December 31, 2008

Another Year

In a year where nothing seemed to go right, today was a fitting end. The plan was to run the midnight race, a casual 4-miler in Central Park. We were running as an 80s hair metal band and would have had a good shot at winning the costume contest. But when we checked the forecast this morning, it called for 30-mile wind gust and windchills in the negatives so we had to rethink the evening. We're too old for that, even buzzed and in costume.

So we paid the ridiculous price and went to the local bar instead. While it seemed expensive, the price of entry allowed us to spend the evening with our good friends, the people we've spent just about every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday with this year. It was relaxed and fun with great food and just the right amount of people. I live in New York City, a place that can be incredibly anonymous and yet I have this place where I can go most days of the week and a friend will be there. What more could you ask for?

I did squeeze in a workout today to officially end my 2008 training. I went for a short swim that wasn't necessarily intended to be short, but I just wasn't feeling it. I did what I could and spent a moment thinking about the year I've had. It's been up and down for sure, but I have a feeling I'll land on top in 2009.

Happy New Year.

Distance - 1000 yards
Time - 19:31

December 30, 2008

Travel Hell

I must have angered the travel gods because I’ve had the worst luck lately. What started as a decent morning – caught a cab with the world’s nicest driver, had a traffic-free 15-minute ride to O’Hare, only 5 minutes to check in and less than 20 through security – swiftly turned to crap when they announced a 1.5 hour delay AFTER we had boarded the plane. I heard mumblings of a delay amongst the flight crew as I boarded so they clearly knew, yet chose to trap us like rats instead of allowing us to stay at the gate enjoying free wireless and plentiful Starbucks.

We stayed at the gate for 30 minutes before driving all over O’Hare to find a place to park. We waited an hour, then got the unhappy news of another 1.5 hour delay. Amazingly, no one was complaining. How could this be? We’d been on the plan for 2.5 hours already, stuck in the same tiny seat, unable to move.

Just moments after the pilot said he still didn’t have an update, he announced we’d been cleared to take off and within minutes we were airborne. We took off about 30 minutes after I was originally supposed to land.

I had such high hopes for a productive day but with the delays, I knew I’d be lucky to get anything done at all. I needed to get to Brooklyn to pick up the keys to my new apartment so that was my top priority. Anything after that would be a bonus.

By the time we landed, I was beyond exhausted so I accomplished the bare minimum. I wrote the day off as a loss and will start fresh tomorrow. While it was an abrupt end to a really nice vacation, everything worked out ok and it could always be worse. I’m just happy I had a good time with family and friends and made it home safely.

December 29, 2008

Holidays: Part 2

Last night marked the end of Part 1 of my holiday season. I had a great week with my family and am now headed back to NYC with a quick stop in Chicago. I'm definitely feeling the toll the season is taking on me and look forward to getting back to normal soon. But first I need to survive Part 2 of the season, which begins on New Year's Eve.

My sister and brother-in-law will arrive in New York that day to celebrate the New Year. We'll have dinner and drinks, but then instead of heading to a party, we'll be running a 4-mile race in Central Park at midnight. This is no ordinary race either. Almost all the runners will be in some sort of costume and the atmosphere is quite festive. There will be 4 of us running as an 80s hair metal band. We're aiming to win the costume contest this year.

As much as I'm looking forward to some normalcy, I'm looking forward to a bit more time celebrating with family and friends. 2009 promises to be a very busy year for me so I need to enjoy every bit of downtime I have.

December 27, 2008

Fat Floats

The silver lining of gaining 9 pounds this holiday season is that fat floats so swimming should be a breeze from now on. I find it very hard to believe I ate and drank enough to actually gain that many pounds so I'm hoping some of it is just temporary. The gluttonous living began with Amsterdam over Thanksgiving and has carried over the entire month. But I'm starting to see a light at the end of the holiday tunnel so hopefully things will be back to normal soon.

The ice turned to rain. Lots and lots of rain. I woke up to the sound of thunder, which is not something you expect to hear in the winter. I spent the morning relaxing with family and enjoying my baby nephew for a bit more before he left. The next time I see him he'll be completely different. After some lovely pancakes and bacon (thanks mom) I decided I really needed to get out and swim.

I went to the local aquatics center and the pool was quite nice. There were only three of us there, likely since it's a holiday weekend. I wanted to do the descending 1000 I've come to like so much but was too lethargic to start with 400 so I switched it and did 100, 200, 300 and 400 with rests in between. Since I haven't been swimming much, I didn't limit the rests and just waited for my heart rate to slow down before beginning the next set. After the 400, I flipped it and did 400, 300, 200 and 100. I felt a little heavy and slow in the water and had some breathing issues, but overall it was a good swim.

One of the fun things about swimming is observing the quirks of other swimmers. You see a lot of interesting stuff for sure. Today I was next to that guy who tries to race you and beat you even if it nearly kills him. We were starting our laps on opposite ends of the pool so he'd just hang out at the wall taking a nice break until I reached the wall to turn around. He'd take off at the same time and then do his best to beat me to the wall by one second. His turns were a bit faster than mine so he'd always beat me on the return. Now this is fine and I don't mind, however, it was slightly annoying that the guy never swam more than 100 without taking a break. So yeah, it's not hard to beat a girl - one recovering from a shoulder injury who barely swims and hasn't worked out in a week no less - who's on the 300th or 350th yard of her 400 yard set when you've just been chillin' at the wall drinking water. It's the swimming equivalent to the treadmill peeper guy at the gym who is obsessed with matching your speed throughout the entire run.

I had a small sandwich for lunch and am going to try very hard to limit my intake of fatty awful foods for the rest of the day. I still have a week of holiday debauchery to survive so I need to take it in moderation when I can.

Distance - 2,000 yards
Time - 39:21

December 26, 2008

Ice Ice Baby

The only thing worse than too much snow is too much ice. We've had our fair share of it in Michigan this week and it's leading to a major case of cabin fever. The ground has been covered and the temperatures pretty brutal. But yesterday I could finally take no more and after hours and hours of considering it, I finally got layered up and braved the cold for a run. It was 14 degrees and felt like 7 according to I felt relatively ok, but after about half a mile my butt and thighs went numb from the wind whipping through my tights. I had my compression sleeves over my tights so my calves were ok. Two pairs of socks kept my feet from turning to ice. Any exposed skin really took a beating. But it was so worth it. After days of being cooped up and dealing with my nagging ear issues it felt so good to be moving. I had to run right in the road and at some times, right along the yellow line to avoid huge patches of ice, but it was Christmas Day and the traffic was low. I've complained a lot about winter, but for that 25 minutes I truly loved it.

I went to bed looking forward to getting up for a swim since the aquatics center would finally be open. After sleeping in just enough, I went to get my coffee and noticed that the snow was particularly shiny. Then I realized all the cars were frozen. Great. There had been a big ice storm overnight and all the world was frozen. My parents live on a fairly steep hill so ice + hill = not going anywhere. My aunt and uncle were coming over to see my nephew and they ended up parking at the bottom and walking up, if you can call shuffling, slipping and sliding walking. My aunt actually fell at one point in this effort to make it to the house. No aquatics center for me.

Since the ground was a sheet of ice I couldn't run either. Between the inactivity and my horrible eating, I'm starting to feel like a lethargic blob. Since inactivity breeds inactivity, it's getting worse day by day. When will it end? I hear it will be 60 tomorrow. If that's even remotely true, I'm going for a longer run and hitting the aquatics center. If I eat salad and drink nothing but water I may feel semi-human again.

But who am I kidding. I may run and swim, but I'm sure I'll eat at least one piece of pie and at least one fatty, creamy holiday treat. 'Tis the season after all.

Running (12/25)
Distance - 3.11 miles
Time - 25:40

December 25, 2008

NYC Marathon Photos - Better Late Than Never

Seven weeks after doing my first sub-4 hour marathon, I'm finally posting the photos. The original blog about the day is here, in case you're dying for the blow by blow report to go with the photos.

Waiting for the 7am Staten Island Ferry. Nothing but runners:

Final view of Manhattan from the ferry:

Athlete's village on Staten Island, where 40,000 runners had to kill hours and hours before the race start:

One way to keep warm:

Larry the Lighthouse, this guy is insane:

Keeping warm with heat sheets. It was 38 degrees at the start:

View of the Verrazano Bridge from my start area:

Killing time with an official start photo:

And we're off - the famous Verrazano Bridge start:

4th Avenue in Brooklyn, mostly uphill. Ouch:

Must be somewhere in Brooklyn since I'm still smiling:

First glimpse of Manhattan from the 59th Street Bridge, my slowest mile in the race:

Somewhere along the 26.2, not sure where:

Gary, ruining my fun shot:

Somewhere in Central Park, the final three miles. I'm not smiling anymore:

Official finish time - 3:58:14. I was the happiest girl in the world:

Finisher photo:

Happy to be done and warming up:

And now for the most important thing - recovery:

Ho Ho Ho

Most of you know I've been light on the Christmas spirit this year. I just haven't been able to get into it no matter how hard I try. But just because I'm the Grinch doesn't mean I don't want everyone else to enjoy it, so Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

It's my baby nephew's first Christmas so it's been fun seeing him play with all his new toys. But since he's only 9 months old, he doesn't necessarily care if he gets an empty box wrapped in paper or if there's an actual toy in there. So far he seems to like playing with an old computer keyboard and some ribbons more than the toys. Ah the simplicity of childhood.

It's 20 degrees and rather icy but I'm tempted to get out there and try to run. I can't even fathom the calories I consumed yesterday and I'm feeling it today. The nonstop eating and drinking is definitely a reason to look forward to the end of the holiday season.

On that note, I'm off to bake a pecan pie for my family. Now that's healthy.

December 24, 2008

Things Left Undone

It's Christmas Eve, which is the day I've primarily celebrated Christmas as long as I can remember. Once we were old enough to know that Santa didn't exist, Christmas Day became so much less important. The weeks leading up to today were hectic, and not because I was busy putting up a tree or baking or shopping. There was none of that this year. It was hectic because of life. I was searching for a new apartment, trying to wrap up a freelance gig and preparing for an extended trip out of town. So in the madness that was my life for the past two weeks, a lot of things were left undone.

Even though there is still almost a week left in 2008 I'm already reflecting on the year behind me and thinking about the year ahead. I'm ending 2008 at a deficit in many ways, but nothing I can't make up for in 2009 with a little work. I've been slacking incredibly on my training and know that cannot continue with the heavy race season I have planned. My winter races are mostly just for fun - Manhattan Half Marathon on January 25 with my friend Beth, her first ever half; Hyannis Half Marathon with a group of friends all staying in a house together, we'll try to focus on the race; and a possible half marathon in the Chicago area in March. Then I have my first big race of the year on April 5, Ironman New Orleans 70.3.

This is the longest stretch I've gone without posting in the time I've had my blog. I've had a little training going on, but unfortunately not much to write about. But beyond the lack of new posts, I realized I've missed some important old posts. I never posted photos from my most recent races including the New York Marathon. I meant to post some photos from my Amsterdam trip. I've meant to do a lot of things that just continue to go undone.

So maybe my New Year's resolution will be to catch up on those little things in life that may not be that important, but drive you crazy knowing they are there waiting for attention. I have a couple more weeks of relative peace before my Ironman training kicks in so there is no time like the present. It would be a good way to close the book on 2008 and get ready for what 2009 may bring.

December 10, 2008

Catch Up

Do you ever feel you are so far behind on everything that you'll never catch up? That's how I feel right now. Work has been busy and my set schedule is no longer set so I've had to remain flexible, which has evaporated any free time I had. I'm squeezing my final races in for the marathon qualifier, I still haven't unpacked from Amsterdam and haven't even dreamed of packing for the move to Brooklyn. I also just realized I never posted NYC Marathon photos, even though they are all downloaded, sized and labeled. I have Amsterdam photos, too. And isn't Christmas soon?

I got a solid 8 hours of sleep last night after a few nights of 4-6. That was the best catching up of all. I went straight to the gym after work to swim so there would be no excuses. Not surprisingly, it was more crowded at 7pm, but I still only had one lane-mate. Unfortunately he was Mr. Splashy so every time I passed him I nearly got rolled over from the wave he created. And the guy was tiny. It was like open water swimming. We almost got a third swimmer at one point, but luckily someone else left just as she was getting ready to hop in. I'm definitely going to miss having whole lanes, and sometimes the whole pool to myself, but it's so much nicer to swim at the gym. I took only my swimsuit, cap, goggles and flip flops, which is a nice change from toting around a huge bag of stuff. It makes it easier and that matters more than anything else. Now if only all the other to-dos were easier.

Distance - 1350 yards
Time - 27:11

December 9, 2008

Final Finisher

Today was a long one. I left the hotel at 8 a.m., had meetings all day, and landed back in New York at 9:30 p.m. I picked up the new Triathlete magazine to read on the plane and immediately skipped to the Kona coverage. While the tales of Chrissie Wellington winning even after a 10-minute flat, and Craig Alexander taking the men's title were exciting, the story that literally brought me to tears (no joke - you should see me watching the TV coverage) was that of 34-year old Joe Marinucci, Kona's final finisher at 16:58:17. This wasn't his first Ironman, he has a PR of 12:47, but October 11 just wasn't his day.

It is a stark reminder that you can only prepare for so much in the Ironman and the rest is left to luck. I'd like to think I don't care when I finish. I watched the final finisher at IMWI this year and she had even less time to spare. Seeing that filled me with a flood of emotion. On one hand, I think we all just want to finish the race. But on the other hand, many of us are battling ourselves and have very specific goals. Do I even have the right to have goals? I've only done three triathlons. Ever. Yet I find myself wondering if 16:58:17 is enough for me. This athlete, Joe, said he wanted to quit, but then saw a plane take off and wondered what it would be like to be on his plane just 2 days later looking at the place where he had quit. So he pushed on and was the final finisher in Kona.

Stories like this make me believe I can and will finish. I can't wait to have the Ironman experience.

December 8, 2008

New Surroundings

While in Brooklyn on Saturday I decided to stop by the Equinox gym and check it out. It's in Brooklyn Heights, but only a 12-minute walk from my new apartment. I had already spoken to the sales person and thought I'd just have a quick look. I was sold the minute I walked through the door.

Twenty minutes later I was signing up even though it didn't seem sensible. I had decided I would primarily swim at the West Village location and work out in Brooklyn so I got an all access pass. I'm a triathlete - it has to be worth it, right?

While my membership doesn't start until December 31, they gave me a guest pass to use through the remainder of the year so I decided to take a dip in my new pool. I went around lunchtime, which I'm assuming is busier than other times. There are only 3 lanes and each had a swimmer so I joined the "slow" lane. Turns out I should have joined "medium," but I still tend to doubt my swimming abilities. I had a very short, very quick swim mostly to just get a feel for the new surroundings. I loved it.

This set up is only costing a bit more than what I paid for a pool and gym separately. And it's 100 times nicer. I'll spend more time there as a result so it's worth it.

I think I also found my Ironman coach today. We talked for an hour and I already feel like we're working together. It was just a natural fit, which is exactly what I was looking for. I need to figure a few things out, but hope to start with him in the new year.

I also had the pleasure of meeting another BTer today, a guy from Michigan temporarily living in NYC. I'm hoping he can run with me a bit and drive me to the sub-8 pace I'm so close to, but can't seem to achieve on my own.

Now I'm off to Cincinnati, my first business trip in a very long time.

Distance - 1100 yards
Time - 24:25

December 7, 2008

Personal Records

When you've been slow your whole life there's nowhere to go other than up. I was a 10:30/mile runner not too long ago and still remember the exhileration of dipping below 10. Before I knew it I was down to 9:30, then 9 and finally sub-9. My first sub-9 race pace was in the 2006 Wall Street Run, a race run entirely on the streets of NYC's financial district. I wasn't necessarily trying, but I pulled off an 8:26 pace and I still can't believe I didn't throw up at the end.

After a disappointing run in the 2007 Chicago Marathon I decided I was going to be faster. I cut almost a minute off my mile that winter.

I've had a year of personal records as a result. I set my 5K PR at my first-ever triathlon, my 10K PR at the NYC Tri and my sub-4 marathon PR at the NYC Marathon. I set a stand-alone 10K PR at the Marine Corps Marathon 10K as well, but finally beat both 10K records today with my 49:49 finish in the Kleinerman 10K. This wasn't an important race. I had to do it to get my final qualifiers in for the 2009 NYC Marathon. But for whatever reason it just seemed to be my day.

I barely slept last night, I'm guessing 4.5 hours in total. I had a busy Saturday that culminated with a few (too many) beers with my friends. I was meeting my friend Jonah an hour before the race so it was too early to really eat. So I had coffee and more coffee before starting this race in the freezing cold. I wasn't expecting much, but hit 8 minutes on the first mile, which included the hideous Harlem Hill. Suddenly I was motivated. But then I dipped to 8:14. I was able to get back to 8 or below for the remainder and in the last 2 miles I realized I could break 50 minutes if I really pushed. I gave it everything I had, running a 7:38 pace from miles 5-6, then a 7:07 for the final .2. I was thrilled. It was another unexpectedly good day in a season full of bad days. Days like today give me confidence and hope that I have a very exciting year ahead.

Distance - 6.2 Miles (Kleinerman 10K)
Time - 49:49

December 3, 2008

Swimming... Sort Of

It's funny how it takes so long to build up the ability to do something well, but takes only a fraction of that time to get knocked back to where you started. When you start running, a mile or two is absolute agony. Then eventually it takes that long just to get warmed up. You start seeing a 6 or 7 mile run as a daily thing. Swimming is the same. I used to be gasping at the wall after a few laps, then got to the point where I felt I could swim forever. Then my accident kept me out of the pool long enough to pretty much eliminate much of what I had been able to learn.

I've committed to swimming at least 16 times in the month of December as part of one of my BT challenges. I have the use of my left arm again, albeit uncomfortably, so there really are no more excuses. I swam a mile broken into a few sets - 200, 250, 450 and 900. It's always rough at the beginning and by the 450 I was feeling pretty comfortable. But my balance remains way off and I cannot swim straight no matter how hard I try. It's a good thing I wasn't sharing a lane. I'm that idiot that I used to curse back in the summer for swimming all over the place.

My pool has windows that face South and with the sun lower in the sky for winter, there was direct light shining right in the middle of the pool so in the middle of every length, I swam through this amazing beam of light. I really loved it and looked forward to swimming through it each time. It made the time fly by.

In addition to getting back into the water, I had another big first today - I rode a bike outside for the first time since my crash on August 10. I decided to ride to the pool to save time and took the old road bike out. It was in the low 30s so I bundled up as much as possible, but I still froze. How the heck to people ride in the winter? I was relieved that I felt comfortable on the bike and had absolutely no hesitation. I'm sure a longer ride at higher speeds will be a little intimidating, but I was out there in NYC traffic and felt completely at ease. It gave me hope.

Distance - 1,800 yards
Time - 38:58

December 2, 2008

Just in Case You Thought I Died...

I haven't posted in over a week so just in case anyone bothers to check - yes, I'm still alive. This of course assumes anyone actually reads this blog, so maybe no one has noticed. My dad's computer died, which means my one guaranteed daily reader is now gone. But I'll attempt to keep going.

I had a fun week in Amsterdam and meant to post, but just never got around to it. I would have had to log the beers I drank rather than activity so I decided to pass. I choose to go in November knowing the weather is less than favorable, but this year's weather was absolutely the worst. There was a huge snow storm on Sunday when I landed, the first I've ever seen like that in Amsterdam, and the sun only managed to peek out of the clouds once on Monday. Then never again the entire week. The weather report said it would warm up and instead, the temperature dropped to frigid levels I've never experienced there. I had a wool sweater, a thermal running jacket and a wool coat on and was still cold. Yikes.

I didn't get tons of use out of my Dutch bike as a result, but I went for a nice run and enjoyed the city as always. I'll be posting some photos to summarize my week. But I'll close with this: if you haven't been to Amsterdam, you really need to go to Amsterdam. It's the most misunderstood, underestimated city in the world. It's wonderful. And a lot of people have been there and missed the real Amsterdam. This was my 8th trip in 12 years and I feel like I could wander the city blindfolded. I'm thankful for that. It's a very special place and I've gotten to experience it more than any other place I've been.


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