Saturday, October 30, 2010

Express Lane to Happiness: Disc Golf and Disney

Things have been nutty on the day job front for the last few weeks, made nuttier by my previously scheduled weekends at Sea Ranch for Tim's birthday trip and then to beautiful La Habra, Orange County, CA. The reasons for this latter trip were (1) to hang out with my wonderful friends Indigo and Mike and (2) to participate in the Lady LaMa (La Mirada) Pro-Am disc golf tournament, which would represent my fourth and fifth rounds of disc golf ever as well as my first ever disc golf tournament and first ever scored rounds. These two reasons were inextricably linked since Indigo is the founder and director of the two-year-old Lady LaMa and Michael is its most loyal volunteer. Indigo got tired of playing in tournaments with only one or two other women and playing rounds with guys whose girlfriends walked the course with them but didn't play. So she founded the Lady LaMa, and I was a tee sponsor in its inaugural year.

This year, since I had played three rounds of disc golf, I considered myself qualified to fly down and participate, so I did. Indigo picked me up at the airport with adrenaline oozing from every pore as Manoush the printer had failed to print this year's tee signs or player handbooks at tee-time minus 18 hours, and Manoush-closing-time minus 3 hours. Stress was in the air. But fortunately, Manoush pulled it together and we were able to spend the evening folding handbooks, stuffing prize packs, and packing the cars, rather than printing signs.

The one downside of staying with the tournament director was that we were off to La Mirada park at 6:45 or so for a 9 am tee-off. It was overcast and drizzling, and I had not really prepared for moisture in the air. But when I got a look at my player pack, sunshine lit up my world. Wow - a handmade shot counter made of pretty beads; two golf towels, a custom-embroidered visor, mini discs (shot markers), mini carabiners, little LED lights for your zipper pull - it was SwagTastic! I grabbed my entire cache of discs (2) and went to practice my putting into the 18th hole basket.

In the first round, pros played together, but players from Rec, Intermediate, and Advanced levels were mixed up on the cards so the more experienced golfers could introduce the novices to tournament rules. Kari was the Yoda on our card; Stephanie and I were both in our first tournaments, though Stephanie clearly had a lot more rounds under her belt than I. And she had a caddy and a moving gallery (her dude and her dad).

It was a shotgun start, and we were teeing off on the 18th hole, so we made our way down there in plenty of time. Fortunately it was really close to the tournament tent since that was where I had placed my discs and forgotten them. D'oh. As the whistle sounded for the start, I was running up the hill to look for my discs. Mike said I got the Bonehead of the Day award. He meant it in a good way, I'm sure.

I played a surprisingly decent first round. Some early drives were kind of feeble, and I wasn't putting quite as well as I had in my purely recreational rounds, but I thought that was to be expected. My feet got soaked early on from the wet grass, but high tech socks minimized the discomfort. Indigo had set up snack stations at two spots on the course, staffed by Mike's entire extended family, who were everywhere, all day. Indi's sister Chris took hundreds of photos. I fell down on one muddy hillside, and stepped into a hidden pothole at one point, tweaking my knee, but at least I managed not to fall off the tee at any of the holes, despite the wet conditions

On the plus side, I made one glorious shot which was seen by about three groups and even applauded! So goes disc golf. Fall in the mud, make a killer shot, doink a putt off the basket.

Lunch (fetched and served by the ubiquitous Hole family) was tasty, and I needed some time to rest up and dry my feet off. A dry pair of SmartWool socks and a bunch of paper towels improved the foot situation considerably. I was super thirsty and downed several sodas, including a couple of cokes. This did not help my second round. Nor did anything else.

I had never played two rounds in a day before and was totally unprepared for how physically and mentally demanding it was. Plus the back course was a lot, a lot harder than the lake course. All kinds of crazy out of bounds, like baseball fields, parking lots, the street, and areas "beyond" an undulating gutter.

The 6th hole was particularly demanding, surrounded by imaginary water and the aforementioned undulating out of bounds area. Our entire group misunderstood it and then misplayed it, meanwhile backing up like four groups behind us. It was the least fun part of my embryonic disc golf career.

It got a little better after that, especially with the afternoon snack stations, Gatorade, candy, granola bars, and cookies. But along the road from holes about 10 to 13, we had to avoid the road, parking lots, trees, and all kinds of hazards. So I shot like an 88 for the second 18. And I was exhausted. My tweaked knee hurt, my feet and back hurt, my toenails hurt, my arm hurt. I just wanted to lie down. While Indigo and Mike and other people who knew what they were doing tabulated the scores and figured out the prizes (8 deep!), we had a Ring of Fire. The idea was that everyone got in a circle about 30 feet away from a basket and all threw for it at once when the signal was given. Get in in the basket, win a prize. Very fun, but I didn't win.

That evening, the Giants beat the Phillies to earn a trip to the World Series, which was VERY COOL!!!!, and I took a bunch of Advil. But I still had to use the bunk bed slat above me to turn over all night. (Indi got the bunk beds for her nephews; she is not *yet* running a hostel for itinerant disc golfers.)

I almost bailed on the planned trip to Disneyland the next day, seeing as how I could hardly walk, but skip Disneyland? I couldn't see it. We took the Express Lane to the giant parking garage that guards the Magic Kingdom and then the weird tram over to the main gate. It was Halloween in Mouseland, so there were fake pumpkins and Nightmare Before Christmas stuff everywhere. And there were ecstatic Giants fans everywhere too - more than I could imagined would show their colors in SoCal, even if it was Halloween.

I looked enviously at the elderly and disabled in their motorized scooter thingies, and at the little kids in strollers. It hurt to walk, it hurt to move, and my knee was killing me. But I stuck it out and had an awesome time despite the pain.

It's three weeks on and my knee is still messed up a little, but as soon as it gets good again, I'll go play a little winter golf. Need to do better than 11th at Lady LaMa III.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Train Easy, Race Hard

Golden State Triathlon
.5 mile swim, 15 mile bike, 3 mile run

"Train hard, race easy," is a maxim I've heard many times relative to triathlon and endurance sports, though I never agreed with it. Even when I was training intensively, doing intervals and other workouts scientifically designed to make an athletic silk purse out of my lumpy-sow's-ear self, I always put myself out on the ragged edge of what I was willing to endure in a race and suffered accordingly. Race reports from 2002-2004 at, will bear out this assertion. Now that I'm training in a much more relaxed and less structured way, essentially avoiding running at all costs, the suffering quotient involved in a race does change qualitatively, but quantitatively I think it's about the same.

I was marginally more prepared to do the Golden State Tri than I had been for Luna Bar, if only because I had already done Luna Bar and Golden State would be mercifully shorter and flatter. I had even ventured out the weekend before Golden State and done my first 3-way training brick in probably six years. A brisk couple hundred yards in the river, a 3.5 mile spin along the path, and probably .8 miles of jog/walking. Not dramatic, but pleasant training.

The location of Golden State was a huge plus for me, as for the first time I could easily bike to the start of a race. An easy 2.25 miles put me right in transition and served as a good little limbering up session. I went to pick up my packet, griped at the staff on learning that they had already run out of XL and XXL race shirts, set up my transition area, got body marked by a young woman with very neat body-marking writing (we both agreed that in general, dudes are way sloppier at the body-marking), and went to look at the swim exit. I had been curious about this as all I could ever remember seeing on the right bank of the river were steep sandy bluffs. Sure enough, the swim exit was essentially a crawl up the bluff, "aided" by some temporary wooden steps that looked like they would be slick little death slabs when wet. Hmmm...

I grabbed a gel for before the swim and walked up and over the Jibboom Bridge, which I normally cross on my bike on my Mon-Wed-Fri commute to the train station. The super sprint was starting, and I joined the crowds watching the swimmers and checking out the buoys for our race. Over at the beach, tri-ers were staring to warm up in the chilly water, which had actually taken my breath away during my little brick the other day. I was enthusiastically greeted by Julie, a reader and SVTC member whom I knew only from Facebook, so that was fun. This time I eased into the water more gradually than is my wont. Someone swam out toward the flock of 30 or 40 Canada geese which were swimming around right by the start buoy, thoughtfully pre-fouling the water for us, and frightened them off. I struck out for a warmup swim, which, truth be told, is probably one of my favorite parts of a race. Just hanging out in the water, swimming easily, dolphin kicking to stretch the back, joking with my fellow racers, looking around at the trees and the sun and the water - what could be finer?

But eventually the horn sounded and we thrashed off upstream. The current, which seemed gentle, almost imperceptible, during warmup, felt a lot stronger when I was trying to swim upstream for a long time. The race organizers had set it up so that 2/3 of the swim was upstream and only 1/3 downstream, which was less than ideal, but there we were. At least navigation was easy. Pretty much upstream, between the center sets of bridge pillars, turn around the buoy, head downstream, and look for the orange buoy by the "stairs." I stood up, looked at the stairs, which I now perceived were severely slanted toward the water and covered with mud, and decided discretion would be by far the better part of valor here. I used my hands and my feet to crawl to the top of the stairs, and promptly slipped in the mud where the stairs ended. I didn't fall though, and managed to remain upright all the way to the top of the little gully in the bluff. One down, two to go.

I decided to take my time in transition and found a curb to sit on. I had found my perfect race socks: kind of broken in, the elastic not too grippy, and I had remembered to fold them down for easy slipping onto the foot. I had even remembered an extra water bottle to rinse the mud off and a pack towel to dry off. Like I said, taking my time.

This tri was unusual in my experience in that (a) bike riding was legal in transition and (b) drafting was legal throughout the bike leg. I was excited about this as I've always been a fairly adept bike handler for an amateur and I was looking forward to catching an easy ride. However, I knew that I'd have to catch someone first. This proved to be easier said than done, as the road quickly slanted up and over the drainage canal. I ride over this bridge 3x/week on my way home from the train. It seemed both easier and harder - I was propelled upwards by adrenaline and yet I was still pretty pooped from the hard swim. The drag along Garden Highway to Northgate was ever so slightly uphill, so I puttered along for quite a while, being passed by packs of sleek carbon-fibered greyhounds, not-so-sleek packs, and individuals on beach cruisers. Well, maybe not quite. But definitely folks on mountain bikes. Then it was down Northgate (off the levee, downhill), a quick U-turn and back up Northgate and onto the levee, and back toward the park. This went much faster. A couple of quick turns, down the levee, around a block, and back up the levee, and back over the canal bridge and into the park. Phew. Lap 1 of 3. My breathing felt good but my quads felt pretty tired for a flat course. Those levees are more troublesome than you think.

On the second lap I managed to catch up with a gal with an older bike and toe clips - she was buzzin' along though at about 17.5 mph. I held her wheel for a while, then offered to take the lead, but with the speed it took me to overhaul her, I lost her. Then we swooped down around the office buildings, back up the levee, and so forth. On lap three, the two of us picked up a third woman. I drafted off her for a while, then she pulled in behind the two of us and it started to feel like a bike race. Or it would have if my companions had any experience in a paceline. Still fun though. It felt good to be going fast-ish on a bike again.

What with all that fun and the up and down onto the levee and off again, my legs were pretty blown when I hit T2. Still, only 3 miles on a path I knew well and knew to be actually flat, not just "flat." I stumbled out of transition and onto the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, AKA the American River Bike Trail. A bunch of runners were already coming in, a familiar experience to me as I listened to the cheers for the happy finishers. I tried to settle into a rhythm of 50 steps jog, 50 steps walk and get my breathing into a regular, sustainable rate. The weather was warm but not hot, and I took Gatorade at the first aid station just for the heck of it. I had managed my nutrition pretty well this time. I had yogurt before leaving the house, some Accelerade and water on the bike, and a gel during the bike as well. Even though this was a "sprint," I was still figuring it would take me around 2.5 hours to complete so nutrition was definitely a consideration.

A slow run is not much to write about. I cheered on some of my fellow slow runners, upped my rhythm to 100 steps jog, 60 walk, then back down to 60-60. I stretched my back a few times, but it was basically fine, nowhere near the cramping and pain I had at Luna Bar. Julie passed me about a mile from the finish; we hooted. The aid station appeared again, which I figured was just under a mile to go. As usual, that last mile seemed pretty long, and I couldn't hear the sounds of the finish until I rounded the last bend of the path and the finish arch was almost right in front of me. It was beautiful. I ran as best I could, gave a little fist pump as I crossed the line, and settled in to look for fluids and then the Elk Grove Tri Club, who had invited me to their post-race do. Kathy Lewis and her gang proved to be a very friendly bunch with some of the most amazing snacks I have ever eaten. (Can I get the recipe for those pumpkin-cheesecake-bar things? Wow.)

So that was the last tri of my rather short multi-sport season. San Ramon Aquathlon, Luna Bar, and now Golden State. I really feel a lot more like a triathlete now than I did after Luna Bar. I found myself checking the calendar to see if there were any other local races I could do and looking up bike rides and other events. I'm scheduled to go down to Monterey in November and do a 5k with the Chico gals. But my next sporting event is the Lady LaMa Pro-Am disc golf tourney in La Mirada on October 23. Tournament Director Indigo Brude is still accepting registrations.

Other off-season plans - work on the running, I think, without straining the joints too much. Do some strength and flexibility training at the gym. Get in the pool just to remember how it works, and keep bike commuting into the winter this year, even if it takes spending the money on waterproof clothing and a bag for my laptop.

Another cool thing - almost no soreness or fatigue either the next day or the day after. That, my friends, is huge.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Behind - Early October Update

Fortunately, the virus alluded to in the last post didn't develop into anything really lingering. I was dizzy and loopy for several days longer than I thought was meet, right, and salutary, but eventually my ears cleared up and I started to feel like a real person again. My bike commutes on Monday and Wednesday felt good, even though it was scary hot. I managed an easy swim in the middle of the week. On Thursday afternoon I was all psyched up for an open water swim at Nimbus Flat, a nice little beachy area behind Nimbus Dam on the American River, after a meeting in nearby Fair Oaks. I looked up how to get there, packed my swim cap, goggles, flip flops, extra towel - but no swimsuit. So that was a "D'oh!" By the time I had fought my way back through traffic to where my suit resides (in the laundry room at home), I was completely exhausted and unmotivated to venture back to the pool.

Friday I managed a nice 12 mile bike ride, mostly for the purpose of getting my butt reacquainted with the saddle and my arms and shoulders accustomed to the handlebars. My legs felt quite strong, at least strong enough to be getting on with. So things were looking up for me. I planned a harder swim for yesterday, and then a bike-run brick workout for this morning.

But yesterday morning I was sitting in the Big Poofy Chair updating my Facebook and my Twitter feed and all those things that social networking junkies do, when suddenly I got dizzy for no apparent reason. Moving around made it worse, bending over made it significantly worse. I was flummoxed. What was going on? This went on for a couple of hours. Finally I asked Dr. Google what might be the matter, and Dr. G. informed me that I was probably having a migraine aura. Yay! As a recent inductee to the Association of Unhappy Migraineurs, I am not yet totally up to speed on all the ways that my migraines can manifest themselves. I've only had four or five, and each one has been different. The only reason I thought to ask Dr. Google about migraines at all is that after my last one, I felt dizzy for about three days.

Eventually the headache hit, but it wasn't bad at all - one advantage of my particular brand of migraine - and then the involuntary two-hour nap. So that was that day.

Now it's Sunday. I've woken up with a nasty headache, worse than the one that was part of the migraine, and my attitude is pretty nasty as a result. However. I have some optimism that I'll feel better later. And when I do, I'll go over to Discovery Park, swim in the river where next week's tri will take place, do a short bike ride, and follow it up with a little run/walk. I'm determined to do next week's race, even if it's just the super sprint, since I pushed back Tim's birthday weekend at Sea Ranch to accommodate my "racing" schedule.

This week I'll get my back stretched out and rolled out on the foam roller, maybe even roll my ITB and glutes while I'm at it. I'll work on getting a little speed into my swim. Then I'll go out next Sunday and have some fun. Fun, dammit! I'm gonna have some fun, hear me?