Friday, June 27, 2014

A day full of firsts

I had two good reasons not to commute by bike yesterday: scattered thunderstorms and a slow leak in my back tire.

But I did it anyway and am disproportionately proud of myself for it.

The light rain on my way to work wasn't much of a problem. I tossed everything that needed to stay dry into a clean cat-litter tub and congratulated myself on a first successful commute in the rain. (It's been a very lucky two months.)

The leak was a little bit more of an issue. It was slow enough that I knew I could pump the tire up right before leaving and arrive with plenty of pressure left.

After that, though, I'd need expert guidance on how to patch or replace the tube. Fortunately, my bike-mechanic boyfriend was only a block away.

It was the perfect opportunity for me to finally try doing it myself — we weren't on a trail with bugs swarming us, or in a hurry to get somewhere.

So after three years of owning a road bike, I did it, with Cory talking me through it and lending a hand (literally) at times, and I'm confident that I could do it by myself if need be.

Granted, it would take much longer and involve much more struggling. That's fine. It's preferable to being afraid to take a long ride by myself, to feeling powerless, to hoping a friendly expert happens to be nearby in case of a flat.

With that done, I was ready to ride home — and the rain was ready to begin again. This was no light drizzle; it was a steady stream that, by the end, stung my forearms and clouded my vision.

Honestly? It was kind of fun, especially because home was at the end of a 1.5-mile-ish ride. (Much more fun than being 10 miles away.)

It also might've been excellent training for tomorrow's Bacoon Ride, if the forecasts are right.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The urge to run is stirring

A strange thought flitted across my mind the other day, as I thought about the upcoming week's workout regiment.

It was: "Hm, maybe I'll run Wednesday. Or run-walk. But definitely not bike, and definitely more than just walk."

Three weeks into my month of not running, it seems that I haven't quite lost the bug yet, in spite of all my head-shaking as I see runners braving the heat and humidity. What good news!

Did I run? Nope. But that's OK — I fear the loss of interest more than the loss of fitness. (I may retract this statement next month.)

Granted, several factors that weren't the sheer love of running kindled this desire: Smashburger, a Drake Diner milkshake, a Bauder Pharmacy hot fudge sundae, a weekend devoid of any exercise, and an unwillingness to devote an hour-plus to exercise when I had a long to-do list, to name just a few.

That's also OK. I don't care why I want to run, I just care that I do want to run.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Crazy, creepy and sometimes cute: A week of bike-ride sights

This week's rides covered country roads, nature trails, well-traveled thoroughfares and old-money neighborhoods.

Unsurprisingly, I saw a few things that amused me on those bike excursions, though I only stopped to take a picture of one.

You'll have to use your imagination with the crazy, creepy and cute sights listed below.

* A man riding west on Grand Avenue carrying a garbage bag with at least one case of cheap beer. I'm not kidding. Maybe the case was empty? I don't know how he held it up.

* A turtle on the Neal Smith Trail. They're bizarrely cute, for all their scary beakiness.

* Runners out on concrete, sunny trails during 80-plus-degree, full-humidity weather.

* Stumpy. Don't worry, Iowans; he's safely parked in northern Illinois.

* The third lost motorist who's asked me to rescue them from Shirland, Illinois.

* A biker stashing toilet paper and a tub of cat litter in a milk crate ziptied to the back of her bike. ... Oh wait, that was me.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My plan for returning to running

I haven't run in almost three weeks, but I have at least been thinking about it.

Specifically, I've taken time to be my own sports psychiatrist, and I've diagnosed myself as needing to ease back into running and learn to like it again.

So here's what I've come up with.

July 1: Open my mind back up to running. Twice a week at most. With only the expectation that it won't be easy or fast.

July 27-Aug. 3: Relax and rest up after RAGBRAI.

Aug. 4: Start a 10K training plan.

Last year, I started training for a half marathon at the beginning of August, right after I'd done RAGBRAI, and it worked out great. This year, the thought of doing that makes me tired and overheated.

As my hairdresser said when I told her I'd most likely skip the 2014 Des Moines Half Marathon: "Yeah, you wanna have fun during the summer."

Yes, I do. I like having something on the horizon, but the local long races are just too close to the dog days of August and two months of intensive biking.

A 10K seemed better-suited to the conditions. Plus, I've never done a road 10K race — only a nighttime trail one — so it'll be interesting to see what I can do.

Sept. 8: Do the Maffitt Lake five-mile. This should be the right combination of fun and challenging — i.e., exactly the kind of carrot/motivation I need.

Fun, because off-road running is scenic and lets me lower my expectations for myself without feeling like I'm a wimp, and challenging, because Living History Farms is the only off-road running I've done since moving to Des Moines.

Sept. 20 or 21: Do a 10K. Preferably the one on a Sunday, if I can find sign-up info and not just a date on the local sports store's race calendar.

Sept. 28: Do the Brew Mile. I again won't have time to do much mile-specific training, but I'll have more residual strength than I did before the Grand Blue Mile.

I'll have the power of the crowds pulling me along, and because I work Saturdays, I'll have the advantage of sobriety over the participants who have already hit up Oktoberfest.

Oct. 11: Do the Boone County 5K History Walk/Run. I'd better start thinking about a clever costume that also allows for good movement, because this time of year is much better for running.

If my schedule and motivation level allow, I might look for a serious 5K in hopes of breaking my PR, but I'm not going to stress about it. I'd rather be a little lazy the rest of this year than risk ruining my hobby for myself.

Friday, June 13, 2014

RAGBRAI training report, two weeks in

As I mentioned last week, RAGBRAI crept up on me while I was fretting about Dam to Dam.

So I'm happy to declare today that I feel positive about the state of my seat, about two weeks into training.

I did download the training plan; I do look at it; I do write down my mileage; and I have compared my weekly totals to what the plan suggests. Key word — suggests.

Here's my approach so far:

* Go on a long ride each week.

* Get a ride in the day after that, if possible.

* Incorporate a hill in most recreational rides.

* Design loops to avoid trail fatigue.

* Ride to places far away at which you need just one, portable thing. (Examples thus far: produce from a quarter-share in a CSA from a Johnston apartment complex; medicine from a pharmacy at 100th and Douglas in Urbandale.)

* Invite people to join at least portions of the rides.

It's only two weeks in, but I feel comfortable with this attitude, and I feel comfortable in my fitness level. It's not perfect, but it's good enough, and it'll get better.

What's helpful is having done RAGBRAI last year, and with the same people I'm doing it with this year — I know their tendencies, and this time I'll know how to balance my own with theirs.

Basically that means ride my pace, rather than struggle to keep up, because I don't like prolonged stops anyways. Let them get their first beer out of the way before I hop off the saddle.

Our long ride on Sunday — 75 flat miles — was critical to both realizing I'm on the right track, fitnesswise, and to reminding me of my riding preferences versus others'.

The next test: not falling off the wagon over the next two weeks, which are fairly busy with nonbiking commitments.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

At long last, my Dam to Dam numbers

My missing Dam to Dam results have come in.

I did hear back from the results contact person a few days after I posted about being MIA (and of course emailed him).

As he said they would, the official stats — mine included — rolled in over this past weekend.

The good news is, they're not as ugly as my race photos, seven of which show me apparently trying not to cry.

The bad news is, the one silver lining I sought was more like a tin lining.

My five-mile time was 46:05. Remember how I thought I was just flying through the first six or so miles? If "flying" is 9:13 per mile, then I was right.

I mean, it was a good showing for my mental state and the weather conditions. It also wasn't far off the pace I would've needed to break 2:00:00.

My 10-mile time was 1:35:45. If I'm calculating correctly, that means I covered five miles in 49:40 — basically a 10:00-per-mile pace. Seems reasonable, given the amount of walking I began doing.

My overall time was 2:08:08, working out to a final 5K covered at a 10:25 pace. Which isn't bad at all for the limp-walk-cry method.

Absolutely I wish I'd done better and behaved better. Absolutely I'm disappointed.

But at the same time, with the perspective of some time and no running whatsoever, I'm honestly surprised in a good way to compare this to my 2011 then-PR of 2:08:32.

I ran the 2011 half marathon with seriously only one quick walk break, with the exception of water stops, and I still finished 24 seconds slower back then.

There is hope. But not until July.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Holy smokes, RAGBRAI is close

Good thing I embraced Bike Month, because RAGBRAI is basically almost here.

Of course I exaggerate — slightly. But I did just download the training plan and do a double-take at how few weeks remain on it.

I do have a couple long rides under my belt and more of the medium-length rides that the plan incorporates. The longest of those even involved heat, humidity and a few hills.

So I think it's fair to assume I at least managed to develop a base before the real training.

One good development: the fact that a team member spoke ominously about the hilliness of this year's route, causing me to panic every time I had to work hard going uphill.

How is that good? It means that I've at least vowed to hit the horrific Neal Smith Trail hill once a week, and that when my options for traveling by bike are short-and-hilly or twice-as-long-but-flat, I feel obliged to pick the former.

Another good development: Training for Dam to Dam kept me from burning myself out on biking. (Granted, the fact that I did both meant I felt like I mastered neither, but that's another story.)

I remember last year, when I dutifully followed the weeklong rider plan for four days of RAGBRAI, I found myself tiring of riding.

I have no intention of ramping up the training plan to "make up" for the lost month, so I should be much mentally fresher this time around.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reasons to be excited about running again ... later

Every time we've seen a runner since Dam to Dam, Cory and I have said to each other "don't they know running is over now?" and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I have no urge to go on a run right now. (Nor do I have the ability, judging from my failed attempts to hurry while crossing the street.)

Yet I find myself thinking idly about what race to do next. That urge hasn't translated into actual Googling action, but it's slightly more active than dormant.

That's good, because two friends who aren't serious runners have expressed interest in future events:

* Annah, who did the St. Patrick's run, said she and her boyfriend had just been wondering what their next race should be, in response to my post-Dam text of "let's do 5Ks and 10Ks ... in the fall."

* And Chelsea, a fellow Warrior Dasher, sent me a text, seemingly out of nowhere, proposing a ladies' agreement. She wanted a favor from me in exchange for her doing a 5K of my choice.

(The favor involves a good surprise for a friend, so I'm being purposefully vague.)

Chelsea and her hubby own and love pets, so naturally I'm going to call her in for the Woofin' It 5K. The backup plan, if that doesn't work, would be the Boone County Museum 5K History Run/Walk.

Just give me a few weeks to let the bad memories fade, folks, and I'll be sending you links to local races like it's going out of style.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Race report: Dam to Dam Half Marathon

All you need to know about my Dam to Dam experience is that I'm not truly angry about the fact that my official results have yet to materialize.

(I think this is operator error, because my sweat-soaked shirt came off in the last half-mile, and with it went my race-chip-bearing bib. I've got an email query out.)

If it had been a quarter-marathon, I'd be singing a different tune — through mile seven, I'd channeled my negative emotions into strong running — but around mile eight, I melted down physically and mentally.

Because I finished slightly before Cory, I know that I ran faster than 2:08:10, which means I did manage to notch my second-best half marathon time ever, in possibly the most humid conditions I've ever raced in and potentially the warmest weather on record for Dam to Dam.

A few moments of levity I still managed to appreciate:

* A shirtless male runner hanging his bib from his nipple rings. If only I'd had a camera or a smartphone.

* A Christmas tree-costumed person at mile two. No reason for the costume was apparent.

* A Disney singalong around mile nine, begun by a couple of bros who were mangling the lyrics to "I Just Can't Wait To Be King." I couldn't let that continue, so I filled in most of the words for them.

In their defense, they stepped up when it came to "I've been working on my ROAR!"

* A kid offering beer to runners around mile 10. Better yet, I saw a man actually take the can.

* "Never trust a fart" posters. If there's bathroom humor on a sign, I'm almost guaranteed to smile, or at least grimace, at it.

* A T-shirt (or were there several?) that said: "Run? I thought you said RUM."

The only circumstance under which I'd consider doing a Memorial Day half marathon in the Midwest again would be if a newer/less trained runner sought support — but I'd consider the Dam to Dam 5K, only because of the afterparty.

Hands down, it had the best refreshments after a race in my entire running career. I got a grocery bakery cookie as I left the finish line area; found ice cream; finished that en route to Fighting Burrito nachos; and moved right over to Smokehouse Catering's sandwiches.

Not the way I'd hoped to close the book on spring running, but it's confirmation that I'm right to call it quits on spring half marathons and take a mental breather.