November 30, 2010

Bella Roma

I'm back from my incredible journey to Italy. This was my first solo jaunt overseas so I was afraid to book an entire week thinking I might feel lonely or uncomfortable. Now that it's over I so desperately wish I had booked a week. It was by far one of the best travel experiences I've ever had and it was so rewarding in so many ways. I learned that traveling alone is anything but lonely and it allows you to expand your comfort zone tremendously. Rome may be the perfect city for solo travel as well, so I chose wisely. There is so much to share, far too much to ever capture here, and none of it involves any physical activity beyond walking miles and miles around the city in totally inappropriate footwear. Most of it involves eating decadent foods and drinking beautiful wine and cocktails. The perfect vacation.

Since I'm suffering from jet lag and am not coherent enough for a full post, I thought I'd share 10 observations and discoveries from my journey:
  1. Since the coffees are small, don't be afraid to go to two espresso bars each morning to hide the fact that you require multiple coffees to get the day started right. Just remember: no cappuccino past noon, lattes are a made-up American thing and always drink your coffee standing at the bar.
  2. When they ask you if you want cream on your gelato don't think, just say yes. Oh my god...
  3. Panini is plural, a single sandwich is a panino. Don't order like a tourist.
  4. You don't need to share a language to communicate and connect with someone. You can have a really memorable experience without a lot of words.
  5. A two-hour lunch is a great idea. A three-hour dinner is an even better idea.
  6. Visiting Italy during truffle season is magical. And I'm not talking about chocolates...
  7. Looking chic and making a good impression is key in Rome (see above comment about inappropriate footwear).
  8. Aperitivo is like happy hour on steroids and a really beautiful thing.
  9. If you have a good attitude and sense of adventure you can go anywhere and do anything and the people will be kind to you.
  10. In Rome, la vita e bella. You could do nothing except stroll around and soak it in and it would be a trip of a lifetime.
I had been to Rome once before but felt like I was seeing it for the first time. Since I didn't spend the full week I'm already plotting my return and very much looking forward to it.

November 22, 2010

Another Two

Doing two Ironmans in 2010 was incredibly rewarding. I didn't succumb to my foot injury and it proved just how far I have come from my former self who had a nasty habit of not finishing what she started. A lot of people question my blog title: how can a person who completed three Ironmans in 12 months be lazy? It's simple. We all come from somewhere and it's often not the manifestation of our current selves. We are constantly changing, trying new things, wanting to be different. And to some degree, battling a complete alter ego that could take over at any time. My alter ego is lazy. She can also be a quitter (I blame it on being a Gemini). So when I started this sport I swore I'd do it 100%.

I've spent the past month or so trying to figure out what I really want to do next season. The thought of two Ironmans was appealing, but based on timing and what was available, my choices were IMFL, IMAZ and IMCOZ. I've never had an interest in FL and while a vacation in Cozumel sounds lovely, swimming an Ironman without a wetsuit sounds about as fun as a root canal. So Arizona it was.

After toiling over the decision and being on and off the fence, I took the plunge and signed up online today. It only took 5 refreshes to get into the system and roughly 6 minutes to complete the entire process.

Why did I do it? The quote I keep on my blog kept running through my mind: "Someday my body will not be able to do this. Today is not that day." I don't know what the future holds for me, but I know this makes me happy. It defines me and keeps that alter ego at bay. The biggest challenge will be staying motivated for such a long season, beginning in February and ending in late November. But for now I'm going to truly cherish the couple months I have remaining in my offseason, and I'm going to start with a trip to Rome and Paris beginning tomorrow. Buon Viaggio!

November 17, 2010

Beer Mile Champion

Last weekend I had a typical Sunday. I was up at 7am to prep for a ride, taking advantage of what would end up being the most perfect late fall riding weather. I met up with fellow blogger Jon for our second food-centric ride, this time on my side of the state with a mid-point muffin from my favorite training fuel stop in Piermont, NY. I had my usual cinnamon chip while he explored the various croissant offerings. In addition to indulging on fantastic carbs, we put in some solid, late-season miles.

I was in a bit of a rush to get home because I had a race on the schedule at 3pm. My tri club was hosting its first Beer Mile, something I like to consider an alternative duathlon since it combines two of my favorite sports - drinking beer and running. I have always wanted to do a Beer Mile but have never heard of one happening locally. I did some "training" in the days leading up to build up my tolerance and was feeling quite prepared. Unfortunately I finished the ride late so I had to skip lunch and just have chocolate milk instead. I didn't want any solid food in my stomach in case things were to not go down so easy if you know what I'm saying.

We set up our "transition" area, complete with brown paper bags, and did a warm-up lap. Then we lined up, fingers poised to hit start on the Garmin and crack open the first beer. It's fantastic to be doing a race that starts with "On your mark, get set, drink!" Because I love numbers, I captured all of the splits - my beer drinking time and lap running time. Here is a breakdown:

Beer 1
:45 (disgusting, but I did it!)
Lap 1
1:45 (6:59/mi)
Beer 2
1:11 (is burping in public in front of guys a bad thing?)
Lap 2
1:58 (7:47/mi)
Beer 3
1:23 (going down hard now...)
Lap 3
1:58 (7:55/mi, starting to weave around a bit I think)
Beer 4
1:36 (never. drinking. beer. again...)
Lap 4
2:00 (7:30/mi, DONE! and no penalty lap!)
Total 12:40

I don't think I've chugged a beer since college so the 45-second split to start was huge for me. Sadly I was second to last with that performance so it was a good thing I was able to throw down a decent pace while not throwing up my PBR! The scene in transition was priceless. A bunch of adults slamming beers out of paper bags, burping, spilling all over ourselves and other unmentionable mishaps (one racer had a cuban sandwich shortly before the race...).

"Transition" 1, Race Start

That first lap was tough. I spent the entire time trying to figure out how I'd drink 3 more beers and keep my cookies down. I slowed considerably on Beer 2, taking a few chugs at a time peppered with breaks to commiserate with fellow racers and create some room with ladylike burping. The second lap was a little easier and I actually embraced the small escape from the dreaded beer transition. But as predicted, Beer 3 was like swallowing wet concrete. I started questioning my ability to finish and wondered, would this be my first DNF? I wasn't ready to give up so I powered through and continued on.

Lap 3 was a challenge. I think a slight buzz was setting in and I forgot to stay focused and run a straight line. I started fantasizing about collapsing in the grass. As I entered transition for Beer 4, I realized it might have been the first time in my life where I absolutely, positively, without a doubt did not want even a sip of beer. Too bad I had another 12 ounces to consume. It's hard to say what was harder: doing 2 Ironmans this season or forcing that final beer down my throat. I'm leaning toward the beer. I was elated to start Lap 4 and even enjoyed it a little despite the burning in my stomach. I could see fellow racers celebrating their accomplishments just around the corner and wanted to desperately to join them. Or puke. Or both.


Moments after finishing I learned I was the first place female. Podium!!! Finally! Of course there were only 4 females but still, I was proud. What a fantastic way to end my season.

Post-Race Recovery

Regardless of my win, I realized I will need to do some serious training to be a real contender next year. My inability to truly chug the beer really held me back so I have work to do. Unfortunately I never learned how to properly chug a beer in college so I may be faced with limitations in this sport. But if I can learn to swim and do an Ironman in one year, I'm confident I can cut my can-guzzling time down to a respectable 30 seconds. I may need to experiment with race day nutrition to find the right choice as well and the offseason seems like a great time to do it. Cheers!

November 13, 2010

Joy Miles

You hear a lot about junk miles, those extra miles we put in during the season that don't really serve a training purpose. But during the offseason I've discovered those miles are converted from junk to joy. Over the past few days I've logged a handful of run and bike miles simply for the pleasure of being outside, feeling the wind on my face and enjoying my surroundings. Pure joy. It's something we don't have the luxury of doing with big races and goals on the horizon.

I finally started running again on Wednesday after a 2.5 week break. I only went 20 minutes and I loved every moment. Then Thursday while in Toronto for business I went out and ran another 30 minutes, but this time with no Garmin and no clue of how far or how fast I was going. I ran up and down the little side streets of Yorkville, the neighborhood I was staying in, and paid no attention to pace or effort. It was such a pleasure to run just for the sake of running.

Today I met up with a friend and rode multiple loops of Prospect Park, chatting and catching up about our weekend so far. It was 60 degrees, sunny and beautiful, and we rode until we didn't feel like riding anymore. No goals, no plan, just a ride. We stopped off for coffee and muffins and chatted some more before calling it a day.

So in my confusion over scheduling and structure, I think I've discovered what I need to do - find joy. I love training for this sport or I wouldn't do it. You spend way too many hours preparing for an Ironman to feel forced or obligated. But even though I enjoy it, the need to hit miles, paces or heart rates can be a drag. So for now I'll just keep doing whatever I feel like doing and if that means going slow, stopping for muffins or just jogging to see a new place, at least I know I'll enjoy it.

November 9, 2010

Addicted to Structure

First things first. I fear there is a dark cloud hovering over me when it comes to my pursuit of this sport sometimes. Just as the Cipro ban ended, I developed a case of what seemed to be a mile stomach virus. At first I wondered if it was just backlash from the indulgence I enjoyed while being incredibly lazy for 14 days, but when the fever, aches and chills hit I could no longer deny it. I was sick. And sick I remained from roughly 4am Sunday morning to now. Tonight is the first time I feel I've turned the corner, though it's 9:25 and I'm more than ready for bed.

So suffice it to say I have not yet returned to being a triathlete or at least someone that resembles one. If I have an ounce of energy tomorrow I may give it a try. But stomach bug aside, I had a realization while dragging myself to work this morning: I thrive on structure, on being scheduled and knowing exactly what needs to be done and when. I recently posted about needing a break from coaching so I could enjoy just the opposite - a life free of obligations. But now I'm wondering if having no schedule is like a get out of jail free pass when it comes to having any sense of needing to do a workout. There are those rare individuals who can wake up in the morning, decide on a whim what to do and go do it. I'm not one of them. I'm realizing I won't do anything at all if there isn't a plan in place.

There's a chance this is just typical offseason slack, we all do it, right? But there's a chance I need a more structured approach, even if it's a structure for my unstructured time. Looking back I remember accepting a new full-time job, and a big job no less, right at the same time I started training for my first Ironman. I had been consulting quite successfully for a year and had a very flexible schedule, something you'd think would be ideal for Ironman training. But there was a fear deep down that I'd handle the training better with more structure in my life and I was right. Not only was the job perfect for me, its daily demands forced me to meticulously plan every moment of activity around it. Or rather have my coach plan it, but you get the point.

When you think about it, a lot of triathletes exhibit Type A behavior. So it's no surprise we thrive on having daily schedules that would make most people jump off a bridge. Are you one of them? Let's hear what level of scheduling works for you.

November 7, 2010

The Long Wait

As of today it's been 14 days since my last dose of Cipro and I'm ready to be active again. I had some minor aches and pains so I decided to hold off when the mandatory 10-day ban was up. Another 3 days of being lazy is nothing compared to another 4 months in a walker boot or worse.

I didn't take the 14 days entirely off. I threw caution to the wind and took advantage of beautiful fall weather with a fantastic ride in Westchester County, just north of New York City. I met up fellow blogger Jon and joined him on his Ride for the Donuts, a 50-mile loop on lovely tree-lined roads. Westchester is stunning in the fall and the leaves were just past their peak so it was worth the slight risk. But the leaves were most certainly not the highlight of the ride... the cider donuts were. I would have ridden another 50 to eat a half dozen more, they were just that good. It was a nice departure from my usual muffin ride and a great way to enjoy a perfect fall day.

I've spent the rest of the time seeing friends and enjoying free time in the city. I've been to several great restaurants and have definitely put on a few pounds as a result, but it has been worth it. I'll be back to my usual lifestyle tomorrow and will feel normal in no time.

I think the most exciting thing I did during this 14-day hiatus is book a Thanksgiving vacation. I'll be spending 4 days in Rome and 1 day in Paris on my first solo trip out of the country. I remember meeting a woman last year who had just spent a weekend in Paris alone and she said all women need to do that at some point in their lives. I went to California alone this past spring and loved it, so this should be even more exciting. One thing is for sure: I'll be taking my running shoes with me to explore the city on foot. There is nothing better way to experience a new place and work off some of the pasta and gelato at the same time.


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