Saturday, September 30, 2006

Maymont Race Report, or My Favorite Race Ever!

What a fabulous run!

Someone asked me recently what my favorite race was. Actually, it was TRIgirl Sharon. We had a lot to talk about over the course of eighteen miles last Sunday. Hmmm, I thought. That's kind of like asking me about my favorite food, color, or anything else. I might prefer one color for the outside of my house, but quite another for a new shirt or a fall sunrise. Or for my favorite food, for that matter.

So, first my favorite race was the James River Scramble--an off-road 10K. Then I thought, well, maybe it's the Richmond Marathon, America's Friendliest, and my first. The Monument Avenue 10K is not my favorite race to run (too crowded and flat,) but it was my first race ever. The Sandman, because it's challenging and exhilarating. Then I remembered the Maymont XCountry Festival Half Marathon. Loved that. My list started and ended with a trail run.

I ran the Maymont Half in 2004, its inaugural year. Completely different from the Rock-N-Roll Half, which had been my first half ever less than a month before. RnR was crowded, Maymont was lonely. RnR was riotous, Maymont was serene. RnR was flat, Maymont was hilly. And off-road. I loved it, and I was faster.

I missed the Maymont Half last year because it was inconveniently scheduled for the same weekend as Sandman. Don't think I didn't consider running it on Saturday, then heading down to the beach for the tri the next day. And if you do think it, don't tell Grandison!

So, this year, I was super-glad to see that the Maymont Half was a couple of weeks later, and it fit in perfectly with our maraathon training schedule. I'd had my eye on it for a while, but was reluctant to register. The girls have been giving me a hard time about my over-enthusiasm, aka signing up for every race. Funny how, within a week after I posted about it, seven other TRIgirls joined me. Sometime I'll write a little something about peer pressure.

The Course
The Maymont Half takes place just outside Maymont Park on the James River. The course actually crosses the river four times, or as Sharon put it, "a lot." We spent a little time on the Buttermilk Trail, ran around Belle Isle, finished at Maymont. We even started with a lap around the vita course in Byrd Park, the TRIgirls' Thursday morning hangout. (I mean BEFORE Starbucks.) Perfect.

The Weather
The last day of September in Richmond. While I briefly missed having a transition area in which to leave my super-cute hoodie, I braved the early morning chill in my TRIgirl tank. The temperature started out around fifty degrees and got up to about sixty. Sllight breeze, humidity not bad, even for Richmond. Perfect.

The Outfits
With TRIgirls sporting pink, we got more than one (actually, more than twenty) comments on the course. I think there were about twenty people out on the course watching. So, if you think the jersey looks good by itself, check it out in a pack.

The Company
I ran the entire race with TRIgirls. Okay, except I didn't talk to anyone for the last mile. Working too hard. I generally enjoy running at least part of my long races alone because after a week filled with students and restaurant clientele, I need a little Carmen time. But today, I enjoyed the company the first part of the race, and I used the energy and the push for the rest of it. Lynn, Sharon , and Kate O were my buddies for the first three miles or so, which are very tough for me. I have a really hard time warming up, especially when I literally have to warm up. I ran the bulk of the miles with Susie, Anna, and Kate T. Anna kept us abreast of all things mathematical with one of those things, you know, on your wrist, that tells everything but the time. Well, I think hers even tells the time. I'm terrible at pacing myself, so it was great to have someone (the voice of reason?) saying, "8:30--Slow Down!" and it was even better to actually slow down. I told them at about mile 9 that I was on track for my PR, and they all kept me on the pace the rest of the way.

The Times
I had a PR of 2:08:06. My previous Half PR was at this race in 2004, 2:11:20. Did I mention I love this race?! Four other TRIgirls had PRs today, and Grandison finished second in her age group, which is also my age group. I was 23 out of 49, and top half always makes me happy! Our amazing swim coach Som finished first in his age group.

The TRIgirl Post Party and Aftermath
Starbucks, of course. I couldn't risk going anywhere bloody marys were served because then I wouldn't have accomplished ANYTHING this afternoon. Since I forewent the alcohol, I managed to accomplish a three-hour nap. Hmmm. Now I have forty-five minutes before I meet the girls out for TRIgirls Gone Not So Wild, then tomorrow we ride bikes, have coffee, and swim, and then Monday morning is strength training, and so it goes. The life of a TRIgirl...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Theory of Relativity

One of many things Sharon and I talked about during the course of our 18-mile run yesterday is the relativity of athleticism, goals, etc. I was feeling a bit of a slacker since I skipped the Thursday morning TRIgirl run and then missed the Saturday bike ride. (I could write a few pages about the utter delight of sleeping in, however!)
One way I justified missing the ride is that it was *only* 18 miles, nothing compared to the 40-mile rides we'd done in preparation for Naylor's. Plus, the only tri I have left this season is a sprint with a 12-mile ride. I find myself thinking, "Cake."
Someone told me a couple of days ago that I'm more athletic than most people. I was mid-denial when I realized that he was probably right. I'm not as athletic as Ironman finishers or Olympic gymnasts or even others on my team. In the course of missing those two TRIgirl workouts, I took three rest days in a row. I felt a little bad about that until I realized my totals for the week included 27 miles of running, 14 miles of biking, over 5000 yards of swimming, and two hours of strength training.
For someone who couldn't run a mile three years ago, that's not half bad!

I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed in the last week with schoolwork--teaching a new class, reading & commenting on endless stacks of student writing. I read Iron Wil's blog comments about the new course plans she developed, the degrees she completed, etc., and I thought wow, she does all this AND trained for Ironman. Kate and Anna are ready to sign up for Florida in 2007. Not me.

But I did register for Eagleman 70.3, TRIgirls' "official" half-Iron distance for next year. And I did show up for three workouts in the last two days. And I did teach my classes. And I did spend time with friends. And I might even grade a portfolio or two, just don't pressure me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sandman Triathlon, Virginia Beach

The Sandman is like a sprint triathlon. Often when my students say something is like something, I reply that not only is it LIKE something, it actually IS that thing. However, when my swim and run times are about equal, I don't quite consider the race to be a sprint.

Having done Sandman last year, I wasn't experiencing any pre-race anxiety. I had already accepted the fact that freestyle would not play a part in my swim. When my three trigirl-to-be friends and I hit the beach Saturday afternoon, however, I started thinking that my weekend might be better spent drinking margaritas and cracking crab legs than planning for and participating in the race. The four of us bravely sat on the beach, wearing hoods and wrapped in beach towels, trying to read our books and magazines without letting the wind turn the pages for us. As many of my friends are aware, sun worship is my part-time job, although pay is not a premium. Me voluntarily walking off the beach is a good indication that the weather is not friendly. That being said, it really wasn't so bad. I think I was mostly afraid I'd be cold, which makes me kind of laugh out loud now.

Race morning, I got up earlier than I thought I would. Since I'd organized all my stuff the night before (highly unusual for me, but I was being thoughtful for the sake of my hotel roommates,) I really didn't have much to do. Brushed my teeth, drank some water, and ate a bar. There's even a real live bathroom in the transition area for this race! I went down to transition, three blocks away from my hotel, and joined Jonah in line for bike inspection. Set up my transition area fairly quickly, and headed to the Seven Eleven for coffee. This was part of the plan all along. I've gotten too familiar with triathlon's hurry-up-and-wait. Mary Jo finally made it through the now-long inspection line and into transition. I have to give her props for an anxiety level about one percent of that she had at Naylor's!

Mary Jo and I walked down to 32nd Strret, where the swim would start. I tested the water (and may or may not have peed.) The temperature was great! I started actually looking forward to the swim. The water was still choppy, but not entirely covered with whitecaps as it had been the day before.

Watching the first wave of open registration, I was glad to have the advantage of learning from someone else's mistakes. The current was pretty strong, and many of the swimmers were getting carried past the first buoy, having to fight the current to go back around it the right direction. Knowing that I'd rather add to my time by swimming a little extra than struggle against the waves themselves, I positioned myself REALLY FAR down the beach. Thank goodness. While I still swam primarily breaststroke, I did incorporate some backstroke as well as a little "LA Combo" (thanks, Som!) into my repertoire. The most notable thing about the swim was not the number of times I was kicked or got my butt grabbed, but the number of times someone said, "Sorry!" All-female wave explains some of it, but I guess these swimmers were just nicer and/or less competitive than those I "ran into" (or vice-versa) at Naylor's.

I got out of the water to cheers from Mary Jo's crowd, and ran--okay, walked--up to the transition area.

On the bike, I pretty much just chilled. It's a flat course, and I was pretty beaten down from the swim. I was worried towards the beginning that I got a draft penalty. Some dude on a yellow bike passed me, then immediately slowed down. This method was repeated by several other cyclists during the 14-mile ride, and I finally just pulled over and got off my bike each time it happened. Just kidding. But most of my bike thoughts revolved around the USAT rules and how I owuld prevent an official from penalizing me unless I actually benefitted from a draft! Anyway, I neither drafted nor was penalized. So much for my bike thinking.

The run, also was fairly uneventful. Out-and-back on the boardwalk. Concrete. Headwind on the way back. Saw Mary Jo and Jonah sporting their pink. Heard loud cheering from my friend LA and her husband Douglas, as well as from my girls, Mary JO's girls, and Jonah's family. I decided the best thing about this entire race experience was that I had more personal cheerleaders than I'd ever had before. It was so great! I also must say that I had a fabulous last .2 miles. I always like to have a fast finish, and I think I passed about ten people then. Jonah had a great fast finish, too, fighting off some potential passers. Mary Jo, she just looked scary! I wouldn't even have tried to pass her!

Among the seven girls who traveled with me and Mary Jo, I'm hoping at least a few caught the spirit (Ashley said it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement!) but even if none tri next year, at least Lauren and Tracy are set to be the cheerleaders. We've got some pink for them...

Oh yeah... my times:
Overall 1:52:43
1000m ocean swim 27:02
T1 1:50
14 mile bike 52:32
T2 1:28
5K run 29:49
I finished 20th out of 33 in my age group, and I took about 12 minutes off my time from last year!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Taking Care of Me

No, not taking care of myself! You can read about that in any women's magazine. Sometimes I appreciate others taking care of me. Yesterday, SanDee picked me up at 6:30 for our bike ride. I finally put my front wheel back on my bike--I actually touched my bike--for the first time since Naylor's Beach. I do believe in magic, as well as the power of ignoring things until they go away. Unfortunately, when we got to West Creek, my bike had not fixed itself, nor was I any closer to fixing it. The brake was still rubbing the front wheel, just as it had been throughout my entire race two weeks ago.
SanDee took me back to her house, via Starbucks, and her husband Gregg worked the magic. Not only is he a tennis pro, but he also finished his first tri this summer, and he is spectacular with the bike--as both rider and mechanic.
After my bike was back in shape, SanDee loaded both it and me back in the car, and took us back to West Creek. Although SanDee had already ridden one loop earlier, she rode two more with me. I never thought a bike ride could feel so smooth. After doing 40-milers and riding 26 on the brake, 16 miles with no brake felt like I was flying.
We dropped by our homes to grab bathing suits and non trigirl clothes, and headed over to Westwood to watch Gregg show some tennis skills.
Back at SanDee's, she made me a sandwich, served it up with some chips (our shared weakness) and watermelon, and we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the pool. Did I mention that she even cut my sandwich in half? A few other trigirls joined us. Gregg kept us hydrated and in cookies, and SanDee made sure each guest had beer when needed.
I'm so fortunate to be part of this family!

More Flexible Schedule

When I discussed, or rather, poked fun at, Shannon's flexible schedule, I got a lot of feedback, most of which was serious. The girls really think both schedules and flexibility are important. In the past two weeks, I've made many adaptations to my own schedule, some intentional and some not.

With the cooler weather comes the new school year, and this semester I am teaching four classes on two different campuses. One of the courses is completely new to me, which of course means some extra planning time, as well. I've cut my work schedule at the restaurant back to *only* four shifts a week, but there are some things that have to get cut out of the schedule. Sleep and my social life are usually the first to go, but they have a way of creeping back in here and there. I did just mow my lawn this morning, as a cooldown from our 16-mile run, but I told my neighbor that just because I mowed my lawn didn't mean he could expect me to wash my car, clean my gutters, or weed the flower beds. I can't be a trigirl AND a gardener!

Life is all about choices. Hmmm, you've heard that before? Well, yesterday I decided to hang out at SanDee's pool rather than clean my house. On Wednesday night, I decided to go out for beers with my coworkers rather than get some sleep before an early morning run. Thursday morning, I decided not to make that early morning run in favor of sleeping in. Some days it's easier to follow tapering and recovery schedules than others.

Right now, i really want to go outside and take a walk. It's beautiful. However, since I'm between a 16-mile run and an hour swim workout, maybe I'd be better off sitting outside grading papers. Then i can decide to go to Legend for beer and bluegrass with Mary Jo later on. I'll keep you posted on the final decision!

TRIgirls Gone Wild, Part Two

I will dedicate this post to Rose, who should be checking out the TRIgirl website for registration information just about now. Rose recognized me at a charity wine and beer event the other night, where I was enjoying a Legend Brown Ale or several with trigirls Susie, Mary Jo, Deanna L, and honorary trigirl Lee. Lee is really good at partying with the girls; we just need to get her to the workouts!
Apparently Rose remembered meeting me one time three or so years ago when several teachers from James River and Monacan met for happy hour together. Wow. Even more impressive than her memory was Rose's receptiveness to Susie's and mine totally no-pressure insistence that she, as well as every other woman in the Richmond metropolitan area, should be a trigirl. So, Rose, pony up!

Although Lynn and SanDee were unable (or unwilling?) to join us for the second venture out on the town in two weeks, I can assure them that the TRIgirls were well-represented. There will just be no documentation since SanDee is the staff photographer.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon Weekend Update

Here it is, Labor Day, and I am sitting at school in between classes. I had forgotten since my stint here as an undergrad, but the folks in charge of holidays never sent the memo to the University of Richmond. So, instead of lollygagging in Virginia Beach for another day, my sister and I cruised down 64 West this morning. Trip highlight: gas at Wawa for $2.32 a gallon!

Yesterday's Half seems like ages ago, until I stand up or sit down. Then my quads remind me. With such a flat course, I'm surprised that's where I'm feeling it.

This was my third annual Virginia beach Rock-N-Roll Half. I ran in 2004 (first half ever) with my friend Mary Catherine. Last year, I convinced my mom, dad, brother, and sister to join me, and we have now started a family vacation tradition. This year, in addition to my family, the TRIgirls were representing! Post-race, we met at T, of course. Grandison, Lynn, Deanna, Teresa, Monica, Anna, Kate, and I posed for pictures, but Shannon had already hit the beach with a beer.

I guess this isn't a very complete race report, since I have yet to look up my time! We weren't really sure what to expect for race conditions, since Hurricane Ernesto blew through on Friday, and some of weren't even sure we would make it to the beach. Sunday turned out to be beautiful, however, although halfway through the race the temperature felt more appropriate for hanging out at the beach than for running next to it!

I had a great first 10K--ran that in a "negative split," and was feeling better with each mile. Just after Mile 8, I was looking forward to my GU, tucked into the back of my TRIgirl top, as I'd heard a nasty rumor that the race was not providing gels as they have in the past. I had the GU in my hand, ready for the next water stop... waiting... got to Mile 9, and officially started my attitude problem. Although I'd hydrated well that morning and the day before, I was THIRSTY, and decided to walk to the next water stop, which finally appeared after Mile 10. Wow. I remember remembering that the same sort of thing happened last year--the Mystery of the Missing Water Stop, so post-race I encouraged runners I know to contact the powers that be with a request for more stops in the future. This is a race that I really enjoy, and it's a shame that only eight stops were provided over 13 miles, especially with the growing number of participants who take a longer time to finish. After all this is late summer in Virginia!

I ran by myself the whole time, which I frequently really enjoy. I'm a very social being, so every now and then, I think I need the solitude one can only find among 20,000 others! Dad and Dyron passed me on my mile-plus walk, and Lynn's husband Derik gave me a shout-out, and other than that, I had to get to that T for familiar faces.

After participating in so many triathlons the past two seasons, it's somewhat refreshing to run a race. I keep thinking I must be forgetting something. All I have to do is show up at the starting line! Nothing to carry, nothing to set up--it's a light, strange feeling.