Ironwoman Dreams

If I can do this, anyone can.


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$50 Amazon.com Gift Card Giveaway!

Training for an awesome cause!

Training for an awesome cause!

Hey all–

I’ll try not to be too annoying with the fundraising posts, but, in order for me to continue to train for my Ironman and raise money to fight cancer with Team In Training, I need to reach my fundraising goal of $1000 by January 15th!  That’s why I’m holding a raffle to give away $50 of Amazon.com cash to one lucky supporter! Furthermore, later in the season, I may hold more raffles for BIGGER prizes, and your donation will still be counted as an entry for those!

Here’s the scoop on how to enter:

1) Donate to Team in Training via my fundraising page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/VineFIrn13/SDIronWoman. 
Every $10 donated equals one entry, so donate as much as you like for as many entries as you like! Remember, your donation is completely tax deductible!

2) The drawing will be held on Feb 1st, 2013. The winner will be selected at random using http://www.random.org (your entry will be numbered in the order in which it is received).

3) The winner will be emailed and also will be announced via this blog and (if you are a Facebook friend), via my personal Facebook page.

4) All supporters who donate $10 or more will be entered for future drawings for larger prizes (stay tuned), so you still might have a chance to win big!

Leukemia And Lymphoma Society “Fast Facts”

 

WHO: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. Founded in 1949, we are relentless in pursuit of our mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.

 

WHAT:  Investing in blood cancer research: LLS has invested more than $750 million in research, approximately $72 million in fiscal year 2010 alone. Programs like the Specialized Center of Research (SCOR), which brings together teams of scientists from different disciplines and our Translational Research Program, which funds research with a high probability of producing innovative patient treatments in an accelerated time frame, have directly contributed to many breakthrough cancer treatments.

 

Research funded by LLS has led or contributed to advances such as chemotherapy, bone marrow and stem cell transplantation and new, targeted oral therapies such as Gleevec®, Rituxan®, Velcade®, Thalidomid®, Revlimid®, Dacogen® and Vidaza®.

 

Providing critical information and support for patients and their families:

We made 4.7 million contacts with patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals in fiscal year 2010, through our Information Resource Center (IRC), our award winning Web site and community-based patient service programs. We put people together with experts through Web-casts and teleconferences, and provided professional education through seminars, to extend the latest findings to a broader professional audience.

 

Advocating for issues impacting blood cancer patients: With more than 50,000 advocacy volunteers throughout the country, our voice is being heard by those responsible for legislation to fund blood cancer research and educational programs.

 

WHY: The need is critical: An estimated 957,902 people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from, leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma or myeloma. Every four minutes, someone new is diagnosed with blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies.

 

Leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children under the age of 20. Lymphomas are the most common blood cancers and incidence increases with age. The survival rate for myeloma is only 38.5 percent. Incidence is nearly twice as high among African Americans as for all other races.

 

HOW:  As a nonprofit, we rely on the generosity of individuals, corporations and foundations. Seventy-five percent of our total expenses support cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services. Major, annual fundraising campaigns include Team In Training®, Light The Night® Walk, School & Youth ProgramsSM, Man & Woman of the Year and The Leukemia Cup Regatta.

 

WHEREIn addition to our national headquarters in White Plains, NY, we have a network of 59 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Information on blood cancers and support is available through our IRC and at http://www.LLS.org.

 

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Information Resource Center: (800) 955-4572

Media: Andrea Greif, director of public relations  (914) 821-8958

Research grant information: Rick Winneker, SVP Research (914) 821-8310

To volunteer or donate: (888) HELP-LLS

 

 


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Warrior Training, Phase 1: A Swimming Story

I again reiterate that Southern California is not always sunny and warm, and last night was an example of JUST how frigid it could get. The Northerly winds swooshed by at speeds around 20 mph, making the 45 degree temps seem much, much lower.

“Dear God,” I thought. “How in the heck am I going to remove my clothes and get into the water in this weather?”

Luckily, my amazing Masters coach, and friend gave me an old swim parka that morning to use to thwart the winter brutality. Its hard shell and warm fleece lining kept out the majority of the cutting wind chill.

When I showed up at the pool, it was only a small group of us, huddled against the wind, most people in sweats, hopping up and down to keep warm. I wondered if the rest of the group had wussed out, sitting at home sipping hot cocoa while writing out their laundry list of excuses. My assumptions were proven wrong in moments, when more teammates began to trickle in to the facility. Pretty soon, we had (almost) a regular turnout of folks. I was impressed.

I mentally tried to prepare for the chill of the wind on my body. I removed the parka first. The air felt like an ice bath, insanely freezing at first, but then my body acclimated to the temp, and it wasn’t so bad. I quickly stripped off my sweats and sandals, and scurried toward the water.

While the Culver City Plunge is “heated,” it is known to be the coldest heated pool in the L.A. area. Really, it’s more like lukewarm. Still, it was better than the outside air temps last night. I plunged in and did a 200m warm-up, then Coach Jason had us get started on the drills (my fave :P).

The drill set looked like this:

2×100 50 Shark fin drill, 50 swim (shark fin is a high-elbow drill, and we all hate it)
2x 100 50 one arm drill, 50 swim
2x 100 50 catch up drill, 50 swim (catch up is just a delayed stroke drill–where you spend a moment suspended in “superman” position before pulling)
200 50 shark fin, 50 one arm, 50 catch up, 50 swim

And then the main set looked like this:
4×100 build (each 100 faster than the last, 20 second rest in between)
2×200 50 easy, 100 all out, 50 easy (20 second rest in-between)
400 build

100 warm down

Total meters with warm-up/down = 2300 (that’s almost 1.5 miles of swimming–yayy)

I always take an insanely long time to warm up. In fact, I didn’t start to really get into a “groove” until midway through the main set. The first couple of sprints were tough. I think I’m starting to figure out that I’ll probably be a back of the pack racer and position myself to pass people on the home stretch. Where a lot of people start to tire, I’m just getting started. I think that’ll be a great asset, especially in an Ironman. Overall, it was a great swim, and I felt like I finished strong.

Getting out was the hardest part of the workout, as our bodies had adjusted to the water temp, and the air felt even more icy cold. I shivered as I struggled to grab my towel, throw on the parka, and my sandals, and head toward the locker room. Eeeks!

Becoming an Ironwoman is a whole new level of hardcore. In order to do well, we must complete the designated workouts, regardless of weather. We run in the rain, swim in the cold, and bike in the dark if we have to. It’s about being a warrior, no excuses. Wimping out is not an option.

I think last night proved that I could rise to the challenge. I’m ready for the next one. Bring it!

Lessons Learned:

1) It’s not cold once you start swimming.

2) Get a parka. Seriously, you’ll thank me.

3) Working out in less than ideal conditions can help to prepare you for anything and helps toughen your resolve. Train your brain as well as your body!

 

Note: Hey all! I’m trying to raise $1000 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society before January 15th! Please help support blood cancer research and treatment by heading over to my donation page (http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/VineFIrn13/SDIronWoman) and giving what you can (even $5 or $10 helps–and it’s much more fulfilling than a fancy latte or a pizza), or by sharing my blog or fundraising page with others. Thanks and Happy Holidays!

 


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Making Mountains Of Molehills: A Cycling Story

For those of you who think that sunny Southern California can’t get cold, I’ve got news for you: It gets cold. My car’s digital display indicated 44 degrees F as I pulled out of my driveway to head to early morning team practice in Palos Verdes.

Palos Verdes (or PV, as it is called by frequenters) is a favorite training spot among cyclists and runners. It offers rolling hills, several good climbs, trails, and, most of all, gorgeous vistas to keep a person’s mind off of the pain. We spent a lot of time there in our marathon team, and I became very familiar with all of the running trails. Today, however, I was to be introduced to a whole new side of PV: The bike paths.

In spite of having a great, confidence-building team practice last week, I was still extremely nervous about going out there, facing hills, traffic and other unforeseen obstacles in the cycling wilderness. That we were going out for two full hours made me even more nervous. I am not sure if it was the wind cutting through my three layers of clothing, or nerves, but I was shaking while I prepped myself for the ride.

For the first several miles, there was no real bike lane–simply an extended shoulder in parts. The cars whizzed by, sending lightning bolts of panic up my body. I remembered to keep my hands and torso relaxed, so as not to swerve, but my heartrate and breath started to quicken with anxiety.  I struggled to keep my 80-90 rpm cadence up, but also panicked about having such little room to ride in areas where the shoulder narrowed to a sliver. The hills began to rise up, and I struggled up them, panting and rattled.

Then, on one hill, my chain began to slip around on the rear cassette, causing my feet to lose traction. I panicked slightly and came to a stop at the top of the hill. Luckily, one of the cycling coaches was nearby and helped to fix it.

“You need a tune-up,” he said. “But that should be a little better.”

Only over thirty minutes into the ride, I was wondering how I would possibly get through it, with my sliding gears and anxiety. My team mentor, Erin, caught up to me. She asked me how I was doing and I admitted that I was nervous.

“You’re doing great!” She said. “Trust me. Last season, there were a lot of people on the team who weren’t doing nearly as well as you are at this point.”

I took heart in that, and kept going. Erin and I chatted and I started to loosen up a bit. We rode through beautiful, flower-filled, ocean-facing neighborhoods, taking in the clear views over the cliffs, as the previous day’s rain had rinsed away all of the smog. The path had flattened out slightly, and it wasn’t such hard work to keep up. I relaxed a bit, and, as we passed head coach, Jason, he called out:

“Great job, Solange! We’ll have you in clips in no time!”

I smiled and proudly pedaled on. Another forty-five minutes had flown by. The hills began to rise again, however, and my legs were beginning to tire from the high cadence and the maintenance of constant hyper-alertness. Despite my attempts at maintaining proper position, the saddle was beginning to get uncomfortable in front, with all of the downhills, and I began to struggle.

I kept pedaling, seeing Erin and my other teammates get further and further away, as my cadence started to slow. I shifted to a lighter gear to relieve some of the pressure from my fatigued limbs, but realized that the spinning was getting me nowhere,  and probably burning me out just as equally. My mind and body were beginning to fight me. Each hill was getting more and more ominous and I felt less in-control with every mile. One hill had such a steep downgrade, that you couldn’t see the bottom coming up from the other side. I wanted to get off of my bike and cry like a six-year-old.

“No,” I told myself. “You’re being ridiculous. You’ve run tough marathons, you struggled through that. You can do this!”

I put the thought of quitting out of my mind and finished. I put my bike up on the car rack, and transitioned for a quick run, to get used to the whole brick workout thing. While my legs felt heavy and wobbly, I managed a 9:00-9:15-min pace the whole way, thoroughly warmed up, I suppose, from that long ride.

We headed back for some strength training and stretching and I had a (well-deserved) cookie afterward. Phew! I made it!

Things learned this week:

1) Don’t give in to the fear monster. Know when your fears are irrational and try your best to relax and think rational thoughts.

2) If you have a used bike, it might not be a bad idea to get a tune-up and look into getting a new chain. Apparently chains also stretch out over time, and getting a new one can help your shifting tremendously.

3) Riding with a friend and/or in a scenic area can help the time go by a lot faster during your cycling workout, and it can help take your mind off of the pain.

4) Cookies probably aren’t the best thing to have post-workout, but they sure do make for an awesome treat.

P.S. Sorry I don’t have any pix this time. It really was beautiful, but I was too white-knuckled and concentrating to take a picture with my camera phone. There will be other PV rides in the future!


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Getting Fit In A Whole New Way: A Cycling Story

Nate Loyal Fitting

THIS is what good fit looks like.

Today, kids, we’re going to learn the importance of a proper bike fitting. No, not the one you get when you buy your new bike, where the salesperson eyeballs your position, adjusts your saddle, and sends you off on your merry way, but a real, pro fitting, preferably one done by someone who actually makes his or her living off of doing so.

I found my bike fitting magician in Nate Loyal, who is, by many counts, the best pro fitter in Los Angeles. Nate is not only a bike fitter, but he has a history as a bike mechanic, physical therapist, triathlete and coach, so he understands the mechanics of the bike, of your body, and how they work together for the sport you’re doing, as well as your level of cycling ability. Seriously, the guy knows his stuff.

One of the first things I learned about bike fitting is, HEYY, cycling isn’t supposed to hurt (or, at least not during the first hour or so of a bike ride). My hands and, er, lady parts, had been suffering greatly during my solo rides, with nothing to distract me from the pain. I knew I needed to get things adjusted, but for a while, considering my employment status, I wasn’t too keen on shelling out the money for a pro. Finally, after a particularly painful ride, I gave in and contacted Nate. We set up an appointment for the following week, and I hoped it would be worth it.

When I first arrived, Nate had me note all of the things that hurt while I was on the bike. He propped the thing up on the trainer and began measuring everything. Then, he had me hop up on the bike and spin, taking measurements of my legs at different angles, my arm length, and taking note of my position.

“Have you guys been working on cadence?” Nate asked, observing my struggling pedal strokes.

I told him we had, but that I wasn’t very good yet at keeping a high cadence.

“You’re very quad-heavy,” he noted. “Meaning that, you are using your quads a lot to push down, and not a lot of your other muscles, like your calves and hamstrings. You really want to focus on smoothing out that pedal stroke and using more of those muscles. It will make you a more efficient cyclist.”

These are things I’d heard about, but hadn’t really put them into practice, I tried to focus more on pulling as well as pushing as I spun my legs, but, on platform pedals, it wasn’t really easy. Yet another reason to switch to clipless, I supposed.

After a few more measurements, Nate concluded that I needed a shorter stem for my bike. He replaced mine and raised the handlebars a bit. He also adjusted the seat and then had me hop back on.

“How does that feel?” he asked.

“Better!” I said, not feeling as stretched out, nor as mashed up against the horn of the saddle.

He advised me to hop off again, made some adjustments, then had me hop back on. He’d asked me to bring my clipless shoes and pedals so that he could make adjustments for those. He watched me walk to and fro and then adjusted my cleats to accommodate my slight over-pronation issue. Finally, he screwed the pedals onto the bike and invited me to come get clipped in for the first time.

The whole process of clipping seems easy when you watch pros do it, but it takes quite a bit of thinking initially. Make sure dominant foot pedal is at the bottom of rotation, slide foot along pedal until cleat catches, then press down to clip, then pull up on clipped foot, press down to “start” bike, and attempt to clip in on the other side. Note: If clip with non-dominant foot doesn’t catch, continue to pedal with one leg until clip-in is successful. It just seems complicated, and, knowing me, will probably result in lots of bruises once I’m actually out and moving.

Nate was patient, giving me a little clip-in lesson. At first it took a while for me to figure out where the cleat was, but once Nate marked my white shoes with a Sharpie, it was easier. Unclipping was easy enough. So long as I remember to do it before I stop.

When all was said and done, tweaked and checked, and re-tweaked, I had what felt like a brand new bike, custom made for me, for a sliver of a fraction of the cost of an actual new bike, plus a clip-in lesson, form correction, and a new ally in the cycling world in Nate. I couldn’t be happier and it was worth EVERY penny!!!

Yesterday I actually rode all the way out to the beach from my neighborhood, 90 minutes, solo! I worked on my cadence and a few rollers, and felt much , much more in control of my bike. There were even some weird people obstacles (crazy, off-leash dogs, skateboarders, construction workers) and I handled them all smoothly. I might just be a cyclist yet!

I made it to the beach! (Bridge in Marina Del Rey)

I made it to the beach! (Bridge in Marina Del Rey)

Now to put my clips back on throw on some adequate body padding, and take the final step (“The One-Pedaled Cyclist” coming to a parking lot near you).

Note: Nate Loyal operates primarily out of Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica, CA. Helen’s has a great staff and awesome gear. They fixed my slippery shifter free of charge and even put my bike on my bike rack for me (aww). They’re good people!

Nate Loyal: http://nateloyal.com

Helen’s: http://www.helenscycles.com


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Why Blood Cancer? : A Personal Story

Just before the finish: Long Beach 10K

Just before the finish: Long Beach 10K

A longtime family friend wanted to know why I’d suddenly become so motivated to raise funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, since none of my family members have been affected by the disease. This is my second season with Team In Training and I’ve been putting the word out that I’m raising money for the cause–again. It probably does cause my friends and family to think: what gives?

I’ll confess something. When I began last season, training for my first half marathon, I had absolutely no connection to the cause. My immediate family is pretty healthy stock, thankfully. My grandmother on my father’s side is 101 years old and can still remember what kind of soup she and my grandfather were having the night he got so angry about something he threw the tablecloth (and all of its contents) against a wall, and all of the words to the songs they used to sing in their youth.

Healthy as ever and beginning my training for my first half marathon distance, I received a flier in the mail from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. Hmm, I thought. Get coached for a race AND raise money for a good cause? It was worth looking into. I’d been looking for a way to give back to the community, plus I really could have used some help with my training. I signed up.

Starting out asking for money for the cause and having no connection to it felt in some ways fraudulent. Of the causes that I’d backed over the years, none of them involved fighting cancer, and, never EVER, had I asked friends or family for a cent. I never even tried to sell them Girl Scout cookies way back when (which is why I sold the least out of my troop that year).  I couldn’t blame them if it seemed odd that suddenly I was so passionately driving home the importance their contribution would make to help save lives stricken by blood cancer.

Something changed, though, between then and now. I got to know my teammates, many of them people whose lives were drastically affected by blood cancer. I met people who’d lost their best friend, a parent or a beloved mentor to diseases that affected young and old. I met people who, themselves, struggled through the hard reality of diagnoses, the harshness of chemotherapy, and who went on to run marathons, get married, inspire others and, most of all, to continue to raise awareness and money for the cause.

But the person who inspired me the most was a woman whose name I still don’t know.

It was a sunny morning, late July, in Long Beach, CA, when I was slated to run my first 10K. My senses were tingling with anticipation as I approached the TNT tent our team had set up. It was an “all team event”–meaning that all chapters of our L.A marathon teams would be attending. I met up with some of my West Side teammates, met some new folks, and chatted happily about what was to be our longest distance race yet.

The beach sun broiled from above as a big group of us set out on a 10-minute, pre-race warm-up jog. As they circled around the pier, my jogging teammates resembled a bunch of purple and white LLS birthday candles, heads set aflame by the blazing sunlight. Even though I was warmed up, I had no real race strategy, other than the coaches’ words, “Don’t start out too fast.” I quickly drafted a makeshift strategy in my head while waiting for the gun to go off: Start slow for the first two miles, go faster for the next two, and then pick up the pace for the last two (and walk when you need to walk, but not more than 30 seconds).

Soon the gun was off and so was I, telling myself to slow down repeatedly during the first mile. It wasn’t until Mile Two, when we had gotten to the end of the pier and looped back toward the finish, that I first saw her: Statuesque and Amazon-like, her walk gait slow and faltering. I recognized the logo on her shirt, beamed and called out, “Go Team! You can do it!” Only her eyes flashed in acknowledgment, her face pained and concentrated on every wincing step.

I took my first walk break at about two and a half miles. The sun was not forgiving. The beach path seemed to stretch on forever, an endless flat road with a bright, burning torture device overhead, leaching energy and hydration with a vengeance. Perky “real” runners trotted by going the other direction, chirping, “You’re almost at the turnaround!” Of course, their concept of “almost” wasn’t quite on par with my idea of it, but, eventually, I got there, ran around the cone, grabbed a cup of water, spilled half of it, choked on the other half,and threw the cup into the bin.

Apparently the race organizers decided to give us a pointless challenge near the end of the race by placing a steep hill with a turnaround at the top at Mile 5. I walked up the hill and ran down quickly, hoping that little burst of speed would cancel the walk time. It wasn’t until after the hill that I saw her again, still stoic-ly marching, her face twisted in determination. Again, I smiled and waved, and called out, “Go Team!” This time, she silently mouthed a, “Go Team” back, barely shifting her gaze from the long stretch of path ahead, and continued her forward battle.

Soon I could see tents in the distance and I picked up the pace. I crossed the finish line at just over one hour, averaging a 9:45 minute/mile pace and achieving 5th place in my age group. Granted, it wasn’t a big race, but accolades are motivating. I went over to one of my coaches and told him the good news. He congratulated me. I asked him where our other coach was so that I could tell him the good news.

“He’s out on the course with one of our participants. She’s going through chemo and having a tough time out there,” he told me. I knew exactly which participant he was referring to.

A group of us stayed and cheered like mad until she finished, exhausted, slow, pained, but triumphant. I had never seen real courage up close until I’d looked into her face that day.

Lots of people ask me why in the heck I would run a marathon, or train for an Ironman, and I just shrug and say, “I’m crazy, I guess.” It’s my default answer, but it’s not the whole truth.  The body is just a vehicle, the mind and will are the drivers. We are, all of us, capable of much more than we think is possible, both physically and mentally. I will never forget the look of sheer will on that woman’s face. It drives me on in my efforts, and I know that, with every step, stroke and pedal forward I take, I’m helping her too. I promise to her and to myself that I won’t give up. We can all be “Ironmen” and “Ironwomen.” We can all become heroes in some small way.

Note: If you’d like to learn more about Team in Training or to help support me in my fundraising efforts, please visit my fundraising page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/los/VineFIrn13/SDIronWoman.

Here are some cool stats about where your donations are going:

•    $1000 supports one week’s salary for a medical researcher at UCSF, Stanford, or Berkeley who may discover key information to developing curative treatments for blood cancers.
•    $500 allows 10 patients to log on to a webcast and hear the latest information in treatment for their disease.
•    $150 allows five patients to make a First Connection with a trained peer volunteer.
•    $100 provides three patients access to an information teleconference.
•    $75 is the average cost of tissue typing to become a bone marrow donor.
•    $50 is the cost of a CT scan.
•    $40 is the cost of sending a comprehensive packet of information for children with cancer.
•    $35 pays for transportation expenses for a patient living in Northern California’s most rural areas to treatment at a comprehensive cancer center.
•    $25 covers a single prescription co-payment.
•    $5 is the cost of sending a newly diagnosed patient information about their disease and how to get support.


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When Detours Lead To Better Paths: A Cycling Story

First Bigger Solo Ride Accomplished!

First Bigger Solo Ride Accomplished!

Zen. I’d tried to get that word in my head for several days following the talk that I’d had with my coach on Saturday, when he told me to relax on the bike, to breathe, bend my elbows, and just have fun.

“You don’t have to travel in a perfectly straight line,” he’d said, acknowledging my worries about wobbling. “The more you stiffen up and try to control the bike, the more you’ll wobble.”

It’d been rainy and wet for the last few days, so practicing this new serene cyclist persona had been put on hold. Today was dry, however, and my butt was slated to be (serenely) in the saddle this morning, no excuses. For some reason, the pressure to enjoy the bike took hold of me and I was inexplicably more anxious and fearful than ever before. I began to think, “What if I just don’t like the bike? What if I can’t do this?” I felt swallowed by irrational fear. I reluctantly tugged on my spandex, grabbed my gear, and headed out to the Marina Del Rey Dock 52 parking lot.

There’s a secluded boat launch lot next to the place where everyone in the know parks and meets up for rides, where there are few cars and a person can freely wheel themselves around the parking lot to try new equipment (or, in my case, new mental states) without looking foolish in front of the whole world, or endangering life and limb.

As I walked Shadow Comet into the lot, a swarm of female seagulls rushed at me, like a scene out of Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” They landed in a small cluster, encircling me and the bike, occasionally emitting high-pitched peeps at me, and eying me curiously from one side. Great, now I’m going to humiliate myself in front of a bunch of birds, I thought.

Whatever, ZENNNN. I mounted my bike and pushed off, pedaling forward with surprisingly minimal wobbling. The bike continued smoothly under me. Aha, thought I, Not as bad as I’d imagined at all. I swooped around the lot, came to a smooth stop, and started again, still with much less wobble than ever before. Turns, speed, stops and starts felt much, much easier. I was ready for the real ride.

I took a deep breath and made my way onto the bike path, which joined a road with cars ever briefly before it became an actual bike path. The bike rolled silkily beneath me as I kept an easy cadence. I looped onto the path and made my way beachside. The fear that had gripped me before had almost dissolved away, and I began enjoying the scenery. The clouds were beginning to overtake the sky a bit, but the cool 60-something air felt refreshing. The ocean seemed tame today, even though the winds had picked up and were kind of pushing against me.

Everything was going well, until big orange signs indicated that the regular bike path was closed for maintenance. The signs pointed to a detour route. I froze. I had no idea where this detour would lead me: into traffic or a horrifically rocky or sandy path? The white-knuckled wonder in me started to resurface and encourage me to turn back, even though I was only fifteen minutes into my ride. I refused that wussy alter ego’s encouragement, however, and began to press on, through narrowly spaced poles, onto a short neighborhood street, through another narrow opening and back onto a car-friendly bike path, complete with speed humps, for the next couple of miles. Oh, looky, I did it!

I began to pick up the cadence and suddenly the bike felt like air, like it was a part of me. No longer did it feel like this unwieldy hunk of aluminum that was trying to ram me into any stationary (or non-stationary) item it could, or run me off of cliffs. We sailed smoothly and climbed a few smaller hills until we reached an oceanside cafe/rest stop. This was my midway mark. I got to turn around here, but first I took a moment to enjoy the view and to pat myself on the back for coming out this far.

The way back was a piece of cake, although, admittedly, I do need a good bicycle fitting, because certain–ahem–parts were not enjoying the ride as much as I was on the final mile, as well as my hands, which, in spite of my attempts to relax, were still hurting to some extent. I am beginning to feel more and more like I am going to need a shorter stem (mine’s pretty long),  but we’ll see what the fitter says, when I eventually get that taken care of.

All in all, I pedaled a nice 13-15 mph, which isn’t awesome, but not bad for a white-knuckled newb. I look forward to seeing how I improve this season. Finally! Another week and I think I’ll be ready to get clipped in (yeeks).

To top it off, I returned a Bellflower cycling jersey I bought from Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica, and I received a store credit, with which I was able to buy a new, similar jersey, plus arm warmers, for the exact same price. Is this a great day for this cyclist or what? Whoohoo!


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Weighty Matters: A Training Story

Finding the right balance of nutrition in training is tricky, especially when you’re an endurance athlete. One minute you’re carbing it up, eating pretty much whatever you want, whenever you want, and then, then next minute you’re back in base training, where the calories aren’t quite disappearing as fast as they used to.

The doc slid that antiquated scale to read five more pounds than I had weighed a month ago, when I’d weighed myself at a friend’s place. I don’t normally keep a scale around because, if I did, I’d be on that thing every day. Instead, I use a measuring tape. When I got home I realized that my waistline had scootched up about a half of an inch. Not cool.

I allowed my mind to have a momentary freak out about ballooning back up to my highest weight in no time unless I cut my meals to a pitifully restrictive 1200 calories a day, and, about how I would possibly maintain that given that I would be starving after every practice. Then, I stopped myself and thought, “Patience.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned about weight loss, it’s to be patient with yourself and not to go to extremes in order to drop pounds. Besides, calories can be your friend while you’re training. They’re just a very clingy friend that doesn’t want to let go when you’re not.

My first plan of action was to assess what I was actually eating. Did I really need to have a cookie after lunch? Should I have impulse bought that box of Cheese Nips last week? How many calories was I realistically burning?

Next, I worked to cut out the obvious things, the extras that I didn’t really need, the snacks that I ate when I was bored rather than really hungry. Also, sadly, no more twice-daily cookies. Instead, I scored some diet hot cocoa and marshmallows, and consumed them for my daily “sweets fix.” Instead of a bagel and peanut butter for breakfast, I switched to oatmeal, which I could flavor with peanut butter, cocoa, or apple butter, for a calorie-saving and heartier meal. For fulfilling lunches and dinners, I got rid of the superfluous pasta, and stuck to veggies and egg scrambles, tofu scrambles, salad or hearty soup. If I must have a snack, it’s fruit, cottage cheese, coffee, tea or water.

Finally, the plan is to keep doing what I’m doing and quit worrying about the weight. I’ll pull the old tape measure out in a month and see if this plan has been successful. Until then, it’ll be no sweat (well, unless I’m training, of course).

How have you successfully battled the bulge in training? Do you have a formula for how many calories you consume at each stage? Leave your comments!