The good news is I have found the wizard.
The bad news is that I have pronounced my legs dead.
You could say things in San Diego have gone very well.
My goal in coming to San Diego was to find the wizard. Actually not just find him but stuff him in my suitcase or at the very least bring bits and pieces of his robe back home.
My quest started on Friday with a canyon run. The wizard arrived early in the form of my husband who warmed up at a pace I will just call "snappy". Going into the wind, over the dirt trail chunky with rocks, banks, and steep hills. And, just for fun - sand. Which by the way is the ideal substance to start 6 x 1/2 mile cruise intervals on the way back. But I was determined not only to keep up with the wizard but even pass him. It required insanely fast leg turnover and discomfort I have not felt for quite some time. People often say to me that running doesn't feel good or feels hard - yes, that's because it's running. Running is hard. To run fast is hard. It hurts. It hurts in your feet, your chest, and your head. It hurts to run hard and fast.
11.25 miles and finally we were done. So we headed over to the hotel to find Sherpa Thomas by the pool with a hobo stick, a helmet and his bicycle. He was ready to ride. So we did an hour easy along the coast watching the ocean and just enjoying the ride.
Because on Saturday our ride would mean serious work. It was time to ride, it was time to climb. We warmed up along the coast and then headed out on La Costa towards Rancho Santa Fe. Early on I committed to not only finding but chasing the wizard. Because you cannot wait for him to come to you. People have said to me they cannot find the wizard - they have not seen him yet. But he is there. He lurks around every hard workout. But he is sneaky and will do everything he can to hide. If you truly want to find him you go looking. You climb hills seated in the big ring pushing out gobs of power just to make it to the top first to see if you can get a piece of that damn wizard's robe before any one else. I was warned early by Sherpa Thomas that I best climb in my smaller gear. Not today Thomas. No, I can climb seated and spin up "hills" in my basement all winter long. Today I'm taking the risk. I'm going to mash my gears and stomp those hills and if I have to carry my bike back to Del Mar at least I will walk knowing that I tried.
We finally enter the Elfin Forest. Chris takes the lead and decides we will descend into the forest fast. I am holding on to his rear wheel as best I can while steering my bike through the twists and turns. So fast that one of my bottles decides to leap to safety at 27 mph. I turn back to rescue the bottle and decide a new way to sneak rest during a hard ride is to say BOTTLE DOWN. No questions how it got down you just go back, stop, and get it.
The Elfin Forest is truly a beautiful place. There is a small stream running through the canyon and the sunlight falls dappled from the fragrant trees. We exit the forest and realize a street is closed on the rest of our route and so we decide to return through the forest in reverse.
Chris however takes that as his cue to drop the hammer. I suppose he is scared of dwarves, gumdrops, and other things you might find in the Elfin Forest and wanted to get the hell out of there fast. At that moment I realized that sometimes the wizard looks like the rear of my husband spinning at speeds over 25 mph over twists and turns, hills and flats. I tell myself I will do whatever it takes to hang on. I will put myself out there. I am pulling Sherpa Thomas through the forest, my legs are buzzing with pain, my eyes are ready to pop out of my head, and the wheels spin frenetically to stay with Chris. Occasionally we fall off and it takes massive amounts of pony power from my legs to get back on. But I always bridge that gap. Because falling off is not a choice - for long. Not today. Today I take risks, big risks and I may leave my legs on this ride in this forest but that's what I came here for.
The forest is over quicker than it feels and immediately upon exiting a giant hill greets us. I announce to Sherpa Thomas that my wheels have officially come off. I put it in the small ring and spin up the hill. We head back towards the coast and Chris does not let up. Thomas and I do our best to chase and at times we see nothing but the small fading figure of my husband pedaling far away. We finally reach the coast and ride easy back to Del Mar.
But it wasn't over yet. Oh no. Someone wants to climb Torrey Pines. Not a particularly hard climb but it's about 8 - 10 minutes of steady grind. And so we climb. Thomas and I get a head start which doesn't amount of much as Chris comes spinning by us like this hill is just a small bump along his way. We reach the top, descend and climb again. This time near the top I see a woman ahead. She is the wizard now. She has blue shorts and blond hair and I decide she will be mine. I stand and push, force the pedals to turn and come up to her side. And wouldn't you know the wizard picked the pace up. Dammit! She is matching my pace stroke for stroke with the pedals and I am getting close to explode. And rather than just take it over the edge I sit back down defeated.
I am so aggravated with myself for being beat by the wizard that I descend again and this time force myself to climb it seated - all the way. Which means Sherpa Thomas passes me. And it takes me two minutes longer to climb. But I do it. And then Thomas rubs it in my sunburned face, "I beat you on the third time up." Thanks.
We ride to La Jolla Shores and decide at the 4 hour mark that surely it would be a great idea to descend into La Jolla and climb back out before retuning to Del Mar. We descend and climbing back up I wonder to myself whose idea this was. I make another turn climbing more and I think to myself maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.
Finally we are done. 4.5 hours and the ride is done. We meet Cat for some swimming. Cat is one of my athletes and she is as snappy and witty as she comes across in her e-mail. Somehow I talked her, Thomas, and Chris into doing 16 x 25 IM order. Which meant she and Thomas had to first try doing the strokes in IM. And guess what. They liked it. They did it very well! Two more butterfly converts and one happy e.l.f.
Sunday started off sore. I won't lie about that. But I didn't come here to feel good about myself. Or leave without sore. We watched Meredith run the Carlsbad half marathon (2:02! A PR!). Also saw Joanna Zeiger and Michellie Jones running the race. And Jeff. Good job to Jeff for holding his pace!
Afterwards we started our training day with a 30 minute run up the coast. Warmed up 15 minutes then decided I would take today's leap of faith - drop the pace. The wizard woke me up this morning saying today your legs will be tired you'll never be able to hold a strong pace. I showed him the best strong pace I had. Left the boys behind and said score one for the e.l.f.
Next we rode up to Camp Pendleton. It's windy, it's rolling. It reminds me of riding at home in the cornfield roads. The roads are nice for longer intervals as they are mostly flat with about 3 moderately steep but short climbs. We did 3 x 15 minute intervals. We all started together but then Chris just pulled away leaving Thomas and I. But that was ok. He stayed at my side during intervals pushing me to push harder. At the third interval I passed Thomas who was shouting something about finding Chris to "stop the madness" - I think it was safe to say his wheels had officially come off.
We rode back from Pendleton along the coast - it was an easy, beautiful ride. No traffic because everyone was inside watching the football game. All in all 3.25 hours; when we got back Meredith said "now you guys have a 30 minute run." Super.
The plan was to push the first mile HARD (fear when the coach puts it in all caps) and then finish up the rest moderate. We set out together and Chris set the pace at HARD. It was hard. As in sub 6:00/mile pace hard but I wasn't about to boo hoo about it. No, there was the wizard again running right in front of me and this time I am going to chase, chase hard and I will catch up. I chased. For one mile I pounded down the street until we reached the beach and ran more. 1 mile down now the rest to enjoy - sort of. It was low tide but running on sand is always a bit of a challenge. The pace was still fast but it felt good.
When we were done we were done. We wanted food. We wanted rest. Many pretzels were consumed. Even some corn chips. There was talk of tired legs. And watts. Heart rate. The talk of athletes who have spent a weekend chasing their own personal wizards. I believe Chris found his on the third time up a big climb. I have found mine in bits and pieces along the way. And Thomas, he's convinced he saw three Hershey's kisses alongside the road in the Elfin Forest. Along with a lollipop princess and man with a sword.
But to each his own. And tomorrow is another day. We will ride. And run. We will find the wizard one more time before stuffing him in the suitcase and heading back home.