Saturday, February 28, 2009

4th time is Not the charm

I don't know why some days are easier than others, why some rides feel effortless and others just plain slow. Slow is kind. Stupid slow, is better. If I had the answer, I would probably be wealthy beyond my means. But I don't, so I'm not.

And it occurred to me after my ride - while staring at my favorite painting and calculating the hill gradient for the road that slopes up to the monastery at the top- that I've got hills on the brain. Specifically bike hills.

Call me crazy, if you want.

But when you spend the morning climbing Mount Palomar after riding there and then riding back, it's not all that far off.

Today's ride included, I've climbed Palomar a grand total of four times. And though I claimed last time was the hardest - I lied. This time - today in fact - won that distinct honor. And unlike beauty pageants, this was not pretty.

The ride to the base was blissfully uneventful. I met up with a gang of four other riders in San Marcos and we headed out early - just after 7:00 am. The 90 minute ride to the base of Palomar was beautiful - flat at first, then up Lake Wohlford Road (part of the Tour of California as well) before hitting Lake Wohlford, and then through Valley View and Rincon Valley past Harrah's casino.

Thanks to a love of gambling, there were no shortage of cars on the road. It was even better on the return trip. It's the economy stupid!

Oops - wrong blog for that. Sorry!

I knew it would be windy during the descent into Rincon Valley. The 2 mile downhill stretch (let me tell you - that felt super going UP after Palomar!) had me squeezing the brakes and still reaching speeds of over 40 mph. Then the gusts started affecting me, and I slowed down. After all, I haven't got the greatest track record for bike descents.


But with the wind, there was one point I was looking at the valley floor from over a thousand feet up and hoping - nay praying - that I wouldn't hit the guardrail, flip, and sail over the edge. The gusts made me slow down and they only increased in ferocity and we neared the bottom. At one point - going down a steep hill - our little group was barely holding more than 18 mph. While pedaling.

Yeah, good stuff.

It was only a sign of what lay ahead.

Looking back - I realize that all the signs were pointing towards NOT climbing Palomar. Like in the horror movie where the blond chick with big boobs is walking down the creepy dark hallway and all you're doing is yelling at the screen saying 'don't go THERE' but she does anyway because its a movie and gory stuff is oddly popular...

Sure, I was looking forward to the challenge, but I just wasn't feeling it. It was windy, too hot, too cold, my bottles were heavy, a less than stellar comment about my 4:bloody:34 am breakfast being wrought upon me by myself because I was the one who signed up for Ironman (that one hurt - mostly because I was already feeling crummy), I didn't get enough sleep because of nerves, the cat was in heat - you name it. I was looking for excuses.

And it was incessant. (Nathaniel can attest to the above statement: the poor guy had to put up with me before I left. If something could have been wrong, it was. He is so brave.)

But I refused to let that bother me: I was here to climb a really big hill. What was I supposed to do - just turn around and go back? Had I actually known the way back, perhaps. But I didn't. And besides - the guys that I was riding with are all incredibly awesome and supportive. I knew that they wouldn't have stood for it.

After stopping at Jilberto's Taco Shop to use the restroom (better than squatting at the side of the road like I did with Kim last time - luckily no one recognized me as "that girl"), we were on our way.

Within five minutes, I was off the back. And I wondered - as I watched the Mikes (there were two), Allan, and Rod pedal away - why wasn't I doing my best to stay on there wheel? Why wasn't I fighting for it? Why was I just settling??

For some reason, I had no response - and I just watched as they slowly pulled away. It almost would have been easier had they been faster (impossible since they were all going hard - okay, easier if I had been going slower, which seemed impossible given how slowly I was going). My cadence felt high, I just couldn't (or wouldn't) push the big gears. I was geared out right away in my 27. And that was just so sad.

For Mom and Dad: a 27 means that I was in my rear casset gear with the most teeth (rings) on it. So I was encountering the least amount of resistance possible. Had I wanted to go faster by working harder or encounter more resistance, I could have downshifted and put my chain in the 24 or 21 ring. It would have taken more effort to turn the crank and pedal, but the result would have been a faster speed. Most of the time when I climb this, I'm pretty comfortable in the 21 and 24 ring (in the beginning and even on the upper slopes unless its really steep). But for some reason, today I was all about the 27. Hope this helps...

I just wasn't feeling it - didn't have that fighting spirit. I was so frustrated that I wanted to cry. At one point I even took out my phone (while riding - very impressive for me - then again, I was going a mere 5 mph) and contemplated calling Nathaniel and telling him to pick me up at Jilbertos. I would have even gotten him nachos. But the lack of phone reception put a damper on my plans, so I reluctantly put it back in my bike jersey pocket.

Besides, my guys ahead would be really worried. So for better or worse - I pressed on.

But through the suffering, through the mental anguish of riding up up up, I realized that if I wanted any chance of completing the climb - I would have to turn off my brain. Ignore the powermeter, disregard the heart rate (blissfully low given my exertion level), stop thinking about my time from bottom to top - and just ride.

Just ride.

So simple.

But it took me 45 minutes to figure it out, and I was already well onto South Grade Road at that point (the steepest part of the climb).

So I put my head down, quieted my mind, ignored the scenery, and stared at the white line of the road. Once I allowed myself to ride, to go without thinking, it became much easier. I was no longer fighting myself, fighting my doubts, and instead, just performing a basic task of turning one pedal stroke over another.

Additionally, I realized that quitting was not an option. And not only because it would haunt me on any and every race day from here on out (Q-U-I-T-T-E-R is not what I want to think about when facing the wall at mile 100 of IM CDA bike course. Instead I want to remember how I pushed through those hard times. Within reason, of course!) Just because I wasn't having the ride of my life, didn't mean that I wouldn't learn from the experience or take anything away from the workout. Far from the truth. I've always said that the races where I learn the most are the ones where I've struggled.

So this would simply be one of those days.

I don't really remember much after that - because I tuned everything out. There were gnats, annoying little buggers that were attracted to my sweat or their own reflection in my glasses (or both). Also, lots and lots of motorcylcles - the guys on crotch rockets with leather suits and metal plates on their legs so they can race up and down the mountain roads. For the record, their bikes sounded like an approaching swarm of hornets, and the exhaust was enough to make one high. Additionally, I remember looking at the mile markers - located ever .2 miles on South Grade Road.

For some reason, I refused to acknowledge anything below mile 45. Like it wasn't there or something. Actually, I figured that because South Grade Road ended at 47.8 or something, when I finally started counting the mile markers I would only have 2.8 miles to count down. A lot less daunting than 11.7 or whatever the climb total was.

Seeing the 3000 feet elevation sign was wonderful. The 4000 feet sign (after the sign that reads: It is unlawful to throw snowballs at moving vehicles) was even better. And, in my delirium, I though that I read the 5000 feet elevation sign at mile 46.8, but I was wrong. Or just hallucinating. Because I saw it again at mile 47.0

It was the fumes.

The ups were constant and never-ending. But my sense of time was warped, as I refused to look at my watch or anything else that would have clued me in. Ignorance is bliss, it turns out (until I saw my time at the top, 8 minutes slower than last time). And instead I rode with guts, giving what I could to simply get by.

Today I realized that I won't be able to set a personal best every time I tackle a challenge. Conditions, wind, the ride there - hell all three could have affected my performance.

On the other hand, I'm not looking for excuses, nor am I willing to make them. I just didn't have that little extra bit that I've had before. That spark, that fire - was not burning in my belly. But I learned that I can still prevail, still push through and finish. As long as I let myself go - and then in the long run be okay with that.

So I am.

During the descent I thought a lot about my climb, and how I wanted the rest of the ride to be.

I wasn't satisfied and I refused to let a sub-par climb on Palomar dictate the rest of my workout. So I worked the hills (and there were plenty!), pushed as hard as I could, and managed to stay with the top two guys until the ride was finished. I grew stronger as the ride progressed, happier as the miles ticked off, and exuberant at every opportunity to get down in my aero bars and pedal through rural San Diego county.

Life wasn't so bad after all. Besides, if climbing Palomar is the toughest thing on my plate for the day, then I've got it easy - relatively speaking.

I guess I did have it in me: it only took three hours to figure it out. And one hell of a climb.

Better late than never, I suppose.

And now, I'm still contemplative. Days like these will do that to you. I've pretty much determined the gradient in the painting, and am moving on to other things. Like thinking about my date night with Nathaniel.

Yeah - that's more like it. We're having Thai-Japanese food, trying a new restaurant up in Oceanside for dinner. As long as the discussion doesn't veer toward biking or epic climbs, then I'm fine.

With 7,500+ feet of elevation gain, I've had enough for one day, thank-you-very-much.

In the long run, my body, my legs, and my mind will be better for this day, better for this workout.

And tomorrow, I'll think about it more objectively. But for now, the memory is still too fresh.

Next up: date with Nathaniel. And perhaps a movie...Lord of the Rings 1 was on TV last night, and my favorite happens to be the second...we'll see if I can stay awake that long. At this point, who knows!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lost: Arms.

I knew that I was in trouble when I went to lift the 11 pound box of laundry detergent and my arms failed me. I blame it on the Masters swim coach. Who the heck (aside from Jen Harrison) ends a workout with 2 X {6 X 75 MAX EFFORT SPRINT + 100 easy between sets}?

As thought the 100 easy could really 'make up' for the 12 75s.

Yeah, sure. Okay!

I was this close to pushing our coach in the pool but refrained because 1) I like her 2) Pushing her in the pool would require getting OUT of said pool, which was impossible given how trashed my arms felt and 3) I don't want to face a lifetime ban from Carlsbad Masters swimming.

So I kept my mouth shut, the comments to myself, and swam the entire last set.

And it really was ugly.

Somehow I can ride my bike for 4 hours without a problem, run for hours on end to no avail. But when instructed to SPRINT 75 meters - less than 60 seconds in my world - I can feel a whine forming in my mind. Give me Palomar, give me a 2:00 hour trail run, give me anything but sprinting in the pool. I just don't work that way.

Which is exactly why workouts like this are good for me.

They mix things up, they challenge me, they push me in ways that I wouldn't normally be pushed. They add variety: that spice of life that we all need from time to time. Plus (and its not like I need a lot of this one at this point), but they serve to toughen me up. It's one thing to swim 2 X 75 max, or even 4 X 75 at the end of a long workout (at the end of a long week). But to hang in there are complete all 12 - well, it was tough.

In the long run, its doing the things that we don't necessarily want to do (but should do) that help to make us better, more versatile.

And though I looked as though I needed assistance while getting out of the pool (It took no less than 3 tries to hoist myself up and out of the water), in the end I made it. I think the guard was worried, though.

Just don't ask me to lift any laundry detergent anytime soon. Or use my arms. They're overrated anyway.

Thanks to Charisa and Peter for making this a tough - but GREAT swim.

My reward? A bowl of Thai Curry Soup from Noodles & Company. Yum! (Can you tell I've been there before??? Silly question!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Back at it!

The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. My lats are sore, my shoulders ache, and there's a peculiar feeling in my core when I laugh or sneeze. And because I'm not an especially serious person who loves to laugh, and sneezing is something that you just shouldn't hold back - this morning I found myself in a bit of discomfort.

And really, I couldn't be happier.

It's because yesterday, I jumped in the pool for the first time since being sick. Cue the applause, the orchestra swelling, the birds singing, rainbows and butterflies everywhere... and all that good stuff.

It did feel a bit of a miracle that I made it all the way through my Master's workout. There's something just so wrong about swimming 4100 meters on your first go - but I was too happy to complain. Instead, I jumped to the back of Lane 3, ignored the usual swim-as-fast-as-you-can-for-the-pull-set-antics, and did the entire workout. Even when those guilty of swimming-as-fast-as-they-could-for-the-entire-pull-set had to "rest" on the wall or get out early because of "work".

Yeah sure.

Just goes to show that (sometimes) slow and steady is the way to be.

Although my swimming (I'm sure) looked pretty ugly at the end. The fast 200s were pretty painful, especially as the lane leaders didn't get the memo about taking it easy on the 100s. But, since I was drafting off the back and therefore not being responsible by leading, I kept my trap shut.

But the 200s were still painful. All bloody 4 of them. At one point, I though my lungs would explode and I wondered what that image would look like in the middle of my 3rd 50 on an especially grueling 200. A pair of overworked lungs sinking to the bottom gasping for air that isn't there while Marit looks on in disbelief...and the coach on the deck shouts to keep going with the set...and the people who swam too fast for the pull set taking it easy on the wall exclaim 'that's why we only swim hard early...'

Yeah, not so much about the fantasy-situations mid-swim. It only made me giggle, which was pretty hard to do while going all-out. I don't suggest that you try it.

Somehow I survived and was no worse for the wear. I knew that the lack of sensation in the triceps and lats would only be temporary. The real pain would be felt the next morning - like right now.

Ow ow ow ow ow.

But I'll take it - at least its better than constantly blowing my nose or dealing with sinus pressure. Thankfully, both - the sinus pressure and snot build up - seem to be gone (knock on wood! I'm superstitious, so I just knocked on a wooden end table - you would be wise to do the same. Why? I don't really know. It's just something I do...I breathing.), and I'm really feeling better.

So much, so that I volunteered to climb Palomar this week. I think my coach dropped her M&Ms or something in excitement, because the next thing I knew, it was on my Saturday workout - along with a lot of other stuff this week.

So I guess, the pain in my lats and core is just the tip of the ice berg. But I'm not complaining. I'll do what I did yesterday during my swim: shut up and push through. Because in the end, that's what I'll need to do if I want to accomplish my season goals. Tough times ahead, yes - but well worth it in the end.

Funny thing? Yesterday was my 'easy' day. But I'm not laughing. It's too painful. This week should be interesting...stay tuned!

Hurrah for training and being healthy! Three cheers!!! Sorry I can't throw my arms up in the air - it hurts! But the excitement and enthusiasm is there...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tour of California!

You know that you've arrived at a major bike race when you see things like this:

And especially that!
Yes, my friends, the above bike is indeed the very same one that some guy named Lance rode during the prologue, that was stolen, was (miraculously) recovered, and then ridden again during the Solvang Time Trail. At least that's what the guys at the Treck booth claimed.

Regardless, it looked awesome. And I couldn't resist a picture. But I didn't go so far as to touch the thing. I wasn't sure if any alarm bells or whistles would go off, like they do in Art Museums. The thing had already been stolen once, and I was sure security was pretty tight.

If you haven't already guessed, Nathaniel and I headed out to lovely Escondido for the final day of the Amgen Tour of California. Initially I had mixed feelings about spectating the finish...after all, unless we got really really close by pushing and shoving our way in to the finish area, we weren't going to see anything spectacular.

And I had squashed the idea of heading out to Palomar, as I knew crowds would be fierce, traffic would be horrible, and Nathaniel doesn't own a bike.

Wow - that sounded really negative.

But in reality, we thought that walking around the expo, watching the finish sprint, and catching the awards would be a neat thing to do. It was a new experience for the both of us, seeing The Grand Pelaton.
Looking up the road towards the finish. And massive crowds of people!

Actually, it was reported that in excess of 2 million people spectated today's race. Wow!

Eventually we settled a few hundred meters away from the final kilometer banner, along with thousands of other people. It was much much much worse closer to the finish line. Trust me. We schlepped through the crowds before arriving at our final point, a nice spot on the top of a small rise in the road. Great for viewing the approaching riders. You can just barely see the black 1 Km finishing banner down the road.

Before the riders came through, Nathaniel and I managed a picture in the middle of the road.

Then the cops, volunteers, race officials, and more cops came through and cleared the road. There were no exceptions!Actually the above picture doesn't do justice. There were tons of motorcycle cops and police cars racing down the course. Our camera just wasn't fast enough to catch every one of them. This proved problematic later on after the race when this guy went by.

I knew someone important was approaching, because the crowd suddenly swelled and no less than 20 cops came by either running (fast) or biking. Then I saw Lance. Lance! Holy Cow! I grabbed the camera, took aim and...

Waited for the flash.

Stupid flash!

Stupid camera!

But luckily I got a great picuture of Lance Armstrong's rear end.

It seems he prefers the baggy shorts, skater shoes, and no-helmet approach post-ride.

Through some miracle of maricles we managed to avoid getting trampled by the throngs of people swarming by us in effort to catch Lance. Newsflash: the guy is on a bike. And he's fast. You have no hope! But I kept my thoughts to myself, as the idea of chasing after him crossed through my mind as well.

Instead, Nathaniel and I walked around the expo area, enjoying the sights and sounds.
(One of the many large screens around the expo and race area).
(The Leaderboard)

On the way back to the car, Nathaniel and I came across this bike, the coolest bike ever! If I was in the market for a fixed gear, this would be my pick:

Overall, it was a great day, with lots of new experiences. Unfortunately, I don't know who won the race or even how the climb up Palomar went. So now, I'll do as any good cycling fan would: watch the Versus recap of today's race. Don't worry about any spoiler! alerts here, my friends. I don't even know the outcome or how many people finished today's stage. But not to worry - within the hour I'll find out.

The one downside of today was realizing how much our camera sucks. The flash was impossible to turn off, so Nathaniel took video footage as the pelaton and various riders went by. Unfortunately, I'm having a difficult time uploading the video to blogger - my apologies! But rest assured, it looked really cool! to see the riders zip by. Perhaps in addition to a new bed, a new camera is in our future.

I hope so!

Oh - this is one FINAL note. :) We did get one picture of a Rabobank rider coming through by himself, between the first group of riders and the second. It turns out that he got a flat tire with about 7K left to go. Poor guy! But at least we got his picture!

And on one MORE final note - I did find this buried in the realms of our camera. Not really sure which group this was, but proof that we did see them ride by.

Next stop: new camera!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sushi anyone?

You would think that by now, I would know better.

Never go food shopping on an empty stomach. Especially - and here's the kicker - less than two hours after a four hour bike ride when all that I've consumed since getting off said bike was chocolate milk and a recovery bar.


I swear that my eyes were as big as saucers upon entering Ralph's.

Like a kid in a candy shop? You have no idea.

But in my defense, I walked into the store with one purpose, and one purpose only: sushi.

Sure, I could have gone to a sushi bar restaurant - but that would have required dressing up (from my cargo pants and flip flops), sitting down, reading long-winded descriptions, ordering, waiting, waiting, and more waiting, and then finally getting my meal.

And at that point, I just wasn't interested.

No - instead I wanted to curl up with lots of sushi, in our new bed (so comfortable), watching the Tour of California and reading my latest book (second time going through World Without End by Ken Follett - fantastic!). Toss in a diet coke and a random Mini or House Monster, and I'm yours forever.

I entered the store, and was immediately distracted by flowers. Flowers you say? Yes, flowers. Most notably, the wonderful selection of freshly-cut Tulips. I'm a sucker for beautiful plants and flowery things, although I don't have the greatest track record with them. The nice way of saying that I'm a plant killer.

Clearly, the lack of sustenance was distracting. I couldn't eat the flowers, and although they were beautiful, I had other, more important things to do. Before I added a colorful bouquet to my basket, I turned on my heel, er flip-flops, and made my way to the sushi bar.

Behold! There it was, in all its glory! And so many selections too!

I stared for no less than 8 minutes at the vast array of sushi available. Not really - it was probably around 5 minutes. I may have drooled a little, but no one else was there to witness my antics.

What to choose? What to choose?

I knew that Nathaniel wanted something spicy with shrimp and rice. I made a bee-line for the Inari Rolls - one of his favorites, which coincidentally are named after the Japanese God Inari, who was believed to have a fondness for fried tofu. Little does he know that his favorite sushi treat are no more than the dreaded tofu which he claims is flavorless. If he only knew...

And then it was my turn. What to choose?

There were so many distractions, and they all looked good. I quickly crossed out any rolls. No eel, exnay on the California, and definitely not anything spicy. Instead, I went for the nigiri and then box tuna.

Then it hit me: would this be enough? A quick scan revealed no shrimp lettuce rolls, and I already had plenty of nigiri. What about the rainbow roll? True, the innards contained California roll, but the outside was covered in sliced tuna, salmon, and avocado.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

I quickly left the counter before I changed my mind. Salmon box tuna looked awfully good...

I should have gone directly to the counter and paid for my purchase. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go directly to jail! Oops - wrong game. But in principle it's correct.

Instead, I made a grand tour of the store. Swedish fish? Yum! Ben & Jerry's? Even better? Tomato Basil Wheat Thins? Right on!

But in spite of how much I wanted the treats, I knew that I had yummy stuff in my basket, and even better things waiting for me at home. Sure, I had bike for a long time today and even though Swedish Fish were seemingly calling my name, I had plenty with my sushi.

Besides, I knew there was a ritter sport somewhere in the house. All bets were off if Nathaniel decided to eat the entire thing himself. I've been known to tackle him for lesser things. Chocolate and buttery wafer sounded really good. Yeah. And a tackle would be justified.

Plus, the clock was ticking, and I didn't want to miss my favorite Versus commentators (Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen, for all those curious) do what they do best.

So I avoided all sweet temptation, and checked out.

But it was a challenge.

Especially when faced with the wall of candy in the check out lane. Yeah, I know that stores put it there specifically to target little kids (at least that's what I tell myself when I pass it by...will I reduce myself to acting like a 5-year-old and cave by purchasing an overpriced bag of peanut M&Ms? Or will I be strong resisting all temptation? It's always a bit of a gamble. Especially when I don't have something like sheet cake or treats in my cart).

Luckily, the old man directly ahead of me distracted me by asking lots of questions about my sushi selection. I think he was more surprised at the price than the fact I was eating raw fish.

"You pay that much and they don't even cook it for you?"

He sounded really surprised.

Then again, he managed to get all his seven items for under $10. My dragon roll was $9.99. Nice.

Suddenly the extra PB Cup seemed like too much of a guilty pleasure. I was already having my fill with sushi.

Next trip, perhaps.

Then again, next time I'll probably be better prepared and shop on a full stomach. I think I'll be able to cut back from 4 sushi trays to 2, at least. And in that case, I'll have plenty of room for desert.

Swedish Fish anyone?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Great Coffee Debacle

Ironically, it began a few weeks ago on Facebook. I responded to a seemingly innocent thread of "The 25 Random Things Game", and suddenly there was a problem in our house.

A big problem.


Number 15.

It was my own damned fault. After all, it was my choice to write down what I did. I just didn't realize Nathaniel would be so offended. In a funny sort of way, though.

Curious about what's causing all the fuss?

Good. Because here's what I wrote:
Even though he got me hooked on coffee, I think I make better coffee than my husband.

Laugh all you want: he didn't crack a smile.

In his defense, I never really told him that anything was wrong with his coffee, per se. It just tasted weaker than the pots that I made. Then again, I'm a hair-on-your-chest-give-it-to-me-strong-and-dark-and-then-I'll-add-my-creamer-kind of gal.

I used to hate coffee. I though it tasted awful, and as a little kid, I swore I would never drink it. It smelled interesting though... But so did vanilla. And that tasted like crap. Then in college, I bought Nathaniel a french press and it began from there. He would make me coffee, and I - being the grown-up-college-gal-that-I-naturally-was - drank it down. Eventually I developed a taste for it.

Writing a senior thesis and spending late late night and early early mornings pouring over Czech students and The Prague Spring will do that to you. (My awesome topic of choice. I really did enjoy it. There, you learned something new about me. Aside from the coffee thing).

I could tell immediately when Nathaniel read number 15.

"You don't like my coffee?" he asked, sounding hurt.

"It's not that I don't like it. I just like mine more." I replied. It's not you, it's me flashed through my mind, but I held my tongue.

Eventually we figured out that I add about an extra 50-60% Starbucks dark French Roast beans to the grinder than he does.

You can close your mouth now. I freely admit that I make strong coffee.

And its not that Nathaniel makes weak coffee. Au contraire, mon frere (I took French as well. There's another gem!). His coffee is actually really strong compared to most people's. It's just that I like mine stronger. Hence the strong coffee.

There was only one way this issue could be solved. And it did not involve wrestling, third parties, or fights to make the morning pot.

Blind tasting.

For several days after the Big Reveal, Nathaniel made morning coffee. On some days he would add extra beans to the grinder, and on others he would make it the way he traditionally had. I could tell a difference each time.

Nothing was fooling this gal.

And now in our household, we make extra strong coffee. And it has to be with Starbucks French Roast. We tried another brand, but in spite of over stuffing our grinder with beans, the coffee tasted awful. Weak, brown in color, and there were no delicious oils sticking to the side of the mug after our first sip. For Pete's sake, it looked like tea while we poured it. And tasted awful.

Trust me.

And yes, we're coffee nerds. But hey - something like coffee is worth getting right, correct?

No - I'll keep it very dark, full of flavor, and strong enough to keep me going all day. And then I'll destroy any semblance of black coffee by adding my creamer to it. Oh well - it's what I do.

And now we BOTH do it well. Minus the creamer for him, though.

So if you ever come to visit, be prepared for strong coffee. I can't guarantee that you won't be attacked by the House Monster, or that the Mini Monster won't run away. But the coffee will be strong. And it will flow freely!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Mud Ride

It began innocently enough: Ride easy for two hours, keeping the heart rate and watt output low. No problem-o Coach! Things changed, though, as soon as I left Camp Pendleton riding north towards San Clemente State Park.

I figured, what could go wrong if I added a few minutes here or there? What’s an additional 20 or 30 minutes between friends? Right? In my defense, I’ve been cooped up inside, sick, bored, and ready to go. And today was beautiful. Cloudless blue skies, brisk wind from the North, temperatures in the low 60s and, and…

I’ll stop there before my snow-bound counterparts throw up.

Or toss aside their computers in disgust.

Several minutes past the back gate of Pendleton (about an hour into my ride), I came across a tank trail. Yes, they (tanks and trails) exist. But as a Marine Corps wife, I’m fully aware that Marine Corps tanks train quite often. And the trails were fresh, meaning the big metal thingies had recently been there. Luckily, the ground wasn’t shaking and I never found myself staring down the front of an M1A2 Abrams Tank. But, the proof that they had been there recently was all around.

There was mud, everywhere. (And not just on the shoes. And yes, those are ski poles just north of my mud-encased bike shoes. I use them for my rollerskiis...)

And not just mud, but muddy water, pools of muck, and wet, moist mud all around. Inches of it, thanks to the three-days’ worth of rain that we received over the weekend. With tank trail divots everywhere, just for proof that they – scary big tanks - had been there. Super for biking with a stealthy time trial bike! Actually, it was the second or third time I had ever hoped for a mountain or cross bike. Suddenly my little tires looked way too flimsy to handle Mother Nature mixed with a little Marine Corps Tanks.

But I swallowed my fear, calmly reminding myself that pro tour cyclists ride through conditions that are much worse. Though, while slowly making my way through the tunnel under the 5, I did worry about coming face-to-face with a tank. Somehow I convinced myself that the Marine Corps would put up cones or some sort of warning system if the trail was live with tanks. At the very least they would send some little Lance Corporal to warn cyclists and others using the trail of the massive tanks waiting to cross. Yes?


Somehow I managed to not slip on the sludge and was no worse for the wear. Except for my legs, bike shoes, and bike. Covered in mud doesn’t begin to describe the sight that beheld my disbelieving eyes. Even my gears were protesting, making an unruly grinding noise with each turn of the crank.

The post ride clean would be so fun!

I used as much water as I could afford to spare to hose my bike down, and figured I would refill the bottle somewhere in the state park.

Returning, it was more of the same. Stop, look, and listen for scary tanks. Swallow my fear, gingerly pedal through several inches of muck, emerge into the light, spritz my gears with water and wash off as much mud as possible, and continue on my merry way. (And this was after the spritz!)

But I made it!

It was a great ride, and although I’m still recovering from my sinus infection, it was absolutely fantastic to be out there. Mud, tanks, grinding gears and all.
And the best part? Relaxing in the bed that I put together from IKEA. Even I surprised myself with this one folks. But it looks good and hasn’t collapsed and squished a cat yet. So all systems are go!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Top 10




This has got to be some sort of record for lack of blogs published on my part. But in my defense, while being sick in bed with a sinus infection, blogging/writing or doing anything that required a thought-process just didn't get done. Instead, I read a few books, pushed the fluid, watched too much TV, boycotted my TV, and went through four large boxes of Puffs Plus Indeed tissue.

My nose is still red. Then again, I'm still blowing it, so go figure.

So in celebration of my return to February blogging, I present you with the Top 10 things I've done since my last post! Enjoy!

10) Finished one round of antibiotics for my awful sinus infection.

9) Cleaned the house. Not just regular cleaning, but the real thing, full stop. Bleach, vinegar, baking soda, lemon, rubber gloves, in essence, the works. All the clothes have been washed, dried, put away (always the most difficult for me), folded, etc. The counters are clear, the shower is unmucked, the toilets are gleaming, and the dust is gone. My Grandmother - who would clean my room every time she visited while I was growing up - would be proud. Then she would lecture me about how its easier to clean if its kept clean at all times. Yeah. Okay.

8) Got sick again because the antibiotics didn't work to kill my sinus infection. Round 2 seems to be doing the trick, so far, even though I'm only 4 days in to a 10-day treatment. I'll keep you posted.

7) Eyebrow wax. Ouch. But they look great!

6) Welcomed Nathaniel home from a 2-week long field exercise. It's always nice when he's home, although it would have been wonderful to have him here while I was in the depths of my illness. It sucks being sick and alone. Yeah, Tabbitha and Anabelle are good company, but they don't brew tea or go on seltzer water and soup runs. That I've gotta do myself.

5) Celebrated my 28th birthday. My first thoughts? I've got 2 more years in my age group.

4) Bought a bed and mattress from IKEA. Our old one was, well, old. It belonged to me and has been in use for well over a quarter century. That goes for the mattress as well. We figured our money could be spent on other things, like race wheels or book shelves. I bet, though, that after a month of sleeping on the new set, we'll wonder what the heck we were thinking by keeping the old one around for so long.

3) Had a glass of wine and wondered if it was corked, simply because my sinuses were so stuffed up. The rational thing to do would be to drink something else. Not me: instead I opened another bottle and compared the two. Oddly enough, they tasted the same. When Nathaniel returned from his trip, he confirmed that neither was corked.

2) Hung up 28 paintings and pictures around the apartment. The walls were bare, and I was going stir crazy. Some of the best time I spent while being sick! Now the place looks lived in and colorful!

1) Hair cut. It was time, and my hair was getting really really really long. Now I've got two different sets of highlights and bangs. I don't know if I should feel mature or like a little kid. But with the right styling product, I feel like an adult. Which is always nice now that I'm 28.

It's been tough being ill. Especially since I backed off from my workouts, made healthy food choices, got plenty of sleep, and took it easy. Sometimes we just can't help the germs or how our bodies deal with them. But now that I'm clearing up, I've been given the all clear to bike and run. Swimming is still a no-go because of the sinuses. And while some of my friends would jump up and down at the no-swimming option, I'll be overjoyed at my return to the pool.

Slow - but overjoyed.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go relax in the new bed. With the glass of wine that I can taste because my nose is almost back to normal.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


It wasn't exactly the debut that I had hoped it would be.

Mid morning started with a run. And though the pace was slow and laborious, and in spite of the buckets worth of snot I was producing with every step, it felt great to be outside. I swear, running ten minute miles never felt so good.

The goal was to just go out easy, keep the pace easy, and finish easy. No probelm-o! A workout that I knew I could accomplish. No pieces, no fast stuff, no paying attention to heart rate or worrying about pace.

All simple.

Just run. For running's sake!

Later in the day, I headed out for an easy recovery spin. Recovery? I thought. When was the last time I 'recovered' from a 40 minute easy run? But I'll do just about anything to be outside, enjoying the scenery and feeling productive in the only way that working out provides.

It felt good to just get going.

I headed out south along Highway 101, straight into a gusty and never-ending headwind. At least the spin back should be a breeze I thought. Literally.

I watched my speedometer max out at 18 mgh going down a steep hill. While pedaling. Yeah, it was that windy. But really it didn't matter, as I was just spending a little time in the saddle, spinning out the legs. I ignored the 14 mph flashing, and kept pedaling on.

About 20 minutes into the ride, I turned around and headed for home. I told you it was short. I glanced over to my left, eying the angry storm clouds that were just beginning to dump sorely-needed rain across the area. They looked like they were about to burst at any minute.

Good thing I'll be home in 20 minutes.

And, as if on cue, I got a flat tire. The front one.

Oh bugger!

I managed to avoid wiping out on the slick pavement, and headed towards the Hilton for refuge. At least I could take shelter under the car port while I changed my tire. I'm sure I looked great to the oncoming cars, but it was only a 50 meter walk.

The rain came down harder. And the wind blew and blew and blew some more. (Throw in some great horror music and you've got the idea).

Setting my bike up against the pillar under the shelter of the car park, I quickly went about the task of wrestling my tube off the tire. It only took one tire lever and a lot of pulling. There could have been some swearing as well, but I'm not sure.

Before too long, the tube and tire were off, and I was inspecting the rim for debris. Nothing. Great!

Next was a sweep of the tire, which again produced no glass or any objects sharp in nature. Tube and tire together, I re-wrestled them back onto the rim.

This time it took two tire levers, but I was satisfied with the job.

Could it be? Was this going to be a record setting tire change? I was this close to waving at the concerned patrons in the hotel, but thought better of it.

It's when I went to inflate the tube that I noticed something amiss. Instead of a long valve poking through my tire rim, there was only a very small end peeking out. Okay? I re-adjusted the tire, pulling at the valve and playing with the tube, but it didn't work to produce more valve.

I tried pushing through the tire, but the valve refused to budge any further out from the rim. Excellent!

I figured that maybe I should just try inflating the tire and see what happens. After all, I did have a spare cartridge, and I could make it work. How many flat tires had I changed successfully? Too many to count.

First co2 cartridge was a bust. I placed the nozle over the valve, and only got a small burst of pressurized air. It sounded as though the valve to the cartridge was about to fail. Was this possible? Do these things age after X amount of tire changes? I wasn't sure, but I kept trying to get the air out. I made sure the co2 was screwed in tightly and pumped the end accordingly.

I swear - the cartridge sounded as though it was wheezing.


When the second co2 failed, I new I was in trouble.

It was raining. It was windy. It was cold. And I had been out for a full 15 minutes, okay 20 minutes, working on this stupid tire.

I had gone from thinking about myself as Chrissie Wellington changing her flat on the Queen K, to Norman Stadler, hurtling his bike on the lava fields.

I was this close to chucking my bike over the cliff into the ocean. But I would have had to cross 4 lanes of traffic to do so.

There was some more swearing - in German no less. And then I had to figure out what to do.

I had a tire with about 20 psi in it. No cartridge. No valve. And it was cold and rainy.

I thought about calling Nathaniel, but I knew he would be off flying. Excellent! There were more swear words. Man - I was really on a roll. Gordon Ramsey would be impressed.

So instead, I figured I would either bike or walk home. I was still 3 miles from our place, and the prospect of walking in the rain and the cold wasn't all that appealing.

With much trepidation, I packed up all my gear, threw away the old tube, bid farewell to the highly amused valets, and slowly pedaled off. It took a lot of skill (mainly slow speeds) to bike on a front tire that held 30 psi. I looked enviously at the hotel beech bikes, displayed in the front window and protected form the elements. Bastards.

The three mile trek home was a slow slog through wind and rain. About a mile from the house, the tire lost all pressure, and I bump bump bumped along the rest of the way. I thought about walking some more, but the rain was really heavy, and I wanted to get inside and warm as quickly as possible. Bike shoes + pushing the bike didn't seem appropriate.

So I gutted it out. More cursing, some in German, and I eventually found myself bumping over the seven speed bumps that lead into our condo. Those felt just super! I nearly broke out into song after traipsing through the front door.

Well, it wasn't the best of rides. But I learned a few valuable lessons. It's been a LONG time since I changed a tire, and while my ability to get the flippin' tire off the rim and then replaced may be relatively short, it wasn't without error. And second: mechanical errors suck. I'm really happy that I found my co2 holder to be wonky before a race situation. Really happy about that one.

In the end, I was no worse for the wear. My German swearing is coming along well, and I was really impressed with my restraint from chucking the bike over a cliff. Only think that should have gone correctly, was for the tire to properly inflate. Oh well. Better I figure out my issues now than later.

Hey, but that's what this is all about, right? Better luck to YOU next time you flat. And tomorrow? I'll find myself at the bike shop, picking up a new co2 holder and some spare tubes. If I'm really feeling up to it, I'll practice my tire changing skills a few times, just to be sure. Yeah, that sounds good.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Out and About

Well, it happened. In my still-sick state, I left the house. And before you get your knickers in a twist, my being outside did not involve working out in any sort of form.

(small sigh).

Actually, I had to make a second trip to the pharmacy, after they forgot ten pills in my prescription of twenty. No, I'm not a pill-popping enthusiast. But when my doctor prescribes a ten day antibiotic treatment, I expect to complete the medication after ten days. Not five.

After all, she did warn me to finish all medication, even if I was feeling better before completing the full dosage.

Yes, Doctor, I'm aware of that, thank-you-very-much.

And to reward myself for being out and about (without engaging in physical activity), I decided to pick up sushi for dinner. Nothing too bland or fancy, but just enough to taste in my sinus-infected state.

FYI: the shrimp spring roll with spicy peanut sauce did the trick.

It was fabulous. Not quite as good as my favorite Cambodian Roll from Pensacola's Ichiban. But still delicious. (Never in my right mind, did I ever think I would prefer sushi in Pensacola over sushi on the West Coast. But, I'm still searching for a new favorite spot...I'm open to suggestions).

It was while driving home though, that I noticed something unexpected.

As usual, traffic was congested, with motorists doing silly things like cutting across lanes and talking on cell phones. One lady was even applying something to her cheeks and checking herself out in one of her car mirrors, while navigating stop and go traffic on Palomar Airport Road. Brilliant!

Sometimes I just wish there was a traffic cop around, waiting to give tickets to all the idiot drivers out there. Hopefully I'm not alone with this though. Nope. I can safely say that I'm not. Nathaniel agrees with me. Probably my parents as well.

But that's not the point of this.

While waiting at one of the many red lights between El Camino Real and Hwy 101, I noticed the car directly in front of me. It had a few stickers posted proudly on its bumper, the first of which read: "Pets are not disposable!"

Well that's true!

So I moved on to the next sticker.

It read:
Be willing to give up what you are for what you want to become.


I sat there, speechless, re-reading the sticker.

Before I knew it, the light had changed, and the car with the cool sticker pulled away. I hit the gas and tailed close behind, trying to keep the phrase seared into my memory.

At the next red light, I dug through my purse for a pen, while rummaging through old gas receipts. It was all I could do to write down the quote and drive at the same time. Suddenly I was happy that no cops were around to dole out stupid tickets. I don't think I would garner much sympathy for writing + driving. Even if the quote was really neat.

The more I thought about be willing to give up what you are for what you can become, the more it made sense, and the more I really liked it.

Making a change, trying something new, going out on a limb; all things that aren't always easy. It takes courage to go after something, give up what's comfortable and what you know in exchange for the unknown.

But when we keep our eyes on the prize, when we work like crazy for something we know is possible, then the end result is well worth the effort.

It's scary, downright terrifying at times. What if we fail? What if our attempt does not work out? While that's always a possibility, can you really live your life knowing that things could have been different if you had only tried?

I can't. And I refuse to accept something that's comfortable for the sake of things being easy. Newsflash: life isn't always easy. Neither is The Multisport.

So when push comes to shove, what are you going to do? What do you choose? And what are you willing to do to make what you can become a reality?

When you accomplish your goals, make your dreams come true, and realize that you have become what you knew you could, I'll be the first to congratulate you. Let's set off on this journey together and see what we can be!

Just don't try writing while driving. You never know who's watching and how much the ticket will cost.

Monday, February 2, 2009

For real?

The novelty of being sick has worn off. Who am I kidding? I was bored at three hours after getting sick. Staying in bed all day is just not my thing. 60 hours after detecting the traces of my sore throat, and I'm sick of being sick.

There's only so much sitting around I can take. And while the temptation of setting up my bike on the trainer, or doing core work on the ball is great, I've thus far resisted the urge(s). The last thing I want to do, is prolong being sick. Yeah, that would really put me in a bad mood.

But it's been quite the adventure, I have to say.

By Sunday morning, I was really concerned about the severity of sinus pain and the symptoms that were rapidly progressing from tolerable to put-me-out-of-my-misery-awful. Waiting until Monday morning to schedule an appointment seemed silly. And I figured that the ER wouldn't be too busy on Superbowl Sunday.

It wasn't.

But that wasn't the problem.

The treating doctor was. After checking me over, noting my symptoms, and listening to my long history of severe sinus infections, my doctor decided that he would treat the symptoms, but NOT the problem. Say what?

In his words, "The literature that I've read states that we do not prescribe medication for a sinus infection. If you were my Mom, I wouldn't give you antibiotics. We'll treat the symptoms. But I won't prescribe antibiotics."

I was in disbelief. Was this guy for real? Apparently he was: and he would rather give his patients percocet (a highly addictive narcotic) for pain, then treat the cause of the illness (bacterial sinus infection).


Additionally, he gave me every nasal spray, nasal decongestant, motrin, and tylenol on the market. I left the hospital unhappy, sick, and carrying six prescriptions, none of which were the antibiotics needed to treat the infection itself. I did, however (in my pain induced rage) call him a prick. Not something I would typically do, but I was upset. And in pain. And fearful that I would have to get really really sick before being properly treated.

But I don't regret it. Not in the least.

Fast forward to this afternoon when I had my second appointment in just as many days. My primary care doc out here confirmed that I had one, "whopper of a sinus infection." And promptly gave me the right medication to fight the little bacterial buggers.

She was shocked, though, that this particular ER doc was willing to dole out narcotics instead of antibiotics. Yeah, that made three of us (Nate was horrified as well).

At this point, I'm just happy that I've got the necessary tools to get well. Treating the symptoms is important. But getting to the root cause of the ailment was key.

So true of life, I suppose.

Just like you can't fix a problem if you only treat the symptoms. You need to figure out the root cause, determine what is causing the issues, and go from there. And sometimes, it takes a little patience and persistence to do just that.

In the mean time, I'm still on strict rest. Nathaniel is making endless cups of tea, and the kitties are on their best behavior. I swear that my bike is calling my name, enticing me to hop on for a few minutes here or there... But I won't cave in.

I'll endure the abysmal daytime TV, paperback novels, and trips to the bathroom. And hopefully (fingers crossed with a cherry on top), in a few days I'll start to feel better. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to give myself another spritz of nasal spray. Fun times on a Monday night! I'll spare you the details. No need to thank me. But some good vibes would do wonders!