30 July 2013

Race Report: Ironman Lake Placid 2013! A Cocktail Party on Two Wheels!

Sunday’s Ironman was magic, pure and simple. Never have I ever been so sore, so happy, so CHAFED after an Ironman. In Katie’s words – there were so many people out on the course that I knew, it was like a cocktail party (I believe her exact words were “this is a RACE, not a cocktail party, shut up and ride your bike!” said in the most loving manner possible). The third time at Lake Placid was a charm and my 7th  Ironman was absolutely my favorite – I’ve always said that ever since my first iron-distance race at Beach2Battleship in 2008, I’ve been chasing that first-time finish line high and never quite caught it – until yesterday. I didn’t win any awards and didn’t place close to the top-10 in my age group, but I had very specific goals, a plan to achieve them, and managed to execute it exactly as hoped – huzzah for patience and self control, I’m realizing they are marvelous things in Ironman racing.

Pre-race: There isn’t a ton to talk about pre-race that I hadn’t already blogged about earlier The party started when we arrived in town along with the majority of the DC tri-community and all of my triathlon friends from other corners of the sport. I want to give a huge shout-out to Stacey for both having a pancake breakfast ready for me on Saturday AM as well as lending me her kitchen so I could work some race nutrition magic with French Toast Cakes from the Feed Zone Portables cookbook. We did our pre-race brick together, ate/baked, and then it was time to drop off gear at transition. I felt pretty relaxed about everything, maybe too relaxed as I forgot to put a couple items in my bags on Saturday and needed to make a mental note to take care of it Sunday pre-race. I met up with Sarah and Dan at Mirror Lake for a final hug and yaaaay almost race day!

Sarah and I - excited to race!!!
I spoke with Jen in the afternoon and we went over my race plan one last time and I felt good and quietly confident about it all. I forced down an early pasta dinner – I’ve never been so tired of pasta and that says a lot because it’s one of my favorite dishes, but I’ve OD’d and will be happy not to eat it for awhile.  We ended up going to Mass on Saturday night at the local Catholic Church (conveniently located pretty close to Ben and Jerry’s). I’ve never done Mass before a race and I’m so glad we went. The church was packed with other Ironmen-to-be and their families and at the end of Mass, they called all of the athletes up to the Sanctuary for a blessing. What a great way to top off mental race preparation having hundreds of people pray for the winds to be at our back, blisters and flat tires nonexistent, and to have faith in the work we’ve done to prepare for the big day. I left church feeling happy and complete. We met up with Dawn post-church for ice cream. She was so awesome and watched Miles for us while we were at Mass. We ran into a bunch of friends from Team Z, and I can’t think of a better way to top off race-day eve. The cherry on top was the beautiful weather, life was perfect. It was early to bed and then early to rise on race morning.

Some of my favorite people! Great way to end Ironman Eve
Race morning: Dawned so early. I took my time prepping my bottles (4 bottles – three of them had Skratch Lemon-Lime and one had straight water), and pulling my bike and run nutrition together (four French Toast Cakes, four Clif MoJo bars, 6 gels taped to my top tube, and two Salted Nut Rolls (courtesy of Julia!!). I had a hard time handling exclusively gels at Placid in 2012 so I wanted to give myself some variety to choose from. It is the spice of life, and Ironman bike rides are no exception to that rule. We walked up to transition where I exchanged good luck hugs with Stacey and then got body marked by one of the volunteers who wrote my number very carefully, deliberately, and neatly – it was probably the most meticulous body marking I’ve ever had and I promptly ruined it by dumping sunblock all over me and smearing the marker all over myself and my kit. Sigh. Did a quick drop off of the extra things I forgot about on Saturday, stole a pump for my tires, and then walked to the swim start, dropped my special needs off, found a miraculously short portajohn line, and then hopped in the water for a practice swim to the start.

Ready to race!!
The Swim: 1:07:45, 17th AG, about a 1:45/100m average pace
This year Ironman was trying out a new swim start format. Instead of doing the in-water mass start, it was a corralled beach start, very similar to seeded marathon corrals. The pros went off at 6:20 and they started funneling the age group athletes in at 6:30. I lined up in the second corral for the 1:00-1:10 expected finish time. When I lined up I looked everywhere for someone I knew, it’s always nice to start a race with someone, makes you forget about the pre-race nerves. I found Kendra and then Katie joined up and life felt complete and I was ready for the race to start. We walked up to the waters edge together and dove in at roughly the same time and we were off – our race had started! I ended up having a pretty decent experience with this new swim format – barely any contact with other swimmers, I rarely had to swim over anyone or pop up and tread water to find a way around a scrum of other swimmers. I had clear water pretty quickly and the buoys started going by in rapid succession. I liked that they were numbered and it was easy to tell how far I had to go. The water was choppier than I remember it being in previous years, maybe it was windy? During the first loop I didn’t really find any fast feet to draft off of. I eased into the race, taking my time for the first few hundred meters before starting to swim harder. I managed to jump on the cable line a few times and sighting was a breeze. I got out of the water from my first loop in about 32 minutes and jumped in for the second loop. I felt fatigued at the beginning of the second loop and it took a little while to find my rhythm, but I felt good once I did. I did find a few pairs of feet to draft off of during the second loop and spent more time on the cable line than not. I focused on digging deep with my stroke, high elbows for the catch, and rotating my torso. I got out of the water with about the same swim time as the previous year so I’m pretty happy with that. The wetsuit strippers were awesome and I was quickly on my way to transition.

T1: 6:25
It might seem like a pain in the neck to run a couple blocks to get to my bike, but the route it lined with cheering, screaming people and you feel like a rockstar. I saw Thom almost as soon as I was out of the water and I ran with a giant smile on my face into the transition area, grabbed my bag, and then went into the tent. I had a lovely volunteer who got my bike shoes and socks out for me while I stuffed a bag of salt tabs, advil, and immodium down my sports bra along with two Gu Roctane gels. I filled my back pockets with the four French Toast Cakes and one additional Clif Mojo bar and I was on my way out to find my bike. I saw Katie and Rachel as we all ran out to our bikes together – small world! Found my bike, ran to the exit, and I was off.

The Bike: 6:24:58, 24th AG, 17.46mph
The weather in the days leading up to Placid was beautiful – sunshine every day, low winds, temps in the low 80s and zero clouds and precipitation. Unfortunately, rain was called for on Sunday in the form of scattered showers and thunderstorms, and in the Adirondacks it really could be hit or miss. There was no point in worrying about it since I have zero control over the weather, but with all the sunny weather, it was hard to imagine a race day full of rain. As I jumped on my bike, it was raining and the streets were already wet and filled with puddles. I figured this was just the start of a wet day, but fortunately the rain let up before I got to the descent into Keene, the sun even popped out while we were in Jay, and we basically had the most perfect race day weather ever – mostly cloudy, temps in the 70s, not oppressively humid, and it was not full of rain. Win!

Rolling through town after my second loop - photo credit Dan!
The first part of my Plan To Have A Great Race was to NOT OVERRIDE THE BIKE. Ask anyone who has ridden with me, overriding the hills and pushing the big gear are terrible habits of mine. I remember coming through the first loop of Placid last year feeling absolutely cooked and doing another loop and then running a marathon seemed like the most unappealing thing ever. I wanted to avoid that feeling at all costs this year. Jen, being the wise coach that she is, said that if I wanted to have a good run, I needed to ride a conservative bike. This meant feeling like I was chomping at the bit during the first loop and letting everyone and their grandmother pass me. It meant trying to evenly split the two laps as closely as I could. It meant getting in my little gear and spinning up the hills so I could keep my legs as fresh as possible. I was completely OK with this – weeks and weeks ago I decided that there was no way I was going to chase a sub-6 bike split; I’d rather have a strong run. We figured that biking conservatively might take me an extra 8-10 minutes, but I’d get that time back tenfold in the run with happy legs. I started in on my conservative bike plan immediately, I kept a close eye on my heart rate and planned to let my HR climb into the 140s on the hills and avoid letting it spike any higher than that. I also did constant checks on how I was feeling – I didn’t want to feel out of breath or that I was spinning my legs at an unsustainable pace – all signs of working too hard. I needed to be riding the bike at a pace where I felt like I could ride forever. Too often I’ve started too hard on the bike, fell off the wagon on the back half of the Ironman bike, all in an effort to gain as much time as possible in case I had a bad run. I settled into the bike as we climbed out of Placid, putting my bike into an easy gear and spinning up the hill, trading places with Katie. I could chat with my fellow riders as we climbed and I used that as a gauge on whether or not I was working too hard. We got to the top of the climb and started the descent and Katie dropped me like a bad habit. The roads were still wet, though the rain had stopped, and I was cautious on the way down, no need to be a hero. As we got moving on the flat/slightly rolling out and back to Jay, the sun even started to come out and things warmed up a bit and dried out. I saw Stacey had a flat during this section and I wished I was much better at changing tires, especially race wheels, but I am terrible and would’ve been no help. She is a rockstar though and changed it all out. I felt really guilty for not stopping, even though she told me to go ahead and things were fine, I still felt guilty. The rest of the out and back was uneventful, I was glad I didn’t have a scrum of other bikers around me as I hit the turnaround – tight U-turns have never been my forte and two years ago I almost took down a bunch of racers with my poorly executed turn. This year I practiced a bunch and all the U-turns went off without a hitch, hooray for improved bike handling skills! I saw Sarah and Katie as I was on my way out to the turn and they both looked great. I was still getting passed left and right by people, but I didn’t care, I was looking at the bigger picture and was pleased to realize that I still didn’t feel like I was working too hard. I spent a fair amount of time thinking back to all of the training rides I did this spring and summer, in particular one of the 100 milers with Mindy where I really made an effort to stick closely to Ironman race pace and I was thrilled and amazed to see how good I felt after 100 miles of properly-paced biking. Remembering that experience made it very easy to stick to my plan during the race. We hit the climb out to Wilmington and I again switched down to my little ring and spun up the hills, taking care not to spike my HR and keep things nice and steady.

The climb out was uneventful so I’ll take this moment to highlight the fact that I finally peed on my bike during Ironman (only time that’s happened in the past was Savageman and I think it was more out of fear of climbing the Wall than a critical need to empty an exploding bladder). I’ve never quite mastered proper hydration on the bike (obviously – if I’m biking for 6+ hours and not needing to pee once, I’m clearly not drinking enough and this probably adds to my problems on the run) but after yesterday I think I figured it out. When I figured out that the temps were going to be on the cooler side, I thought maybe I won’t need to drink a bottle an hour, maybe that will be too much. Jen said I should need to pee at least twice on the bike and should absolutely still shoot for at least a bottle an hour. I packed my bike with three bottles of water + Skratch lemon-lime (2.5 servings in each bottle, mainly for the electrolytes) and one bottle of straight water. I’ve ditched the whole aero-bottle thing, drinking while in aero causes me to take in too much air and that leaves me with an uncomfortable tightness in my chest when I run so in just installed another waterbottle holder between my aerobars and use that to carry a 4th bottle and I simply sit up and drink. Zero issues this time around – problem solved! I started drinking water immediately on the bike, taking at least 3 big sips every 10 minutes, and in less than an hour my first bottle was gone and I exchanged it for another bottle of water and then I alternated drinking water and drinking Skratch for the rest of the ride. Proof that I nailed my hydration this time around – I peed on my bike SEVEN times. Five of those times were before the end of the first loop. Once I started to feel like I was on track to take in too much water and my stomach was uncomfortably full, I scaled it back and took three sips every 20 minutes instead and this worked like a charm. My bike nutrition plan worked really well too. I packed more than enough food, with a wide variety (French toast cakes, Clif MoJo bars, Gu gels, and Salted Nut Rolls-thank you Julia!!!) so I could eat what I was in the mood for. There is nothing worse than forcing down nutrition that you really don’t want. Throughout my Ironmans, I’ve experimented with nutrition, using all solids for the first few races (sandwiches, fritos, cookies, and crackers) to doing all liquid (disaster) to doing all gels (there is such a thing as too many gels on the bike. See IMLP 2012), and now I’m back to doing a mix of gels and solids and this combo worked the best for me. I wasn’t taking in a set amount of calories each hour, but I aimed to have it be between 200-300. The French Toast Cakes were MONEY on this ride, very easy to eat, easy to digest, and they were good. I’ve used Clif MoJo bars during training all season and had no problems with those. Had a little bit of a salted nut roll and ended up eating 4 gels on the bike.  For the first two hours, I ate every 15 minutes. I was hungry at the start of the bike, which concerned me a little because that’s a little early to be feeling a caloric deficit (I didn’t do a great job eating breakfast with only 1.5 bagels being forced down, no peanut butter, and a few bites of a Clif bar, too many nerves). But by the end of the second hour, I felt satiated and up to speed with my nutrition plan. Like the drinking, I dropped down to taking in calories every 20 minutes after the first two hours. Throughout the whole ride, I took in a salt tab pill every 30 minutes. As the bike ride goes on in Ironman, I’ve often lost focus on eating and will fall off my eating schedule and that’s probably contributed to feeling like crap late in the race. So, in addition to focusing on my pace and effort, I stuck to my eating plan during the whole bike ride, not falling off once. The payoff was that I felt energized and not depleted, and my mood was pretty good the whole bike ride.

I was thrilled to notice that they had repaved the road from Wilmington back to Placid – I remember this being a particularly miserable stretch last year, especially on the second loop when you are hot, thirsty, and tired and the bumpy chipped road just aggravated those woes. Not the case this year!! The road was smooth as butter and it was AWESOME! I also kept running into people I knew, catching up to Katie, and then seeing Jenny Leehey, AJ Morrison, and Kerri Kramer out cheering on the last stretch up to the Three Bears. As we climbed up Papa Bear, Katie and I ran into Ryan and this was when Katie reminded me that this was a race not a cocktail party. I highly recommend doing a race where you run/ride past someone you know every 5 minutes, it is so much fun! And then my favorite part – we caught up to Sarah at the top of Papa Bear and the three of us rode into town together, it was PERFECT. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. We rode through town and all the cheering crowds and felt like rockstars. I was feeling absolutely fantastic at this point, well-hydrated, well-fed, my legs felt fresh, there was still cloud cover and temps were on the cooler side, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

My cheerleaders!
The second loop of the bike was more of the same – easy up the hills, I was a little more aggressive on the descent into Keene the second time since the roads were drier and there wasn’t the testosterone-fueled train of male bikers flying down the hill in packs like there was on the first loop. I was feeling just as good, if not better, late in the ride as I felt in the beginning. This was a good sign. I wasn’t tired of my food or drink and had no trouble eating when I was supposed to. I saw more friends on the out and back and before I knew it, I had passed the turnaround, hit mile 90 and had 22 miles left to go. I remember feeling like death warmed over during the climb out of Wilmington on my second loop last year and desperately wanting it to be over. This time I was still happy, my legs were feeling a bit fatigued but nothing terrible or unexpected, and those last 11 miles went by much quicker. I came back into town, saw so many people out cheering, and while I didn’t negative split the 112 mile ride, my second loop wasn’t substantially slower than my first and my ride ended up being only 9 minutes slower than last year but I felt a million times better. Totally worth it.

T2: 5:19
Had an awesome volunteer who was super helpful. Changed my socks, put on my pink running shoes, Tri360 visor, race number belt, grabbed some gels stopped at a porta-potty for a proper bathroom break, and then headed out feeling happy and ready to run (what a reversal from years past!)

The Run: 3:55:43 (!!!!!!!), 16th AG, 8:59 average pace
THIS run was the Ironman run I have been waiting my whole entire life for!!! THIS was the run I have always been chasing but never quite achieved. It was perfect and amazing in every single possible way. I’m still tickled pink and on cloud nine and it has been two days and the feeling hasn’t worn off and I hope it never does.

Thrilled to be out on the run course, finishing up the first loop!
I headed out of town and down the hills with a smile and a very basic plan in mind – run between 8:30-9:00/mile pace until the cows come home. This season I’ve finally started to learn the value of doing my long runs at the pace I’m going to be racing the Ironman marathon (because there isn’t much of a point in running my training runs faster). I thought back to one of the long brick workouts I did towards the end of peak training – 111 mile ride out on the SkyMass loop with some extra mileage thrown in and then a 9 mile run off the bike. That was a long day, but I had been careful to ride my bike at the pace I planned to race at (read: spin up the hills, don’t spike the heart rate, don’t be a hero) and then ran mostly at my intended run pace. I felt really, really great during that run and remembered how effortless it felt. I knew if I nailed my nutrition during the bike and stuck to my bike pacing plan, I could have another strong run. Mile one went by too quick – 8:01 – but felt easy and that was reassuring (there was also a big downhill so I’m sure that played a huge part in it). I slowed down and was around 8:30s and feeling good. I immediately started in on taking in water and nutrition. I had planned to do gels and had a whole stash of regular Gu and Gu Roctane, but I also knew that I could get out there and not want gels at all so I knew I needed to be flexible. Turns out I didn’t want gels – took in a small bit, didn’t like how I felt, so I ended up eating bananas and then started taking in Coke after the halfway point. I also had one last French Toast Cake left from the bike ride and ended up eating most of that as well and my stomach felt better than it ever has during an Ironman. I started off by taking water at every other aid station, but by mile 4 I could tell I was really thirsty so I started taking water at every aid station instead. It went water, Coke, mushy bite of banana, repeat. I listened to what I felt like I wanted and when I wanted it and it worked out really well for me.

If I thought the bike ride was a cocktail party, the run was even more social with all the out and backs. During the first loop I was so happy to be out running and cheering on all of my friends – everyone looked like they were having stellar races! Cheering everyone else on made the miles go by quickly and kept my mood up, I loved knowing so many people who were on the course – both as racers and spectators – and I’m sure that contributed to me having the run that I did. The pace I was running didn’t feel effortless, but it felt sustainable and I kept reminding myself that I could run that pace all day. I hit the first turnaround about 5.5 miles out of town feeling pretty good and I liked knowing that the next time I would pass by the 18, 19, and 20 mile markers would be when I was on my last loop and headed home. I saw Kendra and Katie and Kristin absolutely crushing the run as well as Sarah and Chris Wren and Meg.  My teammates Kelly and Kasha and Andy were absolutely flying out there. I didn’t pay much attention to who I passed and who passed me – I just wanted to run my own race and meet my own personal goals. I saw the ski jumps on my way back to town sooner than I expected and the climbs back up into town weren’t as painful as I’d anticipated. My pace was still right where I’d hoped it would be and I knew miles 11-13 would be so fun because of the crowd support in town. I hit the turnaround and headed back out of town. I saw Sarah’s boyfriend Dan, passed by the Team Z tent and heard all the cheers, saw more friends on the course, my stomach was still happy, my legs still felt OK, and I was looking forward to the back half of the marathon. I continued eating/drinking Coke, water and banana for the remainder of my run, never felt overly hungry, never found myself absolutely craving something like grapes, watermelon or soda (usually it’s a bad sign when I crave stuff, means I didn’t take in enough water/calories). I saw more friends out on the course during the second loop, and the smile mostly remained on my face, though it did start to disappear once I hit Miles 23-24/The Wall.  As I climbed back towards town, I could feel blisters on my feet firing up and my legs and hips were feeling sore and spent. My pace wasn’t falling off too badly, but I was no longer in an overly cheerful mood and while I knew I could hold things together for three more miles, I was thankful it wouldn’t be any longer than that. The last steep climb into town was THE toughest part of the race – I wanted to walk so very badly, my legs wouldn’t shut up and I was hitting the wall. But I hadn’t walked yet in the race and I knew I’d be disappointed with myself afterwards if I gave in, so I didn’t. I basically looked down at the ground, I remember seeing Michaela as she ran by and yelled encouragement and I could only muster a small wave of my hand in acknowledgement, but hearing her cheers was just what I needed at that time. This was my slowest mile by far – I think it was my only mile (or maybe one of two) that was over ten minutes. Once things flattened out on the short out-and-back I miraculously felt much better and going by the Team Z tent was a HUGE boost with all of their cheers. At this point I was just telling myself I needed to get to Mile 25 and the adrenaline and excitement would carry that last 1.2 miles to the finish. I hit the turnaround and Mile 25 and picked up my pace. During the whole run, I never had my run split showing, just my overall time, and at this point I knew I would slide in well under 12 hours but I didn’t know if I was sub-4. I thought I might be, but I wasn’t 100% sure. I came around the last corner before making a right on Main Street and saw the magic marking saying FINISH à and I was so excited I started clapping to myself and I couldn’t stop smiling and all of the spectators were cheering and it was just an incredible feeling. I ran into the speedskating oval and down the finisher chute – nobody else in sight, I had it all to myself. I was so glad to be almost done, but I was also savoring every moment of that finisher chute because it’s not very often you have a perfect race and Ironman Lake Placid 2013 was my perfect race.

Happy and Hungry and Miles wanted my pizza

I finished in 11:40:10, 16th in my age group and 72nd female overall. This was 32 minutes faster than my previous best at Lake Placid and 3 minutes faster than my former PR at Ironman Florida in 2009. I didn’t know until I checked the results that I had for sure gone under 4 hours for the run and wow, when I found out I had – when I found out I had met all of my goals – I can’t even describe it, to see everything come together, to have a plan, execute it, and have a sub-4 hour marathon during an Ironman, it’s more than I could ever ask for. To go sub-12 at Placid after trying and failing for the past two years made Sunday’s victory run down the finisher chute that much sweeter. To have finally learned how to RACE an Ironman and run the run at a respectable pace. I loved Ironman yesterday, absolutely loved it!
Sarah and I post-race - beyond thrilled!
Huge thank you to EVERYONE who was out there cheering and supporting and volunteering for the race – Ironman is fun because of the energy everyone brings to the sport on both sides of the race course. Thank you to my teammates and my friends who were out there racing and cheering, turning IMLP into one giant and amazing cocktail party (thank you Katie for that term!), never have I ever had so much fun on the racecourse! Thank you to my Ignite Endurance teammates who showed me what it’s like to be a rockstar on the course, with a number of them getting on the podium in their respective age groups and snagging Kona slots. Thank you to Dawn for cheering and watching Miles for us! Thank you to Stacey for letting me borrow their kitchen to bake my nutrition and lent me a pair of compression socks because I forgot any and all compression items at home! You rock! And thank you Jen for being an absolutely incredible coach, your guidance and belief in me were crucial factors in helping me achieve everything I set out to accomplish at IMLP 2013! A big thank you to Tri360 for their support and cheers this season, to Blue Seventy for some fabulous goggles that didn’t fog up once, and to Skratch Labs – I am absolutely convinced that their hydration mix and Feed Zone French Toast Cakes were part of the key to my successful race. I’m a convert to the concept of eating real food during a race – I’ve never felt as good as I did on Sunday and I had zero GI issues, which is a rarity in my long-course racing history. And of course a big thank you to Mr. Sweetie, aka IronSherpa Extraordinaire. I truly appreciate how much you took care of everything over the weekend so I just had to focus on my race. I love you!

26 July 2013

Lake Placid - Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Last year at mile 20 of the IMLP marathon, I was SO MAD at myself for signing up for IMLP 2013 on the Saturday before the 2012 race - I was feeling terrible and less than thrilled with the prospect of doing the race (or any Ironman, for that matter) ever again. But of course those feelings changed within a day of being done with the 2012 race - especially when I found out that SO many of my friends from all corners of my triathlon world would be doing IMLP 2013. My Ignite teammates, friends from Team Z, DC Tri, my Tucson Tri camp friends, work, and the list goes on. This has literally become a town where everybody knows your name - I've run into people I know every time I've left our hotel room. It's awesome. We're staying a stone's throw away from the Olympic speedskating oval (aka T1, T2, and the finish) thanks to Mel Yu who booked us a room at her hotel from last year - THANK YOU MEL! Being able to walk wherever I need to go is a priceless convenience. AND we have a view of the Olympic ski jump ramps framed by the Adirondacks from our window.

We got in on Wednesday night and it was CHILLY!
From swimming to snowpile in 5 minutes. Someone is not impressed.
Fake snow - from the zamboni that scrapes the indoor skating rink. Looks pretty convincing though, and with temperatures at 33 degrees on Thursday morning (the Weather Channel repeatedly called attention to this during their AM broadcast - thanks guys for the reminder that I should've packed more warm stuff). And actually, once the sun came out, it warmed up to the perfect temps you would expect for summertime in the mountains. This is the first time I've been up to Lake Placid for this race and it wasn't sweltering hot with added humidity. Temps on race day look like they will be in the 70s but a chance of rain - hopefully scattered rain but it will be nice not to have temps near 90 like last year.

Our dog has really taken a liking to the water. He made 4 trips to the lake on Thursday (plus he got a bonus trip on Wednesday night when we first arrived) and today Mr. Sweetie took him for a 3 mile run around the lake/town and then a 60 minute swim. Then this afternoon I took him for a walk around town before spending an additional 2+ hours at the lake swimming - he was shivering because he was so cold by the end but I still needed to drag him out. His favorite game was fetch the ball and then swim it halfway down the shore and leave it there, ignoring my commands to bring the ball back to me. Needless to say, I spent alot of time in the water retrieving the ball. There is something wrong with that picture. He also chewed on the tennis ball so much that he punctured holes in it and it sank. I retrieved it that time too. I think he is finally worn out now because he can't keep his eyes open. This is a good sign.
Image of a happy dog
Things have been low-key, getting here a day or two earlier than usual has allowed me to be really relaxed in the whole race prep thing. I still need to put a bottle holder on my bike, which I will do tomorrow, and pack my race bags, which will also happen tomorrow, and find a tube and valve extenders (I really have no idea what I am talking about but I know I will need some sort of device to pump up my fancy rented wheels if I get a flat). I did packet pickup with my friend Michaela yesterday, got my rented race wheels put on, met up with Sarah and Katie once they arrived in town, stopped in at the Smashfest Queen event and picked up a fun tank top and saw more Ignite and Team Z friends. Then this morning I did a swim with Meg and her Boston Tri club teammates and did my bike with Stacey. It's fantastic to always have a training buddy around!

Stacey and I. Please note the impeccably-timed photobomb in the background from a man we do not know.
I'm really looking forward to Ironman on Sunday. Normally I'm counting down the hours until it will be over and I can breathe a sigh of relief that I survived (and yes, I am counting down to when I get to enjoy the cake that has been ordered and champagne in a solo cup with one Jenny Gephart) but I am looking forward to doing the race itself and executing a smart day out there. This means not overriding the bike (I'm VERY good at overriding the bike. See: all of my most recent Ironman race reports) so I can have a decent run. The cooler temperatures will also work in my favor - I remember last year coming through town after my first loop and feeling absolutely cooked. Not the way you want to feel halfway through the bike on a very long day. I've also been thinking about the first time I learned about Ironman. I had just joined Team Z back in October/November 2007 and attended the holiday party that December where they showed a video they had made during the team's 2007 Ironman out in Coeur d'Alene. I cannot adequately describe all the feelings that video elicited, but I immediately got butterflies in my stomach and the idea of doing one of these races was planted in my head. Seeing the mass start, listening to the athletes' pre-race thoughts, seeing them race around the bike course and run around town and then cross the finish line. When I think about Ironman and why I want to do it, my mind always goes back to that video. I want to see what I am made of. I want to have an extraordinary day. Ironman is special and commands respect for the distance, breaks down barriers amongst competitors, and forces you to look inside yourself for motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other and be your best self on this one day of the year.

22 July 2013

"You will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did" - Mark Twain

My group of friends in Nice
Mr. Sweetie and I were having a conversation over the weekend of where we might like to take a vacation in the next year or two. We don't do a vacation-to-end-all-vacations every year, but we've been really lucky to go to some cool places. We've never done a go-to-a-resort-and-have-your-every-whim-catered-to sort of vacation, I don't think either of us would find it terribly exciting and the more fulfilling vacations tend to be where you get a little out of your comfort zone (Nepal), travel to exotic locales totally different from home (Morocco), drive on the wrong side of the road (Ireland) and basically get out and DO something (Carnival in Trinidad perhaps?). Life is short. The world is full of so many things to experience and interesting people to meet and vacation - or a trip of a lifetime - is the perfect time to do it. There's a belief that you need to be a trust fund baby to see the world. Lies. You don't need to be rich to do it; travel can be done on the cheap if you don't mind sharing a hostel room with 8 other people (it's not as bad as you would think and you might meet your summertime best friend there), eating simply and not lavishly (tomatoes with salt, basil, and mozzarella should not be overlooked), and realizing that alot of the most memorable and meaningful experiences don't cost a cent (bonfires on the beach with your friends from at least 5 other countries where everyone is speaking a mish-mash of languages but nothing gets lost in translation). Sure my parents helped me out a bit when I did an 8-month long unpaid internship in Paris, giving me enough funds to supplement my savings so I could buy food every day and also have some fun, but the rest of my vacation travel has been self-funded even during college when I worked as a waitress during the school year to fund my summer on the Cote d'Azur. You better believe that I did not enjoy working Fridays and Sundays while my college friends got to kick back and relax, but that summer was worth every hour of crummy tips, hangry patrons, and smelling like a fast-food grill.

I know most people have already come across this BuzzFeed mini video so it's probably old news. I found it over the weekend - 10 Trips you NEED to Take in Your 20s. Watch it if you haven't already.
I haven't done all of them (and never had a desire to do the cheesy spring break thing anyway), but it's the whole concept. Travel irrevocably changes you. And often the people you meet during those travels are friends that you remember for a lifetime, even as you move onward and grow older. Something about being in the same boat that opens up that desire to connect with others and the friends you make when you are out on your own are the makeshift family that you choose and create. I don't want to go back and relive my 20s again - I firmly believe my future has many more great trips in store for me, full of people waiting to become someone memorable in my life. But watching that video makes me nostalgic and since I came across it this past weekend, I've loved how friends from my travels have popped into my mind.

Mylene, Nadia and I 

So - a thank you to the friends I've made as I stepped out of my comfort zone and into adventures and experiences that have made me more wealthy than money ever could. To my friends from study abroad in Grenoble, to Christine who became my best friend in Nice and who I miss very much (sorry I've been terrible about keeping in touch lately - but I think of you and Ryan and Declan often!), to the girls (and DB) with whom I had the privilege of experiencing Nepal and it's beauty on what was probably the best trip ever, and Simone who brought me to Carnival in Trinidad, and all of the fantastic friends I made while interning in Paris - Nadia, Syeda, Jeff, and Mylene. Again, terrible about keeping in touch, but I think of you often. I love my life and I love that you were all a part of making me into the person I am today!

Zulema, Sanu, and I in Nepal
Christine and I before a hike

16 July 2013

Breaking out the softball glove

I've got a bit of a summer bucket list going - sometimes I get wrapped up in my same-old-day-in-day-out routine and I miss the fun stuff that's happening right in front of my face. We live in a fantastic urban area, with a city that offers a ton of stuff to do. I've lived here for what - forever - and still haven't visited the Portrait Gallery, can't tell you the last time I set foot in one of the Smithsonian Museums, apparently DC has a zoo, etc etc etc. And the summertime has a ton of special stuff going on - there is always some event being set up on the Mall. There are tons of open air movie showings in downtown DC and around Arlington. Those are on my bucket list. A few weeks ago I finally visited Union Market, I can check that off my bucket list (and if IMLP wasn't in 1.5 weeks, I'm pretty sure I'd check it off my bucket list again this Sunday because they are having some ridiculously awesome Best Ice Cream In DC event. Darn you prerace clean diet *shakes fist*). Speaking of ice cream, I did manage to  stop by the Captain Cookie and the Milkman food truck a few weeks ago to get a fabulous ice cream sandwich (delicious chocolate ice cream sandwiched between two homemade chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies - good thing Captain Cookie only comes to Union Station once a week). We were going to have a picnic last Friday at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art but it was pouring rain so that was a no go. Will need to postpone that bucket list item.

Anyway, what does this have to do with dusting off my softball glove? I've been working at my company since 2009 and I've been on their softball team listserv since 2010 and haven't attended a single game. Our team - the Ballpark Estimates (creative, yes?) - plays friendly games against other teams in the DC Think Tank league (haha proof that DC is a nerdy city!). Mostly they snag a spot to play along the Mall or in West Potomac Park, but today we were playing in a sketchier neighborhood near the office - at least it was walking distance! I know with Ironman taper maybe playing might've been a little risky, but next to football, baseball has almost the least amount of action so I hoped I'd be able to spend most of my time standing around, avoiding injury, especially if I didn't let my overzealous side jump out and dive for fly balls or pull a muscle swinging the bat too hard. Actually, who am I kidding, there is a reason I gave up softball in 6th grade (with a brief stint trying it again in 2005 which didn't last very long - but I made some good friends through the Fairfax County softball league) - I've got terrible hand-eye coordination and I'm terrified of getting beaned by the ball. If I was simply a designated hitter or relegated to far right field, I figured we'd all be pretty safe from harm.

The game itself was fun - we had a good turnout so we were able to rotate people into the batting lineup as well as field positions so I didn't play the whole seven innings. I was assigned to right field, which I gleefully filled (and not a single ball was hit towards me) but later in the game I was moved over to left center field. Fortunately the players in left field were able to cover pretty well for me and I didn't screw up too badly. Batting was actually fun and I managed to get on base every time I was up. I was SUPER nervous the first time I was up, like beginning of a triathlon nervous, it had been so long since I played, I was basically hoping I remembered what to do and not make a fool out of myself. We ended up winning the game, yaaay, and if we make it to the Think Tank League Playoffs (which are after IMLP) I might dust off the glove again. It was a great way to meet other people in the company who I haven't worked with before and put names to several faces. And everyone was super friendly and laid back, it was a good way to spend a summer evening in the middle of the week. I can check summer softball game off the bucket list.

14 July 2013

The Slow Glide into Taper

Last weekend was my last big build for Placid and this past week I began my taper. And in true taper form, I was tired, grouchy, cranky, and hungry. It all came to a head on Friday, as you could probably tell in my angry post directed at Mother Nature and her stupid wrath. Shortly after I hit "publish" on that post, I ate my dinner and then went straight to bed. Lights were out by 10pm because I couldn't keep my eyes open. I'm rarely in bed and asleep by that time during the week, never mind the weekend.   I ended up sleeping for 10.5 hours, waking up sometime after 8:30 Saturday morning (thank you no-long-ride Saturday! See you hundred mile training rides sometime in February!). It was one of those deep sleeps where I had really vivid dreams, would almost wake up here and there and decide that I needed more sleep and would go back under. It was glorious and amazing and I haven't felt that refreshed in a long time. And then on Saturday night, I got to sleep later than I wanted, but still managed almost 8 hours - two nights in a row with that much sleep is almost unprecedented. I think my body was sitting on the edge of a fatigue cliff, but hopefully all that sleep pulled it back a safe distance. Now I just need to keep it up until race day. This means no technology when I'm trying to sleep, no more bringing the computer or iPhone into bed with me. The iPhone will probably end up across the room in our radio so I'm less tempted to use it when I should be sleeping.

The workouts this weekend weren't bad. It was hot hot hot - much warmer than I had expected, given the the Capital Weather Gang's forecast late last week, which made it sound like it would be pretty nice - I guess they just meant no rain. It also didn't help that I didn't get out the door until well past 10am each day. It's amazing how much harder it is to get out the door for short workouts, when you feel like you have all the time in the world because you only need to be on the bike 1/3 of the amount of time you're typically riding it. Too bad I waste all that extra time tooling around on Facebook. Le sigh. I didn't feel super fast or super snappy, but I felt decent enough. I probably could've done with eating a bit more (both on and off the bike), but that is the story of my life.

Speaking of eating, did you know my cat is a fiend for whipped cream. He just hears the top pop off and he is ALL over it. We learned today, however, that he is NOT a fan of whipped cream stuck to his nose. Miles licking it off him added insult to injury - wish I'd gotten a picture of THAT!

Could he look less thrilled?

12 July 2013

Mother Nature: 4; Caroline: 0

It's my blog and I'll whine if I want to.
#FirstWorldProblems, obviously, but I'm going to whine all the same.

Does anyone else here in NoVa feel like they are living in the Pacific Northwest this summer (just with alot of extra heat and humidity to complement all that rain?). Oh good, glad I'm not the only one. It seems like every time I velcro-up my bike shoes, Mother Nature puts on her cranky pants and literally rains all over my parade to and from work. This has happened to me enough lately that today, I absolutely HAD it and stewed all the way home.

Both days this week that I've taken the bike out, major rain wasn't forecast. In fact, it was dry both times I left the office. On Wednesday I was even able to squeeze in a few loops at Hains Point before the skies suddenly turned threatening. I cut my Hains ride short and biked home in the hopes of outbiking the rain. It's never a good sign when you can see the giant sheet of rain just hanging over the portion of the bike path you are headed towards. I was a little over two miles from home when the skies opened up and gave me a good soaking. Good thing I wrap my iPhone up in plastic along with my work clothes - the bag I commute with isn't waterproof (on that line, anyone have any recommendations for waterproof bike bags? The way it works is if I invest in one, Mother Nature will suddenly stop pouring on me).

And today, it rained this morning - light rain while at the pool; the heavy rain waited for me to get out of the pool and onto my bike. So considerate. Stopped raining while I was at the office, enough for it to dry out considerably by the time I left work. I literally had ONE BLOCK of dry pavement before the skies opened. Again. I was soaked within minutes - and hopping mad. This is ridiculous. At least I was wearing my bathing suit and bike shorts, but alas that seemed to fuel Mother Nature's anger and the rain just came down harder as I rode down the Mall. By the time I got to the 14th Street Bridge, you could barely see the outline of the buildings in Arlington through the haze of rain. It stopped as I pulled onto my street. Of course. I barged into the house, dripping rain, mud, and dirty-bike-juice all over the house as I hauled my bike into the basement. I don't think my bike shoes will recover from this, they are permanently wet and stinky. I'm also tired of getting into the shower when I am already soaking wet. What is the point? Probably to get all the dirt off that is flung onto me as I bike under Route 1 along 4 Mile Run creek (I dread that area, always giant puddles and remnants of a mudslide. Fun times). And here I sit, zero motivation to get dressed in respectable clothes and do anything besides eat the bagels I double-bagged, as well as the giant slice of brie cheese I brought home. Woe is me.

Speaking of bagels, I think I have competition when it comes to office bagel thievery. The 11th floor kitchen was CLEANED OUT and they took every single one of the wheat bagels and sesame bagels from the 12th floor. Le sigh. I'm going to have to be more proactive, no more sitting on my 15-bagel-haul laurels anymore.

11 July 2013

It's a Fish! It's a Shark! Wait, no... it's just my dog that won't get out of the water

While we were in the Motherland for the 4th of July, Mr. Sweetie and I decided to take an overnight trip to the NH Lakes region to visit my grandfather at his cottage on Berry Bay. This lakehouse has been a part of our family since the 1930s (first as a place my grandfather rented and then as a place he purchased it in the 1960s). I've been going up there since I was a kid, but unfortunately my visits became fewer and further between once I moved down to Virginia. Growing up, though, we spent most summer weekends at the lake, driving up after my parents finished work on Friday and only heading home once dusk hit Sunday evening. Here's a picture of one of my favorite views in the world - I spent many a summer afternoon sitting in the hammock, eating a Freeze-Pop and looking out at this view as New Kids on the Block, 'NSync, and Backstreet Boys blasted from my Walkman.

View unchanged since... forever
The house sits right at the edge of the lake, close enough that if you were to jump out the picture window in the kitchen, you'd land in the water. The view is unchanged and the house is unchanged - right down to the clock that chimes every 15 minutes, to the newspaper clippings and business cards my grandfather has had tacked to the bulletin board since before I was born.

There are two rules I follow when I visit the lakehouse: no showers - the lakewater is good enough. And a bathing suit is perfectly acceptable attire 24/7. In addition - bring a good book, be prepared to unplug because  the internet and 4G service do not exist in Freedom, NH - and if you bring your dog who is addicted to swimming, don't expect to leave the beach at all during your stay.

We arrived just before sunset on Friday evening and Miles made a beeline for the water. The last time we stayed anywhere near a place that he could swim was during Ironman Lake Placid in 2011 when we stayed with my Aunt and Doug at Rainbow Lake. Miles spent the majority of his time there swimming and the trip to Berry Bay would be no different. Saturday morning we woke up at 5am (really??!!) to Miles doing his whining and excited panting - the pup wanted to swim and he didn't care what time it was! We were mean - like parents on Christmas who make their kids wait until after breakfast to open their gifts - and didn't take Miles down to the beach until mid-morning, when I got back from running some errands. He was in heaven once he got down to the beach - he swam after the ball, he swam after dragonflies, he swam after me when I swam out deep. He also spent a fair amount of time just floating in the water and watching the boats go by.

Come on in, the water's fine!
I managed to drag him out of the water for a hot second so I could go in the house and have lunch. He spent the whole time moaning and groaning like a gremlin until I relented and went back down to the beach with him. I didn't get him out of the water for good until after 4:30 - which meant he had a solid 6 hours of swim time - this also meant he slept for much of the next 3 days. It was awesome.

Nope. Not getting out of the water. I may be too tired to keep my eyes open, but I'm NOT getting out.
We met Miles' doppelganger while at the lake - my grandfather's very nice neighbors just adopted an English Setter puppy and she had all the same markings as Miles - right down to one solid black ear, and tri-color spots on her nose and feet. She was smaller because she's a girl and only 6 months old, and she was super cute. It was almost like getting a glimpse back to Miles when he was a puppy (only she was much better behaved than he was at that age).

It was indescribably nice to be back at the lakehouse and spending time with my grandfather. We watched a fair amount of Nascar, talked about the weather (even Freedom couldn't escape the heat and humidity!), and as always talked about the fools on the jetskis who whip around the lake (this is a very popular topic with Grandpa. And don't even get him started on the double-decker pontoon boats). I'm pretty lucky to be in my 30s and still have 3 out of my 4 grandparents around. Grandpa also has a soft spot for Mr. Sweetie and I'm glad the two of them got a chance to spend a little time together. It's never easy to see a grandparent get old - of course, when you are a kid, your grandparents seem old because EVERYONE seems old - but as an adult, you start to really understand what getting old means when you witness how much arthritis or any other health issue suddenly take over and make day-to-day tasks a big undertaking. When we left the lakehouse to head back home, it was bittersweet - it's easy to assume that everything will still be the same the next time I go up there because it has been the same for the past 30+ years, but I know you can't take stuff like that for granted. And it's a bit sad that we simply haven't made visiting my grandfather or staying up at the lake a priority these past few years because we've let ourselves become too busy. This was a good wake-up call that shifting around some priorities might be in order.

Love you Grandpa! 

10 July 2013

All Aboard the Pain Train

This past holiday while in NH, I had a long bike ride on my schedule. I haven't done any long bike rides from my parents' house and had no idea where to ride for 5ish hours. Fortunately, my friend Damon from college offered to ride with me Friday and take me on some fun local routes out to the ocean and back - bike ride to the ocean from my parent's front door?? Sign me up!

I did have an idea of what I was signing up for though - the Pain Train. Damon is a ridiculously good cyclist and I had my fingers and toes crossed that he wouldn't throw the hammer down - I forewarned him that the ride was going to be a walk in the park for him, even if I am barely hanging on. He has done a bunch of bike racing and I remember him riding a bunch in college. We were one of about four French majors the year we graduated from St Mike's and we both studied abroad in Grenoble, France (college town surrounded by the Alps) in Fall 2001. I ran into him at Logan Airport as we were checking in for our flight across the pond and saw that he was bringing his bike - you travel with your bike?? Now that I'm actually into cycling, I'd like to go back to my college self and knock some sense into me - You are going to the ALPS! There's no better place on earth to ride a bike!! The only time I rode a bike in Grenoble was when I borrowed a friend's bike to get back to my host family's house at 4am from a party on the other side of town - I got hopelessly lost following the tram tracks in the opposite direction, and to add insult to injury, it also rained on me and ruined my clubbing clothes that I was wearing on said bike ride home.

Christmas Market in Grenoble back in 2001

View of Grenoble from the Bastille - lots of hills!
Anyway, back to Friday's ride - I got up early to make some Feed Zone French Toast cakes for the ride, stuffed my Bento Box full of Mojo bars and taped about six gels to my top tube (there isn't a Bento box big enough to hold all of my crap so it's time to get creative). Filled all of my bottles with Skratch Labs Lemon-Lime and I stuffed about 15 Saltstick tabs down my sports bra. Any thoughts of New England being cooler and more pleasant than Swampland, DC were immediately squashed when I walked outside into a hairdryer that blasted both heat AND humidity at 7am. Awesome.

I lived in New England until I was 22 and it is sad how very little I know about the local cycling routes - I'd always viewed most of the roads around Hudson and beyond as being unsafe for cyclists because they are twisty and seem to have a fair amount of cars on them. In fact, it's quite the opposite - many of the roads we were on had very little traffic and reminded me of what I'd find in rural Virginia. The ride started off going through hilly Bush Hill Road in south Hudson before going through Pelham and eventually into Massachusetts along the Merrimack River. We came up to a few spots that unexpectedly looked familiar, but mostly we were on beautiful roads that I didn't even know existed. I felt bad that Damon was doing most of the work, pulling me along, and a couple times I jumped in front to pull my own weight but that lasted a hot second before it became obvious that I had no business being in front, ha! The ride out to Newburyport/Plum Island felt pretty good - it was still early enough that it wasn't ridiculously hot (mid-80s or so) and the roads were shaded. I was paying close attention to how much I was eating (alot) and drinking (more than a bottle an hour) and how much salt I was taking in. I think there must've been a gradual downhill because the ride out felt almost effortless at times on our way to sea level. We arrived in Newburyport in a little over 2 hours and refilled our bottles and I also drank some V8 (that stuff is magic). We made our way out to Plum Island and I was THIS CLOSE to going for a swim. It was getting HOT.

Nothing looks more inviting than the ocean on a hot day
When we turned to head back to Hudson, I realized why the ride felt so easy on the way out - tailwind. Which meant a headwind for the way home. There was less talk on the ride back, it was getting hotter by the hour and there were more cars on the road and at this point my legs were starting to feel the burn and I was struggling a bit to keep up the pace. We made one more stop to refill bottles (amazing how quickly you go through them in the heat) and douse ourselves with the extra water. My shoes were soaking wet for the rest of the ride home, I knew they were going to stink to high heaven as a result, but it was worth it. We took a slightly different route home and as we went through Lowell, I could really feel how hot it was, being in between taller buildings and around alot more cars. I think at that point we were both ready to be done. It was around this time that I started counting down the miles while also trying to stay focused on keeping my speed and cadence up - we were almost done, less than an hour to go, if I've made it 4+ hours there was no sense in falling apart now. I also started bargaining with myself - you don't need to do your transition run, don't think about it, finish the ride and see how you feel, maybe you only do 20 minutes of the run instead of the full 40, it's over 90 degrees and heat index is close to 100, nobody will blame you for cutting the run short. I tried to push the T-run out of my mind, deciding to cross that bridge when I came to it, and eventually we made our way back to Hudson, rolling up to the house just a little over 5 hours and 95ish miles later. I don't think I've ever ridden my bike so fast in such hot weather (I was also drafting like a fiend, so there's that). I ended up doing all 40 minutes of my T-run (I did break it up a tiny bit by stopping in at our family friend's house to say a quick hello - it is tradition that whenever I am going for a run in Hudson, I stop in and say hello to Karen and Ed Mercer who I have known since I was 3). After that, I was spent. Do you know what the best part of visiting Mom and Dad is - when I walked in the door, there was this amazing veggie sandwich just sitting on the kitchen table waiting for me to scarf it down! Thanks Mom! 

Thank you Damon for taking me on some fantastic routes and showing me the great cycling that's just outside my parent's front door - I had no idea the ocean was just a bike ride away! And thanks for pulling me for 5+ hours, having company made what could've been a miserably hot ride into a fun morning instead. If you're ever coming down in DC, let me know and bring your bike!

04 July 2013

Race Report: Hinckley Allen Manchester 5k

I know it doesn't sound like an Independence Day-themed race, but with it taking place on the evening of July 3rd, the Hinckley Allen Manchester Mile and 5k had almost everyone wearing red, white, and blue while the holiday spirit was in the air. I only ran the 5k but the main attraction of this event was for sure the mile - billed as the fastest mile race in the U.S., with basically all of it being downhill. The Mile event took place after my race and the guy who won it ran it in 3:42.9 minutes, beating the previous record of 3:44.

Anyway, I'm up in NH visiting my parents for the holiday (and for my mom's birthday that she shares with the U S of A) and arrived just in time to run this race up in Manchester, a few towns away from where I grew up. It was an evening race, and combined with the long car drive up from Virginia, I had plenty of time to carb up for this race (5k races require carb-loading, right?). It was a mad rush to the race site, as I read somewhere on the website that packet pickup ended at 6 (and I was still at my parent's house a good 40 minutes away at 5:30, whoops) but fortunately that turned out to be wrong and I picked up my packet no problem.

Top of Derryfield Park in Manchester, NH

Both the 5k and the mile races started at Derryfield Park in Manchester. The last time I raced here was in high school cross-country my senior year (also the year that we finally decided to do what every other team did and spraypaint motivational sayings along the course - but ironically this was also the year the town cracked down on this practice and all of us got in trouble, with the school principal handing down a community service sentence the day after inducting me and my spraypainters-in-crime into the National Honor Society. Irony indeed).

Permanent finish line for those x-country races

I knew this would be a relatively fast race, as the last mile of the 5k was the same downhill mile as the mile race. But the first mile of the 5k went downhill a bit as well and what goes down in mile one needs to go back uphill in mile 2, so it would be a toss-up on how fast I would go. I knew I wanted to at least be in the 21:xx range, but it would be a great day if I could get sub-21. It was also super hot and humid - silly me thinking that New England would be cooler than Virginia. They lined us up at the start line at the top of the hill and I found a spot in the 7:00 min corral (determined not to start off too fast - ha). They sent us off and we went barreling down the Bridge Street hill for a 1/4 mile before taking a right into one of the local neighborhoods. Things flattened out there (and my pace slowed a bit, no more gravity) and then we turned again, went up a tiny hill at the one mile mark, and I caught a couple girls who had gone flying out from the start line. We then made a left and started up a much longer hill, back up to the top of Derryfield Park. I managed to catch another girl here who had started walking, but then two other women came flying by me going up the hill - it looked like they had saved their energy on the descent and were now catching us poor suckers who maybe burned a few too many matches early on in the race. They went by me with such confidence that I figured it was a lost cause trying to stay on their heels so I just tried to keep my pace relatively consistent and not slow down too much. We hit the mile 2 mark at the top of the hill, and it was here that I breathed a sigh of relief - one mile left and it's all downhill, how hard could that be? As we went by the start line, signaling the last mile, the announcer was calling out what place the girls were in since the top girl had just come through a minute or two before - I was sitting at 6th OA female, with 4th and 5th being the two ladies who had passed me going up the hill to mile two. As we started the last mile, I wasn't too far behind 4th and 5th - and then 4th started pulling away and by about halfway through, I had caught up to 5th and passed her. Now that I was in the top 5, I was running scared and planned to do whatever I had to do to stay in the top 5. The last half mile seemed to last FOREVER. We hit 3/4 of a mile and my legs hurt, my arms hurt, my abs hurt, sweat was pouring down my face and it was so hard not to slow down because I had maxed out, even with the downhill. My best friend Katie and her boyfriend Chris had come to watch and Katie said that I looked angry during the finishing stretch. I just wanted it to be over and sweet relief when it was! I came across the finish line in 20:41, which is one of my fastest 5k times (thank goodness for that last downhill mile, otherwise I don't think breaking 21 would've happened). I was 5th girl overall out of 400+, and 3rd AG. We stuck around to chat post-race, it was so great to catch up with Katie and Chris (wish I had gotten some photos, but then thinking of how dripping wet and disgusting I looked, I think I should be glad I forgot) and we watched the mile race, which really seemed to be the big event (for everyone of all ages - even 2 year olds - I will need to get my goddaughter to race this with me sometime, she would be great!)

And I have to say, it was so nice to wake up this morning and already have my holiday race done and done so I could just enjoy a leisurely breakfast, go out for my bike ride, and still be home before 10am.