from wine country 6 hours later, bringing my total up to 17.5 (ish) for the day. There's a strong chance I will regret adding that mileage as I'm running from Hopkinton to Boston in two weeks, but what you didn't know is that I also plan to replace running with competitive baguette eating during that time, so hopefully I will have recovered and replenished my glycogen stores by then. (Except for that 10 mile race I have next Sunday). (Yes, I am even dumber than you thought).

Quit on my run but not on my dinner

Posted by Rachel 

If any of you have read the “Meet the Team” page, you may have noticed that Chen mentions we’re all runners yet I claim to be a swimmer. Well, I swam competitively from age 9 until I quit in the middle of college. However, my love of food did not quit, and shortly after moving to California I realized I better take up another activity soon if I’m going to grad school on the beach. I was still a bit burnt out from over a decade of swimming, so that’s how I met running. The point of this story is to emphasize that I love food so much that I started running for it.

Skipping to today, I went out for a run with Sandi thinking “she’s doing 12, I’ll just do that with her”. At noon, with the sun beating on my already sunburnt face, arms, and legs, I realized quickly that this was a bit ambitious, especially since I’m not slated to race anything over 6.2 miles until October. When we passed my house at 8.5 it seemed good enough, I bailed and spent the rest of the day focusing on food (a good decision indeed).

Here’s the result:

Homemade pasta. To quote Travers, "You look like a little old Italian lady." I think what he meant to say is "thank you for this delicious dinner!". 
And the final product:

And that's all for today.

PS- Feel free to leave comments, people! One of these days, one of the eight of us will figure out how to display them at the bottom of the post without having to click.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fairytales on Wheels

Posted by Sandi

Today Rachel and I participated in a metric century ride known as the “Cinderella Classic.” We rode with our friend and speed work (for track workouts) mentor, Jeanine. Despite Rachel’s initial hesitation in taking on the mileage after a few 20+/- mile training rides (and our 38+ mile wine tasting tour), I think we both had a blast. The cool thing about the ride is that it is hosted by men for women riders.

After parking and prepping our bikes, we headed over to the check-in area. It was COLD! Fortunately, the check-in area was inside. We picked up our bike bibs and wrist bands, and then grabbed some pre-ride fuel. They provided quartered bagels with cream cheese, peanut butter or jam and coffee.  

It took us all a while to warm up once we got on the road. The route was pretty awesome with great views of gently rolling slopes and the vineyards of Livermore.  While the wineries and vineyards we passed were inviting, there was no wine tasting today during today’s ride.  There were some decent hill climbs in the route, which really highlighted our climbing skills. The unfortunate thing about the ride is that I realized how much we need to work on the flats and down hills; although we passed several riders on the uphill efforts, we got passed by the same riders on the down hills. 

We had to deal with a few repeat mechanical issues including flat tires and locking breaks, which did not help the passing issues.  In addition, there were several back to back traffic lights in the route that made using higher gears and momentum difficult.

While this may not have been the best training option in preparation for the Boston Marathon, I think (and hope) I will still benefit from the aerobic effort.  There was an option for to add mileage and elevation, but I thought that would be too much to take on today. I would definitely ride this route again during our official IM training.

I am pretty sure Katie is skiing up in Tahoe this weekend, and if so I am sure she is having a blast! Finally, best of luck to Chen in her half marathon tomorrow!!

Two mileage records in two days

Posted by Rachel 

Yesterday on the way home from work I reached a mileage milestone. One that requires no physical fitness whatsoever:
(Dont' worry, I was driving and Travers took the pic. No lives were risked to obtain this image). 

This is pretty exciting/scary, since I’m due for some serious recommended maintenance as well as replacement of two recalled parts (if you follow the news at all, here’s your dead giveaway that I drive a GM car). Hopefully the car lasts a lot longer, since I’ll be really sad if my next purchase is a car instead of an upgraded bike.

So onto training, which is what this blog is supposedly about. A few weeks ago, Sandi (the crazy one, see her bio) got this great idea that we should do an all-women’s metric century. Since I hadn’t exceeded 18 miles on the bike since the half IM 6+ months ago, I thought that maybe tripling that distance wouldn’t be such a brilliant idea (runners have a 10% guideline, not a 300% guideline). Not to mention that the longest ride I had EVER done, even in the throes of half IM training last summer, was 62 miles. But it’s not like I’ve been sitting on the couch watching TV lately, and there was that marathon two weeks ago which I assumed could provide some translational fitness. So I surveyed around and got some results, and since my mom and husband didn’t think the idea was THAT ridiculous I figured what the hell. Also, the ride is called “Cinderella” and all of our ride update emails were from Prince Charming, so how could I really refuse? So this morning when my alarm went off at 5:15 am, I got up and packed enough food to feed a small village. This is my strategy when I’m out of shape for running, as well- just pack a crapload of food and hope for the best. Overall, it was very educational doing my first organized ride.
Here’s what I liked:
1.) There were 3 rest stops along the way with food and beverages, and it turns out then when you fuel and rest a lot it’s much easier to survive the bike ride. (Food theory confirmed. I will continue to consider the design of an aerodynamic baguette carrier for my bike.)
2.) I learned that contrary to my previous belief, I am actually NOT the worst cyclist! That was pretty encouraging.
3.) SAG vehicles come rescue you when you’re in despair. Like after our riding buddy got three flats and could no longer ride her bike (although it turned out that we were literally, unknowingly 0.5 miles from the finish line. We could have walked there faster than it took the SAG guy to go up to the next light and turn around. If you couldn’t tell, we’re directionally challenged).
Here’s what I didn’t like:
1.) When it’s a ride and not a race the roads aren’t closed, so basically it’s a whole ton of people in a little tiny bike lane pissing off drivers for 64 miles of road.
2.) People for the most part lack etiquette as well as just straight up common sense.

Here's your proof that I actually finished the ride!

So to summarize this way too long blog post, it was great to complete my longest ride ever even though I wasn’t winning any awards for speed in the process. Afterwards we went to Will & Sandi’s, ate some deep dish pizza and drank wine (actually remained more sober than expected after a long workout), and now I’m writing this blog post in an effort to stay up until 10 pm. I will also point out that I looked at my phone at 9:30 and had an invitation from a friend to go out and get drinks. I assumed the invitation must have been from hours ago (after all, it was almost bed time) and I felt guilty that I missed it, only to realize that the message was only 19 minutes old. Such is the life of a triathlete in training :) 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ironman, Step 1: Taking my first bike ride in 13 years

Posted by Chen

Well hello, blogworld! I'm super excited for our new group training blog and intrigued to see if I can actually figure this "blogging" thing out. Despite my engineering background, I'm actually incredibly new-technology-averse. Case in point: I let my Garmin 405 sit idle for the first 9 months that I owned it because it just seemed so much more complicated to use than my easy-peasy Timex stopwatch. I also didn't get a smartphone until 2013, so there's that. All of that is to say that figuring out how to post here should be interesting. In spite of my technology aversion, I've actually wanted to start a running blog ever since I discovered them back in 2008 while training for my first full marathon, but I never thought I would have enough interesting content to post. Which, let's face it, probably would have been true.

I hear people like blogs better when there are pictures, so I'm posting this gratuitous picture of a burger and fries and whole pickle.  Incidentally, this is what we ate after a group of us ran the Oakland marathon & half a couple weekends ago.  It was delicious and made all of the hill climbing worth it.

BUT, now that we have at least eight of us toying with the idea of a 2015 Ironman, I should have plenty of crazy stories to tell. Why? Well, I'd say of the group, I'm probably the least prepared for the triathlon world, given that I only have in-depth experience with 33% of the sports involved. While the rest of this crew has been swimming and/or cycling for years, the last time I swam consistently was between the ages of approximately 5-10 when I took swimming lessons at my local Y back in PA. And that only happened because my parents forced me to slash bribed me with the promise of a hot dog topped with ketchup and relish at the end of each class. And biking? Before this past weekend, the last bike ride I took was from my dorm to my 9am math class during my freshman year of college. I somehow managed to eat asphalt during that ride (despite my journey totaling all of 1.25 miles), and from that moment on, I swore off biking forever.

'Forever' lasted until this past Sunday. The day before, Brandon (a fellow author of this blog who has yet to post but will soon, I'm sure!) and I had gone into a bike store to purchase an extra water bottle for him, and I somehow came out of the store with a brand new Bianchi. Oh, and some clips, shoes, a helmet (safety first!), gloves, a seat bag, an extra water bottle, an extra water bottle holder, tubes, and probably some other pieces of miscellaneous gear that I'm already forgetting. I think my credit card shed actual tears. While it probably wasn't the most financially sound purchase I've ever made, it was certainly timely, as I was scheduled to go on my first real ride with the group the next day.

Meet my Bianchi.  His name is Bert.

Long story short: I survived 38.2 miles (broken up by wine tasting and lunch at the turnaround point, mind you), only fell twice, and ended up with only one somewhat nasty bruise on my shin. Learning to clip in was awkward at best, but it actually wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting, thanks to tutelage from the crew. The ride itself was beautiful (at least it was during the rare moments when I looked up from staring intensely at the ground in an effort to avoid debris) and (dare I say) enjoyable, though it helped that everyone was keeping the pace easy for newbie me. Aside from falling, the most pain I ever felt was towards the end of the ride when my bum and my hands couldn't take it anymore - that will take some getting used to. From a cardiovascular and muscular standpoint, though, I felt pretty good, which was a pleasant surprise.

I even followed the ride up later with a hilly 12.75 mile run at a surprisingly decent pace (~8:03, for those who like numbers and data as much as I do). I'm not sure where that came from, but methinks my legs were just happy to be performing a familiar motion again. While a fake brick workout wasn't exactly in my original plans that weekend, I had skipped my 20 miler the day before (too busy bike shopping, obvi!) and felt the need to run at least a medium distance run to keep up with my Boston 'thon training, which is still my primary focus at the moment. Full triathlon training will have to hold its horses and wait a few weeks.

All in all, I had a great first ride experience, and while I'm pretty sure running marathons will always be my main jam, I'm excited to see what these other sports have to offer.

Next up: Learn to swim without drowning. Coach Rachel - I will be scheduling an appointment within the next 4-6 weeks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Goal pace running on a treadmill

Posted by Sandi

Let me share a little more background information about the group. As previously mentioned, we get to train in an amazing region with an ideal climate. However, the majority of us grew up on the east coast, so theoretically we should be accustomed to training in all types of weather. This is not the case!

I had planned on a track workout this evening, but the today's forecast was meek with a 100 percent chance of rain and a high of 51 degrees. I realize I shouldn't complain as the east coast has been hammered with a nasty winter this year, and the northern midwestern states are still covered in snow. But, sadly, California has made me soft. In addition, I have been pretty exhausted from our group training ride this weekend. I spent most of the day dreading the workout and ultimately opted for a goal pace training run inside. While I am not a huge fan of treadmill running, sometimes it's necessary.

I went straight to the gym after work with the goal of running 8 miles total; 1 warm up, 6 at goal pace, and 1 cool down. Thankfully, there was an open treadmill in my favorite area of the gym where there is a single row of treadmills with good air flow. The workout started great! It had been two days since I last ran and I could tell that I had benefited from the rest. I was nearly half way through the workout when things took a turn for the worse. Although there were at least half a dozen empty treadmills in the row, a heavyset man decided to run on the treadmill right next to me! I grew more anxious and uncomfortable as time went on. As he stomped his way through his workout I felt more and more claustrophobic. I couldn't tell how fast he was going but he seemed to be matching my cadence.  I struggled to clear my mind, determined to finish the workout. Somehow, I was able to divert my focus and successfully finish the 8 miles.

Tomorrow is a swim day!