30 March 2013

SkyMass in March - snow, shorts, and a caboose unhinged

Earlier this week, with Mt. Lemmon looming in the near future, I thought doing the SkyMass route this weekend was the BEST IDEA EVER. Eighty-two miles, with over 30 of them on Skyline Drive and then a steep, seemingly never-ending climb up and over Mt. Massanuttan. And with weekend highs forecast to be in the 60s, there wasn't anywhere I'd rather be biking.

Holy cow. Nothing shocks your poor bike legs, fresh off a winter spent on a trainer in front of Law and Order: SVU reruns, back to the reality that they are REALLY out of shape than this hilly ride. Not going to lie, there were several instances during this ride that I thought I don't remember this ride being so... so... HARD. And the earliest I've ever done SkyMass in the past was at the end of May, after I've had at least two solid months of outdoor riding and a few races under my belt. Today was only my third substantial outdoor ride of the season and more than two hours and almost 40 miles longer than the other two rides. Lesson: riding the trainer for hours on end is poor preparation for SkyMass. Noted.

My friend Kristin and her fiance Chris and their two friends Sam and Eric were also doing SkyMass today so we met at the high school right near the Skyline entrance to start the ride. There are fast cyclists and there are fast cyclist: these guys were the latter. I was the caboose on this speed train and unfortunately I came unhinged multiple times. Sigh. Another reminder that winter self is NOT the same as speedier summer self. I think my ego and this image that I have in my head, of being fast, fast, fast, was very much in need of this reality check. It is humbling to be dropped, it is humbling to feel the burn in your legs and know that you are working your tail off and yet you can't keep up. And it messes with your head if you let it.

It was relatively warm when we started the ride so we all opted for shorts and armwarmers. I didn't even bother with gloves or toe covers - it was near 60 degrees, what could go wrong?! As we made our way up the first climb, I could tell I was already a little out of my element trying to keep up and I banished the little voice in my head that said neener neener neener, this ride is 82 miles long, if you feel like this NOW, just imagine how you will feel a few hours from now HARHARHAR! As we came up to one of the first lookout points, Kristin and I both looked at some of the peaks in the distance and commented at how pretty those mountains look when they are covered in snow - the thought that we were likely going to be biking through said peaks covered in snow didn't even occur to us. Or the fact that those peaks were probably pretty chilly for bikers wearing just shorts and armwarmers, oops!

I know that Jen, Julia, and Sarah would be proud to know I wore shorts in these conditions!
Climbing actually didn't feel too bad, I was warm and enjoying my rice and honey bars and banana and rice muffins I made from the Feed Zone cookbook (trying out some new fueling methods, the gels for hours on end just isn't cutting it). I started to fall back from the group about 8-10ish miles into the ride, my legs simply weren't responding. I felt a little like I was biking through molasses, but there wasn't much I could do about that feeling except to keep pedaling. At one point, a couple cyclists passed me and I chatted for a couple minutes with one of the women - when I responded to her question about how far I was riding with my answer of 80ish miles, she laughed and said wow, you will be out here all day! Ouch. I know I was biking slow, but still, I'd had the hope I'd be done before sunset :)

Surprisingly, the ride didn't feel that cold, even in the sections where the sides of the road were covered in snow. It wasn't until the last long descent into Elkwallow that I started cursing my lack of gloves and toe covers. It took awhile to warmup after that. We even stopped for hot chocolate on our way down 211 into Luray - best hot drink EVER. I didn't want to get back on the bike after that, I just wanted to sit there with my hands wrapped around my hot chocolate mug. This was probably the low point of the ride for me - being cold and still having 40+ miles to go. Things got better after we started riding again and I had warmed up after about 10 minutes. I managed to hang on to the back of the speed train through Luray, but fell off it as we hit our first ascent out of town. A few miles later I was at Massanuttan and I swear that hill got steeper over the winter. I was in my easiest gear the whole time and towards the top of the climb, I started playing the game of just make it to that tree... now just make it to that pole up there... just make it to that curve in the guardrail up there... and that was how I made it to the top. Lots of self-talk. I don't think I've ever been so happy to crest that hill before. We had some nice downhills and I tried like heck to stay on the back of paceline as we went through George Washington National Forest. It takes a fair amount of concentration to focus on the wheel in front of you to make sure you don't hit it AND make your legs go faster than they want to. And everyone was so nice, trying to help me hang on, but at one point I was absolutely redlining to keep up and I eventually caved to the urge to dial it back.

In the end, I made it back to the car in one piece, and surprisingly I felt OK. During a few of the low points in the ride, when my legs felt like lead, I had grand plans of how I was going to whine on my blog about how slow I felt, how riding SkyMass in March was a stupid idea, and how I felt like I would never be speedy again on this ride. Or any ride for that matter, my legs were past their prime. But fortunately, that is NOT what this blog post is about. Kristin said something after our T-run that really hit a chord with me and completely changed how I felt about today's ride. Basically it was along the lines of, oftentimes the workouts where you feel like you failed, where you feel like you were slow and didn't hit the speeds you wanted to, where you feel like you reached your limit - THOSE are the most valuable workouts when it comes to building fitness. Those workouts where you really WORKED and FOUGHT and dug deep, even if you felt like you came up short, THESE workouts will make you faster. It was THIS - this makes me want to be the caboose on the speed train more often. I want to ride SkyMass in March more often. Because today's bike ride was the hardest I've worked in a long time. I'd forgotten what it was like to hurt on the bike, to push limits and work hard. It's days like today that will make me grow as an athlete and find forward progress in my training. I feel lucky that my speedy riding friends today still want to ride with me and you can bet your bottom dollar that next time they ask if I want to ride SkyMass in March (or May or July or October), I will say yes. Thanks guys for a ride that was character-building in every way possible!

28 March 2013

Tri-Mania: Mid-Atlantic Triathlon Expo

This past Sunday was the annual Tri-Mania, the Mid-Atlantic's big triathlon expo. I've wanted to attend it in years past, but I've either been out of town or had visitors or some other excuse. Not this year! I was planning on going AND competing in a couple of the fun team competitions that were scheduled. In addition, there were some speakers I was interested in hearing and vendors I wanted to check out. We also just received our new triathlon kits from ZocaGear and we were all looking forward to trying them out. I thought they were super comfortable, especially the shorts which did NOT have the grippy thing at the bottom of each leg. Damon, Sebastian and Mel did a great job with the design, I loved the colors.

I had to get a long run in that day and I knew I'd want to be social while at the Expo, and not have that run hanging over my head, so I woke up at 5am and got it done before heading to North Bethesda. While I was less than thrilled hearing my alarm sound at 4:45am, it was worth it to get it out of the way. And the streets are so QUIET that early on a Sunday.

The 5k race was up first at 9am - it was reminiscent of high school cross-country with a start on Georgetown Prep's track and then a couple loops through the rolling golf course and around an athletic field. I went out too fast (big surprise), but I was happy to note that my legs didn't feel like lead the way they had during my long run in the morning. There were some speedy, speedy guys and girls out there, with Dawn and Calah coming in top 5 amongst women. I eeked in just under 22 minutes, which was fine.

Pretty sure this was in the first two minutes of the race because I am smiling
We had a few hours to kill before the swim relay - 4x300yds. This gave me plenty of time to ponder such questions as How does one dive off blocks and not lose their goggles? How do you dive off the blocks and not bellyflop? I've never done a swim race in a pool so I've never done an off-the-blocks start and had NO idea how to keep my goggles on. Fortunately, I had some time before the relay to practice and the trick is - tighten the goggles so much and get the suction so tight that it feels like your head might explode. And keep your head down when diving in. Once I got the suction right after two practice dives where the goggles stayed put, I just walked around the deck with them on for the next 5-10 minutes before the race actually started, too afraid to take them off and ruin the good luck I'd had so far. I was the first leg (get it over with) and also the slowest, but still had a fast-for-me time of 4:05. I have zero top-end speed. I felt pretty good during the swim (300yds doesn't give you much time to feel bad) but I was most thrilled about the fact that my goggles stayed on. Seb, Dawn, and Calah on my team all had great swims. I loved watching our "A" team swim during the heat before ours - they are all super fast and it looked like they just skimmed across the top of the water.

Mark Allen was the featured speaker and I listened in to his talk. I had just finished reading Matt Fitzgerald's book Iron War the day before and I was thrilled to have a chance to hear Mark Allen tell the stories behind the book. Epitome of what can happen if you don't give up. I also had a chance to catch up with friends, both those that I see often and those I don't get a chance to see regularly. It seemed like the triathlon community from the entire DC region was all at Georgetown Prep. I caught up with Kate and Blaine from Tri360 and spent some time talking to their Orbea rep about mountain bikes (very much in the market for one, yesssss!)

We closed out the day by watching the bike Time Trial on the Computrainer. Talk about a sufferfest (for those biking, not those watching). I've never ridden on a computrainer and it does NOT look easy. Everyone hauled and did great. Snapple snagged the overall top spot in the team competition for the third year in a row and our "A" team grabbed third - great job guys! We're already looking forward to having fun at this event again next year. A fantastic way to kick off the triathlon season (IF spring ever decides to arrive here, otherwise polar ice fishing will need to take the place of the swim).

Partial team picture, missing a few people


24 March 2013

Confession

Today is Palm Sunday, marking the beginning of Holy Week, the most important week of the year on the Catholic calendar. Part of Lent (and part of being a Catholic) is the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession). The short of it: basically you go to a priest and tell him everything bad you have done/thought about doing/and things you have failed to do, all of which are keeping you from fulfilling your potential as a good person. The catch: it isn't as simple as just saying you did something wrong/failed to do the right thing. You need to actually want to change and not repeat your sins in the future. This is where it gets complicated - it requires some soul-searching, deep thought and reflection, as well as a desire to make meaningful steps towards change.

I find Confession to be one of the scariest and most humbling aspects of Catholicism and I'm terribly guilty of not going to Confession on a regular basis, even when it really, really matters during Holy Week. There is something almost terrifying about, not just thinking about things you know you've done wrong, but saying your sins out loud and recognizing that in order to grow and evolve and become a better version of yourself, you need to change. And change is NOT always fun, DEFINITELY not easy, ALWAYS humbling, and requires more than its fair share of self-reassessment. Because it is easy to put on the blinders and pretend nothing is wrong and plead ignorance. If you don't recognize and acknowledge a problem, does that problem really exist? How can you be responsible for making a change to something you weren't even aware was an issue? Once you admit fault, you no longer have the "out" of ignorance and change does become your responsibility.

So, what does this have to do with triathlon? Everything (in a sense). While Confession + meaningful change = ticket to heaven and choir of angels singing your praises; self-assessment/recognition of weakness + meaningful change = faster times/maybe even the podium. So no, not everlasting glory, but rather a healthy dose of self-improvement. We ALL have our weaknesses in sport, and the glaringly obvious is usually the physical weakness. I know the swim (as much as I love that leg) is my weakest (or it could be my run if I have a nutrition fail on the bike - it's super fun when I get both in one race, jackpot!). The first thought that comes to mind, when trying to fix a physical deficiency is TRAIN HARDER, LONGER, FASTER. That's the easy solution. More miles will lead to more speed and endurance, or at least more confidence (it can also lead to injuries and burnout, so....). And yes, if you are doing the minimum required to just get by, adding more miles, more speed will probably yield faster times. But what if you are already training at the top end of your training load? This is when self-assessment, reflection, and meaningful change can come in to play - both physical and mental. I know that I need to go to bed earlier, eat more fruits/veggies everyday and less unhealthy stuff. I know I also need to do all of my workouts, in their entirety and how they were intended (a 1hr 45 minute run is not the same if broken up into an hour in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon, for example). I know I need to stretch and foam roll and do strength training. I need to take rest days and not use those as "make-up days" for missed workouts. And in order to do all of these things, I need to look at myself and my day-to-day life and figure out what is it that I am doing wrong that might be preventing me from doing all of the above on a regular basis? And then ask myself two more questions: 1) what do I need to do to change my situation so I can meet the above conditions; and 2) am I truly committed to making these changes? Half-assing a change, not fully committing to it - don't even bother. The results you want won't be there and it will just leave you frustrated. It could be the perfect cop-out of well, I tried X,Y,and Z and that didn't work so why not revert back to my usual habits?

Attitude is the other piece of the puzzle, and probably the harder riddle to solve. At least with the swimbikerun you have data and numbers to use as benchmarks for improvement. Attitude - it is all in your head. I've found this aspect to be the hardest area for change to come about, but also the most meaningful and rewarding. When training, I need to go into every training session with the mindset of FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS and EFFORT EFFORT EFFORT, rather than just going through the motions and putting in the time. I'll need to utilize focus and effort on race day, and every training session offers an opportunity for race-day simulation, so why not hone my attitude, focus, and effort every time I swimbikerun? I've also needed to look at triathlon and figure out where the sport fit into my life. Was it just a hobby, something (expensive) to pass my time? Or did I want it to be something more - a lifestyle, an outlet for hard work and goals? Once I made the choice that I wanted to do more than just participate - that I wanted to train and race to the best of my abilities - THAT was when I started to undergo meaningful change as an athlete. I approached races with the attitude of I belong here and I'm going to outwork the others on this course and not give up. I still have work to do, as evidenced by the fact that there are still times where I don't race as hard as I know I can and I still have negative thoughts running through my head when things get tough. I know I still need to dig deeper, figure out what makes me want that goal enough so I push through the discomfort and race at a higher level. I still need to figure out the pieces that I'm doing wrong, the mistakes I'm still making if I'm going to continue to make progress. Sometimes your own potential is scary - it's almost easier not to push the boundaries and stay within your comfort zone because failure doesn't exist in your comfort zone. Usually there's alot of failure involved in trying to make progress and see what you are capable of. But those failures teach you lessons, make you stronger, and inevitably force you to look deep within yourself, make changes, and break down barriers, resulting in that elusive progress you have been searching for.

21 March 2013

Veggies, Fruits, and Cones of Shame

I managed to consume about 8 servings of fruits and vegetables today. I know that's about the recommended amount and I always aim high but fall a bit short - ending up in the 5-6 servings range. I ate a banana, a container of blackberries, fresh tomato-basil soup, homemade broccoli-carrot soup, I snacked on raw broccoli and carrots at my desk and then I had my usual apples with cinnamon (and some sugar) for dessert. I'm counting the container of blackberries as two servings and the tomato-basil soup as two servings. This left precious little space for junk, but I did have some oatmeal raisin cookies that Mr. Sweetie brought home from Whole Foods for Second Dessert. I had the apple first and waited a bit and STILL wanted the cookies so I had them. YUM.

Ticket has been purchased for Tucson! Hello sunshine in less than two weeks and I am so excited to ride my bike OUTSIDE in a short-sleeved jersey.

Our cat Hoover has been wearing the cone of shame as of late. He licks his tail and pulls his fur out, probably stress related (I think he is as fed up with Bissell as we are, ha). I'm sure the cone of shame isn't helping his stress situation, but at least now he can't lick his tail bare. It has also increased his klutziness exponetially. On a daily basis he is falling off the counter and chairs when he tries to jump up because he misjudges how well his cone can share space with the espresso machine on the counter or my rear end on the chair. And yesterday he had an epic fail when he tried to run underneath the bed and the cone wouldn't fit. Skyrocketing entertainment value.

I'm all jazzed to do a decently long ride outside this weekend. I don't know where I'm riding yet, but it will NOT be on the trainer. There is also the Mid-Atlantic Tri-Mania expo happening in DC on Sunday. I've always wanted to go but this is the first year I'll be in town for it. Tri360 will be there, along with a number of other vendors. And there will be RACES. I'm doing the 5k race in the morning and then the 300yd swim in the afternoon.  Good times.

19 March 2013

It's almost here - Tri Camp!!!!!

It has come to my attention that in approximately two weeks I will finally be enjoying some springlike weather - in Tucson, Arizona. This has been the chilliest, grossest March I can remember here in Virginia - they have even pushed back the peak bloom dates for the cherry blossoms by a week. The weather feels like some weird twilight zone of winter without the benefit of snow - just temps hovering a little above freezing and rain. Oh, I know what it reminds me of - SPRINGTIME IN NEW ENGLAND. HA. A good reminder of why I will likely never move north again.

But about springlike weather and Tucson Arizona - it's almost time for Jen's Tucson Tri Camp, my favorite annual vacation! Do I feel ready to climb Mt Lemmon? Hmmm, not really. I was actually just thinking about this the other day, I haven't done a ton of outdoor riding and while I've ridden some short steep hills during my infrequent outdoor rides, I think the last time I did any long and gradual climbs was sometime last summer out on Skyline. It has been awhile. I know I will be fine going up Lemmon, and there will be cookies waiting for me at the top so it is a no brainer that I will happily ride up the 25 miles, but I always get a little nervous/excited when I think about this ride. Challenging and fun. I'm excited for some swimming in the outdoor pool. I finally, finally, finally think I'll be able to pull off the IM strokes without looking like a fool so I think that's what I'm most looking forward to - not looking like a bozo in the water. AND we get fun Splish suits again this year (Thanks Kate O!). I'm also planning on avoiding any run-ins with cacti during the trail runs. The first year I just stumbled into a small one, and then the next year I swear to you that a cactus jumped out and bit me and this time the needles were in alot deeper. I'm concerned what will happen if we continue that trend this year. I think I will wear kevlar-protected arm warmers on my trail run. And maybe a helmet (you can never be too careful). And I am most looking forward to seeing my friends who will be at camp - SO EXCITED! Julia doesn't know it yet, but even if we have an entire condo for just 3 or 4 of us, we are all going to somehow end up piling into her bed, snoring and kicking her. It will be great fun, right Sarah?! And thankfully Camp falls after Easter this year so MINI EGGS IN THE BENTO BOX! They will probably melt in the heat, so I might have to pack them in snow from the top of Lemmon.

17 March 2013

High school, biking, and bib shorts

I've been lucky enough this past week to spend time with two friends from high school who were in town for visits. Katie and I went to kindergarten together, but our friendship really blossomed when we worked together at Domino's Pizza in high school. I think everyone needs a Katie in their life. She's one of the kindest, honest, loyal, and most generous people I know. Mr. Sweetie spoiled us both all week by making fantastic dinners every night (he basically made Food and Wine recipes pop out of our oven on a nightly basis). Her dog Karter and Miles became best buddies and I could see instant depression set in on Miles when Katie and Karter drove away on Friday morning. The great thing about my friendship with Katie is how easy it is - we've always been able to pick back up where we left off if we've gone a month or two without chatting and she just blended into daily life during her visit - chatting with me during my trainer rides, hanging out with Mr. Sweetie while I was on work travel, taking the dogs for a walk. It was so nice just to be. And really have a chance to catch up on the goings-on in each others' lives.

It's a challenge to get both dogs to cooperate

Best friends and best pups
And this weekend my other friend from high school, Kim, was in town with her parents for the Rock and Roll half marathon. It was really fun to do the race together, despite having a cold she had a great 4th half marathon. We had a low-key afternoon after the race before going out for a quasi-post half marathon/birthday dinner (Kim's birthday) and then out to Clarendon with group of friends. It was a good time. And today we had lunch at an Irish pub in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I haven't done anything for Saint Patrick's Day since college, but going out to lunch at Sam Beckett's in Shirlington was a perfect low-key way to spend the afternoon. In a way (if you ignore the loads of people wearing green), it was an example of what a pub stands for in Ireland - there were lots of families there having a long lunch and a few drinks with friends, really soaking in the pub atmosphere and not rushing off to do something else more important. We might make a leisurely lunch with friends a more common occurrence. It was so nice to have a chance to catch up with Kim, we don't see each other often because she lives in NY but it's great when we're able to make it happen. 

Post-race finisher picture!


Out to dinner with Kim and Tashna

St. Patrick's Day lunch at Sam Beckett's
Training this week was lighter due to a nicely-timed recovery/taper week. I had to go to our NJ office earlier in the week for work, making it a little challenging to fit everything in. I feel really good after running my race yesterday, my legs weren't terribly sore post-race and today it felt nice to stretch out my legs on the Tri360 bike ride. There was a great group out riding and I spent a fair amount of it la-dee-da chatting with Sarah and Dawn, focusing more on the chatting and a little less on the biking, but that's what social riding is all about :) I'm looking forward to spring hopefully making an appearance soon. I felt a twinge of nostalgia for the simplicity of summer biking - requiring only shorts and a shortsleeve jersey - this morning as I pulled on my tights, earwarmers, booties, and windstopper jacket. I know parts of the country are having a much worse winter (ahem, Julia. Jen) so I will keep my complaining about 40s and clouds to a minimum. But really - Are You There, Spring? It's Me, Caroline. Come around soon. Speaking of biking apparel - we got our Team Ignite kits this week - new bike jersey, tri shorts and jersey, bib shorts (I've never tried bib shorts but I've heard once you do, you never go back. And after feeling like a plumber this AM with my low-riding tights while I was in aero, I think I already believe it). I raced in my tech tee yesterday and it was super comfortable. My teammates who designed the kits did an awesome job - striking a nice balance of color and design to satisfy both genders (i.e., we don't look like Batman and we aren't covered in pink). Zoca Gear has super comfortable triathlon gear and I'm pretty excited to race and train in it. If it gets warm enough this week, the shorts might get their first workout on a bike commute - huzzah for DST and later sunsets!



16 March 2013

2013 Rock and Roll Half Marathon race report

If I could go back and do this race again, I totally would and execution would stay exactly the same because this was probably one of my most well-executed races to date. I also had a boatload of fun on the race course, another reason why I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

This past week was busy, as my best friend from high school, Katie, was in town visiting and I also had some work travel. I loved having a chance to catch up with Katie and spend so much time with her. She was a sport and chatted me up during bike trainer workouts, etc. The race this weekend was in the back of my mind all week and I made sleep a priority and EVEN limited my bagel consumption on Bagel Friday in the name of not overeating before a race. Sadly, I slept terribly last night, I'm a good sleeper 99% of the time until I get myself all excited about a race and then have a hard time falling - and staying - asleep. I wasn't organized enough to send Jen a race plan until about 10pm last night, and even then it was a pretty loose plan. Run fast, but not too fast at the start, and then run faster at the middle and the end. Execute good pacing where my last miles are faster than my first (I was pretty thrilled with how smart I was with race execution at the Dahlgren Trail half marathon last month and was eager to give smart pacing another go). In the past, I've tried to go out too fast and hang on and pay for it in the end with slower miles in the backhalf, dragging down my overall pace, womp womp.

My other good friend from high school, Kim, was in town for the race this weekend and stayed at my house. It was so great to have someone to get ready with on race morning and eat loads of pasta with the night before. She's also game for pre-race photos so I finally have a couple race day photos:

Kimmy and I - ready to run! And sporting the new Ignite Endurance tech tee!
I love these big local races because you have the fun of having out-of-town friends come in for the event AND you see your friends and co-workers and tri club teammates out on the course too. I ran into Katie M. from work at bag check and then saw a bunch of my Ignite teammates at the finish, as well as Sara L. Big town, yet small at the same time. So much fun. Anyway, Kimmy and I parted ways a little before the start so I could do a warmup jog (proud of me Jen? I'm actually doing what I am supposed to be doing). I was in corral 2 and we went off about a minute or two after the first corral. My first mile clicked off about 15-20 seconds faster than I had intended, but my HR was right in the high Zone 2-low Zone 3, I felt really, really good and the pace felt sustainable - so I decided to go with it and see if I could hold it as my starting pace and then quicken my speed even more after the hill at Calvert when things flatten out and the course had some downhills. The miles ticked by and I continued to feel strong. A small part of me kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but a bigger part of me felt confidence in my training, ability to hold the pace, and my mental state so I didn't slow down for the sake of saving energy.

Tangent: I've been reading Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald (thanks for lending it to me, Brad - and happy birthday!) and last night I was reading a section on - and I won't get too technical here - the idea that the brain is the one that stops us from reaching our full potential, not our body. We slow down because going faster hurts and our brains often decide that it simply isn't worth it. It explains why we have a finisher kick - why you felt like you needed to slow down - OR DIE - at mile 11 but then had your fastest mile at 13. I had this section of the book on my mind during the race as a reminder that my legs hurt, but do they reaaaallllyyyyy hurt enough to warrant slowing down? End tangent.

After the gosh-awful hill at Calvert in Rock Creek Park (WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT), it took about a mile for my legs to recover and feel like they were moving at a decent clip again. At this point, the course flattened out a bit and had some downhills and smaller uphills mixed in - basically, a course made in heaven for a negative split race and THAT was what I set out to do. I started catching a few people here and there who had blown by me at the start and my pace was staying consistent, and some miles were getting faster, a few falling in the sub-7 range (!!!). I remembered that I started to fall apart a bit mentally during this part of the race last year - and this year was a complete 180 in comparison. I was thrilled and kept a huge grin on my face for much of miles 7-10.5. Things started to feel substantially less pleasant at that point and I felt my mind retreat inward and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible. My last mile ended up being my fastest of the day - 6:35 (!!!!!) - and while a tiny part of me wonders if maybe I could've gone a little bit faster earlier on in the race if I had that much energy left at the end, I think that I was probably able to have a fast last mile because I had paced myself really well. It turns out that I had a 4-second half marathon PR, finishing in 1:33:09 (I had gotten my previous PR at this race back in 2009 and not run a time close to that since then). I'm super excited about how the race panned out and how capable and confident I felt on the race course.

04 March 2013

This is what really counts

Every weekend I am reminded about how truly lucky I am to be surrounded by some of the nicest, kindest, most generous, most FUN, and extremely talented girls that I call my friends. This goes for both triathlete friends and non-triathlete friends; friends I've known since kindergarten and friends that I've become close to over just the last year; friends that I see on a weekly basis here in DC and friends that live far away but who I still manage to stay close with, despite the distance. 

I'm not the most outgoing person and I was terribly shy growing up in elementary and middle school. Somewhere along the way in high school, I got really lucky and fell in with some really wonderful girlfriends who are still some of the best people I know. In college, my roommates and closest friends were one in the same and I miss having them right down the hall from me. Here in DC, I've met so many great people through the sport of triathlon, both through the teams I have been on and into the wider triathlon community. And through the triathlon camp down in Tucson, it is impressive how one long weekend spent on your bike climbing Lemmon and Madera Canyon and running in Sabino Canyon can forge some long-lasting and, most importantly, meaningful friendships. 

My life is too rich to adequately put into words. How did I win the jackpot in the friendship lottery? The banter over Facebook and daily emails about bike rides, monster swims, food cravings. The thoughtful letters and cards and emails when I have a big race coming up or I finally captured an elusive goal. The chatty bike rides that fly by because you're catching up with some of your favorite people about what has been happening in each other's lives. The pizza and wine nights where four of us work magic and make at least 3 pizzas disappear and good luck to any of our significant others in snagging a slice. The casual parties and get togethers, the early morning swim workouts, the bike rides in all kinds of weather, and the long run followed by brunch on the weekend. I can't imagine a better life than the way mine has turned out. I can't imagine better people to fill my time with. This is what life is really about, this is what makes it worth living - it is the people you surround yourself with. So to every single one of my girlfriends - thank you for making my life rich where it really counts. You are all irreplaceable and incredible and not a day goes by that I don't realize how lucky I am to have people like you filling up my life. 

02 March 2013

Long Ride... OUTSIDE!

It's the beginning of March, which marks the beginning of meteorological spring, which should also mean the start of me consistently riding my bike outside. I saw a quote somewhere that was along the lines of while you were riding on the trainer, your competition was out in the cold, wind, and rain logging miles on the bike. I also just realized I will be riding up Mt Lemmon in a month at tri camp, so it would be in my best interest to get my wimpy rear end outside.

I walked out of my house this morning, bike in hand, and it was crisp, no wind, sun was shining and I found myself thinking wow, what a beautiful day. I'm so happy that I'm ditching the trainer and riding outside. Now let's fast forward to about Mile 10 of today's 40 miler. Brutal headwind, on a busy road, SNOW (ok, not much, but still - SNOW blowing around) and temps definitely in the 30s. Oh, and no sun, no birds singing, no flowers blooming. Just dark clouds, trucks zooming by, and WIND. It's safe to say that Sarah and I yelled a few choice words before trying to reduce our surface area as much as possible so we could slice through the wind (that did not happen).

Fortunately, this dark part of the ride didn't last too long. The busy road gradually gave way to a beautiful country road that wound through fields and farms. Sarah and I had an opportunity to catch up and chat, making the ride go by so much faster. With the exception of my left foot, I was pretty warm and I was happy to finally be riding outside. I feel like I get so much more out of riding outdoors than on the trainer. So much more variation in the terrain and I could feel myself using muscles I forgot I had in my back and arms and legs. One of the things I was most looking forward to was that really tired and satisfied feeling you get after a good ride (and today did not disappoint). About 30 miles into the ride, we hit a section of the Poolesville ride that I have done over and over each summer when I get ready for IMLP. It was nice to know where I was and it seemed like my bike was pretty happy too, as my speed was picking up and I was feeling strong (a tailwind will do that to you). This feeling lasted about 5 miles until we made our final turn... right into another ridiculous headwind. Never has my car been such a welcome sight as it was at the end of today's ride - warm, dry clothes, the heater blasting and Dawn was great company for the ride home. The only thing that was missing was a post-ride burrito. I made up for it by cooking up a grilled cheese sent straight from heaven and ate it in about 2 minutes.

I think I'm ready to put the trainer away for the remainder of chilly weather riding. Things will hopefully only be getting warmer and if I could make it through today's windy and flurries unscathed, then there are no excuses. I need to be able to make it to the top of Mt Lemmon next month for my giant cookie!