14 December 2009

Lazy...

I'm stretching out the off-season even further. I'm still recovering from last week's marathon of 6 almost-all nighters in a row and the few days after the end of the semester are traditionally the few days where I do nothing but rot in front of the computer and tv. After two days of doing this, I feel absolutely gross and am more than happy to get back into a routine, but today was only day one of laziness. I don't think I'm going to the pool in the morning. Maybe I will run, but it's more likely that I will sleep.

I wasn't a complete waste of space this weekend though. I did an indoor triathlon up in Maryland with my old co-workers and came in 7th overall out of men and women and 2nd for women. I did surprisingly well on the bike. In the spin room they were showing the 2007 Hawaii Ironman and that was enough motivation right there - the 30 minutes on the bike flew by. The run and swim were not so painless, unfortunately. Brunch after the race made it all worth it. This was truly the last triathlon of 2009. Besides Ironman France and Ironman Wisconsin, I don't have anything else on my schedule. Better start planning!

Off to bed, I've watched 5 straight hours of tv. GROSS!

A Love Story


Wedding photo - 8 Sep 06


I am REALLY good at remembering dates - it's one of my odd talents. I'm even good at remembering the day of the week those dates occurred on. For example, Mark and I first saw each other on Wednesday 6 Oct 04. And it took over a month for us to actually first talk. And today marks five years to the day that we first said we loved each other. Monday 12 Dec 04 in the Harris Teeter parking lot - it may not sound romantic, but it was perfect. We were heading into the grocery store to pick up something to cook for dinner, and we both just had an overwhelming urge to say it.
Perhaps you'd like to hear the story of how Mark and I met? I think it's very cute, but I may be a little biased.

So, Mark and I may have seen each other for the first time
on 6 Oct, but we didn't actually have a conversation until 11 Nov. Instead, during that whole month of being too shy to say anything to each other, I would just walk by his office about 5 times a day, hoping that he'd notice and we'd eventually have a conversation. I guess he did notice me and was trying to slyly figure out my name and such, because one day I walked by his office when he was talking to a co-worker and that co-worker chased me down, asked me who I was, and then said, "Follow me, you have an admirer down the hall that I want to introduce you to." She walked me down to his office, introduced us, and then just walked away. We were both blushing like mad, ended up chatting for about 20 minutes, and had our first date the next night, and got engaged exactly 8 months after that. Until I met Mark, I never believed it when people said, "when you meet the right person, you just know." But it's true, I knew there was something special literally from the moment I first saw him.

And so, to the best husband in the world, thank you for making these past five years wonderful and I can't wait for many, many more!

Here are a couple pictures from the early years, heehee!
First photo together - SAIC holiday party 2004. I think it looks like we're going to prom.


Engagement photo from fantastic photographer Lara Woolfson!




A little karaoke the night before our wedding.

12 December 2009

Homestretch... just like the Ironman finishing chute

I realize that I've spent the past 4, well, 7 months griping and fretting over my Substantial Research Projects (SRP), the capstone to my graduate school career. Back in May when I finished classes, I got a bad case of senioritis. Since I had no more classes to attend, it was practically like I was out of school, right? And unfortunately, my actions reflected that attitude ALLLL summer long and I was smacked with a big dose of reality when September arrived. I scrambled to write my SRP proposals in time to get them approved, I hemmed and hawed about exactly what angle I was going to take with the papers. [note - it is papers PLURAL. I was young, naiive, and stupid and felt I had to get my money's worth of my education. I chose to do two SRPs than just one SRP and have my job count as an internship (I would've had to pay for the credits and saw no sense in paying for something I do every day). NEVER AGAIN]. And then I put my procrastination skills to work, as buying a new house, training for and doing Ironman, and changing jobs all took precedent. Until all of those changes/activities were behind me and suddenly my very sorry-looking SRPs were staring me in the face, with a looming deadline hovering over us all. I had no choice. Do or do not, there is no try. I needed to get my academic cap on, and fast!

So anyways, here I sit at 2:30am on a Friday night/Saturday morning writing the last few paragraphs of the last paper of my graduate school career. This past week has been a frantic scramble to do some serious editing of both papers, essentially giving them each makeovers that lasted well over 12 hours apiece. I've eaten little and drank buckets of coffee (I NEVER drink coffee. Ever.) and slept maybe 4 hours a night, never going to bed before 3am. I'm on record to keep that streak alive tonight as well. But that's okay because tonight is the last night I have to work on this paper. You see, I submitted one of my papers yesterday and I've reached a point with my other one that I feel it isn't a total piece of crap or a disservice to my 2+ years of grad school. I will be done with graduate school in a matter of hours and I am SO EXCITED. And, oddly enough, a little nostalgic at the same time. It has been a long two years and I've learned a lot, grown a lot, and started to figure out where my professional interest and passions lie. I'm happy to say that International Peace and Conflict Resolution was the right degree program for me. These last few paragraphs are a little like the finishers chute at Ironman. You slow down a bit, think back to everything you've accomplished, take it all in and feel a swell of pride. You know that the loooonnngggg journey is almost over and you are just moments away from eternal relaxation. And that's why you feel like you are floating in those last few minutes and you are actually enjoying yourself. [disclaimer - I was too hungry to actually feel those feelings at my last Ironman; all I cared about is food. But this description does accurately describe how I felt during my first Iron Distance race.]

And so now I sign off, ready to finish off the last few paragraphs of my grad school career! Hooray! Bring on the sleep and the triathlon training!

09 December 2009

Trading workout clothes for pajamas

For the last I-don't-know-how-many-days I have gotten home from work, immediately changed into my pajamas, pink sweatshirt, and ugly brown sweater (much cheaper to layer up than turn up the heat now that our living space has expanded beyond two rooms), and sat down in the guest bedroom and written my SRPs (substantial research project - code for capstone papers) for HOURS. I am itching (literally - thank you school-induced hives) to reach the day where I again put on my workout clothes after work and let a swim, bike or run royally kick my butt. And you know what - this day is literally hours away. Like, less than 48 hours away. I gave a presentation on one of my SRPs today (Community role in reintegration of youth ex-combatants in Uganda and Sierra Leone) and it went fairly well. The questions people asked pointed out some items I may want to expand on/improve on my paper. And while waiting for Mark to get out of class and pick me up from campus, some of my alt-break Nepal buddies and I got together and reminisced about the amazing trip we took six months ago. Everything from the jungle dance party (awesome) to carsickness during 9 hour van rides on mountain roads (not so awesome) to our Nepali guides and friends Soucil ("I have nothing negative to report"), Sanu ("This is the best ever time of my life), Hari and Krishna (yes, those are really their names and they were awesome), Rajan (Fantastic, OK?!) and Prakash (always on the search for a wife; he was in heaven surrounded by 9 college girls). I'm looking forward to having alot more time to devote to volunteering with the International Commission for Dalit Rights, Nepal was definitely a life-changing experience. Here are some pictures of the people who made our trip amazing.

DB, Soucil and Hari at a Buddhist temple in Lumbini.

Rajan and Prakash at Krishna's birthday dinner

Sanu, looking beautiful, says goodbye

Soucil and DB looking debonair in Kathmandu

Krishna and Prakash at the orphanage in the Terai

06 December 2009

I Love this City

So this morning I headed out to Pacers in Pentagon City with my friend Brad (Look Brad, I figured out how to hyperlink - thanks!) to partake in a little group run/autograph action with Ryan Hall and his wife Sara. I'd heard about this event via a Pacers e-mail a few weeks ago and definitely wanted to go. I still have work to do on my papers, but how often do you get to go for a group run with an Olympian? Obviously paper writing was set aside for this morning. Brad brought a Runners World with Ryan Hall on the cover to be signed. I brought my 2009 Boston Marathon bib with me to be signed (hey, I was going to frame it anyway, now it just has a little extra bling).

The Halls arrived and we were all out the door running within five minutes of their arrival. They seem to be really nice and down-to-earth, they were chatting with everyone during the run, Sara staying near the front of the pack and Ryan mingling in the back. He and I were both wondering if these sort of events were enjoyable for them. I mean, it really must be kind of awkward, you walk into a store and there's a crowd of people who immediately start taking pictures. And then they just bombard you with questions while you are trying to run. And there were a few that were kind of creepy/geeky/and stalkerish that I would've told to just buzz off, but the Halls are much more gracious than I and were polite and engaging with everyone, even the creepy ones.

The run itself turned out to be great. It was a six mile loop, the longest I've run since Ironman 29 days ago, and even though the weather was cold, it was also beautiful and sunny. We ran from Pentagon City, past the Pentagon, over the Memorial Bridge, past the Lincoln Memorial, along the reflecting pool, past the WWII Memorial, and then did a turnaround at the Washington Monument and headed back the way we came. I haven't run through the city in awhile and I forget how cool it is that we live here and all of the monuments are within running distance of my house. At the reflecting pool, we passed by a very enthusiastic group of tourists from somewhere in Asia - they began hooting, hollering, and waving as we blew through. While we were running, I was thinking to myself, "I wonder if any of these pedestrians we are running by know that one of the best, if not THE best, American distance runners is in their midst." For the most part, the celebrity of the great runners seems to be confined to the within the bounds of the running community. They really aren't national sports figures, they don't appear in the major Sports Illustrated-type magazines, and they probably don't get mobbed walking down the street or going grocery shopping. They do their training on quiet back roads, most of their races aren't televised and receive very little printed coverage. It just struck me as funny when compared to other sports figures. I'm sure that any Redskins or Capitols player would get run over by a crowd of people if they were ever out for a jog around the Mall.

Anyway, the run went surprisingly well. I didn't wear my Garmin or HRM so I have no idea what speed I was going or what zone I was in. The first two miles were uncomfortably fast and I was definitely feeling the fact that I haven't done a good, hard run in awhile. But then I loosened up and by the end, I felt like I could've kept going. It was a great way to start off the day.

Back at Pacers, Brad and I successfully got our running paraphernalia autographed. Again, the Halls were good sports, signing all sorts of stuff and smiling in pictures that everyone wanted to take with them. The main purpose of them being there was to raise money for their foundation to alleviate poverty in Africa, the Hall Steps Foundation (twice in one post, Brad!). So when it was my turn for an autograph, I gave them a donation and told them that I think the work the foundation is doing is really important and it's great that they have committed to something like that. They looked happily surprised that I wasn't trying to talk to them about running and really seemed to take the compliment to heart.

So, all in all, a pretty good day. And all before noon!

03 December 2009

Random Musings...

With my papers still hanging over my head, training isn't going to be happening anytime soon. I'll make it out for a run or two this weekend, maybe hop on the trainer, but I haven't set foot in my running shoes since last Saturday and I'm actually okay with that. Sooooo, that said, there is NOTHING new to report on the training front because, ummmm, I'm not doing ANYTHING!

When taking little breaks from slaving away at my SRPs, I like to surf iTunes for various songs I used to listen to in college. I listen to music on a daily basis now, but when I was in college, I listened to music ALL of the time. My boyfriend at the time was really into music (fortunately we had similar tastes) so I was constantly getting mix CDs and store-bought CDs, and listening to them 24/7. When I think of sophomore year, I think of The Corrs and Dave Matthews; junior year was French pop/rap, Justin Timberlake (thank you Erin!), Nelly and the Corrs; and senior year was Matt Nathanson, John Mayer, Amanda Marshall (I woke up with a snake tattoo!) and a whole bunch of songs from Dawsons Creek (blaming that on the 4 month 3 hour daily marathon of the show in Spring 2003 - thank goodness I didn't have morning classes that semester!). Thanks to Napster, I amassed a ton of songs on my laptop and many of them successfully made it onto various mix CDs I made during college. I had a small travel case for my favorite CDs, which included many of these mixes, and that travel case went EVERYWHERE with me - NH, Vermont, Europe, etc. I had a workout mix, a dance party mix, a sleep mix. My awesome best friend Erin made me a great mix CD for my bachelorette party a few years ago - I think she even put "Breathless" by the Corrs on there twice! Anyway, I listened to that sleep mix EVERY NIGHT when I was lived in Nice, France during the summer of 2002. Anytime I hear any of the songs that were on that CD, I immediately remember my dark, dark little studio apartment with a tiny window that faced a concrete wall, the Old Town, "pasta with lardons" (yup, just as unhealthy as it sounds), 79 cent wine, days at the beach, and my impoverished, yet happy and satisfied existence on the French Riviera. Unfortunately, that CD, along with many of my other great mix CDs that were kept in that travel case, disappeared sometime during one of my six moves in the past 5 years. So now I troll iTunes, trying to remember what songs I had on those CDs, and snatch them up when I'm feeling particularly frustrated or bored with my SRP-writing. I just found a few more long-lost songs, hence the memories and this post.

And back to the paper-writing I go!

Off-Season Means.. Another non-triathlon related post!

This will be quick, I just need a distraction from the schoolwork I am drowning in at the moment. First - I'm feeling super lazy. I have a buddha belly, I'm eating more than my fair share of chocolate, and I already finished off the pretzels and pita chips that were supposed to serve as my work snacks for the week. But school is seriously kicking my butt, the weather has been crummy, and although I miss feeling in shape, it's nice to not HAVE to go work out. In fact, all of this time off is probably beneficial to my overall health, maybe my body will even be thanking me down the road for getting fat and lazy over the past few weeks. Thank goodness the high school reunion is over and I don't have a major race for months!

My papers are chugging along. I'm past the 40 page barrier on both of them - pg 47 on one and pg 42 on the other. I will have NO problem reaching the 50 page mark on either one of them. The REAL challenge will be making my papers into coherent, intelligent-sounding pieces of printed art. I want to be more proud of these two SRPs (substantial research projects - capstone project for my grad program in International Peace and Conflict Resolution) than I ever was about my French thesis senior year of undergrad. And I think I am well on my way. First - they are in English and my English is waaaaayyyyy better than my French. Second - I wrote my French thesis on the notion of "pantheism" in a literary work of Jean Giono. Now I'm writing my SRPs on 1) the reintegration of youth ex-combatants and the role of community in that process (case studies of Sierra Leone and Uganda); and 2) the role of culture in the perpetuation of caste-based discrimination in Nepal. Both far more interesting subjects, as well as far more meaningful and useful, than the notion of pantheism in a Jean Giono novel (no offense, Jean). And although I've felt like I've been in over my head over these past three months, it's getting better. The rough drafts are almost done. I just need to do some serious editing, polishing, and ensuring that I've made the points I want to make and hit on the relevant theories. If anything, doing these two projects sure makes me realize how lucky I am. My biggest complaint is that I don't have enough time to do everything I want/need to do. The situations I'm writing about affect people in such negative ways it's hard to imagine. They work all day because they HAVE to; they can't go to school because there ISN'T a school, kids half my age have seen more violence than I'll ever see in a lifetime, and the list goes on. And when you really think about it, people are resilient. When it gets down to it, when they have no other choice, people have the capacity to deal with trauma, make the best of the situation, and move on with life. We're pretty sheltered here in middle-class America. We're pretty lucky here in middle-class America. I'm thankful for everything that I have. Even my SRPs.

30 November 2009

It Has Been Ten Years... And You're Still the Same!

I got to go back to high school for the evening last Saturday. It was my 10 year reunion and I thought it would be an interesting experience. Interesting to see how people have changed, what they are up to, etc. Turns out it was interesting, mainly because that night it didn't seem like anything had changed. At all.

I didn't have a specific clique in high school. I circulated between various groups, had my best friend Katie, my great friends on the track/x-country teams, as well as friends that graduated in different years than myself. I suppose the past is always seen through rose colored glasses when you're looking at it in the rearview mirror. I actually remember telling people in college/post-college that high school at Alvirne was pretty cool - everyone was nice, people were friendly, and it wasn't too "clique-y." Well, that rosy notion was trout-slapped from my mind soon after my arrival at the reunion! I blame it on unwittingly seating ourselves next to the people from high school who thought they were better than everyone else back then and, despite the fact that they STILL live in the same town and are STILL hanging out with the same people, they continue to look down on everyone else. You would think that being ten years older might make people grow up, leave their "high school superiority" attitudes behind, and be nice. Not the case. Again, let's blame it on the "big fish in a rapidly shrinking pond" syndrome. Socially, they have never actually graduated from high school. Who can blame them for reverting back to their familiar roles when surrounded by former high school classmates. But seriously, giving the stinkeye, pointing, laughing, and hushed whispering are soooo 1999. I hope for their sakes that they outgrow it by the 20 year reunion. And this begs the question, is this how they act when out at work and/or hanging out with non-high school friends? Or is that an answer we'll never get BECAUSE they have no friends outside of their high school peers? Oh the mysteries!

Contrary to what you're read so far, the reunion wasn't all bad. Facebook has made it easy to know what people have been up to. The phrase, "Well, I was sort of Facebook-stalking you..." was heard alot. I did enjoy talking to old acquaintances in person and catching up on details not captured via Facebook. And I got to sit with the people I wanted to see the most anyways - my friends Katie, Kim, Kathy, and Kristin (I only hang out with people whose names begin with Kuh) and their significant others. I keep in touch and see them fairly regularly. If nothing else, we'll ditch the 20 year and just treat ourselves to a nice dinner.

Funny note: Katie, my best friend from high school, and I accidentally wore almost identical dresses to the prom our junior year. They were the exact same gowns, save the fact that hers had a faint floral pattern while mine did not. It was only appropriate, then, that our better halves showed up to the reunion in matching outfits - eerily similar sport coats, pink shirts (same shade), no tie, and top button unbuttoned. Unplanned, I swear! See Exhibit A below. The only difference - Mark had brown pants and Kevin was sporting black. The twins bonded over their similar outfits and shared enjoyment of watching a plethora of awkward conversations.

Speaking of awkward conversations, here's one!

Old Classmate: So, what have you been up to, have any kids?
Me: I've been doing well, no, definitely no kids (uncomfortable chuckle).
Old Classmate: (steps closer, invading personal space) Why not, I have kids, don't you want to have kids?
Me: (stepping back defensively) I'm actively trying NOT to have kids at the moment.
Old Classmate: (Looks extremely puzzled, walks away) [end conversation].

On another note, alot of people knew about my triathlon habit and were really encouraging and impressed by it. I was flattered. And being part of a triathlon club where so many people have done Ironman, I forget that those types of athletic endeavors are not really the norm.

And finally, a self-pep talk. I like the way I turned out. So, despite the fact that I felt old feelings of shyness, social inadequacy and insecurity creep in as people reverted back to their clique-ish high school ways, I did feel content and confident talking to people. Swimming, biking, and running 140.6 miles, going to grad school, having a career, and living a life that you are proud of will give you confidence in any social situation, even a high school reunion.

So, that was the reunion in a nutshell. Will I go to my 20 year reunion? Right now, I'm inclined to say no. But I suppose I could change my mind over the next ten years. I mean, people will have outgrown their "high school superiority" complexes by then, right? :)

26 November 2009

Turkey Trot Road Race - Derry, NH


Ahhh, the Turkey Trot. The race that gives you permission to indulge in mass quantities of food for the rest of the day guilt-free. The race that is over in a handful of minutes rather than a handful of hours. The race that leaves your lungs burning, your legs wobbly, and your mind wondering "why am I doing this?" It's official - my body would prefer an Ironman over a 5k. With Ironman, you have an excuse to plod, go a little slower (I've been racing for 12 hours, you'd be plodding too at this point!) whereas a 5k is short, fast, and painful. There is sprinting involved. I hate sprinting. I suppose perceptions of distance and speed are relative, though. Back in high school, I would've rather run a 5k than do the mile in spring track. The mile is even more painful. So, give me longer, slower any day.

Anyway, on to the race report. When I found the Greater Derry Track Club Turkey Trot online, I pictured it being like the Turkey Trot I did in Amherst, NH two years ago - maybe 100 people, no timing chips, and no road closures. HA - this race had over 1300 runners, we ended up parking at least a half a mile from the start line (we were also running a bit late, big surprise). I was wondering how I would find Ashley and Tim, my best friend Erin's husband and brother, respectively, in the crowd. Fortunately, we ran into them as we went to grab our packets. We got our timing chips, pinned on our numbers, and got ready to line up with Ashley and Tim (for the record, there are advantages to 5ks when compared to Ironman - MUCH less prep time race morning, no worries of someone clawing off your timing chip in your swim, and no chafing).

I didn't have any time expectations for this race. I haven't done speedwork in weeks and I haven't done too much running since Ironman. I had a secret hope of going under 21, like I did during last year's turkey trot in California (20:25), but I didn't know what this course would be like. And I had no placing expectations either; Londonderry and Derry seem to breed ridiculously fast runners. My high school cross-country and track teams really never had a chance in meets with their high schools. I was preparing myself for a fast, competitive race- although I didn't have much competitive spirit in me that morning. Even though we had timing chips, there was only a mat for the finish line (more turkey trots than mats from timing system companies), so the race would be gun time. The start was crowded, but thinned out quickly, I didn't have to dodge too many people. It was mostly flat and downhill for the first mile, which was nice. I did the first mile in about 6:40 and felt okay (there was a voice in the back of my head wondering if I could keep that pace for another two miles - then another voice tried to shut the first voice up with a reminder that I've done 2x2 mile track workouts at a faster pace than this and was just fine). The second mile was, well, uphill. I'd heard chatter about a hill before the race, and was definitely less-than-thrilled when I saw it. And when I watched my average speed slow down by 15 seconds. Got to the top of the hill, and wished the finish line was not 1.5 miles away. I had stopped hoping for a PR or sub-21 the moment I saw the hill. Fortunately, the rest of the race was mostly flat or downhill, with one small uphill towards the end. The second mile was slower, definitely over 7 minutes. I just wanted to grit it out and get the race over with. I felt like I was moving so slowly and it was difficult to keep my pace under 7 minutes. Fortunately, the finish line come into view shortly thereafter and never have I been so glad a race was done. 5k's are PAINFUL!

According to the results, I finished in 21:18, with an average pace of 6:53. I finished 106th overall out of 1306 participants, I was 3rd in my age group out of 125 (20-29 age group), and 9th out of 630 women. With no time expectations, I am very pleased with how the race went. Tim did really well, setting a PR, and Ashley did great too. It was great to see them.

And now, the big news... Mark beat me in the race. I have now abdicated my throne of fastest Lauver at the 5k distance. He finished in 20:31. I have a feeling it won't be much longer until my reign at other distances will end as well :) Mark is a great runner, I am very happy for him.

The rest of Thanksgiving was GREAT! I got to see a bunch of great friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in quite awhile. I met my goddaughter Reagan Kylene for the very first time. She is my best friend Erin's daughter, she's two months old, and she's adorable and ABSOLUTELY perfect. Here's a picture of us - I love her! I saw Karen, Ed, Jonathan, and Lara a bit later. Then I saw Bethany and her girlfriend Carrie and their two adorable daughters, as well as Bethany's little sister Jillian. I grew up down the street from Bethany and Jill (who is about my brother's age) - we went on vacations together up to the lake, we had sleepovers, and spent so much time together during middle school. It was amazing to see her.

The rest of the day Mark and I spent time at home with my parents and had alot of great turkey, stuffing, and PIE!

Happy Thanksgiving!

24 November 2009

Back in the saddle...

I jumped on my bike today for the first time since Ironman, riding for a whopping 20 minutes on the trainer. I've found a new toy that I want to invest in - a CompuTrainer. It advertises being able to raise your average speed 2-4 mph within five months... that could be rather useful, I wonder if it's true. But it's as expensive as a low-end tri bike, though with both of my Ironmans being really hilly next year, I wasn't going to invest in a tri bike next year anyways.

I haven't figured out my schedule for the rest of 2010, aside from IM France and IM Wisconsin. I am pretty sure I will run the Shamrock Marathon in March down in Virginia Beach with my tri club. I love the Mooseman 1/2 and it's about 3 weeks before France, so maybe that's an option. Now that I'm not running Boston, I can join in the fun at the Rumpass in Bumpass triathlon festival down in Lake Anna in April, maybe do the Oly. I REALLY want to do Timberman, but that's pretty close to IM Wisconsin, so I'm not sure. And no Savageman next year either (tears) because it's one week after Wisconsin. But there is chatter that the team will do the Beach2Battleship Half next year, either that or MiamiMan - either one would be great. So yes, next year's racing schedule is going to look REALLY different from this years. Probably not as many 1/2's, no Boston, but maybe I can throw in a fall marathon and a late season half. And, to be honest, I am going to have to be a little less fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants when planning next year's schedule. Two reasons: 1) the two Ironmans will probably take alot of energy, and I want to do them right and if that means less racing, so be it. Plus, the wallet will probably be grateful for a fewer race entry fees. 2) I'm investing in a coach for next year. I'm still staying with Team Z, but I want to get a little more personal attention, hopefully a more aggressive training plan, and be able to get one-on-one feedback after races and such. And I've done my research and think I've found the person - Jen Harrison (her blog is now on my blogroll). I'm not going to have school to occupy all of my time, so I can really put 100% effort into training, racing, and recovering. And, Jen will probably have quite a bit of say in my race schedule to make sure I'm being smart, not stupid.

Okay, back to the paper writing. Yessssss!

Kind of Like Ironman but A Lot Less Pleasant...

... Capstone paper writing, that is. I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would rather be swimming, biking and running for 17 hours than writing the 100 pages of papers standing between me and my Masters diploma. The papers are due in about two weeks. Right now I have 47 (not quality) pages of one, and I just hit the 30 page mark on the other one. This means I only have about 20 pages left to go. Easier said than done. This is where the concentration gets tough, the motivation starts to disappear, the energy is sapped, and you just want to go to sleep. Hmmm, kind of like miles 24 and 25 of the Ironman Florida marathon...

The end is so near, I can practically touch it. I find myself daydreaming about what I'm going to do with all of my free time (bedtime at 8:30! watch mind-numbing television! see my friends! find a bar and sample every drink they have available - kidding.) I've even thought about what my facebook status posting is going to be once I turn these suckers in and it's official that I am DONE with grad school. 2+ years of hard work, limited sleep, and paper writing agony. Don't get me wrong, as evidenced by my blog, I love to write, I just don't like to be graded for my writing. It's that same feeling I used to get at high school track practice when my coach would break out the stopwatch and make us do timed intervals - the nervous stomach, the desire to just walk off the track. Now, when it comes to paper writing, I just get hives. Yup, I am allergic to school. I think that's a really good argument to NOT apply for a PhD program (a notion I entertained for a hot second this fall).

Yes, this point in my graduate school career is very much like the last few miles of an Ironman marathon. There's a little doubtful voice in the back of your head, leaving you slightly uncertain as to whether or not you're ever actually going to cross that finish line. There's the desire to go faster, but you just can't. There are moments that you just want to give up. But you're so close. And if you don't finish, all of those long hours you put into this endeavor, all of the fun times with friends and family that you've sacrificed for this goal, well, it will feel like it was all for nothing. And so, I will finish. Even if it turns me into one giant hive.

Speaking of Ironman, I completely forgot to mention this in my last post. J'irai a France l'ete prochaine! Et je ferai Ironman France! I've always talked about wanting to do this race and, on Friday night, I made it official by signing up! 27 June 2010. To make it even better, Mark's mom, dad, and three sisters Allie, Jackie, and Stephanie will also be there! It will be one, big, awesome vacation! I can't wait to get back to Nice, go to Haagen-Dazs in Place Magenta as a patron not a waitress, show Mark and his family where I used to live in the old part of town. And I can't wait to try my hand at the epic bike course, swim in the Mediterranean, and run along the Promenade des Anglais. And speak French. And eat cheese and drink wine at an outdoor cafe. And enjoy some gelato. And just plain be back in France. It has been almost four years since I was last there (the 2006 spur-of-the-moment trip to Paris was the last time I was there - a story for another post).

So, 2010 - a tale of two HILLY Ironmans. I can't wait! Oh, and no grad school. Now I REALLY can't wait!

22 November 2009

A Little This, A Little That...

Our move to our new place was successful, no problems at all! And my new commute from my new place to my new job is pretty painless, I don't mind the bus nearly as much as I thought I would. We live off of the Columbia Pike, a major thoroughfare in Arlington, so there are ALWAYS buses going up and down it to the Pentagon and Pentagon City metro stations. I love my new job, although I miss my old co-workers and the fun we used to have in the office. But I really enjoy the stuff my new job is focused on. I actually feel like I'm decent at it too, which is a plus. I didn't realize how much I felt like a fish out of water at my previous jobs until I started my new one.

Anyway, back to the new place - we have so much space, I don't think we know what to do with it all yet. We have our big TV set up in the finished basement and our small one set up in our bedroom - we didn't want to have one on the main floor of the house. My friends Ryan and Christine, who I visited over the summer, don't have a TV on their main floor either, just a stereo, and there are so many less distractions. We found ourselves just hanging out and talking alot more than we probably would've had there been a TV present. So, Mark and I are doing the same thing and we don't miss the television AT ALL. We've watched it a little in the mornings and while folding laundry, but that is it. We eat dinner at the table like civilized people, and I think we talk alot more. Best decision ever.
We are still in the middle of unpacking, but the kitchen is pretty much done, as is our bedroom. We have the cable and dvd hooked up in the basement, and I have a little desk set up in the spare bedroom so I can shut myself away and write my final papers for school. The cats LOVE the stairs, they are constantly chasing each other up and down them. We couldn't be happier with the new place.

Switching gears to triathlon, I've been doing some light running post-Ironman. We are lucky enough to still live less than a block from the bike path, so I've been venturing out on that during most of my runs during daylight. This morning I was sporting my M-Dot visor when I did my easy 5 miles. I don't know if I was just imagining it, but I felt like people on the trail looked at me a little longer or gave me a second glance. I'm blaming it on my visor. Or the fact that I was shuffling kind of slow and perhaps they were wondering how such a slow person scored an M-Dot visor. I'm also trying to figure out the delicate balance between wearing no M-Dot gear and Ironman Apparel Overkill. I bought enough clothing and accessories to outfit a small army the day after Ironman - visors, shirts, socks, mugs (and I don't even drink coffee) and an awesome jacket. But I think wearing the jacket with one of the visors while sipping water out of my waterbottle might be a bit much. Brings back painful memories of being 9 years old and wearing my NKOTB (oversized) shirt, with my NKOTB hat, both covered in a variety of NKOTB buttons. Like I said, overkill. So, I may just stick to carrying the water bottle around and bringing the visor out for a run every now and again.

In other news, my final papers for school are trying to kill me. I can feel the hives of Summer 2008 coming back. Take a deep breath and repeat - it's all (hopefully) over in less than two weeks. I hate you, school.

20 November 2009

Race report published-really!

I've been writing my race report in installments. And, with the big news that I had to share about our house, I mixed in some other posts during that time. So, my postings appear a little out of order, but below the "Interrupt this Race Report" is the rest of the race report from IM Florida that I just posted. Enjoy!

12 November 2009

We Interrupt This Race Report...

... for some big, yet non-triathlon related news! Over the next three days, life as I've known it here in DC will be changed. Within hours of my last day at the company I've been with for five years, Mark and I close on our first house. The next day we will move out of the neighborhood I've lived in for five years for a new one (I'm being overly dramatic - the new neighborhood is still in the same town, just a few miles away). And on Monday morning, not only will I have to figure out my new commute, that commute will take me to a brand new job in a totally different field than the one I've been in since 2004. Ironman and writing my final papers for school (just applied for next month's graduation - hooray!) has been a pretty big distraction so it just hit me today how much everything is going to change in just a few days.

Today at work they had a goodbye lunch for me. Even though I don't like to be the center of attention or have a big deal made on stuff, it was so touching to see everyone there who came to say goodbye. I packed up my things and cleaned up my desk at the end of the day and Aaron helped me carry my stuff down to the lobby (Mark was picking me up after work today, so I wasn't going to have to lug this stuff on Metro). And it was then that it really started to hit me that I was leaving. In my new job, I'll be working on stuff more closely aligned with the career path I want to follow and my overall interests - something I've been wanting for awhile, I will have my own office, I'll be right in downtown DC. All great stuff, but the team I have worked with over the past 1.5 years is the best group of people you could ever want to work with. Brilliant people, everyone understands the meaning of teamwork, no big egos, and everyone knows how to have fun. I consider many of them to be my friends, not just co-workers. I'm going to miss sharing an office with Aaron, it's just nice to have someone right there to chat with during the day. Having my own office is going to be strange. I'm going to miss working with Coy and Cynthia, and I'm going to miss everyone's sense of humor. My new job has some pretty big shoes to fill, my current group of co-workers set the bar really high. Saying goodbye tomorrow is going to be harder than I thought...

And on a final note, we did one last walk-through of the house today - 15 hours and it is ours! It was just as pretty as I remembered it - the crown molding is GORGEOUS, the lighting is nice, and the kitchen and bathrooms have granite countertops. We'll finally have a guest bedroom. We can finally store our bikes out of the main living space. Our new place is awesome and I'm so excited that Mark and I are going to be homeowners in a matter of hours! Once the madness surrounding school is over, I will be able to turn my attention to decorating! Thank goodness it's the off-season, more time for painting and picking out furniture!

11 November 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report Part 2: THE RACE!

I was awake an hour before my alarm went off on race morning - the world is a quiet place at 3am. I just spent some time thinking about how I wanted my day to go and what I would need to do to make it happen. I heard Bryan start stirring around 3:45 and knew it was about time to get up. Had the usual breakfast of a bagel with butter, coupled with some friendly banter with Bryan, Mel and Iwan. Iwan amused us all with his a cappella version of Eye of the Tiger - if that doesn't get you pumped up, I don't know what would! We left the house on time (shocker!), the car stuffed with the five of us, two skateboards, four special needs bags and two dry clothes bags. Fortunately, it was a quick ride to the transition area - we even got some prime parking next to the finish area. We dropped off our special needs bags, got body marked, and walked into transition. I got a big smile on my face when the music playing in transition suddenly turned to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin." I had been hoping I'd hear that song before the race. I did all the usual pre-race stuff, check bike tires, strap on the nutrition, get the wetsuit on. And I didn't have to rush because I actually got to transition early (another shocker). Team Z had a tent set up on the beach so after my special needs bags had been dropped off, my gear bags updated, and bike fully prepared for the race, Mark and I headed to the tent. The sunrise was gorgeous, the water was beautiful, and it was a little chilly, but you could tell it would be a perfect day weather-wise. After some pictures with the team, Mark walked me over to the swim start. I wasn't terribly nervous, just hopeful that the day would go the way I hoped and that I would enjoy myself. I luckily ran into Sinead and Emily as we were going into the swim corral area and then saw Kate and Joanna. My initial plan was to go really far right so I could avoid getting beat up by the 2600+ people who were going to be running into the water all at once, but at the last minute I decided to stick with Kate and Joanna and stay in the middle of the pack, just to the right of the buoys. It was a beach start and the anticipation was palpable in the air in the minutes before the start cannon went off. And then, I was plunging into the Gulf with 2600 of my closest friends!

THE SWIM: 1:17:12 (2:02/100m pace, 32nd place in AG)
The beginning of the swim was less violent than I thought. Perhaps it helped that it was a beach start or because there was ALOT of space for people to spread out, but I didn't get kicked in the face or punched right away, in fact, you could almost call the swim... pleasant. And then it got crowded. And a little less pleasant. People started to crowd the buoys, especially around the turn, so you had to swim a little defensively. Here and there I would try to draft off some feet, but inevitably would be interrupted by an errant swimmer. But the water was warm, the jellyfish were staying far below the surface, and I didn't have any encounters with sharks, so it was a successful venture! And there were waves, oh boy were there waves. It was kind of like a ride and you had to time your sighting just right so you could actually see the buoys, not the wave that was about to throw you around. I enjoyed my new goggles (TYR Nest, with a smoky lens to keep out the sun). I finished the first loop in about 37 minutes. The second loop was a little less crowded, but I could feel myself getting tired at the end. It took me about 40 minutes to complete that loop. And with that, I was out of the water!

T1: 7:53
Not as fast as I wanted, but at least it doesn't look like I sat down and had a picnic lunch in transition. The wetsuit strippers were great and the freshwater shower felt great, I took my time passing through it because I wasn't going to be changing my clothes. I went into the correct changing tent (room) and got ready for the bike - helmet, sunglasses, headband, food (of course!) and ran out of the changing area. A volunteer smeared sunblock on me as I ran to get my bike (note to self: make sure the get sunblock on my lower back or else I will have a sunburn "tramp stamp" forever marking me). With that, I grabbed my bike from one of the wonderful volunteers and exited under the Bike Out banner.

THE BIKE: 6:03:00 (18.5mph, 28th place in AG)
I was moooooooving during the first 20 miles of the bike. I don't know if it was the adrenaline or the tailwind, but 22mph never felt so effortless. I was passing people, heart rate was still pretty low, and I felt like I could go forever (granted, this was still at like mile 7 - I still HAD forever left to go). As I settled into a rhythm, so did others around me, and I was passed by people, including girls, who I had a) passed at the beginning or b) were crummier swimmers than me but MUCH better bikers. I tried not to let it get to me, even when a few pelatons flew by me like I was on a tricycle. I was there to do my own race, at my own pace, and if I put the smack down while out on the bike, it was likely I would have nothing left for the run. I told myself that I would see those bikers later on the run, and hopefully I'd be blowing by them like they were standing still. Around mile 22/24, we took a right hand turn - right into the wind. That headwind stayed with us for about 30 miles, until mile 50. I wanted to cry. I watched my average pace dwindle down, 21.5... 20.2... 19.8.... until the low point of 18.2 was reached. I was talking to myself, trying to make my legs go faster because I didn't want to drop below the 18 mph mark.

But misery loves company and IM is a big race, so I was never really by myself on the bike course, which was rather nice. I saw some Z'rs out there in the race, which was great. Even more awesome were the signs that all of our spectathletes had put out along the bike course, in remote areas, for us to see - they were so obviously Team Z signs on bright green cardboard, with sayings such as "are you staying in Zone 2?" And during the headwind portion of the bike (which also had some hills - nothing like Savageman, but a little up-and-down) an SUV crammed with Team Z'rs went by me, hooting and hollering, it was great.

Once I turned the corner at mile 50, just a bit after the special needs pick-up (where a biker who didn't know the rules of the road almost ran me over), I got a bit of a tailwind, picking up both my speed and my spirits. This went on until just before mile 70 where two things happened - the good: I saw the Team Z tent with lots of people cheering; the bad: another headwind. Fortunately, the headwind only lasted 5ish miles, and then we turned around for another tailwind. I saw the Team Z tent again, going much faster this time around. A little further on, I saw a group of girls in bikinis, a guy with no shirt, all holding red solo cups and making a ruckus. "awww" I thought, "those college students look like they are having so much fun." And, for a bit, I fought the urge to just pull over my bike and join them - they clearly looked like they were having a good time. This was in the middle of nowhere on the course, no college campus ANYWHERE nearby, and why would a bunch of random college kids be out cheering on an Ironman on a Saturday morning anyways? Then, as I got closer, they recognized me - these weren't college kids, it was Annie, Amanda, Amber, Jenny, and others who were out cheering everyone on. Awesome!

By mile 80 I was still feeling pretty good on the bike. I had eaten my weight in Clif MoJo bars, PowerBars, and drank a bit (but really, not enough). I had the urge to pee early on in the bike, but that had subsided by this point, which is kind of a tip-off that I wasn't drinking enough. I had been cramming down 300+ calories an hour for the first three hours of the bike, knowing that I wouldn't be in the mood to eat later (which was untrue this time). 260 calories/hour is what I should be aiming for. I did become really full and for the next two hours, really cut back on how much I ate, simply because I was no longer hungry, definitely not reaching the 260 calorie quota for those two hours, a bit of a mistake. During the last hour of the bike, I. Was. Hungry. I started eating fritos and pita chips like it was my job, I was having a buffet on the bike at mile 110, trying to make up for that deficit. I was torn, knowing that eating so close to transition is a bad idea, but I Was Hungry, so I threw that logic out the window and down the hatch went the pita chips and fritos.

The last 30 miles of the bike was surprisingly pleasant for the most part. Many of the roads that we were riding on had been newly paved, making the ride really smooth and fast. It wasn't too hot and I was still around alot of people so it wasn't lonely. My average speed was gradually going up, at one point reaching 18.7, before dropping to 18.5 at the end. I had hoped to do the bike faster than last year's 6:37, preferably with a sub-6:15. I had a secret hope of getting under 6, but I didn't want to be disappointed if I didn't do it. As I closed in on the last few miles, I knew that it was going to be really close to the 6 hour mark. I ended up missing it by just under three minutes, but I'm still overjoyed with my time. I kept a very consistent speed throughout the bike, going much faster than I truly thought was possible, and I didn't feel completely fried. Success!

T2: 7:45
Again, no picnic lunch, but no drive-thru either. First things first, port-a-potty. It. Was. Great. The porta-potty was even pretty clean. I had some very helpful volunteers and it felt so nice to sit still and not move at all, I may have dawdled in transition just a bit. I got my visor out, sunglasses came off, grabbed whatever food I wanted to take with me, and I left the changing area, I got some more sunblock smeared on me, and was on my way.

THE RUN: 4:07:54 (9:28/mile, 13th place in AG)
I started off the run in Zone 2 with the plan to stay in Zone 2 no matter what. An Ironman marathon is a whole different beast than a stand-alone marathon, but I like to think of an IM marathon as being a gentler beast. You don't have the pressure to go super fast because, hey, you've already been racing for 7+ hours. You can walk through the aid stations because, hey, you just biked 112 miles and need more than water and gu to get you through the race. You can shuffle and that's perfectly acceptable - as long as you are moving forward, you are looking good! So, with that in mind, off I went. I passed by the Team Z tent right at the very beginning, it was great to see everyone out there cheering. It was still warm out, the sun was shining, and I was feeling pretty good. I was determined not to bonk on the run, at least not bonk as a result of not eating/drinking enough, so I made an effort to start eating right away, about 15 minutes after I started running. I figured I would drink water at every other aid station and eat a few Honey Stingers chewies at about that same time too. My legs felt surprisingly fresh, I enjoyed seeing the various cheering stations ["You Are Now Entering the Girl Zone" - cue scantily clad, busty women, some carrying whips to cheer the competitors on - keep in mind, the ratio of men to women in IM is 4-to-1, so I am sure the majority of competitors really enjoyed passing through this station 4 times, I myself found it rather amusing. Some of the men looked like they might just stop there and throw in the towel on the rest of the race]. The run wound through a really pretty state park and then back into town. The sun was definitely lower as I was heading back into town on the first loop. My stomach was also feeling uncomfortably full, I couldn't tell if it was food/drink not being absorbed or if I was also drinking in alot of air every time I drank water. Turned out to be the latter, so I started walking through the aid stations in which I was taking in liquids. But once I started walking, it became a little bit more difficult to stay running - walking was just so... easy. Anyways, it was great motivation to pass by the Team Z tent at the halfway point in the run and I went off to start the second loop still feeling pretty good, and definitely uplifted.

The second half of the second part of the run is where it got ugly. I realized that I was really hungry and thirsty - at aid stations, I couldn't get enough of the chicken broth and gatorade (I had given up on solid food, my stomach was hating me and only accepting liquids at this point). The chicken broth was great, it tasted so good, and I would feel an immediate pick-up whenever I had it. Mentally, I just kept talking to myself, just putting one foot in front of the other. To tell you the truth, I wasn't all that plugged into the mileage of the race - the miles kept ticking by, but I wasn't really keeping track. At this point, it was also dark, extremely dark in the State Park. But I knew I only had six miles left and, really, ANYONE can run six miles. So I just kept plugging away. I saw some more Z'rs as the course looped back and I crossed paths with those headed out to the State Park as I was headed away from it. I kept telling myself that I needed to run between aid stations, and, as a reward, I could walk the aid stations when I got to them. This strategy worked pretty well, but I was tired. After the race, my teammates who saw me out there said that it was obvious both on my face and in my demeanor that the last six miles were tough - I wasn't cheerfully saying hello to any of them - I would maybe wave my fingers at them, and that was it. When I passed by the Team Z cheering station at mile 24 (which was also THE HOUSE I WAS STAYING IN - I would've given anything for a quick nap in my bed, but I resisted the urge...), Melody saw me and texted Mark, saying "Caroline just ran by and she does not look happy." I kept plodding along - it was great to have Damon and Iwan out there cheering and walking alongside me for a few minutes during those dark, lonely last miles. I finally got to mile 25 and told myself, "Anyone can run one mile, that's all you have left." And then I promptly ignored that silly voice and started walking. Walking like a drunk person apparently because Amber and Amanda saw me and asked if I wanted them to walk with me. I must've looked bad. I told them I was fine and continued plodding on my way. I was just so... tired. I've never felt so completely tired before. And not physically in a way where you feel like your whole body hurts, this was more like, I just need a nap for an hour or two. But in a way, this was good because it let me know that I had left it all out on the race course and I probably couldn't have gone much faster. It was a good feeling. Once I crossed the street and was basically in the homestretch, with less than a mile left, I picked up the pace and began jogging again. It was pure adrenaline, coupled with my wild desire to eat real food, that got me going. A buffet of food was less than a mile away and the faster I could run, the faster I could eat. I was so focused on the food, I sort of forgot that this was supposed to be a magical moment, a moment that I should relish and revel in. But all I could do was grit my teeth and make a run for the food. I did acknowledge everyone at the Team Z tent as I rounded the corner, and the whole way down the finisher's chute, I wasn't thinking "Hey, I'm an Ironman." No, I was thinking, "I wonder which tent is the food tent." I did pay enough attention to hear Mike Reilly announce my name and tell me that I was an Ironman. And the smile on my face as I crossed the finish line, it's there because I know that I'm going to have a large slice of pizza in hand within about 35.6 seconds, not because I was an Ironman. Priorities, it's all about priorities...

FINAL: Overall time of 11:43:42, 18th in my division, 766 overall.

POST RACE - Well, I made it to the food tent in record time. Grabbed so much of it, I could barely hold it all, but I solved that problem by quickly eating about half of it. I signed up and got a free massage (awesome). The masseuse tried to take my grapes from me as I got on the table, but I literally pulled and turned away and said "no" like a petulant five-year-old. I did end up giving him the grapes because I needed both hands to get up on the table, but only under the condition that he return the grapes to me immediately. Not that it really mattered because as soon as I got on that table, I was practically asleep and didn't eat any grapes at all. After the massage, I found Mark, changed into warm, dry clothes, and went to the Team Z tent to cheer everyone else on. Turns out I was the third Team Z'r to finish and the first girl, with Kate Green only 8 minutes behind me. I was really happy with my time, slightly disappointed that I didn't break four hours and instead slowed down significantly in the last few miles, but I really had nothing left. After getting some more food in me, Mark and I headed back to the house so I could take a shower before coming back to watch the last hour of the race. I felt human again after the shower, and actually quite awake. I got dressed in warm clothes and headed back to the race site.

The last hour of the race was so emotional and amazing - words cannot adequately describe the electricity and feeling in the air. It was packed, the music was pumping, and the finishers were looking so thrilled to be running down that finisher's chute. I will watch the last hour of every single Ironman race that I go to from here on out. I'd have to say that was my favorite part of the whole day (aside from eating mass quantities of food immediately after I finished).

Well, there is is, the race report. I will likely have some reflections in a later post, but overall I am really happy with how the race went. I exceeded all of my expectations and had a faster split on everything (except the swim, but that's to be expected seeing as I had a 59 minute swim split last year thanks to the incoming tide at Beach2Battleship), I felt good through most of the race, and I think that if I work hard, I can improve even more during next season.

It's the off-season now and guess what... I miss triathlon already. Counting down until next year!

10 November 2009

Ironman Race Report Part 1: Pre Race

To preface my pre-race race report, I'm happy to say that I'm sunburnt, chafed in all sorts of places, including some lovely wetsuit bite on my neck, and my two big toenails will definitely be falling off in the near future, but all of this means I competed, completed, and LOVED Ironman!

Now, for the pre-race race report!

So even though I did a triathlon last year that was 140.6 miles long, I didn't feel like I had the full "I AM AN IRONMAN" bragging rights because it wasn't an Ironman-brand race. There was no M-Dot gear to buy, no announcement when I crossed the finish line proclaiming that I was an ironman. And even though I enjoyed the low-key atmosphere of Beach2Battleship, I wanted an Ironman water bottle and an M-Dot visor, a kind of visual validation for all the world to see that I was really and truly an Ironman.

I felt pretty confident in my ability to compete and complete Ironman Florida. I already had one 140.6 mile race under my belt, Florida was a flat course (nothing scary like Savageman), and I had done all of the training. So I wasn't nervous in the days leading up to the race. The lack of nerves could also be attributed to the fact that school is kicking my butt and Mark and I close on our first house 6 days after Ironman - so there have been other things on my mind. But I still found it slightly odd that I was totally calm about the race in the days before (I did have a freak-out in the middle of the night the night before the race - more on that in a bit).

Mark and I arrived in Florida on the Wednesday before the Saturday race, 14 hours of driving in one day. I harbored a not-so-secret hope that Ironman would take me less time to complete than the drive to Panama City Beach. We stayed in a Team Z house with Bryan, Mel, Iwan and Robin. It was right on the run course and about two miles from the finish line. I was also thrilled that we were staying with Mel and Iwan because it was the first time I got to hang out with them since they eloped last month! There were in FL to be spectathletes extraordinaire. Plus, sharing a house with Mel and Bryan brought back fun memories of Mooseman 2008.

Thursday morning, Bryan and I met up with other Z'rs who had arrived to poke arond transition and see the swim course. I had NO IDEA the Gulf was such pretty shades of blue and green. As the day progressed, PCB became overrun with ridiculously fit athletes sporting copious amounts of spandex and riding prohibitively expensive bikes. The line was loooonnnnggg for packet pick-up, but the volunteers were great. I even got to use my (super rusty) French to help a guy from France figure out the medical release form. I then went on a little shopping spree for M-Dot gear (mug, magnet, socks, shirt, water bottle, two visors). But because I am superstitious, all of that stuff sat in a bag until I completed the race. Bryan and I had a gear-bag packing extravaganza that afternoon. And holy crap Ironman demands alot of gear, fluid, and nutrition! I'm going to type up my packing list for use in future races. After the packing extravaganza came a bike cleaning extravaganza. By the end of the evening, the bulk of the preparations were done - dry gear bag, T1, T2, bike special needs, and run special needs bags all packed, the bike was clean and sporting a new aero water bottle holder.

Friday morning was a pre-race brick, beginning with a frolic.... errrr swim, in the Gulf. The buoys looked REALLY far out and it was hard to wrap my mind around swimming that course twice on race day. But the water was beautiful both in looks and in temperature, although it was choppier than I had expected, because from the shore it didn't look like there were waves. But I didn't feel motion sick and the waves were actually kind of fun, which was a pleasant surprise. I was less concerned with what it would be like to have a choppy swim on race day. Then it was off for a 30 minute bike ride. I rode with Ryan for part of the ride, but took a detour on the way back so I could pick up a snack from the rental house because I was STARVING! Then I did a 15 minute run and the last workout for Ironman was complete! The weather was beautiful, I definitely got some sun, and I was feeling good for race day. I dropped my gear bags off in transition along with my bike. I hemmed and hawed on whether or not I should let air out of my (super cool rented) Zipp tires so the tubes didn't pop if it got hot. I decided not to and it turned out to be fine. The rest of Friday was just a hurry up and wait kind of day. I kept looking at the clock thinking "in 24 hours from now, I'll be halfway done with the bike... I'll be on the run... hopefully I'll be finished the race... etc." We went to the team dinner, ate some yummy pasta and I totally grabbed like 4 little desserts because they all looked good (I planned on splitting them with Mark). It was so nice to be able to mingle and chat with my teammates and supporters who came down to watch - there were so many of us! Forty-three racing plus about 100 people coming down to just watch. Awesome! We did a team picture and Ed gave a very touching speech, and suddenly I realized that the next time I would see everyone, we'd all be wearing wetsuits and be on our way into the Gulf! It's kind of funny, when I first joined Team Z in November 2007, one of the first team events I went to was the holiday brunch that December. They showed the team video from Ironman Coeur d'Alene that was taken that summer - there were shots of the pre-race dinner, interviews with the racers beforehand, and shots from the race itself, all complete with music that perfectly fit the mood of each moment. That video really made an impression on me, I could feel the nerves of everyone getting ready for the race, the excitement and anticipation of the start cannon, the emotion and pride of everyone because of all their hard work, and it made me want to do Ironman. I downloaded alot of the songs that were used in the video and even now, two years later, I always think about that video when I hear them. So, in a way, it was surreal that here I was, two years later, about to have that same experience for myself - the pre-race team dinner, the exciting start, the exhilarating finish. I was really happy to be a part of Team Z and I was really grateful that I had the motivation, desire, and capability to compete in a race like Ironman.

I went to bed early the night before the race, only two wake up two hours later feeling like I had a butterfly emporium in my belly - hello pre-race nerves, I was wondering when you'd make an appearance! I don't know if it was all pre-race nerves, I was also nervous about eating at the buffet dinner that night. I am really particular about my food in the days/weeks leading up to a race because I don't want to get sick before a race. I like to prepare my own food, stay away from too much meat, just so I know what I'm putting in my body. At the pre-race dinner I just had bread, pasta and alfredo sauce, and the requisite dessert. So I was fine, just paranoid. I managed to go back to sleep and when I woke up a 3am, I felt fine, just excited.

Race morning had finally arrived!!!

05 November 2009

Hello Florida!

We're here! Mark and I got up at 3:30 am yesterday and were out the door before 5am for a 14 hour drive to Panama City Beach, FL. It's beautiful (at least the weather and the beach are beautiful - there are too many hokey gift shops on the "strip" for the rest of Panama City Beach to be called beautiful) and warm and sunny and I haven't seen any big waves on the water. Here's to hoping it stays that way through Saturday! I started feeling a little nervous today as we were walking around the transition area and picking up our packets. SO MANY PEOPLE. And we're all going to be swimming at the same time. Scary. I bought some M-Dot gear (two visors, shirt, mug, socks, magnet, water bottle) and plan on buying finisher gear (maybe a nice pullover) on Sunday after the race.

So now the bags are packed, nutrition has been figured out, I have my clothes set for tomorrow's pre-race brick. Mark and I took a sunset walk down to the beach and the water is PERFECT! Hello sleeveless wetsuit! The swim course looks pretty good actually - it's two loops and seems manageable, maybe even pleasant! I bought some new goggles to ward off the sunshine, I'm going to try them out tomorrow.

I'm excited, much more excited than nervous. This is the reward for all of the hard work, all of the training, all of the time spent swimming, biking, and running. So, in my mind, Saturday is just going to be a party and a celebration for 12+ hours (perhaps one filled with chafing, sports food, and sunburn, but a party all the same). I'm thrilled to be doing this race with Team Z - it will be amazing to see everyone out on the course, both spectators and other racers.

Time for bed!

30 October 2009

Crunch time...

Since accepting my new job, I realized I have some leave to burn in my current job. This couldn't come at a better time because I need all the extra time I can get to finish my final papers for my Masters degree. I took yesterday and today off from work so I could have a four-day writing extravaganza! They are due five weeks from today. Both are supposed to be at least fifty pages - one is currently at page 31 and the other is on page 16. Contrary to how I've written papers in the past, I didn't save these until two weeks before the due date to write them. I'm hoping to be at 35 pages on one and at least on page 22 of the other one before the end of the weekend. Both are interesting topics, so I don't hate doing the research and writing. I'm just hoping I'm doing the research properly and I'm actually saying what I'm trying to say.

In addition to writing these papers, I have a little thing called Ironman Florida eight days in my future. It hasn't completely slipped my mind, but I am surprised at how quickly it has crept up on me. My attention on my papers has also prevented me from being too nervous about the race. It's strange, I'm not nervous at all. It's not like I'm an old pro at these things, I've only done one Iron-Distance race (last year's Beach2Battleship), but it went really well, didn't hurt nearly as much as I thought it would, and I didn't have a problem finishing. I'm sort of seeing Ironman as just being a really long training day - I don't know if that's a good or bad perspective. Either way, it has kept my nerves calm. Plus I think it helps that there are no steep hills - I'm less worried about falling off my bike. I'm also using this weekend to get prepared for the race - packing, purchasing last minute fuel and race items, making lots of lists, etc.

Speaking of Ironman, I've made it a point to do EVERY SINGLE one of my workouts these past two weeks. This past Tuesday I swam 4750 yds, my longest swim EVER and I felt really good. Ironman swim will only be about 4100 yds. I did my speedwork, including 10x1200 on Wednesday of last week. Long run of 20 miles last Sunday to cheer Mark on during various points in the Marine Corps Marathon (he finished in 3:39 in his debut marathon!) and today I'm going to do my 2.5 hour ride on the trainer watching a girly movie (so I don't have to do it on Sunday). I'm feeling pretty good, a bit tired (unfortunately, my writers block always seems to disappear in the late hours of the evening and that's when I'm most productive. I expect to have many late nights after Ironman is over because the creative juices will be flowing!)

And today is Mark's birthday - his last year in his 20's! I'm going to surprise him with a few things - I'm looking forward to spending the evening with him.

And now - to the trainer and then back to the computer!

24 October 2009

Who I've Become...

This fall has been busy and full of some pretty significant changes (all good ones!). The big one is that we just bought our first home - a townhouse in the "straight-up thug town of Arlington" (cue "Arlington Rap Video" from YouTube). This townhouse has exceeded all of our hopes, in terms of space (three floors!), nice interior (remodeled top-to-bottom, hardwood floors, gorgeous kitchen!), plenty of storage (closets galore!), and location (ARLINGTON! On the bike path!! 3 miles from the Pentagon!!!). And it was within our target price range. AND we get the $8,000 tax break. We are pretty lucky with this awesome find. We close on 13 Nov and move in on 14 Nov (which happens to be five years, almost to the day, of Mark and my first date - 12 Nov 2004).
Also right around that time is when I have a pretty significant change of my very own - I start my new job on 16 Nov. I've been with my current company for five years (which is pretty much forever your entire career when you are only 28). I started off as an admin assistant back in July 2004. I was so, so, SO young and immature. I didn't know who I was, I didn't have much direction, no planned career path, and going out on nights and weekends was pretty much my biggest priority. I lived in a group house (any house that has mushrooms growing out of the basement carpet earns the title Grossest House Ever), with six crazy roommates (kid you not, there was excessive amounts of emotional instability in that house), and I didn't really have a hobby and I wasn't in grad school. I had oodles of free time on my hands and I did NOTHING constructive with it. I saw the admin job as a temporary thing (which it was), a way to get my foot in the door on my way to bigger and better things. Within two years I was promoted up to an analyst position and working at the Pentagon. I quickly learned that this new position was just a glorified admin position; I gutted it out for about two years, and found another job within the company in Crystal City as an ACTUAL analyst. When I took it, I thought, "this is what I have worked three and a half years for, something that involves actual analytical work, writing, reading documents, making a difference." And it was all of those things... but I realized that the subject matter wasn't for me, I didn't click with it, and it was likely that I was going to need to make a total career change to find something more in line with my interests.

About three years into working at this company, I finally started my Masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University. I loved my classes - they were challenging, opened my eyes to a completely different way to see the world, and I discovered how much I liked various topics within the Peace and Conflict and Development fields (human rights, issues facing youth and children in the developing world). I snagged an opportunity to go to Nepal for three weeks this past summer. I would complain about the time I would have to devote to writing papers, but I secretly enjoyed researching and writing about Youth and Sports in development, the resource curse of Sierra Leone, child marriage in Egypt, etc. I was finally starting to feel really educated! Everything I was studying was so different from the security and defense world I was working in... and I really preferred what I was studying.

So yesterday I gave my notice at work. I start working at Mathematica Policy Research, Inc on 16 Nov (day three in our new house!). Even though I'm excited about this new job and the new opportunities for learning and growth it will present me, in a field I am really interested in, it was still sad and bittersweet to realize I'm leaving the company that gave me my first grown-up job. It's also the place where I met my husband. I have made some really great friends there. I'm going to miss sharing an office with Aaron - it's going to be strange and rather lonely to have an office all to myself. And the people I currently work with are all super intelligent, driven, yet fun, helpful, and truly a team. I've never been part of such a cohesive, strong, fun group of co-workers and I don't know if I'll ever find that again.

Anyways, I've become a different person from that 22-year-old that was hired back in July 2004. I'm more mature, much more comfortable with the person I am, more confident, happy, and I'm really excited for the future. I am a triathlete, I'm going to have my Master's Degree in a couple short months, I've run 10 marathons (including two Bostons), I have a great marriage to the most understanding and supportive guy in the world, I've finally figured out how to get my curly hair under control, and I'm thinking about starting my PhD next fall in Conflict Resolution.

In training and triathlon news - I've actually done ALL of my workouts so far this week on the days that they were scheduled (except I swapped days for this weekends long run/long ride). All that's left is my long run tomorrow morning, which I will do while being a Spectathlete at Mark's first marathon - the Marine Corps Marathon!

15 October 2009

Possessive...

So, I'll admit, I can be a little... possessive... when it comes to food. I call dibs on food the way a teenage girl might call dibs on her crush, or the way people call shotgun for a car ride. But sometimes this possessiveness gets a little out-of-hand. And before I go any further, I will say right now that I owe my husband an apology for expecting him to be a mind-reader. When I'm not eating, I'm usually thinking about what I'm going to eat next, I like to call this planning ahead. So this morning on my way home from my 90 minute swim practice, I was daydreaming about the bagel and oatmeal I was going to enjoy when I got home. I opened the fridge, happy and expectant, only to have my hopes and dreams of a bagel crushed because MARK ATE THE LAST ONE! And, that's perfectly fine, perfectly normal that he ate the last bagel (I finished off the cereal the night before, so really he had no other breakfast choices). But I was MAD! And DISAPPOINTED! I had been looking forward to that bagel since 4:25am when I woke up. And a piece of me wondered why Mark didn't leave the bagel for me - after all, I was the one up early and working out while he was sleeping - I NEEDED the extra fuel.

And then when I arrived home from work, famished (of course), I was already planning to have toast with peanut butter. But when I opened the fridge, the bread I was going to use was MIA. I was mad again - because there also wasn't enough of my favorite bread to make a sandwich for the next day. But again, I never told Mark what I was planning on eating, so how would he know.

Lesson learned: just because my workouts may be longer and more frequent than Mark's, does not give me an extra right over the food in our fridge. And Mark will never know what I am planning on eating unless I tell him.

Bottom line - I think about food far more than what's probably normal.. And Mark is a saint for putting up with me.

14 October 2009

Goodbye Summer... See You in Seven Months (frowny face)

It was a cold, wet, dreary day today - the kind where you just want to stay indoors. So that was exactly what I did. I skipped my run, I simply wasn't feeling it. I don't usually skip run workouts but I REALLY didn't want to go outside. Unfortunately for me, it's going to be chilly, rainy, and depressing for the rest of the week - hello trainer! I'm also using the excuse that my knee is still sore from Sunday's ride (hence why I didn't do a trainer ride tonight in place of my run) and I have too much writing to do (the deadline on that 100 pages worth of papers is fast approaching!)

I've become a true cold-weather wuss since moving away from New England. Now it hits the 50s and it's simply too cold. And snow - what is that? With fall weather here, I'm already missing outdoor summer workouts. I love stepping outside and just feeling the heat envelope you. I don't care if I lose half my bodyweight through sweat - I would rather have hot weather than cold weather. And please don't get me started on outdoor biking in the fall/winter/early spring - four words: frozen fingers and toes. And one word to sum that up: MISERABLE. Thaaaaannnkkkk goodness Ironman Florida is flat because THIS GIRL is doing the rest of her rides on the trainer!

It's also the end of a long season (Boston was six months ago and I did my first triathlon of the season more than five months ago). I do love racing and I'm sad the season is almost over - but my motivation to go outside and workout (and this weather isn't helping) is severely waning. I don't know if it's because I have these papers hanging over my head, or if I'm just in a funk that I'll get over in a few days, or the fact that I keep thinking we need to pack because we're moving ONE MONTH from today, but my mind is simply not as Ironman-focused as I'd like. Can I just go out and wing the race? It's a combination of all those things, I think. I'm really struggling with one of my paper topics - and hopefully choosing the right path with my topic will be the hardest part and once I figure that out, the rest will come easy. I'm looking at Nepal and caste-based discrimination within that country. There are SO MANY angles I could take with that subject and I really can't figure out which one to go with. Right now I'm leaning towards investigating the roots of caste within Nepali society and how the social system perpetuates the oppression wrought by the caste hierarchy and how lessons from the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa could be applied to the Dalit Rights movement, even though caste-discrimination and racism are different forms of oppression with different ideologies behind them - the intention of both movements is the same: bring human rights to a population that has long been denied dignity and various freedoms. I've always had a love/hate relationship with research papers (mostly because I procrastinate) but I really am learning alot about defining a question and designing a research method to meet my objectives through these two papers. And with that said, I'm off to write more of my papers!

11 October 2009

Biggest Weekend for Ironman Florida Training...

...Has now been completed! Besides my left knee feeling unpleasantly tight and sore with every pedal stroke on the bike today, this weekend went without a hitch (and besides running out of ice cream sandwiches before the end of Sunday night). I did my 24 mile run yesterday and felt pretty okay during most of it. My pace was in the 8:40s (I think, but I'm too lazy to get up and get my workout log to actually check) but I wasn't doing a great job at keeping my heart rate in zone. I finished in under 3:30. Oh well, I just wanted the run DONE! And then today I got up at 5am to drive 1:15 outside the city to Maryland's Eastern Shore with Bryan and Scott for the 120 mile Team Z ride. We got there on time (I NEVER get to rides on time!) and did two rounds of the 54 mile loop that has two turns (and those turns are in the first/last two miles of the loop), so you don't even need a cue sheet. You just put your head down and ride. It's nice and flat. But it is ALWAYS windy, no matter WHAT direction you are going in. You almost always feel like you have a headwind. There were times during the ride today that I was just cursing out loud. That's when you know you're having an awesome ride - you're by yourself, surrounded by wind (phantom wind because none of the leaves are blowing on the darn trees - you really start to wonder if you're just making the wind up, if 120 miles have simply made you delusional) and talking to yourself. Ohh, and your face is covered with bits of PowerBar and peanut butter from your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. All that's left to do is pee on your bike and you are officially a complete mess (I refrained - I only pee on my bike during Savageman). But I'm getting off-topic. Started the ride out towards the front, jumped on the Kate Green train for a little bit, went off and got in my extra 12 miles (the two loops were only 108 miles) in the middle of the first loop, and then ended up riding solo for the rest of the ride because I wasn't catching up to anyone who was riding my pace. It was a beautiful day for riding, it was great to see friends that I hadn't seen in awhile, and there was pizza and homemade heart-shaped brownies waiting for us at the end of the ride. I did the 120 in 6 hours and 36 minutes, averaging 18.1 mph (definitely did not negative split the bike). I did a short 3 mile run after the bike just to see how I felt. My sore knee did not affect my running, fortunately. For the first half mile, I was running REALLY slow and felt really sore and stiff and told myself that it was probably not a smart idea to ride as fast as I did today at Ironman. But by the time I hit the first mile I had loosened up, my pace had quickened, and I did the three miles with an 8:34 pace, staying within Zone 2 for almost all of it. I have more confidence for Ironman Florida. I have time goals for all three disciplines and an overall time goal in my head, but I am not ready to share them. Perhaps after the race :)

Training was good this weekend. And now I'm off to sleep!

06 October 2009

Waiting on 14 Dec... with dread and anticipation

I am two papers - that's right TWO PAPERS - away from having my Masters degree in hand. But they are two long papers - 100 pages total between them both. And right now I'm on page 8. Of the first one. And they are due in two months and seven days. I've had all summer to get cracking on them. But I'm a master procrastinator - so it's typical that I didn't even start thinking about them until late August. I'm now trying to write a few pages a day, but my brain is not in school mode, it's in senior slacker mode. I really just need to make myself sit down, destroy facebook and blogger, and WRITE my two papers. The subjects are interesting, I want to become a SME in them, but I just feel overwhelmed and paralyzed with the thought that I don't have enough time to finish. One is on the role of community in the reintegration process of youth ex-combatants (case study of Uganda and Sierra Leone). The other will be on Nepal and the movement for Dalit Rights and implications for the country's social system (if we get rid of the caste system, what sort of social system will replace it, and how can that be installed with minimal disruption). Interesting subjects. Complicated subjects. And I only have two months and one week to pull it all together. Eeek!

PS - never again am I going to be doing the following things simultaneously:
- work full time
- school part time
- ironman training
- buy and move into a new house.

I've been so busy and tired I haven't even watched the episode of Greys Anatomy that I missed last week!

30 September 2009

Speedwork time!

I'll admit it, I haven't been great at getting to the track to do my speedwork. I try to do a tempo run each week, usually on Mondays, but there are alot of Wednesdays where I come up with excuses to miss my speedwork. I can't quite explain how I feel about speedwork - sure it's fun to go fast and see what your limits are, but it is kind of uncomfortable at the same time. And it can get old running around in a quarter-mile circle. But last year I found that speedwork really helped with, well, my overall speed, even in endurance events. I posted a PR at the Army Ten Miler, despite my (harrowing) 110 mile bike ride the day before out Route 50 (dumbest idea ever to bike on Route 50) and my run times in triathlons were faster than I had ever expected.

So all day today I was dreading the speedwork. I overslept so I had to do it in the afternoon, which meant I got to think about it all day at work. 3x2 miles repeats in zone 4, with a 1x1600 repeat thrown in to top it off, also in zone 4. Seven miles total. Ugh. Earlier this month, my pace in zone 4 was rather sloth-like - in the low 7:00's. So I didn't have high expectations for today's workout. But I surprised myself. The average overall pace of my first two miles was 6:38, the average overall pace dropped in my second two-mile interval to 6:34 and held steady at that pace for my third two-mile interval. And then I brought my average overall pace down to 6:31 with my final one-mile repeat. And I rarely strayed higher than zone 4, I didn't feel like I was dying, and my legs don't feel like jello. Success!

While I still don't have super high expectation's for Sunday's Army Ten-Miler, I do feel a little more excited about it.

Time for bed because I HAVE TO go to swim in the morning. Thursday mornings are speedwork in the pool - even better than the track - ha!

29 September 2009

Last Big Build before the Big Race

October is almost here. I'm a little more than one month out from Ironman Florida. Now that Savageman is over, I don't have to bike another hill again until next year if I so choose! I've actually heard that trainer rides aren't going to be detrimental in terms of training for Florida because that race is so flat. I know alot of people hate the trainer, but I actually rather enjoy it - I think I've done more long rides on my trainer than outdoors this summer. There's less likelihood of me falling off my bike on the trainer (a fear of mine out on the open road - I'm rather good at falling off my bike, especially at inopportune times), I get to watch tv guilt-free, and food, bathrooms, and water are always just a few steps away - there's alot less preparation that goes into a trainer ride than an outdoor ride.

So, speaking of trainers, I rode mine for an hour tonight, in Zone 2, and felt pretty good. I really struggled on Sunday to make myself stay on the trainer for 45 minutes on Sunday, mentally I just wasn't in the mood to ride at all on Sunday; fortunately today was much better and went by much faster. I even managed to get up for swim practice this morning - AMAZING! I actually enjoyed what we did, no speedwork (yay, love Tuesdays!), and good people in my lane. Swam a total of 2650 yards during the hour practice. I love the feeling when I am done swimming - your shoulders and back are sore (in a good way), you're hungry like you really deserve a good meal, and with the days getting shorter, by the time I leave the gym it's still dark out so I feel like I really got a jump on the day.

With less than 40 days between me and Ironman Florida, the last big workouts will be in the next couple of weeks and then it's taper time! Some days I feel like I'm in better shape than last year, some days hmmmmmm, not so much. Savageman this year - 20 minutes faster than last year - I think my biking has really improved. Army Ten Miler this coming Sunday - I dont' feel nearly as quick on my feet this year as I did last year. I haven't been doing as much speedwork as I should - I took it easy with running these past few weeks because of a cold and because I pulled a calf muscle (from dancing at a wedding, of all things!). I don't think I have a bat's chance in hell of breaking my best time of last year. Add to that the fact that I have a 100+ mile bike ride and a nice run the day before the race, I think the Army Ten Miler is going to be just another training day for me. But to spice it up and add some fun, my best friend from high school, Katie, and her boyfriend Kevin, are coming down to do the race and stay with us! I'm so excited to see them (and not so excited to clean the house, but that's also something that has to be done anyway and what better kick in the butt than not wanting your friends to know you live in a pigsty!)

In other fun news, Mark and I now have a contract on a townhouse near Columbia Pike and 4 Mile Run, literally a stone's throw from the bike path. We will become the proud owners on 13 November - literally five years and one day after Mark and I had our first date, AWWWW!

Off to bed, let's see if I can get up in time to run at the track - ha!

27 September 2009

Oh 90's Memories!

First of all, I have to say congratulations to Erin and Ashley on the birth of their beautiful daughter (and my beautiful goddaughter!) Reagan Kylene on Wednesday 23 September 2009! Seven pounds, five ounces, and cute as anything! I can't wait to meet her and spoil her rotten!

I'm in the midst of writing my final papers for my Masters degree. True to form, I've been procrastinating on doing the research and the writing. I spent this evening, a Saturday evening to be exact, doing research. And surfing iTunes. iTunes puts together these mixes of songs that were popular in 1999, 2003, etc. Well, tonight was my lucky night and I came across an iTunes mix entitled "High School Crush: The 90s." AWESOME! I had forgotten that half of these songs even existed! Listening to the music on there has TOTALLY brought me back to middle school, and even parts of high school and college, but mostly middle school. Honestly, I hated the majority of middle school, but for whatever reason, listening to these songs brings back only happy memories, so I guess it couldn't have been that bad. Here's a little selection of songs/memories, in no particular order...

- "Baby, I Love Your Way" by Big Mountain: 5th/6th grade field trips

- "The Freshmen" by the Verve Pipe: sophomore year spring track with Megan and Rachel who were actually freshmen at the time

- "Swear it Again" by Westlife: freshman/sophomore years of college, living in the 400s with Erin and Lynn, talking about our sucky love lives.

- "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb: school dances freshman year of high school and HOPING someone would ask me to dance. I think that happened maybe once.

- "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston: sixth grade and going to my first birthday party where BOYS were actually invited, including one I had a total crush on - I think I told my mom that after the fact and she was NOT happy. And I think we sang this song on Karaoke over and over and over at the party.

- "I Don't Want to Wait" by Paula Cole: summer after sophomore year of high school and going biking out in Gloucester with my very first boyfriend ever. I felt so grown up! Unfortunately, I didn't have my mad, crazy bike mechanical skills that I currently possess today (ha) and when I got a flat tire halfway through and didn't know how to fix it, my very first boyfriend ever had to bike all the way back to his truck and drive back to pick me up.

- "Truly, Madly, Deeply" by Savage Garden: winter of my junior year of high school, I think my boyfriend and I had just broken up so this song was just depressing.

- "On Bended Knee" by Boyz II Men: Heather's 13th birthday party she got the Boys II Men CD - as well as practically every single middle school dance during 8th grade

- "Only Wanna Be With You" by Hootie and the Blowfish: eighth grade, going to church youth groups not because of God but because I had a crush on a certain boy in that youth group.

- "Step By Step" by NKOTB: ALL of late elementary/early middle school. I was super cool in my acid washed jean jacket covered in b NKOTB buttons, worn over my NKOTB t-shirt, accessorized with my NKOTB baseball hat (with a few NKOTB buttons pinned on, of course!)

- "Can't Help Falling in Love" UB40: cross-country meets in eighth grade. Why? I have no idea.

I get a kick out of what memories music can instantly bring to mind, even if you haven't heard/thought about a song in years! And I always used to think my mom was a dork when she'd hear an old disco song on the radio and say "Ohh, Earth, Wind, and Fire, 1975, I was in high school....yada yada yada..." And now I totally understand...