June 29, 2012

Fresh Start

I've had a lot going on lately. About a month ago, I made a really difficult decision to leave my job and yesterday was my final day. As many know, I was slated to be in London this summer for the Olympics and would have been leaving three weeks from now. But a couple opportunities came my way that were really eye opening, making me realize I wanted to pursue a passion and the time was now or never. As with most job changes, I left without something new lined up. I find searching for a job to be a full-time job if you do it right, so after a brief vacation that will be my new mission.

After 14 years in PR and the last three focused on P&G's sponsorship of the Olympics and Special Olympics, I decided to pursue something sports-focused. I'm not sure if it will be in communications or a different marketing capacity, but it's my goal and I hope to be successful. So if anyone reading this wants to hire me, you know where to find me!

June 26, 2012

Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Lost Luggage

My experience this past weekend traveling to DC for a fun sprint race with my sister and her husband can be filed under "you can't make this shit up." Normally I go to DC by train or car, but this time I opted to fly because Delta tempted me with an unbelievably cheap ticket and medallion qualifying miles so I decided to fly and rent a bike. Sounds easy and stress free, no?

Easy and stress free are about the only things I didn't get this weekend. After my heinous experience Friday I never dreamed it could get worse, but then Monday rolled around and I seriously started wondering if I'd wronged someone and was victim of Karmic retribution. Here is how the travel hell unfolded.

  • 6am - Woke up early to finish packing and was feeling good. I hadn't done a tri since IMWI so I spent a little extra time getting the odds and ends together.
  • 12pm - Left nice and early to catch the AirTrain and save a few bucks. Was feeling so proud of myself for getting to the airport with zero stress.
  • 1:20pm - Sailed through security and settled in at the Delta Sky Club to enjoy free cheap wine and snacks. Life was good.
  • 2:15pm - Headed to the gate, boarding was just getting started.
  • 2:20pm - Boarding was abruptly halted due to a ground stop. A nasty thunderstorm had started. They said we'd board at 3:00 so I went back to the Sky Club. I wasn't even phased.
  • 2:45pm - The Sky Club started looking like a refugee camp. Flights were being canceled left and right and travelers were starting to get nasty. I had another wine and was still optimistic.
  • 3pm - I went back to the gate at the time boarding was supposed to start. Instead we got another 30 minute ground hold so I decided to wait and start a movie on my iPad.
  • 4pm - 3:30 came and went but just before 4:00 we boarded. I was tucked into my first class seat with another bad wine and continued my movie. Things were looking up.
  • 4:12pm - The boarding door closed and we pushed off. We had a 40 minute taxi and 48 minute flight. I'd still make it to happy hour.
  • 5pm - Another ground stop. We pulled out of the taxi line and parked. I continued my movie and had two packets of peanuts. Happy hour was looking out of reach.
  • 6:30pm - The pilot announced we might have to go back to the gate. There is a 3-hour rule and we were nearing that point so they had to let passengers get off if they wished. I secretly wanted to beat those wishing to get off the plane to a pulp. Couldn't we just stick it out and hope?
  • 7pm - We drove back to the gate, but of course at NYC's crappy airports there is never a gate so they sent out a bus. People started fleeing in the pouring rain. I finished my movie.
  • 7:15pm - The flight was finally canceled. I spent my afternoon on a plane going nowhere and now had no way to get to DC in time for the race. The best Delta could do was a 9pm flight Saturday night.
  • 7:45pm - I sprinted to the Sky Club for wifi and an outlet to charge my dead phone and desperately tried to get an Amtrak ticket along with 400 other stranded passengers. After three attempts I was booked on the 6:45am train Saturday for a price higher than my round trip flight. Ugh.
  • 8:15pm - I was informed they couldn't remove the bags from the plane because the airport was too busy. Everything I needed for the race was checked. I started to break down.
  • 8:30pm - After not eating since 11am and going through hell, I was on the AirTrain heading for the Long Island Railroad to go home and left my handbag on a train. I've been a New Yorker for 14 years and have never done something so utterly stupid. I officially broke down. But thankfully went into solution mode immediately and had security meet the train at the next station and had my bag back within 10 minutes. My spirit was crushed.
  • 10pm - I arrived home 10 hours after I left and a shell of my former self. I packed a very small back up bag with my second pair of cycling shoes, an extra tri suit, goggles and back up running shoes. I figured if the bag went MIA I could piece the race together with a shoestring and some luck.
  • 5am - Up and ready for the train. I tossed on clothes and headed out the door. I decided to rely on NYC transit to get me to Penn Station. This choice saved me tons of money but nearly cost me an ulcer. 
  • 6:30am - I boarded Amtrak and went to sleep. I didn't wake up until we rolled into Baltimore.
  • 9:30am - Called Delta and was informed my bags didn't fly out in the morning as promised but would arrive at 10:35pm. So convenient the night before a triathlon! I finally unleashed on Delta and demanded they fix it. I know the weather isn't their fault, but they had total control over when to send my bag. After being on hold forever, they informed me they made a mistake and my bag was already at DCA.
  • 10:15am - After 22 hours of hell I finally arrived in DC. Just when I didn't think I could be happier, we went to the airport and I immediately found my bags. Things were looking up.

After all the madness the weekend was really fun and the race was just perfect. I was poorly trained (I like to think I've been tapering since March), but just like Rock 'n' Roll San Diego, I felt great and had a good race. It was also my brother-in-law's first triathlon so sharing that experience was priceless. I'll post a full report on the race in the coming days.


Just when I thought the tough times were behind me another storm rolled in and ruined my Monday. My original flight was at 6am into JFK and I received an automated message Sunday night from Delta saying it was canceled. They immediately rebooked me on a 7:59am shuttle to LaGuardia instead. Good solution.

But then Monday morning the weather in NYC was atrocious and upon arriving at the gate at 7:20 we were informed there was a ground hold. Seriously!?!? I patiently went back to the Sky Club and drank four cappuccinos while waiting for updates. They delayed it up to 9:15 and stopped bothering to provide updates after that. Delta assured me all LaGuardia flights were being canceled and recommended I secure a spot on an afternoon flight so I rebooked, boarded the metro and headed back to my sister's house to work and have lunch.

I arrived back at the airport around 1:00 and parked myself in the Sky Club, I was a regular by then. The 2pm flight boarded a bit late and there was a brief ground stop on the tarmac, but we finally took off and landed around 3:30pm in New York. Home sweet home.

Of course my bags went to LaGuardia that morning and I had to sprint to catch the train, but I was so happy to be home. When the train arrived in Brooklyn there was a monsoon and I had no umbrella, but after what I'd been through I just dashed out in the rain, laughing as I ran down the street getting soaked and splashing through puddles. I took a short subway ride and was finally home after another 12 hours of travel. My bag arrived shortly after midnight and ended my Celebrating Heroes Sprint Triathlon saga.

The moral of the story? Drive. Traffic may suck but this experience was far worse. It made me realize how badly I wanted to race and at least I was able to pull it off. It definitely got me thinking about what's next so it was totally worth it.

June 20, 2012

Amazing Healthy "Brownies"

I have a serious sweet tooth. Even though I tend to crave savory and salty treats more, I like a little something sweet every day. On and off again I go on a no-sugar kick that also involves no artificial sweeteners. In an effort to clean up my diet and get back on the training wagon, I'm on that kick and found myself longing for cupcakes, frosting, pies, ice cream... pretty much anything sweet. I tried almond milk "ice cream" and the texture was a disappointment. I was successful with a coconut milk chocolate mousse, but tons of stevia was needed to sweeten it. Then I discovered pure heaven when I came across a recipe for healthy brownie bites.

The first attempt was a huge success and my boyfriend confirmed they were amazing. We had them before an evening bike ride and they provided perfect fuel on top of being insanely delicious. The recipe called for rolling the dough into little balls, which I did, but I decided to try making actual brownie squares on the next round. The best part is how incredibly simple it is. You toss everything into a food processor and pulse until you have sticky crumbs.

Then you either roll into balls or press into a pan and cut into squares.

The resulting treat tastes so much like a rich brownie, yet contains no added sugar, no flour and no dairy. These are definitely high in calories due to the use of dates and nuts, but the ingredients are clean and healthy and so much better than an actual brownie. You can control the portion size by making smaller squares or bites, but you'll have a hard time stopping at just one! I plan to weigh the ingredients and calculate nutrition with next week's batch and will provide an update. Enjoy!

Healthy Brownies 

2 2/3 cups pitted dates
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pecans
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in the food processor and pulse until very well blended into sticky crumbs (pinch mixture to be sure it holds together). Pour into a large ziploc bag and squeeze the dough together (you can skip this and just use your hands, but it saves a huge mess). Either roll into tablespoon-sized balls, or press into a small pan and cut into squares. I used a loaf pan and it made 10 brownies that were approximately 1-inch thick. I like the combination of walnuts and pecans, but you could use a single nut instead. Store brownies covered in the refrigerator, but warm to room temperature before eating.

Original recipe here

June 17, 2012

Scenes From a Run

Red Hook, Brooklyn
Distance: 6 miles

 Red Hook jazz festival

 Queen Mary 2 at the Brooklyn Ferry Terminal

 View across the NY Harbor

 Wine from Red Hook? Who knew!?

 Best key lime pies!

 Warehouse lofts

 New WTC as seen from Red Hook

 Brooklyn Crab... must go here soon

 Building mural

 Abandoned house

 "Antique" grill

The Race Gene

I've been thinking about athletes, triathletes in particular, and the overwhelming drive to race. Years ago my boyfriend asked me why I felt the need to race rather than just enjoy the activity of the sport. He's an avid cyclist, often logging far more time on the road than I, but doesn't race. My answer (or excuse) at the time was that triathlon doesn't technically exist outside of races. How often do you head out to open water and swim, jump out and immediately bike, then go for a run? But now that I find myself in the "Year of 0.0" I still have this burning desire deep down to race, even though I'm not training.

So it has me wondering, are we in this sport for the lifestyle? Because we love to swim, bike, or run? Or are we in it because we have a competitive "race gene" and thrive on the thrill of racing? I'm not likely to be winning my age group anytime soon, but at each race I compete against myself, against my last PR with hopes of setting another. Even when grossly undertrained, I go in thinking I might just have a great day and pull off a miracle. Having missed 4 of the races I signed up for this year and withdrawing from Ironman Mont Tremblant, I find myself missing the race experience and can't wait to be back in the game.

For the remainder of this season I'm going back to my roots and focusing mostly on running. I'm aiming to finally use the New York City Marathon entry I've been deferring for three years due to injury and will try to add a few more races before. I'm also thinking about a late season half Ironman. And of course, I'm already planning my return to 140.6 next year, I just need to decide which one. Lake Tahoe anyone?

June 13, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll: Good for the Soul

A week ago Sunday I finally completed my first race of the season, the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Half Marathon. My training was less than stellar, unless you consider 8 training runs in 3 weeks to be stellar. But despite my lack of preparation, the race went incredibly well. It was far from a PR, but it was a start. And a start is what I desperately needed.

Destination racing is always fun. You get to see new places, meet new people and really absorb the energy. My experience was even more enjoyable thanks to VIP access. I arrived in San Diego Thursday evening and checked into the Hard Rock Hotel, "official" race hotel and San Diego party central. After sleeping like a rock, I woke up at 5am on New York time and took the opportunity for a quiet, early-morning run. My legs felt like bricks and I wondered just how I'd manage to cover 13.1 miles on Sunday.

Friday was a great day including an amazing lunch in La Jolla with an ocean view and some quality time with sea lions.

I then hit the expo to check in for the race and eat my way through the free samples at exhibitor booths. There's nothing I love more than a good race expo and this one was fabulous. It was not only huge, but had a lot of great gear and information. I ended up buying new shorts for race day along with a lot of nutrition and odds and ends. They also had incredible guest speakers, but I had missed Chrissie Wellington by an hour or so. Little did I know I'd have another chance to see her later.

After a full day, I attended a VIP party at Sea World where I got up close and personal with more marine life.

And met some pretty incredible people. Here are three of the world's greatest runners... ok, maybe just two!

 Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi

By Saturday I was in full on "I Love Racing" mode. I couldn't resist another trip to the expo and then spent the day driving around San Diego before unloading my rental car. I went to Coronado to see the famous hotel and beach and wander the cute streets. It was a relaxing way to spend my pre-race afternoon.

Despite my room being on the same floor as Hard Rock's nightclub, I managed to get one of the best night's sleep before a race. I was in bed at 8:45 and sound asleep by 9:30, so when the alarm went off at 3:30 I was ready. I drank one serving of Advocare Spark, one bottle of Nuun, ate a Stinger waffle and starting sipping a liter of water. I was all packed up and ready to go in 30 minutes so I stretched and relaxed while waiting for the VIP shuttle.

We arrived at the start hours before the race, but had a nice area with food, tables and nearly pristine porta potties - what more could you ask for? I finished my liter of water, had a small coffee and a slice of bread with PB. I worried I didn't eat enough, but it turns out my nutrition was perfect. I topped it off with a gel 30 minutes before the start.

Being in the VIP area meant being with the pros, including Chrissie "Elvis" Wellington. She and some others were running dressed in Elvis costumes, playing music and stopping for photos.

The race began and I ran with a friend doing a similar pace. We ended up chatting the entire 13.1 miles, which made the time fly by, but also forced me to stay at a conversational pace. I think it's a key reason I felt so much better than anticipated. The race was filled with energy, with live bands about every mile and tons of people cheering. And then my favorite race moment of all time happened. We spotted Chrissie and company ahead of us and I took the chance to get a photo with her. She was pushing a jogging stroller blasting Elvis music and was more than happy to stop in the middle of the race to pose.

And to top it off, I beat her. I can now retire!

The weather was picture perfect - overcast and 60 degrees. My pace was consistent the entire way aside from some fluctuations on a long uphill and the subsequent downhills and I didn't start to feel tired until after mile 10. Even then I was still so energized by the experience it was easy to keep going. I wish all races felt as good.

The finish was as all finishes are - rewarding, a relief, a big accomplishment. Sometimes you have to start from nothing to remember how fulfilling ANY race can be, regardless of the distance or the time it took to complete it. My racing experiences have wildly varied from amazing to humbling, with everything from walking my first Ironman with an injury, to crushing my sub-4 marathon goal with a broken arm, to walking with my mom and dad during their first 5K after I tore my plantar fascia. Each victory was sweet in its own way, and that's what racing is all about.

June 1, 2012

Life Detour

This year certainly has not gone as planned. I was prepared for a reduced race schedule and training challenges, but I wasn't prepared for the forced hiatus I ultimately had to take. First I made the decision to withdraw from Ironman Mont Tremblant and take a year off from Ironman. Then a series of life events led to missed race after missed race, making my current average 0 for 3 (Hollywood Half Marathon, Parkway Classic 10-Miler, Gran Fondo New York). I know the races weren't meant to be and the more serious life events that needed my focus were. It's been a difficult time on many levels, but letting go of the races and training obligations was necessary. The past two months have brought sharp perspective on the priorities in my life and as I've learned over and over again, it's the most challenging times that often bring the greatest reward.

So this weekend I'm hitting the restart button and beginning again, hopefully a little stronger emotionally and a lot more grateful. Not being able to train or race or enjoy time outdoors doing what I love has made me realize just how much I love it. Sunday will be my first race of the season, the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon in San Diego. I trained for approximately 10 days, but my drive to get back on my feet, both literally and figuratively, will carry me to the finish. The emotional high of finishing a race of any distance and sport is incomparable and I know will be the catalyst for getting back on track. Detour over.


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