Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yelp Elite Event @ Peet's Coffee

It's been a few months since I've been able to attend a Yelp Elite Party, due to things like working too much, training for an Ironman, and oh yeah, planning a wedding.  But last Wednesday I remedied that situation at Yelp's Elite Event at Peet's Coffee in Wheaton.  Plus we were able to take +1's so Matt was able to pop his Yelp Party cherry!

About a year ago, Caribou Coffee sold off its Chicago area market to Peet's Coffee.  Peet's has been opening some new stores in the city and now they've opened one in Wheaton.  

Chicago got hit with a terrible cold snap (thanks bombogenesis!) so I was so glad to finally get inside the cozy coffeehouse.  I parked in a parking garage and walked only about 5 minutes to get inside with a winter coat, a hat, and gloves, but I was still freezing.  I really have no idea how I will survive winter because my hands are already freezing 85% of the time.  I already planning my beach vacation for February.

The Peet's staff was walking around with all sorts of samples including drinks and food.  In no particular order, I tried a sea salt caramel mocha, dark roast coffee, rice crispie treat, banana walnut bread, and cookies.  I'm sure I'm leaving things about but they pumped me full of so many sweet treats my memory was altered.  Plus we could try a full-size drink of anything on the menu.  Since I needed food before I got the caffeine-shakes too terribly (I am fairly sensitive to caffeine and a strong cup of coffee in the morning gives me the shakes!), I picked up a cheese and fruit plate to snack on.  Matt picked up a turkey sandwich and we shared bites.  The cheese platter was really good and included brie, Parmesan, pepper jack, almonds, crackers, and apples.  

I also tried a full-size of the Jasmine Lime tea cooler. Matt was not a fan due to the sourness of the lime but I like that puckering sensation.  

The staff had a few demonstrations set up including letting people behind the counter to watch how drinks are crafted and this demonstration below with different methods for brewing coffee. 

It was very interesting to compare and contrast the different methods for brewing coffee.  We were served French press coffee, Chem-x coffee, vacuum brewed coffee, and a cup of Keurig coffee.  Plus the barista explained the different beans to us.  I found all this very fascinating.  The vacuum contraption for brewing coffee was awesome.  I will always love my French press though! 

At a Yelp event, they never let you leave empty-handed so we loaded up on some fresh coffee.  Plus the staff was passing out baked goods so I grabbed a ginger cookie for the road.  Matt went with the oatmeal cookie.  

As we were headed out, we were given gift boxes with a Peet's coffee travel mug, a bag of coffee beans, and a few Keurig K-cups.  Our coffee supply should last us a while now!

In my caffeine-fueled state, I managed to knock out quite a few wedding tasks.  Seriously I edited my programs, called a ton of people who "forgot" to return RSVPs, did one load of laundry, and cleaned part of my house.  Friday was a little rough due to little sleep the night before but I just fixed that with more coffee. 

Thanks Yelp and the new Chicago Burbs community manager, Jacqueline B., for another great event!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chicago Marathon Spectating Report

A few Sundays ago, I joined Amy and a few of her friends to cheer on runners at the Chicago Marathon.  I love watching races and cheering on runners because it motivates me!

I stayed at Amy's on Saturday night so we could carpool into the city on Sunday morning.  And so I could sleep in a little bit plus I always enjoy hanging out with Amy.  Since Saturday was the Ironman World Championship, I spent most of the day watching the live feed in Kona.  It was a spectacular race and watching Rinny run down the leader after a 14-minute deficit off the bike was nothing short of amazing.

While at Amy's we munched on chips and salsa and got some inspiration from "Spirit of the Marathon".  If you've never watched that movie (it's on Netflix), you should, especially if you want to do a marathon.

Early Sunday morning we headed towards Chicago with Dunkin' Donuts in hand.  We were some of the first people down by mile 18 so we had prime choice of seats.  Amy was very prepared with chairs, blankets, snacks, and a cooler.  We were cheering for the Autism Speaks foundation and they provided us with signs, markers, shirts, and noisemakers! I brought my cowbell along too!

We didn't have to wait to long for the wheelchair racers to go flying by! They were impressively fast!  It was also interesting to watch them draft off each other.  In triathlon races on the bike you can get penalized for drafting--following the bike in front of you too closely. So I would venture to guess that these racers can get a lot of benefit from following behind another racer.

It wasn't long after that when the next motorcade came speeding along. These cameras were focused on the leading men of the race.  

These guys can run an entire marathon at a pace faster than I can run one mile.  

Next up was the amazingly fast women. 

The elite people are always amazing and inspiring of course.  But do you want to know what else inspires me?  The regular old people who don't get paid to run or have sponsorships.  The ones that work 40+ hour weeks and have families and other commitments and still find time to train for a marathon! The ones who are gunning for big PRs and those just trying to finish. When people tell me things like, "I could never do a marathon," I like to remind them that's it is not that they "couldn't", it's that they don't want to! It just takes a some determination and a lot of training!

I got quite a few smiles from my sign!  

And a few comments too!  One guy even came up next to me and told me he'd love to call me but it wouldn't work out because he is a Vikings fan.

But people loved my Packer's hat too so I can't complain! Go Pack Go!  The hat must have been good luck too because they pulled out a win that afternoon!

The Chicago Marathon is one of  a kind!  After watching thousands of runners pass me by, I will admit I kind of have the bug to sign up for another one! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ironman Wisconsin 2014 Run

In case you missed them:  Bike Recap,  Swim Recap

I was surprised that when I decided to run after the sunscreen station that I could actually run.  Maybe those brick workouts really did help?

As I ran under the Run Out arch I clicked my watch over to the run and was trying to switch it to the screen with heart rate.  One volunteer then shouted, "You've got plenty of time, don't even worry about your watch!" While I wasn't really worried about my pace it was a little bit of a revelation to me that I had a ton of time to finish.

I had set up my watch for intervals of 5:00 running/:30 walking and that was my tentative plan for the run.  It was set up to beep at those intervals but I had turned the vibration feature off to conserve some of the battery in case I was out there for a long time. Good plan, poor setup because when the crowds were cheering I could not hear my watch at all.  

In the first mile, you run around the capitol and onto state street. By the time I got out onto the run course, the first pro finisher was only about 15 minutes away from the finish line so the crowds were already gathered near the finish.  It was loud and awesome.  The bibs had our names on them so spectators would often yell "Go Alyssa!" which to me, makes the cheering even more awesome.

The first mile takes you around the capitol building and onto State Street. The music was a thumpin' here! As I was running by I heard Amy yell out! Then a couple hundred feet later, my cousin Kristin popped out and started running with me! She told me I was way ahead of the schedule I had sent out to everyone. This is what I send to everyone

Swim: 7:00 - 8:30 am                                  Actual 7-8:17
Transition 1 : 8:30 - 8:45 am                      Actual 8:17-8:25
Bike: 8:45 am - (3:20 - 4:05 pm)                Actual 8:25-3:02                 
Transition 2: again 15 minutes                   Actual 3:02-3:07
Start Running: 3:35 - 4:20 pm                    Actual 3:07
At the turn around on the run course:  6:00 - 7:00 pm 
Finish: 8:30 - 10+++++++ pm (before midnight my butt better be across that finish line)

When my first mile ticked off at 9:40, I realized I was going way way too fast.  In no way was I going to be able to run the marathon that fast so I slowed down.  Every time I reached an aid station I would slow down and walk as well.  

One the way out, you run through Camp Randall (the Badger's stadium), the turf feels really good on the feet (and felt even better on the second lap).  A photographer was snapping pictures on the field and it made me wish I had written "Go HAWKS!" on the backside of my bib. 

The course continues out towards the campus area.  For the majority of this part I was running and walking only at the aid stations and hills. Around mile 4, I saw Rachel and her husband cheering!  She asked me how I was feeling and I responded, "Okay." I'd say that's pretty good for just biking 112 miles!  I got to see them two more times as the course passed by them again.  It was so nice to have her cheering out there because those miles were some of the lonelier miles!  

Around miles 5 and 6, I once again ended up on State St. -- this time a little further out from the capitol -- this area is the bar area and  the streets were packed again.  It is always great when people are cheering for you and telling you that you look great.  Kristin and Molly were here again and Kristin ran alongside me while Molly snapped some photos.

Kristin told me that Matt and my mom and dad were cheering around mile 12 and that I would see them there.  That gave me something to look forward to and I kept ticking off the miles.  

Around mile 11 as I ran back towards the capitol and the start of lap 2 I hit a bit of a low spot.  I realized that I had to run that whole loop again and I was getting tired.  The novelty of the run course had worn off. I knew the hills would be coming.  Plus it doesn't help that the turn for 2 is so, so close to the finish line. I was walking a bit more during this portion and right before mile 12 I saw my cheer squad again.  

Matt walked with me for a bit and tried to show me the time on his watch.  I stared blankly at his watch because my mind was tired and I could not read the clock.  He told me that it was so early and that I was going to finish. I conjured up some more energy and started running again.  

State Street was just as awesome going through again and that pumped me up.  Going close to the finish line wasn't too terrible and I made the turn for the 2nd lap.  Right after the turn is the run special needs area.  My back was tight and cramping so I stopped to get my packet of Biofreeze to loosen it up.  While I stopped, the volunteers offered me a chair to sit in and I turned them down by saying, "If I sit now, I might not get back up!"  

Before the race, I read a lot about the mental aspects of racing an Ironman and one of the things that stuck with me is that the race will have high points and low points--be prepared for them.  Miles 11-13 were one of those low points for me.  But soon I was feeling a little better and the second lap didn't seem to bad.  

My dad even ran with me for a little bit. :)

My pace slowed down on the second lap but I was still mostly running (that looked more like a shuffle) and walking anything that looked remotely like a hill and all the aid stations. I was only able to eat one Gu on the run and the idea of eating more sounded terrible so instead I drank Perform and cola and ate orange slices.  When the chicken broth came out, I took a cup of that wherever available.  The salty goodness was like liquid gold.  It was warm and even though I wasn't cold (I still took sponges and cups of ice at a lot of aid stations), the warmness made it go down so easily. 

The second lap was more of the same. I did see a lady running without shoes on and she was carrying her Vibrams-like shoes in her hand.  Amazingly, I did see her finish later in the night too! My feet were killing me.  The good news is that they hurt so bad I didn't even know my legs hurt.  The longest training run I completed was 16 miles and that hadn't gone well at all so I was thrilled when I passed 16 miles and was still moving along. 

I passed the 20 mile marker and it was still light outside.  I thought to myself that maybe I would be able to finish before it was dark.  That turned out not to be true but it kept me running for a bit. I remember a wave of relief when I started heading back toward the capitol again.  Only a little bit longer I thought. I was both passing and being passed by people and a few times we would speak a few words to each other.  Around mile 24 I picked up a glow necklace at an aid station.  The sun was setting quickly. 

Getting back to State Street and the loud music was a huge boost.  I knew the finish line was close. I walked one final time on the hill near the Capitol Building and then I started running towards the finish line. The crowds were so amazing.  It seemed everyone was cheering for me.  I made sure to space myself out from the other finishers so I could have my own moment of glory across the finish line.  

I took my time high-fiving a whole bunch of spectators. 

Matt tried to snap a pic of me but I guess I was moving too fast!  I crossed the finish line and I heard Mike Reilly say "Alyssa Neiers, you are an Ironman!" I had the world's largest grin on my face as proven by my finisher's pictures.  

I was immediately helped by two finisher's line catchers and as they started walking with me I was just overcome with emotion.  I started to hyperventilate a bit which caused me to start coughing.  The volunteer asked if this was my first Ironman.  And when I nodded she just said, "I understand, it can be emotional." And it was. I was so amazed by what I had just done. 

The volunteers walked me over to get my timing chip taken off, then to get my medal, finisher's shirt and hat.  Next they got me chocolate milk, water, and tried to get me a space blanket, but they had just run out. Instead I told them I was fine and got in line for my finisher's picture. 

I was a little bit in disbelief as I wandered over by the athlete food tent. My family was standing nearby so I talked to them for and my mom kept asking me if I was okay and if I could walk.  I thought I would be so exhausted I wouldn't want to walk another step, but I was surprisingly feeling okay.  My mom later told me that she thought was my cough was so pathetic at this point.  Every time I coughed it was really painful and yet the cough was so small.  My lungs were all seized up from the long extended effort. 

I hit up the athlete food tent for some crappy pizza, a sub, and some orange slices.  And I finally found a space blanket.  I didn't need it right away but it definitely came in handy later when I started to cool down.  

I waited for Kelly while eating some of my food and resting on some steps.  Getting back up was hard! I was so excited when Kelly came down the chute! I tried to take a video but I had Ironman brain and forgot to press record.  Duh.  

After watching Kelly, I hugged my parent's and we all took off for our respective accommodations.  Ironically, I made it through the Ironman without any tears but I cried in the shower because holy chaffing! Owwwwwwwww! I had some big spots.  Matt headed off to bed because he has limited vacation and had to work the next day.  I was all pumped up on adrenaline still and headed back to the finish line to cheer in the final finishers.  

If you want to be inspired, the best place to go is an Ironman finish line close to midnight.  The energy was amazing. Out of this world amazing! I cheered my heart out as people came in closer and closer to midnight. I even shed a few more tears as the final finishers crossed that line.  These people pushed themselves to the limit to make it to that finish line. 

I had a wonderful, wonderful race experience and it is still hard to believe how well the race went for me.  My mantra for the stay was "In the box" and I think I did a good job staying on my race plan.  Even looking at my run splits, I did a good job of continuing to "run" late in the race and only had one mile over a 13 min/mile pace. 

Avg Pace

It seems like almost a different person that wrote this post about all of my doubts leading up to the race.  When I forget again will someone remind me that I can do hard things.  

Many years ago I pitched the idea of a triathlon to Matt. He thought I was talking about doing a full Ironman and told me that was crazy.  That planted the seed in my head that some day I would do a full Ironman.  I finally realized that dream.  

Ironman Wisconsin
September 7, 2014
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
Madison, WI

Swim: 1:17:16
T1: 7:52
Bike: 6:37:15
T2: 5:05
Run: 5:08:25

Thank you to everyone who cheered me on--both online and in person.  My spectators were absolutely wonderful and seeing them always boosted my spirits.  
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