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.

16 November 2012

Does ANYONE else feel like this??

I did my last triathlon of 2012 about a month ago and entered the off-season effective immediately.  It has been about four weeks of not following a schedule - and with the mornings being chilly and me being lazy, not following a schedule has translated into a whole lot of NOTHING going on athletic-wise.  Where are my running shoes?  Somewhere, I haven't worn them since Monday.  And my bike?  Still sitting on the trainer from the ONE TIME in the past four weeks that I decided to ride it for 30 minutes.  I don't even know where my swim punch card is - and I haven't visited the pool since the first week of October.  Or maybe it was the last week of September.  Should I be worried that I will never get back into the swing of things?  I'm trying to think back to previous off-seasons and I'm pretty sure this is the laziest one yet.  Sometimes I find myself wondering, how exactly did I train for an Ironman?  With what time?  Now I'm too busy checking my email and Twitter 500 times before I roll out of bed just a leeetle too late to go out for a run before work.  Oops.  It doesn't help that it's cold outside.  And dark.  Nothing says stay curled up in bed like the chilly and dark outdoors.  Warm and humid summer mornings seem like eons ago - was it really only three months ago that I was getting on my bike at 4:50am and watching the sun rise over the monuments as I biked across the 14th Street Bridge to the pool for Hain's Point Morning Masters?  And then, post-swim, biked to work in my bathing suit and shorts because the weather was warm and perfect?

My "A" races for 2013 are months - MONTHS - away, leaving me with plenty of time to find my mojo, or whatever it is I seemed to have misplaced, and get back into training.  Without a set, near-term goal, it's pretty easy to hit snooze just one more time or say I can just do my run tomorrow instead.  Until you wake up and realize that you just went through a whole month of tomorrows without touching your running shoes.

I guess what it boils down to is that I feel a bit lost without the structure of a schedule.  But not bothered enough by this "lost" feeling to actually do anything about it because I've simultaneously become super lazy.  Lost and lazy, could there be a better combination?  If I don't reappear when the 2013 season starts, I suggest looking for me in my bed surrounded by chocolate chips, cans of frosting, with my running shoes/bike shoes/swimsuit nowhere in sight.  Please give me a gentle reminder that chocolate chips and frosting do not equal PRs and when it comes to that stuff, there is no such thing as the best of both worlds.  The countdown begins to "suck it up, princess, o'clock."

14 November 2012

Things to work on for my second cyclocross race

I just hit the "Submit Payment" button for my second cyclocross race of 2012 (first one being a few weeks ago).  The first race was a learning experience and complete blast - it was fun to jump into something with no expectations and give a new sport a whirl.  Now that I have a better idea of what to expect, I'd like to see if I can make some improvements, however miniscule, at my next race this weekend.  Unlike last race, I'm not going to have a chance to preview the course the day before and familiarize myself with it - I'll try to get a run in that morning before the race starts.  

- I'm still going to do the race on a borrowed mountain bike with running shoes (still haven't gotten around to purchasing mountain bike shoes or a bike of my own).  This could work in my favor since I'm still pretty new and not really ready to do a moving dismount with shoes still clipped to my bike.  Goal is to have smooth dismounts and NOT manhandle the brakes while jumping off the bike.  That ended in near-disaster last race when I accidentally hit the front brake with my hand as I was running towards the barriers and the bike came to a complete halt while I was still running.  And while I'm at it, I'm going to focus on a better flying dismount - with a little more flight and a little less stutter-stepping.

- Start off more aggressively than last time.  Chances are, I will still have a start position near the back (positions are determined by rankings and order of registration, neither of which are in my favor at the moment).  Starting in the back will mean I will need to start off fast and not let the entire field run away from me like they did in the first race.  If I can get myself in a good position within the first 100-200m, I could avoid the cluster that is the back, and hopefully minimize any chances of encountering a crash early on.

- Make it a point to race my face off and keep my mind quiet so I get in the requisite number of laps.  Last race I managed to do all 4 laps and wasn't pulled from the course - but during the first lap, I was thinking to myself that 4 laps sounded like an awful lot and I could avoid doing them all if I just slowed down.  I need to suck it up, it's only a 35 minute race, I can do anything for 35 minutes.  And hopefully if I get my mind in the right place early on, I'll be more willing to work hard right out of the gate.

- Work hard THE WHOLE TIME - uphills, downhills, flats, going over barriers.  Don't take a breather on the flats.  If I see a girl ahead of me, do my best to catch her because THIS IS A RACE.

- Be more aggressive.  I had a few moment where I took chances during my last cross race (one in particular when I took the inside of a particularly tight corner and didn't fall flat - that was a confidence booster), but there were a number of other times where I was hesitant and cautious.  But there is a fine line between aggression and stupidity and I'm going to try not to cross it.

- And finally, DON'T smile so much, it ruins the race pictures.  Mike got a ton of great race photos, but I look like I am out for a Sunday stroll while wearing a giant grin.  Fix that this time.  Do my best to look intimidating.  Follow the lead of Karen Talley and Em McDonald.  If it is sunny out, where sunglasses.  That helps with the intimidation factor.

Not looking scary at all.  More like "it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, won't you be my neighbor?"

13 November 2012

The Business of Setting Goals

2013 is still 1.5 months away, winter is bearing down on us in the form of chilly days that slip into darkness before 5pm, and I haven't even planned out my full race calendar next year.  But that doesn't mean it's too early to think about what I'd like to accomplish next year and begin planning the steps I will need to take to achieve those goals.

Part of my planning will include this: Tri360 is hosting a Big Goals for 2013 Panel this Thursday (11/15) at 6:30pm.  The panel will be made up of coaches, amateur, and pro triathletes who will be sharing tips on setting and achieving goals and answering questions.  Check out Tri360's Facebook page and add it to your calendar.

One of the things I struggle most with, in terms of setting reasonable goals, is mapping out my race schedule in such a way that I can race at my best each time.  Especially with half Ironman and Ironman races, you are only going to find yourself properly tapered and in shape for a peak performance a couple of times a year and I really enjoy racing more than simply a handful of times each year.  It's a delicate balance, strategically picking races so you can maximize your performance while minimizing the impact a "B" or "C" race might have on your training for a more important "A" race.  It simply boils down to what is more important - filling up your race calendar or racing your absolute best every single time.  You can't expect a PR every time if you race every weekend.

Another thing I think about sometimes is how finish-time oriented (or split-time oriented) I want my goals to be.  Every race course is different - even the same course could present different challenges each year, making it difficult to make comparisons.  What could be considered a slow time on one course would actually be considered a reputable finish time on another course.  WHen you take this view, it might be more reasonable to make place-oriented goals instead, as everyone is facing the same factors in that day's swimbikerun.  But then it starts to depend on who showed up that day and who decided to sleep in.

Finally, another way to formulate your goals could be oriented towards overcoming challenges.  Had a hard time on the run leg each race last year?  This year focus on tactics to get you through the run with no walk breaks.  Had a nutrition fail on the bike and ruined your big race?  Vow to experiment with various kinds of nutrition and figure out what truly works for you by the start of this season.  Mentally gave up before the race was over because things didn't feel like they were going your way?  Read some books and blogs about sharpening up your mental game and put them into practice during those hard training sessions.

I'm looking forward to learning about what Tri360 panelists do when it comes to setting and achieving goals.  I feel like that is one area where constant learning and improvement is definitely possible.

05 November 2012

Politically Mixed Marriage

Tomorrow is Election Day and my husband and I are voting for opposite candidates (I won't say who is voting for who, but I'm sure that those who know us are pretty familiar with our differing political leanings).  I'm not someone who loves to talk politics and debate, going more the route of "everyone is entitled to their own opinion - just because it is different, doesn't mean it is wrong."  This past weekend I was indulging in my guilty pleasure - the Style section of the Sunday New York Times - and I came across the Modern Love column.  The article, Sleeping with the (Political) Enemy, was an apt description of an politically intermingled marriage and I plunked it down in front of my husband and had him read it as well.

While we aren't fighting each other for lawn space to post opposing political signs (1 - what lawn?; and 2 - the neighborhood dogs would likely pee all over the signs in their hurry to mark their spot on our tiny sliver of grassy space), we have had a few discussions on hot-button issues (discussions interspersed with waggling a spoon in the other's face and the slamming of the oven, fridge door, and maybe a few raised voices - mainly on my part, I confess).  These discussions didn't end with either of us really agreeing with the differing point of view or fundamentally changing how we felt about the issue.  However, it allowed us both to consider the topic at hand from a different angle - an angle that wouldn't have been readily presented to us (or readily listened to) had the presenter not been our spouse.  It is in this way that I feel fortunate that my husband and I are not united on one political front; instead, we get to learn from each other, think critically about an issue and why we have each formed our opposing opinions, and how to reconcile those oppositions so we continue to live in a happy household.  We both respect each other and our discussions are civil (spoon-waggling aside) and we never think less of the other one for their opinion.  I like to think that we balance one another out.  And we are on the same page when it comes to some of life's major fundamentals.

Sheila Heen, the author of the aforementioned Modern Love article, said it best - I worry about the increasing separation in our country, where we commiserate with the like-minded about the "other" and each have our own "news" networks spinning out selective versions of the latest.  I want my children to see that both sides are deeply committed to cultivating the same American field, that we reflect one another's values in the sharp disks as we turn through another election season."  The problems politicians try to tackle - healthcare, unemployment, the economy, etc etc etc - are huge and they aren't going away soon, no matter who is in office.

So, as we make our way to the polls - be thankful we can freely exercise our right to vote and respect the views of those who may not share your political leanings.  We all want our country to succeed and no single party or person has all the right answers.

04 November 2012

Backyard Burn 5.5 Miler Race Report - Wakefield Park

I wasn't supposed to race today.  As I mentioned in my last post, I was SUPPOSED to be in Georgia this weekend spending time with some of my favorite triathletes from the 2012 Tucson Tri Camp but guess who came down with the stomach flu on Thursday.  Twenty-two years of successfully avoiding it and BAM, the streak was over on Thursday and so was my trip before it even started.  I will say, the bright side of this is that it might've alleviated my phobia of stomach illness (ask my parents, my brother, my husband, my friends - I become a neurotic germaphobe when it comes to all things stomach sickies).  I survived, it wasn't the most horrible thing in the world, and now maybe I won't be so afraid to toss my cookies during a race if it means it will make me feel better and go faster.

I signed up for this trail run race a few months ago when I originally had nothing planned for the weekend.  Then the Georgia trip came up, I planned on transferring my bib but with the storm and stuff last week, I forgot about it.  I stayed in bed from Thursday afternoon until about noon on Saturday and finally left the house (FINALLY) Saturday afternoon to go for a short jog down the bike path with Mr. Sweetie and our dog.  By last night I felt back to normal and food was appealing and then I thought about maybe going to race today.  I had friends who would be there and I NEEDED to get out of the house, between last week's storm and being sick, cabin fever was setting in.  I woke up this AM, felt fine, and opted to go for it.

It was actually a pretty uneventful race.  I didn't wear a watch and figured I would run on feel.  I had very low expectations - I hadn't eaten properly since mid-week and run training had been nonexistent because this is the off-season.  I figured I would start off at what felt like a sustainable pace and slow down if I was feeling worn out or residual effects from being sick.  The Wakefield Backyard Burn is the flattest race in the series.  It still has a few hills, for sure, but plenty of more level portions to catch your breath on.  I (smartly) chose the 5 mile option (this is the offseason where anything and everything is supposed to be FUN), but both the 5 and 10 milers start together so you don't always know if that girl in front of you is in your race or doing the other distance.

The run started and I felt like I was super behind right from the beginning.  I have no idea what my pace was (no Garmin), but I immediately started to feel my lack of training.  Oh well.  On the first downhill, I focused on NOT tripping and falling - there were alot of leaves piled up and you couldn't always tell how deep some of the dips and divots were in the path because they were covered in leaves.    We hit a flat section for awhile and I felt like I found a decent pace at that point and held onto it for a mile or so.  When we got back into the main section in the woods, I fell into a paceline with a group - the trail was too narrow and twisty to make a pass and the pace was a little slower than I had been running, but I was grateful for the excuse to slow it down a little and catch my breath (guess who is TERRIBLE at negative splitting a race and pacing in general - something to work on for 2013).  Once the trail widened out a bit, some passes were made and the pace picked up and I was dropped like a bad habit by some of the faster guys.  When we got to the 2.5 mile mark, I was starting to wish the race was over and question my decision to run today when I most definitely wasn't in top form to be racing.  I tried to put the negative talk out of my head and just focus on the task at hand.  Once we hit the hills around mile 3.5/4ish, Dawn caught and passed me with authority.  I need to learn to run like her - she ran a super smart race - a conservative start and just picked people off one by one as she gained speed with each mile.  She ended up crossing the line as 3rd overall woman (great job Dawn!!).  I tried to keep Dawn in sight for the rest of the race and was mostly successful until about the last half mile.  The finish line was in a different spot this year compared to when I did this race two years ago so I was sorely disappointed when I got to the area where I remembered the finisher's chute being and realized it was another 100m or so away.  Sigh.  My finish time was 42:30 or something like that.  I was 4th overall and 1st in my age group, winning another pint glass to add to our everyday glassware collection (I should've started doing these races earlier in our marriage, these glasses would've come in handy after we got married and realized we registered for and received 40+ alcohol-related glasses but never bothered to register for regular glasses).

Best part of the day, hands down, was seeing all of my friends before, during and after the race.  If I couldn't spend the weekend with some of my favorite JHC girls in Georgia, I'm glad I got to see some of my favorite people up here in DC.