Week 21: Running & cycling through Memorial weekend.

This is the week I've been looking forward to: Memorial Day, a day off on Monday and a 3 day weekend; a rare treat that I was going to use for some serious running!

But first time to go through a regular workweek. Monday a typical day off from running and boy, did I need it; I was so sore from the previous week! Then on Tuesday I had to push myself hard to go for my usual Black Mountain hill run. I was giving it my best, missed my PR by 20 seconds but had a way lower average HR than one month ago when I set the PR; I guess that's still progress.

On Wednesday I was super tired and had a running class at the gym that I signed up for recently. The promise of the class was some work on the technique, so I decided to give it a try, but instead we did a short, easy, 2 mile jog, so I split and finished the workout on my own. But I didn't have much in the tank and called it a day after mere 10k.

I needed a break and took a day off on Thursday, but then felt bad and did an easy run on Friday, even though that was reserved for recovery before the weekend craziness.

On Saturday I bought a bike; finally! I was fed up with doing all the research and instead just went to a local shop and took one they recommended for my price range (low range, as I'm just getting started).

Then it was time to head for the trails. My two bets for the weekend were The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and Butano State Park. I've been to both before but in Nisene I was so over-trained that I had to call it a day after a very short run and in Butano I think I ran once and hiked once but somehow my GPS never worked so there's no record of that, so I had to finally pin it on my map :). I debated which one to choose for Saturday but figured probably more people will head to Santa Cruz than Half Moon Bay for the weekend and so chose Butano.

The last few miles leading to the park are on a nice, small road with almost no traffic -- perfect for a test drive of my new bike! I parked and got ready, but by the time I was ready to go two bikers came back from their ride, so I'm too self conscious to get to know my bike and just take off, pretending I know what I'm doing; after all, it's just cycling and I know how to do that, right?

Well, not exactly. Yes, I know how to ride a bike but not a road bike like this one; I'm not familiar with the way to shift gears and I'm totally not used to clip-on pedals. That's a recipe for disaster and sure enough, on steep climb I shift too late and then the wrong way, effectively bringing myself to a stop and since I don't know how to un-clip... boom, before I know it I'm on the ground. The only part that got hurt was my ego; at least there was no one around to witness this embarrassment. Other than that the first ride was a success; I love the speed!

I get back, change and take off for my run in Butano. I follow the route of Gurmeet and even though I don't have a map navigation by following his detailed description is very easy. It's a very pleasant park too, as hopefully the photos will manage to convey :).

After I get back, quick shower and then off for dinner: Paella in Cascal! I love it and after a tiring day it tastes divine.

When I get back home, quite content, my leg is hurting a bit. I undress and see that, ouch!, I was bit by a tick. Thirty plus years and never had one. I have to say that seeing a large butt and small legs of an insect protruding from one's leg is a very disconcerting feeling (at least it was for me). I felt a strong urge to remove this sucker ASAP, but he's gotten himself comfortable and put up quite a fight. Hard to say who won. The guy payed for it with his life but his head remained firmly in my leg, so let's call it a draw.

On Sunday I wake up and feel the activities of the previous day in my bones. I grab breakfast and head for a bike ride in the neighborhood. I cannot say that I mastered my bike but at least I'm comfortable enough so that this time it's more of a proper ride.

I realize that riding a proper road bike is quite different than city bikes I used before. First obvious difference is speed; it's easier to go faster and I truly love that. Second difference is less positive: I feel all the bumps in the road, however small. I thought that cycling would be a nice complement of my training, exercising my legs, but during this ride it almost feels like the part of my body that will be exercised most is my butt. Oh, that and my private parts, but that probably falls into the directive of TMI ;).

I also quickly realize how annoying hikers and recreational bikers can be ;). Ok, kidding a bit, it's great that people go out on a weekend and get moving but when riding somewhat fast some of them, especially unpredictable children, can be quite unnerving. Not to mention a squirrel that almost jumped in front of my wheels: wouldn't be pleasant for the little fella but I also doubt that I'd enjoy it much myself ;). Now, here's the difference with running; I guess it's much easier to hurt yourself on a bike.

After the ride I go home, quickly change and start driving for my run. I give up on the idea of going to the Forest of Nisene Marks, as there seems to be quite a lot of traffic on the way to Santa Cruz. Instead I borrow another idea from Gurmeet: Calero County Park.

I barely start the run and already realize it's going to be a huge struggle; I move like a fly through jelly. Oh, it's so very tempting to just turn around, drive back home and enjoy the evening in front of the TV. No way Jose. I know right there and then that this run is going to be a mental strength test. The only question is whether I'll be able to complete this run, however slow.

Luckily for me eventually I find my rhythm; granted, slow, but at least I'm moving. It's a very different run than the foresty, completely shaded Butano. Here I'm out in the open and it's scorching hot.

I quickly realize that water is going to be a problem: I only have little over a liter with me and on a day like this and a run like this there's no way it's going to be enough, so I start rationing water. Luckily later parts of the run are partly shaded but still I'm running out of liquids quickly. At some point I gamble assuming that the parking lot with a restroom that I was to reach some two thirds into the run will have drinking water. No such luck so the last 6K I have to finish thirsty. Not super pleasant but not terrible. Gladly I have plenty more water in the car.

It was a super tough run. At some point, thirsty and tired, I started daydreaming about food and I composed this perfect menu:

  • Main: Super Hawaiian pizza from Maldonado's. Why? After yesterday's dinner I didn't feel like going out tonight and felt like something simple; plus it's been a while since I had a super tasty pizza that they serve there.
  • Beverage: Coca Cola with lemon. Why? Normally I don't like and don't drink Cola. However, tired after a run there's something tempting about chilled, sugary Coke. And a refreshing lemon is a nice touch.
  • Dessert: a pile of chilled fruits. Why? I love fruits. And they taste freakin' awesome when one is tired.

So yeah, I guess the idea of this perfect dinner was giving me strength to keep pushing and eventually I made it. I quickly dropped my initial idea of prolonging Gurmeet's route and just stuck to the plan.

What's quite remarkable is that at some point I saw another tick in my leg, mere 5 centimeters from yesterday's bite. Gladly this time around I saw it on time and managed to remove it before he got really comfy. Still. 30+ years and no ticks and now 2 in 2 days??

So to sum it up it was a great week. 5 runs and 92 kilometers. So almost the same respectable distance as last week but with one important difference: this week I did 2,850 meters of elevation gain (according to conservative estimates of Strava) VS less than 1,500 the previous week. In fact I did not do as much climbing in one week since the infamous Chimera race. Plus I also cycled 50+ km.

Plans for next week? Time for a relatively easy week to recover and then the following week another race coming up: Big Basin 50K. I did it last year so I'll have a chance to compare and I do hope that the comparison will be in favor of this year :)

More photos:


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