Monday, September 21, 2015

Weekend Things

1.  Football season is here! Last Saturday, Matt and I had our annual "test our relationship" day in which we cheer for our alma maters and trash talk the other team--the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game.  After a really disappointing game last year, where Iowa choked the whole second half, I was vindicated with an Iowa win!  So I'll have bragging rights for a bit!

We spent the day with friends and I got to play with some cute doggies so it was like a triple win for me! 

2. This past weekend Matt and I had a wedding back in our hometown.  On Saturday morning, my mom, dad, and I visited the Dubuque Farmers Market.    Fall produce is the best! I went home with apples, spaghetti squash, watermelon, radishes and hens and chicks plant.  And it only cost me about $10!  

3. The wedding we went to Saturday night was a great time.  Such a great time in fact that we ended up playing quarters at the bar after the reception was over.  This might have factored into why we didn't start our bike ride till 11 am Sunday!  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What's next?

I've checked on a lot of races off my bucket list in the past few years

So what's next?  

At the end of 2013 and again in 2014 , I mentioned my goals to go sub-2 hours in a half-marathon and go sub-3 hours in an Olympic triathlon. Now that I've met my goal to go sub-6 in the half Ironman I could focus on shorter races.  But I have bigger fish to fry.

I'm going back to Ironman Wisconsin in 2016.   The race experience I had in 2014 was second to none and it is going to be hard to beat.  But I'd love to PR and come across that finish line smiling again.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Half Ironman Double Part 2: Pigman

Six-word recap: Suffered through heat, finished with friends. 

Pigman Long Course Triathlon
August 16, 2015
7:30 am
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

After Steelhead, I tried to take recovery a little more seriously to get myself ready for my next challenge--Pigman Half-Ironman a week later.  Of course I did indulge a little bit with dill pickle chips and mountain dew but I also foam rolled and wore compression socks the next day at work.  Low-key workouts and sleeping were the key for me.  I road my bike twice--on Monday and Saturday, swam once, and didn't run at all.  

On Friday night, Matt and I headed back to Iowa.  We found a great deal on a hitch bike rack for Matt's car on Craigslist so after we got that set up we were on our way.  On Saturday morning, we headed out for a short shakeout bike ride and on our way back about 3 miles from town, I dropped my chain.  This isn't the first time I've dropped the chain on this bike, but it hasn't happened since I got a new chain after switching out my front chain ring last year before Ironman Wisconsin. This time, however, I dropped it and caught it between my small chain ring and my frame and locked up my pedals.  My dad had to come get us in the car!  I was a little worried that I wasn't going to get my bike fixed in time for the race but I am grateful that this incident didn't occur during the race because that would have meant a DNF.  After a quick lunch, we took my bike into Free Flight in Dubuque and they were able to put a new chain on it now problem.  Thankfully my derailleur survived the incident just fine because that would have been a little more expensive repair.  

After the bike situation got all sorted out, we headed to Cedar Rapids to our hotel and packet pickup.  We left a little later than planned due to the bike chain incident, but Pigman has race-day packet pickup so we weren't rushed.  We arrived at the hotel around 5:45 so we did have time to swing by packet pickup before it closed at 6.  Pigman is most definitely a no frills race and packet pickup follows suit.  We walked in picked up our race numbers and bags and our t-shirts.  This year we received long sleeve tech tees.  In our race bags, we got several sample sizes of deodorant, chapstick, and a few random snacks.  

We had an early dinner at Biaggi's and I downed plenty of bread in the name of #carbloading.  Then proceeded to top those carbs off with more carbs in the liquid form. We went on a little beer searching adventure to HyVee and I tried some Toppling Goliath.  

Since I signed up for Ironman Steelhead 70.3 in late 2014, I wasn't planning on also racing Pigman a week later, but I am a sucker for peer pressure.  On  January 4, after a few drinks, Kelly talked me into signing up.  I think I was still on the post Ironman high (and definitely still on the post Ironman workout slump) so this sounded like a great idea.  We actually signed up at the same time so our numbers were right next to each other! My friends Brent and Laura also ended up signing up to so it was definitely a social race for me.

The game plan was to race Steelhead and then just take it easy at Pigman  and since getting a PR at Steelhead, I was content with that plan.

Sunday morning, we loaded up the car and headed out to Pleasant Creek State Park for the race.  This race is small so finding parking and getting good spot in transition is no problem.  Transition spots are not assigned per race number but rather age groups have a one or a few racks.  There was plenty of room at the rack I choose to set out all my stuff.  I took my time hitting up the bathrooms, eating breakfast and putting sunscreen on before race start. 

The race starts at 7:30 and is a time trial start.  My age group was estimated to start around 7:40 am and we walked down to the beach around 7:15.  Unlike at Steelhead, this time I made sure to get in the water prior to the race!  The water temperature was just over the wetsuit cutoff but competitors we allowed to wear wetsuits but then were not eligible for awards. I was happy to skip the wetsuit.  Right after the race started, I realized I forgot my heart rate monitor in the car so I walked back up to get it with plenty of time to spare.  

This year, Pigman changed the course to make it more spectator friendly.  The new swim course looked like this. 

On the way out, we swam with the buoys on our right, made a U-turn about halfway through and continued with the buoys on our right.  There was a only one line of buoys in the middle and in general, most triathletes are terrible sighters in included.  So there was a lot of crossing over into other swimmers.  Thankfully my swim felt really great and I felt like I was moving smooth.  I was a little disappointed in my overall time (39:27) because I really want to do a sub-37 swim but I will get there.  

Transition went well and I headed out on the bike.  The bike this year was a 4-loop course with two significant climbs on each loop.  And the "loop" was actually an out and back so we made eight 180 degree turns throughout the course.  The loop had one aid station so we passed through that 4 times throughout the day; it had water and the sports drink was Advocare.  I tried a bottle and thought it tasted like fake sugar so I avoided it for the rest of the race and depended upon Honey Stinger Waffles, Bonk Breaker bars, and Clif Shot Gels to get me through. Plus I stuck with my BASE Salt from Steelhead.  I could already tell the weather was getting warm on the bike so I wanted to stay on top of hydration.

To be honest, the bike course was totally boring.  Plus it was open to traffic and there were way too many cars for my liking with bikers on both sides of the road.  My boost every lap was seeing Laura, Kelly, and Brent.  Plus Matt showed up about halfway through the bike and took some pictures. And one of my old college roommates-Angie-was out cheering on the course so I got to see her as well. 

Still happy
Kelly and Brent 

Smiling but thinking "I wish this was over"
My bike splits were staying fairly consistent, but my heart rate was spiking quite high on the hills.  I could tell that I was not really recovered from the race the previous weekend.  By the time I hit 56 miles I was really ready to be off the bike.

I transitioned quickly off the bike and grabbed my visor and my handheld.  At both of the other half Ironmans this summer, I've just been able to rely on the aid stations to get hydration and stay cool but because I knew the temperatures were likely to get into the high 80s and low 90s, I wanted my handheld for between the aid stations.  As soon as I started running, it felt hot. I stuck with the normal run 1 mile, walk 30 seconds intervals I've had success with.

The run course was again a 4-loop course consisting of a 3.25 mile loop through the campground of the park.  Most of the course was unshaded though the course was mostly flat.  Each loop had 2 aid stations but due to the heat, that really did not feel like enough and I was so thankful to have my handheld.  I was dumping water over my head from the beginning.

Unfortunately the water station volunteers on the run were really not prepared.  Let me be clear, I am in no way slamming the volunteers.  I realize that they volunteered their time and were also probably feeling miserable in the heat and were very overwhelmed by the needs of the runners. I feel like the race organizers were not meeting our needs here.  One aid station quickly ran out of ice plus I don't think they realized that participants would want just cups of ice.  Plus with a 4-loop course and about 400 people participating in the race, about 123 people were in a given mile on the course.  That number is based on a lot of assumptions, but let's just go with it for a minute.  The aid stations were not staffed for those kinds of numbers.  By my third loop of the run, Matt had joined the volunteers at an aid station because they could not keep up with filling the cups.  In the future, the race organizers definitely need to have more volunteers at each aid station plus more instruction for how to set up the aid station and MORE ICE!   I do have to say the volunteers were very cheerful and they would take my handheld and fill it up for me!

I was definitely slowing down in the later laps of the run and walking a lot more.  On the last lap, Kelly and Brent caught up to me and we ran together to the finish.

The highlight was getting really great finish line photos from Matt.

Both of my feet are off the ground! 

And the race captured a great finish line video.  We are at about the 2:39:10 mark. 

Swim: 39:27 (1:52/100 yd)
T1: 2:24
Bike: 3:05:01 (18.2 mph)
T2: 1:35
Run: 2:33:39 (11:43/mile)
Overall: 6:22:07 (10/13 F25-29)

I went right to the water tent after the finish line and let the cold water drip on my neck.  

My favorite part of Pigman is the post race party.  Pizza, pasta with delicious sauce, fruit, pop, beer and candy are all available to racers after they finish.  Massage therapists and a chiropractor is also available to visit.  I hit up the watermelon and pasta table.  This race raffles off a lot of goodies from local vendors too.  One downside to this race is there are no open bathrooms, only porta potties.  So I showered off in my tri kit and then changed behind a building because #classy 

Overall, I was not really happy about the new Pigman course.  I can definitely understand the benefits of going to a 4 loop bike and run course--fewer volunteers needed, fewer aid stations, fewer road blocks, and spectators do see more of the race. But I really did not like the 180 degree turns on the bike or that the course was open to traffic.  The run course could have used one more aid station but I did enjoy that there was no huge hill like the previous course.  I love that this is a local race and the time-trial swim start is my favorite.  Plus it is the cheapest half Ironman I have ever found!  But I likely won't be doing this race again unless they change the bike course.  I will not complain about the heat because it's a race in August and I don't sign up for those expecting beautiful cool weather, but more water and ice are necessary for hot races. 

I'm calling the half Ironman double a success though I don't know that I would do it again.  

Cost: $84.80
Pros: great price, time-trial swim start
Cons: 180 degree bike turns, bike course open to traffic, not enough aid stations
Would I do it again? with changes, yes

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Half Ironman Double Part 1: Steelhead 70.3

Six-word recap: Panicked in swim, still went sub-6.

Ironman Steelhead 70.3
August 9, 2015
7:00 am
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

It appears I only write race recaps.  The vacation to Tennessee was great except that on the ride home Sunday I started feeling the beginnings of a cold namely I was stuffy and my throat was scratchy.  My father-in-law was fighting a cold the whole trip so I wasn't looking forward to battling the same cold.  I hoped a lot of rest and fluids would help me feel better quickly because I had a race coming up in one week!  Monday through Wednesday was miserable.  Working out was out of the question and after work I would pretty much come home and face plant on the couch because I was so exhausted.  I knew it was really bad because I didn't even have an appetite :/

My body finally started to come around on Thursday and I was able to manage a 50 minute bike ride and a 30 minute transition run.  Nothing too hard but I wanted to at least move my legs!  I definitely noticed the lung congestion though and so I kept pounding decongestants and expectorants.  Friday was a rest day as usual before a half Ironman.

Saturday I woke up feeling a little bit better.  The cough was fairly persistent though I felt like I could breathe well.  This time I used a list to pack my bags so I wouldn't forget anything like at the Door County race.  My coworker Heather and I were carpooling up to Michigan together so I drove to her place and then relaxed in the car.  Earlier in the week, I had assumed it took about 5 hours to get to Michigan but Heather informed me it only took less than 3 hours!  Shorter drive is great with me!

Check-in went smoothly and we opted to rack our bikes Saturday as well.  At Steelhead, you had to option to bring your bike the morning off the race but racking on Saturday cut down on the hassle on race morning.  Heather's dad recommended covering our gears with a garbage bag due to the blowing sand and that turned out to be a great idea!

We walked around and checked out the expo and I bought some BASE Salt.  I've been wanting to try out salt for endurance events for a while now and I like to ignore the "nothing new on race day" rule.  Do as I say, not as I do.

Heather was kind enough to let me to stay at her aunt's lake house.  So we were able to cook our own dinner and relax and go to bed early.

Check out the view!
Sunday morning started off bright and early at 5 am.  I stuck with the standard breakfast of bagel, peanut butter and a banana plus a cup of coffee to get things moving.  The whole group headed over to the race start to get the rest of our gear set up.  Things were going smoothly but I did feel a bit rushed.  Heather and my wave start was at 7:12 am so we did not have very much time after transition closed to get through the bathroom line and get lubed and wetsuited up before it was go time.  I didn't have time before our start to get into the water--a decision I soon regretted.

Pre-race smiles
Steelhead is a beach start so I lined up about halfway down at the front and got ready to swim hard.  The gun went off and I took off into the water, the goal being to get in the front half of the pack.  I swam for about 100-200m before I could not catch my breath and started to panic.  As soon as I tried to put my face in the water I would freak out so I tried back-stroking for a bit to catch my breath and calm my heart rate. I honestly thought about quitting and kept asking myself how I was going to explain to my friends that I had to drop out.  I alternated those thoughts with "You are an Ironman, get it together!" It took until about the first turn buoy for me to calm down and begin to swim normally.  I'm still not entirely sure what happened, I think the combo of chest congestion and feeling like my wetsuit was too tight in the chest sent me into a tailspin of panic.  Once I was able to relax the swim went very well and I passed many people who passed me at the beginning.

Unfortunately, Steelhead doesn't have wetsuit strippers so I ended up stopping at the beginning of transition and taking off my wetsuit.  It was a long run to the other end of transition where my bike was and it was much easier to run with it off!

After the swim, I was worried all my hopes of going sub-6 were gone. But I decided to see how the bike went before giving up hope.   The bike course is fairly flat so I concentrated on getting into a rhythm and getting my heart rate in my goal range.  As always, I was getting passed, but I reminded myself to focus on my race.

I was able to settle in well and started hydrating and eating early.  Since the weather was cooler, I decided to take my BASE Salt about every 10 miles. The bike course was fairly uneventful for the first 20 miles.  The middle part of the course was on a fairly bumpy road and that got a bit irritating after a while.  About halfway through the course, groups of young fast men starting flying by in packs.  They had finally caught up from their later swim start.  I hope the course officials saw them and penalized a few of them because the drafting was ridiculous.

Not much else of significance occurred on the bike course.  I did drop a bottle of Gatorade because I wasn't paying attention when I put it back in my bottle cage--oops!  Around mile 50,  I started to feel ready to get off the bike and start the run!  A quick check on the time and I knew sub-6 was still in my reach.

Coming into transition was a little bit of a mess, there is a long slow zone and the person in front of me was going a little too slow and people tried passing when they should not have.  In the end it was fine, but I didn't enjoy that part of the course.  Bike in was in the same end of transition as swim in so again I had a long run through transition with my bike.  I opted to leave my bike shoes on the bike and run through in just my socks.

I started running too fast right away and had to reel myself in a bit.  My goal was to run about a 2:15 which is about 10:18 miles and use the same method I used during the Door County Half Ironman--run 1 mile, walk 30 seconds and take short breaks during the aid stations plus walk up any big hills.  The weather was perfect that Sunday and the cooler temps (70s!) were really helping me! I was still taking water and ice at almost every aid station though.

The run course is a lollipop--you go out, run two loops, then come back in on the stick.  The first loop went very smoothly for me and I was running well and keeping my pace in the high 9's and low 10's. Around the end of mile 9 and mile 10, the distance started to wear on me.  Even gradual inclines made me want to walk and go easier but I kept to my loose plan and kept chugging along.  Plus I took a gel and that helped boost my spirits a bit.  At mile 10.5, there is a fairly steep hill after coming out of the Whirlpool campus and I, along with most everyone else, walked up the hill.  At the top, the woman running next to me said "Okay, we are at the top, time to run again!"  I really needed to hear that right then and it gave me a boost! I started running and after realizing how close I was going to be to 6 hours, I started booking it!  I was on a mission and I did not want to miss out on going under 6 hours by only a few seconds.  I felt so good, I was able to skip my walk breaks during the last 2 miles.  I ended up pulling a 9:38 pace for mile 12 and a 9:29 for mile 13 out of nowhere! That is very fast for me at the end of the race!

I came flying down the chute and was so thrilled when I knew I clenched the sub-6 finish.  I've been chasing this goal for 2 years now and it feels so good to finally get it.  

Heather and I with our medals!
After the finish, I needed to sit around a bit to regain my composure, but then I limped back to the finish line to see Heather and my other coworker Ben cross the finish line!  This was both of their first half-Ironman and they both did so well!  Heather's goal was to finish under 7 hours and she knocked it out of the park with a 6:39 finish.

Swim: 43:02 (2:13/100 m)
T1: 3:24
Bike: 2:55:16 (19.2 mph)
T2: 2:19
Run: 2:13:24 (10:11/mile)
Overall: 5:57:25 (33/98 F25-29) 

The whole gang
Admittedly, I have not had the best year of training but I have been working on speedwork more.  That plus the huge base I had from Ironman Wisconsin last year has really helped me.  And I think it is another lesson in not giving up on myself when things get tough.

Celebrating with my medal and Mtn Dew
Cost: $225
Pros: PR-friendly course, all the regular Ironman amenities, free lodging
Cons: No wetsuit strippers, large number of participants
Would I do it again? Despite the slightly higher cost, if this fits into my schedule I would do it again!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Door County Triathlon Race Recap

Two race recaps in one week. I'm on a roll.  This afternoon we leave for a short trip to the Tennessee Smoky mountains with Matt's family so any additional blogging is not likely to happen.

A little over a month ago, Kelly mentioned she was buying a bib for the Door County Half Ironman on Sunday, July 19.  The Door County Triathlon allows participants to transfer their registrations if they aren't planning on racing and quite a few people were trying to sell their entry.   So on the last day that transfers are allowed I bought a bib for $100 plus the $20 transfer fee! That's a good price for a half Ironman in my book!

Door County Half Ironman
July 19, 2015
8:00 am
1.2 mile swim, 56.3 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

I was already planning a half Ironman double in August--racing Ironman Steelhead 70.3 on the 9th and Pigman a week later on the 16th. So I wasn't really feeling ready to tackle a half Ironman quite so early but I figured I could use the race as a long training day.

Kelly found us a super cheap campground less than 10 minutes from the race site. Matt and I headed up late Saturday morning but not before stopping at Cabela's to purchase an air mattress! I need to camp in style!

Choosing the healthy route before a race is always important, so it makes total sense that we chose Arby's for lunch. I'm a sucker for curly fries.

Door County offers day of packet pickup so we didn't worry about rushing to the race expo that night.  Kelly was already at the campground so once we arrived we got our air mattress set up and enjoyed a Spotted Cow before dinner.  When in Wisconsin, right?

After a scenic dinner in Egg Harbor, we picked up some DINO wood before building our campfire to make some s'mores before calling it an early night.

Thankfully the weather cooled off nicely and I got a fairly good nights sleep.  Matt, however, was convinced he wouldn't need any blankets due to the heat and ended up stealing my one blanket halfway through the night. How rude!

The birds woke us up before our alarms on race morning so I made use of the quarter showers to rinse off the bug spray before donning my blue race kit.  Breakfast was a bagel and peanut butter provided by Kelly because I did not come prepared. 

Getting to the race site, packet pick-up, and tattoo application all went smoothly and soon I was racking my bike in transition.   Race numbers were assigned at packet pickup so I was #927 and that netted me a pretty good location in transition.  After making a quick note of where swim in, bike out, and run out locations were, Matt and I headed over towards the swim start. 

I put my wetsuit on while Matt took super attractive pictures of me
Thankfully Kelly and Brent found us before my swim start.  The bay had 18 inch rollers which made it the choppiest water I had ever swam in.  When the gun went off for my wave, I told myself the worst part would just be swimming out and once I was swimming parallel to the shore it wouldn't be so bad.  That turned out not to be entirely true but it helped get me through the swim.  The race had A LOT of lifeguards out in the water which I was very thankful for!  As I was approaching the second turn buoy I got really confused as two turn buoys were very close together and I was unsure if I was supposed to go through them or what.  A lifeguard ended up bumping me with his floaty and telling me I needed to go around both!  I fully admit fault here because I did not look at the provided course videos which would probably have cleared up the confusion for me.  

The chop in the swim meant I swam not straight at all.  And at times I would look up to sight and only see a swell of water in front of me and no buoys. I never felt panicked or out of control swimming but I was glad to be getting out of the water.  The swells definitely affected my swim time and I am fairly certain I hit a personal worst swim time. Yippee!

T1 went quickly thanks to a great wetsuit stripper!  Bike mounting went smoothly and I was off for 56 miles.  I spent the first few miles settling my heart rate down and rehydrating.  The bike course was very scenic and most of the roads were in good condition.  I enjoyed not having to make any 180 degree turns.  Aid stations offered water and Gatorade endurance formula which I took advantage of because the weather was warm and getting warmer. My goal on the bike was to stay comfortable and set myself up for a strong run.  Rumors swirling around before the race indicated that it was a hilly course and though there were a few rollers I wouldn't consider this course hilly.  I never had to get out of the saddle to climb.  

Near the end of the bike I started getting a headache and figured I wasn't taking in enough water and salts so I chugged a bottle of Gatorade.  By the end of the bike my headache was gone! On the bike I ate one BonkBreaker bar, one Honey Stinger waffle, and one Clif Shot Gel plus a few bottles of water and maybe 2 bottles of Gatorade. 

T2 was another fast transition into my running shoes and visor.  I forgot my race belt so I had to pin my bib to my top.  I won't forget my race belt in the future.  Once I started running, Matt pedaled up to me on his bike and told me that I was doing so good (I told him that I did not expect to do well!) to which I replied that I still had a half marathon to run! 

Running intervals worked well for me during the Ironman and I decided I would run 1 mile then walk for 30 seconds plus I walked through all the aid stations and up the steep hill at 5.5 and 9.5.  This method worked out great and I was able to keep even pacing through the end of the race!  Making it my best and fastest half Ironman run yet!  

At each of the aid stations I would take a cup of water, drink a few sips and dump the rest over my head, chug a cup of Gatorade, and dump ice down my top and my shorts.  Yes it is weird to dump ice down your shorts but it really helps me to stay cool.  I never felt too hot during the run! On the run I ate a Gu and a packet of Gu Chomps.  The hill at 9.5 was steep and it slowed my pace down a lot but there was no way I was running up that thing! My heart rate was high just walking! The popsicle aid station around mile 11 was clutch! 

The finish is down a big hill so I picked up the speed as much as I could but my quads were burning. 

Shockingly even splits
I came flying into the finish!

Immediately after the finish there were dunk tanks with cold water which I happily climbed in to cool off.  Then I got my medal and found Matt while we waited for Kelly and Brent to finish.  Having Kelly and Brent chasing me all day was great motivation to keep running! 

Swim: 43:02 (2:13/100m)
T1: 1:57
Bike: 3:07:20 (18.0 mph)
T2: 1:36
Run: 2:16:05 (10:23/mile)
Overall: 6:09:57 (13/25 in F25-29)

I am thrilled with my finish.  Matt mentioned how stoic I was before the race and how he knew I was really nervous.  And I was! I felt very undertrained for this race but I think not having a time goal actually helped me relax and race smart. 

Race twinsies!

The post race meal included BBQ pork sandwich, an ear of corn, and 2 beers! Spectacular post-race food in my book. We hung around for a bit but the sun was hot and I could already feel the sunburn on my shoulders.  Plus with the long drive home we wanted to get started earlier rather than later. After another quarter shower at the campground, we packed up our stuff and headed home. 

Half Ironmans make me famished so we stopped for dinner at Titletown Brewing in Green Bay.  

My very first poutine was fantastic
I enjoyed a cold Kurty's Hop Monster which was basically named after me and destroyed a spicy elk burger.  I couldn't resist taking a selfie with the Donald Driver statue outside!

Cost: $120
Pros: Awesome course, great post-race food, and great atmosphere
Cons: choppy water
Would I do it again?  Definitely!  The cost is great and I thought everything was well managed.  Next year we want to stay for the tiki party on the beach!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Esprit de She Naperville Triathlon Race Report

On Sunday, June 14, I participated in the Espirit de She Sprint Triathlon in Naperville.  The last time I competed in a sprint was in 2013 at the IronGirl race!  I was excited to see how my fitness compared to then.  Especially because I hadn't done much in the way of specific training for this race beforehand. 

Espirit de She Sprint Triathlon
June 14, 2015 
750m swim, 13.3 mile bike, 3.1 mile run

The day prior to the race was super hot and I spent the day picking up my packet and then helping my friends build a deck.  I was under the impression that I was going to hang out but Matt put me to work nailing in brackets.  I even had a blister from my work!  Dehydration did get to me a little bit and I ended up sitting inside cooling off and drinking water.    Since our friends lived closer to Naperville, we stayed with them on Saturday night to shorten our drive on Sunday morning.  

The weather did not get the memo that we were racing that day and I woke up to storms and more rain on the way.  Rain followed us all the way to Naperville.  I was less than thrilled to put my stuff in transition and race to say the least.  Since my wave was near the end, I ended up walking over to transition and leaving my things there in a plastic bag and heading back to the car to hang out for an hour and read my book.  Amy and I were texting and talking about our un-motivation to race.  

Eventually the rain cleared up! Alleluia! I never ended up getting body-marked because I couldn't find anyone doing it before the race so I just put on my wetsuit and got ready to race.  The swim is in a old quarry and the water is chlorinated.  It was quite a nice change from the dirty lakes where you can't see your hand in front of your face. 

With only about 3 minutes between each wave, my wait in line for the swim felt short.  My confidence in my swimming ability is growing so I finally told myself that I was not starting at the back and ended up in about the second row.  When the gun went off I sprinted into the water and started swimming hard. By about the first hairpin turn, I had separated from most of the group and found a good set of feet to follow.  We had to swim around quite a few people in the waves before us but I stayed on those feet.  I think I ended up coming out of the water 3rd in my wave.  I was happy with that and it's a reminder to me that I need to be selecting the more aggressive swim positions in future races.

Transition was a bit of a mess from the rain.  All my bike and run things were mixed together in one plastic bag so I had to dig a little bit to find my shoes, but it was all worth it to have dry running shoes and socks.  Bike out was a long, long way away from my bike which was quite a pain in bike shoes.  If I had paid more attention in the morning, I would have opted to run with my shoes in my hand.  

On the bike, I pushed hard.  It was a sprint afterall! Being about the 30th wave to start, there were a lot of people to pass on the bike course.  Triathlon bikes, road bikes, hybrids, beach cruisers, bikes with baskets--I saw them all on the course.   

And here is where I am going to do a bit of ranting. Espirit de She is a women's only race that markets itself as beginner friendly.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for getting people into triathlon and everyone is a beginner once, but what I am not all for is total disregard of the triathlon rules.  This race was USAT sanctioned which means I expected it to follow the USAT rules.  Rules help everyone race fairly and help keep all participants safe.  A few USAT rules include all riders must be wearing a helmet, no headphones are allowed, no drafting on the bike, and everyone must ride on the ride side of the road and pass to the left.  What I encountered on the bike course could be effectively described as a clusterf***.  Riders were strung out 3 wide across the road and generally weren't aware of the rules of passing.  I don't want to sound conceited because I am not some world-class athlete, but my Garmin data said I averaged 19.3 mph on the bike and when I was coming up behind someone biking less than 12 mph, that is not safe. Weaving in and out of other riders was not comfortable for me.  If I want to go on a leisurely ride, I can do that for free; I paid $86.40 to compete in this race and I was there to test my fitness.  I really wish Espirit de She would have emphasized the rules in their pre-race emails or at the expo. Ultimately, the burden to know the rules is on the participant though.  Espirit de She could have also had more course marshals or course officials out on the course encouraging participants to follow the rules. I've seen races do a great job of welcoming beginners while still maintaining the focus on safety and rule-following so I know it can be done. End rant. 

I had a strong bike and was able to dismount and start the long run back to my bike rack smoothly.  Although the pavement was very wet and I was warned it was slippery it was too late for me to slow down. 

The run was muggy but I was determined to run the entire thing.  No speed records were broken but I laid down fairly consistent splits (9:30, 9:29, and 9:13 according to my Garmin).  Running and I haven't been best of friends lately so it was nice to know I could still run. 

Swim: 11:24 (1:32/100m)
T1: 3:38
Bike: 41:36 (17.9 mph)
T2: 1:54
Run: 28:16 (9:06/mile)
Overall: 1:26:46

I found the distances to be slightly off compared to my Garmin.  Certainly, Garmins are not 100% accurate but I definitely did not swim nor run that fast. 

After the race, I checked out the goods with Kelly, Nicole, and Amy.  

Amy and I were rocking our Smashfest Queen tops.

I picked up a few freebies from the vendors including my favorite vendor Dunkin' Donuts.  And then made the long trek home to shower.  

Cost: $86.40 (signed up early)
Pros: Great swag--two Moxie biking jerseys
Cons: minimum focus on the rules
Would I do it again?   I'm not sure yet.  The price isn't bad but I'm still irked about the biking situation

Friday, May 15, 2015

Five Things Friday

Happy Friday! We survived another week.  Actually this week flew by for me! I have no big plans for this weekend so maybe that means my bathroom will actually get clean. Maybe.

Here is the five for Friday! 

1.   I've been following the Whole 30 diet for a little over 2 weeks now. It's.....meh. And I certainly haven't been perfect. It doesn't seem fair to have to give up chocolate AND bread AND alcohol. So I had some beer. The Whole 30 website says I am supposed to start over but screw that. I have eaten some really good salad including this one with spinach, tuna, avocado, tomatoes, and hearts of palm. I received a can of hearts of palm in my goodie bag from the Whole Foods class. I hadn't tried them previously but I really like them! #wholefoodies

2.   I went back to my hometown the other weekend to see my high school's musical.  I participated in drama every year of high school and always loved the spring musicals.  This year my cousin Shannon was in her first play -- Spamalot.  It was hilarious! And they did such a great job! 

She even got to wear some of the same outfits that I wore!

3.   The end of 2014 was so busy that I missed most of the book clubs! But I have been trying hard to make it to the meetings in 2015.  I made it to the April meeting at Jackie's house for "How to be Parisian" and many delicious French-inspired dishes.  The book wasn't my favorite but it was a really easy read and enjoyable.  I made these Carmelized Onion and Goat Cheese Crostinis which were a hit.  I think you can never go wrong with carmelized onions. 

Now if I could only get the May book from the library.  

4.  Matt has been working a's planting season. I kind of hate it. He's home tonight so I am happy  (yay for rain :) ) When he has been home he's been making good use of our tiny charcoal grill.  We don't have a gas grill at the new place so $35 at Home Depot got us this nice charcoal number.  I love the smell of charcoal and I really wish I wasn't on this stupid diet because it just makes me want to go out there and roast a marshmallow.  

5.   My grandpa celebrated his birthday on May 10!  We hoped to have a cookout at the park but it was just too chilly so we went to my grandparent's house instead.  I made him a card!

It says "A big birthday needs a big card".  ps my grandpa really likes squirrels. 
We couldn't quite fit 95 candles on his cake so instead we went with 14 because 9+5=14

I am so lucky to have this guy in my life. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Meal Prepping with Whole Foods

The other weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a blogger cooking class hosted by Katie and Whole Foods Northbrook. This class was focused on easy meal prepping and quick weeknight snacks.  So we received two recipes that were freezer-friendly and could be cooked up in a slow cooker. 

Amy and I partnered up and headed out into the store to collect our ingredients. First we hit up the produce section to grab some veggies for our stir-fry and veggie chili.  Then we moved over to the bulk section.  The bulk section at the Northbrook store is huge and puts the one at Kildeer--the Whole Foods that I shop most frequently--to shame. We picked out a grain for our stir fry and decided to try something new and went with wheat berries. I am really excited to try out a new grain. 

Plus we picked up a few spices to go with our chili. 

After weighing and labeling our ingredients we headed to the checkout. 

Before we got started with our prepping, Chef Sara showed us proper knife techniques and demonstrated the best way to cut an onion (by leaving the root on to hold your onion together)! I've been using the technique since and I love it!  

Then Amy and I got to work chopping our ingredients for our recipes.  I worked on the veggie chili while Amy prepped the stir fry.  

We made sure to save all our vegetable peels and scraps for the vegetable stock we would need for our stir fry recipe. 

Chili ingredients and veggie scraps
Once everything was chopped, we split each of our meals into two freezer bags.  Then we added the wet ingredients like canned tomatoes.

Before starting on our snack recipe, we dumped all our of veggie scraps into a big stock pot. Stock can basically cook and boil down all day long to get the most flavor in your stock.  Most times when I cook a chicken or a turkey, I will cook down the bones and skin and meat scraps into a broth with a few carrots, onions, and celery.  It is a great way to get more out of your food and broth can be used for just about anything! 

We didn't have all day to cook our veggie stock, so Sara just did a quick stock  by boiling for about 20 minutes.  All the liquid is then strained to get the flavorful broth. 

Veggie remnants
We did not leave empty-handed either.  Each participant left with a bag full of goodies; my bag included olive oil (perfect timing since I just used up an old bottle), hearts of palm, a can of salmon, and red lentils.  I have a killer salad recipe in mind for all these ingredients.

I'll make sure to share the recipes for the freezer meals when I cook them! 

Thanks so much to Katie for inviting me to this event and Chef Sara for a great class!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

27 facts

My 27th birthday was on Friday so as a fun post I am going to share 27 random facts.

1. I get great enjoyment out of using every lost drop of products especially toothpaste.  It's kind of an obsession.

2. I watched the whole first season of Girls this weekend because it was xfinity's watchathon week. It's hilarious.

3. For my birthday, Matt got me a gift he isn't giving to me until April 24. And the "event" isn't until June 4. This is greatly irritating.

4. I've already tried to google what is going on June 4.  I've had no luck.

5. My cousin and I share the same birthday, but he is 5 years older than me.

6. I was also born on the day of my cousin Jill's First Communion. She was upset that my dad, her uncle and godfather, couldn't stay for the whole day with her.

7. I finally signed up for The Skimm.  It's awesome and it's a great way to get the most important news in like 5 minutes. Plus it is there waiting for me when I get to work each day. You can sign up for it here.

8. I think recipe following is mostly optional.  Mostly because I don't have all the ingredients and I only like to go to the grocery store once a week.  So recipes get used for "inspiration" for whatever I have left in my fridge.

9. Measuring ingredients is overrated.  Of course, I measure important ingredients but most of the time I just dump things in.  It keeps the number of dishes I have to wash down.

10. In college, I slept in my jeans all the time. They are warm and I would come home from studying late at night and exhausted and not take them off. In the mornings, I sometimes would just get up and put on a new shirt and go back to classes.

11. I took my laundry home until I moved into my last apartment and got my own washer and dryer.  I hated paying a dollar every time I wanted to wash a load when it was free at my parent's.  Plus sometimes my mom would wash it for me.

12. When I got married, I dropped my old middle name and moved my maiden name to my middle name. Matt still calls me Alyssa Jo though.

13. I still sleep with a special blanket.  Matt rolls his eyes and I think he briefly tried to get me to get rid of it when he moved in but I still have it.

14. When I eat Lucky Charms (this reminds me, I haven't had any in a long time!), I save one of each marshmallow till the very end and then I eat them in order as I sing the song.  I know you know it--hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, and blue moons, pots of gold, rainbows, and me red balloons.

15. I hate maple syrup. I eat my pancakes with butter.  That's it.

16. Also jelly. It's gross. Peanut butter and bread.  Why do you need anything else on it?

17.  Matt calls me a condiment hater because of the above and because I also dislike mustard and don't eat ketchup on most things.

18. We finally got around to hanging up my medal rack this weekend.  I had to leave so Matt painstakingly hung up my medals in the same order that I had them by looking at my old instagram pictures.

19.  I am kind of particular if you hadn't picked up on that yet.

20. For a while I tried convincing myself that I liked almond milk and almond butter better than the original cow's milk and peanut butter.  I think it was because I read too many healthy living blogs.  I am back to the good stuff now.

21. My coworkers convinced me to try Birchbox.  I just got my first box on Friday.  Definitely a great idea. 

My hair smells really good right now.

22. I have not seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies.  Nor do I intend to. 

23. Ice cream is better than frozen yogurt.  Toppings are cool but so are blizzards.

24. We got a new washing machine in our apartment today.  I have a load of towels washing in it as I type.

25. I just asked Matt for a fact about me and he says "You are a closet gamer."  I'm going to pretend I don't know what he is talking about. 

26.  My 26th year was a really great year.  I finished an Ironman, got married, moved, and went on a honeymoon. But I hope 27 will be a little less busy than 26.

27.  This is really hard. Matt is 46 days older than me. 


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