2014, summer of crazy?

The first weekend after running the Boston Marathon was spent learning that marathoners are not, contrary to popular belief, the craziest people out there. This experience (I’ll explain, don’t worry) led me to want to, well, do some crazier things. Because, quite frankly, why not? The body is capable of some pretty cool things, and there aren’t two feet of snow on the streets and trails anymore, so there’s really no excuse not to try.

That weekend, I went to two nights of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour at Princeton University. I watched the videos in awe as people climbed ridiculous rocky peaks, biked hundreds of miles a day, and made a house out of trash and wood on a deserted beach. Since I can’t really describe everything, here is a trailer:

 

After the marathon, I found myself kind of regretting that I hadn’t raced more this spring. I only ran the E. Murray Todd Half Marathon in March, and then just trained hard. I think right now I would be capable of training for PRs in every distance, though, so that thought makes me want to go ahead and do it, and have fun in the process. It works out well that I am doing a half ironman in September, given this state of mind, I suppose.

I started putting this plan into action by racing a triathlon today, when, logically, I was way underprepared. But you know what? Sometime early on, during the swim, I took a stroke and thought to myself, this was such a good idea. I can’t wait to write about how it went soon. 🙂

I might as well reveal that this beauty is now mine as of Monday:

10259868_10152428575758834_6709899225870745370_n…and now has nearly 60 miles on it.

 

Dashing through the snow…and an epic fall.

I’m going to take a risk and commit a faux pas of mine: I’m writing about the weather. Something you all are aware of and can look up online at any time.That being said, it would be difficult to write about my last week of training without doing so! Here in New Jersey, we have gotten snowfalls more frequently than any previous year I can remember. They have not all been significant, but I hold the theory that to a runner, one huge snowfall a month is much preferred to bi-weekly medium-caliber snowfalls. The reason being, we can move around an important workout or long run according to the one huge snowfall, but it is much more difficult to constantly have your speed workouts become a project week after week. Easy runs in the snow are no problem, but when it comes to hitting specific paces…there’s ice, there’s packed snow, there’s loose snow, there are unplowed loops and unshoveled tracks…clearly, frequent snowfalls make it much more difficult to do the exact run you want to do, when you want to do it.

…it actually looks better on “paper.” You had to be there.

Snow #1 of the week was on Tuesday…the day of my interval workout. I had off work, so there was no point in waiting until 6:30pm, by which significant snow would have surely accumulated. After some running around in what was already lots of snow, I decided to do hill repeats in the middle of campus. The footing wasn’t ideal, but it was a good workout done by effort, and with less traffic than on a normal road. I was glad I did it instead of a normal run…but I’m still itching for some concrete, distance-based workouts. That might not be a bad feeling to have in January though.

Exercise on this snow day wasn’t over after the run. I somehow managed to do double workouts on a day it snowed all day. Kind of ironic. A friend came over and we set up shop in my shed/barn out back for a trainer ride. We rode for 50 minutes at a steady effort while chatting and sort of watching Without Limits (since he had never seen it). A trainer ride had never gone by so quickly, and I realized what people meant when they said it’s hard to make a trainer ride “easy.” There were tight quarters due to the temporary storage space this thing has become (if it was all mine I would totally make it a triathlete’s dream barn…if there is such a thing), but it worked. I also did a solo trainer ride here Monday night, and my view was something like this:

10 Things I Hate About You…so many quoteworthy lines.

On Wednesday morning I managed to find a running buddy and had a lovely, chill run through the snowy streets. There is something really fun about getting out on foot to see what it looks like after a snowfall that lasted the entire previous day.

Thursday I took off because I got up at 5:45am and proceeded to have a day that rivaled the entire past year in terms of productivity. Seriously, I may have figured out my whole life on Thursday. More on that soon.

Friday I ran with a friend before work, and unfortunately chose roads (hilly roads of course!) that had inadequately shoveled sidewalks, making the run pretty slow. I’m starting to realize I run slower when I run with most other people. Strange.

Saturday more snow was expected, so I decided to do my long run today (versus Sunday). I admit I should have started earlier than I did. The snow was coming down kind of hard when I started, and I immediately understood the purpose of running vests…I should really add that to my wardrobe one of these days. Today would have been the perfect day to wear one. Anyway, this run is probably worthy of its own post, but I’ll consolidate the highlights. Or rather, the most important episodes within it. I mapped a 15 mile loop on roads I usually run, with the exception of one unfamiliar corner, since it was a mile farther out than I usually go. Despite the bitter cold snow pelting me (and the salt-spreading trucks…oh, the salt-spreading trucks. Love ’em and hate ’em), I was feeling really good. I cruised at about 7:30 pace on every flat stretch that didn’t have a lot of snow cover, but made up for it on the hills that did. I found a new really steep hill during mile eight (reference elevation map to follow), so that was cool. Then the intersection came in the later part of mile ten. I knew these two roads were busier, but they have shoulders when there’s no snow (guess I overlooked this factor), and I was hardly on them for long. A car was coming so I moved over to run partially in a snowbank…when the road beneath said snowbank became really uneven (it dropped off onto the dirt but I couldn’t see it coming because of the snow). The next step was no better, and I lost my balance and wiped out. It was my first fall on a run since January 1, 2012, so it was a big deal! The snow gave me a soft landing on my hands, but my knees took a beating. The only answer was to get up and keep running like nothing happened, which was easy to do because any pain I felt was delayed until after I was no longer frozen….

A visual representation of the fall & its aftermath.

A visual representation of the fall & its aftermath.

These were my newest pair of Brooks Infiniti tights…and yes I will still be wearing them like this because a.) I no longer have a washer & dryer in my house and b.) I can’t budget for a replacement pair right now. Oh well.

As I discovered when I showered, the battle wounds actually look a lot worse underneath the tights – some swelling and bruising. I suppose it’s bound to happen to every runner someday – that little-kid-who-fell-off-her-bike look. I’ll be rocking it for awhile, but at least it’s winter. In other news, who would’ve thought to put Body Glide behind the knee? And only the left? Well, not me.

Weekly long run hill report…note that short & steep climb during mile 8!

To conclude, the random things I learned this week are plentiful:

1.) Don’t touch your eye after chopping hot peppers, even after two hand washes.

2.) Trainer rides are not easy, but they can be fun.

3.) The path to get where I want to be in life is actually there, contrary to previous doubts.

4.) Doing stupid things while running in the snow (like running on particular roads) does have consequences. Even for me. Shocker.

And no, the contact solution didn't help at all.

And no, the contact solution didn’t help at all.

The cheapest triathlete ever

Go ahead and challenge me on this, but it is likely that after reading this post, you will agree that I am actually the cheapest triathlete ever.

Let’s start at the beginning. I have only done one triathlon, the New Jersey State Sprint Triathlon last July. I didn’t change my training very much because swimming and biking are as much a part of my typical training week as running, by necessity of staying healthy. It has been this way since my senior year of high school. In college I did more swimming and biking than ever, unfortunately because I was injured more than ever. Anticipating biking more when I moved into an off-campus house before senior year of college, I decided to buy a better bike than the one I’d gotten at Dick’s a few years back. With the intention of getting a road bike, I ended up leaving the bike shop having purchased a hybrid, which I was somehow convinced was good enough for the use I would put into it (rides of 25 miles or less, commuting 11 miles to and from work occasionally). Only a year later, I realized I should have just gotten an entry-level road bike, because the truth was always there: I wanted to compete in triathlons. Not just finish them, but race them.

Tough luck. I was stuck with what I had given my very tight budget. I raced the triathlon with the thicker tires the bike originally came with, averaging 17.9 miles per hour on the flat, 11.5-mile course. I think I came in around 645th of 1100 for the bike…and 62nd in the run? Something crazy like that (the swim was in the 400s). It was really clear that despite my efforts, I was truly a runner, and also that my bike was not cutting it for my goals. I came in fifth in my age group, and the top three got to the podium. I ran faster than the second and third place women, I think, and had the fifth fastest run time for females overall. And let me tell you: I wasn’t saving a darn thing, I biked hard. For a lousy 17.9 mph.

Last year’s results (kind of blurry…). I am highlighted in yellow, 5th in my age group. Cycling-related frustration ensued.

That fact left me frustrated, and I decided to see what I could do to make my bike faster. A trip to a bike shop left me with slightly thinner tires and a bike computer. So, you know, I could beat myself up when I bike up hills slower than I would run….I have been going on longer rides this summer, however, and it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Biking has felt like a chore. Like the definition of the word chore. Like I’d rather wash my kitchen floor some days. So, I went to another bike shop at the end of last week. Going to a bike shop is an experience.  As someone who works in a specialty running store, I get it. I get that you often need to spend money to get something that is going to provide you with the best experience and fit possible. I feel like a hypocrite every time I go to a bike shop for this reason. This time was no different – I felt like that customer who wants to extend the life of her shoes that already have 700 miles on them by adding a Spenco insert. It doesn’t work that way.

My conversation with the guy at the shop went something like this:

Me: “I want to make my bike easier to ride, and go faster, but I can’t afford a road bike right now. I’m riding 30+ miles on this and it just feels slow.”

BG (bike guy): “That’s about as much as you will get on this bike. You really need a road bike.”

Me: “I averaged 17.9 mph in the tri last year and would have placed if I had gone faster, I think.”

BG: “You rode 17.9 on that thing? Well, you’re clearly a good cyclist. You just need a road bike.”

Me: “On rides through the Sourlands I have averaged about 16, but it just feels like such hard work up the hills.”

BG: “You’re riding through the Sourlands?” (shakes head) “You just need a road bike.”

It was kind of awful. However, I got a new set of tires that are even thinner, and they do feel awesome compared to the old ones. As in, I’m almost excited to see what I can do Saturday! Specifically, how close I can get to 20 mph now that I have hit those speeds on regular, easy rides I’ve done since then.

I also bought bike shorts. I’ve worn them twice – whenever I wasn’t going to hop off and do a run right after. They are definitely a nice change but sometimes don’t provide quite as much relief as I was expecting. So this was a nice little rant about how I’m the cheapest triathlete ever. If this summer had begun differently coming off the marathon I would have considered saving money for a road bike more seriously, but now that my focus is on the two relays, I will be thinking about that more later. I arranged to bike the race course tomorrow morning with three other people, so I’m looking forward to that!

Running update: I ran 3 miles Sunday! However, I ran a little less than 2 today in preparation for running 3ish with a group (!!!) tomorrow and then waiting until go-time Saturday to give my leg a rest and it did not feel so great. There seems to be some sort of knot that has traveled higher up my quad and is giving me pain when I sit down and rest my leg fully. It didn’t bother me running until after I finished today…so I’m being super, super cautious now because I really expected to be all set to go Saturday after my successful run two days ago.

In work-related news, we received an unexpected visit from a Nathan rep on Thursday for our group run. He provided optional sample hydration belts and handhelds for the runners…and beer. I wanted to stick some bottles in a hydration belt for a fun photo op, but not everyone cooperated with my silliness that night. He also brought some posters and stickers, one of which said something like the following:

…except it said that dehydration is THE leading cause of running injuries. I am very curious as to if that is the case. Could you really be slightly dehydrated on a normal run and end up injuring yourself? I will have to do some research on it. In my somewhat-injured state I’m interested in figuring out exactly how that works.  

I guess I’m hurt…but here’s how I’ve kept busy

It’s probably easy to figure out that I’ve been out of the loop (blogging, reading blogs, doing exciting runs that are causes for exciting blog posts) because I’m hurt. If not…well there, I said it. I used to be accustomed to this…but to be honest, with the luck I’ve had this year, I am really disappointed. Long story short, the ITB injury isn’t a debilitating injury like last winter’s ITB injury on the other side, or a stress fracture. I can walk around without pain and do short little jogs across rooms, but I know that if I went on a steady run, the grinding pain at the knee would be inevitable. So, I am trying to be patient. I have races to run this summer! I’ve never been injured this time of year, and I need to get better so I can enjoy it! Let me reword that: I like running when it starts to get really hot so that the rest of the summer I am already acclimated and it’s no big deal. Honestly though, call me crazy but  there is no weather that is bad running weather for me. I’m doing all I can for it, and that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

The route.

My last post, on the surface, seemed like everything went downhill. That’s not true though, as my life has a strange way of balancing itself out, often by weighing down both ends to the extreme. On Memorial Day weekend, I attempted to not get so down about the inability to do a long run on such a nice Sunday by planning an alternative: a bike ride to Lambertville and back. It was also my first bike ride with someone else. I wasn’t sure what to expect…crazy, considering I prefer to run with other people as much as possible. You may remember the time I ran to Lambertville with Brennan in February…we basically took the same exact route there, but biked to our starting point from where we were. Some of the hills and gusts of wind were rough, but I tried to not let my speed get too low. I find that my pace varies probably a bit too much on rides, depending on elevation, and sometimes I don’t push hard enough and lose focus. This ride was a new experience for me because I was constantly paying attention. While nothing feels as satisfying as running, I could tell by the end that I had made a much greater effort than usual, without totally overexerting. The trip there was about 18 hilly miles, for which which we averaged 15.2 mph. We found a great sandwich shop when we arrived and ate lunch on the bank of the Delaware River. Getting started again, especially starting up THE BEAST (River to Sea Relay reference: hardest leg of the relay…now imagine it on a bike) was rough on our quads, but we made it up and over. Unfortunately my bike buddy suffered a tire blowout less than four miles from our finish, and I had to finish alone and turn back for a rescue mission via car. I ended up averaging

The view.

16 mph for the return trip, which was our goal (yes, we had a pace goal for this casual ride, whose blog do you think you’re reading?!?). All in all, it was a great way to spend a cool spring day when running unfortunately wasn’t an option. It had been awhile since I hadn’t spent a weekend in a huge rush, driving and running around trying to get to places on time and get things done. This weekend was just what I needed – the very opposite of that. I enjoyed it for what it was, and didn’t think about what it would have been like had I been able to run. Easier said than done…but logically, what’s the use in that?

 

I love presents!

I’ve been getting a lot of packages at work…this makes me happy. I never get packages at home! Often, they are seeded clothing pieces, since I am serving as our store’s “apparel liaison” and therefore get to try out some of the clothing we stock so we can better sell it. On Tuesday, however, I noticed there was a small, lightweight box addressed to me from an unfamiliar address in Massachusetts. I opened it and was so surprised! I immediately burst into laughter. The contents:

When in Boston this year for the marathon and expo, I was on a mission with one of my shoe-company rep friends to steal a Sam Adams 26.2 pint glass. Sunday night, we knew it was now or never, and we tried so hard only to return from the bars empty handed. I can’t tell you how many times we ordered the special edition brew. I mean, not just for the glass, but we definitely would have added more variety if not for the glass mission! So, he had sent me a plastic 26.2 glass! How awesome is that? Apparently at his recent sales meeting in Boston, they gave them out…with the yellow handkerchiefs, I suppose just to look good and not snap. I’ll get a real pint glass someday, this one is good enough until then. 🙂

I never put recipes on here, mainly because my version of cooking or otherwise food-preparing would probably be mocked by everyone else out there. That being said, I’ll supply you with the specifics of the really interesting sandwich I had in Lambertville from Ennis Market (made by someone else, see what I’m doing here?). It was awesome. Raisin bread + turkey + scallion cream cheese. It was put in the panini press, but I’m sure a toaster oven would do the trick. Simple. The onion perfectly complemented the sweetness of the raisin…who would’ve thought?

Random link of the day…I was introduced to Kristen Bell’s sloth meltdown clip on Ellen tonight. I love it. She is now my storytelling idol. I think it’s great that celebrities act ridiculous about things just like everyone else does, in some way. If you’re feeling down, definitely watch this gem.