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 Not to mention, my glasses prescription is way out of date.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: http://www.usnwc.org/). 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!