31 December 2010

Ironman France 2010 - Race Report!

I know! A race report! Yes, the race took place more than 6 months ago, but as they say - better late than never, right? I told myself I would write the report before 2011... And seeing as 2011 starts tomorrow, I guess that means I need to do it today. And I'll be posting the Ironman Wisconsin race report today as well. HA! Then we can start looking towards 2011...

Pre-race:
We arrived in Paris on Saturday June 19th. Mark and I met up with his parents and we spent a few days eating our way through the city and sightseeing. I indulged in some falafel, gelato, and we had an amazing meal at this organic restaurant in the vicinity of the Marais. I was a little
concerned about getting enough rest and not overdoing it with walking around the city, but it's not like you're in Paris every day, so I probably did more than I should. I especially enjoyed the night of the 21st, which was the Fete de la Musique. There were bands EVERYWHERE in the city that night, on streetcorners, the metro was packed with people ready for a good time, and it was difficult to make myself go home at 10pm and go to bed. We took a day trip up to Normandy that Tuesday to visit the D-Day beaches. And on Wednesday we headed to Nice to meet up with Allie, Jackie, and Steph... and get ready for the race!

One of the best ways to fuel up for a race is to eat really good food. I made sure I did this every meal, especially when we went to L'Oliviera, a restaurant in Old Ni
ce where they put AMAZING olive oil on EVERYTHING - including the Tiramisu.
I also enjoyed Gelato on a daily basis. This region has the best gelato in the world and I wasn't going to waste an opportunity to have it!

Each day, more and more triathletes arrived in town. By Saturday, the day before the race, spandex-clad fit people had taken over the city, most wearing Ironman hats to compliment their spandex. Each morning, there was an early morning crowd at the beach (Beau Rivage, my old haunt!) doing practice swims and then biking and running on the Promenade - can't think of a more perfect place to do a pre-race brick than the Mediterranean sea and the wide walkway along the ocean.

Saturday morning was spent at the beach, just relaxing, drinking water, and eating carbs. Once afternoon came around, I headed back to the hotel to start packing my race bags and get my bike ready for the race. It's amazing how much stuff you apparently need to do an Ironman. And it's even more amazing how long it takes to pack it all, how many lists are required to make sure you're not forgetting anything, and how even when you've checked everything off, you're probably forgetting something anyway.
The bags - empty and waiting

All of my stuff, ready to go!

Wearing a dress and checking in my bike

My time slot to drop off my bike was around 6 Saturday evening. I was surprised at how busy it was, but it was pretty efficient. I also made sure to wear a dress. I like to do that because I feel like it shows I can be a triathlete AND a girl. Just because I do triathlons doesn't mean I need to dress in shorts and tee-shirts all the time. Including when I go to drop my bike off for Ironman.
Prerace dinner was at L'Abbaye in Old Nice. This was a restaurant I went to several times with my friends back in 2002 when I spent a summer here. The food was good, inexpensive, and fast. And they had pasta. Lots of pasta. I was definitely feeling nervous and kept thinking, "At this time tomorrow, the race will be over and I can eat gelato guilt-free!" or "At this time tomorrow, I'm going to be so happy and relieved." etc, etc. Oddly enough, when I went into the restaurant to use the restroom, the Kesha song "Your Love is my Drug" was playing in the background. I secretly like Kesha (shhh, it's a secret, don't tell!) and I hadn't listened to my iPod in ages or heard familiar songs from home, so, for whatever reason, hearing her ridiculous song made me feel better, even excited, for the next day. I was home and in bed a little after 8pm. Mark and his sisters went out for a little while and got home before I was asleep.

Race Morning:
I don't remember what time I woke up. Probably 3-something. Definitely early (the race started at 6:30, about 30 minutes earlier than the US-Ironman start times). France has a grudge against bagels because you can't find any in that country, so I ate a bunch of pre-packaged croissants from Monoprix and pretzels. With Nutella (France also hates Peanut Butter). And I drank water. Since my bags had already been packed and turned in, my swim stuff was ready, and my bike was already racked, there really wasn't much to do besides eat and go to the bathroom. We left the hotel around 5-something and walked to the race start, which was about 10 minutes away, if that. It was like an exodus of spandex-clad, bleary-eyed zombies making their was to the Promenade. I also saw several late-night revelers waiting for the 1st AM tram home - ahhhh, those days are long ago for me!
Walking to the race start

The advantage of doing a race where only 200 of a field of 2700 are women, is you get a low race number. And a low race number means your bike is racked RIGHT next to the pro rack. I was number 60 and my bike was so close to the pros I could've reached out and touched them, if that was socially acceptable. Katya Meyers, the American pro who graced the February 2007 issue of Triathlete Magazine (the first tri magazine issue I ever bought, and the issue that made me consider triathlon and, gulp, Ironman), was literally 3 feet away from me. And when are you ever going to be that close to a pro? Ummmm, just about never, so I figured I should take this opportunity to say hi and wish her luck - I didn't want to interrupt her too much, since this is her job and she was essentially getting ready to go to work. She was super nice and we chatted a few minutes about the course (she's done the race several times) before she had to head down to the water. The conversation was a good way to take my mind off the pre-race nerves and instead just be excited.

It was a little after 6 when I started to make my way down to the race start. I had hoped that they would've put some sort of carpeting down along the race start to make it easier to walk on the rocky beach, but alas they did not. And because I didn't want to walk on the rocks, I chose to just park myself in a place that didn't require much walking to get to - right in the middle of the pack. I figured it would be fine, I've never had a terribly violent IM swim start, Florida was fine, so I figured France would be the same. Plus, I was very pre-occupied looking at the mess of buoys out in the water and trying to figure out what pattern we were supposed to follow when swimming around them. It looked like someone just dropped them from a plane and where they landed marked out the swim course. I wasn't too worried, though, it's not like I'm a fantastic swimmer who was going to be out in front. I figured I'd just follow the pack. After the announcer got the crowd all riled up and the sun peeked around St. Jean Cap Ferrat, and the Black Eyed Peas assured us that "Tonight was going to be a Good Night", the cannon went off and we ran into the water.
The start!

The Swim: 1:17:40, 2:00/100m
Starting in the middle was a dumb move on my part. I spent a good 5 minutes just trying to get myself out of the tangle of arms and legs and into clearer water where I could swim without fear of being kicked in the face. This was the move VIOLENT swim start I've ever been a part of and I blame it on too much testosterone and not enough estrogen. But no matter, within a little while, I found a rhythm and was happily swimming along, but I was always surrounded by others, which is good, as it meant I wasn't getting too off-course. The swim turned out to be a two loop course - one big loop and then a smaller loop within the big loop. And the swim was gorgeous - the sun was just coming up, the blue-green water was a perfect temperature, and Nice looked beautiful from out on the water. And the swim went by really fast - before I knew it, I was climbing out of the water from my first loop and heading back in for my second loop. My mother in law found a prime spot right by the 1st loop exit and she recognized me come out, even though I probably looked just like everyone else wearing wetsuits, goggles, and matching swim caps. It was great to hear her voice. The second loop was uneventful and went by even faster than the first. I pushed it the last bit and I really wanted to be under 1:16 so I was slightly disappointed to see the 1:17 on the clock when I ran out of the water. I might've had a chance to be faster had I not started in the middle, but oh well. Lesson learned.

T1: 6:44
I am notoriously slow in transition and it's something I've tried to work on this year. Usually it's because I'm fighting with my wetsuit, and France was no exception because there were no wetsuit strippers. Ha, there was also only one changing tent - for both men and women. I wasn't changing, so I didn't care, and nobody else seemed to care, except for the poor volunteer who was unsuccessfully trying to direct the men to the left side of the tent and the women to the right. Most people were too discombobulated and rushed to listen to her. I put on my socks, helmet, sunglasses and then ran FOREVER to get to my bike. Put on my shoes and off I went!

Bike: 6:38:14, 16.87mph
The first part of the bike was deceptively flat and easy. I was cruising along at 20+mph along the oceanfront and then towards the hills inland. The road was wide, the wind was calm and everyone was settling into a rhythm until WHAM, we made a sharp left hand turn and our wide road suddenly became a really narrow alley up a 1/4 mile hill with a 10% grade. You know, just to shake things up and make it interesting. It was a little nervewracking having everyone packed so closely, pedaling hard up the hill; if anyone fell, lots of people would've gone down. I looked up a few times and just saw a bobbing sea of people in front of me. Meanwhile, my legs were feeling the burn - they were awake! I had butterflies and felt very much like I do when trying to climb the Westernport Wall during Savageman. This climb around mile 12 was short and steep and the first of many climbs (none of which were as steep, but all of them were much longer - MILES longer). I concentrated on sipping Perpetuem every 10 minutes and washing it down with water, all with the goal of 270 calories/hour. I also brought a powerbar and bonk breaker if I wanted some variety from the liquid calories. I was making it a point to nail my nutrition - I didn't want to fall behind like I had in Florida, and start the run with a deficit.

The crowd support on the bike was great, especially considering we were biking out in the middle of nowhere. Whenever we would roll through a small hilltop town, it seemed like the whole town had lined that part of the course and were yelling "Allez, allez!" And they were especially excited when a girl would ride by, seeing as there were less than 200 of us, "Allez, les filles!" The remote parts of the bike course were devoid of anything but fantastic views (several times I wished I had my camera), the sun, and other triathletes. You could see the ocean in the distance, villages perched precariously on the edge of cliffs, and it was a beautiful day.

The first half of the bike was disproportionately uphill. Some of it was false flats, other parts didn't try to fake that they were uphill. One of the climbs was about 12 miles long and it went on FOREVER. You would look across the valley and see people STILL going up. I'm not someone who really minds hills, my power-to-weight ratio is pretty favorable, and it's less scary to go uphill than downhill, but even I was starting to tire of just going upwards. I was leapfrogging with this older European guy who kept saying "we are almost there" in heavily accented English. After 7 miles of this, I silently called him a liar, but still admired his positive outlook.

During this long climb, I watched my average speed freefall until suddenly my Garmin just shut down. Maybe it was trying to save me from the disappointment of seeing my speed drop below 15mph. But I was slightly panicked because how would I know when 10 minutes had elapsed - how would I keep my nutrition on track?? I hadn't even considered a Garmin breakdown in my list of "what-if" scenarios. And anyway, what could I do but keep going forward and just eat and drink as often as possible? Luckily, my watch magically turned back on about an hour later and stayed on for the rest of the race.

Proof that it's a Small World After All: while going up that 12 mile hill (I bet you're wondering if I did anything else during the race but go up that 12 mile hill :)), I heard an American voice behind me say "Oh, Team Z, you're from Arlington, Virginia." I was wearing my Team Z jersey, but with only 135 Americans in the whole race, I didn't think anyone would actually recognize it. Turns out, he was a grad student at U-MD and had seen us at various races in the DC/VA/MD area.

I was immediately happier once I crested the 12 mile hill and went on to some flat, rolling, and even some screaming downhill sections. I made the mistake of not tightening my handlebars enough to the stem and almost took a spill on one of the first descents when I hit a rut, pitched my weight forward, and suddenly found myself looking straight down at my tire which somehow was only inches away from my nose. I immediately pulled over and fixed that problem and went back on my merry way.

I had been worried about the downhills - we're not talking rolling, wide-vista descents. No, these were more of the narrow, switchback variety, complete with flag-waving volunteers shrieking at you to slow down. I'm a cautious biker and took these hills carefully, feeling that it was more important to finish the race intact than get a fabulous bike split at the risk of flying off a cliff. I hit another significant climb a little later, this one was only 4 miles long but it was relatively steep and seemed like it would never end. Fortunately, this hill basically marked the end of any significant hills and the last bit of the loop was mostly downhill.

When I was back on flat ground and headed back towards Nice, it was almost 3 in the afternoon. The air was hot, the sun was hot, the wind was hot, the pavement was hot, and I was hot (and not in the attractive sense, unless you find salt-and-sweaty spandex attractive). I was tired, I even had a bit of a headache, and I wasn't in the mood to run a marathon. The bike ride took more out of me than I had realized. It didn't seem to matter that I had done 120 miles worth of Ascension loops in Maryland. I passed a few girls on the way back into town, I took in water and calories until about 20 minutes before the end of the bike. As I rode by the run course on the way to transition, I looked at the runners with envy - they were already running and closer to the finish line than I was. And as i biked along the run course, I was horrified to realize how long it was. It went PAST the airport. The Hotel Negresco was a mere speck in the distance and you couldn't even make out where the finish line was. And I would have to run around it FOUR TIMES. I would have to pass by the finish line THREE TIMES before I actually got to cross it.
The finish line (the day before)
T2: 9:34
It was close to 90 degrees (at least it felt that way), very little shade, I was hot, tired, and irritable. Unfortunately, I carried this negativity with me when I started the run. This negative attitude is likely partially to blame for my crappy run. I was glad to be off the bike, a volunteer sprayed me with sunblock while I put on my visor. I had two mini tubes of Aquaphor in my tri shorts (Thank you Melody!). While getting ready to run, I saw the Maryland guy and offered him on of the mini tubes and that seemed to make his day. I was impressed that he chose IM France to be his first go at Ironman. I brought some gels and honey stingers with me and stuffed a flask of 270 calories of Perpetuem in my jersey pocket. I heard my family cheer as I headed out of the tent, I waved and told them I wasn't in the mood to run as I headed out onto the course.

The Run: 4:54:14, 11:13/mile
My plan was to run 9:00 miles from start to finish, picking it up at mile 18-20 if possible. Jen and I both thought this would be possible, especially since the run course was 4 loops of pancake flatness. Things started off well for the first 3 miles. I was easily keeping the 9:00/mile pace and then, slowly, things started to unravel. I began walking the aid stations. I told myself I couldn't walk between aid stations, but by the end of the race, my "walking the aid stations" turned into "walking within sight of the next aid station" and then shuffling just to walk again a short time later. I watched my pace slow down to 10/mile then 11/mile, and then I just stopped looking. Oddly enough, I rarely looked at or even thought about mileage. I only cared about taking that next step. The most disheartening moments came when I was at the bottom of the loop, PAST the airport, and I would start the long trek back to town. My destination was just a tiny speck in the distance and it took forever for it to grow larger - probably because I was running so slow. However, even though it was hot with little shade, the run was beautiful and lots of people were out cheering. I really wanted to ditch the race and jump in the water for the swim. My run was already falling apart, a little swim couldn't hurt, could it? I didn't do it. I would have to say the worst part of the run was the nausea - during IM Florida I didn't consume enough calories on the bike and started the run with a deficit. Now, looking back on France, I don't think I was meant to take in that much liquid. I'm not a big drinker during training and racing, so it wasn't smart of me to decide to take in all of my calories in liquid form. It ended up leaving me feeling full to the brim, like I might burst. I didn't lose my cookies but I came close. And, to top it off, I wasn't even hungry after the race. Do you have any idea how disappointing that was?? My plan was to be RAVENOUS after Ironman so I could fully enjoy all the food Nice had to offer that night. But I finished and the last thing I wanted was food.

The finish and post-race:
Final time: 13:06:26. Not the overall result I wanted. I was slower in the 3 disciplines than I had wanted. But I was most disappointed in my run. The bike course was difficult and 6:38 actually seemed pretty reasonable. My swim time wasn't all that off from what I had been aiming for. But my run was almost an hour slower than I wanted. Before triathlons, I was a runner, and running had always been my strong point in triathlon. I think that's why I was so disappointed overall in my race performance - my run. Now, looking back, it seems like it was a lack of proper nutrition, not lack of training. Instead of Perpetuem, I'm planning on using gels in 2011. We'll see if that helps fix the problems I encountered.

I was so happy to be done. The 10 minute walk to the hotel turned into about 30 minutes because I kept needing to sit down. When we got to the hotel, I sprawled out on the bed, ate the best-tasting peach ever, and eventually took a shower. Mark took pity on me and took my bike apart and put it in its case. We went out to dinner in Nice around Place Magenta at a pizza/pasta place. Then it was back to the hotel and bed because we were going to ITALY bright and early the next morning! Home of wine, cheese, gelato, and the best tasting tomatoes in the world!

30 November 2010

2011 is Just Around the Corner

And that means it's time to get serious about my race schedule for next year. I'm getting back into the swing of things with training and enjoying it thus far (though it is tough to find my motivation on chilly dark evenings when there is a run on my schedule...) I've actually started running right when I finish work, right out by my office, so I don't come home and procrastinate. This is actually really nice because I work 1/2 a block from the Mall - so I run by the Smithsonian museums, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Reflecting Pools, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington Cemetery - all in less than an hour's run.

I have a few races in mind for next year. IMLP is a definite, seeing as I already signed up. There's talk of a February Marathon up in Maryland - tiny race but fun course. Signups for Wildflower are TOMORROW so I'll be taking care of that. There's also Timberman - which I've always wanted to do. And I've decided there's no better way to celebrate turning 30 than going to Ireland to do the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Galway that happens to be ON my birthday. This also coincides with our 5 year wedding anniversary, so we'll kill two birds with one awesome trip. BTW - I just saw that Ironman 70.3 also has a new race down in Aix-en-Provence over in France... maybe 2012? It's looking like 2011 will be the year of the 70.3, with one Ironman thrown in there plus a few Olys to keep it interesting. Still need to finalize the schedule with Jen.

14 November 2010

Getting my mojo back...

A good positive topic for my 100th blog post, don't you think?
This racing season was a non-running PR season for me. I'd focused much more on biking and running, and while my running was never terrible (except for IM Wisconsin, which I wouldn't even call a run), it was never a PR. Even more disheartening was the fact that I never really felt great during those runs either. I wasn't looking forward to them and I didn't have the same zip that I always used to have...

Well, it may be too early to tell, but I feel like I've turned a corner and now I'm headed in a new, more positive direction in terms of my running. It's actually fun again and I have speed there that I didn't know still existed. This weekend was the weekend of two races - a 5K on Saturday and a 10 mile trail race on Sunday. On with the race reports!

Tuckahoe 5K in Arlington:
A nice local race with lots of elementary, middle, and high school kids, as well as a bunch of adults. I found out the day before that Rachel and Brad would also be at the race, so I was looking forward to seeing them afterwards. The race was in North Arlington, which is the really hilly part of Arlington. I wasn't worried about trying to make a PR - this race was more to gauge my running fitness than anything else. But, while I was more concerned with the HR data than the time, a fast finish would still be welcome. I wanted to try to negative split the run, but I didn't want to start off too slow. Or start off too fast and fade at the end. It has been ages since I raced a 5K and I really didn't have a rock-solid strategy. Just go fast and feel uncomfortable. That was it.

Mile 1: Hills. And faster than I had planned with a 6:53 first mile. There was a line of about 4 girls ahead of me and we all seemed to ease into a similar pace without anyone making a move. I was in the back and comfortable there, I didn't want to make a move too early, just stay with them.

Mile 2: More Hills. With a 6:59 time for that mile, my speed was slowing, but so was everyone else's. My HR was staying in the 170s, so I knew I was working hard. So far I was still in the same position in terms of the girls ahead of me, but no girls were passing me either.

Mile 3: You guessed it - Hills. And my slowest mile of the race - 7:10 - so much for negative splitting the race. I was definitely feeling fatigued at this point, but I wanted to move up and I knew I had enough in me to keep a relatively hard pace to the finish. I ran the last 0.1 at a 6:56 pace and happily crossed the finish line in 22:01. I hadn't looked at my time, besides the per mile pace, during the whole race. I wish I had looked a little earlier because if I knew I was going to be so close to a sub-22, I like to think I would've dug a little deeper and pushed it a bit faster. I ended up getting 2nd in my age group and 5th girl overall.

Backyard Burn 10 Mile Trail Run, Wakefield Park
I had gotten a slot to this race at the last minute, with a friend transferring her bib to me late in the week. I knew I would have run a hard 5K the day before, so I thought about doing the 5 miler instead of the 10, but I have always thought that 10 miles is the perfect race distance. I'd never done a trail run (besides one at the end of an off-road tri), and figured I could probably survive the 10, especially because Wakefield was one of the less hilly trails around. Lots of my friends were doing the race, so I was also looking forward to socializing with everyone. Plus, there was the promise of French Toast at brunch afterwards, making race day look pretty good. This being my first 10 mile trail race, I didn't know what to expect in terms of my pace or overall time. I was hoping to keep my pace in the low 8's and maybe finish at 1:20 or so. Here were my splits:

Mile 1: 7:13
Mile 2: 7:44
Mile 3: 8:05
Mile 4: 8:22
Mile 5: 7:56
Mile 6: 7:46
Mile 7: 8:00
Mile 8: 8:01
Mile 9: 7:59
Mile 10: 7:21

It was like deja vu all over again; throughout much of the race, there was a line of girls, with me towards the back of the line. I slowly picked off girls, trying to keep my pace under control during the first loop so I would fall completely apart on the second loop. During the first loop it was hard to tell which were running the 5 miler and which were doing the 10. There was a girl wearing a green shirt who was ahead of me all the way until mile 8.5. I kept my sights on here and moved closer and closer. Then there was another girl (Taylor, who turned out to also be on Team Z and super nice) who was trading places with me throughout the second loop. They were both fast and I was wary of making a move and passing them both because I wasn't sure how long I could keep up a good surge. Finally, about 1.5 miles from the finish, at the top of the big hill, I made my move and pushed the pace, passing the girl in the green and wondering how long it would be before her and Taylor caught me. I was feeling good, even though I was working hard, and I didn't want to cross that finish line wondering if I could've worked harder or where I would've placed if I hadn't given up. So I kept pushing, was definitely uncomfortable, but I knew I could hold that pace until the finish. In the end, it turns out I came in 2nd in my age group and 3rd overall! I won a glass for drinking beer, ate some pizza and socialized with everyone I hadn't seen in awhile. Overall it was a great day and I'm really, really happy with my race!

13 November 2010

Do Cats Hold Grudges?

Our two really nice chairs in our reading room are currently encased in a protective covering of plastic. I always thought it was silly when people put plastic covers on their couches, etc. But, I suppose if you have a vindictive cat who takes pleasure peeing and pooing on your stuff, plastic covers make sense.

We have two cats - Hoover and Bissell (and yes, they do live up to their names when it comes to food). Normally they are both well-behaved cats who, minus a little stealing of food off the counters, don't do anything that bad. But in recent weeks, Bissell has taken a liking to peeing on our bed and one of the nice chairs in our reading room. And now that it happened again last night, I think we found a pattern - he doesn't like strange dogs. We were returning a favor and dogsitting two of my friends' dogs and all was fine and dandy until the dogs decided that cats were not friends, they were food. Obviously, Bissell took offense to this, took his anger out on us. Three loads of laundry later, we finally have a clean bedspread, duvet, and chair cushion once more. I think this has tempered Mark's desire to get a 2nd dog (keep in mind, if we were to get a second dog, humans would be outnumbered by animals 2-to-1 in our house).

Ran a 5K this morning - 22:01, good enough for second in the 20-29 age group and a gift certificate at the local burger place.

08 November 2010

Swim Test - CHECK!

Today I had a swim test. Not the type where you're tested on whether or not you know how to swim. No, this one was for speed. Jen had me do this back in January when I started with her, 10x100 hard and then get your average pace. I just checked out Training Peaks what my average pace was back in January - 1:38. I'm not much of a swimmer and when I've timed myself in the pool prior to that, the low 1:40s were usually pretty good for me. So I did the test again today. I actually had a nightmare about it the night before (I'm not blaming nerves, I'm blaming it on the fact that training peaks was the last thing I read before I went to bed last night). I dreamt that I tried to do the swim test at Washington-Lee high school's pool and they had a last minute swim meet so they reversed the direction of the swim lanes and made them all really short, so I was panicking about how I would know if I swam 100 yards and how I would get my average pace, etc, etc. So today I wasn't too surprised when, just as I was about to start my swim test after warming up, a third guy jumped into our swim lane and we had to circle swim (thank you aqua joggers who hogged the only other open lane - you are awesome). It ended up working out fine, apart from the run-ins I had with my lanemates on three of my 100s, and the fact that they probably thought I was a megab!tch as I tried to swim over them. But, I went home happy because my average pace improved by about 7 seconds to 1:31/100. Mission accomplished!

07 November 2010

Culture

I've been doing some thinking about culture lately. When I was in grad school, one of the core classes for my degree (MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution) was titled "Culture, Peace and Conflict Resolution). Essentially, the class looked at the role culture played in causing and resolving conflict. It also asked us the question what is culture. I didn't have the answer then and I don't have the answer now. When I went to Nepal, there was alot of talk about culture. At work, I'm working with a small team to evaluate the effectiveness of a cultural proficiency program that has been implemented in a public school system; thus, I'm still thinking about the question of culture. And tonight I went to the bookstore. I was there in search of a mindless fluff-novel, but instead came home with Nicholas Kristof's Half the Sky - a look at how helping women in developing countries and changing the attitude towards women in these countries can be effective first steps towards alleviating poverty in these nations. I'm looking forward to reading it because this is such an important topic, yet rarely spoken about, until recently. And I'm curious what ways are used to empower women - how do you tailor your methods so they are culturally acceptable? What makes one culture more superior than the other (i.e., is it OK that America is exporting our culture and values to other countries - is ours better?). I've often wondered that, and felt some guilt, going to another country and trying to instill my values. Are my values really any better? You look at America and we are the most prosperous nation in the world. Women in America enjoy immeasurable freedom in comparison to other women in some of the other countries. We have choices in what we want to do with our lives, my marriage to Mark is one with an equal balance of power and shared household duties, and it is completely socially acceptable for me to swim bike and run all day long if I want to. But I know that these things wouldn't hold true in other countries such as Nepal, Pakistan, Iran. Let's face it, that's a sad truth. In my view, women and girls in those countries are missing out on so many of these great things in life. And it makes me wonder if they feel the same way, if they feel like they are missing out, or if they feel fulfilled by what their culture has to offer them. I think it's sad that girls are not encouraged to play sports or that they are passed over while educational opportunities are given to their brothers instead. But in the same vein, some countries think it is barbaric that the US allows women to serve in the Armed Forces. Culture is a matter of perspective and I think that, in general (with some exceptions, of course), there is rarely black or white, right or wrong, superior or inferior cultural values. It's a murky subject. In addition, cultures can undergo change and evolve into new and different cultures, with a different set of shared norms and values. So, there is hope that socially acceptable oppression of girls in other nations might eventually be eradicated through cultural change.

I'll let you know what I think of the book, but I already believe it's going to be a very interesting read.

06 November 2010

Saturdays are a pup's favorite day



Miles loves Saturdays. First and foremost - Saturdays mean no work for Mark and I, so he knows he'll have a day filled with looking at the light reflections on the wall in the kitchen and the stairwell (don't ask, he has bizarre obsessions). By 5pm, he's sacked out on the reading room floor - who knew that looking at lights could be so exhausting?

Saturdays also mean sleeping in, a lazy breakfast together, and sometimes a run on the bike path followed by a trip to the dog park. Today was no exception. I had a "duathlon" workout - 2 mile run followed by intervals on the bike, followed by a longer, faster run. I took Miles out on the first run portion and, aside from throwing a minor fit when we didn't go into the local dog park, he did really well. He likes to run and I like it when he runs because it wears him out. We did a trip to the dogpark in the afternoon - he spent 1.5 hours running around like a lunatic, rolling around in dirt (awesome), and getting every dog and any dog to chase him, wrestle him, anything. He is a barrel of energy that rarely gets depleted.

We've had a busy past few weekends, so Miles has not gotten a bath in awhile. After today's escapade in the dog park dirt, we went straight to the Muddy Mutt outside of the dogpark to give him a good washing. He really doesn't enjoy thesebaths, especially the part where we use the powerful blow dryer on him. But he's really good, no whining or struggling. Instead, he just looks at you with sad and pathetic eyes.

Here are a few pictures of Miles - he's 10 months old now and it's so funny how big he's gotten and how long his fur has become. He's also begun "pointing" - you know, tail straight at attention and paw raised in the air. Unfortunately, he has been "pointing" at the cats - he needs to remember that cats are friends, not food.


01 November 2010

Two years ago today...

... I became an Ironman. Technically, they didn't say "Caroline Lauver, you are an IRONMAN" at the end of the race because it was Beach2Battleship. But it's the same distance and so, in my mind, the same bragging rights. Regardless, today I'm celebrating my two year anniversary with Ironman. My romantic relationship with Ironman (we're calling it a romance because, let's be honest, we don't pour our heart, soul, time, and effort into just a fling) has lasted longer than any other romance I've had, besides the one with my husband. And I'm signed up for IMLP 2011, so Ironman will stick around my life for at least another year.

And there's no other high quite like the one of finishing your first Ironman. I'd imagine it's like the first high you get when you try a drug (not that I would know firsthand), nothing is ever quite as good. Believe me, I've tried (3x) fruitless times to capture that same high without total success. I think it's a combination of 1) only having the goal of finishing - no time goals, nothing. This is the first Ironman, it's uncharted territory; 2) doing what you once thought was impossible. Before the race, you never tried to do a race of this distance, you didn't know if you'd be able to string together all three events, throw nutrition in there, and find success. And when you do, it's the best feeling in the world.

The start to the day was perfect. Standing at the tip of Wrightsville Beach, watching the sun come up over the Atlantic just enough so we'd have enough light to swim. And the end of the day was perfect. After I gathered up a plateful of food, I stretched out on the concrete wall by the channel while Mark was getting my bike. I just looked up at the stars and kept saying over and over to myself "I can't believe I actually did it", all while smiling so much, my face hurt. I was on an adrenaline high for the next two days, hardly able to sleep because I was so happy/excited/and wanting to do another one. And I was hungry. Hungry like I'd never been before in my life. I ate everything in sight. It. Was. Awesome.

So, here's to many more years of triathlon, Ironman, and fun... and of course, the finish line high.

26 October 2010

Back in the pool

This morning I woke up right on the cusp of it being too late for me to bother going to swim practice. But I knew if I didn't go in the morning, I would regret it later. So, I showed up about 10 minutes late, partway through the first set. Since I'm easing back into it, I demoted myself down a lane, which turned out to be a good choice since my old lane is currently full of VERY fast swimmers. 2000+ yards later, I was extremely glad I swam in the morning - I always feel better for the rest of the day, even if it's a struggle to get up at first. And even though I'm slow as molasses at the moment, I'm just glad to be back on a regular training schedule again.

In other news, this summer Mark and I bought a pasta maker. It. Is. Awesome. We haven't had boxed pasta in months - the fresh stuff is so easy to make and SO GOOD. We had some last night and again tonight with fresh pesto that Mark made and sauteed vegetables. Good, fresh food like that make it easy to eat healthy because it tastes so good. Speaking of good food, I've been reading the book "In Defense of Food." If you're looking for a good read, I highly recommend it. It will make you think twice about opening up that bag of processed "food." It will also make you question what is "real food" and "fake food." I started reading it over the weekend and tried to eat a number of apples to offset the amount of sweets I consumed in celebration of Reagan's birthday.

And now, to bed, so I can get up early and get on the bike. That is, if our house isn't blown away by a tornado tonight, thanks to the strong storms that are supposed to wallop us overnight.

25 October 2010

Day 1

Today, after 23 days of my Training Peaks schedule saying "You Have No Upcoming Workouts," I HAD A WORKOUT! It was a short Z1 run. I. Am. Slow. It took me 40 minutes to cover less than 4 miles while desperately trying to stay in Zone 1. I suppose that means that my 5 mile run yesterday sans watch and sans HR monitor (but my running buddy Tim had his on and we finished with an average pace of 8:14) was probably done in Zone 25. Oh well, eventually the speed and fitness will come back. This isn't the end of the world.

In other news that both more interesting and more uplifting than my slow run, I spent last weekend down in Tennessee celebrating my goddaughter Reagan's first birthday! Erin (Reagan's mom) is my best friend. Four years of living together during college and dining on Easy Mac and boxed wine will bond you for life. Reagan was ridiculously cute in her tutu and pink/orange polkadot headband. Erin did an amazing job with the decorations and the food. She should quit nursing school and become a full-time party planner :).

BTW, kids as young as 3 know what manipulation is. I was watching a 3 year old try to break into the bag of hot dog buns. She told me she was hungry and just wanted the bread, no hot dog. So I stuck a bun on a plate for her and she asked me, very smoothly, for a fork and knife so she could cut it into pieces. I handed her plastic utensils and she went to town. When I asked her if she always cuts her own food, because she was doing a very good job, she says, "oh no, my mommy and daddy NEVER let me use a knife." I made sure I got the knife back before she meandered back to her parents.

I always have a good time down in Tennessee - it was fun to spend time with Erin, Reagan is super cute and I think pretty soon she's going to start remembering me. She's super smart, walking and getting into stuff, and doing baby sign language. I also got to spend the weekend with Erin and Ashley's families, which was great. It was a full house, which is the best kind of house to have.

Now it's back to reality and, thankfully, back to some regularly scheduled training!

20 October 2010

The Offseason...

... Has been going on for the past two weeks. And I'm ready for it to be over. Well, not all of it - I'm ready for the frosting-from-a-can snacks, cupcakes, stay-up-late, sleep-in to be over. But I am not ready to spend 5+ hours on my bike on a Saturday or do 2-a-days quite yet. This week starts the compromise, which I've really enjoyed - nothing structured, but still a reason to wake up early and get moving in the morning. But the unhealthy eating - it has GOT to stop! Sweets are my downfall and I keep thinking of excuses to eat them - "oh, you're having a bbq with homemade brownies, of course I'll have some." Or, "there's a bake-off to raise money for the homeless, count me in!" Or, Mark's dad is in town and we're going out for an early birthday celebration for Mark - yes, I will eat that gigantic apple pie for dessert all by myself... Oh, it's the off-season, that means eat WHATEVER you've been denying yourself all season. But at some point, there's got a be a limit. It's not even Halloween yet, but I'm going to enact my New Year's resolution ASAP - fewer sweets, more fruits and veggies. Oh, and write those IM France and IM Wisconsin race reports before 2011...

05 October 2010

It's been awhile...

... Hasn't it? Far too long. I have a backlog of race reports to publish (IM France, IM Wisconsin, and Halfmax Nationals), and I wasn't letting myself write in my blog until I got those things uploaded. And I'll do that. Eventually. Maybe this weekend. But I missed writing in my blog. So here's a quick post. Two Ironmans in one season was hard, but not terribly hard. I actually enjoyed the training and the racing most of the time. I suppose it was helpful that they were only 11 weeks apart, so I relied mainly on my fitness base from the first one to carry me through the second one, with just a few weeks of intense training and long hours. I would do it again. The only thing I did miss was doing more races - if Ironman makes up two of your A races, it's difficult to fit other races in there on top of quality training. Next year is likely going to be a one Ironman year (Lake Placid) so hopefully I'll be doing more races.

This season was a success, even though I didn't get the types of finish and times that I wanted at both Ironmans. I even ended the season on a high note at Halfmax, even though I was so far out of contention for Worlds, I might as well have been on another continent from the other racers. I was happy with my time, and thrilled that I finally pulled out a decent run.

And now begins the off-season. I spent much of the 6.5 hour drive home from Myrtle Beach contemplating where I would have my celebratory brunch the next day, it being the official Day 1 of the off-season (I went with Boulevard Woodgrill), what I would have (Breaded and fried French Toast), and what I would bake for dessert on Sunday (Apple pie). I'm allowing myself to go a little wild over the next few days - eat things I wouldn't normally eat (frosting - for dinner?!), stay up late writing in my blog, and sleeping in guilt-free. All necessary evils to get the mind and body ready for 2011!

09 July 2010

France - Rick Steves Style

Paris - if only the Metro had escalators...

After a relatively painless flight, Mark and I arrived in Paris and met up with his parents at the airport. I was so thrilled to be back in Paris - the sights and smells were just like I remembered them to be. Perfection. And my French wasn't as rusty as I thought it might be. And the Paris metro system lacked escalators of any kind, a fact I sort of forgot. I also forgot how man
y stairs the Paris Metro system has. They don't have stairs just for getting into and out of a station. They also have stairs just for getting around inside of all of the stations - it's like a
labyrinth. In short, NOT the best place to be lugging around a giant bike box. The entrance and exit turnstiles added an extra element of fun to an already joyless process. By the time we made it to the hotel, I looked and felt like I had already done an Ironman. Sweaty, tired, and cranky. And just like Ironman, turns out all I needed was some good food to put me in a better mood. Fortunately, good food in Paris is just as abundant as stairs in the metro system. First meal - a savory crepe with lots of cheese. My in-laws
both got crepes too and from the looks on their faces, it was love at first sight.



Crepes in front of Notre Dame


Eiffel Tower 11pm


L'Arc de Triomphe

We all wanted to adjust to the time change as quickly as possible, so there was lots of coffee, sightseeing and NO napping on that first day. We did Notre Dame, Place de la Concorde, Champs-Elysee, the Arc de Triomphe, and wandered around the Latin Quarter. Thanks to the summer equinox (or is it solstice?), it was light out until about 10:30pm, so we really didn't have any trouble at all staying up late. 10pm really felt more like 5pm. It was rather strange - and even though I love extended daylight hours, this might be a bit too extreme for me. But it's better than the mere 8 hours of sunlight Paris gets in the winter. Sun up after 8am, and back down around 4pm. Anyway, we finished off our night with a quick jaunt over to the Eiffel Tower to see it all lit up.

Mark and I are pretty laid-back tourists. We'll sleep in, decide on whim what sites we want to visit, if any, and we do most of it at a leisurely pace. Neither of us are big museum people (case-in-point: we've lived in DC for 6 years and only visited 3 museums total) and what we were most looking forward to was slurping down coffee and tea in a sidewalk cafe and people watching. My mother-in-law, on the other hand (and keep in mind, I love her and think she is great), does tourism a little differently. She reads up on things beforehand, plans out a schedule of what to see, when to see it, and in what order, and she will get up as early as necessary to get it done. For this trip, she bought some Rick Steves guidebooks on France and Italy. And right from Day 1, it was obvious that my mom-in-law was a loyal Rick Steve's disciple. Rick Steves, apparently, has a nugget of wisdom for practically everything. It was borderline comical and I tried not to giggle every time I heard his name. By Day 3, Mark wanted to throw Rick Steves into the Seine. My father-in-law admitted pangs of jealously for all the attention my mom-in-law was lavishing on Rick Steves. And my sisters-in-law are tagging Rick Steves in all Facebook photos of my mother-in-law. But I'll admit it, Rick Steves did know his stuff, especially when it came to restaurants. So in the end we compromised; because I didn't want to overdo it before Ironman, I didn't do all of the sightseeing, I slept in, and I went to bed early while everyone else stayed out.

I was really tired on our second day in Paris - the jet lag had finally caught up to me. I still got up and did my run, I just got up a little later than planned. And it was COLD in Paris those first few days. I was really regretting not packing my jacket - but it was so hot in Virginia when we left, it was hard to imagine it being cold anywhere. I wore the heck out of my only two pairs of long pants and my lone sweatshirt - felt like a scruffy American tourist the whole time. I couldn't wait to get to Nice where it would (hopefully) be warmer and I could wear some sundresses without feeling like a popsicle. The second day in Paris was museum day - we did the Musee d'Orsay and the Louvre. While at the Louvre, I realized that the statue I had always thought was the Venus de Milo, actually wasn't. Shows how much I know about art.

NOT the Venus de Milo

The actual Venus de Milo

Personally, I found the non-Venus de Milo to be more impressive than the actual one, but that's just me. Next on our list of stops was Sainte Chapelle. The stained glass windows were amazing. They were in the middle of a glass restoration project where they were essentially cleaning the stained glass with Q-tips. Obviously not the fastest method, but arguably the most effective. The difference between the restored glass and the non-restored glass was incredible.

Sainte Chapelle

After warming up in a sidewalk cafe with tea and coffee, with a side dose of people-watching, we finished off the day with what turned out to be our favorite meal in Paris. We planned on going to a falafel place in the Marais for dinner, but a very nice Parisien recommended this organic restaurant in the same area. Of course right now the restaurant name eludes me, but the food was INCREDIBLE. It was all relatively local and fresh. I got the roasted vegetable dish, thinking that it was a safe dish (it was) but it would probably be boring (totally wasn't). I savored every bite of it, and proceeded to think about that dinner for the rest of the trip (until our next great meal in Nice, and then my tomato discovery in Italy...). The walk back to the hotel after dinner gave us a chance to see the city all lit up.



The weather was feeling generous (or maybe just pity for us) on our third day in Paris - we actually saw the sun, there was no rain, and I wasn't freezing cold. We had another amazing meal in the Marais - this time at a really popular falafel place. And, like always, the messiest food is often the best food. Fortunately, I managed not to spill any sauce on myself as I devoured it. Since Mark and I were already in the Marais, we decided to visit the Jewish History museum. It's this little museum hidden away among the side streets and it wasn't crowded at all - I can't say how nice it was to visit a museum where you're not competing with fifty other camera-wielding tourists to look at an exhibit. And this is the first museum I've visited where the focus of Jewish history was not sharply zoomed in on the Holocaust - it talked about it, yes, but it also had exhibits on many of the customs, traditions, and Jewish history worldwide.

Rather than go out to dinner that night, we decided to get a few fresh baguettes, some salami and cheese, and have a picnic in the courtyard of our hotel. Right around this time the Fete de la Music was getting started and a band had set up just across the street from the hotel, so we had a little music to go along with dinner (granted, all the band seemed to know how to play was "Back in the USSR" - and play it badly - but hey, it was something). We made a sunset trip to the Eiffel Tower - the Metro was packed with people going out to celebrate the Fete de la Musique and the streets were filled with partygoers and an excited energy. There were bands on the streetcorners, live music drifting out of sidewalk cafes, people playing music on their balconies - it was everywhere! There are only two occasions I've seen the French let themselves get a little out of control - the release of the Beaujolais Nouveau in November, and the Fete de la Musique in June. And when we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, there was a live broadcast of the Spain vs. whoever on the Jumbotron. Of all the nights that we had in Paris, this was the one where I was really wishing I didn't have a race coming up in a few days. I would've loved to stay out late, watch the World Cup games, and soak up the music in the streets. But I had to go to bed, especially because we were getting up early to go to Normandy the next morning. So I took some photos of the Eiffel Tower and headed back to the hotel.

Eiffel Tower and World Cup

My father-in-law is tall, but the Eiffel Tower is taller

6 visits to Paris, first jumping photo in front of the Eiffel Tower

The trip to Paris was a success! We packed alot into three days, ate our way through the city, and really enjoyed ourselves. Next was a day trip to Normandy to visit the D-Day beaches.

11 June 2010

Getting Excited...!

... For France! And Italy! And Food Galore! And the Lauver clan reunion! And beaches! And Food! And biking part of the Tour de France route! And swimming in the Mediterranean! And eating a huge ice cream sundae at Haagen-Dazs!

One week from tonight, we'll be on a plane to Paris! Last time Mark and I were in Paris, it was back in February 2006. We had, in a slightly inebriated state, bought non-refundable tickets for a long weekend in Paris. The next day, we wondered why we did such an irresponsible thing, especially with wedding expenses coming up. But, the tickets were non-refundable, so what else were we going to do? Best. Weekend. Ever. I think everyone should, at least once in their lives, imbibe a little too much and make arrangements to go on a spontaneous trip somewhere. We stayed in the most ridiculous hotel in the Latin Quarter - I mistakenly thought that the door to our room was the door to the broom closet, and when you opened said door and looked inside... the whole room was slanted. It was also slightly worrisome that there was a sign above the toilet that forbade you from flushing toilet paper down the toilet.

We packed in an amazing amount of sightseeing into 3.5 days. And we're going to do it again next week! My in-laws have never been to Paris, so I'm going to dust off my French skills and put to work that college education my parents paid for (though they claim to have never heard me speak a word of French. I know this is a lie - I remember Rachel and I leaving a message in muddled French on my mother's voicemail years ago. My mother still talks about that message to this day). We'll hit all of the major sites, spend a day at the D-Day beaches in Normandy, AND I just found out that the Fete de la Musique will be that Monday that we're in Paris. And the World Cup will be going on! A perfect time to go to Europe!

07 June 2010

Weekend Workouts

This was a weekend full of big workouts, some of the last big ones before IM France. And, to top it off, it was a SUPER HOT weekend down here - great for IM France preparation! Saturday was a swim/20 mile run brick. Since I didn't have the car in the morning, I ran the 4 miles to the pool, got my 2200 yd swim in, and then went back out and did the remaining 16 miles on the run. Mentally (and literally, I suppose, since Arlington is hilly), this run was full of ups and downs. During the first 9 miles, I felt great, the middle 7 miles were a bit of a struggle, and the last 4 felt pretty good. Around mile 17, I was running low on water - I could make it home without more water, but I did want to refill. I was near the Air Force Memorial, so I asked one of the security guards if there was a water fountain nearby. But instead of directions, he took pity on me and gave me a freezing cold water right out of his cooler - THAT was the pick-me-up I needed. I felt so much better after drinking the water, the last few miles home weren't too much of a struggle. I finished the run in just under 3 hours - 2:59, to be exact. Then I took a 10 minute ice bath, and I only got out of the tub ONCE. I even sat in the tub, not the big tupperware container I made Mark buy for me, because sitting in a bathtub gives me the creepy-crawlies (bathtubs gross me out).

Sunday's bike ride was a beautiful 100 miles on Skyline Drive in the Shenendoah Valley. I have been wanting to do this ride for awhile, and I thought it would be perfect practice for France. It had some climbs, for sure, but nothing ridiculous like last week's 120 miler Ascension ride. I got there late (big surprise) so I started about 10 minutes after everyone else. I wasn't sure what my chances were of catching up to people - I was hoping not to do the ride completely alone. The first 23 miles were basically a steady climb to 3000+ feet in elevation:

[Elevation+Skyline+North.png]

The ride went really, really well. After feeling sluggish on the first few miles (could also be because they were the steepest miles), I found a good pace, and started catching up to everyone. My bike felt fast, sometimes it almost felt like I was holding it back. It felt great on the climbs, and throughout the ride, I became more and more excited about France! I was cautious on the descents, but feeling more and more comfortable on my bike and how to handle it. After Skyline, I continued onward to complete the 82 mile Sky/Mass route - it winds through Luray, has a brutally long (and pretty steep) 2.8 mile climb to the top of Mount Massa-something, which, after the steep, technical descent, I was rewarded with rollers and flats for the rest of the ride. To tell you the truth, I was a little apprehensive about how long this ride was going to take me. I was planning on 7+ hours to do the 82 miles... BUT, it only took me 5 hours and 23 minutes. I then looped out for another 18 miles to complete my 100 mile ride. Overall, the 100.5 miles took me 6:29. 15.5 mph average. MUCH better than I had anticipated, hence my boosted excitement and confidence for France. Speaking of France, below is the elevation profile for the IM France bike course. The highest point of the course, Col de l'Ecre, is 3674 ft of elevation, about 300 feet higher than the highest point on the Skyline ride. France should be approximately that steep, points may be a bit steeper because it increases 3000 feet in 30ish miles. All in all, it will be an interesting race.
And with that, time for bed! Swim practice in the AM!

05 June 2010

Europe in T-Minus 14 Days...

It feels like just yesterday that I found out I was shut out of the Boston Marathon and decided to sign up for Ironman France instead. I feel like it wasn't that long ago that I started officially training for Ironman France. And the race always seemed so far ahead in the future. Annnndddd, now it's not - we leave for France two weeks from today and in three weeks and two days I'll be swimming in the Mediterranean, biking on parts of the Tour de France course in the Alps-Maritimes, and running along the Promenade des Anglais.

I'm so excited to be going back to Nice - the last time I was there was 8 years ago, during the summer between my junior and senior year of college. With my three-month work permit in hand, I headed to Nice with neither job nor apartment secured. Haha, in fact, I didn't even have my first night's hotel booked - it was all about winging it, and it never crossed my mind that maybe things wouldn't go less than perfectly. And, everything really did work out perfectly, right down to not having a place to stay my first night. I happened upon an unofficial hostel run by an old toothless woman who wore pink spandex pants, garnering the nickname "the pink lady" among her tenants. She crammed as many people as possible into a room with a shower that overflowed and a kitchen full of mismatched dishes. I only stayed there for a few days, but it was long enough to meet the people I would end up spending my summer with - Line and Agnes from Denmark, Christine and Erik from Canada, and Suzy from Germany. Through Suzy we met a number of French medical interns with whom we did bbqs on the beach, went to these islands off of Cannes, went to non-touristy French clubs, etc. I found a cute studio apartment right in the heart of Old Nice, just a few minutes walk from the beach. And I found a job as a waitress at Haagen-Dazs that provided just enough money to cover my rent, food, and fun. Best summer ever. Now that I have a real job and can afford the outrageously expensive ice cream sundaes at Haagen-Dazs, I'm totally going to my old Haagen-Dazs at Place Magenta and getting one. The Ironman transition area is going to be right next to "my" beach - the beach my friends and I always met up at - Beau Rivage. Oh, and I can't wait to eat a Magnum ice cream bar - those things are AMAZING!

Big training weekend this weekend - 11 hours minimum in the pool, run shoes, and on the bike!

03 June 2010

Bike Bonding Time

Looky what I have here... A brand new bike! And not just any bike, a Cervelo triathlon bike - no more clip-on aero bars for this girl! It is partially a graduation present for finishing my Masters and partially a "you-are-doing-two-ironmans-in-one-year-so-I-guess-you're-pretty-dedicated-to-the-sport" purchase. Thank you Mark!

My new bike and I had some serious bonding time this past Sunday on what turned out to be my longest bike ride EVER. IM France is the first hilly ironman that I have trained for, so my bike rides have been taking a bit longer this time around. Plus, I'm hoping that if I do hilly enough training rides, the IM France bike course won't seem so bad in comparison. I opted out of doing the Mountains of Misery bike ride this past weekend - I didn't feel like traveling all of the way down to Blacksburg (and, ummmm, I kind of procrastinated and missed the registration deadline...). So, I asked Damon Taaffe, a fellow Team Z'r who also happens to be a self-masochist on the bike, for a recommendation for a good, hilly bike ride in the area. And he didn't disappoint, sending me the cue sheets for a 25-mile loop and a 36 mile loop of a ride called Ascension. Not quite as scary sounding as OMG WTF, but 10 miles in when my average speed was STILL only 8mph, I was a little concerned about how I was going to finish a 120 mile ride before sunset at that speed. The ride was basically this - there is a big hill (I'd like to call it a steep mini-mountain) north of Frederick, MD and the loops basically went up one side of the mountain, down the other side, back up the backside, down the frontside, and repeat. I came to loathe street names such as Hamburg, Harp Hill, Crow Rock, Coxey Brown, Shookstown, and Middlepoint. Ugh, I hated Middlepoint. I started off with the 25 mile loop, met up with friends who did the 36 mile loop with me, then I did another 36 mile loop on my own, and I had every intention of doing the 25 mile loop again, but 90 miles into the ride, I just couldn't handle the idea of going up Coxey Brown again. So, I opted to go up and down Gambrill Road a number of times to hit the necessary 25 miles - Gambrill was gently rolling and rather pleasant. Overall, the day was an exercise in patience, mental fortitude (because who really WANTS to do 120 miles worth of hills, steep, unforgiving hills), and climbing - LOTS of climbing. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get my Garmin to download data from the ride, but I think the elevation was significantly more steep than what I will encounter in France.

Oh, and my average speed for the day was 12.5mph. Slower than my speed at Savageman. Fingers crossed that Sunday's ride was harder than what I'll find in Nice!

02 June 2010

Aren't Moms the Best?

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting my mom at my house for the very first time! Until six months ago, Mark, myself, and the two cats were crammed in a one bedroom apartment with one bed and a couch of questionable origins. Whenever my mom came down to visit, she usually stayed in a hotel. Or at my aunt Amy's house (because Amy had a grown-up house with an actual guest bedroom). Well, now I too am the proud owner of a grown-up house and it was SO NICE to be able to have my mom stay with us. I had grand plans of cooking dinner for her, etc, etc. But my mom is the quintessential mother, and instead she cooked dinner for Mark and I every night. AND made extra food for us to store in the freezer. AND brought her sewing machine down to make some crafty things for our house. AND entertained the dog and taught him manners for three days straight. She even baked a chicken pie for our neighbors who just had a baby (which, btw Mom, I saw them today and they said it was REALLY good). (Now I need to also bake them something so I'm not totally upstaged by my mother) I hope when I become a mom, I can be just as great as her.

Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in convincing my mom to bring her dog Eli (white poofy standard poodle) down with her. Apparently he isn't a fun travel companion AND my mom didn't have space in her car. The reason she didn't have space in her car - she was bringing down ALLLLL of my things that I apparently left in their basement when I moved to Virginia. Seven big tupperware bins worth of stuff. The best finds:

- New Kids on the Block video cassette (Step By Step, if you were wondering)
- All of my "congrats, you participated" ribbons I won during elementary school field days.
- Scrapbook from all four years of high school x-country, winter, and spring track.
- Journals, from sophomore and junior year of high school. HILARIOUS! I spent a good few hours reading those last weekend. More angst than the Twilight series.
- two lone dishes from college (they must've been the only two that I washed, the rest must've rotted away all dirty in the closet).

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The bins are now living in our guest room, but I think Mark will only allow for a limited-time occupancy, so I'd better start figuring out what to keep and what to get rid of.

I miss you Mom (and so do Miles and Mark)! Come back soon!

21 May 2010

Kinetic 1/2 Ironman Race Report


And again, because I am too lazy to write a brand-new original race report for my blog, I am copying and pasting the one I sent to my coach Jen Harrison:

OK, here is my race report for Kinetic. Because I had issues with my chip staying on (I managed to rip it off when simultaneously ripping off my wetsuit), I don't have a super detailed de
scription of my transition times or splits.

Pre-race: I went down to the race site the night before with some friends, picked up my race packet, managed to find a restaurant (and ice cream) in East-Nowhere Virginia, ate relatively early, went to bed relatively early, didn't sleep well, but what can you do.

I got to the race site over an hour before race start. I ate two powerbars for breakfast (couldn't find any bagels), set up transition, got on my wetsuit, and got into the water for a little while. Things were a little windy (OK, alot windy), so I wasn't too sure how feasible my 2:55 goal on the bike was going to be.

The Swim:
I started off to the side, like usual, wearing my sleeveless wetsuit (71 degree water - awesome!). I felt like I was being passed left and right, but I think perception is always a little off when on the swim. I had vowed to myself that I was going to RACE the swim, not just float it. I wanted a sub-35 time. I kept an OK line, I was a little off, but I made the turns relatively close to the buoys. On the way back in from the final turn buoy, I couldn't see any of the guiding buoys to the finish area, so I just followed the pack. And then I got separated from the pack and swam a bit off-course. So, by the time I finished, I felt a little frustrated, because I figured I had totally shot my sub-35 swim goal. But, while I was swimming, I felt good and strong, and when I got out I felt like I had raced the swim.

Time: 30:00 (apparently the swim course was a bit short with the wind blowing the buoys everywhere, but since I swam waaayyy off course, I'm still counting it as a 1.2 mile swim) Yessss, the 3xweek swim sessions are WORKING!

The Bike: Rolling and WINDY! I tried to take in the majority of my calories through liquid (520 calories through perpetuem) and gels (two gels, 100 calories apiece). I also ate part of a PowerBar. It actually felt pretty good, no bloating, and I felt satiated. Later on the run I will have wished I had drank more water, b
ut overall I was pretty pleased with how this whole "non-buffet, mostly-liquid" diet on the bike is going. I haven't had any GI issues at all. Anyways, the first few miles of the bike I felt pretty slow, but then I settled in, and my speed slowly picked up. Then I made a right-hand turn, right into the wind, and my speed slowly went back down. Fortunately, that part of the course only lasted 7 miles and then we made another right-hand turn and we were no longer going right into the wind. We did the loop twice, so it was rather nice to know what to expect on the second loop in terms of the wind. By the end of the first loop, my overall average speed was 18.7. Both loops were relatively uneventful, I stayed aero most of the time, and I wasn't feeling fatigued. I was especially happy that I was able to keep my speed above 18.5 mph - a year ago, I never would've been keeping that speed for 56 miles on a hilly, windy course. So, all of the bike drills and training this season have REALLY paid off.

Time: 3:02, 18.5 mph average speed. Not quite my sub-3 hour goal, but I was pleased overall because it was really windy and rather hilly.

The Run: Total crap. The first few miles felt OK, I was keeping my speed around 8:30s, my stomach felt pretty good, and my legs weren't tired. Annndddd then my allergies kicked in, and I felt the same way I did during Rumpass. Coughing, spitting, bleck. It was a long 13 miles and I watched my speed slowly creep up. Towards the end of the first (of three) loops, I started taking walk breaks. It was hard to stay mentally focused because all I wanted was to stop running, drink Gatorade, and sit in the lake and cool off. And that's basically how it went for the rest of the run. It was frustrating because my legs felt fine, my stomach felt fine, I was just having some serious issues with stuff dripping
down the back of my throat. My 1:50 run goal was completely gone by the end of the first loop and then it was just damage control. For future races, I want to become more mentally strong during the run and try to suck it up a bit more when I'm not feeling great on the run.

Time: 2:08 - one of my slowest run times in a 1/2.

I had hoped to PR at Kinetic, going at least sub-5:40, preferably faster. I did PR, by 2
seconds, finishing overall in 5:47:06. My AG place was 8th and overall place was 39th. There were some fast people out there!

I'm a little nervous about Florida because feeling crappy like this on the run is becoming a trend and I hope it is attributable to allergies. I don't ever feel that bad on my training sessions. But I'm really happy with my swim and my bike, which makes me feel a little less crummy about the run.

Annnndddd that's the race report. Besides the wind, it was a beautiful day. Mark and I rushed home from the race because I had graduation for my Masters at 4:30pm (technically I was supposed to be at school by 3:45 to line up, but I figured if I showed up by 4:30 before they paraded in, they'd have to let me participate). We got home from the race at 4. It's about a 20 minute ride up to school. I took the fastest shower ever, changed out of my stinky tri clothes and into a black dress in heels in 13 minutes flat. Still had my race numbers on my arms and leg, but who cares! Grabbed the graduation gown, took off for school... and arrived at 4:35. Without my graduat
ion cap. Truth be told, though, I wasn't very disappointed. I was rather relieved I wouldn't have to sit through a boring commencement speech talking about "new beginnings" (life was not going to change much after my Masters) and "entering the Real World" (I've been living in the real world for quite some time now, thank you very much). In fact, I didn't even know who was supposed to be our commencement speaker (later found out it was the Chilean president). So, I donned the graduation gown for all of 5 minutes, snagged some nice guy wandering off campus to take the obligatory pictures of Mark and myself, disrobed (from the graduation gown) and then went to the swanky bar at Chef Geoffs down the street for some Shirley Temples, duck pizza, and homemade potato chips. Best graduation ever.


20 May 2010

Nashville 1/2 Marathon - A Race, A Best Friend, A Beautiful Goddaughter... And an Almost Tornado!


In April I went down to Nashville to see my best friend Erin, her husband Ashley, and their beee-yooootiful daughter Reagan, who also happens to be my goddaughter. I hadn't seen Reagan since Thanksgiving when she was barely two months old. Now she's seven months old, super cute, and SO BIG compared to when I last saw her. And she was such an easygoing baby too - as Erin said, "This is how they trick you into having another one."

I was also down in Nashville for the Country Music 1/2 Marathon. I didn't realize Nashville was so hilly! I had spent alot of time over the weeks prior on travel for work, participating in pre-wedding festivities for one of our good friends who was getting married i
n May, not getting alot of sleep, and my head wasn't completely in the game. Because it was a hilly race, I set a goal for myself that wasn't really a time goal but more of a goal to go faster as the race went on and finish strong, which is totally opposite of what happened during the Shamrock 1/2. So, here are my mile splits:
1: 7:13, 161 bpm average HR
2: 7:25, 163 bpm
3: 7:38, 167 bpm
4: 7:38, 169 bpm
5: 7:46, 170 bpm
6: 7:09, 170 bpm
7: 7:11, 172 bpm
8: 7:45, 174 bpm
9: 6:53, 173 bpm
10: 7:12, 174 bpm
11: 7:02, 173 bpm
12: 7:25, 176 bpm
13: 7:22, 179 bpm
0.1 - 1:08, 183 bpm

The race was on a Saturday, which was great because that gave us Saturday night to just relax. Erin was a trooper and she got up at O-Dark 30 to drive me 45 minutes into Nashville. It was great to catch up with her during the ride. Traffic was ridiculous getting off the exit ramp - I ended up just getting out of the car and I luckily found a bus right away. Luck was on my side again and I found a short porta-potty line. I figured I had plenty of time to get to the start, but as I was trying to get up to my corral, the gun went off 15 minutes early. There was some bad weather expected and they wanted to do what they could to get the race started as early as possible. So, I started at the tail end of my corral, which was rather nice because I was basically running on my own until the fast people from the corral behind me caught up.
My overall time was 1:37:00, which isn't my best time, but I was still pleased with it overall. I had a mile under 7:00 and I didn't fall apart at the end. I felt good and felt like I was getting faster towards the end. I also had a kick at the end, something I haven't had in awhile. I was 16th in my AG (out of 3,515) and the 40th girl overall (out of 15,254). And I kept it together mentally to keep on pace during the whole race. It was alot hillier than I had anticipated - fortunately, most of the hills were all before mile 8 and then there were some nice downhills. This is the first race that Erin had watched me run, and I knew she was at the finish, so I wanted to kick it in as best as possible.

Erin and I stayed and watched the first marathoners come in. And as they came across the finish line, the clouds started rolling in. We had a great afternoon of watching movies, eating ice cream and candy, and chatting. Until the tornado alarms started up. The power went off and this is where we ended up:
In the closet - four people and two dogs. The wind was like nothing we'd ever heard and when we went outside into the backyard after the storm passed, there were leaves strewn all over every side of the fence and their house - shows that the wind was swirling - kind of freaky.

Anyway, the visit to Tennessee was fantastic. I've missed Erin ever since we moved away from Saint Mike's after senior year. I've basically been in DC since 2004, but Erin has been living in Korea, Washington State, Iraq... Tennessee is the closest she has lived to me since we lived down the hall from each other in college. And Reagan was such a super easy baby - just happy and smiley and giggly all of the time. Erin and Ashley have their daily routine down to a science. I was very impressed. Makes my morning routine seem like a mess. It was a great weekend of just catching up, hanging out, and spending time together. I can't wait to go down there and visit again - but there is a great possibility they will be stopping through DC in July on their was back to Tennessee after being up in NH, which will be great.

More posts to come - up next: the Kinetic 1/2 Ironman Race Report.