31 December 2011

2011 - You Were Really Good to Me

2011 is, hands down, one of my most favorite years. So many good things happened, in triathlon, in my personal life, and in my work life. And any of the not-so-good things that did occur, usually happened for a reason and I'm a better person for it. So, cheers to saying goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012. My resolution - floss more and curse less.

30 December 2011

A Very Merry Christmas - 2011

This year was our year for Christmas in California with my west coast family. And, like always, it was a wonderful holiday with some of my favorite people. Jackie recently got a job at Pebble Beach golf resort so the family headed up to the Monterey Peninsula for the holiday. Vacation started with an awesome dinner followed by some much needed sleep. The next morning, I woke up to this view:
18th Green

And then I took a run along the coast and had this view:

It was hard to tell what I did more of - running or stopping to take photos

Before we headed into Carmel and tasted some pretty amazing cheeses at a local cheeseshop that gave out unlimited free samples. Have you ever had coconut flavored cheese? It's like a pina colada but better.
Cheese please!

The rest of Christmas Eve was spent eating tamales and having a family game night - nights like these are some of my favorites.
Christmas morning dawned and I started the day with a perfect run.

Pebble Beach Cypress Tree

And then I was totally spoiled by my family. I can't wait to figure out where I'm going to display my new Spode Blue Room plates and my new camera puts my old 5 megapixel camera to shame. The new camera even has a *sparkle* setting.

We had a fantastic turkey dinner (yes, I normally do the vegetarian thing, but I love Christmas turkey far too much to give it up) before it was game night and then we tried to take some family photos. Lauver Family Photos over the years:

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2007

The boys played golf on the Pebble Beach course on Monday - my hubby shot an 82, which is 10 over par and not bad for someone who can count on two hands how many time he's played golf in the past decade. He also shot a hole in one on Christmas Day on the 9 hole course. While he was playing golf, I was swimming here:

My definition of awesome = outdoor pool next to the Pacific.
Bonus that on the side near the restaurant, I could smell crab cakes every time I took a breath.

The 3000 meters FLEW by. I also kept hitting my left hand on the lane line in an attempt to stay in the sunny part of the lane (I have the bruises to prove it, haha).

Golf shots:

Good form!

Finishing up the round

It was one of the best family Christmases I've ever had, so thank you Ted, Lori, Allie, Jackie and Steph! I miss you guys already!

28 December 2011

2011 In Review

I've got my goals for 2012 mapped out - but you can't go forward without looking back. I realized, when looking back through my blog entries from late last year/early this year, that I never wrote down any goals for 2011. So, a non-goal oriented retrospective on how 2011 went down, both athletic and non-athletic.

- Faster times. In the 1/2 Ironman distance I finally broke through the 5:45 barrier that's eluded me for, oh, FOREVER. I ended the season with a 5:23, which was 23 minutes faster than my previous PR at that distance. I finally said goodbye to the 3:00 mark on the 1/2 Iron bike too, good riddance.

- SUFFER. I started to wrap my mind around what it meant to actually race a race, not just finish one. It's supposed to hurt, but in a good way. I didn't finish too many races with feelings of regret or shoulda, woulda, couldas which always haunted me in past seasons. I didn't fall apart on the run, which I was notorious for in 2010. Don't get me wrong, there is ALOT of room for improvement, but I feel like I'm starting to "get it" - and it's fun, like a game, a whole different side of the sport, a challenge that I never thought of before. I owe all of this to Jen for helping me see the light.

NOT a pretty picture

- Race Day Nutrition. KISS - keep it simple stupid. No more bike buffets, no more liquid-only calories. Every race goes like this: gels, water, saltstick tabs, NUUN. And maybe a powerbar if I need variety. I ate 18 gels - EIGHTEEN GELS during the bike portion alone at Ironman Lake Placid and my gut felt better than it ever has during an Ironman.

- Bucket List Races. I was so lucky to be able to check off a bunch of races from my wish list this year. Wildflower was with my west coast family and I liken it to biking through a Steinbeck novel. Lake Placid was an awesome mini vacation with my family and friends and we lucked out with perfect weather while the rest of the country was under a ridiculous heat wave. Timberman was the first triathlon my brother was able to come watch me race, as well as my best friend Erin and my goddaughter. I also got a hug from Chrissie Wellington. Best Day Ever. I turned 30 racing the Galway 70.3 in Ireland and got a chance to spend time with Angelina and meet Charisa, both awesome people and athletes.

Finishing up the first lap at IMLP 2011

- Miscellany. Did a marathon, went to tri camp, placed in my age group here and there, met lots of new friends through the sport, added to my shelf of marathon/half ironman/ironman medals at work (next year I get to start a new shelf because the first one is full :) ), and didn't get burned out.

Top of Mt Lemmon!

Overall, athletic-wise, 2011 was a much needed year in terms of racing confidence and overall happiness with triathlon. I learned alot in terms of how to race and realized it's not always about time, it's also about placing and it's important to race others, not just yourself. I also learned the importance of confidence in your training and abilities - I always counted myself out before the gun even went off in previous seasons; it was nice to see what happened when I instead decided to count myself in.

And the other accomplishments of 2011:

- Traveled somewhere besides New Jersey for work. Burkina Faso for a two-week, eye-opening work trip.
Kids in one of the villages outside Kaya

- Realized I can have a peaceful co-existence with my dog, made much easier when he stopped chowing down on my wardrobe.

Miles and me

- Made it a point to spend time with family and friends I don't get to see very often.

College Roomies 4 Life - Melis, Erin and I

All grown up in 2011! And responsible for kids!

- Continued to revel in the fact that I finally have a job I truly enjoy.

- Got my bake on. Alot.
Chocolate wasted.

- I've always loved reading, but now that I have a Kindle, it's made getting books into my hot little hands a much quicker affair. I didn't really keep track of everything I read this year, but in the past few months I've read:

- The Year of Fog (thumbs up)
- The Hunger Games (thumbs up)
- Catching Fire (thumbs up)
- Mockingjay (thumbs up)
- Unbroken (HUGE thumbs up)
- The Help (thumbs up)
- Cutting for Stone (HUGE thumbs up)
- A Dog's Purpose (thumbs up)
- Bella Canto (thumbs up)
- Sarah's Key (HUGE thumbs up)
- Pride and Prejudice (thumbs up)
- And I am loathe to admit I read some Nicholas Sparks books too; I am a sucker for easy-to-read chick lit.

- Celebrated 5 years of marriage with my husband!

Craigville Beach, Centreville MA - same beach my parents worked at in college when they started dating.

20 December 2011


For years I have been running on the bike path near my house. And every morning between 6:30 and 7:30, there is an older gentleman who is out walking and he gives everyone an enthusiastic greeting as he passes them. This morning my greeting was "Where have you been??" I guess that's what happens when it has been *months* since I went running on the bike trail before work. Sign that maybe I should do more running outside? Well, in all fairness, I've gotten some pretty awesome trail runs in over the past few weekends with good friends. I even brought Miles out for a 90 minute trail run on Sunday and he LOVED it. It wasn't a technical trail (I could see that going terribly wrong), but I'll take him with me again when I do some easy trails in the future. To him, it was one big dog park (minus the other dogs and the reality of being on a leash). In other news, I finished two more books - Pride and Prejudice and The Help. The Help was a great read (obviously) and I'm looking forward to watching the movie. And I really enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, much more than I expected to - I also need to make time to watch that movie. If anyone has any book suggestions for my 2012 reading list (which I will probably get started on now...), let me know!

16 December 2011

Random Friday Facts

1) I've spent far more money on athletic shoes this year than regular shoes.

2) My least favorite chore has always been doing the dishes. I hated it so much that in college, I would sometimes hide the dishes in the closet (there wasn't any food left on them, but I know, still gross).

3) Before I got married, I rarely cooked. Even when I first got married, you'd be hard pressed to find me in the kitchen. And baking NEVER happened. Then... I grew up.

4) I love to read.

5) My freestyle stroke apparently is still pretty terribly - my left arm continues to do wonky things all on its own.

6) During the training leading up to my first Ironman, I said I would never EVER train or do another Ironman again. That was obviously a lie.

7) Before I moved to DC, I'd never really eaten "ethnic foods" (think Thai food, Vietnamese, etc). NH is really good at sprouting alot of chain restaurants, but not much else.

8) I usually sleep on my stomach

9) I started the whole vegetarian thing earlier this year to clean up my diet for Ironman, but now the idea of meat kind of grosses me out.

10) I spend about 50% of my evenings trying to keep my cats off the kitchen table and counters.

11) Punctuality is not one of my strengths.

12) I got my hair cut really short in middle school and I think that scarred me for life - never again!

13) My sister-in-law sent me a photo of the best saying, "Chocolate doesn't ask silly questions. Chocolate understands."

14 December 2011

The Non-Athletic Goals for 2012

These aren't really New Years Resolutions, more just things I'd like to accomplish next year. If I were to make New Years Resolutions, they would read something like "curse less" and "eat less chocolate," "complain about Metro less frequently" and where is the fun in that - less, less, less. 2012 is going to be about MORE, MORE, MORE (and I am not referring to cursing, chocolate, or complaining).

1) Read MORE books - as in at least 50 books in 2012. Mark equated this to be about a book a week, and when he put it that way, it seems a bit ambitious. I'm planning on keeping a tally of what I read, and it's not going to be all fluff.

2) Become MORE fluent in French - I know, seems sad that a French major in undergrad doesn't consider herself fluent enough after that college education, but my French is rusty and it does improve the more often I use it. I've been doing alot of reading, writing, translating French on one of my projects and I've noticed these tasks have become substantially easier and faster over time. I'm just a bit shy when it comes to speaking it and MY GOSH do I hate the grammar - too many verb tenses. So, how will I become more fluent? I'm looking into becoming a member of Alliance Francaise; at least one of the 50 books will be one of the French literature books that's been gathering dust on my bookshelf; and hopefully there will be some more trips to Burkina in the next 12 months.

3) Eat MORE fruits and vegetables - this one is definitely tied to athletics, but it's relevant here too. 2012 is when I clean up my act, make fruits and vegetables a priority, and gradually ease my way into a more "clean eating" type of lifestyle that is sustainable.

4) Get MORE sleep - cast off my grad school ways (grad school was TWO years ago) - FB and blogs are NOT a good reason to stay up late. Before I started grad school, my lights were out by 9pm and I was easily getting up before 5am for my workouts. Feels like grad school has ruined me for the past 4 years, and it's high time I got out of this rut, especially since I don't have any good excuses anymore. Let's see if by this time next year, I'm back to having lights out by 9pm again...

5) Learn MORE recipes - (let me caveat that by saying HEALTHY recipes, it's pretty obvious I know how to find - and bake - those unhealthy ones). Dinner at the house is predictable every single week. It is a 99% guarantee that we will be eating one of the following for dinner: pizza, pasta, veggie quesadillas, burritos, butternut squash soup. We might mix it up by throwing in a salad or making a burger one night (GASP). I have a number of great cookbooks that are begging to be used - and so they will be in 2012!

6) Call my family MORE often - this goes for Mom and Dad and Morgan and my West Coast family. Too often I've let Facebook messages and texts take the place of real, meaningful conversation. It's unfortunately a pretty frequent occurrence that I startle myself by realizing it has been TWO WEEKS since I last talked to my mom. Oops. It's time to get back to basics and actually call the people I care about.

7) Take MORE pictures - (and post them on this blog). I don't take enough pictures, I'm going to change that in 2012. And if anyone has any point-and-shoot camera recommendations, I'd love to hear them. I think just about anything will take better photos than my 6.5 year old 5 megapixel camera (I KNOW they make camera phones with more pixels than my camera, don't remind me!)

I'm sure I'll be adding to this post as I think of things, but this list isn't going to get too much longer because then it becomes overwhelming. And I will also be trying to curb the cursing, complaining, and chocolate binges.

12 December 2011

Salty Chocolate Nutella Cookies...

Because that's what this season needs - a little more Nutella. I celebrated my friend Tonya's birthday this weekend by baking up a storm in her kitchen (and after cooking in Tonya's kitchen, I like it better than my own - no dogs underfoot, no cats stealing food, A KITCHEN AID MIXER).
The Lifestyle section of the Washington Post has a holiday cookie quiz (What Holiday Cookie Are You?). I, apparently, am a Chocolate Cookie (I could've told you that without the quiz...). As a little reward for taking the quiz, it gave me this gem of a recipe to try. And so I baked it on Sunday: Salty Chocolate Nutella Cookies.


  • 2 cups (10 ounces) flour
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3.2 ounces) natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at a very soft room temperature (see headnote)
  • 1 1/3 cups (9.3 ounces) sugar, plus 1 cup for finishing the cookies
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl.

Combine the butter and 1 1/3 cups of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat for about 2 minutes on low speed, until fluffy, then add the egg yolks, cream and vanilla extract; beat on low speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

Place the remaining cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.

Scoop 30 to 35 heaping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets. Shape each mound of dough into a ball, then roll it in the remaining sugar to coat evenly. Space the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, then use your thumb to make an indentation in the top of each cookie, gently flattening the cookies a bit as you work.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes or until the edges are just set; the tops of the cookies will be soft. (If the indentations have lost definition, press the centers again immediately after you remove the cookies from the oven.) Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. Pipe or spoon the Nutella into the center of each cookie while the cookies are still slightly warm.

Serve or store once the Nutella centers have slightly set.

*For the butter, they suggest taking it out of the fridge the night before and leaving it on the counter so it can easily reach the right consistency.
**Makes 30-35 cookies.
***Oh, and when they say space the cookies 2 inches apart, they know what they are talking about. Trying to cram 30 dough balls onto a small cookie sheet makes for some ugly-looking baked cookies.

Recipe Source:

From Huntsberger and Willis, of Whisked! in Washington.

08 December 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yes, it's Christmas, which IS the most Wonderful Time of the Year. But I attribute the magic of December to more than just the obvious (Baby Jesus, holiday parties, ugly sweaters, abundance of baked goods, holiday music, presents). December is very much akin to that pre-Ironman magic where anything seems possible for the upcoming race season. It's the strange but comfortable in-between season time where the work for 2011 is complete, results have been dissected, and plans to improve in 2012 have been made. Goals are in the process of being set for 2012 and you decide to go big - setting your sights higher than you ever have before. You map out the things you will do better - go to sleep earlier, do all of your workouts on the alloted day, eat only 2 bagels on Bagel Friday at work instead of 5, cut back on the Chocolate Wasted cupcakes, etc. Visions of PRs at every single race dance in your head. You're stoked about training again - you can't wait to be woken up in the middle of the night by your growling stomach, as it has already burned through your daily calories because you are in the middle of Ironman training. You have grand plans of actually doing your strength training workouts on a weekly basis. ANYTHING seems possible. It's just... magical. But the best part is - you don't have to start doing any of the above things in earnest until January 1st, when 2012 training officially begins. You get to continue indulging in holiday food, fun, and relaxation, all the while remaining totally convinced that 2012 is going to be a stellar year (regardless of how many 3lb bags of M&Ms you consume this week). It's like having your cake and eating it too (literally). It's all the dreams and excitement and anticipation, without the sacrifice, sweat, and tears. At least for the next few weeks until January 1st (and reality) rolls around. I plan on enjoying myself (not SO MUCH that I totally fall off the wagon and can't find it) for the next 22 days until it is time to get back down to business. I'm already looking forward to it - 2012, are you ready???

04 December 2011

Backyard Burn 5.5 Miler - race report

I had been hemming and hawing the past few weeks over whether or not I would sign up for a race this weekend and if so, which one. The Hot Chocolate 5K/15K seemed like the natural choice (ahem - CHOCOLATE), but I just couldn't justify the high entry fee (and after reading the live feed on FB yesterday morning about THAT race debacle, I'm glad I didn't sign up). When my friend Karen told me she wasn't going to be able to race the Backyard Burn 5 Miler in Clifton, Virginia this Sunday and that she could transfer the bib to me, I took her up on it. It's an awesome series, well run races, and really casual. I've only raced the Wakefield course before (which is one of the easier ones) so I was interested to see what the more technical Hemlock course would be like. It was hard. Like, sucking-wind, almost-falling-into-rivers-twice kind of hard. It was hilly and rocky and definitely required some scrambling. The first 0.7 was mostly on pavement on gravel and then the course hurtled you down some steps built into a hill, then it was an immediate uphill. We looped around into the woods and started the hard stuff. I had forgotten my HR monitor and Garmin (yaaayyy low-key running) so I had no idea of pace, mile markers, elapsed time, etc etc etc. As we entered the woods, I counted myself as the 5th girl (but I had no idea how many of the girls ahead of me were 5 milers and how many were 10 milers - I assumed all were 5 miles because they were BOOKING it). I passed one girl after a few minutes of entering the woods and was promptly passed by a different girl who had relaxed form as she sped away from me. I managed to keep her in sight for the next couple of miles, but I didn't kill myself trying to catch her and focused on keeping the 5th position. Trail running requires more thought than road running (i.e., how do I get over those rocks without simultaneously falling into a ravine) and I found it took me AWHILE to get into a rhythm. Probably at least 2 miles. We ran by the finish start/finish area as we started a different loop back into the woods. It was here that I started to find my form. After a short uphill on pavement, the trail flattened out and then went downhill, allowing me to catch my breath. At one switchback before this section, I saw that there was a girl not too far behind me, and I ran the rest of the race convinced she was on my heels ready to pass me and I didn't look back (if I didn't run with these thoughts, I surely would've stopped/walked up some of the uphills towards the end). We had a nice section by the river where I picked up my pace (until we hit some rocks) and then... another uphill... that just... kept... going. It eventually flattened out and I knew I was probably a little more than a mile from the finish and tried to pick it up. I didn't see anyone ahead of me and here and there I would hear someone behind me. I just wanted to keep my 5th place (still convinced all the girls ahead of me were 5 milers). I *finally* saw the finish and the clock read 44:12 when I crossed the line. Not as fast as I wanted, but Mark told me I crossed the line in 2nd overall (which means 3 of those super fast girls were 10 milers who were doing ANOTHER loop). He also told me they were only about 30 seconds ahead of me (and the winning 5 miler girl finished only about a minute ahead of me) and I had closed alot of the gap during the back-half of the race. So that made me feel better about my time (and when I looked at last year's results, I would've also gotten 2nd overall with my time as well - so I'm not as slow as I thought, it was just a harder course than other trail races I've done).

We stayed around the the awards (I needed to build up my pint glass collection) and I got to stand on top of the podium as I won the 30-39 AG (NEVER have gotten to stand on top of a podium - it was weird and Mark said I looked really uncomfortable up there, haha). It's too bad this was the last trail run in the series this season, but I am toying with the idea of signing up for a few of the races in the spring series. I love the laid back environment and EX2 Adventures runs a first-class event every time. Plus, trail running is supposed to help build strength and make one a stronger runner overall and who can't use a little of that?? It was good to see some of the other Team Z'rs out there and I'm excited for the 2012 season!

02 December 2011

Random Friday Facts

1) I think that peanut butter and chocolate is the most amazing food combination ever.

2) I started running when I was 12 - my mother decided I needed an extracurricular activity and made me join the middle school x-country team. There is no arguing with my mother when she uses a certain tone of voice with you.

3) I'm working on my 2012 goals (both athletic and non-athletic) and I think I have most of them figured out. I've definitely put more thought into the 2012 goals than any other year so far.

4) We just moved office locations at work. My new office is now located just steps away from the Main Kitchen where the admin staff bring all leftovers from lunch meetings. I think the free food gods were smiling on me during office assignments.

5) My left arm has been a troublemaker at swim practices this week. Every single deck coach has stopped me to tell me something I am doing wrong with it during my swim stroke. Hopefully once I fix all the idiosyncrasies, my swim stroke will be much more efficient.

6) I haven't owned an alarm clock since college. I use my cell phone.

7) I used to be really good at getting to to work before 8:30am. Now, well, let's just say I am not.

8) Every time I visit my parents in New England (or they come down to see me), they bring me Maypo because you CANNOT find this amazing breakfast food in stores in the "South." It is a precious, precious commodity in my house (and thank goodness Mark doesn't like it, otherwise I would have to share).

9) The smell of oranges remind me of Christmas.

10) Tonight I am babysitting a friend's three kids (all age 9 and younger). I owe her because she watched our dog for us when we went away for a weekend. When we went to pick our dog up, she told me that "If I can handle my dog, I can handle multiple children." We will see after tonight :)

11) I spent last evening having a "Christmas Story" and "Christmas Vacation" quote war with my in-laws on FB. I haven't laughed so hard in ages.

12) I have a neighbor who is really good at finding food porn on the internet. And every time she finds something chocolatey and delicious, she tags me in a link on FB and I can't resist - I have to make whatever it is she found. One week it was chocolate chip cookie oreo brownie bars. Another week it was chocolate wasted cupcakes. And this weekend it is going to have to be this: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Torte with Mousse.

28 November 2011

Give the 5K some respect...

Want to know what I learned on Thanksgiving this year? I (re)learned that 5Ks are... HARD. HARD HARD HARD. In the running/triathlon world, I don't think we give enough props to the 5K - the glory always seems to go to the marathon, the half marathon, the long course triathlons. I'll say this - Ironman and marathons may last longer, but the pain is controlled, bearable. A 5K is all the pain of a marathon compressed into 20-ish minutes. You tell me which is worse.

I lined up with 1400 of my closest friends for the annual Derry, NH Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. After tracking my friends doing IM Arizona the previous weekend, I was all jazzed to race. Then race morning arrived, along with the nerves (yes I still get nervous, even for 5Ks, because I know how much they SUUUUCK), and while it would've been nice to just jog the race, I knew that wouldn't happen. I was there to race, not jog, and while I wasn't counting on a PR (I've not exactly been super diligent in my running since the beginning of October and speedwork - what is speedwork??) I wanted to finish that race feeling like I earned that extra piece of pecan pie (pronounced peeee-can, not puh-can).

Mark and I met up with our friends Ashley and Tim for the race and we had grand plans to run together, but that quickly fell apart in the race start chaos. Nobody knew exactly where the start line was located and nobody heard the gun go off, but suddenly people started to run. I was smooshed in a sea of 10 year olds, baby joggers and dogs and middle school x-country runners, darting all over the roadway to try and get around them. It took about a half a mile, and suddenly I had some clear road ahead of me - just in time for the long, steepish hill around mile 1.5. It was there that I needed to pull it together and suffer - the adrenaline from the first mile had disappeared, the legs were feeling heavy, and even though it was chilly out, I felt like I was wearing way too many layers. The gloves came off (literally) and I huffed my way up the hill, passing a few people, but also getting passed by some high school x-country boys who looked like they were out for an easy jog. I caught up with Tim here, and we switched places a few times, and I ran the rest of the race convinced that he was on my shoulder and would bolt ahead of me at the finish line. After we passed the Mile 2 marker, things went downhill (literally - this is a good thing) from there, with a few uphills. We rounded a corner and the volunteers there were saying things like "you're almost there" and "just a little further" and I looked around and totally convinced myself that yes, these buildings look familiar, the finish line is right up ahead. Turns out the mind is very impressionable to suggestions in weak moments such as mile 2.6 of a 5K and I was not just around the corner from the finish. Too late though, I had already kicked and started passing a few more people, and it would've been embarrassing to slow down. Legs were on fire, stomach was churning, and that stupid finish line was NOWHERE to be found. It finally appeared and I threw myself across it - glancing at the clock and instantly hoped that they were scoring the race by chip time and NOT gun time (unfortunately, it was gun time and I was slow slow slow - but fortunately, so was everyone else in my AG and apparently I came in first hahaha).

We topped off the 5K with a fantastic breakfast at my best friend Erin's house with her parents (can I just say that parents are the best - it doesn't matter if we are 5 years old or 30 years old, they still cook us meals and take care of us). My goddaughter provided the entertainment (she is 2) by informing us that she was a "hot mess" (I love how 2 year olds will repeat anything you tell them). Then it was back to my parent's house for a big turkey dinner (I give up vegetarianism from Thanksgiving to Christmas - I don't care if this makes me a fair-weather vegetarian, I love roast turkey too much to forgo it). Friday, Mark and I drove up to Maine to spend some time with my best friend Katie and her husband - we caught an awesome sunset on our drive to dinner, bought our dog a moose antler to gnaw on (this is Maine, after all), and I got to spend some quality time with one of my favorite people. A great mini-vacation all around :)

21 November 2011

Strength Training

Last Monday at 6am, I was doing this:

OK, they are a bit nicer at Team Z boot camp.

And I proceeded to feel like this until about Thursday:

Team Z has a boot camp on Monday mornings. Stupid me, I'd never actually taken advantage of it before last week. I want 2012 to be a great season and I've always been a bit of a slacker when it comes to strength training. There are several reasons (as will be explained below) why I'm finally getting my lazy butt to boot camp, and one of them being Get Stronger because stronger typically equals better fitness and ability to maintain form and race faster.

Anyway, can I just tell you, I was completely naiive when I thought about how difficult boot camp actually would be. "Ha," I figured, "I've done an Ironman, I think I can handle an hour of strength training." When I could barely hobble out of the room an hour later, I figured now might be a good time to eat crow and take back ALL my thoughts and bravado. My co-worker and fellow Team Z'r, Janine, was also at boot camp that fateful Monday AM and we spent the next two days calling each other as soon as we arrived at the office. No greetings, no how are you's. Simply:
"Can you walk like a normal person yet?"
"No. Can you?"
"No. I feel like I put my legs through a meat grinder. I'm thinking about rolling myself in my desk chair to my next meeting so I don't have to try and stand up."
"Even trying to stay upright on my yoga ball is painful."

And so it went. I approached this morning's boot camp with more than a little trepidation. I wouldn't say that today's hour of hurts-so-good torture was any easier than last week's; just that I was smart and stretched over the past week, did a few squats so my legs wouldn't go into full PTSD mode this morning when we surely would be doing more than our fair share of squats, and was fully prepared to feel the burn. And I'm happy to say that I can walk like a normal person, I enjoyed every minute of boot camp, and I'm so glad I've started going. I basically suck doing strength training on my own. I'll be in the basement with my TRX, totally distracted by the TV, and taking rest breaks and moving on to a different exercise when things start to feel just a little uncomfortable. At boot camp, you have peer pressure to keep up, to not stop, to keep doing squats, leg lifts, planks, pushups (damn pushups!) far past when you normally would've cried uncle if you were alone.

Want to hear something funny? Here you go: in a matter of weeks, I will be helping Kerri Kramer lead the Monday AM boot camps. She's been a great teacher so far, but unfortunately she cannot cannot magically grant me upper body strength - I sadly discovered while trying to do pushups during boot camp last week that my upper body strength is kind of nonexistent. This is a problem that I'm going to need to fix stat because a boot camp leader who falls flat on her face during her 5th pushup is what one might call ineffective and uninspiring. So, Operation Do-More-Than-Five-Pushups has begun. Reaching my goal will take baby steps, but I'm already claiming a small victory today: not walking like a geriatric after boot camp.

17 November 2011

The Highlights

Having a positive mental attitude is key to finding success in just about anything - racing, marriage, life in general... So here are the positives I found in my day today:

- I got a compliment on my flip turn at swim practice this AM. As a person who avoided flip turns like the plague up until last year, I feel like I've made a lot of progress.

- Mark and I learned something new about each other this morning - turns out, we were both band geeks in middle school. I played the flute and he played (wait for it...) the Xylophone!!!! It's nice to know that even after 5+ years of marriage, there are still surprises.

- I bought a mini cupcake pan tonight. This means MANY more cupcakes in my future (and in the future of those around me).

- I made it to work before 9am. Victory is mine.

- I think I solved a budget mystery on one of my projects at work today.

- I found out today that I FINALLY will be in town to attend the McGreten "Ugly Holiday Sweater/Christmas Vacation spectacular. I've missed this event for too many years now and I WILL cram 4 years of fun into one evening. Just you watch.

- I'm going to go to bed before 10pm.

- I didn't have to cook dinner tonight OR do the dishes - LEFTOVERS, awwww yeah!

- Our pantry was stocked with Grape Nuts for my breakfast enjoyment.

- I ate chocolate for dessert.

14 November 2011

(Bleep) My Grandpa Says

So, I've been training, but there isn't much to discuss there. I swim, I bike, I run, I did some strength training (THAT one is a shocker. I actually did the Team Z boot camp this morning and it quickly became apparent that I'm NOT in the most awesome shape ever. AND that I need to work out with a group so I don't wuss out during strength sessions) and then I eat (tonight's pre-dinner dinner - a side of chocolate chips and a whole baguette with some triple-cream brie piled on top). Alas, no funny and amusing training stories.

I've been busy in the kitchen. Six pies, two rounds of banana nut muffins, and one batch of these chocolate-delights:
Chocolate wasted cupcakes

I bake during the off season. And luckily I have many good neighbors and co-workers who are more than willing to take the fruits of my oven off my hands so I don't start next season weighing 50lbs over my goal race weight.

Mark's parents visited us last week from California. They are wonderful and totally took Mark and I out to eat almost every night, a throwback to the college days when parents took pity on the penniless-ramen noodle-eating student and treated them to a real meal. It's nice to know that even though Mark and I are not longer the aforementioned students, his mom and dad still want to treat us to dinner :) We already miss them and can't wait to see them next month at Christmas!

Have you ever seen the website (or read the book) "BLEEP My Dad Says"? My grandpa is temporarily residing with my parents in NH while he recovers from a very minor surgery. After talking to my dad yesterday about his past couple of weeks, I think my grandpa has given them some pretty good material to work with in terms of crotchety conversation. Most of it is not fit for my PG blog, but I will say he did refer to church as "that goddamn place." Mark also informed me yesterday I do a dead-ringer impression of my grandpa (yet another trait I've inherited from my father), which perhaps I will break out over Thanksgiving dinner when grandpa is out of earshot :)
**Note: I do love my Grandpa, mostly because he is so non-PC. None of the above is meant in any malicious manner.

I tried to get myself a mug of hot chocolate this afternoon at the fancy coffee machine at work. FAIL. I couldn't figure out how to get the thing to open so I could put the packet of instant hot chocolate in. I finally gave up after a few minutes of pushing (wrong) buttons and trying to force the door open. Sad thing is, I successfully got myself hot chocolate half a dozen times less than two weeks ago from the same machine. I think I just need the packets of Swiss Miss where you just add water.

11 November 2011

Random Friday Facts

So, I've been meaning to do a Random Friday Facts blogpost for awhile, courtesy of Katie's blog, and while I don't think mine will be half as amusing as hers are, I'm giving it a shot.

1) I put together surveys for a living but I absolutely refuse to take any surveys myself.

2) Our two cats are named after vacuum cleaners - Hoover and Bissell. My dad's nickname for me when I was a kid was Hoover and yes this was well before I was training for Ironmans.

3) I don't talk much when I'm driving - I can't multi-task like that.

4) I've always prided myself in being someone who doesn't drink coffee. Then my husband discovered how to make amazing pumpkin lattes on his espresso maker and I've now become a "recreational" coffee drinker.

5) I always thought "espresso" was actually spelled (and said) as "expresso." I learned the correct spelling about three months ago. Which is sad because I hate misspelled words.

6) Even though being 30 hasn't actually been that bad, I still don't like it.

7) I've recently rediscovered a great love for Grape Nuts.

8) If you'd asked me three weeks ago whether or not I saw myself running any races this offseason, you would've gotten an emphatic NO. Nowwww, I think I'm changing my mind...

9) I love reading well-written, witty blogs.

10) It's my favorite time of year - stores are stocking peppermint flavored ice cream.

11) When my mom was my age, she had a 7-year old and a two year old. I don't know how she did it - I can barely get myself dressed and out the door in one piece on a daily basis.

12) I really like my job. This is the first job that I've had that I truly enjoy the work.

13) As of today, I will have baked 6 pies this week (4 apple and 2 chicken pot pies). No, I did not eat them all myself; I bribe my neighbors with baked goods.

14) Seven years ago today, my husband and I were introduced - we had our first date seven years ago tomorrow.

09 November 2011

Book reviews

My aunt Amy recently gave me a Kindle for my birthday - Best. Gift. Ever. I'll admit, I'd never had a hankering for an electronic reader - I've always liked having my book in hand so I knew how many pages were left and could easily flip back and forth. But I'm a total convert and I love the possibility of having hundreds of books right at my fingertips - just click a button and *bing* a new book magically appears right in front of you (and so does a charge on your credit card, haha). So right before I left for Burkina, I downloaded two books; both of which turned out to be FANTASTIC reads.
The first was Laura Hillenbrand's new novel Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption . It's the true story of Louis Zamperini, a runner who came within spitting distance of the sub-4 minute mile before deploying with the Army's Air Force during WWII where he was shot down over the Pacific, spent 40+ days on a life raft before being captured by the Japanese and placed in a POW camp for over two years. This book talked alot, both directly and indirectly, about mental strength - what it took to come within seconds of a 4 minute mile and what it took to make it through the day on just one ball of rice and not give up hope. As an athlete, this book offered so many lessons on mental fortitude. I know that reading it won't make me a better athlete, but it did give me some food for thought on strategies to fall back on when hitting a rough patch during a race.

The other book was Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This book had nothing to do with sports or mental toughness - it was just a really interesting, well-written, and entertaining story. It's about the lives of twin brothers, and the lives of those around them, as they came of age in Ethiopia in the mid-20th century. It was written so vividly that I could actually picture in my mind the places described in the book, what I imagined the characters to look like, and the events as they took place. I totally lost myself in the book and finished it in about two days - THAT's when you know a book is good, when you can't put it down and you find yourself looking forward to a few quiet moments alone so you can sneak a peak at a few more pages.

And now I'm reading Pride and Prejudice. You can download alot of the classics for free on the Kindle and I've told myself that I can't buy the third book of the Hunger Games, or any other book for that matter, until after I finish Pride and Prejudice. In 2012 I'd really like to expand my reading horizons and delve into some classics so I've devised a plan. I must read one classic book for every contemporary/fluff/Nicholas-Spark-ish book I download on my Kindle.

07 November 2011

To Marathon or Not to Marathon - that is the question

My lovely coach Jen recently sent me a goals sheet for the 2012 season which, of course, got me thinking about next year. All the hype and chatter about this past weekend's NYC marathon has started to make me rethink my original desire NOT to do a marathon in 2012. 2012 is the last year that the old qualifying standards (1:37 for women) will be used. And while I've never had a burning desire to do the NYC Marathon (I'm a Boston girl all the way, from marathons to clam chowder), suddenly I want to. Really want to. In 2013 the qualifying standard will be a 1:27, about 5 minutes faster than my 1/2 marathon PR. So, do I take the easy route and jump into a half marathon sometime in the next two months, just to meet the easy qualifying standard and grab a spot in the 2012 race (which would interfere with my hopes of doing a late season half ironman); or, do I decide to really focus on the 1/2 marathon and marathon in a later year and really challenge myself to meet the new standard? Or maybe do both. Physically, if I focus and work and do everything right, a 1:27 doesn't seem out of the question. I would need to be ON my game mentally. The smart move would probably be to put the NYC marathon on the backburner for now and just focus on the 1/2 marathon and doing what I can at that distance in March at the Nation Half Marathon (Rock and Roll Half, whatever it is).

03 November 2011

I went running!!!

I laced up my running shoes this afternoon for the first time in, ohhhh, about 4 weeks! I haven't run a step since Watermans the second weekend of October. I just hadn't felt like it. But my run today was glorious. GLORIOUS. I can't believe I voluntarily went without running for so long. I think I needed the break though; otherwise, I don't think I would've enjoyed today's run as much as I did. I don't know exactly how far I went or how long I ran for, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I'm already looking forward to my weekend run, an encouraging sign. Between getting on the trainer last night and going for a run tonight, it almost looks like I am training again. I'm not going to get serious about anything until after January 1st; I have no desire to have super-structured, goal oriented training during the holiday season. Trying to train for a marathon last year during Christmas was a disaster; I spent Christmas morning staring out my window, eating butter rolls in bed, and wishing I didn't have a two hour run on my schedule. I'm not subjecting myself to that this year - no winter marathon. Maayyyybbeee I will do a half marathon in March. Maybe. I know it seems like I lack motivation right now. And maybe I do. But that's all part of the off-season. I don't want to burn up my stash of motivation before 2012 even starts. So that's why I'm not stressing about missed workouts. I'm eating entire bars of Cadbury chocolate before dinner. And I'm not scheduling any big races until the spring.

02 November 2011

Burkina Trip

So I spent the last half of October in Burkina Faso for work. It's a small, landlocked country in West Africa with pretty much the coolest name for a capital city - Ouagadougou. I spent most of my time in the capital city, but was able to go out into a few villages, which was definitely the highlight of the whole trip. I also forgot that it was October - the temperature was about 100 degrees every day, which made me REALLY appreciate the fact that my hotel had a giant pool.

Burkina is one of the poorest countries in the world. The average Burkinabe lives on about $2/day, not even enough for a Starbucks latte here in the States. Literacy rates are extremely low and when you get outside of the cities, electricity is basically nonexistent. It's a whole different world and visiting Burkina made me appreciate all the creature comforts of home. Tape decks still rule and iPods are nonexistent - I let our driver borrow my iPod when we were out in the village and the poor guy didn't know how to switch through the songs, so he started listening to them in alphabetical order and had to suffer through Atomic Kitten, Abba and A Teens. The people there were super nice and I'm really looking forward to the next opportunity I have to go back. Here are a few pictures from the trip, since images are worth 1,000 words:

Burkinabe bike lane (psst - I got to ride on the back of a motorbike, it was great!)

An elementary school classroom

One of the households in the village we visited

Village children

As a white girl, I was a novelty. These kids had followed me to my car

Burkinabe bike shop. Really, all you need are tires, bikes, and some know-how

If you are interested in checking out a cool organization, take a look here: Friends of African Village Libraries. I heard about the organization from a friend and visited their office while I was in Burkina - they work with villages to install libraries so that local children will have more to read than simply their school books. As someone who loves to read (I read 6 books during the two weeks I was in Ouagadougou), I can't imagine my childhood without books. And this organization works with the villages to ensure there is buy-in and local responsibility for these libraries. I was really impressed with the whole business model and concept. Take a look!

Part of me wishes I had taken more pictures; but the other part of me is glad I didn't. As much as I want to try to capture everything I'm seeing over there, I know there's no way the pictures can do it justice. I also feel borderline exploitive when I take the photos - I know that many of the kids and adults like having their photo taken, but I feel guilty that it's basically for my own pleasure - there isn't any way I can print and give them a copy right there.

31 October 2011

Born in the USA

And THANKFUL for it! I love traveling for two reasons - seeing new places and gaining a new (or renewed) appreciation for everything that I have at home. Visiting Burkina was great for both of those reasons. I have so much I want to write about that trip and pictures that I'd like to post, but I'm too tired to do it justice at the moment. I have workouts waiting for me in Training Peaks, which means I should find my running shoes and see what it feels like to ride a bike again. I also almost forgot my Training Peaks login this morning. Awesome. I feel like a very out-of-practice triathlete at the moment. But I'm totally OK with it. I've rested and relaxed over the past three weeks, and I'm not going to rush the off-season. I cheered at the Marine Corps Marathon yesterday and didn't feel a twinge of envy of the runners doing the race. 2011 was a long, busy season and if I want 2012 to be a success, I can't push myself back into heavy, regimented training until I am truly ready. And I can tell that I'm just not ready. Light exercise - yes. Swap my workouts around if I feel like it - yes. Eat Halloween candy - yes. 15 hour workout weeks - no. 4 hour bike rides - no. 5am swim practice - no. And that's where I stand!

14 October 2011

10th Grade French class

I've known my co-worker Rachel for 15 years now - we both went to high school together in NH before moving down to DC post-college. Two years ago, she helped me land an interview, and subsequently a job, at our current company. Rachel and I met in French class my sophomore year. I don't know if any of you ever took language classes during high school, but if you did, surely in the recesses of your mind you can recall the dialogues the language books would use at the beginning of each chapter to introduce upcoming concepts. There was one dialogue that both Rachel and I recall being particularly memorable. Memorable enough that we still remember it to today.
"Ou est le guerisseur?" (where is the local healer)
"Il est dans la brousse." (he is in the bushlands)

Etc, etc, etc. It was introducing a chapter on French-speaking West Africa, a completely foreign concept to us New Englanders (especially to me who didn't even own a passport at the time). HAHA, when would we ever need this vocabulary?!?

Well, as Rachel informed me this morning - I might actually get to use some of the vocab from that dialogue on my trip to Burkina. Hopefully I won't need to ask where the local healer is, but if I'm in a pickle, at least I'll know how! That high school French lesson was good for something!

11 October 2011

Waterman's Half Ironman - last one of the season!

At the beginning of the year, I was looking for ways to stretch my season out as long as possible. Triathlon in November? Sign me up! But then my schedule changed a bit and some scheduling conflicts appeared and instead my season was going to end the second weekend in October (and no, not at a race on some tropical island - I'm saving that race for when I'm 80 and the rest of my competition is in a nursing home). I figured I'd be disappointed ending my season early, but by the time October came around, I was ready to be done. Truthfully, I've not been 100% plugged in since Lake Placid. I've enjoyed all the races I've done since then, and PR'd on each one, but there was a lack of focus on my part during the training and I think it showed, despite the PRs. I chose not to resist the sweet nothings being whispered by the ice cream in the freezer or by the chocolate bars at the store down the street. I also made this a few too many times:

It's an atomic calorie bomb.

I didn't get enough sleep and didn't make training the priority it should've been. I stopped reading the mental focus books that had been such a big part of my early season. I wouldn't go so far as to say I was burnt out - I was still having fun. But other things were worming their way up on my priority list and I simply let it occur. This is something I want to work on for next year.

So, after that little intro, ready for the race report? Watermans was a small half ironman taking place up in Marbury, MD, less than an hour from DC. This also happens to have been the site of my very first road triathlon back in 2007. That one was a sprint and I distinctly remember during the run thinking that anyone who did more than a sprint was crazy. Race day dawned perfect - sun, coolish temperatures (I think it only got into the high 70s) no humidity and very little wind. The great thing about this race was how small it was (3 swim waves!), the no-frills attitude (got my packet picked up, body marked, and transition set up in about 10 minutes flat), and the 8am start :)

I wanted top-5 overall. It was a small race so I figured that maybe I had a shot. I'd read that the water temperature was 64 so I pulled out the long-sleeve wetsuit (I think I was still traumatized from the temperature at Galway 70.3). Turns out that 64 was way warmer than whatever it was in Galway and I could've totally gone with the sleeveless. At least the full wetsuit kept the fields of seaweed from touching my skin - ewww. The wave, even though it was all women racers, was small. Just the way I like it. After the gun went off, it didn't take long to find clear water and be on my way on the two loop swim. Almost immediately my arms felt fatigued. Was the full wetsuit constricting? Was it general lack of swim fitness from missing too many AM swim sessions? Who knows. By the second loop, I got into a rhythm and my arms were actually feeling better. Sighting was no problem and neither were crowds. Unfortunately, my swims are terribly predictable and I finished in almost the same exact time as the rest of my 70.3s this year. Maybe next year will be when I finally break through the elusive 35:00 barrier. I had no idea where I was in the pack of girls but I ran to T1 like I stole something.

The timing mats turned out to be broken in the transition area so there isn't a record of my only fast transition times this whole season. I got on the bike and started looking for the girls ahead of me. I found a few, but not before I was caught by the speeding bullet that is Kendra (who ended up winning the ENTIRE race - who, one year ago, had never clipped in on a bike or been to a swim practice - if that's not rockstar, I don't know what is). The bike course was hillier than I had expected, but it wasn't terrible. The roads were in decent condition and didn't have alot of traffic on them. All good things. I rode on my own quite a bit because competitors were so far apart from each other. Throughout the ride, I felt really decent. Kept to the usual nutrition plan of a Hammer gel every 15 minutes for the first two hours (then every 20 minutes for the last hour) and a sip of water every 10 and a Saltstick tab every 30. This has worked great in all my other races and Watermans was no exception. But partway through the ride, I don't know if I let my head get to me, or if I really was slogging through molasses, but I just felt slow. By the time I finished the ride, I was convinced this was my slowest ride since Quassy even though it shouldn't have been because it wasn't all that hilly. I never remember exactly what time my Garmin says when I start the bike, so I can never calculate the bike time while riding. It's probably for the best, since it usually keeps my head out of the game, but lately I've had myself convinced that I rode super, super slow and I get off the bike all pissy. Whatever.

As I rode back into the park towards T2, I only saw a handful of girls out running. This was heartening. Maybe I wasn't as far behind as I thought. I had another faster-than-usual transition time on my way out to the run. The run was hilly - comparable to basically every other half ironman run this season (except for Wildflower, that deserves its own category, and Galway which was pancake flat - but there were 30mph winds, I don't know which is worse). There is always the lofty goal of running a 7:xx pace in a half ironman run - a lofty goal that I've never achieved. Oddly enough, the closest I came was at Quassy which was RIDICULOUSLY hilly on the run. My watch also crapped out on my at Mile 2 on that run and beeped at me every 2 seconds and refused to show me my mile splits - I think I need to run without knowing my mile splits from now on and run purely on feel. I've come to believe that the body is capable of much more than what the mind allows it to do. But I'll measure progress in small increments. No stopping and no walking and be consistent. I took in a bit of a Hammer gel during the run and had water at every other aid station. On the first loop, I counted myself as 6 back when I got to the turnaround. As I made it around the turnaround, I saw two girls not far behind me and both were looking strong. I had a talk with myself and kicked it up a notch - I didn't want to finish the race having any regrets. Mentally, I felt like I was in a good place throughout the run. No I wasn't getting the splits I wanted, but it could've been worse, and at least I was hitting around the same times each mile, with a few exceptions. As I approached the turnaround, with about 3 miles to go, I passed one of the women in front of me - putting me in 5h place. One of the girls that was behind me was slowly gaining so I just put my head down and ran. With the exception of a little nausea and dry-heaving action 1/2 a mile from the finish, the rest of the run was uneventful and I held off the girl behind me. I finished 5th overall and 2nd in my age group, with a shiny new 5:23 PR time. I'll take it.

This was a great race to end my season on. A few days after the race, I was looking back at some of my old race times and it hit me just how far I've come. The time for my first half ironman was a lovely 6:16 or something like that. I was on my bike for almost 3.5 hours and thought I was going to die on the run. I seriously considered getting a refund on the full iron-distance race I was already signed up for and proceeded to tell everyone and their mother "I'm done with this crap" for the rest of the afternoon after the race. Breaking 6:00 seemed unfathomable and I figured people who got times like 5:25 were Kona material. I never in a million years thought that I'd be getting times like the ones I got this season. And the best part - I feel like I can do even better. I think it's an absolute possibility that I'll shock myself next year and manage to go even faster. Part of this is the physical training, but part of it is mental. Not only believing in what one is capable of, but learning how to shut one's mind off so the body can do what it was trained to do. I still have alot to learn, but that's what makes every race fresh, new, and fun. That's why we keep coming back, right? You don't know the limit to your potential and every race is way to find out what you're capable of. Alot of this realization has been thanks to my awesome coach Jen who has given me not only great workouts, but lots of stuff to think about in terms of the mental aspect of the sport.

The race was also a perfect way to catch up with old and new friends from Team Z and elsewhere. I think I scared poor Katie by ambushing her outside the chip pickup tent ("You're Katie - I read your blog, I LOVE your blog!"). Gina was wonderful enough to lend me a chip strap because I forgot mine again - my ankles thank you Gina! And Lauren executed a great race and is totally ready for Cozumel. It was so nice to see Dawn and Kendra and I'm looking forward to racing with them next year :)

And so the season is over. I've yet to buy a can of frosting, but I'm sure that'll happen soon enough. I'm off to Africa on Saturday for a two-week work trip to Burkina Faso! Do you know how long I've always wanted to write those words - "I'm off to Africa for work!" I think I've been dreaming about that since I was a little kid, traveling to places completely different than anything you'll find in the US. It opens your mind to other things that are out there, but also REALLY makes you appreciate what you have at home. Like electricity.

Sidenote - every time I try to tag my post with the label "triathlon", it automatically adds in the tag "Living like a feral cat." I need to find whatever posting I gave that tag to - I'm sure it's probably an interesting read (and, sadly, probably has to do with how I live when Mark is away on a business trip).