Monday, April 28, 2014

The Week That Was

   Nothing all that interesting went on with me personally this week, although it was a VERY exciting week for American running.  Last Monday was "Marathon Monday" - that's right, the date of the 118th Boston Marathon.  And, unless you've been living under a rock for the past week, or just really, really don't care about running, you know that an American - Meb Keflezighi - won Boston for the first time since 1983. What's even more amazing is that he's almost 39 years old. Blows my mind.


   I wasn't one of the lucky ones who made it up to Boston to watch the race in person, but I was able to see the last few miles of the men's race thanks to the live-streaming of the race online. Being a huge fan of Meb's (I don't know anyone who isn't), I had tears in my eyes as I watched him run those last few miles. I almost turned the live feed off because I didn't think I could take it if he got passed in the final 100 meters. Fortunately, that didn't happen and Meb won...and the American running community just lost it. As I mentioned, I don't think there is a runner who DOESN'T like Meb. Not only is he an amazing athlete (Olympic Silver medalist, New York City Marathon winner), but he just seems to be a damn good guy. If you haven't already, I recommend reading his autobiography Run to Overcome. He has a pretty amazing story. And if that doesn't make you a fan, read this. Love that guy.
   A little bit closer to home was the Country Music Marathon. It was held Saturday in Nashville. I felt a little guilty because I not only did I not run, but I didn't even go cheer on the other runners! It's the biggest running event in Nashville, and I wasn't a part of it at all! So not like me, but you know - I had a bike ride to do. I'm in the "can't screw with my workouts" part of my Ironman training (only five months left!!), so if the schedule says to ride - I go ride. Dudley and I did, however, go to the East Nasty Post-Marathon Party. I mean, I have to have SOME fun.

ENFL!  (That's East Nasty for Life, for you non-Nashvillians.)

   Sunday, I had to get up and run 10 miles and then go an Open Water Master Class with my training group. I don't think I've ever been so tired as I was after that swim. I'm a little worried in that the open water kind of freaked me out. Not good, considering I have my first triathlon of the season in about three weeks. The water was pretty choppy and it was really cold, so maybe that's why I had such a hard time. Or maybe I was just really tired after two straight weeks of workouts without any rest days. I don't know. But I do know I need to get my head on straight or REV3 Knoxville won't be a fun experience.  
   Oh - one last thing - did you hear about all of the people who ran Boston with fake bib numbers? If not, read this and this. Apparently, the bandits took bib photos that people posted on social media, copied them and printed them off. Then they pinned them on and ran Boston like they qualified. Boston has a history of allowing bandits to run the race (without bib numbers) after all of the legitimate racers have started. They don't receive medals or any other perk of finishing the race, but they do get to run on the course. However, from what I understand Boston refused to let bandits run this year. So, people took it upon themselves to make fake numbers and run. They were found out when legitimate runners went to look up their official race photos and saw photos of people running with their bib numbers. I know many people who think that banditing a race is fine, but personally, I'm not a fan. I'm a very rules-orientated person, some would say too much of one. Heck - I don't even like changing corrals because I don't want to get yelled at. But I thought this was an interesting story, especially since people were able to track down the bandits from the posted photos. It seems that one poor girl was getting so much harassment that she deleted all of her online profiles. I guess the moral of the story is 1) Don't bandit Boston and 2) Don't piss off runners. THEY WILL FIND YOU.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Pollen Vortex is Killing Me

   Apparently, 2014 is going to be the Year of Pollen. Almost every person I have spoken to has had some kind of issue with allergies recently, even if they aren't "regular" allergy sufferers, like me. Seriously - if you had asked me two weeks ago if I was allergic to anything, I would have said no. But I was wrong.
   My allergy issues really started after the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. I was having brunch with my friends Ron and Kirk, when my eyes just started watering and I couldn't stop sneezing. It came on so suddenly that I thought it had to be a reaction to something in the restaurant. But then the sneezing didn't stop even after I left the restaurant. It was annoying, but I could bear it.
   Then, when I got back to Nashville the next day, everything was fine. Clear head, clear eyes, no sneezing - it was great...until last Saturday morning when I got up for the Pedal for Paws Metric Century. I just didn't feel right. I didn't have a fever or sore throat, but I was really tired, my eyes burned and my voice was really raspy. To quote my husband, "You sound terrible." I blamed it on allergies, even though I've never been tested, because I really didn't want to be sick.
   So, I headed up to the ride, which was about 45 minutes North of my house and in an area I'd never ridden in previously. I was wondering if it was really the best thing for me to be doing. I wanted to ride, but 62 miles is a long way when you don't feel well AND you don't know where you're going. Had I been on the Trace where I could turn-around at any point, I would have felt more confident about the ride, but riding out in the middle hilly Gallatin?  Not so much. By the time I got to the start, I had pretty much convinced myself to drop down to the 33 mile route, which was shorter than what I wanted to do, but at least I knew I could make it. But then, right before we started, I compared the 33 and the 62 mile routes, and was able to figure out a 40 mile route, where I never left the supported course. Perfect!
   The ride was great. Really hilly, so it was perfect training for Chattanooga, and the weather was amazing. My only issue was that I was having a hard time breathing when riding hard, which actually is a pretty big issue. I was glad I had made the decision to only ride 40 miles.
   The next day, Sunday, I was supposed to run eight miles. I still had the raspy voice and my legs were a little tired from the day before, but no big deal. I actually thought I felt a little better from Saturday...until I started to run. Again, it was a struggle to breathe whenever I tried to up my pace. At one point, I heard these crazy croaking sounds and thought they were frogs. Nope - it was ME! That's how raspy my breathing was. I realize now that this was some sort of allergy-induced asthma, but at the time I didn't know what the heck was going on. After struggling four miles, I called it a day and went home.
   Monday, I went to work and realized that about 50% of the people where were either sick, or suffering from allergies, so at least I wasn't alone. My workouts continued to suffer though. Swimming was awful - every time I finished an interval I would cough for a minute or two. And running and biking were just brutal, and not in that "I'm getting stronger for this workout" kind of brutal. It just sucked.
   I kind of started to panic. Not because I felt so bad, but because I'm within my 6-month Ironman window and I don't have time for crappy workouts! So I broke down and went to the doctor, where it was confirmed that I was suffering from allergies. I was given an antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory to help my sinuses. While I'm not 100%, they have helped A LOT. I was also desperate enough to go out and buy a neti pot, which was something that every voice teacher since high school has been trying to get me to use. Trust me - if you don't know what this is, you don't want me to describe it. You'll have to look it up yourself. But it has done wonders for my sinuses.
   And that's where I am right now. I have a big training weekend coming up with time-specific intervals to hit. I'm still a little raspy, but I was able to run last night without too much issue. The croaking has gone away, which is nice. I guess we'll just have to see how it goes.
   If anyone has any magic allergy remedies, please let me know!

This was me this week.  (courtesy of

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Race Recap - Race Day!

   Washington, DC races usually start early, and with its 7:30 am start, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler was no exception. This meant a 5:00 am wake-up, so I could make it down to the Metro by 6:00.  As you know, I'm one of those "must get to the race early" people. I do NOT like to be rushed on race day. And while I didn't get as much sleep as I would have liked, I was able to get up, dressed and have a good race-day breakfast (oatmeal - Thanks, Mom!) before heading out. Cherry Blossom 10-miler - here I come!

   As I mentioned previously, the Metro is a great way to get to and from a race. I got on the train right at 6:00, and I guess they were waiting for an onslaught of runners to board, because we didn't take off for about 15-minutes, which is a long time to wait. In the meanwhile, I started talking to a few other runners around me. What else did I have to do, right? I mainly spoke with one woman in particular, who had really pretty red hair and who had done a lot of the DC races on my bucket-list. Talking to her definitely made the wait go by quicker. Once the train started, the trip was about 30-minutes downtown and we were let off right at the Washington Monument. I said goodbye to my new Metro friend and headed out to try to find my friend Jenny before the race.

Hello, Washington!!  


   I don't think I was prepared for how large this race was. I knew there were about 17,000 people running, but there were a TON of people wandering around the race site. I guess most runners brought a few friends and family members down to the site with them. Good news though - the race was prepared for it. They had several information tables spread out across the Mall and plenty of volunteers who were very helpful if you had a question. This race also had more porta-johns than I have ever seen before, which is something that runners really appreciate. The bag check was also large and well-organized.

Water for runners for after the race.

Gear check tent. 

   Unfortunately, my friend Jenny texted me right as I was checking my bag and said that she wasn't feeling well and was going to skip the race. Bummer. She's much faster than me, so I wouldn't have seen her much during the actual race, but it would have been nice to catch up. I was just thinking how I wouldn't have been able to find her in this crowd anyway, when I looked down to tie my shoe...and who was next to me? The red-head from the Metro! We went completely different directions when leaving the Metro and out of the thousands of people at the race, we bumped into each other again. We had a laugh about that, wished each other good luck and went our separate ways again.
   After this, I went on a quest to find an actual cherry blossom. Unfortunately, due to the crazy weather DC has been having recently (it snowed just last week), the cherry blossoms hadn't bloomed yet. While Nashville is in full-Spring mode, DC still has a lot of bare trees. The best I was able to find were some buds. While still pretty, it's just not the same.

So close...

   By now, the race organizers were asking us to get in our corrals. This race also served as the National 10-Mile Championships, so there were a lot of elite runners there. They, of course, were in the first corrals and started early. I was in the third corral for non-elites (out of five). What was interesting about the start of this race was that they didn't let the corrals advance to the start after the previous corral left.  So when they finally released my corral, about 15-minutes after the official start, we had a bit of a walk to the start line.  I was a little confused at first, because usually races do the "move up 20 feet and stop.  Now move up 50 feet and stop" route with corrals. This time we just walked causally to the start and then started running. It actually worked about quite well.

   However, what didn't work out well was my placement in the corrals. I think I was supposed to be in the 9-9:30 minute / mile corral. I know I was hoping to run close to 9:00 minute miles because the course was pretty flat. But the race was so crowded, that I couldn't get any kind of decent pace going. See the photo above of the start? That's about how crowded it was for the entire race. Wherever you went - there was someone there. Since I've run large races in DC previously, I was expecting this, but you forget how annoying it is until you are actually running in the middle of the crowd.
    The actual race went well. Like everything I observed pre-race, the Cherry Blossom had everything well-organized. The volunteers were plentiful, the water stations were well-stocked and they had an appropriate number of restrooms along the course. The crowds were amazing, too. So many spectators. It was really great.
   The race was also amazingly scenic. The route was pretty much a sight-seeing tour of DC. It would have been amazing if the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. My favorite part was running part past Jefferson Memorial. Of course, this is when crazy people started pulling out their cameras and started taking pictures WHILE THEY WERE RUNNING. Total peeve of mine. Come on, people! Have a little sense! You might think you're running in a straight line, but you're not. And with courses as packed as this one was, it's just downright dangerous to take photos while you're running.
   One funny part happened around mile 7 when I saw, again, my friend from the Metro. At this point, I was really wishing I had gotten her name, but I didn't know it, so I had to just yell "Hey Metro Girl!" as I ran by while waving. No, I'm not a total loser. Sigh. At mile 8 was probably the favorite unofficial water station of the entire race - the "Free Beer and Oreo" stop. People kind of freaked out over this stop. There was another "Free Beer" stop along the course, which got some notice, but "Free Beer AND Oreos?" People just lost their minds. I actually saw one guy climb over a park bench to get to the stop.
   And as far as my race personally, I just went along with the crowd. My legs were a little tired from the previous day's ride, but they weren't completely shot. It was good. I just used the race as a nice Zone 2 training run. (Oh yes, I talk in Zones now - but that's a topic for another post.)  Since it was so flat and I wasn't pushing the pace, the only time my legs were really taxed was in the last half-mile, which had the ONLY hill of the race. The actual finish was flat though, so you could kick it in if you really wanted to. You know who wanted to? The girl from the Metro, who BLAZED by me with about 10 yards to go. I caught up with her at the finish and finally got her name. Everyone - please meet my new best friend, Becky.

MFF!  (Metro Friends Forever!)

      Y'all - she ran with her hair down like that the entire time. I can't even imagine...  Anyway, after saying good-bye to Becky for the FOURTH time, I headed over to the medal tent. The CB 10-miler was different from most races in that the medal was optional and you had to order one when you registered for the race. I think it was about 10 bucks extra. They did the same thing with the race shirt. You were given a cotton shirt, but for a bit more, you could upgrade to a tech shirt (in first photo above). Since this was a bucket-list race for me, I upgraded the shirt and got the medal. Totally worth it. 


   After the race, I went to brunch with two of my favorite people in the world, Ron and Kirk, who live a few blocks from the race. I totally splurged and got Strawberry French Toast. And it was awesome. Overall, it was a banner day. I highly, highly recommend this race. Yes, it was crowded, but it was very well-organized and Washington, DC is just beautiful. Oh - and I actually found a cherry blossom. It's like they started blooming during the race. 

   If you live in the DC area, you should absolutely enter the lottery for this race. And even if you don't, it's a great weekend trip. DO IT!

Next up - Pedal for Paws Metric Century on Saturday! Should be interesting considering I haven't ridden further than 40 miles this year! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Cherry Blossom 10-Miler Race Recap - Part 1

   Have you ever thrown your hat into something thinking that there is NO WAY this plan is going to work out, and you're kind of planning on it not working out, but then it DOES work out, so you have to go through with it? Yeah, that's what happened with me with the Cherry Blossom 10-miler.
   Being from the DC area, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler has been bucket-list race for me for a while now. It's over 40-years old and is known as one of the premier races in Washington, DC. Kicker is that it's so popular that it holds a lottery for registration slots. So way back in December, I signed up for the lottery, hoping that I might be one of the lucky ones who got into the race. But considering that I don't have the best history with lottery registrations (Nike Women's Half, anyone?), I pretty much figured I wouldn't get in. In fact, I was kind of planning on it. I mainly registered with the thought that my chances for getting in the race NEXT year would be better if I tried this year and didn't get in. Which is a long set up for stating the obvious - I got in. Which meant that I had to plan a weekend trip to DC.  WOO HOO!
   I flew into Baltimore (BWI) on Friday afternoon and picked up a rental car (Dudley didn't go since it was such a quick trip). BWI is only about 40 miles from my parent's house, but the trip can take hours is traffic is bad. Fortunately, I timed it OK and made it home in less than an hour. Good thing I called my mom on the way in because she totally forgot that I was coming in on Friday (she thought it was Saturday). She was on here way out and was like "What do you mean you're 15 miles away?" Would have been a big bummer to be locked out of my childhood home if she had left!
   Fortunately, Dad knew I was coming in on Friday and was home soon after I got in, and we immediately left to head up to Bonzai Tri shop, which is my Dad's favorite bike shop. What? Most people don't immediately go visit a bike shop first thing after arriving at their parent's house? Welcome to the Mylls household. We like bikes here.
   Apparently, my Dad had spoken to Mark, the owner of Bonzai, and mentioned that I'm training for an Ironman. As soon as we got there, Mark pulled us in his office and started asking me questions about my training and giving me some advice on getting through race day. As a five-time Ironman finisher and the owner of a very successful bike/tri shop, I figured he knew a few things, so I listened pretty closely. I was really appreciative that he took the time to talk to me. I was also very appreciative of the bag of nutrition samples he gave me. Gotta tell you - my Dad's got connections.

Free Stuff! Love it! Thanks, Mark!  

   After leaving Bonzai, we headed over to another bike shop. This one is called the Bike Club. I'm really bummed I forgot my phone because I would have loved to have taken photos. The last time I was at the Bike Club was about three years ago and it was the craziest shop I'd ever been in. I think it's more of a used bike shop / swap meet, than a retail bike store. It's located in a long, narrow room and there is crap EVERYWHERE! When I was there before, there were two levels of racks and shelving and one little pathway through everything. There were even bikes hanging from the ceiling. They also had two parrots flying around!

Bike Club Before...  (Photo courtesy of

   Turns out - the Fire Marshall didn't like the hundreds of bikes and the two parrots, so they closed the Bike Club down for about a month while they got rid of most of the stuff. It was kind of sad walking in there recently. Don't get me wrong - the old place was definitely a death trap - but now it looks more like a regular bike shop - just with old bikes and parts.  The parrots were even re-homed to some parrot sanctuary. You know I wanted to see the parrots. 
   Saturday morning, Mom and I headed downtown to the Cherry Blossom 10-mile Run expo and packet pickup.  Races in DC are awesome because of the Metro. Yes, we had an issue at the Rock & Roll USA Half Marathon a few years ago, but overall, it's a great way to get to and from a race. So we just hopped on at the Vienna Metro stop, and it took us directly to the expo, which was located at the National Museum Building. Possibly one of the prettiest locations for an expo that I've ever seen. In fact, both my Mom and I were commenting that we think we both have gone to cocktail parties at this building in the past.

Nice digs for an expo, huh?

   I didn't do too much damage at this expo - normally I spend way too much money on stuff that I don't need. I was planning on getting a few gels, but since I totally got hooked up by Mark the day before, I didn't even need those. The only thing I ended up getting was a fleece race jacket that my mom bought me. I don't care how old you are, to have parents who support you in your hobbies is just awesome.
   We didn't linger too long at the expo because I knew Dad was waiting for me to go on a bike ride. My Dad has quite the collection of bikes in his stable, one of which is the same model and size as my road bike. After a few adjustments to the saddle, it fit enough for me to ride, so we headed out to the W&OD Trail for a ride. The W&OD Trail is an asphalt trail that is laid over most of the old Washington & Old Dominion railroad tracks. It's a great place to ride, but unfortunately it was CRAZY windy out on Saturday - wind speeds of 20+ mph and wind gusts of 30+ mph. Honestly, I probably would have just gotten on the trainer if I had been at home - that's how bad it was. But Dad was all "What are you going to do if it's windy for your Ironman? Just not race?" Gotta love a dad who gives you crap about your training. So I put on my big-girl panties and did 30 miles in the worst headwind I've probably ever experienced. I was SO happy to turn around at the 15 mile mark so I could finally hit a tailwind - and I did...for about five miles. And then the wind changed direction and I hit that headwind again. Ugh. It was brutal. 
   One thing that was cool about my ride was that I saw this sign:

Hey! I know those people!

It was funny because I wasn't paying that much attention to those Adopt A Trail signs, but I nearly wrecked my bike when I saw this one. I've know all three of these families! We all went to school together. It was pretty cool to see this. Thanks for adopting the trail, guys!
   I also tried to get a photo from the overlook of a quarry, but there was a total creeper hanging out near the site. And considering I was alone at this point (Dad had already turned around) and about five miles from any civilization, I didn't want to risk my life by getting too close to this guy (seriously - he was CREEPY), so I just kept on riding.
   Of course, after that crazy hard ride, the question remained as to how my legs would hold up for the 10 mile run the next day. Which you'll hear about in my next post!