Category Archives: Running and Cycling

Tour d’Eastside

Another weekend, another bike ride.  This weekend, I finished my longest ride ever (by about a mile) – 44.5 miles with 2220 feet of elevation gain.  It was a great ride!  It makes so much difference when the weather is decent.  I had loaded up all this cold weather gear on a bag on my bike, and I didn’t need any of it.  I even took off the tights I’d put on over my shorts, and just had a woolen long sleeve jersey and shorts for most of the ride.  To start, temps were in the low to mid 50s and overcast, but I think it must have been at least 60 by the time I finished, with sunshine peaking through here and there.

I love that I’m getting to the point that I can cover a significant distance on my bike.  It’s a way to explore this place that I live that is different than being in the car.  Unlike running, I can cover a lot of ground, but unlike driving, I’m going slow enough to appreciate it.

Speaking of going slow, I just never seem to get any faster.  I averaged 11.5 mph.  That pace felt comfortable.  The hills were tiring, the downhills were lovely, and the flat felt like my easy running pace – comfortable.  I do feel like I could probably go faster but traffic and route-finding really slow me down, as well as worries that I’ll get so tired I won’t be able to finish.  The main issue with being slow is just that it takes so long, and I just don’t have that much free time.  Every hour I’m away, H is at home with the kids.  He’s awesome to let me ride, but I usually spend half my rides feeling super guilty.

I have time for two, maybe three (if I hire our nanny for an extra day), more rides this summer.  It’s been a brutal spring weather-wise, just ridiculously cold and rainy, but I think the worst is over.  However, we’ll be in Virginia for August, and we have some other weekend commitments, so I’m nearly out of time for the year.  I’m planning a 50 mi ride next weekend, and then hoping to do a 60 and then 70 mile ride.  We’ll see.  I’ve only been able to get about 50% of my planned rides off due to weather and other commitments.

a wet rainy cycle

Two weeks ago, I went for a 37 mile ride with 1700 ft of elevation gain.  It was very pleasant and went well.  Yes, I was very tired, but nothing crazy.

I should note that other than the morning I went for my cycle, it rained for most of that weekend.

The following weekend, I hoped to go for another 40 mile cycle, but it was supposed to rain the whole time, so I went for a shorter 25 mile cycle during the best weather-predicted time.  I managed to get through it without getting rained on.  I canceled on a friend of mine I’d been supposed to cycle with.

Then, this weekend, my friend and I made plans again, for Sunday.  The weather forecast was about a 15% chance of rain throughout.  It was supposed to be overcast but dry.  However, as I drove down to the trailhead, it started to rain lightly – not a good sign.  I got down to our meeting spot.  My friend had cycled 15 miles to meet me, so I wasn’t going to bail on him.  So, we headed out into the rain.

Now cycling versus running in the rain is a totally different ball game.  Typically, I run at about 6 mph – 10 minutes a mile.  On flats, I cycle at around 15 mph.  On downhills, I easily hit 25 mph.  On yesterday’s ride, for example, my max speed was 32 mph, even though I tried to keep my speed down due to concerns about my brakes not working well in the rain, and visibility being poor.  Even at 15 mph, you’re getting A LOT wetter than at 6 mph, and when you build up speed to 20 or 25 mph or so on the downhills, you just get so wet from light rain that wouldn’t be a huge problem at slower speeds.

15% chance of rain.  But it just kept raining and raining and raining.  And I kept getting wetter and wetter and colder and colder.  The temperatures were in the low 50s, but again, when you’re hitting 15 to 20 mph half the time, the wind makes it feel much colder.  Furthermore, because I got even colder whenever we stopped, I really wasn’t taking in enough calories.  One thing I’ve learned in the last few years about endurance sports is the value of taking in calories during longer exercise, especially anything longer than 2 hours.  Even between 60 and 120 minutes, there’s a lot of value in taking in calories, but you’re not going to crash without it; your performance will probably be reduced.  But beyond 2 hours, you can really get hit by exhaustion if you’re not taking in enough calories.  I usually drink gatorade or Nuun (the type with calories, not just electrolytes) and eat Kind bars during my cycles.  I drink as I cycle, and I’ll drink a lot and have some bites to eat every time I stop at an intersection or for a photo or whatever.  But we just weren’t stopping, mostly due to my preference.

My friend wasn’t having nearly as many problems as me.  He cycles in the rain regularly and I guess he’s got his attire dialed in.  He actually cycled 70 miles in total.  I think that would have put me in the hospital with hypothermia.  He probably has 30 pounds on me, maybe 40 – so that helps. But part of it is just the way I am made.  I have trouble retaining heat in general.  And wearing the right clothes would help.

In any case, we did finish the ride.

Afterwards, I got back in my car fairly quickly, and cranked the heat to the maximum for the entire drive home.  I was still freezing after the 25 minute drive.  I went straight upstairs and started a hot shower and still just couldn’t warm up, even standing in the hot shower.  So I filled a bath with hot water, and after sitting in the bath for some time, I was finally able to stop shivering.  A cup of hot tea left me feeling fairly normal temperature-wise. I reflected on the fact that it must have been awful trying to warm up in the old days when you didn’t have hot water on tap.  I think heating yourself from the inside out – like with tea – is probably the way to go.  I should have started with a hot drink.

After all that, I still felt exhausted and depleted.  I think that my body probably expended a lot of energy not only on the 40 mile cycle, but trying to keep me warm.  Plus the whole not enough calories thing I think didn’t help.  I was pretty much ravenous for the rest of the day.  Also, I had been planning to take B to a playdate that afternoon, and H had to do it, which wasn’t ideal given that he’d already watched the kids all morning while I cycled.

In summary, I really wish it would warm up and stop raining out here.

summer riding

I cannot believe this baby formula shortage situation.  I looked on Amazon, and you basically cannot buy Similac powdered baby formula.  You can buy the premade stuff.  But, for example, with Saoirse, we had to make formula with extra calories, which was a different mix than the standard premade.  I remember being stressed during the early Covid days when Saoirse was still taking some formula, so I stocked up with a 3 month supply, which I later gave away.  Not having formula is an absolute crisis.  It should be the number one priority for Biden and co.  What can matter more than having adequate food available for newborns and infants?

I’ve had brutal allergies over the last year, maybe two.  Honestly, I can’t remember when it started.  It’s just a continuous cycle of sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, etc.  It’s interesting because I’ve had very few colds during the same period, thanks to all the Covid precautions.  I’m not sure which is worse, honestly.

In any case, the my kids’ colds finally caught up with me.  So now, I have allergies and a cold.  They both get tested for The Virus three times a week for school, so probably just a cold, but ug.  I was really hoping to get a good bike ride in this weekend.  It’s supposed to rain both days, and I just can’t see riding 25 miles in the rain with a cold.  I got Zwift set up last weekend, and I’m moderately happy with it.  I got a direct drive trainer, and I’m not sure I have it adjusted quite right, and I feel like my gears are kind of noisy.  It’s hard to explain.  In any case, I got a good workout in Thursday with a ten mile ride.  Perhaps I’ll do an indoor ride this weekend if I’m not feeling well and call it good.

I have some cycling goals for the summer, but since we’re heading to Smith Mountain Lake for August where I won’t have a bike and I want to focus on spending time with family, my goals have a deadline of the end of July.  We’re having really lousy weather this year, which is making it harder to get out and ride.

I did get a ride in last weekend – 18.5 miles, 820 feet of elevation gain.  It’s a good start.

Skiing and cycling

I booked our accommodation for skiing next year!  We are going to Park City.  In the end, I decided the ease of travel made Park City a win over other potential destinations.  We seriously considered Steamboat, as it would have saved us some money on passes due to sharing agreement with our local mountain, but everything I read talked about Steamboat being great for tree skiing, and I am just not excited about this.  Also, there is only one direct flight from Seattle to Steamboat a day (and vice versa) to transportation there isn’t ideal.  I was seriously tempted by Beaver Creek, but accommodation prices meant we would have been able to stay *in* Beaver Creek but would have had to stay in the nearby town of Avon.  That’s a short manageable drive away, but with a three-year-old, I thought this was a good year to put a priority on convenience.  We also looked at Big Sky Montana but nixed that due to accommodation prices.

Most ski resorts were non-starters due to lack of options for three-year-olds.  Really only the very large resorts and lessons for younger kids and childcare.  If we continue to enjoy skiing, we’ll have many more options the following year.

The one outlier in terms of cost in Park City is rental cars.  A standard SUV will run us $1400 for seven days, much higher than at other locations (like Steamboat or Beaver Creek).  So I’m hoping they’ll run a sale or something, or maybe we can just forego a rental car completely.

The VRBO I booked in Park City is very close to Park City Mountain ski lifts.  It’s a short drive from Park City Canyons, which one can ski on the same lift ticket.  It’s also a short drive from Deer Valley.  Deer Valley lift tickets are completely exorbitant, but perhaps we could spend one day there.  Or Jonathan and I could put the kids in lessons at Park City and ski there on our own, ha ha.  We’ll see.

Meanwhile, my interest is shifting from skiing to cycling.  I have my last goal race of the “season” this weekend – a 10K.  The following weekend, L and B are getting their First Communion, and an old friend who is L’s godmother is coming in for the weekend.  I won’t be cycling this weekend, and may or may not be able to squeeze in a short cycle the First Communion weekend.  But I’m hoping that the following weekend I’ll be able to start cycling regularly.

I took the girls for a flat 10 mile cycle on a local paved trail.  It was the first cycle I’d taken them on in ages, and L has spent so little time cycling, she was a little uncomfortable on her bike at first.  However, once we got going, a good time was had by all.  The girls went about 7 mph, which is pretty slow, but they didn’t seem tired afterwards.  I think we could all go farther together.

I feel like I’ve never been able to make any real progress in cycling due to not doing enough of it.  I just don’t feel all that comfortable cycling on the roads during the week due to traffic.  Since I’m going back to work, if I wanted to cycle on a weekday morning, I’d be out during rush hour.  I think you’re asking for an accident if you do that too frequently, and I don’t really enjoy it anyway.  But only cycling one day of the weekend means I never get that much cycling fitness.  (Cycling both weekend days is obviously not practical due to family obligations.)  Therefore, I’m thinking about getting a trainer.  Decent bike trainers are expensive, so it would be an investment.  But I’ve been looking for a way to exercise at home, either running or biking, for a while.  I think maybe it’s an investment worth making.  Or maybe I should just join a gym!  But then I have to drive to said gym, and until recently, WA required masks even when working out, which is a nonstarter for cardio for me.  And it just feels like such a waste if / when I don’t use it.  Like most people, I never seem to get my money’s worth from gym memberships.

Thoughts on Peloton

After Monday’s Peloton workout – whole body strength – I seriously had more quad pain than after the marathon.  In total, I had more pain after the marathon, but that was largely due to my hip injury, blisters, etc.  In terms of purely muscle pain, the Peloton workout was worse.  It’s now Thursday, and only today am I able to go up and down stairs in a semi-natural fashion.  What’s weird, though, is that I had no pain anywhere else in my legs whatsoever.  It seems the “whole body” workout did nothing for my calves.  I also had no arm, shoulder, back, or belly soreness.  I did another “whole body strength” workout last night with a similar qualitative assessment – lots of quad focus.

I find it weird that I didn’t end up with super sore arms or abs.  I did my best in the workout, but maybe I’m so weak in my upper body, I’m not able to push myself the way I am with lower body stuff?  I’m a little mystified.   One common theme in the workouts is pushup variations that are harder than baseline pushups.  Given that I can barely do a dozen baseline pushups, I think pushup variations are silly for me, because I can’t really do them properly.

There is no doubt that I work harder with the exercise leader on the TV encouraging me.  That’s a definitely pro of Peloton.  However, as compared to my own strength workout, it’s much less targeted to reducing running injuries.  Squats and lunges are actually super important to avoiding knee injuries, and injuries in general, so that focus is great.  But the lack of any kind of calf strength, not to mention the magical IT-band injury-preventing leg lifts is a negative.  I also haven’t felt the kind of stress on my hips that I felt doing single leg dead lifts, though more research on my part is called for in terms of how to avoid future hip issues.

I noticed Peloton does have a few videos called “Strength for Runners” or some such a thing.  I was amused to see the photo shows someone doing leg lifts.  The humble leg lift is so underappreciated!  I will probably give this a try, but unlike the other strength videos, they aren’t coming up with new options every day or two, which is one of the appeals of Peloton – you don’t have to do the same exact workout video over and over.  They only had a few videos total, which makes me think it’s rare for them to do a new one.

I do think it’s good to mix it up a bit, and once I start running again, I’m sure it would be beneficial to do a Peloton strength workout once a week.  I have no doubt I’d end up strengthening some muscles that I otherwise wouldn’t.  For $13 a month, I can see sticking with this.  But I also think it’s necessary to continue specific exercises targeted at avoiding running injury.

progress

Feel free to stop reading any time!

One of the hardest parts of the race for me was the immediate aftermath.  My left leg was just killing me afterwards, and the mile walk back to the hotel was long and cold.  It was mid 40s and partly sunny, but I was dressed for running, not walking, and I was covered with a cold sweat.  By the time I got back to the hotel, I was frozen, and it took me over an hour to fully warm up, even after a hot shower.  That night, I could barely hobble around the hotel room without my leg giving me a lot of pain, and I descoped plans to go anywhere further than the bathroom.

But the next morning, my hip felt, well, pretty much normal.  My knee (which I think started hurting due to favoring the leg due to my hip issue) was still hurting, but less.  Now, less than 48 hours after the race, I still have significant muscle soreness, but my hip and knee are at least 90% back to normal.  (They don’t hurt walking around, but I wouldn’t run on them yet.)  It’s just amazing to me how much abuse you can subject your body to, and how quickly it can recover.  In terms of muscle soreness, it’s really not any worse than after my last half marathon, probably because I ran more slowly, even though I ran farther.

Now we wait to see if I contracted Omicron on the trip or not.  I would feel bad if I got it on this little boondoggle and infected my entire family.  I took a test after I got home – negative.  Which doesn’t mean all that much, but is encouraging.  I feel worn down and had a splitting headache, so I was getting paranoid, but that’s actually very typical for me after flying.  Flying always makes me feel like crap!

Houston marathon race report

Well, I survived my marathon today.  I am hurting so much right now – sore muscles and joints.  With predicted 15 mph winds, I decided to trim back my goal from 3:50 to 4:00, so I joined the 4 hour pace group.  This was a great decision.  I love pacers and pace groups.  When I have the energy, I need to track down the pacers and send them a thank you e-mail.

The marathon is as much a mental battle as a physical, at least for me.  For me the battle started with flying to Houston.  (As you know, I despise flying, and flying right in the middle of the Omicron surge is just even less ideal than usual.)  Then staying in a random hotel by myself in downtown Houston.  Trying to manage my nerves for two days before the race.  Getting up at 5 am – 3 am Seattle time – on race day morning.  Trying to stay calm and get ready that morning in the hotel and then the corral.  And then trying to stay calm after the race.  Sometimes I think I’ve got this anxiety thing under control.  Other times, I’m not so sure.  Anyway, regardless of the outcome of the race – even if I’d dropped out – I’m proud of myself for getting on the plane and starting the race.  That was really the hardest part.

The first mile felt hard and kind of fast, though it was actually my slowest mile, in part because my feet and hands were frozen.  (35 degrees and windy.  In Houston!!  But really, overall, conditions were ideal once I warmed up a bit.)  Then it was a mental game, trying to just keep running and let the time pass without getting too hung up on every mile.  Four hours is a very long time to run even if you’re running at a comfortable pace.  The pace felt very comfortable once I got going.  From a cardiovascular standpoint, I think I could have gone quite a bit faster.

But the pounding got me.  Around 20 miles, my hip started hurting.  A lot.  And it hurt more and more as those last miles went by.  I really wasn’t sure if I was going to make it.  I figured if I stopped running and walk, it would feel better.  It turns out, as I discovered after the race, that walking hurt just as much, so it’s just as well that I kept on running and got it over with more quickly.   But yeah, it was rough.  And I was wondering how much damage I was going to my hip.  This was when the pace group REALLY helped.  The pacers were on and off saying supportive encouraging things to everyone, and this random crazy guy in the group (who was consuming alcohol throughout the race – I kid you not!) was encouraging the crowd to cheer for “Jennifer because it’s her first marathon!”  Yes.  It helped.

The organization of the race was superb.  Truly superb.  Whoever organized it should be put in charge of the US Covid response.  Seriously.  They did an incredible job.  Two American records were set today – the marathon record by Keira D’Amato and the half marathon record by Sara Hall.  Many half marathon records have been set in Houston in past.  I truly think it’s one of the world’s best marathons.  And what’s cool is that it’s a great race for the elites AND the hoi polloi like myself.

With that said, with Houston’s unpredictable weather, I’m not sure if can ever be in the very top category.  Houston’s weather is simply insane.  I actually had a really hard time warming up after the race.  I expect that in Seattle, but Houston?  But I have to thank the Houston weather gods for keeping the wind in check today.  I may have been the difference between me finishing and not.

I truly believe I am one and done in the marathon.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  It’s the ultimate casual runner’s challenge – to run 26 miles.  (Casual as opposed to elite.  There is really nothing casual about training for a marathon, even a slow one.)  It always seemed achievable and yet insurmountable – kids to take care of instead of training, job obligations, the general lack of marathons in the Seattle area, getting sick for CIM.  But, I did it.  And I’m glad.  But I have no interest in doing it again.  I like half marathons, and there are a lot of them locally.  I like 5Ks and 10Ks and 15Ks and 1 mile races.  It’s time for a nice long running break, and then some short and sweet events.