Tuesday, April 29, 2014

TriTalk Tuesday - Are My Kids Still Chasing Me?

It's TriTalk Tuesday again!  My favorite day of the blogging week where I get to link up with Cynthia at You Signed Up for What? and Courtney at The TriGirl Chronicles and dish about all things triathlon.  The last two weeks we have covered the Swim, the Bike, and now (predictably) it's time to talk about the Run.  (Actually, as my technical coach pointed out in his bike post, we should have covered T1 after the swim to be totally accurate.  Whatever.  Next week is Transition.....)

My new favorite running shirt

Before we dig in, let me fill you in on the status of my mental breakdown from the last post.  I'm a little better.  I took three rest days in a row, which is more than I've taken since... I'm guessing before Christmas.  And the world did not end.  We also had some family time with a quick trip to the Berkshires.  Nothing to epic to report - just some kids museums, a lot of nice restaurants, and enough hotel pools to keep the kidlets happy and tired enough to fall asleep fast in their hotel bed.  I won't claim to be the Queen of the Land of Sanity, but I also haven't flown off the handle in at least 48 24 a good solid 8 hours.  We'll call that progress.

Rest Day / Vacation Nutrition

So.... The Run

One of many running boo-boos
Running still claims the prize as my least favorite of the triathlon disciplines.  Despite all winter and early spring focusing on it, getting more confident and speedy, and bagging two half marathons. I still don't feel "good at it" (whatever that means).  Certainly, running has afforded me the most injuries of all my athletic endeavors.  I've had issues with every joint south of my navel in the last year, including a stint on crutches and an MRI that still didn't lead to a diagnosis more specific than "over-use".  In retrospect, most of these were likely caused by my poor running form, something that I am currently focusing on fixing.  So what keeps me out there pounding the pavement?

1.  I'm a social runner

Said in the same tone as "I'm a social smoker...."   I'm not advocating smoking.  At all. But it is true that I originally starting running with a couple of girlfriends.  I was jealous of those "running moms" that I saw at the multitude of 5ks for PTOs and other good causes around here.  They work and have kids?  How come they can run so fast?  How hard can it be?  Left right left right.... I wanna do that!!!!  And so forth.  Ironically, it was taking up running that led me to triathlon, as one of my running buddies casually suggested I try it since I had 2 of the 3 sports down (running and biking).  

Mommies on the Run
In this respect, running has not disappointed.  I have met some amazing women through running that I now consider some of my closest friends.  If that means that more of my social life revolves around workouts than drinking wine these days.... that's ok.  We can do both.

2.  It's attached to other activities I like

I attribute this extremely astute assessment to my physical therapist, Laura, who shares my love/hate relationship with the activity.  Let's face it - there isn't really a way to race a triathlon without running.  True, you can walk the run.  Many do, especially on the long-course triathlons.  Or you can do an Aquabike (just the swim and bike).  Which is just as expensive in race fees, and yet lacks the same cache as doing a triathlon, in my opinion.  Plus it's even harder to explain to non-triathletes than a regular tri ("You do what?  Bike in the water?")

3. It's easy

Not the the actual running part.  That's still hard.  In terms of convenience though it cannot be beat.  Beyond a pair of sneakers, no special equipment is required.  No pool memberships to pay for.  Treadmill, road, trail.... it is easier for me to "sneak in" a running workout than any other kind into my busy schedule.

4. My little girl is obsessed with running

Last season in a fit of temper I told my daughter (then 5) that I was quitting running while tucking her in to bed.  She literally burst into tears crying, "No Mommy you are my training buddy you HAVE to keep running I love to run with you!!!!"  Oops.  You just never know what will traumatize your kids.  To say that this girl loves to run is an understatement.  

Training for her 5k
Perfect.  Form.

My kiddo did her first 5K when she was 4 years old.  We were running the local turkey trot and she surprised us by hopping out of the stroller and trotting the whole way along, laughing and yelling "gobble gobble!" to everyone.  Last month she ran our local St. Patrick's Day race in a very impressive time for someone who's legs are so short she can't go on my roller coasters.  She's also my favorite running buddy.  I push the empty jogging stroller for as long as she wants (this weekend it was a mile), and then she hops in and entertains me for the rest of my run.  I just hope she never decides to run a marathon because I won't be able to keep up!

We did it!  One mile for Boo and four miles for Mom!

5.  Runner's crush

I admit it - I have a little bit of a crush on good runners.  My definition of good ranges from people like Shalane Flanagan who nearly won the Boston Marathon, to my coach and my sister-in-law who have been running for years and are my definition of "fast for normal people", to bigger runners like The Heavyweight Runner who are still out there getting it done even though I can imagine how much it hurts.   I guess that's the thing - I find running extremely difficult - more-so than most things in life, and to see people really out there giving it their all is truly inspirational.   I could write an entire article on how stories from the recent Boston Marathon made me cry (and maybe I will).  There is just something truly amazing about the human spirit and what it takes to push yourself along on your own two legs for miles and miles....

 6.  Runner's High

No fighting biology.  Running gets your blood pumping and endorphins moving faster than most other athletic activities.  When it comes to stress relief and a break from anxiety or anger (or frustration from the challenges of mom-hood), nothing give me the bang for the buck that a good run does.  Plus, the high from finishing a tough race is addictive.

Rio and I cross the line at the Raleigh Rock n Roll Half Marathon

Do you talk triathlon on your blog? Link up with You Signed Up For WHAT?!The Cupcake Triathlete, and The TriGirl Chronicles on Tuesdays for Tri Talk! We’ll discover a new theme each week and talk about triathlon training, tips, and general chatter. Be sure to link to your specific post and not a general link to your blog so that your post can be found in the linkup archives. Links not triathlon-related will be deleted.  Also, please link posts that are on topic for each week's theme.  Ex. this week is running.  Next week is Transition.  Thanks!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Whoa! Liebster Award!

Most of the time I write my blog under the assumption that very few people ever read it.  It is, in fact, one step up from talking to myself.  Aren't all bloggers, at heart, in this bucket?  I mean, I know my mom reads it.  I know my husband refuses to (thank goodness.  Some things in a marriage should remain private and shared only with an infinite number of anonymous strangers).  I have a suspicion my coach reads it sometimes.  But that's it.  So imagine my surprise last week when I found out that, not only do I have a reader, but that she nominate me for a Liebster Award!  Thank you Lori from Journey to Fit & Healthy!  Both for the nomination and for dropping by and listening to all my ramblings!

For those wondering, the Liebster Award is one for bloggers by bloggers with a small following, and is just a nice way to give someone you follow and think deserves a little recognition a bit of a Hey-yeah!  Rock on!

The Liebster Award Rules

1. You must link back to the person who nominated you
2. You must answer the 10 Liebster questions given to you by the nominee before you
3. You must pick 10 bloggers to be nominated for the award (with a small following)
4. You must create 10 questions for your nominees

5. You must go to their blogs and notify the nominees

Without further ado, here are the questions (and answers) that Lori asked I share with y'all:

Why did you start blogging?

This one easy.  To stop annoying my husband and my friends.  Triathlon takes a lot of head space, and although the man is a saint, there's really only so much blah-blah your spouse should have to put up with.  Now this way I get to bleed out my thoughts on people who actually chose to hear [read] them.  Plus it's a nice record for myself of how far I've come and what I've accomplished.

Do you have any "furbabies"? If you do, tell us a little about them.

Two kitties - the love and lights of my life.  The white one is Andromeda (Andy).  She's been through a lot - after years of chronic gingivitis she jumped onto my very pregnant belly where I was balancing a dinner plate and knocked out one of her canine teeth.  Four days in the hospital and the removal of most of her teeth followed.  She's a much happier kitty since the surgery.

The tan one is TJ (Tigger).  She's named for TJ Maxx, as that was the store that I caught her in front of.  Someone had dumped her out in a busy parking lot on Labor Day weekend.  I was shopping for baby clothes and saw her.  I chased her and rolled around under cars with my 7-months pregnant belly for 30 minutes before I caught her.  She is the most affectionate cat I've ever known.

Who do you admire the most and why?

I don't have a name for this.  I admire people who are fighting their own demons.  Who deal with tremendously challenging situations (a child with cancer), live life gratefully with chronic pain, or fight against the grain to tell an unpopular story about themselves to raise awareness.  I admire courage.

What is a habit that you had that you are most proud of breaking?

Feeling the need to judge people as soon as I meet them.  I made a lot of wrong assumptions over the years.  Now I try to keep an open mind about everyone.  This is one of my favorite quotes and words to live by:

Now if I could only judge myself by those same standards (not need to feel perfect at all times), I'd be REALLY proud of myself....

What is your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving.  I love watching the parade.  Now we run a Turkey Trot in the morning, and the last 2 years my bakery has baked 1000s of cupcakes for the runners.  Then family and food.  No fuss about presents, not much preparation.  My husband watches the game and we all chill out.  We stay in our pajamas all of Black Friday as well - no shopping with the crazies for us.  Wait, did that sounds judgmental? ;)

What would be your dream job?

Wildlife biologist.  This was actually my original goal, and my first degree.  This would be in the world where it paid enough to support my family and I could somehow travel all over Australia and the Congo with them without missing teeball practice....

What is the first website you check when you turn on your computer/phone?

Training Peaks.  Triathlon nerd.  It's what I do.

What did you study in university/college? Would you do something different if you could go back?

My undergrad degree was in Biology, then my first Masters in Wildlife Biology.  My second Masters is in Regulatory Affairs for Medicinal Products (related to my current career).  Even though I took a career track that was more corporate and stable, I wouldn't trade that wildlife degree for anything.  Time spent studying something you love is never wasted.

From my wildlife days - bird survey in the Bahamas

Who is your biggest celebrity crush?

I don't crush on celebrities much, but I do have to say I'm very impressed with Jennifer Lawrence.  Both for her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen as NOT a skinny fashion wraith but as someone strong (role model for teenage girls please?) and for her general goofiness and good humor.

If you could do a workout/run with anyone, who would you chose?

Cheesiness alert.  I'd choose my little girl.  I love running with her.  Just today we did a mommy & me run.  I ran with an empty stroller for a mile while she ran, then she hopped in and chattered at me the rest of the way.  I love the special time with her and I love the feeling that my fitness choices are having such a positive influence on her as she grows up.  Now if she would just stop swiping my Sweaty-Bands....

Heading out to run
[Adding in an obvious question] What the heck did you do to your nose???

I got in a bar fight.  Really.  At a playground.  Really.  Which means that I was under-caffeinated while at the playground the other day and walked straight into a chin-up bar that was exactly eye level.  I scraped a chuck of skin off and blackened my eyes a bit.  Which is why I'm sporting the awesome-looking band-aid.  The band-aid is Phineas and Ferb because the Jedi didn't get my regular ones when he want to the store this morning so they are all we had in the house.  Boo.  Yeah.

The blogs I nominate for the Liebster award are:

1.  My coach!  Anthony from Anthony Bagnetto Fitness
2.  Courtney from The TriGirl Chronicles
3.  Laura from A Fat Girl's Ironman Journey
4.  Amanda from Just a Mom who TRIs
5.  Axel at Iron Rogue
6.  Leyna at Mid-Pack Swim Bike Run
7.  Rebecca from Tri-ing the Best that I Can
8.  Davey & Jess from Two Tri Triathlon Training
9.  The Unexpected Runner
10.  Darilyn from Time to Just Get Moving

Go check them out!  And bloggers - here are YOUR questions to answer and pass on the award!

1.  What's your favorite workout and why?
2.  What motivates you?
3.  Looking back over your last year of training, what would you change and why?
4.  Favorite thing to do as a training reward
5.  How do you get yourself going again after a training "funk"?
6.  Hobbies outside of the athletic?
7.  Biggest challenge in training?
8.  Moment you are most proud of (could be athletic or not).
9.  Embarrassing workout story (be brave.....)
10.  What's your "Mt. Everest" goal?  What's keeping you from going after it?

Thank you again Lori and enjoy everyone!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Triathlon Becomes Decathlon - Sock Bun Breakdown

Sometimes triathlon is more than three sports.  It is three sports, a job, two young kids with all the associated homework and activities, a mortgage, the weather, injuries, bills, and two cats that, despite my multiple attempts to convince otherwise, still feel that the bed is their territory and that their food bowls need filling at 5 am.

Triathlon becomes Decathlon.

Who set this bar so darn high????

In actuality, the word decathlon refers to a 10-part track and field event originating in the Olympics.  Your daily Wiki trivia.  But I think that it should also apply to a working parent / aspiring triathlete as well.  Because there are days... ok there are weeks and months, where it feel like the daily juggling act pushes me to the very limits of my mental, emotional, and physical endurance.

I'm in one of those sets of days.  

In addition to the usual, we're heading toward the end of the school year, with all the various assemblies and reminders.  The kids schedules aren't that nutty for each of them individually, but adding their schedules into the family's schedule and my work/training schedule.... it all starts to look like this:

I used to get frustrated at my husband for calling me at work to verify their various appointments and practices.  After all, he is the stay at home parent, and I have my own work schedule and training schedule to contend with.  I have recently come to the realization that it is simply more than any human mind can comprehend and keep straight.  This is clearly why man invented the IPhone.  On any given day I have at least ten different email and pop-up reminders for tasks, appointments (both mine and the family's), and which workouts I'm supposed to do when.  My google calendar is no less than 4 calendars merged together.  Side note - I've changed my workout schedule so furiously the last few days that I'm pretty sure my coach is just hunkering down and wait for the storm to pass.  He's good like that).  

Introducing disruption into this particular vat of insanity can have dire consequences.  I felt like I was teetering on the edge yesterday, and then I got the email from my daughter's dance studio detailing what each girl was to wear for accessories (the expensive outfit already having been purchased) and how to do their hair.  There are about 20+ classes in her studio, so I scrolled down the list through "High ponytail", "Two pigtails","Braided bun", "Side ponytail"..... then down to my daughter's class.

Sock bun.

What?  What IS that??  How did my kid end up in the complicated hair style class?  I spent a few minutes googling and watching YouTube tutorials.  I decided that there was no way my husband could conquer this hairstyle solo in time for her pictures.  Heck, I'm not sure I can.  I went through several mental scenarios involving him taking her over to a [more hairstyle competent] friend's house to be coiffed before practice, doing her hair in the parking lot (what if there is wind?), asking to leave work early to do it myself (even my boss isn't that tolerant!).  Furious texting with another dance mom friend (her kid is in the ponytail class.  Lucky duck).  Finally figured out pictures aren't until later in the evening.  Thank god.
They gang up on me

Exhausted from this and many other mental battles, I decided the best way to de-stress would be to go to bed after drinking far too much wine.  But my coach and my husband weren't behind that approach, so I took second best.  Excessive exercise.   Since there was only so much time I could spend obsessing about sock buns and career paths, I looked up the courses and previous times from my upcoming Oly and obsessed about that instead.  (Triathlon is so good for transference....)  I decided it was imperative that I utterly exhaust myself with a 1000 meter time trial in the pool.

Actually, I decided to do 1500 meters, but my coach told me 1000 would be fine.  Phew.  At least someone has some sense.  I've never done a time trial and really didn't know what to expect in terms of how fast (or horribly slow) I am since finishing Total Immersion class.  I hit the pool at a quiet time of day, warmed up, and had a nice conversation with my lane-mate, an older woman who told me I was "a beautiful swimmer".  Oh heck yeah, I'm beautiful.  I will crush this!  21:40 later my trial was over and I was feeling pretty darn good about my swimming and my prospects for my Oly.  At least one part of my life is in order....

Safe zone

Headed home to wage the Sock Bun Battle Part II: Implementation.  

Which consisted of the Jedi and I cutting up 3 different socks, rolling them, watching several more videos, and a few attempts with my very patient little girl sitting on the bathroom stool while I brushed and rolled and pinned, swore unrolled brushed again and repeated the process.  With her golden thick straight hair down to the middle of her back, my little girl is dead ringer for Rapunzel.  She is actually growing it out to her ankles to see if it will turn magic (I'll cross that bridge when we get there).  My husband helped by holding sections of her hair.  Every so often she'd ask, "Mommy do you know what you are doing?"  No honey, Mommy does not know what she is doing.  Really at anything in life, so if you haven't figured that out in your six years of life, you're in for some more disappointments down the road....  "Is this supposed to be a two person job?"  Yes lovey, all of parenting is a two-person job.  Even dance recitals...

The result.  Sock bun achieved.  Good enough....

For all reasons related to sock buns, time trials, work stress, and a full brain... the alarm went off this morning at 5:15 and I just did not have it in me to get up.  I've been tracking my resting heart rate for the last 2 weeks with my Sleep Cycle app.  On a good day it's in the mid 60s when I wake up.  A regular day, the low 70s.  Yesterday it was 80 bpm and this morning was 85 bpm.  Your resting heart rate can be a good monitor of how well your body is recovering between workouts (or other stress).  Anything over an increase of 5 bpm or so might indicate overtraining or some other stress. Clearly a resting heart rate more than ten beats higher is a sign I'm burning out a bit.....

I think today will be a full rest day.  I'm also trying to look through my various lists and to-dos and decide which I can safely ignore for a while.  Or at least a day or so.  Prioritize.  Triage.  Wine now?

Have you ever had something silly push you over the edge?  I want to hear about it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TriTalk Tuesday - Life's Better on Two Wheels

Happy Tuesday!  Once again I'm linking up with Courtney at The Trigirl Chronicles and Cynthia at You Signed Up For What? for our second weekly chat about all things tri-related.  This week our subject is my favorite of the three triathlon sports, biking.  If you have a blog and a post about biking, please post it below and join us!

The Bike

Confession time - my head isn't 100% in the game lately.  I have a lot going on in my non-triathlon, non-cupcake life.  Decisions to be made that will have serious impacts to the Cupcake Tri family.  Adding that to the pain in my hips that seems to have moved in, unpacked boxes, and hung photos on the walls - I've not been training as hard as I should.  Or perhaps, I'm contemplating taking it easier the next few weeks (I keep deleting workouts on Training Peaks, which only partially works because my coach puts them back on).  So I hope it's understandable that, when faced with writing a post about biking, I feel a bit a fraud.

After all, this was my ride Sunday.  Just under 3 miles on the rail trail with my kids, working with my little girl towards ditching her training wheels.  Not the 20 miles that my coach and I agreed on.  I couldn't get my mojo up enough to head out.  Since riding my bike outside on a gorgeous day is just about my favorite activity ever, this was concerning in a similar way it's concerning when your preschooler declines chocolate.  Something must be wrong.....

In my family, biking isn't a sport.  It's a way of life.  I grew up biking with my older brother and parents - up down and around our yard, our gravel road, and the state parks where we would vacation.  Some of my earliest memories are trying to keep up with my multi-speed parents pedaling my single-speed child's turquoise blue Mongoose bike.  When we relocated, we tried all the bike trails within a two-state radius within the first year.  The Jedi wasn't a huge biker when we met, but it wasn't long until mountain bike rides were a major form of dating.  That trend has continued with our weekly bike dates in the summertime and annual charity rides together.  My kids started on a balance bike as soon as they could walk.  My son ditched his training wheels at age three (a fact I bragged to even passing strangers for at least six months after it happened), and my girl is well on her way.  In short, I really love biking.

However, I do understand that not everyone shares my obsession.  To some, biking is a frustrating, scary, expensive enterprise.  I've converted several friends from runners to triathletes since I started my own triathlon journey.  I'll share here some of my thoughts about how to make the transition from feet to two wheels.

  1. Get a bike.

This is the correct number of bikes have.  Take the number you currently own, and add one.  So logically, if you don't have a bike, get one.  Any bike is better than no bike.  Many beginner triathletes are intimidated, thinking they need to drop several $K on a tri bike.  There's lot of kinds of bikes out there, and as long as it has two wheels, fits you ok, and brakes it is appropriate for trying your first (short distance) triathlon.  Mountain bike, road bike, commuter bike, tri bike - they will all do the trick of letting you experience your first race.  There are tons of bikes for sale on used sites like Craigslist.  Head over to your neighborhood bike store, try out some models, get yourself sized, and then go forth.  You can also borrow a bike.  (As you might infer from the picture above, those of us who really like biking often have extras)

2.  Learn how to safely ride it

This one is huge.  If you are a novice biker, you might feel more comfortable getting your wheels under you on a rail trail, bike path, or similar place where there is no traffic.  Once you feel confident about your ability to ride straight, shift, brake, and turn, you can head out on the road.  

  • Whatever your level, try to stick to roads with nice wide shoulders.  
  • If on a road bike with skinny tires, watch out for gravel, sand, and other obstacles.  Do not bike in rain (its slippery).  
  • Learn the rules of the road and follow them.  You have to follow the same rules as if you were driving a car. Hand signals are a must.  
  • Wear bright colors, reflective clothing, and deck out your bike with blinking lights if you are riding anywhere even close to sunrise or sunset.
  • Do not ride side by side with your buddy, unless you are 100% sure you have the room.  I see this in races - not all races have closed courses.  Cars should move over to accommodate you - it's not safe for them to do so for side-by-side riders.  
  • Do not ride with headphones!  
  • Wear a helmet at all times!!!
American Lung Association charity ride last fall.

These things seem basic, but you've be amazed at some of the shenanigans I've seen.  Sadly, bike vs. car fatalities do occur.  Two weeks ago a group of riders doing a test ride of the IronMan New Orleans 70.3 course were struck by a car.  One rider died, one was critically injured.  This is one of many heartbreaking stories.  Your best defense is just that - defense.  Stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.  It's still much more likely to die in a car accident or as a pedestrian than on a bike. 

3.  Overcoming obstacles

Like any new activity, getting your body used to biking coming from another discipline (or the couch) might take some time.  To minimize discomfort (both physical and mental), follow these tricks:

  • Get a bike fit.  This means you take your self and your bike to a store, and they make various adjustments to make it as comfy as possible
  • Get some padded bike shorts.  You will eventually want to transition to tri shorts, which have a little less padding, but these will get you started.  If your bum is really uncomfortable you might even want to try different saddles.
  • Get some friends.  Most areas have ride groups at various times and paces.  Riding in groups is a great way to both challenge yourself, make new friends, find new routes, and be more visible to cars (as there are more of you).  Check out local bike stores and the internet for local groups.
  • Get some chamois butter. (Just google it).  
  • Build up your endurance and muscle strength in spin classes.  These are a lot of fun - great way to get a bike workout when the weather or roads are cooperating.  Plus, as spin bikes are stationary, it should be harder to fall off of them (though I have done it!).  
  • Do a few [just bike] races or charity rides before your triathlon.  There many nonprofits that organize group rides, such as the American Cancer Society, Tour de Cure, the Pan-Mass Challenge, and the American Lung Association, that coordinate charity rides all over the country of all lengths.  Do good and train at the same time. 

Do you have some bike-related wisdom or stories to share?  Add yourself via the link below!!


On the rail trail - don't I look happy?
After I wrote this post on Monday lunchtime, I decided I just couldn't stand the nice weather.  I took the kids' teeball practice as an opportunity to take my mountain bike out for about 14 miles before the sun set.  Gorgeous ride, and my brain felt so much better.

Join us next week for THE RUN!
My mountain baby....

Biking really does make everything better.....

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Five - Fitness Goals

Fitness goals.  We all have 'em.  Or we should have 'em!  I find I am forever reassessing and remaking my goals, both in fitness and in life.  After all, you have to stay dynamic, right?  If you stay on a path too long you may find it takes you somewhere you didn't actually want to be..... Ok perhaps I'm shading into non-fitness life.  So without further ado, my Friday Five Fitnes Goals (of the moment) are:

1.  Get up earlier

I used to be good at this.  Last tri season I got up around 5 at least three days a week to train.  I'm not sure what has happened between then and now, but I am really, truly struggling to get myself going in the morning.  So far the family has been good about letting Mommy work out her way home from work or running at lunch, but if I'm gonna be the Swim Bike Running machine I want to be going into the triathlon season, I need to get myself out of bed.

2.  Get more sleep

This goal is in direct opposition to Goal #1.  Hmm.  What is a girl to do?  I recently downloaded this nifty app for my phone "Sleep Cycle" that monitors your sleep, lets you put in potentially confounding factors like alcohol, stressful day, working out in the evenings, and then lets you know which has the most bearing on getting a good night's rest.  I love data, and am searching for the magic formula to make me wake up rested.

Last night's shut-eye

3.  Fix my running form

I talked a bit about this in my last post, but I feel like I finally have the (intellectual) keys to making running less painful and more efficient.  Faster cadence, stronger core, quick foot turnover.  Hopefully all of this will lead to less pain (I'm still struggling to run after this past weekend's half) and actually enjoying this aspect of triathlon.  Enjoying running?  No sir.....

4.  Strength strength strength

This is also a bit problematic.  I should have been doing more strength training during the "off season".  Well, I spent the off-season learning to walk and run again after being on crutches for 5 weeks, and then getting ready for my spring half marathons.  I had every intention of doing at least one strength class a week, and that kind of fell away.  So now I'm learning that my core, glutes, and hips need a lot of work in order to avoid [further] injuries.  Plus (and please do not judge me for being shallow), I'd like to get some pretty arm definition so I look nice in the summer.  If summer ever comes up to the Frozen North.....

Not me.  But I'd take her arms.... ;)

5.  Bike more

My favorite sport has been sorely mistreated and neglected this winter.  I love to ride my bike so very much.  It is like flying.  It is like nothing else.  I get more relaxation and enjoyment out of my bike rides than any other sport.  Naturally, it's my strongest sport so this winter I focused on running and swimming.  But I miss my bike.  What is the point of fitness if not to have fun??  Plus, the Jedi is also an avoid biker.  Last summer we had a standing weekly bike date with a babysitter - it did wonders for our marriage.  We joined a couple of riding groups.  I know that I should probably continue to focus most on swimming and running, but honestly I'm thinking a 3 ride a week schedule sounds pretty nice right now.  It is the longest leg of the race, after all......

Our bikes are in love

Bike Date = Happy Date

What are your fitness goals heading into this race season??  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Race-cation Recap!

 Try saying THAT ten times fast!  Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Race-cation Recap! Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Race-cation Recap! Raleigh Rock 'n' Roll Race-cation Recap!........

This past weekend I traveled down to Raleigh to run the inaugural Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon with my best buddy from college, Rio.  In addition to the race, it was to be three glorious nights of kid-free girl time and relaxation.  Ok, Rio does have a baby, but she's so good and so cute that she didn't really count.  The weekend did not disappoint.

2 Days Before the Race:

First up, following a 2:30 am start to travel to the airport, was the Race Expo at the Raleigh Convention Center to pick up our bibs on Friday night.  I have never been to a race of this size before, ergo also never been to a race expo like this.

So... Many... Booths....

We grabbed our race packets, wandered around a bit, took lots of goofy pictures in front of various things like balloon sculptures and the "Potty Like a Rock Star" posters (if you missed why I was uber-excited about this, read this).  Rio and her husband bought matching Garmin Vivofits, I bought some Sweatybands, and then I got the surprise of my life!  I was wearing my Another Mother Runner's Boston Strong t-shirt.  I heard someone say, "Hey Another Mother Runner!"  I turned around and it was Dimity (of AMR)!!

Running Man!
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Suffice it to say I was just a little bit excited.  I threw my arms around her and blurted something along the lines of "I just sent cake pops to your house!"  Which is, of course, a very confusing thing to say to someone who's never met you before in your life and just more or less attacked you.  But we did sort it out - she took me over to their booth (I had no idea they were at the expo), and I met Sarah as well.  I showed them photos of the cake I made as my entry to their Ragnar Relay contest.  I told them all about myself, bragged about my children, and essentially babbled for at least ten minutes.  They were very nice, and even initially thought I was a college student.  Score!!  They even swapped out the shirt I was wearing for another size because it was too small.  Yes, I gave celebrities my dirty laundry.  Let no one ever say I'm not classy.  I must have stopped talking at some point and left them, floating away in a haze of exhilaration to have actually met these amazing women.  Now I know that if they don't pick me for the Ragnar team it is because I thoroughly scared them with my over-enthusiastic group-y schtick.  

SBS, me and Dimity of AMR!
We spent the rest of the warm, breezy evening at a pub for dinner, listening to street musicians, and wandering around enjoying the beautiful city and the feeling of spring finally sprung.  Raleigh is the City of Oaks, I learned, and the center is full of these gorgeous lighted statues of oak trees.

Awesome goodie bag of
stuff from AMR

Day Before the Race:

The next morning we went out for our race prep run on the Tobacco Trail.  Rio's husband is quite the running guru and had been working with me all the previous day on my form - on increasing my cadence, engaging my core, and avoiding the heel-striking over-reaching gait that has hurt my hips so badly.  Rio and I ran about 2 miles, joking about the vultures that were circling over the trail as we ran.  A bad sign??  My hip was painful but my cadence was higher than usual and I felt pretty good for the race.  Some rolling and some medicine right before should do the trick.
Vultures over the running trail

Rio's German shepherd puppy helps me roll out

 Race Day!!

Race day outfit was laid out the night before - my AMR Boston Strong shirt and Sweatyband, new Athleta skort I got during a shop-fest with Rio, and the orange Fellow Flower that Rio bought for the race (it means friendship).

The alarm went off at 4:30 and we were out the door by 5:15.  As a race day "extra" we had purchased a VIP package that not only included access to nice bathrooms, but also special parking (a huge help as we waited in bumper to bumper traffic for most of the drive) and a special convention room inside the Sheraton with a full catered breakfast where we could stay warm and relax before the race started.  It was so worth it.

Relaxing in the hotel.  
We wandered outside into our corral, which was 17 out of 26.  We were in the 2:30 pacer group, and each wave was let go about 3 minutes apart, so we had plenty of time to take photos, goof around, and move slowly like penned sheep towards the starting line.

Waiting in our corral

2:30 pace group

Finally it was our turn and away we went!!  I have to say, I learned so much at this race.  Rio was adamant prior to the race that she wanted to run negative splits, and that she was going to hold me back in the first half.  Moreover, she was cool with walking whenever necessary.  She is a veteran of 12 half marathons now and was going to teach me a lesson about how to enjoy a race and not finish feeling like I was completely trashed.

I had some trouble with her method at first.  I am not a patient person.  I was in a lot of pain because of my hip, and walking and then starting again hurt it more than continual running did.  I also was more used to running hills than many racers, so as most were walking up the hills, I wanted to run.  I was antsy and looking at my watch and generally feeling frustrated at the very calm Rio, who seemed to just be enjoying herself way more than anyone should during a race.

My goal for the race was to follow Rio's lead, though.  So I did, despite a couple of lapses in temper.

Brass band on the overpass at Mile 2

My favorite crowd sign!
The crowd support was epic.  So many folks were out with signs - many that said "Go Random Stranger!" and other encouraging and funny sayings.  It was a beautiful day - warm and sunny.  There was a band every mile.  I had my best friend with me.  It was lovely.  After mile 5 the pain in my hip was gone.  I focused on my new running form and enjoyed the day.

Around mile 7, Rio got sneaky.  Meaning that she picked up her pace and started leaving me chugging up the hills.  What was this??  I will admit that part of me did not believe that she was going to truly pick up her pace in the second half.  Well, she did.  She schooled me.  I was getting tired, and by Mile 12 I was taking more walking breaks than she was.  I even bowed to her at one point on the course - the Rio method works.  I would have crashed and burned if left to my own devices - if Rio had not been enduring my bad attitude and holding me back by my running skirt.

Around Mile 10 - flags for the downed soldiers
 We tried to kill Mile 12, but I didn't have it in me.  My splits overall were negative, but erratically so.  We sprinted the finish line and crossed hand in hand with a watch time of 2:28.  Only four minutes slower than New Bedford last month. 

I promise I will buy this photo....
Those four minutes bought me so much fun and so much less pain in my body.  After the race my quads and hips were sore, but also my calves and core, which tells me I did better on cadence and form.  I cannot tell you how much more FUN I had with this race.  This weekend has truly changed my running goals.  Going forward I am going to focus on form form form.  The next race I do I will cool it in the first half and save some juice for the second.  I'm adding in a nutrition stop at mile 11 (to my usual miles 4 & 8).

Happy and sweaty at the finish!

The day was not 100% fun, sadly.  After we left the race we heard on the news that two young men collapsed and died on the course.  We did not see the medical teams while we were running, so they must have been behind us.  It is truly terrible to have people's lives cut short, and it seems to be an increasing trend.  My heart goes out to the families of the men that died.  I hope that there is some consolation that they passed while chasing their dreams.

How do you run a half?  Do you take it easy in the first half, or gun it the whole way?