Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jazz and the Sunset

At my townhome complex, there's a jazz saxophone student who lives cati-corner from our house, and whenever the weather is right, he opens his bedroom window and treats us all to a free concert (which is at least twice a week). I finished my run today as he was just warming up. I ran inside, grabbed a Gatorade and the dog, and lay down in the yard to watch the sun set to the sounds of Coltrane. Talk about the perfect way to end a day. Rusty ran around the yard digging up sticks for me to throw while I enjoyed the feeling of the cool grass on my (very) sweaty back.

I'm finally starting to regain some of my speed after being sick for so long. I'm not fully healthy again, and my training schedule definitely isn't what it was, but my workouts are starting to feel strong again. Today was helped by the fact that the sun finally, FINALLY came out after days of rain and gray and cold. Running with the sun going down in the west and Jack Johnson and Bob Marley on my iPod probably brought my pace down at least a minute a mile. My resting HR is starting to go down again, too. It was 67 when I put my monitor on today! I can't remember the last time it was that low. It's a good feeling, especially after the last couple of weeks of not taking great care of myself, and starting to feel lousy again.

I finished reading Ultra Marathon Man by Dean Karnazes, which I can STRONGLY recommend. I had started to lose a my motivation a little recently, to be honest. I used to be all about mind over matter, but the past few months have been discouraging. Never bad enough to bring me to a full stop, but some of the passion has been lacking. That book brought me back to where I was last spring when I was just starting, and I was so excited every morning to wake up and run or ride or swim or just be outside. I'd forgotten what that sheer joy was like, of being totally aware that I was doing something that most people never even allowed themselves to do, that some people weren't even ABLE to do. I'd forgotten to be excited. Karnazes's story really woke me up again, and reminded me of my passion. And, not surprisingly, rekindled my desire to eventually reach the ultra level. It definitely made me more excited for my Half Iron this summer!

And, I think, ultimately it made me enjoy my post-run high tonight a lot more. Laying in the grass with Rusty, with that smooth jazz and the sunset, was just about perfect. It would have been more perfect if Jeremy had been there, and had run with me, buuuut that will have to wait for another day...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Long Ride

God I love long rides.

I'm lucky enough to be seeing the cutest ultra runner of all time at the moment, who also happens to be a pretty dang decent cyclist, so I dragged him out on my 3 hour ride yesterday. Actually, "dragged" is probably a bad choice of words. Let's just say he spent a lot of time "drafting" off of me. He rides a full carbon Bianchi. He doesn't need to draft off of my crappy aluminum Fuji. You do the math. Anyways, we took Michael's favorite Sanger loop, though we cut off a little bit at the northern most part since we took some back roads through Denton on the way out. (We had to stop briefly for me to pee behind a bush before we really got going - over-hydration...). The rolling hills in this ride are great - not really much chance to get comfortable, unless you count the stretch of chip seal or the ending stretch with the thrilling head winds. It's a perfectly challenging ride.

And thank God I live in Denton, because north of here is some beautiful cycling - especially now that it's spring. Big, green fields, open skies (mainly cloudy yesterday, but the sun broke through a good few times, which was pretty spectacular), old cemetaries, small churches, tons of cattles (all with babies right now - my girly little heart thinks it's adorable) and, of course, Texas wildflowers. The few times I lost pace were when I got distracted by the scenery - at which point Jeremy would look back like "where'd my draft go?" Which was when I knew I needed to speed up. There's something about those big Texas landscapes that make my legs spin faster and harder to get that big rush of flying through all that green and blue. I think if I lived in Dallas, I wouldn't be a cyclist. Here I walk out the door and I'm at the starting point for like 5 of my favorite routes - I'm so spoiled.

Anyways, we had an adventuresome time yesterday, mainly because I hadn't taken this route in about 3 months, and realized I'd forgotten about the names and directions of a number (and by "a number" I actually mean "all") of the side streets, and had to be guided only by my impeccable sense of direction. (Which is actually neither impeccable or even something that I personally put any faith in, so we were guided by sheer dumb luck, which apparently is surprisingly effective). Fortunately, we both kind of enjoy adventure, and worse things have happened then getting lost. If we needed directions, we had a fit girl in spandex to get them (Jeremy, of course, would have had to hide with his bike behind a bush) and, well, if worst came to worst there are always gas stations with telephones. And GU. So we used our finely honed cycling instincts to reinvent the old route and still get back to home base in almost exactly 3 hours (stops not included - and there was almost a pizza stop, but we refrained).

I started out a little weak, but after about an hour warmed up and fell into a great rhythm. My legs felt good. We maintained, and possibly even exceeded my original goal of 15 miles an hour. It would have been more if I'd been on the S-Works, but since being sick I don't try to ask a whole lot of myself when I'm on the Fuji (for those of you who don't know, it's a $600 entry-level road bike about 4 centimeters too big for me). I might be slower on that bike, but I sure love training on it. It just feels comfortable now, even though it really is too big for me. I'm about to order some new, woman specific (i.e. more compact) handlebars, which I think will make it absolutely perfect. It also absorbs all that shock that that pesky S-Works makes me feel!

I've got another 3 hour ride tomorrow, which will be immediately followed by a 30 minute run. Can you say BSLT practice? I haven't decided if I'm going to do the first 2 hours with the Bicycle Path or not - I don't particularly like their route because there's too much traffic and really not that many hills. Hill Top ceased entirely to be impressive after Lubbock. You know, I have to admit, I never thought I would be saying "there's not enough hills..."