Training For Tuesday: Bear With Me

I was out of town yesterday and I unfortunately came home to the sad discovery that my ferret had passed while I was away.  Clearly that took precedence over pretty much everything else, so I wasn't able to hammer out the final version my last pre-Beach2Battleship Training for Tuesday post. Rather than throw something together in time for today, I hope to be able to give it proper attention today and post a day late to the linkup. So no post from me today, but instead a request that you do any or all of the following, if they're applicable and if you're so inclined:
  • visit my co-host Alyssa and the other wonderful ladies on the list below
  • join in the fun yourself by adding your own linkup
  • check back with me tomorrow 
  • squeeze your pets extra tight today

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Sunday Sweats [9/21-9/27]: B2B Training Week 14

I know it's been 3 weeks since my last Sunday Sweats (don't lie, you were totally counting) and honestly I haven't really felt like writing them lately, but this week was a big week for me and I just needed an outlet to talk about it (besides Ben and excessive text messages to Alyssa, that is). This week wasn't just peak week of training it as also, lucky for me, peak week of the semester. Because, you know, half Ironman training doesn't take up enough time or energy so why not throw in 3 tests within a 24-hour period? No big.

Monday: 70-minute spin + 22 minutes yin yoga

Tuesday: 2850yd swim @ 2:08/100yd + 5.60 mile run @ 9:04 | Oh hey, ridiculously slow swim. Not sure what's up with that.
The weather was so cool today (low 60's and cloudy, basically my dream) that I *almost* walked out of the house for my run in long sleeves and long pants. Actually, I did walk out like that and then I was talked back to my senses and settled for capris and short sleeves. The weather was weird and I'm not sure any outfit choice would have been 100% correct to be honest. My run was just fine; I took it easy because I was still a little sore from running the Hokie Half on Sunday. Ben rode his bike home the same time I was running so he rode alongside me for the last mile and a half and we talked. Definitely blaming him for the slowing down that occurred during that time.

Wednesday: Rest day | I'm using the term "rest" very loosely here because it was really anything but, as I worked pretty much nonstop from 8:30am-9:30pm. I was supposed to do my brick today but when I woke up and realized that I really needed those 2.5 extra hours to study today more than I'll need them tomorrow, I decided to flip flop days. I was antsy for the rest of the day but I tried to remember that I'm pacing myself, avoiding burnout, all that good stuff. I had originally scheduled Wednesday as brick days and Thursdays as rest days (since they are long days at school) but my Wednesdays have ended up being really busy and I've somehow managed to get the bricks in after class on Thursday, so maybe I need to adjust my schedule permanently (or for the next 3 weeks at least).

Thursday: 23.75 mile bike ride @ 15.1mph + 6.39 mile run @  9:24 | Does anyone else get anxiety about workouts, or is that just me? I had to squeeze this one in (well, as much as one can "squeeze in" a 2.5 workout block, I suppose) in between two tests and I was so nervous about actually getting through it. I mean, that's basically an Olympic tri (without the swim) in the middle of the day...who does that? The bike went pretty well, until the last few minutes when I was literally a tenth of a mile from my apartment but couldn't get on the trail because it was being paved, so I had to go allllll the way around, up a road that is basically a giant .75 mile long hill, which added an extra mile and change to my route. But whatever, it's fine. And because of said path closure, I had to run the hilly route, which I wasn't planning on doing and thought I might die sometimes, but I tried to stay positive.

Friday: 3000yd swim @ 2:01/100yd | This swim was a time trial for the race, so rather than having different sets, I just had a warmup of 400yds, the actual time trial of 2100yds (1.2 miles), and a 500yd cooldown. The time trial went just swimmingly (har har)! I felt strong and capable and I loved swimming straight through rather than pausing every 8-10 laps. I tried to swim confidently but conservatively so I could figure out how to pace myself. I felt myself slowing a bit just past the halfway point, but I started to pick back up after a few more laps. I suck at estimating distance in open water and I can't see my watch, but...I still wish there were some way I could have an idea of how far I've gone/how far I have left so that I can pace myself properly. Need to think of a solution for that.

Saturday: 53.29 mile bike ride @ 14.73mph + 3.18 mile run @ 9:26 | I don't even know how to adequately describe this ride. You can find all the gory details on my Dailymile. The tl;dr is that I rode my bike to the top of a mountain (in another state) and I didn't die, but I kind of wanted to. Easily one of hardest things, mentally or physically that I have ever done. 

Sunday: 12.61 mile run @ 10:42 | My alarm went off at 5:30am because I needed to run to be ready to leave to go out of town for an interview by 9:30. My body was so tired when I woke up that it didn't seem worth it to run myself ragged especially before an interview so I went back to sleep until 8. I brought my running gear just in case I decided to run once I got to Raleigh, and on the way I had the brilliant idea to ask Lisa if she would be up for running with me. I didn't think she would be since I only gave her a couple hours notice, but surprisingly she totally was! I ran the first 6ish miles of the City of Oaks course before meeting Lisa at Cup a Joe and continuing on another 6 miles with her. 

This Week
Swim - 3.32 miles 
Bike -  96.87 miles (+ ~20miles commuting to/from school)
Run - 27.78 miles
Yoga - 22 minutes
Total miles - 127.97

B2B To-Date Training
Swim - 30.25 miles 
Bike - 773.56 miles + 622 minutes spin (~171 miles)
Run - 313.02 miles
Total miles - 1287.83

Week 14 Reflections:
- This week turned out to be SO much more than I was expecting. I knew I'd get in some big mileage but even more than that, I got in SO much good race day prep! My brick on Thursday was great race practice since it was in the middle of the day, right about the time I'll be biking and running on October 17. I got in some great practice pacing for the swim on Friday. And while my long ride and run weren't exactly race day simulations, they were, I think, way harder than anything I'll get on race day (because even if it's cold and raining and/or windy, I won't be alone and I won't have hills and mountains to climb). 
- What I really wanted from my long ride was to get in the full distance (56 miles) at race pace (at least 17-18mph) but I think climbing a damn mountain makes up for AT LEAST those extra 3 miles. Maybe an extra 30, I don't know. After that I know I am more than capable of pedaling for 56 miles.
- After this weekend I am absolutely sure I can handle anything that that happens on race day. I've been waiting this whole time to find out what it will feel like to ride long distance and run distance, and okay fine, I had 24 hours in between them, but the bike ride was SO miserable and my short run afterward was just fine, yay! And my long run the next day felt great, even though the weather was once again less than stellar and I ran a hilly course. Somewhere around mile 5, when I was feeling completely unstoppable despite everything I went through on Saturday, I realized that I've done it. I've trained as much as I possible could for this race and I am ready. I cannot be scared away by terrain or weather because I have trained through them. Over 1200 miles logged and, mentally and physically, I'm ready.

Currently: September

Reading a random sampling of novels and training books. I didn't finish all 10 books on my Literary Ladies Summer Challenge list, but I did read 6 of them and start on a 7th, which is like...probably more books than I read in all of 2014. Maybe 2013 and 2014 combined. There are a few that I admittedly read just to get through the challenge, but it open my eyes to some new authors and genres. And there are some books I didn't read, even though I've been meaning to for a while. I'm still interested in them but for whatever reason, now just isn't the right time.  Any good books you've read lately that I should add to my list?

Listening to Serial Dynasty and Lore. I did a lot of driving this month and have even more to do in the next 6 weeks and these have been keeping me company on long trips back and forth across the state. Any other podcasts that I just HAVE to listen to? Crime and/or creepy stories preferred.

Wearing things from my fall pseudo-capsule. I haven't had the time and we haven't had the weather yet to make an official fall capsule a reality, but I'm putting things together and figuring out what works. I'm also figuring out if I even want to continue with seasonal capsules. For a while I seriously considered a year-round, all-seasons capsule, or maybe some hybrid between the two. I haven't made up my mind about what to do about fall yet, but I did at least put away all my shorts on September 1 so that's a step in the right direction. Wearing shorts into fall: yay or nay?

Saying goodbye, or rather good riddance, to the IUD that has given my uterus (and therefore me) hell for the last 5.5 years. I've been saying I need to get it taken out for the last year, I've been trying to make an appointment to do so for the last 3 months, and today is the day! Are my birth control woes TMI? (You don't have to answer that).

Willing my hair to grow. I don't feel like I got what I asked for, at all, the last time I got my hair done, and it has bothered me ever since. My hair just won't grow super long, I know that from years of trying, but it will get to a long-for-me length and I am desperate to get it back there and then never ever cut my hair again. I've never been so diligent about taking vitamins as I have this past month. Got any good tips for long, healthy hair? Or maybe just a bad haircut story?

Planning a completely different fall calendar than I had last year. Last year, fall revolved around a few races I've come to love: Wicked 10k, City of Oaks half marathon, and Richmond half marathon. Wicked is my only race streak (this year will be #5!), it's my favorite race because it's Halloween-themed, and this year it's actually ON Halloween, so I am absolutely running it. I may not run one step in between B2B on October 17th and Halloween, but I will find some way to make it through 6.2 miles on October 31. I'm not big on dressing up for Halloween in general so I've never dressed up for this race, although lots of people do. But, since this year is all about having fun at this race, I even have an awesome costume planned. As for City of Oaks and Richmond, I'll still be attending both to watch some dear friends achieve some big goals, but at this point, I don't plan on running them. So basically I have October 17 circled, highlighted, starred, etc. for Beach2Battleship, and then I have another circle on October 31 for Wicked, but after that, I'm not sure when I'll run again. What's the big item on your fall calendar?

Wondering how different life is going to be a month from now. This week Abby at BackatSquareZero posted a list of activities (some fitness-related, some not) to do with your time while you're recovering from an injury. But when I read it, all I could think was how taking time off to recover also applies to life post-race, and I couldn't wait to have time for some of them (seriously looking forward to getting a coloring book). I'm almost always in training for something, but never like I have been over the last 4 months. My ass has been sufficiently kicked and, while I'm absolutely looking forward to finishing up and crossing that finish line, I'm also ready for the break. How should I spend my free time once Beach2Battleship is over (besides watching old episodes of 16 & Pregnant on Hulu)? 

When You Fail to Plan...

I probably don't have to tell you how the rest of the saying goes. And oh did I find out how true that is this weekend. 

My biggest hesitation about 70.3 has always been the 56-mile bike. I've just never been that comfortable on the bike and therefore it has always been my worst of the 3 disciplines. I've put in a lot of time in the saddle over the last few months, and I've noticed that my biking capability has consequently gotten a lot better, but I'm still not confident about long rides. Before I started training I had only made it past 30 miles a handful of times, and I've since made it up to a personal distance record of 51 miles. Getting to 50+ mile territory (and feeling good doing so) was pretty major, but that was my last long ride. That was 2 weeks ago, and now it's only 4 weeks from race day. Cue freak out.

I've dropped the ball on my last two planned long rides. For scheduling reasons, one of them was supposed to be only 3 days after that 51-miler. I got up, got myself on the trail, but overwhelming guilt about prioritizing training over a time-sensitive project that really needed my attention eventually led to me cutting it 25 miles short. 

And then this weekend happened. All week I knew I had a 50-mile ride with a 3-mile run afterward planned for Saturday. All week I neglected to act like I knew this information. I was all excited because I finally got the info from my chiropractor about a new place to ride; it's about a 30-minute drive in an area I've never been, so I planned to drive out here on Friday night to scope it out, especially since it's on public roads and that scares me. But when Friday evening rolled around...I went to the movies instead. Without eating dinner first, so I did that when I got home at 10pm. Then I stayed up until midnight even though I had a 6am alarm set. Needless to say, things didn't go well for my ride. I chickened out on riding the new route site unseen so I decided to stay local and ride my normal route, which I don't really care for because I have to ride it several times to get in my full distance. And, my wishing for fall bit me in the ass because it was barely 60* and in the shade the whole time and I was FREEZING. After 12.5 miles, only a quarter into my planned 50, I threw in the towel and called Ben to come pick me up.

I threw myself a little pity party at first, I'll admit that, but then I decided to make the most out of this opportunity. Quitting early bought me 3 extra hours of time to work on the non-training parts of training and things I need to take care of as I head into my last big peak week before starting to taper.

I know that I was physically capable of riding more than 12.5 miles on Saturday, but my mind just wasn't having it. Maybe things would have improved if I had just kept going, but the thought of spending another 2.5 hours on my bike was just unbearable at that moment. I couldn't stay mentally down for too long though, because whether I finished that ride or not, I still had a half marathon to run the next day! I couldn't change my botched ride, but I could get ready for my run the next day. Before I went to bed I got in the yoga my body and mind have been craving lately, and I started reading Sage Rountree's Racing Wisely (free if you have Amazon Prime!). I plan to talk about the book more for next Tuesday's first NON-SUMMER EDITION(!!!!!!!!!!!!) of Training for Tuesday, specifically her race plan outline, but so far I've enjoyed her unique approach as both an experienced endurance athlete and yoga teacher. 

Eat well.
Eating the right foods and enough of them has always one of my biggest training struggles. A few weeks ago I bought the most perfect cookbook, co-written by a well-known triathlete and a chef, specifically for triathletes (and there even a section for triathletes who hate to cook! Praise). Of course for the first week I was all gung ho about grocery shopping and trying out he recipes, but after I found s couple I liked I stopped trying other ones and may or may not have eaten the same thing for lunch majority of the last two weeks. But this week I decided to actually put some effort into what I eat. I grabbed some new recipes and some I've been meaning to make, and headed off to the grocery store to stock up on healthy fuel for the week. I even made a meal plan for the first time ages, that way when I get busy this week I won't have to waste any mental energy trying to remember my meals (and, let's be honest, then giving up and getting Chipotle). 

Get enough sleep.
I have done a horrible job at this throughout this entire training cycle. I don't go to bed nearly early enough for how early I get up. I might sleep in once a month, if that. Sleep hasn't been my priority because I just want to cram in as much as I can every day (not just the necessary stuff but fun stuff too). I made sure to get a good night's sleep before my race on Sunday and plan to make it a point to start getting to bed a little earlier in the next few weeks leading up to the race.

Take care of small tasks before they pile up.
One of the things that stresses me out during training is how little time and energy I have to do other things, like, say, clean my house. I'm not going to pretend that even in non-training times I have the world's tidiest house, but during training cycles, it gets really neglected. The problem is that clutter makes me anxious so when I'm already high-stress due to training, I really need a clean, clear environment to be able to focus and relax. We moved back into our apartment just about a month ago but honestly haven't managed to unpack and put everything back in its place yet (being out of town 2 out of the 4 weekends we've been back really hasn't helped). So this weekend I made it a point to clean up a few key areas that needed some attention, like my desk and the kitchen. I also took care of some laundry and tidied up our living room in hopes that this week it will be easier to take care of those spaces now that I've gotten a jumpstart on them.

Look ahead and pace yourself.
This week is my biggest week of training yet, my last push, and it's also going to be a crazy week at school. I know there's no way I'll make it through both if I procrastinate, so I tried to get some things knocked out early to free up as much time as I can this week. It's still going to be a steady push to get through it all but I feel good knowing I've gotten a head start and have planned for the craziness the best I can.

Plan for next time.
I have failed at riding for any longer than 2 hours on my own in Blacksburg. I can ride longer than that by myself when I'm at the beach, because I have a long enough trail, but I don't have that here. I don't know why that makes a difference, but it does. I have 2 long rides left, one of which I'll be home for so I can do it with my dad and tri friends, but that still leaves one. The remaining one is the one I really need to get right, because it will be my longest ride before B2B and is really my last shot at getting in a great long ride. As luck would have it, next weekend there's a "cycling event" (which is apparently a race-but-not-a-race/group ride that you pay for) at that new place I was talking about. I'm all signed up and hope that having other people around will make me more comfortable with my ride. I just hope that doesn't backfire if it's really crowded or something - but at least if it is, I'll get some extra practice with passing people for race day. Making lemonade out of lemons here, people. 

Remind yourself that you've done enough.
This is the hardest one for me but it's the one I so badly want to be good at. I'm struggling to figure out how it adds up that I feel like all I ever do is train for this race, yet I feel so horribly unprepared and like I haven't done nearly enough. I haven't hit every workout every week; I'm not sure if I've hit every workout any week. Sometimes I miss them for a good reason and sometimes not. Was being too cold in 60* weather and not mentally engaged a good reason to quit my bike ride? I don't know. It was enough of a reason at the time but, by the same token, I have put in enough work to be able to make that call. I have done all that I could do - physically, mentally, and emotionally - and that is enough. I haven't done as much as I would have liked to and that sucks. It's frustrating because, like Alyssa told me while we were lamenting our training woes, I needed this training cycle to be my best one, and it just hasn't been. For so many reasons, some in my control and some out of my control, it just hasn't been the best. Not by a long shot. But whether I absolutely nail my training for these last 4 weeks or if they're an utter failure, I've done my best, and my best is going to have to be enough.

If all else fails, try retail therapy.
I need more workout clothes like I need a hole in my head (I grew up with my mom saying that and as I've grown up I've realized how crude it sounds, but I am my mother's daughter...) but sometimes new gear really does the trick. I've been on the fence about getting a new tri kit for this race ever since I signed up...on one hand I want something new and pretty and excited for my OMGBIGGESTRACEEVER but on the other hand, I like the kit I have. I've worn it on countless training rides and runs and in several races and, to top it off, it's super adorable. But lately it's been looking a little worn out since the side panels and piping are white, and it's impossible to get the sweat stains out (trust me, I've tried). I finally decided on a new kit (with a black background so the sweat stains won't be noticeable, hallelujah) and pulled the trigger on it while in a mid-trainer ride boredom sufferfest last week. It will be here tomorrow and I can't wait to start training in it to make sure it's good to go for race day! And of course, once I got the new kit, I needed new shoes to match. Another purchase I've been putting off for a while, mainly because I couldn't decide which of my current styles I wanted to wear for the race. Over the last couple of weeks I've all but decided that Newton Distance will be my race shoes, but my current pair are almost dead so I knew I needed to pony up for some new ones. I love the model I have and would have happily purchased my 3rd pair of them, but Newton has since released a new model and I forked over the extra cash because they come in bright pink and green that will perfectly match my new tri kit. A new pair of matching Lock Laces and I should be good as new. I still don't know if I'm ready for these last 4 weeks of training but at least I'll look trying.

What do you do to get yourself back on track after a bad or botched workout? 

The Words Just Come and I Write Them As Soon As I See 'Em

Can you feel it?

That cool breeze, the sun setting a little earlier each day, taking more and more of the edge off the summer sun? 

I know the advent of fall has everyone all giddy about boots and sweater weather and Sweather Weather, but fall isn't just earth tones and pumpkin-flavored coffee. I've always loved fall, admittedly for all of those reasons, but it's always been about more than that to me. I didn't even realize exactly what "more" was until I ran earlier this week and, for the first time in four months, I felt like I could breathe again. 

I do mean that quite literally since humidity under 50% means I don't feel like I'm trying to breathe underwater anymore, but I mean it figuratively as well. I took a step outside of my apartment and was met with cool air on my arms, which weren't even exposed all the way up past my shoulders for he first time in, again, at least 4 months. And as I started moving it struck me that I could actually, fully breathe air into my lungs again, and I got high on oxygen, on the ability to just breathe again. I felt emotions I haven't felt in so long I had forgotten they ever existed. It was like waking up from a long, bad dream.

And it occurred to me then: I felt alive.

I had a hard summer. By all accounts, it should have been the best summer ever: I lived a mile from the beach, I had a job I really liked, I was back in a place surrounded by friends and family I've so desperately missed. I took the next (big, but necessary and right) step in my endurance sports journey. I went on 3 trips to 3 very different but very amazing places. I celebrated 5 years of marriage to Ben whom I somehow love more now than ever.

It should have been a great summer. It was a great summer in a lot of ways. I had so many experiences I never want to forget, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. There were a lot of them, maybe too many, maybe so many that I had a hard time fitting them all in, so I felt like I was constantly battling my schedule and didn't fully have time to appreciate them all in the moment. 

Half Ironman training was an especially difficult addition to the mix and made me question my life choices on a nearly daily basis. Getting the timing and scheduling right was tough, but so was getting through the workouts. I regularly got up at 4 or 5 in the morning to run, I rode my bike for 2+ hours in 100* weather, I swam until 9 at night. I did what I had to. I went through the motions but I still wasn't sure I could make it through the race I've signed up for. 

And then, just a couple weeks ago, I had a long ride + short run planned with training friends. I planned to ride 50 miles that day, something I ideally would have gotten to sooner in my training cycle but just hadn't been able to make happen yet. I'd never ridden more than 45 miles and was really looking forward to breaking through 50 (since the half Ironman ride is 56 miles long). It was the beginning of September but summer had shown no signs of relenting...until the day of the ride. I don't think the temperature ever got out of the high 70s and, even though it was humid as all get out, at least the clouds and the mist made it feel cooler than it really was. And when we finally finished, with 51 miles of cycling and 3.5 miles under our belts, I looked down to take my obligatory Garmin photos and noticed leaves. Orange, yellow, and brown leaves covering the ground. And then I knew I had done it, and I was going to make it.
This summer robbed me of my identity as a distance runner and triathlete. I had such a hard time, especially with running, that I felt like a fraud. I felt like all of the work I've put in over the last 4.5 years meant nothing, that I'd never get back to being the runner I once was. I lost who I was as a runner. I lost my why. 

But earlier this week, on a day when apparently fall decided to abruptly show up in southwestern Virginia, I finally found it again. That same run I talked about earlier, with its crazy low humidity and not ridiculously hot temperatures (even at 6pm). It was then that I realized that the numbers on my watch were not what mattered. They weren't and aren't what define me as a runner. I didn't start running to be fast or run far, and even though I've had times during my journey when I've been able to do those things, they're not what makes me a runner. It's been so long since I had a run that reminded me why I keep lacing up my Newtons even when I don't want to, I had completely lost touch with my reason for running in the first place.

Of course, my next run was back to normal: sweaty and lacking any epiphanies or runner's highs. But the one...that was enough. Enough to make me remember the why. Enough to make me realize that summer was just a season, that it is just about over, and that a new one is on the horizon. I can look back at my summer and see that, even if have conflicting emotions about how I got through it, I did some pretty amazing things. And now I can start a new chapter, one full of all my favorite weather and smells and clothes, one when I become a half Ironman, and one when I can breathe.

Going Big For My 5th Running Anniversary

I'm one of those obnoxious people who finds meaning in almost any (seemingly random) numbers, but especially dates. Part of the reason I've kept some type of blog/journal/diary for most of my adult life is so that I can look back on any given date and find out what life was like for me a year ago, or two, or three, etc. My husband, not exactly he sentimental type, usually rolls his eyes when I find meaning in dates and numbers, but fortunately I've found camaraderie in my sister-in-law and my blog BFF, who understand that things like Bane and my childhood dog/love of my life sharing a birthday are TOTALLY significant and meaningful. 

My 5th running anniversary isn't until next April, but I've known for a while that I wanted to do something big to celebrate it. Five years really isn't long at all compared to how long I hope my running career will be, but it's an eternity compared to how long I ever thought I'd actually stick with it in my early Couch25k days. Of course I need to run a race to commemorate the occasion, so I've been keeping an eye out for any special ones that might fit the bill. My initial searches came up short and I really hadn't given it much more thought recently. But, just like running found me seemingly out of nowhere, the perfect race hit me like a ton of bricks.

A few hints:

I'll get to check an item off of both my Race Bucket List and my Honorable Mentions List

It's a BIG race.

It will SURely require a lot of hill training.

I'll be running for charity to raise money for an INTERNATIONAL organization.

It will be my 4th MARATHON.

Yes, adept readers, on April 24, 2016 I will board a 4am shuttle that will drive me, in the dark, down the winding Pacific Coast Highway, to the starting line of the Big Sur International Marathon. It's probably not surprising that I got this idea when I was in Big Sur last month. As we drove down Highway 1, my thoughts naturally turned to the Big Sur Marathon, and the gears started turning. I knew that Big Sur is always a week after Boston, and I knew that Boston is in mid-April, which, I reasoned, could very possibly put Big Sur the weekend of my running anniversary, April 23. I frantically started tapping in my iPhone, with its limited cell service in Big Sur, willing the page to load so I could confirm my calculations. When it finally did, and I saw the official date - April 24, 2016 - my fate was basically sealed.

...and then my balloon quickly deflated when I realized I had just missed the window for the registration lottery.

But, if running has taught me anything, it's this: where there's a will, there's a way. My chances of getting into the race via conventional means may have been gone, but all was not lost. Several charities partner with the marathon and, although many of those spots had already been filled and the light kept getting dimmer and dimmer, eventually it reignited when I reached out to a few organizations to inquire about running for them - and got the word that yes, they had spots, and yes, they'd be happy for me to join the team. 

And that's how, while eating continental breakfast in the dining room of a Holiday In Express in Woodland Hills, two days after the inception of this plan, I became a participant in the 2016 Big Sur International Marathon. 

My race count is somewhere in the 50s now, and I've run 3 previous marathons, but this is still WAY outside of the realm of anything I've ever done. I've never traveled so far for a race. I've never even had to take a plane to a race, let alone fly across the country and through three time zones. I've never run a marathon that was anything other than pancake flat, and this is one of the hilliest, most challenging ones out there. I've never fundraised before and I've made a commitment to raise a fairly large sum. To say I'm already nervous is an understatement.

So I have to leave the east coast, but that's because we just don't have any races that compare. The race course is entirely on Highway 1 and after driving through Big Sur, I had an overwhelming feeling that no less spectacular views would do for my 5th running anniversary race. I've wanted to run the Big Sur Marathon for a while now, but after being there I felt liked I needed to run it. 

And I have to raise quite a bit of money, but I've been saying I'd run for charity for a while now without actually acting on it. By the time I got the idea to run Big Sur, which has a limited number of entries that are available via lottery, this was my best shot (and very likely my only shot) of getting into the race. I had always hoped to make my charity run for an organization I deeply believed in (ideally I'd run for a mental health/depression advocacy group, like my first 5k), but none of the charities selected by Big Sur 2016 fell into that category. Of the 15 or so charities that are partnering with Big Sur in 2016, a few piqued my interest more than others but most of my top choice organizations had already filled their spots. I emailed a few to ask if they had any spots left, with a heavy feeling in my heart, wondering if I was doing the right thing or if I was taking advantage by nabbing a spot from a charity I knew nothing about. But when Edouard, president of Children of Peru sent me an enthusiastic, personalized reply that they still had spots and would be happy for me to join them, I decided to go for it. In my head, my choice to run for charity involved me carefully choosing a charity for a cause I deeply believed in, but like many things in my running career, things didn't go like I had planned them. Instead of me choosing a charity, this charity chose me. I don't know why the Universe presented me with the opportunity to run for Children of Peru, but I can't wait to find out. The bottom line is that although each charity has a different focus, they all have one goal: to help people. I'm honored to have to privilege to celebrate the sport that's changed my life by using it to help change someone else's life. 

As for the race itself...I don't live anywhere with terrain quite like Big Sur, but I do live somewhere hilly. More often that not I let that get me down, and last year I even wimped out on hill training as much as possible since I was training for a flat marathon. This year, I'm cautiously optimistic about training through the winter, on hills, for a challenging race. I do prefer winter training to summer training, no doubt, but the freezing temperatures inevitably get me down eventually. I hope that dreaming of the California coast will be enough to get me through those numb runs. I am quite confident that it won't be a PR and may very well end up being my worst marathon time ever, but regardless of my time I don't think it will be possible to leave Big Sur feeling disappointed.

I've officially committed to a fundraising goal of $1000 but I've made a personal goal of raising $1829 - one dollar for every day I will have been a runner on race day - which will go toward meeting the medical and educational needs of underprivileged children in Peru. If you would like to support me, you can do so by visiting my fundraising page or my Big Sur Marathon 2016 page, located at the top of this site, at any time between now and April. In the meantime, I'll be using this space to periodically share some of Children of Peru's projects, so you'll have lots of opportunities in the coming months to be reminded (and maybe influenced, if I'm being honest) about how you can give a donation. Your financial support would be much appreciated, but as always, I'm so grateful for the never-ending emotional support you all have shown me over the last year and a half that I've been writing here!

Go big or go home, right?

11 Things I Learned From My 11th Triathlon

On Saturday I raced in the Patriots International Triathlon in Williamsburg. While I'm not exactly a seasoned pro, I am now in my 3rd season of triathlon. This was my 11th tri ever, my 4th at this distance, and my 3rd this season - you'd think I'd have this thing more or less figured out by now. But race day more often than not ends up being a learning experience, and I realized that I learned more at this one than I ever have.

1. I should put my timing chip on immediately.
So race mornings are a little crazy. When you arrive at the race site you have to pick up your bib, your race chip that goes onto an anklet that you wear, and you have to get your number Sharpied on your arms and legs, all while carrying your bag o' stuff and dragging your bike around. Let's also not forget the fact that this all occurs at 6am. So, in that chaos, somewhere in between picking up my chip and getting body marked (literally like 15 feet apart), I dropped my chip. At least I assume I did because I never saw it again. I combed through the grass where I walked at least 20 times and it was nowhere to be found. No one turned it in, either, so apparently it just vanished. I was eventually able to get a replacement so everything was fine, but I'm still sort of expecting a charge for it to show up on my credit card. From now on I'll slide it onto the anklet and put it on my ankle as soon as I get it.

2. I suck at sighting. 
The swim conditions were much rougher than anticipated and despite actually feeling like I swam strong and steady, I was all over the place. I suck at swimming in a straight line even in calm conditions so add in some current and I was zig zagging everywhere. I'm actually glad my Garmin can't accurately measure distance in the water because I don't even want to know how far I swam off course. I definitely could have scoped out the course better when I was standing on the beach, especially after the last turn to head back to the beach. I had no idea where I was going those last couple hundred yards because I really couldn't tell where I was supposed to end up. I've always known this is a weakness of mine but it became especially apparent at this race.

3. Training pays off.
I know, I know...who would have thought? This was my 3rd tri of the year and in all 3, the bike leg whas been my strongest. This is absolutely amazing to me because before this year, the bike leg was always my worst. Not coincidentally, before this year I trained 1-2 days a week on the bike, and this year I consistently train on the bike 3 times a week with a long ride every weekend 2.5-3 hours long (I also bike commute a total of 25-30 miles a week). I still don't feel like I cycle a substantial6 amount, but it's substantially more than I've ever ridden before and I've absolutely seen that reflected in my races.

4. People are rude.
I should preface this by saying that triathlon is an extremely welcoming sport full of friendly people. I should also tell you that when you pass someone on the bike, you should yell out, "On your left!". And usually I do, except when, like in the race on Saturday, the road is plenty wide and there is no one else around and I can pass without disturbing anyone. So I passed a lady, and I didn't say anything, and she got snippy with me. Maybe I wasn't exactly in the right, I can own up to that, but I wasn't in the wrong either. There must have been 20-30 people who passed me and literally ONE person alerted me of their existence before doing so. I imagine that lady must have had a long day giving people shit for passing her without saying anything.

5. Bricks are key. 
I do 2 bricks a week, one with a medium distance bike + medium distance run, and one with a long distance bike + short distance run. I've had so much practice with them over the last few months that I basically never even get jello legs anymore, and about half the time my legs feel better when I've just biked than when I haven't. I felt really good on the run on Saturday and felt confident that I could have kept going another 7 if I had had to.

6. Slow and steady wins the race.
I practiced running slower than I wanted to and, what do you know, I had the best run I've had in a while. It wasn't a fast time for a 10k by any means but it felt easy and was well under my goal pace for Beach2Battleship. 

7. Aid stations exist for a reason. 
I never used to stop at aid stations in races. I won't even lie: I thought I was too good for that. I told myself I didn't need or want to eat or drink anything while I was running, and I definitely didn't want my pace to drop at all by walking through water stops. Earlier this year I finally came to my senses and realized that that was stupid, that I somehow miraculously made it through distance events with that attitude but that my luck was running out. The Shamrock Marathon in March was the first time I ever made it a point to stop at the aid stations, and I had a great race that day. So now the volunteers at aid stations are my new best friends. You better believe I got water at every single one yesterday and my happy, hydrated body thanked me for it.

8. When one must, one can.
I ordered Chinese for dinner a few days before the race, and this was my fortune. For some reason, it stuck with me, and I found myself thinking about it a lot during the race. I almost always fall apart on the run in a tri - it's the end, I'm tired, and I just want to be done. This is my biggest fear about Beach2Battleship, that even if I do make it through a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike, I'll still have to run a half marathon and my mind, not my body, will be like, "Awwww hell no." So practicing staying focused and engaged was huge for me in this race and I felt like I was mentally present the whole time. Giving up wasn't an option I entertained for even a second. There was only one way to make the finish line closer and that was to keep moving forward. I kept going because I had no other choice.

9. It's not over until it's over.
A few days before the race I looked at my time from last year, and calculated that to do better this year, my best shot would come from improving on the swim. During the swim I felt strong and confident and even though it felt like it was taking forever, I kept the faith that I was steadily getting to the end and that my effort would be worth it when I had beat last year's time. But when I finally made it out of the choppy water and could see my Garmin for the first time, I was instantly deflated. I was 5 minutes slower than I was expecting. At that point I let go of any hope of PRing and just hoped I could at least maintain last year's results on the bike and run. I was determined to do my best, but I was still shocked when I got on the bike and was averaging way faster than I'm used to, even when I got to the turnaround and the tailwind became a headwind. And my run, while not super fast, was calm and comfortable and ended up being my best multisport 10k by about 15 seconds. In the end, I finished the race 7 minutes under the 3-hour goal I've been chasing for 2 years, and 10 minutes under my PR time. Like I's not over until it's over.

10. Anyone who can complete a half marathon could complete a triathlon.
Technically I kind of figured this out the day after the race when I ran 11 miles. The race took just under 3 hours and the run took just under 2 hours but the former was infinitely easier. In a sprint or olympic distance triathlon, you never have to do any one activity for more than an hour and a half, and you never have to run more than 10k. So even though, time-wise, it might take longer to do a tri than a just-running race, it feels like less and is way easier.

11. It takes a village. 
I'm not a member of a triathlon club or anything, and I don't even know more than handful of people who even care about this sport, but man am I glad to have the ones I do. My dad raced on Saturday and so did another couple and a guy we are friends with. We all started and finished at different times, but the race itself isn't when I benefit from having these people. It's the 3-hour training rides that I'd never make it through on my own. It's having someone to stand on the beach with while waiting for my wave, talking out our nerves. It's being cheered on at the finish by those who have finished before me, and then heading straight from the finishers chute back to the fence to watch for those who are still out on the course. I don't really mind when I have to train and race alone, but it's better together.

24(ish) Hours on the Pacific Coast Highway

There are all kinds of guides on the Internet about what to do and see when traveling on California's Pacific Coast Highway, but most (all?) of them suggest taking 2-3 days, stopping to eat or stay in various towns along the way. When Ben and I planned our California trip, doing this drive and spending time in Big Sur were at the top of the priority list, but because we were at the mercy of Major League Baseball's schedule and also had to fit in 4 baseball games in 2 parts of the state in an 8-day span, the PCH was unfortunately not the only thing vying for a spot at the top of the list. We had just about 24 hours, from 10am one morning to 10am the next morning, to travel 200 of Highway 1's most scenic miles.

Hour 1: Half Moon Bay | After the game in SF on Thursday night, we wanted to get a head start on our journey south so we drove out to Half Moon Bay to stay the night (and by "we" I mean Ben drove while I was passed out for a half hour in the passenger seat). We stayed the night at Half Moon Bay Lodge and the next morning we headed about 15 minutes north first, to check out Mavericks Surf Shop and pick up a t-shirt for a surfer family friend of ours. It wasn't a stop we would have made without reason, especially since it was technically in the wrong direction, but I'm glad we went! The surf shop was exactly what I thought a California surf shop would be like, and the area where it was located was full of quaint little shops and restaurants. And sail boats. Lots and lots of sailboats at the marina!

After that short stop we finally got on the road and headed in the right direction. There were so many opportunities to pull off the road and, in our haste, we stopped at a beach less than 30 minutes into our trip. Our first true look at the Pacific Ocean! I was really excited about a quick frolick in the water (although I remembered later that I actually have been in the Pacific before since I've been to Hawaii - duh). 

Hours 2-3: There's a lot of driving involved on this trip. If you're the passenger, I suggest spending the majority of it with your head out the window and a camera attached to your face.

Hour 4: Carmel-by-the-Sea | If you're coming from somewhere north like San Francisco, it takes a bit of driving on Highway 1 to get to anywhere really worth stopping. Our morning lasted a little longer than I originally planned, but I had heard so many things about Monterey/Carmel that I wanted to stop just for a bit. We decided to head to Carnel-by-the-Sea to grab a coffee. We ended up at Carmel Coffee and Cocoa Bar in Carmel Plaza for an iced mocha/coffee cake (me) and Americano/apple strudel (him). We sat at a little table outside the cafe and there was a man sitting next to us, holding his sunglasses-wearing dog. I mean, what more could you want? In case that's not enough, we also saw the largest number of luxury cars (Porrsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis) we've ever seen at one time, thanks to the Concours d'Elegance happening that weekend. Carmel is big money and it was fun to check out how the other side lives.

Hour 5: Bixby Creek Bridge! | Be still my heart. There are so many vista points to stop along Highway 1, you could spend an entire day driving the whole thing if you stopped at every one (and I wouldn't blame you if you did). The one, must-stop for us was the Bixby Creek Bridge, about a 20-minute drive from Carmel. The pullout to the right was actually full but there's a road you can turn onto directly across the street from the pullout, so we did that. Best thing ever! The view of the bridge was way better from there (and way less crowded), plus you could actually see down into the canyon below. We did end up going to the other side to snap pictures too, but I liked the "wrong" side better.
I died and went to bridge heaven.
Hour 6: Nepenthe | Lets be real: coffee cake is great and all, but it's not lunch. Restaurants in Bug Sur are sparse; we passed Big Sur Station about 15 minutes past the bridge, which is a little roadside stop with food, gas, lodging, etc., but we decided to keep driving another 15 minutes to the highly-recommended Nepenthe. At that point we were close to 30 minutes off my schedule for the day (we had to be somewhere at 6:00pm), and when we were told the wait would be 40 minutes, we almost left. But in a rare go-with-the-flow moment I decided that I would gladly sacrifice my hair being perfectly curled for our photo shoot later on in favor of eating lunch (and enjoying a $20 glass of California wine) with that handsome husband of mine overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Our wait ended up being much shorter than anticipated and I still had enough time to get ready - for once, throwing caution to the wind actually turned out to be a win-win.

Hours 7-9: Our only set-in-stone item on our Big Sur agenda was renewing our wedding vows. We celebrated 5 years of marriage in July and, while our wedding was beautiful and wonderful and amazing, we've both grown individually and together so much over the last half-decade that we wanted to take some time on our anniversary trip to say the things we didn't get to say on our wedding day. We were SO fortunate that Hannah of Hannah Kate Photography was available to capture these special memories! Since she's local and had photographed another couple's 5-year renewal in Big Sur the year prior, she knew just the setting: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. One of the things I wanted to do most in Big Sur was get lost in the redwoods, and that's exactly what we did. Our special reason for being there made our visit all the more magical, but even if you have nothing in particular to celebrate - other than being in freakin' BIG SUR - the park is a wonderful place to explore. We started in the forest side amongst the redwoods, then moved over to the beach side via the tunnel that runs under Highway 1. There's a path off to the right for a view of McWay Falls - the perfect place to catch California's "Golden Hour" and a sunset like you've never seen before.

Hours 10-22: As with restaurants, there aren't a ton of hotel accommodations in Big Sur. We stayed at the Lucia Lodge, just a few miles south of Big Sur proper, which provided the most picture-perfect backdrop for the end of our dreamy day. (Fun fact: I booked this place in April, and at the time we got on the plane to San Francisco, it remained the only lodging we had booked. Our travel style has gotten pretty go-with-the-flow over the years.) We chose Lucia Lodge based solely on a website I had looked at that listed Big Sur's few hotel options based on descriptions of "If you're looking for _____, stay at ______." Lucia Lodge was the one listed under, "If you're looking for a view..." and I thought, "Done. Sign me up." Lucia Lodge isn't a fancy resort and there are no bells and whistles, just 10 cottages nestled atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific. The views get increasingly better as the numbers ascend; #7 was the best available at the time we booked. We slept perfectly and awoke to the sights and sounds of waves crashing against the cliffs. I got up at sunrise and spent an hour or so in silence, admiring the scenery with my morning coffee.

Hour 23: When we left Lucia we headed south again, but not too far before stopping at Sand Dollar Beach. We didn't find any sand dollars, but we did find a quintessential coastal California beach. There's down a long dirt path toward the beach, then when the earth seems to stop and give way to the beach, there's a long set of wooden stairs down to the beach. We saw a parade of surfers heading out, dogs playing, the craziest seaweed we've ever seen, and even a starfish washed up on the beach.
After a walk on the beach, we hopped back in the car and made another stop in a couple of miles at Willow Creek, which is touted as being a popular spot for finding jade. We searched for about 30 minutes and while we're still unsure if any of the rocks we pocketed are jade or not, it was a fun hunt either way.

Hour 24: Another 25 winding miles or so after Willow Creek we hit Elephant Seal Beach. In the 1990s, a colony of elephant seals mysteriously moved into this cove and have called it home ever since. They now total up to 8000 and spend their days playing in the shallow waters and lounging on the beach. There were so many it was honestly hard to notice what was part of the natural landscape, and what was seal.

Not long after that, Highway 1 shifted away from the coast, and we soon hit the 101 to head toward Los Angeles. Here's the thing: we could have spent eternity in Big Sur and it still wouldn't have been enough time. I'm sure there are some must-dos on some list somewhere that we missed, but I wouldn't have spent our 24 hours any other way.

It was real, Highway 1. See you soon.