Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Hill with a Name...Marshall Wall

Thursday was a typical gym day.  I debated taking the day off since I had a big ride planned for Friday but in the end I decided I'd rather take Saturday off as planned.  So I did 25 minutes on the upright bike, followed by back/biceps/core.  For the first time I was able to do a full set of bicep curl "sevens" with a 30 pound barbell.  I love getting stronger and having very tangible evidence of my progress.  Strength training is rewarding that way.  I did my stretching and foam rolled my calves and IT band.  I really focused on my calves because I had cramps again that morning.  I hadn't had any in a while.  I'm back to wearing the compression sleeves as much as possible.

Friday was the big ride.  The hill I'd chosen as my first "big" hill is just outside of town.  I've ridden down it many times but I've always done a loop ride that doesn't involve riding back over it.  When hills are really big they usually have a name in the cycling community.  This one doesn't quite rise to that level, but it's still a good little climb and for me - on this day anyway - it's The Hill, so that's what I'll call it.  It was a beautiful day for cycling, warm but not hot, a little cloud cover and no wind to speak of.  I felt excited to be going on a ride with Miguel.  We got underway and before long we were at the top of The Hill so we stopped for a quick picture.

You can only see about 1/3 of the hill in this picture
As we rode down I tried to push out of my mind how long and steep it felt going down.  After descending The Hill we rode a bit longer and when we'd been riding for about 20 minutes I figured I was warmed up enough to tackle it so we turned around.  As we approached Miguel gave me a pep talk:

Him: This is going to be a piece of cake.
Me:  I don't know about a piece of cake.
Him:  You can do it, no problem.  Just don't look up at the hill, you got this.
Me:  Got it.

I buckled down and started pedaling up the roughly 1.5 mile long hill.  I am happy to report it was totally manageable.  It was hard, I was definitely working, but my heart rate never even went into the 160s.  I was focusing on pulling my pedals up and my right hamstring tightened up a bit, which made me nervous. I started focusing more on using my quads to push and my hamstring was fine.  My speed stayed around 4.6mph most of the time.

Almost there!  That speck on the road is me.
And then, boom, I was at the top!  I really couldn't believe it.  I had marveled at that hill so many times in the car and thought, "I could never ride up that thing."  Never say never.  I was so damn pleased with myself.  Miguel said he had no doubt I'd make it.  Rough stats:  309 feet elevation gain over 1.5 miles.

We didn't have a plan for our route after that so we headed north to see where the road would take us.  We turned down Hicks Valley Road and then made a right on Wilson Hill Rd.  Any road with the word "hill" in it sounds ominous to this cyclist.  But I was feeling confident after my hill success and decided to just see what Wilson Hill Road had to offer.  And it did not disappoint.  I had to work a bit harder on this one, my speed got as low as 4mph, though my heart rate never hit the 160s.  It was much shorter than The Hill, only .5 miles, but definitely steeper.  I even stood up to pedal for a short time just to give my legs a change of pace.  I made it to the top and was again quite pleased.  Afterward Miguel told me he wasn't sure I'd make it. 

We turned around and rode back down and I have to tell you, I was scared.  I had to ride my brakes a lot and my whole body was tensed up.  Not fun.  Back toward Hicks Valley Road and then we made a right on Marshall Petaluma Road.  I'd heard of "Marshall Wall" many times but had never seen it.  I was pretty sure that if we continued down this road long enough we'd hit it.  Marshall Wall is a hill big enough to have a name.  And I wanted it to face it.  I had no intention of attempting it when I started this day, I really thought it was still far off in my future.  But riding up those previous two hills left me feeling at least willing to try.  I figured the worst that could happen is I'd have to turn around.  We rode for what seemed like forever down beautiful, sometimes tree-lined, country roads.  The weather was so perfect it was like the day was custom made for my big ride.

And then, after about 6 miles on this road we came upon what I figured must be Marshall Wall.  It just rose up in front of me.  It's a somewhat curvy road so we couldn't see the top.  Miguel was a bit ahead of me and yelled out asking what I want to do.  We'd been riding for almost 2 hours at this point and I'm sure he was thinking I didn't want to ride up another hill.  "Let's keep going".  He pedaled on forward and I followed.  This time I hovered close to 4mph but even dipped down to 3mph.  But I never felt like I might need to stop.  I reached what I thought was the top and called to Miguel, who was a bit ahead of me, "Is this it?"  "No", he yelled back, "about halfway."  Oh boy.  But I was determined.  That morning I'd asked my Facebook peeps to wish me luck and Christal (aka CPAgrrrl) wrote, "You don't NEED luck - you have determination", and boy was she right.  I didn't care that we were only halfway, I was focused on getting to the top.  And get to the top I did.  Rough stats:  427 feet over 2.14 miles.  Miguel snapped a picture of the view from up there.

Looking down toward what must be Tomales Bay.
I felt like I'd ridden to the top of the world.  We didn't know where the road goes, presumably to the town of Marshall but we didn't have a map and weren't sure how we'd get back to the car from there so we decided to turn around.  Riding down Marshall Wall was no fun.  Again with the brakes, my body tight and trying to push thoughts of a runaway bicycle out of my mind.  I actually like these big climbs but I'm going to have to figure something out for the downhill part, I hate it!

So we had about 10 miles to get back to the car.  My legs were feeling fine at first but started hurting when we had about 30 minutes to go.  My energy level wasn't spectacular, but it was ok.  I'd had 3 AccelGels and decided to have one more just to give me some pep for this last little bit and maybe help with recovery.   Here's the elevation profile of our ride:

Full stats and map here

I was so happy to see the car as we came around the last corner.  I was wiped out!  And I think I'm going to do a Half-Ironman?  Guess that's what training is for. At least today I learned I don't have to be afraid of hills anymore.  Not that some hills aren't still outside my reach, like that curvy one up to Bolinas Ridge, but at least now I'm too scared to at least try.  I did some nice stretching before we took off for a much needed meal.  I had been thinking about my eggs and toast on almost every hill.  

mushroom/onion/spinach/cheese/avocado omelet, hash browns, toast, coffee.

The nice thing about a meal after a big time out on the road is I really don't worry about calories.  I just get what I want.  I did ask for butter on the side though, sometimes it seems the toast is swimming in it.  I wasn't able to finish the omelet but I took it home for later (as in, today).

Miguel and I had a date night scheduled for the evening so things were hectic at home as we tried to keep things moving toward bedtime for the kids.  Good thing I had that coffee.    We went out for Italian food.  I had wine and we shared fried calamari for an appetizer.  I had risotto for dinner and we shared bread pudding for desert.   We were very tempted to go home and sleep but we don't go out very often so we bucked up and went...bowling.  We were both so full from our dinner and wanted to move, but just a little bit.

I wish I could say I slept well last night but Marek is coming down with a cold and he woke us up a lot.  Ugh.  Today (Saturday), the big item on the agenda was putting together a playset for the kids.  It is all wood and there were a bunch of parts.  A piece of wood fell and hit me near my eye.  But I'm fine and we got it put together before dinner.  And boy am I tired now!  Anyway, at least today is still Saturday and I have one more day to rest.

Oh, one more thing.  I had a consultation with a plastic surgeon this past week.  I was curious to hear what might be done about some of the loose skin I have on my arms and stomach.  I also asked about a breast lift.  I'm not anywhere near actually having surgery but I was curious about options .  I'm also not done losing weight so I don't know what my body will look like in the end.  The good news is, I am actually very lucky when it comes to the skin issue.  The surgeon said my arms are not bad enough to need surgery and that I just need to live with the small amount of skin that has lost its elasticity.  As far as my stomach, I do have loose skin but nothing that folds over, it's just sort of wrinkly.  A breast lift is not in my future, I have a feeling I'll be just as unhappy with the scars and changes to my body as I am with my current lack of, shall we say, perkiness.  So, if I ever do anything it will probably be a tummy tuck.  But I'll need to feel like I've done everything possible with diet and exercise before I even consider that option.  And I'm far from there.  And then there's the small issue of the money.  It's $9,000 for a tummy tuck.  There are a lot of other things I can spend $9,000 on.  A lot.

So my eating has been very lazy today.  And so is my tracking.  I just wiped out all my weekly extras and almost all the APs I earned on Friday and I'm calling it a wash.  I just don't want to be bothered.   I'll close with a post-ride picture from yesterday.

HIlls?  No problem!


  1. Love this post! I've just decided that I want to complete a triathlon! This post has totally inspired me to get on my bike. Now, I just need to buy a bike. :)

  2. Go for it Kari! They are so much fun. The book I read that got me started was Slow, Fat, Triathlete. And yes, you will need a bike :) Buy, borrow or rent.

  3. I loved this post so much it brought tears to my eyes, Michelle. For so many reasons. Because you've once again made your body into an amazingly strong vehicle to do the things you want. Because you're not afraid to try things you might not accomplish-this time, because your are so tetchy you can share the details with all of us. Because you and Miguel are continuing to create such a dynamic, loving relationship and family. And lastly, because you look so absolutely fabulous; thin, healthy, and happy. That was techy

  4. Got too wordy I guess. It wouldn't let me correct.. Techie, not tetchy..sheesh..way to ruin a supportive

  5. awesome work on the bike ride - just keep your head down and you'll get there! And so neat you could have a date with Miguel. Love the half iron idea, great goal if you can carve the time out (though it's really not much more than your are doing just cut out a bunch of strength and replace it with cardio!) You look totally amazing too btw. Not sure what to say about loose skin, a friend of mine has the same issue after getting involved with Ironman triathlons a decade ago...


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