Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pigman Training Week 18

In case you wanted to see what half Ironman taper looks like.

I got a new tri suit and this is the only picture I took all week
Monday, August 12 - Rest
Tuesday, August 13 - 29.38 mile bike with Kelly
     Time: 6:00 pm, Duration: 2:03, Speed: 14.3 mph, Loc: Paul Douglas FP, Felt: good
Wednesday, August 14 - Rest
Thursday, August 15 - 20 mile bike + 4.24 mile run + 2250 yd swim
    Bike Time: 5:55 pm, Duration: 1:12, Speed: 16.7 mph, Loc: Palatine Trail, Felt: great!
     Run Time: 7:26 pm, Duration : 40:56, Pace: 9:40 min/min, Loc: neighborhood, Felt: not too bad for a brick workout
     Swim: Time: 8:45 pm, Duration: 45:00, (200 sw, kick, pull, 3 x [75 kick, 25 sw], ladder-hard effort [100, 200, 300, 200, 100], 250 w/paddles, 200 warm down) Felt: surprisingly smooth
Friday, August 16 - 1750 yd swim
     Time: 5:30 pm, Duration: 35:00, (200 sw, kick, pull, swim, 3x100 drills, 3x100 on 1:35, 250 w/ paddles, 100 warm down), Felt: great!
Saturday, August 17 - 4.23 mile bike + 1.82 mile run
     Bike Time: 8:45 am, Duration: ~15:00 easy warm up, Felt: loose and ready to go 
     Run Time: 9:30 am, Duration: ~15:00 easy warm up, Felt: easy peasy
Sunday, August 18 Pigman Half Ironman!!

Totals - 7 sessions + 1 big race, 43.94 miles, 5.8 hours

  • 2 swims, 4000 yds, about 1.3 hours
  • 3 bikes, 53.61 miles, 3.5 hours
  • 2 runs, 6.06 miles, .9 hours


  • I got in one last ride with Kelly before my big race! I traded her a few ears of sweet corn for Powerbar and other goodies.
  • I took an extra rest day on Wednesday because I felt like my body needed it.  At this stage, rest trumps more miles.
  • Typical taper feelings were definitely hanging around: feeling like I gained 5 pounds, bloated, antsy, and nervous
  • My bike made a visit to the bike store to get the gears adjusted for the race.  They've been whining a bit but now they sound great.  The tech also re-wrapped my handle bar tape that was starting to gap which was a nice perk. 

Pigman Half Ironman Race Report

Well it's been a few days since the race and I've had some time to digest the whole race experience.  So many words come to mind when I think about how to describe this race, but here are just two -- hard, rewarding. I could probably just quit there but I'm long winded, so I won't.  This recap is incredibly long but I dislike splitting one race into multiple parts so it's all here with plenty of details because I like that stuff.

August 18, 2013, 7:30 am
Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

I have a history of preparing very poorly for races--going to a bachelorette party the night before, staying up till 3 a.m. while consuming plenty of Busch Light, and the general going to bars and staying out late--so why change my bad prep this time around?  I had a lot to do on the day before the race. Woke up bright and early to wash and hang up a few loads of laundry, make peach crisp, ride my bike for 15 minutes while said crisp was baking, run for 15 minutes, visit the bank, and pack my bag for the rest of the weekend. All before 10:15 am so I could drive to Matt's apartment in Cedar Rapids.  Much more productive than my normal Saturday mornings!

I convinced Matt to take me out for my favorite pre-race meal of Jimmy John's.  Complete with a pickle!

From there, we headed to packet pick-up for the race.  I was able to get in and out of there in less than 10 minutes with my race numbers, shirt, and lots of freebie samples like chapstick, bio-freeze, and even Aquaphor.  Next up was Coralville to visit Matt's mom who recently graduated from nursing school.  Since we weren't able to attend her party later that evening, we wanted to stop by and celebrate eat some of the smoked pork early.  It was delicious! Does this day seem full enough yet? Because it's not even over.

Back on the road again and headed north to Cedar Falls.  Matt managed to get us invited to the wedding of a couple he had only met once previously at the housewarming party of his coworker.  They must have really hit it off because the couple insisted Matt attend their wedding.  That means that I was going to a wedding where I had never met the bride or groom before. Strange feeling going through the receiving line and introducing yourself before you say congratulations. The ceremony was beautiful as was the reception and I wore heels, danced, had two glasses of wine and a beer, and ate strange food for dinner.  We had a great time, but we ended up staying much to late and didn't start the hour drive back to Cedar Rapids until 10 o'clock. Ergh!  Once we got back, I quickly laid out my stuff for the morning and headed to bed.

In the morning, I ate some peanut butter and banana toast before loading up the bikes and heading out to Pleasant Creek State Park.  We had no problems getting to the park and there was plenty of parking.  Race number mark-up and getting my chip was easy and quick and I found my bike rack and set-up.  I did have to wait at least 15 minutes in line for the porta potty which was frustrating because it was almost closing time for transition by the time I was out.  After grabbing a chewy bar for another snack before the race, I met Matt for the walk down to the beach.  The Olympic distance athletes were starting at 7:30 am and I was estimated to start at 8:02 am.  So after the pre-race meeting at 7:15 am I started the process of putting my wetsuit on.  That is seriously a warm up in itself.  Athletes were still allowed in the lake in a swim area away from the swim course, so I took advantage of that to adjust to the water temp and swim a few hundred yards.

From the Pigman Facebook page
My mom showed up a few minutes before I needed to line-up and I got the chance to talk with her.  I am so thankful that Matt and my mom were able to come support at this race. I know it is a long day for them but it really means a lot to me to have someone there to cheer for me and be there at the finish line.

The fish I was swimming among
So race time. This race was a time-trial start so one participant started about every 2-3 seconds.  This makes a huge difference in crowding/kicking/getting hit in the face at the start which has the added bonus of a much lower heart rate for me.  When the timer said "Go!" I ran into the water, dove in, and started swimming.  The water clarity was a nice change of pace from the last few races I've done--I could actually see my hands and the water didn't taste bad! With a water temperature in the low 70's (possibly 73), the race was wetsuit-legal but the water was still nice and warm.  Wetsuits add a lot of buoyancy and help me glide better so a wetsuit-legal race is a bonus.  Passing people, keeping an easy pace, and focusing on steady breathing was the name of the game for this swim and overall, it was uneventful. A lower heart rate and expenditure early on in the race pays off later in the race.

From Pigman Facebook page
Before the race, I told Matt my swim time would be about 35 minutes and I was spot on.  Out of the water, swim cap off, goggles off, and run up the beach into transition.   Random side note, I hate walking barefoot on pavement because I have tender baby feet, but for some reason during triathlons, I run on that pavement like no one's business! They do usually sweep for rocks and other sharp object which is very helpful for said baby feet.

My adrenaline was high and I felt great as I stripped off my wetsuit and pulled on my socks and shoes.  I really wanted to cut down on my transition times this HIM and a smaller transition area definitely aided that but I also tried not to dwadle as much while pulling on my cycling gear. Once I grabbed my bike, I was outta there and on the road.  The entrance to the park is at the top of a big hill off of a county road and to get to the start/finish/transition area you follow the park road for two miles back down the hill and over to the beach area. Remember this fact because it becomes very important later on.

It's common for my heart rate to shoot up as I come out of the water and into transition probably from the position change from horizontal to vertical and the sudden running so the first part of the bike I concentrate on settling my heart and breathing again.  A big hill makes this much harder to do! But I made it and my heart calmed down a bit on the downhill. The bike course is an out and back on county roads winding its way through some small Iowa towns. Several times we crossed over railroad tracks and I saw several dislodged water bottles on the road.  Tracks are very bumpy and at one of these crossings about 5 miles in, I lost the signal from my bike computer.  I rode the next 50 miles blind with my bike computer kicking in sporadically to tell me I was going 20 mph downhill or 9 mph uphill, but as this was rolling hill course, I was more concerned with average speed and the kick in the pants I needed when going only 15 mph on the flats.  Instead I rode by feel, in that this-is-slightly-uncomfortable-but-maintainable pace.

At one point, I saw a dog on the road.  It's fairly common for dogs to roam free in the country and I've been chased by a few dogs on my previous bike rides, but I was scared for this dog.  I could tell he was friendly and he just kept trotting from one cyclist to the next like "Hey, pet me!" but with cyclist zooming by at 15 mph and upwards it was a dangerous situation.  Especially if he got to close to a bike or a cyclist swerved to go around him so I yelled at him to go home.  He was gone on my way back in though so I hoped nothing happened!

My only other experience at a half-Ironman was the Ironman-branded Racine last year.  I knew this race was more bare bones than the slightly-over-the-top Racine race and was a little worried about aid stations.  But I had absolutely no reason to worry with 5 total aid stations on the bike all with bottles of cold water and the middle three having HEED.  Of course they weren't as fancy as the Racine stations with the tents and tons of volunteers, but the volunteers at Pigman did an excellent job handing off bottles!

The railroad tracks proved to be my nemesis once again on the second half of the course.  I had eaten only 2 of 6 of my second back off ShotBloks when the package flopped out of my case on the bumps.  Goodbye to about 200 calories.  So just a warning to future athletes make sure everything on your bike is secured or you may have to live without it.  I still managed to take in 8 Shotbloks, one citrus Shot gel, a bottle of HEED, plus lots of water.  I'm fairly certain those extra ShotBlok calories would have come in handy later.

I felt good as I cruised up the big hill to the entrance of the park and then spun easily on the downhill into transition.  Trotting into transition with my bike, I waved and smiled at my spectacular spectators--my mom and Matt, before racking my bike and changing my shoes and socks.  My bike time was slightly faster than the 3:05 I anticipated and I made it in just over 3 hours.  I grabbed a quick drink and made a stop of the porta potties.  Three cheers for good hydration!

After the first mile, I encountered the big climb up to the park entrance.  My pace was pretty slow but I convinced myself that is was actually easier to run uphill so I ran--delirium was already getting to me. The run course was another out and back on county roads with very little shade.  In fact, I don't remember any shade.  With a bright shining sun from above and pavement radiating heat from below, it was hot out there at 1 pm.  Aid stations were at each mile and were a very welcome site as I took a cup of water and orange slices at each one.

According to the mile signs and my stopwatch, I was holding about a 10 minute/mile pace.  My brain was a little foggy but I figured if I could complete the run portion in less than ~2:20, I could beat 6 hours.

Running in a triathlon is a mental game for me--just run to the next aid station and you can have a break, but as the race goes on those thoughts start to break down.  Run one mile becomes run half a mile becomes run three minutes.  Till soon I am having a hard time convincing myself to run at all.  At 6 miles, I thought I only had 6 miles left to go and was disappointed when I had to go another half mile to the turnout.  Forgetting simple subtraction is not a good sign.

Forcing myself to eat at each aid station was not pleasant, but I could feel that I needed food.  Looking back, I think what I actually needed was salt.  I tried eating some pretzels at mile 7 but being thirsty and eating super starchy pretzels was a terrible combination.  The two in my mouth resulted in a ball of sandy mush.  Taking salt tablets that they offered at the aid stations would probably have been a good idea, but as they say, "Hindsight is 20/20".  Maybe I can try to use this information going forward.

Somewhere between miles 8 and 10 the wheels really started coming off.  Lower back cramps, pain on the bottoms of my feet, left glute hurting, and just general achiness and I-don't-wanna-run-ness.

The faster you run the faster you can be done.

I just can't run anymore.

Run 300 more steps.

This big hill is killing me.

All thoughts that went through my head in the final miles.  At every aid station, I took water and put ice in my top and in my hat, but I still felt so hot. Running when I could and walking when I couldn't.  The big hill up to the entrance of the park was just cruel but I knew after the uphill comes a big downhill.

Even that final mile was challenging. Cars were coming and going from the park and I got stuck behind this pickup and the heat and exhaust were blowing in my face. I was so incredibly irritated, but just wanted the race to be over so I kept running.  When it pulled away I was thrilled.

Trying to smile
As I came down towards the finish line, I could hear Matt and my mom cheering but I couldn't even smile. I didn't know what my time was but I didn't have to run anymore.  It felt so good to be done.  So good.  I wanted to cry but it felt like I just didn't have any more energy to do so.

Swim: 35:10, 1:39/100yd pace
T1: 3:07
Bike: 3:00:11, 18.6 mph
T2: 2:35
Run: 2:27:28, 11:15 min/mile

There was this fantastic water tent at the finish with cold water dripping from the top and a pool with ice water.  After that, I laid down in the shade for a while because I seriously thought I might puke.  My skin was so salty and my mom thought it was so strange that you could feel the grittiness as you rubbed the salt off my legs.  She needs to hang around me more after hot workouts I guess.

The post race food spread was quite impressive and included spaghetti and sauce, bread, pizza, tons of fruit options, cheese, candy, cookies, and bars.  That's not even including the drink options! I shared some spaghetti with my mom and drank a whole bunch of Tang! That drink reminds me of so much of my childhood and now I have a container of it in my cupboards.

A chiropractor and several massage therapists were there post-race and I hopped in line for a chiropractic adjustment.  It's been a few years since I've visited a chiropractor and this adjustment felt so good.  I think my back being slightly out of whack is contributing to my left glute problems so I may start up regular chiro appointments again soon. 

We didn't stick around too long after I got done eating because I needed to still drive back to Chicago that night.  So after a quick rinse off at the beach showers (brrr!), Matt helped me carry my gear back to the car. I took a full shower at his place and learned that my tri top really chafes my armpits.  It freakin' hurt. Matt fed me Oreos to make up for it.

I drove back to my parent's house to pick up my stuff and eat more before making the drive back to home. I wanted to leave plenty early so I wouldn't be too tired on the way home, but in reality I was tired anyways. The ice cream stop helped though.

Final Thoughts: 

  • I think my lack of run training hurt me on the second half of the run
  • What kind of idiot wears high heels the day before a big, long goal race? And stays out late? 
  • I need to eat more and looking into salt tabs might be a good idea. Salt. Salt. Salt.
  • I'm very proud of myself.  Mostly for getting up and training all those times I wanted to lay on the couch instead. 
  • Sub-6 I'm coming for you and this race has proved it is within my reach. 
  • Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone who has supported me on this journey--all those who left encouraging comments, Kelly for the many bike rides, my family for understanding my strange commitments on the weekends, and especially Matt for the bike rides and all the encouragement and pep talks along the way (I'm the cat! ;-) )  I really could not have done it without you!
If you take selfies with my camera, I will blog them.
Cost: $90 + $5 for the upgrade to the tech tee
Pros: post-race food, great volunteers, well organized
Cons: lack of porta potties
Would I do it again: Yes, and I am going to try to get it in the schedule next year

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pigman Training Weeks 16 & 17

Only a little late on these training recaps. Now the race is only 2 days away!

Week 16

Monday, July 29 - 30.39 mile bike
     Time:  5:45 pm, Duration: 1:50:35, Speed: 16.48 mph, Loc: Palatine Trail, Felt: strong
Tuesday, July 30 - 2500 yd swim
     Time: 7:40 pm, Duration: 48:00, (200 sw, kick, pull, sw, 3x300 threshold, 200 cruise, 200 paddles, 3x100 drills, 100 warm down), Felt: tired but okay
Wednesday, July 31 - 4.5 mile run
     Time: 7:30 pm, Duration: 47:15, Pace: 10:30 min/mile, Loc: neighborhood, Felt: exhuasted after long day at work
Thursday, August 1 - Rest - dinner party at Kelly's instead
Friday, August 2 - 2250 yd swim
   Time: 6:30 am, Duration: 45:00, Felt: tired and slow
Saturday, August 3 - 50 mile bike with Matt
   Time: 10:00 am, Duration: ~4:00, Speed: 15.5 mph, Loc: Cascade to Placid, Peosta, & Epworth, Felt: flat
Sunday, August 4 - Camp Courageous Sprint Triathlon (race recap to come!)
   Time: 9:00 am, Duration: 1:29:07, Loc: Jones County Central Park, Felt: great!

Totals - 5 sessions + 1 race, 106.46 miles, 9.7 hours
  • 3 swims, 5250 yds, about 1.7 hours
  • 3 rides, 95.89 miles, 6.7 hours
  • 2 runs, 7.6 miles, 1.3 hours
  • Work was a little bit stressful this week and it was much harder to get motivated to get in a workout after a long day
  • I had a blast at Kelly's on Thursday night but I think the wine made the swim on Friday morning a bit more miserable
  • I felt super flat on my ride on Saturday which made me nervous for my race Sunday but felt so much better on Sunday. The two Fat Tires I had on Saturday night are probably why I felt so much better*
  • This was supposed to be the last week before taper but I didn't get as many sessions in as I wanted. I guess I will just count it as an early taper

Week 17

Monday, August 5 - Rest
Tuesday, August 6 - Massage! + 1500 yd swim
    Swim Time: 7:30 pm, Duration: 32:00, Felt: relaxed
Wednesday, August 7 - 4.56 mile run + 29.04 mile bike with Kelly
    Run Time: 5:30 am, Duration: 45:15, Pace: 9:55 min/mile, Loc: neighborhood, Felt: cooler but still sweaty
    Bike Time: 5:44 pm, Duration: 1:57:24, Speed: 14.8 mph, Loc: Paul Douglas FP, Felt: good
Thursday, August 8 - Rest
Friday, August 9 - 2500 yd swim
   Time: 5:40 pm, Duration: 52:00, Felt: like I was sinking
Saturday, August 10 - 7.7 mile run
    Time: 1:37 pm, Duration: ~1:17, Pace: 10:06 min/mile, Loc: Cascade, Felt: wish I would have gotten more than 4 hours of        sleep
Sunday, August 11 - 51.5 mile bike with Matt
    Time: 12:30 pm, Duration: ~4:00, Speed: 15 mph, Loc: Cascade to Maquoketa Caves, Felt: bonking near the end, also              HILLS!

Totals - 6 sessions, 95.07 miles, 9.4 hours
  • 2 swims, 4000 yds, about 1.4 hours
  • 2 rides, 80.5 miles, 6.0 hours
  • 2 runs, 12.3 miles, 2.0 hours
  • Yay for the first week of taper! My plan still calls for 3 sessions per sport but it didn't happen. Again. (Do you notice a theme in these training recaps?)**
  • If my run sucks at my race, will everyone please remind me how many long runs and other runs I skipped? No excuses but it shouldn't surprise me if it isn't awesome. 
  • The massage on Tuesday was definitely necessary.  My left glute is so bound up! The massage helped to loosen it a bit but I'm still trying to work it out on the myo-release ball.  Massages are part of training too.
  • We had a wedding to attend on Saturday.  I don't really enjoy walking around in heals right after running--calf cramps!
  • Matt and I rode a new route on Sunday.  It was fun. I spotted a "Share the road" sign; it was the first one I've seen while riding near Cascade! Yay for bicycle awareness. We also took a pit stop to talk to our friend that lives on that route. 
  • I really started lagging in the last 10 miles and Matt ended up beating me home.  Usually I am the one leaving him in the dust so he was thrilled!
* Not that I recommend drinking before a race but having a beer or two is the norm for me prior to a race. I figure it's just more carbs, right?
**I'm using an intermediate plan and it is at times intense. I fully believe you can complete a half Ironman on only 2 sessions per sport so I make that my goal.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

BTN Big 10k Race Report

I have a bunch of race recaps are training recaps to write and I am miserably behind.  But good news, I am in the taper period now so I should have a little extra time to write.  I should also be using this time to clean my apartment because I am sure things are going to start growing on my floor soon if they haven't already.  And yes, it's that bad.

I realize you may no longer give a rat's arse about this race, but I like being able to go back and read these so I'm writing this anyways.

Last year, I heard such great things about this race and I was thrilled this year that I was free the day of the race.  Big Ten schools, football, tailgate, food and beer? Sounds good to me! 

July 27, 2013 @ 7:00 am
6.2 miles
Time: 56:56, 9:10 pace

Since this race started at 7 am and I also needed to go into the city to pick up my packet, Erin so graciously offered to let me stay at her place on Friday night.  I had originally planned to ride the train downtown and then bike over to Fleet Feet to pick up my packet and then over to Erin's, but about halfway on my drive to the train station, I realized I forgot to grab my bike lock. So I had to turn around and go back home to get it which caused me to miss the train.  I was a little upset because I think this was the first time in my life that I left early for the train with plenty of time to park and then I missed the train anyways.  Derp. So I ended up driving into the city.  Thankfully parking near Erin's was no problem.

Packet pickup was easy and quick and I had no problems getting my shirt.  Erin made a delicious dinner of Indonesian chicken with peanut sauce and we chatted before calling it an early night.  Thank you so much to Erin and her husband for letting me stay at their place! 

I woke up just after 5 am and got ready before biking over to Adler Planetarium.  The race had set up bike racks so I was able to lock my bike to one of those and walk over to the starting area.  The bagel I bought for breakfast the day before was carefully tucked away back in my car so I had to get creative.  After dropping my bag off at gear check I headed to the Clif bar tent to sample some bars for breakfast.  I probably needed more than a few bites for breakfast but I didn't want to seem like a greedy pig and there wasn't anything else for food options!

Since I figured the 2ish mile bike ride was enough, I didn't bother with any other warm-up and lined up in corral F. Let's take a minute and talk about the corrals. When I registered I estimated my pace to be somewhere in the 8:45-9:00 min/mile pace, granted I did not end up running that pace on that day, but I am capable of that. I had 2 coworkers running this race as well both of whom put slower estimated paces than me, in corrals before mine--one in C and one in D.  My coworker Sam mentioned that another girl in her corral asked her if this was the 8 min/mile corral and she was confused because she was planning more like 10 min/mile pace.  Bethany mentioned she thought the corrals were organized strangely as well because she was in corral I  and estimated a 10 min/mile pace.  I had to pass a lot of people out on the course.  I'm still not sure what happened with the corral system organization but I definitely think that needs to be fixed before next year.

Surprisingly I've never run a stand alone 10k race before, but I've run at 3 at the end of Olympic distance triathlons. So I already knew I would get a PR but my legs weren't feeling super great due to a track workout on Thursday.  This race was intended to be a fun* race anyways so I wasn't too worried.  I waited probably 10 minutes after the race start for my corral to cross the start line and started to run a slightly above comfortable pace.  I didn't even bother to wear a watch again since my handy old stop watch is now sitting at the bottom of Lake Zurich courtesy the last triathlon there, but the course had clocks at every mile so I relied on them to gauge my pace.  The weather was actually fairly cool so I didn't feel like I was dying.  yay! If it was hot I was fully planning on going down the slip'n'slide they had at the turn around.  How fun! Actually I'm still a little disappointed I didn't do it. 

We did get to run on Lake Shore Drive for some of the first part of the race and turned off the drive and onto the Lakefront path to head back towards Adler.  This is where the crowding really started to bother me. Course crowding at the start is a normal thing and usually it lets up after the first mile when people settle into their pace, but the second half of this race was very crowded.  Like I mentioned earlier, I was passing quite a lot of people as well as getting passed by people.  I ended up running a lot on the right gravel side of the path to go around people.  I'm pretty convinced this had something to do with the corral system! 

My 5k split was 28:39 which meant I ran the 2nd half 22 seconds faster than the first half! Negative splitting! After crossing the finish line I very slowly made my way down the chute because it was packed with runners and collected a bunch of snacks, gatorade, water, and my medal.  I met up with my coworker Heather and we headed over to get in line for our free beer and then in line for free sausage before the lines got too long. 

We hung around after the race to watch the action on stage including the mascots dancing and all the fan spirit awards. 

Herky was out there cutting a rug of course.  The Maryland and Rutger's mascots since they are the newest two schools to the Big Ten conference.  Remember when the Big Ten was just 10 schools? 

At the after party there were also a lot of games including bags, 40 yard dash, and field goal kicking.  I didn't play but I watched the 40 yard dash for a bit and tried to guess which person of the two lined up would win each time! I started to get chilly so I didn't stick around too much longer before getting my bike and biking back to my car. 

Overall, I really liked the concept of this race and that you get a school-specific shirt.  It was cool to see all the different fans represented out on the course. I would do this race again next year, but I hope they find a new location if they want to grow beyond the 13,000 something participants they had this year.  And I hope they fix the corral system!

Cost: $48
Pros: school-specific tech shirt, good after party
Cons: crowded course

*all my races are fun, but sometimes I like to go really fast too

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Venus de Miles-a bike event done well!

Disclosure: I received a free entry into Venus de Miles without a fundraising requirement.  All opinions are my own.

Last Sunday morning I got up bright and early for the second day in a row. How can I get up at 5 am on the weekends but struggle to wake up by 6:30 am on the weekdays? I don't get it.  I loaded all my gear up and strapped my bike on my new bike rack. I scored this Saris Bones bike rack for $10 at Goodwill.  I've been patiently searching on Craigslist for one of these for several months because I only wanted to pay around $60 so my mom and I couldn't believe it when we found this at Goodwill.  What a steal!

It was an easy drive up to Lake Forest and I had no problem finding a parking spot on campus. Soon after I parked, Katie and Lauren pulled in a few spots down and we made the short walk over to the starting area together.  Packet pick-up was easy, but I made the mistake of pinning my bib onto the front of my jersey and later had to switch it to the back.  

I met up with my fellow Chicago Running Bloggers for a quick picture.  I finally got to meet several bloggers whose blogs I've been reading for awhile including Amanda and Jess

Photo courtesy Kelly
My fellow ambassadors and I also joined together for a picture.  These ladies did a great job promoting Venus de Miles over the last few months!

Jess, Erin, me, Kelly, Lauren, and Amanda
Before heading to the start line, I grabbed a banana and a coffee from the breakfast table.  I've heard great things about the food at this event and my first encounter did not disappoint.  Three different kinds of nut butter-peanut, cashew, and almond, and several muffin options were available.  This was my first chance to try cashew butter and although I am not a huge fan, I'm glad I was able to try it before buying a whole jar.

Before we started, we got to hear from a Greenhouse Scholar which is the organization Venus de Miles supports.  It was a nice touch to hear the stories of the scholars to remind the riders who and what they were supporting by riding and raising money.  After the singing on the national anthem, the first wave was off!

I fell into a comfortable pace with Jenny, Kelly, and Erin and we pedaled our way through Lake Forest. The 61-mile route wound it's way west towards Lake Zurich following low traffic roads and bike paths.  Many of the larger intersections had police officers or other volunteers directing bikers and traffic.  It was obvious that safety was extremely important to the organizers of the event and I am very grateful for that. Each rider received a route map, but I never even referred to mine as the route was well marked.  

The aid stations were positioned about every 15 miles and they were amazing.  Each had quite the spread of Whole Food goodies including two-bite brownies, chocolate chip cookies, ginger snaps. Plus plenty of fruit, bagels, nut butter, and Luna bars.  I made sure to grab a few extra Luna bars and Clif shot gels and bloks for my stash at home!

If you leave this ride hungry you are really doing something wrong!

The weather was a little atypical for late July and it was a bit chilly and overcast all morning.  I was very glad to be wearing my arm sleeves and calf sleeves. The clouds looked a bit ominous for a while, but thankfully, we made it all way with only a few light sprinkles. 

The camaraderie on was great and I saw lots of festive people in costumes and a few men in drag.  I really want to wear a costume next year. 

We arrived back at Lake Forest College around 1 pm and made our way to the finish line.  I was a little disappointed by the finish line as there was no cheering at the end and was a little bit of a letdown after 64 miles.  The route was supposed to be 61 miles but there were a few extra tacked on there. 

Once we were off our bikes, I walked around a bit to the different vendor booths and collected a few more goodies.  I tried to get in line for a massage but was disappointed to be informed that the vendor was leaving at 2 pm and wasn't allowing anyone else in line.  Instead I opted for a mini facial from the Tricoci Beauty University.  

I enjoyed a turkey pesto sandwich and chips for lunch along with my two free cocktails from North Shore Distillery.  Of course, no meal is really complete without dessert so I enjoyed some whiskey and pecan ice cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream.  The ice cream was amazing!  We sat around chatting for quite a while and were around the last to leave.  That meant more goodies for us and I left with some pretty flowers from the table centerpieces. 

We did get to hear from some of the new Greenhouse Scholars at the post-ride festival.  I was happy to learn that one of the scholars has chosen biomedical engineering as his field of study! Greenhouse Scholars has a whole person approach to helping under-resourced students.  They are not only provided help with college funding but mentorship and peer support to help the succeed in college and beyond.  You can still support the 2013 Venus de Miles ride here.

Overall, I had a great experience and I really can't wait to participate again next year. The Venus de Miles team really knows how to put on a great ride.

The shirt!

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