Random Facts Friday

1. Everyone who has made a joke about the frequency of my posting is hilarious.

2. I TOLD you lake bacteria gets in your brain and makes you sick!

3. I didn’t mean for this blog to start off so surly.

4. I’m a perfectionist, which is good when you’re an editor,but  bad when you’re just trying to knit 9 damn blanket squares and get your life back! My knitting class was supposed to be over this week, but they added a 4th session for next week. I celebrated by ripping out an entire square. I messed up the first row, but I thought I could finish it quickly if I just kept going. Instead I just made several more mistakes and started over from nothing this morning.

5. I think I’ve developed a Pavlovian response to running after training for a marathon while hurt. I dread running anymore, even though when I do it, it’s really easy and fun, and I’m much faster than I have been recently. But I just always expect it to hurt so badly, so I never want to do it. I need to shake that off–Sunday is 12 weeks from the Richmond half.

6. I wish I had read this article more closely before coming into work today. No wonder there was no traffic coming in on the 11Y this morning.

7. I’m trying to hire an editorial assistant and having the worst luck. It’s super frustrating, and I’m also developing a Pavlovian response to reading crappy resumes…

8. I’m obsessed with real estate. I can spend hours on Redfin, even when there isn’t much there (like now, ahem, neighbors) and when I have no intention of moving.

9. I’m also obsessed with Thai food. I eat it twice a week, pretty much without fail. Mango and sticky rice is my kryptonite.

10. I’m going wine tasting this weekend! My sis and her friends bought a groupon for a limo ride out to some wineries. I look forward to drinking without running 13 miles first.

11. Werewolf is my absolute favorite party game ever. I get really into it–something about leading angry mobs to kill innocent people just resonates with me. I went to a Werewolf party once, and at the end of the night my face hurt from smiling so much.


Wordless Wednesday

Is it weird that I appear to smile constantly while racing? Ask anyone who knows me (or stalk some race pictures). These are not anomalies.

Random Facts Friday

1. I need kind of mindless blog themes to allow me to post more often. It’s hard to be an editor all day and then come home and want to blog! So thanks for starting this, Katie!

2. I won a free knitting class and am currently spending all my free time trying to make squares for a blanket. I love the practice of knitting, but I don’t love the way yarn looks. I’m also uncomfortable with the gender norms of knitting, but I feel like it’s the most stereotypical female thing I do (well besides emotional blackmail) so it’s ok.

3. Actually the real most stereotypical female thing I do is obsess about my weight and body.

4. I’m going to the Slut Walk this weekend.

5. I’m obsessed with magazines. At one point I had to go through and cancel all my subscriptions because there were too many, and I was just throwing them away, but somehow that number has creeped back up. I currently subscribe to Bitch, Runners World, Running Times, Bicycling, Vegetarian Times, and Women’s Health (it came free with RW).

6. I think Bicycling is my favorite, because I have the most to learn from it.

7. The grossest thing I do is buy the premade egg salad from Whole Foods and eat it from the container. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who ever eats it, and it’s a little galling to pay $4.99 a pound for egg salad, but I hate touching mayonnaise and I’m lazy, so I do what I gotta do.

8. I only have 250 text messages a month and I routinely go over, but I’m waiting for Wes to come back to Verizon so we can BOTH have iPhones before I upgrade. In the meantime, if I don’t reply to your text, it’s because I’m way over and don’t think the message is worth 25 cents to send.

8. This is all I can think of. I’m still sick! But luckily my condo has a pool I can convalesce by on this beautiful day.

Three Things Thursday

1. Tuesday was my biggest viewership day ever. Even bigger than when Pacers retweeted my monkey post. If I had known doing an Olympic tri would catapult me to blogger stardom, I would have done one sooner! (No, I wouldn’t have.)

2. The downside of pushing yourself as hard as you possibly can in a triathlon? Your suppressed immune system allows all that lake bacteria to climb into your brain and give you a wicked head cold. I’ve been stuck in lethargy limbo since Monday, but my boss is on vacation, so I keep going into work. I think I’m going to go home today though. You win this round, cold.

3. In what can only be described as a shocking development, I kind of liked the swim on Sunday, and now I’m feeling motivated to improve it. Granted this was a small race, but I was 14th on the swim in my AG, but 4th on the bike and 3rd on the run. Yeah, talk about imbalance. As I told the CAR blog mafia, I can finally see now how people might get addicted to this sport… It only took 4 tris! Ha! Tris!

I Am Steelman

Well folks, you were right. Thanks in no small part to your encouragement and the awesome support of most of my favorite training partners,  I did it! And I managed to exceed every goal I set for myself while having fun in the process. In short, Sunday was an amazing day.

I awoke Sunday morning to echos of two years ago. At 4:30, the rain was coming down hard as I worked to attach the bikes to the car rack without getting too cold or wet in the pitch-black process. But as we were driving to the race, a miracle happened: It stopped raining. As I was lifting the bikes back off the car, I made a comment to Katie (my sister) about how at least it had stopped raining, unlike two years ago.

“Oh, that was the worst race ever,” the woman in the car next to us chimed in. Lady, you don’t know the half of it.

We met up with Amy and the Tall Girl and made our way down to the transition area, where we set up and waited for the confirmation of wetsuit legality. I had my wetsuit dance all ready to go, and I was thrilled to break it and the suit out once they made the announcement. Seriously, I was probably the first person to don my suit. There’s nothing like a good wetsuit strut to get you in the mood to race.

Anyway, I digress.

The race started with a swim warm up, which I decided to take advantage of for the first time ever. After the DC Tri, where I jumped in and immediately started swimming then spent the first 200 meters hyperventilating, I realized that letting my body acclimate to the water was a good idea. Usually I just stand there and let myself get more and more worked up and scared before starting the race, a practice that has probably caused some adverse physiological reactions that only added to the miserableness of swimming. So I got in, I put my face in, I swam around, and all was good.

I climbed back out, talked to Lauren and Amy for a while, then Katie and I made our way down to our wave. We were in the second wave, along with every other man and woman under 30 and the Athenas and Clydesdales. Holy superwave, Batman! We moved into the water and out to the first buoy, and then we were off. I settled right in, breathing on both sides almost right away. It was a bit crowded, but I passed the few people who were slower than me and settled right in next to the buoys. I think I’ve mentioned before that the benefit of swimming the way I do is that it’s empty enough that I can take a pretty direct line to the buoys, and I did that on Sunday. At one point I was so close to a turn buoy that I punched it twice. I’m not sure that’s textbook, but it made me laugh.

As I swam along, it felt like I was taking forever. I told myself I’d finish in about 40 minutes and that was ok. I fought the urge to look at my watch, and instead I thought mostly of Dash and how she’d be so proud of me for finishing. Which is true, but kind of a weird thing to think of. I also thought about my dad, and how glad he would be to see me come out of the water instead of dropped off a boat. But this is the first time that I didn’t swear off triathlon completely while swimming, and I attribute that to the fact that I felt confident in my (slow) swimming ability for the first time ever, after two long years of work.

I finally did come out of the water, and was pleasantly surprised to look down at my watch and see 34:11! And did I mention that I’ve figured out that my swim headaches come from shoulder and neck tension? So I didn’t even have to deal with crushing dizzy spells or anything. I came out of the water and started running!

Back in transition I struggled with my wetsuit a bit, but I pulled it off and headed out just as Katie came in to grab her bike. My goal for the bike was to lay it all out there. In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t do many brick workouts. My theory is that if I’m strong enough, in each individual discipline, I’ll be just fine. And it seems to be working for my current fitness/ability level. Maybe someday I’ll get serious and train properly. But anyway, my goal was to just leave it out on the bike course in the spirit of that tired old triathlon mantra, “It IS all about the bike.”

And lay it out there I did. The DC Tri has a much bigger field, so I’m used to coming out of the swim and picking off people like crazy. I was a little thrown to not see anyone from my age group on the bike. Then I thought I might be kind of close to the front anyway, so I just went after it. On a fairly hilly course, I managed to average 18.9 mph for 26.9 miles. I was stoked. I came back into transition after tracking down one of my competitors, waved to my dad, and racked my bike. My goal was to keep T2 down to a minute: I ran out and tapped my watch at 1:05. Success!

I started running and immediately began passing folks. My goal was 50 minutes, which was kind of a reach. I haven’t run 6 miles all in a row in two months. Hee. So I got out there and desperately wanted to walk, but I started bargaining with myself. Self, I said, you have a shot at a podium spot if you run fast enough, but ONLY if you run under 50 minutes. And let’s be honest, you probably feel so miserable because you’re running so fast!

I hit the first mile in 7:50 and suddenly believed the angel on my shoulder. On the way out, I had passed Beth and the Tall Girl, and I was looking forward to seeing Amy and my sister on our two-loop course. The run kept getting harder, but I just kept passing people left and right. I caught up with and passed two girls in my AG, at which point I realized I probably wouldn’t podium (curse you, swimming!) but I planned to get as close as humanly possible.

It had warmed up, and I started dumping water on my head. I also realized that I should have eaten some more food on the run, because I felt like I was bonking. I started sipping Gatorade to get me through it. At long last, I saw mile 6 and then the turn to the gravel path to the finish. Two men ahead of me were racing each other pretty hard, and I just watched them go and wondered how in the world they had so much left. I was absolutely spent.

I crossed the finish line with a 49:40(!!!) for the run, 2:53:21 total and finally got the coveted Steelman finisher towel that had been denied to me two years ago. I hobbled over to Katie, Beth, and the Tall Girl to wait for Amy and my Katie to finish. There I slowly regained my strength and posed for the greatest picture of me ever taken.

In the car on the way back to DC, I told Wes that this was one of my most proud races ever. While my mangled syntax illustrates just how tired I was, the sentiment is valid. I was out and out terrified of swimming when I started. I worried that I would never be able to do an Olympic distance triathlon. I questioned why I continued to swim when it only resulted in frustration and anxiety. A lot of people gave me permission to quit–permission that was sought and much appreciated–but I insisted that swimming was character building. And after Sunday I’m convinced I was right. I spent a lot of my life doing only what came easily to me, but the reward is so much sweeter when you put in some effort, when you finally do what you thought you never could.

Thanks, guys.

On Seeking Revenge

In my racing life, I’ve had few truly terrible experiences. I would say one is the time I played a rugby game in PA, ate nothing all day except for 5 Balance Bars, then came home and tried to run the first-ever 9/11 Memorial 5k. The result? A super-hot race in which I spent much of the time trying not to puke while my rugby captain ran alongside me and never let on how much she was probably judging me and my terrible fitness (32 minutes for a 5k is fine if you’re not trying to play D-1 women’s rugby). Upon arriving home, it was all I could do to get to the bathroom before the bars finally forced themselves out the other end. Bad day.

Look at those cheeks.

The other one is, of course, my one and only DNF, which happened not long after I started my blog. You guys may know the story, and if you don’t, you can read it alllllll back at that link.

But this weekend, I’m going for revenge on the Steelman course. Double the revenge, in fact, because this time I’m making my debut in the Oly distance. A lot has changed in two years. Last time I showed up on my beloved commuter hybrid, walking with the aid of a cane, and planning to wear a bathing suit throughout the whole thing (hard core).

Now I have a beloved road bike, a super sweet tri kit, some triathlons under my belt,  and the CAR blog mafia on my side. I also have a wetsuit that I’m praying nonstop to be allowed to wear because, well, some things haven’t changed, and I’m going to have to fight the mind fuck that is being pulled out of this lake once before.

You want them on your side.

Can I do it? To quote the bard, I think I can.

No, I’m pretty sure I can. And I’m very much looking forward to making up for that ugly mark on my racing history.

As far as that first race, well, I’ve never been back to do another one, but I did go on to blow the marathon times of my captain out of the water, though she’s a lovely woman, and I would never say I was exacting revenge on her. But there is something deeply gratifying about running way faster than an Eagle.

Virginia Wine Half Marathon Race Report

Hey y’all! I’m sorry I haven’t been around. I promise that I am back to (overall) regular blogging, but my job is kind of a disaster. Who plans two major conferences two weeks apart (besides some sort of conference-planning business)? My organization! And conferences, even the greenest of them, still mean lots of publications. So I have been busy. I’ve also been training a bit and enjoying something of a normal social life. So much so that I had to schedule “social rest days” because I was missing my couch a bit too much. I think the problem is that during marathon season, I have a legitimate reason to stay home. I have to get in my runs or my sleep. Now that that excuse is gone for a while, I just say yes to everything. So the blog, my sleep, and my sanity all suffer as a result.

But anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk about me! A few weeks ago, without realizing exactly how soon June 4 was, I let Dash talk me into buying someone’s bib for the inaugural Virginia Wine Half Marathon. Some of my favorite running partners were doing it, plus there was wine at the end, so what was not to love?

Of course I forgot that I wanted to run a PR the very next weekend. And that my longest run during my 5k frenzy was 5 miles. Heh heh. And then the heatwave hit. I did 6 miles one weekend, sweating my balls off, as my legs screamed at me every step of the way. The next weekend I went out and did another 6. It was super hot, I was super sore, and I just didn’t feel like pushing myself for a race that didn’t matter. And then it was race day. My longest run in the last 2 months was 10 miles at Cherry Blossom–exactly 2 months ago. I was panicking about the pain and the heat, but at least the heat backed off. It was just me and my hip flexors.

I’ve read a bunch of race reports from the weekend that involved having to wake up at 5am. Bitches, please. I got up at 4:30. We had a girls’ night slumber party at Dash’s dad’s house (that’s not a joke) so we could drive down the street and take a bus to the start from one of the host hotels.

The race started at a gorgeous vineyard.

I'm going to steal all Dash's photos before she posts them.

And ended at another.

See? Ponds everywhere!

In between there was 13.1 miles of gorgeous, rolling farmland. From the looks of it, everyone in Leesburg lives in some kind of bucolic paradise, with ponds and solariums and barns a plenty. The first mile was crowded, so I took it easy and stuck with my whole crew. The next mile things started to break up, so a friend and I sped up. For the next few miles I kept it comfortable, running about 8:50s. I was pleasantly surprised with how fast I was going with such a comfortable effort, but I knew I had a long way to go.

Turns out I was right to be cautious. I started to hurt around mile 5. At mile 6 I turned on some tunes and got a second wind from Wes Tucker and the Skillets. At mile 9 I was pretty much ready to give up. Both hip flexors hurt, the sun was super high in the sky, thanks to a late start (I’ll get to that), and I still had 4 miles left. I knew by then that I would break 2 hours, which was my only real goal, and the hills were coming fast and furious. I figured I’d just run comfortably and finish it up. But then, in the distance, I caught sight of a friend.

I busted out an 8-minute mile and finally reeled her in right as we passed the 10-mile mark. I held the pace for another mile before dropping back a bit, 8:24 for mile 12. We ran through a cemetery, and my calves started to cramp up. I felt like I was walking up even the smallest hill. As we passed mile 12, I knew I could finish well under my goal.

The night before the race, Dash and I had a conversation about what kind of time you’d have to run to be able to justify pooping your pants in a race. We both agreed that it would have to be some kind of super-elite world-class time, but as the finish line approached (we could see it from about a 1/4 mile out), my body told me that it really wanted to use the bathroom. And I realized that I was so OVER running at that point that there’s no way I’d stop to answer nature’s call in a real emergency. I would try my luck and keep pushing to the finish. So apparently my shit-threshold is a pathetic 1:52 half marathon. Sorry, anyone next to me in a race.

I feel like I’m getting off topic. Where was I? Oh yeah, I finished! I crushed my goal of beating my National Half time, which was 2:01, and I even met my super-secret A goal of 1:52. See, I thought my first half marathon time was 1:52, so I figured I should be able to run something like that. Turns out my first half time was 1:53, but it was also the closest I ever came to pooping my pants (hey, I was new to distance running). Next year I’ll tell myself my first half was a 1:40.

Afterward I slipped into my ice pants, which were a birthday present from Dash and are just about as good as I imagined.

Then I ate one 50-calorie bag of fucking pop chips and had a bunch of wine. So overall, good day for sure. I have just two complaints.

Complaint 1: Late race start. So something went wrong, and one of the buses got held up. If I had been on that bus, I would have been going completely apeshit. But I wasn’t on that bus. I was standing at the starting line with every other person, and we all stood around for an extra half an hour while the sun rose higher and higher into the sky. What’s better? Having 20 people mad at you or 1200? The race ended going off at 7:30 without the bus, so it was truly no-win, but I can’t blame the race directors for trying to salvage a bad situation.

I can, however, blame them for

Complaint 2: Diet food. So I got out and burn roughly 1300 calories, and at the end, I’m greeted with water in tiny paper cups, pop chips, which aren’t even real things, green bananas, and skinny water. Excuse me, but what? There was food we could buy, but this race cost, at a minimum $95. You’re going to have to do better than pop chips! And what the hell is skinny water? Why can’t I just have a bottle of water? Isn’t it a liability to not feed half marathoners before you send them off to drink free wine and drive home?

Then again, maybe not, because I am the biggest lightweight in the world, and I didn’t even catch a buzz off the wine. I can only assume that my body needed calories SO BADLY that it was metabolizing the alcohol instantly. Do better, Destination Races.

But I don’t want to leave it on a bad note. Check out the medal. Yes, that’s a wine stopper.