Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ups & Downs

Hi Everyone - Yep, it's been a long time since my last post. A lot of stuff going on as usual... not sure that I'm cut out for being a blogger, but I'm going to stick with it a while longer and see how it goes. Hopefully by the time the Portland Marathon comes around in October, I'll have figured this out. :)

So the last 4 weeks since I posted have had some ups and downs. One of the ups: our family vacation to San Diego. We had an enjoyable drive down, seeing the Redwoods (see the last post) and spending some time in San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square). And once we got down there, the girls were excited as they had their own room with bunk beds:

Our first full day we spent at Sea World, visiting Shamu and his friends. It was baking hot, so even though we had a good time, we were happy to get out of the sun to some of the indoor attractions. But before the heat got to us, we were able to see the Shamu show. I'm assuming having your trainer stand on your nose is done primarily with the orca in mind. ;)

The next day, we made it to a place I've always wanted to go to: the Wild Animal Park. Basically, it's a wildlife preserve that is part of the San Diego Zoo organization, out in the near-desert conditions near Escondido, California. The amount of land they have gives the animals plenty of room to roam, and they are in much more natural conditions than the typical zoo. There was an amazing collection of wildlife: okapi (they look sort of like zebras, but are actually close relatives of giraffes), lions, giraffes, rhinos, a variety of antelope and gazelles and gorillas.

The third day, we went to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Of course, we saw the pandas:

Despite the heat that continued to dominate our stay in San Diego, we managed to spent almost the whole day, visiting over half the zoo, and seeing the gorillas several times. Unfortunately, none of the gorilla pictures turned out well, but we did get a picture of these two primates:

The last full day we spent in San Diego was at the beach on Coronado, as well as wandering around the beautiful Hotel del Coronado.

During our four days there, we had a great time. We also found a lot of good eats while in the area: great pizza at Sammy's Wood-Fired Pizza (I had an amazing goat cheese, spinach, mushroom and onion pie), good gluten-free grub at Barolo's Ristorante (I had the gluten-containing but surprisingly tasty pear & Parmesan ravioli with a sauce of marscapone, pear, walnut and sun-dried tomato), our first experience with Pei Wei Asian Diner (which is now a favorite of both Christine and I), and even some yummy gluten-free pizza at Steve's Pizza in Woodland on the drive back.

The first "Down" came after we got back. While I managed to get in 4 solid runs on the 9 days we were on the road (including a couple of tough hill climbs in San Diego), my training took a nose dive as soon as we got back... we got back Sunday night around 7pm, and by the next morning, I was running a fever with the flu. For the duration of the week, I battled a fever that came and went, along with the wonderful body aches. Swine flu? I'm not sure, but it was definitely something tenacious.

By Friday afternoon I was starting to feel semi-human, so I decided to go for a ride on Saturday. Bad idea. A half-hour into my ride, I had conquered one of the hills that I hadn't been able to get up before (Helvetia Road between Meier and Jackson Quarry), but at the price of a splitting headache. So I lightly pedaled my way home and crawled back in bed for another day.

The next week, I started to slowly get back into the swing of things, with a few easy runs. But at this point, I'm starting to wonder - am I going to have the endurance to finish a half-Ironman in just a couple of weeks? Well, this down 7-10 days was followed by a great "Up": I had to sneak in a long run before work on Friday the 31st, so I decided to run it at an aggressive pace. It turned out not only was I able to keep a 9:20 pace for the first 8 miles, but I was able to drop that down to a 8:50-9:00 pace for the last 4 miles. I ended up running 12 miles at a 9:08 pace!

It looks like the time off was nothing more than a mini-taper, and a good portion of my endurance is still intact. Whew! :) In fact, looking over my running at Nike+, it's pretty clear that I've been consistently hitting my long runs every three weeks:

While I missed some long rides and bricks in there, I know that the hardest leg of the triathlon (for me) is the one I'm best trained for. And with any luck, I'll get in a quality ride this weekend or Monday and will be ready for HulaMan only 7.5 days from now.

Oh, and another piece of good news: it looks like the folks putting on HulaMan made a couple of recent changes to the courses. First off, the bike course has been reworked. As far as I can tell from the course description, there's no longer a downhill on a gravel road 43 miles into the race. One less chance to end up splattered on the side of the road. :) However, I am puzzled a little - it looks like it's a 54 mile ride now (or 53 miles, depending which part of the website you look at). Isn't a half-Ironman really 56 miles??? Hopefully no one will be denied entry to the Kona lottery based on this. The other positive change is that the run course has been changed from a bunch of brutal up and downs to a relatively flatter run. That was the main part that was worrying me, so now I have no excuses, right?

In any case, balancing workload (I didn't mention the business trips to California and Arizona, or the week where I finished between 8pm and 11pm every night, did I???), family life and training has been an interesting challenge. A big thanks to all who have helped by being flexible with schedules and time commitments, and putting up with an often-frazzled triathlete-in-training. Hopefully all of it will pay off with a great event next Sunday!

Until next time...