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Did you ever sign up for a race months in advance, and then those months flew by and you wondered what you were thinking when you signed up for that race? That happened to me when I signed up for the Yosemite Half Marathon.

Yosemite Half Marathon 2018 logo

Had I known months ago that May was going to be so busy for me, I wouldn’t have signed up. And yet, I’m so glad I did, because I loved the race and I loved spending Mother’s Day weekend with my husband and three daughters in Yosemite National Park!

On Friday afternoon we drove seven hours up to the historic Big Trees Lodge (formerly the Wawona Hotel) inside the park. We used our fourth grade “Every Kid in a Park” national park pass to get into the park for free, saving $30, hooray!

Wawona Hotel Big Trees Lodge porch view

After sitting out on the 2nd floor porch and admiring the night sky, we got to bed by 10:30 p.m. and got a whole 4.5 hours of sleep before our race day alarm went off at 2:50 a.m.! I was running the race with my husband Mike and oldest daughter, 16-year-old Shannon. We needed to leave by 3:20 a.m. to make the 35-minute drive to the shuttle bus parking lot at Sierra Star in Oakhurst by 4 a.m. There wasn’t a coffee maker in our hotel room but thankfully the Big Trees Lodge staff agreed to have the night manager make us some coffee at 3 a.m.! He insisted that we take a whole thermos and a cup of cream! I was so appreciative. We ate muffins and bananas in the car on the drive.

We arrived at Sierra Star by 4 a.m. but faced a line of cars waiting to park in the field. It took 15 minutes or so for us to get parked. I was happy to see a row of porta potties set up in the field, along with very nice buses equipped with toilets. We got on a bus by 4:20 a.m. for the ride to the starting line. Unfortunately, our bus driver got lost, we took a 25-minute detour out of our way, and the ride ended up taking 1 hour 20 minutes total. I didn’t mind waiting on a warm bus (and Mike and Shannon both slept), but we got to the starting area around 5:40 a.m. and still had to pick up our bibs and drop our gear before the 6 a.m. start! (Can you hear my famous last words on Friday night, “Oh, we don’t need to go to the expo at Bass Lake Recreation Area; we’ll have an hour at the starting line to pick up our bibs”?) I waited in line to pick up our bibs while Mike hit the porta potties, then he grabbed a gear bag for drop-off at the starting line and we rushed over there with literally 45 seconds to spare. The race was chip timed so it would have been absolutely fine to miss the 6 a.m. start for the first heat (unless you were competing to be a top finisher and wanted an overall award based on your gun time — that wasn’t us!), but we were eager to go.

Race day weather could not have been better with clear sunny skies and temperatures in the low 40s at the start and warming up as the time progressed and the course descended in elevation to the finish at Bass Lake Recreation Area. I think the temperature must have been in the high 60s when we finished just after 8 a.m. I wore long pants and a long-sleeved shirt and wish I would have worn some gloves but my husband and daughter were perfectly fine in shorts and a short-sleeved t-shirt (go figure).

The course runs outside the national park itself but has its own spectacular scenery. I loved running through the woods on the dirt fire road for the first five miles of the course. It’s not an “easy” course by any means — the road was rutted and rocky in places but I thought that made it interesting and fun and the miles clicked by faster than any other race I’ve done. The mountain dogwoods were in full bloom and were so beautiful scattered among the pine trees. The only problem (and it wasn’t really a problem) was that my Garmin lost reception for about 0.4 miles among the trees so it wasn’t recording my mileage or split times accurately, saying we were running a slower pace than we actually were. Then we hit a downhill section from miles 6-10 on a paved road. My daughter and I both loved that section best. We cranked out mile splits in the low 8s and it felt easy. Then we hit the flat and rolling section from miles 10-13.1 and it got tough, as any half marathon gets tough at that point. The race director had warned us that we would hear the finish line across Bass Lake when we still had a ways to go, so we were prepared for that. I loved running in to the finish at the lake. Shannon and I crossed the finish line together at 2:04:50 and 2:04:51, earning her 2nd place in her 15-19 age group out of 9 runners! Unfortunately, in the rush at the starting line to get my bib, use the porta potties, and drop my gear bag, I had pinned on my husband’s bib instead of mine! So as I crossed the finish line, a very confused announcer read out, “And here are Shannon White and, um, Michael White, from La Habra!” Yeah. Oops. Thank goodness I had not run fast enough to qualify for an age group award and the correction of my time did not mess up the awards for the first five to finish in the 45-49 age group. Mike finished a few minutes later after a couple of porta potty stops along the course.

At the finish we received a huge, really nice medal with an image of Yosemite on it, along with a cold protein shake (choice of three flavors) and a box of post-run and hiking snacks.

Yosemite Half Marathon 2018 finishers medals

Me, Mike and Shannon in line for the shuttle bus back to the parking area. You can see Bass Lake behind us. Mike has on the technical shirt given out at the race. And yes, Shannon is wearing my Kappa Kappa Gamma sweatshirt from 1989!

If you wanted to make the weekend even more challenging you could participate in one or more of the official race “club hikes” and earn an extra medallion for taking those hikes and sending in photos. Instead, we rented bikes and road around the park with our younger children.

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Mike and my younger daughters even braved the 45-degree water in the river.

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We also drove up to Glacier Point, stopping at this lookout for my 13-year-old ballerina to pose in an arabesque.

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It was sunny and gorgeous in the valley but cold with even a few snow flurries at Glacier Point! The cool thing is that Mike and I cross-country skied to Glacier Point in 1998 before we had any children. It felt surreal to re-visit that spot 20 years later with our three daughters.

I usually do not do the same race twice, but I’d do the Yosemite Half again for sure. If you want to do it, sign up early enough to decide if you want to reserve a spot to camp at the finish line at Bass Lake, and then train on some trails and downhill runs to get ready for the course. Decide if you’re going to run it for fun or run it to race, and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Have you visited Yosemite? Have you run this or any other Vacation Races half marathons?

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I first saw the ElliptiGO elliptical bicycle when world champion runner Mary Decker Slaney was riding one before the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon in 2014. I was too tired and shy to go up to her at the finish line expo after the race (note to self: “Hi! It’s so nice to meet you! What do you have here?” would have done very nicely). Anyway, I had been dying to try an ElliptiGO ever since. Recently my curiosity boiled over when I listened to this Runners Connect podcast with Darren Brown, a 3-time All-American, sub-4:00 miler, and marketing manager for ElliptiGO.

So I reached out to the nice people at ElliptiGO and they hooked me up with Hermosa Cyclery in Hermosa Beach, California. Located just steps from a spectacular beachside bike path, Hermosa Cyclery offers ElliptiGOs for sale or rental.

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Gorgeous day to ride an ElliptiGO 8S along Hermosa Beach!

I rode the ElliptiGO 8S (similar to the new model 11R, which retails for $3,499) and you can rent one from Hermosa Cyclery starting at just $20 an hour. My husband Mike tried out the ElliptiGO 3C (retail price $1,999). The verdict? We absolutely loved them! I cannot remember the last time I’ve had so much fun working out.

After a one-minute demonstration of how to ride the elliptical bike, my husband and I hopped on ours and went! It took no time at all for us to master riding the ElliptiGO. Getting started is easy — just step on one pedal and you’re off!

Shifting gears is exceptionally smooth (more smooth than a road bike, which my mechanical engineer husband says is due to the internal geared hub) and braking is the same as a road bike. I had no trouble balancing; in fact the ride felt very stable.

The first day we headed south on the beach path and rode for over 45 minutes total down to the end of the path and back. I could have sworn we were only out for 30 minutes at the most. It felt like we were sightseeing from an 8-foot tall vantage point. I could easily bike and enjoy the view along the way. The funny thing is, we were the main attraction along the path! Pedestrians, runners and road cyclists all stared at us, smiled, and even cheered! I got thumbs-up and clapping as we rode.

The next morning Mike and I headed north on the path. The Strand is also known as the Martin Braude Bike Path and it runs 22 miles and connects with other bike paths. We rode from 14th Street in Hermosa Beach up to Marina del Rey. There is a small section of stairs, and I impressed the guys behind me by lifting the lightweight bike and carrying it up the stairs on my own. There are also some slight hills on this section, and we powered right up them (and enjoyed coasting down them)!

With stops for water along the way, we ended up riding for two hours at about a 10 mph pace (cruising and enjoying the sights — we could have gone significantly faster if we pushed it). The ElliptiGO offers an excellent aerobic and strength training workout. By the end of two hours, I felt it in my outer quads, glutes, and a little in my lower back. On Sunday my marathon training plan for Boston called for a 10-mile long run, and the ElliptiGO ride more than satisfied the equivalent of that run.

The ElliptiGO makes for the ideal cross-training for runners because it offers a low-impact workout that closely mimics the motion of running. Standing upright eliminates the strain on your neck and back that you might feel tucking in for a long road bicycle ride, and saves your rear end from saddle soreness! Plus you get the joy of exercising outside rather than being stuck inside the gym.

I want to thank Hermosa Cyclery for the opportunity to test the ElliptiGO bikes. I’m telling Santa I want an ElliptiGO for Christmas, and if I don’t get one, I will definitely rent one for another fabulous workout on the beach path!

(I was not compensated for my honest review of the ElliptiGO and Hermosa Cyclery.)

Have you ever ridden an ElliptiGO? Are you interested in trying one out?

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Happy New Year! I hope you’ve gotten 2015 off to a running start (ha ha)! I got out on New Year’s Day for a speed workout — 8 x 800m at 10K pace (in the 7:30s). Training for my next full marathon is going well. There are just over eight weeks left until the Phoenix Marathon on Feb. 28. Two months seems like a long time away and a short time away all at once.

I have set some loose goals for 2015 — more “things to work towards” rather than resolutions. For January I intend to work on meal planning, both to save money and to work on maintaining good nutrition leading up to the marathon. My exercise-related goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon with time to spare, so I actually meet the cutoff for registration for the 2016 race.

Looking back on 2014 makes me grateful for what a fantastic year it was. I didn’t realize it at the time but I nearly sampled the whole running menu! In addition to the running relay at Ragnar Napa Valley, I did eight races at almost every distance: one 1-miler, two 5Ks, one 8K, one 10K, two half marathons and one full marathon. (Ultra in 2015??) The really surprising thing is that I got on the podium in my age group in 4 of those 8 races (the mile, 5K, 10K and 13.1). To go from not being a runner at age 39 to getting on the podium at age 43 makes me appreciate all of the wonderful, positive changes that running has brought into my life in the last four years.

My favorite race of the year turned out to be the inaugural REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in September. Just a gorgeous course and a really positive experience for me to end the year on.

Some more number crunching (perhaps only interesting to me but I like to document it):

Miles run in 2014: 1,084.39

Miles biked in 2014: 1,644.78

Miles of swimming in 2014: 2 (can I even call myself a triathlete anymore?!)

Miles walked on warm-ups or cool-downs: 75.84

If you add up all the running, biking, swimming and walking, I covered the driving distance from Los Angeles to New York City — over 2,800 miles! And what helped me get through a lot of those miles? Reading!

Number of books read: 76

Number of those books that were audiobooks listened to while exercising or cleaning house: 39 (over 50%)

One of the best changes I made in my training over the past year was to add in 40-60 minutes of strength training each week (for a total of 33.94 hours for the year, to be exact). Not only did that change my body shape, more importantly it gave me some core strength to draw on when I get tired toward the end of a race and I’m tempted to let my running form fall apart and my pace drop. Strength training offers a lot of returns on a small investment of time.

What about you? What strikes you when you look back on your year? What’s one change you were glad you made in 2014?

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For my fifth (?!) round of full marathon training I’ve kicked it up a notch and taken on the competitive marathon training plan from Smart Marathon Training. To be honest, it’s kicking my behind. It didn’t help that my youngest daughter got sick, as in so sick that she needed my help a few times a night to steam her up in the bathroom so that she could breathe and recover from her croup-like cough and chest congestion. Then, of course, in my sleep-deprived state, I came down with the cold/cough too, albeit in a much milder form. So the last few weeks have been a muddle of trying to juggle sick kids, sick me, and the rainy (?!) weather here in Southern California. Today the training plan called for 80 miles on the bike. I mapped out a loop from my house that stayed off the roads as much as possible, taking the Santa Ana River Trail to the Huntington Beach Path to the San Gabriel River Trail and back on the Whittier Greenway. It came out to 73.3 miles and I called it good.

The 73.3-mile bike loop I mapped out on MapMyRun.

The 73.3-mile bike loop I mapped out on MapMyRun.

I left at 7 a.m. just after the sun rose and I completed the first half in just over two hours. The second half proved much more challenging. I went from a relatively easy 3:20 pace to a tough 4:00-4:20 pace as I went back uphill (slightly) into the wind. My legs and lungs were fine but I do most of my biking on the spin bike so I wasn’t used to holding my head up with my helmet on, and now my neck and back are really sore!

It proved to be an absolutely gorgeous day out though and I have no complaints. I’m so lucky to be able to get out on the bike in mid-December, and to have family members that support me on a bike ride that took 5 hours and 24 minutes (including all the stops at stop lights and for water refills etc.) On my ride I saw an incredibly wide range of things:

– The Christmas tree farm where we cut down our tree each year.

– A strawberry field.

– Angel Stadium.

– The Pacific Ocean, and lots and lots of surfers!

– Oil drilling platforms and massive cargo ships from China. 😦

– Catalina Island. 🙂

– From the beach I had the best view of the snow-capped mountains in the east behind me.

– The naval ammo base in Seal Beach.

– Pelicans skimming across the top of the water over the San Gabriel River as they hunted for fish.

– It was 47 degrees F when I started my ride at 7 a.m. and the best chalk sign I saw on the beach path was “The cold never bothered me anyway!” No matter that I couldn’t feel my toes for about 2/3 of the ride. Note to self: wear wool socks and consider investing in bike shoe booties!

When I got home I immediately refueled with some leftover rouladen baked by my wonderful mom who was in town visiting from Idaho. My favorite meal and the perfect mix of protein and carbs when paired with some leftover mashed potatoes! I took an ice bath (much as I didn’t want to) and propped my legs up while wearing some compression socks. I’m not taking any chances here!

What did you do on your workout(s) this weekend? What’s the longest swim/bike/run/walk you’ve ever done?

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Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate it. I started my morning off the way I like to start most mornings — with a workout! Thursday is “ride 25 miles + strength train” and I usually hit the gym to ride on the spin bike. Of course, today the gym was closed and that meant I needed to put on my big girl panties (some people call them bike shorts) and get back on Bullet, my silver road bike. I haven’t been out on the roads in a long time, and I literally had to learn how to ride a bike again. Just the shifting part. I couldn’t remember which side shifted up with the big handle and which side shifted down. It’s crazy because I actually love riding my bike and if I had all the free time in the world I would probably choose riding over running for my main workouts. But I don’t like to ride on the roads much (because I do not like for cars to squish me, go figure), and that means driving to a trail. Today I decided to risk it, figuring traffic would be light on Thanksgiving morning, and the drivers out there wouldn’t be drunk (yet). Which is a long way of saying that I got in a lovely 20-mile, hilly ride in the 90-degree heat. Yes you read that right, it’s 90 degrees here in LA/Orange County.

I’ve spent the rest of the day cleaning to get ready for my middle daughter’s 10th birthday party tomorrow. Mike is a very good cook so he’s on turkey duty.

Alright, let’s wrap this up with a game from Hungry Runner Girl (and Shut Up + Run):

Four names that people call me other than my real name:

1. Ange (NOT Angie, a fine name but not for me)

2. Mama (usually not Mom or Mommy)

3. Princess Efficiency. (I’m not kidding, this was my nickname at the law firm eons ago).

4. Boston Qualifier! (Okay fine, no one calls me that except me.)

Four jobs I’ve had:

1. Temp (this was my favorite — I never got bored and I had just the right amount of responsibility, never taking my work home with me).

2. Newspaper section editor (in college).

3. Camp counselor. (Okay, I take it back. This was my favorite!)

4. Tax and estate planning attorney (I hated this. Lasted three years).

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:

1. The Princess Bride.

2. When Harry Met Sally.

3. Big.

4. Top Gun.

Four books I’d recommend:

1. Pride and Prejudice (classic).

2. The Secret Garden (my favorite children’s novel).

3. Eleanor and Park (young adult).

4. A Life Without Limits (sport).

Four places I’ve lived:

1. Minneapolis, MN.

2. Ann Arbor, MI.

3. Boston, MA.

4. Palo Alto, CA.

There were more sets of 4 but that’s all I have time for because dinner is served! Now you play along in the comments or leave a link to your blog! I’d love to read your answers.

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Maybe the title of this post should be “Trying Not to Freak Out About My Fourth Full Marathon” or “Counting Down the Days Until I Hit the Starting Line and Ask, ‘Why Am I Doing This Again?'” It’s August 1 and there are 23 days until the Santa Rosa Marathon. I feel ready and freaked out at the same time. I call it a healthy respect for the full marathon distance. I have trained hard, but I know that it takes more than training to have the kind of race I hope to have. It takes good weather on race day, proper fueling, mental fortitude, a willingness to suffer, and a fair amount of luck.

I have done what I can do in advance. Sunday is my last long run of 20 miles, then the blessed taper begins (I’m not being facetious when I call it blessed — I’ve come to look forward to the few weeks of reduced workouts that prime my muscles to fire on all cylinders on race day. I love the magic of taper and how it turns tired legs that barely make it 20 miles into strong legs that carry me 26.2 miles.)

I bought new shoes, quite possibly the last pair of size 11 Brooks Adrenaline GTS 13s on Amazon:

Yes I really do wear a monster size 11. I am just grateful for the proper fit that keeps me (for the most part) from getting blisters and black toenails.

Yes I really do wear a monster size 11. I am just grateful for the proper fit that keeps me (for the most part) from getting blisters and black toenails.

I love how the purple and light green remind me of veraison <—– fancy word I learned in Napa that means “change of color of the grape berries.”

Cabernet grapes undergoing veraison at Frog's Leap Winery in Napa Valley.

Cabernet grapes undergoing veraison at Frog’s Leap Winery in Napa Valley.

I took my new shoes out for an eight mile run this morning. During that time I thought about the Santa Rosa Marathon and whether or not I feel ready. I have faithfully checked off every workout on my training plan, but I am left wondering how that training will pan out on race day. This time around I went with the intermediate marathon training plan from Smart Marathon Training: Run Your Best Without Running Yourself Ragged. Like the Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program plan, it calls for three runs per week and two cross-training sessions, but this plan specifically prescribes that the cross-training sessions each be 20-25 miles on the bike, and it replaces some of the long runs with 50-60 mile bike rides. That means that for July, I ran 112 miles, and put nearly three times that many miles on the bike — 323 miles. If you look at training time alone, I spent more time biking than running (18.3 hours versus 17.8 hours)! I also stuck to the suggested strength training sessions twice a week, mainly following the workouts in Quick Strength for Runners: 8 Weeks to a Better Runner’s Body (my quick review: great for beginners but also easy to ramp up for more advanced athletes).

So, where does that leave me? I feel stronger than I have during past marathon training sessions. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that I’m putting in an average of 8-10 hours of training per week compared to an average of 7 hours per week for my last round of training. Thankfully, I feel less tired and worn out. Even though I’ve been putting in the same number of running miles per week (average of 27 per week for the last five weeks), I have run fewer 20-milers and really enjoyed substituting the long bike rides. If anything I’m a little worried that the training on the bike will not pay off on my feet. I need to have faith that the plan strikes the right balance of running, cardio on the bike, and strength training.

What if any training plan(s) do you follow? Do you have any fitness-related books that you recommend?

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My husband Mike and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to Napa Valley last weekend. We stayed at the Inn on Randolph, a lovely bed and breakfast in the town of Napa itself.

We clean up OK after a 10-mile run, wouldn't you say?

We clean up OK after a 10-mile run, wouldn’t you say?

I get pretty sentimental when I think back to when Mike and I started dating in high school 26 years ago. I knew he was the one for me, but I could not have imagined that we would go on to have three girls (now 6, 9 and 12) and be so lucky to have the life we do now.

Our first night in Napa we went to Mustards Grill, where I had best duck I’ve ever eaten (and that’s not just because I consumed it with a flight of red wine, where I managed to choose the most expensive of the three selections as my favorite — maybe I’m not such a cheap date after all!)

Back in town we walked to Frati Gelato Cafe for dessert. Their chocolate is not my favorite but the sorbets are incredible. We sat along the riverfront and listened to live music in the park nearby.

The next day we rented bikes from Napa Valley Bike Tours in Sonoma. There’s also a shop in the upscale town of Yountville and we could have ridden from there on the Silverado Trail, but we preferred to shy away from the tipsy drivers and instead chose to ride on the back roads in Sonoma. Our first stop was at one of the smaller wineries, Homewood.

At the Homewood Winery, our first stop on our self-crafted bike tour.

At the Homewood Winery, our first stop on our self-crafted bike tour.

Mike got to chat up the Homewood vintner David, who happily answered our questions about when to harvest the grapes from the two Cabernet Sauvignon vines we have growing at home. We loved David’s wines, and the 2010 late harvest Semillon dessert wine turned out to be our favorite wine of the many we tasted over the course of the weekend.

After our first tasting we rode across the street for lunch at The Fremont Diner. The service was terrible (a 45-minute wait for our to-go order of food?!) but the Whole Hog sandwich and mac and cheese were delicious!

Next we headed to Gundlach Bundschu, affectionately called Gun Bun. It’s a gorgeous 153-year-old estate vineyard with an interesting family history. It offered a totally different tasting experience in a large tasting room with a bit of a crowd.

We ended up riding 14 miles total and loving the whole thing. You can take a more expensive, organized bike tour but the bike shop helped us create our own route and tailored a unique, private ride that suited us better.

We turned the bikes back in just before 5 p.m., picked up the wine we’d bought from Homewood, and headed to FARM Restaurant at The Carneros Inn for the best meal of our trip. We sat outside on the gorgeous patio and splurged on the 7-course tasting menu with wine pairing. It was the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary!

One might think that seven wine pairings might not be the best way to prepare for a long run the next day — and one might be right — but Mike and I woke up at 6 a.m. and got right out to Alston Park for a run on the trail through the dog park:

The clouds kept the temperature at 61 in the morning, and burned off to reach the 90s later in the day!

The clouds kept the temperature at 61 degrees in the morning, and burned off for blue skies and temperatures in the 90s later in the day!

followed by an out-and-back up Dry Creek Road.

Nothing like a giant T-Rex to motivate you to run!

Nothing like a giant T-Rex to motivate you to run!

We stopped to pick nature’s best fuel — wild blackberries!

picking blackberries

Mike ran 10 miles with me and you’d never know that it was the first time he’d run that far! We finished the run on the downhill along Dry Creek Road and hit 8-minute mile times for the last three miles!

After a quick clean-up in the whirlpool tub in our room and quinoa salad for breakfast at the B&B, we headed out for our last wine tasting, this time at Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford. The B&B owner knew we would love going to a mid-size winery that practices sustainable agriculture to grow organic grapes without watering (a huge plus for them and us in this extended drought in California).

View of the organic gardens that border the vineyard at Frog's Leap Winery

View of the organic gardens that border the vineyard at Frog’s Leap Winery

It’s funny because the Frog’s Leap wine labels do not say anything about the wine being organic — you can tell that the winery simply wants to be known for making great wine, and it does! We ended up buying some Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a unique, heritage red blend.

We ended our trip with lunch at Bottega in Yountville. I highly recommend it for an excellent meal for a (more) reasonable price in Napa. And you can’t leave without going next door for chocolates and gelato at Kollar Chocolates!

Have you ever been to Napa? Confess, do you own a “Will Run for Wine” or “Will Bike for Wine” t-shirt?! 

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