‘Race’ Report: The Tour de Peninsula 100k

On Sunday, I rode my first organised bike ride. In the UK they’re called ‘sportives’ but I don’t think they’re called that here. The Tour de Peninsula was very local to me and covers many of the roads I usually cycle. There was a 20 mile, 31 mile, 56 mile and 63 mile (100km) option. I was to ride the 100k.

Clearly I could have ridden this route any weekend without paying for it but I wanted to do this because I wanted to get experience of what an organised ride would be like, prior to September’s century. What were ride logistics like? How is the route marked? What’s it like to ride in a pack? What would aid stations be like? And also, my lovely friend Kat from church was also riding it, so I knew I’d get good company for the duration.

Going into the ride, I was surprisingly nervous… much more nervous than I’d be for a big running race. It was all the unknowns that made me nervous – the questions I wanted to find answers to. In addition, the distance was new and it was a very hilly route. I was particularly nervous about whether or not to ride it clipped in. I had a short ride clipped in with the Dude on Tuesday and it went well – but there’s a great difference between clipping in at 5-year-old pace for 5 miles and clipping in for 65 miles up some giant hills. The night before, I got everything ready, packing both running shoes and cycling shoes. We’d see.

I was up at 5am. Made some scrambled eggs. Pumped up Margarita’s tyres and snuck out the house at 6am. At this point, my stomach started freaking out (nerves) requiring an urgent loo stop en route and then, once I got to Coyote Point, a frantic dash to the loo there as well. I was super-nervous. I calmed down once I bumped into Kat and her massive grin. We picked up my number – should it go on the front or the back? Apparently I could choose. Weird. And I also chose to ride clipped in. I visited the on-site mechanic who loosened the cleats for me to make it easier to clip in and out, and decided to suck it up and give it a shot.

This big smile made the nerves disappear

This big smile made the nerves disappear

I’m always intimidated by other runners at races and for bike events it was even worse. Everyone seemed VERY capable and experienced. There were a lot of VERY expensive bikes around. We cycled over to the starting chute and positioned ourselves towards the back. A guy cycled over, failed to unclip and toppled over before the ride even began. That made me feel better. There was a countdown and we were off.

I was literally shaking from nerves and adrenaline here! Couldn't stop talking.

I was literally shaking from nerves and adrenaline here! Couldn’t stop talking.

The first mile headed down the Bay Trail and onto the roads. It was fairly busy but we rode steadily, let people pass us and before long we were heading into San Mateo. Through the town centre we had our own dedicated lane, which really helped. There were lots of lights so I focussed on unclipping my right foot in good time, and we made it through town and up the 7 mile hill to the Ralston Bike Path. There was an aid station at the top, we stopped to drink and then plunged down the bike path to Canada Road. Canada was a lovely 7 mile stretch where we were able to get cycling steadily, talking non-stop. The miles flew by with Kat’s excellent company. There was one guy riding the whole thing (63 miles) on a unicycle – we passed him a few times before passing him for good, I really hope he survived!

Eventually we got to Woodside and started the ride up Kings Mountain. At this point, we were temporalily joined by a local bike club out on their ride. All of a sudden, the road was FULL of cyclists…it was like I was in the Tour de France. I was totally surrounded and just kept frnatically pedalling, if I touched the brakes, we’d all DIE!!! I’ve always wondered how it feels to be completely swallowed up by the peloton, well now I know and it was most scary.

That's me in the middle.

That’s me in the middle.

Kings Mountain was LONG and steady. All conversation stopped and we were surrounded by the panting breath of cyclists. We ground our way up and eventually got to the top. There’s a t-junction at the very top and on the other side of the road was an aid station. I was concentrating on checking out the traffic to be able to cross the road, suddenly realised I hadn’t unclipped…and squealed loudly as I toppled over to the side. I scraped my knee and bashed my boob but nothing dreadful. I did exclaim ‘Ow, my boob’ in front of the hundred or so lycra-clad men watching from the aid station. Great. Whilst we were at the aid station, at least two other cyclists got to the top and fell over, which made me feel better. Note to self – be sure to unclip at the top of hills.

tour peninsula

Foggy and chilly on Skyline

Next came a seven mile stretch down Skyline. I didn’t enjoy this. It was fast and downhill, the road was gravelly, it was damp and both cyclists and cars were fast. I was pretty scared and rode very cautiously. I was very slow but I’d rather be slow and alive so I am unrepentant.  We plunged down West La Honda Rd. This was magical – a lovely little road through redwoods and then opening out with pretty views. I felt much safer going downhill here so got some good speed up, and loved this stretch. We expected the climb back up to Alice’s to be brutal but it was actually pretty easy and we were jubilant to reach the top again. We plunged down the descent back to Woodside. It was very fast and curvy but I was feeling pretty confident so I rode much faster. I was still very slow compared to other riders but I really enjoyed this descent.

Back through Woodside, back along Canada and up to Ralston. 20 miles to go. Feeling good although my neck and shoulders were aching. We cycled up to Crystal Springs – this was the 5th hill and my legs were tiring. We appreciated the flattish stretch along the reservoir but had to step aside for an ambulance to come flying past. Two groups of riders came past later, wheeling fallen comrades bikes – that was sobering. The climb out of Crystal Springs was brutal but we then had three spectacular downhill miles to Millbrae, a dedicated lane through the Millbrae traffic and then finally the three easy miles along the bay back to Coyote Point. We’d made it. We squealed with excitement as we crossed the line!! We’d done it!

Sneak preview of Sunday's Tour de Peninsula, report to come!

I did it!

IMG_1139

She did it too!

There was no free food at the end, which surprised me, but a local retailer was selling good food cheaply so we filled our faces and limped round the little expo before hugging goodbye. I cycled two extra miles to make it to the necessary 65 miles I had to cover this weekend and drove home to my boys.

All in all, I think it went well. I felt pretty strong throughout, although I am very slow so I don’t mean to imply ‘strong’ means ‘fast’. We averaged 11mph on this ride, which is crazy slow although with 4,700 ft of climbing, I’m not surprised. I was VERY happy that I clipped in and only fell once, I count that as a real big step forward as a cyclist. And I LOVED Kat’s company – the miles flew by as we chatted, it was so much more pleasurable than riding alone.

Although I have nothing to compare it to,  I was hugely impressed by the organisation of this ride. There were plentiful aid stations, all with a lot of food and drink. The volunteers were absolutely wonderful, so smily and encouraging. At every junction there was a volunteer with a flag so it was impossible to get lost, and also lots of route-markings as a back up. I was really impressed with it as an event and would heartily recommend it to local cyclists! We got a really nice free cotton t-shirt that I really liked! The only extra I’d suggest would be a free buffet at the end, even if it was just bagels/doughnuts etc.

All in all, an excellent morning, with a scraped knee, a big thigh bruise and a sore boob as souvenirs! 7 weeks to go to Surf City!

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Faking ultra!

Last Sunday, I had the total pleasure of supporting three of my favourite crazy cat ladies as they ran the Big Basin 50k. It was a very bittersweet day because two of them, Jess and Kate both left the Bay Area on Thursday, moving to different parts of the country. I’ll be honest, I love these girls. I love running with them and I was not/am not ready to let them go. It was also the wonderful Jen‘s first 50k. She had trained hard and well for this race. So it was going to be a Big Day.

Jen had mentioned that her boyfriend, T, would be running a stretch with her. So I emailed Jess earlier in the week saying we’d be there to cheer her on and if she wanted me to run a bit with her, I’d love to. This was basically saying ‘Please can I join in the fun and pretend to be an ultra runner too?’ but luckily she thought I was being selfless and sacrificial and said yes! The race was basically three sections. 15 miles to Big Basin State Park, a 5 mile loop back to the aid station there and then 10 miles to the end. I’d be running the loop.

Big Basin - not unattractive!

Big Basin – not unattractive!

We got to Big Basin at about 11.30, with Jess expecting to get to the aid station at about 12.15. We had a great time at the aid station, cowbelling runners as they came through. Jen’s boyfriend T arrived and joined the Pacer Party.  And more or less on time, Jess ran in. Sweaty hugs all round. She was running with a new friend the girls had made that morning, also called Jen (Jen K from now on) so she got a sweaty hug too. However the news on our original Jen was not good. She was struggling already and Jess was worried she’d drop out. This would be unbearable! T headed off back up the trail to find his girl, and Jess, Jen K and I started up the trail for the loop.

Pacer Party of 2

Pacer Party of 2

Jess and Jen K arrive at the aid station

Jess and Jen K arrive at the aid station

It was pretty much bliss. They’d already done 15 miles so I was definitely able to keep up. There was an enormous 2 mile hill which we speed-hiked. This also allowed us to talk so there was a LOT of chatting and laughing as we worked our way up the beast. There was one (now funny) incident when Jess thought she saw a snake in the grass – she squealed and leaped sideways, which meant Jen K and I also squealed and leaped sideways. It may have been a snake but when we had a look, there was nothing to see.

Eventually we hit the top and started running along beautiful downhill singletrack through the magical Big Basin redwoods. It was gorgeous and Jess and I both got a bit weepy about this being our last run together for a long time. My highlight was when a family of hikers cheered us on. They clearly thought I was an ultra runner too. So I just faked it, thanked them and ran on! And somehow, before I was ready, we found ourselves back at the aid station. My pacer-duties were over.

Jess and Jen K headed off down the trail for the 10 miles to the finish line. The Husband  had an update on Jen – she was low and struggling, but fighting on. She was currently out on the loop with T. So we piled in the car and drove across some mountains to the finish line on the ocean.

Kate was already there – she’d switched at the last minute to the marathon so we got to hug her, feed her snacks and hang out a bit. We cowbelled the finishers and I got to meet a lovely lady who knew me from the blog – I missed your name, but if you’re reading this, hi and congratulations again on your awesome race! We walked up to the spot where the runners came out of the trails and towards the finish line and before too long, Jess and Jen K came barreling down like stars. Lots of cowbelling, lots of screaming and then the two badass chicks crossed the line. Super-proud.

Jen K and Jess cross the line!

Jen K and Jess cross the line!

And then came the agonising wait for Jen to finish. T had joined us by then, and with 20 minutes or so before the cut-off, he set off back up the trail to find Jen. We hung round at the bottom cheering people on. It got to 11 minutes to the cut-off. Then it got to 5 minutes. My nails started being chewed.

And then suddenly she appeared on the trail. We went crazy. I have never seen Jen look so completely exhausted and drained but we screamed a lot about beating the cut-off and the poor girl pushed on to finish. She crossed the line and basically stopped still for a long time and got hugged by T. It was very sweet.

Totally creepered this photo of the two of them being lovely

Totally creepered this photo of the two of them being lovely

Once she’d recovered, we all drove to Half Moon Bay and ate mexican food. We supporters were starving – the runners seemed less hungry.

These girls!

I was so incredibly proud of these girls. Proud of Kate for deciding calmly that it wasn’t her day for 50k so she’d ‘just do the marathon’ and having the self-confidence to do it and be content. Proud of Jess for basically nailing the 50k and looking happy every time I saw her. Proud of our new Jen K for fitting into our little gang of cat ladies like she was born to it and for totally demolishing her first 50k. And proud of the awesome, tenacious, badass Jen for fighting through the many dark miles and finishing what she set out to do.

And then we had to say goodbye. Tears. More tears in the car on the way home. But also a lot of gratitude (cattitude?) for the runs we’ve had and looking forward to runs in new locations in the future.

Photobombed!

Photobombed!

Well done, ultra babes!

xxx

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Balcony Camping

Last weekend, we had been hoping to go camping, but in the end, we couldn’t make it. The Dude and I were disappointed (well, I was, really) and so we decided to camp in our back garden. Except we don’t HAVE a back garden, we only have a balcony known as High Garden. But that couldn’t stop us!

So we emptied High Garden out, borrowed and put up a 2-man tent, decorated it to within an inch of its life and then camped out!  It would have been horribly cramped in the tent with the three of us, so the Husband sacrificially declared that he would sleep sadly alone in our big bed and leave me and the Dude to camp out!

Ramsden Basecamp With a deer and a basil forest

Ramsden Basecamp
With a deer and a basil forest

As it got dark, it got more magical.

camping

 

We cooked s’mores as is traditional – except that we had to melt the marshmallows on our camping stove down in the communal area of our complex. Not quite as chilled as over a campfire, but pretty fun.

camping

We tried to persuade Charlie to join us, but he was having none of it!

camping

So this is just a little post to say that even if you can’t go camping somewhere beautiful and inspirational, sometimes you can have a lot of fun just camping wherever’s possible.

Home is where you pitch your tent…sometimes literally :)

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Lessons from a Lexa

On Saturday, I went out for my long ride of the week – 60 miles. I’d done 60 miles about a month ago but hadn’t cycled that much since due to summer, so whilst I was pretty confident I could do it, I wondered how it would go. My boys headed off to watch Manchester United vs Barcelona in San Jose and I headed out for my ride.

Now I was given a new lipgloss this week in NEON coral. It boldly declared ‘Lasts all day’. Hmmm, Stila, I thought. Really? Can you last a 60 mile bike ride? So I slicked it on,freaked out slightly at its neon-ness and set off.

lipgloss

Objects in this photo are brighter than they appear. MUCH brighter.

My plan was to ride the 15 miles up to Brisbane to my little friend Rory’s third birthday party, eat his cake, cycle up a giant hill to Skyline, do an out-and-back to Woodside and then cycle home. Perfect. And it started perfectly until about 10 miles in, I heard a hiss from my back wheel and I’d got my first puncture on Margarita.

Okay, I could do punctures. I know how to do them.

Got the wheel off. Triumph 1.

Got the inner-tube out of the tyre. Triumph 2. 

Got out my spare tube. Totally the wrong size.

Lesson 1 – Make sure you carry the correct inner tube with you. 

No worries, I can fix this. Located the puncture. Triumph 3. 

Scraped, glued and patched it. Triumph 4. 

Fixing the puncture

Fixing the puncture

The patch didn’t stick. I tried more glue. I tried a bigger patch. Nothing. It was not holding. Various kind cyclists stopped to check I was okay (and rode on, freaked out by my lipgloss).  In the end, after 40 minutes of roadside sitting, I admitted defeat, called a taxi and got a ride for the 1.5 miles (!) to Summit Bikes.

The mortification was huge. Walking into a very nice bike shop IN BRIGHT PINK RUNNING SHOES wearing NEON CORAL LIP GLOSS with a PUNCTURE I WAS UNABLE TO FIX MYSELF!

Lessons?

Lesson 2 – Make sure you actually DO know how to fix a puncture.

Lesson 3 – Woman up and start wearing those cycling shoes

Lesson 4 – Neon coral lipstick is a NO.

Honestly, so mortified.

The Summit guys were super-kind (and dishy, aah the lipgloss) and before long, I was back on the street and ready to go. By this time, I’d missed the party so I diverted up a big steep hill to Skyline and set out towards Woodside.

My head wasn’t quite in the right place. I’d been out for about 2 1/2 hours and had only done 10 miles. It took a good 10 miles of pedaling before I’d come to terms with the fact that I would be out here for a good 4 more hours. Angela mentioned that’s the same mindset that you need for LONG runs and she’s right – that acceptance that you’re going to be here for a long time and there’s no point chuntering to yourself about it.

An old photo but I cycled this road on Saturday

An old photo but I cycled this road on Saturday

Lesson 5 – Half the battle on this century ride will be having the right attitude.

So I stopped chuntering and started appreciating the nature around me. I cycled out to Portola Valley, turned round and cycled back home and stopped at Woodside Cafe for a pastry and a coffee. I got home much later than expected, with 60 miles in tired legs and one heck of a firebum! But it had been a good day.

I learned a lot of important lessons. I MUST learn to fix punctures. I thought I knew but apparently I don’t. I can’t let my century ride be scuppered because I didn’t learn basic bike mechanics. And I need to try out these clippy shoes.

Those are my goals for this week. Please hold me accountable.

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If it doesn’t challenge you…

On Instagram recently I saw one of those ‘inspirational’ quotes. Usually I roll my eyes but this one made me think a little.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

Much as I hate to say it, the quote had a point. I can’t think of the last time I really got out of my comfort zone in terms of fitness. Going back to college, yep. Learning to clip into my pedals, yep. (Well, when/if it happens). But I don’t usually step out of my comfort zone.

There’s a hill near me. King’s Mountain Road in Woodside. It’s four miles long and climbs about 1400 feet. I’ve run up it on the trails of Huddart Park, but I’ve never cycled up it. Every time we drive it, we see cyclists slogging their way to the top. Many look like death, I have to be honest. Seriously, they look like they’re going to have heart attacks and fall over.  But part of me has wanted to climb it FOREVER. So when someone pointed out on social media that I had nothing to lose – if I got too tired I could simply turn around and head back down – I realised that I was ready to give it a go.

So on Wednesday, my friend watched the Dude (I was watching her daughter the next day) so I packed Margarita into my car, drove to Woodside, parked up and headed up towards my nemesis. I turned right onto the road and it literally reared up before me. The first stretch is quite steep. I honestly felt my heart sink and I thought, I can’t do this. But what did I have to lose? Nothing, so I plodded on.

kings mountain redwoods cycling

I love redwoods so much! Isn’t this lovely?

It took me about 45 minutes to climb the beast. And to be honest, it was both tough and not-that-bad. It was tough because it was relentless. It just went on and on and on. But it wasn’t that bad because it was never particularly steep. I just had to get myself into the mindset that I’d be here for a while, not going fast, and I just had to keep the pedals turning. So I did. I just slowly pedaled my way upwards. It was kind of lovely – the road was very empty so it was mainly the whirr of my chain, my breathing and the peace of the redwoods that lined the road.  I don’t even think I looked deathly like the other cyclists I’d seen (I was also sure to sit up and look perky whenever a car came past me). There was one spooky section where the trees made the most freaky noise, like a squeaky door in a horror movie – I cycled a bit faster there. And then suddenly, I saw the junction at the top and I’d made it.

margarita cycling

Made it!

I was pretty chuffed.

me

Don’t you wish that you looked as hot as me right now?

 

And then I realised the really scary bit WASN’T the climb but was actually the descent. I thought I was getting better at cycling downhill but I was pretty terrified on this descent – I was braking so much I worried my brakes would overheat and burst my tyre! By the time I made it to the bottom, my hands were more or less deformed into ‘frantic braking’ shape, they hurt loads as I started cycling on the flat and was able to get off the drops.

redwoods kings mountain

 

Part of me feels a bit foolish blogging about this because basically I just cycled up a big hill which turned out to be totally within my comfort zone. (I was watching the Tour that night and realised how unimpressive my ‘spectacular’ climb was). But that’s the actual point I’m trying to make.  We THINK things are out of our comfort zone but once we pluck up the courage to try it (and give ourselves permission to fail if it’s all too hard) we sometimes find that they aren’t that hard after all!

I need to do this more, and you guys need to remind me!!  Here endeth the lesson :)

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Getting my ducks in a row

This week was all about getting back into some semblance of normality after our trip away.

I was surprised to find I’d lost a few pounds in Utah, despite spending a lot of time in the car and not doing as much exercise as I should have done – clearly opting for salad every night over burgers helped a little! But this week, I wanted to do some more training! My Century Ride is only two months away. That’s a good amount of time for me to start focussing.

This week’s training looked like this.

Monday:  Doubles Day 1

AM – Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred Level 2.

PM – 5 mile run

Mondays are crazy busy so my goal was just to get a Jillian Michaels workout done. Gallons of sweat. But then my class on Monday night finished surprisingly early. It was a beautiful evening, the Husband was on bedtime duty so I got home, got changed and headed out for a lovely easy run. I’d hoped that 8 days at altitude would have transformed me into an effortless gazelle. No, not quite, but it was nice to get back at it. 9.31 pace.

Tuesday: Doubles Day 2

 Spin Class – 6am. Particularly comatose on the bike but got 14 hard miles in.

10 mile family bike ride. Then, once I was showered and clean, I went on a lovely bike exploit with the Dude. We cycled a few miles to the nearby train station, put our bikes on the Caltrain, rode up to Burlingame and then cycled the 8 miles home. Fuelled by doughnuts and stopping at every playground we passed, we totaled 10 happy miles. I LOVE how the Dude loves cycling at the moment – he’s inspired by the Tour de France.

By the end of the day, my bottom was a little sore.

Plenty of bikes on the Caltrain. SO nice to see.

Plenty of bikes on the Caltrain. SO nice to see.

 

Wednesdayrest day

Thursday40 mile bike ride

I didn’t know if I’d manage to get my long ride in this week – finding a  spare 4 hours is not always possible whilst the Dude is home from school. But my wonderful neighbour, at 39 weeks pregnant, offered to take him so I dashed off. I cycled as hard as I could in case her baby started coming. Every time my phone pinged, I checked in case I needed to turn tail and dash home. It was a really nice ride, I’m so enjoying riding again. 40 miles in total at an average speed of 13.7 mph which does NOT reflect how hard I thought I cycled and how fast I thought I was going.

Margarita by the bay

Margarita by the bay

 

I noticed that I definitely feel more at home on my road bike these days although I have yet to try clipping in. Maybe this next week. (Haha, maybe not).

Fridayrest day

Saturdayunintentional rest day. It was the Husband’s birthday weekend. I had a great active weekend planned – a romantic,evening bike ride in SF on Friday, a long hike in Pinnacles National Park on Saturday and a family bike ride on Sunday. But the man tore 1/4 of his calf muscle on Tuesday at footie so I had to rearrange everything. We ended up spending today sat in an old duck (a WW2 vehicle that goes on land AND water). We were total tourists in San Francisco and it was a LOT of fun. I meant to run later in the day but I wasn’t feeling very well, so I hunkered down with my newly mid-40s husband.

Riding the Ducks like tourists!

Riding the Ducks like tourists!

 

Sunday9-mile long run

Up at the crack of dawn to run 9 miles which for me is a long way at the moment. By the end, my IT bands were feeling tight but overall I was pretty comfortable and I really enjoyed the run. 10 min mile pace.

So that was it. A pretty decent week, all things considered. Next week, I want to run 3 times and ride 3 times as well. It’s one of my favourite but one of the busiest weeks in the year – Vacation Bible Camp at church, and my college course ends this week too. But hopefully I can make the time to train as well!!

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Road-trippin’

This post is basically my holiday photos but we had such a lovely time in Utah, Idaho, a snippet of Montana and Wyoming last week that I really wanted to share some pics with you. Please feel free to come back later in the week if that’s not your thing!!!

So we’ve spent the last 8 days driving about 1200 miles around four states, visiting four national parks. It was a lot of driving and I wondered at one point if we should have cut out a few national parks and spent longer in each. I think we SHOULD have spent longer in each, but I don’t know which we would cut out and I’m really glad we saw them all.

We flew into Salt Lake City and spent the night there. It is the weirdest city. Loads of space, super-wide roads, no people. Empty. It may have been that it was July 4th and they were all partying it up at home, but SLC was empty. We popped into Temple Square to see the impressive Mormon Temple and got out of town!

salt lake city

Having stopped to play mini-golf, laser-tag and ride the bumper-boats (aka, Dude things) we drove up into Idaho for hours. Idaho is green, beautiful and also empty but in a good way. We spent the night in a motel made up of cabins for fishermen before popping to Henry Lake the next morning. I’d read that you could kayak there, which was our plan, but there are no tourist facilities there, you have to bring your own kayak, so we drove on.

idaho rainbow

The most spectacular rainbow we’ve ever seen. This does have a filter but you get the point…

idaho

Sunset in the vast emptiness of Idaho

henry lake

Henry Lake

We popped in and out of Montana and into Wyoming where we spent a night and two half-days in Yellowstone National Park. We’ve always wanted to go here and it didn’t disappoint. Bison, elk, grizzly bear cubs, thermal pools and Old Faithful. Spectacular.

old faithful

Old Faithful faithfully doing its thing

IMG_8609 IMG_8527 yellowstone

 

Heading south, we drove through Grand Teton National Park. This was my favourite park even though we really just drove through and didn’t do anything there. I love mountains and this place reminded me of the Swiss Alps and made me very happy.

tetons tetons tetons

 

We headed further south through the vast emptiness that is Wyoming. The scale of America never fails to astonish me. We drove for HOURS and saw nothing but the odd small town. We (I) drove through the most terrifying thunder-storm I’ve ever seen in my life and was very relieved to rock up in Park City, back near SLC.

wyoming

The Green River under a black sky

 

Park City is pretty amazing. We stayed with friends who own the most incredible house I’ve ever seen. They took us to Deer Valley, where there was a live band that night so we sat  on the field, had a picnic, listened to music, drank wine and watched the Dude do hill-repeats up the slope. He didn’t feel the altitude. We both loved Park City, we could live there.

park city PC

Free music in Deer Valley

IMG_8717

When I am grown up, I too will have a house like this

Five hours of driving south and we were at Bryce Canyon National Park. We stayed just outside in the tiny town of Tropic but the next morning we hiked at Mossy Cave and then drove into the park. It gets up to 9,000 ft which is HIGH. We hiked a little trail at the very top but the Dude was feeling the altitude now so we had to cancel our planned afternoon hike down into the park. Bryce is a really nice size, very manageable, and the hoodoos, stretching out into the distance, are really unlike nothing I’ve ever seen before. Pretty magical.

bryce tropic storm

Little cabin, big storm

bryce hoodoos

Impossible for one picture to capture the craziness of this place

bryce

Our final park was Zion. Zion is basically a canyon with incredible, giant red walls that take your breath away. Driving in was spectacular and the next day, we did a lovely 3 mile hike up to Emerald Pools. The Dude was in his element, hiking super-fast and jumping off rocks just like Kilian in Unbreakable. He loved this hike – we all did. Zion’s really beautiful.

zion

The little hole is a ‘window’ in a mile-long tunnel cut through the cliff

zion

 

From Zion, we drove up to suburban Provo and then flew home.

Things that struck me about this trip.

  • Utah is beautiful but the people aren’t particularly friendly. Polite, courteous but not warm exactly.
  • Mormon girls are REALLY pretty and always look really nice.
  • Altitude is tough. I ran once, in Teton Village (at about 6,300) and every inch of those 3 miles was brutal.
  • Park City. Please can I live there.
  • Yellowstone was the closest I’ve ever been to being on safari and it was incredible.
  • It would be nice to come back and do this again when the Dude is bigger. We had to pass up a number of amazing-looking hikes which were just to precarious for our favourite little man.
  • When travelling with kids, youth hostels rock. After a long drive, the Dude loved the night we spent in a hostel with table-football, snooker (snooper, as he calls it) and other games. I’m going to try that strategy on other trips.
  • Taxidermy is BIG there. I saw so many stuffed elk, deer, bears and three mountain-lions! One taxidermied mountain lion was like a rug with a head, stuck on a wall. It looked like a flying fox. I was really sad for it – this fearsome nightmare of trail runners reduced to a flying fox.
  • We saw NO cats on this trip. Usually, we find cats to stroke pretty much everywhere but we saw no cats! Hmmm.

All in all, it was brilliant. I’m not sure what it’s done to my fitness levels but it was brilliant and I’m so glad we went!

IMG_8860

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Century Ride Training: May and June

This is still a running blog. Really! But it’s masquerading as a cycling blog at the moment. Sorry, bear with me! One more cycling post and then I’ll talk running for a bit, I promise.

Because I’m training for my first century ride (the Surf City Aids Ride in September), I though I’d do a month-by-month summary of the training I did and the learnings I’ve made so far, in the hope that it proves useful for someone in a similar situation in the future. So here’s the scoop for May and June.

Background

  • I came at this with a decent level of fitness due to running and a previous history as a cyclist, but my longest ride for five years has only been about 15 miles.
  • I have a road bike (a Trek Lexa) but, at the start of June, had only put about 50 miles on it, mainly earned cycling around with my little boy.
  • At present, I’m still cycling in running shoes.

Training Plan

I did some research online to find a free training plan for a century ride but didn’t find anything really helpful so I wrote my own. It basically included:

  • One weekly spin class
  • One weekly long run, starting at 30 miles and increasing (by September) to 85 miles.
  • One easy bike ride
  • Running 2 or 3 times per week

In true Me style, I wrote this plan and never really stuck to it exactly but it gave me a goal structure to work with.

Cycle Training this month

May

  • 15th – 31 miles. This taught me that, fitness-wise, I was in pretty good shape for biking. It also taught me that my poor nether regions were not in shape to ride 100 miles. So that was my starting point
  • 25th – 20 miles.
  • 29th – 18 miles. Definitely feeling easier than that first ride.
Cycling with Marjolaine in Atascadero. She crushed me.

Cycling with Marjolaine in Atascadero. She crushed me.

 

June

w/c 1st

  • Spin class – cycled 10.1 miles
  • Rode 35 miles at 12.1 mph
  • Rode 5 miles with the family

w/c 8th

  • Spin class – cycled 13.1 miles
  • Rode 3.5 miles with the family

w/c 15th

  • Spin class – cycled 13 miles
  • Rode 39 miles at 12.7 mph
  • Rode 2 miles with the family

w/c 22nd

  • Spin class – rode 15.1 miles
  • Rode 60 miles at 12.7 mph

w/c 29th

  • Spin class – rode c. 15 miles
  • Rode 11 miles with the family
  • (This week, I wasn’t able to get a long ride in)

Overall, I was delighted with the progress I made this month. I was particularly excited about how much further I was able to cycle in spin class within a few sessions and also at how my road-cycling speed and distance increased.

Gear

Despite my desire to buy all the cycling clothes in the world, I have tried to curb my spending and only buy the essentials. This month, I have bought the following:

Top – I finally found a decent top that I love. It’s simple, looks like a running top but has these amazing pockets at the back. I got it in my favourite colour, coral. SUPER-happy with it so far.

Look! TWO pockets!!!

Look! TWO pockets!!!

 

Shoes – I agonized about which shoes to buy but ended up buying these dog-ugly ones  because they were in the sale. I do not like these shoes but people keep telling me they will ‘make such a difference’.

Notably, they are mountain bike shoes and not road shoes. I did some research as to whether or not this makes a practical difference, i.e. can you wear MTB shoes on a road bike, and basically yes you can. It makes NO actual difference. The benefits are that you can walk much more comfortably in MTB shoes than road shoes, which are notoriously difficult to walk in. Being able to walk is important to me. Also, I personally think MTB shoes are slightly less ugly than road shoes, but that’s personal.

New Pedals – Clip-in shoes require fancy pedals. I got pedals that are flat one side and clippy the other side so I can ride in running shoes if clips freak me out.

Bike Computer – Riding using my running Garmin is not ideal so I bought a nice, cheap bike computer. I have yet to install it.

I don’t THINK I shall be needing much more gear. Maybe I’m being naive.

Learnings this month

1) Don’t screw in your own pedals. Or better, learn to screw your pedals in properly, or you may break a crank irrevocably and have to get a taxi home.

2) Spin classes produce giant endorphin rushes and are more fun than I expected. I was also surprised and pleased at how much further I was cycling in a 45 min class than at the start of the month.

3) Your bottom adjusts to cycling pretty quickly.

4) Respect the distance. As I knocked 40 miles off, I was pretty confident about this century malarky. As I finished my 60-miler, I realized that I had underestimated the distance. 100 miles is a long way to ride. I am now more circumspect about the challenge and more focussed on training for it.

My challenges for July

1) Fitting cycling in. My little man is home from school all month, I am still studying and I have several other commitments this month, so it’s going to be a challenge fitting those long rides in. I’ll do my best. My goal is to still be able to ride 60 miles comfortably at the end of July so I can build up over August.

2) Riding clipped in. I don’t want to be one of those wimpy girls who squeal and shriek about it but I am honestly rather nervous about taking the clipped-in plunge. I tried clipping in and out with my bike on the trainer and honestly, felt a bit panicky. Lots of work to do here.

Here’s to July training!

 

 

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June Favourites

Oh June, you went so fast and you were so much fun.

Reading

I only managed two books this month.

Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart is like a proper version of Wild. It’s the tale of a young woman hiking the Pacific Coast Trail Written by Carrot Quinn, whose hiking blog is full of breathtaking photos and beautiful writing, it really portrayed the highs and lows of hiking the PCT. Apparently doing so is both life-changing and incredible, but also incredibly dull and unpleasant. I mean that as a compliment to the writer – that kind of crazy challenge is all of those things and she is brutally honest about the highs and lows.

L’Adversaire, (The Adversary) by Emmanuel Carrere was the first novel I’ve read in French for a long time and I was pretty chuffed with how much of my language skills came back. It’s the story of a man who suddenly kills his wife, children and parents and it turns out that his entire life has been a lie. I didn’t realise until the end that it was a true story and I was kind of blown away by that fact. The writing style reminded me very much of ‘In Cold Blood’. A really good book. Kind of horrible too. It’s available in English and I really recommend it.

Watching

We sadly bade farewell to Game of Thrones – with a hint of relief because I may finally be able to sleep well on a Sunday night without white-walker children and sons of harpies to give me nightmares. Almost as good as the actual show was the Red Nose Day skit where Coldplay do ‘GoT: The Musical‘. The Jaime Lannister song rocks my world. (You have to watch this).

I also rewatched The Triplets of Belleville/Belleville Rendezvous this month, this time with the Dude. I wondered how he’d like it but he adored it. He’s very much into cycling at the moment, so he spent the rest of the evening perched on my bike (in the trainer in the living room) pedaling furiously like the hero. It’s such a lovely movie.

Studying

My studies took a two week break for the first half of June, in between semesters. For the last two weeks, my summer course of ‘Observation and Assessment’ has been going on. I have to be honest, I don’t love it, but it’s three credits in six weeks so I’ll persevere!

Cooking

The only exciting thing I made this month was this delicious zucchini/courgette bread from the Wholefoods website. Not overly sweet but really delish.

Surfing

My favourite website this month was The Girl Outdoors – a blog by a lovely British girl who just loves spending time outside. Kind of like ‘Just a Colorado Gal’ but in the UK. Lots of photos of countryside and camping.

Obsessing

My obsession this month has been my job. I had a temporary teaching job at the Dude’s old preschool, for their four-week summer school. My first ever teaching job. I can honestly say that I loved every minute. Just loved it. I’ll be volunteering there in the Autumn whilst I continue studying. Can’t wait already!

When I wasn’t teaching or studying, I got pretty obsessive about cycling. I’ve so loved getting back into cycling this month. It was my first love, before I got into running, and doing both sports has made me super-happy.

cycling margarita

Looking Forward To

July is going to be busy. I have my course until the last week, so that’ll keep me occupied but I’m also looking forward to having some time with my little boy. I’ve not seen as much of him in June as I usually do and frankly, I’ve missed his freckled little face.

I’m bunking off my studies for a week in a few days to go to Utah, Wyoming and Idaho on our big National Parks trip. SUPER-excited about that. I want to see a bear and some bison (from a distance) and play a lot of mini-golf.

Also, it’s the Tour de France, which starts on July 4th. I love watching it so I’m really excited. The Husband and I have chosen our fantasy teams (the Husband put a LOT of work into picking his team, I just chose the handsome men). We are ready to rock and roll.

Happy July, everyone!

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Assault on Mt Tam

On Saturday, I got to do something I have wanted to do for a LONG time. I finally got to run up Mt Tamalpais, the big mountain in Marin County. We’ve hiked it twice and I’ve been dying to run up it from bottom to top. But on Saturday, the Husband very nobly volunteered to take the Dude and his friend mini-golfing and geocaching and I got to meet up with Jen and KP and run the beast.

I’ve been hill training for a couple of weeks – twice or thrice weekly doing repeats up long hills of anything between 1/2 mile and 1 mile. I’ve done it in the heat of the day which has been sweaty and unpleasant but was the only time available to me. However I haven’t run ‘long’ for 4 weeks and really wasn’t sure what kind of shape I’d be in for this run.

The planned route was Old Railroad Grade. This fire-road style trail starts just outside the town centre of Mill Valley and winds its way up the mountain at a very gentle gradient, because it used to be the route of the railway which took tourists up the mountain. I knew it wasn’t steep, but I also knew it was 6 or 7 miles long. We’d basically be running uphill for 6 or 7 miles. I also knew that I was underestimating the downhill. In my head, I’d just ‘roll downhill’. It could be grim.

jen kate

I met up with the girls at 8.30. It was cool and grey, which was pretty perfect, and we started running. And that’s basically what we did for the next 1 hr 45. We run (aka…jogged slowly) and took walk breaks. Every time we saw a bend in the distance, I promised the girls that the West Point Inn, which would be about 2/3 of the way up, would be round the next corner.  Every time, I was wrong. But we wound our way up through redwood forest, along a stretch of paved road, through more trees and then out into exposed trail through chaparral. I was feeling pretty good.

me mt tam

‘Jump’, Jen told me. This was as good as it got.

mt tam

The top is that tiny square bump on top of the hill on the left.

We did eventually make it to West Point Inn, where we used the loos and rested for a bit before the final push. I still felt good, just jogging along. The girls called me the Energiser Bunny, which was a real mental boost for me. And somehow, we finally emerged out onto the car park at the top, just 1/3 mile to the summit.

The final 1/3 mile is basically a rock-climb so we pushed on, scrambling up the rocks and then finally, I was at the top. I knocked on the door, as is traditional, with a massive grin on my face. I felt really really happy.

mt tam jen kate

Jen and Kate arrive at the top

Happy girls Photo Credit: Jen

Happy girls
Photo Credit: Jen

mt tam me kate jess

Luckily someone volunteered to take a decent photo

We didn’t linger long at the top. We took a few photos, got a bit chilly and then headed down. This time, we diverted onto Upper Fern Creek trail which cut a mile or so off our return journey. It was single track and really quite beautiful but very steep so we crawled down, trying to avoid twisting our ankles on the rocks. There were a few really lovely stretches through manzanita trees but a lot of it basically involved us staring at the ground trying not to fall! Eventually we emerged back onto Old Railroad Grade which was smoother and we just slowly worked our way downhill. It felt like we would never stop running downhill.

jen mt tam

Jen on Fern Gully trail

jen

Fern Creek trail was VERY low on ferns. This was the only one we saw.

But we did, 12.2 miles later. We were all pooped at the end, but also pretty happy. And totally starving!!

I REALLY enjoyed Saturday. Great company, as ever, but also a lot of satisfaction at finally doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I was also really surprised and happy at how strong I felt. I haven’t felt very fit for a good few months now but I felt great today. I don’t think the cycling and spin classes are making me a faster runner, but I wonder if they’re helping with my endurance. I may be wrong, but I was a happy runner.

My knees ached all night long and my quads were shaky and sore all day Sunday.

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