Tuesday, October 30, 2012


6am Tuesday morning. Slept through my morning workout....fabulous! I've been really on target with my 5am workouts but something about Monday and Tuesday that really weigh down on me. I have to be at work earlier these days so it's harder to motivate myself out of bed for an hour workout only to run through the shower, slap some makeup on my face and sprint out the door with a wet head, spilling coffee on myself as I lock my door. Life happens, and it goes on as we live it....or something like that....that makes sense.

But what really got me through the day is knowing that at 3pm I would be on my way to go pick up my new tri bike....that I still didn't have a name for. There was less pressure in buying the bike than trying to come up with a name for it. Backwards logic, I know. When I got into the store I came across my friendly sales associate that worked so hard to make my sale, ha! We chatted casually about racing and swapped stories about drunken escapades before talking about clip ins. So I needed new clip ins for this bike, hoping to keep the same type as my road bike. What I wanted and what I got were two different things. The clip ins that fit my shoe would have costed $250ish bucks. Woah! So instead I looked at these more circular clip ins, which actually are better than what I had: you could clip in on either side, so there's no fumbling around, and they were green to match my bike. How do you pass that up?! On the bike they went. By the end of it all I felt right at home on my bike and am itching to try it out. Go figure, the lake path is closed because of high winds.....I joked with the sales associates that I might go try it out anyways, even if the waves ate me up...."I will be an ironman!"

Driving home I stole more than a few glances back at my bike. I felt like I was taking a baby home but didn't know what to call it.....whatever that feels like. I needed to come up with something to  make it mine. I really like the green accents on it, so the green lantern came to mind. As much as I love super heros, and yea they are pretty bad ass, my bike felt more feminine to me and needed a real name, not an alias. What is green? Grass....ivy....green ivy....envy. I've always liked the saying, "Green with envy". That's how I came up with GWEN: "Green With ENvy" And just like that it stuck.

I'm looking forward to all of the many hours GWEN and I will be spending together, me riding her for hours on end....where did your mind go? This is all in preparation for IMOO 2013  :P

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bike Bargain

Take your time. Be patient. Don't rush in. All sayings I've heard countless times growing up...and even still to this day. But see here's the thing, since I was young, I've always done things sporadically and in haste. When I was a child, before I knew how to actually swim, if I saw someone in the pool I would do a hop, skip and a jump towards them and just hope for the best. In some cases these decision making skills have worked out for the best, but there have been other instances when it really came back to bite me in the arse. And if you were wondering, I didn't drown, so I guess that one worked out alright.

So this weekend I told myself I would stop procrastinating on starting my hunt for a triathlon bike. Thiis whole process of getting fitted, finding out what I needed and then actually finding a bike sounded exhausting, and to be honest it sounded like it would take a lot of time. Time is the most precious resource to me, mostly because I never have any. The funny thing is that I wear this cheap little $30 Target watch on my wrist and it hardly ever comes off, and it helps me keep things in my life structured....for the most part.

Ok so back to the bike. I went to Element Multisport with one of my friends this weekend to get the fitting out of the way. I really love this store and the sales associates. So I went in with the mindset that I wouldn't be buying a bike, but that I was interested in getting it soon. Something for a beginner but good enough to race IMOO in...and preferably around $1500 or less. The guy, Ed, was really helpful and showed me a few that were inciting but a little more than I wanted to spend. Just as I had thought we were done he says to me, "Actually, I do have this one bike, in your size, for about $1,000"

These types of things don't happen in real life. Ok, well they do, because it did to me. I looked at my friend Kris and my eyes lit up. He goes, "Looks like someone is getting a tri bike today!" I had to laugh because he was all too right! I went for a test ride around the parking lot and knew from that moment that I had fallen in love at first ride! Ed didn't have to do any more convincing, although I did call my coach to get a final yay or nay but I was already sold. So I handed over my credit card and any hopes of a social life for the next few months and became the proud owner of a Ridley Phaeton :)

Now all I need is a really cool/badass name for it.....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Curse of the Calluses

The other morning I woke up to my typical 4:15, 4:20, 4:25 and 4:30am alarms. I begrudgingly shuffled myself out from under my covers and into the bathroom to wash my face/brush my teeth. But not before turning on my coffee pot. See the first thing I do every morning is turn that bad boy on. The noise of it brewing is something of an association for me to say 'your day has begun'. Back in the bathroom, wiping the sleep out of my eyes, I took a moment and looked down at my hands. Callused. Not even just my hands, my fingers too. Yikes. Dare I even look at my feet?

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I hate feet. Especially my own. I don't like to look at them and I sure as hell don't let people come anywhere near them. So why is this? No they're not deformed, I don't have a sixth toe, and one is not longer than the other. But much like my hands, they are extremely callused. It makes me insecure and somewhat embarrassed, even though I knew each one of those calluses took a lot of hard work, sweat, and effort to make. The one time I had them removed when I got my first-ever pedicure it hurt like none other for them to come back!

I can hear my Kuerig pot dispensing my coffee and I am brought back into the moment. I still haven't been able to come to a consensus on whether or not my callused skin is a help or a hinder. When I lift, it helps. When I shake someone's hand, I drown in my insecurities of whether or not the person is judging me for having rougher skin than them (especially is the person is a male!). Race season is about at it's end for me. And as much as it might make my insecurities go away, taking off the calluses might not be as painful on my ego as my feet when I get back into the long runs in January!

Triathlete with Training Wheels

Whenever I talk to a non-triathlete friend about racing the most common response I hear is, "You know the bike would be the easiest for me, and I could probably push through the run....but the swim, I'd drown." This cracks me up nearly every time, maybe because I have a swim/run background but in the back of my mind I'm saying, "You have no idea how boring it is to be in the middle of no where doing the same motion over and over again for 56 miles. Not to mention your ass, yea it's gonna hurt". 

Biking. You ARE the weakest link. At least for me. I haven't actually been on my bike for hmm maybe 2 months now? It's been sitting in the corner of my apartment, collecting dust. I have those days when I stare at it longingly and convince myself I don't have the time to commit to the length of a ride to make it worth it. So the other day I had a really, really rough day at work and came home in some major need of a cardio pick-me-up. I had already been to the gym once that day and didn't exactly want to go back, just to be crammed into a small space with people. People. I did not want to be around people. Didn't want to talk to anyone and definitely didn't want to have any technology on me for at least an hour.

This is when I decided today would be the day to take out my bike. Without hesitation on threw on my spandex, jersey and grabbed my shoes, bike and helmet and ran out the door. I got all the way outside when I realized my tire was slightly flat. This day was just not having me! But luckily I had an extra CO2 in my pack and just inflated it. Aaaand I was off. I headed over to the lake path and went at it. It was everything that I needed at that moment, no one talking to me and it was just me and my bike for as long as I wanted to go. Well I had dinner plans at 7 so I opted to turn around before Navy Pier (especially since that passage way on lower Wacker is a hot mess anyways).

As much as I loved being back on my bike I'd be lying if I said it was easy! I had to push a lot, especially on the way back home. I felt like I was barely even moving! By the time I made it home I was beyond pooped. And my ego was about as deflated as my tire had been earlier. While I'm still months away from IMOO 2013 it makes me nervous that my biking was that bad. I feel like I will be starting back from scratch, like a triathlete on training wheels!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Oath of the Athlete

Sometimes the hardest part about training and racing isn't the workouts. It's hard to balance out a working life, a social life and a racing life. There have been countless times that I've been invited out by friends only to have to use the line, "I can't, I'm racing tomorrow" or "I can't, I have to get up at 6 and run 15 miles". The looks and comments are always the same and the guilt never goes away. It's more just learning how to swallow it. Because as an athlete you have to make priorities. And sometimes that means saying no social outings. Don't get me wrong, if you always say no you won't have any friends and the social life part will fizzle out...you don't want that! So find times to rest and relax but stay consistent with your training.

Another instance are those mornings, well every morning, that I get up at 4:30 to be in the gym by 5 and utilize the 2 hours I have to the maximum before hustling off to the shower and into work with wet hair and doing my makeup in the car. I will admit, while this is somewhat disgusting, there were quite a few times over the summer I would go into work (because I worked outside as a day camp counselor with kids) right after a workout, without a shower and just with a new shirt. So I'm smelly and not always put together a 100% but it's all part of my lifestyle.

A lot of my friends and family think I am crazy but when it comes to commitment and discipline aren't we all just a little crazy? I make a commitment and promise to myself that I will work my hardest because I'm goal oriented and want to do everything I can to reach it. This means going to bed early and struggling to stay up at 2am when all of your friends want to go to another bar until 4am. Or only being able to tolerate 2 drinks before you start feeling tipsy because the last few months have been spent abstaining for training purposes. But at the end of the day at the end of the race it's all worth it if you love it. If you don't, find a new hobby :)

Superstitions and Traditions

Everyone has that favorite article of clothing, food or thing they do before a race. To anyone else is may seem weird or unnecessary but to you, it needs to happen, be eaten or worn in order to feel your best when performing. Until recently I didn't think I had anything that set me apart from any other runner/triathlete. But then I thought to myself, runners and triathletes are of a whole other species and each one of them is unique. I mean have you ever listened to them talk? Geeesh!

Anywho, One of my favorite things to wear during a race are my steele wool socks. I have a few pairs but I have grown accustom to my bright orange ones. But I have also been known to wear mix matching ones, like a purple and a blue. A lot of people think running socks are unnecessary but I always have them for a race.

I have to have coffee every morning before a race. But then I also have to chug a huge glass of water. As you can imagine this cycle initiates the need to have to pee like 6 times before a race....it's obnoxious but I always do it.

I can't say I remember when I started doing this but it has become a tradition that at every race I run I have two french braids in my hair. The problem, when I first started doing this was that I always had to find someone who knew HOW to french braid. Then one summer I finally learned how to do it on myself and I no longer felt the anxiety of "How am I gonna get my hair did?!" I always admit though, the braids are never as tight or as neat as when one of my best friends does it for me. She has been braiding my hair since we were kids and she's proud that I learned to do it myself (because now she doesn't need to stay over with me every time just to do it in the morning!). But my left side always seems to have more hair/is thicker than my right.

Through racing I've learned a few hard lessons. The first being that it hurts really, really bad when you chafe. I've learned to wear my racing clothes during training runs so I can see what area of my body chafe the worst and apply more anti-chafe rub to them before I race. Because believe you me, try getting into a hot shower after a long run with chafe marks everywhere....talk about pain!

Carbo loading is crap. Oh and cheese, don't eat cheese the night before a race. Your body has a hard time digesting it so it leaves you more bloated than anything. So have the bowl of spaghetti, not the never ending one, but the regular one and skip the cheese on top.

It's not Sweat, It's Liquid Awesome!

The cold ate me up immediately so I started to run to the start line. I tried to keep in mind that I needed to start out slower than usual to maintain negative splits. I found my running partner just over the bridge and he jumped in with me. We hit the first 13 miles fabulously. Granted our pace was way faster than he had planned out (because, yes he did print me out a splits sheet, what a guy!). But we were holding well enough, between 9:20-9:40 that we just let it rip.

Downtown was such a rush! Everyone was so energetic! Lesson learned from last year: put your name on your bib, people cheer for you and it makes you feel great! We managed to Gangum Style every mile marker along the way (although I was extremely limited in energy in the last few miles for this) And if you don't know what I'm talking about...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZmkU5Pg1sw

ANYWAYS! I had a ton of fun in boys town, where I met up with one of my friends and she jumped in with me. I was running positive splits all the way up to mile 14. I made it just fine without my ipod because there were so many people calling out my name and yelling for my organization that it was the motivation I needed to keep me going. Mile 14 through 20 were decent. And actually I ended up taking off 16 minutes from my 20 miler time when I ran the Newton Ready to Run three weeks prior. Stoked!

Miles 21-26 were the hardest. I don't care what anyone else says, the last 10k sucks! There was no adrenaline rush and my pace dropped significantly. The only thing that kept me going was my PR hopes and the fact that I swore I would not walk in this marathon at all! My running partner did an amazing job keeping me going....or at least watching him speed up in front of me kept me pushing.

Between mile 25-26 they kicked him out. It was all me, the hill on Roosevelt being the only thing that stood in my way of the finish line. As if my quads didn't burn enough as it was fighting my way up that hill took almost all of the remaining energy I had left. And all I could think about as I was going was how much I hated each and every one of those photographers for being there. They picked the worst spot to take my picture because I looked like hell, but did my best to pull off a "extremely photogenic guy" face.

Somehow I mustered up the strength to pick up my pace and run towards the finish line. The crowd roared and I pushed closer. Crossing was the best feeling I had all day :) But I hated that everyone was starting to bunch up! I couldn't stop walking because slowing was already having my legs go weak and I was weeebles-wobbles all over the place. I made my way through the crowds to pick up water, food, my metal and some beer before plopping down next to a fence to recover.

Marathon Morning

4:05am Alarm goes off. Hop out of bed, turn on coffee pot and stumble into the bathroom. Take a look in the mirror, makeup from last night still on my face, gross. But do I need a shower? That's a lot of effort, especially since I'm gonna be out running for a few hours only to need to shower again....I could just wash my face. Then I realize I need to shave my legs. Uhg. Turn on the shower just as I hear the coffee brewing.

I get out of the shower and I'm freezing! Grab that cup off the brewer and sit to dry my hair. It's probably in the 30s or 40s outside and I would be headed out in about 35 minutes, might as well dry my hair. I watch the goosebumps cover my arms as I'm sitting in my towel running the blow dryer through my hair. It's marathon morning and the excitement is building. I want nothing more than to make a HUGE PR. I got everything ready the night before and was ready to go by 4:45. (This is somewhat atypical of me). I called my running partner at 4:50. He grumbled at me into the phone and said he'd be there in 30 minutes.

5:27am. We're walking up to the train platform JUST in time for the train to show up. Got down to Grant Park and headed into Charity Village. Honestly, I don't think I will do another marathon without being a part of a charity. If anything for the pre- and post race benefits. PAWS had an AWESOME tent set up for us with all kinds of food/drinks and the best part? It was heated! We also had our own porta-potties (which for anyone who has done any race ever knows that the porta-potty situation is ALWAYS a hot mess! And when you're waiting around for over an hour you tend to have to go several times before you even get into your corral). So it was nice to simple things like no lines and toilet paper!

6:45am headed into the corral area. I was in corral E with the rest of the charities but just as I got there I decided I needed to pee for the 4th time. Only I had to wait in line for about 15 minutes bc I was a long way away from Charity Village. It was just enough time to get into my corral and hear the National Anthem. I made friends with a few of the people around me and we chatted about Ironmans (go figure!) and before you knew it we were walking up to the start line. I was less than thrilled to give up my sweatshirt but as I approached the start line I took a deep breath and cast it off. Ok here we go....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What time is it? Taper time!

Who doesn't love a good taper? When I first started running I absolutely hated them! I felt like I wasn't working to my full potential but as I have been training I have learned to take them in and soak them up. Taper runs are great for letting your body relax, but I also like to use them to work on speed. I had a 13 miler to do, and while I was still a few weeks out from the Chicago Half Marathon, I thought it would be a good idea to see how much I could push myself in the 13 miles. Typically when I run, if I feel great on the way out I'll have a rough run back in...or vice versa. This run though actually proved me wrong. I think given all of the strength training I had been doing I was able to push through this 13 and come in on a strong finish.

So much so that in the last mile of my run I had an older guy racing me. I had gotten to the .5 of my mile, or so. And this guy pulls in front of me (like works himself up to a pace that is fast enough to pass me and then pulls in front of me only to slow down.) I was peeved by this....enough that I decided I would speed up and pass him but I held my pace, like a respectable runner should do. This guy must not have liked that though because he tried to pull ahead of me again. Something in me was not having this AT ALL so I picked up again and we found ourselves shoulder to shoulder...racing to the end. Neither of us had to say anything to one another but we both knew. My competitive nature really was getting the best of me and I pushed everything I had in me to the water fountain. I beat him out and it felt so good. We didn't make eye contact after that, but we parted ways and I went home feeling like a badass.