Friday, December 21, 2007

Peace, I'm Out

See, even Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus knew where to Celebrate Christmas... under a nice, big Palm Tree! Doesn't that donkey just scream: Mexico?! Hola sand, I'm on my way.
This will be my last entry in 2007, so I wanted to post some Christmas well-wishes:
Mom, Dad, and Sarah - Is someone bringing sunblock? And... yes, Dad... I've got my passport. Love you all, see you tomorrow!
Grandma Jo - Merry Christmas!!! I miss seeing you over the Holidays, but as a fellow beach bum... I know you understand ;) LOVE XXOOO
DCAM Long - Great Card and update. Thanks! Have a great Christmas week. Sorry I missed the trip to Peoria. I love you all!
Noel - Hanging out with you last night was a wonderful Christmas surprise! Thanks so much for coming over, wine and goldfish crackers in tote, to sit and chat with me while I packed. How about you move back to SC?!
Harrison Household - Aloha and Mahalo for the Christmas card... M&G look so grown up. Have a wonderful week together - and don't forget to remove sharp objects from the kid's stockings ;)
Peter - Have a great Christmas, I'll try to send some sunshine from the beach.
Kolb Clan - Enjoy the Holidays! Grace, is there anything left of your gingerbread house?
Robin & Keith - Maybe y'all can celebrate the day with some sandwiches... what's up with you and those sandwiches? ha ha ha
Jennifer & Galen - Happy 1st Christmas of marital bliss.
Casten's (aka Lindsay Gibson and family) - I LOVED the Christmas Card... could Ava be any cuter? I don't think so. The "hair" bow on her little peach fuzz head, priceless! Merry Christmas to you, pass my greetings on the the rest of the Gibson Group.
Leah & Bradley - Another couple who tied the knot in '07... Merry Christmas! Hi to the Pilgrim's for me! Love to all.
Connie and Neil - I'm on a roll with the '07 marriages... Have a great Holiday Week! I don't know where you'll celebrate, but it doesn't matter, I know you're just happy to be together.
Kathy & Dan - I was so excited to get your Christmas card, Sammy looks very cute. Enjoy your time away from T... uh, I mean Power Wellness ;)
T & Michele - Merry Christmas... don't be a Scrooge, T! Oh, seriously I miss the sisterhood.
Austin's - Abby: Christmas Handshake! You are beautiful... thanks for the Christmas card. Your gorgeous smile brought tears to my eyes. Merry Christmas.
Sara and her party-goers - Did everyone recover from the best party of '07?! Thanks again Sara! Kate, Hans, Caroline, Cindy, Brooke, Kenneth, Russell, Trip, Emily, Mike... it was great to see y'all there. Happy Holidays to everyone!
My triathlon friends - Get some rest, eat some naughty foods, have a drink... We'll work it off in '08! I've really enjoyed keeping in touch with all of you, meeting you via blogs, and seeing you at races and in training. I look forward to making many more new friends in the coming year. Happy Holidays to Marit, Elizabeth, Alicia, Amy, Theresa, Sheila, Mary, Frank, Gabriela, Jirka, Danny, Kelly, Katie, Kimberley, Gail, Dean, Jeremey, Brad, Tracy, Bri, Bree, Jenni...
*ps... here's an email I just received from my Dad. AND fyi, he had NOT read the blog yet. Do I know my family or what?!
"Hope you are having fun on your last work day of the year. Can't wait to see you tomorrow in Dallas. Love you and do not forget your passport. And the sunscreen. Hugs and kisses, Dad"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Santa, take me away

I've gone from staying up at night, listening for sleigh bells on the roof, Santa sliding down the chimney, and packages being placed under the tree... to staying up at night, and counting down the days until Santa FLIES ME ON OUTTA HERE!

WooHOO! I want to be on the beach, sand between my toes, laughing with my family, running with salt in my hair, sun on my skin, swimming in the sea, watching the sun set over the ocean.

To my Southern friends who long for a white Christmas (btw, this morning on the news I learned the last white Christmas in G'ville, SC was in 1963... keep dreaming): I've had many, many, many SUPER deep, windy, frigid, painfully WHITE Christmases... been there, done that.

I'd rather have a White Sand Christmas. Nope, I don't miss the snow, holiday lights, angry shoppers, Santa decorations, carolers, yule tide (huh?), or evergreen trees. Here's why: Christmas, to me, is about being with family. And it's best to be with family when you're all in a good mood. And when we're on the beach, we're all in a goooooood mood.

Here are some pics of our Christmas destination

Monday, December 17, 2007

jolly hang-over

Phew... and we thought racing a triathlon was exhausting. Honestly, I can't keep up with the pace my friends set during these Christmas parties!! Not to mention the racing around in "transition"... decorations... fighting mall traffic/lines... getting dressed up... etc...

It's Monday, and I'm officially spent. Get me to Mexico already! Mom, Dad, and Sarah... I hear the beach calling us now. Best idea EVER: vacation instead of gift exchange. You can't wrap up a good day on the beach with family! fyi, I went to Barnes & Noble during my lunch to get books and home improvement magazines. We're set.

Friday night was spent at the Handlebar with friends for the Tab Benoit (awesome guitarist from Louisiana) concert.

Saturday I crashed the rockin' par-tay at Rolling Green (my Grandma's assisted living community). Oh yeah, that punch was definitely spiked ;) But, in all seriousness, my aunt and I had a good time with Granny. Even in her new, strange, medicinal, little world... we seemed to find the Christmas Spirit. And I ate all her gingerbread cookies.

Saturday night was the "Do you hear what i hear? part thrice" party, hosted by my girl SARA! One word - Amazing. This lady can pull off a party with more flare than Martha Stewart herself. I mean, somehow Sara managed to throw an Asian inspired Christmas Party (complete with Shanghai Chinamen Gingerbread cookies, teriyaki meatballs, Christmas fortune cookies, and sake jello shots)... and, does Martha provide ample supplies for "flip-cup?" I think not! Sara, I stand and applaud your tremendous efforts. You are my party hero! Everyone had a blast... and now we know your porch/living room/dining room/kitchen areas can hold 60 people. And (yes, Jen... get jealous), Sara loves me so much... she stocked each room with a bowl of M&M's... Merry Christmas, Ashley: here's your chocolate!
*evidently this party lasted until 5:30 am. WHAT?! I had to make my way out around 1:00, which is like leaving a party at 5:00 am in my world.

I'm not going to lie - I slept in on Sunday, and it felt GREAT! After forcing myself to get out of bed and down a cup of coffee... I laced up the shoes and headed out for a long run. That 1st mile was, eh, painful... but, the sun was out - I was in shorts - the wind was occasionally at my back - and I kept going!

An 1:30 later and I was home, much more on the "awake" side of life. A fantastic text message greeted me on my cell: "Ashley, come over for chili, baked goods, and football." Whoa - more than enough said! Jennifer, those are such beautiful words.

I cleaned up and headed to JB's... I found her in an apron, up to her elbows in sugar and flour. Listen here - I actually helped in the kitchen from about 2:30 until 8:00 pm (thank God I was fueled by the yummy chili)! That is more time than I've spent baking over the course of my life. Jennifer is a lawyer, and felt the need to bake "suck-up" gifts for the judges ;) So, we made lemon squares, cookies, fudge, puppie chow, and ritz cracker peanut butter sandwiches covered in white chocolate (which we named "white trash"). At 8:00, I had to leave the kitchen... so I dragged her to see the movie "August Rush". Excellent movie, btw!

Like I said... it was quite a weekend. Bring on the vacation.

Monday, December 10, 2007

winning & warm weather

Yes, two of my favorite W words: Win and Warmth. This past weekend I got them both! First place female at a local 5K on Saturday... and then, trail running in a tank-top and shorts with friends on Sunday. Has Christmas come early?!

Seriously... it's DECEMBER, and the high for today is 76 - that's degrees, my friends! We're talking upper seventies here! Hum, I feel like I might be coming down with something. Maybe I should stay home from work today?

Extended Forecast: Tues through Thursday
Low: 55° High: 76°
Low: 55° High: 77°
Low: 58° High: 70°

The 5K was a YMCA run event in Anderson, SC. I was running with my friend, David, who had signed me up. Ha ha, in looking at the results, I think he was trying to gain some points for the "home team." Hey you Anderson Local... I'm from Greenville and proud of it! Let's get this straight.

It was nice to leave for a race at 7:00 am (as opposed to the 4:00 triathlon wake-up calls ;). Got to the Y and stood in line at packet pick-up... where I got number #222 (oooh, good number). David was interested in learning more about warm-up / cool-down methods, so we went for a short jog. Typically at these 5K's, he does like I do at a swim meet... get to the race site, socialize, wait for your event, climb up onto the starting block (dry), and kick it into full speed once the gun goes off.

So we warmed up for about 10 minutes, stretched, and then hung around waiting for the race to get underway. It was not a large crowd... but, you could spot the more serious runners in the group.

Finally, feeling like I was about to burst (for some reason, I get claustrophobic before these road races... in triathlons, the crowd has spread out by the time you begin the run), the race began. I positioned myself behind a lady who took it out fast, and was wearing Nike Vaporflys - a sure sign that she has some speed. As we made it out of the YMCA parking lot, two high school aged girls came up on my shoulder. They cut in front of me, slowed slightly, then sped up each time I came up on their side. Well, after a few attempts... I finally mustered up a short burst and passed them on a hill. Spectators were telling me "second female" as I ran by. I could see the lead female about 100 yards ahead of me - and when we hit another hill, she seemed to slow a bit. So, as the course hit a few more - longer, gradual hills - I gained good ground. I passed her, on an uphill, around mile 2.

This was the 1st time I've EVER lead in a road race. I don't care if it was a rather small, local, YMCA, 5K: it felt great! Then, suddenly, the finish came into view. Man, it's been a loooong time since I raced anything in under 20 minutes. At this point, even in an Olympic distance triathlon, I'd still be in the water.

I made it to the finish line in 19:27 - and was greeted with the words, "and here is our first female finisher." They tore off my number (where is SetUp Events & their chip timing system when you need 'em?) and then David came in, just over 20 min. Not wanting to stand around, we set off for a cool-down jog. Two miles later... we headed into the YMCA for the post-race pancake breakfast: the real reason I agreed to run the race! Who doesn't like a 5K, with long sleeve t'shirt, and free pancakes?!

Here's where the story gets a bit confusing. They awarded OA male... then, proceeded to hand out male age group awards. (go David - we dominated the 25-29 AG). But, when they announced the OA female winner - it wasn't me? Hum, evidently an 8 year old girl had taken me down - in 18:15. WHAT?! Everyone applauded as they handed little miss speedy midget the nice, framed, Christmas picture (OA trophy). Well, damn, good for her - I thought about asking for her autograph, 'cuz when an 8 yr. old can run an 18:15 5K... she's got potential.

Well, I laughed it off and took my AG medal. It was a great race and I was happy with my time. Next, off to Commerce for some outlet mall Christmas shopping. And, fyi: they cleared up the OA Female award in the online results post. Phew, I didn't get smoked by a 3rd grader!

**some necessary information to understand the following story**
Robin and I have been having fun with our long Sunday morning runs - at Furman University and up Paris Mountain. Well, her husband Keith, and their friends Dustan and Jason wanted to get in on the action. Having not run much (if at all) since IM Florida, Keith needed to ease back into things. So, the guys asked to run trails at Paris Mtn. State Park.

Emails were flying throughout the day on Friday. Trash talk, men vs. women, piggy back rides, slinging beer cans, beer wench, a sudden "winter cold illness"... GAME ON! I was ready to take these guys down.

I don't know how/why I agree to such silly things - but Robin and I decided to do our planned run: up/down Paris Mtn (via road), about an 1:10 run.... and then meet up with the guys for a 40 minute trail run. I was sure the "warm-up" on Paris Mtn wasn't going to help the female cause in our battle of the sexes, but Robin and I still felt confident.

We started our run in shorts and long sleeves... but, even before hitting the mountain, she and I had stripped down to sleeveless tops. It was downright BALMY on December 9th! We were dripping sweat going up that incline. I later learned that it was over 70 degrees. And this is why I LOVE South Carolina.

Even though Robin and I ran slow, I'm proud that we can carry on a conversation while running uphill for 3 miles. Great run, wonderful company, beautiful views, muggy weather, YIPPEE!

After our 1:10 run... we got into our cars and met up with Keith. The state park was busy with people hiking, picnicking, mtn biking, running, etc... YES! It IS December. Dustan and Jason were right behind us and the trash talk resumed.

Keith led as we took off on a single foot trail. Although my legs were tired (5K race + run up Paris Mtn), I wouldn't have wanted to be doing anything else. Running awesome trails with fun friends. We went out 20 minutes, which took us up a really steep / root-filled climb. So, when we turned around I had sudden flash backs to running in Boulder, CO (good memories, eh Jen?). Bounding down the trail, I forced myself to keep up with the boys. Unfortunately, my teammate wasn't as confident in her downhill abilities ;) No worries, she quickly caught up when it evened out a bit.

I was behind Keith, our leader, and the pace remained comfortable on the way back - but, somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered his comment about about the girls being beer wenches... so, I staged my attack. When I saw, what I thought was the parking lot, peek into view... I bounded around a tree and shot in front of Keith (btw, I am already dreading the next time I ride with him - I'm dead meat). Off I ran at 5K pace, trying to pick my feet up and over rocks/roots/leaves. About 200 yrds later, I realized what I'd thought was a parking lot was really a road. Oops, we had about another 1.5 miles to go. OUCH! Dustan and Jason were breathing down my neck. Then, they formed a tag-team. Jason would push me to a sprint - then he'd die off - and Dustan would run ahead. This madness went on until I could sprint no longer. Luckily, Robin had saved some energy... so in the end, we came in #2 & #3. Fun times.

By this point I was ready to eat my left hand. We agreed to eat at the Atlanta Bread Company, which was thankfully just outside the park. Now hear this: We enjoyed our lunch OUTSIDE! That's right... my sweaty friends and I ate our sandwiches while enjoying the above 70 temps.

Not even the two layers of caked on sweat and grime could hamper my enjoyment of this beautiful day. Thanks EVERYONE for an AMAZING Weekend!

Winning + Warm Weather = Sweet Satisfaction

Thursday, December 6, 2007

number 6

As an addition to my "tag" questions (where I listed 5 things about myself)... I'd like to report the following:

I have a HUGE crush on the UGA Head Football Coach - Mark Richt. (Leah, girl... can you hear me? I know you agree!) To those of you also in the Mark Richt fan club, please take a second to vote online. Lets make Coach Richt the 2007 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year!

more... WEDDINGS!

While evaluating my 2007, I’ve come to one conclusion… much time was spent training for and racing triathlons. However, coming in a close 2nd was preparing for – traveling to – and attending Weddings! Luckily, I enjoy both events.

So… what’s more fun than when the two collide?! The marriage of Jennifer & Galen: two IM triathletes now bonded for life. CONGRATS! (not to overlook the marriage of Connie & Neil earlier this year... another rather athletic pair) I first met J&G at a pre-race party before IM Wisconsin in 2006. If I remember correctly, they hadn’t been dating long. I made many new friends that night, including Robin & Keith.

Since then, I’ve spent hours in the pool, miles on the bike, and plenty of time running with each of them. I can’t say it enough… I LOVE the friendships I’ve made through triathlon. Just last weekend, Robin invited me to join her on a run up Paris Mountain. Alone, this would have been an agonizing climb. Instead, she and I enjoyed a relaxed pace and spent the time catching up (when we were able to talk). Check out this profile (1,000 feet of climbing in the first 3.5 miles):

Jennifer & Galen’s wedding was beautiful. Of course, the most moving points emerged while they exchanged their vows. However, the most entertaining moments had to have been Robin & Keith singing hymnals as part of the wedding party. Not to mention how fun it is to see everyone dressed in a material other than spandex/nylon/polyester. Eh, we clean up NICE!

The reception, at Larkin’s on the River, was a blast. Great food, music, wine… and DANCING were enjoyed by all. Here are some pictures from the night.

Me, Keith, Robin, Jennifer, and Vladena (Peter's Mom)

Jennifer & Galen gettin' down

Robin & Keith (aka Chunk)... don't you both look so nice ;)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Ha ha ha...

My Living Will:

Last night, my friend and I were sitting in the living room.

I said to her, "I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine, and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

She got up, unplugged the computer, and threw out my wine. CHA!

*Thanks for that one, Sara. Hilarious.


Here's a better picture from the Spinx 1/2 Marathon. Check out my bodyguards, just trying to keep up (riiiight)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Family Time

Family and Friends are what it’s all about, am I right?! And, there’s no better time than the Holiday Season to be with F&F… especially when they travel to you ;) As it should be… family should congregate at the home of the member living in the most desirable location – G’Vegas, baby!

So… the weekend before t’giving, Sally and Doug packed up their conversion van and trailer (like the rednecks they’ll soon be) and headed toward the SE region. Their first stop was at the new homestead in Franklin, NC. They unloaded what will be the 1st of many loads of… “stuff.”

After a brief stay at their new place, they continued to Greenville…. Arrived at my house Sunday evening. It was SO great to see them! We quickly did some catching up and headed to bed. The next morning, the smell of coffee filled my house (love ya, dad!) when I got up for a run.

Monday through Wednesday were working days for me… but, when I got home on Mon – Sarah was there! Ok, exciting times! This was the 1st time since Christmas 2006 that the 4 of us were under the same roof! Crazy how close we remain. “I’d like to thank text messaging, cell phones, email, blogs, our local mail carriers, etc… for keeping my family up to date on my happenings.”

On Monday night we walked downtown to a new, cool restaurant: The Lazy Goat (imagine Mediterranean tapas if you will). Great food, and even better conversation full of hilarious stories. We made friends with the waitress (Jennifer)… asked her for some t’giving food dish ideas. Her recipes sounded so good, I got her email address and have continued correspondence.

On Tuesday Dad and I got up at 4:50 for swim practice. It was great. We split a lane and did 24X50’s on :50 (alternating hard/recover). Then I coerced him into joining me for 8X200 (alternate IM and free… the last 3 were all-out). Over 4,500 yards when all was said and done. Yeah, I’d become a better swimmer if I had to swim with him every week… that’s for sure.

On Wednesday, my kitchen experienced more cooking that it’s seen in many, many years. Sarah and Mom were busy with baking casseroles (contributed via email by the Lazy Goat waitress, Jennifer), mixing things, chopping, blah, blah, blah. It all smelled really good. Wonderful job ladies! Thanks to Dad, my garbage disposal is working again… and thanks to Sally & Sarah, we know my oven does work!

Thursday – Ah, Thanksgiving. I decided to prepare for the meal by doing a longer run. While I was out enjoying the beautiful morning, running over crunching leaves, and going over the things I was thankful for (including the ability to run and the yummy smells in my kitchen)… Mom and Dad busted Granny out of Assisted Living.

We all met up at Aunt Libby’s (literally 1.5 miles from my house). So, the house included: Libby, Paul, Art, Al, Lea, Lea’s Boyfriend Anthony, Anthony’s brother Vincent (hum, who’s wondering about their heritage ;), Sarah, Sally, Doug, Granny Flo, and myself. While things heated up in the oven… we broke out Cranium, the game. Good way to weed out the “intellectually weak” family members, btw.

Finally, now starving from the long run, we sat down for THE MEAL of all meals. YUM: corn bread stuffing, green bean casserole, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, broccoli casserole, dressing, cheesy potatoes (Thanks Aunt Carol!!), Turkey, apple pie… and then seconds of it all.

The rest of the day was spent digesting the above dishes. Another game of Cranium. Trying to learn a video game (Halo – some guy thing). Introducing my dad to… hilarious. Meeting Al’s girlfriend (so cute).

Friday: Libby, Paul, Sally, Doug, Sarah, Art, and Myself headed up to Franklin to check out the cabin. It was truly a beautiful drive into the mountains (marking what would be the last weekend with leaves on the trees). Their new place is amazing. Seeing some of the “Long Family” items already unpacked in the living room made already feel like home. I think we’ve already scheduled t’giving ’08 at the Cabin!

The former owners came to show us around (and brought donuts & hot tea… so hospitable here in the South). Somehow the decision was made to “winterize” the cabin… many, many steps… which included using a shop-vac to suck water out of the toilets. Well, while the homeowners tackled that job… Sarah, Art, and I worked on getting a fire going (duh, we were in the mountains and it was getting COLD). Finally got some flames going and avoided hypothermia. Snacked on turkey sandwiches. It really was a fun day, and I’m already looking forward to family trips to the Franklin Cabin! (ps, will also be an amazing place to ride… ye-haw!)

All the while: Lea, Anthony, and Vinny were somewhere in the woods camping it out for the weekend! Good for y’all… Lea, I’m proud of you for sticking it out!

It’s true, I’ve got a pretty set routine going for myself in my little house. Having Mom, Dad, and Sarah was different… but, just having them there made it feel like home. When they left on Saturday, I suddenly felt a sense of emptiness (where did my couch buddies go?!). Can’t wait to see them over Christmas (in another very desirable location: Mexico!).

*Since Thanksgiving, I’ve heard GREAT family news from the other side (Dad’s). My cousin, Erica (Coeur D’Alene, ID), just got engaged! AND… she got into tri’s last year! Kip (the fiancé) has done IM CDA 3 times… and she signed up for 2008! Oh, athletes all over the family. Here’s a pic of the happy couple. Again, CONGRATS Erica! The Long’s are all excited for you! You guys are too cute.

Monday, November 19, 2007

MDA motivation

I just received some pictures from MDA summer camp. My favorite shot: Philip and I gettin' down at the dance! Philip is the South Carolina Goodwill Ambassador (he has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy). Just something to keep me going on this Monday! There is so much to be thankful for...

I've been tagged

Alright, thanks for the "tag" Jen. Here you go....

With this game, I'm supposed to list 5 things people don't know about me (well, except my family & childhood friends, I guess):

  1. I didn't drink alcoholic beverages until I was around 22... yes, it's true. (and I'm still not a big fan of "going out," but I'll hit the bars from time to time...)
  2. I believe in ghosts... and I've seen one.
  3. I was born in the Philippines (my parents were living in Manila, working for CAT)
  4. If given a large sum of money... I would love to remodel my bathroom. I have a dream, of one day having the most amazing shower set-up imaginable. (Well, there are many things I'd like to improve upon throughout my house)
  5. I could survive on PB&J, Clif Bars, oatmeal, mac & cheese, pancakes, fruit, chocolate, and Red Bull.

I tag: Marit! You're it, chica

Friday, November 16, 2007

wonders of the body

Friends, athletes, strangers... I'm sure you'll be fascinated with the following "wonders of the human body." Good entertainment for this Friday afternoon:

- Scientists say the higher your I.Q. - The more you dream.
- The largest cell in the human body is the female egg and the smallest is the male sperm.
- You use 200 muscles to take one step.
- The average woman is 5 inches shorter than the average man.
- Your big toes have two bones each while the rest have three.
- A pair of human feet contain 250,000 sweat glands.
- A full bladder is roughly the size of a soft ball.
- The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades.
- The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica.
- It takes the food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach.
- The average human dream lasts 2-3 seconds.
- Men without hair on their chests are more likely to get cirrhosis of the liver than men with hair.
- At the moment of conception, you spent about half an hour as a single cell.
- There is about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.
- Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil.
- The enamel in your teeth is the hardest substance in your body.
- Your teeth start developing (in your gums) 6 months before you are born.
- When you are looking at someone you love, your pupils dilate, they do the same when you are looking at someone you hate.
- Blondes have more hair than dark-haired people.
- Your thumb is the same length of your nose.

*At this very moment I know full well you are putting this last fact to the remove your thumb from your nose

Thanks for the fun fwd Becky!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

IM Redneck Riviera

Ah, Panama City Beach.... home to numerous high rise condos, waffle houses, gigantic surf shops... and Ironman Florida!

What a trip, what a race. The journey started on Halloween. I rushed out of work and drove to Gerald & Sarah's house. They were preparing Grace, aka Tinker Bell, for trick-or-treating. I was on candy duty. After I passed out the goods from their front porch, and they returned from the door-to-door begging, we piled bags/bikes/baby into the car and took off (around 7:30 pm).

Our original plan was to drive until midnight, find a hotel, crash, and finish the drive to PC in the morning. Well... you know how it goes... you put two competitive triathletes in the front seats of a car, give them a destination, and you're bound to see them drive until both pass out or you reach the point of interest.

So, after listening to Grace talk/cry/sing/scream the entire way (thank goodness she's so cute) and hitting the usual ATL traffic, we arrived in PC at 3:00 am. Just enough time to get some sleep.

I swear I closed my eyes and the alarm went off 2 minutes later. Somehow, Grace was wide awake (the child has more energy than the energizer bunny)... and urging everyone to say "good morning to the sunshine." (Hey, I'll greet the sun any day!)

We grabbed bags and left for the beach - as we were to meet other SC competitors at the race start around 8:30. What a sight... beautiful white, sandy beaches swarming with athletic bodies ;) Not a bad Thursday morning. G took off into the water for his swim, Sarah and Grace began building sand castles, and I began hunting for our friends. Not so easy to find people when everyone is wearing a black wetsuit! I ran into Jerome who was preparing for his swim... then soon found Peter, Keith, Robin, Gaylan, and Jennifer.

Everyone seemed pumped up and ready to get off their feet. I left with Peter... we went to his "home stay" (an awesome, huge house in a gated community about 10 min away). Barbara, his hostess was so wonderful to take us (Peter, his mom, and myself) in for the week/weekend.

Thursday night we had a huge rave at G's condo ;). Riiiiiight.

.... well, I last worked on this post weeks ago. Sorry for the delay. Since IMFL, I've had the eye surgery (success!!! I can see, CLEARLY). Used my new fantastic vision to watch the DAWGS romp up on AU.... gotta love college football and the SEC (the perfect Fall day in Athens, GA with Dad and Sarah). I also ran a big MDA fundraising event in Spartanburg, SC (raised $76,800... goodie!).

To sum up IMFL: it was a blast. Everyone raced SO well... CONGRATS to Peter, G, Jerome, Robin, Keith, Gaylan, Jennifer, Nicole, Julie, Forrest, Regina, & Frank. I was exhausted just cheering for you all.

Jen, Peter's mom, and I ran one loop of the course while the athletes were out on their bikes. After that very tough workout, we treated ourselves to some WAFFLE HOUSE (oh baby!)... soooo yummy.

Post race was your typical IM scene... Peter getting IV's and me wandering around looking for people I know. I loved seeing Jerome, Forrest, and G finish (all achieving BIG PR's). YES! Celebrated with some Papa John's with G & Sarah.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

4 eyes - 6th place

Today marks day 16 in glasses. Since I've worn contacts 365 days a year since 1994... this is torture! Not to mention, my glasses prescription is way out of date. Vision is a bit questionable. My morning runs have been a foggy mess - humidity messing up the lenses as the frames slide down my nose.

Looking on the bright side (yes, wearing my glasses means that everything is bright... I don't have prescription sunglasses, so I'm left to cycle and run without shades)... I will soon have perfect vision without contacts or glasses! Yippee!!

I'm finally cashing in on the college graduation gift my parents offered in 2003. Thinking my Dad might actually enforce an expiration date, I've set the Lasic Eye Surgery for November 8th. What a perfect gift... or maybe they're just trying to make up for the faulty genes they passed down (horribly crooked teeth, small hands and feet, underdeveloped calf muscles… ha ha, Mom, and poor eye sight). Alright, I know I should feel blessed to be so healthy. My “imperfections” are fixable (well, most of them are… building my calves has been a futile effort; and I don’t think there’s any changing my stubbornness; and I’m sure you’re all thinking about other faults I’ve not listed.. how about you keep those to yourself).

The doctor requested that I wear glasses until the surgery. Evidently contacts carry bacteria which could cause harm during the surgery. So, until then I’ll be the nerd girl riding & running in glasses (squinting on sunny days). Thank goodness there’s huge black lines painted on the bottom of the pool!

But, I am happy to report that even in glasses I finished 6th female OA in the half marathon on Sunday. Gail Kattouf (2 OA amateur female recently at duathlon worlds) won in 1:21:00. 2nd and 3rd went to two Kenyan ladies that live in Augusta, GA. Placing 4th and 5th were some super fast local chicks (4th = Kristi Arledge… who won the Disney “Goofy” award: lowest combined time of ½ marathon and full marathon in the same weekend!). Therefore, I am more than pleased with 6th place… in fact, I’m ecstatic! Yet another reason to race… seeing yourself do something you never imagined possible.
1:27:12…. Sweet!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ok, one more race

Just when you think about taking a few weeks off... an opportunity to race pops up.

After coming back from Leah's wedding, my 2007 tri season officially ended. With no races in the near future... I could finally do it: train for fun, cut a workout short if I felt like it, run longer if the weather was nice, avoid the pool for a week, not worry about pace/intervals/speed... Just enjoy and have fun.

Really, this is why I started running in the first place - a release. Some people like to meditate, others clear their mind with soothing music, I have friends that cook as a way to relax... Well, while in college, I learned to run from stress. I've always enjoyed being outside, and sometimes you need peace and quiet. College is great, but it's packed full of people, parties, exams, studying, group projects, papers, lectures, football games... granted, all fun things... but I loved my hour alone. An hour in which I didn't have to study, talk, think. Or, maybe I wanted to think. It was my time.

I wasn't fast when I started running. Athens is hilly, but I forced myself to keep going. I enjoyed seeing my pace drop - noting that I could push myself by adding distance. I ran on trails by the intramural fields. My favorite route became a 1.2 mile loop that went around a small lake... at first, because of the hilly terrain, I could only make it around a few times. But, during my Senior year, I did that loop 6 to 8 times 6 days a week. I wasn't a "runner," I wasn't on a training schedule, I wasn't aiming for any particular race; I ran because I loved it. I did that 1.2 mile loop so many times, to this day, I can close my eyes and picture every little turn, hill, rock, tree, root... It was fun to watch the seasons change, leaves fall, winter set in, then spring in bloom.

I got caught up in the regimen. Maybe this is why I've taken so well to triathlon training? Every morning, I first put on running clothes. Over my running attire, I'd dress for class. After sitting through a few lectures, I'd rush over to the intramural fields... strip down and take off. It helped not going back to my apartment before I ran. Less of a chance that I'd get distracted or sidetracked by the 1001 things college life has to offer.

Only after college did I realize my training had turned me into a decent runner. I entered a few 5K's, 10K's, even a half marathon. Placing well, even winning my age group sometimes, fueled my competitive fire. I wasn't going to be a cheerleader forever, but this I could get into.

**** fast forward to present day:

Today I PR'ed in a half marathon! 1:27:12. The Greenville Spinx Half Marathon was a last minute addition to my 2007 race plan. My friend, Sarah, got injured during her training... and suggested I take her spot. To make things legal, I went with her to packet pick up and we changed the registration name.

I had not really been training for a half marathon, but coming off tri season - I figured I could do alright. It's been a goal of mine to break 1:30 in the half... however, an unplanned race on a hilly course? Hey, bring it on!

How nice to go to a race without packing a transition bag, lugging your bike, struggling to get a wetsuit on! So, about 15 minutes before the start we found ourselves moving with the crowd to the start line. "We" included me & my bodyguards: Peter & G (who I made wear matching shirts and gloves, btw). They're both training for IM Florida and wanted to get in a 10 mile run. With a bodyguard on either side, they shot the gun and we were off.

Suddenly, I realized how different it is to run a road race. Usually, when you get off your bike during a tri, it's your race to run. Here, it was hard to find my own pace; resisting temptation to push and hang with the leaders. But, alas, I'm no ex-collegiate CC star... I know what I'm capable of maintaining.

We left downtown Greenville and ran toward the Furman University campus. I saw my pace, worried that I might have taken it out too quick, but felt good and kept running. Peter and G broke off at mile 5, leaving me to run through Furman without my posse protection (and don't you think I didn't worry about this... see my "lost in FU" post). Luckily, the route was well marked. At mile 8, Peter and G retook my sides. Keeping the same pace I'd started out running, I was able to pass some girls in the last 3 miles.

Returning to the downtown streets, I realized that I was going to break 1:30! Yippee! This motivated me through the last mile, up the final hill, and over the finish line. I'm not sure yet, but I think it was good enough for a top 10 OA placing. I smoked my goal, had fun running with Peter and G, enjoyed a gorgeous morning outside, and... hey, the start/finish was less than a mile from my house ;)

Friday, October 26, 2007

runaway (almost) bridesmaid

Dedicated to the new: Mr & Mrs Chambers!
(The following happened the week of October 13th)

My week was rolling along as planned. On Thursday morning, I headed up to Charlotte for a 2 day MDA regional meeting. The meeting was held at the National Whitewater training facility (very cool, see: They gave us the afternoon off to go rafting, mountain biking, hiking, etc… I opted for running because I was planning to race the final SCTS event: Hartsville International Tri on Saturday… So, I got in a nice run before reconvening for our group dinner.

Friday was a day full of meetings… somewhat wrapping up 2007, and laying out plans for ’08. Important note: because of the meetings, I had my cell phone set to silent.

When we finally broke on Friday afternoon, my colleges and I (from the G’ville office) booked it out of there and hit the road. We all had things to get back for… and I needed to get everything ready for the next morning’s race.

I made it to Peter’s house later in the evening. He was nice enough to put race wheels on my bike and cook a huge pasta dinner. I spent some time preparing my transition bag and then we sat down to eat. Fully “loaded,” and exhausted from meetings/traveling/packing I made my way to bed.

As I was getting ready to crash… I reached for my cell phone. In all my rushing around, I’d forgotten to take it off silent. Hum, missed a call from Leah… and a text from her saying, “where are you.”

*side note #1: Leah is one of my Best Friends! She and I were roommates throughout college… after first meeting at freshmen orientation; we grew extremely close during our time in Athens, GA. Anyway, she and Bradley got engaged early this year. I was thrilled to be asked to be a bridesmaid in their wedding.

*side note #2: I’m 26… therefore wedding, bridal shower, and baby shower invitations are hitting my mailbox like birthday party invites did when I was 9. It just so happens that 2 wedding invitations arrived on the same day; one for October 13th and one for November 10th. I committed the dates to memory, and planed to enter them on my calendar once I got to my computer.

*side note #3: I messed up big-time. After later investigation, I mixed up the couples / dates when entering things on the calendar. But, once something is on my calendar… I never question it again. I had numerous conversations with Leah… about my dress, taking time off work on “Friday” to get to the rehearsal & rehearsal dinner. Made a hair cut appointment.

So, I told myself to call Leah after the race. Wonder what she needed?!

Well… as I was drifting off… my cell phone rang. 11:15 pm, and it was my Dad?! Oh no, what’s going on? I pick up, and the conversation goes something like this:

“Dad, what’s going on, are you alright?!”
“Ashley, are you OK?”
“Yeah, I’m sleeping… getting up tomorrow for a race.”
“Are you in Chattanooga?”
“What, no… I’m in bed.”
“Aren’t you in Leah’s wedding?”
“Uh, yeah… but, it’s in November.”
“Well, Leah seems to think otherwise… she called our home phone wondering where you are. They’re worried because you said you were leaving work early to get to the rehearsal.”
**** the sleep-cloud vanished ****

“WHAT… ohmygosh. How did I screw that up? I’ve got to call her, thanks for calling Dad.”

So, I called Leah. She was a bit stressed (rightfully so… night before the wedding and a bridesmaid goes MIA). I felt horrible. Suddenly the pound of pasta sitting in my stomach made me feel nauseous. There was no explanation; I can only apologize so many times before coming up with a plan to get up there!

Got my alarm set for 4:50 am. Thankfully, my dress was pressed and ready for the big day. Then, the next morning, I was running around my house getting things together. Unlike my original plans (coffee, oatmeal, spandex, sweatpants, transition bag, bike, etc…) I was in a completely different mode (shower, lotion, makeup, packing… bridesmaid dress, heels, strapless bra… etc…)

Still early in the morning, my half-way dressed up self jumped into the car and aimed for the ATL. Augh, driving to Chattanooga is so back-@$$ed. Looking at a map, you’d think it was quick and easy. Not so, my friends. From Greenville you have to drive all the way down to Atlanta, over (West), and all the way up I75. Pain in the butt.

What should have taken… much longer…. Took me 3.5 hours! Go me!

I arrived in Flintstone, GA (Leah's parents house... just outside of Chattanooga) and pulled onto Bedrock Ln. (Yes, that's right... ha ha ha). The ladies were in full wedding mode. KK (Leah's younger sister) let me in. Known for being a serious tomboy, KK's curled hair and make-up shocked me! I made my way upstairs and found Leah, and her mother, getting their hair done.

I was relieved to be there (before pictures/ceremony ;). Finally, I could take a second to breath. Leah and I chatted away, catching up and talking about the wedding & honeymoon. She seemed so calm, looked so beautiful, and exuded a happiness I'd never seen in her.

Hair and make-up done, we piled into cars and drove up Look-Out Mountain. What a perfect wedding location. We finished getting ready in the locker room of the Look-Out Mtn Country Club (site of the reception). Pictures were taken outside (while Bradley was quarantined to some closet or something). As the ceremony time grew closer, I could see Leah getting fidgety. She was anxious, nervous, excited... and still gorgeous (I mean, this girl should be on the cover of a Bridal Magazine!!).

5 min to show time, the rest of the bridesmaids and I headed outside. We met up with the groomsmen and got in line. Everything was perfect: the flowers were stunning, fantastic view, outstanding weather, happy people... everything a wedding should have.

I walk down the aisle covered with multicolored rose petals and took my place. Then the "old timey" car pulled along side the guests. Leah and her father stepped out, and my eyes were instantly wet. I was just so happy for her, happy to be standing up there with her, happy to see Bradley so in love with her, dammit I was happy for everyone. It was a moment I'll never forget.

The ceremony, under a chandelier full of flickering candles, was short and sweet. We broke for more pictures and then headed into the clubhouse. Fun fun fun: a huge band playing well known tunes (thumbs up for their "midnight train to Georgia" rendition); great food; 3 (count 'em) 3 wedding cakes (including a peanut butter/chocolate... Leah, I love you); happy/dancing people; more gorgeous flower arrangements; etc...

Soon the party began to wind down. Leah and Bradley were ready to get on the road (to spend the night in Atlanta before flying to Mexico the following day). *and here's where we had the only hitch: the genius groomsmen had "doctored up" Bradley's car. Ok, typical guys. Unfortunately, they did something to the spark plugs. Yeah, the car wouldn't start. After some serious wait time - Leah and Bradley finally got away in her mother's car.

I hung around to help clean up. We carted gifts and decorations back to Leah's parents house. After everyone made it home, I had a great time rehashing the night with Leah's mom. Don't even get me started on the Mother of the Groom.... who continually rolled her eyes during the ceremony, danced the night away with her "special guest" (aka Bradley's ex-girlfriend), and generally pissed people off.

Suddenly, exhaustion hit me. I crashed hard... but, not able to sleep well in strange beds, I woke up around 7 am. I found Leah's dad walking around in the back yard with their dogs. I spent some time catch up with him, then decided to get an early start on Atlanta traffic.

Waved goodbye to the Pilgrim household and aimed South for Atlanta. Luck was again on my side. Somehow I managed to, once again, avoid major traffic. The drive was peaceful, a good time to reflect... and call people I'd put on hold during tri season.

Once home, I grabbed my bike and headed out for a ride. Since I'd been preparing for a race... maybe a time trial? Yes! Totally smoked my best time on our regular 9 mile loop. Way to top off an awesome weekend.

To Leah & Bradley: I wish you all the happiness in the world. It's couples like you who make me believe in true love and soul mates.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Playing Catch-Up

Ok, ok... I've fallen behind in my "blogging." I have been busy (really, who isn't?), but I've wanted to report about all these things! Now is the time - this post may fall short of my usual detail, but I need to get back on track.

"Playing Catch-Up" a good title for this update... and an excellent way to describe my performance at the SC 1/2 IM.

My game of catch-up began approximately 20 meters into the swim, ha ha. That's about how long I stayed with the lead pack. I would like to report, however, that I was not the only person to deviate from the elite bunch. Once again, in Lake Greenwood - we were swimming right into the rising sun! I couldn't see buoys, couldn't stay with the fast swimmers, and yup... I went off course. It seemed to take forever to get to that 1st turn buoy. As I made that 1st turn, I was convinced I'd already put in an extra 200 yards or so. Well, I kept my pace steady and reminded myself that it was going to be a long day... no need to stress in the first 15 minutes!

After the 1st turn, I could finally see... and I was headed for the orange straight-away buoy. ***note: you are required to turn on the outside of the turn (yellow) buoys; the straight-away buoys (orange) are for sighting aid, you can pass on either side**** So, the orange buoy passed on my right side and I continued on. The next time I lifted my head to sight, a kayaker had positioned himself right in my path! He was yelling for me to STOP. HUH?! What?!
"You need to go back to that buoy and go around the right side," he shouted.
Well, I put my face back in the water and continued on.
Oh no... he stopped me again... I would have swam right into his boat.
"What is your number... go back to the buoy NOW!" he yelled to me.
"We only have to do that for the TURN buoys... learn your rules!" I yelled back, before I resumed my game of catch-up.

After many many many more strokes... I was able to get out of that darn lake.
Evidently not too worried about transition times (oops!) I jogged to my bike. Had some problems getting the wetsuit off; took a drink from my water bottle; put on socks; made sure the shoes felt comfortable; put on cycling gloves (not easy when you're wet); sunglasses; strapped on the helmet; grabbed the bike.... and then, finally, I left T1.

The next 56 miles are becoming a blur in my memory. Throughout the first 20 miles, I kept feeling like I had to burp... don't know if it was the lake water, or maybe the Red Bull I'd had before the race, maybe a combo of the two? So... I burped/threw-up a couple times. It wasn't nausea... just fluid coming up. Yuck (tmi, sorry). It wasn't a big deal - until I realized that I wasn't taking in enough fluids. I grabbed for watter at the aid stations. Eventually, the burp problem went away.

The ride felt great! It's a pretty rolling (sometimes hilly) course... I was glad to feel strong the entire way. The final stretch of road (heading back to transition) was a mad headwind. I tried to get aero and spin out my legs, preparing for the run. As I got closer to the park, I could see leaders already running... including the lead female - very far ahead of me. As I rode toward T2, I heard someone tell me that I was 12 minutes back. Ok: good news = I'm the 2nd female... bad news = she's 12 minutes ahead.

Well, I had started this race with no "placing" expectations. Finishing amongst the leaders would be icing on the cake. I still had a 1/2 marathon to run! No time to begin goal setting now... finish STRONG!

Running actually felt good. I was not suffering. It felt nice to pump my arms and be upright. My legs were tired, but they responded when I asked them to run. Soon, I found myself behind Jay Hewitt (who I ended up following the whole run) and Pete Edge. I settled into a pace and made it to the 1st 5K mark ahead of schedule. Water, gel, keep running. *The run course at this race is essentially two times out and back.

Turned around and made my way back to the park. Now, I could feel the heat... I wasn't hot, but dehydration was beginning to set in. I started to think about how little I consumed during my ride. I think my body paid for it on the run! If depleted, my legs are prone to cramping... and I could feel the signs. Oh no, please not now!

I'm sure my pace slowed slightly after mile 8. Hum, it was either go a bit easier... or succumb to cramping. Because the run was a straight out and back stretch X 2, I was able to spot people many times. I saw Peter right behind the lead guys... and I saw the lead female, getting closer each time. I was chipping away at her lead, but I was in no physical shape to surge & close the gap.

The last mile was tough - inside the park - and up that AUGH! awful hill to cross the finish line. I had been talking to my legs, asking them to hold off on the cramping. Well, RIGHT when I stopped, they seized and I pretty much couldn't walk. I was smiling, so glad to be finished! AND, proud of myself for coming within 1:30 of the 1st female (making up some serious time... mmm hum, that catch-up game!)

They helped me to the medical tent. Got me hooked up on an IV... and as I was lying there, Peter came over to my cot. He congratulated me on a great race, then asked what I had ordered?! What? He said, "I highly recommend the IV bags, they are Great!"

So, it turns out that a lady, not racing in the Elite division, had a fast day. Therefore, I ended up 3rd OA! I was honestly so excited about the whole day. And I won some $$, not bad.
Lessons learned:
  • seriously, become a faster swimmer
  • learn to sight (sun, what glare? ;)
  • duh! Transitions are part of the race too!
  • drink, don't burp, get fluids down the hatch and keep them there.
  • keeping fluids down on the bike could prevent walking through drink stations on the run.
  • I will do this distance again!

Other happenings since that race:

I realized that I'm way too dependant on Microsoft Office Outlook. If it's on my calendar, I plan for it and show up. If it's not on my calendar, I probably won't be there. If it's noted on the wrong date... I might almost miss my Best Friend's Wedding!

*Ok, a story for another day. I'm going to go clear my head with a short run.... might do a half marathon this weekend.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

SC Half RR

I am very sorry to make you look at those race pics for so long. Don't worry... I'm alive and well. It's been a crazy week (post to explain that soon) and I've been unable to sit down and compose a race report. Well, now that you're familiar with what I was wearing during the SC Half, he he, let me tell you how the day unfolded:

The half was a Sunday race... so nice to have all day Saturday for preparation / eating / relaxing / packing / etc... I did a short run on Saturday morning then tested out my bike. Everything felt smooth. I carried my water bottle around all day like a kid with a security blanket. Spent more time analyzing what went into my transition bag. This was my first half... and the first time I needed to think about race nutrition. Here's where the nerves set in. Olympic dist is mentally easy - a water bottle for the bike, and you're set. For this race, I really did put thought into calories, hydration, timing, blah blah.

Peter's friend, Frank, had come up from Florida for the race. The 3 of us had fun catching up and listening to his stories about crewing for a guy during Badwater (134 mile non-stop running race). Frank is trying to qualify for this insanity in '09. Oh Frank...

That night, my mind was spinning with thoughts about the race. I was excited to try this distance, but I was so nervous at the same time.

Race morning had all the usual components: EARLY wake-up call, coffee, nerves, oatmeal, Peter's techno music. Frank, Peter, and I packed into Frank's truck and we were off to Greenwood. What a way to drive to a race in G'wood.... the 3 of us all cozy on the bench seat like true rednecks. Peter was driving, I was in the middle, and Frank was nodding off to my right.

Somewhere along the way, after we had turned off the interstate, I noticed movement on the left side of the road. I turned my head to look out the window... and stared into the eye of a deer (note: we were going about 70 mph, this all happened in a split second). Peter and I both let out a yell. Ok, maybe I screamed like a girl. That damn deer almost ran straight into the side of the truck! Frank slept through the whole thing.

We finally arrived at G'wood state park (again cutting it much too close to the start for my liking). With Fall creeping in, we had to unpack and get bikes together in the dark. To you people with your head-lamps, great idea. I threw my bag on my back, and we peddled toward registration. The line to get your race packet was a bit longer than usual... an indication that this race hosted a sizable crowd.

To be Continued......

Thursday, October 4, 2007

SC Half Pics

Nice socks Peter ;) Are you playing soccer or racing a tri?!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Matching Bronze

Peter, Dean & Ashley

The G'ville Ladies... Ashley & Kimberly

Due to the aforementioned workload... I can't write a detailed race report. However, for those of you who asked about the SC 1/2 Ironman: it went great! Peter and I left with matching 3rd place trophies. I'm so glad to have that race distance under my belt... and by placing 3rd OA female in my first 1/2 IM, I surpassed even my own expectations.

Things to anticipate in the report:
  • almost hitting a deer on the way to the race
  • once again failing to stay on course in Lake Greenwood (see Festival of Flowers race report)
  • being stopped TWICE by a volunteer kayaker (not because I was off course... although, I really could have used the assistance THEN?! No, this volunteer wanted me to go back and around the right side of the straight away buoys. Luckily, I know my rules... straight away buoys are for sighting. You ONLY have to go to the right of the TURN buoys!)
  • taking 2:19 in transition #1... yes, that's right. Problems stripping the wetsuit, getting cycling gloves on, socks, shoes, sunglasses, helmet... lipstick, hair touch up, sunscreen... then, a cup of coffee... signed a few autographs, posed for pictures... HA.
  • throwing up during my ride... twice. Yum.
  • feeling good on the run... but, having a conversation aloud with my quads. "please don't cramp. I can tell you're thinking about it. If you don't cramp, I promise you a nice long massage."
  • cramping immediately upon crossing the finish line.
  • having fun in the medical tent... treating dehydration (IV) and inner leg chaffing. The doc made me dress my own wounds... I think he was scared to put his hands between my legs ;)
  • Having fun catching up with friends after we all finished: CONGRATS to Jay, Kimberly, Dean, Aubrey, Frank, Peter... it was a great day for ALL.
  • Thanks to Sarah & G for the champagne! What a nice post-race surprise!

Friday, September 28, 2007



There is a dangerous virus being passed around electronically, orally, and by hand. This virus is called Weary-Overload-Recreational-Killer (WORK). If you receive WORK from any of your colleagues, your boss, or anyone else via any means DO NOT TOUCH IT. This virus will wipe out your private (or athletic) life completely.

If you should come into contact with WORK, put your jacket on and take two good friends to the nearest grocery store. Purchase the antidote known as Work-Isolating-Neutralizer-Extract (WINE) or Bothersome-Employer-Elimination-Rebooter (BEER). Take the antidote repeatedly until WORK has been completely eliminated from your system.

*sorry if you've been disappointed with my blog regression... I've been plagued with WORK. You'll find me looking for the antidote soon. Will try to abstain from taking the antidote until after this weekend's 1/2 IM race. Hum, after Sunday... I'll probably need a double dose.

** a nice response I got from M.M. via email:

"I've found that there is a proactive measure that can be taken as well. Consumption of Long-term Isolation and Quarantine of Unusual Occupational Ramifications serum is quite effective in preventing the WORK virus, although side-effects are more severe than W.I.N.E. or B.E.E.R., and may include severe headache, loss of memory, speech/motor skill impairment, and poor(er) judgement, with some participants experiencing more rare side-effects in the following days such as epidermis pore alcohol effusion, a gasoline-like odor, and pregnancy, especially when used in the form of TEQUILA [LIQUOR made me forget the acronym]."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Beyond Fabrications!

Drum Roll…. I got a NEW BIKE!
Beyond Fabrications Blink Carbon TT

It is sleek, sexy, shiny, smooth, swift… and it ROCKS MY WORLD! Actually, it makes my world fly by as I hammer down the roadways. I am in love.

Jim @ Beyond Fabrications – Thank you! You have been amazing to work with throughout the “build process”! Thanks so much for clearly explaining my options, making the whole process extremely easy, shipping everything quickly, dealing with my specific color requests, and… for making AWESOME BIKES!

Peter – Thanks for taking all the parts from the process mentioned above… and turning them into a functioning bicycle ;) Looking at the frame, surrounded by cables, chains, derailleurs, cogs, shifters, peddles, and a bunch of other parts (which I can’t name)… was a bit frightening (speaking of frightening: please, don’t ever take that air compressor drum tool near her again!). Somehow, on Friday, you took all that stuff – pieced it together – and I was riding it the next day!! WOW!

So, on Saturday, Peter and I joined Robin and Keith for part of their IM training ride. (I was SUPER excited about getting on my new bike… but, even this couldn’t have motivated me to ride 6 hours.) And, although the calendar tells me that Fall has begun, I’m thinking South Carolina didn’t get the memo. This weekend, our temps continued to climb into the mid 90’s.

Luckily, the new bike distracted me from the heat. I had so much fun out there. On the other hand, Peter came close to death by dehydration… but, Robin saved his life with a sip from her water bottle (oh the drama… Peter should be up for an Academy Award). Sunshine, good friends, new bike (with sweet red saddle and matching handlebar tape)… it was a Good Day.

Here are some pics. A few taken during the measuring stages… then one w/ Peter to commemorate the first ride! How cute, we have matching bicycles. *After looking over my bike… Peter has decided that he wants a red saddle too.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fab (ulous) NEWS!

Oh yeah... BIG news on the way. The masterpiece isn't complete yet, so I'm not ready to make a formal announcement. But, let the anticipation begin!

I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it. Quite frankly, it IS Beyond Fabulous...

"Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak."
~ John Adams

"There are worlds of experience beyond the world of the aggressive man, beyond history, and beyond science. The moods and qualities of nature and the revelations of great art are equally difficult to define; we can grasp them only in the depths of our perceptive spirit."
~ Ansel Adams

"Set your heights more than what you see around you, see beyond."
~ Anthony Anderson

"Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also."
~ Marcus Aurelius

"We may win when we lose, if we have done what we can; for by so doing we have made real at least some part of that finished product in whose fabrication we are most concerned: ourselves."
~ Learned Hand

hint, hint...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Boulder Wedding Pics

Ceremony up on the Mountain
Jen and Ashley... all dressed up
The Sunrise Amphitheater on Flagstaff Mountain
Connie and Neil, exchanging vows
View from the reception... Downtown Boulder, CO

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Off to Boulder

Ye-haw! Connie & Neil are getting married on Saturday!

Tomorrow (very early am) I leave GSP for Denver, CO. There, I'll meet up with my wedding date: the one-and-only, Jen Harrison. I think it's safe to say, aside from the bride and groom, we just might be the best looking couple there.

Sounds like there are fun activities planned for tomorrow afternoon. Some shopping, a party bus ride, exploring Boulder... slapping some sense into Neil for being a Gamecock, etc...

Saturday morning is a male vs. FEMALE trail running race. Ladies, it's GO TIME! To be honest, I'm more nervous for this than any other race I've done recently.

At 3:00 pm, we'll witness Connie and Neil exchange their vows at an outdoor amphitheater. Following the ceremony is the reception... usually this is a time to dance, drink, and be crazy. However, I have been instructed by my date that there will be no alcohol consumption.

You see, I'm going to this wedding with a tri-geek ;) She's already "made reservations" for us at the Boulder Aquatic Masters swim practice on Sunday morning. That should be interesting.

So, off I go for a wedding... which has really become a weekend training camp in Boulder. Connie, Neil, and Jen - Can't wait to see you!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Family Tree 3

Oh how I love my little sister! Sarah Bear, you are my sunshine!

Although she’s a student at Auburn University… I love her to pieces. (not everyone can be a DAWG!) Sorry, now that football season has begun, the rivalries tend to flair up. And, since we’ve both started the season out with a loss (Augh, I’m really starting to despise Gamecock fans: that’s you Dean, Neil, and anyone else who’s emailed me to rub it in)… the UGA/AU game could be interesting.

So, football aside… Sarah is a fantastic sister. We’ve got a bond. That “sister connection.” If you’ve got a sibling, you know what I’m talking about… it’s that “built in best friend” thing. You know that no matter what, they will be there for you (or, if you dislike your born-into-best friend… well, then they’re just there).

Sarah and I have never been similar to one another. In fact, we’re very different. I was the cheerleader, serious student, worry wart type. On the other hand, she was the swimmer, go to class to catch up with friends, have fun kind.

With a 4 year age gap, we were never close friends growing up. She was the pesky little person always in my business.

Now, that’s changed. We don’t see each other very often, but I love knowing she’s a phone call away. Thanks to cell phones and email, our family 4 some stays pretty connected. We may all live in different states (well, Mom and Dad are currently under the same roof… but, if Mom continues on the property acquisition train… they may soon live in separate states as well ;).. but, I digress. What I’m trying to get across is that we’re each very independent in our own lives. At the same time, we rely on each other for moral support, advice, a sounding board, etc... It’s a great family dynamic, really.

Sarah, you make me smile for so many reasons. I love the person you’ve become. *I'm posting these pics to make up for what you called, "a really sick picture of yourself."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hartsville Race Pics

Let's take a vote... who do you think has the best finishing pic? Peter taking a stroll across the line, or Ashley about to Yack?! And yes, this was an Olympic Distance race. In looking at my pic, you'd think I just did an IM.

Peter or Ashley?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Matching Bags!

Hartsville International Tri RR

What a weekend… full of more ups than downs, so lots of good news to report!

Friday night: Dinner (cooked by Peter) at Gerald & Sarah’s. A wonderful, relaxing evening with friends. Thankfully, Sarah is not easily offended. It’s either because Peter is European… or, because he’s European, people chalk it up to his culture. Whichever, we’ve discovered many “areas” in which we consider him a snob. He’s picky about wine, pizza stones, cleaning techniques, filtered water, hot sauce, olive oil, coffee, etc… Don’t worry Peter; we know you’re just particular.

Saturday morning: Short run followed by a short bike ride. Legs were feeling good and I felt ready for Sunday’s race! Then, while Peter got the bikes “race ready,” I packed other tri-essential items. Around 4:30 pm, Peter’s VW Golf packed with 2 bikes, 6 wheels, 2 transition bags, overnight bags, and 2 athletes left for Camden , SC.

My Great Aunt Sarah & Uncle Ken offered to take us in for the night, as the drive to Hartsville is too far for a race morning commute. Pulling into Camden was like driving back in time. Not only is it known for historic beauty, it’s a place my family visited every Christmas break throughout my childhood.

Sarah & Ken were the perfect pre-race hosts! Beds ready, towels out, and plans for dinner at an Italian restaurant. We spent some time catching up and describing the triathlon world. I was most impressed that Aunt Sarah had spent some time researching triathlons. Very few people, outside the tri community, know to ask the race distance. She already knew the Hartsville race was not an Ironman.

Dinner at the Camden Pizza House was great. While Sarah & Ken split (and didn’t finish) a baked spaghetti entrée… Peter and I split the large Greek Salad, Pizza with olives/feta/tomatoes, and spaghetti with olive oil. I think we shocked Uncle Ken with our eating abilities.

Once home, we began planning for the morning. Sarah, who called prior to our visit for food requests, had already picked up plain bagels! Peter had packed his stove top espresso maker, so we were set for breakfast. We got the maps out and planned the drive, played musical-cars in the driveway, and sat down to relax… or so I thought as I turned on the Carolina/Georgia game. Yuck, yuck, yuck… a UGA loss, to Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Now there is some race fuel.

We actually got to bed early! Then, for the 1st time this season, I woke up at 4:50… 10 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. I felt rested. Peter made coffee, we got our things together, talked with Sarah in the kitchen (she was coming to watch, but didn’t need to leave at 5:30am), then headed on our way.

Thankfully, Sarah had given us great directions to the park (helps to know a local). Most of the trip was on one road… known as Old Stagecoach Rd, W. Camden Rd, Hwy 15, or New Hwy 23. I’m pretty sure Peter averaged about 80mph and we got there in about 35 min. How nice, to get to a race an hour before the start! I’ve almost gotten accustomed to setting up my transition area by opening my bag, turning it over, and dumping the contents on a towel next to my bike.

This time, we were stress free. Got our numbers, unloaded the car, set up transition, located places like swim start/finish, bike mount line, run out…. I took off for a quick warm up jog, and almost ran into Aunt Sarah! I was so excited to have her at the race. Admittedly, she knew nothing about being a triathlon spectator, but just having her there was motivating.

Athletes began heading to the water, so I stripped off my t’shirt, grabbed my cap & goggles, and followed the mass. The forecast called for high 90’s during the day… but, at the start of the race, it was in the high 60 / low 70 range. However, any chill I felt was erased the second I touched the water!

*Hum, there was a Nuclear Power Plant just off the lake. Supposedly they use the water too cool their machines…. Leaving the lake in the low 90’s. Seriously, it was warmer than bathwater. I’d rather not think about it (the nuclear power plant, that is). We got in, warmed up, tried to locate the buoys through thick fog, and waited for the go-ahead.

The Elite field was pretty small for this race. Missing regular faces: Katie – IM crash injury; Amy – health problems; Sarah – moved to Texas … and the Tracy’s racing the Sprint Distance. We were left with 4 Elite Females in the Olympic Distance. As 2 of the ladies are known swimmers, Kimberly and I stood together knowing that Lindsay, Kelly, and the guys would quickly leave us behind.

The gun sent us off, and we swam away into the nuclear bath. Luckily, I didn’t have to swim the 1500 meters alone, because I quickly found myself near Kimberly. We swam next to each other for a short distance and I pushed to stay with her. As she pulled away, I followed into the turns. After tapping her feet a few times, I propelled myself to her side. If she wanted me to take a turn pulling, now was her chance. She seemed strong, and continued increasing the pace right into the shore… Thanks Kimberly for your strength, good pace, and straight sighting!

We were the last elites out of the water… and I ran behind her into T1. As I was getting “bike equip,” I thought about my goal. Today I wanted to be tough on the bike. After some recent sub-par bike splits, I wanted to do better. The air temp was still on the chilly side, and it took some time to warm up. The course was totally new to me…. Therefore, I was not expecting such hills. I took advantage of the down hills and while riding uphill, I thought about climbing to the Blue Ridge Parkway (if I can climb for over an hour, I can power up these “bumps”). Thanks Katie for your encouragement on the course!

Coming into T2, I was happy with my ride. Since there was a Sprint race going on as well, many people were already out on the run course. I got my shoes on and got out of T2 quickly. The slight uphill out of the park forced me to calm my breathing and find a rhythm.

As I took a left out of the park, I spotted Lindsay. She looked strong and comfortable in her pace. As I passed, she gave me encouragement. Hitting the 1st mile mark, I was right on goal pace and feeling good. That’s when I spotted Kimberly. Surprising, as she usually puts 3+ min on me during the bike. I was amazed to move past her so early in the run. That’s when I knew I’d delivered a good bike time.

From 2 miles on, I simply forced myself to hold the pace. It didn’t feel great, I wasn’t floating, and I grabbed for more water than normal. Then, I got the push I needed… the lead cyclist riding in front of… Peter! He had a huge smile on his face as he said, “Awesome!” We were both in the lead, very cool.

Not long after that, Aubrey (one of Peter’s athletes) passed me like I was standing still. Seriously, his pace was faster than my 100m sprints. Check it out: Aubrey’s 10k split was a 33:47! No kidding: flying.

I rounded the out and backs, up and down the hills, and ran most of the way with Blain Peerson. The downhill for most of mile 4 was fantastic. I was ready to cross that finish line. We made our way back into the park, and I pushed my way to that lovely FINISH inflatable arch. I heard Jeremey say, “and here’s Ashley Long from Greenville… our 1st female in the International Distance.”

Crossing the line and being able to stop felt so good. Peter was waiting near the water supply station…. Drinking what was probably his 10th Coke (as he’d been done for about 20 min ;) We had a short, sweaty celebration hug…. And then I downed 2 bottles of water and a Mmmmmm…. Orange Powerade. Ah.

I found Aunt Sarah who seemed to have enjoyed her first triathlon experience. She told me, “well… I now know what you’re supposed to yell at all the competitors: ‘way to go; great job; keep going!” Yeah, I think she’s got the hang of it. Soon, she’ll be recording splits.

Peter left for a cool down run with Bryan… while I talked with Kimberly. She asked if I wanted to join her for run as well. Having someone to talk with during a post-race run was wonderful. I enjoyed learning about her athletic history and comparing training/race stories.

In looking back on the race, I’m really happy with the performance. I wanted to improve on the bike, and I did seem to ride with a bit more intensity. Then, although I’d pushed harder on the bike… I was still able to keep my legs turning over on the run.

The post race food and awards ceremony were nice. As Elite winners, Peter and I got matching bags embroidered with the race logo and "1st place." Very useful "trophies," and won't we look cool traveling with identical Hartsville tri-champ bags. Oh yeah.

Thanks again to Aunt Sarah & Uncle Ken for having us! Hopefully, now that I’ve added this blog to your “favorites,” you’ll be able to keep up on all the triathlon happenings. I know it’s your new favorite sport. He he.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

getting HIGH

Don’t worry… I’m talking altitude here. Not illegal drugs, although after the Telethon, I considered trying weed. (not really, but this past weekend drove me to the brink of sleep-deprived insanity).

Let me rewind to before I experienced my televised version of hell.

Yeah! Sally was in town. The lovely Long Ladies got cleaned up (the first time in a looong time I’ve actually primped for a night out). Then, thanks to her VIP status, we got into the pre-race party at the Wyche Pavilion (cool brick structure now used for receptions, parties, and dinners by the river). Great spread of yummy foods, champaign, wine, beer, and yes… powerade (looks like they knew their guests!). We sat with the “Successful Living” team see:

Next to the pavilion, they were filming a spot for the local news channel. Hincapie spoke and they asked him questions about the race (ps. He looked quite nice in his Euro jeans, crisp white t’shirt, and black blazer). They also interviewed Saul Raisin… wow, what a story! I’m actually reading the book about his comeback right now (Tour de Life – From Coma to Competition).

After a fun night cycle-glam style… I had to make a tough decision. Either go for a helicopter ride and watch the National Pro time trial… or…. Go with Peter and G for an 80 mile ride up, down, and around the Blue Ridge Parkway. AH! It was a win/win situation, but I was so torn. After much deliberation, I opted for the ride with Peter and G.

So, on Saturday morning at 6:30… Peter, G, and I packed up G’s car and headed to Brevard, NC. I can’t even describe the ride. It was amazing… an awesome 80 miles of climbing, pushing, forcing myself to keeping going. We ascended above the clouds, rode through a tunnel, flew down the mountains (well, Peter and G flew… I tried to keep up). The views were spectacular. We passed so many waterfalls, I lost count. G sent me a cool graph of the ride… altitude (in meters), time, and mile points (in blocks). About 7,268 feet of climbing in the 80 mile ride. Normally, I would have many stories about such a long day of training. But, this ride was different. Although the 3 of us did ride together, the climbs separated us. It was a solitary effort upward. The beauty, struggle, and sense of accomplishment just can’t be put into words.
We had parked at a Bi-Lo (grocery store), thank God! After a 2 mile brick run: single file, out and back on a busy road… nice. I forced myself to keep up with their 7 min pace (just because I was in fear of my life). We took our tired, sore, spandex clad selves into the store for some drinks.

Now, Sunday: off to Asheville, NC for the MDA Telethon. Let’s just say, it was the longest Labor Day of my life. Note to self: working 24 hours straight to produce a televised fundraiser is NO WAY to recover from 5 hours of climbing. Here’s what I will say about the telethon… I don’t have to do it again for another 12 months.