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:


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!