Thursday, January 28, 2010

48 hours in San Diego

Forty-six and a half hours, to be precise. I had intended to escape to sunny San Diego for at least 60 hours, but in life and racing, things rarely go according to plan. My original plan was to head straight from the cadaver lab to the airport on Friday, but with California's weather being what it is . . . you know, those classic southern Californian squalls . . . my flight didn't manage to leave on Friday. And that meant that I had to set my alarm clock on Saturday for a gawdawful hour that is the reason I don't do 4:30 am masters practices at the Valley YMCA. Because it's just wrong.
Luckily, I made it to San Diego after a protracted layover in Denver that was a perfect opportunity to study for my anatomy exam on Tuesday. It was also the perfect opportunity to let my stomach settle, as it has apparently decided to start getting violently ill every time I fly. How convenient.

San Diego was just as it should be. Sunny. In fact, it was even better than it should be because the recent rain has made everything green and crisp. A tantalizing glimpse of springtime in January. Considering that I had so few hours to spend in California, I think I made good use of my time. I ate a taco and some sushi, I saw my first ever episode of The Secret Life of an American Teenager (which was awful, sorry Shelby), I won the Carlsbad Marathon, I had a Jamba Juice, I witnessed (but didn't get to play in) some wicked surf, I watched for whales at the Cabrillo monument, I experienced Avatar in 3D, I cooked a scrumptious pot of ribollita, and best of all, I got to hang out with Shelby, my -ator. Hehe.

So before I go on flattering Shelby too much, I should mention that the marathon was the real reason that I traveled all that way for a measly 46.5 hours. Though Shelby's living in the area may have contributed significantly to my having chosen that marathon in the first place . . .

It was a good choice! The weather was perfect. Cool and clear. It was especially cool at 6 am when the starting gun sounded. I was a little miffed to have to start running a marathon at an hour when I am rarely awake, but I'm proud of not having gone back to bed when my alarm went off at 4 am. That's not to say I didn't consider it. My preparation for the event was okay. Originally, I had big dreams, but life and some minor niggles intervened, so I just planned to go enjoy the day and take what it gave me.

The day gave me a lot to be happy with. First of all, it gave me a spectacular sunrise about 4 miles into the race. It was in that early morning light that I noticed how incredibly glassy the surf was. The waves were PERFECT and I couldn't understand why there weren't hoards of surfers out playing. After a short stint rolling along the coast, the marathon headed inland and uphill. In fact, miles 4-9 were all uphill, with the steepest portions being between miles 7-9. It was still early enough in the race that everything felt easy, but I think the subsequent 4 mile downhill took a toll on my quads that I didn't really feel until mile 24.

As a triathlete, my typical marathon m.o. (within the context of an Ironman) is to be ultra conservative, and I adhered to that for the first half of the race. I got dropped by the lead female at the start of the climb and I just let her go, figuring she was either a lot better than me or that I would catch up to her later. My Forerunner 310XT let me monitor my HR and pace and keep it perfectly sustainable. I got a little scared about halfway through the race, as I began to feel the stress of the downhill, but thankfully they were serving GU on course. A Vanilla GU always puts me right. By mile 14 I was ready to roll. At this point we were back along the coast, the sun was out, and the road was straight and rolling. I felt fantastic and could see the leader in the distance, so I decided to go get her. I kept reminding myself that there was still a long way to go, but my legs were feeling frisky and I obliged them. I caught the leader just before the 20 mile marker and felt pretty confident that the win was mine at that point. I had no reason to believe that I would bonk and I doubted that anyone else behind would start running sub-6 minute miles to catch me.
So I let myself relax and enjoy running. It wasn't hard to do, with the beautiful surf, the perfect weather, and the awesome crowds. At mile 24, the inevitable muscular fatigue settled in, but it wasn't insurmountable, just a tad uncomfortable. It didn't help that my GPS said that the race was 26.45 miles long, which probably accounts for my having taken the anti-tangent of every curve. Classic Cooper strategery. Truthfully, I wouldn't have complained if the race were 0.25 miles shorter!
And that was that. Winning is always more fun than not winning, but really, I was just happy to have fun and feel comfortable running 26.45 miles. And an off-season paycheck is ALWAYS welcome. I had a disastrous 1/2 marathon a few months ago, and I had really begun to doubt my health and fitness. While this marathon wasn't smoking fast, it gives me confidence that my off-season fitness is on track. And it was fun!
Shelby and I wasted no time having more fun afterwards - a Naked Cafe breakfast in the VIP tent, whale watching, surf watching (it turns out that there weren't many surfers out because the race had blocked road access. the ones who were out were getting some fantastic rides though!), sight seeing, singing WAY too loudly along with radio, cooking, and an entirely-too-brief get-together with Peven and Dre. In all of this commotion, there were approximately 3 photos taken. Yup. One of my more action-packed weekends in a while, and I took 3 pictures. So there wasn't a lot of editing or culling. Here you go.

Shelby getting gasoline. Riveting, I know.

Still at the gas station. Despite what this looks like, I am not giving the #1 sign with my freakishly long index finger. I was actually explaining to Shelby why your nose stops smelling farts after it starts smelling them. There really is a physiological explanation for this.

And this truck just begged to be photographed. Enough said.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Everything that happened when I had a camera

It's 2010 now, and that's a good thing. Practically speaking, it's really all just a continuum anyway and arbitrary human designations describe any given date. That is, of course, unless you subscribe to the theory of relativity in which timespace is not at all linear. But I digress. For my intents and purposes, a new year means a new triathlon season and I have every reason to be stoked about it all.

To begin with, I just like the sound of 2010. Twenty ten. Two thousand and ten. Two thousand and nine never really jived with me. I like this twenty ten thing much better. Secondly, I got to begin the new year with an outdoor ride, as the city of Spokane seems to have been spared the barrages of winter that crippled us for the past two years (and seem to be blanketing the rest of the country in cold and snow). Two thousand and nine presented what was for me the first unwhite Christmas in recent memory. Another good reason to be done with the blasted year. And now, a week and a half into this twentyten, I have an armchair pulled close to the fire, three adorable cats and a computer competing for prime lap space (mine), and really, life is good. Yet I can't help but wonder when this dog lover became a cat lady?

Of course, I can't complain about how 2009 panned out. I ended the season on a mildly disappointing note, with a sub-par performance at Kona tricking me into thinking that the whole season was a bust. In hindsight, however, I know that I made my typically slow, steady gains throughout the season, and I really made my season into what I wanted it to be. I raced in 3 Ironmans, 6 half Iron-distance races, and I additionally did a super-fun smattering of sprints, Olympics and Xterras. I raced in my favorite local events that I was sad to have missed in 2008, I experienced some new, top-quality events (Ironman Canada, Hulaman), I got married, I got hit by a car, and I got humbled by Madam Pele once again. Life is fun to learn.

After returning from Kona, Aaron and I decided to embark on what was meant to be the first of a year long series of honeymoons. With our vacation budget substantially reduced due to his bursitis episode (and that was with health insurance and an HSA), we decided to keep it on the continent for this go-round and when torn between Nova Scotia and Copper Canyon, Mexico, the hurricane forecast sent us North and East. To the homeland of Coach Dan. Our plan was to explore the Cape Breton Highlands and to then ferry over to Newfoundland to see what there was to see, but the distances proved vast, and we relied mostly on our own feet for exploration. So it turned into a week and a half of trail running/hiking/slogging. We covered about 15-25 miles each day, and though the pace was never fast, we experienced a lot . We especially experienced a lot of wet, as is the nature of trails in deciduous forests in late October, we learned. It sure was a pretty wet though.

Day 1: Still dry

Pretty birch trees in fall

A solitary blue heron

the first time we realized that wet feet were inevitable

. . . and cold . .

but it was worth it because it was beautiful

and occasionally there were bridges

and insanely cute sciurids

and dramatic light effects

along with short autumn days

our first taste of snow
some goofing off
trails that end in the perfect place
beautiful coastlines

waterfalls aplenty

moose blocking the trail

and my favorite wildlife find - an Eastern toad! Cool, eh?

After tooling around the Cape Breton Highlands we drove to Baxter State Park in Maine to climb Mt Kathadin, the highest point in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian trail. We considered just running up it like we had everything in Nova Scotia, but ultimately decided it would be better to pack lunches and warm clothes and that turned out to be the right decision. The peaks in the West are a lot higher, but East Coast trails are decidedly harder. They don't bother with switchbacks and instead take the most direct route to the summit. I had some similar experiences hiking in Vermont, but I have to say, it was even tougher than I remember. The mountain didn't look terribly intimidating, but there was a lot of ice to contend with on the trail, and it was STUPID cold at the top.

Then we got home and decided that a new kitten would be a good thing. We lost Atilla last year and Jeremy seemed to like her well enough, so a new feline friend was in order. Unfortunately, we got to the shelter and just couldn't decide which one to take, so we got two. Meet Floyd and Leroy.

Despite our wanting to find him a friend, Jeremy was relatively unimpressed with our new additions and spent a lot of time defending his territory.

But eventually the kittens' cuteness won Jeremy over because seriously, who wouldn't want to be friends with this?

I thought it was particularly cute when Leroy started hanging out in the ficus. That was until he started crapping in it. Crapping in plants is not cute.

Conversely, children and kittens are cute. Especially when the child is a dimpled one.

Otherwise, life continues in the Cooper-Scott house. I finally feel like I'm really back in the training groove and I've even been able to eek in some skate skiing. My favorite time to go is just before sunset. It's such a peaceful way to bid farewell to the day and the sunsets and shades of gray are so much more spectacular on the mountain. Of course, they're shades of gray that my camera does a miserable job of capturing. Just trust me, it's amazing.
This sunset was so much more spectacular in real life.

The gloaming. My favorite time to ski.

Soon, I'll actually give triathlon related updates, including some exciting sponsor information, but tonight I need to get back to my anatomy textbook. I'm a little bummed that school is preventing my participation in some pre-season training camps, but ultimately it's for the best. Human anatomy and physiology are SO COOL to learn about. We're studying the brain right now and every time I swim or ski, I'm astounded and thrilled at the brain's ability to process all of the incoming sensory information to coordinate and learn new movements. It's incredible and I'm SO lucky. Yay for brains!