27 October 2013

Race Report - 2013 Beach2Battleship Half Ironman!

My awesome Ignite Endurance teammates Melanie and Brian!
Yesterday I had my final triathlon of the season - the Beach2Battleship Half Ironman in Wilmington, NC. I have very fond memories of this race venue, as it was where I did my first full iron distance triathlon back in 2008. I remember standing at the tip of Wrightsville Beach as the sun was coming up over the horizon and we plunged into the water as soon as it was light enough. At that moment there were so many unknowns - I'd never ever raced such a long distance and I could not wrap my head around doing all of the distances in one day. The race was a success and the next morning I had the most amazing (and gigantic) brunch and I've always wanted to return to race here again. I will say this - I was SO glad yesterday that I was only doing the half. I struggled to keep myself mentally plugged in over the past week. I was looking forward to racing, but at the same time, I was ready for it to get here and get done so I could get on with eating cupcakes already. I thought about cupcakes alot during the last few miles of the race.

I traveled down to the race on Friday with my teammate Brian and we stayed with our teammate Melanie and her lovely family, right near the race start. Mel's mom cooked up some awesome pasta and sauce and we had lucky ice cream for dessert (Ben and Jerry's Peanut Butter Cup and Red Velvet Cake - all in the same bowl, of course). A huge thank you to Mel and her family for opening up their home to us, cheering, and driving us everywhere we needed to go - you guys truly spoiled us! Getting up early to get a head start on the drive down made 8pm feel like 10pm so I had no problem getting to bed and going to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Pre Race: My alarm went off at 5:45pm and I took a leisurely hour eating my bagels and fretting about how COLD it was going to be at the race start (37 degrees, gross!). We left for T1 at 7am - the benefits of being so close to T1 AND having your wave go off at 9am. The logistics for this race were a bit tricky - T1 is 1.2 miles away from the swim start and there was no bag dropoff at the swim start so I ended up leaving my flip flops in my T1 bag and nearly froze my toes off walking to the trolley that took me to the swim start. Fortunately, the water was almost 70 degrees and thawed them out. I was still freezing cold and the thought of getting in the water when I was already shivering while wearing my full sleeve wetsuit underneath my throw-away hoodie was just so unappealing. Fortunately, this turned out to be the coldest, most unpleasant part of the day - once I got in the water and on with my race, things were fine.

The Swim: 33:55
The swim at this venue can be hit or miss - some years the swim times are ridiculously fast due to assistance from the current (case in point: when I did the full iron-distance race in 2008, my swim time was 59:59, which was a good 15 minutes faster than my subsequent Ironman distance swims). And some years there isn't a whole lot of assistance. This seemed to be one of those off years, which is fine, and my swim time was right around what I would usually swim. It was an in-water start and the water was a balmy 70 degrees, which was a good 25-30 degrees warmer than the air temperature. I had no problem finding clear water and a decent pair of feet to draft off of. I felt a little sluggish at first, but by the time we hit the left turn buoy, I felt like I got into a rhythm and was getting more out of my stroke. The course was really simple and it was easy to stay on track. I ended up with some really unfortunate chafing on my neck and my back thanks to my wetsuit (I rarely wear my full-sleeve wetsuit and I probably should've slathered myself in Aquaphor to avoid the chafing necklace I am now sporting. I'm going to be wearing alot of turtlenecks the next few days, the triathlete equivalent of a teenager with a hickey I suppose). I caught up to some of the waves ahead of me after I made the lefthand turn, but I had no idea how many purple caps were in front of me by the time I exited the swim.

T1: 7:51
Even if we had a current-assisted swim, any advantage would've been cancelled out by my award-winning slowest transition time ever. I got stuck in my wetsuit and then I put on multiple layers of clothing (I wore a jacket, I was that worried about freezing on the bike) and then realized my biking jacket had no easily accessible back pockets and I had to jigsaw puzzle all of my extra nutrition into my sports bra since my bento box was already full.

The Bike: 2:50:46
For much of the bike ride I was glad I had on my armwarmers, jacket, gloves, and cycling headband - I wasn't cold but wasn't too warm. The course was rather crowded at first, with the half Ironman and full distance racers sharing the same roads for the first 30 miles. People were courteous and I didn't have any trouble getting around people. I ended up taking in nutrition every 15 minutes for the first 90 minutes of the ride and taking in water + Skratch at 15 minute intervals for the whole ride and a salt table every 30 minutes. I went through just under two bottles of fluid, it was chilly and I just wasn't sweating that much. I ate a gel or two, a Clif MoJo bar, and most of two Feed Zone French Toast cakes (I spit half of one out when I just couldn't stand the idea of more food). We had a pretty decent headwind for the first 35 miles on the bike, it let up at times, but it was relatively consistent. Melanie zoomed by me around mile 28 and having a familiar face was exactly what I needed to focus and try to keep her in sight and we traded places back and forth until she zoomed by me for the final time with ten miles to go. My speed was consistently getting a little faster throughout the race and it certainly helped that we had a tailwind for the last ten miles of the race. I saw just a few girls out there in the half and had no idea where I was in the race, so it was helpful to have Melanie out there because trying to keep up with her forced me to really focus, work, and dig deeper than I would have if I was off in la-la land. While it would have been nice to have a bike PR on this course since it's one of the flatter ones around, the wind was a bit of an added challenge and it's just hard to compare times from race to race (even the same race from year to year can be drastically different). I like to focus more on racing the other girls out there, as we're all facing the same conditions and the times will fall where they will, as dictated by the race day conditions. PRs are great, but so is doing well in your age group and the rest of the field. As I came in from the bike course, I passed by the first half mile of the run course and saw a fair number of girls out there and knew I'd have to have a strong run if I was going to meet my goal of being in the top 10 overall or even place in my age group.

T2: 2:45
The transition area was inside the big convention center and I almost did a comical feet-fly-out-from-under-me slip and fall as I ran in my bike shoes on the concrete floor to get my bag. I caught myself just in time. I ditched my jacket and arm warmers, kept the same socks on (advantage of not peeing on the bike - that and my bike shoes don't stink), put on my shoes and headed out the door, a few minutes after Melanie. I had the plastic bag with salt tabs and a gel in one hand and my last smooshed French Toast cake in the other hand. Who knows what I was going to want to eat on the run, it's best to be prepared for anything.

The Run: 1:39:28
Let me start off by saying that I don't think I've ever gone sub-1:45 in a half Ironman run and it has always been a seemingly far-off goal of mine to break 1:40 in the half Ironman run. It has bugged me that my half Ironman run time is a good 12+ minutes slower than my standalone half time. And until yesterday, I just haven't had that breakthrough on the run.
The run was the wildcard going into the race yesterday. Some muscles in my left leg and knee had been bothering me since my long brick and long run extravaganza a few weeks ago and I didn't listen to the warning signs of my body in the days following those workouts and just tried to keep up with the level of activity listed out in Training Peaks. Things were feeling worse and worse and I finally said "uncle" about two weeks ago and completely ceased running. This was absolutely the right decision, as my leg felt substantially better with all the rest, but I still felt twinges all the way up until Friday and I just wanted to get through the run pain-free and not do any additional damage. But it wasn't any use fretting about this because it was going to be what it will be, I just needed to be smart and back off it things flared up.
As I headed out on the run, I immediately felt myself retreat inside my mind and just focus on the here and now, doing periodic mental checks of how I was feeling. Often I wave or cheer for others on the course (ask anyone at IMLP this year) and I don't retreat into my head until late in the race when things get really painful. And it wasn't that the start of this run was super painful, I actually felt really good, but I was also focused and I wasn't thinking much of anything besides just run and do nothing else. Maybe this is the key to better running? The first mile ticked by in 7:30, which was far faster than I've ever run that first mile in a half ironman. I felt good, but told myself to slow it down to 7:45s, as that would probably be more sustainable. But then there was another voice in my head that said - you've done decent training for this pace, it may hurt ALOT ten miles from now, but go with it and see what you can do. I had no idea where I was in my age group, and with my swim and bike, I knew a half Ironman PR was probably not within the realm of possibility, but I wanted to have a strong run if my left leg/knee held up. Mile 2 ticked by in 7:11, which I did not expect because I really thought I slowed it down. We went up a small hill and then down a slight downhill for the next mile, helping me put Mile 3 behind me in 7:10. Now I was getting a bit concerned because those numbers were not going to be sustainable for the full 13.1 miles. I was taking in water at every other aid station, but my stomach was feeling a little bloated and the thought of food made me gag, so I didn't try to eat anything. I figured maybe I'd want something by the halfway point, but I wasn't going to force it. Mile 4 went by in 7:26, which was much more reasonable. This was about the time that I really started to retreat inside my head. I was still feeling strong, but every once in awhile I'd feel the wind start to go out of my sails or a little nauseous and I found that if I focused on my breathing, the feeling would pass and my pace didn't slip that much. I saw my teammate Brian sail by, on his way to the finish. He was HAULING - he only started 10 minutes ahead of me and was a good 7 miles ahead of me by this point - amazing! The volunteers along the course were AWESOME, I cannot say enough good things about them. Mile 5 went by in 7:34 and this is when I started to occupy my mind with some mental math - only 8 miles to go, that's like running out to Tri360 and back on the bike path just to make the distance seem more manageable. I started to see a few girls trickle by on their way back towards the finish, but I eventually stopped trying to count them because it was taking too much mental energy to try and figure out who was an Age Grouper, who was in my age group, and who was in a relay - her hair looks too perfect to have gone for a swim and a bike ride before this run. I got to Mile 6 in another 7:37 and started looking for the turnaround point before figuring out that it was going to probably be past Mile 7, womp womp. I was still feeling decent at this point and started to let myself believe in the possibility of sustaining sub-8 miles for the remaining miles of the race. Mile 7 ticked by in 7:45 and I made it to the turnaround point, thank goodness. Now it became a self-pep talk session - you're past the halfway point, you have less to run than you've already done, JUST KEEP IT TOGETHER! I saw Melanie and she was looking strong. Right before the turnaround, I passed a girl in my age group from FeXY and she was super sweet and encouraging. I ran without looking back but with the mindset that she was hot on my heels and this helped me dig deeper and not slack off. Mile 8 went by in 7:48 and while I clearly was not going to negative split this run, I didn't really care because things were still sub-8, which I could hardly believe. I still hadn't eaten anything at this point and with 5 miles to go and my stomach REALLY not wanting anything, I didn't dare take a gel or a bite of my french toast cake. Mile 9 was a 7:48 as well and at this point I was breaking the run down into two mile segments - in two miles you will be at mile 11 and then you will only have two more miles and you can do anything for two miles. My leg/knee were still holding up fine, which was such a happy surprise. Mile 10 went by in a 7:57 and it was right about this point that I could feel my pace slipping. My legs suddenly felt a million times heavier and a 5k seemed like FOREVER to go. As I went through aid stations and by cheering spectators, the only acknowledgement I could manage to give was a shake of my head. I was in the zone, focused on doing as much damage control and positive self-talk and mental math that I could, anything to keep moving forward. Mile 11 was an 8:27 and the wheels were coming OFF. A woman passed me and the amount of relief I felt when I saw she was a relay runner cannot be described. I could not have answered her pace, not even close. Mile 11-12 were on a slight incline and I just focused on getting up to the top of the hill. I knew once I got to the top, I'd have a nice downhill and then flat finish, I just needed to make it to the top and I'd be home free. Mile 12 was an 8:36. At this point, I was also rejoicing to myself that this was the LAST mile of my LAST race of the season and BRING ON THE CUPCAKES, THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS, AND FORGET ABOUT EARLY MORNING SWIMS AND RUNNING IN THE DARK AND SITTING ON MY DAMN BIKE. I love racing, don't get me wrong, but I also love the end of the season when I can happily give my body a bit of a break. It's refreshing. The cheering spectators, including Melanie's sister Michele and her mom, carried me to the finish line. About 25 yards from the finish, a guy started to pass me and I tried to stick with him and outsprint him, but he was too quick. Mile 13.1 went by at an 8:09 pace.

Final Time: 5:14:43, 9th OA and 3rd AG.

Very honored to be on the podium! Awards were made from the teak wood from the Battleship North Carolina!

Post-Race Thoughts: I knew I'd had a strong run, based on the fact that I'd never seen those paces before during a half Ironman run. I have no idea where I pulled the 1:39 from and I didn't believe my Garmin was telling me the truth until I saw it etched in pixels on the race results site. Rest is NOT underrated. And today my leg is still feeling good, better than it has in 2 weeks, which makes me so, so happy. I'm really grateful that my last race, while not a PR, gave me the run that I've always dreamed about having but really didn't believe was possible this season. A huge thanks to Tri360 for ALL of their support this season and to Jen for her top notch coaching and wisdom. She is the best. And of course thanks to Mr. Sweetie for being an award-winning husband!

SO much congrats to my wonderful teammates Brian and Melanie! They both podium'd and had absolutely incredible races! Thank you to Melanie's family for hosting me this race weekend - it was so great of them to open up their home!

And now I have two awesome cupcakes waiting for me to eat them for dessert! Hooray off-season!

23 October 2013

Fuel Up!

One of my favorite parts of endurance racing - who am I kidding - one of my all-time favorite parts of LIVING is eating. I've loved it ever since I was a two year old toddler sitting in the bleachers of the Holy Cross football field with my dad and his college buddies and scarfed down a hot dog and bun in .02 seconds (ask my dad about it sometime, I'd say it's one of his favorite stories to tell, right up there with the time he smushed my face in my tuna sandwich to break me of the habit of sniffing my food before eating it - it worked, BTW).

Anyway, the fourth discipline of endurance racing is eating. This is, by far, the best part - until it isn't (otherwise known as a nutrition FAIL, manifesting itself in feeling like death personified during the run portion of the race). It has taken me YEARS to figure out a nutrition plan that works for me, entire seasons of trial and error. And what works for one person isn't necessarily going to work for the next person, so take my nutrition planning with a grain of salt. I've found that for sprints and olympic distance triathlons, nutrition isn't a huge component - they are short enough races that less is more - as long as I show up well-hydrated, top off my carbs with a morning bagel or two, and then eat a gel or two on the bike and have one in my pocket for the run (just in case), I am golden.

The longer distance races are a bit more complicated and, besides practicing my race day nutrition in all of my long training sessions, the actual eating preparation starts days in advance of race day.

Eat Until You Never Want To See Pasta (or Pancakes) Ever Again. And You LOVE Pasta and Pancakes. I have a ritual, starting 3-4 days before my Ironman/Half Ironman, where I try to see how many pancakes I can eat for breakfast every day. My record has been somewhere in the teens (these were not ginormous pancakes, but still, I needed at least three hands to count them all). By that last day I am no longer looking forward to breakfast and pancakes. During prep for Ironman Lake Placid this year, I ate large plates of bland pasta, with either pesto or red sauce, for dinner four nights in a row. By that last night I had to force down the pasta and it was not due to race day nerves. I feel absolutely disgusting and full by the end of this process, but since I've been doing it, I feel like it has been a huge help in keeping my energy up on race day, and that makes OD'ing on pasta and pancakes totally worth it.

If Gas Station Cheez-Wiz Crackers Work For You, Go With It. Everyone is different - there are some athletes out there who do entire Ironmans on only liquid nutrition (gross and BORING in my opinion). I drink an average amount of fluid during a race, but I'd have to drink a TON more if I was going to try to take in the calories needed to sustain myself for a long day of racing and my gut just cannot handle that amount of liquid. Been there, tried that, it was an epic fail (this is why I'm missing practically all of my race reports from 2010, it was not a gold star year). Then there was the year or two that I went with all gels. Eighteen gels on the bike. No wonder I can't eat lots of gels anymore. And when I first started Ironman racing, I was all about the gas station cheez wiz crackers and Teddy Grahams (does anyone else remember the Teddy Grahams Elvis impersonation commercials from the 1980s?). I didn't feel AWESOME on the run while eating that crap on the bike, but I didn't feel terrible. This year I've found encouraging success with using the Feed Zone real food recipes, and I'm a big fan of the French Toast Cakes. They worked wonders for me during IMLP this year and I truly think real food was a major key to my success this year. I also eat Clif MoJo bars on the bike as well as a gel or two. It's like magic.

Variety is the Spice of Life. And Your Ironman. In 2012 I practiced my nutrition, spending a fortune on Hammer Gels and Gu during Ironman season (I was dropping money bombs like clockwork at REI on Friday nights) and eating gel after gel during my training. It seemed to be going well, very little GI issues. And then race day came and by mile 5 on the bike, my stomach was OVER gels. Too bad I still had 107 miles left to go. I had packed a couple PowerBars in my Bento Box and I went for those and spent the rest of the ride trying to force down gels. And after that I vowed - never again! I make it a point to now carry a number of different things in my bento box and pockets in case I simply cannot stand the thought of another gel or Clif MoJo bar. I'll have a variety of gels in different flavors, a PowerBar, various flavors of Clif MoJo bars, and French Toast Cakes. And when I'm on the run, I take advantage of the numerous offerings at the aid stations - Ironman was all about listening to my body. If it said it wanted bananas on the run, by gosh I was going to give it bananas, even though I didn't train with them. Sometimes the body is smarter than the mind and it's good to just go with it.

You May Never Be On Time in Other Aspects of Life, but Be On Time With Your Nutrition. Falling behind on nutrition is the kiss of DNF. I slightly frontload my caloric intake during the bike portion of both Ironman and half ironmans, taking in a gel or a bite of a bar/French Toast Cake every fifteen minutes for the first half of the ride (so first ~3 hours of an Ironman bike and first ~1.5 hours of a half Ironman). Then I back it off to every 20 minutes until the end of the ride. Sometimes I back it off to 20 minutes a little earlier OR if I am feeling overly full, I will actually skip a feeding, I know it's time to do that if I gag while trying to eat or if the mere though of food turns my stomach sour. Usually a short break is just what I needed and I can resume my eating schedule without a problem. The real issues arise when I forget to eat for 30-40 minutes because I'm too distracted and then I get behind and it's simply a poor life decision to try and cram an hour's worth of nutrition down your throat at once. Trust me. I now have a system set up where I eat every 15-20 minutes, take a salt tab every 30 (if it's hot, if it's not then just at the top of the hour), and take a sip or two of water/Skratch every 10 minutes. This makes the bike ride fly by because I am constantly throwing something down my gullet.

So that's it. Hydration is a whole different beast. But in the spirit of keeping it simple, if you need two hands to count how many times you peed on your bike during Ironman, your hydration plan was a success.

22 October 2013

Blue Seventy Brick Bag - You Need This.

I'm sure I must've written about the awesomeness of the Blue Seventy Brick Bag at some point on my blog, but I am too lazy to hunt through all of my previous posts AND this bag is totally worth any additional blog postings. And while, yes, my Tri Team Ignite is currently sponsored by Blue Seventy, I bought this bag back in 2012 from Tri360 (who is still carrying the it) before our sponsorship AND it is one of my favorite/most used pieces of gear that I have ever purchased.

In fact, after this weekend, I'm tempted to change the name to the Brunch Bag, as I wore it during my bike workouts and then straight out to brunch afterwards (is it sad that it took me a few months to put 2+2 together and realize why they call it a "Brick Bag" - because you can carry your run shoes in it while you're biking and then do your brick run without having to go home and grab your shoes. I swear one of these days I will become less dense).

So the bag - it is small enough to not feel bulky or bounce around while you are wearing it (the padded and adjustable strap around your waist and the adjustable strap around your chest certainly help) but it's kind of like that magic purse Hermione carries around in those last Harry Potter books where she stores a tent, changes of clothes, books, etc in a seemingly innocuous, small bag. Case in point: this weekend I used the bag to commute to the pool and easily fit my goggles, swim cap, paddles, the (dreaded) band, towel, keys, my ID, my swim punch card, and my heavy-duty U-Lock bike lock (thanks idiot bike thief for making me smarten up from using a cable) and then to brunch (U-Lock, shoes, sweatshirt, unnecessary arm warmers). This is also my go-to bag for run commuting. There was a stretch this season where I had a swim + 45 minute run on my schedule on a weekly basis, which is the perfect set of workouts for swimming at Washington-Lee high school in the morning and then running the 48 minutes from the pool to my office in downtown DC. I managed to fit all of my work clothes (excluding shoes - my filing cabinet at work holds no files, just piles of shoes), swimsuit, towel, goggles, cap, toiletries, comb, and my LUNCH (and you know how much I eat for lunch) comfortably into that bag and run into work no problem. I have also used this bag for brick workouts, easily fitting my run shoes and such into the bag. 

Blue Seventy has thoughtfully put a clasp on the waist strap so you can fold up the excess strap as you tighten it so it isn't swinging around like an extra appendage. You can also adjust the height of the chest strap to where it is most comfortable and the bag has an exterior pocket that's easily accessible where I store my iPhone, ID, metrocard (because I am too lazy to run home at night), iPhone charger, keys, and my work badge when I remember it.

You'll have to see pictures of the bag on the internet, as I cannot figure out how to steal and post the photos to this blog. This would be the perfect opportunity to stage the bag next to my now-sparkly, newly scrubbed baseboards and show both items off simultaneously (It has been two days and I'm still oddly self-satisfied with the results of my 6+ hours of scrubbing every baseboard in the house) but I left my camera/phone cord at work. Le sigh.


16 October 2013

The Land of Salted Nut Rolls

I spent this past weekend on my first visit to Minnesota (beautiful fall weather, too!) to catch up with some really wonderful girlfriends - Julia, Sarah (when are you starting your blog, Sarah!), and Liz!

And then there were four

Minnesota, I learned, has an abundance of the best candy ever (I would say these rank right up there with Mini Eggs) - Salted Nut Rolls. Nougat, caramel and peanuts. And, this almost sounds like blasphemy but it is true - the plain kind are more tasty than the chocolate kind. Julia is the sweetest and has sent me care packages of Salted Nut Rolls before Ironman because I can't find them out East AND these have become my bento box treat on the bike. 

LOOK at them all!
Julia, Sarah, and I are all Tucson tri camp buddies from years past and we picked a great weekend for a reunion. The weather was great AND it was Kona race weekend, which meant we spent the majority of Saturday with the race playing on an iPad in the background while we tracked our friends racing and  steamrolled through packages of cheese, crackers, bagels, veggies, apple pie and, of course, Salted Nut Rolls. 

Pre-run group shot - with some fall foliage in the background!
We got a run in on Saturday morning, and Sarah and I managed to turn the 5 mile loop into 9 miles as we both got lost (not together and not in the same direction). Poor Julia had to drive around to find us, haha. During the Kona bike portion, we took a break from race watching and headed into town to meet Julia's parents, stop by Lululemon, and make a grocery store run (you can never have too much cheese). St. Paul is a really cute town, a nice downtown with an eclectic mix of shops, coffeeshops, restaurants, and tree-lined streets with beautifully maintained older homes - it just needs to be a thousand miles south and located in an area that gets minimal snow. I've become a weather wimp since moving to Virginia!

After we got back to Julia's, her friend Angela stopped by to help us drink wine, eat cheese and watch the race (I've read Angela's blog for awhile and love that she worked "cream cheese frosting" into the blog address - now THAT is something I am interested in!). And what would a weekend with triathletes be without a visit to the pool for some laps. We did that Sunday morning to earn our coffee and bagels. Unfortunately, Sunday was a travel home day for me. But I really enjoyed spending a weekend with Julia, Sarah, and Liz where the onlys thing on the agenda were to chat, eat, and do some running and swimming in between watching Kona. I'm the youngest of the group and everyone else has done alot more than me, experienced so much more, both in sport and in life, and I feel really lucky to have such great women in my life to be role models and give me advice. Thank you guys for a really great weekend!

And if you are wondering if I brought Salted Nut Rolls home - I did. But they did not make it past Monday. Sads.

08 October 2013

Houston, We Have... A Bed.

Today was an easy-ish day of workouts. I somehow popped out of bed at 4:50am and hit the trail with Mr. Sweetie at 5am for an easy 30 minute run. We haven't run together in ages, certainly not before work, and it was a great way to start the day. It was dark during the whole run so I couldn't see my pace on the Garmin, which ended up being a good thing because I listened to my body and ran at a pace that felt easy and didn't let my ego get in the way and push for a faster pace.

Then it was an extended bike commute to work, with some intervals mixed in. The real story is that DC really seems to be taking this whole shutdown shebang seriously. Last week the Park police halfheartedly put up barriers to Hains Point, West Potomac Park, along the Mall, and it was easy to squeeze a bike between the barriers and go on my merry way. The traffic-free roads were like the silver lining to this ridiculous shutdown. But now even that has changed - the Park Police mean business. I saw like 5 cars patrolling West Potomac Park and the Hains Point gates in the 30 minutes I was tooling around there this morning. They gates aren't just shut and locked, they've also strewn police tape DO NOT CROSS between the gates and nearby trees the way high schoolers might toilet paper someone's yard. And along the mall, they've now pushed the barriers together and added some traffic cones for extra fun. But still people skirt around them because it is better (and safer) than biking on Pennsylvania Ave, Independence, or Constitution.

Oh, the other big news of the day?
We have an actual real bed now - with a proper footboard and headboard and pretty detailing. Our room looks like adults inhabit it, not a poor college student sleeping on a metal frame and mattress. First we got rid of the tupperware dresser and now - a real bed! Progress. Miles is happy too. He was more than a little concerned this morning when, at 5:30am we returned from our run, kicked him off the bed and promptly took it apart in prep for the new bed's arrival in the afternoon.

Forlorn. Laying on the floor where the bed used to be. What have you guys DONE??
Relief. Thanks for the snazzy new bed guys! Maybe I'll let you join me on it sometime!
It's funny, as we picked out the bed in a dark color to match the frames on the wall and our dresser, I kept having visions run through my head of what I did to my parents' really nice bedroom furniture a few decades ago. I distinctly remember watching tv in their room one afternoon, probably in the summer since we weren't allowed to watch afternoon tv during the school year, and having the brilliant idea that I should decorate their furniture (dark wood ornate bed and dressers). I grabbed my mother's comb from her dresser and proceeded to etch M-O-M on ALL of her furniture. One letter for every dresser door. Huge letters on the footboard. Added some flair to the dresser drawers. Just to, you know, remind her this was her furniture, in case she forgot.

My fingers are crossed, but I'm pretty sure karma will bite me in the butt (or pretty, pretty footboard) when we have kids.

07 October 2013

Putting the miles in Miles

Mr. Sweetie has taken up running again and guess who has been roped into being his loyal running partner - Miles. For the most part, I think Miles enjoys it. He gets some one-on-one time with his favorite guy and gets a chance to sniff around the bike path for a few miles. We've only discovered one problem with this running arrangement. Miles is not a morning pup. At. All. I mean, he's fine with going out for a jaunt at 7am on the weekends. But this morning when Mr. Sweetie tried to drag him off the bed at 4:45am for a run before work - heck no! Miles started doing body flings and contortions to stay on the bed, all while half asleep. It took me (half asleep myself and wanting to stay in dreamland for at least another hour) giving him a not so gentle shove with my foot together him up and at 'em (Miles' whole aversion to feet is good for something). Eventually Mr. Sweetie wrangled Miles out the door and they had a great pre-dawn run together. Afterwards Miles proceeded to crawl back into our bed post-run and he retired to bed tonight at 8:30. We might be onto something when it comes to tiring out our high energy pup!

06 October 2013

Where is my tool belt?

Mr. Sweetie and I moved into our place four years ago come November. It was a buy-and-flip and the previous owners completely gutted the place, renovated the kitchen and bathrooms, finished the basement, painted the walls, and added crown molding to every single room - including the bathrooms and the basement (the crown molding sold me on the house - the kitchen sold Mr. Sweetie on the house). It was ready-to-live-in when we moved in, no renovations necessary. This turned out to be a very good thing - because over the course of 3.75 years of home ownership, we've realized that we were not born very handy. In fact, we're quite the opposite.

Living room with crown molding. What every girl wants.
Examples? When our front door handle and lock fell apart, we installed a new, nicer looking one ourselves. It looks good and the lock stays in place (so it serves its purpose) but often when we lock it, the little handle you turn to latch the lock falls off the door - there have been many a morning that I've turned the key and then heard the clatter of metal-on-wood as it tumbled to the floor. Fortunately Miles doesn't eat things he finds on the floor, so there's that.
Other examples? That time I painted all three of our bathrooms, ignorant of the fact that you need a specific kind of paint that can stand up to humidity and moisture. Or that other time we had to caulk the bathtub at least 5 times before we got it right.

I also don't have a great eye for design, color, and decoration. There are some people, like my aunt Vicki, who can use bold, bright colors on her walls and make it work. Bright red and then yellow and then darker green and how about some blue - no problem! Her house always looks great. She's also really good at decorating her house so it looks classic - hanging just enough photo frames to be interesting but not overwhelming; pretty furniture that isn't matchy-matchy yet still looks like it belongs together; fun knicknacks but not too many of them (and while not classy, I always snickered when I would turn on the lightswitch that had the Statue of David photo strategically placed over it). All I can say is thank my lucky stars this house already came in nice paint colors and Mr. Sweetie convinced me it wasn't necessary to PAINT ALL THE ROOMS. As we were moving in, I jibber-jabbered about how I was going to use bold colors and paint the rooms bright and different colors, just like Vicki's house. Mr. Sweetie had enough foresight to know that while Vicki's house turns out great, ours would look like the inside of a Crayola Crayon box fit for a five-year old. After the bathroom debacle (debacle not just because I chose the wrong kind of paint - I also chose terrible colors: one is dark red, one is dark blue, the other is dark green - like pea soup green - I warned you) I'm very glad we stuck with the neutral colors in the rest of the house.

The bedspread. Another poor life decision. It has since been gifted to Miles' crate.
Let's talk about my lack of decoration as well, specifically pictures. We've been married awhile and have AMAZING photos from Lara at Studio Nouveau in Boston - but do any grace our walls? No. Because I can't decide which ones I want to print and frame. I can't decide what color frames - white or black? Or brown? I can't decide how I want to arrange them on the wall so I just haven't printed or hung up anything on our giant, bare walls in our hallways and stairwells. OH MY GOSH FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS. Maybe it's a lack of confidence (and looking at those damn Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel magazine advertisements do NOT help) but I just haven't been able to bite the bullet, make a decision, and TAKE ACTION.

But it's time. I've been researching various ideas for awhile (NOT on Pinterest, I just cannot sign up for that can of worms). I'm thinking of a gallery wall at the top of our stairs with a mix of frames that are the same color but different and styles and sizes. And then three of our favorite wedding photos printed and nicely framed to go on the wall on the other side of the hallway. So that's a start and I'm hoping to begin the project this month.
We're also going to repaint the bathrooms to more reasonable, less Crayola Crayon-type colors. We bought some samples today that we'll be trying out. I'd also like to put some pictures up in the bathrooms that aren't generic artwork. The one thing I do think we've done well is that many of the pictures we do have up in our house all have meaning, whether it's the painting from Morocco that we bought on our honeymoon, or the painting of the Three Sisters at sunset from Ireland when we went for our five year wedding anniversary, or the framed photos above our china cabinet that we took on our vacation in 2010.

View of the Reading Room
I'm excited to give this a go. It's not really any DIY (thank goodness because I'm terrible with that stuff as well) and painting is not that hard, I just need to actually follow through with the plans. Be a do-et and not a say-er. That's the motto for the month.

05 October 2013

Feels like Ironman training. But isn't. Don't tell my legs that though.

I feel like today was a Saturday back in Ironman training. It was one of those sneaky workouts where, at first glance, it doesn't look like a long day or double digit running miles or a bike ride worthy of more than just a Gu pack. But then you look closer and start to do the math - 45 minute run, that'll be a bit over 5 miles; then a 2.5 hour ride, probably looking at 40ish or so miles; and then another 45 minute run. By the time all was said and done, the totals came out to 45 miles of biking and 11.5 miles of running. So no, I guess it's not really Ironman caliber, but it was my longest training day since July for sure and my legs are absolutely feeling it. It was also warmer out today than I had expected, I think around the mid-upper 80s by the time I was on my second run, which added to the mid-summer Ironman-like training feeling. 

The first run was good, my legs felt peppy and I had Mr. Sweetie and Miles for company. We started off easy and then when I started to build the pace, I was on my own (which drove Miles nuts, Mr. Sweetie finally got him calmed down just in time for me to catch them and run by as I finished my interval, wrecking all the work he put into getting Miles to calm down - ha!). The weather was still cool out and each mile clicked by faster than the previous one. This would be a good day.

Then it was onto the bike. I decided to chance it with Hains Point and the gov't shutdown closures of parks - I didn't feel like dealing with stoplights, traffic, and construction work along MacArthur - I wanted to do my intervals as uninterrupted as possible. They had the gates up at Hains, but it was easy to maneuver the bike around them and continue on my merry way. The road in West Potomac Park (I think that's the one, on the other side of the tidal basin near the MLK Memorial) was also closed and full of cyclists, so I ended up doing a bow tie loop of Hains and the other park. Admittedly, it did get boring after awhile and thankfully I only had to do 30 miles worth of those loops and got the rest of the miles in on the bike path to and from home.

And then the last run. Always the hardest one. Sometimes I do not like bricks and on those days it's really more of a mental struggle to convince myself to put on my running shoes after I take off my bike shoes. I really need to tell myself beforehand, really get myself excited about that run off the bike, if I have any hope in heck of actually doing it (skipping these transition runs are probably part of the reason I had a less than stellar race in Vegas - it's a slippery slope of I'll just skip today's 20 minutes off the bike which then turns into skipping the longer t-run on the weekend, etc. You get the point). While putting on my run shoes, I ate a banana and some bread - starving! Didn't eat enough on the bike! (Should've brought that can of frosting). Headed out the door and it was hot, hot, hot! Back out to the bike path, which was emptier than it was earlier this morning, and this run had some faster intervals mixed in and my legs had a harder time responding. My average pace was faster than the first run, but this second run did NOT feel effortless or easy like run number one did. I got home and made a beeline for the freezer, grabbing a popsicle because that sounded like the best thing ever. Sadly, my hands were so sweaty I couldn't get get the darn wrapper off.

Best part of the day was running into my friends Mel, Iwan, Jason, and Brian while I was out biking. I love how small this town can be sometimes.

03 October 2013

Ode to My Swim Buddy

For the past 365+ days, my friend Kendra has been my swim buddy. At the time, it was basically the only one of the three sports in which I had a shot at keeping up with her :) And even if we weren't swimming the same pace, at least we couldn't get further than 25yds away each other. Rather than do an organized Masters practice, we'd meet at one of the local high schools for some pool time in the mornings before work. Having someone close to my speed to swim with has been invaluable over the past year. When we swim together, I absolutely work harder to try and keep up. We're both competitive, but in the best possible way - I want to touch the wall ahead of her just as much as she wants to reach it ahead of me and together that combination of sheer will and desire makes us swim faster than we ever would on our own. It's a great exercise in mental focus too - with every breath I take to my right, I can see how we're lined up, if I'm half a hand ahead or if she is. And I always have the choice - do I want to reach that wall first badly enough that I'll dig deeper and try and go faster? Or let up? Swimming with Kendra just a few weeks ago, I finally broke 1:20 for 100yds. It was during a set of sprints and by the end of it, both our arms were noodle-y and we were gasping for breath. But we both broke 1:20, swimming our fastest 100 yet, and that was all that mattered. It's also an exercise in strategy - we are learning each other's strengths and weaknesses in the water and becoming more conscious of our own. My flipturn kick pushes me off the wall faster (thank you thunder thighs, I always knew you were good for something), but by midway down the pool, I've often lost any ground I might've gained, thus forcing me to really work on my pull if I want to keep up. And during the longer sets, it becomes all about pacing strategy - almost like a mini race. How fast can I go now without blowing up by the end? Is she starting to make a move and pull ahead - do I go with it and try to keep up or stay at my own pace that I know is comfortable? The correct answer is usually to try and kick it into high gear and keep up, because that's the only way I'm going to become a better, faster swimmer. But swimming with Kgo isn't just about racing each other to the wall - it's also about perfecting the art of Social Kick. During warmup and cooldown, we'll grab our kickboards for a little social kick up and down the lane, catching up on how our families are doing, what's the next race on our schedules, weekend plans (or weekend shenanigans if it's Monday morning), and life in general. Mornings with my swim buddy are some of my favorite ways to start the day - thanks for helping me become a better swimmer Kgo!

02 October 2013

The Shutdown

Mr. Sweetie and I lucked out and aren't financially/personally affected by the government shutdown, but I still think it's ridiculous that the government reached this point, regardless of what side of the line you are in.
Anyway, as a result of the shutdown and fewer people going to work, traffic is much lighter in DC. Also as a result of the shutdown, a number of things are closed, including Hains Point and the road alongside the Mall. I haven't tried riding on Hains since the shutdown, but the barriers along the Mall leave just enough space for a bike to squeeze through. Which means completely car free roads for part of my commute. Yesterday I slalomed my way along the Mall on my way home in the beautiful weather, just because I could.
I hope for the economy's sake and everyone's financial sake that the shutdown ends soon. But these empty roads and quieter streets are a bit of a silver lining in a crummy situation.
Empty street near the USDA.

01 October 2013

Ciao Bella Settembre

Another month down and we are THAT much closer to it being socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music!

This month was full of good things, no - GREAT things.

Weddings. September is the month of loooove for sure. Mr. Sweetie and my wedding anniversary weekend in Vegas was bookended by weddings on the previous following weekends. My friends Tim and Tyler got married in Massachusetts Labor Day weekend. Tim is my best friend's brother and I adore their family and it was such a pleasure and honor to share in their celebrations. My goddaughter was the most adorable flower girl in the world (and I am not biased) and my favorite part of the evening was when she was tired at the end of the evening and snuggled up next to me and fell asleep. I don't get to see her often because we don't live close by, and it means that much more that she remembers me and knows who I am and feels comfortable enough with me. Melt my heart. Tim and Tyler's wedding was so fun and it was so wonderful to see Erin and Ashley and her parents and spend some time with Tim and Tyler. The middle of September brought my friends' Kristin and Chris' wedding up in Lake Placid, NY. Their wedding was so sweet and heartfelt. It was also a triathlete's paradise with a group run the morning of the wedding. Mr. Sweetie and I also did some hiking and Miles got some swim time at Mirror Lake.

Fall Cleaning. With us being out of town so much in September, dog hair tumbleweeds had taken over the house. And my closet was a complete and total disaster (actually, disaster does not even cut it). I spent an entire Sunday purging my closet of styles of the early 2000s (tube tops are no longer in style - and they are absolutely not in style for anyone over 30). It has been about a week and my closet and room are still organized so we'll see how long we can keep the streak alive.

Back on the training wagon. I took a day off after Vegas and then eased my way back into training. I pretty much had a choice of ending my season post-Vegas or getting my rear in gear and actually do the training as it was assigned, on the days it was assigned, and do it right, rather than just doing what I felt like doing. I chose the latter and things have been going well, I'm enjoying the training, and I'm excited for Beach 2 Battleship at the end of October.

Baking. Fall means loads of apple pie. So far we're averaging about 1 pie a week. I also found this yummy dessert in Food and Wine magazine. I'm not a vanilla ice cream person, but boy does it go well with maple bourbon banana pudding (we used rum instead of bourbon, just as tasty). It's also super fast. And I know mac and cheese doesn't really count as baking (though you do broil it in the oven for a few minutes) but we found a really good mac and cheese recipe too.

Fall weather. This has been the nicest September weather that I can remember. Not super hot, low humidity, sun, basically it just makes you want to be outside. I can't remember the last time I used the trainer and it's OCTOBER.