Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Life - Family and Visits and Running

The other week my sister flew out from the West Coast to visit, bringing her sub-one (year old) son. They stayed at our new house to rest and recover for a day before making the trip down to my dad's place. My brother and his wife drove down from Maine to my dad's, and once the missus took my sis and her son there too, most of the family was there since my other brother (and his wife and three kids) live there too.

The family was all together, except me. And I live only a 5 hour bike ride away.

With the kids somewhat spread out geographically, these family get-togethers are unusual, and I took a very precious evening, night, and half of a day to drive down and hang out with them. I drove instead of rode to cut down on how much time I'd spend in a delirious half-conscious state - and driving takes less than two hours.

Usually it's not a big deal to go down to visit the family but in the last month or so I hadn't had any time off, and my non work days seemed even busier than my work days. This resulted in a down-to-the-bones weariness that made me fight just to get regular chores done. I managed to control my deep-rooted fatigue and got to Wilton with no problems (driving seems to perk me up), although I completely forgot to call the missus to signal that I'd accomplished the task.

We stayed up talking as we usually do. My sister told me stuff that I don't remember at all, which I'll have to write about later, about my fund raising efforts for my first and only bike-a-thon. My Maine brother telling us about their new house, a handyman special if I've ever seen one. Since my brother is in the house restoration business, he qualifies as a "handyman". It looks to be a daunting task, but his presentation was such that it looked, well, doable. Since I've gotten less done on the red car in three years than he's done in the three months on the house, I am supremely confident that my car will still be sort of the same while my bro and his wife are living in a newly restored couple hundred year old house in Maine.

After we all called it a night (I think it was about 11 PM), I went upstairs to bed. At this point I did fall into some state of delirium as I decided that I'd read as much of a book (Digital Fortress by Dan Brown) as I could. Eyes burning, mind incoherent, rambling thoughts disrupting my reading (one of the random thoughts was "I am cold"), I finally fell asleep at some extremely late hour in the early morning, perhaps 2 or 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning.

I got up really late, went downstairs, sipped coffee, ate eggs and toast, and stared bleary eyed at everyone. I felt like what the kids at ToPA looked like, staring at nothing, eating and drinking like automatons. Difference was that I wasn't doing a stage race, just living life.

The kids (the nephews, not us brothers and sisters) were jumping up and down as usual, and with a mission at 2:30 PM (pick up a typewriter), I checked the clock. I'd spent a good 30 or 40 minutes down here already, and if it was, say, 11 AM, I'd have to start thinking about leaving to get the typewriter.

It was 8 o'clock in the morning.

No wonder I was so tired.

My brother's wife (the Wilton one) asked if I wanted to go to the town library. I'd mentioned it the night before, lamenting on how things stay the same. My first job, at 15 years old, was at the library. I shelved books, trudging around the library pushing a narrow, low cart full of books. Now, 25 years later, I find myself in a hardware store, trudging around pushing a narrow, low cart full of hardware store things. Ironic, right?

Whatever, I thought it would be fun to check out my working birthplace, and it certainly beat going to the Y to do an energy sapping run and ride. That was the other option - and my sis-in-law has been pressing me to go workout so that I could break the bike machine at the Y.

We got to the library (with 3 babyseats in the minivan it's quite a task to just go somewhere) and it was closed. So we went to a nearby pond/park. I used to cut through this park when I trained on my bike in high school, and I even did intervals on the path connecting this place with my elementary school. Now its big feature, for the kids anyway, is a huge jungle gym kind of thing. Other than walking around a bit, I only did one pull up, barely. I mentally told myself I need to do some exercising.

Properly refreshed, I got goaded into going to the Y for that workout. I changed in the locker room and met my sister in law in the fitness center. She was already cranking along on the treadmill. I, of course, haven't run anywhere since I don't know when, so I started off by walking for a while. Then I jogged a bit at some awful slow pace (10-12 minutes/mile), decided that was a bit much, and started walking again. I covered about 2 miles while she covered 4, and when I glanced over at her control panel, she asked me if another 15 minutes would be okay.


I felt I should trot a little more, and I upped the pace again. Suddenly an urge hit me - I think this is part of what defines why I like bike racing, not just bike riding - it's these self challenges that I make myself, accept, and then try and meet. Earlier this year I'd spent a lot of time pushing myself to do 1.5 miles in less than 14 minutes, and although I did it in 12 minutes in practice, my official test time was almost 13 minutes. I felt disappointed in myself for this poor performance and wanted to prove that it wasn't "normally so".

I decided I'd see if I could do a 12 minute 1.5 mile run.

Now mind you, I hadn't run since, oh, a little after that test, maybe five or six months ago. And running uses enough different muscles from cycling that I get really sore if I haven't run in a while. But with no races coming up, nothing cycling important, I had nothing to lose.

My little LED runner light just finished a lap so I cranked the speed up to an 8 minute mile. If I could maintain it I'd do the 1.5 miles in 12 minutes, and all I had to do was increase my speed at the end. A sprint, so to speak. And I know how to sprint.

After a quarter mile I felt a bit on edge, my heart rate stabilizing at 173 or so, at least that's what it said between the scrolling warning banner that said that using the heart rate handles was not recommended over 4 mph. Next time I'll bring my HRM watch and chest band.

My sister in law leaned over, checked out my control panel. Her eyes widened a bit, she looked at me, and tapped her control panel. Her speed climbed. I smiled inside.

After a half mile I realized that I could do this for the 1.5 miles, that it was extremely possible. At one mile I bumped the pace up to a 7:35 mile, but after a quarter lap (of about 440 yards, so about 100 yards) I dropped back to an 8:00 pace. I felt less certain about doing half a mile at the 7:35 pace. I'd save the faster bit for the last quarter mile, the last of six virtual laps.

As my LED runner hit the start/finish line for the sixth and final lap, I went back to a 7:35 pace and started running faster. I think I bumped it up again, possibly bringing it down to a 7:00 pace, my adrenaline and motivation pushing me faster and faster. My heart rate had climbed to 178, very high for me, but I felt good, I felt like I was accomplishing something, and I wasn't falling off the back of the treadmill.

The LED runner hit the finish and I backed it down to a 30:00 pace, sweat dripping, legs quivering. By the time I stopped I'd done almost four miles on the treadmill, a record for me. But it was worth it - I'd done an 11:35 or so 1.5 miles, and although that may not be fast in the scheme of things, it's good for me. I briefly thought about how sore I'd be but focused more on hoping that my legs would not buckle when I stepped off the treadmill.

I successfully made the six inch step down and wobbled over to the bike thing. It's the same NetAthlon software I had on the Cycle-Ops Electronic Trainer, where you "race" digital folks, but this version had steering - you could (and had to) steer. The wattage seemed a bit optimistic because I comfortably held a steady 280 watts, something impossible in real life. I zoned out and looked up to see myself bumping up against the curb, sort of like a car in Gran Turismo if you slam into the wall at low speeds.

I did all of two miles on that but it was fun, engrossing, and I want to go back and do it for real. I have to get a better saddle, a more precise saddle adjustment, and I want drop bars as the upright position bars are both tall and non-adjustable. Since those are sort of big obstacles I want to ponder a bit on it.

Then, with no time to lose, I jumped in the car and picked up the typewriter (a few minutes late, but I'll blame that on my aching legs not meshing well with the gas pedal), and then drove home.

The next day I staggered along at work, feeling a bit like I'd aged about 25 years overnight. My legs were uncomfortably sore, an expected outcome from running at full tilt after a long layoff, but my knees and shins were fine, a pleasant surprise. I wanted to do some active recovery so I decided to, well, you know.


I hadn't ridden in a while, and not consistently for who knows how long, maybe since September. I figure a month off is good (I only rode about five times in October). So the beginning of November I got back on the bike. My feet swelled up, all sorts of muscles started cramping within 30 minutes of riding, my arms were tired, but hey, it was all good.

It's the start of my 2009 season.


Anonymous said...

Just got back on the (road) bike myself on Tuesday. Guess we're starting our training a little early. Here's to 2009!

Anonymous said...

Here's to SRM's ;)