Monday, November 25, 2013

Week 2, Nov. 18 to 24

Given our vague but long-term plans for the Snoots in winter touring, I don't intend to put many pavement and dirt miles on this bike, thereby wearing down expensive tires and other parts unnecessarily. But the temptation to go out and play with this fun new toy is hard to resist, even though I feel a little silly waiting at stop lights while straddling an expedition fat bike. Plus, there is the issue of being a somewhat stranger-shy introvert, riding a bike that couldn't be more conspicuous. As I was pedaling up Foothill Boulevard, at least three road cyclists on the other side of the wide street called out to me — "fat bikes rule!," "what is that?" and another greeting I didn't catch. Near the top of Black Mountain, while spinning the granny up a 15-percent-grade on loose gravel, a hiker walking down the hill wanted to ask me a dozen questions. "It's for snow," I gasped. "To ride in Alaska." And finally, "sorry, can't stop, won't be able to start again."

My main goal for the Sunday ride, besides playing with the fun new toy and confronting social anxieties, was to ride the Snoots on familiar trails to get a better sense of the handling and fit compared to my other bikes. But it is more work, pedaling this bike, and some feeble attempts at power bursts on the steeper hills made it apparent how empty my legs felt on Sunday. The combination of a big week in terms of effort, combined with a light lunch and late-day ride, brought on feelings of weakness and fatigue. I used to get frustrated with these emotions, but now I let it go. I make a conscious decision to do so. "My legs are torched. Oh well."

And it's funny, but since I started making a choice to shrug off fatigue, these "empty leg" rides have become some of my favorite rides. Don't get me wrong, I love those strong days when all systems seem to be firing on high and I feel like I can conquer anything with ease. But the weak days have their own quiet appeal — a decision to let go of the illusion of control, sit back, and see what happens. Enjoy the rich colors cast by the afternoon sun. Listen to some Regina Spektor. What I've found is a serene, Zen-like state that quiets the chatter in my mind and propels my body forward all the same. Meditative movement. It's a great thing to practice for those long hauls.

Monday: Road bike, 2:28, 33.5 miles, 3,800 feet climbing. Highway 9 to Page Mill. I climbed Highway 9 faster than I intended, because there were two long sections of construction. I hate to feel like I'm holding up traffic in the single lane, so I try my best to keep up. Drivers may feel like they're inching along at 15 to 20 miles per hour up a 9-percent grade, but it feels like hyper-drive into the pain cave on a road bike.

Tuesday: Run, 1:01, 6.6 miles, 688 feet climbing. Typical Tuesday run through the Monta Vista substation to Rancho, but as an out-and-back instead of the loop. I didn't push hard on the hills because I was still wary of the bike crash knee injury, but the pain didn't return once this week. Maybe it was the wound all along, and it's finally healed enough to no longer be a concern.

Wednesday: Run, 2:16, 11.4 miles, 1,652 feet climbing. Started out in the pouring rain, some of the trails were bogged down in sticky/slippery clay mud, and I did not feel well. The truth is, I felt really bad when I started out, enough that I made my first pit stop at Trader Joes, which is a whole 0.25 miles away from my apartment. Normally I would opt out in a case like this, since running in such a state is unlikely to yield many fitness benefits. But given what I'm preparing for, I feel it's important to practice the art of moving forward when I feel bad. And then a strange thing happened. I never felt markedly better, but I did slip into that meditative movement state, got buzzed on the endorphins and the novelty of the weather, and ended up running much further than I even intended before I started out. I did pay for this effort, though, in the form of feeling spaced out and depleted for the rest of the evening.

Thursday: Road bike, 1:30, 17.5 miles, 2,702 feet climbing. Felt fine the next day, though. I usually bounce back quickly from tough workouts, unless that workout involves relative "speed" and have to recover from muscle micro-tears and other actual physical damage. This was just the usual Montebello Road climb, at a good recovery pace.

Friday: Road bike, 1:15, 18.5 miles, 1,925 feet climbing. I only had one Highway 9 construction zone sprint during this ride. My heart rate probably did climb into the 180s, which reminds me that I should try to sync my heart-rate-monitor with my current GPS so I can gauge intensity. I do get spurts of high intensity in nearly every workout I do, just by nature of choosing routes with a fair amount of elevation gain. But I like to keep the high-intensity bursts organic instead of calculated, because I'm not actually training to get faster. I'm training to get more efficient — which translates to faster — at a sustained multiday effort.

Saturday: Run, 5:45, 23.5 miles, 4,377 feet climbing. The Point Reyes Run that I blogged about yesterday. We kept the pace casual and made plenty of stops, but I felt great the whole time. There were a few instances of a strange sensation in my right knee, which I can't even describe as pain — more like a flash of instability, perhaps an anticipation of pain. But it never actually hurt. Beat and Steve started laying down some relatively fast miles for the final five miles as I tried to keep up, and there was about 1.5 miles total of beach running that was reasonably strenuous.

Sunday: Fat bike, 2:45, 25 miles, 3,384 feet climbing. Perhaps a little ambitious for the day after a long run, but this turned out to be a rather enjoyable if bonky ride.

Total: 17 hours, 94.5 miles ride, 41.5 miles run, 18,533 feet climbing

This was a big week. I'd be lying if I said I can't feel it, but it is interesting how painlessly it can all pass at the right pace. That said, it's probably best to dial back a bit this coming week. I figure that will happen anyway with Thanksgiving travel and festivities. I'm headed to Utah to spend the holiday with my extended family, and hoping to get some hiking and winter gear testing in the mountains while I'm there. Crossing my fingers for an Arctic cold front. Sorry, Sara.