June 24, 2014

La Jolla Pier to Cove Swim Recap

I completed my second swim-only event, the La Jolla Pier to Cove Swim.  This is billed as a 1.5 mile swim (although it's actually longer; my friends with waterproof Garmins clocked it at 1.8, and I may have gone even more off-course) and is put on by the La Jolla Swim Club.  This was my first event with this swim club; one look at their event calendar shows many events all year long, so there may be more!  I only recently signed up for this; it wasn't even on my radar until a few weeks ago when a friend, M,  posted it on her Facebook page and tagged me. I decided it would be fun to do, and, although I haven't been training specifically for this swim, I've been swimming enough recently (both in the pool and in open water) that I knew I could do the distance.

This event was very low-key, so much so that there wasn't even an email from the race director the week before. I have done many, many events, whether they are running races, bike rides, swims, or triathlons, and each and every time there is an email at least a few days before with race day instructions and information about parking, packet pickup, etc.  This race had nothing, just the info that was on it's website.  I emailed a friend who did it last year to get more information, and in passing asked if all I needed was my wetsuit and goggles. Luckily he told me to also bring a swim cap, else I may not have brought one.  Bring my own swim cap? In every triathlon I have done, and in the other swim-only race I did, Tiki, a swim cap is provided, if for no other reason than to let the organizers know that you are in the race.  I didn't know how the organizers would know who was signed up, especially since the Cove is populated with other swimmers. Oh well. I made sure to pack a cap!

One notable thing about this swim, for me, is that I broke a cardinal rule: nothing new on race day! I had ordered a new wetsuit from Xterra and just got it the day before. My old wetsuit is 4 years old and is starting to get holes, despite repairs I had done last summer.  I decided to chance wearing the new suit---luckily, it worked out well.  It fit great and I had no chafing issues.

This is a point to point race.  The start is at the La Jolla Pier, and the end is at La Jolla Cove.  They strongly recommended parking at the Cove, and taking a provided shuttle to the Pier.  I knew that parking in downtown La Jolla gets very crowded, so I left the house at 6:20 and got to La Jolla in time to snag a prime spot right on the Cove.  Soon my friend M showed up, and after we found a few of her friends we found a ride to the Pier (really just another swimmer with room in his minivan).  We checked in, got our packet (just a timing chip for our ankles), body marked (race numbers on both our hands) and waited.  My friend Leo soon came, and it was fun to hang out with him as well.

View from the Cove over to the Pier. From this distance, you really can't see the Pier!

Soon it was time to go to the water.  We left our bags on the grass, where they would be transported to the Cove.  We made our way down to the shore and got in to warm up.  Lots of people were in wetsuits, like me (we were non-regulation) but many were just wearing swimsuits (they were in the regulation division).  Although the water was perfect (67 degrees) I was glad I had a wetsuit. I didn't need to wear my booties as I usually do---it was THAT warm!  After a pre-race talk by the director, a horn blew and it was time to charge in the water!

I walked out quite a ways, as it was very shallow.  The waves were very low too.  I forgot to do the "stingray shuffle" (you're supposed to shuffle your feet when you walk here to scare away any stingrays) and I'm very lucky, because a few minutes later when it was deep enough for me to start swimming I looked down and there were several stingrays swimming under me!  A very scary AND very neat moment all in one.

We swam out parallel to the Pier, then turned left (heading south) toward the Cove.  Here is where I got confused.  Unlike every triathlon I've ever done, where there's big buoys to mark the way, and even the Tiki Swim, where there were buoys every few hundred yards, there were no buoys here. None at all.  We were told to sight off the big highrise building next to the Cove, but that's the only landmark we were given.  As I was in the back of the pack, there were not too many swimmers around me; most people took off and were way ahead. and At times I got nervous.  Not scared---I knew I'd be ok---but nervous, as I wasn't 100% sure where I was going.

After what seemed like forever, I saw another swimmer by me, and made my way toward her. I felt better knowing I had a "buddy" out there.  I was then able to relax and really enjoy the swim.  This route has been on my bucket list for a while---such a beautiful place to swim.  The water was clear; I was able to see my hands the whole time, which is so different than swimming in the bay or the ocean.  I saw a jellyfish floating under me, and when I neared a boat I saw schools of fish.

It seemed like I would never get to my destination, but clearly I was making forward progress. I passed over some beds of kelp (luckily I swam OVER them and not THROUGH them) and they were suddenly behind me.  I noticed the woman I was trailing head left; thank goodness, or I would have overshot the Cove!  I followed her until we were both yelled at by a lifeguard to veer more left, as we were going to hit the rocks!

The best part was yet to come.  Right before the end of the swim, we were in the shallower parts of the Cove. I  swam over coral, kelp, and tons of colorful fish darting around. It was like snorkeling, except it was just me and my goggles.  It was absolutely breathtaking. I've swam in the Cove a few times before, and have seen some fish, but never before I had I seen such a layout of marine life right below me.

As I approached the shore, I saw Leo and my other friends waiting for me, shouting my name. I finally exited, ran over the timing mat on the sand, and was done!  Leo had gotten me a cup of water, which I much appreciated after all that salt water.  We made our way up the stairs to the grassy area, got our t-shirts, and got in line for a free spread of Mexican food and cookies.  Yum.

Another view of the Cove (photo credit to my friend Marsha)

I may look into other swims with the La Jolla Swim Club.  I need to get better at sighting, though.  While I appreciated the bare bones race (no swim cap, no medal, no tech shirt) while not leaving safety behind (there were lifeguards out on kayaks and paddleboards) I did NOT like not having buoys to sight off. It's hard to swim in a straight line, bobbling up and down in the water, with only one target 1.5 miles away for a guide.  That said, more practice in the Cove could help with that. I did love the fun atmosphere---everyone there loves to swim and it was very welcoming.

June 20, 2014

UCSD Triton 5k Recap

A few weeks ago my son, D, and I participated in the UCSD Triton 5k.  This is a local race put on by my alma mater, the University of California, San Diego.  I did it many years ago (in either 1999 or 2000) but back then it was called the Chancellor's Challenge and ran mainly through the campus eucalyptus grove on trails.  Now, many years later, it's revamped and goes on a loop through much of the campus.  The fact that the registration fees were very low for alumni was also a plus. 

I wanted to do this race with D because, even though we live in San Diego, he's never been on the campus before. I thought it would be a great way to show him around.  He was excited to finally be on a college campus!  We arrived very early, because not only did I not attend packet pickup the day before, but I didn't know where I was going!  I graduated in 1991, so long ago...and much of the campus is new to me.  Luckily there were great directions sent to us, I easily found parking in a garage, and we got our bibs with no hassle.  T-shirts would be given to us after the race.

Because we were so early, we decided to walk around a bit.  Not too far from the start was my old apartment from my sophomore year (1988-1989), at the old Third College (now Thurgood Marshall College).  Just seeing the balcony brought back a flood of memories for me. I showed D, and walked around the apartment complex a bit to check out the field, the laundry room, etc.

my top-floor apartment, unit G-6

After walking around a bit more, it was time to go back to the start--but not before D ran into someone he knew from school!  Randomly, the kindergarten "little buddy" he'd been assigned to all year was there.  The chances of running into him were so slim!  I also ran into another old friend; I hadn't seen him since the mid-90's!  It was nice to see him and meet his daughter.  We got in line, waited for the start, and were off!

start line

The plan was for D to run/walk slowly with me.  For one, I wasn't planning on running the whole thing, and I was going to run slowly. I took 7 weeks off of running to try to heal my Achilles tendinopathy, and race was only one week back into my running. And it was my longest run in 7 weeks.  But second, I wanted to show D the campus and point things out to him, so he was instructed to keep to my (slower) pace, walk when I walked, and spend the morning with you.

The run looped through the whole campus.  I was able to point out Thurgood Marshall, Muir and Revelle Colleges. The dorms I used to visit friends in.  The lecture halls I used to take classes in.  The pool I used to play intra-mural inner-tube water polo in.  The library I used to study in.  The fountain I would sit at with friends between classes, sunning myself.  The memories came fast and furious.

I was especially excited to see the new (to me) installments of the Stuart Collection, an eclectic series of art projects placed all over the campus.  We only saw a few, though, and I look forward to going back on day and seeing the rest.  One that I was excited to see was Fallen Star, which is a house perched on top of a building.  D was excited to see this too.  Sadly, he missed his chance, as he had run ahead of me at this point and was not there to hear me point it out to him.

see the house up there?
Yes, at mile 2, D decided he'd had enough of Mama's pace and ran on ahead.  While I was proud of him for doing so well, I WAS a bit annoyed at him, as the whole point of the race was to do it together so I could show him things! His loss.

At the halfway point in the race, at the one water station, they were also unprepared---they had two tables set up, one on each side of the sidewalk, and NO water was poured at either table.  Runners were queued up several people deep at each table waiting for the volunteers to pour the water.  Luckily we didn't need to stop, but if we had, that would have been a huge chunk off our time.

The end of the race was on the track (which was cool, as I'd never run on a track before).  I crossed as they announced my name, and found D, who was waiting for me.  There were no medals at this race (D was ok with this, telling me, "it's ok, I have my memories of it!"), so we didn't have to deal with that, but we DID want water.  Unfortunately, this was very unorganized. We had to wait in a long line (over 10 minutes long) just to get water and a banana...then wait about 5-10 minutes more in this same long line to get our t-shirts.  That was not good, especially as it was a warm morning.  After finally getting our water, banana and shirt, we wandered the huge festival for a while.  We each had a beer ticket for the beer garden (yes, even my 10-year old!!!) and we gave them away to friends of my friend Andrea, who was there to cheer her husband on in his first 5k.

Overall it was fun---the only complaint I have is the lack of water on the course and the long wait for water after.  But in terms of the race itself, it was great to be back at my alma mater and show it off to my son.  Who knows---maybe in another decade I'll be doing the race with him as a student there!

June 13, 2014

Endings and Beginnings

"This, too, shall pass."

A phrase that is used all the time, especially in relation to bad things.  I try to remember this when I am going through a really hard time in my life.  When my daughter, A, has been unexpectedly hospitalized (like when her lungs collapsed, or her neck broke), I repeat that phrase over and over to myself.  I realize that while things may look dark and awful at the moment, one day I'll be able to look back, and while I may not smile, I won't focus on the hard moments.

The thing is, the phrase also applies to the good times.  All things, both good and bad, pass with time.

Yesterday was my kids' last day of school.  I now have a newly minted 5th grader and 2nd grader.  This coming year will be my son, D's, last year in elementary school. One more year and he'll be in middle school.  Additionally, my daughter had her bridging ceremony in Girl Scouts last weekend, so now instead of Daisy she's a Brownie. It's weird for me to see her in a brown uniform instead of blue!

I remember clearly one winter day, when D was 5 years old, and in preschool. D and I were at our local park, which is right next to the elementary school.  (A was at home with our nurse).  The next year D would be heading to kindergarten, so I wanted to go into the school office to ask when kindergarten registration was.  D was too scared to go on the school grounds---he was crying that there were too many big kids there.  I agreed to wait until after school was over, so we did.  It was only when the school was cleared of kids that D felt comfortable being there.

Now, D is a 5th grader, at the top of the student heap.  Where did the time go?

I've written before how I mourn the passage of time. Even when D was an infant, STILL IN THE HOSPITAL at 3 days old, I was upset at how quickly time was ticking away.  Now he's 10, and I only have him for 8 more years before he leaves home for college.  Of course, the older both kids get, the better it gets---I love the individual relationships I have fostered with both my son and daughter, relationships that only happen with their growth and their maturity. I don't REALLY miss the days of nursing and diapers and swaddling---yet sometimes I do.

Life is made up of moments, good and bad. I can think back on my son's life and images, like a movie, play on my mind.  Running races with him, going to plays, reading books, temper tantrums, time-outs, cooking with him, legos.  Likewise with my daughter, I think of reading, going out to coffee, her tracheostomy, hospital stays, the American Girl store, painting our nails.  Too many images to write, and certainly more life experiences that happened that I can't remember. And I desperately want to remember it all. The good and the bad.  The hard times and the amazing times.  I  don't scrapbook anymore, which is a shame, as I would love a visual reminder of my years of early motherhood once my children are grown.

There are certain markers in life that clearly delineate the passage of time.  Going from grade to grade, then elementary to middle and high schools.  Testing from one belt to another in karate.  Going from Daisies to Brownies (and then Juniors, and beyond, in Girl Scouts).  Racing a kids' 1/4 mile race, graduating to the mile, then running 5ks, and now contemplating a 10k.  At each marker I celebrate with joy, tempered with an undercurrent of bittersweetness.  Each stage marks something new and exciting, while marking the end of something else.

Looking forward to this summer to regroup my feelings; then I'll be able to fully embrace the new.

June 3, 2014

San Diego Century Ride Recap

Sometimes it's good to dream big, train hard, and reach for a goal outside of your comfort zone. I have done that quite a few times in my life, and this past Saturday was no exception. I tackled---and completed---the San Diego Century Ride.  This ride, which has options for a 20, 33, 67, or 105 mile ride, was on my agenda for last year (as part of my "try something in each of the three sports that scares me" year), but I didn't do it, as I was trying (unsuccessfully) to heal myself from a herniated disc and excruciating sciatic pain by not biking or running for a while.  For me, tackling 100+ miles on my bike was unfinished business.  The ride would take me from Encintas to Ramona and back, with over 6100 feet of elevation gain.  No small feat.

from their website

Just signing up for this monster of a ride was huge for me.  Biking is NOT my favorite thing to do.  In fact, of the three triathlon sports, I've long called it my nemesis. But I'm slowly gaining an appreciation for it.  While I may never get excited at the prospect of spending hours on the bike, once I'm out there I usually enjoy it.  I'm still very slow, but I've become a good climber.  This point was driven home to me when I did the Oceanside 70.3 Half Ironman in March, and I was literally the only person biking up the killer steep hill San Mateo at the time I was on it.  Everyone else on that hill with me was walking.  I have discovered the pure joy of biking along the coast, with the Pacific Ocean laid out beside me. And while I am usually a solo rider, I've been joining friends here and there to ride and I have been enjoying the camaraderie.

My preparation for the ride wasn't optimal.  Yes, I had trained to bike 56 miles for the Half Ironman in March, but 56 isn't 105.  Before Oceanside, I did a longest ride of 60.  After Oceanside, life got busy on weekends. My family wanted me back, and it was hard to justify long days away so soon after the 70.3. I did several rides of 40 and 50 miles (so funny how these rides seem short now) and a month ago I did my longest ride to date---80 miles.  That 80 miler included going up and down the coast, as well as the steep Torrey Pines hill.  I was hopeful that the 80 miler, plus the other shorter rides, plus my overall general fitness would be enough to get me through 105 miles.  And, after all, it wasn't a race, it was a ride. There was no chip timing, and I would be "allowed" to take as many breaks as I needed, in addition to the scheduled SAG (rest) stops.

Best of all, my friend Steve was doing the ride with me.  An accomplished cyclist, he could have easily done the ride himself in many hours shorter, but he's a good friend, as well as the person who coached me through Oceanside (and continues to coach me) and told me he'd slow down and ride with me.  I also had two friends, D and G, doing the ride as well.

The day before the ride, I went to packet pickup. I could have picked it up the morning of the event, but I had the time to go, and wanted to alleviate some anxiety.  Very easy---all they gave me was a number for my bike (but not for my helmet, which I'm used to as a triathlete), a cue sheet listing all the turns, mileage and stops, and a goody bag containing a branded water bottle and travel coffee mug.  I went to the store and loaded up on nutrition----Honey Stinger Waffles and Gus and Chomps, etc---as I didn't know what the aid stations would have for me. I cleaned my bike, cleaned and lubed the chain, topped off the tires, and got my kit together (I opted for biking capris, my Ironman 70.3 cycling jersey, arm warmers and fingerless gloves). I also learned a lesson from my painful 80 miler and used chamois cream----I never use it, but I was hurting badly after that ride, and figured extra cream could help prevent chafing (I was right, by the way).

After  a decent night's sleep, my alarm went off at 4:45. I was out the door by 5:15. I was supposed to caravan with D and G, but they were running late, so I went up alone to Mira Costa College in Encinitas.  Easily found parking, found Steve, and started to get my bike together--filling my bottles with Gatorade, re-topping off my tires, etc.  At 6:10 we set out---me, Steve, D and G.  G quickly was ahead of us, D fell behind us, but I was just focused on myself.  It was wonderfully overcast, and I was grateful for the warmth my arm warmers provided.

Steve and I right before setting out

Sad to admit, but in the early miles I was tired! I knew it was because I wasn't really warmed up yet, but there were some early rollers that were tiring to get up. I was worried---if small rollers at mile 10 were hard, how was I going to tackle the huge mountain at mile 48? I decided not to worry about it, and to keep plugging on, one pedal at a time.  The first rest stop at mile 18 provided an opportunity to get off the bike, stretch, get a bite to eat, and use the bathroom.  I wasn't impressed by the spread they had out, either. I had only done one organized bike ride, the Senorita Metric Century in March, and that one had catered buffets at all three rest stops. I was expecting the same here, but all they had was bananas, cookies, oranges and a sports bar. Maybe some pretzels.

Back on the road, this time heading toward Rancho Santa Fe.  We hit another SAG stop at mile 30, and then I was on familiar territory---the Three Witches, which are a series of three hills that go up San Dieguito Road.  The first time I went up these hills was with Steve, over two years ago.  I couldn't do them nonstop. In fact, I distinctly remember stopping on each of the three hills, trying to catch my breath, coaxing my legs to pedal up, and almost crying with the effort.  I've ridden up the Three Witches many times since, and over time they have become almost easy.  Compared to other hills I've tackled in San Diego (including Scripps Poway Parkway, Torrey Pines, Calle Cristobol and San Elijo) these are merely babies.  I marveled to myself how far I've come in just a few years, all the while concentrating on the burnt scenery around me.  Just a few weeks ago San Diego was consumed by 9 fires, and the first one, the Bernardo Fire, was right here on this road.  The hills were blackened, the scorch marks literally coming up to the road.  The air still smelled awful with the remains from the fire.  It made me sad.

hard to tell from the picture I took, but all the hills in the background are blackened

I was feeling good at this point---warmed up and although I was tired, I wasn't exhausted.  The sun was mercifully covered by clouds, making for perfect riding weather. I was excited about the next rest stop, which would be at mile 43, as my family would be meeting me there to cheer me on.  I called them a few miles out to let them know when to expect me, and started to pick up the pace to meet them.  I saw them in the car as they were turning on to Pomerado, the street where the SAG stop was---and my heart just lifted.  Once at the stop, I got lots of hugs from my son, daughter and husband.  I was so happy to see them. I ate a little, including  half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, refilled one of my bottles with their "sports drink" (which was soooo nasty, they must have not mixed it very well), used the bathroom, and had to say goodbye to my family.  At this point the sun started to make its appearance, which wasn't a good sign, as the biggest climb was still ahead of us. I shed my arm warmers and gloves and continued on.

Turning east onto Scripps Poway Parkway, I knew the next few miles would be the most grueling.  There is a pretty steep climb right away, which I have only been able to do nonstop recently (the climb encompasses two street lengths; up until just a few weeks ago, I always stopped at the stoplight in the middle of the streets, whether it was red or not, to catch my breath.  A few weeks ago I did it nonstop for the first time ever and it was a triumph for me).  Again, I did it nonstop---yay for me!  There is then a flat section for a few miles, before going up the mountain---about 1.7 miles of brutal uphill.

At this point the sun was out in full force. I put my bike in granny gear (the easiest gear there is) and started to spin slowly up the mountain, which is what I've always done.  As I climbed, I reflected on how far I've come.  A few years ago, I NEVER would have even ATTEMPTED this climb.  I drove up this mountain weekly several years ago, back when my daughter took horse therapy lessons, and whenever I would see cyclists biking up, I would be in awe.  It is very long and steep.  Last year I attempted it for the first time. I had to stop three times to catch my breath, as I literally felt I was going to pass out with how hard I was hyperventilating with the effort.  In subsequent attempts, I had to stop twice, then once.  One time my chain fell off while I was downshifting, and I couldn't clip out in time and fell over into a patch of gravel and glass; my right knee bears the battle scar of that fall to this day.  It's only in recent months that I'm able to climb up the mountain somewhat easily and without getting out of breath.

As an aside, I wanted to share a memory. A few years ago I was driving up Scripps Poway Parkway to take my dog to a kennel which is up there.  A century ride was going on that day---I don't think it was the San Diego Century, I think it was the Tour de Poway---and riders were slowly climbing up.  As I drove up, I passed three bikers riding abreast.  The two on either side of the rider in the middle had their arms out, supporting the middle rider's back, helping her up the hill.  I cried in the car, feeling the love and support those bikers gave their friend when she didn't think she could go any further.

Anyhow, back to my recap.

This day was no different.  As I climbed I breathed normally, with not a hint of hyperventilation.  My quads were hurting a bit, but nothing awful.  The worst part was the heat; in training, I try to bike up this hill in earlier hours of the day to try to beat the heat. Moving so slowly, I had no breeze and was baking.  There was carnage everywhere---other cyclists walking their bikes up the hill, standing and taking rest breaks, even a group that had stopped to rest and was taking selfies.  I mentally patted myself on the back for my hill training and chugged up.  When I finally reached the top, and met up with Steve, I burst out in tears.  The tears were mixed---part pride, part frustration with the heat.  The cry was a good release for me.  At the top of the hill was Highway SR- 67, where we turned left and continued on our way into Ramona.

soon after the biggest climb---the summit of the ride

I've never seen this sign on a bike---only while driving!

Here's where I started to mentally break down. It was about mile 55, and I was hot, sweaty, thirsty and tired.  I was craving food---real food. Nothing I had in my pockets sounded good. I had heard that there was lunch at the SAG stop in Ramona, and was fixated on it.  In little-kid style, I kept asking Steve, "are we there yet?" I know I was probably bugging him, but I was feeling pretty awful.  Not only was I fixated on lunch, but I was craving an ice-cold Diet Coke--something that would not only cool me down, but give me a jolt of caffeine.

Finally, FINALLY we pulled into the SAG stop in Ramona. It was pretty far in, really in the middle of nowhere.  We pulled in---and I was so disappointed by what they had.  Yes, they had "lunch". I'll put that in quotation marks.  Some homemade sandwiches, most of them meat.  I was happy to see some cheese sandwiches, which I grabbed, being vegetarian.  It was revolting.  A stale roll, with one sad slice of cheese in the middle. I couldn't eat it.  I tried, but it was gross.  There was no soda. In fact, they had run out of sports drink!  All they had in terms of hydration was water, and that was being dispensed with a hose.  I only had one bottle of hydration left, and it was that gross sports drink from the previous aide station.

I sat, exhausted.  A man next to me was dropping out and calling the SAG wagon to take him home.  He had been vomiting, apparently, and was very dehydrated. I always ride with a tube of Pepto-Bismol chewable tablets in my bento box, and offered him some, which he gladly accepted.  I was so upset for this man---there was no medical help.  I didn't really see medical aide at any stops---not that I was looking---but here, in the middle of nowhere, 63 hot and hilly miles in, there should have been some.  There should have been Pepto-Bismol, there should have been sunscreen for bikers to reapply, there should have been proper food to fuel and liquid with actual electrolytes to hydrate, not tap water.  Steve and I didn't stay long. I needed to find fuel.

Steve and I at mile 63.  I'm utterly wiped out here.

The SAG stop is at the end of an out-and-back, and so we retraced our route. Steve knew of a little store we could stop at, and we couldn't have found it at a better time.  We pulled in, and I loaded up on two new cold bottles of Gatorade to refill my bottles, some donuts, some chips (ah, salt!) and an ice-cold bottle of Diet Coke.  I was in heaven. I was glad I had thought to bring some cash and my credit card with me---clearly I needed it.  Sadly, many, many cyclists also pulled into the store to refuel.  This was unacceptable---there is no reason for people to have to stop to buy their own fuel and hydration five miles out from the aide station.

Now caffeinated, refueled and revived, we continued on our way. We had to climb up out of Ramona, which is a valley, but it wasn't too bad. On our way into Ramona, when we were coasting down into the valley, I was dreading the way back, but really it wasn't bad at all.  Maybe it was because I was in a caffeine daze?  Regardless, we finally got back to Scripps Poway Parkway and had the delightful descent---the opposite of the awful climb we had to do to get up in the first place. It was a great reward.  At the bottom of the hill we turned right and hit the last SAG stop (which was the same stop as SAG #3).  This time they had a cooler full of ice---and soda! I gladly took another Diet Coke, as well as some ice the volunteers offered (which I put down my shirt to help cool off).

At this point, I was not in great shape.  It was mile 83, which meant that not only was I physically exhausted and done after those hard hills and miles in the heat, but more I was mentally exhausted. Steve pointed out that I had "only" 22 miles left.  Yes, that's a short distance for me now, but it seemed so long at the time. All I wanted to do was go home. This is where I really had to pull out my inner strength as an endurance athlete---the strength that says "suck it up, buttercup, you're finishing what you started".  So after a longer-than-planned break at the mile 83 SAG stop, we got back on our bikes. I was also having an issue with my palms--they were chafing from all the pressure I was putting on them riding--and ended up putting the padded gloves back on (I had shed them earlier because the gloves were chafing between two of my fingers, but now the palm situation seemed the worse evil).

Steve and I had some little celebrations along the way.  At mile 81, it was officially the longest ride I'd ever done.  And at mile 100---I had biked a century, even if the ride wasn't over yet!

The rest of the ride somehow went by.  Steve got a flat tire, and urged D and I to go on ahead of us (at this point D had caught up with us and rode the rest of the way in with us).  While I was sorry Steve got a flat, personally I was happy to have another break, so I waited.  He changed it quickly (in about 1/4 the time it would take me) and we were back on our way.  Onto the oh-so-familiar SR-56 bike path, onto Rancho Penaquitos Avenue.....some turns, some climbs, some descents and then we were back at the Three Witches, this time going down.  Oh, how l loved going down.

The last few miles were rollers, mostly a fun downhill that I was able to coast, going through Fairbanks Ranch and  Olivenhain.  I loved that part---so beautiful, and with it mostly flat or downhill it was actually enjoyable.  The very last part was an uphill, but it looked worse than it was, thankfully.  A right turn into Mira Costa College, through the finish line (where G and his wife were already there, waiting and taking pictures) and I was done.  I was a century rider.  The website said it was 105 miles.  My Garmin read 105.8...while Steve's said it was 106.2. I like Steve's better.  As he said, we biked a century and a 10k!

G's wife got this great shot of me about to cross the finish
I wasn't expecting a medal for this, but there was one, so I got my medal plus $5 worth of tickets for the food trucks (most of which were already closed up---it was so late!).  I wasn't hungry, so I only bought a soda and then gave my extra tickets to another cyclist.  I ended up buying an official jersey, something I wasn't planning on doing, but D talked them down from $80 to $60, and I was so proud of myself at that point that I really wanted one to commemorate the occasion.  It came with a free San Diego Century coffee mug, too. A few poses for pictures, then off to load my bike in the car and go home.

my new jersey

The ride itself took me about 11 hours.  We left Mira Costa College at 6:10 in the morning, and we got back at roughly 5:15.  My actual biking time was 8:45, which cuts out the non-riding times of traffic lights, stop signs, SAG stops and tire changing.  I've never worked out for that long before---even my Half-Ironman was about 20 minutes shorter. And never, ever, had I seen over 100 miles on the Garmin.  As I said, my longest ride ever had been 80 miles last month, so to see it turn over 100 miles was fascinating to me.

obligatory medal pose

Some final thoughts:
  • I've been biking for 4 years now, ever since 2010 when I started triathlon.  Back then, a long ride was 10 miles.  The first time I did a 25 miler I felt like a badass rockstar. I would have never fathomed completed 100+ in one day.   It goes to show what a person can do with the right motivation and training.
  • I had a revelation at mile 70.  Up until that point, cyclists always intimidated me. Unlike runners or triathletes, I had a hard time identifying with them.  I'm not talking about the casual biker---I'm talking about the people on their decked out bikes, in their sponsored race kits who whiz past me as if I'm standing still.  It took me four years of riding, and being at mile 70 of a 105 mile ride, to realize that I, too, am a cyclist.  Just as the definition of a runner is "someone who runs" (speed and distance have nothing to do with being a runner), so should cyclist be defined as "someone who bikes"---again, speed and distance be damned.
  • Speaking of race kits, I get intimidated with all the fancy bike jerseys I see out there.  That is, until Steve reminded me that I myself was wearing my Ironman 70.3 Oceanside jersey.  In fact, I got many comments on that, people riding up next to me saying they've done that race, or want to do that race, or told me I was amazing for doing a 70.3. And now I have a century jersey....so I guess I'm learning that looks can be deceiving, and that bike jerseys are just that---shirts.  I can look badass too.  Even while biking slowly.
  • I was shocked at the lack of support on the century. The volunteers were amazing---kudos to them!--but the food was subpar, especially at the Ramona SAG where people desperately needed to fuel.  To have such little food, which was stale, and to have run out of sports drink, was inexcusable.  I also never saw a SAG vehicle---I remember when I did the Senorita Metric Century I saw a van a few times throughout, circling to see if people were ok. I'm not saying there wasn't a vehicle, but I never saw one, and I was out there for 11 hours.
  • I also saw the value in always bringing food and drink with you, even on a sponsored ride like this. You never know what they will have, or if they will run out.  Likewise, I saw the value of bringing money. I usually tuck a $5 in my bento box on my rides, figuring that would pay for a Gatorade and/or candy bar if I needed it---but I was very thankful I'd packed a $20 plus my credit card on this long ride. I didn't need the credit card, but I used up almost all of my cash.  I also saw the value of bringing meds.  Not only did I have that tube of Pepto-Bismol tablets to offer the ailing cyclist, but I also had a little box with Excedrin and my migraine medications. I never needed it, but it would have been my luck to have needed it if I didn't have it.  One thing I may think about for future long rides is a small tube of sunblock. I did apply it in the morning, but 11 hours later it was gone and I could have used a re-application.
  • Also---I recommend bringing a small bottle of Purell. I wish I'd thought to pack one in my pocket or bento.  There was no Purell in the port-o-potties, or place to wash hands.  I used water to rinse my hands, but without soap that was gross.
  • I don't think I'll do a century again. Never say never, but it's a long, LONG way to go.  I think I can live the rest of my life happily without doing another one.  But, really, it was Type 2 Fun, and I'm not as dead-set against doing this again as I am against a full marathon.
  • Having now done every component of a full-Ironman (I did a full marathon, the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll, in 2003; this 106 mile ride, which is only 6 miles short of the 112 required for an Ironman; and a 2.4 mile swim in last year's Tiki Swim) I can say, without any hesitation, that I WILL NEVER DO A FULL IRONMAN. It never interested me in the first place, but now, knowing what I know, I'm not even the slightest bit intrigued.  I am in even more awe (if possible) of those that take on 140.6.
  • I would not recommend the San Diego Century.  While the route was good and challenging, and the volunteers great, them running out of food and drink was enough for me to not recommend this particular century.  Steve says this has never happened before in his experience, but personally I wouldn't chance it. If someone does sign up, I recommend bringing money!

All in all, I'm very proud of myself.  This was a monumental challenge, a bucket-list item that had been dangling in front of me for over a year, and I'm finally able to cross it off my list.  As I wrote earlier, with enough preparation, motivation and training, we---me and YOU---can accomplish any goal we wish to acheive.