indoor cycling and other tri things

I briefly mentioned that I joined a tri team in my summer-summary post, but I failed to give this detail the attention it deserves. I officially raced in a TMB kit for the Skylands Triathlon and the Princeton Half Ironman (still have to write about that…it’s been four months…). Aside from two duathlon workouts and a course preview ride in August, I hadn’t trained with the team at all until late December, when I decided to attend a spin workout at the swanky gym at which the team has secured a special deal of sorts. It’s a little bit of a hike for me, being forty minutes north, but I soon learned it was so worth it. The first Saturday morning I knew I was getting myself into something slightly over my head, just because I hadn’t been on my trainer much lately and was very un-acclimated to warm, indoor workouts.  I somehow survived, but that first day was much shorter than the weeks that followed. I went again on Tuesday night, and missed the next Saturday due to being sick, but was eager to return the next two Saturdays. It’s safe to say that I’m hooked.

Screenshot of a video (there were no photos taken) from last week's spin workout...I always take the back left corner.
Screenshot of a video (there were no photos taken) from last week’s spin workout…I always take the back left corner (you can see one half of me).

In the zone

I’ve been using the Cyclops spin bikes at the gym; I only used my bike and trainer the first time. Most of the time we do Spinervals workouts (on DVDs), but once it was coached, and we listened to good music with race footage on the TV. I began using a heart rate monitor, and now I forget what it was like not to. I hardly ever remember the sets we do once it’s all over, but that’s something I like about it: I’m only thinking about what I have to do at the moment. Sixty seconds, thirty seconds, standing, sitting, aerobars, cadence, counting down the last five seconds, drinking water, drinking Nuun, heart rate zones, adjusting the resistance. There’s not much time to think about much else. One thing I do think about is how this is going to make me better. I’m not exactly sure what it will mean for marathon training, but there’s no doubting that an extra interval workout of 2+ hours a week with no impact is going to increase my fitness.

Strength in numbers

There’s also something addicting about being with the team. The room is filled with so many talented athletes, and it’s so easy when looking around to see why people are on this team. When I get in that room and sit on a bike, it feels like the most normal thing for anyone to ever do. This is what they all have probably always done, every winter – these hard trainer workouts. At first when I heard about a workout lasting over two hours, I thought, wow, I could never do that.  Yet here I am, sad about the 6 AM text I got yesterday morning saying that the spin workout was cancelled due to snow. Biking in my backyard shed alone doesn’t seem as normal. In that room, even if I’m crazy, I’m not alone. Suddenly what it excessive to other people who don’t understand is now just as fun to everyone around me as I think it is. There’s something really cool about this. As an extrovert, it’s like the best of both worlds to me, and I’m not leaving it anytime soon. We have our team party/meeting next weekend, and I’m really excited to meet more team members who haven’t been at the spin workouts!

Thoughts on tri-marathon combo training

First off, I’m starting to understand full Ironman training as a real, fathomable thing, which means I should probably be slapped or, I don’t know, forced to go to the pool more than once a week. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how if I keep this up (I’m also doing some weekday trainer workouts), I’m probably not training for Boston in the same way as most runners. It obviously makes me fairly fatigued, so as I start to do longer workouts I think I’ll have to choose sometimes. But on the other hand…what if I just keep getting more fit and experienced on the bike and just do it, marathon training on top of it. I’m never going to be a high mileage runner anyway, if not by choice than by fear, so it might help make up for that. I’ll see. As of right now, I’m still operating under the mentality that cross training makes you fitter and therefore faster in any discipline.

What the heck happened to my trainer?

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Let’s look at it from another angle (ignore the black stuff, that has since gone away, it was just tire dust if that’s a thing):

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There’s a groove in there. I have since switched my back tire so I don’t ruin it, but that was unrelated to this occurrence, because I had used the Gatorskin on the trainer twice before. The groove didn’t get worse after I took my bike off and put it back, hoping the repositioning would help. The groove only took about twenty minutes to create. Twenty Facebook photo comments later and I still can’t figure it out. It works just fine and isn’t getting worse, but I really want to figure this out! Any guesses are appreciated.

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bobby pins

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Last week, I was out at a bar with running friends after an event at the store. I went to the bathroom and saw a bobby pin on the ground in the stall, one that was the same color as most of mine. One thing you should know about me is I leave at rail of bobby pins wherever I go. I don’t know how they all get so scattered, but they do, and suddenly the little case where I keep them is completely void of bobby pins, but they are probably on the floor in every room I have stepped into that week. So, I saw the bobby pin on the bathroom floor and wondered, is that my bobby pin? Immediately, I realized what an odd thought that was. I knew perfectly well, not only thanks to funny articles like this but also from female friends, that most girls who use bobby pins have this problem. Why would that bobby pin be my bobby pin? When was the last time I was even in this bathroom? Two weeks ago? I had not stepped foot into this bar in two weeks, yet I thought that might be my bobby pin. I did the same thing at the gym in the locker room, when I found a bobby pin in the locker I always choose. Why do I assume I’m the only one who has this issue, accidentally losing bobby pins left and right and making a metallic mess?

It’s so easy to think you’re the only one who has some ridiculous problem, or who thinks things that make no sense to everyone else. It’s so easy to think you are the only one in the world with the problems you are facing, that no one has advice for you or understands, because everything is so complex and you aren’t even sure how you feel about what you’re dealing with. It’s so easy to see people having such an easy time with life and all the things that go along with it. Everywhere you look you seem to see people who take their significant others for granted, like they are people who of course they are entitled to have in their lives, and people who have perfect little jobs they are satisfied with.People who can go on the adventures they want to go on – hiking trips and exploring foreign cities and biking across deserts – because they have money for it and they have someone in their lives who wants to do these things too. It’s easy to see these things when they are all you want, when you’re fixated on the things that are so, so difficult for you to come across and hold on to in life, even when you think they will be easy.

I’m realizing now that I’ve become the person I didn’t understand in college. Sometimes, anyway. Besides an annoying issue that doesn’t really cause me pain in my foot, running has been coming easy to me. I just wrote a whole post about 2014, and there was not one bad running experience in it. Not because I chose not to include it, but because 2014 didn’t have any disappointments. Four years ago, that was all I wanted. If I was healthy and running well, I should have no excuse to be sad or dissatisfied or lonely. Because I had running! What could be better? Surely everything else would fall into place if I was running well: I’d meet somebody and have a serious relationship because I was running and healthy and therefore happy. I would focus on school and work and everything would go smoothly because my head was all clear and not fixated on injuries.

Well, that’s not true. That’s just the way life is, it’s undeniable: there will always be someone out there who is frustrating as hell because he or she makes what you want look easy to get. The intangible, happiness-producing thing that you want. But everyone has something like this. And everyone has feelings like that. Everyone has a problem. Many problems, multiple, can’t-sleep-at-night or sleep-all-morning problems. They might not be the same as yours, or in areas of your life that you concern yourself with, but they exist.

Everyone drops their bobby pins all over their paths, I’m not the only one.

2014

Life got a little too crazy for awhile there. I’ve fallen behind with writing, when what I really want to do is write. What I’ve been doing? Working, running, being confused, sleeping. I still want to write posts about the Princeton Half Ironman and USATF Club Cross Country Nationals. For now, I’ll do a little post about the year in general.

2014 was the first year since my very first year of serious running, 2006, that I did not get injured (injured meaning out for 4+ weeks straight with no running). I didn’t think about it much until now, but that’s a pretty big deal. I ran PRs in every distance I raced (5:38 mile, 11:24 3k, 19:35 5k, 23:11 XC 6k, 1:29:36 1/2, 3:21:41 marathon), and for the first time since that first year of running eight years ago, I felt like I moved up a “level.” Certain paces and times had meant certain things to me for those eight years, and it was in 2014 when suddenly I felt an improvement again. After an eight-year plateau, I am climbing the next mountain again. Because I spent so much time, essentially my entire running career to date, on that plateau, the climb feels easy. And fun, because it’s fun to have the opportunity to move upwards instead of working hard to stay put.

Many people posted their mileage totals at the end of the year. I honestly don’t really care much about numbers as they relate to quantity; I’d rather run faster and smarter than see how much I can run. It was more about the moments and the turning points that caused me to believe I could do things that previously I didn’t even think of making my goals.

In 2014:

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I trained for my first Boston Marathon through a winter of 5 degree days and tried to make hills my friends.

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I survived the winter and ran a PR at the Boston Marathon. It wasn’t the time I wanted, but it was a great experience.

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I bought my first real road bike and started my summer of training for 70.3 Princeton.

The group pre-race.
The group pre-race.

I ran some shorter races just for fun and ended up with 3k and 5k PRs.

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I finally got on the AG podium at the NJ State Tri.

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I got to the point where weekends weren’t complete without four-hour brick rides/runs starting not long after dawn.

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I learned that beer tastes way better after these four-hour brick workouts. If you can stay awake for it (harder than it sounds).

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I competed in Ironman 70.3 Princeton and placed second in my age group. I learned that I liked long distance triathlons BUT it is very hard for me to manage to not feel nauseous as heck.

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I thought I was burnt out from the half ironman, and life, but then ended up running the best race of my life at the Princeton Half Marathon, finally breaking 90 minutes.

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I was the first overall female winner in a road race for the first time (without any complications that is…) on Thanksgiving.

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I joined Garden State Track Club and was able to compete in my first national XC meet on December 13, running a faster pace for a XC 6k (23:11) than I ever had for a road or track 5k…and a two-minute PR on Lehigh’s course over  my race there in 2010 (breaking 24 minutes for 6k was my ultimate goal in college but I never had the chance to really try).

As it typically goes, I started 2015 being sick again and losing a few days of training (and eating and drinking…) to that. After last year, I’m not sure if I remember how to begin a new year any other way. So, I’m glad I didn’t end up registering for a New Year’s Day race after all, because there would have been no way I could have run it.

So, my year of running in 2014 looks pretty good on paper. I guess having an injury-free year is bound to yield great results, which is really all I have to say about why the year went so well running-wise. That, and the half ironman training. For those of you who don’t think all the extra miles on the bike don’t make you a stronger, faster runner: I will now officially disagree. Obviously as long as you are running and running comes easy to you, cross training will only make you fitter, and being fitter = being faster.

I’m really glad I had success and stability in my training this past year…because as much as I tried, I really found none of that in the rest of my life. It was a crazy ride, and like a TV show (still don’t watch those…am I missing anything good?), most weeks I was left thinking, well, I didn’t see that coming. Luckily, aside from my training, I had a few great friends by my side throughout the entire year. This was the first year in…maybe ever…that I have had more than an individual friend or two stick around in my life geographically, socially, and emotionally to ring in two consecutive new years with me. I met new friends too, and have cried many tears over the changes surrounding old ones. In the end, there were some days when friends were placed right by my side at the very moments others walked away, and I am so grateful for that in 2014.

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Princeton Half Marathon 2014

There are many reasons why we run. We run to feel good, we run to achieve goals, we run to start or end the day well. Sometimes, rare moments that can’t be put into words as well as feelings, we run to have control over something in our lives. To prove a point even if we don’t know what that is. To think about something as small and primordial as the very next step in front of us. Runners sometimes need to run, because it’s the only thing that makes sense in a world where so many things don’t at all. These are the runs that are the angry or angsty or sad songs on a day we aren’t thinking too hard about them, just merely basking in the feeling. They’re the strangely entertaining scenery whirring by you when you really meant to read on the train. We’ve all had runs like these, that feel like we could run forever as fast as we can, nothing is impossible. Rarely does this run coincide with an actual race. For the Princeton Half Marathon, it did for me. Every single second of this race, there was nothing else I was meant to do but hammer the course to the ground. It was my duty.

Pre-race in the store.
Pre-race in the store.

I thought it was going to be a horrible race. I hardly slept, hardly ate, and hardly drank water the night before. I even started to feel sick to my stomach a half hour before the start. I woke up just before 5 AM 100% ready to run this race. I was ready at 11 PM as well, in fact. I did the course two weeks before and it was definitely hilly. Definitely not fast, I thought. I didn’t even think a PR was in the cards even if it were flat, or maybe I was in shape for it, but I didn’t think I’d have it on that day.

My plan on the line was to just run. See what I had in me and run with it, whatever that was. Try to keep my effort level in the 6:50-7:05/mile range give or take depending on the elevation. The wind had howled overnight and in the morning, it had hardly stopped. The temperature was around 40 degrees. I could tell just from my warmup that we were about to get blown all over the road, but I wasn’t too concerned. The first couple miles were heading down to the battlefield, and by that point the crowd around me had thinned out considerably. We were on uneven gravel at the start of the third mile, then back onto the road which was so windy, then back onto gravel again. Miles 1-4: 6:34, 6:51, 7:06, 6:54.

In the woods, a girl snuck up on me and passed me. I already knew there was one girl way head of me from the start; I could see her ponytail and pink socks. I forced myself to stay focused and stay right on this other girl, and I did. I passed her back shortly after on an uphill on Alexander, and made sure I stayed strong and dropped her. The Washington Rd. hill was coming, the part everyone was dreading but I knew that once it was over, my favorite part of the race would begin. I tend to feel mentally and physically better during the second half of a half marathon, and I already knew I preferred the second half of the course. So I was actually excited. I kept it controlled up the hill, and absorbed the cheers from the spectators. At the top was the Nassau Street crossing and a sweet downhill into the north side of town. All four corners were lined with people cheering, and crossing that street was was one of my favorite moments from the race. Miles 5-6: 6:54, 7:17 (hill #1).

The beginning of the Washington Rd. hill. It turned out the girl who snuck up on me was my friend's sister....
It turned out the girl who snuck up on me was my friend’s sister….

The next mile was mostly downhill or flat, with a short uphill at the end combined with what was definitely the worst gust of wind of the entire race. I started to really find my stride in this mile though, into the next. The splits sounded fast but didn’t feel fast. Miles 7-8: 6:39, 6:36. 

In the next neighborhood there was a left turn on a random street. I knew this because I did the course two weeks before with a queue sheet in my shorts pocket, basically. I was pretty focused on my own race, but I did notice a few runners up ahead running straight, past the turn. I was coming up on a guy I knew, and I heard him ask a woman standing on the corner if this was in fact where to turn. She seemed to reply in the affirmative, and I was confident in my knowledge of the course anyway, so I turned with everyone else around me and didn’t think much else of what was happening there. At another corner up ahead, I heard a bunch of screaming girls and turned to see at least one girl I coached at Girls on the Run on the bed of a pickup truck, cheering for “Coach Meghan.” It made me smile and push on toward hill #2, on Snowden and Herrontown. I knew this hill was going to be tougher than the first because if its location on the course and the fact that it was so long and gradual. I brought a Gu for the first time in a half, and my plan was for it to kick in during the final few miles, so I had half of it before the mile 9 water stop…but I failed to actually grab a cup of water. The cups were plastic, so that was part of the problem. I attempted to grab it about three times, but ultimately ended up with the taste of plain Gu in my mouth until the next water stop. Just before that one, I finished the Gu and actually took water successfully. I also passed a pivotal competitor at that first water station, I’ll add…. Miles 9-11: 6:49, 7:25 (hill #2), 6:44. 

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Then the race really began. Or maybe it was phase three. One of our longstanding group runners, Patrick, has always given me great running and racing advice, and words of wisdom in general. He uses the expression “take him to the woodshed” frequently, referring to basically dropping the hammer when running with someone and seeing if he comes along. Since we were passing through his neighborhood, and coincidentally the hill where he tends to take people to said woodshed, I thought to myself, to the woodshed! and it gave me some extra energy.

Mile 12 had a big net downhill, and mile 13 had a net uphill but included some downhill too. I remembered my long run when I previewed the course two weeks before, and how I said, “If I feel good at this point in the race, it’s going to be so much fun.” Well, I did. And it was. I ran the twelfth mile in 6:21 still feeling strong. I saw and heard some people I knew and didn’t know calling out to me on the curb. One group told me I was the “first woman.” Then another. I was confused, because I was definitely second. That girl had been ahead of me from the start. I might have even corrected someone using two fingers and a muffled “I think I’m second,” like I couldn’t take credit. I figured they had just come out of their houses and had missed her. Mile 13 ticked off in 6:15 but I wasn’t looking at my watch then, I was just hammering toward the finish line. Paul Robeson Place, where the race started and ended, was packed with spectators, some of them friends, some Girls on the Run girls and their families, and many others I didn’t know. I knew even before I saw the clock that I was going to finish under 90 minutes, and it was the greatest feeling to have accomplished that – my ultimate half marathon goal – right here in my town with all these people who know me here supporting me. Official finish time: 1:29:36.

Finishing the job.
Finishing the job.

When I finished, people took pictures and asked me questions. At that point, I thought the other girl must have dropped out, if I really did finish first. It was soon discovered, a few minutes later, that the girl was among the dozen or so people who had continued straight at that important turn on the course. In other words, they didn’t know the course and got

I was too cold to fix my hair beyond this. We should have gotten a photo post-shower...oh well.
Mayor Lempert and me, with the cup. I was too cold to fix my hair beyond this. We should have gotten a photo post-shower…oh well.

lost, but there was also no race marshal there to direct them. Obviously, none of my races are without complications. You can read about the race’s ultimate decision on the matter here. Summary? I finished first, they gave the other girl the win, they made up a time for her (which is kind of weird, but it is what it is). I did win the Mayor’s Cup, for the fastest finisher among runners from businesses in town (it’s currently being engraved!). The mayor was cool and called me inspiring, which was really nice to hear coming from her! I had work all day after that, but we did get to escape and head over to Triumph for the race sponsors’ party, which included good food, a slideshow from the race, networking, a presentation, and growlers galore. And yes I did “clean up nicely,” but there are no photos to prove it.

Not fully engraved yet, but this is what it said when I received it.
Not fully engraved yet, but this is what it said when I received it.

The Princeton Half Marathon was the most meaningful experience I have ever had during a race or any run at all. I have never felt so much control over my own emotions and the outcome of an event. Before, I had always thought of good races being a product of x, y, and z: eating right, sleeping right, training right. And they are, but only to an extent. It was this race that taught me the power of the mind and the heart, and what they can do when they work together. This race was a fun game, a 13.1-mile reckless journey in an invincible fast car. A one hour, twenty-nine minute, thirty-six second song that has powerful lyrics but no conceivable words. What were x, y, and z? The chirping calls of “Coach Meghan” from the curbs, the feedback from the streets I’ve grown to know so well, and the feeling that this race was more than a race, it was something I needed to do, as best I could.

Things in life still don’t make sense. There’s still no tangible control. But whenever I get sucked inside to that place where the sad songs actually have words, and the scenery on the train does make you think about the who and what and why, I have this 1:29:36-long moment of my life to remember, and the memory gives me the energy to feel okay.

The most fitting quote for the back of this medal, if I may say so.
The most fitting quote for the back of this medal, if I may say so.

Hey, I’m alive…here’s what I’ve meant to write about since August.

A blogging hiatus was not planned at all, but it happened. I was going to write a post in late September explaining that blogging was the one thing that ended up getting cut out of my life during half ironman training, but now that it’s November (oh gosh, really?) it’s not a viable excuse.

A lot has happened. I’m going to dedicate a couple posts to specific races, like the Princeton Half Ironman and the Princeton Half Marathon, and will probably summarize the rest of my summer and fall training and racing into another. I really do miss writing, and the blogging community that comes along with it. Life always seems to get a little more complicated and a little harder to deal with in the fall, and I’m hoping that returning to writing regularly will help me keep my thoughts organized. Because there are so many.

I might as well make this post the summary one. In my last post, I wrote: “Until everything is all announced and the storm has passed, I’m counting on continuing to be stressed out of my mind and as busy as ever.” I’m pretty good at predicting things. Luckily things all came together, quite successfully, and I’m in a much better place as far as work stresses are concerned. An interesting place, because my life tends to trend that way. But a good place. Looks like I was scared about getting plantar fasciitis that day too…I still can’t really bend my big toe much but there’s no pain and I’m going to add that to my list of mysteries for the time being.

Half ironman training, the final month

Training went well, overall. I was doing long rides once a week and made sure to make them worth it by doing a brick run afterward. Some weekends I would do a regular long run the following day, too. I remember my first long ride (50+ miles), I was really sore later that day and the next day. By August they felt no different from the aftereffects of a 10-12 mile run, which made me confident that I was in fact getting stronger and more comfortable on the bike and that the race was going to go okay.

I joined a tri team.tmb

I joined the TMB Tri Team sometime in July I think, but I obviously wanted to meet everyone and do a workout with them before officially considering myself part of the team. It’s a huge team full of really inspiring athletes off all ages, and enthusiastic coaches. I finally went to meet the team for a duathlon workout in Bedminster the third Wednesday in August. It had its complications, obviously, as I was freaking out for 48 hours before that my summer of racing was over due to developing a very infected bug bite on my calf (I’m not kidding…it was scary, I have witnesses). But I made it, and had so much fun!

Me chasing down a runner at the du workout at Far Hills Fairgrounds.
Me chasing down a runner at the du workout at Far Hills Fairgrounds.

I went again the following week and had an even better time, even with 90 degree, humid weather. Being the first one on the bike from the first run portion (we did a shorter running workout before the bike, a ~13 mile bike, and then a longer running workout), I was discouraged at first at how easily everyone seemed to catch me on the bike, because I felt like I was going almost at a racing effort. The second time I went I averaged 18 mph though, so it was good to see that I wasn’t really that slow, relative to my solo rides. I have a long way to go in cycling though! More on that later.

Princeton 70.3 course preview ride

On Labor Day weekend, the team was getting together to preview the Half Ironman course, so I made sure I was free for that. It was quite the adventure. First off, I had never been on a ride with more than one other person ever, and here I was riding with a group of twenty or thirty. I knew the course a little bit but I trusted the guys who were leading the ride to provide directions. Honestly, I expected to be falling off the back and trying to get a glimpse of the turns up ahead. That was definitely not the case though; I managed to stay up with the front of the subgroup of ten or so riders I was with, and it felt pretty easy. There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the course at nearly every turn though…and there were a lot of turns. Around mile 40 or so, Brian and I hastily decided that everyone was going the wrong way and we were going to go the right way, and we broke apart from them for the rest of the ride. Slightly bonking from lack of adequate nutrition and sleep made the park a welcome sight after…62.4 miles. Oops. Averaging my fastest ever (for a non-race ride of significant length, 17.2 mph) for my farthest ride ever certainly made me happy though.

Skylands Triathlon

The next Sunday, I decided to do the Skylands Olympic Tri. It was at Spruce Run, the same location as my first tri of the season, Jerseyman. I registered for a few reasons: 1. I got an awesome discount, 2. it would be my long brick workout for the week, and 3. I really hadn’t been swimming enough. At all. This race had a one mile swim which would be great practice for the big race in two weeks. The swim was pretty choppy and I felt slow for most of it…but I got it done. The bike…well, let me just say that I’d been doing 50+ mile rides in some really hilly areas and all oft hose hulls did nothing to prepare me for the giant mountain in the middle of this one. And I had to do it twice.

skylandstrielevationIt was so steep there were people – fast cyclists – walking their bikes to the top. Someone was playing “Eye of the Tiger” for us as we climbed, and there were a number of clever signs. It was truly brutal. Hence my 16.4 mph average for the 28 miles, in a race….The course was honestly not great overall; part of it was on a 4-lane highway and there were sharp turns. The sprint tri began after the Olympic but we all ended up on the bike course at the same time. I saw Brian heading out as I was heading back from my first loop, who I wasn’t sure was even going to be at the tri, so that was nice motivation. An incident on my second loop had me really worried  though. I was coming up on a group of people doing the sprint (ST was written on their calves), we were going uphill slightly, and I knew there 20140907_071117was a sharp turn ahead and then a bigger hill. At the turn, I could see a cop car, there to alert traffic, etc. There was no room ahead to pass them at that turn because of the cop car, and I didn’t think I could do it at the time, so I planned on passing them soon, after we had turned on the hill. I didn’t want to get too close, so I was trying my best to follow the rules and stay three bike lengths back. I ended up having to brake more than I planned, slowing down from 16-17 mph to 12-13. That kind of sucked. To make things more complicated, the course marshal, this woman on a shiny red motorcycle, was definitely patrolling this part of the route. She came so close to my left at one point that I wanted to ask her, “excuse me, where should I go right now? I definitely can’t pass because you’re now boxing me in, and I’m braking as much as I can.” To this day (okay that sounds funny, it was only two months ago…) I still think the only way to avoid the 2:00 bike penalty she gave me was to just pull over and literally stop in the middle of the race. Why would I have thought to do that though?! I didn’t know I had a penalty until it was almost time for the awards. The run went better than I expected, besides some minor nausea at the end. It ended up being 6.4 miles according to my watch, and I ran splits of 6:38, 7:03, 7:01, 7:06, 6:59, 6:58 and finished at 6:23 pace for a total time of 44:38ish. It was confusing (but also made the time go by faster) to figure out who was on their first lap, who was on their second, who was doing the sprint, and who was doing the run part of a sprint or olympic relay. Phew. Post-race, I heard someone tell me, “Nice job! You were fourth!” Shortly after, I heard another girl from my team tell me, “What happened? You were third but you got a penalty, that sucks!” WHAT. Long story short, that woman on the motorcycle could not be convinced that I did not draft, or that she impeded me from passing. I let Brian find her and try to appeal because I was too mad. We left shortly after claiming age group awards (which you had to wait in a line for?!) and I reasoned with myself that in the end the race didn’t matter much. It would have been cool to “podium,” and I still don’t know what else I should have done in the situation, but oh well.

birthday run, birthday fun

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Friends and a magic wand, can’t get better than that.

My birthday was the first day of Girls on the Run. I didn’t want to get up really early to do a long run, but I knew I wanted to run pretty far. It was my favorite running weather to start: overcast, breezy, and not super warm. I started at 1:00pm and didn’t try to find a running buddy since the time was so random. But I found Greta on a hilly road about four miles in! I was feeling tired and wasn’t sure if I would slow her down, but I took the chance and turned around with her. We ended up dropping the pace to 7:15-7:25 for most of the run, totaled 12ish miles, and ended in a downpour. I love picking up friends mid-run, it was a lucky day for sure! Later of course I celebrated in other ways, and I have to say it was one of my best birthdays ever. I even found a magic wand. Or rather, I was so intrigued by the fact that a woman had a wand at a bar (from a wedding that day…) that she ended up giving it to me for my birthday. Lucky indeed.

And then…it was Half Ironman week! The week was pretty low-key, but it included 50 hours of work and some last-minute tune-up lessons on fixing a flat and the like.

Underwear run

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know that this happened. On Saturday the 20th, the morning before the race, we hosted an underpants run, like the one that began in Kona before the Ironman World Championships and has since become a pre-race staple at many Ironman events. We tried to promote it well…but the first time for something is bound to be small. So there were six of us participating. We read the official underpants run oath in front of the store, and ran down to the Princeton stadium tiger sculptures and back. It was pretty…liberating, naturally. I’m glad we all had each other, and especially Pat from RunBucks, who was a big reason the whole thing happened.

Just a normal Saturday morning pre-race stroll...
Just a normal Saturday morning pre-race stroll….

The rest of the day was pretty chill, aside from expected night-before-my-first-half-ironman stress buildup (basically I thought I was getting sick after having dinner at Triumph and decided to lay on the floor until it went away, worried I wouldn’t be able to race…only last 20 minutes or so). Pickup at Ironman Village went smoothly, and by the end of the night I was ready for Sunday!

20140920_145429Up next: Princeton 70.3 race report!

It’s good to be back writing, thanks for reading. 🙂

Reality, renewed for another season: training updates & limbo confessionals

Most people know that I do not have cable television, nor do I feel the need to. I had Netflix for a couple months when I was watching House of Cards on the bike trainer in my shed, but as soon as it was warm enough to bike outside I unsubscribed. I haven’t watched a movie in months and have not watched a TV show alone since March. This isn’t a conscious decision, I just actually forget visual entertainment is an option because I can think of a hundred other things I want/need to do instead. Furthermore, who needs a TV show when I have the ridiculous plot twists that make up my life? 

I haven’t blogged in a month simply because this (life) is an exciting show, and every day there seem to be new challenges, catches, and decisions with unknown resolutions not solely in my control that leave me utterly exhausted at the end of each day. Sometimes the exhaustion occurs because of productivity, and sometimes because of total physical and mental stress.

Playing catch-up is annoying at first, but then fun, because there are so many things I have been itching to blog about (but then, like I said, I go to sleep instead)!  

From a training standpoint:

I raced the NJ State Sprint Triathlon for the third year in a row on July 19th.

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…and finally placed in my age group!

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I bought bike shoes and clipless pedals.

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I have the inevitable embarrassing long bike ride mishap story to share (or not?).

Scattered Thunderstorms
(HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PLAN A 3 HOUR RIDE WITH A FORECAST LIKE THIS?!?)

I did some long rides to pretty places (but still have a long way to go…pun intended).20140713_113618

I learned how to climb, finally!

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I ran another 5k PR & clearly earned a last-minute entry in the contest for my grittiest finish photo ever.

 

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These things don’t sound too crazy. That’s because I’ve failed to mention the non-training-related portions of the past month. I don’t believe in jinxes, but it would seem as though the “crazy” in my quest for a “summer of crazy” took on a different meaning.

Confessions in limbo, part two: sometimes you change your mind. Or realize your 14-year-old self knew what you wanted more than your 23-year-old self. Or maybe, you just gave it one more shot and it was enough to realize it wasn’t what you thought it would be. At the end of January I wrote a truthful, personal post about my career goals as well as a resolution to reach them. Reading back over it now, I feel like my decision to change those goals for practical and personal reasons, with no outside influences by anyone else persuading or dissuading, was the right one. It is exciting and relieving to re-focus my sights on becoming a teacher, not a physical therapist. I will probably go into more detail in another post, but for now I’ll put it simply: it was what I decided, and I have quit my PT job since realizing it was stressing me out more than benefiting me or anyone else. I also needed to do this because….

There are BIG changes happening at the store. New leadership, new staff (basically chosen by yours truly and they are going to be awesome), new community involvement, and new responsibilities. Interlaced with this is an emerging conflicting relationship between people I have known and trusted for years. Until everything is all announced and the storm has passed, I’m counting on continuing to be stressed out of my mind and as busy as ever. Most days I am pretty excited about what’s happening though, and if you are part of the Princeton community, you should be too. I am learning more about myself as a person and a potential leader these past few weeks than I ever have, and regardless of what happens and how quickly it happens, it’ll count for something. 

Working as much as I did on my feet this week, continuing normal training, and then racing, however, does do a number on your body. As of the past 24 hours I’m faced with the beginnings of what seems to be a form of plantar fasciitis (never had it before), with more stiffness than actual pain right now….I’m pretty sure this was triggered by the time I had Lace Locks on too tightly in late May (my left foot felt off after that for a long time randomly on some runs, but I had since stopped feeling any discomfort the past couple weeks) plus stepping straight onto a pointy rock a few weeks ago while running on a trail (which I was super worried about and cared for like there was pain, but there was never any pain). It was hard to curl/bend my big toe after I was done running for the day yesterday, and in trying to do so I felt tension near my Achilles too. I’ve been icing it like crazy and wearing Superfeet, but I’m sure there’s another overtime week waiting for me so I really hope it goes away. :/

So there you have it: pretty much every aspect of my life has been turned upside down except running…not necessarily turned into a state of chaos but definitely turned in a way that prompts questioning the why, when, and how. 

 

I plan on recapping my triathlon and the other things I mentioned in detail soon, so stay tuned!

(Please note that I choose to share what I want on this personal blog, and would never disclose any information not already known to the general public regarding business-related information. So, I have not done so in this post, in case you were wondering.)

 

 

 

ETS Firecracker 5k

I have a laundry list of things to catch up on! Might as well start at the beginning: I ran a 5k on Tuesday the 24th of June. It was hosted by ETS and the YWCA, and it’s a very popular race among…well, almost every local runner I know. This, coupled with the fact that I had to sit out and watch the race last year, made me really excited to run it. My goal was to have fun, be grateful for being able to race, and run hard. After all, I had already tested my limits in the mile two weeks before and the 3k a week before, and in both I had felt like I could extend that fast effort to longer distances. Such as a 5k. So, I wanted to see how long I could hang on to a pace that’s slightly outside of my workout comfort zone. If I was successful, I thought I could PR, so that was in the back of my mind. I knew that a.) the course wasn’t flat as a pancake, b.) it was at 7:30pm and it would be hot, and c.) I wake up at 4:45am on Tuesdays and rarely get the chance to fuel properly if I’m not going to risk feeling sick. So I had no idea how it would go.

The group pre-race.
The group pre-race.

I biked to the ETS campus, which was only about five miles away. Steve was in town for the week, so I warmed up with him, his 14-year-old host-family member Harry (no other way to really explain…), and our Asics rep Joe, who decided a few days before to run. The start line was really congested, mostly of runners I knew, which was funny and nice! One of them, however, was my former college teammate who just graduated in May, fresh off a good track season. I knew there was no chance in beating her but I figured I’d see how close I could stay. When the gun went off, Sara found me quickly and I was determined to run side by side with her, since we do a lot of times in workouts. The first mile felt really long…maybe because it included more than one uphill, downhill, and flat section. I hit mile 1 in 6:09 – quick, but I was okay with it. The second mile was pretty much all flat, but I settled in a little and ran 6:28. The final mile was part of the first mile again, and it was agreed upon by everyone that the uphill felt much harder the second time around…I could see my college friend up ahead the entire time, but she was too far to catch (she won, in eleventh overall, 19:12). I pushed as hard as I could for a 6:16 last mile and 47 seconds for the last 0.15 mi. to finish in 19:41, twelfth overall and second female. I was very pleased with my time and effort, especially under the conditions. It was a 16-second road PR, and of course it made me think that 5ks aren’t so bad, and I should do a flat, fast one someday…more on that another time.

The start. My face is in this, it's just...small.
The start. My face is in this, it’s just…small. Photo credit: Martin Griff/The Times of Trenton.

Interesting thing about Joe’s race: he decided to move up after pacing Steve for awhile, and was leading the race when the lead cyclist turned the wrong way just before the third mile marker. He wasn’t giving a race effort, so he said he didn’t mind much, but I know he was annoyed by the incident. He’ll have to come back next year for redemption (but he probably won’t…)! He was grateful for the abundance of free food after, for what it was worth. 

The Intervals group ran as a team, and we placed 2nd! Most of us individually won our age groups too (in this race you actually didn’t get a medal unless you placed in your age group)! I think the racing high got the best of us, as we took a lot of pictures after….

Bling and shoes.
Bling and shoes.
Age group award. There's a whole thing inside, it's a big deal....It just occurred to me that I saw that girl running today. I only know it was her because I saw the shoes....
Age group award. There’s a whole thing inside, it’s a big deal….It just occurred to me that I saw that girl running today. I only know it was her because I recognize the shoes now.

I was going to keep up my weekly habit of running shorter races (they progressively got longer) on the 4th of July, where the group ran a 10k together, but then I decided very last-minute to go with my family to Maine after all, so I missed it. Maine included a lot of miles, both on foot and on the bike. It made me realize that I do like training here much, much better though. Strange to say, but even in beautiful places, I need variety. The fact that I can go any which way from right here and not get bored, rather than just one or two ways, is awesome. The possibilities are endless. If you are a runner or cyclist in the Princeton area and do not agree, come talk with me.  

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2014 ETS Firecracker 5k results

Triathlon training updates coming soon!