Monday, September 26, 2011

Breakaway to the Beach...The MS 150

Joe loved doing the MS 150 last year and recruited me this year. We got Chris Rohlfs signed up to ride while Cara played sherpa, driving my car down. The ride is a two day ride to the beach. The first day you ride 100 miles to Florence, SC and spend the night there. Sunday you can choose a 100 mile or a 50 mile option, with both finishing at Sunset Beach, the last beach in North Carolina.

We started on Saturday in a heavy fog. It really felt like we were riding through a shower and soon every part of me was wet. Joe had to ride without his glasses on because it was pointless. The only good thing about this was that it wasn't hot. I'm not going to lie; at mile 3 I did wonder why I decided to do this and how in the world I was going to get through it all. I had a massive headache that 4 Excedrin hadn't even begun to touch. The MS ride is very well supported...with a rest stop every 10 miles or so. The stops have bathrooms, food, water and Gatorade as well as a bike shop. I was very thankful for the bike shop as we pulled into to the rest stop and I realized I could not unclip. I've been having problems with my clips so spent the day before at the bike shop getting them adjusted. I also bought new shoes, put the old, adjusted cleats on the new shoes and bought new cleats on my old shoes. Like an idiot, I never checked the new cleats so was very lucky I didn't have to stop before the rest area. I circled around until Joe got off his bike and came and caught me. I really could not unclip and ended up taking my foot out of the shoe. The bike shop guy adjusted it and after a 20 minute break, we were on our way again. My headache was still present so I took 4 more Excedrin. One more rest stop, 4 more Excedrin and STILL it raged on. The course was pretty basic the first day. You are in the middle of rural South Carolina so there isn't a lot to see. There are a couple of rolling hills, but nothing too horrible. Of course my head pounding with any exertion made walking kinda horrible, but I was able to hang on with Chris and Joe for most of the first 30 miles. I did puke once...but I think that had more to do with all the Excedrin I had taken at that point, well more than the suggested daily dose for sure. Then the rain started. It had been thundering, so we knew it was coming, but still....not fun. It rained for almost an hour. Everything was completely soaked. It stopped raining as we pulled in for lunch. I took my socks off, tried to squeeze my pony tails dry but quickly realized I was soaked and there was little I could do about this fact. (Tip: bring zip loc bags next year. Even my spare socks were soaked.)

Lunch was the halfway point and I was feeling OK. My headache was still there but I had only take 2 Excedrin since my puking. I got in with random groups of people, chatting with them as we rode together. It was a very social time and I actually had fun, even though Chris and Joe, being the stronger cyclists had gone on ahead. We'd catch up and rest stops to make sure we were all OK.

I have been nervous to ride with a group because I wasn't sure I had the skills to hang. Towards the end of the day though I would jump on the end of a paceline to see what all the fuss was about. I really did feel a benefit and as long as I wasn't in the middle, felt comfortable enough to hang in there. The last 20 miles were spent hopping from paceline to paceline. Some groups were too big, without great communication on what was happening up front so after a few close calls, I'd jump to another. Joe and Chris waited for me at the end and we all pulled into Frances Marion University together around 2pm on Saturday. We checked in and volunteers took our bikes. Since we were doing the 50 miles on Sunday, we would actually be taken by bus to the start site, 50 miles away. Volunteers took our bikes, shuttled them to the Sunday start and set them up for us. This is the second time in a month I have left my bike and it still felt odd. But they were wrapping each bike and it really looked like they were taking utmost care of them.

The rest of the afternoon we hung out at Frances Marion. They had tons of food, a beer tent and music. The four of us grabbed chairs and just enjoyed catching up.Joe and Chris drank beer, Cara and I people watched and ate our fill. After all the beer tickets were gone, we headed for our hotel in downtown Florence. We took a brief, but chilly dip in the pool, showered, headed out for dinner and as soon as we got back, crawled into bed.

We woke up Sunday morning feeling tired, but good. The shuttle picked us up at our hotel and took us to the Sunday 50 mile start site, in Green Sea, South Carolina, about an hour away. Our bikes were set up for us, we grabbed some drinks and snacks and got started. OW. I was unprepared for how sore I was in the seat. It was actually hard to sit down for the first mile or so. I asked Joe if it got better and he said no. I almost cried. Lucky for me, and my pubic region, he was lying. By mile 4 I had forgotten about it. Weather predictions were pretty bad and the sky was pretty dark. Based on Saturday's time, we figured we'd get into Sunset Beach around 1pm. We were just hoping to beat the "severe wind, rain and storms" that were in the area. Pretty quickly we got in with 3 guys that were keeping a strong but steady pace. With the 3 of us, we made a paceline of 6. They pulled into the rest stop and Joe and I said to each other, "that was fun...but a bit too fast." We agreed to find another paceline. With the headwind getting stronger as we got closer to the beach, we knew a paceline was the only way to make it the second day. There were some TIFL friends at the rest stop so we decided to get in with them. We got started, but after the first group, this seemed slow. So when they 3 guys came up on our left, I urged Joe to jump to their paceline.

The next 43 miles seemed to fly by. We attracted people and at one point had a long steady paceline of about 25 people. We were averaging 20-22mph and I felt great. The core 6 of us stayed together and stopped at every rest stop. I don't even know those guys' names, but we were all committed to getting to the beach before the storms and the 6 of us had our rhythm down. The effects of a paceline are incredible. My pattern became "pedal, pedal, rest, rest, rest" and never dropped below 20mph. The route was perfectly flat and very rural; we hardly saw another car. We'd pass people, pass pacelines; we were making incredible time. Since we were stopping at every rest stop, occasionally we would get to a stop and have people tell us that they had been waiting for us, that they heard we were a good paceline and ask if they could join us. I felt so professional! The three of us were wearing matching Team Gita 24 Hours of Booty kits and we looked like we knew what we were doing!

We were less than ten miles away from the finish when the speed started inching up and before I knew it, we were doing 26-28mph. I started getting more and more tired and found that even drafting I wasn't able to keep up. I would fall behind and three times one of the guys came back to get me. (It is almost impossible to catch up to a paceline if you are alone.) After the third time I knew I was going to be dropped. I told Joe and Chris to go on with them and figured I'd fall in with another paceline soon.

The problem was that we were so far ahead of everyone, there wasn't another paceline for a very, very long time. I was less than 5 miles away and felt like I was swimming in mud. The headwinds were so strong it was almost comical and what a difference that made. I felt like for every pedal stroke I did, the wind pushed me backwards 10 feet. I was going as hard as I could and only doing 15 mph. I kept telling myself that I could run 5 miles...I for sure could bike them. But wow, it was tough. I was alone without a single other cyclist in sight. Finally, I saw Joe and Chris ahead. They had pulled off and were waiting for me and I have never been so happy to see them. Chris was also on the phone with Cara. Seems our paceline speed got us to the finish line almost an hour earlier than we had planned so we actually beat Cara there.
The three of us finished and we all felt great. Once Cara got there we ate lunch, showered in the surprisingly nice "shower truck", loaded the bikes and headed home. I felt really good the next day too...although I was not too eager to sit on a bike seat anytime soon!

Overall I was thoroughly impressed with the entire MS150 operation. Every rest stop was well stocked and staffed, the volunteers were always so very nice and accommodating. From taking our bikes to the start area, to getting us there, to having everything ready at Sunset Beach, the logistics of this event must be staggering. But for me as a rider, it was seamless and I felt completely taken care of and safe. I had a great time and am thrilled Joe and I did it together. I love that we have a hobby that both of really enjoy; now I just need to get stronger so I can do a better job keeping up with him! We will be back again next year for sure!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall TV - What I Will Watch

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Ahhhh Fall TV. So much hope and promise. And like lambs to the slaughter, many will perish quickly. Here are my picks for Fall TV 2011. I hope at least some of them survive.

MondaysHow I Met Your Mother-8pm- CBS (premieres 9/17) This is season 7 for this brilliant sitcom and I am excited to see where the show goes. Season 6 was one of my favorite, although not necessarily one of its funniest. I've been with this show since the beginning and that, along with the writing and acting has made me genuinely care for these characters. The episode where Marshall's dad died was one of the most impactful shows I've seen in awhile. I sobbed! This show blends laughs with tears for a fantastic view of life. Watch it.
Terra Nova - 8pm-FOX-9/26- This looks good and I might try to watch it online. I'm too in love with HIMYM to jump off at this point. Update:  We watched a few of these and while I like Jason O'Mara, it just didn't hook me enough for us to stop HIMYM. 
Castle-10pm - ABC - 9/19 - I love Nathan Fillian and this is him at his charmingly smirky best.
The Playboy Club-10pm - NBC - 9/19 - Another possible web watch for me. It is also my pick for a quick cancel. Up against Castle and Hawaii 5-0, I just don't see it making it. Update:  Yep, first to be cancelled.

TuesdaysNew Girl-8pm - FOX - 9/20 - I have seen the pilot episode of this and while a little slow, has some truly laugh out loud lines. Zooey Deschanel is adorable and I am a huge fan of Damon Wayans Jr. Update: Well Fox apparently thought that just any black guy can be funny and swapped out Damon Wayans Jr.  He wasn't funny because he was black...he's just funny.  So without him, this show is kinda horrible.  We dropped it.
Ringer- 8pm- CW-9/13 - This is getting major hype as Buffy's return to TV (Sarah Michelle Gellar) but while I loved Buffy, that had very little to do with her and a lot to do with Joss Whedon's fantastic writing. CW is good about re-airing their shows, so I might try to catch it, but my heart won't be broken if I don't. Update: We tried watching this, but wow.  It's stupid.
Raising Hope - 9:30pm - FOX - 9/20 - One of the truly funny shows on TV, this is a must watch.
Unforgettable-10pm - CBS- 9/20 - File this under the "Shows I Don't Really Care About But Will Check Out Until I'm Bored. " Joe and I have a 3 episode rule - if it grabs us in 3 episodes we are in. If not....flip! Update: I forget even trying this show.
Covert Affairs - 10pm -USA - 11/1 - I watch this show because of Christopher Gorham. He's a great actor and a nice guy. Follow him on Twitter and you will see what I mean. @Christopher_Gorham

Suburgatory -8:30pm- ABC - 9/28 - I really don't know anything about this, but based on the strength of ABC's sitcoms lately, I'm in for at least 3 episodes. Update: This is worth watching.  Jeremy Sisto is so likable, Alan Tudyk is so unlikable he's likable and the show has a Dead Like Me meets Veronica Mars feel to it.  We like it and since it already got picked up for a full year, apparently other people do too.
Modern Family- 9pm- ABC - 9/21 - The greatest sitcom on tv. Period.
Happy Endings- 9:30pm - ABC - 9/28-This little gem premiered late last year and I fell in love with the zany crew. You could say this is an updated Friends (There's a gay guy! Interracial couple!) But it's cute and gives you another chance to see Damon Wayan Jr. Update: Since it is now your ONLY chance to see Damon Wayans, Jr. you now must watch this.  Plus the show is jsut funny and has me in tears at least once a week. 
Revenge -10pm- ABC - 9/21 - Majorly hyped on billboards, TV and radio, I can almost guarantee this will be cancelled by October 15th. But I'll check it out, because there isn't anything else I watch at 10PM. Update: Deemed a chick show by Joe, I now watch this solo, but that's OK.  It is nice to have a guilty pleasure that doesn't take place in high school.  There are lots of likable characters on this show and each episode wraps nicely while also stringing along some drama for the weekly watchers. 

Community-8pm - NBC- 9/22 - I was late to the party with Community but it has grown on me for its quirky one-off episodes and Joel McHale's smarminess. There is lots of talk about this not making it this year, but I am rooting for it.
Parks and Recreation-8:30pm - NBC - 9/22- The best sitcom on TV that nobody watches. Period. It's funny, endearing, sweet and irreverent. Watch it.
Person of Interest-9pm- CBS - 9/22- Billionaire teams up with a presumed-dead CIA agent to prevent crimes. Sure, OK, I'll try it. It's got Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson so I know all the LOST fans will be watching. Surely it can last 3 episodes. Update: This is a good show.  There's drama, intrigue, good characters and great writing. It's been a while since a really good drama...this is it. Check this out and then tell me you don't change some of the words you use when on a cell phone.
Prime Suspect-10pm - NBC - 9/22 - I really don't know how many NY detective shows can survive on TV, but this one stars Aidan Quinn, Kirk Acevedo and is based on a British show, so we will apply the 3 episode rule and see how it goes. Update: Eh.  It's OK...Joe is a fan.  I have slept through as many as I've watched. It's OK but not great.
Burn Notice -10pm -USA - 11/3 - Traditionally a summer show, this makes a rare fall appearance. I love this show, even if it is becoming incredibly formulaic.
Archer -10:30pm- FX - 9/15 - You can catch this show on reruns ALL. THE. TIME. But it is hysterically wrong and that makes it oh so funny.

A Gifted Man-8pm- - 9/23 - I'm not really interested in the premise here, but I have a small crush on Pablo Schreiber (brother to Liev) and Patrick Wilson is reliable, so I will check it out. Update: I fast forwarded through the first few episodes and still knew exactly what was going on. Even my crush on Pablo Schrieber couldn't save my interest.  Dumped.
Supernatural-9pm - CW - 9/23 - Hot guys battle demons and otherworldly creatures. It sounds pretty basic, but underneath it is a story about family and loyalty and it's actually pretty funny. Last season was a little less than stellar and I am not sure what will happen to my favorite character Cass, but I've been in since the beginning and will watch until this show dies (and then brought back to life and then sent to hell only to have an angel bring it back but missing its soul.)

Saturdays are for catching up on Tivo!

The Good Wife-9pm -CBS - 9/25- I love this show. The writing is good and the basic law show part of each episode is always engaging, creative and interesting. But the real draw for this show is the ongoing personal journeys of key characters including Julianna Marguilies' Alicia. Did she sleep with Will (Josh Charles)? Will she stay married to Peter (Chris Noth) for the success of his campaign? Can she and Kalinda ever get over Kalinda sleeping with Peter? Will Eli (Alan Cumming) find love? If it sounds like a teenage drama, it's not. It is compelling, emotional and you will fall in love with Alicia's strength and determination to do the best she can.
The Walking Dead-9pm - AMC- 10/16 - They show this on repeats so I don't have to choose between this and Good Wife. AMC makes really high quality shows and this is no exception. I am compelled to watch this post zombie-pocolypse show because of the characters. It's worth checking out.
Dexter-9pm - Showtime - 10/2 - Dexter is one of those rare shows that just keeps getting stronger, darker and better each season. America's most loved serial killer, I am so glad Dexter is back. New episodes are on Sunday but rerun throughout the week.
Pan Am-10pm - ABC - 9/25 - To be honest, I don't know if I even care about this show and I am generally not a fan of Christina Ricci, but it is a unique premise, so I will check it out. Yes, I'm a TV whore. Update: This is escapism at its finest. Not great, watchable and yet you won't be heartbroken if you miss it. Cancellation rumblings are swirling so catch it now before it's gone.
Homeland-10pm - Showtime - 10/2 - This is the show I am most excited about this fall. It has been filmed almost exclusively in Charlotte and I can't wait to watch the scenery. It also stars Damian Lewis, who I have loved ever since his brilliant show "Life" that was far too short lived. On top of that, the premise sounds intriguing, critics have been raving and the trailer has me hooked. I have high expectations for this and hope it lives up to them. Update: This along with Person of Interest, may be my TV shows of the fall season to judge you by.  In other words, if you don't like them, I might have a hard time liking you.  This is proving to be promblematic since Joe is not a huge fan of Homeland, and I really hate to divorce him. But for reals, this show is just great.  Acting is good, I still don't exactly know where they are going to go with the plot and if you liked Morena from Firefly or V, you get to see her naked.  A bunch. I can't wait to see this show each week, and if you want to be my friend, you better too.

I usually try to post updates about 3 weeks in so I will keep you posted. Til then, Happy Fall TV Premiere Day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Race Review - The Nations Tri 9/11/11

Other than just being an American, I have no real connection to the tragedy of September 11, 2001. So I have no idea why I felt the need to do something memorable for the 10 year anniversary. When I got an email from USAT announcing pre-registration for members for the NationsTri on 9/11/11, I just wanted to be there. I talked Joe into registering with me, we paid the somewhat hefty fee and began training.

This was to be my first International or Olympic distance tri. That is 1500 meter swim in the Potomac River, a 26 mile bike ride into Maryland and a 6.2 mile run around the gorgeous monuments in DC. I knew I had each part of those easily but for some reason, never quite got to putting them all together in what is known as a brick.
The two weeks before the tri were a weather nightmare. A hurricane-turned-tropical storm was taking its time moving up the coast. Add in normal rainy fall weather and there was substantial flooding up the east coast. People started discussing currents, temperatures and general conditions of the Potomac. I started researching acceptable levels of sewage in rivers and checked the water levels daily. On Wednesday the organizers made the very hard decision to cancel the swim portion. Along with a faster current, there was also a lot of debris in the river and it was just not safe. So instead of a tri, it became a sort of bi...we would bike the whole course and then run. I was initially very disappointed, but once we saw (and smelled!) the river for ourselves, I knew they had made the right call.

We went to the expo on Saturday and picked up our packets, sampled the latest and greatest energy foods and shopped way too much. Then we headed down to transition. This was my first large race so at first I was alarmed that we had to rack our bike the day before. After talking with my more experienced tri friend Jerry, he assured me this was quite normal. The transition area was the largest I had ever seen, with row markers. We got there pretty early on so I was able to secure a place towards the end of the row. I wrapped my seat, handlebars and shifters and made a mental note of where I was set up. I tied a pink and black ribbon just for placement help. It felt odd leaving Maddy overnight, but I was assured security was tight. I did feel better after seeing some of the really high end tri bikes that were there.

We then headed back to our hotel to rest, pin our numbers on everything and pack for the next day. Joe has made no secret that this is his last triathlon, but selfishly, it was so much fun getting ready with him. I really wish he would fall in love like I did because it felt different this time. There was more energy, more a sense of team I guess. I just loved sitting on the couch, both of us pinning and sticking numbers. We met our friends Jason and Miriam, their kids Ryan and Sophia and Tim and Jenn and their son Felix for dinner. I was so touched that both of them drove almost an hour to see us. We had a great meal, laughed a lot and got back to the hotel early enough to get some sleep. I checked and re checked my packed bag and we went to bed, with the goal of getting up at 3am, leaving at 4am to be there at 4:30 when the parking lots opened.

Joe and I are really good at sleeping. I hear other people who don't sleep well in a strange bed or if there is a big event the next day. Not us. So when I woke up feeling well rested, I was happy we had gone to bed early. Then Joe looked at the clock. Instead of was 4:30. YIKES. We jumped up, threw on our clothes and grabbed our gear. We were able to get out the door 20 minutes later. I had to skip my pre-race routine but I knew I had time before my wave and hoped it would all work out. We were able to find a parking spot rather easily. I knew that they were closing streets so I wanted to be outside the course so we could leave when we were done. As a result we had to walk about 2 miles to get to transition. It was eerie walking in downtown DC at 5am in the darkness of night. We walked along the river and were able to see The Jefferson Memorial with no people gathered around. DC does monuments very well and it is a gorgeous city on any day. But walking in the dark, with the monuments lit up, knowing it was September 11, made for a very cool 2 mile walk.

We got to transition and the time seemed to fly by. We got our timing chisp and before I knew it, they were closing transition and lining people up. One of the fellow racers, a first responder, got up to sing the National Anthem. At this time the sun was rising and the view looking over transition was magnificent. As the National anthem was sung, a jet flew overhead. There are no words for how breathtaking this was. To be there, in this place, the symbol of our freedom, and to be doing something that I love. I get goosebumps still thinking about it.

We then had a moment of silence to remember all those that lost their lives in 9/11. It is a testament to Americans that we really did have a moment of silence. We had roughly 6,000 people jammed in one spot and you could have heard a pin drop. This was by far my favorite part of the entire weekend and it made the trip worth it. Thank you humanity. I remember right after 9/11 it felt like for the first time, the entire country was united as one. We just described ourselves as Americans, and everything else didn't matter. That feeling came back at this moment and it was a magical sensation

Since there wasn't a swim, they corralled people by swim start time and let groups of 15 go into transition every 15 seconds. Joe was in the first group but I had almost an hour before I would start. After his group left, I wandered around and realized I was thirsty. I had plenty to drink in transition, but could not get back in there. I started to panic a little, knowing by the time you realize you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. There was water for sale, but of course I didn't have any money on me. Panic deepened. I finally saw a woman who had a grocery bag of what looked like water bottles. I grabbed a honey stinger out of my back pocket and asked her if she would be willing to trade for a bottle of water. She explained that the bag was empty bottles but mentioned water was for sale at a nearby truck. I explained I didn't have any money and she pulled out her wallet and gave me $2. I offered her my protein bar as a trade but she wouldn't take it. She just said "Honey, go get yourself some water." I have no idea who she was, never saw her again, but I am grateful to her, not only for the water but for reminding me that people are basically nice.

I spent the next hour people watching, listening to stories starting with "at my last race". I was not overly nervous, just anxious to get started. I lined up when it was my time and suddenly was running into the transition area to get going. The transition area was mostly grass, with the exception of the enter and exit, which had turned into mud pits. There really was no way around them so I picked up my bike and tried my best not to get mud in my cleats. No such luck and instead of immediately mounting my bike, I ran for a bit to try to stomp out the mud. It was not ideal, but I cleared them enough to clip in and I was under way.

The event directors had described the course as rolling hills with some short steep climbs. I was worried about this as I started, but once I cleared the start I stopped worrying and just enjoyed the ride. I was absolutely amazed to see that they route was completely closed to traffic. How in the world the event directors got DC to close streets in downtown DC on September 11 is a small miracle, but it was absolutely heavenly. It was a bit crowded since we all basically started with only 15 second intervals, but I was able to pass most people easily and only had a few times where I hit some major bike traffic. I didn't want to exert myself too much in case the rolling hills were too challenging, but I was able to maintain a nice 20mph pace on the way out. The course was beautiful, heading out of DC into Maryland. We reached the turnaround point and I realized that what they considered rolling hills, I would have described as "mostly flat!" I was feeling good, enjoying passing most people and was still able to eat and drink as I needed. About 5 miles from the finish I rode over a bridge and had another memorable moment. There were some condos overlooking the water, an American flag draped from one balcony where a man stood, drinking his morning coffee. He waved, I waved back and smiled. I felt happy. I finished the bike feeling really good. I had an average speed of 20 for the entire 26 miles and I felt strong. I knew I had been running really well in training so I took my time in transition. I changed socks, put on my shoes, ate a stinger and took some salt tabs. Instead of running to the exit, I took my time and walked, hoping that the extra time in transition would allow for a faster run right out of the gate instead of the normal 5-10 minutes it usually takes for me to "feel" my legs again. I started running and it felt easy, of course with tons of people cheering it usually is. I didn't pay any attention to my watch and just ran. I do love crowd support; it is fun to read signs and it is also some positive peer pressure to not take walk breaks.

The run course was mostly flat as well and we ran by an amazing number of monuments which helped the "wow this is so cool that I am doing this" feeling. As I hit mile 1, I started realizing that my legs were cramping. This is very unusual for me and for the first time, looked down at my watch. Now I usually run at around a 11 minute mile when I am with Cindy or at the greenway. I simultaneously panicked and celebrated that I had run the first mile at a 9:08 pace. Holy crap! I pulled over to the side and rubbed my legs. Never having leg cramping on the run, I really wasn't sure what to do. I took my last salt pill and started running again, this time actively slowing down to a 10:30 pace. I still didn't feel normal and started doing the mental bargaining I usually reserve for longer races. If I run to that light post, I can walk for 30 seconds. My legs still were aching; they moved from a cramp to a flu-like ache feeling all over. As I hit mile 3, I also needed to go to the bathroom. Luckily there were port-o-johns but when I looked in them, I knew that there was no way I could use them. Figuring this would work itself out, I kept running.

The course was well stocked and at this point, the sun was up and it was getting rather warm. I was delighted that they were giving out ice at the water stations in addition to the Gatorade. I made sure to drink at every stop, hoping to fix my cramping. I guess I just started out too fast, but I was never able to shake the aching. At mile 4, a blister started forming and at this point I was trying to maintain a run for a minute, walk for a minute race plan. I was pretty frustrated; I've been running so well and not even being able to do 1:1 was pretty upsetting. I stopped, took off my shoe and readjusted my sock hoping to prevent my blister from getting too bad. I only had a mile and half left at this point and it felt like it was going to take forever. I did have a nice woman come up and tell me my back was getting a bit sunburned and put sunscreen on.

After that, I decided I needed to rally and push myself to finish. I started running again, still mostly feeling like crap. As I started my last mile, crowd support really helped me keep going. My legs felt foreign, my blister was burning but as I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I was instantly elated. Nothing feels as good as seeing the finish line and knowing you are going to finish. I picked up my run and finished, grabbing a medal and a cold wet towel as soon as I crossed the finish line. Joe was right there, having finished almost an hour before me. I was hoping my run time would be around 1:10 but it was 1:21. As it was my first 10K, it was technically a PR, but still I was very disappointed with my run.

It was fun comparing races with Joe; he also had a really strong bike and a weak run since he continues to have trouble with his knee. He said he still doesn't want to do another tri, but could be talked into doing this again as a relay if he could do the bike part. We both talked about how much fun that was and how nice (and amazing) it was to have the course closed. We grabbed our gear and jumped on our bikes and rode back to the car, both on a high from having finished, but enjoying the bike so much.

Overall, we had a fantastic time. It was one of those trips where everything worked out, from finding parking easily, to catching up with friends, to enjoying the race. I don't know that I will do this particular race again; it was a tight time frame for just a weekend trip, and I was really swayed by the 9/11/11 significance for this year, but I am in love with the bike course and the event directors. Their communication was fantastic, from answering specific questions on their face book page, to the pre race meetings to the actual day of event coordination,the flawless execution made my race day perfect. While I am bummed I was not able to swim in the Potomac, I think the directors made the right call on that matter. So if you live in the DC area, or just want to do a memorable, fun, flat and well organized tri in September, check out the Nation's Tri. You are guaranteed to enjoy your experience for sure!

One sad note: on the bike course around mile 5, a man was laying down at an aid station. Joe said he noticed him and he was still there when I passed and we both wondered what happened, especially so early on the course. We found out later that he actually had a heart attack and died. He was a coach for Team In training, and in his early 50s. So very sad that such a fantastic day ended so tragically for him, who was motivating others to improve their lives through fitness. I hope his family is comforted by the fact he was doing something he loved and that he touched and influenced so many people.

Photo credits: Ryan Almon, Dottie Swanson and the DCPD helicopter pilot.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Next Big Thing I Can't Explain

My next race, The NationsTri, is this Sunday. That's 4 days, 14 hours and 16 minutes if you are keeping track. I'm nervous, excited, worried, in disbelief, not packed and yet ready, but not prepared. Yes, that is a tad bit schizophrenic, but that's how I feel. This race is an Olympic, or International distance triathlon, which is a 1500 meter swim (basically a mile), a 24 mile bike ride and a 6.2 mile run. I know I can do each leg easily; it's the putting them all together that I am worried about. But with 4 days away, I know there is nothing I can do right now to make myself better. Tapering has begun.

So with one race almost over, I look forward to the next one. My plan has been to do a marathon next year but my brother's wedding is scheduled for the weekend I had in mind. So change of plans to a half iron man. A half is a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run. As with many endurance events, the training is the hard part. The race is one day; the training is 4 months, four or five times a week, over and over again. I was talking with Joe about doing the half because with training that intense, it really affects him too, even if he never takes a step with me. He is reluctantly supportive of me and said "Well let's see how this one goes."

Hmmmmm, no. I can't explain this to him, or really anyone, but it doesn't matter how I do this weekend. I'm still going to want to do a half and then a full ironman. I don't know why I am compelled to compete in something there is not even the slightest chance I will win, but I am. I love the training. Even though I tend to forget how far I've come, on the days I remember, I am absolutely brought to tears with my progress. There is a part of my 6 mile loop that I have had to walk. It's a long, steady hill and in the beginning I could not run it without puking, so I just started walking it. Three weeks ago, I ran the entire stretch, at a faster pace than usual. When I made it to the top of the hill I felt elated. It wasn't about the medal. Only Cindy and Doreen saw me do it, but it was one of the best days I have had in a long time. Not run - days. That morning run made the whole day seem perfect. Little stuff that usually would annoy me didn't. I was utterly happy. On a recent bike ride Joe and I overtook a group of 5 bikers. Sure it was on a downhill, but we were easily doing 25-28 mph and they were probably doing 12. It was so much fun and the highlight of the ride for me.

I am not good at triathlons. I'm decidedly average, a little below truth be told. I am mediocre at best. Trust me, I am a competitive person (play Uno with me once and you will know I am telling the truth) but doing triathlons isn't about that. It's about growing and challenging and doing something I never thought I could do. When I first heard about Ironmans, I had to look it up online and then had to check and recheck it all happened on the same day. (It does.) It's insane. For me a full will be 15 hours of constant motion. My perfect day is in jammies on the couch. But for some reason, I want to do a full ironman.

So this race coming up will be the next step. Hopefully the weather cooperates, the swim isn't too cold, the bike is flat and the run isn't windy. Hopefully I have fun and Joe doesn't hurt himself. But even if the swim is cancelled due to flood warnings, the bike is shortened due to bad weather and my run turns into a walk, I am still going to do a half ironman in 2012 and a full sometime before my 40th birthday. But I guess that is the thing about passion; it doesn't have to make sense to anyone else but me.

August Music...and a rant

Rant first. I have been a satellite radio subscriber since 2004 and have loved it. I have it in my car and stream it all day long at work. I cannot work in silence, so it is literally on all day long. I listen to Alt Nation until 11am and then switch over to BBC Radio One for the rest of the day. At least I used to. As of August 9th, Sirius/XM stopped carrying Radio One.

I have worked in radio for 15 years, and in that time have had a few stations flip formats. We always have people calling talking about how devastated they are not to have their station and I usually laughed at them. Then it happened to me and it was horrible. Really horrible. Yes, I can stream BBC live but there is a 5 hour time difference which Sirius/XM used to adjust. So when I am at work, it is the night time techno stuff. Boo. I really am heartbroken not to be able to hear my favorite DJ Dev at 5am. I miss driving to work listening to Chris Moyles. I am sad. To all those people whose pain I mocked, I apologize. I get it. I am one of you now.

So that being said, August music is a little light since I am trying to find new habits. Due to so many customer complaints, Sirius/XM has brought back BBCR1 online so at least I can continue to stream with a 5 hour delay at work. I guess it's something. I still miss Dev.

Shuffle by Bombay Bicycle Club (this is really great)
Feel So Close by Calvin Harris
Stay Young Go Dancing by Death Cab (it's a happy Death Cab!)
Come Closer by Miles Kane (NOT to be confused by the song of same name by Ne Yo)
Gambling Man by Overtones
Call Out In The Dark by Snow Patrol
Raise Your Weapon by DeadMau5 (That's Dead Mouse to all you non number reading English speakers)