Monday, December 14, 2009

Great Book

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1) I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars A perfect cross between 'Alias' and 'Gilmore Girls'. Loved it and couldn't put it down! Good book for young ladies to read. Strong female leads without high school smut. Perfect! View all my reviews >>


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Moon Over Jill

When Heather (the dog) and I went out on our run today the wind was biting cold. I hate being cold! But I knew I wouldn’t be cold for long. Besides, tonight was a short run.

We went to the field where we usually run at night after work. I found that if I run after my training session at the Y I have better runs. Probably because my muscles are so warmed up at that point.

Tonight was a great run! Though rather than being a result of an extended warm up, I think the quality of the run was more due to the night itself.

The sky was so clear the stars were twinkling! Also the moon was a sliver. And to be running in the fresh crisp air propelling myself by my own energy, in the dark just me alone was spectacular!

I would recommend it for anyone!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back in the Saddle - Part 1

Finally, I was cleared for unrestricted bike riding from my physical therapist. My hamstring injury was 80% healed and riding was not going to hurt it. In fact, at that point it should be therapeutic. Yeah!

So my riding buddy Barb and I planned a 50 miler….with hills. It was my first long ride in months! I was really looking forward to it!

So we started out and I felt slooow. I had been working out three days a week with my physical therapist and two days a week with my personal trainer. So it’s not like I was going in after several months of sitting on the couch. So I figured I just needed to warm up. That, plus the wind was really bad that day. On top of the wind, we were planned a route with a lot of hills. (I was ready to ride after being restricted for awhile and I didn’t want to take it easy).

About an hour into the ride, Barb called for a drink break. I was ready!

I took a huge slug from my water bottle and asked Barb, “So how you feeling?”

“Man!” She said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. I feel so sluggish. Like I have rocks in my pockets!”

So it wasn’t just me! I think it was the terrible wind. It was one of those days when the wind is in your face no matter which direction you’re headed! What weird physics law allows a head wind in every direction????

So we plugged on. We were heading out into wine country; the scenery was so nice. At one point we needed to cross a bridge over a riverbed. My husband had warned me that the section of road might be being worked on and he thought it might be closed. It was a holiday. So I thought we’d take the chance anyway. We wouldn’t change the mileage of the route much if we got to the bridge and had to turn around. So who cared? Might as well try.

So we turned onto the road that crosses the riverbed and I could see about half a mile up the road blockade. I suddenly felt a little annoyed. For some reason, I wasn’t in the mood to turn around. So I thought, ‘Let’s see if anyone’s there. If not, we’ll just walk the bikes across the dry river bed to the road on the other side’.

So Barb and I rode up to the blockade. We saw four workman about a quarter mile past the blockade and they had already seen us. I said to Barb, “Let’s go see if they’d mind if we walked our bikes through. Maybe if we ask nicely they won’t mind us going through.”

“Ok,” Barb says. So I walk my bike up to where the workmen are (thinking Barb is following me.)

As I approached I smiled and gave a little wave to show I wasn’t coming with any attitude. I chirp, “Hi! We were wondering if anyone would mind if we walked our bikes through the riverbed?” This is when I noticed Barb had stayed back at the barricade. Thanks Barb. Perhaps she didn’t feel as confident as I that they’d give us clearance to pass through.

They seemed to pause a beat too long before answering. One guy gave me a long odd look as he pinched the top of his cigarette between his thumb and fore finger and took a long drag. I remember thinking, “Do people still smoke these days????”

They were staring at me like they were trying to figure out what I was. Like they hadn’t seen my species before. I started to feel conspicuous standing there in all my spandex glory. (I look like the Michelin Man’s little sister in my biking spandex. NOT flattering at all!) They were probably thinking I reminded them of some one but couldn’t put their finger on it.

One guy said, “Well, I don’t think you’ll want to do that.”

“Yeah,” workman #2 said, “There are big trucks flying though the riverbed right now.”

“Yeah, like that one right there,” workman #3 said pointing behind him to the riverbed.

I looked where he was pointing and he was not kidding! There was a semi cab attached to a flatbed loaded heavy with materials and it was literally ‘flying’ through the riverbed! I’m pretty sure the tires were not touching down. I didn’t think a truck that big could move that fast! And the truck was so big it would be hard for the driver to see us in the riverbed.

“Yeah,” I said, “I don’t think I want to tangle with that!”

“Besides, you wouldn’t be able to get up to the road on the other side. It’s all block off right now.”

I nodded my head. “Good to know. Well, worth a try. Thanks for the information guys.”

We stared at each other for another few seconds.

“Well, take care guys, don’t work to hard!”

They chuckled and all four wished me well on my way. I turned and as I was walking away I heard workman one exclaim, “The Michelin Man!!!”

Workman #2: “Oh yeah!!!!

“Yeah!” workman three said, “I couldn’t put my finger on it. But you’re right she looks like the Michelin Man.”

“Not the Michelin Man,” workman 4 said as he took a big pull from his cigarette, “But maybe his little sister.” …….

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

At Yunagi's with my awesome husband on our anniversary!!! I would marry him again in a heartbeat!!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Physical Therapy Rocks!!


I haven’t blogged since Bay to Breakers not only because I’ve been so busy but I have been struggling with my injured hamstring. The lack of healing irritated me so much I didn’t even want to ‘blog’ about it.

Here is a recap: I injured both my hamstrings skiing in February. Did the typical, rest for awhile and get back at it. The left hamstring healed just fine but the right one didn’t.

I went to my primary physician and he told me to stay off it for 4 months. What??? I don’t think so. So he compromised and said try two months and then start back slowly. Which I did. And the pain came right back. Finally went to an orthopedic doctor who put me into physical therapy. First let me say PHYSICAL THERAPY ROCKS!!!! With only a week into therapy I was feeling much better. I’m already back on my bike full-force and I’m running with a lot less pain.

However, the Dr. wasn’t exactly honest about what physical therapy would be like. He said, “You need stretching, strengthening, and massage.” But what I heard was, “blah, blah and MASSAGE.” Sounded great! But when I got there it was: stretching, STRENGHTENING, and massage.

Seriously, three times a week I spend an hour and a half doing strength training and get ten minutes of massage. And let me tell you it’s not the spa massage that I prefer. Instead of a low lighted room on a nice warm table under soft clean sheets that smell like lavender; I’m on a vinyl covered table in the middle of a crowded noisy room where a million people are clanking weights and it smells of sweat and liniment. Yippee.

But that’s ok. Because it’s working great!! Today I took Heather (our dog) out for a run in the field near our house and ran for almost an hour (interspersed with walking breaks of course) and I felt great! Then it started to rain and I felt even better!

I didn’t feel any soreness until the very last bit. Then I got home and did a really good stretch, had a satisfying (yummy) vegan dinner. And now I’m sitting on a tennis ball to simulate a post-run massage. You know how I like a good massage!

Life is good!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Just finished watching "Milk". I learned a lot of new info. Humans are nuts. (well that info isn't new) I recommend the movie.
Heather loves to sit near me when I eat popcorn. Kris knows why! :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Part 10 - Ain't No Party Like a Vegan Party


Part 10 –

As soon as I collected as many anti-pain patches as I could, I called Kris on my cell phone.

“I’m in!”

“Great Love. I’m waiting for you right outside the entrance to the field. I’m to the side in the shade.”

“Good. It’s HOT today!”

“I know,” Kris replied. “I hate to tell you this. But you have quite a long walk yet.”

“Yeah, I remember that.” I said, “See you soon.”
But I forgot it was uphill! There was at least another mile to walk to the entrance of the post-run festivities called “Footstock”. And it was uphill all the way! No fair!

Toward the end there was another small group of the fearful fundalmentalists. What a buzz kill! I mean I had just finished my longest run ever that I had spent lots of time and effort to train for. I was feeling really good about my accomplishment and then I have to hear, again, about how I was going to hell and I needed to repent. Bummer.

But then I saw Kris’ grinning face and I forgot all about my imminent damnation.

We hugged and congratulated each other then turned to limp into the festival.

There thousands of people in this huge outdoor arena. There were booths all along the perimeter. We were to meet out group at the VegNews booth. VegNews is a great magazine for the veggie lifestyle and health. Check it out. I think you’ll enjoy it whether you’re a meat eater or not. They were providing the post race food for us and I couldn’t wait!

We headed straight down the middle of the field to a row of booths we guessed would house the VegNews group. As usual, once I had my target in sight, I made a bee line to it with the exclusion of awareness of anything else. That and the fact that I was exhausted, caused me to walk right over our group.

“Hey look Jill,” Kris said as he put his hand on my shoulder to stop me.

I looked around wondering what he wanted me to see and realized I was about to walk across the picnic blanket of our group. Oops!!

I really expected to be the last ones in. but I could see there were still a few out. Made me feel a little good not to be last. Then I saw the food. I was HUNGRY and was looking forward to a vegan feast. They had platters of fresh fruit laid out and it was all my favorites! Bananas, strawberries, pineapple, oranges! Yum! Then they had aluminum packets of the entrée, falafels. I had never had falafels before. So I was excited to try them out.

Kris and I found a vacant spot along the blanket and we were introduced to the gal from VegNews. She was cute as can be and just a sweetie.

“You ready for a falafel?” she said handing us each a packet.

“Oh, yeah!” I said as Kris and I unwrapped them.

We both took a big bite and VegGirl says: “Oh, I forgot to tell you they aren’t vegan, I hope that’s ok.”

Kris and I froze. What? I was trying to think of something to say but I was at a loss. (I know, hard to believe). VegNews is a big sponsor of Organic Atheletes. They know they are a vegan group and don’t take it lightly. What in the world are they thinking??

I was still scanning every last one of my brain cells trying to find something gracious and appropriate to say when she laughed and said, “Just kidding!”

OMG! We all laughed. I like this girl! I love people who aren’t afraid to joke around! J And the falafels were awesome!!! They tasted so good! Kris said he would have to make some after we got home. He did and they were great too!

We were right next to a tent where they were broadcasting a radio show for a local rock station. The DJ of course was describing what was going on around him and I heard him say, “Right next to me I have the Organic Atheletes. ‘Go Vegan’ ” he read off our jerseys.

We cheered.

“Vegan. Wow. I couldn’t do that.”

Why do people say that? They don’t even know. It’s not that hard. So VegGirl gets up and takes a plate of fresh fruit to him. Which he gobbles down. And during the next music break he gave us a little plug. “Thanks to the Organic Atheletes and VegNews for all the fruit. It’s delicious!!”

Later, she brought him over a falafel, then a copy of the magazine. We got nice plugs each time. By the time we left I believe he was thinking going vegan wasn’t as tough as he first thought.

The next order of business was to get back to the hotel. I had tried to keep stretching while we were sitting on the blanket so I wouldn’t get too stiff. But I was moving pretty slow. And we had a lot of ground to cover yet. We had to walk half a mile to purchase the bus ticket. (The ticket booth was at the other side of the arena and the arena was huge!)

They had express busses standing by to take the runners back into town. (We had to walk two miles from the ticket booth to the bus.) We weren’t exactly sure where it would drop us. But we knew it would be Union square. So we could get to the hotel from there.

I warned Kris. The busses were going to stink!! They pack them as full as possible and they are all runners/walkers who finished 8 miles that day. So you can imagine the funk that was emanating from the bus! Luckily we got on a bus early enough to get a seat. But they kept packing so many people that there were at least as many people standing as there were sitting.

So our bus made it into the Union Square area and I was trying to determine where our hotel was so I would know where to get off the bus. I got my bearings after we had passed the hotel. Unfortunately, the bus was going down hill. Which meant we would have to walk uphill to get back to the hotel. Ugh! But we did it.

Kris was melting under the hot sun. So half way back to the hotel he crossed the street so he could walk in the shade. My legs were so tired, I choose to stay in the sun rather than take the few extra steps to cross the street. That was how tired I was.

The day before we were in the hotel elevator and another couple were in it with us. The guy said, “You running tomorrow?”

I got excited as I assumed they were runners too. “Yes! You too!?”

“No way!” the wife exclaimed, “We’re not crazy!!”

“Yeah,” the husband backed her up, “You couldn’t pay me to do that.”

I didn’t get why some people thought runners were out of their minds. But plodding up the hills of San Francisco with the sun trying to melt me, sore feet, a screaming hamstring, and a level of fatigue I haven’t felt since I finished my first century ride, I started to understand. (But I was already considering coming back next year!)

Part 9 - Coming In


I was getting dehydrated again. And by the time I had made it to the last water stop I looked for a volunteer with a water bottle with the least amount of water in it. The bottles they were using to fill the runners cups were large and a full one would weigh more than I wanted to carry. So I approach the volunteer with the least amount of water and asked if I could take the whole bottle. She said sure. So I had a bottle with me to stay hydrated for the rest of the route.

The bottle was still heavy. But that was good because it encouraged me to keep drinking so I could ditch the bottle. Which I did in a recycle bin. J

Finally, I saw the six mile marker!!

Only two more to go!

I’m sure Kris was already in. Then I saw him jog past me several feet to my right, naked, with his running shoes in his hands. What???? I looked again. He looked a lot like my husband. Same height, hair color, hair line, complexion and build. But two things told me it was not my husband; 1) my husband would never be naked in public under any circumstances. You couldn’t pay him any amount of money to do that. So that was my first clue. 2) I know my husband naked and that was not him. But the resemblance was uncanny.

I should have grabbed my camera and got a picture. But I was too slow. He was long gone before I thought of it. To this day I sometimes entertain the idea that Kris lost himself in the spirit of San Francisco and got a little crazy.

Then came the boobies! On the side of the road were several women and a couple men with a big sign saying “Save the tatas!” They were women of all shapes and sizes holding big bowls with pink ribbons on them. They were lined up in all their topless beauty soliciting donations to fight breast cancer. What a great idea but how many runners are carrying cash on them and how many will stop? I wish I had money to donate because I, for one, LOVE boobies! I’d be happy to toss some bills in their bowls. I’ll have to remember them next time and bring some bills just for them.

All of a sudden, I saw the windmill! There’s a windmill on the West side of Golden Gate park. It marks the final turn to the finish line. This meant I had less than a mile to go!
I turned left and the Pacific Ocean was on my right. The waves crashing was a wonderful sound. The ocean breeze was most welcomed and the smell of the ocean in the air was a great break from the BO I’d been smelling for the last 7 miles!

I was tired!!!! But I kept plugging. I had made up my mind I was going to run the last full mile and then sprint in when I could. So that’s what I did.

When I turned the last corner I felt like the finish line was just up ahead. But now as I ran toward it, it seemed to be slipping further and further into the distance. How does that happen??? I kept plugging away. People were lined up along the route (as they had been for the whole run) but here they were cheering more intensely than anywhere else. You heard so much encouragement which I sorely needed.

“Way to go!!!!””Keep going! You can do it!!”
“We’re proud of you!!!! You did it!”
“You’re there! Congratulations.”
“You go girl. Keep it up!!”

I respond so well to that time of encouragement. It was so great! I love that people will come out to cheer on perfect strangers. It really helps me keep my chin up in a world that can seem so cold. Those times when I feel like no one cares about each other, I would do well to remember this day.

I knew I was going to make it when I heard the announcer.

“Coming across the finish line right now is Jeff Thompson from Oregon. It’s his second Bay to Breakers. Way to go Jeff! And right behind Jeff we have Martha Diaz who is 76 years young finishing Bay to Breakers right now! Way to go Martha!

At first I thought these people must be running celebrities that I haven’t heard of. Though I couldn’t figure out why they’d be finishing close to me. Then it dawned on me, they must have a PC hooked up to the mats on the finish line and the info stored on the chips must be displaying on the announcer’s computer screen. He’s looking at the info and reading off items of interest.

Sure enough, before the finish line there was another mat. I ran across it and wondered if he’d read off my name. Nope. I crossed the final mat at the official finish line and didn’t hear my name. Oh well, I finished my first Bay to Breakers. That was good enough for me!

After you cross the finish line there are lines of people handing you stuff . The first group was a company promoting heat patches. They make patches of different sizes that you stick on your body where ever you ache and it delivers heat to the area. I knew my hamstrings would be screaming as soon as I stopped walking. Their representatives were lined up for a quarter mile handing these to any runner who got close enough. I started with the rep in the front and made my way down that whole line grabbing these patches like a yoyo dieter snatching food off a free buffet! I thought I might gather enough to cover my whole body in them! That’d be great!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Part 8 - On With the Run


I made it up on over hill hell and was treated with a spectacular site, as I was running down a street, there were a line of motorcycle cops blocking a side street. I have always had a “thing’ for motorcycle cops and I know what it is. It’s the boots! Those shiny slick tall black boots. Yum!! And here were six motorcycle cops all lined up like lollipops in a candy store! Yep! They needed to be licked! Uh hum. Sorry.

So I stopped to take their picture. The funniest thing, I couldn’t see the viewer on my camera because the sun was glaring on it. But I tried to aim it so I got a wide shot of all of them from head to toe. But when I checked the pictures when we got back all I had shot was their feet!!! How funny!

By the second water stop I was dehydrated again. This time there were cups! Yeah! But I had discovered something back at the first water stop. Lot’s of water spills on the ground as people grab up and toss away their cups. Also, a lot of the cups are dropped on the ground and the runners trample on top of them. The cups are coated in wax and that wax gets spread on the road from the runners trampling across them. So it’s very slippery. So I knew to be careful. I slowed down, grabbed my cup drank and made sure I tossed it in the garbage. I turned back toward the road and just stepped out and started to run again when I heard a yelp right behind me.

“Yarp!!”

I felt someone kick the inside of my ankle. I could tell by the angle of the kick that someone was falling behind me. I was determined not to let them take me down with them so I just tried to jump to get out of their way and tried to land as far forward without slipping myself. Luckily I have great balance and I landed out of the way of the person and didn’t slip myself. I knew the person had fallen and etiquette dictates that I turn around and help the person up. I would hate to disappoint Emily Post. So I turned to help the person up.

There on the ground was a young lady holding up a beer can while she caught herself with her other hand.

“I didn’t spill my beeeeer!” she proudly called to the crowd. People cheered! I looked at her beer and was not surprised to see it was a domestic……Budwiser…..light.

Gross.

Have you ever noticed that the beer cans that are left littered around our world are usually cheap domestics? There’s a reason for that. That’s all I’m going to say.

So I reached down to give her a hand up and ask, “You ok?”

“Yeah!” she said, “I didn’t spill my beer!”

“I see.” I replied with a kind smile.

Emily Post would be proud.

Part 7 - Hill Hell


Now something I haven’t shared with you yet is that I was wearing the Organic Atheletes triatholon shorts to run in. These are my favorite shorts! Not because they are so versatile but because they have “GO VEGAN!” stamped across the butt! It makes me giggle! My big butt makes a perfect billboard for a good cause! And I could just imagine few people could have missed my advertisement! Those of you who know me know I love humor and have a lot of enthusiasm and energy.

Usually, those traits are positive ones. However, sometimes the combination causes me to have an uncontrollable urge to “act up”. For instance, all I wanted to do while wearing these shorts was wave my butt at people and shout “Go Vegan!” I’d look like those bee scouts who find a great pollen source, fly back to the hive then do the ‘butt dance”. These bees will turn in circles but stop and shake their back ends in the direction the other bees should fly to find the pollen.

That would have been me; shake my butt, “Go Vegan!”; turn, shake my butt, “Go Vegan!” ; repeat a hundred times. But unbeknownst to my husband, I took four tranquilizers before we left the hotel so I would ‘behave’. (Not behave like a bee)! J

Another side effect of wearing the shorts (and the singlet which also has “Go Vegan” on the back) is that is caused me to do my very best and at the least keep my posture strong. I know that if I acted tired or covered the course slouching like I was too tired to do this, it would give a bad impression to vegans everywhere. Some people have the idea that vegetarians and vegans are not as healthy as meat-eaters. Which, ask your Drs., is generally false. So even when I was walking I walked brisk, strong and with a small on my face.

Even when I saw the HILL.

I could see it even when I was a full mile away. It was amazing. Not only its grade was impressive but you could see thousands of people on it and approaching it. You could look onto this huge river of people moving up this hill! So I had a long time to imagine my experience on the hill. I told myself, “You don’t have to run it. Walking is fine! Don’t over do it.”

But on the hill is where I met the zombies. So I had to run up the hill after all.

So I’m walking up the hill and there are so many people in funny costumes and some non-costumes. One of the strongest memories of the hill was that the people in various states of undress all seemed in particularly good shape. Strange phenomenon. It was probably that by this point in the run my endorphins were pumping at full force. So you know, everyone probably looked good. Or maybe I had gotten too many whiffs of the funny cigarettes. Whatever, I was enjoying the view.

There were a TON of spectators on the hill. The residents of the hill street had tables set up for refreshments and many of them dragged out their garden hoses and kept steady streams spraying on us as we came by. All of us appreciated it because it was a hot morning and it was just getting hotter! People also filled the front stoops just to watch. Many others were hanging out their windows and would toss trinkets to us or spray us with more hoses or super soakers.

The hill was actually fun!! I picked up my pace and started gaining on this group in front of me. As I passed them, I realized their clothes and faces and hands were covered in blood!! They were ZOMBIES!!!!!!! Their costumes were cute and there were several of them. I asked the head zombie if I could please take their picture. Being such a nice zombie he said sure. So I trotted a few steps ahead so I could get them all in the picture.

They all straightened up and smiled nicely. Hardley like any zombies I have ever met! I said, “Hey, do the scarey hands! Act like you’re chasing me!” and even though they had already covered 5 or 6 hot sticky miles and were currently working hard to get up this killer hill, they put on scarey faces and proceed to ‘chase’ me up the hill.
What a nice group of zombies!

Once I got my shot I turned back around and started up the hill. I was trying to run but I admit it was slow going. I vaguely heard someone say, “Yeah Vegan!” Then “Go Vegan!” I kept running.
“Hey Vegan!”
“Vegan! Turn around.”
“Vegan! Vegan!”
Then finally; “HEY VEGAN LADY!!!!!!!!”
That’s when it finally dawned on me that someone was trying to get my attention.
I turned around and there was this young lady waving at me.
“I love your shorts!!!! Can I get a picture?”
I gave her the thumbs up sign, (because I didn’t have enough breath to speak) and I turned around and paused for a second so she could snap it and then I kept running.

I heard a lot of that on the route:”Yeah! Go Vegan!”

“Go Vegan Go!”

I only heard one, “Go vegan? Oh man, I could never do that!”

I turned around and saw this overweight woman taking a drag off a doobie. Just kidding. I didn’t look to see who said it. I just thought, “It’s easier than you think.”

I should state here that I can not claim to be vegan. But I am definitely vegetarian and lean to vegan eating more and more. I definitely agree with the vegan philosophy.

Part 6 - When Can I Run?


So we crossed the starting mat and made it past the first group of fearful fundalmentalists. But we still weren’t running. The crowd was still too thick to run. It was a little frustrating. I was so worried about being on the slow range of our assigned corral (10-12 minute miles) when now I wondered if it would have been better to have started in the faster corral just so I could at least start off running.

I knew I wouldn’t be running the whole 12k. But I thought I’d run most of it and take walking breaks only occasionally. But it was so hard to run. If you found an opening it closed in just a few seconds. Runners were supposed to stay to the left and walkers to the right. But there were walkers stretched all across the width of the road. Many runners had to run on the sidewalk even though the race guidelines said we were to stay only on the road.

So I worked my way by running and walking as I could around and between the floats and oddly dressed or not dressed participants. Sometimes I could latch onto a running ‘snake’. What would happen is a runner would see another runner spotting an opening and go for it. The other runner would follow the first runner through the opening. Sometimes multiple runners would notice this trailblazing activity and runners would keep adding on to the back end forming a ‘snake’ that would wind its way through the crowd. It worked pretty well except I couldn’t keep up with the others for too long and I’d have to drop off.

I think there were several factors contributing to my poor running performance that day. One was some health issues causing random bouts of fatigue which messed with my training, both hamstrings being pulled which curtailed my training and the fact that I hadn’t hydrated well that morning or the night before.

I could tell as we were walking toward the starting corral that I was dehydrated. We woke up so early and had to leave the hotel quickly that I only drank coffee (to wake me up) and no water that morning. I was thirsty before I started running. There were water stops every two miles along the route. So we opted not to carry our own. I didn’t want to carry more weight than I had to. So I kept my eyes peeled for the first water station.

I was sure I had covered 4 miles before the first one showed. I was so thirsty! Along the way I was contemplating buying a beverage from one of the many road side stands that the locals set up. However, I couldn’t find a beverage stand that sold anything without alcohol in it. The last thing I needed was “Tequilla shooters $1 ea (3 for $2)”

There were lots of little stands selling snacks and beverages. Lot’s of stands had “Homemade Brownies” for sale. Yeah, no way am I buying “Homemade Brownies” in San Francisco! I not only wanted to finish the race but I wanted to remember it too.

It was pretty disgusting along the route because every so often you’d get big whiffs of the “Wacky Tobbacky”. That is the last thing I want to smell on the route. What the h*ll!?!?! That is the exact opposite of why I am here. I do not hang out with people who do that and I certainly don’t want to be exposed to it on a run! I’ll admit I was pretty p*ssed off. For those of you who don’t already know, I am so anti-drug use that I make Nancy Regan look like a counter-culture hippy!

I’ll admit I should have expected it being San Francisco and all. But I was taken aback. There were also surprisingly a lot of people smoking cigarettes on the route. Granted, they weren’t running with cigarettes in their hands. But I saw several walkers that were smoking cigarettes. Yuck! I hated coming up behind someone breathing hard and getting a snoutful of second hand smoke! I learned quickly to watch as I approached people and re-route if possible.

To be fair, there was a small percentage of smokers on the route. Most participants weren’t smoking anything. So that’s good. I just prefer non-smoking running routes.

So there I was thirsty as a sponge in the Mohave desert and praying for the water stop to appear and it did!!! It was a beautiful sight! 20 or more volunteers lined up with gigantic water bottles; a million cups strung along the ground from the runners in front of me. I searched for the cup table and found an empty table. I jogged up to the first volunteer.

“Where did I miss the cups?” I asked with a desperate look in my eyes.

“We’re out,” he replied.

“What?!” I’m sure my face registered desperation.

“I can poor it in your mouth,” he said.

I tilted my head up and hoped I could drink like that without drowning. Then I remembered my college days. College is where I learned and perfected creative drinking techniques. Nothing beats a good education. Thank you Mom and Dad. That’s money well spent!!

Now partially hydrated, I went on my running/walking way. I knew after the first water stop was the dreaded HILL. I just didn’t know how far ahead it was. I was worried about how long it would take me to get up it. I wanted to run it. But with how I was already performing I didn’t think I’d have any juice left for the second half of the route if I did.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Part 5 - I Forgot About the Naked People



A pedestrian overpass loomed ahead of us, stretching from one side of the street, over to the other. It was jam packed with spectators of all sorts; regular people, police officers, firemen, TV crews with huge cameras hanging over the size. So I knew we had made it to the front.

I looked down and saw the rubber mat that would register our chips starting our official time for the course. An old Journey song was playing over the loud speaker and the crowd collectively sang (screamed is more accurate) along. We sounded amazingly good for having never practiced together!

Then I saw the first instance of the “Holy Rollers”. There are small groups of people that camp out at various locations on the route holding big signs and shouting messages of “salvation” over bull horns. I am very glad that they have the right in this country to state their opinions publicly and I also admire them greatly for standing up and taking action for what they believe in. In fact, this small group was right in the middle of the road. They put themselves right smack dab in the middle of the sea of crazy people. And there were A LOT more of us than them. They must be very brave. (Of course, a lot of confidence comes with knowing you have the Lord on your side!) More power to them! I mean that sincerely.

That does not mean I agree with what they are saying and I can’t say I enjoyed starting a significant running event listening to how “You are going to hell! You must change your sinning ways. God hates what you are doing and you will spend eternity burning in damnation and great suffering unless you turn to Jesus now.”

So I turned to my friend Jesus Gonzales running next to me…. Just kidding.

I never understood these groups. What am I doing that God hates so much? Getting outdoors and sharing a healthy activity with my fellow humans in a spirit of good will and sportsmanship? Promoting a vegetarian diet so we’re not contributing to animal suffering? Staying fit? I mean, are they talking to us???

Then I saw the naked people.

I forgot about the naked people and therefore I hadn’t warned Kris about them. Just as I stepped over the starting line a couple walked in front of me naked as the day they were born. I thought “Ewe!!!!” Not because they were naked. But because they were naked, sweaty and there wasn’t much room to stay out of their way. I really didn’t want to bump up against their sweaty nakedness! Ewe!

The good news was that they were young and fit. So it wasn’t a terrible shock. But I felt really bad for the guy. Poor kid. He looked young and like he was in his prime. But his ‘mister’ looked like a little ‘master’. It was tiny!!!! I thought, “Wow. He either doesn’t feel insecure about his body or he has over come it. And look at him now. Walking around with tens of thousands of people to see! Good for him!!!”
But more on the naked people later.

Part 4 - The Longest Mile


The walk to the corral was is where the real fun started. Lot’s of people were in costumes. Some were groups that dressed in a theme. It was slow going since there were so many people but people watching made the time go by fast!

Then there was the tortillas! As you get closer you start to see things flying through the air. It sort of looks like a bunch of giant pieces of popcorn popping over the streets of San Francisco. As you approach the ‘popcorn’ these objects begin falling down around you. That’s when you discover they’re tortillas!
Some people write messages on them. (Some messages weren’t very nice.) But mostly people just threw them up in the air or back and forth. People who participate in Bay to Breakers (or actually come to spectate) better not be easily irritated. This is not a place for them. It’s crowded, it’s noisy, you’re going to have your feet stepped on and be bumped into a lot. And you are definitely going to be pelted several times by flying tortillas!

I was pelted in the back of the head, the side of the head and in the face! I had so much fun! Each time I was hit I would just giggle! There was something very funny about it. I think it was the utter surprise. You’d be chatting with your friend or just watching the people as you worked your way to the start and then BAM! You’re hit in some random place with no sense it was coming.

I picked up a tortilla and tossed it as hard as I could to my right. It immediately veered straight up then cut hard to the left and nailed this guy smack in the side of his head! Oops. I wasn’t aiming there! A cheer went up from my new Organic Athlete buddies behind me.

“Way to go!”

“Nice shot!”

When I looked behind me I saw the homeless man was still walking with us. I was concerned for him. He’ll never make this! He’ll hurt himself! Is he delusional? Then I chuckled at myself. Most likely, he’ll walk until he gets bored and then he’ll meet up with some buddies in a nearby park or something.

We found the sign for our corral. So we turned left and kept heading toward the start. As we got closer, the crowd became thicker. It was harder and harder to stay with the group. Soon it was only Kris and I in the large crowd.

I could hear an announcer but not make out what he was saying and the cheering intensified. I could tell we were almost to the start. I kept looking for the rubber mat on the street that would mark the official starting line. But mostly I just saw tortillas.

Part 3 - You Can't Start Here


I knew it didn’t matter when we start. There are so many runners at B2B that they had to use a corral system. When you register you have to indicate your running pace. They put you into corrals based on how fast you will be running. They start the fastest corrals first, then the next fastest and so on.

We were in the next to the slowest corral. We would not be starting for well after the start time. Even when your corral is opened, it takes several minutes for everyone in the corral to work their way to the start line. That’s why they need the chips. I checked my watch when I crossed the start line and it was 8:38. Everyone had a 38 minute head start on me.

So to make it fair, they lay special mats across the road that you have to cross to get on the course. When you step on the mat, it senses your chip. So the race’s computer knows when you officially enter the course. At the finish line there is another set of mats which tells the computer when you officially complete the course. So everyone’s time is tracked from the time they reach the start line to the finish. So the computer can tell who ran the fastest etc.

Of course, when you register you put in info like your name age city, state etc. So all that information is associated with your chip. So the race organizers can rank you by age, gender and so on. Pretty neat.

While we were waiting for the last two people show up a homeless man walked up to our group and just stood there. I think it was Kevin who said, “Hi. You running today?” Just to be friendly.

The guy said, “Yeah.”

So he just hung out with us. He fit the stereotype of a homeless person. He was dirty with long greasy hair. He wore a long tattered coat that was too hot for the current weather and he had old 1970s style tennis shoes with no strings and the shoe tongues were flipped out over the toes of his shoes. I thought, “He’d kill his feet if he tried to run in those shoes!”

People were making small talk with him and he was pleasant. He hung out with us for a long time. We finally decided to give up on the last two and take a pre-run team picture. As we started all moving into position the homeless guy started to line up with us. Someone kindly explained the picture was for ‘official’ team members only. He was cool with it.

We snapped a couple shots for the Organic Athletes website and we started walking toward our corral. Each runners bib was color coded to match which corral they were assigned to. We were assigned to the green corral which we thought was very appropriate. J

Part 2 - Race Day


I slept surprisingly well that night for being in a different place and being riled up about the race the next day.

Our hotel was about a mile from the meeting place. So we walked to get a decent warm up. Along the way you could see other runners heading in the same direction. They would come from behind us or from the side streets. But you could see a definite pilgrimage toward Howard Street.

We passed a few other runners on the way and a heard one woman mutter to her girlfriends “I am SO hung over.”

I know the Bay to Breakers is considered a big moving party. But why would you party the night before? I can’t imagine running hung over! I said as much to Kris and he wisely commented, “I doubt she’s running today.” True. There are a lot of people who walk the route.

We allotted more time than we thought we’d need to get to the meeting spot because I was paranoid about showing up late. I mostly didn’t want to show up late because I have never met any of these people before and I didn’t want to make a bad impression. We were to meet at an intersection near the start line. Meeting time was 7:00 am and we showed up at 7:07. Damn.

And no one was there. Damn! Oh no, that was good. We could say we showed up at 6:45 and no one would be the wiser!

So Kris and I kept our eyes peeled for any one in a green Organic Athlete singlet. I wasn’t nervous about no one being there because I knew there was no way we would be only ones of the whole group to show up. I just figured the OAs were on ‘Vegan’ time.

Kris and I kept scanning the intersection. Kris spotted one first.

“There’s one,” Kris said pointing to the traffic signal twenty feet away.

At first I didn’t see him. Then he turned and I could see his singlet peeking out from the opening of his jacket. He didn’t see us. So I walked right over and tapped his arm.

He was as tall as Kris so when he turned and didn’t see anyone his eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“Hi!” I chirped.

He looked down toward the voice.

“We’re running with you today,” I smiled and pointed to my Organic Athletes bike jersey.

“Oh great." I thought I was the only one here.”

“No, I and my husband Kris have been here for a few minutes.”

I introduced Kris, and our team mate introduced himself as…”Chris”.

I almost yelled, “Oh! You’re Chris with a “C” too!” But I knew he wouldn’t understand. (It’s a family thing.) So I just smiled and said, “Nice to meet you.”

Our team mates started showing up by one or twos. I noticed one lady wasn’t in running gear. She was hauling a HUGE backpack. It looked like a duffle bag. I was introduced to Jane and told she was schlepping our extra gear to the after party.

“You’re our sherpa! Thank you so much for doing that!”

“You’re welcome,” she said as she pulled out everyone’s race packets. She handed me mine I and went through it carefully to make sure it had my name, the correct bib number and chip. Everything was there and everything was perfect! Then Kevin handed out the matching singlets we’d run in. I had ordered an extra large. I figured they were made for runners. So a large in regular clothes had to be at least an extra large for a runner’s build. But something happened with the order and they couldn’t get my extra large (the factory probably ran out of material or something). So they brought a large for me instead. I was worried that it’d be too tight. But I figured I’d only be running for a couple hours so I could manage it for that long.

I changed in to the large. OMG!! It was big!! Not too big. But I had plenty of room! I am so used to athletic clothes being cut so slim that I usually have to buy the largest size. I was shocked! But it was great! I’d be able to run in comfort!

Everyone put on their gear, clipped their chips and pinned their bibs. We were ready to go. So we waited. And waited. The race was supposed to start at 8 am. We still had to walk to the starting corral. But we were missing two teammates.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bay to Breakers Part 1 - We Arrive


I always enjoy San Francisco. I have mostly visited on business trips. But this time it was all pleasure! The Bay to Breakers run was on Sunday. So Kris and I drove up leisurely on Saturday. It was nice to roll out of bed slowly, have coffee then get on the road without a sense of urgency.

The drive up was surprisingly easy. It only took us four hours and the traffic wasn’t bad the whole way. I’ll admit, I’m afraid to drive in San Francisco. It’s stupid. I have driven in metro areas before. But there’s something about driving in San Francisco that freaks me out. Maybe it’s the one way streets, crazy hills, pedestrians that ignore crossing signals, congestion of autos, trolly cars, huge buses and cable cars all zooming around on top of each other. Yeah, that’s probably it.

So the hotel we had reservations at advertised “self or valet parking”. My previous experience with San Francisco hotels has been that the parking is on site (usually under) the hotel. Well we found the hotel but no parking garage. Odd. Kris had never been to San Francisco before. So I was the ‘expert’ in the group. God help us!

“Try driving around the block again. We must have missed the sign for the hotel parking.” I suggested.

But we couldn’t just drive around the block because of the one way streets. We had to drive up TWO blocks. Then drive up this impossibly steep hill. Of course the light was red when we reached the corner. So we had to stop at the top. This hill was so steep that our car was almost pointed straight up. I felt like an astronaut strapped into a rocket set on a launch pad. Scary. I prayed the car behind us would leave us enough room to accommodate the back slide the car would have to do when Kris took his foot of the brake before it would have enough momentum to pull itself up and onto the cross street.

Then when we made our way around the next corner we had to drive DOWN the hill that matched the hill we drove UP two blocks ago. That’s not so bad except the light turned red, again. And when Kris hit the brakes, the car had to fight a lot more gravity than usual to stop. And there was a car in front of us. And our car kept sliding down the hill. I shut my eyes. The car stopped. Phew! You know, it was then I realized I’m tense! I really needed a vacation!

We found out during check in that the parking lot was two blocks away. In fact, we had passed it while we were circling the block. It was a public lot that the hotel contracts with. I learn something new every time I visit San Francisco.

Our first order of business after check in was to get to the Bay to Breakers expo to pick up our race packets and check out the vendors. It was a couple miles away. But I like to walk in San Francisco. So off we went.

We were signed up to run with a team called Organic Athletes. (They are a group of vegans and vegetarian athletes). The organizer was going to pick up everyone’s race packets at the expo and bring them to the meeting spot the next day. I don’t like not knowing for sure that I have my race packet. So I e-mailed the organizer a week before to let him know Kris and I would pick up our own packets.

I am my father’s daughter. I don’t like to leave things to chance. How do I know for sure the organizer will get our packets? What if they get lost? What if there is a mistake in my registration info? The organizer wouldn’t know or even be able to fix it. Besides, I wanted to put the chip on my shoe and my numbers on my jersey the night before so I wouldn’t have to fuss with anything at the start line.

So I was a bit disappointed when we hiked two miles to the expo and found out our packets had already been picked up. Ugh! I was afraid I would toss and turn all night worrying about my packet getting to me the next morning. Logically I know it’s stupid. The organizer is perfectly capable of picking up packets and getting them to the meeting point. I really should be able to let it go. Yet I still felt uneasy as I walked away from the pick up table.

I asked myself what is the worse that could happen? The answer was that my packet gets lost and I don’t have numbers or a chip. Oh well. I’m not fast enough to care about being “chipped”. (I know I’m going to be in the lower half of the racers). Besides, I wear two different tracking devices that both record my time/distance/pace which is what the chip does. I have my registration confirmation e-mail which should get me into the post race festival. The worse that would happen is that I wouldn’t have chipped time and I’d have to take my e-mail confirmation to the race with me. Big deal!

I stopped worrying and Kris and I went to check out the vendors.

I had been to Bay to Breakers in 2000 as a spectator and I remember the expo being HUGE!!! Row after row after row of booths and lots of stuff to look at and sample. This year, it was a fraction of the size. The major players like Nike, Rebook and Polar were there. But other than that, there were only about 20 or so other smaller vendors. I managed to find a decent running hat which I needed. So at least I didn’t leave empty handed. J

We made it back to the hotel and it was time for dinner. There was a 50s diner on the corner by the hotel. So we decided to try that for a quick dinner before getting ready for the race the next day and then bedtime.

I thought it’d be easy to find veggie options in San Francisco since it’s large and liberal. It was more than easy! There were several veggie options on the menu and I mean without having to make substitutions or special requests. And when we ordered veggie items, the server asked about cheese as if they are conscientious about vegans. So cool!!! And the food was delicious!!!!! It was so nice to go out to eat and have so many choices without having to stand on our heads. And our food experience on our trip was only going to get better!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bull Canyon Run P. 3 - The People I Saw

Kris and I are standing at the start waiting to go and I am impressed by the diversity of the crowd. People of every age, size, shape, nationality and several four footed runners as well.

There were several people that were running with strollers making it a family affair. It just goes to show you anyone can run.

The race started and off we all trotted in unity. As usual, my spirits soared with the joy of group running. I thought to myself, I want to do this the rest of my life!!! A few seconds later a noticed a young girl pass me on my right. Wait, that is not a young girl! It’s a lady who was several inches shorter than me because she (obviously) had osteoporosis. I think I mistook her at first for a young girl because I saw her long silver braid resting on her curved back and mistook it for blonde hair.

She really struck me because she was short like me, thick like me and she was wearing pink like me!

My heart swelled with hope (or maybe I just went out too fast from the start line) at the prospect of still running even when I am a bent old lady. As I watched her leave me behind in the crowd, I thought “I’ll never see that speedy senior again.” (I did.)

I ‘ran’ on as person after person after person passed me. I didn’t care. I was out there running after three weeks away on business. I finally had time to go on a significant run and better yet, share it with my husband who I had sorely missed.

I was struck by the seniors who were running and the children! I saw kids as young as eight running. I was especially touched by seeing young girls running with their Moms. What a great way to bond and share. I was so proud of the moms sharing activities with their daughters that would teach them healthy habits, hard work, self esteem and confidence. I saw a young girl running with her dad. Again, what a great message to send your daughter and build a special connection. It was so uplifting it made the run easy.

Then I hit the first hill. I cleared it effortlessly. The spirit of the people and the uplifting atmosphere I’m sure made it that way. I am definitely going to do this for the rest of my life.

The organizers had marked the route every 1k. So the signs ticked off as I went and I was continuing to be passed by others. I even was amazed at how soon I saw the first runners coming back from the turn around point (it was an out and back). I started to think about how slow I run and that I might as well be walking. But I don’t like walking as much. It doesn’t feel as good for some reason.

So I tried to just remind myself, it doesn’t matter how fast I go as long as I still love it. So I kept ‘shuffling’ along and soon I saw a figure in pink to my left. It was someone on the way back from the turn around. I saw out of the corner of my eye that the person may be looking my way. So I turned toward them and saw the lady with the silver ponytail. She wasn’t looking my way, she was looking right at me; into my eyes. As soon as our eyes met she gave me a beautiful smile.

Call it “Hoo hoo” but I have had many times in my life when I felt people’s energy and knew they felt mine. I am certain that lady sensed my eagerness somehow. Her gaze said clearly to me, “Don’t worry. You will be like me.” And it made me feel so good!

When I am an old lady, I will grow my silver hair out long and wear in a braid down my back ……when I go out for my runs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bull Canyon Run 2009 – Part 2 - What I Wore


Let’s start out with the most important information. What did I wear to my first running event in almost 10 years?

I had to wear my cute pink running skirt.

I love running skirts! They are so girly and cute! And especially since it took a LOOONNG time for women’s running to be accepted, I like to think I make a statement in it. “Yeah, I’m a girl and Yeah, I’m running!”

But to be honest I think most of the people running today are too young to remember those times when women weren’t allowed (yes I said “allowed”) to run because (I’m not joking here) popular belief was that not only were women too delicate to run but their uteruses would jiggle out and there goes their ability to bear children. OMG!!!

So instead of making a significant political statement, I usually just end up confusing the men. “Is she running in a skirt?” “She’s wearing shorts under there right?” “What is she wearing under there?”

Seriously, once in awhile I can see guys take a double take and then get a funny look on their face while they try to sort out my wardrobe choice. It’s pretty entertaining.

I wear a skirt when I go mountain biking every year at Mammoth Lakes Mountain Bike Park. It’s even more fun there because the guys who use too much attention trying to find out if they really saw a girl riding in a skirt usually go off trail and crash. Then I giggle. (I know, I’m a little bit evil).

I know you’re curious; of course I wear shorts under the skirt! Are you kidding me?? I could just see me tripping and going ass over tea kettle, as they say, and my big white butt reflecting the sunlight so intensely the nearby runners are blinded. There’s a lawsuit waiting to happen I’m sure.

So I wore a plain white tank top as the skirt has pretty, white hibiscus flowers on it giving it a very Hawaiian feel. The Cou de gras was that I had a pair of biking socks that matched the skirt perfectly! The same pink and same flowers. My biking and running socks are both made from the same technical fabric so I can wear them for either sport.
Another cross over garment was my bolero. A couple years back I found a great alternative to the run of the mill arm warmers bikers use. The typical arm warmers are just tubes of lycra with elastic at each end. You put the arm warmers on your arms like socks with the feet cut off. The problem with these are that the elastic either cuts off the circulation in my upper arms when they are new and they slide down annoyingly when they get old. Additionally, since there are two of them it is easy to lose one.

A bolero is like a jacket that has been cut off just under the arm pits. So you slip it on like a jacket but you are only covering your arms and shoulders. So you get warmth only on your arms with no circulation problems, no stretching over time and no chance of dropping half of it behind you when you pull them off mid-ride.

My bolero is a light lime green that seemed to complement my pink shorts nicely. I knew I wouldn’t need it for long. But it was a little cold on the way out. So I decided to bring it with me.

I was the slowest runner out there. But I was the best dressed and as far as I could see, the only one in a skirt! 

Bull Canyon Run 2009 – Part 1 (To Ride or To Run. That is The Question)

I had been working in Northern California for the last three weeks. I had taken my bike up with me so I could keep up with my biking schedule. I had the Conejo ride scheduled for the weekend of May 9th. It’s my favorite ride of the year. And since my biking season started early this year, I decided to go for the 68 miler instead of the usual 35 miler that typically opens the season for the bank’s employee bike team.

I knew I couldn’t be off my bike for three weeks and do a 68 miler with hills. So I took my bike on my business trip with great enthusiasm and expectations. What a great way to unplug after work after all. Sure beats sitting in a hotel room every evening.

3 weeks; 0 bike rides.

Yeah it would be nice to sit in the hotel room in the evening. I basically was only in the room to crash at night. The work ended up being early days and late evenings. Also, I was not in a bike friendly town! No bike lanes. Actually, the roads didn’t even have shoulders. I was in a very rural area. The roads were mostly narrow farm roads that ran between moderately sized clusters of buildings that made up the little towns. All the residents of these towns would drive these tiny roads, very fast, bouncing between their homes and workplaces. I did not feel safe at all. If I was riding with even one more person, I would have felt better. I would have felt like we were more likely to be seen. But here, alone, hhhmmm; I don’t think so.

Anoter clue that this was not a bike friendly town was that I didn’t see another single biker! Not one. I was afraid the drivers wouldn’t even know what I was if they did see me on the road.

No the biking was not happening.

So between not biking for three weeks (except for the odd short one when I was home on the weekend) and the fact that to make it to the Conejo ride, I would have to get up at 5:00am and drive for two hours to get to Conejo. And that is after getting in late the night before from a four hour drive home. Hhhm, serious fatigue + no biking + 68 miles + tough hills = dead Jill. No. For the first time since the bank’s bike team formed, I would not be riding Conejo.

But I wanted to do something. I had been able to sneak in a few runs while traveling. And the Bull Canyon run was right in Santa Maria. I could literally roll out of bed and go run. Which is what I did.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Santa Barbara MS Walk

Every year Kris and I do the MS walk in Santa Barbara with his mom and her co workers. Last year we took Heather and of course everyone loved her. Heather is quite the charmer. She loves people and is incredibly good with liitle kids.

Last year was a wonderful time. However, we were surprised that the team only walked the 5k route. Since Kris and I have been running for several months we had much debate over the acceptability of not only going the whole distance (10k)but running it as well. We didn't want to show up to participate on the 'team' and then take off to do our own thing.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Riding with the Pros Part 6 – Sweet Relief




The easiest stage did not start out easy. Karen and I let the other riders pass us by before we got on the bike trail. They were going to pass us anyway. So might as well let pass before we get rolling.

Five seconds after we got on the trail Karen says, “Jill, I feel like I have a flat. Can you check my back wheel?”

“Karen, you had a flat yesterday. You can’t have a flat today. It’s against the odds.”

“Jill, I swear. I feel like I’m flat in the back.”

I looked.

“Karen, you’re flat.”

We had to pull over and we hadn’t even started yet! Karen is barely off her bike when our biking buddies appear out of nowhere. They must have been lingering behind us.

They were off their bikes and I swear it looked like an Indy 500 pit. One guy held up Karen’s bike and the second guy had the wheel off before the bike was fully off the ground. Then I just saw dust and tubes flying, Karen’s tire fall to the ground then almost immediately picked up again and then, voila! Her flat fixed and she was ready to go! The guy didn’t even use tire levers! He used his hands!!!

“You had a small piece of glass in your tire.” One of the biking buddies told Karen thrusting his hand toward her.

“What?” Karen looked at the small piece of glass the magic man found in the process of the two-second tire change. “That’s why I got flats two days in a row!”

With that we were off and this time Charles didn’t lie to us. It was flat all the way in to the wharf. It was heaven! Our two biking buddies rode ahead. They knew it would be hard for us to get into trouble on this stage but they did look back at us every other minute just to be sure.

We made it to the wharf and the group of 50 riders was assembling for a picture. We made it in time to be included. The next stage was the longest and we were hearing rumors that the main group wanted to race each other. So I told Karen of my plan to ride the mile to the hotel and get a head start on the shower. She decided to go with me. So the group headed off for the last stage and the route happened to take us right past the hotel.

So Karen and I are taking our sweet time knowing we not having to keep up with the group any more. We’re riding down Cannery Row toward the hotel and I see a guy pull out from the pack and head back our way.
“There’s our buddy,” Karen said.

When he got within hearing distance I said, “Don’t worry, were just riding to the hotel and we’re going to pack it in.”

“That’s all I needed to know,” he said. Then he peeled off and caught up with the rest of the group.

I am really happy he got to ride with the big boys finally. And I was really happy we were going to get showers soon.

The luncheon was held in a luxury hotel and they had suites reserved for the riders to shower in. Karen and I each had our own shower so we didn’t even have to take turns. The suite over looked the Monterey Bay and was just gorgeous! We had all the time in the world and we took it!

As we were about to leave the suite to go downstairs for lunch, we could see the riders coming back from our 2nd story window. They looked spent! But happy! We heard rumors in the buffet line that the 4th stage became an all out race and only the most hardy weren’t left behind. I knew I had made the right decision to step out.

Karen and I got spaces at a back table. Hennie and the two pro riders Robert and Grischa were going to give a talk about cycling and their riding strategy for the tour while we ate.

While the presentation was underway, I wondered how many of the people in the room knew I was the girl who had to be dragged through the course. I was feeling a little embarrassed. But then it dawned on me, practically everyone was in front of me on the ride the whole time. I’m sure they weren’t spending any time looking behind them. That was not where the fun was. I felt much better and started to feel very secure in my anonymity of weakness. That is until Hennie started talking.

While Hennie spoke he started to talk about the importance of drafting. Then he said, “Today, I taught some riders about that. I see them at the back table.” And he points to Karen and I. Remember he is in the very front of the room and we are in the very back. Everyone of the riders now turned to look at who Hennie was talking about. I was back to being embarrassed!!! Oh well. At least Hennie remembered me!

After the presentation all of us at our table were chatting and Karen looks at two gentlemen to her right.

“Wow you guys, thank you so much for your help today! We couldn’t have done it without you!”

My eyes flew wide and I looked at the two men. I had no idea what their faces looked like. I never got to see them because us cyclists wear helmets and sports shades. I had no idea of their hair or eye color. But now, I looked at their clothes and recognized the cycling jerseys they still had on under their post-ride jackets. Suddenly, I recognized the ‘sole patch’ under the lip of Karen’s biking buddy.

OMG! We were having lunch with them! I know you’re thinking I would have gotten their names now. But no. The presentation had wrapped up and the pro-riders were signing auto-graphs and taking pictures. People were getting up to leave or meet the riders. I jumped up fast to get a picture with my biking buddy and thank him one last time.

To this day, I’m not sure. But I think his name might have been Alex.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Riding with the Pros Part 5 – Hill Help

At the end of the first stage I was worried. I have three more to go and I’m not holding my own! I had the tail end of a cold and my lungs were burning and I was having a coughing fit standing there waiting for the next stage to start.

My friend Charles came by, “How you doing?”

“Ok, but you saw me get dropped on that first hill.”

“Don’t worry,” he said, “The next stage is mostly on a bike path along the beach. There are no killer hills. Just some little rollers.”

‘Little rollers’ that sounded doable. Usually bike paths aren’t built with crazy hills because family types with children and strollers use them. I was thinking I could make it through Stage 2 with little problem.

Charles, my friend, I am stating this publicly: You are a big fat liar!

The ride through town to the bike path was a hell of a lot easier! The bike path was beautiful and it did run along the beach. BUT it was hilly! And there were some KILLER hills.

I noticed there was a guy who was riding near me the whole way through town and once we hit the bike path as well. He stayed with me at the back of the path and rode closer to me than most strangers do. I didn’t think about it too much because we had a lot of riders on that path so there wasn’t a whole lot of room and I’m used to riding in close quarters when I’m on my mountain bike. I vaguely registered that there was a guy hanging around my friend Karen too.

It wasn’t until we started hitting the hills that I started to get suspicious. Instead of riding hard up the hill with the rest of the group, he grabbed my back and started pushing me!!!! He did this up each hill. He didn’t even say anything to me. He just put his hand on my back and pushed until we got to the top.

Was he planted to help the cycling challenged? He had no visible designation like a sign that said “Hill Helper” or anything. Who was this guy? And why is he being so nice??

So the hills kept coming and he kept pushing me. I didn’t know how he was going to keep it up over the 10 miles we had to cover. It’s one thing to manage the hills yourself but to push my weight (and the weight of my bike also) is a whole different challenge.

The good thing was that I don’t get nervous riding real close to others. I have decent bike handling skills so that was good. I think he noticed that because at one point we were coming down a descent and I was trying to work the momentum to my (our) best advantage. So we actually started to catch a group of riders up ahead. Not only did I try to work the momentum but the group of riders may have slowed down for several different reasons. But I didn’t want to slow down. I wanted to gain as much distance as I could because I knew they would speed up again. And any distance I can gain now will help.

My riding buddy must have been thinking the same thing because I noticed as we are gaining on the group at the fastest pace I’d been able to go all day, he was searching for an opening. I saw one on the left.

He grabbed a fist full of the back of my jersey.

“We’re going to the left,” he said.

“I see it.” I nodded.

And began my favorite part of the ride. We had to close in tight together, him gripping my jersey and we broke into the group through the small opening. Immediately, we started looking for another hole to move further up in the group. I saw a spot just big enough for us toward the right. We’d have to both squeeze between some riders to get there. But I knew I could do it.

My buddy has never ridden with me before. All he knows is I’m very slow on hills. If I was him I would be nervous about finessing positions in this bunch with me. The whole group was riding very tight together and very fast. If I was nervous with the close quarters and panicked or just executed one move poorly we would crash and take a ton of other bikers down with us. Injuries, damaged bikes, causing an early end to the ride for some of the riders were all possibilities that, if I were him, I wouldn’t want to risk. But he must have had faith in me.

“There to the right,” he said.

“Got it,” I said and started leaning.

I had to lean out first and he followed with me as if we were physically connected. Actually, we were. He still had a death grip on my jersey.

We went right, smooth as glass and took that spot and so it continued. We weaved in between riders left and right to keep our pace. It was like a bike ballet. Smooth, choreographed, totally synchronized. I could do this forever!

Then loomed a hill. And it was steep, and longer than I wanted.

My buddy dropped his grip from my jersey.

“Get ready to climb,” he tells me.

‘Sh*t’, I think.

“I’ll tell you when to shift down. Not yet.”

I stayed in my big chain ring until he gave my orders.

“Down on your right.” He orders. I shift down on my front derailleur.

“One more.”

I shift into my smallest chain ring.

“Down on your left.”

I shift down in the back.

“One more. Don’t get in your granny because we’re going to stand.”

‘Sh*t again,’ I think. I rarely practice standing climbs……..because they are really hard.

“Get ready,” he says. We’re just past the half way point of the hill. I can do seated climbs forever. I just can’t climb fast. That’s why I should practice standing climbs. On these steep climbs they are much better to get you to the top faster.

“Ok. Stand!” and he stands up and climbs like a pro. I stand and I’m doing ok. For a few seconds. My legs are burning and I’m fatiguing. But he is looking over his shoulder at me every few seconds and I don’t want him to catch me not following orders when he is dragging my a** through this stage when he would probably rather be riding up front with Robert and Grischna (the Rabobank pro riders).

He looks back and he says, “You’re too low. Click up a gear.”

Thank God! That means I can sit for two seconds. That’s how long it takes to shift gears and usually you don’t shift while standing. At least I don’t. I sit, shift, and stand right back up. My buddy looks back up the hill. I do my best to keep standing but it is so hard! I wait until my buddy looks back one more time. Then as soon as he looks back up hill I sit for a blissful three seconds then I jump back up into standing position. Just as he looks back at me. I hope he didn’t see me sitting.

We make it to the top and he barks: “Big chain ring.”

I shift back up into my big chain ring and we start on the down hill side. He puts his hand on my back again, but without the death grip on my jersey. We’re trying to work the momentum as best we can again. He starts guiding me with my shifting.

“Up on your left.”

“One more. That’s good.”

“Here comes a small hill. Get ready to shift when I tell you.”

We continued this way for the next several miles. I learned so much from him about shifting which is my biggest weakness with biking. And though we were going much faster than I did in the first stage thanks to him, we were still way behind the others. My friend Karen was behind us and she had an assistant too. At least we weren’t totally alone.

“Ok,” he says, “Looks like there a patch of gravel up ahead.”

Yep, I saw it. The asphalt stopped and there was gravely dirt. Nice and bumpy. I couldn’t see where it ended but surely they wouldn’t take us on a dirt road. The average road rider does not like dirt. Unfortunately, I like off road riding and sometimes I treat my road bike like a mountain bike. I really shouldn’t do that. It’s really bad for your bike. But hey, this girl just wants to have fun.

He says, “Pick your line, then pedal hard until you pick up the asphalt again.”

“Pick a line” is a mountain biking term. So I’m guessing my buddy mountain bikes too. I laughed to myself because he didn’t have to explain how to negotiate the dirt to me. I know how to ride that. But no way in h#ll am I going to say that. He doesn’t know me; he can only assume my abilities are at the lowest level. Besides, did I mention he is dragging my a** through here? I just smiled, picked my line and pedaled hard.

The asphalt never showed up. I’m looking for it but there is no trail. We went off trail. I hear my buddy yell, “Right! Right! Go right.”

I was just passing a turn off on my right side that would take me back to where we lost the trail. I almost missed it. But I cranked my handle bars hard right and pedaled as hard as I could so I could get a good lean into the turn. I was able to barely make the turn and I ended up back on the trail next to my buddy. (I still don’t know what his name was.)

“Sorry about that. I didn’t see the trail took off to the left.”

“No problem,” I said. “I didn’t see it either. I like to mountain bike too. So I don’t mind a little dirt.” Secretly I hoped I impressed him with my bike handling skills. 

We were back on the trail and the rest of the hills were about the same. There was a super fun downhill piece. It was very steep and had a few 180 switch backs! Just what I LOVE! Problem was there were lots of pedestrians including dogs and baby strollers. I would not be able to take this as fast as I wanted. I wanted to get down without incident or scaring any body. Dogs will sometimes startle if you come at them down hill at high speed which is not good. And parents with kids do not think it’s funny when you pass them at high speed merely inches from their toddlers. Even though you know you are totally in control of your momentum. For the most part anyway.

My buddy took off on his own. I think he knew by now I was good on the down hill and it’s much safer if we aren’t stacked on the way down. So off he went and I went after him. I did go as fast as I could, given the circumstances. I knew he’d look back for me once he reached the bottom and I wanted to be right on his back tire when he did. Wouldn’t that surprise him! Besides, I performed best on the downhill so it was my best chance to ‘redeem’ myself after such poor performance on the up hills.

When he got to the bottom he looked back and I was farther back than I hoped to be but I still think he was surprised at how close I was.  And I did have fun on the downhill even though I couldn’t go all out.

There was one more interesting happening on this stage. At one point another hill loomed before us. It was steep. Suddenly the guy who had been riding behind us with my friend Karen showed up on my right side. I thought he came up to talk to his friend who was riding on my left. Nope. He came to help his friend push me up the hill.

At the bottom of the hill the new guy put his hand on my back. My biking buddy already has his on my back. So the three of FLEW up that hill. It was incredible how fast you can go when you have that much help!

I had my gears set so I could work as hard as I could and then the two guys picked up the slack. I have never climbed so fast! My buddy was probably thrilled to see his buddy because he had to be getting tired by now.

So they got me to the top and I started thinking seriously about dropping out. I have been riding for years and I have never dropped out of a ride or had to be SAGged back in. But this is ridiculous. Even with all the help I couldn’t even see the main group any more. They’d be waiting at the end of this stage for us. I was going to tell my friend Karen I wasn’t going to finish the last two stages.

At the end of the stage my friend Charles came by, “Hey Jill, how you doing?”

“I’m having the best ride of my life. But I don’t think I’m going to finish the next two stages. I am needing way too much help and I still can’t keep up. I need to take myself out.”

Charles nodded but said, “You know, this stage is only three miles. It’s pretty flat and it’s bike path all the way to the wharf. The end of the stage is only a mile away from the hotel. Why don’t you do this one and then you’ll be right there by the hotel?”

That sounded good. But he had lied to me before about stage two. But I remembered stage three was only three miles and I could suffer through three miles of anything. Then I could ride myself to the hotel. There were showers and a lunch waiting for all the riders. I liked the idea of being the first one in the shower and being able to take my time.

“Ok, Charles. That sounds good.”

Riding With the Pros Part 4 – Hill Hell

So there I was pushing hard up the hill finding a little comfort in the knowledge that there were a few riders behind me. And trying not to think about the fact that they are probably going to be passing me soon leaving me in the very back, drifting further and further behind.

I see a guy break out of the front pack and head back down the hill. Is he coming to get me? He’s looking right at me. Oh hell, he’s coming to get me. I am pumping as hard as I can. I’m going to be embarrassed that I can’t pull more juice out of my legs right now. I’ll just do the best that I can.

I watched the guy sling down the hill toward me and as he got closer I realized, “OMG! That’s Hennie Kuiper! Hennie Kuiper is coming to get me.”

“Oh crap.”

For those of you who don’t know who Hennie Kuiper is I know you don’t cycle. He was racing in the Tour De France 12 times in the 70s. He is rated in the top 50 riders of all time and has coached many pro-cyclists including Lance Armstrong. And he’s coming after me.

I had met Hennie a couple years prior when I was working on the Tour of California for my bank. Super nice guy. I spent about four days with him and the rest of the Rabobank marketing team traveling with the tour. I really enjoyed him. However, he has a very serious face. If you didn’t know him, you may look at him and think “There’s a ball buster!” And I bet when he’s cycling he really is. He has an intimidating look and he was coming for me.

“You have to get up there with the others yeah?” He says to me as he pulled along side.

“Yeah, I’m trying.” I pushed out between gasps of air.

Hennie puts his hand on my back and starts pushing me up the hill! How does he do that? I am struggling to pull my own a** up this hill. He’s pulling himself up and push me too! Geez.

I’m pushing as hard as I can to catch up to the group and then I feel Hennie relax his grip and I start to “slide back” a little. But he keeps his hand on my back. Is his arm tired? Is that why he relaxed? No! He suddenly gives me a hard push and I catapult up the hill!!!! Then he rides ride up next to me again and does it again! And again! And again!

He is essentially ‘tossing’ me up the hill to catch up with the others!!! I felt like one of those people who pay a ton a money to have a professional Sherpa drag them up Everest. Talk about cheating! But I am so in over my head!

So finally he had catapulted me enough times to get me back to the group. He points to the back tire of the cyclist in front of me.

“Stay up with him. He’ll help you up the hill, yeah?”

“Yeah.” I understood he wanted me to draft the rider in front of me. But the problem was to draft a rider you have to be able to keep up with the rider. I could not keep up with the rider. I kept sliding back and getting out of drafting range.

Hennie kept pushing me back up in drafting range. I worked my hardest to stay drafting but I just couldn’t do it without help. Finally I see we are going to turn a corner. I was hoping the road would turn flat again.

No luck. We kept climbing.

When we turned the corner I saw my friend Karen right in front of us. Hennie tells me to follow her. I can keep up with Karen. Phew! So Hennie rode with Karen and I. He no longer had to push me. But he stayed with us to the end of the stage.

He was so kind, giving us tips and encouragement. I couldn’t believe I was being coached by Hennie Kuiper!

The road flattened and the pace settled into a speed I could manage. I started to feel better and my mind started to wander. I started thinking about what a nice perk this opportunity was for riding on the employee team! I was one of the core team members riding religiously every season. Riding with Hennie made the efforts of consistent practice rides several nights a week (after a hard day’s work when you feel like you’d rather go home and have a beer) worth it. During the season I rode loyally regardless of how tired I was. I’d train on hills, ride in good and bad weather push myself until I had nothing left. Maybe I can’t keep up with the pros. But I was stronger than the average couch potato and definitely not one of those ‘weekend riders’ who called themselves cyclists but only got out on a Saturday. No, “I’m a REAL rider”, I said to myself .

Hennie broke into my thoughts. He was asking a question about my riding habits: “So you ride on the weekends, yeah?”

Sptiiiissss…………… (That’s the sound of my ego deflating).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Riding With the Pros Part 3 – OMG!

So Karen and I waited at the staging area and watched the riders arrive. We were told that the bank needed a couple riders from the employee team to ride with the customers and make sure they were ok. We figured we were here for the casual riders who even though they’re only “Weekend riders” didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to ride with the Rabobank professional riders. We had yet to see one of these riders.

Everyone was in top shape (even though it was the beginning of February and there was no light past 5pm). When are these guys riding enough to be so …..fit? Their bikes were high end and legs shaved that’s how serious these guys were about biking. I mean I had the hairiest legs out there of anyone! And I’m a girl!

Speaking of which. There were no other females than Karen and I. Except two others and one was a nurse that was hired to ride in case of emergency. What the h*ll!

Coach Bill arrived and after introducing myself, I immediately shared my concern with the un-marked route. Bill’s been coaching biking for the Team In Training for several years he’s a veteran. And as luck would have it the Salinas/Monterey area was an old stomping ground of his.

“Don’t worry. I know how to get to Monterey from here. We’ll be fine.”

So we all assembled, had pictures taken and we were off.

We set off through Salinas neighborhoods on our way out of town. It was great! We had 50 riders in all and most of us were in the bright orange Rabobank cycling jerseys. We must have looked serious because as we rode by, people out in their yards waved and cheered us on. Cars would honk and passengers would hang out the windows and cheer us as they passed. It was fun!

We were going at a good clip and I was able to keep up. But I knew I was fresh and we were on the flats. I do pretty well on the flats. But I knew I couldn’t keep this pace up for long. I knew I should slow down. But I was having fun.

We got out of town and onto a piece of highway that rolled past farm fields. Much like the roads I’m used to in Santa Maria. Then we hit a head wind much like I’m used to.

In Santa Maria it seems like the wind blows from all directions at the same time. When we are out riding into a head wind we can’t say, “Don’t worry, we’ve got a turn coming up soon.” Because when you make the turn, you’re going into another head wind. Not sure how that works. But that’s just the way it is in SM.

So this was not a problem. The problem came when we hit our first hill.

It was a decent hill. Not particularly long or particularly steep. Just pretty long and pretty steep. But it was definitely not the worse hill I’ve had to climb. But I was instantly dropped.

I suddenly was watching every other rider sail up the hill as if they had all turned on their rocket thrusters at the same time. They were quickly becoming a dense group of small specks in the distance.

My bike club in Santa Maria has “No Drop” rides. This means that weaker riders are not “dropped” or left behind. But at least one or two riders stay back with the slower rider and the rest of the group will “stop and gather” at pre-determined points on the route. So everyone re-groups along the way.

Here, “No Drop” means you will not drop off the back of the group. You will stay with the group.

Malcolm X style –

By any means necessary.

Riding with the Pros Part 2 - Where are the Casual Riders??

Karen and I carpooled to Salinas the night before the ride. We were the first of the riders to arrive at the start.

Karen and I were putting our bikes together and going through our other preparations. Karen was keeping her eye open for her biking coach who was going to meet us. I was keeping my eye open for my friend Charles. He’s a great guy and a super rider who works out of one of our Salinas offices. He works each year on the Tour of California with the pro-team and I was sure he had been involved coordinating this ride.

Sure enough, it didn’t take long before I saw his car pull in the parking lot. He came right up along Karen and me and rolled down his window.

“Hey, Jill.”

“Hey Charles.” I could see he had Robert Gesink and Grischa Niermann in his car.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Charles said jerking a thumb toward the two pros, “I picked up a couple guys. They want to ride with us.”

“That’s cool. But can they ride?”

Thankfully they have a sense of humor and chuckled at the jab.

“We’ll see you at the start.” Charles said and went to park the car.

Karen and I took our bikes up to the staging area. I asked one of the coordinators if the route was marked.

“No, the city wouldn’t let us mark the street.”

I know they didn’t have route maps. There were 4 separate stages totaling 46 miles in all. No problem. I could ride 46 miles even though I hadn’t started my biking season yet and had only 2 weeks to prepare for this ride. I knew I could clear 46 miles. The problem was I couldn’t cover them fast.

“I noticed in the invitation that there are start times for each stage.”

“Yes.”

“I looked at the times for each stage and they are very fast.”

“Well, Charles did the routes and he worked out the timing. They shouldn’t be too bad.”

He knows I’m slow. He must have routed stages for the advanced riders. But surely they had a plan in place for the slow riders??

“What happens if we can’t cover the stage in the time allotted?”

“Well, you can drop out at the end of any stage. There will be a car to take you back.”

“You don’t understand. I can ride for days. I can ride for 46 miles no problem. I just can’t ride as fast as you have the stages.”

She just looked at me. I looked at Karen. I saw the same fear on her face as I felt. What are we going to do with the slow casual riders? We are going to lose the group and without a marked route or a route map, how are we going to get them from stage to stage?

We wouldn’t need to. There would be no casual riders.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Riding With the Pros Part 1 - Want to Ride?

It started with an e-mail from a lady in our Marketing department. The Tour of California had changed its routes this year and there would be no stage going through the Salinas/Monterey area. There’s a large cycling community in that area and Rabobank has many customers who were very disappointed about the route change. So the bank decided to sponsor a ride for these customers. So what? The pro cyclists are not coming through the area on their ride, no VIP tents, and no CCD live broadcast of the riders to watch as they approach your location. No excess of free drinks and gourmet food to over indulge on. One weekend ride sponsored by the bank is not going to make anyone forget about the huge party that they would be missing this year.

So the bank didn’t sponsor just any ride. They sponsored a ride with Rabobank pro-cyclists Robert Gesink and Grischa Niermann. AND……Hennie Kuiper! “Are you kidding me?” I thought as I read the e-mail. Cyclists will sell their mothers’ bikes to ride with these guys!

The e-mail went on to say since I was on the Rabobank employee bike team she was hoping I could get a few of the employees to ride the ride and keep an eye on the customers to make sure they didn’t get in trouble. She had 3 spots to fill and did I think the employees would be willing to spend a Sunday in Monterey riding?

There were some caveats. The bank wouldn’t pay for the employees’ travel or hotel costs. The route was also a linear route not a loop. So you had to get your own self and bike from the finish line back to the start with no shuttle. Ugh. To me it sounded like too much logistics to work out.

Most of us at the bank have been swamped with extra work for several months as the bank is very conservative and is doing everything to lower expenses and not lay off any employees like so many other businesses have had to lately. Which means instead of hiring more people, we have to get the job done with the current number of employees, even though the workload keeps increasing and employees retire or move away (like one of my employees is doing).

So I thought, I am so busy with my job that I don’t feel like (on top of everything else I have to do) working out all the logistics, spending money on hotels and spending a precious weekend ‘working’. I was sure she’d get more than 3 volunteers anyway.

So I sent out the e-mail to the other members of the bike team and waited for the influx of responses. She got two. She was short one person. The two people she did get were from my area. One was asking to carpool and share a hotel room and the other said his family was coming up with him and would shuttle our gear to from start to finish and back. Logistics covered. So I decided to ride.