Swimming In S.F. Bay, Running the Presidio, Beach Calesthenics, Marin Metric Century

March 15, 2010
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Ironteam at Aquatic Park - I'm in the middle/back, green cap

What a weekend. Seriously.

We had had guests on Friday for dinner and then a friend spend the night, but I was careful not to even suggest champagne, wine, cocktails, etc. because I knew that this would definitely not help with the long weekend ahead. I got up Saturday and prepared my stuff for the day, was able to have a little chat with Sallie (our houseguest), and then off to The Races.

I took the wagon instead of the van because we didn’t need the bikes on Saturday – backing it slowly down our wretchedly steep driveway. The windows were foggy, but I have to roll them down anyway to get a clear path. Once I hit the court, I turned on the windshield wipers to “clear the fog” – and SKRITCH SKRITCH – it was all ice! It wasn’t until then I looked at the temperature – 37 degrees! Yikes! I got out a credit card, hopped out and cleaned off the ice, then had to wait for the defroster to “catch up.” I texted Mel I would be a little late – little did I know she was facing the same un-planned-for windshield/ice dilemma, so we wound up arriving at our rendezvous right at the same time.

We got to Aquatic Park, and down to the beach. Aquatic Park is a bay between two cement “arms” that reach out into the S.F. Bay, so it’s not really that choppy in there. We were to do 4 times around the buoys side to side (1/3 of a mile each), getting out of the water between each “pass” to do whatever Head Coach Dave told us to do.

me in the water (to the right of the kayak)

starting swim - that's me swimming to the right/front of the kayak

As usual, folks hung back when it was time to get in. I waited for a bit, but then just headed off to the water. I think it’s the Marines thing – when someone says “Do It, Get In,” I….do it and get in! This has happened the other 2 times at the lake, too. I turn around and the group is still on the beach! I started stroking for the right-side buoy, and the water was DEFINITELY warmer than the last time in Lake Del Valle, by at least 5-6 degrees. Also, of course, very salty, so more buoyant.

The first time around I headed into the beach, and we had to do 20 pushups, then back into the

wheelbarrowing with Susie on the beach

water. Back around the buoys again, and then back out. This time – “wheelbarrows” – Susie and I were matched up and gave it a valiant effort. Back in the water – and I realized that all the “goggles on, goggles off” had gotten my caps loose (a bright “race type” cap over my silicon regular cap). This is a bad thing – unfortunately, once I get water on my hair, my cap just doesn’t stay on, it pops off. I wrestled with it a bit, and got it to stay.

My third time around was WONDERFUL. I could feel myself gliding, pulling on the water, etc. I felt GREAT! I also felt totally at peace, and could notice my surroundings. On the way out, you could see the Golden Gate Bridge – on the way back, you could see the city, the big Ghirardelli Square sign, and the rest. The day was beyond gorgeous, and WOW I felt great! I was sort of hoping that the 3rd time around was

crabwalking

our last (for a mile total) – but as I came in for the next calesthenics round, Coach Doug said nope – one more. (Coach Doug stood out in the water so that we could sight on him, which was a blessing. The sun was coming up and so it was incredibly hard to see the shore. You could see his outline though, and knew where to head.) This round of calesthenics was crab walks to a line, and “sumo walks” back.

I was really wrestling with my caps by this time, and wound up treading water for some time trying to get them on. It didn’t help that I really couldn’t feel my hands. (Hey, the water was NOT as cold as Del Valle but it was NOT warm, either!) Once I got to Coach Tony’s kayak I finally gave up on having two, and handed him the silicone one to return to me at the end – figuring I had better keep the colorful one so that folks could see me.

It was DEFINITELY colder with just the thin, race-type cap on. It was also still slipping off, and my hands by this time were claws from the chilly water (and of course the fact my wetsuit has no arms). I was very frustrated, so finally at the final buoy just took it off and decided I would tuck it into my wetsuit and just swim in.

Oh. My. God. Without anything on my head, it was like needles shooting into my skull. I don’t think I have actually ever swum without a cap – certainly not in chilly water. The front of my hair also flopped down in front of my goggles, and I was so cold, I started to panic a little. I couldn’t figure out how to get in without putting my “head” into the water. My face was already numb, but the cold on the top of my head honestly made me feel like someone was piercing it. At one point I also managed to mis-time my breathing and took in a huge gulp of super salty bay water. Uuuuuugh.

I made it up to the shore – and was one of the last there! Coach Helen instructed me on how to get the “bay sludge” off my face (I never saw it – I don’t even WANT to know.) I was a little depressed at how many people were already out of their wetsuits until I started talking to a few folks, and realized that a good chunk had only done 3 times around. As we got out of our wetsuits and tried to towel off, the cold definitely kicked in. Mel and I headed up to the station wagon, and I was DEFINITELY happy I had it rather than the van – it has bueno heated seats! We hopped in and drove directly to Sports Basement, where the run was to begin. I sat in those heated seats until every single person was ready to go, not a moment before!

I had thought I would try out the trisuit bottoms, and had planned to run in them as well, but it was just too cold. Unfortunately, I only had a pair of baggie old nylon sweats – and nothing else! So off I went “Commando” in the sweats, hoping that they wouldn’t chafe. Maria (“M-Dot”) and I did the course together, run/walking.

This way, IronTeam!

The run was a 5 mile loop through the Presidio, up from Sports Basement and back. It started off up hill and up Lovers Lane to Pacific, down to the Presidio golf course and along Mountain Lake, up a hill at Battery Cauffield and back downhill. Maria and I missed a couple turns, but each time we thought we were lost, Head Coach Dave would miraculously be there and we would run with him for a bit. We got in a little short of an hour, dropped off our water bottles in our

stretch break!

cars, picked up Mentor Margaret, and then just did a 20 minute out/20 minute back along the water, as we were supposed to do what we could for an hour 40.

Afterwards, we went back up the path to a flat area where we Stretched, then down to the beach to do Strength with Coach Doug. We did different lunges, then a special little number where

starting a lunge set

you started in plank, crawled your feet up to your hands (remember, we’re on sand), then crawled your hands back out to plank, and so one. Then some more planks, side planks, and the like. At the end, Coach Doug mentioned that we should all go and stand in the bay for 5 minutes (the ice bath idea) – but knowing I was in baggie nylon sweats “Commando” I was very glad when he didn’t make us do it.

Off to the Sports Basement again, where we had an Iron University. They mainly talked about the “1/2 way to Iron Wildflower Weekend” that the team is doing next week. Only Carol and I are not going. Not sure what Carol’s up to, but H and I are in Sedona (where we will stage our own). We also were

crawling planks - I'm in the red to the right

given pen and paper, and wrote letters to ourselves, to open on race day. We had to give them back to Head Coach Dave, so I guess he will pass them back out close to that day. In my note to myself, I talked about some of the training we had done, but in my mind I was facing the Fear of the next day – the Marin Metric Century bike route. I figured I better not say anything about it in the note, because I wasn’t sure how that was going to turn out!

I got up on Sunday very early (ESPECIALLY as we had set the clocks forward Saturday night). Paula and I had decided to start an hour before even the “early riders” on the bike route. I felt actually sick with the Fear of doing it. The night before, I had gone to my friend Chris’s 60th birthday in Petaluma, so I had driven out the way we were going to ride. It made me even more upset about the whole thing. Not only would I be adding over 20 miles to my longest ride ever in my LIFE, but it would be a hilly ride. The only hilly rides I have done have been with the team – and 1/2 as long. My stomach was really upset about not ONLY going nearly twice as far as I ever had, but ALSO facing West Marin. In fact, H said to me the night before, “Maybe you shouldn’t do it.” But I knew I couldn’t let Paula down.

My tweet that morning at 6:00 was:
“Today-Marin Metric Century.This will be the longest bike (by 20 miles) & steepest overall ever. First day all year Ive really felt sick w/fear.”

I received a post from Belinda almost immediately that quoted one of my all-time favorites, Eleanor Roosevelt:
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

I also received a quickie from some other friends, giving me some Atta Girls, which really helped! (One, from a business/networking friend Mark Machado, said: “Once you’re sweating, sucking wind with your legs screaming, you won’t even think about it. You go girl! Yeehaw!” I laughingly sent back “you forgot ‘puking’…”)

Right before I left, I opened up my “Daily OM” Horoscope as it popped into my inbox, because the Subject line for that day was “Unshakable Confidence.” It’s a little long, but so appropriate I thought I should insert it:

 You may feel insecure and unsure of yourself today. Your self-confidence may be ebbing, compelling you to struggle to fill the space it has left behind. You may feel driven to seek solace and assurance of your worth in material goods or unhealthy behaviors. Consider, however, that the comfort you might glean from shopping, eating, or risk-taking will likely be temporary. You can find greater consolation and simultaneously rebuild your confidence levels by reflecting upon your strength, accomplishments, and many positive attributes. In your past, you may find proof that you are a capable and good-hearted individual of many talents. Your insecurities and self-doubt will likely vanish today when confronted by your copious and mindful inner power. 

Confidence that comes from within is lasting and can give you the strength to courageously face challenges in your life. Though we may attain temporary feelings of self assurance from outside sources, the potency we feel will dissipate quickly as we move through life. Building up your confidence levels gradually allows you to retain the self-esteem and self respect you gain and use it to build a foundation from which to approach your worldly endeavors. No individual or situation will have the power to interfere with your inner belief and poise as it was crafted from your own thoughts and feelings. You’ll move unshakably through good times and bad with your head held high. When you draw confidence from the depths of your soul today, the strength you find will never fade.

(Good one, huh?)  The weather was supposed to be in the 60s and verging towards 70, and when I stepped out on our porch to leave around 6:30 a.m., it actually felt quite pleasant. So clever clogs here just went out in bike shorts, no tights. Thankfully I had 2 bike shirts (one longsleeved) and my Flames bike jersey. My GPS misguided me into a subdivision (!!) but I called Paula and she got me to the right parking lot. We were both surprised, as it was over near Kaiser/San Rafael (behind the Safeway at Las Gallinas/Freitas Parkway), so up and over a big hill to Lucas Valley Road, where we thought we were starting. We considered moving & starting our ride over at the park on Lucas Valley but we knew if we did that, we would not meet up with the rest of the team at the end.

After a lot of laughing, stocking up our shirt backpockets and Bento Boxes, rechecking directions, and a pitstop at the Safeway, we were off at 7:23 a.m.

Here is the map of the route that we took, though this shows it starting on Lucas Valley Road. We actually were on the other side of Las Gallinas (so tack on a few more miles to the front and back). And here is a description of it (note that they say it’s a “3″ in difficulty then they have a huge all-caps section saying this is NOT FOR BEGINNERS…)

Paula and I were able to pretty companionably ride side by side for the first miles along Lucas Valley Road, as it has a wide bike lane. That was fun – she teased me a bit for having my “tunes” playing out the back of my Camelbak, but I knew that for this ride, they were essential! Just as she started to tease me, some county songs came on, and turns out that she thought she was the only one in the area that listened to country. So we sang along to “Heads Carolina, Tails California” as we pedaled along, cursing the cold and settling in for the day.

The first climb is up to Big Rock. When I used to work out at Skywalker Ranch and would drive this route in my old beater Escort, the sharp turn up to the right (before the Rock) was one that I was never quite sure I would make. (My car actually almost did NOT make it up Wilson Hill once – which was also on the route we were taking!) We gutted it out, and as the Rock came into view, I knew we would both make it. We were ECSTATIC. Lots of high-fives, and I tweeted that we had made our first climb (8:16 a.m.). I figured that I would need a record of accomplishments for the blog, and as long as I had cell reception, I would give people a little head’s up as to where we were. We fueled up, and then down the long descent to Nicasio.

We discovered that while Paula was a hill climb demon (she didn’t walk her bike once the whole time – Hill Goddess!), I pulled away on the flats and downhills. I think it has something to do with my 30-year-old steel bike weighing 30 pounds more than her gorgeous fancy tribike! We rode through the beautiful (chilly!) redwood trees and hills and dales of that area. I always used to love that road when I was working at Skywalker Ranch.

I waited for her at the stopsign where you turn right to head to Nicasio, and then we headed into town for a potty stop and another regroup. We were feeling REALLY good (8:41 a.m.). We figured that about that time, the “slower” or “early” group would be getting going on the route (they were to begin at 8:30, the “faster” riders at 9:30). We agreed to regroup again at the stopsign where we would turn right to head up the Point Reyes/Petaluma Road to Petaluma, and off we went.

When we passed Nicasio Lake, the entire lake and part of the road was obscured with a “freezing fog.” Oh my lord it was cold. My legs were a bright, lobster red, and I couldn’t even feel my hands. When I waited at the stopsign before the right turn to Petaluma I tried to take a pull from my Camelbak – and the brew in the siptubing was crunchy with ICE and SUPER COLD! Paula rolled up and went to take a bite from the Powerbar in the front of her Bento Box, and it was so frozen she couldn’t get her teeth into it! We discussed the next hill, which would take us up and over to the French Cheese Factory, and off we went.

I had mis-remembered the hill – I told her it was gut-wrenching (I was remembering Red Hill/McEvoy Ranch Road). So when we got to the top, we both sort of went “Huhn?” We were feeling rather pleased with ourselves that we’d been prepared to ‘gut it out’ and then – surprise! – we were at the top. We headed down again through the trees, and then into the farming grasslands of West Marin, with the wood fences, mustard in flower, and the like. I was hoping we could have a “pitstop” at the French Cheese Factory but it wasn’t open yet, so once we turned onto Hicks Road, well, it was “time” and that’s all I can say. (I am going to be very happy to get this surgery done after the race. It better solve this problem.) We GU’d up at Hicks, because it was a few miles until we would hit Wilson Hill and I wanted to be sure we had some extra energy in our systems. Paula (who is from Atlanta) remarked that she “now knew” why people really loved the area. She hadn’t been out to West Marin/Petaluma and marvelled at how gorgeous it was. I mentioned that when H and I were first together, we had a little bit of a “Green Acres” relationship – with me in the Eddie Albert role in my farm in Petaluma, and H in the ‘burbs! I also commented that once we hit Western Avenue, we’d only be about 3 miles from my farm (which I now rent out), so the whole ride made me feel a little “homesick.”

Yeah, ok, so we hit Wilson Hill. H and I used to park at the bottom of it, and curse our way up it to Petaluma when we were training for the big hills of the Big Sur Marathon. Said hill is also the one that my old car nearly didn’t make it up one morning. Not my favorite. I started up the hill in my granniest of granny gears (1:1) and got to one steep spot, which I was able to gut through – then it was a little “flatter” (all relative) but I hit another and just couldn’t keep going. I got off and pushed the bike up 2/3 of the hill, but Paula did it all! She was dancing at the top when I pushed up to her, and we were both ecstatic over her “taking that mother” (9:52 a.m.)

A group of 3 cyclists came up the hill as if it was butter (show offs (laugh)) and after that we started off, but in getting out of my “granny gear” to a gear to go downhill, I managed to throw my chain off the back gears. It

from losing my chain

took me a while to get it back on, because it had jammed down against the frame. I realized of course a bit later that I had left my gloves on to fix it – which I was then wiping my face with. PRETTY…

Next was an up-and-down stretch through Chileno Valley that ultimately led to Western Avenue in Petaluma. We turned where we were supposed to off Western, but I had the directions folded with a crease I didn’t see (think like the back of a Mad Magazine, where you fold it to make a new picture), and so I said we went directly to I Street. This meant that we didn’t do the “left-right-left-right-left” onto F then G – where there was a sag stop and portapotties. Once we were out on our way on I Street, I realized I had messed us up, and so we stopped to regroup on San Antonio Road. That’s when I pulled out the directions and “un-accordioned” them and saw my mistake! Whoooops! Nate (one of the super athletes on our team) blew past us at this point. We were averaging (with our stops) about 10 MPH, and we figured he was probably averaging about 20 to meet us where he did. WOW. Time for another unscheduled road pitstop for the fearless duo (we were DEFINITELY not going to backtrack to get to the sag stop), and then back to it.

We started climbing Red Hill/McEvoy Ranch Road, and I realized “Uh-oh,” that THIS was the hill I had feared just as much as Wilson Hill and had mistakenly thought was between Nicasio Lake and the Cheese Factory. I got about 2/3 of the way up, and just couldn’t do it any more. Paula the Hill Goddess chugged on up it like a champ! We met at the top, and at that point we realized two things. First, we were now both in totally uncharted country in that we were well over the mileage we had ever ridden before. Second – we “only” (hill-wise) had the climb back to Big Rock (and Las Gallinas back to the parking lot) and we were DONE! Paula was beaming. I wished at that point I had brought a camera with me! Instead – of course! – I pushed out a tweet about her hill climbing prowess (11:34 a.m.) and away we went!

The ride down the other side back to Nicasio Lake was FANTASTIC. I said a prayer, let go of my brakes, and FLEW down the hill. The tarmac was new (shock! no potholes!), it was sunny enough that I had taken off my longsleeved shirt and gloves and put on my sunglasses, and I felt GLORIOUS. As I went flying down the hill (snot streaming up my cheek from the wind – yeah, “you know you’re Iron when…”), I got in that mood that Paula had been in, at the top. So by the time we hit Nicasio Reservoir, we were both feeling like total CHAMPS!

in the redwoods on the way back

We met with our teammate Sara’s boyfriend at the sag wagon along the road, and found out that she had had not one, but TWO, blowouts but still had gone on to do the ride. I thought I had seen her coming up the hill when I was flying past at the Cheese Factory, but wasn’t sure. Paula got her Nutter Butter “fix” and off we went. We stopped again at Nicasio for a pitstop, then off for the last “leg.” We realized at that point that we only had about 10 miles to go, and “anyone can do” 10 miles. The sag wagon with Helen in it blew past us when we were back in the redwoods, so I actually even have a photograph of myself on the ride.

My legs felt really heavy as we were pushing up and over Big Rock hill, but I saw the “3838″ ranch and realized I was NEARLY THERE (there is a curve after 3838, then the top) and really pulled down deep and there we were!!!! Paula actually rode up next to me, and asked if we should stop at the top, I said no, let’s Just Do It.

We went down the long and definitely “technical” curvy downhill, but I know that road and knew where to brake and slow down. When we were nearly to the straightaway, BK and Jim blew on past us. As he caught up to me (scaring me actually, I had NO idea someone was coming up), BK remarked, “HEY, do you have TUNES going?” And I laughed as I nodded my head. He laughed and blew on by – Jim following a couple minutes later.

The straightaway on Lucas Valley (past Mt McKinley Road etc.) just seemed interminable. It was time to get my chacha OFF that bike! I stopped a bit to wait for Paula, then we were up and over Las Gallinas (where she passed me). We got to the big stoplight at Safeway, and knew we were NEARLY THERE! We crossed the road and were between the bus stop and the turn onto Nova Albion (where the cars were) and KA-BLAM! my front tire blew out QUITE spectacularly! I looked down, and I could see the shredded tube, and the tire was actually blown off the wheel. I of course wasn’t going that fast, so I could stop immediately. Paula was about 1/2

me with my fearless steed, Vlad, on my shoulder

block ahead of me, but with the BLAM! she immediately stopped, looked back, and then burst out laughing. What a way to end the day!

I put the bike on my shoulder (there was just no way to push it) and we walked the rest of the way into the parking lot. (Apparently Nate had had a blow out at the same place, which is a little suspicious.) Belinda and Helen burst out laughing as we came around the corner, me with the bike on my shoulder, and chain grease running down my leg from the dropped chain. SO SEXY! Paula and I high-5ed each other that we had MADE IT BACK! We were super glad that we had gone out alone and had made our own pace. We were out for exactly 6 hours, but riding for 5 – so we did about an hour of

high-5ing and laughing with Paula

stopping, regrouping, etc. along the way. After kibbutzing with some of the Team as they were coming back from their ride, it was time to head back home.

I actually realized after I had turned onto the Central San Rafael turnoff that I had forgotten to get the Recoverade from the back and fill up the bottle – so I had a “you know you’re Iron when” moment. I pulled over to the side (only about 10 minutes from home), got it out of the trunk, and mixed it up on the side of the road, to be within the “45 minute window”! It actually made me laugh enough to – you guessed it! – tweet about it.

Once home I took a shower and then the afore-blogged ice bath. I had some G.I. distress and need to figure out (probably during the 1/2 Iron in Sedona) if it’s caused by the Accellerade (I had taken in about 1,000 calories’ worth plus 3 or so GU during the ride), or the Recoverade, or…? Nothing like seeing that flourescent green liquid that you put in one end flow out the other…(OK, I know, TMI, I take it back (laugh))

BFF Maria came over to keep me company before she headed off to Aspen. It was so great to see her. I regaled her with the stories of the day, and she reminded me that 99.9% of the people in the U.S. would never even DREAM of doing what we had done. I was a little bummed to have had to walk in two spots, but she said that even with that, this was an enormous accomplishment. When I had been standing (bummed) at the top of Red Hill/McEvoy Ranch Road with Paula, she had reminded me that there is NO WAY that anyone could imagine in either running or swimming that an athlete could BOTH increase their distance by 75% PLUS do mother hills – that it would be incomprehensible. So the fact that we had done BOTH – even though I’d walked some of it – had to be looked at from that standpoint. In other words, let’s assume that the longest I had ever run was 10 miles on the flat, and then I was asked in a coach’s workout to do 18 miles on hills. What would happen? Well, of course, I would have to walk a good portion of it. That made me feel better, and put it a bit in perspective.

I’m really glad I’m not doing the Wildflower this coming weekend with the team, I have to admit. I need a “1/2 Iron” experience that will make me feel great, not knock the stuffing out of me (the Wildflower course is known to be a killer).  I am SO grateful that Paula and I did this ride together, and I know that we each gained some confidence from it.

Now to just keep the nightmare of having that blown tire on one of those super fast downhills out of my head, and I will be A-Okay! (Mel says she hears the Jaws theme when she approaches the salt water – I definitely am going to hear that ka-BLAM! for a long, long time ringing in mine!)

YOU KNOW YOU’RE IRON WHEN…
…when you gotta go, you gotta go, bush or not (courtesy of Tiffany)
…the snot flying up your face as you fly down a hill on your bike is an exhilarating feeling
…you got chain grease “there”…again!
…you pull off the highway to quickly mix a recovery drink, afraid you will miss your “45 minute window”
…ice baths are a good thing
…you use the salt water during your Bay swim to account for part of your electrolyte intake for the day (courtesy of Maria M-Dot)
…you get not one but TWO flats at the beginning of a long bike ride – and wind up doing it anyway! (for Sara)
…your new song becomes “Ironwoman hear me Rrrrowrrr” (courtesy of Frank A in response to my tweet: “Blew a tire so spectacularly I thot I had been shot – only 2 streets fm the end! Had to carry the bike in. Rrrrowrrr”)
…you CARRY the bike to the finish (courtesy of Jeff V.)
…the portapotty at Mile 45 looks better than your shopping spree at Tiffany’s (courtesy of Paula The Hill Goddess) which reminded ME of:
…your bike partner the Hill Goddess breaks out in full tilt James Brown “I FEEL GOOD!” in the crystal silence of Nicasio Reservoir after wolfing down Nutter Butters, and it just feels so RIGHT…