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when no one's watching

... some people dance. Or sing at the top of their lungs.

Tonight I needed to ride. Alone. At my own pace, without worrying about holding anyone back or trying to make an impression. I needed to feel good on the bike again, especially since all of my crashes have left me paranoid, overly tentative and basically just nervous as hell about anything cycling-related.

So I rode 22 miles after work today, all by myself. (Just for the record: I did call a friend so someone knew where I was in case of emergency. And I brought my phone with me on the ride.) I averaged a 14.4 mph pace -- not speedy, but comfortable. And I navigated traffic on my own and practiced my hand signals. And I focused on form (heels down, shoulders relaxed) and keeping a steady cadence.

And I didn't crash or get hit by a car or die.

This is huge.

Added bonus: At one point, a coyote stepped into the road in front of me. It stopped for a moment, and we stared at each other before it trotted off.

(I also saw a vulture guarding a fawn carcass. This was not as fun.)

Maybe Bibi and I can reconcile after all.


I've swum the Vineman route three times now in the past week. (Just for the record: Today was especially icky. I don't know what's going on, but there was a lot of green furriness near the turnaroud. So not fun to put your face in that. But I digress.)

Few things make me hungrier than swimming, which means I've eaten at boon eat + drink three times in the past week.

I suppose it's safe to assume I'm obsessed with the place. I love the orange chairs on the patio. And the manager with the '70s mustache. And the wall decorated with repeating images of a dog catching a frisbee. 

But the food is really something else. Case in point: Sunday's brunch.

Poached eggs over polenta and greens with goat cheese crumbles. Hell yes.

Tonight there was chilled beet soup with crème fraîche and hazelnuts.

Like a work of art, yes?

Dear Vineman: You beat me up and make me question myself. But you've introduced me to what just may be my new favorite Sonoma County restaurant. And for that, I am grateful.

Anyway, in non-food-related triathlon training news: I ran 11.3 miles this morning -- longest run since the Halloween half. It felt good.

The same cannot be said for the post-run shower, during which I discovered my sports bra had peeled a strip of skin off of my chest. 

Apologies to the neighbors for the screaming that came from my bathroom.

20 days and counting

It's coming.

Yesterday I swam the river again. And then rode the beginning portion of the bike route. (Which means I have now ridden the entire Vineman route in bits and pieces.) And then ran about two miles.

And then ate a ridiculous amount of food. And then almost fell asleep in a movie theater.

And then somehow ended up at Hooters for wings.

Clearly, the unbelievable can happen.


My strategy: Don't try to save the world on the bike because no matter how hard you push up Chalk Hill and Canyon, the world will probably still end.

And you need your legs so you can keep running when all hell breaks loose.


Perhaps more complicated than the race itself: Trying to explain to your mom -- who has never ridden a bike in her life -- that two bikes, two tri bags and four adults will not fit into the economy-sized car she plans to rent for race weekend.

Mom: We can just take the bikes then.

Me: They still won't fit.

Mom: I'll ask your dad.

Me: They still won't fit.

Mom: Your dad will know.

Me: ...


I could compare myself to everyone who raced this weekend: My co-worker whose Olympic time was literally half of mine. My two friends from my training group who did the same swim I did but faster.

Or I could listen to my Pilates teacher.

"Nadine, my teacher when I was just starting out as a young dancer, said to me, 'Don't spend all of your time looking at the people around you, or you'll miss the journey.'"


Here's to 70.3 miles of journey -- and the six months of training it is taking to get there.

it's called le freak

Since I've been so focused on swimming lately, thought I'd post this shot of the pool (complete with two-story waterslide) at the Aspen Recreation Center. I swam there last Sunday -- took the bus from downtown after the Food & Wine Classic ended and did a short half-mile workout. It was my second workout of the day -- I got up early that morning and schlepped ran eight painful, help-I'm-pulling-a-circus-train miles. (Dear altitude: You suck.)

I did another double workout today -- ran six miles on my lunch break and then took a masters swim class (75 minutes of drills!) this evening. Both went very well. (It's much easier to breathe when you're back home at sea level.)

Yet I am still completely freaking out. Let me list the ways:

  • I am totally unprepared for the bike. My mileage is far below what it should be for this point in the training cycle. I should be easily doing 50- to 60-mile rides on the weekend, and I'm not. I've just barely cracked 40, and that was awhile ago. Hell, I don't think I've even been on my bike in at least three weeks. (Confession: I haven't even checked the garage to make sure my bike is still here. For all I know, Bibi could have left the premises. Yes, I am a bad bike mom.)
  • I have another work trip coming up. So instead of spending my weekend training, I'll be mustering every ounce of willpower in my body to keep from going crazy on Chardonnay and hors d'oeuvres.
  • Which brings me to my next point: I don't have my nutrition dialed in. Yes, I've recently gone back to eating gluten-free (and it feels so much better), but I haven't figured out fueling for the race. Also, let's not forget the fact that as the World's Clumsiest Cyclist, I am flat-out incapable of eating or drinking while riding. Which means I have to create some kind of strategy where I pull over on the side of the road at intervals to make myself eat and drink.
  • It might be hot on race day. Really, really freaking hot.
  • I somehow cut the bottom of my right foot during the Reservoir Triathlon a few weeks ago, and it still hasn't healed. In fact, it's slightly infected, and yesterday I had to lance it and a lot of grossness came out. (Be grateful no photos of this exist.) I am imagining this getting worse instead of healing, and then my foot turning green and falling off.
Seriously, I really need to stop stressing and just go to bed.

solstice, swimming

I swear I'm not a hippie, but this has always been one of my favorite days of the year. For some reason, the extra light makes me feel like I have to do Something Significant. I remember, in 2005, that meant deciding to leave journalism to pursue a career in wine.

(We'll pause here to let that sink in for a moment.)

And now, seven years later, it means swimming 1.2 miles in open water. That's right -- I spent the evening at Johnson's Beach, practicing the Vineman route. And there was zero freaking out (OK, except for the part when a slimy underwater weed wound itself around my arm and I actually screamed a little) and zero backstroking.

It took 1:06 to finish the swim -- slow, but likely because we made a few stops. Though one of those was to do handstands in the water at the turnaround (clearly I take my training very seriously), the breaks were focused on learning the course. I swam with my co-worker Gwen, who did the Aquabike last year, and we would pause so she could point out tricky terrain (the Russian River is really shallow in spots -- there are areas where you can actually stand up and walk), share tips (apparently, there is also a big weed patch -- see above screaming -- that requires navigation) and basically just talk through anything that might end up being a mindfuck on race day.

I can't explain how much more comfortable I feel about the swim as a result. It's crazy to think that just three months ago, I could barely survive a half-mile. I know now that I am absolutely capable of doing 1.2 miles within the cut-off time. (The bike and the run, however, are another story, especially if it's going to be hot. Also, have I mentioned that my longest ride has only been 40 miles and I have less than four weeks left until race day? Anxiety attack!)

My focus now for swim training is to really familiarize myself with the river, make a plan for how I am going to navigate it and memorize the landmarks I want to sight on. I'd like to swim at Johnson's at least once a week and supplement that with a masters swim class (yes, that's right -- I've conquered my fear of that too and actually took my first masters class two weeks ago -- like I said, completely crazy) to build endurance and speed. I also want to use lap swimming to work on form and efficiency -- and practice breathing out of both sides.

My goal (and I can't believe I'm putting this in writing): Finish the Vineman swim in under an hour, as close to 50 minutes as I possibly can.

(Again: Crazy.)

at altitude

Yes, I did wake up at 6:15 this morning to run. Yes, the altitude was brutal, and I felt like an elephant was stepping on my chest. And yes, my Garmin completely freaked out and said I ran 5.8 miles in 33 minutes (ha!) when I actually probably ran a little more than a 5K.

But man, was it gorgeous out there.

Remember the last time I was in Aspen and I spent the entire time riding every trail I could find? I rediscovered some of those trails this morning, and they're just as beautiful as I recalled. For some reason, the flowers here seem brighter than anywhere else. (Maybe the altitude does funny things to a person's perception of color?)

Unfortunately, I left my camera behind, so no photos. However, I did find a great little restaurant for a post-run meal. Poached eggs over veggies? Yes, please!


Yeah, I know. I'm a huge nerd (who apparently has an abnormally large arm and very big teeth, at least in this photo). And this Aspen thing isn't helping. I basically went from table to table, drooling over all of the "Top Chef" contestants at tonight's welcome reception. (And yes, Paul Qui's take on elote was my favorite. But then again, I'm totally biased.)

So you're probably wondering: With all of this travel (and the accompanying eating and drinking), how the hell am I managing to train?

It's been tricky, but I'm making it work. Traveling has actually rekindled my love of running (as you know, the bike and the swim have been a bit of a distraction lately). Running is hands down the best way to explore a new place and find beautiful things. I ran twice in Oregon -- once in the mountains, where my route looked like this:

And again along the waterfront in Portland, which was an adventure. I got stuck on the opposite riverbank for about 15 minutes because the drawbridge had to be raised for three boats. (I can't tell you how much I wish I had brought my camera.) But man, it was fun being out there!

Then yesterday in Denver I found an absolutely fantastic gym right around the corner from the hotel. (This place was like going to a spa -- pristine, with unbelievable amenities. I took two showers, no joke.) I bought a day pass -- only $15 -- and made good use of their pool, which was indoors and saline instead of chlorine (so fantastic -- chlorine always gives me a sneeze attack). I swam a mile in 55 minutes -- my fastest time yet for that distance. And then I took a spin class where the teacher focused on intervals -- a really good challenge, especially at altitude. Loved it. And I rolled out and did some bridging exercises to strengthen my butt and hammies.

Tomorrow the plan is to wake up early and run. I don't think I will make it too far -- Aspen is at 8,000 feet, and I was out of breath just walking back to my room tonight. But I do want to get out there and push myself. If I'm going to be way the hell up here, I might as well take advantage of it and get some high-altitude training!

And yes, I've even found a pool up here. And spin classes. And yoga. Can't wait to try it all out!

hello from a hotel room

Contrary to popular belief, I did not die after my last post/triathlon.

I just skipped town.

First, there was Mt. Hood.

Yes, that is snow. In June. And no, I was not in the least bit prepared. Yoga pants and a fleece pullover just don't cut it.

Luckily, the weather in Portland was much better. Actually, it was perfect. So perfect, that when coupled with this bucatini from Nostrana, I wanted to cry, tie myself to the nearest bike rack (and yes, there were plenty from which to choose) and yell: "Please don't make me leave!"

But leave I did. Because then it was off to Colorado for work.

Yesterday I was in Boulder, at a pre-Food & Wine Classic event that involved some 30 wines arranged in 15 flights. Though the 100-point Quilceda Creek, a 1985 Krug, two Barolos and a Bandol were part of the lineup, the highlight for me was definitely this:

How I love a mature Cabernet. And this one was just gorgeous -- beautiful structure, fruit notes (yes, still!), a long finish that just coated the tongue. Wow and wow.

But alas, I barely had time to digest before I was packing again. I left Boulder this morning and am now in a Denver hotel room, where the view looks like this:

Tomorrow, I'm Aspen-bound.


... and now I am so ridiculously exhausted.

thoughts before a triathlon

1. Why did I choose the hotel that also happens to be the venue for a prom?

2. Why is my room right next to the ballroom where the prom is being held?

3. Why aren't limos cool anymore? What's the deal with the "party bus"?

4. Why don't these boys cut their hair?

5. Why hasn't anyone told him that hat is super douchey?

6. Why hasn't anyone told her this isn't dress rehearsal for "Phantom of the Opera"?

7. Screw it -- I'm just going to steal more dessert from their dessert bar.

on running, or lack thereof

Confession: I haven't really felt like much of a runner lately.

Yes, I can still bang out a race if needed -- ran Bay to Breakers (if you can call that a race) a few weekends ago and was pretty much completely drunk through the whole thing (when in SF, drink Absolut SF, right?), got stuck in a port-a-potty line, almost ate shit over a crack in the pavement (are you surprised?) and still finished in 1:16:45 -- only 1:47 slower than last year.

But at most, I've been running about 13 miles a week -- barely maintaining a base. And some weeks I skip running altogether.

A lot of this is because I need so much help with swimming and cycling; most of my training is focused here instead of on the run leg. Also, since I'm new to swimming and cycling, they just seem more interesting, like there is still so much to learn and explore. Example: I went swimming at Yorty Creek in Cloverdale last week, and for the first time ever, there was zero freakout in open water. It just felt so good to be out there, and the location was absolutely beautiful -- golden hillsides, a tree with a rope swing, wind rustling leaves. Amazing. And then this past Sunday, I did a 40-mile ride out to Valley Ford and back. Yes, I was with a really fast group and ended up getting dropped, which was humbling. But that doesn't mean the ride wasn't awesome -- I had a blast seeing new parts of the county. And who would've thought I'd ever in my life be able to ride all the way out to Valley Ford?

(By the way, this is what it looks like when you get dropped, have no idea what the route is and have to consult Google Maps. Thankfully, Thai and I were in the same boat together, and her phone actually  had reception.)

So now I am trying to run a little more frequently. I don't want to overdo it, of course -- don't want to end up with an injury -- but I do need to build a stronger base. And I need to start looking at the run as quite possibly the most important part of the half Ironman -- it really doesn't matter if I kill the swim and/or have awesome bike splits if I'm too depleted for a solid run -- or even worse, can't complete the run leg at all.

Hence, running so far this week has included five miles (with hills) on Tuesday and three miles (in heat -- might as well start getting used to it now) today.

And Sunday I'll be running a 10K as part of a the Reservoir Triathlon. That's right -- attempt No. 2 at an Olympic distance tri. Hopefully this one will go better than the last!