27 February 2011

Mountain biking on a tri bike...

... Well, not exactly. But close. On Saturday, I went for my first outdoor ride since last October. It was wonderful! I actually don't mind riding on the trainer, but this ride beat any and all trainer rides hands down. A crisp day, breezy, sunny, out in Virginia horse country on backroads where you saw more horses than cars. Company was good too - in the spirit of tradition, I went riding with Karen and John (my first outdoor ride of the year always seems to be with Karen and John). They are both into biking, both road and mountain biking. Between the two of them, I think they own about 10 bikes. I'm not joking. Anyway, we were doing a loop north of Middleburg, VA that John had pulled off the internet and none of us had ridden before. The first 14 miles were beautiful and perfect. And then, we took a right on another picturesque country road and pavement was suddenly replaced by dirt and gravel. Nothing says "Welcome Back To Outdoor Riding" like an unpaved, rutted, HILLY dirt road. On your tri bike. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count how many times I thought I was going to bite it. Looking back, going down some of those hills, I'm surprised I managed to remain upright. But you know what? It was fun and it made me want to buy a mountain bike (mine was stolen when I lived in the frat-tastic apartment building). And the whole ride in general has me all excited to do more outdoor riding. Yes, the trainer is convenient, but even with a good movie, it can get kind of boring. Plus, it's not nearly as great of a workout as a hilly outdoor ride with strong headwinds. I was tired, sore and hungry by the end, but really happy. The 45 miles went by fast and I'm looking forward to getting out again. I may even start bike commuting to work as the weather gets nicer.
Speaking of nice weather, Mark, Miles and I took advantage of a warm, sunny afternoon and took a walk along the Mall. We got some fun photos of Miles in front of some of the monuments and memorials. He was just beyond thrilled to be outside and around people. We were crossing a street and this little kid walked by us, looked at Miles, and was like "Hi Spot!" and just kept walking.
Tomorrow is Day 1 of my 2011 Triathlon Training. And on that note, I'm going to bed!

23 February 2011

GW Birthday Marathon - Race Report

You know it's going to be an interesting race when the race director says these things in the pre-race talk:
- Well, it was a bit windy yesterday, so if some of the Port-o-Johns are knocked over, just be sure to stand them back up before you try to use them.
- It's pretty likely the mile marker signs were blown around too, so don't count on seeing too many signs out there while you're running.
- Right around mile one, you're going to have to climb around a gate blocking the road (part of the race is run on USDA property). We tried to get them to open the gate before the race, but as of a few minutes ago, it was still locked.

And with those words, I got ready to kick off my 11th marathon (15th if you count the ones I've done during Ironman).

It had been nearly two years since my last marathon (Boston 2009) and in the days leading up to the race, I was nervous. I even had a nightmare about the race (forgetting to pick up my friend for the race and then proceeding to get lost on a very straightforward course). Fortunately, come race day, things went very smoothly. I just wanted to do well, I wanted a PR (sub 3:25), which I knew might be out of reach, given the fact that I missed two weeks of training last month due to the flu and running hasn't been my sole focus. But after a season fully of less-than-satisfying performances in the run department (mostly due to nutritional issues), I wanted this to be an opportunity to show myself that I can still run well. And I did - I ran well. Just not as fast as I would've liked.

The GW Birthday Marathon in Greenbelt, MD has been around for 50 years, but apparently word has not traveled very far about the existence of the race because it is still very small and very local. You can register on race morning. This is the first time they tried doing chip timing (gun time and chip time are basically the same, seeing as it takes about 10 seconds for all runners to cross the start line - which, in years past, I believe was literally a chalk line drawn across a neighborhood street). Most people know each other. Besides the other marathoners and relay people, you see about 5 other people out on the course cheering. It's one of my favorite races - it's just about you and the run, there aren't any extras. No expo, no loud finish line announcer, no crowds. When you finish, they rip the tag off of your bib and thread it on the string - the official results are reported in the order of the tags on the string. Then you hobble back to the youth center for some homemade chili in the cafeteria (this year they even had birthday cake in honor of the race's 50th birthday!) You just don't find races like that very often anymore.

Megan and Rachel (my wonderful friends from high school cross-country, who also live in the DC area) and their husbands, Mark, as well as my co-worker Ebo, and another friend Rohan, all came out to race. Ebo was doing his first marathon and the others were running this race as a relay. There were some fellow Team Z'rs (Gina and Carol) and I ran with Fabrice for a hot second before he left me in the dust. When Megan and I were running together, it felt just like high school cross-country again - out in the countryside, the stink of cows and manure (the joys of going to a high school with a farm). There was even a guy running in front of us whose shirt said "Pain is Temporary. Pride is Forever." That happened to be the same logo that was on our cross-country shirts my sophomore year of high school. I loved that shirt.

So, this race proves that it is possible to have "the perfect race" and not hit the pace you want or get the finish time you were aiming for. The weather was perfect - in the 40s, sunny, light breeze. I wore my Zoot Active compression tights and a tee shirt with arm warmers and my pink visor. I kept the pace steady and controlled, not wanting to blow up in the end. I nailed my nutrition - taking in a Hammer gel every 45 minutes, for a total of 4 gels. I ended up carrying my own water, just so I wouldn't have to wait for a water stop to take a gel. I had a Nuun tablet in my water, just for some added electrolytes. I didn't bonk, I didn't hit the wall. there was no thought or talk of stopping or walking - I felt good during the whole race. It was a hilly course and you can see right from the start, where the hills were in the three loop course, just by looking at my mile splits. My HR was steady, in mid Zone 3 until the last 6 miles when I brought it into high Zone 3/low Zone 4 in an effort to go a little faster. I didn't really get any faster, I just didn't really slow down as much. I was mentally plugged in - focused on the mile I was currently on, constantly assessing how I was feeling, reassuring myself that I could hold that pace and HR all day. And when I realized (by mid-way) that my goal of sub-3:26 was not going to happen, I didn't get down on myself. I was still happy to be out running, spending time with friends, and just seeing how I could do. The course is hilly and challenging, and really pretty. After running the race on Sunday and realizing how hilly it was, I have a hard time believing this was where I PR'd two years ago. I actually like the three-loop format; I feel like it's easier to break the race up into pieces and you know what to expect - there aren't any surprises after loop one (except for the hill at mile 25 - you know it's coming because you ran down it at mile 1, but it feels ALOT steeper running back up it).

While I was running, I didn't keep track of my place. There seemed to be alot of fast girls, but it was difficult to tell which of those were full marathoners and which were relay runners. I ended up finishing in 3:40:44. Turns out this was good enough for 4th girl overall and 1st in my age group. My time from two years ago would've won this race on Sunday. Technically, this is still a 2012 Boston Qualifying time, but only if it doesn't fill up before it's my turn to register with the new rolling registration. To be honest, I don't even know if I want to run Boston next year. It's a great race and my favorite marathon, hands down, but it's right at the beginning of triathlon season. And right now, I like triathlons more than I like marathons - they are just more fun. I was even a bit relieved once this marathon was over - now I can focus more on swimming and biking. Now that it seems I have my nutrition on the run sorted out, hopefully I'll post better running times in my tris this season. Rumpass in Bumpass Oly is less than two months away!

For those interested (and for my own records), below are my mile splits and HR from the race. Not spectacular, but pretty darn steady and even.

Overall time: 3:40:44, pace 8:21/mile, average HR 158bpm
Mile 1: 8:09, 157bpm;
Mile 2: 7:48, 155bpm (there was a nice long downhill);
Mile 3: 8:11, 159bpm;
Mile 4: 8:08, 158bpm;
Mile 5: 8:13, 156bpm;
Mile 6: 8:19, 158bpm;
Mile 7: 8:09, 153bpm;
Mile 8: 8:13, 157bpm;
Mile 9: 8:26, 156bpm; HILL
Mile 10: 8:06, 154bpm;
Mile 11: 7:59, 156bpm;
Mile 12: 8:23, 157bpm;
Mile 13: 8:25, 158bpm; HILL
Mile 14: 8:07, 157bpm;
Mile 15: 8:20, 156bpm;
Mile 16: 8:34, 157bpm; HILL
Mile 17: 8:32, 159bpm;
Mile 18: 8:16, 159bpm;
Mile 19: 8:25, 160bpm;
Mile 20: 8:31, 160bpm; HILL
Mile 21: 8:25, 162bpm;
Mile 22: 8:40, 159bpm;
Mile 23: 8:41, 159bpm;
Mile 24: 8:51, 160bpm; HILL
Mile 25: 8:21, 162bpm;
Mile 26: 9:05, 165bpm Biggest HILL Ever
last 0.2: 7:31 pace, 161bpm.

15 February 2011

Vegan diet - the wrap up

I will call the Vegan-for-a-month experiment back in January an overall success. No, it did not convince me that I want to be totally Vegan. Yes, I discovered that sometimes non-vegan food is more appealing (and frankly, probably healthier, than vegan food - namely those "meatless" burgers). Overall, the month of being more conscious about what I was eating really helped me press the reset button. I didn't visit my co-worker's candy bowl ONCE (because Hershey kisses have dairy in them). I didn't really go out to eat very often, I consumed for fruits and veggies by default because sometimes that was the only vegan food available. I ceased eating my weekly wedge of brie. I felt better, thinner, less bloated, and just... healthier. I looked forward to cooking each night, I indulged in chocolate (but in moderation, mainly in the form of vegan chocolate walnut cookies - soooo easy to whip up AND you can eat the batter). And even now, when I'm not really vegan, I still eat mostly vegan - I don't mind homemade pizza without the cheese, I don't put cheese on my pasta, I've still been successful at staying away from my co-worker's candy bowl. So, why don't I want to be totally vegan? It's just too restrictive. I think I can still feel just as healthy by eating a mostly vegan, clean, mostly-unprocessed foods diet. It's easier to maintain and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything - kind of like the best of both worlds. I came to this final decision when we were out at dinner the final weekend of my experiment. We were at Founding Farmers and I was bitterly disappointed in their meatless vegan burger (most disgusting thing ever, well, next to the fake cheese it was smothered in) and watching Mark indulge in a huge slice of homemade red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Where was the joy in my life? What's the point of living if you can't enjoy a little red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting? Vegan diet be gone! I ended the experiment right there with a huge bite of cake and frosting. It was glorious.

08 February 2011

What makes you smile?

Do you want to know what makes me smile? For some inexplicable reason, I *love* flash dance mobs. I've never seen any in person, but there are plenty of videos on YouTube - and whenever I'm feeling sulky or need a happy distraction, I turn to one of my favorites:


And even though I have *zero* coordination (I once kicked a hole in the wall at a kickboxing class), being in a flash dance mob is totally on my bucket list.

06 February 2011

Cleaning

Mark and I lived in a small one bedroom apartment in Ballston for the first three years we were married. On weekends, it would take me ALL DAY to clean our one bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen and neaten up the living room (which also doubled as the dining room and our workout space). I think the square footage was less than 800 square feet. I have no idea why in the world it would take me all day to clean that tiny place. Probably because I am easily distracted and, like when I was a kid and told to clean my room, I'd take all sorts of detours when I'd come across something of interest (oh look, a photo album I haven't thumbed through in ages, hmmm this book looks good, I'll read a few pages, etc). Now that we live in a place that's MUCH bigger, I've needed to become more efficient in my cleaning. We have three times as many bathrooms, twice as many bedrooms, a living room that's separate from the dining area, and a family/workout/tv room in the basement. We have two sets of stairs that need to be vacuumed. An entire floor that needs to be mopped. And two floors that need to be vacuumed. And lots of things that need to be dusted. And a kitchen with more counter space that needs to be wiped down.

Today, I'm proud to say, I've been really efficient - bathrooms have been cleaned, two floors of stuff have been dusted, the kitchen is sparkling, and I'm about to vacuum up the giant animal fur tumbleweeds that have been rolling around for the past week (ick). And this has all been done in about 3 hours AFTER I ran 20 miles this morning.

I've downloaded alot of fun music over the past week in anticipation of our trip to Ireland - Gaelic Storm, plus a couple other Irish songs by random artists. I can almost taste the Guinness. I've also put the new Avril Lavigne song on my iPod - all have been very helpful in making this day of cleaning more enjoyable.