Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Day, Another A

We did it!!  Joann and I are officially finished with grad school -- YIPPEEEEE!!!!

Over two years of sweat and tears went into this journey, starting the day that Joann approached me with this crazy idea.  My first thought was that this girl was nuts, but quickly realized how many crazy things Joann had agreed to -- buying a bike and riding a metric century, half marathons, travelling to Oklahoma to sherpa my first 70.3 -- yeah, I owed her one.  We didn't start out with the plan to attend the same school, and in fact, we both were going back and forth between George Mason and Marymount, but in the end, Marymount's programs seemed to be the best fit for both of us, Joann getting her Masters of Business Administration and me a Masters of Information Technology.

It's almost hard to recall all those late nights of staring at blank pages on the computer screen, researching term papers, studying for exams, navigating the Blackboard system and waiting impatiently for each and every grade.  From Systems Engineering and Computer Security to Program Management, IT Governance and Policy and Human Computer Interaction (for me.... Finance, Accounting and such for Joann), we made our way, 3 credits at a time, toward this moment.

It was a surreal feeling turning in that final assignment.  During this final month, if something could have gone wrong, it did, starting with my computer crapping out on me about 36 pages into my final paper for my masters project.  AWESOME.  Thankfully, James helped me recover the file and I was able to use Jon's secondary laptop to finish it.  (and yes, I back up, but not every second, usually only when I'm done for the day.  In this case, I'd have lost about 4 hours worth of work).  Oy.  But all that is over now, papers turned in, presentation completed and grades are posted (4.0 GPA!!).  Time for GRADUATION PARTY!!!

Our graduation party could be considered the event of the decade.  We rented out Union Street Public House in Old Town, Alexandria, and arranged for speakers, games and shenanigans with our close friends and family.  Following the ceremony, the group moved to Pat Troy's Irish Pub and then Rocket Bar before crashing a the local Sheraton where several continued to party well into the wee hours of the morning.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Baltimore Half Marathon

Yeah, so..... you know it's a bad sign when you pre-arrange a bail out from the race, which is exactly what I did when I called Jeremy and asked for a pick-up around Lake Montebello, around the 7.5 mile marker.  I was signed up for this race, but with school and everything, really hadn't done much running since the summer run challenge.  Paula was in a similar situation, being so busy with wedding planning, and we mutually agreed that we'd do what we can and then grab a ride back to the race festival.

Ingrid and I spent the previous evening and night with my dad, and got to the race start pretty early to see Dad off on the marathon.  We stopped at Subway to keep warm and use the bathroom, and then headed over to our race start where we met up with Paula and Tommy.  Paula and I sent the faster two off as we hung back and settled into a nice walk pace with sporadic runs.  Truthfully, I could have been picked up a little sooner than we were, but Jeremy wasn't keen on the idea of us veering off the course in earlier neighborhoods.

As we entered the lake, we knew we just had a little more to go, and the timing worked out perfectly as Jeremy was just pulling up as we approached the meeting spot.  We went to Jeremy's house to pick up Jessi and Jayce and then started on what turned into the worst commute ever to the Light Rail and then to Ravens stadium (really, it would have been faster to just have continued the race).  We met up with Ingrid and Tommy and then hung around to see Dad finish -- under the time limit, mind you, except they had already started tearing down the festival and they didn't call out his name, the one thing he was looking forward to.  It made us all really mad, and we probably will skip this race next year.... but Dad finished a great race and got a ride home to his chocolate cake, saved from the previous night's dinner, as Ingrid and I set back to Virginia.

All in all, not a terrible day.... 7 miles is still better than sitting on the couch, which is exactly what would have happened had we not gone though with the event.  A shower and a nap were nice before enjoying several pitchers of sangria that evening with Joann and James, followed by an inadvertent late night on the town (at Town) with Dan, Cori and Amanda (oops!).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

100 *Miles* in 100 Days

My summer of running!

I've never been a good runner.  I'm a solid back-of-the-packer and I'm comfortable in that spot.  That said, I know I can become a *better* runner.  How do I do that?  Run more!  And that's what I set out to do, along with several members of ARRC and the Mamma's Fools.  100 runs in 100 days.  The rules are simple:
  • A run must be 1 mile and 15 minutes long
  • Multiple runs per day are allowed as long as they are 1 hour apart
Got it, Ok, let's roll.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." 
-- Aristotle

Well, 100 runs didn't actually happen.  I was on a good track until about July when my back really started hurting.  But.. I got back on track and realized at some point that while 100 runs was out of reach, I was on track to hit 100 *miles* for the summer..... with the new goal now in reach, I really set out and had a great experience with running towards the end of the summer.  I had a trip to Montana planned with Mom and Heidi T, and so I knew I had a few less days than in the plan, and picked up my runs toward the end...

94 days
53 runs
100.1 miles

And I DID IT!!!! Reached 100.1 miles after my 53rd run of 2.3 miles on August 23!!!! Sure, most of my runs were only about a mile, but 1 miles > 0 miles, right?? Anyway, I'm psyched... WOO HOO!!!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jim McDonnell Lake Swim

OK, so the official lake swim event was DNS, I did participate in the 1-mile practice clinic on the day prior and thus am doing a write up of the event.

The day actually started with a 7AM run with ARRC... 5 miles on a 1/2 interval schedule... yeah, that is super slow but I created a schedule for myself to become a runner this schedule, and as slow as that seems, it is one of the steps... and so there you have it.  Shari actually agreed to do these intervals with me as she had done 2/1's with Nelda the week before and wanted to slow down a bit.. worked out perfectly!  Having Shari with me made me do the walk intervals faster than I would have, and so even with the slow intervals, we managed about a 15 min/mi, which is faster than most of my shorter runs.. huh.  Anyway, but I digress.

I went straight from Arlington out to Reston for the swim clinic.. the clinic actually started much earlier so I only got there for the tail end question and answer session.  I sat down at the Team Z tent and hung out until it was time to get ready for the swim.  I saw a couple buoys out in the water, but wasn't sure I was seeing the entire mile, so there must be another one further out that I couldn't yet see.  Lined up in the waves for the start... the water was WARM and nice.. and off I was..

Got to that first buoy that I had seen from shore and was all set to make my way to that 2nd buoy, which was still the furthest out I had seen... and then we made a right turn.. THERE were the rest of the buoys... UGH.  I felt like I was going soooo slow.. wasn't wearing a wetsuit (by choice b/c that's where I need the work).  Sun was up on my right so I was forced to breathe mainly on the left.. this swim seemed long.. we kept rounding corners, and I was thinking that eventually the current would be going in my direction... nope.  Finally I turned and started swimming back to shore.. this was really a painful swim.  I finished in 47:25, which I think is on par with what I did in Florida, but geez..

Got out, handed in my number (which they had us store under our swim cap), and was met with some Team Z cheerers.. everyone was so nice even though I barely know anyone from the team yet.  Definitely glad I decided to join.. nice to have people to talk to after an event, even ones I don't take my own cheer squad to!

The rest of Saturday was exhausting as Mom came over to help me put in plants in my front yard... all those hours in the hot sun, I went to bed at 9:30.. woke up at 5:00 AM and decided I just didn't have it in me.  Turned off my alarm clock and rolled over until 10:30... went for a short run and to the Nationals Game.. no regrets for skipping the actual swim event.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Warrior Dash

I'm not positive this race deserves a race report, but here goes:
Awesome day, great fun, good friends... and TONS of mud :-) 

Joann and I started the day with a soccer game, then met Tammy and Jon at Kilroy's for a quick lunch before heading down to Cindy's where we distributed our AWESOME ensembles -- pink and black striped socks, pink personalized tanks, pink camouflage bandanas and face paint.  Getting ready for this race was about equally as fun as the race itself!!

We were all pretty nervous as we caravanned into Budds Creek for the race.. parked and walked the loooooong way down to registration and signed a HUGE waiver form (longer than half ironman waiver form), and we were off!  Here we all are before the journey:

Glenn took off ahead pretty quick, and Cindy left us soon after, but Joann, Paula, Tammy and I stayed together pretty much the whole time (or at least re-gathered before all of the "fun" obstacles).  It was really really hot which took its toll on me (not to mention the tired legs from the triathlon and a week in Disney), but we ran through mud, crawled under tarps, climbed a rope obstacle, ran through tires and over hay stacks, slid down a flume, jumped over fire and ducked under barbed wire... awesome.

Jon was our super photographer and made the album public, so check them out:  Warrior Dash Pics

Next year we'll have a bigger group, make even better costumes (is it possible?) and be in better shape for the adventure!

Florida 70.3

I was soooo nervous going into this race.  A bit undertrained (ok.. a lot undertrained) and worried about race cut-off times, not to mention the dreaded flat tire that I still wouldn't know how to change... I'm glad I chose to fly in Saturday morning because any more time hanging out down there pre-race would have been terrible.  Tammy dropped Jon and me off at the airport at 6:00 Saturday morning for the early flight, arriving in Orlando around 10-ish.  Grabbing the rental car was easy and we took a quick detour to a grocery store so I could load up on PB&J and some vitamin water.
Everything packed & ready for TriBike Transport!

Animal Kingdom Jambo House is AWESOME.  We paid a little extra for the Kilimanjaro club which guaranteed we'd have a deck where the animals could wander around.. right away we saw giraffes, long horned cattle and some zebra.. so cool.  I was anxious, so we quickly made our way over to the race site, where we *should* have just parked at Magic Kingdom and taken the shuttle, but instead we thought we were cool and decided to park at Wilderness Lodge and WALK the mile (or so?) to the race site.  Check in was a piece of cake, found Deb right away and bought a few 70.3 merchandise items.  Time for bike check-in.. I shipped my bike through TriBike Transport, which ended up being the best $310 I have spent!  My bike and gear bag were waiting for me and all I had to do was walk the bike over to transition.. so easy!  Then Deb, Jon and I carb-loaded on some pizza before heading back to the hotel to get everything organized and set up for the race.. 3 hour infinit solution in the water bottle, attach numbers to helmet and race belt, you know the drill.. then it's off to Downtown Disney for the Cirque show.
The view from our room at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo House

The actual race:  alarm goes off at 4:10.. UGH.. the worst part about racing!!  Scarfed down a PB&J sandwich, banana and vitamin water, and Jon drove me over to the race.. on the drive we were greeted with a HUGE lightning storm which, by the time we hit Magic Kingdom where I was meeting Deb, was accompanied by pouring rain.. wha???  I did NOT want them to cancel the swim.. cancel the whole race, or none of it please!  Deb and I boarded the shuttle and made our way over to transition where they were announcing we only had 15 minutes until transition closed.. ok, we'll skip body marking for now and just get our stuff set up.  I hadn't checked my tires, so asked a rack-mate if I could borrow her pump, which of course she agreed.. most people on race morning are so friendly.  I got everything together, got my tires pumped, the only thing I forgot about was that when I put my number on my bike, I left no room for my seat pack that contained spare tube/CO2 cartridges.. oh well if I get a flat.. finished up everything except sunblock (since I hadn't been marked yet) and headed out of transition for bathroom and body marking... let's roll!!

The swim was a beach start, so I went slowly into the water letting most of the people pass me so that I had some space.  The water was warm but full of crap.. seaweed, debris, gross.  The buoys seemed to come quickly but I had no idea how many there were.. swam easy, and eventually the later waves started catching up with me.  Seriously, why they had the super fast men start after my wave is beyond me.. so about halfway through people started swimming up my back and hitting me.. annoying.  The buoys kept coming and I had no idea how far I'd gone.. finally the turn.. then another turn and it was a straight shot back to shore.  I glanced at my watch and 38 minutes had gone by.. not so bad.  Kept swimming and finally reached the shore 56:56.  Not bad for a non-wetsuit swim for me... and also proof that Eagleman 2010 was mis-marked.  3 half iron distance swims of 52, 53 and 56 minutes make it fact that the 1:14:XX swim time was ridiculous.

There was seriously like a 10 mile run from the water to transition.  Seriously.  Well.. OK.. not seriously... more like a quarter mile run.. but still.. I'm not great at going from swim to run, so I walked, leading to my >7 minute transition time.  Oh well.  Off on the bike.. I really liked this bike course.. mostly flat with some rolling hills.. very little shade though.  First the 5 mile marker, then the 10.. we had our names on our bibs so people would pass yelling personalized cheers.. Saw Deb as I approached 30 miles and we exchanged a friendly wave.. Finally getting a little tired around 35 miles.. my nutrition was going well and I decided that I LOVE starburst on the bike!  Not so much the peanut butter and jelly sandwich or the pretzel m&m's.. I got tired of my infinit after awhile, mostly because I forgot part of the straw on my aero bottle and had to reach WAY down to get any water (which you have to drink to wash down the over-concentrated infinit solution) and started using gatorade. OMG, my butt is seriously starting to hurt.. mile 45.. mile 50.. geez, when were we going to get back into Disney property??  Finally, finally, FINALLY.. back through the Wilderness Campground and into transition.. and again, I walked my bike through the ridiculously huge transition area to get my running shoes.

There was a girl that passed me on the bike around mile 40.  I kept her in my sights and passed her around mile 55, but her transition was faster than me.. I knew I wasn't last, but oh gosh, was I going to miss the run cut off?  Surely the other cyclists who were behind me are much faster runners.. need to keep this girl (Hillary as I later found out) in my sights.. and I did!!  In fact, I caught up with her halfway through the first loop, caught her a few times and we went back and forth.. one of her friends told us the cut off to start the 3rd lap was 3:20.. NO PROBLEM!!!  I calculated that I could walk (slowly) and still make it.. PHEW.. one less thing to worry about.  Started the 2nd loop.. it was going to be really hard to do this whole lap twice more.. got to a long stretch alongside a creek and brush and noticed some smoke and a couple property employees.. hmm.. then I saw flames.. a fire?  Well.. just keep going.. about a mile and a half later I heard fire engines.. I guess it really was a fire in the brush.  Kept going, knowing that I was well on target to make the cut off and finish this thing as painful as it was.... only about a quarter of a mile from the 3rd lap start and over 15 minutes before the cut off... sweet..... except that's when Hillary's friend came up to her (and we were side by side at this point) saying the closed the 3rd lap at 3:00 instead... WHAT???  NO FAIR!!!!  It was because of the fire... they forced us to the finish, and I collected my medal even though I missed ~4 miles... not my fault there was a fire!  I was on track for the cut off time, so this was just God's way of giving me a break :-)
I had a "good enough" finish and was SO HAPPY to be done!!  Let the vacation begin -- and begin it did because it required a boat ride, monorail ride and bus ride, all just to get to Animal Kingdom Park, not even the Lodge.. we decided just to stay there since we were within an hour or so of our dinner reservation.. rode one of the attractions and then dinner, all before showering.  The hostess at the restaurant was going to seat us on the 2nd floor, so needless to say we took the elevator (no way these tired legs were doing stairs!).. on the way down, the elevator doors opened and who was standing there waiting to get on but another girl wearing the triathlon medal.. classic.  On to 4 more fabulous (but tiring) days at Disney.. remind me next time to book a SPA vacation after a race!
Wild Africa Tour in Animal Kingdom

Monday, April 18, 2011

St. Charles Run Festival

What a crappy freaking day!!

I headed down to Cindy's house Friday evening after a great Caps playoff win, and arrived just a little after 11.  Cindy was nice enough to give me her bed for the night and I got a good night sleep until the alarm went off at 6:00 - ugh.  It wasn't raining yet, so Cindy offered to drive me to the race (had it been raining I'd have driven myself so I could sit in the jeep waiting for start time).  After a quick breakfast stop at Wawa (iced tea and nutri-grain bar), we got to the Regency Furniture stadium and I grabbed my bib and timing chip.  There was still about an hour before race start so Cindy offered to drive the race route just for kicks.. I think we missed part of the course, and we drove it in reverse, but I noticed that the "flat" route did include a couple decent-sized hills.. though I'm much more concerned with hills on the bike than the run.  Cindy dropped me off back at the stadium and headed off to her yoga class.  After a little standing around it was time to head to the start... a half mile down the road!

This race was a lot smaller than I'd expected, though I'm sure plenty of people dropped out at the last minute because of the weather predictions.  I was wearing shorts and a long sleeve shirt, but decided at the last minute to throw on my Caps wind breaker, and as such was able to carry my cell phone so that I could get in touch with Cindy after the race.  It was 8:02 when they sent us on our way, as I know from glancing at my cell phone... good thing too because I wasn't wearing a watch.  This was my first race without a watch and it was weird not monitoring my time as I went.  First mile done, and no rain.. sadly this was the last mile marker I'd be able to say this.  The rain was light through mile 2 and 3, and that's when I started feeling what I feared was a huge blister on my left foot.  For me, the first couple miles of any run are pretty painful, trying to get my body adjusted, so I was happy to pass that third mile marker... except that's when the rain started picking up, so what should have been me getting comfortable, I was getting wet instead.

We must have passed pretty close to the stadium at this point because I could hear the announcer, likely welcoming in all the 5K'ers.. 6 more miles to go, and the rain was picking up.  I must say that each of the water stations were very well stocked, even assuming they were planning for more people, I think they would have been fine.  As a back of the packer, this is important race data as there are plenty of events that run out by the time the last athletes are making their way through.  Only once did I get a "Let's Go Caps!" chant, which was surprising.

Somewhere between miles 5 and 6 I started smelling something really really bad.  I started looking around for whatever was dead and producing that horrid odor but saw nothing.. must have been the rain mixed with the fertilizer or something?  It definitely made me pick up my pace!  I did spend most of this race walking, running when I could.. but my back has been bad lately and I'm pretty sure I'll be walking most of the Disney race also.. oh well, not much I can do about that except take it easy and try to heal my back. 

Finally it seemed like this journey was winding down.. passed mile marker 7 and then mile marker 8, and I knew I'd be done in half an hour!  It was really coming down hard at this point and it was getting pretty miserable.  My feet were swishing around in my shoes, my jacket was soaked and very heavy.. we were going down one lane roads and the passing cars and trucks were spashing water all over me.. finally passed mile 9 and really picked up my pace, jogging into the stadium.. there was a huge van parked in the middle of the entrance to the stadium, and then I rounded the corner and saw that they had taken down the finish line.  SERIOUSLY?!  There was no advertised time limit on this race and I was definitely not the last person coming in, this was ridiculous.. totally ruined the whole race, that was already pretty miserable with the weather.  So disappointing.

Luckily I had checked my phone when I crossed the start line, and then checked it again when I was done, so I have an approximate time, but still... ruined what could have been a really great race.  The shirt we got was nice, but wasn't enough to overcome the damper of not having an official time.  Cindy had been there and said that quite a few people who came in before me were also really mad the finish line was gone.  We went to breakfast at a local diner and then I made my way home in the rain and the traffic, finally getting a shower around 2:00.. ugh.

I am feeling OK about the run mileage for the Disney race though.. getting in these 10 miles was key for me.  Now I just need to focus on the bike training and I think I can do this!!