31 December 2012

2013 Non-Athletic Goals

There are a few things I would like to accomplish in 2013 that aren't related to running, triathlon, or cyclocross.  Last year I made some non-athletic goals for 2012 and I think it's a good tradition to uphold, as it keeps me well-rounded and triathlon is not life (though it feels like it is during the thick of Ironman training)

Read at least 60 books.  I just finished my 50th book of 2012, reaching that goal within hours of the midnight ball dropping.  Nothing like letting it come down to the wire.  At least 15 of these books for 2013 need to be classics (NOT smut) and at least 5 must be in French.  Trying to up the ante.  I read in a recent article that George W. Bush read an average of a book a week during his presidency.  I may not have agreed with some of his policies, but I think that's impressive time management - running the country, staying active, reading a ton, and still going to bed early.

Go to Holy Mass more often and learn/grow in the Catholic faith.  I've been Catholic forever, even with the short stint in middle school of investigating the Morman church.  Mr. Sweetie wasn't Catholic when we met, but he decided (on his own accord) to be baptized in the faith before we were married.  In the months leading up to our wedding, we were spending large portions of our weekends at Church between Mass, pre-cana classes, and Mr. Sweetie's RCIA class.  I know this might sound like a boring way to spend your weekends, but in reality it was quite nice.  We were good about going to Mass regularly the first few years we were married, then we went to Mass more sporadically, and in the past few months we've been going on a weekly basis again.  Going to Mass and having conversations about Catholicism make our marriage stronger.

Learn how to take better-than-decent photographs.  We have a nice Nikon camera and I have NO idea how to use it to its full potential.  This is shameful, shameful.  A couple of months ago I bought a book that was something along the lines of Photography for Dummies and I'm going to start off by reading that book and seeing what I learn.  If I get lucky, I might even manage to take a class.

Volunteer.  Part of being a good Catholic - heck, part of being a good person, really - is to volunteer your services.  When I first moved to the DC area I volunteered as an ESL teacher through Catholic Charities.  Then I started grad school and got into triathlon and didn't make time to volunteer anymore.  I'm tired of being so selfish and it's time to look for ways to give back.

Write more letters and thank you notes.  It's like I have a phobia of the post office and sending anything by mail.  I've written plenty of letters and never posted them.  I feel guilty about all of the unwritten thank you notes I keep meaning to send people, but then feel like too much time has passed and now would just be too late and silly to send it.  But really, it is ever really too late to say thank you? Or tell someone that you are thinking of them?  I wrote my grandma a letter last year, as she writes and sends me many cards, and my parents said it made her day.  Time to make her day much more often in 2013.  As well as tell other people I am thinking of them using something other than email or text.

Be a better wife to Mr. Sweetie.  He tops the Husband of the Year list.  I know you think I am biased, but if you lived with him and saw everything he does each day AND what a good person he is, I think you would agree with me.  I'm going to make an effort to do the little things more often (catbox cleaning, dishwasher-emptying, dinner cooking, animal hair dustbusting).  Marriage is not all romance and glamour and when you get right down to it, the day-to-day things are what I appreciate more than any box-of-chocolates-for-no-reason (and you all know how much I like chocolate).

29 December 2012

The 2013 Race Schedule!! Yee-haw!

I know I was lamenting that my 2013 schedule is going to look alot like 2012.  And, well, parts of it will.  I'm shooting to do mostly local races, like I did this past season, but I am trying to mix it up a little and do some different local races.  The schedule isn't 100% final and I might add in a couple more.  But for now, this is what I'm shooting for:

- Rock 'n Roll USA half marathon on March 16th here in Washington, DC.  I've done this race a couple times in the past - 2012, 2009.  They've changed up the course this year but I expect it will be equally fun and hilly.  It's a great local race and so many of my friends run it, I always bump into friends on the racecourse.  And my friend from high school, Kim, will be doing this race too, giving us an excuse to catch up!

- Monticelloman Olympic triathlon on May 5th outside of Charlottesville, VA.  In 2012 I did the half ironman distance at Monticelloman and I really enjoyed it - great course from start to finish and impressive race organization.  I thought about doing the half again, but there's another half later in May I'm interested in doing.

- Kinetic Half Ironman triathlon on May 11th down at Lake Anna.  I did this race in 2009 and 2010 and it sucked the life out of me every time :)  That run course with the mile-long uphill you get to do three times.  But I think I've had a long enough break from the race because I am excited to give it another go.  Plus it's a popular triathlon in the DC tri community and lots of my friends will be out there racing, making it that much more fun.

- Rev3 Quassy Half Ironman triathlon on June 2nd in Middlebury, CT.  This will be a repeat from 2011 and 2012.  Here's to hoping I don't make it a three-peat and end up with a 5:28 once again - I'd REALLY like to go a bit faster.  I had originally intended to sign up for Eagleman (good practice for racing in the heat) but I procrastinated on registering and got shut out, womp womp.  Rev3 does a great job at putting together an awesome race, the course is fun - hills and all - and it's close enough for my parents to drive down and spectate and I'm able to drive up the day before the race and drive home after the race, so no need to take time off from work.  Plus Mindy and Sarah are looking at doing it, making it even more fun.

- Diabolical Double Gran Fondo on June 22nd out in Garrett County, MD.  Did this last year - probably the most time I have ever spent on a bike.  Beautiful ride and the only part I didn't like was doing DOWN the steep hill near the Westernport Wall.  They are holding a "gentleman's race" for teams of 4-6 in 2013 so you will find Mindy, Sarah, Katie and I riding together (and laughing and stuffing ourselves with sandwiches and M&Ms at the rest stops and commiserating about our poor rear ends that have sat on bike seats for far too long).

- Ironman Lake Placid on July 27th in Lake Placid, NY.  I've not had the race I wanted to have in 2011 and in 2012 - neither race was a disaster but I crossed the finish line feeling unfulfilled and a little dissatisfied with my performance.  I want to give it another go before moving on to an Ironman race in a different venue.  And this seems like it is going to be the unofficial DC area triathlete race so I'm excited to see lots of familiar faces on the course, and my friend Stacey from tri camp (she is a mom of three kids under 7) is doing it too.  Stacey is the one who pulled me up that last hill on the run course at Mile 24, waving a giant bag of mini eggs at me like a carrot.  I'm so excited to have so many training buddies doing IMLP - it will make the long bike rides and long runs double as social time too.

- Luray Olympic triathlon on August 17th in Luray, VA.  I had wanted to do Age Group Nationals again this year, and I found out a couple of weeks ago that I qualified.  I also found out that they were being held a week earlier than last year - and with IMLP being a week later, that left only two weeks between Ironman and AG Nationals rather than the 4 weeks in 2012.  I don't think I'd be in recovered enough to do well and it doesn't make sense to spend the money, at least not in 2013.  Luray is a fantastic local race and I can even drive down the morning of.  Beautiful hilly course, lots of friends doing it.  I'm excited.

- Vegas 70.3 World Championships on September 8th in Las Vegas, NV.  I had no plans, initially, to do this race again anytime soon.  I didn't think I'd be fortunate enough to qualify again and I did so terribly in 2012 that I wasn't too broken up about the prospect of never biking in 110 degree heat again.  But then 70.3 Poconos happened and I nabbed a slot and that was that.  I'm going back.  Fingers crossed that the fact it is on Mr. Sweetie and my 7th wedding anniversary that it will bring me some luck and fast feet.

The latter half of my season after Vegas isn't ironed out yet.  I'd like to do one or two more half ironmans and maybe one more shorter race.  I've heard great things about Rev3 South Carolina and Beach2Battleship half has been calling my name for years.  There are some shorter local races - Giant Acorn or Waterman's that I'd be interested in doing too.  I'm even still working on some stuff in the early season, Rumpus in Bumpass isn't happening in 2013 and I'm still undecided about a triathlon in April.  New Orleans 70.3 is on my radar, but finances make that hard to swing.  I also want to get in an off-road triathlon.  I know I need a mountain bike first - working on that.  After tri season there will be some Backyard Burn trail races and MORE cyclocross - weeeeeeee!

28 December 2012

The little things add up. Or subtract. Depends on what you do with them.

So last night - and tonight for that matter - I found myself at the pool because I was too cool to get up early to get my swim on before work.  Neither workout was particularly painful; though I neglected to fuel properly before the swim and was ravenous by the time I got out, womp womp.  Good thing my house was stocked with chocolate oranges and Lindt chocolates from Christmas.  Lord those taste amazing when you are starving.

Some of yesterday's swim sets were hypoxic.  According to the Finis website, "hypoxic swimming is a technique used by swimmers to improve their tolerance of oxygen debt."  For someone who likes to breath every time I take a stroke with my right arm, hypoxic sets are not high on my list of things I like to do with my time.  Rather than taking a breath every second stroke, I was taking a breath every 5th stroke on the way down the pool and then every 7th stroke on the way back for a few hundred yards.  While completely doable, it was not the most pleasant feeling that whole running out of air by the 6th stroke and gasping for air on the 7th.  There came a point during the set where I thought to myself meh, who will know the difference if I just do 3/5 instead of 5/7?  I'm still in off-season mode, I don't have to do things I don't want to do.  But there comes a point where those little things I don't want to do start to add up when I skip them ALL THE TIME.  Sure, making the hypoxic set easier or not doing it at all just this once probably wouldn't have made a difference in the long run, but the danger is when you start setting precedents like that and you find yourself on a slippery slope.  Skipping it once becomes twice becomes three times becomes habit and the overall quality of the work you are doing suffers.

We all know the big things matter.  Get to the pool at least a few times a week for a solid workout.  Get on your bike when you are scheduled to.  Do that long run over the weekend.  Don't eat chocolate 24/7.  Jen told me awhile back that once you master the big things, you need to focus on the little things because that's when they start to matter that much more.  Get sufficient sleep so you can wake up in the morning and go to the pool before work.  Do that hypoxic set you hate because one day it's going to seem so much easier.  Do those flip turns because even though you don't do flip turns in open water, it's going to make the other 99% of your swimming - done in a pool - that much faster and more pleasant.  Work that bike interval hard, don't half-ass it - you're already on the bike doing the workout, might as well do it right and make it count.  Hit those intervals your coach set for you on the run, there's a reason for it and you'll become a better, faster athlete if you don't cop out.  And, for crying out loud - DO YOUR STRENGTH TRAINING.  I'm not perfect in regards to any of these aforementioned items.  Sometimes laziness gets the best of me.  In the off-season I let laziness get the best of me because your body just needs a break after a long season - but I've realized that the cop-outs can only go on for so long before they are suddenly out of control.

26 December 2012

LAST post about 2012. I promise.

I'm in a mood to reminisce, so please humor me.
I've recapped how I did in terms of the athletic goals and non-athletic goals I set for myself in 2012.  And while I finalize the goals and race schedule for 2013, I wanted to take a quick look back at this past year, which will go down in the history books as one of my favorites.

Favorite Race?
That would have to be AG Nationals up in Burlington, VT.  I managed to eek out a PR and went sub-2:30 for the first time in an Olympic Triathlon.  Even though this was a slow time compared to many other girls in my age group, this was hands down the most fun race weekend I had all year, with fun friends, my family coming to cheer, and hotel swim starts.
Basking in post-race glory
Least Favorite Race?
This will be the last time I ever talk about Vegas 70.3 until next year when I start talking smack to build up my confidence going into the 2013 70.3 World Championships.  I melted into a puddle of pavement on that run course and I have zero pictures that do the race justice.  Best part of race weekend was watching Andy and Mel take tequila shots.

Favorite Race Moment?
It's hard to pick just one.  One of the high points during a race was when I was keeping my target pace during Poconos 70.3 and not letting my head get the better of me.  One of my most favorite post-race moments was watching the midnight finish at IMLP and eating chocolate cake with Mindy, Kristin, Melanie and other friends while cheering in the last finishers.
Post-chocolate cake binge
Least favorite race moment?
During my terrible run leg at IMLP, the one thought that kept running through my head was crap, you get to come back and do this same thing NEXT YEAR because you are dumb and already signed yourself up.  That was a low point.  I'm much more content with my race registration decision now, especially because so many of my friends are doing the race and I feel it in my bones that 2013 is THE year that I will conquer Ironman in Lake Placid.  But at the time, when I felt like poo, this was not a high point of my race season.
Do I look as pathetic as I felt?  This is NOT the face of someone thrilled with her performance.
Favorite Trip?
I traveled alot this year, with April being the month with the most trips.  Out of the trips to Burkina Faso, Paris, Tucson, Phoenix, NH, VT, Vegas, Cape Cod, Lake Placid, and Nashville it is hard to choose just one.  Paris was great because I got to spend time with Chelsea, who I NEVER get to see anymore.  And Tucson for triathlon camp always tops my list as a favorite vacation - I love the people there, climbing Mount Lemmon, and the trail running (minus the cacti).  And the other travels brought me to see family and friends around the country.  And going to Burkina always broadens my perspective on things, and sometimes that is desperately needed.  So no, I can't pick just one.  I choose them all.

One of the biggest changes this year was leaving Team Z to move over to Team Ignite Endurance.  It was a really cool opportunity and I didn't want to pass it up.  I've gotten the chance to meet some great people in the triathlon community, become closer friends with a group of awesome athletes, and partner with Tri360, a fantastic tri shop in Arlington, VA.

I think that caps off the favorite/least favorite things of the year.  If 2013 is anything like 2012 was in terms of race successes and training partners, I think it will be a great year!

25 December 2012

Christmas Traditions

Merry Christmas!!  This is the first year that Mr. Sweetie and I have spent the holiday as just the two of us - though we will go out to my aunt's house in Virginia for dinner tonight.  I have to admit, we felt a little like Christmas Vacation's Todd and Margo - though with a better decorated house and more holiday spirit.  Our families have always had various traditions and this year it was nice to mix some old traditions with what will hopefully become some new traditions.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was having Christmas Eve dinner with our good family friends the Mercers.  They have been our closest family friends since I was three years old and even now when I visit my parents in NH, I always make sure my morning running route goes by their house so I can knock on their door and say hello mid-run.  They would supply the sweet rolls and sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies and we would supply the minestrone soup (which in later years became seafood chowder - my dad's singular annual culinary feat of strength).  Now that I am married to Mr. Sweetie, I've gotten a chance to participate in his family's traditional Christmas Eve, which consists of a big dinner of tamales with family friends and aunts and uncles and cousins.  My sisters-in-law are also well-versed in the art of gingerbread cookie making and decorating.  Never in my life have I seen so many Christmas cookies in one place as I see in their kitchen each year.

This year we started a new tradition of our own, getting together with a group of our close friends to celebrate Christmas Eve.  Last night we had a wonderful dinner (tamales, fried catfish, baked haddock, ham, gumbo, and pasta with fruits de mer) and went to Midnight Mass before enjoying some good wine and hot chocolate post-Church.

As kids, and even into adulthood, Christmas morning was all about rolling out of bed, eating a big breakfast, and opening gifts.  Mr. Sweetie's family always makes a super yummy egg bake dish for breakfast.  In my family, we have Christmas Bread for breakfast with oranges (or, if you are weird, grapefruit - bleck).  My nana made Christmas Bread every year when my mom was growing up, and my mom proceeded to do the same.  We have this sweet bread only on Christmas Day and it's one of the things I most look forward to on Christmas morning.  My mom always made a number of these breads as gifts to give to our close friends and I've tried to uphold that tradition since moving to DC.

This year we kept the Christmas bread and oranges (and grapefruit - bleck) tradition and added some homemade biscotti to the mix.  We also went for a run BEFORE digging into the bread and presents, making our morning run with the dog much more enjoyable (Christmas bread is sweet and rich and not the best food to fuel a run).  We had perfect weather for the run, crisp air, blue skies, and moderate temperatures.  I'm hoping the pre-bread/presents run will be a tradition we keep up for many years.

Another Christmas tradition - enjoying a nice quiet afternoon with our newly-opened gifts.  Mr. Sweetie and I spent much of today parked in the Reading Room with our tree, Christmas music and mugs of hot chocolate.  We started reading books we received as gifts, set up the Nativity set that my parents sent to us (THANK YOU!!!) and set up the Kitchen Aid mixer Mr. Sweetie's family spoiled me with (a lifelong dream fulfilled - thank you!!!).

I love Christmas.  I love Midnight Mass, spending time with those who mean the most to us, and seeing the reaction when someone opens a gift they really enjoy (and, let's be honest, I like opening gifts too :) ).  I hope everyone had a REALLY great Christmas!

22 December 2012

Recap - 2012 Athletic Goals and Season

I looked back at my blog entry from early January to find the six general goals I had set for myself in hopes of having a good 2012 season.  We'll just caveat this recap now by saying I'm not going to count the offseason because I've not met any of these goals on a consistent basis since October, when I had my last triathlon.  So, how did this year go?

- Improve daily nutrition habits.  I think I spoke about this one a bit in my post earlier this week about trying to eat more fruits and veggies and less butter after I chatted with Beth in the spring.  And let's be honest, my chocolate chip and Mini Egg habit needed to be checked at the door if I was going to fuel my races well.
12 months later and the sign is still here.

Love is when your husband buys out the local CVS for you during the post-Easter candy sale
Mr. Sweetie and I made an honest effort each week to cook most of our meals at home.  I also found it helpful that we signed up for the Washington Green Grocer, which delivered a bunch of fresh vegetables and fruits to our door every week.  We tried (mostly successfully) to plan our meals around the veggies that would be in these deliveries.  During the race season I didn't eat meat, but I like turkey and bacon too much to give it up during the holidays.  I have mixed feelings about eating meat - I don't believe it's a bad thing to have it, but I'm wary of the way much of it is raised here and the whole meat production process.  I read an article, I think it was in the NYT magazine a month or two ago, about the habits of the people living on a relatively secluded Greek island that led to their longevity.  One of the things they noted, besides the fact that they ate very little processed foods and lots of fruits and vegetables, was that they ate meat sparingly, about 5 times a month.  Food for thought (harharhar).  I don't know if I will give up meat completely in 2013, but I do like the idea of having it here and there, not every day.  I still need to drink more water daily.  

- Consistently strength train and improve functional strength. I was more consistent in my strength training in 2012 than I have ever been in previous years, but there is still loads of room for improvement.  Having the TRX in our basement is helpful and I tend to get the best workout when someone else is doing TRX with me, keeps things on task and focused.  When I'm doing it alone, I take longer breaks or skip exercises I don't feel like doing.  Even though I would skip a strength training workout here and there, it wasn't at a higher rate than when I would skip any of my other swimbikerun workouts.

- Get more sleep.  Ehhhh.  Didn't do a stellar job with this.  Took the computer to bed with me far too many times and allowed myself to waste too much time on Facebook and reading blogs.  Before I knew it, an hour had passed and I was still going to need to wake up at the same time the next morning, leaving me with one less hour of sleep.  I also feel like I'm always trying to fit in just one more thing into my evening and I don't make sleep the priority it needs to be.  This will still be on my goals list for next year, with the added steps of no computers in the bedroom and unplug from electronics (except the Kindle) an hour or two before bed whenever possible. 

- Do my workouts on the appointed days at the appointed times of day (i.e., get my lazy self out of bed before work in enough time to do something meaningful).  Even with the lack of sleep on days where I stayed up far too late the night before, I generally was able to get in two-a-days and do the workouts when I was supposed to.  My favorite days were the ones with 5:30am Morning Masters at Hains Point that started with a bike ride in the dark to the pool and watching the sun come up while doing laps.  On days where I would oversleep, I'd try to get a workout in before work through bike or run commuting.  In the spring, summer, and early fall when it was light out early in the morning, it was much easier to get up when my alarm went off.  Now that it's dark in the AM and I still sort of feel like I'm in the off-season, I've dropped the whole concept of an alarm clock.  I found that if I told myself the night before that I had to get up in the morning and do the workout, there would be no excuse to push it off to later, I would generally get up and get things done.  It was when I'd tell myself you can just do it after work, it will be a piece of cake to do an hour bike and hour swim in the evening that I'd find myself in trouble, not get up, and try to cram things in at the last minute.

- Be competitive in my age group.  I'm really happy that I was able to achieve this goal in a number of races - and in a few of the smaller races, I was competitive overall and not just in my age group.  The Monticelloman Half Ironman in May set the tone, with a 3rd place overall finish.  I snagged a 5th place AG finish at the Columbia Oly tri in May, 2nd overall at the Summer Super Sprint tri in August, 2nd AG in the 70.3 Poconos triathlon in September, and 2nd overall at the Watermans Oly in October.  I got my rear handed to me at Rev3 Quassy, IM Lake Placid, Age Group Nationals, and lets not forget 70.3 Vegas.  But I think the experiences where I didn't do as well were just as valuable as the ones where I had a strong race.  And while I didn't place super well at Quassy, IMLP, or AG Nationals, they were relatively solid races with most mistakes in IMLP being related to nutrition, and my weak swim leg being a liability at Nationals.  In short course you can't have a liability and expect to do well.

- Become faster in each discipline (sub-35 in the half iron swim, sub-1:15 in the iron swim, sub-2:45 on the half iron bike, sub-6 on the iron bike, sub-1:43 on the half iron run, and sub-4 on the iron run).  I finally figured out how to have a decent ironman and half-ironman swim: practice, practice, practice and then on race day, find fast feet and swim your heart out.  I finally made myself work hard during the swim leg of my races, rather than just la-la-la-la-ing through it, and it paid off.  I'd get out of the water winded, but see a 32 or 33 on the clock (once I saw a 29, but the course was probably short, womp womp).  With the exception of Vegas, all of my half Ironman bike splits were under three hours, and a few times I found myself in the 2:40s.  I made myself focus during the bike leg on my pedal stroke and turnover and really try to keep a cadence around 90rpms so I didn't burn my legs out for the run.  While I never found a sub-1:43 run (or a sub-1:45 for that matter) during a half-Ironman, I did alot of self pep talk on the bike to get myself excited to run.  Whenever I did that, I found I had a better run than when I thought negative things.  I've yet to conquer the Ironman bike and run, still finding myself well over 6 hours and 4 hours, respectively.  I think some of this was due to nutrition fails on the bike - too many calories, not the right kind of calories, not nearly enough water for the heat we were running in.  And not staying mentally focused during the bike and run, that played a role in it too.  I have my work cut out for me in 2013.  I'd like to get the Ironman monkey off my back and actually do well at that distance.

I loved the 2012 race season.  Not only did I find more success than I ever have before, I met so many new people and forged some really strong friendships and found some fantastic training partners.  By far, the friends I made and spent time with were my favorite part of 2012.  Mel Yu - I loved having the same race schedule as you and seeing you out on the course was always the boost I needed.  And now we have cyclocross too!!  Mindy, Sarah, and Katie - I can't decide which I love more, our training rides or cupcakes, or the fig/bacon/balsamic glaze pizza.  I can't wait to become an Ironman again with you guys in 2013!  Next year also calls for more social kicking with Kendra, and training runs and rides with Dawn!  Emily and Karen, you two were so, so great in helping me get into cyclocross this year.  I've totally found a post-triathlon season sport and that never would've happened without all of your help and encouragement, and bike-lending.  Jenny - we still need that baking and biking binge date.  With champagne.  And Kristin - you've been super generous in sharing with me tips of the trade and what you've learned about the sport and you are the a great example for how triathlon should be done - humble, hard work, discipline, yet still fun.  And Sarah, Stacey, and Julia do you have any idea how excited I am about Tucson Tri Camp in 2013??!!  I look up to and admire you all SO MUCH and I cannot, absolutely cannot thank you enough for all of the encouragement and support and cards and cheers you guys gave me throughout the 2012 season.  I feel so, so lucky to have friends like you.  And Jen - you are an amazing coach.  Truly incredible.  I honestly don't know how many athletes you coach and I can't imagine how hard it is to balance everything, but you always make me feel like I'm a top priority, you always have great advice, you always take the time to answer my questions, tell me what I need to hear, and you are super, super patient.  In short, you are awesome and I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me.

21 December 2012

Random Friday Facts

- I love Gouda cheese.  Love it.

- Mr. Sweetie wrapped all of my gifts and put them under the tree today.  While he was out running errands, the dog unwrapped ALL OF THEM and chewed the packaging.

- We have only done photo Christmas cards once.  I haven't wanted to do them again because I don't think we can top our 2010 version.
It would be redundant to feel up the leg lamp for the Christmas Card every year, right?
- I prefer white wine over red.

- We finally, FINALLY have a new desk.  Well, a new-to-us desk.  Thanks Katie and Thom, I'm very happy to say goodbye to the Ikea desk that was the bane of my existence during grad school.

- The baking of my family's traditional Christmas bread has started.  It's typically a multi-day process.  I've had this bread for Christmas almost every year of my life.  And yes, it is better than bagels.

- I was up until almost 2am baking last night.  The spirit of Christmas is to give away goodies at the same rate you receive them.  

- When I was a kid I hated the color pink but now it's one of my favorites.

- Speaking of pink, I treated myself to a Smashfest Queen pink headband at their trunk show at Tri360 on Tuesday night.  Best headband investment ever.

19 December 2012

2012: Year in Review (non-athletic goals)

So today marks the first time since about a year ago that I looked at my goals posts for 2012.  Goals posts are probably more useful if you actually check back on them once in awhile so you REMEMBER what you're trying to achieve for the year.  Nonetheless, I managed to remember some of the goals, even without checking back for a reminder.

We have the Non-Athletic Goals for 2012:
1) Read MORE books, as in 50.  I think I've read more books this year than any other (unless you count those years in middle school when Babysitters Club books were en vogue and could be easily devoured in an afternoon).  I've been keeping track of them on my Book List page.  I'm not quite at 50 books - currently reading #44 right now - but I have 13 days and a fully charged Kindle so I'll be trying my hardest to get to 50.

2) Become MORE fluent in French.  The trips to Burkina Faso have helped and I've gotten a chance to do a fair amount of writing and translation exercises at work.  And if you think surveys and data collection are interesting, just wait until you hear me talk to you in French about them.  I've not joined Alliance Francaise (goal for 2013?) but we have an informal French conversation club at work that meets for lunch once a month and I've showed my face there - only once so far, but I didn't make a fool out of myself, so I will be back.  Verb tenses are still my enemy.

3)  Eat MORE fruits and vegetables.  Let's pretend the off-season doesn't count, mmmm'kay?  If that is the case, then YES - Mission Accomplished!!  The real wakeup call was in May/June when I met with Beth (an awesome nutritionist and triathlete!) and kept a food journal for her.  I was all we get weekly deliveries from the Green Grocer and eat veggies called Kohlrabi (ridiculous word to spell, thank goodness for Google!) and she is going to be so impressed by my vegetable consumption.  But in reality, I think she was more impressed (and scared) by the sheer amount of butter I manage to eat.  And those servings of fruits/vegetables, I wasn't getting nearly the recommended 8 servings, more like 4 or 5.  I started bringing more fruit to work (and actually eating it, most of the time).  Homemade fruit smoothies with yogurt and frozen fruit made a regular appearance at dessert time.  Little changes here and there.  I still have a long way to go (especially if we are looking at my eating habits this current off-season, but at least I have an idea of what habits I need to adopt/continue to eat well.

4) Get MORE sleep.  I'd go ahead and call this a decent FAIL.  Case in point - it is 10pm and I am writing this blog with my computer in bed.  Fail on so many levels.  There is always just one more thing I want to do, read, write, before I go to sleep.  I've not done enough to try to change this bad, bad habit.  It will be making a reappearance on my goals list for 2013.

5) Learn MORE recipes.  Does this count if my husband was the one who learned (and cooked) more healthy recipes and I reaped the benefits?  We still had our old standbys we relied on a few times per week, but we worked on trying new recipes here and there.  Of course, for the life of me, I can't remember a single one right now.  And please don't ask me which ones I cooked - according to Mr. Sweetie you cooked, but nothing new and exciting.  Also per Mr. Sweetie - you didn't cook alot of cupcakes this year.  At least there is that.  Instead I just bought them.

6) Call my family MORE often.  Hmmm.  I like to think I called more often, but my parents just have such active social lives that they were never around to pick up my calls.  You people of the AARP set -  working hard and partying harder.  I can't keep up.

7) Take MORE pictures.  I got an iPhone this year and discovered Instagram.  I'm proud of the fact that I am not one of those who takes tons of filtered photos of my food, but I do have a vast number of cat and dog pictures.  And photos of Metrobus doing something wrong at least every week.  Fortunately for you, I've not photo-bombed this blog with all of them.  You're welcome.

Here's one.  I couldn't resist.  How YOU doin'?
I'll proclaim 2012 a pretty good year, on the non-athletic side of things.  Besides making an effort (even if I failed overall) at achieving these goals, I made some really great new friends, said YES more often to dinners with girlfriends and bike rides with friends.  Even though I still take a fair amount of time for myself, I feel like my life was so much richer because of all the times I said YES to spending time with friends, even if it meant getting home late or something like that.  Completely worth it every time.  I thought 2011 was great, but 2012 managed to top all.

17 December 2012

2013 races: deja vu of 2012 races?

I just got done sending my coach an angst-y email (lucky her) about planning my 2013 race season.  My two "A" races for 2013 are the same as 2012 - Ironman Lake Placid and Vegas 70.3 Worlds.  Both great races, challenging races, and in pretty awesome venues.  The "A" races in your schedule dictate when the rest of your "B" and "C" races will fall during the season - and when you have the same two "A" races two years in a row - chances are pretty good the rest of your season is going to look kind of identical to the previous year's as well.

Two years ago was the year of dream races, with little regard to the costs associated with them (fun, but not the soundest choice financially).  There was Wildflower in California!  A half Ironman in Galway, Ireland!  Timberman in New Hampshire!  All races I had never done before, all in beautiful venues.  It kept race season fun, interesting, and allowed me to ride my bike in some gorgeous places.  2011 was more tame - only one race required a flight and the rest were in easy driving distance.  I had a chance to see (and race with) alot of my local tri friends.  I also save a fair amount of money by not racking up frequent flier miles for my bike.  Here in the mid-Atlantic, we are lucky to have a plethora of well-run, organized, and established races to choose from.

In a continuing attempt to be fiscally responsible, 2013 will be the year of (relatively) local races.  This means that I'll likely be doing many of the same races that I did in 2012.  I had never considered Eagleman 70.3 because it always seemed to take place in the 7th ring of hell - but after this year's debacle at Vegas, maybe racing in the heat as practice wouldn't be such a bad idea.  And then the race sold out before I could give them a large chunk of change so I'm back to the drawing board.  It's not necessarily a bad thing to do many of the same races and it's nice to race on a course you are already familiar with.  But I think I'm still going to look for ways to mix up my 2013 season so I'm racing in a few more new-to-me venues.  And I'll likely be racing at Quassy again, now that Eagleman is sold out (Dear Santa - if you want to get me something pretty awesome for Christmas, please give all the roads in Middlebury, CT brand new pavement by this coming June).

I also need to sit down and think hard about what my goals are for 2013.  I'm trying to be more deliberate in my actions and goals, as opposed to simply flying by the seat of my pants and crossing my fingers that I'll be happy with the result.

11 December 2012

Operation: Successful 2013

We're almost halfway into December and if the Mayan Apocalypse doesn't materialize, we'll find ourselves starting 2013 in a matter of weeks.  It's the time of year to begin thinking about New Year's Resolutions, changes we want to make in our daily lives over the next 365 days, and what steps we need to take to achieve the goals we set for ourselves in 2013.

I am reading up a frantic storm right now, trying desperately to make up for my laziness over the summer and cram in about two months worth of books into three weeks.  I scoured the bookshelves in our guest room and our basement for books I hadn't read that looked like both quick reads and interesting.  Tall order.  The pickings were slim, as most of the unread books on the shelves were throwbacks from Mr. Sweetie's undergraduate and graduate studies and I didn't feel like slogging through texts that would require me to read each page twice, just for basic comprehension.  Then I happened upon a small book, less than 150 pages with BIG type: Off Balance - Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction by Matthew Kelly.  Bingo.  Something quick AND it might help me organize my life.

In short - great book, well worth the time it took to read.  Basic premise: people want SATISFACTION out of their life more than they want balance out of their daily pursuits.  And the road to satisfaction isn't always paved with gold or lined with puppies pooping rainbows (an altered amazingday-ism).  Sometimes there's alot of hard work, long days, sacrifices, etc that go into making a final product or an achievement satisfactory.  Lesson 1 - getting what you want out of life isn't easy; be prepared to work hard.  Satisfaction out of life also doesn't come about haphazardly.  We need to PLAN the life we want to lead - think about short term and long term goals, what things you can do right now to start working towards those goals, and constantly assess and reassess where you are on a daily basis.  Lesson 2 - plan your day, your week, your month with the same care that an art fanatic would plan a trip to the Louvre.  Set aside some time at the end of the weekend to map out the week ahead; know what tasks you need to do in your personal and professional life to move yourself forward.  Planning saves time and energy in the end.  Part of planning out a deliberate life is adopting healthy, core habits and figuring out your priority list in life.  Think back to really great days that you've had - how did they start, how did they end?  Lesson 3 - figure out what healthy habits and daily rituals start and end your day on the right foot.

There were alot of other helpful pieces of this book.  It has me thinking (and trying to take) small steps to improve my daily life so I finish each day feeling like I accomplished something.  I've been dreaming about what I want my priorities to be in 2013 and how the lessons from this book could be applied to triathlon and making me a better athlete.  What do I need to do to start the day off right (go to bed relatively early and DO NOT bring the computer into the bedroom. And spend less time on Facebook and the like).  What habits should I be adopting to become a better triathlete (eat all the fruit I bring to work with me; eat less refined sugars/processed foods, more real foods. Write down my workouts at least one day ahead of time and plan when I will do each workout during the day.  Update training peaks DAILY - that is for YOU Jen!).  Without a doubt, this book has given me a bunch of food for thought as I look ahead to 2013. 

09 December 2012

AND the 2012 off-season comes to a close

This morning I received my FIRST Training Peaks auto-email since mid-October.  A return to structured training, and not a moment too soon.  When you find yourself eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast with your three-year-old goddaughter (Erin, pretend you didn't read that!  Reagan is obviously better at keeping secrets than I am!), that's when you know you've hit the off-season jackpot and there is simply nothing else you can do to top that during your break from training.  I ended my off-season this weekend with a bang, visiting my college roommate Erin and her 3-year old daughter (my goddaughter Reagan) down in Tennessee.  The most taxing thing I tried (and failed) to do was put together toddler sippy cups (I swear those things are made by rocket scientists and you need a PhD to figure them out).  It was a dreary weekend and it was so nice to curl up in the house and watch Christmas movies, bake cookies, and enjoy time with two very important people in my life.

Enjoying some quality time together.
This has been, by far, the longest (and laziest) off-season I've ever taken.  Yes, I've worked out.  And yes, I've raced.  But I've not really trained for any of the races this fall and I've not had a structured workout on my plate since before my last triathlon of the season.  If I felt like running, I ran.  If I felt like being a lump on a log, I was a lump on a log.  Guilt-free, might I add.  I've been to the pool twice and I've ridden my bike outside a few times and a handful of additional times on the trainer.  I've eaten chocolate almost every day.  I've simply not thought a ton about racing or training and just enjoyed the extra free time I've had and the freedom from setting an alarm clock.

I'm wondering how I'm going to feel getting back into the swing of things.  There are days that I've asked myself lately, how did I find the time to do all that swimbikerun??  And what is it going to be like to not each chocolate at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacktime?  You know, the important questions in life.  It's not that I'm worried about being slow (I already know I'm going to be slow and that swimming is going to su-uuck those first few times).  It's just that I've not missed training the way I figured I would miss it - the way I've missed it in the past.  But then I remind myself that taking a big break like this, getting soft and lazy, it could actually mean good things for 2013.  I've given my body and mind a long break, and that will hopefully both stave off early burnout in 2013 AND help me get faster and stronger.  I also remind myself of my "normal" 10 months out of the year - a more disciplined lifestyle, Saturdays and Sundays filled with lots of miles on the bike and in the run shoes, and early morning visits to the pool.  And every year, I LOVE ALL OF IT and I remember always thinking, I can't imagine NOT spending my days doing the sports I love.

SO... Cheers to 2013!

This is what cookies for breakfast will do to you.  Don't try this at home, kids.

07 December 2012

Random Friday Facts

- I'm in my thirties and lucky enough to still have three out of my four grandparents.

- Classical Christmas music is my favorite.  In fact, anytime I hear classical music, even if it is not related to Christmas and it's in July, it still makes me think of the holidays, just a little bit.

- Bissell has made it his mission to seek out and destroy his holiday hat.

- If we're talking classic Christmas music, Frank Sinatra's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is a favorite.  And poptastic music?  The version of All I Want for Christmas is You from the Love Actually soundtrack.

- If our bedroom was bigger, it would be tempting to purchase a king size bed so we could comfortably coexist with the dog and two cats at night.  SOMEONE with fur and four legs and 55 pounds is a BEDHOG.

- I follow 51 people on Twitter and I'm already a bit overwhelmed with trying to keep up with everyone's tweets. Kudos to those who can follow hundreds of people and not feel like they are drowning.

- I used to think I was good at multi-tasking. I'm a girl, it's what scientific studies have said I am supposed to be good at. But, really, I'm terrible at it. Talk on the phone and drive, NOPE! Use Facebook and actually accomplish other tasks? Doesn't happen. Talk to Mr. Sweetie while I'm reading a book? I just get cranky.

- I'm visiting my college roommate Erin and her daughter (my goddaughter) this weekend. My goddaughter just turned 3 and I haven't seen her in about 8 months. She's probably a totally different child than the one I saw in April.

- I just got an invite to my 10 year college reunion in the mail. TEN YEAR! I'm going to wake up tomorrow and be in a nursing home.

- I've been driving our Honda Accord for seven years and I've managed not to put a single dent in it. Given my previous track record with cars (both mine and other people's), this is particularly impressive.

- Sometimes I wish I was more adventurous/trendy in my daily outfit selection, but I'm pretty sure I probably already have days where I look like I went back to the 90s, raided someone's closet, and got dressed in the dark.

04 December 2012

Why Do I Do It?

First I wanted to say thank you to Tri360 for featuring me as their athlete of the month for December.  I had fun answering some of the questions they asked.  If you haven't had a chance to check out the shop, stop by.  They host weekly runs out of the store on Mondays at 6:30pm as well as Saturday AM bike rides at 8:30.  If you do the Saturday ride this winter and spring, I assure you that hills will be no match for you come tri season.  And a thank you to Emily for nominating me, I'm truly flattered :)  My Magic 8 Ball says we will likely see an athlete-of-the-month write-up for you soon as well, badass biker :).

One of the questions that I was asked was why do I do triathlon.  My answer in a nutshell was: for the lifestyle it offers, the friendships I've forged, and the fun of racing.  That captures the overarching reasons - but what are the nitty gritty details?  As the 2012 season comes to a close and I begin gearing up for 2013, which will be my 7th season of racing (!!??!!), it's important to have a reason and a purpose behind all of that time and effort I put into my training.  I've realized that over time, the reasons I race have evolved under the umbrella of lifestyle, friends, and racing.

When I started training and racing in 2007 (I only did a few triathlons that year), I did it partially so I could eat whatever I wanted and burn it off.  I didn't really know anybody else in the triathlon community yet, but joining Team Z that year was a great way to meet like-minded people and I met some of my favorite people through that club.  When I did races my first few years, finishing with a smile and feeling comfortable was the main goal.  Many of these race distances were new to me and I didn't know what my capabilities were, especially when it came to Ironman.  My reason for signing up for an iron-distance race in 2008 was simply to see if I could complete it.  Before I'd started training for that distance, I'd never ridden my bike more than 30 miles and I barely knew how to swim properly.  When I toed the line at Beach2Battleship a year later, that was a victory in and of itself.  I figured I would be a one-and-done with that distance; I wasn't in love with riding my bike for hours on end and I thought the training was too time-consuming.  Less than 24 hours after crossing the finish line, I signed up for next year's Ironman Florida with a new reason to race: get faster.

Fast-forward to today and my goals and reasons for competing have evolved over the last few years.  Lifestyle means more than just being able to eat whatever I want.  While I do indulge here and there and I'm not 100% strict with my diet (I've flirted with vegetarianism, I've given up chocolate for Lent, I've tried to cut down on processed foods, etc), I do try to focus on food as fuel rather than food being something to eat when bored or stressed.  I worked with Beth Shutt (dietician and pro triathlete extraordinaire) earlier this year to analyze and tweak my daily diet (too much butter, not enough fruits and veggies).  We talked about little changes I could make here and there that would eventually add up to a noticeable difference.  Lifestyle also means getting more sleep, going to bed at a reasonable hour, fewer cocktails and more water.  It means planning out my day so I get my workouts in, rather than letting circumstances get the best of me and taking the easy route of skipping a workout if it's too late or I don't want to get up early.  In 2013, I'd like to continue to use triathlon to improve my daily lifestyle and see how more positive changes might impact my training and race results.

In terms of friendships, my 2012 season was the richest one yet.  I said "yes" more often to getting together with friends to ride, run, or swim as opposed to doing the majority of my training solo.  Having awesome training partners has provided both motivation and accountability.  I've learned alot from my triathlete friends on subjects ranging from mental toughness to swim techniques to best ways to alleviate saddle sores (just what you wanted to hear, I am sure!).  Having someone to train with or seeing a familiar face on the race course is sometimes the perfect pick-me-up when things hit a low point.  It's a truly wonderful thing to be surrounded by so many like-minded individuals who understand your goals, who are chasing after PRs themselves.  And although we are often each other's competition during races, we're also each others' cheerleaders.  We understand each other and our reasons for throwing ourselves so completely into this sport.  I feel like my life is richer in the company of all the girlfriends (and guy friends too!) that I've made through triathlon.  I can't imagine my life without them or the sport.

And my reasons for racing!  I've evolved from my high school mindset of hating cross country and track meets because of the pressure I put on myself to enjoying competitions and seeing them as a fun game of self-improvement.  As I said earlier, when I was new to the sport and still learning the ropes, I raced to cross the finish line.  I still race to cross the finish line, but now I like to see if I can do it faster each time.  I've also begun to view races (and tough training sessions) as ways to test my mental will to succeed - I think it's both an exciting and nerve-wracking feeling to be treading water in the moments before the bullhorn sounds, not know how the next few hours will play out or what obstacles I might face and how I will handle any adversities.  I race for that satisfied feeling after a well-executed race.  Not necessarily a perfect race, but one where I didn't give up.  My reasons for racing in 2013 will be much of the same - expanding my horizons on the mental toughness front, hopefully pushing the boundaries of what I thought was physically possible for me and finding new levels of satisfaction with my race results.

And that is why I do triathlons.

Monday Fail!

Happy Monday!  I forget where I've seen this quote, so forgive me for not attributing it to anyone - but Mondays are a crummy way to spend 1/7th of your life.  Really.  But I suppose we need Mondays to fully appreciate the awesomeness that is Friday or Saturday or Sunday.

So without further ado - I give you the MONDAY FAIL post.

We have the photo fail of trying to get one of the cats and the dog to sit still for a picture:
Bissell misbehaves
Miles looks a little nervous
Bissell clocks Miles on the head
And everyone disperses.  Good try!
Then we have my Christmas decorating ambition fail.  All weekend, as well as Monday, I had grand plans to decorate the house for the season.  This was as far as I managed to get:
The glass Christmas tree I've had since childhood
Maybe I'll get around to decorating sometime this week.  We also have the leg lamp gracing our front window.  Mr. Sweetie has grand plans of trying to keep it there year round (maybe cement it to the end table?), but my office is sad, empty, and currently lit with terrible overhead lights now that the leg lamp has departed for the season.  I'm already counting down the days to when it makes its welcomed return.
Hoover approves of the lamp only around the holidays
This next bit I wouldn't call a fail - but I am sure the cats would.  They hate their holiday hats and the only way we can get them to wear the hats is if we feed them - then they are too distracted to care.
Bissell is also stealing Hoover's food and they both made a giant mess.
And the other Monday fail - tripping and falling off the sidewalk on my run commute to the Metro.  Apparently I can handle a relatively technical trail race, but give me a sidewalk and WATCH OUT!  Arriving at the office covered in dirt with a bloody knee (though I somehow managed to avoid getting dirt or blood on my IMLP finisher shirt - no idea how) takes Monday awesomeness to a whole new level.

02 December 2012

Race Report - Hemlock 5.5 Mile Trail Race

Sarah and I are excited to use our new pint glasses
One of my favorite, *favorite* ways to spend a weekend morning is doing a race.  Bonus points with a cherry on top if a bunch of my friends are also signed up for the same race.  Bonus points with a cherry AND sprinkles on top if I execute a smart race and and manage to place well.

The Hemlock 5.5 mile trail race was the last race in the Fall 2012 Backyard Burn series put on by EX2 Adventures.  They put on a really great race every time, with a fun course, friendly and helpful volunteers, age group awards 5 deep, and TONS of food for participants to enjoy post-race (any time there are M&Ms and hot chocolate with marshmallows, I call that a win).  I haven't done all of the BYB courses, but I've heard that Hemlock is one of the tougher ones, as it's both hilly and technical.

Since it's the offseason, I've been enjoying myself.  This has meant later bedtimes (I blame part of that on still feeling like I'm on Mountain time from spending Thanksgiving in Phoenix), apple pie every night (and maybe every day too), daily hot chocolates, and last night at my office holiday party I went a little overboard with the cakepops and mousse shooters (non alcoholic, but highly addictive).

I woke up this morning not feeling very ready to race.  Damn you cakepops.  I hit snooze for A HALF AN HOUR before finally hauling myself out of bed at 7am.  I got to the race site a little on the late side, but this made for a great excuse to do a prerace warmup as I made a beeline from my car to the packet pickup desk.  I ran into a few friends at packet pickup and on my way to the start line.  I huddled together with Sarah as we tried to stay warm while we waited for the race to start.  I wasn't nervous and after starting too quickly at the Wakefield Backyard Burn and doing the crash-and-burn by the end, I planned to race smarter this time around.  I would start off more conservatively and, if my legs had it in them, try to pick up the pace at the end.  I would not blow myself up on the hills.  I would be careful on the downhills and technical rock sections.  I also would do my best not to slip and fall into the river.

The race started and we went running down a paved road, which turned onto a gravel road for the first half mile or so.  This was good because the race course didn't narrow down until a bit later, once we'd had a chance to spread out a bit.  I went out at a past that felt a little fast but relatively sustainable.  I could see a number of girls ahead of me, but I wasn't sure how many were in the 5 mile race and how many were doing the 10.  I passed a few girls before we hit the single track part of the course.  During these portions, I spent alot of time looking down to make sure my footing was solid and whenever we hit a flat or downhill section that was relatively free from rocks and roots, I'd try to pick up the pace a bit.  I passed a few more people here and there, and when we looped by the river the first time, I had caught up to a couple of girls.  We hit an uphill section shortly thereafter that had a few technical parts, so I fell behind a bit, but tried to regain ground as things flattened out.  I think we were about 2.5 miles into the race by this point and that's when I started to worry a little that I had gone out too hard, my legs were feeling heavy and I was breathing pretty hard.  I didn't see any girls super close behind me, but I didn't want to slow down too much because I could just picture a girl zooming by me when I got too complacent.  As we looped by the finish area to head down another trail back towards the river, we hit another technical downhill section.  This then lead to a rocky part of the trail that went by the river.  I focused on staying upright, not speed, during these parts.  I really didn't want to trip and fall.  After this part we had a long uphill - neverending uphill, really - and my pace slowed to a crawl as I shuffled up the hill, keeping one of my top goals in mind (don't blow up).  I caught up to a couple girls doing the 10 miler and right around the 4.5 mile mark, I caught up to another girl doing the 5 miler.  I was so close behind her, I could've reached out and grabbed her shoulder.  We were huffing and puffing our way up a hill on a narrow section of the trail.  I thought about trying to make a move to get around her, but I felt like I was already maxed out and she was on the heels of two other people and I didn't think I'd be able to get around all three.  I decided I'd try once we got to the top of the hill and things widened out, but she took off like a rabbit and I just had nothing left in my legs to answer.  She crossed the finish line about 12 seconds ahead of me and I crossed in 43:03.

Women's Overall Podium doing some cheers-ing
I had no idea what place I was overall, or in my age group, during the race.  I ended up 3rd girl overall and first in my age group (the first two overall were 24, so I have many, many years before they join my AG, phew!).  I took a look back at my time from last year and I was over a minute faster, so I'm really happy with that improvement.  I think it helped that I knew what to expect from the course after doing it last year.  I didn't run with a watch; I raced on feel.  I love not using a watch during the off-season, it really allows me to focus on racing those around me and not the clock.  Plus it lessens the likelihood that I trip since I'm not constantly looking at my wrist instead of watching out for roots and rocks.

Freezing cold Women's 30-39 podium with Kerri
Favorite part of the day (besides eating M&Ms like there was no tomorrow) was hanging out with some great friends.  Sarah, Bob (my pie-baking partner in crime.  We need to have a pie-off one of these days), Dave, Kerri, William and Rohan had really fantastic races today.  Many pint glasses were passed around.

We hold our own while running, but you should see us bake pies.

29 November 2012

A swim AND a book review (no, you are not seeing things)

Earth-shattering news today.
I visited the pool this morning, got in the water and swam!  First time since OCTOBER.  And not October as in Halloween October.  October as in it's-still-practically-September-and-the-leaves-are-still-green kind of October.  I think that could be considered my longest break from the pool since I started doing triathlons more than 5 years ago.  I didn't forget how to swim and my flipturns were mostly OK.  But I have almost zero endurance and my arm muscles were wondering what the heck I was doing to them.  200yds into my warmup, my arms were on fire, screaming Uncle!!  Enough Already!!!  Kendra and I didn't have a set workout so we came up with one on the fly and made sure it included lots of time at the wall to recover (and chitchat - critical to the successful offseason swim session).
Like they say for running - the first step out the door is always the hardest one.  The first visit back to the pool is always the hardest; now that it is out of the way, hopefully December will have more frequent swim sessions (and I'm sure they will because Jen is pulling me back from the edge of offseason oblivion - all hail the return of daily Training Peaks emails!!)

I've not done a book review lately (been single-mindly focused on reading AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE so I'm not screwed in December and facing 20 books to reach my goal of 50 in 2012).  But this week I read a book I simply had to tell you about.  Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan.  As a way to kickstart his trip around the world, Grennan decided to volunteer for three months at an orphanage in Nepal (a way to off-set the self-indulgentness of such a trip, but also - in his words - impress the ladies).  In his book, he was very frank about his minimal (or nonexistent) experience with kids; but through his writing you could see how quickly he came to truly care about these kids and how this experience changed his life.  Nepal was in the midst of a civil war (govt vs the Maoists) during Grennan's many stays in Nepal - and over time it was revealed that the kids in the orphanage were not actually orphans.  A network of child traffickers had been preying on the fears of poor families living in areas cutoff from the rest of the country by the Maoists and for large sums of money, they promised these families that they would take their children out of harms way and enroll them in a boarding school in Kathmandu and make sure they were well taken care of.  Instead, the traffickers dumped the kids in the streets of Kathmandu, leaving children as young as 3 and 4 years old to fend for themselves.  When he learned how these children were really arriving in Kathmandu and why, Grennan makes it his mission to start finding some of the families in the hopes that someday these children could be reunited with their parents.  This book was extremely well written, engaging, humorous, and painted a sad/hopeful/beautiful picture of Nepal.  It wasn't a self-serving/self-aggrandizing book (it was not like Three Cups of Tea); instead, it was simply an honest account of one man's actions to help those less fortunate because it was the right thing to do.  Even though I only spent about three weeks in Nepal back in 2009, on a regular basis I still find myself thinking about the people I met.  Reading Grennan's story, how everyone refers to each other as brother or sister (dai or didi), the daily meals of daal bhaat (lentils and rice), and how caring and helpful and generous the Nepali people are, brought back alot of good memories.  Sadly, even though at the time I spoke about going back someday and trying to make a difference, I allowed life to get in the way and I've not returned.  I admire Conor Grennan and  his devotion to the children in the orphanages in Nepal.

If you only read one book between now and the end of 2012, make it this one.  It is a truly enjoyable read and proceeds from the book help fund Next Generation Nepal, Grennan's nonprofit organization.   Next Generation Nepal offers temporary care and education in transitional homes for these trafficked children while they await possible reunification with their families.

Kids are kids, no matter what country

With Sanu.  Lots of tikka = lots of luck

27 November 2012

Thanksgiving in the Desert

The weather here in the mid-Atlantic is full-blown fall.  Summer is a distant memory; the sun is rising later, mornings are chilly, and evenings are dark.  Some of the days are filled with a cold, wet rain and more often then not, I find myself wearing boots and tights with heavy knit skirts to stay warm.  I know, I make it sound like I live in the northern tundra of Siberia with all this talk of wool and tights, when in reality I've simply been wussified by these mild mid-Atlantic winters.  My early-20s self, hardened up by four winters spent in northern Vermont (the big field on campus that separated my townhouse from the academic buildings was not-so-fondly known as the Frozen Tundra and it often lived up to its name) would be wearing flip flops when the temps hit 40 degrees.  Now I put on another sweater.

So what does all this talk of cold weather have to do with my Thanksgiving?  Absolutely nothing - one of the advantages of having family that live in warm parts of the country is the excuse to visit them (and enjoy warm weather) during the holidays.  The weather in Phoenix last week was just what I needed to forget the chilly weather back East - no humidity, temperatures in the low 80s, and endless sun.  It was enough to make me find my running shoes and take them out for my longest run in months (a whopping 7 miles) on my first day out there.

Palm trees and blue skies chase away all cold-weather blues
  On Thanksgiving morning we did a turkey trot at the local country club our aunt and uncle belong to (Thanks for signing us up, Aunt Sue!).  It was super casual and small - a choice of either a 5k or 10k, no bibs, no chips, and timing done by a stopwatch for the handful of competitors.  Allie and I wore mis-matched matching knee-high socks (hooray for holiday themes!) and I wore a running skirt and tank top (last year in NH I was bundled up to the max for the local turkey trot; this year I discovered that there are fewer things greater in life than not freezing your buns off on Thanksgiving day).

Me and my seeester, ready to run!
Everyone in the race congregated at the bottom of the hill on one of the main roads.  The 10k would start first, followed shortly thereafter by the 5k.  Both would follow the same route until the 5k veered off early to head back to the clubhouse and the 10k continued out a bit longer.  Mr. Sweetie and Allie were running the 5k and I lined up for the 10k, ready to race my fellow competitors for the ultimate glory of being mentioned in the next month's issue of the country club's magazine.  The race started and I settled into a pretty comfortable pace (no idea what that pace was because my Garmin crapped out on me that morning and refused to turn on) and slowly reeled in the group of 10 year-olds who shot away from the start line in a dead sprint, like they were doing a 100m dash.  Youth.  My main goal was to be the first girl to cross the finish line, but by mile 1 when I found myself in front of everyone, I thought it might be neat if I was the first one overall across the finish line.  There was a group of three - two guys and a girl - that I was mainly concerned with.  They looked like they were either in high school or their freshman year of college and they had been running at a relatively quick pace while still holding a conversation when I passed by them at mile 1.  As I ran the next few miles (hoping I was going in the right direction and not missing any turns because that would be embarrassing), I would hear their voices grow louder and softer and they alternately closed in/fell back.  At the turnaround I saw that the two guys were starting to catch up to me, but the girl was falling further and further back.  Within less than half a mile from the turnaround, the two high school guys blew by me like I was standing still.  Oh well.  Fortunately, the girl was nowhere in sight.  As I started to near the hill we had to run up to reach the finish line, I could tell that another guy was gaining on me.  And even though this was a casual race and it really wasn't going to matter if another guy passed me, I found another gear and did my best to sprint and hold him off, eeking across the finish line just before he did.  Mr. Sweetie looked at me like I was nuts for practically killing myself to get across the line in 3rd overall - this was supposed to be a "fun run."

Turkey Trotters - Ready to Eat!
The rest of our mini-break to Phoenix and the Thanksgiving holiday was fantastic.  We had about 20 people at Thanksgiving dinner, between extended family and family friends so close that they ARE family - it was so, so nice to catch up with everyone.  I got to spend quality time with Mr. Sweetie's grandma, whom I haven't seen in far too long.  There were three (THREE!) turkeys for dinner - fried, roasted, smoked.  There were scallops wrapped in bacon.  There was stuffing - LOTS of stuffing.  There was pie, there was baked brie, there was wine, there were mimosas.  I'm proud to say that I paced myself pretty well and managed to sample just about everything.  The weather was perfect and I spent just about as much time outdoors as I did indoors.  A rousing game of "hoe shoes" was played (it's kind of like cornhole, except you try to throw women's high heels into buckets - you get the most points if you get the heels to dangle from the side of the bucket); and three of the youngest kids (6, 3, and 2) got into a water gun fight.  It was a fun trip and I'm already looking forward to the next big family get-together!

Greatest sisters ever!

26 November 2012

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

I haven't blogged in what feels like forever, and until this moment, you've been missing out on the story of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day story (thank you Judith Viorst Shel Silverstein (I stand corrected - thanks Mom!) for a very appropriate title).  It involves a toilet in a tizzy, overflowing sink, and dog poo.  All before 9am.  Do I have your attention now?

Let's cut to the chase - I'm convinced that either a) my house hates me; or b) it's inhabited by a ghost that magically knows when Mr. Sweetie is out of town and then proceeds to break the most random things.  Case in point - the past few times Mr. Sweetie has been away, the AC system broke (in the middle of a heat wave, doesn't get more awesome than that); the doorknob to our outside door fell off - you could stick your hand through the door and unlock the deadbolt (the day before I was supposed to leave for a weekend up at Lake Placid, of course); and then last Tuesday, we had a bit of a plumbing issue.

Last Tuesday I had grand plans to get into work super early to squeeze in almost a full day at my desk before setting off for the airport, Phoenix-bound.  But the toilet had other plans.  Toilets are sneaky like that.

On Monday night, I arrived home to see a notice from the county saying that they were shutting off the water that night from 10pm - 2am for maintenance.  No big deal, right?  I made sure I was hydrated enough before bed that I wouldn't be thirsty, etc.  When the water was turned off, the toilet and plumbing made some loud protestations, but nothing to be terribly alarmed about (or so I thought).  The next morning, when the toilet was flushed for the first time since the water being turned back on, it made such a loud noise I was convinced that the pipes in the wall were going to come crashing into the room, and then the toilet proceeded to screech at a pitch that only dogs could hear for the next ten minutes (evidenced by the tortured looks Miles kept throwing in the direction of the bathroom).  I turned on the sinks in the bathrooms and kitchen in an attempt to get water moving in the pipes and hopefully shutting up the toilet.  It seemed to work, the screeching subsided, and I went about my morning.

Then, this is where it gets real fun.  The next time the toilet needed to be flushed, it decided it just wasn't interested.  Every time I pressed down on the lever - silence.  I woke Mr. Sweetie up from a blissful slumber via text message - hope you're awake - toilet is in a tizzy and I don't know what to do.  I'm completely ignorant when it comes to fixing toilets - Mr. Sweetie tried to help me troubleshoot over the phone to no avail.  Tank was empty, it wasn't filling even though water was streaming into it - then where is the water going.  Mr. Sweetie suggests I turn all the faucets on again (even though I politely - okay, not very politely - informed him that I'd already done that earlier in the morning).  On go the faucets full-blast upstairs, in the kitchen, and in the basement.  Unfortunately, I forgot the one minor detail that the sink in our bathroom doesn't drain super quick and I almost flooded our bathroom, turning off the water just in time (or so I thought).  I start throwing the excess water from the sink into the toilet tank, since nothing else seemed to be filling it.  As I'm doing that, I notice that water has begin streaming out from the cabinet underneath our sink.  For a moment I thought the toilet issues had somehow spread like a wildfire and were now ruining the sink's plumbing (totally rational, right) - but then I realized it was just water from the overfilled sink that had streamed down there.  Oops.

At this point, getting to work even close to on time was a lost cause.  The cabinet below the sink needed to be emptied out, dried, and ruined items thrown away (needed to be done anyway, just wasn't planning on doing it at 9am on a Tuesday morning).  Made a trip down to the dumpster to throw away the trash, managed to step in dog doo (because apparently some people can't be bothered to clean up after their dogs) and unfortunately didn't notice the dog poo until I'd tracked it all over the carpet in our house.

The day did get better - exponentially better, in fact.  My wonderful neighbor Georgia took pity on me and drove me to work, saving me from the bus and Metro and getting me to my office in record time.  My flights that day were relatively smooth and on time.  And by the end of the day I was in AZ with my family for Thanksgiving.  And, of course, when we got home, Mr. Sweetie was able to fix the toilet problem in literally 5 seconds.  Of course.

18 November 2012

Race Report - Rockburn CX

Spoiler Alert (I'm proud to have been that girl on a mountain bike with platform pedals and running shoes.  But it may be time to think about a real CX bike because I am liking this sport):

Winner, winner chicken dinner!  Mel in 2nd and I came in 3rd!
The Cliff Notes version of the race - Three laps (thank goodness) of a relatively long course (about 2 miles per lap) with a set of barriers, logs, and a sandpit (site of a zombie apocalypse during some of the later, more crowded, races).  There was some single track in the woods, a decent number of hills, no stairs BUT race organizers are enamored with tight 180 degree turns up and down a hill, so there was that.  First lap was crowded with a heated battle for 4th and 5th place between three of us; and by the second and third the racers had spread out.  Dismounts were fine, I didn't flip the bike by accidentally hitting the front brake.  Flying mounts were nonexistent and my running legs were impossible to find.  Saving grace as I worked my way from the middle/back to end up third was the endurance I've gained through long-course triathlon racing.  I don't have the top-end speed of many of the girls out there, but I seem to slow down just a little less and keep a relatively consistent pace throughout.

Here is looking at the race from the perspective of the goals I set earlier this week.
- Better dismounts and flying mounts.  For lack of a better word - FAIL.  I didn't manage a single flying mount.  In fact, when I first had the bike in hand this AM, I was staring at it and thinking I don't even remember the first step to doing a flying mount.  I didn't have any mishaps with the dismounts but they weren't very efficient.  I also felt like I had very little pep in my step when jumping over the barriers and running the bike through the sandpit.

- Start off more aggressively than last time.  Check.  I wasn't dead last right from the start.  By the time we hit the grass, I was in a pack of girls jockeying it out for 4th, 5th, and 6th place.  I definitely felt like I was working harder right from the start compared to last time.

- Race my face off.  Check.  The only time I thought about number of laps was when we went by the lap counter after the first lap and I thanked my lucky stars that we were only doing 3 rather than 4 laps (the course was long).  I could always see someone in front of me and/or someone behind me during the turns so I never felt like I was in no-man's land.  This truly felt like a race, especially during the first lap when I was in the mix with the other girls and going back and forth with them.

- Work hard the whole time.  Check.  This ties into the previous goal.  I never let up and relaxed until I crossed the finish line, biking scared the whole race.  I was afraid if I got too comfortable, I would get passed.  I was also trying to keep up with Melanie, who ended up with a solid second place finish, and I was doing my best (but not always succeeding) at keeping her in my sights.

- Be more aggressive.  I would give this a check.  I didn't have any rockstar passes, but I was aggressive running up the hills and over barriers (even though I didn't feel fast, I tried to work these opportunities to my advantage).  I barely touched my brakes on the downhills and the thick mountain bike tires gave me confidence going over any rough terrain or taking corners a little faster than I normally would.

- Don't smile much.  A 90% check.  There were a few times that I smiled when I saw Karen or Emily and Joe (and Miles my dog) out cheering along the course.  But I was in the hurt locker for most of this race and there wasn't a whole lot of smiling going on.  Karen even commented that I wasn't super smiley.

Huge thanks to Karen, John, Emily, Melanie and Joe for all their cheers during the race (and to Karen for the generous use of her bike, you're the best!).  A huge congrats to Melanie for a fantastic race (second place!!) - I had fun chasing you during the laps!  Congrats to Emily for a 7th place Elite finish, I love watching you race!  And congrats to Karen for such a great performance in her race - I was so impressed as she climbed her way up the field, getting faster with each lap and passing girl after girl after girl.  Thank you Joe for watching Miles while I raced!  I think you've become his new favorite person!  The other awesome part about CX races - they are a great place to wear out your dog.  Miles was worn out by all the new sights and smells and people that he's been sleeping since we got home this afternoon.  A tired pup is a good pup.