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.