31 October 2012

Mishmash

We got off pretty easy when it came to Hurricane/Superstorm/Megastorm Sandy.  We lost power from Monday night until sometime early Wednesday morning.  But Mr. Sweetie is always prepared and we had plenty of water and a variety of canned and dehydrated food stored in the basement - ranging from veggie soup to chocolate cheesecake (I know, I'm a little weirded out by cake that looks like something you'd buy from the tourist shop at the Air and Space Museum).  I made the mistake of watching the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow on Sunday night and I went to bed convinced that the storm was going to destroy us all.  You'd think that I'd outgrow the overactive imagination I had as a kid AND that I'd be able to separate fact from fiction, but apparently not.  While the power was out, I did a great job catching up on my sleep.  I slept through the height of the storm and when I woke up Tuesday morning, the worst was definitely over.  I count ourselves lucky that Miles doesn't get freaked out by storms, he and the cats slept just fine as well.  I also tried like heck to catch up on my reading but only got through 1.5 books.  So, all in all, if losing power for just over a day is the worst that happened, we fared pretty well.  I feel much worse for everyone north of us near NJ and NYC who got hit much harder.

I'm doing a bit of running and TRX and biking here and there as I feel like it.  I've never unplugged this completely (and this guilt-free) before from training.  After my first iron-distance race in 2008, I was back in the pool 48 hours later.  When I went to Burkina last October immediately following my last race, I don't think I even managed to find my way to the hotel gym, but was training again as soon as I was home.  I'm learning the importance of an off-season and that taking time off should be a guilt-free endeavor.  I'm liking the whole getting up early and running only if I feel like it.  Or maybe/maybe not bike commuting in.

I'm excited for this weekend because I'll be getting together with some of my Tucson tri camp buddies - Julia, Sarah, and Stacey!!!!  We're meeting up outside of Atlanta for a weekend of chatty girl time.  Maybe we will go swimming in the nearby lake and if I can fit my wetsuit into my luggage, I will definitely be in the water.  Or if I accidentally drink a bottle of wine, I could probably be convinced to swim even without a wetsuit.  I think there will be some cupcake consumption going on.  Probably some running (but the fun kind where you spend so much time talking, you run 5 miles without realizing it).  Definitely a lot of cooking and eating.

29 October 2012

Spectathlete Report: 2012 Marine Corps Marathon

I've come to the conclusion that I never want to run the Marine Corps Marathon... Because cheering for it is about 100 billion times more fun than running it!

Especially when wearing this and cheering with a Teletubby and other fun friends:

Cheering on the runners in Crystal City

I will say, however, it's not the easiest thing to ride a bike while wearing a lampshade around your waist.  And let's not get into what it's like to bike while wearing fishnet stockings.  Ouch.

MCM is extremely spectator friendly - especially for those with bikes.  I accidentally overslept (welcome to my life) and didn't get out the door until after 9am.  I debated the merits of wearing the lampshade around my waist as I biked out of the neighborhood, but wasn't having an easy time getting onto my bike while wearing it.  I managed to hook it around my small backpack and then took off down the bike path wearing micro-mini bike shorts and fishnet stockings.  Totally normal.  I met up with my friend Sarah at Mile 12 on one side of Hain's Point, then made my way over to the other side of Hains, meeting up with my friend Joe around Mile 15 to do some more cheering.  We moved onto the desolate 14th Street Bridge (I think that's about Mile 20/21?).  I feel like there were more spectators out there than when I've done it, so that was good to see.  That part of the race is wretched and my least favorite section.  Then I biked over to Crystal City a little before the 23 mile marker, meeting up with Val, Sam, Mary, and a Teletubby named Ryan for some more serious cheering. 

Great job to all of my friends that I saw out running the course (and those that I missed - like speedy Brad Holzwart, 2:52 ow OW OWWW!)  Congrats to Ebo for a huge PR, Megan for her first marathon, Thom for his big PR, and Rachel for meowing her way to the finish of her 4th marathon and Katie for kicking butt in her 3rd marathon!  And everyone else who braved the wind and had a fantastic race!

2012 Family Christmas Card?


25 October 2012

It's Fall

Even though the weather has been relatively warm compared to other parts of the country (I've heard it has been snowing in MN and CO is expecting snow - too early!!), fall has subtly been pushing summer to the wayside, until suddenly summer seems like a distant memory in the rearview mirror.  Instead of being assaulted by gnats during my bike commute home, my tires are crunching through fallen leaves.  Rather than arriving home in a pile of sweat at 7:30pm while the sun and heat are still out in full force, I'm darting out of the office by 5:30 so I can make it home before dusk (almost sweat-free, might I add).  This is near-perfect bike commuting weather.

I'm not a big coffee drinker, but the cooler weather makes me want a pumpkin spice latte; fortunately, Mr. Sweetie is more than happy to have an additional excuse to use his espresso machine (I'm worried if I ever learn to work that thing, it will be lattes 24/7.  A slippery slope).

It's almost Halloween and I'm pulling together a costume for this year.  Unless you count dressing up in 80s gear to cheer on the Marine Corps Marathon runners in 2011, it has been awhile since I dressed up.  And it has been even longer since I put much effort into a costume - I actually visited a fabric store and everything.  I won't be breaking out the sewing machine (mostly because I don't have one), but there will be fabric glue involved.  As well as a lampshade.  Fabric fringe.  And fishnet stockings.  Any guesses?

And what would the fall be without a freak storm?  Last year we had some snow on the last weekend in October (I remember reading the weather reports when I was in Burkina - 90+ degrees - and thinking it couldn't possibly be getting ready to snow.  I was still in summer mode).  If I could have a second career, I think it would be fascinating to be a meteorologist (NOT the one standing in front of the green screen with too much makeup and a loud pink outfit - behind the scenes please!).  I've been reading the Capital Weather Gang posts about this impending storm and I think they always do a great job putting everything into easy-to-understand layman's terms.  We didn't lose power during the Derecho so here's to hoping if we have a direct hit, we won't lose power this time either.

24 October 2012

No Training And Total Laziness Make Caroline A Very Dull Girl

Things have been relatively quiet over here lately.  No races to talk about, no training (because bike commuting doesn't count as training).  I haven't gone on another cupcake binge or chocolate binge (unless picking through my chocolate granola for all of the chocolate pieces first qualifies).  So, what have I been doing?

- I've been lazy.  I haven't rolled out of bed much before 7/7:30am on a daily basis.

- You know how I said the off-season is great because now I have time to straighten my hair?  That lasted all of three days.  Sleeping in took precedent and now it's back to ponytails and no makeup.  Sorry Mr. Sweetie!!

- Far too much time on Facebook.

- Far too much time watching The Office on Netflix.

- And I've eaten almost a whole apple pie on my own since Sunday.

- I've been catching up on my reading - The Mission Song and Drowning Ruth are currently at the top of the book pile on my nightstand.

- I've squirted my cat with the squirt bottle to the point where he is soaking wet (we had a fight over shallots and I don't take kindly to my cat stealing them from right out under my nose).  Maybe I would feel badly about this if Bissell showed remorse but he hasn't mastered that emotion yet.

- And I've had lots of puppy cuddles as Miles wholeheartedly approves this whole staying-in-bed-way-past-your-alarm thing.


21 October 2012

DCCX Race Report - First Cyclocross Race EVER!

The verdict:  Cyclocross is freaking fantastic.  It's an adrenaline rush fueled by short steep hills, tight turns, attempts at all-out sprinting, and the absence of any rules.  It's like a combination obstacle course/cross-country race/roller derby/sprint on two wheels and while you're doing it, you basically feel like a total rockstar because there's just something awesome about riding through mud and surviving near collisions that bring out that rockstar feeling.

Post-race and still in one piece.  Win.
This weekend's DCCX is one of the biggest cyclocross races in the area.  Yesterday I went to a cyclocross clinic on the course that was given by Arley Kemmerer, one of the elite riders.  Since I knew ZERO about the sport, I found just about everything covered in this clinic to be helpful.  She talked about the mechanics of dismounting and remounting the bike without coming to a complete halt (the flying mount looks pretty neat and is actually much easier than I thought it would be  - though gosh it is painful if you land a little too hard back on the bike).  I also think this skill will be helpful in triathlon and making my transitions faster.  We previewed parts of the course and got advice on the best lines to take and how to make it around some of the corners without crashing.  Some parts of the course were a little sketchy in such a big group, and Karen reassured me that it would be less of a hot mess on race day because everyone would be more spread out.  I borrowed Karen't mountain bike for the clinic and by the end decided that I was going to use her bike for the race the next day too - I had previewed the course with it and felt more confident using the gigantic mountain bike tires than the skinnier cyclocross bike tires.

Race morning arrived and I was SO EXCITED - it's not terribly often you get to do your first race in a new-to-you sport.  This was going to be just for fun, no pressure.  Added bonus was that the race only lasts 35 minutes rather than multiple hours - you can survive anything for 35 minutes.  I arrived at the race site and working on the flying mount (a little harder since I decided to raise the seat up a little more, but still doable).  My race was at 9am so the nerves didn't have too much time to set in.  We watched the men's Cat 4 race go first.  I don't know if this was a good idea or a bad idea - there were a fair number of crashes (nothing serious) on this one section that had alot of tight turns on a hill.  Karen's husband John had a great race, it looked like a difficult field to navigate.

I lined up for my start a little late, putting me in the very back of the Cat 4 staging (cyclocross has you race according to categories, I still don't fully understand all the differences between categories, but I do know that Cat 4 is beginners).  I wasn't the only one with a mountain bike, but the majority of the girls had cross bikes with mountain bike pedals and shoes, while I was rocking out the running shoes and platform pedals.  I had a few moments of crap, I hope this was a good decision before they sent us off, mainly nerves about the start since I've never been in a mass, close-quarters bike start.  To me, that seemed more intimidating than the Ironman mass swim start because at least you can't fall off anything when you are swimming.

They send us off and down the road we go.  I'm probably dead last in the beginning, but managed to pass a few people when we hit the grass.  This first section on the grass had a few small rollers and flats before we hit a downhill with a turn at the bottom.  I had caught a few more girls at this point and then concentrated on getting to the top of the next hill and around the 180 degree turn on a tricky downhill without falling.  This was the part of the course I was most concerned with, as I had trouble with it during the preview the previous day.  I made it through unscathed (on all my laps - and my proudest moment of the whole race was when I managed to pass a girl on the inside on that section and make it down the hill without skidding into a fence).  We had a flat section with one sharp turn before hitting the stairs.  The dismount went fine and I made it up the stairs (this is when having a run background seemed to come in handy).  The flying mount went OK (i.e. I didn't fall on my face) and I passed a few girls on the next uphill section after a steep downhill with a hairpin turn.  Next were some more flats and some pavement before hitting the grass and more hills.  I caught a few more girls at this point - had no idea where I was in the race at this point, but my main focus was on putting distance between me and any girls I passed and trying to bridge the gap to the girls in front of me.  As my friend John said afterwards, when we were discussing the race, even if you are nowhere near the top of the field, you still work like hell to hold your place, even if it's something like 35th place in a field of 40.  Doesn't matter.  It is a race.  Anyway, after this hilly section, we hit some flats and I tried to be as speedy as possible since there wasn't anything technical to deal with.  The mountain bike tires gave me an extra dose of confidence because it would take alot to make those tires skid out so I think I was being a little more aggressive than I would've otherwise been.  I had my fingers crossed I wouldn't accidentally destroy Karen's bike because I was feeling so bulletproof (apparently I didn't really need to worry, mountain bikes are pretty indestructible).

It was around this section of the course (about halfway through - so I'd been riding for maybe 5 minutes) that I started thinking for the LOVE of EVERYTHING - PLEASE do not make me do more than three laps.  I'm only halfway through lap one and I feel like I'm on the verge of blowing up.  Give me Ironman, a multi-hour race at an endurance pace and I won't complain - but holy cow it was hard to wrap my mind around doing 3+ laps at this pace, even if it was going to last less than 40 minutes.  I tried not to think about it, just focus on the here and now.  I know that this race was just for fun and I wasn't expecting to podium and I wasn't racing for prizes, just the experience - but I still wanted to do as well as possible and that meant passing as many girls as I could.

After hitting another section of pavement, we came up to what was probably the most technical part of the course.  It had some uphill and downhill, then a dismount to go over barriers, and then this section of about 5 almost 180 degree turns on uphills and downhills.  I made it over the barriers and got back on my bike successfully, though I was boxed in with a pack of girls and that was a concern with the tricky hill section immediately coming up.  At the bottom of the first hill I had to hop off my bike and run the rest of it because girls around me were crashing and I lost momentum and this was the fastest way to go.  Karen and John and Mike and Emily were cheering me on in this section, and apparently smiling in cyclocross is NOT allowed, according to the feedback I was getting via Karen and John, ha! And by the last couple laps, I wasn't smiling anymore :)

We had another short section on pavement before hitting the grass and the hills again.  We had another set of barriers to jump over and then we continued on with the second loop.  The rest of the loops were much more of the same.  During the second loop is when I started to feel more settled in, I had a good pace going and doing 3-4 laps actually sounded feasible and fun.  While I was mostly riding solo, as the field had spread out alot, I was still picking off girls here and there who had started really fast but then slowed down.  I felt more confident on all the technical sections and obstacles with each lap.  When I started, I figured I would only be doing three laps (depending on where you are in the field in relation to the leaders, you might do one less lap if you are behind), but at the end of my third lap, the countdown was showing one more lap - and contrary to how I was feeling halfway through my first loop, I was super happy to have the chance to do four as it meant I was doing OK.  I tried to push the pace on the last lap but my legs were feeling the burn.  The flying mounts were no flying high - it was more pause, straddle bike, put shoes on pedals and then go, sans momentum.  I also made a little error on one of my dismounts to get over the barrier, accidentally squeezing my front brake as I got ready to pick the bike up, and causing the bike to come to a sudden halt and fling itself across the ground.  Awesome.  Fortunately I wasn't still on it, that would've been messy.  I made it up and down the hills and across the finish line unscathed - success!

Men's Cat4 race on the technical section
They posted the results shortly after the race finished and I came in 8th out of a field of 30 women in Cat 4.  I'm really happy with everything - this was a super fun race and I am eyeing at least one more cyclocross race for this season.  I spent another six hours at the race site - it was a giant, laid-back party and there was always a race to watch.  There were guys older than my parents tearing up the course on their single speed bikes and little kids (like 3 year olds) carrying their bikes over barriers and bombing down hills on the 'Lil Belgians kid's course.  The whole day brought back memories of high school cross country meets - crisp fall weather, colorful leaves, the constant stream of races, people cheering and hanging out drinking beer (not that there was beer drinking going on at high school races).  It was SO neat to watch Karen and Emily race - they were hauling around the course and made the technical sections look alot easier than they felt when I rode them.  It was an all-around fantastic experience.  A huge thanks to Karen, John, Mike, and Emily for all their cheering and for Mike being the action photographer.  I feel like I discovered this subculture where 9-5 buttondown professionals go rogue on the weekends, taking out any pent-up aggression from the workweek by issuing the ultimate throwdown on the bike course while simultaneously grabbing beers from spectators and downing them before powering up the next hill.  It is all kinds of awesome.    

19 October 2012

Living the Sloth Life

With my last race being on Sunday of last weekend, Jen designated this week as a deep rest week - explicitly saying NOTHING ACTIVE... NOT EVEN BIKE COMMUTING.

So far, I've adhered to these instructions to a fault.  It's scary to admit how much I'm loving not having a reason to get up before 7am.  Even if I'm awake at 6, I lay in bed until at least 7:15 just because I can.  Then at night I get home and I play on facebook and write on the blog.  While eating ice cream and chocolate (obviously).  Mr. Sweetie and I have torn through about half the episodes of Season 6 of The Office on Netflix over the past few evenings.  And each morning when I wake up and think, maybe I should do something.  Then I just roll over and scroll through Facebook on my phone instead.

Should I be worried that I'm finding it WAY too easy to be lazy?  I don't even feel guilty.  This is probably a sign that I was more than ready and due for a break.  As each year goes by, I have less and less of a problem taking a guilt-free break.

Here's to hoping that SOMEDAY in the next month I feel guilty enough to put on my running shoes or swim goggles, even if it's only with the hope of staving off the carnage all those holiday pies will wreak on me if I don't do something.

17 October 2012

2012 = Fully Committed! And I think it paid off

Looking back at my 2012 races, this is definitely the most satisfied I've felt overall about a season.  Sure it wasn't all PRs and fast times and perfection.  I had some low points, such as getting almost the EXACT same time at Quassy as I did the previous year and blowing up in Vegas.  Let's not forget that Ironman was a soul crusher once again.  And while I'm happy with the finish times I achieved, the bigger success in my opinion is that I'm learning more and more about how to race and what I need to do to find success, even when the outlook isn't so rosy.  This is a huge improvement over the past when, in the same situation, I might've thrown in the towel or not had the will to work hard and have a breakthrough.

I'm a different triathlete than I was when I started in 2008.  Back then, it was more about finishing in one piece than anything else.  Going into my first Ironman, crossing the finish line was a wild card - I'd never done anything that long.  I didn't work terribly hard during the races and if the going got tough, the tough started walking.  I was lacking the desire and ability to push through the discomfort and take my racing to a different level.  I was content with where I was and my goal for every race was to finish with a smile and still want to do another race.  Completely acceptable.

First half ironman.  Maybe it was better I didn't know that the run would be a death march?
But then in 2009 and 2010, I got to a point where I didn't want to just finish, I wanted to do well in my age group.  I started setting time goals, many of them weren't realistic and I didn't achieve alot of them (see: when the going gets tough, the tough start walking).  There was a missing piece.  Then in early 2011, I went to my first JHC Triathlon Camp and it was there that something started to click.  Going fast and working hard were painful - embrace the suckage factor.  At one point before my first tri of the 2011 season, Jen sent me a fabulous e-mail that scared the crap out of me on one hand (suffer like a pig - really, do I really want to suffer like a pig on a spit??) but on the other hand, it amped up my motivation to work my tail off during a race, not give up, and see where it takes me (everybody hurts, the winners just hurt more).  I wrote down a bunch of quotes from that email and stuck it to my computer monitor at work and it still sits there today.  That was the turning point - when I decided that even though triathlon was just a hobby, it was worth it to me to make it a lifestyle and start doing the little things right, start learning how to race and not just finish, start setting goals and making a plan on how to achieve them, and - for crying out loud - STOP walking when the going got tough.  I was all in, fully committed, and ready to go after some goals and make them a reality.

So - what is it about 2012 that sets it apart from earlier years?

- Focus: I've made an effort this year to stay focused and plugged in from the moment the start gun goes off to the moment I cross the finish line.  During the swim, instead of letting my mind wander as I've done in the past, I am now completely aware of my body position in the water, how my stroke feels, the turnover, my sighting, my breathing, finding and drafting off fast feet.  It's no longer just about getting through the swim, it is all about getting the heck out of the water as fast as humanly possible.  I'm out of breath when I'm swimming and now my arms and shoulders are sore for a good 2+ days after a race.  I take this as a sign that I'm finally starting to work the way I need to during a race.  During the bike I'm aware of when I need to eat and drink and take in salts.  I'm constantly focused on cadence and how my legs are feeling and whether or not I can push it just a little harder.  I'm in search of that line of working to my full potential without blowing up.  And the run I don't let myself think too far ahead, I stay in the here-and-now, and just like on the bike, I'm trying to redline it without going overboard.  THAT takes focus.

- Positive mentality: Even though running was my background (nothing serious, high school cross country and recreational marathoning), it was often the least fun of the three disciplines during a tri.  Probably because it is last and my legs usually wanted to be propped up on the couch in front of the TV at that point in the race.  I'd get off the bike in T2 dreading the run, knowing I'd probably not feel great - and this attitude usually led to a pretty craptastic run, regardless of distance.  Over the past few races, I've made an effort to reverse that negativity and come off the bike in T2 raring to run.  This usually requires me to say to myself - out loud - during the bike ride: You love to run, YOU are a runner, YOU can't wait to run (I'm sure my fellow racers love to hear me talk to myself).  Crazy-talk aside: this seems to actually be working.  I'm actually excited to run and I'm seeing this translate into faster run times and a better overall experience on the run course.

- Embrace the suckage: I would read the blogs of some triathletes and sometimes their races sounded miserable - upset bellies, working so hard on the bike you could barely get any food down, nausea on the run, quads on the verge of cramping from working so hard, having nothing left in you as you cross the finish line.  Gawd, who would want to DO that to themselves voluntarily?  But then you read onwards and realize that they were also having a breakthrough out on the race course - making it through these discomforts once makes it easier to handle them in the future.  You begin to realize that discomfort and fatigue does not need to automatically spell doom.  In Poconos, I felt pretty darn good on the run - until about mile 10 when my legs hurt like no other and I was starting to feel sick.  Coming out on the other side of the finish line was the epitome of the line hurt so good.  Giving in and walking or slowing down, missing out on the Vegas slot, would've been much more painful than pushing through to the finish line.  It was an awesome feeling to push myself right up against that red line and not back down until it was over.  Suckage at its finest.

The little things: Sufficient sleep, early bedtimes, clean eating, making workouts a priority, visualizing my race.  No, I didn't do these things 100% of the time - but I did them a whole heck of a lot more often than in previous years and I think it made a difference.

I can't tell you how happy I am that I fully committed myself to letting the sport change me this year.  For once, I wasn't afraid of putting all my eggs in one basket and risking failure.  I have started to realize that half-assing it and not fulling committing was a road to failure in and of itself - and once I had that realization, it made it easier to have faith in myself, my coach, my training, and my capacity to succeed.  I'm learning that this sport is a process - an evolution, if you will - and it will continue to change me for the better if I let it.
 

16 October 2012

What the offseason means to me...

Do you want to know what the off-season really means to me?  Sure, it's time away from structured training, a break from the I have to go to the pool at 6am or I have to ride three hours outdoors even though it's raining or I have to run how long at what pace?!  It's also getting up on a Sunday morning and drinking a pumpkin latte that Mr. Sweetie makes for me (because I have no idea how to work the espresso machine) while reading the NY Times Sunday Styles section and eating pancakes because I want to, not because I'm carbo loading for a race.  Yes, it's sleeping in, staying up late, and doing fun things that I don't make time for during the rest of the year.  It's a chance to try out a new sport (cyclocross!!!) or have chocolate for dessert after breakfast.

But do you know what the off-season is really about?

It's about having time in the morning to straighten my hair and put on makeup.

I'm being completely serious.  Shallow and vain, yes, but also completely serious.  90% of the time my hair is back in a ponytail with some type of Goody Stay Put headband keeping it in place.  Epitome of classy, no?  Very little effort goes into the task of daily grooming - if I've showered and I'm wearing deodorant and I have something that resembles work clothes on, I call that a win.  But now that I suddenly have oodles of free time, I've broken out the blow dryer and I'm trying to figure out this whole makeup thing (if I show up at work looking like Dracula's wife, apologies in advance, I'm clueless with anything beyond foundation and mascara).

Mr. Sweetie has been appreciative of this previously unknown side of me.  I told him not to get too used to it - once the pool and/or double-workouts are back in the rotation, the hair dryer and makeup are retiring until the 2013 offseason.  Enjoy it while you can, dear husband.

15 October 2012

Cyclocross... HERE I COME!!!!

OMG - do you know what I just did??!!  I just pressed SUBMIT on the registration page for my first cyclocross race!!  The DCCX this coming weekend.  EEEEEEKKKKKK I am so excited!!  I haven't felt this nervous/excited/out-of-my-element about a race registration in awhile.  I have ZERO clue about what I am getting myself into.  I know there are bikes with knobby tires, but the tires are skinnier than a mountain bike's.  The handlebars look the same as a roadbike's.  You get dirty.  You ride your bike through mud and carry it over obstacles.  It's a mass start with everyone jockeying for position, which will probably make an Ironman swim start feel like a walk in the park in comparison.  And it's a heart-pumping, never-let-up-on-the-throttle, full out sprint for the whole race.  SO. EXCITED!

What's even cooler - a CX race is so much less expensive than a triathlon!  And less expensive than most 5ks nowadays.  It will be a bargain to race this weekend!

And the best part - some of my girlfriends are racing as well!  I'm going to the DCCX clinic on Saturday afternoon so I can have SOME idea of what Sunday will have in store for me.  And then racing (and I will even drink beer afterwards because I heard that is what you do at these races) on Sunday morning.  I was going back and forth between registering for the Rookie Race and the Women's Cat 4 race and decided to go with the Cat 4 - it's early in the day and it's just women - the Rookie Race is late afternoon and both guys and girls in the same race - I'm already intimidated enough, so I'm going to say no thanks to having an extra shot of testosterone in my wave.  A huge thank you to Emily for letting me borrow her cross bike - I promise to return it to you in one piece so you can race later in the day!!  And a huge thanks to Karen for lending me pedals and a big thank you to Karen and Melanie for answering my frenzy of texts that were full of questions!!  I can't wait to hang out with you girls this weekend and find out how much fun CX races are!!!!


14 October 2012

Race Report - Waterman's International Triathlon

Today's race - the Waterman's international tri (1500m swim, 24 mile bike, 6.2 mile run) - was my LAST triathlon of 2013.  Not a moment too soon, given how low my motivation was this week to do my assigned workouts on the assigned days (and let's not even talk about going to the pool because that did not happen).  We could call it a long recovery from Poconos 70.3 or we could call it a long taper, or we could simply call it what it is - laziness and end of season training fatigue.

Sarah and I were signed up to do the race and she was super sweet and and drove me to the race so Mr. Sweetie could have the car to play in his golf tournament.  I paid her back in stolen bagels :)  We got to the race site in plenty of time to pick up our packets, get our bikes and transitions set up, and get on our wetsuits.  When we first arrived, it was really chilly but warmed up quickly once the sun came up.  The Oly had a small field (less than 200 total) so there were only two waves - men and relays first, and then women three minutes later.  The women's field was small - a little less than 40 participants - so I was hoping to do well overall, not just in my age group.

The swim: 27:01
The swim was a two-loop course.  When Sarah and I were looking at the swim course from shore before the start, it didn't look bad at all (you know how sometimes the swim looks ridiculously long when it's only one loop).  The water was FREEZING cold when I first jumped in.  SO thankful I had my full-sleeve wetsuit on.  Once we got going, I warmed up and the water actually felt really nice.  The plus of it being cold - I think it killed off all the weeds that infested the swim course during Waterman's last year and made me feel like swamp thing.  Hardly any weeds this year!  So the swim started and I tried to get out towards the front.  There were some girls I knew I couldn't catch even if I had an oar, paddles, and a boat (ahem... Sarah) because they were FLYING.  But I felt like I got a good start and found clear water relatively quickly.  The swim was a triangle shape and the buoys never felt super far away, making the swim feel like it was going by relatively fast.  I caught up to some people in the men's wave before the second turn buoy.  I felt a little sluggish during the first loop, but felt like I found a good stroke rhythm and an extra gear when I began my second loop.  I think this is one of my better swim times and I'm really happy with it.  As I was getting close to the swim exit, I saw another purple cap from my wave and made it my mission to try to come out of the water before her; having this goal made it easier not to slack off and/or lose focus like I sometimes do when I'm swimming.

T1: A sad and sorry 4:06.  I got stuck in my wetsuit.

The Bike: 1:12
As I was struggling with my wetsuit in T1, trying to decide sunglasses or no sunglasses (no), debating the merit of armwarmers (a timesuck), and generally screwing off, I heard the race announcer say "Well, the first five ladies are out on the course!"  Sigh.  T1 ineptness strikes again.  I didn't know where I stood in the field, but I knew I would have to work hard to try to catch the girls who got out there before me.  The girl who I finished the swim with side-by-side left T1 at the same time I did and we played leapfrog together throughout the entire bike.  It was good for me to 1) have someone to chase; and 2) at times be chased because it forced me to focus, work hard 100% of the time, and not let up on the gas.  I didn't know how good a runner she was (she looked like she would be strong on the run - turns out she was) and I wanted to put as big of a cushion between us as possible (didn't really happen).  The course was rolling, no climbs that forced me to get out of the saddle, nothing technical on the descents.  The rollers were big enough that I usually had to put in some effort to get to the top, but often we were rewarded with some flats and slight downhills.  Most of the hills were towards the beginning, which was a nice boost for the ego as I was able to watch my speed climb as the bike went on.  I planned on having two gels on the bike - when I pulled my bike out of the basement in the AM, the Bento box was still attached to it and appeared to still have gels in it, which was good because that meant I didn't need to hunt around the house for race-day nutrition.  Sadly, during the bike ride I discovered that many of those gels were empty, used gels from my previous ride.  Gross.  I did manage to find two unopen and uneaten ones, and that was all I needed.  I drank water when i got thirsty, but it felt cool outside so I wasn't drinking like crazy and I took in no salts (mistake!!).  As I got towards mile 21/22, a runner out for his morning jog yelled to me "second woman" as I passed by.  I wasn't sure I heard him right - I hadn't seen Sarah yet, I couldn't tell if there were any other women besides Sarah in front of me, and I wasn't ready to believe that I moved up quite that much during the bike.  I figured maybe I misheard him and he said "sixth" or "seventh" woman.  Anyway, as we neared the park and T2, I could see runners out on the run course and I didn't see any women yet.  I rolled into T2, determined to make it out faster than T1.

T2: 1:01 - much better!

The Run: 45:48
The girl I had played leapfrog with on the bike (the same one I came out of the swim with) left T2 hot on my heels.  She passed me within the first 30 steps of the run start and, seeing the relaxed, easy, yet speedy pace she was running was a pretty good sign that me and my huffing, puffing, out-of-breath, trying-not-to-blow-up self was likely not going to keep up with her (she was DEFINITELY a runner).  So I let her go and focused on quick turnover (didn't feel easy and light on my feet because they were numb from cold for the first 2 miles of the run) and controlling my breathing, and generally trying not to sound like a freight train.  Up ahead I also saw Sarah, who led the race for most of the bike and the first mile of the run.  The run course was moderately hilly with a bit of a false flat on the way out to the turnaround.  The first few miles ticked by and I was in third place and planned to work as hard as I could to keep myself on the overall podium.  I caught up to Sarah around Mile 2 and was convinced through the turnaround that she was right on my heels and I was afraid to look back.  I saw some friends from Team Z out on the course and it was great to see them and exchange cheers.  After the turnaround, I felt like I got a second wind through mile 5 (probably helped because of the slight downhill).  Mile 5-6 felt like the longest mile ever and at that point I was just hanging on and hoping to get to the finish before any girls passed me (you never know if a 5:30 miler has entered the race and could mow you down any second - you aren't safe until you hit the finish line).  Running scared was really the only thing that kept me from taking it easy in the last mile, when my legs were feeling the fatigue and wishing I had taken some salts on the bike (note to self: even if it isn't super hot, salt is helpful).  Once I hit the small bridge, a little more than a quarter mile to the finish line, I could see a girl coming closer and closer behind me.  I had my fingers crossed that she was someone from the sprint race (she was) but I did my best to hold her off anyway.  I think we crossed the line at the same time.

Thanks to Mindy, we know how to use our podium trivets!

Finish time: 2:29:54, 2nd OA.
I'm really happy with this race - during the bike when I had no idea where I stood in the field, it was super helpful to simply focus on holding off the girl I was playing leapfrog with.  If I don't have a focus, it is super easy to go off into la-la land and suddenly find that my speed has dropped a bunch.  It was also fun to just race someone, to make quick decisions on should I pick up the pace and make the pass now or hold off or if I make a move now, will I be able to sustain it and put a gap between us?  Stuff like that.  It's getting a little easier over time, with practice, to keep myself mentally in the game, turn off my mind to how much my legs hurt, and just go for it.  Working with Jen over the years has really changed me as an athlete - not only making me physically faster, especially on the bike and making my swim much less of a liability - but also making me a stronger triathlete mentally (thank you Jen!!).  Racing is so, so, so much fun again now that I'm really making an effort to test my limits.  It's like a game with pint glasses and trivets as a prize :)  I had a blast racing with Sarah (3rd Overall - with a super solid swim, bike, and run) and catching up with some of my other friends I hadn't seen in awhile.  Big thanks to everyone for their cheers today, race day is so fun because I love the twitter and Facebook messages and texts :)  Thanks, of course, to Jen for being an awesome coach.  And thanks to Tri360 for their support (and I obviously need to visit again soon to stock back up on gels seeing as my bento box was full of empty ones, oops!).  And now - cheers to cupcakes, mini Reeses peanut butter cups, M&Ms and ice cream - all of which are currently adorning my refrigerator and freezer shelves!  Hooray off-season!

10 October 2012

Need Book Recommendations!!

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 50 books in 2012.  Sadly, I'm only at 32 books so far, leaving me with 18 to go before December 31st.  Lately I haven't kept up with writing a summary of each book I've read, but here are a couple of the more recent ones I've enjoyed the most:

- The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  I watched the movie earlier this spring and really enjoyed it and the book was even better.  Extremely well-written, descriptive, and hard to put down.  It was both depressing and uplifting, a sad story about a marriage gone awry and a father and his two daughters trying to pick up the pieces and learn to be a family again.  I highly recommend it.

- The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.  He's a fantastic storyteller and this book was beautifully written.  While it is fiction, there are elements of historical truths as he writes about the Armenian genocide early in the 20th century.

- In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner.  So sad and depressing.  It tells the story of Cambodia during the 1970s through the eyes of a 7 year old girl.  Her family is split apart and destroyed person by person by the Khmer Rouge.  This was another historical fiction, though sadly much of it was based on true events that the author herself endured.  One of the things that struck me the most about this book was how flowery and descriptive the language was at the beginning - it was as though the 7 year old narrator inhabited a poem.  By the end, the language had markedly changed to flat and grey, mirroring the world she found herself living in.

I'm always looking for book recommendations.  I've tried to read a wide range of subjects and attempted to keep the fluffy reading to a minimum (though if you see the number of Nicholas Sparks books on my list, you'll see I wasn't totally successful in that endeavor.  Sometimes a girl has got to fill her head with mindless fluff).  I love books where you feel yourself become so involved with the story and the characters, you actually feel a pang of sadness when read the last chapter and the story stays with you long after you close the book for the last time.

So.  Book recommendations.  Fire away!

09 October 2012

Eighteen Cupcakes

Sugar makes us happy.
It's not quite the end of the season, but we've been talking about doing a cupcake tour of DC for months now and it finally happened this past weekend.  Crumbs, Baked and Wired, and Buzz were represented, along with Katie's favorite bakery in PA.  So. Much. Sugar.  I'm rather proud of the fact that the four of us (two spousal units also joined in to help us out) did alot of damage to the 18 cupcakes.  That's like the number of cupcakes a second grader would bring in to share with his class on his birthday.  Thank goodness for high metabolism.  And let's not overlook the fantastic peanut butter cup pie we had in ADDITION to the 18 cupcakes.

I spent alot of last week preparing for the cupcake tour while simultaneously recovering from Poconos 70.3 and a snotty cold I managed to pick up.  This meant minimal workouts and maximum dessert consumption.  I should totally be race ready for Watermans come this weekend.  Yup.

In all fairness, I did get back on the training wagon this past weekend.  There was some social kick in the pool with Kendra on Friday before she jetted off to Kona.  My poor rear end remembered what it was like to sit on a bike seat for awhile on Saturday after a chatty ride with friends AND a bike ride out to Loudon County to see my aunt and two cousins (FYI - the W&OD is faster than 66 on a Saturday afternoon.  And faster than Metro).  I gamely joined in an unscheduled pool workout on Sunday in an attempt to burn more calories and make room for cupcakes.  It worked.

And now I leave you with this.  My two your old cousin Xander.  The kid loves bikes and gadgets.  I'm counting down to when I get to enter him into his first triathlon.  From the looks of it, he's more than ready.

Starting 'em young!
 

04 October 2012

Holding back

So my last "A" race of the season was last weekend at 70.3 Poconos.  The weather is getting chillier (well, it should be, Mother Nature hasn't gotten the memo yet that it is FALL) and the wetsuit will soon be hung up until next spring... but not quite yet.  We've arrived at the almost-off-season-but-I-still-want-to-do-some-races-for-fun time of year.  I was [this close] to signing up for an oly or sprint for this weekend.  But held back, knowing that Jen would probably have my hide if I pulled the trigger.  And I caught a cold and have been more like a sloth than a cheetah this week (well, let's be honest, I'm really never cheetah-like, but it sounds good!).  The odds were against having a good race this weekend.

Fortunately, there is a race the following weekend - Waterman's Oly up in Maryland.  One last hurrah for the season.  I did the half last year at Waterman's and originally had thoughts of doing the half again this year.  But Poconos went really well and I was honestly tired after that race and knew I simply didn't want to physically or mentally prepare myself to dig that deep again for a half Ironman until next year.  I feel like you can sort of fake an oly, I only need to focus for 2.5 hours instead of 5+.  It's alot easier to convince yourself to run 6.2 miles fast than it is to run 13.1 miles fast.  So that is that.  I'm already super excited to race one last time.  Short course = FUN in my book!

01 October 2012

Race Report - IM 70.3 Poconos

I am sore, tired and chaffed, but simultaneously oh-so-happy.  Not only has the last big race of my season come and gone (now giving me a free pass to indulge in cupcakes and fro-yo covered in candy to my heart's content), but I actually RACED yesterday's race.  It was a much-appreciated confidence booster after the Vegas debacle.

I've always wanted one of these

I signed up for IM 70.3 Poconos a few months ago - I didn't want to end my season in early September and I wanted to squeeze in at least one more half before the year was out.  I had thought about Augusta 70.3, but the Poconos were so much closer, driveable in a weekend, and the weather would be much cooler.  I knew the race last year had some problems with flooded and closed pavement and the swim had been cancelled and the bike course shortened, but their website said they had a completely new bike course and a different swim venue so I figured I'd give it a whirl.  As a bonus, Mr. Sweetie came up to the race with me and it was really nice to have his company.  A few of my friends were also doing the race and I had hoped to meet up with them on Saturday evening for a pre-race dinner, but by the time we had checked in, visited both transition areas (the swim and T1 were about 15 miles outside of town) and drove the bike course, it was getting late and I was tired, hungry, and cranky and would've been terrible company.  We ordered carry-out from the Olive Garden and took it back to the hotel and I was curled up in bed reading by 7:30 and the light out a little after 9.  I had a dream that I overslept and missed the last shuttle from town to the swim start and I totally woke up thinking I was late, when in reality it was only 2am.  I didn't get much sleep after that, checking the clock every 40 minutes until 4:15am when I finally got up.  Mr. Sweetie was great and drove me to the swim start so I ended up not having to wait for the shuttle.  I had plenty of time to set up, got a chance to with Beth good luck in her race, and felt ready to go.  A couple of the shuttles were delayed and didn't arrive until 6:45, which was when T1 was supposed to close.  They kept it open a little longer and it looked like everyone was able to get set up and make their way down to the swim start before their waves - and they only delayed the start by 5-10 minutes.  At the swim, I ran into my friend Courtney from DC Tri Snapple - we had met at Book Club a couple months ago and it was great to have someone else to chat with in the minutes leading up to the race start, because those are always the worst in terms of nerves.

Looking at the swim exit the day before

The swim: 29:29
There was probably about 100 people in my wave, 30-39 AG women.  The swim was in a super calm lake, clockwise, buoys were going to be easy to see, and I was wearing a full wetsuit (64 degrees, brrrr) so I was hoping for a fast swim.  My previous best at this distance was a 33:xx swim at Monticelloman this year.  My plan was to start fast and try to stay with a front group, find some feet and draft like it was my job.  I started in front and close to the buoys.  I found clear water really quickly and barely got knocked around at all.  When I was sighting, I could see there were only a few girls in front of me, it was an odd (but thrilling) feeling to be towards the front.  These past few races (Nationals and Vegas) were super, super humbling experiences and sort of confidence-killers, as I was always, always towards the back of the pack because I was racing some of the best and they are FAST.  I was hoping to do a bit better in this race, but this swim far exceeded my expectations.  About 150-200m in, I found the most rockst4:26ar feet.  She was staying right on course so I barely had to sight, she was faster than me, but with the draft and working my butt off, I was able to stay on her feet and have a much faster swim.  Even as we plowed through some of the people from the waves ahead of us, I managed to stay on her feet.  Here and there, I was a little worried that maybe I was working too hard - but I think that was the lazy side trying to get the best of me.  It would've been stupid to let these fast feet go.  I stayed on them until the last turn, when she started to take that turn wide and I preferred to take more of a straight shot to the finish.  I tried to pick up the pace as best I could in the last bit, but my arms were feeling spent - I had a feeling that this would be a swim I could be proud of, but I was SHOCKED (and thrilled!!) when I got out of the water in under 30 minutes.  All those Hains Point swims this summer and swim workouts from Jen and being swim buddies with Kendra are paying off!

T1: 4:26
It was a long run up to T1, but I had no trouble getting my wetsuit off.  On went the arm warmers and cycling gloves, and for a moment I thought about putting on my vest because it was chilly, but I was feeling warm from the swim and decided I'd be fine (which I was).

The Bike: 2:47:21
The bike course started with a 4 mile descent, which gave me a chance to let my heart rate settle and get ready to bike.  We made a left hand turn onto 209, for the 20 mile out-and-back that was completely closed to traffic.  This was the flattest part of the course, with only the gentlest of rollers.  A few girls had bombed by me on the descent, one wearing hot pink who was in my age group, and I had hoped to catch up to her during the bike, but she was hauling.  I was switching places back and forth with a few people for much of the ride.  Unfortunately there were a few draft packs on this section, one in particular that would get in front of me, so I would drop back, then they would slow down and I'd try to pass a few of them, then they would speed back up, so I'd drop back again.  This went on for the last few miles of the flat section and when we hit the hills, finally everyone split apart and it was much less annoying.  I decided to dial-down my race-day nutrition.  The last few races I've been getting off the bike and my stomach has been feeling bloated and wonky.  This probably had to do with the fact that I was fueling during a half Ironman the way I would during an Ironman (NOBODY needs 8-10 gels during a half Ironman bike, NOBODY).  So I took either a gel or a piece of a Clif MoJo bar every 20 minutes.  I skipped one interval because I was feeling full and wanted things to settle, which they did.  I sipped on water every 10 minutes and I ended up taking 2 salt tabs.  The whole bike ride I felt adequately fueled, not over-fueled, and I felt hydrated.  I think this is going to be my new nutrition strategy - less is best.  There is such a thing as too many Hammer gels (who would've thought).

When we drove the bike course, I knew there were hills, but they felt bigger and longer when I was actually out there riding them.  In some ways, this course reminded me of Timberman - hills mixed with a long, flat out-and-back.  My bike split was almost exactly the same as Timberman's too, about a minute faster.  I spun up the hills in an easy gear and kept the bike in the big gear for the flats and downhills.  At about 35 miles, I managed to catch one girl in my age group.  Then around mile 47 I started playing leap frog with another girl in my age group and she eventually bombed by me on one of the last downhills, not to be seen again until the run.  I had no idea where I stood in my AG at that point, but it was a goal to catch as many girls as I could.  Courtney blew by me around mile 52, looking strong.  By the time we were finishing up the hills, I was glad they were over, my legs were tired.  I also spent the bike ride talking myself up for the run, YOU are a great runner, YOU can't wait to run, YOU are going to have so much fun on that run course, YOU are going to pass people like they are standing still, YOU like to run!!!  One major goal was to get off the bike excited to run and as silly as self-pep talk is, it actually worked this time.

T2: 2:22
It was getting warm out so off came the gloves and arm warmers, on went the sunglasses, and I made sure not to forget my nutrition this time around.  I wasn't sure if I would feel super hungry on the run since I didn't eat as much on the bike, so I brought an extra few gels, just in case.  On went the shoes and the pink visor and I ran out of T2.

The run: 1:46:29
I was so excited and happy to be running.  I saw Stacey out cheering almost immediately and she told me there were three girls in my age group just ahead of me.  My legs were feeling really good, my stomach was absolutely fine, and all I cared about was running as hard as I could - I didn't want to finish the half marathon feeling like I had anything left.  The athlete guide described the course as an out-and-back that was false flat/slightly uphill on the way out, with one steep hill near the turnaround, and then a gentle downhill all the way back into town.  LIES.  I didn't drive the bike course the day before, so I didn't realize that the hills on the way back into town would feel tall and never-ending and almost worse than the way out.  I wasn't looking at HR and the only time I had any clue about my pace was when my Garmin ticked off each mile.  My first mile was about 7:45 and it got faster with each subsequent mile until mile 5.  In the first mile, I passed one girl in my age group.  I caught another girl and she and I went back and forth until I managed to pull ahead around mile 2.  Courtney was completely out of sight, running her way to a 1st place finish in our age group.  I kept my eyes peeled for the girl wearing hot pink, the one who had bombed by me right at the beginning of the bike, and finally caught her around mile 5.  I tried to make my passes with authority, so that they wouldn't try to stick with me.  It was right about mile 4 that my legs started sending messages to my brain that maybe I should slow it down a little, it seems unlikely I could keep up this pace.  I tried to stuff the voice away, this was only the second time ever I've really raced the run - I wasn't in survival mode, I was in go-for-broke mode and it was such a neat feeling.  I didn't care if I blew up, I didn't think I would blow up, it was only 13 miles and I had fueled and hydrated smartly, I've run these paces before, there was absolutely no reason why I should blow up.  I finally made it to the turnaround and that gave me a chance to see who was behind me.  The girls I had passed were still far enough back that I didn't think they could catch me.  There were a few other girls who were hauling (they caught me but were not in my age group, so whatever).  I was taking water every other aid station for the first 8-9 miles, but my stomach felt sloshy after each one so by mile 9 I stopped.  It was only 4 more miles, I wasn't thirsty, I would be fine.  I took one gel at the beginning of the run and that was it, I was fine.  I was able to keep up a decent pace, but around mile 10, the wheels started to come off a little.  My legs were fatigued and feeling the earlier pace and all of the hills.  I was feeling it in my hips and my quads.  I started just staring at the ground, telling myself that it was only 3 miles, visualizing what three miles is like on my usual run on the bike path.  That helped, made it feel less long.  During those last three miles I was running scared that I would be caught and passed by someone in my age group.  It didn't happen but I ran hard to the finish, just in case.

The finish line, finally

Final time, 5:10:07, 2nd in AG
This was a PR race for me, and I'm so happy with how all three legs went, and while I'm super happy about my swim, I'm most proud of my run.  I've never RACED the run before like I did yesterday.  I didn't let it become a death march, though in those last three miles, my legs thought that walking would've felt pretty awesome.  Before the race, I had a goal of being top 10 in my age group, and a super secret goal of being in the top 5.  I NEVER thought I would podium at this race, and when Mark and Stacey were telling me that the IronmanLive tracker had me unofficially in second, I thought they were pulling my leg.  And, an added bonus - there were 2 slots to Vegas.  I kinda, sorta thought I'd never go back there, but I got a slot and I'd love a chance to do better on the course next year.  This was a great way to end my season.  I exceeded my place goals, accomplished most of my time goals, but most importantly I accomplished the mental goals I had set out for myself.  All three disciplines hurt (the run hurt most), but it hurt so good.

Podium!!  Look - I am on the PODIUM!!

The awesomeness of the race weekend continued, with the chance to hang out with Stacey and chat after the finish, and hanging out with Melanie, Courtney, and Ken - ALL THREE of whom also grabbed slots to Vegas!!  I'm already excited for next year!  Mr. Sweetie was great, helping me get my stuff, handing over his credit card for the Vegas slot, and driving my tired and sore self back home post-race.  I had so many messages and texts from friends wishing me good luck and congrats on the race and it was so fun to know they were all tracking me.  During the run, my friend Julia and her husband were on my mind and I wanted to make her proud, as life has thrown some sad curveballs her way.  And a thank you to Jen for being an awesome coach, yesterday would've have been possible without her!  And a thanks to my tri club Ignite for all of their encouragement and support, and for Tri360 for keeping my bike up and running, and giving me a one-stop shop for all my nutrition and for their messages of support.

Melanie, Courtney, and I

The cupcake and fro-yo binge start now.  Who cares if it is only 8am?