31 January 2012

The Non-Winter Winter Run

Today I got into work a bit early with the intention of cutting out earlier than usual (after putting in my full workday, of course!) so I could run around DC and enjoy this beautiful spring, I mean winter, day. With the days getting noticeably longer (hooray!!), it felt really strange to leave my office, running shoes in hand, at 4:15pm with the sun streaming brightly through the windows, making it feel like it was mid-afternoon and I was playing hooky.

I started my run with a few of my co-workers and we jogged down to the Mall as a warmup. I had a progression run on the docket for today and I was looking forward to tackling it. Three miles, get progressively faster so you are working hard when you finish. I was going to try to go by HR but it was giving me all sorts of wacky numbers, so that idea when out the door and I went on effort instead. It was a beautiful, perfect evening to be running around the Mall, time zipped by and suddenly I was on the last bit of the workout. I've been thinking lately that I need to put a bit more effort into running, really work hard to stay in the appropriate HR zones and try to see what pace I can push in those zones. I'm so used to Ironman training (long slow distance) and the fact that I get to do a bit more speedy stuff right now (hooray for no spring marathon!!) is kind of awesome because it kind of makes me feel like I'm ahead of the game. I am seeing numbers I don't usually see. Case in point: there was a 6:xx on my Garmin for my last mile. I haven't seen a 6-something in ages upon ages! And I certainly didn't expect to see it in January. Even better was the fact that I didn't feel like I was dying or had maxed myself out. I think the consistent strength training is helping to mold me into a better athlete, I can't believe I waited this long to get serious about it. I'm so excited for this season, SO EXCITED! I've never felt this way in January. Maybe some of it has to do with the warmer-than-normal weather, but I think alot of it has to do with the fact that I am consciously trying to make the right choices (I said no to triple cream brie cheese for a snack and yes to hummus. I said no to the second bowl of ice cream and had an apple. I'm going to bed early. I'm getting my workouts in, even the strength training). The little things that, as I'm realizing now, matter so much.

29 January 2012

The Workout Where I Almost Lost It

So this morning I hopped on my trainer for a little ride. No big deal, right? Ohhhh no, there was so much drama going on in my basement this morning. Blame it all on the new heart rate zones I'm using. Ugh (in a good and bad way. Good - hopefully I will get faster. Bad - it takes alot of work to hit the prescribed zones sometimes. Today was one of those times). The last bit of the workout called for some Zone 4 effort and I Could. Not. Get. Into. Zone. 4. I was standing up on my bike, I was sprinting, I was huffing and puffing. Until it finally happened. And with each pedal stroke, I was getting more and more angry. I had this overwhelming urge to shriek, get off my trainer, and throw my bike across the room. It was the same frustrated feeling that I would have as a kid and my little brother would do something that would totally send me over the edge or I would be sent to my room as punishment and there was nothing else I could do but shriek at the top of my lungs at the injustice of it all (yes my parents were saints for putting up with me). However, unlike my tween-aged self, I didn't scream or throw my bike across the room. I gritted my teeth, pedaled harder, and eventually got my HR to where it was supposed to be, and finished the workout, both me and my bike in one piece.

Last night I got to spend time with some of my favorite people - my Aunt Amy, her two cute kids Lilly and Xander, and my cousin Charlotte. I don't get to see Charlotte nearly enough and it was a treat to have dinner with her (and Amy) last night and get caught up on each others' lives.
Cousins!

28 January 2012

Hill Repeats - the Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Jen was super secret squirrel and slipped this gem of a workout - HILL REPEATS - into my recovery week. I obviously didn't check my schedule too closely this week because I almost had a bird this morning when I saw what was on the docket for today. You want me to do WHAT on my Saturday? Haha, it would be funny if you weren't serious.

Anyway. There is a hill a couple miles away from my house and that's the one I use every time I do this particular workout (which I've done on 2/4/2010, 4/2/2010, 3/9/2011, and now today). Before I do a workout that I know I've done before, I never go back and check what my previous stats were. I just don't want to know. Because then I'll be thinking about those times the WHOLE workout and I'll probably just get frustrated. But you better believe I check and compare the stats afterwards. I love and loathe the hill repeats - love them (and hate them) because they are hard, love (and hate) how I feel when I am doing them, but LOVE how I feel after they are over. Especially if I don't have a meltdown in the middle of the workout. The repeats are an exercise in both physical and mental fortitude. And now that I've done this exact workout a few times, it serves as a good benchmark to see where I am fitness-wise compared to previous seasons. Oh, and they are a great way to make your thighs even bigger (because we all know that's EXACTLY what I need). To add to the fun, the workout doesn't call for me to just go up and down the hill, I'm supposed to get progressively faster with each one, descending times, if you will.

I only looked at my watch when I'd click the lap button at the top of the hill, clicking off another repeat. The times were decent, but I thought I'd done them faster in previous years. They had done some construction to the sidewalk recently, maybe they moved Street Sign A at the bottom of the hill (signaling the beginning of the repeat) and Street Sign B at the top of the hill (signaling the end of the repeat). Maybe they moved them around and I'm actually running further than previous workouts. Yes, yes, that must be the reason I'm not getting the times I think I should be getting. Anything to make myself feel better. For as much drama as I'm throwing into my description of this workout, it was actually pretty drama-free. I came, I ran (up and down alot) and I finished. No meltdowns (unlike on the 3/9/2011 workout, according to my notes when I apparently just stopped in the middle of one repeat and had to talk myself into finishing the workout). No super slow times like the first time I did it. And my times were consistently faster than the previous occasions I did this workout. Nothing spectacular, but... Progress. I'll take it (along with some ice cream, an apple, and two slices of pizza to recover from my efforts).

PS - finished The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks yesterday. A quick read, total chick lit, but really cute.

27 January 2012

Random Friday Facts

I have absolutely nothing interesting to post today. So, here are some Random Friday Facts:

- There are few things I love more than a good quality bagel toasted with butter. Today I managed to hold myself to 2 bagels at work on Bagel Friday (I also stole two more to take home with me to enjoy over the weekend. Crass, I know).

- I've always wanted a red front door. What is that song, is it they see a red door and want to paint it black or the other way around?

- When Miles is thirsty and his water dish is empty, he picks it up and throws it around the house and sometimes he'll throw it down the stairs. This is especially awesome when it happens during the middle of an interval bike workout and you are clipped in to your bike.

- I'm kind of a book snob. You won't ever catch me reading Danielle Steele or anything like that. But I do indulge in a little bit of Nicholas Sparks literature, it's a guilty pleasure.

- I'd never been west of the Mississippi until I was 23.

- We have a queen size bed and all three animals sleep on it every night with us.

- I realized this week that I am 2/3's of the way to 45. Not thrilled.

- I never, ever check my voicemail. Last time I did it was sometime in late 2011. Just text me instead!

- Every morning and every night we have to arm ourselves with a squirt bottle and play "referee" when it's time to feed Bissell, Miles, and Hoover. Their own food dish is never good enough, they always have to steal from each other.

- The first "naughty word" I remember saying was when I was 6 years old and called my little brother a jackass. I still remember the looks on my parents' faces and the silence that followed my foray into potty-mouthism. In my defense, they used "jackass" in Pinocchio and it's a Disney movie and I had no idea it was a bad word.

25 January 2012

Why Mr. Sweetie IS a Sweetie

So I swam this morning and actually got to the pool before my lanemates started the first set (this has been the week of being on time - I've gotten into work EVERY DAY before 9am. It's a strange and awesome feeling to beat your co-workers to work). Anyway, back to the swim. Good lord I'm terrible at pacing during the swim. Really terrible. I've not yet mastered the art of the "descending swim" or the "start conservative and finish strong" type of set. No, no - instead, I try to start and hold a stupid fast pace (for me, I will not say my splits because in reality they are NOT stupid fast) which always ends with my lanemates saying, "hehe, you kind of died there in the last 50, didn't you?" And I've also discovered that trying to swim stupid hard really only buys me about 2-3 seconds over 100yds, compared to swimming a steady, strong, DOABLE pace that doesn't leave me gasping at the end. And please let's not get started on open water swimming and how my pool fitness does NOT seem to translate to the types of OWS times I'd like.

Anyway. Would you like an example of why Mr. Sweetie is a sweetie? He's been super nice this week by dropping me off at the metro station on his way to work, saving me from the worst 30 minutes of my morning (the bus commute to the metro station). He leaves for work too early for me to fit in a shower between my workout and our departure, so I've just been getting ready for work at the gym in my building. And guess who forgot to pack her work shoes this morning? And guess who didn't realize it until, oh, halfway to the metro station? Mr. Sweetie was nice enough to turn around, bring me back to the house to get my shoes, and then drive me back to the metro station. Without a single snide remark (had the roles been reversed, I don't think I would've had the willpower to hold my tongue). I brought an extra pair of shoes to work with me today so this won't happen again (but then I forgot to actually take the extra pair out of my bag and leave them in my office, so that didn't do me any good).

I looked at my workouts for next week. Not going to lie... I am getting EXCITED! Excited as training ramps up, excited for upcoming races, excited for... my first ever double run day! Neither run is super long, but even when I was just training for a marathon and trying to qualify for Boston, I don't think I ever did a double-run day. I feel like double run days are serious, and I think it's kind of cool that Jen thinks I am serious enough to be given a double run day :)

Yesterday I finished the book "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." A co-worker of mine had recommended this book and with the movie out in theaters, it was on the top of my list. It is one year after September 11th and Oskar Schell, a nine-year-old boy whose dad died in the terrorist attacks, is on a mission to figure out a puzzle that he thinks his dad left behind for him to solve. The puzzle ends up being the backdrop to other more important story lines. In the beginning, I wasn't a big fan of Oskar's character (I know, terrible thing to say about a kid whose father died). He comes off as being too smart and pompous for his own good, kind of reminding you of that know-it-all child you used to babysit for when you were a teenager. But then layers start to peel away and I found myself liking him and feeling sad for him and rooting for him by the time the book finished. In the end, he really is just a kid trying to overcome a trauma that hopefully most of the rest of us never experience. It was well-written, definitely quirky, and as you read it, you feel like you are inside the minds of the characters who are narrating. The most poignant part, I thought, was when Oskar was talking to someone about why he needed to know exactly how his dad died. It was towards the end of the book and I really just wanted to give him a hug. NOBODY should ever have to think about something like that. Definitely a book I would recommend.

24 January 2012

Sugar. And Chocolate. The New Gateway Drugs.

So we're about through with the first month of 2012 - 2012 being the year I really focus on cleaning up my act nutrition-wise. It's not that I've always eaten badly (compared to a vast swath of America, my diet is probably A-OK), but there's always room for improvement. Let's start with the bad - the really, really bad. My insatiable sweet tooth. If it is covered in chocolate, I will eat it - not only will I eat it, I will crave it - and I won't eat it in small quantities either. Let's not count the number bags of chocolate chips I've gone through this year... Soooo, cat is out of the bag - I'm still enjoying sweets in 2012, for now at least. I'm worried that if I start denying myself certain foods now, I'll be so tired of a rigid diet come April that I will just crack and go wild. Closer to race season/the A-races, the level of consumption will have to go down, otherwise I will be in trouble. This is going to take a lot of self-control on my part and Mr. Sweetie (my husband's new moniker on this blog) will probably have to go all TSA on me and search my purse for bags of chocolate before I enter the house. I'm actually searching for recipes that will be a suitable replacement for all things chocolate so I will have something to fall back on when my sweet tooth calls - I would love to hear any recommendations. I actually found a yummy apple/cranberry pudding dessert that has no added sugar and is super easy to make.
Then there is cheese. And bread. I usually go straight for these things in the evenings when I get home from work (the hour between getting home from work and sitting down to dinner is definitely my weakest time of day). I've done a decent job at limiting my consumption of cheese and crackers/baguettes to the weekend and, even then, not going overboard. Moderation. I've also been trying to replace these sorts of things with bananas with almond butter or apples with cinnamon when the urge to snack strikes.
I've been baking alot, but most of what I bake gets given away, so I don't think the baking is much of a problem.
The real challenge this year will be when race season arrives. I'm throwing this out there in an attempt to garner some peer pressure - the diet will be cleaned up FOR REAL come April. What does this mean? It means fruits, vegetables, whole grains. No processed foods. I want to say "no recreational sugar" from April until after Ironman July 22nd but that is a tall order. However, it seems like a waste to be putting all this effort into swimbikerun and strength training and getting enough sleep and to only commit to 90% healthy eating. Maybe just no recreational sugar in July. I know it is all about balance and it's probably doubtful that a little bit of recreational sugar will wreck my race. But I also know that if I give myself an inch, I'll take a mile. It's all or nothing. Once I start down that slippery slope of one Lindt chocolate, suddenly my desk at work will be covered in colorful wrappers in the span of 10 minutes (you think I kid - just ask my co-worker two doors down whose candy jar I raided yesterday).
If anyone out there has any hints at all about conquering sweets cravings, I am all ears.

22 January 2012

Weekend Shenanigans

So we cleaned out the pantry this weekend (and by we, I mean my husband). It was completely disorganized and impossible to find things in there. As it was being reorganized, we discovered we had three bags of shredded coconut (all different kinds), multiple bags of sugar, multiple kinds of sugar, and a ton of flour. Guess I never checked the pantry thoroughly when making my baking shopping list. Won't need to buy coconut for awhile...

I'm trying my hand at making chocolate souffle tonight. This is the type of dish that requires precision and my baking fail last week (attempt to make homemade caramel) proves that precision is not one of my strong suits. Anyway, fingers crossed the souffle will be edible.

On the training front, this week has been a lot of swimbikerunstrengthtrain. I've done a decent job so far in January in not missing any major workouts and cutting very few of them short. This week I did miss one run off the bike due to time constraints. Yesterday I got myself out the door in time to meet up with the Team Z'rs doing a run on the trail - it was cold and icy due to the freezing precipitation we got the night before, but that also meant the trail was almost deserted and the trees looked like they were encased in ice - it was quiet and pretty and the perfect way to start off a Saturday. It's funny because I have to keep reminding myself that I'm not in the off-season anymore, Ironman training has started. I'm not in the thick of it, but scheduled training hours are in the double-digits and I don't have a weekly day off anymore. I am hungrier than usual AND I'm sleeping hard. Last night I slept for nine hours, it was fantastic.

I bought a bag of chocolate chips yesterday and I didn't eat the whole thing (in fact, I ate hardly any). Progress.

21 January 2012

Ain't Life Wonderful

Do you ever wake up in the morning and instantly feel happy and excited, almost like you have butterflies in your stomach because you are so eager for the day to start? I usually have this happen to me on the morning of a day with big events - a race, a trip, seeing my husband when he gets back from a long business trip, seeing my family. But lately I've been waking up with this same excited feeling for no reason other than I am just thrilled to be alive, surrounded by so many great friends and family, doing things I love every day. What's not to be excited about? I'm beyond lucky and I know it. And this upcoming year has so many things I'm looking forward to doing, I can't wait for it all to get started!

- My husband is wonderful. He lets me be me, he knows how to deal with me when I am crabby-cranky and he doesn't hold it against me, and he also doesn't let me get away with being a total brat. He spoils me, encourages me to do the things I'm interested in, even if they are different than his interests, and he's a truly good person.

- I have two best friends, Katie from high school, and Erin from college, and I am so incredibly lucky to have them in my life. Sometimes daily life gets in the way and we don't chat as often as we'd like, but when we do, it's as though I just saw them the day before yesterday. Conversations with them instantly brighten my day. They are easy, rewarding, perfect friendships and I couldn't ask for anything more.

- Work. I love my job and I have great co-workers. There isn't much more anyone could want out of a career.

- My family, both immediate and extended, are awesome and supportive and FUN (and not in the dysFUNctional way, we are all perfectly functional). My Aunt Amy, who is more like the cool older sister you always wished you had, lives down here in DC and she was one of the main reasons I wanted to move down here in the first place and I love going to visit her and Andrew and Lilly and Xander (the cutest cousins in the world).

- The triathlon community, both local and extended. I've met so many great people through the sport and I met many of my favorite people through training and races. I have a fantastic coach who has helped me achieve race times I never thought were possible. I help teach a bootcamp through my tri club, an activity I really enjoy, and it's easy to find people to swimbikerun with.

- My weekends are filled with ordinary, easy, low-key activities like long workouts, brunch or dinner with friends, movie nights with my husband, reading books, and doing cuddle time with my dog. These weekends are perfect, just as they are.

- This year I get to go a tri camp in Tucson again, climb Mount Lemmon and run in Sabino Canyon with many of the great people I met through last year's camp. Then I get to go to San Diego to catch up with my friend Mylene, who is one of the people I admire most in the world. Her outlook on life is so positive and I always see the world in a new light after talking with her. After Lake Placid I am going to do a Tour de East Coast and visit family in NH and the Cape that I don't see often enough. And then I get to go to Vegas for the first time ever and do a race.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

19 January 2012

Numbers

Is it always about the numbers? Can I be a decent triathlete without worrying about a whole slew of numbers? If I just put my head down, do the prescribed workouts, eat a balanced diet, is it OK that I ignore the numbers sometimes?

By numbers, I'm referring to the outputs generated by all the various gadgets beloved by the stereotypical triathlete - Garmins, heartrate monitors, bike computers, power meters, etc etc etc. I own a Garmin with a HR monitor and I use it during most of my bike and run workouts, especially if I'm outdoors. But I haven't downloaded the data from the Garmin since sometime last summer (I know, what is the point of gathering the data if you're not going to analyze it). I don't own a bike computer so I have no idea about cadence (ever) or distance when I am on my trainer. (I did own a bike computer once - first birthday gift from my then-fiance, now-husband. It fell off my bike shortly after I put it on and I accidentally ran it over. Haven't had a bike computer since). No power meter. And I rarely bring a watch to the pool with me unless I have specific instructions to gather splits. And there are some days I simply don't want to run with the Garmin or any watch at all. So sometimes I don't. I've been pretty decent so far in 2012 at filling out Training Peaks in a timely manner with the results of my workouts, mainly so Jen can see how I'm doing and we can discuss any problem spots - but my entries are relatively devoid of numbers, except when I thrown in HR or some mile splits.

Right now I'm pretty comfortable with my relatively number-free athletic life. Sometimes I wonder if I should someday invest in a PowerTap or power meter thingamajig, but then I wonder if I'm really good enough at the moment to warrant such an investment. But if I do make the investment, will it help me become a better athlete, the type of athlete who needs that sort of equipment, who needs to keep track of those sorts of numbers, who is good enough to warrant the investment. I can assure you that as long as I don't win the lottery, 2012 will not be the year I invest in a PowerTap thingamajig. But it may be the year I get a proper bike computer.

Finished a book yesterday - fluffy book this time around. The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand. Total chick-lit book that my aunt Amy lent to me through the Kindle (so it was freeeeeee for me! Thanks Aim!). It was about a restaurant on the beach in Nantucket. Having been a waitress throughout my college career, I can tell you they got most of the restaurant lingo correct. And some of the characters in the book seemed just like characters I met during my waitressing days - it's hard to explain and I'm not trying to be stereotyping, but I noticed that, like any career field, restaurant work attracted a certain type of person - social, gregarious, outgoing, etc - and I never quite fit that type. In any case, the book was an amusing read and the restaurant they portrayed seemed to be a much cooler place to work than my former place of employment - Chilis. Bleck.

17 January 2012

Da Booty

So, this is a little post about body image. I count myself as one of the lucky ones who hasn't experienced any major issues (unless you count that time in college that I had too many jello-shots and told my then-boyfriend, who was madly in love with Britney Spears, that I was going to go to the gym EVERY DAY so I could one day be hotter than she was. Then she went on to have a meltdown and shave her head - problem solved). I'd even venture to say that right now, at age 30, I'm probably the most comfortable with my body type as I've ever been, including middle school, high school, and college. I say this EVEN THOUGH just last week I managed to totally split the lining on one of my work skirts (can I just say I've never been more thankful to have my own office than I was that day, using terribly dull scissors to hack off the remnants of my woeful-looking skirt lining). I say this EVEN THOUGH I've noticed that my pants are fitting me a bit tighter on the thighs and da booty. I say this EVEN THOUGH my button down shirts from Banana Republic are a bit snugger than they used to be. Am I getting fat? I don't own a scale, but I don't think I'm getting fat. Rather, I think I'm changing shape. See, I started running when I was 12. X-Country from 7th grade through 12th grade, a few years off in college, and then my senior year of college I started training for my first marathon. In terms of exercise, all I ever did was run - no biking and no swimming. I realize now that running makes you skinny, maybe even scrawny. Many of the clothes I own today I bought before I started triathlon. I had a scrawny upper body and I hadn't been biking enough to make my legs bigger. I recently bought the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. He devotes an entire section of his book to different athlete body types. Even though I knew that runners, swimmers, bikers, triathletes are all built a little differently, reading this section was really eye-opening. And it explains alot as to why my old button down shirts suddenly feel a bit small (thank you swimming! you've given me lats!) and why I need to buy my pants according to thigh-size, not waist size (if it means my legs will be more powerful on the bike, I will take it!). My runners body has turned into a triathlete's body - a hybrid swimbikerunner. Do you know who is one of my favorite triathletes? Bree Wee. Not just because she has a great blog, is a phenomenal athlete, and always seems to see the bright side in things. But also because I feel like she has a similar build to me. And she looks great. She uses the body that God gave her to swimbikerun her way onto the top of the podium. And while I don't have her athletic abilities and I'm not going to be standing on top of the podium, and while I sit here and say I'm totally comfortable with how I look, it's still nice to have a role model and it makes me want to embrace what God gave me and see how I can go. Embrace the thighs, the glutes, the bigger arms, the lats - you've earned these muscles through hours on the bike, in the pool, and on the trails!

16 January 2012

Ta Da! The 2012 Race Schedule

Well, sort of. I've technically only signed up and paid for three races so far:
- Rock and Roll Half Marathon here in DC on March 17th
- Ironman Lake Placid on July something
- 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, NV on September 9th

But there will be more! I'm planning on signing up for the Rumpus in Bumpass Oly in April. There will be a half Ironman in May, I just haven't decided which one yet. There's the Kinetic half, which is local and my tri team does it every year. Last year's bike course sounded better than previous years, so it is tempting to sign up. And then I remember the run course and how much I dislike it (3 loops with one long hill you get to do three times). But things could be different this year, maybe I will like it because I plan on actually being in decent race shape and taking it seriously. However, there's another half earlier in the month in Charlottesville, VA - the Monticelloman that sounds really tempting instead. If I go with Monticelloman, then I will do the Kinetic sprint instead of the half (I did the sprint last year and it was one of my better decisions). June brings the Rev3 Quassy half ironman - I did this race last year and *loved* it. Rev3 does a great job with their races. Team Z is doing it this year as one of the team races, adding to the fun. I'd like to slip another Oly and sprint in towards the end of June/early July, but it depends on whether or not it will really interfere with my final build weeks for Ironman Lake Placid. July is IMLP. August I will NOT be making the same mistake I did last year by doing a half Ironman four weeks after an Ironman - instead, I'm going to work my butt off early this season and try to qualify for Age Group Nationals. Main reason (besides the fact that I've wanted to do AG Nationals for awhile), they are in Burlington, Vermont which is one of my favorite places ever (especially in the summertime when it's not covered in snow). While there, I may pay a little visit to where I went to undergrad, Saint Michael's College. September brings 70.3 Worlds in Vegas, which is the ONLY race I will be flying my bike to this season (the 2011 season was a little out of control). I'd like to do another sprint or oly later in September, but nothing is set in stone. October will be another local-ish race, I just haven't decided which one yet. Watermans half Ironman? Rev3 Half-Full half ironman? Beach2Battleship half ironman? Maybe do the oly or sprint at Waterman's and choose one of the other half Ironmans? I have time to figure it out. And I'd like to do more of the EX2 trail races in the fall (and maybe this spring if I get my fingers clicking on the registration button). I'm super excited about this season - especially since I've been sticking with a regular strength routine for a few months now and I'm monitoring my nutrition more closely and I'd like to see both those things pay off come race day. This season is about the PR and NOT the chocolate chips!

15 January 2012

Winter Outdoor Riding!

A miracle occurred today. It's January, below thirty degrees this morning, and this happened:
It's my bike! And me! And we're going for a ride outside!

That's my bike and I - outdoors. I ACTUALLY BIKED OUTSIDE TODAY IN THE FREEZING COLD. I can't remember the last time I rode outdoors in January - at least a few years ago - and I haven't been on my bike outdoors since October when I rode around the Marine Corps Marathon course cheering on my friends. I still had remnants of my cheering costume on my helmet (a bow) that I left on today. Maybe I'll leave it on this entire season.
So, drama aside, biking outside this morning was actually... pleasant. It went by REALLY quickly and I warmed up fast. Hill repeats were on the schedule so I paid a visit to the hills in Rosslyn and had some fun there. When I went for my T-run after the ride, my legs felt a bit heavier and more tired than they normally do after a trainer ride - probable proof that riding outdoors is a bit more challenging than indoor trainer rides. I should probably ride outside more often.
Speaking of challenging, it was hard work getting into and staying in my proper heart rate zones. Not impossible, but it required work, which isn't how it used to be. I'm really excited, this could mean good things for this season! It means I can work harder and not be as worried about blowing up on the run.

In totally non-triathlon news, I figured out how to blow dry my hair straight. I know, big news, right? But it really is a big deal; I could never can figure out how to get my hairbrush positioned right without making a rat's nest out of my hair, so I always resorted to the flat iron. But this new way was faster and I like the results better.
We finally watched the movie Miracle last night about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team that beat the Soviets - it has been on my list for awhile and it didn't disappoint. There was definitely some interesting sports psychology throughout the film and it made you think about hard work and how much it is worth.

14 January 2012

Heart Rate Zones and Hurricanes

This past week I've been trying out my new heart rate zones for the run and bike. With my run, my Zone 2 has a higher ceiling by a few beats so I'm actually enjoying my new run zones. I can run a smidgen faster while still adhering to the prescribed workouts. With my new bike zones, heaven help me, it is a Challenge (with a capital "C") to get my rear end into Zone 2. The bottom part of my current Zone 2 used to be the upper end of my old Zone 2. While it makes for a bit of a challenging transition, I'm hopeful it will pay dividends once race season rolls around. I spent this morning's trainer ride looking on the bright side - I'll have alot more heart rate zone to play with at Lake Placid this summer compared to 2011 so I won't have to go quite as easy on the bike as I did last year. I'm excited to see how well I adapt to these new bike zones, especially once I take my bike outdoors (ummmm, that's supposed to be happening tomorrow morning, but it's also supposed to be below 30 degrees. I'm not excited about this).

Last night I finished my most recent book - Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson. It's historical nonfiction, written almost like a novel. Fun fact: did you know that my husband and I got married on the 106th anniversary of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane? The writer not only talked about the hurricane itself and the damage it wrought on Galveston, TX; he wrote about this history of predicting weather here in the U.S. and how forecasters managed to overlook this giant storm. It's hard to imagine that sort of thing happening today with all of our technology and 24 hour news stations. The morning of the hurricane, people were swimming in the ocean, kids were playing in the water that flooded the streets, and alarm really only seemed to set in when the water rapidly began to rise and take down houses. This book was extremely well-written and hard to put down and I'm excited I found this author - I'll definitely be reading more of his books.

13 January 2012

Random Friday Facts

- At work I keep the language setting for my e-mail and MS Word set to French - I make ALOT of spelling errors when I write in French. Those accents - they get me every time!

- I discovered you can see what type of keyword searches have led people to my blog. This past week, my favorites are
- "quest ce qu'un tamale recipes,"
- "don't just jump into a half marathon" (ummm, I don't think I've ever done that), "
- "space cookies with nutella," and
- "chocolate doesn't ask silly questions."

- Time to take one of my skirts out of rotation. While much more comfortable to wear now that the lining split and completely disintegrated, I'm afraid the skirt's integrity has been compromised.

- We've started leaving our dog outside of his crate when we are out of the house on the weekends. So far, nothing has been destroyed.

- I don't like strawberry ice cream. And not a big fan of vanilla. Both are a waste of calories.

- I choose chocolate every time.

- I found some of my old journals from when I studied/worked abroad. Am now thanking my lucky stars that 1) I write better than I did back then; and 2) I have more exciting things to write about than how many bars I went to last night or what drinks I imbibed in. Otherwise, this blog would be in trouble.

- I've never worn jeans to any of my workplaces here in DC.

- I worked my way through college as a waitress at Chili's. Bleck.

- Metro makes me cranky.

- I need to buy new swimsuits. One year is far too long to have the same two suits in rotation.

- It's a Friday night and I've been wearing my pajamas and tattered high school sweatshirt since 6:30pm. Does this mean I am old? Or just sensible?

12 January 2012

Strength Training - TRX

Last January, when I resolved that 2011 would be the year I would do more strength training, I purchased a TRX. While I really didn't do nearly as much strength training as I should have in 2011 because I was a slacker, the little I did do was usually on the TRX. It's basically a suspension training system that relies on your body weight to supply the resistance. As an added bonus, you end up working your core on pretty much all of the exercises because you're constantly trying to stabilize yourself and keep proper form through all the reps.

Do you know what my favorite thing is about the TRX? It's portable. So these past few weeks I've been bringing it to the gym at work and haggling my co-workers to come join me for a workout. Strength training is so much more fun when someone else is doing it with you and I've found I'm much more likely to actually do it when I'm sharing the joy with others. A little bit of trash talk circulates between us prior to a workout (well, mainly just me telling my friends that I am going to "break them"), adding to the fun. It's also been nice having someone tell me if my form is decent or complete crap (because when I do the TRX by myself in the basement, I have zero clue).

There's a ton of videos on YouTube of possible exercises. And my sister Allie has taken a few TRX classes and showed me a few fun exercises when I saw her over Christmas. A few of my favorites are the pike pushup, lunges, mountain climbers, and these terrible side planks with a twist. If anyone is ever interested in joining me for a TRX workout, I'd love the company!

10 January 2012

Showtunes and Movie Trailers

I received some iTunes gift cards for Christmas (thanks West Coast family!!) and I'm starting to put them to use. New songs on the iPod = Happy Runner/Happy Commuter. I think I might splurge and purchase some old school songs from high school and college. Songs I used to own on Napster that are now trapped in my long-deceased laptop from college. But, more recently, I've been updating my iPod with more contemporary tunes, most of them very workout-friendly. My favorite playlist at the moment includes:

Starlight (Muse)
Little Too Much (Natasha Bedingfield)
Stereo Hearts (Gym Class Heroes)
Save Me, San Francisco (Train)
Good Life (OneRepublic)
The Cave (Sign No More)
Tonight Tonight (Hot Chelle Rae)
Escape (Enrique Iglesias) (judge away)
Beautiful Girl (INXS)
Loser Like Me (Glee)
Wannabe (Spice Girls)

I found a few of these songs through movie trailers (bonus points if you can guess which songs and which movies - hint, most of chick flicks. You can judge, I am totally secure in my movie trailer choices). Movie trailers are, quite possibly, one of the coolest things ever (and they are often better than the movies themselves). If I could choose one job in life, any job, I would want to put together movie trailers and their soundtracks. We have Apple TV and you can watch as many movie trailers as you want (for free). I've done whole trainer workouts to trailers. It's a very efficient way to watch films - you see all the best parts and it only takes 2:25 of your day.

09 January 2012

Growing Like an Unfettered Goldfish

I've noticed that my workout wardrobe has taken on the characteristics of goldfish. Apparently if you put a goldfish in a bigger environment, it grows larger. The same can be said for my collection of shorts, t-shirts and sports bras. They all used to fit in a modest-sized bin in my closet. Then it became harder to close the bin, so they graduated to a long bin beneath the bed. And as of recently, I can't snap the cover shut on the bin AND it takes a bit of heft to shove it back under my bed. It must be the two neon-colored sports bras I received from my sister-in-law for Christmas that has thrown my collection over the edge :). I'm not really sure where I'm going to store my clothes next, maybe my husband's side of the closet?

I finished a book today. Joan Didion's Blue Nights. I had read her book The Year of Magical Thinking a few years back. While that book chronicled the short span of time in which she lost both her husband and her daughter to sudden illnesses, Blue Nights focused on her fears of getting older and the many ways in which she missed her daughter. I love the way she writes because she sometimes she goes off on a seemingly irrelevant tangent about some small detail, but she brings it back and ties it to the main point of her story. The way she notices and remembers these small, minor details - the china they used after her daughter's christening; the type of flower her daughter wore in her hair at her wedding - it makes you think of the small details in your own life that are relevant to you in a way that maybe only you can understand.

For me it is this: in my office at work I have a black and white framed photo of my brother and I. I am 7, wearing the plaid pink and black fleece jacket I owned in 2nd grade (you can't tell the color because it's a B&W photo, but I remember the jacket well). That would mean my brother was about 2. It's in the driveway in front of our house and I had just gotten off the school bus. It's autumn and the leaves are scattered on the ground. My arm is around him and his attention is focused on something in his hands, something the photograph doesn't capture. I'm crouched down to his level, my arm around him, looking like I'm about to say something. My face says it's likely I was on the cusp of a snide big-sister remark. I find myself looking at that picture often. Marveling at how different we are from the people in that photograph taken more than two decades ago. Realizing that I rarely put my arm around my brother, both back then and now, and that's a rather sad fact.

It was a heartbreaking book. Some of the concerns she brings up included a feeling of frailty, a developing fear of doing seemingly ordinary things (crossing the street, etc) because they suddenly seem fraught with previously unknown dangers - dangers known only now because of an imminent fear of dying. I know I am only 30, and it's not really a feeling of frailty I feel, but sometimes I feel afraid of things that I didn't used to fear - like I might die doing them, even though previous experience has shown them to be perfectly safe. Like flying. Or riding my bike in the city. I push these fears aside (because what am I going to do - not fly, not bike outside?) because I am too young to let fears like that get to me. Blue Nights brought these topics to mind as I was reading.

We cancelled cable today. The only downside is that the cable box is shut down and therefore no longer shows the time. I suppose we should invest in a clock for the basement. I discovered YouTube has a bunch of TRX videos, so I'll be perusing those for some workout ideas. And this morning I had my final fitness test to start off the year - the swim (lord help me). Besides the wheels coming off on the last few 100 repeats and my stroke falling apart, it went as well as could be expected. There is nowhere to go but up. Oh, and I was chosen for a lottery spot in the Chesapeake Bay 4.4 mile swim this June. When I signed up for the lottery I couldn't find info on the entry fee. No matter, I thought, I'm sure it can't be more than $100. EHHHH, I was wrong - $250. I hadn't quite budgeted for that this month. Maybe I won't sign up but I'll train this winter/spring as though I signed up and do lots of open water swimming. That will help me get my act together for the Lake Placid swim, right?

08 January 2012

I've Figured You Out, Girl Scouts!

The Samoa Girl Scout cookies are, hands down, my favorite of these once-a-year cookies. And unfortunately I've never been good at stockpiling my boxes so they last me for the rest of the year (see: lack of self control). However, with the help of the trusty internet, this weekend I have cracked the code of the Samoa cookie - now I can make them YEAR ROUND. WHENEVER I WANT. Halle-FREAKING-lujah.

I actually cheated a bit and made them bars instead of cookies (less time-consuming because you aren't cutting and topping the individual cookies). And I think next time I will actually use the pan size they called for (9x13) because the shortbread is a little thicker than it probably should be because I used a smaller pan.

Samoas Bars
Not my photo. Obviously.

Here is the recipe I used (I wish I could take credit for coming up with the recipe myself, but let's be honest, I'm not quite that creative. Or daring). I got this from the http://bakingbites.com blog.

Homemade Samoas Bars
Cookie Base:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

First, make the crust.
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter, until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Working at a low speed, gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly, like wet sand. The dough does not need to come together. Pour crumbly dough into prepapred pan and press into an even layer.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before topping.

Topping
3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12-oz good-quality chewy caramels
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
10 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)

Preheat oven to 300. Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet (preferably one with sides) and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden. Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times to help the caramel melt. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
Put dollops of the topping all over the shortbread base. Using the spatula, spread topping into an even layer. Let topping set until cooled.
When cooled, cut into 30 bars with a large knife or a pizza cutter (it’s easy to get it through the topping).
Once bars are cut, melt chocolate in a small bowl. Heat on high in the microwave in 45 second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment or wax paper. Transfer all remaining chocolate (or melt a bit of additional chocolate, if necessary) into a piping bag or a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish.
Let chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 30 bar cookies.




07 January 2012

Humble Pie

The people I think are the most admirable in the triathlon world are those who are humble about everything they have accomplished in the sport. The ones who aren't posting on Facebook about how many miles they just biked, how fast they did their long run, or the stat to every single leg of their most recent race. The ones whose blogs have matter-of-fact, useful race reports that may or may not recount their splits, instead of a race report full of bravado. The ones who do the work quietly and consistently, the ones who don't NEED to call attention to their training and performance because their results say it all. On way more than one occasion, I've been guilty of the faux-pas I just mentioned. When training for my first few Ironmans, I had FAR too many status updates on Facebook about all of my athletic accomplishments of that day. I felt like I needed to talk about everything I was doing to get noticed, get attention and admiration - and honestly, my results were pretty mediocre. Nothing that commanded the bragging I was doing. In the age of Facebook, blogs, Twitter, it's hard not to get caught up in shameless self-promotion. But as I notice the habits of those around me who I do admire, I'm trying to make positive changes in my habits and the way I carry and represent myself to emulate the behaviors I find admirable and not get sucked into the braggart role. This has required many large helpings of humble pie.
Case in point: recently I was introduced to someone who is also involved in triathlon. We chatted for a bit about races and what we did in 2011 and plans for 2012. She was quiet and very modest about the races she had done while I yammered on and on about how I did X, Y, and Z races last year and what I hoped to accomplish this year, blah, blah, blah. Well, later in the day I Googled her to see what AG she was in, etc. Annnnddd, she's a pro triathlete. I felt pretty stupid. And at the same time, felt so much respect for her - she could've easily said, "I'm way too fast to be training with someone like you" or "Do you have any idea how fast I swim/bike/run, do you really think you could keep up with that" etc, etc, etc. But she didn't. She didn't let on one bit about what a pretty kick-butt triathlete she is. And there are other triathletes I've met through my tri club who, in their first Ironman and/or first year of doing triathlon, qualified for Kona. Their FB pages were quiet on those days where they won a race or placed really well in a competitive field - the only activity was the virtual congratulations by others who had caught wind of their accomplishments by either being at the race or hearing it from someone who was there.
So, this blog, my FB page, all a work in progress. If you look at my race reports from 2011, you can tell I vacillated between including my splits and omitting them - they aren't the most important thing in the race report (I think the learning experience of the race is definitely more important) and if people really want to know, they can just check your profile on Athlinks.com. But, it's kind of nice to have the splits in the race report so when I look back, all the info is right there. I hope that if I continue/slip up and exhibit some of the aforementioned undesirable traits, that someone will call me out on it. You'd be doing both me AND everyone else a favor.

05 January 2012

Run Test & Check off that First Book of 2012!

So yesterday I had a run fitness test - an assessment to see where I am, basically. While a 20 minute all-out run on a morning whose temperatures hovered at 17 degrees isn't really where I feel my happiest, things went better than I expected. After my warmup, I gave myself a final pep talk ("You are fast, fast like the wind" "You love to run" among other silly mantras) and clicked "start" on my Garmin. I didn't let myself look at my pace - just like in a real race, I didn't want to know because then I would get inside my head and havoc would ensue. I ran with music and figured I'd run out for four songs and then turn around and head back towards home, so I concentrated on the music not the time. Oddly enough, my forearms (??!!) felt the most fatigued - too much strength training? (haha, that will be the day). All I kept thinking was "if I could only take my heavy gloves off, my arms would feel so much lighter and my forearms won't be sore anymore." When all was said and done and I looked down at the Garmin after clicking "stop," I wasn't thrilled with my overall pace but I wasn't overly disappointed either. My spirits were further buoyed later when I took a look at the results from my two earlier tests from one and two years ago, the data was better on all counts on my latest test. So even though I sometimes feel like I am slow because I'm forever in Ironman training mode, this test shows that maybe I'm headed in the other, faster direction.

What's the term in football when one player runs smack into another and totally flattens him? Mowed down? Clotheslined? Bowled over? Flattened? Well, whatever it is, that happened to me today on the Metro platform. Some guy literally ran into me full tilt (did not even slow down) and knocked me on my rear. And I saw him coming at me too late to do anything effective to prevent it - it was either jump onto the metro tracks to get out of his way or brace for impact. He didn't even stop after he knocked me over. Oh, and in case you are wondering, he made his train - I HOPE IT WAS WORTH IT YOU JERK.

Rant over. I finished my first book of 2012 today - Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Overall I thought the characters in this book were more likable than in Pride and Prejudice and it was an interesting look at relationships and courting and marriage back in the day (like 200 years ago back in the day). Truthfully, I'm glad I live in 2012, not 1812. Before 2011 ended, I made a booklist of 25 classics that I'd be interested in reading this year. Her other book, Emma, is waiting in the wings on my Kindle, but I think I might read something fluffy and easy next before tackling that one.

04 January 2012

I love it when I win

I win.

My husband refuses to believe it is true - he tried to change the subject when I called him after my arrival at work. And then tonight he refused to let me show him this picture - so I just tagged him in it on Facebook instead. Isn't the internet great? He told me that even the dog misses the Leg Lamp. I suppose it is going to be a long 10 months for the two of them, until the 2012 holiday season when the lamp makes a reappearance in our house. But I received several compliments from my co-workers today. I was also disappointed to find that the fishnet stockings were glued to the leg, hampering my efforts to stick a dollar bill in them. Alas.

Tomorrow I'll get back to actually talking about athletic endeavors. But this detour in subjects was just too fun not to pursue.

03 January 2012

Chocolate Chips or PR?

So, this had to go up on my pantry door:


Hmmm, what do I want more - chocolate chips or a PR? Because I think I'm going to have to choose. Or at least keep the chocolate chip consumption in check. Or just not keep Ghiradelli chocolate chips in my pantry.

02 January 2012

The Great Leg Lamp Debate of 2012

This has graced our front window since December of 2010 (Yes, a FULL YEAR).

The epitome of class

We had bought the lamp as a joke Christmas decoration. We took our 2010 family Christmas card photo with it:

And the cats enjoyed basking in the soft glow of electric sex.

And... then we never bothered to take the lamp down with the rest of our Christmas decorations. I initially wanted to bring it into my office, but we were moving locations later in the year, so I figured I'd bring the leg lamp in after the office move. So the lamp sat in our front window, greeting visitors and collecting cat fur on the fishnet stockings all spring, summer, and fall.

Well, the 2011 holiday season has passed and I need a lamp for my office. I was looking forward to wrangling the lamp on the bus and metro with me during tomorrow's commute. And when I informed my husband this evening that, as of tomorrow, the leg lamp would be gracing MY office instead of our home (until next holiday season), he put up a stink. Apparently he wants to keep the leg lamp in our front window PERMANENTLY.

I don't share those same sentiments. And I also leave for work later than he does. Who wants to bet where the leg lamp will be this time tomorrow night?

01 January 2012

2012 Athletic Goals

After taking a much needed break in October after my last race where I didn't think or care about triathlon for about a month straight, I started thinking about my 2012 race goals. I don't have my race schedule completely mapped out quite yet, but it'll likely be Rumpus in Bumpass Oly in April, a half ironman in May (I hate Kinetic every year, so I'm loathe to sign myself up for that one), either a sprint or Oly in May, depending on what half I decide to do, Rev3 Quassy half ironman in June, Ironman Lake Placid in July, fingers crossed that I qualify for Age Group Nationals held in August, and then I'm signed up for 70.3 Worlds in Vegas in September. We'll see how I feel later in the season, but I'm planning on at least one more half after 70.3 Worlds, I just don't know which one yet. And maybe one or two shorter races mixed in. But those that are mentioned by name, those are the big races. Oh, and besides Vegas, I'm not flying myself or my bike out for any races - 2011 was a little out of control in that respect.

So, the goals, in bulleted form:
- Improve daily nutrition habits
- Consistently strength train and improve functional strength
- Get more sleep
- Do my workouts on the appointed days, at the appointed times of day (i.e., get up out of bed EARLY so I can workout before heading into the office)
- Be competitive in my age group
- Become faster in each discipline (as in: break some pesky time barriers that have been taunting me - 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; sub-4 on the iron run).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my big focuses for 2011 was the mental side of triathlon and racing. I'm still going to work on making strides in that area in 2012, but I'm turning a lot of additional attention to improving my STRENGTH and NUTRITION in the coming year. I recently picked up Matt Fitzgerald's book Racing Weight and though I haven't read all the way through it yet, I am already seeing habits I should adopt to clean up my daily eating. I'm decent at making acceptable food choices 90% of my day, but it's that other 10% that wrecks me (damn you baguettes and chocolate chips hiding out in my pantry) Periodically keeping a food journal would also assist me in eating mindfully, as mindless eating is one of my weaknesses. Oh, and chocolate. Put those two together and you have trouble (case-in-point: yesterday afternoon I went to bake whoopie pies and realized the bag of chocolate chips I was going to use had only 3 chips left in it... whoops). If I know I have to write down everything I eat, chances are pretty good I'll be less likely to stuff half a bag of chocolate chips in my mouth.

Admit it, chances are pretty good most of you out there are just like me that when time is tight, strength training is the first thing that gets pushed off to the side in your weekly training schedule. I never quite understood the importance of consistently doing strength training - you want to swim/bike/run faster, swim/bike/run more often right? How does strength training fit in that picture? In November, I began going to the Team Z Monday AM boot camps on a regular basis and I began to understand WHY strength training needs to have a place in every successful triathlon regiment (OK, I don't understand the scientific specifics nor can I use the scientific lingo to provide an explanation - but it makes your core muscles stronger so you can support your body correctly during training/racing; it builds muscle and strength in your upper and lower body so you can be more powerful on the swim, the bike, and the run. That's it in a nutshell. Oh, and it has the potential to give you great abs). Another weakness of mine: doing strength training on my own - I will actually do a strength workout in a group and I won't wimp out partway through as a result of peer pressure. So, in 2012, I'll be at the boot camps and I will also be conning my friends into using the TRX with me at least one other day of the week.

And so we meet again, Goal of Get More Sleep. Grad school initially ruined me and my pre-2008 early bedtimes, and my unfortunate inability to drag myself off of FB and blogs in the evening has continued the downhill spiral. Getting home from work past 7pm doesn't help matters (because guess who didn't roll out of bed in time to make it to work before 9:30am) and it is just one vicious cycle every day. It. Has. To. Stop. NOW. The goal is to be in bed by 9-something, lights out before 10pm every night. Even the weekends. And the computer is banned from the bedroom.

I think the get-more-sleep goal will help with the goal of doing my appointed workouts on the appointed days and times. I also need to stop procrastinating in the mornings - I've let myself enjoy leisurely paced Saturday and Sunday mornings for the past few months and have found myself not starting workouts until late in the AM, which then throws off the entire rest of the day and I end up feeling like I got nothing substantial done. And getting up early to get workouts in before work NOW, when training is relatively light, will make sticking to that habit during Ironman training (where it really matters) that much easier.

The last two goals - being competitive in my age group and meeting time goals - go hand-in-hand. If I don't meet those time goals, I'm not likely to be placing in my age group. End of story. Some of the best advice I ever got from my coach was to not race the clock, but to instead race the girls in my age group. The times take care of themselves. And she was so, so, so right. I was loathe to actually write time goals on my blog, but I did want to look back at this post at the end of the season and see if I accomplished the times I thought were plausible for the season. Those times I want to break, they've basically been staring me in the face for awhile and it's time they go. Some of them I want to smash by a landslide because I should have the capability to do so (ahem - swimming). And others I know will be much more challenging. If I manage to keep up with my other goals, and continue to follow the plan, train consistently, and make progress on the mental side of the sport, these two goals will take care of themselves. I also need to make myself do some more open water swimming if I'm EVER going to see something besides a 35 on the clock for a 1/2 ironman or a 1:15 on the clock for an Ironman. I am apparently a terrible open water swimmer, even though I love it.

In short, the overall goal for 2012 is to act like an athlete who is serious about her hobby. I've asked myself this question in the past - "is it worth it?" Is getting a faster time, placing in my age group, qualifying for races worth sacrificing things like staying up late, eating whatever I want whenever I want, going out, etc, etc. Will I really accomplish more if I make these kinds of changes to my life? I think the answer is yes. And the 2012 season is the perfect opportunity to get serious, sacrifice, and see what level it takes me to.