17 April 2014

JHC Triathlon Camp 2014

Swimming outside, weeeeeeee!
My Tour de West Coast came to an end earlier this week, capped off with sitting on my bike for HOURS and getting stuck with a cactus in Sabino Canyon (sigh), all part of the fun at Jen Harrison's annual triathlon camp. This is my fourth year going to camp (2011, 2012, and 2013) and, as always, it was one of my favorite vacations. We had the condos for a week, from Tuesday to Tuesday, and I drove out from San Diego a few days before camp began so I could soak up all the warm Arizona sun, ride my bike, and hang out with my friends who were also arriving a few days early.

Pre-Camp. I had a long-ish ride on my schedule for Wednesday so I decided to ride out to Mt. Lemmon and go up it a few miles. I made the mistake of going mid-day (and let me tell you, riding Lemmon mid-day in the heat is a different experience than riding it first thing in the AM when the sun is low and it's still cool). I figured I'd go up to the mile 6 or 7 marker and then turn around to come back to the condo. Somehow I lost count of the mile markers as I climbed and when I arrived at the mile 8 marker, I was CONVINCED it should've been the mile 9 marker and someone was playing an April Fools joke on all Mt. Lemmon cyclists. To prove I was right, I climbed up to mile 9, fully expecting it to say 10, so imagine my disappointment when I realized I was wrong and nobody was playing an April Fools joke. So I promptly turned around and headed home to do my t-run where my legs felt like lead weights. The upside of my t-run? I did get to see Stacey and Julia fly by in their rented minivan (poor Stacey is on vacation and was still stuck with a minivan - bikes don't fit in Mustangs as easily) on their way to the condo, which gave me a good dose of "hurry up and finish your t-run so you can go hang out with some of your favorite people." Thursday morning was an easy ride with Julia, Stacey and Michaela along the bike path and an easy swim with Melissa when she arrived in town. I also dropped a paycheck or two at Whole Paycheck, buying enough strawberries and guacamole to almost break my shopping basket (true story). Can I tell you how much I loved the girls I stayed with? They brought me CANDY! Mini eggs, peanut butter eggs, SALTED NUT ROLLS. I LOVE YOU ALL.

Day 1: Getting Lapped on a 25 and Baking in Gates Pass. Normally we start camp by climbing Lemmon on Day 1, fresh legs and lots of motivation. This year we changed it up and did a swim and the Gates Pass ride on Day 1 instead. We got to the pool by 7ish and Jen gave us our lane assignments, somehow throwing me in the same lane as superswimmers Melissa and Stacey. Surely there was a mistake? Nope. Be prepared to be lapped on a 25 (and I assure you, when you swim with Melissa, this is a feasible possibility, defying the laws of physics). Dan and I hung on for dear life in that lane and I counted my 1650 time trial laps based on the number of times Stacey passed me (lots). I think we managed to put in 4000yds and, to be honest, it all flew by so quickly that it felt like little more than 2000. It was really, really good for me to swim with the fasties - it made me work HARD, even though I knew I had no chance in heck of actually staying on their feet. Post-swim, we went back to the condos and demolished a carton of eggs before hopping on our bikes at 10:30am and heading out to Gates Pass. We took the bike path over, mostly staying together and stopping once to refill waters at the bike shop on the path (brilliant idea, opening that shop). We got a little more strung out once we hit the roads a few miles from Gates Pass and I popped off the back of the Jerome-and-Dan train while we were riding on a rough pavement road. Once we made a turn onto a nicer road, I tried like heck to catch back up, eventually succeeding. The day was all about working hard. We climbed up to the top of Gates Pass, stopping only to refill our bottles at the sag, and then Julia and I bombed down the other side to do some McCain loops. This was my first year doing a super early-season Ironman (a month from today, eek!) so I knew I would have to put in extra time in the saddle and I was hoping to hit 100 miles on at least one of the rides. I squeezed in three McCain Loops, each one feeling a bit easier than the previous one, and they were a perfect mix of rolling hills and flats. I was drinking fluids like they were going out of style and chowing down on French Toast cakes (these would start to lose their appeal by Day 3) and Salted Nut Rolls (these NEVER lost their appeal). I refilled my bottles again at the top of Gates Pass before heading back out towards the bike path. Jen came whipping by me and I made it my mission to try to stick on her wheel until we got to the bike path. It's all about shameless drafting. We regrouped at the bike path store and headed back towards the condos. I ended up adding in an extra River Road loop so I ended up with 93 miles for the day and then a short 15 minute t-run. The only thing that got me through that t-run was some good old country music. We had dinner at the Abbey that night where I ate a salad that had peanut brittle on it. Perfection. I also had a chance to catch up with some of the other campers staying in the other condos, so that was super nice.

Dinner at The Abbey!
Day 2: Implosion on Mt. Lemmon and Pizza > Cookies (not kidding). Saturday was Mt. Lemmon Day. We were starting early and, since I needed the extra miles thanks to IMTX coming up, I rode to the mountain from the condos. I shamelessly drafted off of Jerome and we made it to Le Buzz, the coffeeshop near the base of Mt. Lemmon, in about 30 minutes. We assumed everyone else had already begun their ride so we continued to haul ass to Mt. Lemmon, trying to catch up. I swear to you I've never worked harder climbing that mountain. The first 6 miles weren't terrible, I was able to hold a conversation and around every bend, we both assumed that some of the other campers would come into view and we'd catch up. Then we got to Mile 7 and that's where things started to get steeper and I quit talking and pulled a Jens Voigt (shut up legs!) and retreated inside my head, only looking at the ground and the wheel in front of me, NOT at the hills and turns that awaited me, and telling myself to just keep pedaling and DON'T STOP. Normally when I ride Lemmon, I'm going at my own pace and not trying to stick on someone's wheel, as Jen and Jerome loop back and forth between campers, and I really only need to make a valiant effort for a mile or two before I breathe a sigh of relief that I'm being left to my own devices again and can drop back to a more manageable pace. Not this time, which I suppose is a good thing because what doesn't kill you does make you stronger. I finally cracked at mile 12, my legs refused to turn over any faster and Jerome's wheel pulled away and I was left, draftless and facing the wind until Windy Point at Mile 14.

View from the Bike: Windy Point.
We regrouped, I ate a ton of grapes and gummy bears at the sag, and then we continued up the mountain. Around mile 17 is where I completely imploded. Hot Mess Central. I definitely burned up a whole box of matches during those first few miles and was paying for it now. How in the heck I rode up Lemmon those first few years, taking pictures of every elevation sign (nerd alert) - I obviously wasn't working hard enough. This time around I was so focused on trying to keep up, I barely remembered to eat my French Toast Cakes at regular intervals. I was so relieved when Mile 21 came into view and I was rewarded with a few miles of downhill respite. I still forced myself to bike up to the Ski Lift (but NO further) before turning around and descending down to the Cookie Cabin. Did you know the Cookie Cabin's pizza is even more fantastic than the cookies? It is - I felt like a new person after inhaling my pepperoni pizza dripping in cheese and grease while tossing back a gigantic hot chocolate (it was chilly, chilly at the top!). We met up with everyone else as they arrived at the cabin, most people feeling chilly as well - and there seemed to be an equal ratio of pizza to cookies this year, a first. I was sort of dreading the descent because I figured it would be cold and I was SO OVER being cold, but it turned out not to be too bad. And even the climb out of Summerhaven was a blessing in disguise, warming you up for the descent. At the bottom of the mountain, Jen C. and I made a mini locomotive and zipped back to Le Buzz while I continued back to the Condos. I refilled my bottles, grabbed some more nutrition, and it took alot of willpower to get myself out the door again for an additional 19 miles so I would hit 101 for the day. I did a 30 minute t-run (again, thank goodness for Eric Paslay, Andy Grammer and Salt n' Pepa) and then laid on the condo floor for 45 minutes because I was too sweaty and disgusting to sit on the furniture, but too lazy to actually shower. Stacey took pity on me and fed me mini eggs (she is the best). Any training day that ends with you being fed mini eggs is a darn good day. My sister Steph came over for pizza and gelato, which is always one of my favorite parts of visiting Tucson.

Day 3: Sabino Canyon Cacti run-in and Mt. Lemmon Time Trials that Ended with a Slurpee. We did Sabino Canyon, a trail run where I have miraculously not run into any cacti - that all ended Sunday. Julia and I ran to the Canyon from the Condos to get in a few extra miles, it was so nice to run with her! Then the group ran Phoneline Trail, which is a gorgeous and challenging trail with alot of technical parts and ALOT of up and ups. I usually start this run WAY too fast and I'm making dying animal noises by Mile 1, so I was determined to pace myself better. I never looked at my watch while on the trail (because I would probably trip and fall) and just ran on feel. Once the trail leveled out and the climbing wasn't so bad, I felt like I was in it, just completely thrilled to be trail running and while things didn't feel effortless, my legs were going with the flow. I didn't trip or fall (oddly enough, I only seem to fall on stable ground, like sidewalks right next to red lights with lots of stopped traffic/witnesses), but somewhere in the first mile my left foot slipped off the trail and got nailed by a cactus. Le sigh. When I made it to the end of the trail, I busied myself with pulling out the needles. This one had alot of soft needles that broke off and stayed stuck just underneath my skin. Lovely. It has been almost a week and my ankle still itches and looks like about 10 kittens tried to feast on it. Everyone did an awesome job on the trail, there was a little blood spilled, but nothing some stitches (and a really expensive Lululemon tourniquet) couldn't fix - Bart was a trooper! I ran back to the condo for some extra miles before inhaling the best egg sandwich the world has ever seen (thanks Julia!).
Next up - Mt. Lemmon time trials. My crotch had tried to forget it had to sit on the bikeseat again for awhile, complete denial until 11am rolled around and I determined the bike was not going to move on its own accord (and one of those banana seats had not magically appeared). I rode from the condos and met up with everyone at Le Buzz and we all pedaled over to the base of Mt. Lemmon together where we started the 5 mile repeats. I am terrible about gauging my effort and really crossing that line and acutely suffering for time trials - I really need to learn from Julia and Dan who NAILED this workout. They both passed me like I was standing still and I'm sure they were in zone 8 while I was piddling my way along, unable (or unwilling) to go there and suffer and make it count. This is why they are such great athletes. It was really impressive. I found myself working harder (but not hard enough) on the second TT. But then I was cooked by the third repeat, fluids were running low and I briefly entertained the idea of cutting it short and turning around at Mile 3. Thankfully I stuck it out and I was so happy to make it to Mile 5 for a third time. I bargained with myself, promising that if I rode to Mile 5 I wouldn't make myself ride back to the condos, I would hitch a ride. By this point, I was out of water, my nutrition was completely unappealing, and I was toast. On the ride back to Le Buzz on the Catalina Highway, pictures of frozen drinks and waters were repeating themselves in my head. Jen and Jerome took pity on me and picked me and my bike up just as I arrived at Le Buzz and we made a beeline to a gas station, where I emerged victorious, clutching a water, a Fanta, a blue Slurpee and a double-caramel Magnum Bar. I consumed the vast majority of it all before we got back to the condos and felt like a new person. Never underestimate the power of ice cream.
After we all showered and cleaned up, we went to YOGA at Lululemon. I should do yoga more often because it felt AH-MAZING to stretch out like that. It was also humbling because I am NOT that flexible.

Yoga before Mexican Food YES!
We topped off Sunday with burritos, guacamole and chips at Blanco. I tell you, I thought about that burrito with every single pedal stroke during those time trials. Not an exaggeration. Dinner was also another great opportunity to chat with the others staying in the different condos and relax.

Day 4: Hilly Run and One Last Hang-On-For-Dear-Life Swim. The last day of camp dawned with a slightly later workout time (7am!) and a hilly run from the condos. Jen said she likes to time trial this route and break her PR every time she is out in Tucson. That was not going to be happening on Day 4 of camp, let me tell you. The first mile, even though it was downhill, felt ROUGH and my legs were feeling the volume of the 240ish bike miles the previous three days. Once I warmed up, I felt a bit better, even as we started going uphill. I miscalculated how many hills we had to climb, thinking we would get to the Craycroft intersection sooner than we did, but no matter. The run went by really quickly and before I knew it, we were back in the condos eating second breakfast. I had a 1:30pm flight out of Tucson and some time to kill in the morning post-run, so I decided to drop my luggage off at the airport before our last swim so I wouldn't be in such a mad dash post-swim. Good decision. I swam with Melissa, Stacey and Jen and the wheels completely fell off, but it was good to work hard. It got to the point that the only way I made their easy interval was to keep swimming with zero break, ha! Swimming outside in the sunshine was the perfect way to end camp, like always. 

Thanks Jen and Jerome for another stellar camp! With IM Texas sneaking up and scaring the crap out of me, I haven't been feeling super confident - but after a solid training weekend in Tucson, I feel much better. The workouts were challenging and I actually really enjoyed adding in some extra miles. Thank you to all of the campers and my roommates for making this one of my most favorite vacations (but we missed you Mia and Sarah and Angelina - it wasn't the same without you three!); catching up with everyone is the best part of the weekend, hands down. I love that, as a result of this camp, I have triathlon friends from all over the country. The only sad thing is, I'm terrible about saying goodbye and I absolutely hate it. 

I know when I was at camp I said I wanted my superpower to be able to take a shower without getting up off the floor and then make dinner magically appear in front of me. I take that back - I'd much rather have a superpower that let me bring together everyone I care about and put them all in one place so goodbyes would be nonexistent. Cheers to great friends, bikes, running shoes, outdoor swimming and, of course, MINI EGGS!

20 January 2014

Race Report - Charlotte Running Co 2014 Half Marathon Trail Race

First race report of 2014! Hooray!
Before the season really got started, I had pipe dreams of trying to do a super early season half ironman, but Jen snapped me back to reality (reality being I'd not done rides longer than 2 hours and was still eating cookies for breakfast) and I opted instead to do a half marathon in January and a half marathon in February. There aren't a whole lot of half marathon choices in the mid-Atlantic in January. I found a trail half marathon in Charlotte, NC. Charlotte is a town neither Mr. Sweetie nor I had ever visited (airplane layovers don't count), but it has been on our list. Add to that our good friends and former neighbors Lindsay and Andrew recently moved down to Charlotte and we had set of perfectly great reasons to visit this weekend.

The Charlotte Running Co Trail Half Marathon was held at the US National Whitewater Center on their extensive trail network. In addition to the 13 miler, they also had a 9 miler and 4 miler. The website advertised all distances as "approximate" and at the end of the race, my Garmin registered only 12.25 (but I was pretty thrilled to be done and - at that point - I was hoping the course would be a bit short given how shot my legs were feeling). So, whether it was truly short or my Garmin's satellite reception was crummy with me being in the woods 99% of the race, is neither here nor there. Everyone is racing the same course and time/distance doesn't really matter but placing does.

The race had a 9am start so I was able to sleep in a little bit, which is always a treat. We arrived plenty early to pick up my packet and get situated. I had only done one trail half marathon in the past - it was on an old railroad track bed, nice and wide, gentle false flat on the way out and a slight downhill on the way back. In other words, it was like running on a soft road, no need to pay special attention to your footing or worry you were going to hurtle into a tree at the bottom of a twisty downhill that spins you out of control. So, having had that experience, it was easy to believe that this trail half marathon would be the same thing. Then, earlier last week, I took a look at the trail map for the race site and it was marked with green circles, blue squares, and black diamonds, kind of like a ski map. My first clue this would be a bit more challenging and require some eye-foot coordination - no zoning out allowed! This also explained why the times looked a bit slower than you would normally see in a road half marathon.

The 9- and- 13 mile racers lined up at 9am, while the 4-milers started at 9:30am. I had debated whether to wear heavy gloves and a heavier lined outer layer in addition to my regular long-sleeved shirt because it was chilly. At the last minute I opted for light gloves and no outer layer because the sun was up and it had warmed up - plus, it's always a good idea to add 20 degrees to the temperature when you are warmed up from running. Halfway through the race, my fingers were totally warmed up and it felt like the perfect temperature. I lined up a few rows back from the front - with there being 9 milers mixed in, I knew some people would start off fast fast and I didn't want to get in their way. My plan was to start off at a reasonably sustainable pace, especially since I didn't know how hilly or technical the trails would be, and then try to pick it up halfway through, terrain allowing. At the very least, I didn't want to go out too fast and then get passed by everyone and their grandmother, that's always a bit embarrassing.

The first three-quarters of the race went around a gravel parking lot, up and down a hill, and then out towards the entrance to the single-track trail. I went a bit faster than felt comfortable, to get myself in the best position I could going into the single-track because it would be trickier to make passes there. The single-track was immediately full of ups and downs and bridges and tight turns. It kind of reminded me of the Backyard Burn race held at Hemlock - though these hills were shorter and a bit steeper than Hemlock's and it wasn't quite as rocky as Hemlock. People were really nice and let you know when they were passing and would move over when you made a pass. It felt really crowded for the first 3-4 miles and I often couldn't tell if the people I was passing were part of the 9 or the 13 mile race and I eventually just gave up trying to guess and just ran like they were all in the 13 miler. Often I'd find myself on the heels of another runner and need to assess whether I wanted to stay at their pace or surge ahead at the next opportunity - I feel like trail racing is more tactical than road racing, at least for us age groupers, because it requires quick assessments and decisions and not making the right choices can impact how many seconds you lose because you are stuck (or how many minutes you lose because you decided to go for it and blew up your legs in the process, trying to skitter around all of your competitors). I quickly stopped looking at my Garmin to see my mile splits or do the math to figure out my potential overall time - there's no use comparing a trail race to road race times, especially on single track and technical trails. It was around mile 4, going up a hill, that I had a "holy cow, rein it IN" type-of moment. I stopped trying to sprint up the hills to pass people - steady consistency wins the race. Little steps up the hills and then pick up the pace on the flats and on the downhills as much as possible.

I had passed a few girls in the beginning, as we entered the trails, and after awhile I wasn't seeing too many of them. After a particularly hilly section, I reeled in another girl and I saw she had the same color bib as me. As we started going by water stations, I'd hear from some of the volunteers - at the first station, they said I was 4th female. I didn't know if they meant 4th half marathon female or 4th female in general, including the 9 milers. At a later water station, I heard I was the 2nd half marathon female. And then at another station I couldn't tell if they said I was second or sixth female. It didn't really matter - I had seen one other half marathon female ahead of me by a few minutes and I kept my focus on her, even though it was highly unlikely I was going to catch her. There seemed to be a sizable gap between me and the girl I had passed earlier in the race, so I wasn't running scared - it was more just try to hold onto the place I was in and reel in the girl ahead of me. She would have to have a spectacular meltdown for that to happen, as she had a good 3-4 minutes on me, but it still didn't hurt to put forth the effort. The last 3 miles of the race were flatter and the trail was wider - THANK GOODNESS. My legs were tired and almost-wobbly feeling by that point, after the hills in the earlier sections. I am eternally grateful race organizers put the more technical stuff first - I would've been a hot mess careening down hills and scrambling up inclines later in the race. We went around a small lake and at times I was totally by myself (and hoping I hadn't taken a wrong turn). Once in awhile I'd catch a glimpse of the guy ahead of me, which was reassuring that I was still on course.

Around 11 miles into the race, my watch was well past the 1:30 mark and I felt a bit disappointed about how slow I must've been going and felt almost positive that the volunteers who said I was 2nd half marathon female were completely wrong. As I wound my way around the lake, I could hear the finish line announcer's voice get louder and closer and it seemed like maybe I was going to be done sooner rather than later - maybe the course was short or my Garmin satellite reception was off, but when I emerged from the woods at Mile 12, and could see the finish line in the distance, I did not care. I WAS ALMOST DONE. There was one more uphill between me and that finish line and I crossed the line in 1:46:17. I ended up finishing 2nd female OA, taking home a mason jar AND a pair of armwarmers (win!). Lindsay, Andrew and their adorable daughter came out to watch the finish and we spent the rest of the day catching up with them and eating yummy food. It was a great weekend.

02 January 2014


One of the things Mr. Sweetie and I are going to do this year is to try a new-to-us dinner recipe once a week. We do a relatively decent job at cooking most of our meals at home each week, but we often get stuck in a rut, cycling through the same few recipes each week - some variation of a pasta, veggie quesadillas, pizza, soup, etc. We might get really ambitious and throw in "try a new dessert recipe" each week as well, but that might be asking too much.

We did our first new-to-us recipe last night for dinner. A Moroccan chicken pot pie called Chicken Bastilla. It's a chicken pie full of cinnamon and other spices, baked in puff pastry, and sprinkled with powdered sugar on top (take THAT Mom's chicken pot pie, hahaaaa!). My parents bought Mr. Sweetie and I a Mediterranean cookbook for Christmas and it is chock-a-block full of really tasty recipes, like this one. It was surprisingly easy to make and I think this will definitely be making its way into the monthly dinner rotation.

Please take special note of my trout oven mitts
On the training front - I'm moving along. Going to the pool when I'm supposed to, doing TRX in my basement, running, biking both on the trainer and on the trails if it isn't too muddy. Mountain biking has become exponentially more enjoyable now that I have gone a few times, feel more confident, and don't freak out when faced with small rocks and logs on the path. I've been feeling quite good on most of the runs I've been on, but still feeling sluggish as heck at the pool, that's what I get for forgetting the pool exists for two months straight. Jen's annual swim test will likely kill me, please say your goodbyes now. 

01 January 2014

Happy New Year

As I've gotten older, I've really enjoyed New Years more and more. As a kid growing up, my family would always get together with other families and I remember New Years always being so fun with a houseful of friends. Those New Years celebrations were almost always more soul-satisfying than the ones that I ended up spending at a bar in my 20s.

We've been really lucky and established a tradition of getting together with a set of friends every New Years. Each year we get together at someone's house and each couple brings two fancy dinner or dessert dishes, paired with a bottle of wine, and we have a multi-course dinner full of rich food. It's the best way ever to end one year and start another. And we never have to wonder what we are doing in terms of New Year's plans - it's a given that we'll all be getting together and Mr. Sweetie and I look forward to it each year.

Last night we started off with a potato leek soup and salad. Then we moved on to beef tenderloin with a port reduction sauce and sides of brussel sprouts and mushroom bread pudding. And for dessert we had (unpretty) chocolate macarons with an espresso-cinnamon-chocolate ganache filling and bowls of homemade chocolate ice cream and cheesecake ice cream (that ice cream maker I bought for Mr. Sweetie for Christmas is truly the gift that keeps on giving). Sharing a long, leisurely meal with good friends and catching up was really a treat.

My failed, cracked, feet-less chocolate macarons. Cocoa messes everything up - but tastes so good!
I haven't thought very much about New Years resolutions yet. And I haven't done a whole lot of reflection on the past year. But I do know that it was a good year. It was a good year for friends. It was a good year for family. It was a good year for realizing the important role those two pieces play in my life. It was a good year for health. It was a good year for learning new tasks at work and understanding that my growth is up to me, and only me, and requires initiative and hard work - and the ability to take responsibility for my thoughts, words, actions and consequences. 

I've had it easy in life. Sure there were some small financial hiccups when I was growing up and I didn't always get everything that I wanted (or thought I wanted) and had to work hard to get to where I am. But that's not a bad thing. I'm lucky because I still have three out of four grandparents. I have extended family that I keep in touch with and see as often as possible, who are involved in my life and care about me and Mr. Sweetie. I have wonderful in-laws who have adopted me as one of their own. I have a stable job that I also really enjoy. I'm healthy. We have made smart financial decisions and live a comfortable lifestyle. I can count on one hand how many funerals I've ever attended. I can also count on one hand (I think using only one finger, actually) how often I've ever had to go to a hospital. My life is so good, so easy, that I've never said good riddance to a year when it comes to a close. I'm sure, however, there will be a year in my future that I will want to have disappear in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible. And if that happens, I will need to remind myself of this when I need a good dose of perspective:

My friend, the one whose son was diagnosed with leukemia the day before Thanksgiving, posted a new year's status update today that really made me pause. She called 2013 a good year, just one that ended with a few bumps. She was excited about 2014, not to leave 2013 behind, but to keep on keeping on and move forward with enjoying every day. This was a woman who spent the vast majority of December in a hospital room, trying to keep her little boy calm and happy while doctors and nurses poked and prodded him and he underwent some unpleasant treatments. If, through all of that, she can still say it was a good year - then it was a good year. You are alive, you have your family, your friends, and love. The rest is just a bonus in life. 

28 December 2013

2013 Off Season in Review

Every year it's pretty typical to do a look-back critique of the past season, see what you did right, what you did not-so-right, and what you can improve on for the following year.

This is not that post.

This is much more important. As Training Peaks workout reminders have started flooding my inbox (and I'm actually welcoming the influx), the off-season is coming to a close. Time to look back and see what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I can do to improve my off-season experience for the next time around.

Pool? What is a pool? I did not swim AT ALL during the month of November. I think I voluntarily got in the pool once in early December, before Training Peaks told me to, and paddled around for about 1,000 yds and then I got out. It was a much needed break. And even though I feel pretty slow in the water right now, I'm also not burnt out and that's going to be key for having a successful 2014 season.

The FDA has altered its food pyramid and it is now filled with chocolate. Lindt chocolate, peppermint bark, chocolate buttercream frosting, chocolate ganache, chocolate macarons. Let's also throw some gingersnap cookies in there, marshmallows, hot chocolate (we are currently on the hunt for the type of chocolate that makes the best hot chocolate - Cadbury is the frontrunner).

Try something new. I think one of the best parts of the off-season (besides the unabashed consumption of chocolate) was not having a schedule to stick to. There was nothing I HAD to do - I was free to do whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and try new things. I gave Pilates a go a couple of times at the Athlete's Studio in Dupont Circle. I never realized how many different exercises you could do as part of Pilates. AND there is a trampoline involved. Did you know that your feet can feel EXHAUSTED and sore after using the Pilates trampoline? They can. I've also been going mountain biking - it's great to get off the road and try out some trails and not be a slave to my Garmin.

Misplaced Training Equipment and Forgetting Your Training Peaks Login. Speaking of my Garmin, I know where my watch is but it's a mystery where my heart rate monitor strap went. Part of me never wants to find it because I detest that thing (it is responsible for 95% of the chafing I experience during training/races). I have ideas on where it could be, but I haven't bothered to look too hard. And it took me a few minutes to remember my Training Peaks login when I went to log my first workout into the system.

Go up a pants size. There's a reason why my winter pants are a size bigger than my summer clothes. Not to toot my own horn, but I ate 4lbs of M&Ms the week before Thanksgiving this year.

Bake so much you cannot stand to look your KitchenAid mixer in the eye. There was one weekend this month that was filled to the brim with holiday parties, brunches, etc. I baked until 2am on a Thursday night in prep for the parties. Macarons, gingersnap smores, homemade marshmallow, meringues. It was awesome until about midnight and then I'd about had it. I couldn't look at my mixer for a week. We also went through 5 boxes of butter the week of Christmas, between the Christmas Eve seafood chowder, the Christmas Bread, the cookies, the BUTTERCREAM FOR THE BUCHE DE NOEL.
Gingerbread cake rolled in eggnog buttercream, topped with chocolate buttercream and decorated with meringues.
All in all, it was a good 1.5-2 months. Exactly what I needed. Success!

17 December 2013

That Holiday Tradition You Love and Hate (But Actually Really Love)

I give you... The Holiday Chicken.

I practically need shades when looking directly at the blinged-out chicken beak.
Especially when bathed in the soft glow of electric sex. 
 What has turned into one of our family's greatest (and most obnoxious/most fun - depending on if you are the receiver or the sender) holiday traditions was born out of a friendly holiday cornhole game back in 2007. That year, Mr. Sweetie and I went to World Market (the mecca for ridiculously useless housewares) and found a chicken on the stick. This would be the prize that the cornhole winner would get to take home with them. Needless to say, we all tried to lose. That year, the chicken ended up staying in California and each time we came out to visit, we'd see the chicken laying around the house somewhere and crack a few jokes about it.

Then the chicken made it's way to our house. Mr. Sweetie's parent's were sneaky and left it behind in the guest room after they visited. They made sure to hide it just enough so we wouldn't find it until after they were safely on their plane home. Sneaky.

So we got them back and tried to one-up the sneakiness. Mr. Sweetie arranged a handoff to the person who housesat while the whole family was up in northern CA for Christmas one year. He instructed her to place the chicken on the island in the kitchen, snap a photo, and send it to him. I think we then posted it on Facebook or something and tagged everyone. Or maybe Mr. Sweetie just showed the photo to everyone at the dinner table. Either way, the level of sneakiness had escalated.

During another trip, Allie snuck it into Mr. Sweetie's golf bag, texting us a picture of the chicken next to a sign taped to the golf bag "Off To DC I Go..." We sent the chicken to live at the beach with Jackie. I think it eventually made its way to the Arizona desert to Stephanie's apartment. And then, just a few weeks ago, it made a reappearance to DC. This time with a blinged out beak (have you ever seen something so flashy?), tail feathers, and a santa suit. 

Watch out West Coast Family - we are plotting revenge! 
(though, we will admit, the chicken makes a jolly addition next to the leg lamp)

Don't worry, chicken. We'll be sending you back to CA with a bathing suit and beach umbrella.

10 December 2013

Worst Bike Commute in Bike Commuting History

OK, maybe the title is a little dramatic (I suppose the worst bike commute would be the one where you are run over by a car), but this morning's bike commute in was pure MISERY. For the past few days, meteorologists had been forecasting SNOW for DC during the Tuesday AM commute. They alluded to the fact that, with the timing, it had the potential to become another Commutageddon. Metro is crap on a regular day, so I figured I'd play it safe and take my mountain bike out for a snowy commute to work instead. Faster, more reliable, etc. I woke up this morning and the ground was dry so I rushed to the pool, arriving just after it opened and squeezed in the swim that I wasn't able to do yesterday due to the weather-related late opening. By the time I left the pool, sleet was coming down hard. This isn't going to be pleasant to bike in, but at least I won't have to worry about traffic and egotistical drivers causing traffic jams I thought to myself. By the time I got home and had a quick breakfast, the sleet had turned to big, fat snowflakes. I instantly pictured what my commute in would be like - sure, it may be a little wet on the bike trail from the initial coating of sleet, but besides that, I would be riding my bike in a swirling confection of snow, the only sounds being my tires crunching softly over the coating of snowflakes.

Reality couldn't have been more different.

When will I learn that snow in DC is NOT the pretty, dry, swirling snow you see in movies and in places where it normally snows actual snow, not sleet? The snow here is wet slop that soaks your jacket, drenches your butt from all the tire kickup, and sucks the joy from your soul. Instead of a coating of snowflakes, I rode through puddles. By the time my feet were frozen blocks of wet ice, it was too late for me to bother turning around. And the kicker was that the roads were completely free and clear of anything but puddles - including ice and traffic. Never thought I'd utter these words but gosh I wish I had metro'd today. My feet were the kind of cold where, when you take a lukewarm shower, they tingle and itch as the feeling slowly comes back to them. I looked like a miserable drowned rat when I arrived at the office. I also used the excuse that I didn't want to put wet bike clothes back on to ride home to rope Mr. Sweetie into picking me up from work.

There has never been a day where I wished I wasn't riding my bike. Until today. I get shivers of cold just thinking about my morning. Bleck. I don't care if it is wimpy, but I am never going to willingly ride my bike in borderline freezing weather with precipitation. If it is going to be cold, it must be SUNNY and cold. Or at least dry and cold. DC needs to get with the program when it comes to delivering the proper type of snow.