Fitness in the Hairdryer

In Phoenix, Monsoon season begins in mid July, which means we’re just before it. This also means winds. Winds, in 110 degree heat. It’s like living in a hairdryer.

Living in the hairdryer isn’t all that bad, in and of that you actually spend the hottest part of the day indoors in lovely ubiquitous air conditioning. You slather yourself with spf 1000, wear sunglasses and hats, wear loose cotton clothing, and learn to accept that tile is in fact a good floor covering. Phoenix is the exact opposite of where I live: dry and hot means no wood floors, no pine trees and ferns, my hair BEHAVES, my skin BEHAVES, and buildings are low and long. I wouldn’t retire here but am glad to have a second Casa Conti to go to.

Working out in the hairdryer, however, is a whole other kettle of fish (or terra cotta pot of lizards, I guess). Yesterday I got up at 6:30AM to run — because by 7am it’s too late. I ran a mere mile, and I did it at more of a “jogging” pace (we’re at 1,700 feet here and my parents have somehow managed to purchase a home in an area full of mild uphill grade cul-de-sacs), but imagine running face first into a hairdryer. It was great in and of that I didn’t perspire, water wicks away near-instantly. However, breathing in hot air while running uphill? Not so much. I plan to get up at 6am tomorrow in hopes of a 5-degree difference.

Swimming in the hairdryer is also interesting. My parents have a pool that is about 30′ long and I swam very small laps this morning with a small child wanting to occasionally be tossed about in the water. So it would be swim swim swim pause throw child swim swim swim pause throw child swim swim. After 40 minutes of this you get out of the pool and are COLD because somehow the 80 degree pool water in a 95 degree blowing heat evaporates and makes you cold, for the first five minutes.

And then you’re back in the hairdryer.

Back Anywhere But The Saddle Again

Having just completed 160 miles on a bike I really am not sweating training for the 12 cycling miles of the Danskin. I *will* get on the bike, I just haven’t this week. I also haven’t run, or swam, this week either. This week I was very very very lazy, workout wise. This week was full of travel (coming back from Vancouver, to/from SF, and now to Phx), full of food (Mom’s house, a beer tasting, Chupacabra’s baby-size burritos, etc.), full of drinks (well, naturally), and full of work (which is fun).  That said, I will shortly (erm, 2 hours?) be in Phoenix, Arizona, and must correct all of this laziness.

It is 110 degrees F (43.3 degrees C) in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a dry heat.

This means if I want to run (and I need to do it at least twice while there) I need to do it at 6am. If I want to swim (and I need to do it at least once while there) I need to do it in the early morning or late evening.  I have 4 days worth of regular clothes, workout clothes, miniature toiletries (this trip’s forgotten accoutrement? Hair goo), sunscreen (spf 50 for us pale types), and the last Harry Potter book all crammed into my carry on, and I’m optimistic that I can actually, you know, get a workout in on this trip.

Moving On

I was going to have a whole series of little vignettes about the Ride — about the guys playing soccer at camp, about the awful food (but you’re so hungry you don’t care), about how they insisted I bring my own food and then I didn’t need it (or they didn’t have it), about the back pain and yet surprisingly no leg pain, about the endorphin rush and near-wall-hitting, about the simple pleasure a hot shower can bring at the end of a long day.

There really isn’t a place for all of that. None of those things translate well, and they were little events that were part of a much larger event; in short, you don’t care, and I’m not sure how much I’ll remember or what weight I’ll put to it in future. If something strikes me as particularly funny or poignant, then I may. But right now, nothing comes to mind: it was a good ride, I want to do it again, and that’s about it.

I haven’t been on a bike in three days, nor have I done any real exercise beyond some brisk San Franciscan walking. I have a triathlon in seven weeks, though, and I need to start training for that.  So if you’re up to listening to me blather about swimming (and possibly a swim coach), biking (hah! what’s 12 miles?!), and running (let’s hope the knee doesn’t die) then tune in.

Otherwise, move along, nothing to see here 🙂

PS — very glad I didn’t do my planned run in SFO today. They are not kidding about the cold fog early in the morning, and I foolishly packed shorts and a tank top.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

or, as Bill Murray said in Ghostbusters: We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!

On Saturday, June 19th, 2,250 riders showed up to a mall in Surrey, BC.  They departed said mall at 7am and rode 84 miles to Mount Vernon, WA. The next day they rode 76 miles to Redmond, WA.  Those 2,250 riders raised $9.2 MILLION dollars. The expenses of the ride (food, tents, sign, support staff, gas, materials, shirts, organization, website, administration, etc. were reported at about $1M. So $8.2 Million dollars went directly to cancer research.) There were easily 500 support staff members with us on the ride.

At the start, the mall was crowded with bikes, and many of us did not clip in for the first half mile because of the likelihood of stopping quickly to avoid crashing into the bike in front of us. Escorted by police motorbikes through the town of Surrey, things thinned out as we found ourselves edging toward the border. Pastoral Canada, with its smells of cows and sights of green grass and berry farms (“they say blueberries are going to be cheap this year, because of all of the extra coming in from the states, eh”) greeted us on our first 20km out.

That’s how you measured this thing: in Km’s. The whole way… It was an average of 20-30kms between pit stops (except for the border crossing one — there was one at Peace Arch and one in an elementary school in Blaine, and if your map is telling you that’s only like 4 km apart your map is right) and each stop was fueled with water, Gatorade, snacks, a medical setup, and bike mechanics.

I’d just like to point out that I didn’t need a bike mechanic the whole trip, nor did I fall.

Out of Blaine we headed to Bellingham, where the hills greeted us. Quite a few of them, in fact. We rode one that gently curved upward for what seemed forever — the hill itself was more than a mile long and at least a 5% grade– ate lunch, and then got on another, larger one. What goes up must come down, though, and we found ourselves screaming down the other side at speeds above 30 mph — in some cases faster than the cars were allowed to go.

The weather on Saturday was gorgeous.

We landed in Mount Vernon, managed to acquire beers and food and shower (not in that order: actual order was — as defined by me — beer gear shower food beer bed) and slept in tents.

Sunday morning the mist greeted us, and then followed it up with some rain, which lasted most of the day. It was a pretty straight slog for the first 50 miles or so, and then the ride managed to find every single large hill in Woodinville. Unlike the slow, lengthy climbs of the day before, these were steep, “stepping stone” type hills– go up this 9% grade hill for about 4 blocks, hit the top, and realize that a block later you will do it again. The temptation to give up and take the “quitters van” — the aide van that would happily take you to the next pit stop without any hesitation — was huge. Then you’d see an older rider huffing and puffing it to the top, with their yellow flag on their bike (Cancer Survivor). And you’d be ashamed of yourself, switch gears and tell your bike, “C’mon, let’s take this hill. It can’t be that bad.”

At points the cold and wet was bad enough to numb the fingers, when I found I could neither brake nor steer I got off the bike and walked a bit, then sat in the aide van (while it was parked) to warm up the hands. As the blood rushed back into them, it stung, and I got back on my bike.

I personally talked to 9 cancer survivors on this ride, but there were quite possibly as many as a hundred. One was 11 years cancer-free from a soft-tissue cancer in her back she got at 13. One was an elderly man 5 years free of bladder cancer. One was a year past his chemo, and his daughter suggested the ride. She was with him — in spirit, as he was waaaaaaay ahead of her on the course. And one said simply, “I’m doing this because when I was in the hospital for six months I didn’t feel like I fought all that much or all that hard. I laid in a bed, let them pump me full of chemo, and they fed me and were nice to me and tried to make me comfortable. I gained 40 pounds. I feel like I cheated, that I’m cancer free and I didn’t work all that hard. So I’m doing this to show that I can work hard.”

We’re doing it again in 2012. And this time, I’m raising $5,000.

T-1 day and counting

Greetings from the Fairmont Vancouver Downtown (helloooo, Robson street!) where I have discovered the following in the last 18 hours or so:

  • Even mild food poisoning sucks. Not sure how I got it, but I spent a large amount of last night in the beautifully appointed (if not small) WC in my hotel room.
  • My ride packet wasn’t mailed to the friend-of-friend’s house here, which means my butt has to check in (in a line) at 5:30am (even though I did everything they told me to to get the packet early!)
  • Everything I found on Robson street that I liked was either way too pricey or not my size. Except one thing, and I bought that.  Yes, it’s black.
  • No matter how well you list things out to pack, you will always forget something. This trip, it’s hair product…
  • The multiple-Starbucks-on-a-corner phenomena does in fact extend to Vancouver
  • The Hotel Fairmont is the bomb! 4 star hotel, 5-star bathroom products. Yes, it matters
  • I get pissy even when I’m not the one driving in Vancouver traffic
  • Jeff is a very, very patient person (he was the one driving)
  • The route down is mostly flat except for a spectacularly hilly exchange shortly after Bellingham
  • Up until yesterday, the weather predicted for the ride was sunny and 68 degrees. Now it’s rainy and 65, so I went and bought rain gear.
  • Rain gear is not cheap
  • They require you to have a bike bell even if you never, ever use it. I now own a bike bell.
  • Rodgers cell service Canada politely informed me they will be charging me $15/mb while I’m up here, so… yeah no pictures or tweets from yours truly until I get back to the states.

t-3.5 days and counting

Today I packed.

I have a series of overnight bags, as a result of the odd circumstances of my next week. Attend me:

Wednesday: drive to Mom’s house, drop off dogs. Spend the night, because my Mom feeds me more than anyone on the planet, and it induces instant and immediate food coma. Driving 88 miles back does not seem like a good idea, so… spend the night, yeah.

Thursday: drive back from Mom’s. Go home, retrieve bike, and several overnight bags, and other biking gear. Head to Male Person’s house. Retrieve male person, drive to Vancouver, BC. Check into the Fairmont (have I mentioned how massively awesome it is to work for a travel company?), fawn over everything, enjoy the day.

Friday: drop off bike at appropriate spot, pick up ride packet, hit Lee Valley (if you like hardware, that is the place to go), visit the Lush Store, get to bed EARLY.

Saturday, 5am: wake up

Saturday, 5:30am: HEY, WAKE UP!

Saturday, 6am: arrive at Ride Start. Check in my gear bag, check in my food bag, hopefully I’ve had coffee by now or I’m a mess, and other people are likely going to not be happy around me.

Saturday, 6pm: arrive in Mount Vernon, WA. Observe butt calluses.

Sunday, 7am: leave Mount Vernon, WA. Ignore prescription recommendations on the Advil bottle.

Sunday, 5pm: arrive in Marymoor Park (Redmond), WA. Weep with relief and then sign up for next year.

Sunday, 7pm: male person better have my butt home by now.

Monday: work from home, likely standing because said butt is going to be under protest. Call in to 4 meetings. Thank my bosses profusely for the opportunity to do said work from home.

Tuesday: fly to San Francisco (for work)

Wednesday: fly home from San Francisco (for sanity)

Thursday: breathe. Do laundry, oh, and, work.

Did you catch that? I have to create a series of overnight bags:

  1. for mom’s house, which has nothing to do with my Vancouver requirements
  2. for Vancouver, which has nothing to do with bike trip requirements
  3. for bike trip, which has nothing to do with home requirements
  4. for home, which has nothing to do with bike trip requirements
  5. for SFO, which has nothing to do with home requirements

My dining room table is awash in clean(ish) laundry, small size travel bottles, and a vigorous debate over where the bottle of wine goes: bag 1 or bag 4. The wet wipes have made it into bag 3, as has the Advil; the reading material long overdue for perusal has made it into bag 2.  I am having a fashion debate over bags 1-2, and 4, as well as a debate over which set of bike shorts to wear on day 1 vs day 2. Do I have enough sunscreen packed? Enough disposable bags? Gu/Cliff Bars/shot blocks?

I still haven’t learned how to repair a busted tire. I may have to use the internets for that one.’

Next post: if not from Mom’s, then from the Fairmont in Vancouver.

T-5 days, and Counting

Eek. 5 days. 5 days to pack, get geared up, buy the food for the ride, get last minute equipment, etc. I’ve spent the last five MONTHS with the attitude of “just survive until the 21st”. Well, the 21st is next week, and I have a triathlon to start training for.

It’s a good thing I got on Hamish (the Schwinn) yesterday as I’ve discovered his front gears are all fu-bar’d. I leave for Vancouver on Thursday, his timing is spectacularly bad. However, Performance Cycle is close and I needed to get a cushier bike seat anyways (I’m sure to be sore, sore, sore…), so this is not awful.

What is awful is getting biker’s burn. Do you know what biker’s burn is? It’s like a farmer tan, except we’re talking about yours truly, and yours truly BURNS before she TANS. Ergo, I have redness of the skin in patches. And not in normal patches.

When I bike, I wear longer bike shorts (let’s prevent chafing, shall we?), a tank top, fingerless gloves, a watch, my helmet, a pair of wraparound sunglasses, short socks and my shoes (natch). Therefore, I have a burn on my arms down to my wrists and then completely white hands, a white strap where my watch usually is, and on my legs from about mid-thigh to my ankle. Oh, and my nose (not anyplace else on my face).

What is most distracting is the “red thigh-high” effect of the burn on my legs — the bike shorts are longer than regular shorts, so it’s a bit distracting seeing shorts, patch o white skin, then red. I feel like I should make some sort of weird garment such that I can get strategically burnt in all of the white bits, but something tells me that won’t really work out as intended.


We are absolutely and completely not allowed to have mp3 players or any other kind of tune-age on the ride. This is fine, because for my actual get-on-the-bike rides I have not had tunes. I have, however, had tunes in the gym.

Tunes are not optional in the gym.

My gym is loud: the music is drowned out by all of the inane chatter. I was getting ready this morning (I had two beers last night, ergo, gym this morning) and outside the ladies’ locker room it sounded like a cocktail party was in full swing. Tunes are a defensive movement.

Fortunately, I have an iPod shuffle, a friend named Kevin, and a thing for old 80’s tunes. The shuffle was purchased with eleventymillion Thank You points (Thank You, Expedia!), Kevin provided enough music from his personal collection to literally require me to procure an external hard drive, and the iTunes store is chock-a-block full of that 1980’s goodness.

You have to be very careful when picking out your 80’s songs, though.

Here are good examples of workout 80’s songs:

  • The GoGo’s, “Our Lips are Sealed”
  • Aha, “Take on Me”
  • Kajagoogoo, “Too Shy Shy”
  • Julian Lennon, “Too Late for Goodbyes”
  • Violent Femmes, “Blister in the Sun”
  • Nails, “88 Lines about 44 Women”
  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood, “Relax”

Here are some bad songs to have in your shuffle, when you’re trying to maintain 115 rpm:

  • Morrissey, “Every Day is Like Sunday”
  • Berlin, “Take my Breath Away”
  • Bad English, “When I See You Smile”
  • Anything by Air Supply
  • Almost anything by Journey
  • Almost anything by Naked Eyes

More often than not, I find myself reaching over and clicking |> madly in an attempt to get to something a little bit zippier. Fortunately, I have quite a lot of 90’s Grunge. Tell me you can’t do 115 rpm to Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.


Tapering is described here (don’t you love Wikipedia? I love Wikipedia. I am totally going to marry it.) I am starting a long taper for the long Ride. This week while my mileage remains the same (112 or so this week), the long distance ride is going to be short — a mere 26 miles on Friday and on Saturday.  This is sad, because I got a new bike and it is really, really awesome. It’s a 2010 Schwinn Fastback, all electric-blue and white, and the only thing that hurts when I get done with nearly 60 miles is my back-end (not my back). I’m getting the seat replaced to help with that.

In an unfortunate turn of events, though, it has come to my attention that due to my nut allergy (yes, I get it, I’m a nut and yet I’m allergic to them) I need to provide my own food.

For two days.

Over 168 miles.

I still have to call the Ride to find out exactly what they want me to do: do I show up with a bunch of Amy’s Organics and tell them to have them nuked and ready? I have no idea how hungry I’ll be or what they will or won’t have that I can eat, nor can they seem to tell me. It’s frustrating, but I get that from a liability standpoint they don’t want someone dropping dead on the Ride.

Kinda defeats the purpose.

Ladies of Leisure

I have to take a moment to digress from the Elephant In The Room — that I just bought a new bike with a completely different set-up 2.5 weeks from the actual 2-day ride — to discuss my gym.

I’ve changed gyms recently — I formerly lurked at the LA Fitness in Bellevue, but then between driving home, then to the school, acquiring my son, and driving back to Bellevue, and then driving home again, I was contributing needlessly to the oil crisis (and my budget) and therefore switched gyms at a $10 premium to the one by my house. That’s fine, I have the excel worksheet to prove I’m actually saving money.

I live in what I would call a “bubble”. This “bubble”, called Sammamish, is a neighborhood of privilege and McMansions, of 5-year-olds with cellphones and 16-year-olds with new cars. I know this because I grew up here in what is now the only 1970’s rambler that exists in Sammamish, when it was not Sammamish but was “Unincorporated King County”. In those days, the joke was that if you had an emergency you called Domino’s Pizza, because they’d get there faster than the King County sheriff. (And it was true.)

I do not fit in the bubble — or at least not from my point of view — but I live here for two reasons: 1. it’s the house I grew up in and I have configured it exactly the way I like it and it’s far enough from my neighbors that I can do what I like how I like when I like without worrying about what they will think; and 2. It is in an excellent school district, which is not something you monkey around with when you have a kiddo.

At any rate, I was at the gym this morning, applying makeup to face (this is a very necessary part of the morning regimen because if I don’t I scare people) and was noting the following:

1. One lady arrived at the gym, put all of her stuff in front of the nicest shower, and then went to work out. That is to say, she blocked the shower from use by anyone else for an hour. As I was applying makeup she came in and proceeded to go about her business as though this was perfectly okay, despite pointed looks from the rest of us. (This is all the more important when we note that there are only TWO showers in the ladies locker room).

2. Another lady was pitching her “Staging/Decorating” business. In the locker room. At full volume. She was very very carefully explaining to another lady that she didn’t do any organization, really, she just rearranged the furniture a client already has in order to optimize the functional space and/or make it ready for sale. She’s very good at it, and she charges $100 an hour. Figure it takes her 4-5 hours to do a standard house (that’s her figuring) but you know she doesn’t go through paperwork and all of that, that’s more of an Organizer (her friend does that) and they’re going to go into business together (but still keep their separate licenses) etc. etc. etc. And she has her card right there. So handy. During the course of the discussion, though, it was very apparent that her conversational partner could neither get a word in edgewise nor convince her that she understood the first time.

3. It is immediately evident which ladies work and which do not. Those of us who work are there to work out, get showered/changed/made up and are OUT the door. And it’s great that some ladies do not work and have that luxury, truly: just please do not block thoroughfares with your conversations. Move to the side. It’s a gym, ladies, Starbucks is a block away.

I wonder if they notice anyone or anything around them, I really do.