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. 🙂

the week that was…

That is an incredibly lame title. Please forgive me for that. You see, so many things have happened in the span of one week that I cannot possibly fit them all into one title. I thought I’d go through the important ones because they are certainly pieces of news worth sharing!

Tuesday: the track-shoveling outcome, etc.: 

Might as well get the disappointing news over with. First, I didn’t have to shovel the track after all – the team thought of it first. Second, we still couldn’t race the mile that night, because it was covered in ice. There was no safe place to run fast, and I wasn’t about to risk a major injury for this little mile race. We’re still trying to reschedule it, because apparently snow has become a Tuesday staple, and everything freezes over before 6pm. Not cool.

We tried….

We did, however, go for a regular run and have our annual dinner and year-end awards. I was given two awards:

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Happy Hour Award.

ImageBoth are rather fitting…I’ll take them. The night ended with me accidentally shattering part of the screen of my phone. It was less than two months old! 😦 It’s living in a sock when not in use to prevent further damage. I suppose I should find a little zippered case for it, but for now a sock will do.

Wednesday: Inventory at work. I don’t even know why I’m including this. I was at work until 12:40 AM doing monotonous things like counting and waiting. Inventory days are the two worst work days of the year. Good thing is, we got it over with.

Thursday: runner meet-up at the Ivy. I got there pretty late after work, and because most of this running group consists of middle-age parents, I missed seeing a bunch of them because they had already left the bar. I wanted to go because as I mentioned before, I don’t get a chance to actually run with them much but they’re a cool group! It ended up being worthwhile, because I had a conversation with two guys who call themselves cyclists more than runners. They got me super inspired to use my mag trainer this winter, and even sent me some of their workouts! I’m scheming up some things I will try to turn into routines as far as actually getting on the bike indoors and enjoying myself goes.

Friday: I lost my favorite scarf. Again, not necessary to mention.

Saturday: I felt the power of friendship. Sorry if things just got too deep there. But really. I realized I wanted to help a friend out not only because he asked me to, and not only because I wanted to help, but because I wanted to see him. I needed my friends. They are what balances my days and make me get a proper dosage of laughter and smiles. It is true that you need to be a friend to have a friend. What is truer is that if it’s a real friend, it doesn’t take any effort to do so. Or if it does in the sense of the word, it doesn’t in your heart and mind because it feels just as good for you as well.

Also, I can’t forget that Saturday was a big day across the country in Bend, Oregon, where several friends of mine represented a few different clubs at the USATF Club XC National Championships! Also, big shout-out to Lauren, Jesse, Jocelyn & the rest of the Picky Bars team for hosting what sounded and looked like the party of the month! It looks like the company definitely got some big PR (no pun intended…?) this weekend. I mean, check out that crowd:

Now that's a party!

Now that’s a party!

...and that's one of my best friends (#1773, Boulder TC)!

…and that’s my best friend from high school (#1773, Boulder TC)!

I really wanted to be transported to Bend on Saturday night, but that wasn’t happening, so I lived vicariously through #pickybirdxc on Twitter. I also contemplated the fact that I could run in this race next year, if I wanted to. Which made me realize I have some running options I should think about.

Sunday: Still basking in the power of friendship, I stopped stressing about responsibilities for a few hours after work and really enjoyed time with friends, without any expectations, or looking at a clock or phone. 

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Today, Monday: This was the big one. I still have to attend to many more things that came up tomorrow (two different emails about two different potential jobs? Today, really?!); it was a little much to handle in one day. I had two final exams today. I have not mentioned the classes I’ve been taking since August yet on here, but that’s for another post. Hopefully now my posts will be more frequent and focused now that I won’t be guilty about blogging instead of studying. I registered for Ironman 70.3 Princeton today, and got even more excited when I saw how many others I know are doing it too! Looks like I might have more biking buddies for next spring and summer than I thought. UntitledI was also accepted to the 2014 Nuun Ambassador program! Pretty pumped! I wasn’t sure if all the Hood to Coast team members were basically ambassadors now anyway, but I submitted an application anyway to make it official just in case. Speaking of Nuun, if you want a NUUN ORNAMENT for your Christmas tree, all you have to do is place an order from now through December 20th! Why would you not want a Nuun ornament? So runnerdy. Love it.

ornamentThe day ended with a run, but  not before an epic fail at the dreaded mall. I’m used to Forever 21 doing all the work for me…what do I do when it fails epically?! Totally not running-related I know, but I’m desperately seeking advice on where to find the perfect holiday party dress, so if you know secrets I don’t know, share them!

The in-between season (and Santa is real…)

I hardly ever have “in-between seasons” in terms of training. Why? Well, I’m usually injured, and that takes the place of an in-between season. So, I’m either “getting back” from an injury, training and training well, or I’m injured. After the New Jersey Marathon, I thought I would finally have an in-between season, when I could rest when I felt like it, and run when I wanted to. Less than three runs into this period, I hurt my IT band…so that was that. I’m back at that place again: my goal race is over (though I’ve done some speed workouts and raced a 5k since then…oops?), the next race on my plate will be the biggest of my life to date, and I want to do everything in my control to train 100% healthy for it, as I did throughout the fall and for my first marathon.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t know how to have an in-between season. Or rather, I’m pretty bad at it. I had a plan to treat the Philly Half like it was a marathon, to ward off any injuries since I was doing so well in that department. Then, start running whenever I felt like it, and cross train. I only followed that plan for less than a week. Why?!?!

Well, here’s what I did instead that does not follow the plan at all, and why:

Helped pace a friend to a 10k PR

The Saturday following Philly, I went to a run at 7 AM with a group I normally don’t run with, just because it usually involves a lot of stopping, and slower running than I prefer even on easy days. When one member of the group announced he needed to do a tune-up “race” at around 7:20 pace, and others were joining him, I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally run with everyone. Why should I say no because I’d just done a half, when others who had ran the full (or three fulls this fall…guy is nuts) were going? Insert peer pressure, exhibit 1. The route he chose was pretty hilly, and I mainly just ran right with him, or slightly ahead of behind. When he kicked it in, I didn’t follow. So at least I was good about that. My legs were still tired and I had a “looking forward to actually recovering” mentality going on. Overall, it was fun to help a friend and I’m glad I did it.

Ran with a new, fast group

A friend sent me a message following the half, inviting me to join an “enclave” of runners in my area for runs. Since I had a friend coming to visit, I had off work, and I didn’t think the PI workout scheduled would help me prepare for the 5k Thursday, I decided to skip the PI workout and go to one of these runs at 3:30 the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was cold and rainy, and I ended up doing a nice 8.3-miler with one other girl from New Brunswick (who ran a 3:06 marathon debut in October). We had some good chats and warmed up to average a pace of 7:45, a pretty solid medium-length run with rolling hills. I think it will help me to run with fast runners as I train for Boston. More on this later, but I almost have an overwhelming amount of training-partner resources becoming available to me for the winter and spring right now….I definitely need to look at all my options when the time to set a plan gets closer and take advantage of every single one. Not many runners can say this, and I know I am lucky. Back to the run…I have no pictures from this run because my hands went numb. I will say that I wore my Oiselle Flyer Jacket from Hood to Coast…and it was the perfect weather for it.

Seattle-20130822-02376Insert peer pressure, exhibit 2: these runs are happening weekly, and everyone seems to be training hard despite having raced a marathon or half recently. How do I know if my body has truly adapted to training and won’t fail me like it used to on any random day? I don’t. I know it’s better to be careful until after the holidays, when I should start training for Boston (on fresh legs). It’s really cool to be invited to run with 3:0x marathoners and feel like our training paces are similar. It’s inspiring and motivating to think that maybe my body is finally making sense, and I can do what they do at last: reach 40 mpw, run more than one faster workout a week, etc. But if it’s not ready yet, I can’t risk it. I’m having trouble differentiating between listening to cues from history versus listening to cues from my body, and knowing what’s best in the long term to run as fast as possible. Perhaps in normal jargon this is the issue of overtraining vs. undertraining, on a personal basis?

Ran PI workouts + fast 300s

I went to the workout last Tuesday night. I thought about why I shouldn’t go: I should still be resting in the “in-between season.” I thought about why I should go: I wanted to. It was as simple as that. I missed it, and I’d rather be running fast around a track on a Tuesday night than anywhere else. So, I went. We did 4 x 2000m. I thought it would be a good goal to try to hit 8:00-8:07 for 2000m, or 6:24-6:30 pace. My first one was 8:14, bleh. I didn’t want to leave with a sub-par workout effort, post-“season” or not, so I managed to run 8:02, 8:02, and 7:56 for the remaining three intervals. That was better. The cooldown back to downtown was a peculiar experience, as I somehow got colder and colder as the two miles went on. Weird. Peer pressure, exhibit 3: running fast is fun. 

On Thursday, I wanted to run 4 x 300 very fast in preparation for the 6th Annual PI Mile (which is tonight!). It was warm-ish and humid, and after running about 4.5 miles as a warmup, I stopped at the track and ended up running the 300s in just a sports bra…in December. So humid. Anyway, I have hardly had good workouts on this particular track for whatever reason, but I was shooting for 60 seconds per 300. I gave myself as minute rest of walking/slow running. I felt very, very good on these 300s! As in, smooth and fast. I actually felt fast, like I wasn’t just a “marathoner.” I ended up running 60, 60, 58 high, 57 high/58 low. I considered running even more 300s, I was having so much fun, but I decided to save it and run back. The cooldown was slow and sluggish – funny how that works. Self pressure, exhibit 4: now I think I could be “fast.” Oh dear. 

Explored a new trail

It isn’t really “new,” but it’s improved. I checked out the Lawrenceville-Hopewell Trail on Saturday. I thought I’d get off the roads like I used to, during the “in-between season.” It was pretty fun, though I was tired and just didn’t feel like running a full 8 miles like I thought I would (so I didn’t; I ran 7.4), which almost never happens. I wrote all about the experience  (as well as some cool history about the area) on our store page on Run.com, so you can read about it here.

Ran in the first snowfall

It snowed for real in NJ on Sunday. I wanted to run in it! So I did. Back-to-back days of 7+ miles, not my normal schedule. I probably should have only done 3, but I started from a location from which I would need to run farther to run anywhere fun.

This brings me to today. The PI Mile is tonight. After the 300s, I think I’ve got it in me to go pretty fast. My goal is always a year-best time…since I hardly ever race a mile. This year, that would put me at sub-5:49, which I ran at TCNJ (a week before the marathon…) in April. I do think I have the potential to dip under 5:40, but we’ll see what happens. The first matter of business will be a non-traditional warmup…because you see, it currently looks something like this outside:

I have no idea how long it takes to shovel the entirety of lane one of a track, but that is what I’ll be attempting to do soon. I also brought spikes with me. Might as well do it right…. [My left foot is feeling slightly weird, as of yesterday (a day I didn’t actually run). Hoping, wishing, praying it’s not a stress fracture. I haven’t had any pain yet, or felt it running, but this is a glimpse into my paranoid mind, if you were wondering….]

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Last but not least…this is entirely unrelated, but I should announce it as a follow-up to my last post: SOMETIMES, SANTA IS REAL. As you know, on Thursday night I had officially accepted the fact that I was unable to do Ironman 70.3 Princeton next September. I couldn’t spend $300 on it on December 16th; it just wasn’t practical. On Friday, something ridiculous happened. I was not expecting it at all. Thanks to the generosity of two friends, I now have the means (via a gift card) to register for the race. I was so surprised and happy I was practically crying. What an amazing gift. So, I still need to register and officially get into the race, but I am registering for the Princeton Half Ironman on Monday at noon. Scream with me. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! I still can’t believe that happened.

Questions for you: Am I doing the “in-between season” all wrong? How do you handle running peer pressure? Should I run when I want to, or make myself hold back? Have you ever shoveled a track (wish me luck…)? 

Ironman 70.3 Princeton

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On Tuesday, I was checking Facebook briefly when something caught my eye. My entire newsfeed is dominated by running-related updates, so I was bound to find out about this the day the news was released….The Ironman 70.3 series is holding its 24th event next September: in Princeton.* Holy crap. 

A half Ironman has been on my radar since last summer after I participated in a 5k open water swim at the shore. Having really enjoyed that, plus doing “brick runs” out of necessity on a daily basis (including today actually), plus just generally being able to run hard through fatigue have caused me to get that tingling, excited feeling when I think about what I could potentially do in a half Ironman. Aside from the 56-mile bike (more on that issue later…though I discussed it before), the distances seem just right in terms of a balance between speed and endurance. In other words, I think the event could be an ideal event for me. Okay, let me take that one step further: I think, with proper training, I could place very well in my age group in such an event. Training for a half Ironman next September does not sound that difficult to me: race Boston, rest up, train all summer. I swim and bike as part of training for running-only races anyway. The only thing in my way right now is…well, a rather huge obstacle, not going to lie.

Money. On December 16th, registration opens and the cost will be $275. If you don’t get in on the first day, I believe it goes up to $300, with incremental price increases after that if it doesn’t sell out beforehand. And, it looks like it will. At first I was thinking of trying to find some way, any way (well, legal way I mean) to get this money by the time registration opens, because I feel compelled to do it. Perfect timing, perfect location, perfect distance.

At first, this was going to be an angry post, about how it’s not the triathletes who work hard or have talent that get to become great, it’s the ones who have the means by which to make the first steps to get there: register for the event. Buy a road bike. But now, it’s just become a sort of surrender. That’s the way it is. I could train as hard as I could on my hybrid bike, and go out of my way to sneak into accessible pools. I could put the registration on my credit card and watch as it takes months and months and months to pay off, while I cut back further on groceries and other priorities. In the end though, don’t others win? Maybe I should wait. I guess another half Ironman will come around at a time I’m also ready to race it, and I have the money to spend on it. So that’s where I’m at now. It’s not an option. I have to tell myself that.

It’s hard to be patient when I’m not injured…who would have thought! I think what’s happening is it bothers me to have found a setback to racing and training that is not an injury. I’m not complaining though, obviously this wouldn’t be a frustration of mine if I didn’t feel physically capable of such a race in the first place….I am grateful to have gotten this far. To future 70.3s!   <cringe>

*Note: It’s not really going to be in Princeton. It will be at Mercer County Park in West Windsor, where the NJ State Tri and the Perfect 10 are held. CGI Racing is actually partnering with Ironman 70.3 for the event as the race directors.