29 November 2013

Race Report: 2013 Pittsburgh PNC YMCA Turkey Trot 5 miler

We kept our turkey trot streak alive this year by running the 5 mile race at the Pittsburgh PNC YMCA turkey trot. This was, by far, the biggest turkey trot I've ever done. Back in 2010, when we were last in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving and ran the 5k option, I don't remember it being nearly this big. There was a 1 mile fun run, 5k, and a 5 miler - in the 5 miler alone, there were 1,542 finishers. But it was so well run (I found a porto-potty with ZERO line) and had plenty of parking that I had no idea there were that many people until I looked at the results online.

I've been lazy over the past month with my running (as in I would go for a 2 to 3 mile run once, maybeeeeeee twice per week, with a couple weeks having zero running). Part of it was sheer laziness coupled with a bit of I-Could-Care-Less-About-Running burnout, and part of it was to let the leg/groin muscles that I felt like I had strained back in October heal up. Admittedly, I probably took the take it easy so my leg feels better to the extreme by barely running at all, but it has been quite nice to feel guilt-free this off-season about not running. If I'm not in the mood, I don't make myself run. Just in the past week I've started to feel little twinges of hmmm, I think I actually feel like going for a run or I won't throw my computer out of my window if I get an email from Training Peaks. I'm going to start next season rested, not burnt out, and my leg feels 100% better. Off-season goals achieved.

That was a long way of saying I had no expectations for yesterday's turkey trot. Each time I've gone out for a run, it has felt like a slow slog and it seems like I'm huffing along at a 9:00 pace that feels like it should be a 6:30 pace given the amount of effort I'm putting forth. Mr. Sweetie was running the 5 mile race as well (he's the type where he can get back into running and within 3 weeks his easy pace is in the mid-7s. I kind of hate him for it). I felt like it would be a reasonable goal to try to hold a 7:30 pace for the race, especially given how sloggy I've been feeling in my run shoes lately. Mr. Sweetie and I decided we would run together and I had a few thoughts of maybe we should just jog this for fun, why does everything always have to be a race, etc. I was feeling slow, out of shape, and thought what is the point? Then we got to the start line, the gun went off, and it was definitely a race - point or no point, slow or not slow.

We started towards the front, but far enough back that the first half mile was spent dodging around people and trying to find open road. By the time we made a loop around the stadium, the crowds had thinned out considerably and we had plenty of space to run our race. I felt like the effort was easy (a bunch easier than my warmup jog from the car to the start line) but the first mile went by in 6:56, which was a nice surprise. I felt fine as we looped by the start/finish area and made it a goal to try and keep my pace consistent for the remaining four miles. We went over a bridge and into downtown for mile 2, passing by the 5k runners on the other side of the road who had started 30 minutes before us - it was a nice distraction seeing the other runners. Mile 2 clicked by in 6:55 and when I made it to 2.5 miles, I reminded myself that I was halfway done and I can do anything for 2.5 more miles. Just past the halfway mark was the turnaround point and I started seeing the leaders pass by on the other side of the road. There were still a number of girls ahead of me and once in awhile I would catch up to one and I tried to look strong when I made my pass so that maybe they would be tempted not to try and follow. I finished mile 3 in 7:02 and by this point, Mr. Sweetie was pulling ahead and I let him go - it was starting to be a struggle to hold my current pace and I was afraid if I tried to go with him, I would implode before the finish. Mile 4 felt like the longest mile ever and I was surprised to see a 6:57 flash on my Garmin. We ran by the start/finish area again to make a half-loop around the stadium for a final time. It was flat but windy and I was on the lookout for the turnaround. Mr. Sweetie slapped me five when he passed me going the other way after the turnaround and in the last half mile I finally got within striking distance of a girl wearing a florescent jacket that I'd been slowly reeling in for almost two miles. In the last quarter mile, I decided to go for it and make the pass, I knew I'd be mad at myself post-race if I didn't at least try. After I went by her, I tried so hard to keep the same pace all the way to the finish. I wanted the race over... NOW. As a result, mile 5 was my fastest in 6:37. I finished in 34:47, with a 6:57 average pace. 2nd in AG out of 150; 9th girl out of 819; and 74th overall.

It was so cold outside, even with the sun shining, that we immediately walked back to the car to warm up and go home. Mr. Sweetie's uncle had a great race in the 5k and he had the car all warmed up by the time we finished. We earned our turkey-stuffing-potatoe-crescent roll-apple pie-pumpkin pie dinners, which is my favorite thing about a turkey trot.

24 November 2013

Offseason 2013

I've been in the midst of the offseason for, ohhhh about 4ish weeks now, and I have to say - it agrees with me. M&Ms for breakfast here and there with no shame. My only workouts during the week have been my 20 mile round trip bike commute. For the first couple weekends post-B2B I was doing some trail races but that ceased when Jen reminded me that taking the offseason seriously is IMPORTANT. So last Saturday I did nothing but bake cupcakes and eat icing and homemade fondant.

Every year I enjoy the offseason more and more (not that I've ever been the sort of person who doesn't embrace the off-season in all its lazy chocolate-consuming glory), and every year I worry that maybe I'm enjoying myself so much that I will find it impossible to start up again when the break is over. That hasn't happened yet and I always feel refreshed and happy to be on a schedule again once I'm back in the swing of things. So - fingers crossed that will be the case now (I will say there has been progress - the thought of a Training Peaks email no longer makes me want to fling my iPhone out of a 10th story window).

I've had no problem keeping busy with stuff over the past few weeks, even if "stuff" is actually just going to the store to buy 1lb bags of M&Ms. Or buying large chocolate bars and making them disappear.

Mountain Biking. Sadly there wasn't any cyclocross this year, but there HAS been some mountain biking. Going down to Charlottesville to try those trails this summer was stupid, they were far too technical for me and I had ZERO desire to ride my new mountain bike in the months that followed - suddenly mountain biking no longer seemed like a good idea (maybe getting too old and rational?) Turns out mountain biking can be quite fun on trails that are on par with one's skill level. I'm also lucky enough to have Karen for a friend and she's taken me out and shown me the ropes. It also gives us a chance to catch up. Yesterday we went mountain biking at Lake Fairfax park - SO FUN. The trails weren't terribly technical, with just one section that had some tricky rocks and roots and rollers. I watched Karen go down a particularly skeevy looking section and paid attention to the line she took and successfully mimicked my way down the hill. It was a big boost to the confidence. I also caught myself telling my brain to shut up when it would register that we were coming up on a tricky looking set of roots or rocks so instead of slowing down, tipping over, not trying at all, freaking out, or all of the above - I'd literally say out loud that momentum is your friend, just keep pedaling, this is not that hard. And 99% of the time I'd make it through the tricky section just fine (I did manage to tip over once, but that's also a good lesson in learning how to fall and land properly. Always a lesson in everything). There were a few sections that felt like you were slalom skiing your way through the woods, it was exhilarating. Each time we did the loop, I felt more confident in my bike handling skills and would take the hills a little faster, the corners a little sharper, and roll over bigger rocks and roots without instinctively tapping on my brakes. It also helped that my bike feels as big as a tank that could roll over anything, given enough momentum. Compared to this summer, I feel about a million times better about mountain biking and my ability to make it down a hill without crashing on every root, rock, and tree.

Baking. I know my mom was the one who passed down a love for baking to me. But it pretty much lay dormant in my DNA until about 2-3 years ago when I started trying to make things from scratch and discovered it was pretty satisfying when something tasty resulted from my efforts. And last year my in-laws gave me a KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas and it has rocked my baking world. As a kid, much to my mom's chagrin, I wanted zero to do with the kitchen. And I think I only used our oven to reheat pizza in college. Post-college it was oreo balls (and that is not technically baking, no oven required just a food processor). But even though it takes more effort to make brownies or cupcakes from scratch rather than a box, I think it's more fun. And when the cold weather comes around, that's when I really want to hole up in the kitchen. Sadly I'm not adventurous enough to experiment and make up my own recipes yet - maybe someday - so for now I follow what's already been written down. I've baked a fair share of apple pies and cupcakes and cookies this fall and now I'm trying to branch out into some different desserts. I've given French macarons a go twice so far. The first time I thought I had already screwed up the recipe partway through so I didn't bother to follow the rest of the directions (turns out it really is important to let the batter set for an hour before sticking it in the oven), the cookies were edible and the ones that actually ended up sitting before baking turned out correctly. I tried them again this weekend, let them sit, and they almost looked like proper macarons. La Duree, watch out! Kidding, of course. I still have alot of work to do - next I want to try to make flavored shells that are pretty colors and branch out from chocolate for my choice of filling.

First attempt back at the end of October. Messy feet.

Second attempt yesterday. Much better feet. Though they do look like little hamburgers, don't they?
I made cupcakes last weekend with pink icing and I tried my hand at homemade fondant (most of the fondant recipes had some scary sounding ingredients, but I found one that just used confectioners sugar, vanilla, and sweetened condensed milk. I think there was a good cup of sugar in each cupcake between the frosting, fondant, and cake itself. So sweet.

Last weekend I told Mr. Sweetie that I would make him whatever dessert he wanted. He chose homemade s'mores. So I made marshmallows (orange-flavored from the Gran Marnier), homemade graham crackers (so.much.butter), and chocolate ganache (I feel like I should just keep a big vat of that stuff in the fridge because I use it for everything). It was all surprisingly easy to make, even though I used a too-small saucepan for the mallow sauce and practically ruined our stovetop when it overflowed. Awesome. This weekend I made salted caramel marshmallows for our hot chocolate.

Homemade s'more!
Eating. Alot of chocolate. The only green things I've eaten lately are green M&Ms and this past week I've been having them as dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (I sort of wish I was kidding but I'm not). I think I finally OD'd on them yesterday because today is my first M&M-free day (I am considering making those signs that they have in warehouses - __ Days Since I Last Consumed M&Ms. I've also been eating all the things I listed above that I baked. And good bread (Mr. Sweetie has found his way back to bread-baking, hallelujah) with fatty fromage. There is always next week for fruit and kale. Always next week. Earlier this week I also had veggie quesadillas with a huge side of Trader Joe's stuffing. Stuffing is the best part about Thanksgiving. Even better than the pie. Mr. Sweetie has been making me hot chocolate with the espresso machine (steamed milk!) and pouring it over melted chocolate ganache. Liquid awesomeness.
Hot chocolate with the homemade marshmallow drenched in confectioners sugar

Stay Out Late, Drink Champagne, and Wear a Little Black Dress. Last night I went out to a party that my friends Courtney and Ron, from DC Tri/Snapple, had at their house. It was a swanky hat and little black dress party and it was SO MUCH FUN to see everyone dressed up, wearing heels, swanky hats, vests, suspenders, and fancy party dresses. I even used my hair dryer on my hair last night, it was THAT special of an occasion. I did a few double-takes when I saw some friends, almost not recognizing them all fancy-shmancy instead of in swim goggles. On the invite, it said the party went until 1am and I remember thinking to myself I will be lucky to make it to 11. Haha, I didn't leave until after 1am, and even then it felt like I was leaving a bit early! It was so great catching up with so many friends!

NO bike jerseys allowed!

Jason, Julie, me and Kendra

We found a puppy!
Doing Anything But SwimBikeRun. I've been biking to work and that's about it. I've taken a long break from running (aside from those two trail races) since my last race. My groin muscle and knee were a bit sore immediately following Beach2Battleship and I really wanted to give things a chance to heal up and get back to normal so I've taken a substantial amount of time away from running regularly. I did go out for two miles yesterday and not only did it feel hard, my shorts were tight. I think I need to reassess the M&M diet. Next week. Last weekend I didn't touch my bike once - instead, Mr. Sweetie and I took Miles on a hike through Great Falls and picked out bathroom paint color from Home Depot. Fingers crossed we pick out a halfway decent color this time around. We've haphazardly thrown the sample paint on one wall and for the past week we'll stare at it and scratch our chins. Who knew it was so hard to make a decision #firstworldproblems. 

If he could have his way, he'd be cliff jumping into the Potomac right about now.

YOU GUYS IT'S A HUGE POOL OF WATER. THIS MEANS SWIMMING. We're big meanies for not letting him .
Other than bike commuting and the occasional 2 mile jaunt down the road, I've not been doing much at all. And I've already twice pushed the start-back-up date further into the future. We're looking at the beginning of the second week of December. Maybe by that point I will want to hear from Training Peaks. Hopefully I will remember my login. And hopefully I will be able to find my pool punchcard, running shorts that fit, and the pain cave once more. That's the sign of a good off-season, when you can't find any of the crap you used to use on a daily basis. Well, I'm off to break my hours-old no M&M streak, goodnight.

12 November 2013

Ode to the Last First Date

If it's cheesy to still celebrate your dating anniversary after you're married, then I'd like a whole wheel of triple cream brie. Mr. Sweetie and I had our first date nine years ago today, back in 2004. We were young when we met - early 20s - and while at the time I felt like I was so mature and knew everything in life and exactly what I wanted, I've realized over the past nine years that I was pretty much a kid when it came to "knowing it all" and thank goodness Mr. Sweetie has always been wise beyond his years AND willing to put up with my growing pains as I figured out my goals in life much later than he did and grew into a person who is much different at 32 than she was at 23 when we had that first date.

Happy Together!
And I do have to say, our first date was one of the best first dates out there, which easily led to really great second and third dates which eventually led to an engagement and a fulfilling marriage. Even in just those first few weeks, I knew he was a keeper.

He called when he said he would. This was a big one. There were no games and he never kept me waiting by the phone, wondering if he would actually follow through. Right from the start, he always called when he said he would and that continues to this day. There is nothing overrated about security and reliability like that. I never had to wonder if I mattered enough to warrant a phone call - he has always made me feel like I am worth it.

He asked me on a second date, even though (looking back) my choice of outfit was horrendous. Flared, shiny corduroys paired with a jean jacket. And ridiculous blond highlights. Sometimes I wish I could go slap some fashion sense into my early 20s self. Thank goodness he didn't hold this flaw against me.

 The man cooks! Real food! ALL THE TIME! Stuffed peppers, lentil soup, seafood, pasta with homemade sauce. This was about a billion steps up from the nightly dinners I cooked for myself (cereal and toast all day every day). Not only that, he really enjoyed cooking and creating new dishes. It was pretty neat to be with someone who showed me the value of a well-cooked meal. Now I don't think I could ever go back to cereal and toast dinners if I had to fend for myself.

He loves his family. He had photos of his parents and sisters around his apartment and talked to them regularly, and always always always had great things to say about his mom, dad, and three sisters. He always credits his mom and dad for making him into the person he is today. I think that, in most cases, you can tell alot about a person from the relationship they have with their family and I loved how close he was with his.

Just being around him made me want to be a better person. Mr. Sweetie is, hands down, one of the best people I know. And I felt that way about him immediately. His kind words and gestures that he has always shown me every day, right from our first date, have not only made me feel happy and secure and loved but they make me want to do the same for him. He deserves the very best and while I know I'm not perfect, he makes me want to try to be my best self.

I never realized how young we looked until now. Does this mean I'm old? 
Even after nine years together, sometimes I still want to pinch myself that this life we've built together is real and that I have been fortunate enough to end up with someone as great as Mr. Sweetie. I remember thinking, when we first crossed paths at work, that he was WAAAYYY out of my league - kind, handsome, well-mannered, intelligent, driven, secure, and happy. I have memories of being a teenager and having a talk with my dad and him telling me that he feels like my mom is out of his league and wonders how he got so lucky to snag her. And my mom would always say the same thing about him. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing - instead, it shows just how high in esteem we should hold our significant other. They really should be the best person we know.

11 November 2013

Race Report - Wakefield Backyard Burn 5 Miler Trail Race

EX2 Adventures hosts a fantastic fall trail race series each fall - the Backyard Burn, with trail races across northern Virginia - 5 mile and 10 mile options. I've managed to sign up early enough for the Wakefield race to get a spot each year for the past few years. It's one of my favorite races on the circuit - less than a 20 minute drive from home, fun trails, and I always see alot of friends out there. Plus - this year they have added POST RACE BURRITOS to the menu. Win!

I don't think it would've been possible to have a more gorgeous fall morning for a race. Clear blue skies, crisp cool air that warmed up to shorts-and-tshirt-for-a-race as soon as the sun rose high enough. The type of day that you want to bottle up so you can remind yourself of perfection during both the steamy hot summer months or the cold dark winter ones. I was going to race in arm warmers but decided on just tshirt and shorts because it was just warm enough not to need them. The race course was just a tad longer this year than previous ones due to construction - 5.65 miles instead of 5.5. It started on pavement for about the first quarter mile before funneling into the trails, providing an adequate amount of time for the racers to string out and not be on top of each other. I felt like this race was bigger than in years past, at least the female field was in the 5 miler - the ladies packet pickup for the 5 miler was so big it was split into two lines. There were over 60 women in the 30-39 AG alone. I love how popular these races have gotten - and FAST!

So the race starts and I go off near the front. I've been doing a terrible job at negative splitting races lately and Sunday's was no exception. There was one girl in front of me as we neared the end of the paved section and I passed her as we were going up a hill, but that lasted a hot 30 seconds before she passed me back, and then another girl passed me and then another. I was also running an unsustainable pace and check myself before I wrecked myself (I had that phrase running through my head the ENTIRE race, ha!). The three girls ahead of me pulled away and were just far enough ahead that it would take an act of God to get me close enough to overtake any of them without blowing up. So I resigned myself to just running at a pace that felt hard but sustainable. I guess it's kind of hard to figure out exactly what that pace is - and it's dynamic because several times during the race I felt like I was going to fall apart, only to feel worlds better about 30 seconds later and pick up the pace just a bit and the cycle continued. RIP to my pretty pink shoes - I finally ran through a creek with them (no choice!) during mile 2. I will say this - those drainage holes at the bottom of the K-Swiss shoes definitely work - no squishiness! We headed into some single track and I could see the 3rd place girl ahead of me by less than 50yds and she stayed that distance from me for pretty much the remainder of the race, except for the very end when she got even further away. I was lucky that I didn't get bogged down by anyone during the single track, everyone was running at a good clip and I kept my pace up by trying not to let the guys in front of me get too far ahead. We had a few climbs, but this was a mostly flat and fast course that wasn't too technical overall. It was pretty neat how the course snaked its way through the woods and, because many of the leaves were down, you could see people running all over the place - some ahead of you, some behind. Somewhere around Mile 3 I felt like I found my right pace and a second wind. I passed a couple people and would make it my goal to continue my pace so I wouldn't get passed back. I had no idea where the 5th place girl was but I ran like she was right behind me. Once I hit the One-Mile-To-Go mark, I really had to do some self pep talk, especially as I hoofed my way up the final hill. Once I made it up that, I knew I was home free, with a downhill and a flat section to the finish being all that was left. I saw some great Team Zrs cheering at the final left turn to the finish line field and I was so, so happy to cross the line (and so, so happy I had NOT signed up for the 10 miler and two loops of that stuff).

I ended up 4th overall female and 2nd in the 30-39 age group with a 43:20 and brought home another pint glass (Mr. Sweetie just shook his head). I spent post-race talking Pies with Bob and catching up with Kelly Green, who is one of the nicest girls out there. I'm not signed up for any more Backyard Burns, so it was extra nice I ran into some of my favorite people and had awesome weather at this race!

09 November 2013

Everyone Needs a "Karen" in Their Life!

Confession. Until today I had not touched my mountain bike (last weekend's failed attempt does not count) since August. This whole mountain biking thing is pretty far outside of my comfort zone and as you get older and more sensible (who thought going down a root-infested trail with a giant log at the end was a good idea), it can be a little harder to travel outside that comfort zone and bomb your way down trails. And road riding really does absolutely zero to prepare you for trail riding. I owned a mountain bike back in 2005-2008 and when Mr. Sweetie and I went on a mountain biking kick, I rode it pretty regularly and felt confident on two wheels. Then I took a long break and I'm currently a complete beginner again.

Today I had a chance to go mountain biking with my close friend Karen. She and I used to race triathlon together before she moved over to concentrate more fully on all things bike - road racing, cross racing, mtb racing. Our speeds were pretty similar in the swim, she was a bit faster than me on the bike, and then it was a tossup as to who would have the better run. It wasn't a rivalry, even though we were definitely competing against each other and trying to go faster than the other, but more of a mutually beneficial friendship on the race course that resulted in faster times for both of us. I think every athlete needs to find their "Karen" - the person who pushes them to race harder, but if there was anyone that was going to cross that finish line first, you are glad it is her.

Racing our way onto the podium at Savageman 2009
Karen is an awesome mountain biker. But you know what I learned today? She is an even more awesome (and patient) teacher on the trails. We biked out at Wakefield (Rosaryville was closed, boo) and did a long warmup on the flat, easy, completely non-technical trails that wound their way under Braddock Road and towards the powerlines. Not going to lie, a part of me sort of hoped that we would stick strictly to these super easy trails. I think Charlottesville really did a number on my psyche and I feel a bit of anxiety every time a see a giant cluster of roots or a creek crossing. After a few miles, our warmup was over and we moved over to the singletrack in the woods. Before heading into the trails, Karen gave me some sound advice - elbows out, butt off the seat when not pedaling/going downhill/getting over an obstacle, pedals at 9 and 3 when not pedaling, ride DYNAMICALLY. My first foray into slightly harder stuff was not dynamic. We got to a slightly tricky downhill that, with confidence I should've been able to do, but instead I got off my bike and walked. Karen waited for me patiently and took me over to a flatter loop that ended up being the perfect mix of speed, small obstacles like roots and rocks, mini downhills and mini uphills. Karen humored me and we ended up doing that loop four times and each time I felt more confident, excited, and got a little faster and more daring - taking turns a little quicker and by the fourth loop I no longer had a terrified look on my face. This was just what I needed - I was able to get a better feel for how it felt to ride over roots and rocks (my 29er is a tank and, it appears, can roll over just about anything given enough momentum), understand that speed was my friend, and realize just how much fun this sport can be. I felt ready to try some other trails. We went over logs - we'd get to one and I'd practice going over it a few times. We went on some twisty, turny, hilly stuff (I did tip over on that one, very low speed, but I was still stuck to my bike when I landed, which made clipping out a little more difficult), we did some rock gardens, did some hills, and I found myself having a really, really good time on the downhills, just barely tapping the brakes and taking the downhills with confidence and more speed. By the end of the ride, I felt so much better and more excited about this mountain biking thing. Getting out of my comfort zone is hard, but I feel like the more great rides I have, with patient, knowledgeable friends, the easier it will be to tackle each challenge on the trail. Hopefully someday I won't be terrified by the wall of rocks at Wakefield and ride up it with ease. One of these days.

Thank you Karen for a really great ride - I am so, so grateful to have a friend like you who let today be all about getting me comfortable on the trails and patiently gave me tips on how to tackle logs, rock gardens, mildly technical downhills. You never left me in the dust AND made me feel like I was doing a great job and never made it seem like I was taking the easy way out if I walked or chose not to try out an obstacle. You are an awesome friend and mountain bike guru! Already counting down to the next ride!

07 November 2013

Who's the Brightest of them All?

I know, this title makes it sound like I'm going to talk about being (or not being) the brightest bulb in the box. Which I can do - tangent story here. Lately I keep finding chocolate underneath my chin and I could not, for the life of me, figure out how I was getting chocolate there. It happened again last night and Mr. Sweetie noticed it and he hits the nail on the head - you've been licking your ice cream bowl again, haven't you? I don't know if I'm more embarrassed that I lick my ice cream bowl when the spoon is no longer useful, or that it took me so long to figure out why I kept finding chocolate under my chin.

Moving on. What I'm ACTUALLY talking about is my first winter evening bike commute. I finally have proper lights this year and I was quite excited to take them out for an inaugural spin this evening on my ride home from the office. My sheer laziness in the morning is a pretty big hinderance to getting into the office at an early hour and given how early it gets dark, I think I'll be riding my bike post-sunset quite a bit. In the sunlight the roads are filled with foolish drivers who will think nothing of running over a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and I'd imagine the dark makes this problem even worse - I want to be as visible as possible. Think: Griswold Family Christmas House on a Bike. Last week I popped over to Tri360 to check out their selection of bike lights. They had some great stuff!

I ended up with the Light & Motion Urban Commuter 400 Lumen light for the front (it easily detaches from your bike so you can charge it in your office so it doesn't run out of battery power on your ride home) and the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo red light for the rear (this one attaches to your backpack or your bike). You can also attach the front light to your helmet but it kind of freaks me out when I see, emerging from the darkness on the bike path, a person with a light on both their helmet and their bike, makes me think of a cyclops monster and it just creeps me out. So I'll be keeping just one forward-facing light on my bike. I'm happy to report that the lights made a big difference. I still hate biking through the city at rush hour surrounded by cars (part of me wishes that we could go back to that part of the government shutdown where they closed the Mall to vehicular traffic), but my light was bright enough (and adjustable in that I could lower the brightness and save battery power OR make it blink to annoy the other riders around me) that I had no problem seeing what was ahead of me. Unfortunately, the light lost power when I was about two miles from home - it died a slow, blinky death. This was due to the fact that my brain short-circuited this morning when packing my bag for work - my light charges with a USB cord... my iPhone charges with a USB cord... SAME THING. Haha, not really. So I'll be charging my light tonight.

Tonight's bike commute home was chilly, windy, and VERY quiet, it was lovely. While I will miss biking straight from the pool to/from work in a swimsuit and tri shorts and not having to layer my clothes, having the bike trail almost to myself will more than make up for it. I saw a pretty, pretty sunset on my way home, was in zero rush, and it was a great way to end the day. I'm looking forward to many more cold weather, dark commutes!

06 November 2013

Race Report - Rev3 Fall Foliage 11k Trail Race

Rev3 Adventure launched a new race series in the NoVa area in 2013 with trail run options, mountain bike options OR both. If I wasn't an idiot, this would be a race report for both a trail race AND a mountain bike race, but I managed to discover a tiny wrinkle in my race day plan a bit too late on race morning to fix it. You see, back in August when I had my terrifying mountain biking experience in Charlottesville (please read if you'd like a good laugh), I managed to lose a bike cleat in the mud. I haven't made time to ride my mountain bike since then and didn't purchase a new set of cleats until Thursday night when I stopped by Hudson Trail Outfitters. Saturday, in my flurry to get ready to head to Sarah's for an afternoon of eating grilled cheese and watching Honey I Shrunk the Kids (arguably one of the best 80s movies ever - 20 years later I still know far too much of the dialogue), I grabbed my bike shoes out of the front closet and shrugged when a piece of metal fell out of one of them, kicking it into the closet before shutting the door. Turns out that piece of metal was kind of an essential component for attaching the cleat to my bike shoe. Too bad I didn't figure this out until 8am Sunday morning while I was stuffing my face with pancakes in Sarah's kitchen and trying to put the new cleats on my shoes. Mr. Sweetie would've driven them out there to me, but that really wouldn't have been fair of me to ask, given that it's a bit of a drive and he had other things he needed to do. So, no mountain bike race. I've also established a rule that I must get out and PRACTICE riding my mountain bike at least 5 times before I am allowed to sign up for a future mountain bike race.

Tri360 is da bomb. Thanks for all the support this season you guys! And for making super comfy race shirts!
So. The race report. The Rev3 Fall Foliage trail race venue was literally just a few miles from Sarah's house and when we signed up awhile ago, we decided to make it an extra fun weekend and throw in a sleepover. You are never too old to have a sleepover with one of your favorite friends. The lazy afternoon on the couch watching cable tv and eating grilled cheese and tomato soup was pretty much the best thing ever and exactly what I wanted and needed to do. We also had ice cream because that is my lucky pre-race ritual. The race didn't start until 10am on Sunday AND we had the time change Saturday night, so we went to bed a bit later than normal but I still slept like the dead (and still managed to have Walking Dead dreams). We had a lazy breakfast of pancakes, hemmed and hawed over what to wear (it looked chilly outside!) and headed over to the race site.

The race was small and they had the 6k and 11k racers start together. The two distances would split off about 1.5 miles into the race. The first half mile was on pavement before it turned into a field for the next two miles. My pace was just below 7 min/mile for those first three miles and I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to keep that pace, ESPECIALLY once we hit any harder trail stuff, and I definitely wouldn't be negative-splitting this race. But I figured I'd try to keep that pace as long as I could and the heck with negative splitting because taking a bit of a risk is what these off season, fun races are for. Around mile 3 we hit a more narrow trail with some rocks and roots and it started to feel like true trail racing. There was a guy about 25 meters ahead of me the whole race and I never quite closed the gap on him. And as we finished running through the first field, I looked back and saw a girl about 25 meters behind me and ran the rest of the race convinced she was going to catch me. We ran across another field before bombing down a steep hill and taking a sharp right into the woods. There were a couple times where I slightly turned an ankle or lost my footing as we ran through the woods, but the trail was super well marked and I had no problem staying on course, even when I couldn't see any other runners. I also hate to get my pink shoes dirty (so vain!) if it can be avoided so I slowed down at any muddy points to try and pick my way around them. We had some good hills to go up and rocks and roots to avoid so I stopped obsessively looking at my pace on the watch and only really checked when it beeped. Goodbye sub-7 minute miles. I even had one or two 8+ minute miles sneak in. Right around mile 5 was when I started doing the pep talk of you're more than halfway done. Just two miles to go (or thereabouts, 11k - I've never been good with conversion from the metric system). It was also right around this point that I was trying to figure out where the trail would dump us out - would we have to run back through the field from the beginning with all the tall grass? How about that half mile on pavement? Turns out it dropped us out right onto the pavement and I could see that the finish was just around the bend. Being back on flat, paved ground left little room for excuses and I picked up the pace through the finish, crossing the line in 52:34. I also ended up being first girl across the line - there were only 9 of us in the whole race, but whatever, when you end up first as rarely as I do, a W is a W regardless of how many people were there.

I had a whole cheering section come out for the race. My very favorite Aunt Karen and Uncle Charlie were in town for the weekend at my very favorite Aunt Amy's and they all came out, kiddos in tow. Xander and Lilly had a great time cheering on the runners and slurping down marshmallows from the hot chocolate.

I had the BEST weekend with Sarah and capping it off with the low-key race couldn't have been more perfect. Oh wait - it did get more perfect - HOMEMADE DOUGHNUT BITES. Melt in your mouth amazing.
LOOK at that doughy deliciousness! Covered in cinnamon and sugar and washed down with hot chocolate!
The offseason, fall, doughnut bites, hot chocolate, sleepovers when you're in your 30s, cool-as-heck aunts, uncles, and cousins. My weekend had it all. Thank you Sarah for a super fun weekend and carting me around everywhere! And thank you Aunt Amy, Aunt Karen, and Uncle Charlie for getting me lunch after the race!

03 November 2013

2013 Marine Corps Marathon Spectathlete Report

I have zero clue where this last week went. I blinked and suddenly the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon was well back in the rearview mirror. Cheering at the Marine Corps Marathon is basically about a billion times better than running it. This is especially true if your cheer partner is dressed as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and you are dressed as the Christmas Story Leg Lamp (I know, re-used costume, will have to think of something more original for next year).

At Mile 16. We take our mission to make runners smile very seriously
Beth's costume pretty much took the cake - I did get some cheers and "Fra-Gee-Lay" yells from the runners, but Beth was mobbed by runners that looked like they walked straight out of Duck Dynasty, children were scared of her, and a number of runners thought she was the Pillsbury Dough Boy, judging by how many poked her in the abdomen region and squealed "hee-hee" as they ran off down the course. It was awesome. The best part was that her costume could inflate and deflate on command so we were able to ride our bikes around with my friend Jason and cheer on our favorite runners in Rosslyn, Georgetown (this was particularly fun because we staked out a spot by the Paul bakery and ate obscene amounts of French pastries and cheered on the runners while covered in powdered sugar), Mile 16 near the Lincoln Memorial, then we biked over to Mile 21 at the end of the 14th Street Bridge, and then booked it over to Mile 25 on Route 110. Our favorite runners - Dawn, Julie, and Nick - were so kind as to time their running so it was perfectly in synch with our cheering pace and we were able to catch all three of them in almost every spot. It was a perfect day for a marathon in every way - perfect temps, happy runners, I ran into lots of friends who were spectating or running the race, it was like a giant party in a little-big town where it seems like everybody knows your name. Washington, DC may be a large city, but the running/triathlon community seems close-knit and small in every good way possible. Congrats to ALL of my friends who had simply amazing days out there! I will say, even though I stated that cheering for the MCM is a billion times better than running it, I think I may need to trade my costume for running shoes sometime in the next few years.

Sadly, by the time we pulled back up into Rosslyn on our bikes, my leg lamp costume was on its last legs, fringe coming un-superglued, wiring becoming sharp and pointy and sticking to my fishnet stockings. I said a fond farewell to the lamp as I stuffed it into a garbage can a few blocks north of Rosslyn. It served me well. Time to find an even better costume for next year. 

Luckily, even though the race was over, the fun was not. Beth and Nick stayed with us for a night before heading back home to Florida. I've been reading Beth's blog for ages and it was so nice to have a chance to sit down, catch up, and even go for a run. She was also super sweet with Miles and I think if he were small enough to fit in a carryon, he'd be living in Florida with her right now, heehee!