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)