Sunday, July 22, 2012

Deuxième Semaine et Troisième Semaine: le Tour de France

Another July ebbs, another Tour ends. I wish I could have watched more of the coverage in these last two weeks, but what I did catch was, as it is every year, amazing, unbelievable, and inspiring. Since I have no memory of the first American winning the Tour (I was seven), I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to watch the first Englishman win. To see Wiggins stand alongside his compatriot Froome on the podium is remarkable; even more remarkable was seeing all four members of the British Olympic cycling team win TDF stages! (The other two being David Millar and Mark Cavendish, bien sûr).

Other highlights included Valverde's stunning solo breakaway and stage win in the Pyrenees, Wiggins leading out his sprinters in several stages (I like seeing the maillot jeune put himself in this position), Thomas Voeckler winning the King of the Mountains jersey, Tejay Van Garderen win the best young rider jersey, Jens Voigt leading a breakaway on the Champs-Élysées, Clean Bottle boy in the Pyrenees, and Cadel Evans proving himself to be the ultimate exemplar of good sportsmanship, every single day, no matter how much time he lost and how many arbitrary misfortunes he suffered.
A soon-to-be victorious Valverde, Norwegian fan club in tow
(photo credit Sirotti, 
As for the tacks on the road, Frank Schleck's positive test sample, the specter of USADA's investigation, among other stains on the 99th TDF--it's hard to know what conclusions to draw. Both good and bad phenomena occur on every Tour, and there's no predicting what shape they will take or whom they will affect. Ultimately, however, the spirit of the Tour prevails, and I can think of no better example to prove my point than the sight of George Hincapie, riding in his seventeenth and final Tour, leading the peloton onto the Champs-Élysées, an honor reserved for the team of the maillot jeune, but conceded to Big George by Team Sky today in honor of him and his tremendous career.  He never won a Tour--or a Giro, or a Vuelta--and he never led a team as a GC contender. He served instead, for nearly two decades, as a domestique...which is another way of saying that Lance, Alberto, and Cadel are Tour champions because of George Hincapie.
Hincapie leads a true victory lap
(photo credit Casey B. Gibson, Velo News)
Fifty-two weeks sounds like an eternity, but I know that time will fly between now and June 29th, 2013, when the Tour commences in Corsica. In the meantime, I will remember--and this is perhaps the sweetest memory of all--that Phil Liggett lived to see and to call a Brit win the Tour de France, and to hear the dulcet notes of "God Save the Queen" soar above the Arc d'Triomphe. Vive le Tour!
God Save Phil and Paul
(photo credit NBC Sports)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

NYC Marathon 2012: Training Begins

The NYRR sends me one of these every week
Tomorrow morning, I begin my official training for the New York City marathon. Sixteen weeks lie between me and November 4th. I feel like it's the night before the first day of school.

My last weekend of pre-training training went well, fitness-wise. I ran a wonderful 9.5 miles on Saturday morning, a combination of my Continental and History 101 runs (yes, I name my runs, and yes, it's strange that this is the first I've blogged about the habit), through the Inner Richmond, and basically along the full perimeter of Golden Gate Park, with the western stretch directly on Ocean Beach. As I ran alongside Big Rec, around mile three, I was almost run over by a herd of fleet-footed high school cross country runners; I could hear them coming for a few minutes, and their exuberance was infectious. Some of my happiest memories of Golden Gate Park are of running in it as a high school student with my cross-country teammates, especially in the sunshine and crisp air of a San Francisco fall. I couldn't stop smiling for the next several minutes, and a couple of miles later, after passing the Chain of Lakes, I hit an awesome runner's high that lasted all the way until I was running east past the angling pools, when I started to get a little hungry. Fortunately, I soon ran into my dear CMA, who was out for her Saturday long run! I flagged her down in my funny way, and we stopped to catch up for about fifteen minutes. Our chat was just the boost I needed, and although I was almost run over again by the same herd of high schoolers, I quickly ran the few miles home to my favorite post-run green smoothie and chocolate milk (not combined, just side by side).  

This morning I tried to sleep in, but woke up at 7:00 and could tell I was awake for good. The omnipresent summer fog seemed to call for a swim, so I walked over to Rossi and swam a very (very) slow half mile in the bathtub that is the Rossi pool. I can't complain too much; if I'm not doing a real swim workout, then I want to be warm. Still, my goggles fogged up every few laps, and I started to feel like I was sweating in the water--not a pleasant feeling. A quick shower and walk home, and I stretched out on the couch with my second breakfast and the paper, with no other workout obligations until Monday morning. 

And soon, Monday morning will be here! I decided on a training plan--I'm going with Peter Sagal's--and thought about my goals for this particular marathon. There are three. First, have as much fun as possible while training (i.e. train hard, but don't take it too seriously). Second, don't train at the expense of the other things I love in my life (i.e. fit training around my life, don't fit my life around training). And third, run a great race in New York (i.e. enjoy it!). 

Day One starts in eight hours. The schedule calls for five hilly miles. Allez!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Doug Glanville, I Salute You

Because your lucid yet plainspoken essays concern everything from road trip roommates to tipping pitches to team loyalty to the inevitability of growing old. Because your essay about curve balls is really an essay about getting back up when life knocks you sideways, and because your essay about R.A. Dickey's knuckleball is really an essay about a man who found himself after fifteen years of straight pitches, subdued expectations, and the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Because even though you played for the Phillies, I still like you. 

Doug Glanville, I salute you.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Going for the Green

The recent increase in my weekly mileage meant my fuel, so to speak, needed to be re-scrutinized (which is another way of saying that anyone who's reading this blog and doesn't care about food or running is about to be bored out of his/her gourd). Healthy fats, omega-3s, calcium, iron, vitamin C, Vitamin D, protein and a host of other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed to be integrated into my diet in as tasty a manner as possible. I basically do this already--witness my kitchen full of kale and ice cream--but I'm upping the ante. This week has been all about green things: spinach, lettuce, kale (of course), green apples, green beans, giant green salads, and avocados. My dear funky produce stand (which would be perfect if it sold organic fruit and vegetables, but which at least sells delicious versions of those that are relatively safe to buy conventional), is currently stocking the best crop of avocados I've had since returning to California.  It's literally been an avocado-a-day out here in the Richmond District, and now that I've re-discovered the joy of Cholula, I feel like I'm living in a gustatory paradise.

I also demonstrated, once again, that I am my mother's daughter, and finally embraced the green smoothie. Featuring one to two cups of spinach, these yogurt-based smoothies have been vehicles for some combination of blueberries, bananas (yes, I've finally embraced those, too, due to a spate of hip cramps), unsweetened cranberry juice, almond butter, honey, and last Sunday, a cup of fresh sweet corn (courtesy of the funky produce stand. Three ears for a dollar!). Despite the fact that they look totally freakish, the smoothies taste amazing (perhaps because they aren't too sweet?).
Finally, and to JAR's horror, I was the lucky recipient of several tins of anchovies packed in olive oil and capers. If the dominant smell in my kitchen is any indication, I've been averaging a tin a day--great for the omega-3 consumption, probably less so for the sodium. I've been heating the anchovies and capers in an iron skillet with a low flame, then tossing them in the pan with cooked pasta, kale, and red pepper flakes once the oil starts to sizzle. 

One of the best aspects of my green things-and-tiny briny fish diet is that it counter-acts the perma-fog, and reminds me that it's actually summer in Northern California. I certainly don't miss the oppressive heat and humidity of summer in New York--or even summer in Ithaca--but I do wish sunny, windless days and warm evenings could happen a *little* more frequently. KP and I had a funny text exchange about our particular weather predicaments a few days ago. As diligent Freckle readers know, she's also training for NYC, and currently lives in DC; because of the massive heat wave gripping the East Coast, she ran her long run (twelve miles) on Saturday on a treadmill. I, however, ran my Saturday long run in thick, drippy fog, in a long-sleeved running shirt, and then ran my errands in a down vest. 

Hopefully this weekend we'll both be luckier. In the meantime, however, at least I have lots of summer foods to keep up my summery spirits.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Strava: Greatest Cycling Commercials Ever?

Since everything I watch that's TDF-related is pre-recorded, I fast forward through all the commercials. This is fine by me--I'm not a fan of the canned din, drama, and sturm and drang of commercial advertising. Still, I do love my television, so every now and then a commercial break slips through the cracks. And last week, while zoning out watching one of those flying flat stages across northern France, NBCSports cut to a commercial break, and suddenly I sat up. I can't even describe exactly what I saw--hence, the video pasted below--but as soon as I saw it, all I wanted to do was jump on my bike and ride up Tam. Immediately. Then the next day, I saw a different one, also by Strava, that was also amazing. Trust me when I say that these commercials show what riding is; how a long ride feels, how your mind zones in and out, how you process one thing after another. I'm wandering off into ambiguous language land, so for your viewing pleasure, I present two of the greatest cycling commercials ever, courtesy of Strava:

Featuring Tim Johnson:

Featuring Jesse Anthony. And PINK SNO-BALLS! Possibly the best post-ride recovery snack ever:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Road ID: Safety First

A couple of people in my life have had accidents while out and about on their own recently, and as far as I'm concerned, that's a couple too many. As a result, I finally ordered a Road ID to wear when I'm out riding and running by myself. To be honest, I'm a little embarrassed it took me this long to buy one. I'm a cautious cyclist and runner--no headphones on the bike, on isolated trails, or crossing traffic; no running in the Park in the dark; stop at red lights and stop signs; make eye contact with drivers when crossing the street, etc.--but as I've seen firsthand, accidents do happen, and caution's a non-starter once you're lying unconscious, alone, on the side of the road. 

So I was actually kind of excited when I opened the small package that had arrived in my mailbox. Even better, when I wore my new Road ID on a long run and found the wristband a bit too snug, I emailed the company and asked if I could mail it back to exchange for the next size up. Within 24 hours, I received emails from both customer service and the founder/CEO himself saying that a new wristband in the larger size was on its way, free of charge. Great customer service makes my day! Plus, any company that employs Bob Roll as a spokesperson gets my vote. So thank you, Road ID. Here's to staying safe on the roads, the trails, and the Richmond District sidewalks. 
Bobke, in his pre-Road ID days

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Premiere Semaine: le Tour de France (et de Belgium et de Switzerland)

I've been an inconsistent viewer during this first week of the TDF--full live stages some days, last twenty minutes of the stage on others. Thus, I'm not sure how to focus my observations about the nine stages the peloton's raced so far; should I note the beautiful, undulating French/Swiss landscape of the initial mountain stages, Christopher Froome's remarkable victory on Les Plances des Belles Filles, or the myriad and inevitable crashes of the flat stages in the Ardennes?

Maybe the first week can best be summarized by Tyler Farrar trying to bust open Tom Veelers's trailer, on camera, fresh with both road rash and road rage. Or Peter Sagan revolutionizing the post-stage celebration with a little something he likes to call "the Forrest Gump". Or that the most famous Americans in the race seem stressed and oddly low profile (although an analysis of USADA's current investigation can wait for another post...). Or that two great Garmin riders, Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesjedal, were early casualties. Or the paucity of Scandinavian cyclists this year, and thus the excitement of Sweden's Frederik Kessiakoff earning the King of the Mountains jersey. Or Phil and Paul musing on French horses and cows. And the list goes on...
Rock on, Tourminator
I suppose I could say that I liked the odd symmetry, today, of Bradley Wiggins, a Brit, bearing the maillot jeune through Switzerland's fertile valleys, having just taken it from Fabian Cancellera, the Bear from Bern, while over at the All England Club Roger Feder, another supremely talented Swiss, wrested the Wimbledon title from Andy Murray, a Scot (and the first from the British Isles to reach the final in seventy-four years!). 

Also, today a supremely talented young Frenchman, Thibaut Pinot, won the stage, which means that the entire nation of France is throwing a party as I type. It also means that tomorrow the front pages of every French newspaper will trumpet Pinot's victory (and hopefully include some photos of his team manager in the race car, who almost fist-pumped himself out the window during the last 1k), but say nothing about the fascinating duel between Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins for the maillot jeune
Wiggins vs Evans
And what would they say? Perhaps that two of the most incredible cyclists, each exemplars of good sportsmanship, each supremely talented time trialists and climbers, race within ten seconds of one another. It's true that unless Wiggins cracks, either in a time trial or on one of the mountain stages, his small lead may be impossible for Evans to overcome. Team Sky possesses many strong lieutenants ready to protect their English leader...then again, so does BMC for their Australian one. And something tells me that at 35, Cadel is unwilling to leave France without another title. 

So who knows? There are still two weeks left. And if the Tour can be relied upon for anything, it's sheer unpredictablity. On that note, maybe I should just bet on Phil and Paul... 
Montbéliard vache froHaute-Saône.  According to Liggett and Sherwin, culpable of sour Swiss cheese when running.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Oh, Patagonia!

Last weekend, the impossible became possible. The unthinkable was thought. Pigs flew off into the everlasting winter of a frozen hell. And I? I lost every wager confidently placed on the infallibility of my favorite company, the brainchild of dear Yvon Chouinard--that Yoda of Yosemite climbing; that author of the only business book I've ever liked; that blessed paterfamilias of backpackers, surfers, and upper middle class weekend warriors everywhere. 

I bought a Patagonia jacket--and I had to return it.

This wasn't just any jacket. This was the women's down sweater. This was the jacket made of highly compressible 800-fill-power premium European goose down with a 100% polyester ripstop durable water repellent shell. This was the the jacket I'd eyed for the last six months, circling back to every few weeks to see if the $200 price tag had miraculously dropped to slightly more manageable heights (say, $150. With free shipping). 

And then two weeks ago, there it was: $140, free shipping, no tax, and in my size. I almost cartwheeled across my dining room.

Four days later, however, my joy transformed to worried incredulity, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, clad in the jacket, staring at what looked like the Michelin Man's arms (if the Michelin Man wore mourning for a day). How was it possible that a company typically reliable with regard to sizing and cut could have designed a jacket that made me--a petite small on most days, a straight up small or extra-small on the others--look like a linebacker on Team Goose Down? 

Unnerved, I emailed CMA, a fellow down sweater owner, and asked her advice. Shoot for the XS she wrote back (I'm summarizing, but you get the picture). Two days later, the XS graced my shoulders--and snugly hugged my hips in such a way that I now looked simply like a jaunty linebacker, with a chic cinched-in waist.

The story doesn't end well, my friends.  Disheartened to a degree that only gazing, for a long time, at the giant pile of Patagonia gear I already own (some of it fifteen years old--I refuse to outgrow it) could salve (somewhat), I packed up both jackets and shipped them back. Still, my moping wasn't over. When JAR and I drove the long (long) way to Davenport on Sunday, I spent a solid chunk of the drive bemoaning my down sweater-less state. This resulted in a conversation about my "fantasy" of the jacket versus the "reality" of the jacket--a conversation that lasted from Big Basin to Santa Cruz, or a decently long time.  

In fact, the conversation only ended because we drove past the Santa Cruz Patagonia outlet, the parking lot of which we immediately sought. And though I was, and still am, down sweater-less, within this outlet I found a beautiful, seal-gray R2 fleece, marked down to an even better price than my coveted jacket, and in just the right size and cut.

So I guess the story didn't end that badly after all. Still, I'll be watching to see if the down sweater is altered next season. Patagonia, you're on notice!  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

NYC Marathon 2012: Which training plan?

I realized recently that the New York City marathon is a mere four months away, and that I'm scheduled to begin training on July 16th! My running for the first half of 2012 was decent--I managed a fairly stable amount of miles per week, and I ran an okay time at the Presidio 10 miler back in April (considering the hills, crowded course, and bizarre race management, I'm glad that my finishing time was at least in line with my half-marathon PR). In February, I started taking one to two DM classes per week as well, and my back has never felt better. My hips, core, and arms are much stronger, too, and I fully credit these classes with a (so far) injury-free year.  I'm willing to suffer through sixty to 120 minutes of intense pain every week if that's the outcome...although it's amazing that a class that leaves one essentially sweat-free can be so excruciating.  

Still, I grew a little nervous when I realized how close we are to November 4th, and so two weeks ago I increased my weekly mileage and days running per week up to twenty-five and five, respectively, and continued aiming for two DM classes per week. My pre-training training is going well, but with less than two weeks to my actual training start date, I have yet to choose an actual training plan. Cue the endless questioning and mounting anxiety. Should I go with the three day a week plan developed for one of CC's friends, as it may keep me injury-free (but also might not give me adequate training time on my feet)? Should I go with the five day a week plan similar to the one Peter Sagal used when he broke his PR by more than ten minutes last fall, as chronicled in the wonderfully titled "Time of the Ancient Marathoner" (even though a four day a week one might be more my style)? Should I go with Grete Waitz's elegant "hurry slowly" four day a week plan for marathon beginners (even though this won't be my first marathon, and I'd like to run a faster race)?

Peter Sagal: An Ancient Marathoner with a not-so-ancient PR 
(photo credit: Runner's World)

Since I have yet to reach a decision, I've been distracting myself with questions/anxiety about other marathon-related issues. For example, it's been several years since I ate/drank on a run--what will my nutrition plan be this time, and how will I carry it (if at all)? When should I buy a new pair of shoes for training, much less the marathon itself? Should I send in my orthotics for an overhaul before the marathon, or wait until after it's over? Should I fly to New York two days before the race or three? Should I do my long runs on treadmills when I'm traveling, or try to figure out an outdoor route in places with which I'm unfamiliar? 

Fortunately, the best way to answer any of these questions is to go for a run. Once I'm out the door and cruising down Lake Street, or dancing up the stairs on the coastal trail, all the answers become clear--specifically, just choose a training plan. Cross every other bridge when you come to it, and most importantly, don't forget about your superb advisory council of expert marathoners JSH, CMA, EG, CC, and SR. (And KP, who's already proved her worth by reminding me to sign up for a ferry to the Staten Island starting line. She, JL, and I are all boating over together!).  

On that note, more to come starting on the 16th. Gulp.

Meyer lemon tree, take two

My beloved UWS meyer lemon tree never truly flourished in its NYC domicile, and I couldn't determine if it was the light, the fluctuating temperatures, or some other climatic/geographical set of factors. My San Francisco meyer lemon tree, however, is thriving. Perhaps it's the spot on my back deck, the porous plastic container (yes, I've been too lazy to re-pot), or the Richmond District's perma-fog? Time will tell, but in the interim I'm looking forward to lots of meyer lemons!