Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back / Moving Forward

   2013 comes to an end today. It's amazing how quickly a year goes by. I'll be honest, I was looking at my posts from the past year and had completely forgotten I wrote out goals for 2013. COMPLETELY forgotten. So, it should be pretty interesting to look back and see how I did on them. Let's take a look, shall we?

GOAL 1: Maintain a healthy balance of lifestyle outside of running/swimming/biking. 
I think I did an OK job with this, but I'm not exactly sure how I can fairly judge it. It's funny because many people have resolutions to work out MORE, while I'm trying to back off a bit. Having a sprained ankle helped with this a lot, since I wasn't able to run for about two months. Grade B.
GOAL 2: Take a vacation without running a race while there.  
Technically, I did this twice. My family went to Albion, Nebraska in April to visit my grandmother. Not only did I not race, I didn't even run. It was really cold, windy and snowy at times, and I didn't bring the appropriate gear. And I say that I "technically" took two vacations without racing because Dudley and I also went to Maine in August and I didn't race, though I was supposed to. I had to drop out because of my ankle. Maine was amazing though, and I'm so glad we went up there - which we wouldn't have if not for the race.  Grade B+
GOAL 3: Read 52 books in 2013. 
Totally nailed this one. Finished my 52nd book last week. Grade A+
GOAL 4: Sub 2:00 Half Marathon.
This one I think I could have done if I didn't sprain my ankle. I PRed in the half marathon at New Orleans in February (2:06). I think if I could have built on that throughout the year, I would have been able to break 2:00 in a Fall race. Oh well. Maybe in 2014.  Grade B
GOAL 5: Learn to knit. 
Total fail. Didn't even try. Grade F
GOAL 6: More music. 
Total fail on this, too. The intent is there, but it just seems like time gets away from me. I actually had more gigs booked this year than last year, but two were cancelled. Sigh. Grade D
GOAL 7: Get out more.
This one is a work in progress, but I think Dudley and I got out more this year than last. We also saw more concerts. However, we could do a lot more. We're total homebodies. Grade C
GOAL 8: Give back.
Did well on this from a financial standpoint, as with the help from many of you, I was able to raise $6,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. (THANK YOU!! ) Dudley and I also have several other charities we support. I'd like to do more actual volunteer work though.  Grade B

   As far as my "run a half-marathon or further in every state" plan goes, well, I only hit two new states in 2013 - Louisiana and California. I was supposed to get four, but Maine and West Virginia got postponed because of my ankle. 

My sad, still largely blank, map.

Moving on to 2014, I really only have two goals:
GOAL 1: Take a photo every day. 
I got this idea from the T-Rex Runner blog. I love photography, but generally only take photos at big events, rather than documenting every day life. And you know what? There's a lot of cool things in every day life that I'm missing. So therefore - a photo every day. And I'm going to post them so get ready for a lot of random photos - most likely of my dogs.

Goal 2: Survive Ironman Chattanooga.
That's it. I don't care about my time. Would it be nice to be all "I'm gonna kick ass at this race" and what not?  Sure, but I also need to be realistic. I have no freakin' idea what I'm doing or how I'm going to get through the next nine months (yes, it's only nine months away), and to be honest, I'm completely terrified. I KNOW it's going to be hard and it's going to hurt a lot. But I have to admit, I'm kind of looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to pushing myself to a new level and trying to accomplish something I never thought I'd be able to do.

So what about you? Have you set your 2014 goals yet? Are you doing something that terrifies you? If not, why?

Wishing everyone a wonderful 2014!!  

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Medal Recap

   This might be my favorite post of the year - the medal recap. I know some people don't think that participant medals don't mean anything, but I don't care. I love them. They're fun and they're nice mementos of an athletic achievement, no matter what your race time happened to be. So let's get right in to it, shall we?

New Orleans Half Marathon 
February 24, 2013

   The New Orleans Half was my first "big" race of the season. A huge group of East Nasties converged on New Orleans and pretty much took over. It was awesome and my current PR is from this race. Love the medal - from the Mardi Gras beads to the second line and mask, it's totally New Orleans.  Nice job, Rock n' Roll.

Alpha Delta Pi-athon
March 24, 2013



   The Alpha Delta Pi-athlon is a local sprint race that serves as the kick-off to triathlon season in Nashville. It's a really fun race, but do I need a medal for a sprint race? Nope. And in my opinion, if a race is going to have a medal, at least have the name of the race on the front of it. Honestly, I wish the race organizers would have just used the money spent on medals and donated that to the Ronald McDonald House, which was the designated charity.

   Ok - this is possibly one of the coolest medals ever. It's made from, what else, an oak barrel. Totally fits the Jack Daniel's theme of the race, and it's one of my favorites. If you ever have the chance to do this race, do it. You'll thank me.

Nike Women's Half Marathon
April 28, 2013

   More people probably run this race strictly for the medal that any other race. That's because it's you don't get a medal - you get a necklace. A Tiffany necklace, to be exact. And it's presented to you by handsome young men in tuxedos. Nice touch, Nike. The necklace is very cool, but I don't really wear it very much. But since I guess you don't really wear race medals in general, it's not much different from a regular medal in that sense. It's just smaller...and from Tiffany.

Harpeth River Ride
June 1, 2013

   Unfortunately, the Tiffany necklace wasn't the only thing I brought back from the Nike Half Marathon. I also came home with a sprained ankle. So, I was pretty much limited to cycling for a few weeks, which is why I signed up for the Harpeth River Ride metric century. I've done this ride several times, but not for the past few years. I don't know if the medal is a totally new thing, but I had never received one previously.  I like it. It's a really nice, high-quality medal and was a nice touch since the ride was really hard!

Music City July 4th 5k
July 4, 2013

   The July 4 5k was the first post-sprained ankle race for me. I was so happy to be out there, I didn't care that it was raining the entire time. And just check out that medal. Again, I don't think medals are really necessary for 5k / 10k, but I'll take it when they're this cool. I found out later that my friend, and fellow East Nasty, Meg designed it. Great job, Meg.

Buckhead Border Challenge
July 21, 2013

Finisher's Medal

1st Place Age Group

   I actually got TWO medals from this race. The first one is the regular finisher's medal, which actually had to be mailed to me because someone STOLE all of the medals right before the race.  Who does that? Anyway, the second medal is my 1st place AG for the Duathlon. I like both of these.  They had nice ribbons and were both unique, but still similar enough that you could tell they were from the same race.

Blueberry Cove 13.1
August 25, 2013

   Unfortunately, I didn't actually earn one of these beauties, but I was signed up and was there for the race, so I'm including them. This was a race I had to pull out of due to a re-spraining of my ankle. But look how cool these are! A local artisan donated them.  SO freakin' cool.

Riverbluff Olympic Triathlon
September 7, 2013


   I really liked this medal. Distinct design, quality ribbon (I should probably start including those in my photo, huh?) and it was heavy. One of those medals that makes you feel like you accomplished something.   

Heroes in Recovery 6k
September 13, 2013


   This is another medal that falls into the "not necessary, but a nice touch" category. The race is 6k, which is a unique distance, so it's nice to have something to remember it by. But this race also supports people who are recovering from addiction, some of who probably never thought they would be able to run a mile, forget about a 6k. This was a nice way to congratulate those "heroes" on their accomplishments on and off the race course. The ribbon had the date and place of the race (again- I really need to take a photo of the ribbons!).

   Another unique medal. I like the engraved goose. Would have been nice to have a date on it, but that's Ok. Ribbon was pretty, too.  You can see a little bit of it on the top left corner. I was a little worried that since this was a local race, that the medal would be cheap - but it wasn't.  Nice job, Goosepond.

   This is probably the most multifunctional medal I've ever received. It's a medal AND A wine-stopper! Pretty cool, eh? It was also really colorful with the grapes and the wine-colored ribbon. It was also the largest medal I received this year.  Love it.

   This was a virtual race that I signed up for strictly for the medal. I mean, come on - it's amazing. If you have ever seen "A Christmas Story," you'll think this is hysterical. 

   So that's it - all of my finisher's medals from 2013. I hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane!  Here's to a great 2014!  

Friday, December 27, 2013

52 Books in 52 Weeks

   Disclaimer - this post has nothing to do with swimming, biking, running or races of any kind. In fact, it's pretty much the opposite as it's about sitting for long periods of time. However, though I was sitting, I was still getting a workout of sorts, but a mental workout rather than physical. Not to be a total geek, but one of my biggest enjoyments in life is reading a good book. Even as a kid, I've always loved to read. And recently, I've also found that many of my running / triathlete friends are also voracious readers. Must be part of our DNA that we can focus on a singular activity for long periods of time. Or maybe we're just so freakin' tired from all of the working out we do that we need to rest and just read for a while.
   Anyway, as I have mentioned (and is blatantly obvious if you have read any of my posts), I'm all about setting goals for myself. I also have a weird personality quirk in that if someone challenges me to do something, I pretty much have to do it (within reason - I'm not jumping out of a plane or anything). So when the reading social media site Goodreads (it's like Facebook, but with books), issued a 2013 reading challenge, I jumped right in there.
   The Goodreads Challenge was simple. Pick a number of books you wanted to read for the year and read them. I chose to read 52 books. I figured that was a nice number - a book a week. I could do that. Some people (like my FTP coach Jessica) went totally crazy and picked 100 books, others chose a more reasonable number like 26. Goodreads allows you to keep track of what books you read, as well as when you started and finished them. You can also see what your friends are reading and get recommendations based on your past books, which has nothing to do with the Challenge, but definitely helps when picking out new books.
  Well, as of yesterday, I finished "The Seven Sisters" by Margaret Drabble, which was my 52nd book. I did it! 52 books in 52 weeks! Honestly, it was harder than I thought it would be. It's kind of like training. As much as I like swimming/biking/running, there is a different feeling when you HAVE to go out and train than when you're just doing it for fun. There were times when I was like "I HAVE to read tonight or I'll get behind." Reading shouldn't be that stressful!
  You might be wondering where I got all of the books. Well, some were book group reads (I belong to 2.5 book groups. Two actually meet on a regular basis and the other is more virtual, though we meet every few months to swap books and eat cookies). Some I heard about on NPR - I'm a big fan of the NPR book recommendations. Some books I borrowed from the library or friends. For years, I used to buy every book group book in hardcover, but I pretty much ran out of room. So now I borrow when I can and only buy the book if I really like it. And yes, I'll read books I like over and over and over again.
   I also downloaded a lot of books from BookBub. BookBub is a service that scours sites like Amazon and Kindle for downloadable books on sale or even free. They then e-mail you book suggestions based on information you wrote when you signed up. So many books I read I had never heard of previously, but they were free from BookBub, so I downloaded them. Some were good, some were not, but they were free so what the heck, right? You never know where you're going to find your next favorite author.
   The topic range of books varied pretty drastically - some were non-fiction, some were business (marketing / social media), some were best-sellers and some were complete fluff. I read a lot about World War II this year, as that was a theme of one of my book groups. I think I could gone the entire year just reading about WWII. Fascinating time period in our history.
  As far as my three favorites?  I'll have to go with the following: "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, "Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walters and "Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Kline. My big regret was not finishing a biography of Benedict Arnold. It was interesting in a dry, detailed-history sort of way, but it was taking me way too long to read so I put it aside. I'll probably finish it now that the Challenge is over.
   So that's it. That's what I do when I'm not out doing something athletic - I sit on my butt and read. And I love every minute of it. If you have any recommendations for me, please post them. And please join Goodreads and friend me! We can be book geeks together!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Christmas Story Virtual 5k

   Remember a few months ago when I posted this about the A Christmas Story race?  No? Let me refresh your memory.  I somehow came across a race that honors the 80's cult Christmas movie "A Christmas Story." The race is based in Cleveland and actually runs by Ralphie's house.  It also promised a sweet, sweet medal:

   Unfortunately, it was also the same weekend as the Memphis Half Marathon, so we couldn't actually go up to Cleveland for the run. Not that I would actually go up to Cleveland for a 5k…well, actually I probably would have for this race. Who am I kidding? Anyway, this race offered a virtual option, meaning we could sign up for the race, run the race in Nashville and have the race packet and medal mailed to us. Sounds fun, right?
   In fact, it sounded SO fun that a few of us started making big plans for the virtual run. Well, when I say "we," I guess I'm mainly talking about me, but I know others saw my vision of the race. We're talking a special packet pick up, joke race awards, possibly a special screening of "A Christmas Story"…something really cool. I even set up a special Facebook page for the race. It was like I was a race director! Except I'm not. Which is good because while we had the best of intentions for this virtual race, it slowly dwindled down from about 50 people interested to 3 actually running. Why? Well, life for one. People get sick or get busy and can't make it out to run a fake race (shocking, right?). I also did a really poor job of letting people know when the cutoff for registration was. Really poor job. As in - I didn't even know when registration cutoff was. Oops.
   But one of the main factors, I think, was that the real race directors sent the race packets directly to the participants rather than to the Team Leader, which was me. So while we had about 10 people actually sign up, there wasn't a whole lot of incentive for people to actually show up. I mean, why run in the freezing cold if you already have the sweet medal?! Who would do that? Well, me and two other people - my FTP training buddy Kathy and our neighbor and fellow triathlete  Kelly, that's who.

My shirt and bib number. How cute is this?

   Since we all pretty much live in the same neighborhood, we decided to run in a nearby park. The original plan was to run a 10k, but it was freakin' COLD and I had a lot to do that day, so we only ran a 5k. Well, Kelly and I ran the 5k. Kathy continued on and ran a 10k. Overachiever. No wonder why she beats me in every race. And yes, we made some random stranger take our photo when we were finished. Because that's what we do.
Kelly, me and Kathy post "race."  I was freezing.

   And, the whole point of doing this race - earning a medal of my own.

It's a major award!
   Even though the race didn't turned out as planned, the three of us still had a lot of fun. Plus, the swag was cool. Not only did we get the shirts, bib and medals - we also got a finisher's certificate and…OVALTINE!  Come on, that's funny. 
   And, for those who are paying attention - my streak is still alive! Only 14 more days to go!  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Oh Yes, They Call It A Streak!

   Today is December 9th. As of today, I have officially walked or run at least a mile every day since Thanksgiving. Yes, yes, I know…that's what? All of 12 days? And considering I workout almost every day anyway, this shouldn't be that big of a deal, right?
   But it kind of is because I'm working on an Official Streak. You see, my friend Amanda (ex-Nashvillian but forever an East Nasty) threw down a challenge to all of her running friends that we have to run or walk at least a mile throughout the Holiday Season, which is Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. And you're supposed to post your miles on Facebook everyday to 1) brag about what a badass you are and 2) keep yourself accountable. Unfortunately, my obsessive personality is such that when a challenge like this is thrown down I HAVE to do it (which is how I end up signing up for things like Ironman Chattanooga, but I digress).

I know, Barney, I know...

   When Amanda first posted the challenge on Thanksgiving, I was all "Yeah! I can do this! I'm in!" I really didn't think it would be that hard. You know why? Because while Thanksgiving was cold, it was unseasonably warm last week. I think it even got into the 70's at some point. It's really easy to get out and run when it's that nice out.
   But guess what? It's freakin' COLD here now. Not in the single digits, but still cold. You know what I mean - that bone-chilling kind of cold that stays with you even after a warm shower. The kind of cold when you think that you're never going to be warm again. And it's been windy / icy / rainy / sleety as well. Just not good running weather. So my motivation to get my butt off the sofa recently has been next to nothing. This was particularly interesting because I WAS supposed to run the St. Jude's Half Marathon on Saturday, but it was cancelled due to ice. So while I was trained to run a half, I was barely able to get a mile in that day due to lack of motivation. Funny how mental running is.
   I'm also not used to running EVERY DAY. Sure, I workout most days, but it's not all running and I generally have 1-2 days of rest a week. That won't work for the challenge! But because of the Streak, and only because of the Streak, I've been getting my miles in - 12 days strong so far. Have there been times where I've only gotten one mile in? Yep. In fact, today I only had time to walk a mile over lunch. I didn't really have time to change, so I did it in my work clothes. I actually ran into a co-worker (in a car) while I was out walking. She asked me what I was doing and I told her walking. She said, "You're walking? Just walking? But you're in heels!"  She officially thinks I'm insane. But insane or not - my Streak lives for another day! Only 22 more days to go!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Boulevard Bolt Race Recap

   Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so Dudley and I headed down to Belle Meade to run the Boulevard Bolt. This is an awesome race that races money for organizations that help the homeless. It was a staggering 17 degrees when we woke up yesterday. Not exactly weather that makes you want to go outside and go for a run. But then you think about WHY you're running - to help people who aren't fortunate enough to have a warm home. Makes you think twice about bitching about running in the cold. At least we have the choice to be out there.

   For those of you who aren't locals, Belle Meade is definitely the wealthiest area in Nashville, and I read at one point was one of the Top Five Wealthiest cities in the US. It's a small city, really more of a mailing address with a city hall and a police force, but it's residents are loaded. The homes in Belle Meade, especially on Belle Mead Boulevard (where the Bolt is run) are just gorgeous. Well, some are gorgeous - some are just huge. Either way, it's an impressive backdrop for a run. 
   Unfortunately, what Belle Meade doesn't have is a lot of parking - especially to handle the 8,300 people who registered for the Bolt this year. (Apparently, the Bolt is one of the largest 5-mile races in the country. I believe it. It was packed yesterday.) The good news is that the Bolt is well aware of this shortcoming and has a shuttle service from the Temple, which is about a mile away. I was worried that we'd have to stand outside shivering for a long time while we waited for a shuttle, but we didn't. YAY for organized races!
So, so cold.

   Once we got to the race site, we started looking for friends - I think I knew about 20 people who were running the Bolt yesterday. The problem with cold races is that everyone is so bundled up that you can't recognize them. Any recognizable item, like an East Nasty shirt, was covered up. Well, except for my friend Kim. She was wearing a turkey on her head and I was able to actually find her.  

Jamie (left) and Kim. Who needs a running hat when you can wear a turkey on your head?  

   There isn't anything too interesting about the actual race. It's an out-and-back on the Boulevard. It's actually a tough little course in that it has several false flats. But Dudley and I never really planned on running it because of the amount of people, so we just went with our own pace, and it was great! Crowded races are a lot less stressful when you don't care about your time. We were able to see the top finishers on their way back to the finish. They were HAULING!  I think the top male was laying down something like 4:30 miles. CRAZY.

We're about 1/2 way to the front - and there are people on the opposite side of the road, as well.

   Fortunately, the sun was shining for the entire race, and though it never got over 25 degrees, it really wasn't that bad out if you were moving. The best part of the race was looking at everyone's costumes. Unfortunately, I don't have photos, but I DO have a clip to a news story, which happens to feature my turkey-hat wearing friend Kim. It also shows some of the funny costumes - I love the guy with the pie on his head! Check it out here.
   Overall, it was a great race and a perfect way to start Thanksgiving!  Hope you all had a great one!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Races!

   Thanksgiving is in two days - a time for family, friends and yummy, yummy food. It's also a time of Holiday traditions. In some families, the tradition could be always going to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving dinner and then watching football. Or it might be that Aunt Edna is the one who makes the pumpkin pie and Lord help the person who claims they can make a better one. Who knows? Maybe you watch the Macy's parade and then volunteer at your local homeless shelter. My point being - many people do the same thing for Thanksgiving, year after year.
   In my family, we have one tradition - my mom gives everyone a little Godiva chocolate turkey. Generally, this is found next to our place-setting on the Thanksgiving table. But sometimes, she has to mail it to us if we're not together for Turkey Day. It's a little thing, but, man, do I get upset if my mom forgets our chocolate Thanksgiving turkey! (Speaking of which, I haven't received ours for this year yet…might have to make a phone call.)

Gobble Gobble!  

   Over the past few years though, a new tradition has been created in the Mylls / Lightsey household - that of the Thanksgiving Day run. This started out innocently enough - Dudley and I weren't married yet and decided to do the 5-mile Boulevard Bolt together. Though I don't remember exactly, it was probably his idea since he was much more of the runner than I was back then (I HATED running). What I DO remember is completely blowing off the Bolt that year because it was cold. This is really funny to me now because it was probably in the 40's, which really isn't bad running weather at all.
   Anyway, fast forward 9 years and the Thanksgiving run has become a tradition in our home. It's to the point where it feels weird if we don't run the Bolt, or a Turkey Trot or a Gobble Jog on Thanksgiving morning. Last year, we were traveling and there wasn't a race that worked for our schedules, so I went out and ran solo - just so I could run on Thanksgiving. And by looking at the growing number of Thanksgiving Day races, I'm not the only one who feels this way.
   Why are Thanksgiving Day races so special? Well, I think part of it is that it's a fun event that the entire family can do together. Most races are 5k, which is a distance that can be walked by the non-runners in the family. Most, if not all, of the Thanksgiving races, support a local charity - always a good thing. Plus, other than a Halloween-themed race, I don't think any race has more costumed runners than a Thanksgiving race. You have the customary Thanksgiving costumes of Pilgrims, Indians and turkeys, but then you also find the Christmas costumes of Santa, elves and reindeer. Being that Thanksgiving overlaps with Hanukkah this year, I have one friend who is coming dressed to the Bolt as "Super Jew." I have no idea what that means, but I can't wait to see her costume.
   This year, Dudley and I are again Bolting. It will be more of a shuffle/jog rather than a run because there will be over 8,000 people at the race. But that's OK. It's really more of getting out, being part of the community and getting a little exercise before the Thanksgiving feast. I don't care about my time. If this sounds like fun, you should join a Thanksgiving Day race in your area! Nashville runners - here are a few races near you! Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Boulevard Bolt (Nashville) - http://www.boulevardbolt.org
Music City Thanksgiving 4 / 8 miler (Nashville) - http://whatdoyourunfor.com/music-city-thanksgiving-day-4-miler/
Indian Lake Loop (Hendersonville) - http://www.indianlakeloop.com
BoroDash (Murfreesboro) - http://borodash.org/register/
Turkey Trot 5k (Franklin) - https://graceworksministries.launchtrack.com/register/turkey-trot-2013/contact
Two Rivers Ford Turkey Trot 5k (Mt. Juliet) - http://www.turkeytrot5k.org

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No Meat Athlete

   Tonight I went to a meet & greet at my local Fleet Feet running store for vegan runner Matt Frazier, otherwise known as the "No Meat Athlete."  He qualified for Boston on a vegan diet, and is now an ultra-runner.  He's currently on a book tour promoting his book, the appropriately named, "No Meat Athlete."

Runs on plants!

   I was curious about this book, and what Matt had to say because I was a pescatarian (eating seafood only) from ages 20 to 35. But here's the thing - I don't really cook. So, when I say "pescatarian," I really mean I survived on cereal, pasta, potatoes, salads, peanut butter/jelly and rice. I didn't create "meals" - I just foraged for whatever was in my pantry, which generally wasn't much. (A friend opened my refrigerator one time and found only condiments - true story.) Obviously, I didn't exactly eat a balanced diet. Fortunately, I worked for an awesome restaurant (still do) and I would order salmon or shrimp every once in a while. I only started eating poultry again because a nutritionist told me I wasn't eating as much protein I needed to maintain the workouts that I do. Shocker, right? And being that I don't really cook, it was much easier to just start eating chicken then learn how to cook more varied pescatarian meals that added more protein.
   You might be wondering, if I'm eating poultry and seafood, why did go to a vegan book-signing? Well, let me back up a bit - back to when I was a kid. I was that weird kid that actually LIKED eating fruits and vegetables - it was the meat that I didn't want to eat. My mom would always have to get on me for not finishing my chicken / steak / whatever. It wasn't an ethical or health issue - I was too young to know about those things. It's just that my system didn't crave meat. This continued as I got older, and as I started "cooking" more for myself, I ate meat less and less. Finally, when I was in college, my band mates (yes, I was in a rock band - but that's for another blog post) all thought it would be cool if we all became vegetarian. (Well, pescatarian...we didn't know that there were different levels of vegetarianism at the time.) So, that's what we did. For everyone else, this dietary change lasted anywhere from a weekend to a month. For me - it lasted until I met with that nutritionist. 
   But now, I'm thinking about going back to pescatarian again, if not vegetarian. (I don't think I could ever be vegan - I love cheese too much.) There are several reasons for this. The first one is, as previously stated, I just don't crave meat. It's become more and more of a chore to eat chicken or turkey.  It's like I'm a kid again - I know I should eat it, but I just don't want to. I can almost hear my mother saying, "Just take one more bite of chicken and then you can leave the table." I'd like to actually enjoy my meals, rather then forcing myself to eat them.    
   And the other reason is ethical. Not meaning to be preachy, but I'm a huge animal lover and it's hard for me to wrap my head around eating something that was once walking/swimming around. That's probably why eating meat is such a chore. Am I a GIANT hypocrite because I own and love leather shoes and purses? Yes, yes I am. Don't judge me. I'm working on it.
   So, that's why I went to the book signing. I wanted to hear Matt's story and learn a little bit more about his lifestyle. It was interesting because he's not a nutritionist. He's just a regular guy who incorporated this diet into his life and it worked for him. He actually has a pretty funny story. Like many people, Matt starting running with a few friends who decided to run a marathon. Not knowing anything about marathons, they decided to sign up for Boston. They quickly realized that you just can't sign up for Boston - that you have to qualify. And that began Matt's four-year quest to qualify for Boston, which he finally did after committing to a vegan lifestyle. It would have been nice for him to have some science behind his success, but he didn't. It might be in the book, I don't know. Unfortunately, his book shipment didn't arrive in time for the signing, and he only had 10 books to sell. I didn't get one, but I'm planning on ordering it online. I'll give a review after I finish!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Healdsburg Half Marathon Race Report

   Two days after my disastrous Goosepond 70.3 experience, I headed across the US to California for a little family reunion. We were celebrating my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary. While they live in Wisconsin, they decided to celebrate by touring vineyards in Sonoma County. Nice, huh? OF COURSE, the first thing I did when I found out about this trip was see if there was a half-marathon I could knock out while I was there. Because that's what I do.
   Fortunately, there just happened to be a half-marathon the day after the big anniversary dinner. AND - it was only 20 minutes away from where we were staying. It was as if the Race Gods said "And Kristine shall cross California off from her quest to run in 50 states." It was perfect. So I signed up.
   The race was the Healdsburg Half Marathon, which is part of the "Run Wine Country" series. They have a duathlon and three half marathons as part of the series. Basically, as the name implies, you run through wine country. I have no clue how the other races in the series are, but let me tell you - the Healdsburg Half rocked.

Probably the prettiest bib number I've ever received.

   We went to the expo on Sunday. Most expos are in a convention center or a hotel ballroom. The Healdsburg Half Marathon's expo was held at the Kendall-Jackson winery. They even had a special wine tasting for runners picking up their packets. Well done, KJ, well done.

My race expo was prettier than your race expo.

It was a small expo, but with the wine tastings, I don't think anyone cared.

   Packet pickup took all of five minutes. I bought a couple of GUs and a new race belt so I could carry my phone with me on race day. (Sidebar: I generally don't carry my phone or take photos during races. It's actually a GIANT pet peeve of mine when people STOP in the middle of a race course to take a photo or futz with their music. BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS, PEOPLE! But I figured that I'm never going to do another half out here and I wanted my camera in case I saw something cool - off the race course, of course.)
   After packet pickup, we headed back to the family reunion and did the family thing until the next morning. Unfortunately, I got in a little later than I would have liked the night before a half, but it was fun to hang with my family.
   Race morning started at 5:00 am for a 7:00 am race start. We weren't 100% sure where the race started, other than it was in the center of Healdsburg. Fortunately, Healdsburg is small enough that we didn't need any more information than that. We parked on the street and just followed the other runners to the start. It was around 6:40 by the time we got to the start. There were some runners milling around, but it was pretty cold - in the 40's. I think most people stayed in their cars until the last possible moment. It was also dark. Really dark. I had asked the volunteers at the expo about starting us in the dark, and I was told not to worry; that there would be plenty of sunlight for us to run. At 6:50 and still no sunrise, I wasn't quite sure I believed them.

Taken about 10 minutes before the start of the race. No sun to be seen.
   Sure enough, right at 7:00, the sun started to rise. Within 5 minutes, we had plenty of light to see, which was perfect because that was when the race started. 3-2-1 GO! And we were off! We headed out of Healdsburg and into wine country. I have no words for running in this area other than it was just stunning.

Sunrise over the vineyards.

   The course was great. It was rolling, but nothing too hard. If I hadn't just raced Goosepond 70.3 the week prior, I would have thought about going for a PR. Well, I actually DID think about it because I felt pretty good - a complete turn-around from last week's disastrous run. But then I looked over to my right and saw the sun rising over the vineyards, and I HAD to stop and take a photo. Bye Bye PR, but totally worth it.
   The only issue I had during the run was around mile 8-9. The balls of my feet started to hurt. Bad. I was using relatively new Newtons during the race and I was questioning my decision at this point. At the mile 9 rest area, I loosened my laces and VoilĂ ! No more pain! It's amazing how a little change in laces can make such a big difference.
   After two hours of feeling like I was running in a post card, we headed back into the Healdsburg Town Square and across the finish line. I was then given one of the coolest medals ever.

Love the finish line with the wine barrels.

It's a wine stopper AND a medal.

   After leaving the finishing area, I found Dudley and went to get something to drink. Here's what's funny. Rather than the usual bottles of water, sports drink, chocolate milk and soda most races have, this race only had a small cup of water offered at the finish... And then you got a wine glass and were ushered into the wine tasting area where 10 local wineries were having tastings for the racers (and friends of racers for $20). 

Runners drinking wine at 9:00 am.  Why not?

   They did have some post-race mexican food for the runners there as well (which was quite good), but come on - this race was all about the wine. The race winners even got special bottles of wine as trophies.
   I absolutely loved this race. Those of you who know me are probably thinking, "wait a minute...Kristine doesn't drink wine!" And I don't. And I STILL loved this race. That's how cool it was. It would be a perfect destination race for a group a friends. My only regret is that we didn't have the chance to really check out the City of Healdsburg, because it looks really cute. I would definitely do this race again, or check out one of the other two half-marathons in the RunWineCountry series. They put on a good show.

Healdsburg Half Marathon: 2:12 gun time / 2:06 watch time.  Six minutes of photo taking.  ;-)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Goosepond 70.3 Race Report - Part 2 - RACE DAY

   Need to catch up?  Check out Part 1 here!

   Like probably most  people, I don't sleep well the night before a race - especially a triathlon. There are so many little things to remember for the race that I spend most of the night running mental checklists of everything I need to do.  The night before Goosepond was no exception. It was past midnight before I actually fell asleep. So you can imagine how annoyed and kind of horrified I was to wake up to the sounds of a screaming couple at around 3:30 am. SCEAMING. They were staying across the hall. Dudley went out into the hall to check things out and then called hotel security. I don't know exactly what happened after that, but I do know they weren't kicked out of the hotel and the police weren't called. The latter definitely should have happened because when we left for the race at 5:30, there was BLOOD on the outside of the door. Lovely.
   So we headed down to the race site. Dudley unloaded my gear while I went to get body marked and pick up my timing chip. I was so tired, I kind of just going through the motions of checking in and setting up. I'm usually pretty obsessive about getting everything set just right before the race. Not this time. In fact, I actually put the front water bottle on my bike on backwards, which is pretty hard to do since it's kind of molded to fit exactly into water cage.
I'm barely standing at this point.

   This race has pre-assigned transition racks by race number. And the race numbers were assigned by age and gender, so my rack consisted of all women. I'm sure isn't any scientific data about this, but I've personally noticed that women seem to 1) carry more stuff than needed into transition and 2) spread it everywhere. It's crazy. Stuff was all over the place. I was racked next to a guy at Chattanooga a few years back and he had a bike, his helmet, bike shoes and running shoes. That was IT! Some women pretty much carry a bike shop, a grocery store and a pharmacy into transition.
   The race started at 7:30 and it was 7:15 and I still didn't have my wetsuit on. I HATE putting on my wetsuit. There's just no graceful way to do it. I mean, it's tight...it makes it hard to breathe, your arm fat sticks out... It's just bad. But after a few minutes of tugging and pulling, plus using almost my entire bottle of Suit Juice, I got the dang thing on.  (Side bar: Funny thing happened while I was putting on my wetsuit. A woman walked up with all of her gear looking very disheveled at 7:15 and started setting up. That's REALLY REALLY late considering the race started at 7:30. She announced to no one in particular, "I slept through my alarm. I'm SO hungover!" REALLY? You go drinking the night before a half-ironman? She was going to have a LONG DAY.)


The Swim: 
   There were four starting waves and, of course, I was in the last one. I hate that. Sure, it's easier to find your bike when 90% of the race starts before you, but it's still a little disheartening to be last before the race even starts. At about 7:45, my group was called to get in the water. There was this dock with temporary stairs that we used to get in the water. Let me tell you - the swim area volunteers ran a very tight ship. They wanted you in the water. So as soon as you got to the end of the dock - you were IN. They didn't exactly throw you in the water...but it was pretty close. Which was a little scary because I had no idea how deep the water was, how cold it was or what was lurking in it. Turns out - about 5 feet, not that cold and a TON of seaweed. 

This is my "what the hell am I doing" look.

   Once in the water, we had about 30 seconds before our wave started. I spent it trying to get untangled from the seaweed. It was wrapped around my arms, legs - it was pretty much everywhere. The RD said they had cut it back the day before. If so - I would have hate to have seen it before. 

I'm the cap in the middle of this mess.

   The swim was a two-lap course. It was, by far, the most well-marked swim course I've ever done. The buoys were HUGE. Sighting was so easy. Every race should use these. 

Biggest. Buoys. Ever.

   My swim felt really good. I didn't kill myself - just kept a nice, steady pace. My only complaint about the swim was that the volunteers started pulling in the giant buoys before everyone had completed the second lap. Picture eight buoys set up as a rectangle. Once the last swimmers passed a buoy for the 2nd time - they pulled it. I get it - the race organizers want to pack things up as soon as possible. Kicker is - we were told to keep the buoys to the left of us. So what did they do? They moved the buoys to the RIGHT of the finish line.  I turned the last corner and started heading toward the finish and didn't know exactly where to go. I KNEW the yellow buoy on the left was the finish, but there were orange ones there too. Last thing I wanted to do was aim to the yellow and get disqualified because I cut the course. So I pulled up from the swim for a minute to figure out what the heck was going on. And yes, the yellow buoy WAS the finish. But it was a confusing situation that could have been easily avoided. 
   I also lost my ROAD ID during the swim. Felt it float right off my arm. That was a bummer. I've had that thing for years and have run all over the country with it. Who knows? Maybe someone will find it and call one of my contacts and it'll get returned to me. I'm mainly hoping that someone doesn't find it and think that I drowned out there.

Yes, that is seaweed wrapped around my right hand.

   Getting out of the water wasn't any big deal. They had plenty of volunteers to help you back on to the deck. They also had wetsuit strippers, which was nice. You have to be careful when removing your wetsuit though. I've heard horror stories of tri suits being accidentally removed along with the wetsuit - especially with wetsuit strippers. Fortunately, mine suit stayed on and I made my way to my bike. It looked like I was one of the first ones from my rack to finish the swim. SWEET. I grabbed my bike and off I went.

   I had heard the bike was flat. I was REALLY wishing I had race wheels because I know it would have made a big difference on a flat course like this. But oh well. Gotta do the best with what you have, right? My race plan was, like the swim, to ride semi-conservatively and not kill myself. Get a decent groove and stick with it. I haven't done enough 70.3 races to really figure out my pacing, but I knew I didn't want waste my legs for the run since that's my weakest event. 
   We had about three miles before we got onto the main road. I used this time to kind of calm down and regain my wits a little. Getting out of the water is kind of a confusing state. Your equilibrium is all thrown off. Once I'm on the bike, it's good for me to take the first couple of miles and figure out what the heck I'm doing, and get some nutrition in me. Unfortunately, I quickly got passed by four women - three of which were in my age group. And when I say "quickly got passed," I mean these women FLEW by me. Even if I had wanted to throw my race plan out the window, put the hammer down and chase them, I don't think I would have been able to hang for very long. Those women were FAST.
At least I look kind of fast.

   I got out on the main road and hit some railroad tracks at about mile 10. I watched the riders in front of me hit the tracks, so I knew it was going to be a hard hit. And it was. Hard enough for me to lose BOTH of my back water bottles. Fantastic. Considering I had 46 more miles to go, I had no choice but to stop and pick them up. Plus, you can get a penalty for discarding items on the course. I don't think the possibility of a penalty bothered most people though. There were water bottles littering the entire side of the road. In fact, three men passed me while I was getting my bottles and all three lost one bottle while riding over the tracks. None of them stopped to pick them up.
   Other than that- the ride was pretty uneventful. Once off the main road, we rode through a lot of farm country. Since it was a small race, there were several times when I was riding completely alone. It's a weird thing being in a race and not seeing anyone else. The route was well-marked, but you start wondering if you missed a turn. I actually thought about slowing down and seeing if someone caught me - just to make sure I was on the right road. And it was flat. VERY flat. And boring. More than once I looked down at my watch and realized I was going WAY slower than I should have been. Without any kind of terrain change, I just got kind of lulled into this complacency and totally zoned out about what I was supposed to be doing - i.e. RACING! This course would have been awesome if you could draft and have a pace line.
   There was one sight of interest on the course - a rock zoo. I wish I had been able to take photos of this thing. It was about 20 oddly shaped boulders that had been painted into various animals. There was a giant chicken, a cow, a penguin...all sorts of unrelated creatures. There was even a sign that stated "Please Don't Feed the Animals." It was completely out of place in the middle of the Alabama countryside, and it made me laugh.

Almost done!  Hi Dudley!  

   Pulling into transition, I thought I felt OK. It was getting hot, but I was OK. And then I actually got off the bike and tried to run. And nothing happened. Seriously. My legs wouldn't work. I could walk, but running just wasn't going to happen. Turns out - flat courses trash your legs more than hilly ones. It makes sense. I never stopped pedaling the entire 56 miles at Goosepond, so my legs didn't get any recovery. And the Goosepond run course was hilly! You immediately had a hill right out of transition. It was terrible!     

I am so not happy at this moment. 

   As I passed Dudley less than a mile into the run, he asked me how I felt. I said, "I have no idea how I'm going to finish 13.1 miles." And I didn't. I've trained enough that I know how my legs are supposed to feel after a long ride. This wasn't it - it was way worse. And it was starting to get HOT. Add on the fact that I was about a month behind on my training, and I figured I was screwed. I'm generally not a quitter, but at this moment, I was pretty much trying to figure how to drop out and at what point. 
   And then about a mile in, a guardian angel ran by and saved my race. Her name was Sonja and we just kind of fell into pace with each other. And then we started chatting. And then, before I knew it, we hit the three mile mark. It was still hot and painful, but for the first time I thought I might actually be able to finish this thing. Slowly, we made our way around the course. We walked some - mainly up hills - and took our time at the rest stops. We agreed that this course kicked our butts and we just needed to make it to the finish. No need to kill ourselves at this point. Just get to the finish and live to fight another day. 
   The course didn't really have any highlights. It meandered through a campsite and through some of the vacation homes around Lake Guntersville. It was hilly, but nothing too terribly scenic. And, unfortunately, no spectator support from the locals. Well, there was ONE family who had set up chairs on the course. One. They were great, though. 
   The best part about the run course? The volunteers. They were very helpful and enthusiastic.  My favorite was a man at an intersection we had to run through three times. He was clapping and yelling for everyone who passed. When you're in as much pain as I was, that's really helpful. Plus, all of the water stops were well-stocked with COLD water. It was wonderful.  
Sonja and me with about a half-mile to go.
       Fortunately, that hill we had to climb out of transition meant we got to run downhill to the finish. If we had an uphill finish, I probably would have cried. Six hours and twenty minutes after I started, I crossed the finish line.

With my new BRF (best race friend) Sonja.

This one was EARNED.

   Looking back, I learned several things during this race. One being that flat rides are deceivingly hard. I had no clue. Another is that, for long races, I need hoopla. This race was really well-organized, the roads were well-marked (contrary to my fears from the day before) and they had great volunteers. But man, did I miss the atmosphere of Augusta during the ride and run. Maybe if I did this distance more, I'd be able to psych myself up better. But at this moment - I need the streets lined with cheering people holding funny signs for a race this long.
   The only real negative with the race itself was that the race director was a bit too efficient with breaking down the race. I already mentioned the confusion with the swim and the buoys. Well, they also started breaking down the transition area by the time Sonja and I finished. Yes, we started in the last group, but we were BY FAR not the last people out there. I know this because the run course was an out and back and I could see who was still out there. They had also sent away the ambulance, which is just ridiculous. Dudley said they did this about 5:30 into the race, which is pretty early considering you get 8 hours to finish the thing. Why was it sent away? I have no idea. Maybe there was some emergency and they had to leave. I do know that they had to call for an ambulance a few minutes after I  finished. I just hope it wasn't anything too serious.
   Would I do this race again? Maybe. As I mentioned, I need a crowd for motivation - especially on the run, but that's not the fault of the race directors. I wasn't crazy about the course, but that's just my personal preference. If I had been better prepared physically, I might have liked the course more. However, every person I spoke to who did this race said that the course kicked their asses, so it must be pretty tough. But the race was well-organized and well-supported. Oh - and the race photos were free to download. Ironman charges something like $30 a photo. Overall, it's a very good, small-town race. 
   A HUGE thank you to my husband, Dudley, for always being so supportive. I promise we'll go back to Lake Guntersville to go boating sometime (it's actually very pretty and apparently a great spot for fishing). And thanks to Sonja for totally saving my race. I'm not sure I would have finished without you! Hope to race with you again soon!

Goosepond 70.3:
Swim: 40:02 (2nd AG)
T1: 1:47
Bike: 3:06:14 (4th AG)
T2: 2:43
Run: 2:30:53(6th AG)
OVERALL: 6:21:37 (6th AG out of 14)

Photos courtesy of Dudley Lightsey, Greg Gelmis and WeRunHuntsville.

Next up: Healdsburg Half Marathon race report!