December 30, 2011

Bike Lust + Swim Test

Since I'm finally tapering for Houston and only running about four times a week, I've been able to fit in some other workouts which has really helped me avoid burnout. Yesterday I met a coworker at a bike shop in Folsom to do a little window shopping before going for a ride. With Ironman in my future I'm in the market for a new, more aerodynamic bike. My little intro road bike has been great, but it's not the greatest quality nor the best fit, especially for such a long race. I still plan on keeping it, but will most likely be getting a tri-specific bike in the near future. This will be the biggest purchase I've ever made, so it's definitely a bit nerve-wracking, but exciting, too! I'm going to do a little more research before I bite the bullet, but I also wanted to have a chance to check some out in person.

Our first stop was Folsom Bikes, where I oggled a lovely 2012 Felt B16. It's got a full carbon frame and is reported to be one of the best intro tri bikes for the price. Speaking of, it's a tad over my budget, so I'll need to give that one a bit more thought. I did get to hop on it in the shop and test out the aero position, and all I can say is holy shit it is terrifying! And I wasn't even moving! Definitely something that will take some time getting used to. From there we hopped on bike trail and road into old Folsom for a stop at Bicycles Plus. As soon as I walked in the door, I spotted this beauty:

The 2011 Trek Speed Concept 2.5, the bike I've been lusting over for months! Now admittedly, I'm mostly drawn to it because it's so pretty. In reality, I can do a lot better with my money. It's got an aluminum frame and is welded rather than a single frameset. If I'm going to spend the money, I want to get biggest bang for my buck. To add salt to the wound, it also happened to be on sale! Thank god I had someone else with me to talk sense into me : )

After we'd had enough bike lusting for the day we hit the trails again for a loop around Lake Natoma before finishing with 17 miles back at Folsom Bikes. It was a beautiful, if not a little cloudy, day, and it was nice to get back in the saddle. Although pretty soon I'll be spending a whole lot more!

That evening I grudgingly headed to the pool to do something I've been putting off for way too long: my swim fitness test. My coach has instructed me to do 3 different fitness tests to gauge where I'm at with each one currently so that she can plan my schedule and training accordingly. I've had the forms for over a month with a due date of January 1, and only a few days ago did I realize how close that was! So after a nearly 2 month hiatus, I found myself at the pool, slightly nervous about how slow I'd be and how much the test was gonna suck.

I've mostly been avoiding the pool lately because, who're we kidding, nobody wants to get in an outdoor pool in the middle of winter! Granted the pool is heated, but it's the before and after I'm not keen on. I sucked it up and hopped in, and once I got moving I warmed up pretty quickly. The swim test called for 10x100 yards with 10s rest, with the goal being to maintain a consistent pace throughout the test. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Well the tricky part was that in addition to actually doing the test I also had to record the data : / This led to me setting up an awkward little station at the end of my lane with towel, phone, and paper and pen. This meant that during my 10 seconds of rest, I was frantically stopping the timer, recording the time, then resetting and starting the timer before setting off again.
 at least I had a gorgeous sunrise to stare at between sets!

I wasn't expecting to be very fast, but I was hoping I could at least maintain 2:00/100 yds which wouldn't be too depressing, especially after such a long break. So I was pretty happy to find myself averaging a 1:55. I felt like I was working hard, but never like I was going to die. Definitely a win in my book! I know with more consistency I'll get faster, but I figure this is a good starting point. After a little cool down I rewarded myself with some time in the jacuzzi. With the promise of that after, I think I can come to terms with swimming more often : ) I still need to find the time to do the bike and run test (both to be done at the gym, and I'll need a heart rate monitor and assistant), but I'm glad to have at least one done... Especially since official training starts next week!
 despite the cold, there's just something about night swimming...

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope you've all had a wonderful holiday with family, friends, and good food : ) We did Christmas Eve with my mom's family in the bay area then today was just my folks and bro. Definitely one of the more low-key years, but it was great nonetheless. I managed to squeeze in an awesome 16 miler Christmas Eve morning, which meant I could indulge with a little less guilt : )

I always love sharing my gifts with others and I try to put a lot of thought into each one, so it was fun to see everyone's reactions this year as I think I did pretty well ; ) I'm definitely that person that loves to give presents more than to get them, but I will say that I got some awesome stuff this year, too! I spent most of today being pretty lazy, finally managing to watch Love Actually, my favorite Christmas movie, and later Unbreakable, which finally arrived yesterday!
i wish this could stay up year-round...
 new magic bullet!
 ready for some adventures in juicing!
 new ornament this year from Chicago
my festive pup on Christmas 2010 : )

It's hard to believe that another Christmas has come and gone. It's certainly my favorite time of the year, and I'm always a little sad to see it go. But I know soon enough I'll get carried away with everyone else in the excitement of the new year. Happy holidays to all!

December 12, 2011

"Unbreakable" Film Review

This past Friday I had the opportunity to attend a screening of a new running film, Unbreakable: The Western States 100. I'd seen the trailer the week before and really wanted to check it out, so I was excited to find out that my work was hosting a screening. As you probably could guess, the film covers the epic 2010 WS 100 ultra race. From the website:

"In 2010, four of the greatest undefeated mountain runners on earth toed the starting line at the Western States 100-mile endurance run, the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile foot race in the world.

'Unbreakable: The Western States 100' follows the four lead men on this amazing journey. Hal Koerner, two time defending Western States champion, and running store entrepreneur from Ashland, Oregon. Geoff Roes, undefeated at the 100-mile distance, an organic chef from Juneau, Alaska. Anton Krupicka, undefeated in every ultramarathon he has ever started, a graduate student living in Boulder, Colorado. Kilian Jornet, the young mountain runner and two time Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc champion, from Spain. 

While their lives may be quite different, the goal is the same: win the Western States 100-mile run. A win will require breaking the course record and running the fastest time in the history of the race. An epic showdown ensues, from Squaw Valley, CA in Lake Tahoe, up though the high snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains, down through the extreme heat of the American River Canyons and finishing in Auburn, CA. Though all four are undefeated, three must break and only one can remain Unbreakable."


The film ended up being just as epic as the race and had me on the edge of my seat for nearly 2 hours. It alternated between following the 4 runners on the trail as the race progressed and the intensity increased and interviews with the runners that offer a look into what their lives are like outside of running and racing. It was refreshing to see that despite tremendous talent, they all seem extremely down to earth and just really love to run. The footage from the race is pretty incredible, too. One of my favorite scenes was when Geoff, Anton, and Kilian began a steep descent and Kilian suddenly splits from the pack and takes off, putting so much space between them in such a short amount of time that you have to question whether you are seeing things correctly : ) Really, though, the filmmakers managed to make you feel like you were there.

While I did know the outcome of the race going into it, I nevertheless found myself wondering what would happen next. For those of you who don't know, after falling behind fairly early on, Geoff makes up a ton of ground and catches Anton around mile 88 and goes on to surge to the finish in a record-shattering 15:07. Watching Geoff cross the finish line after seeing the journey it took to get there was nothing short of amazing.

Completing a 100 miler has been on my bucket list for a while, and after volunteering at WS this past year I knew that one day I had to take on the infamous race. Now after watching Unbreakable I find myself with an ultra itch that only Western States can scratch : ) One day! If you have the chance to check out the film, I can't recommend it enough. Even if ultras or trails aren't your thing, you will undoubtedly still be inspired and entertained. In fact, I already pre-ordered my copy!

December 10, 2011

Catching Up

1. GRE
On Tuesday I finally conquered the last big hurdle in the grad school application process: the GRE. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure of taking this exam, it's basically a harder version of the SAT with verbal, math, and essay sections. This thing was seriously stressing me out over the last month so I'm glad to have it out of the way. I got the results back immediately for the multiple choice sections and while I didn't kill it, I did pretty average as I expected. I just keep reminding myself that there are a lot of other factors that the schools consider besides test scores. Either way, it's done, so yay!

2. CIM & 16 Miles
This past Sunday I had 16 miles on deck so I planned my route around the California International Marathon course. The race actually runs just a couple miles from my house so I did an out-and-back on the bike trail and made it to the J St. bridge just in time to catch the lead runners going by. It was pretty exciting, those guys were flyyyying!
 American lead (went on to place 2nd!)

I did another short out-and-back and by the time I got back to the bridge the pace group of women gunning for a Olympic trial qualifying time of 2:46 were passing. 25 went on to finish under the standard and will be headed to Houston in January for the trials (I'll be there, too!).  After that I hopped onto the course (on the sidewalk, not in the thick of things) and ran down J St. spectating as I went. It was actually kind of funny, because of the timing I was running along all the sub-3 hour folks. And there were a lot of them! Seriously impressive and inspiring. I got to the mile 25 aid station sponsored by my work and took a short break to do some cheering. With just a mile left to go I headed to work. I would've preferred the finish line to work but such is life!
Olympic trials hopefuls
 J st. bridge
 Sutter's Fort
 1 to go! (for them and me)
 Fleet Feet Sac aid station
home stretch
The run itself actually went really well though and was a huge confidence boost. My plan was to actually start off slow, like 9:30s, and just keep it easy. I have a habit of doing my long runs way too fast (like, practically race pace) so I wanted to try something different. Interestingly enough, after a few miles my pace naturally dropped to 9:10-9:15s for the rest of the run with no apparent change in effort. That's a win in my book! Also has me reconsidering my goals for Houston...

3. Winter Conditioning
I don't start official Ironman training with my coach til January but in the meantime I'm taking part in her winter conditioning classes twice a week. They are mostly circuit-type workouts designed for triathletes specifically that build in intensity from week to week. So far I've really enjoyed them and will be incorporating them through February. The only downside is the time. They start at 6am - it's actually still dark when we finish! I am not a morning person, but I know I need to get used to it for Ironman training. Yikes!

4. 100 Push-Ups Challenge
So I made it halfway, through week 3, and was doing nearly 70 push-ups in one workout. And then this week happened and push-ups didn't. Between the GRE and my winter conditioning classes (which include push-ups), I just didn't want to do them. Plus, they were getting really hard. I'm not giving up; I'll probably just repeat week 3 and go from there. And if that doesn't happen, I'd like to at least continue to incorporate push-ups into my routine because they really are effective and easy to do in 5-10 minutes.