Wednesday, December 24, 2008

coming back via Kiawah

It's Christmas Eve... the family has congregated at the Franklin, NC homestead. There is a Charlie Brown style tree lit and decorated (my dad cut the top off a fallen evergreen), Sally is making her way through a book of Christmas carol lyrics (well... she's getting the words right, at least), my sister and her boyfriend are playing wii bowling, Granny's chillin' on the couch (no doubt thankful I kidnapped her from Rolling Green Assisted Living).

Granny and I arrived around noon today... and after unloading and catching up with the family, I had to get out for a run. How often can you run in the mountains, on an overcast Christmas eve (58 degrees), in short sleeves & shorts?! It was spectacular.
No, I'm not fully recovered in the clavicle region... but, things are getting better. I even managed a decent race at Kiawah Island (1/2 marathon). With no real prep, I joined 2 of my good girlfriends for a fun weekend at the beach. I told myself to consider the "race" a "Saturday morning long run."

Caralyn, Bea, and I had a blast! We made our way from Greenville to the coast on Friday morning (day before the race)... plenty of time to pick up packets and walk along the beach, then cook dinner and relax. Caralyn's parents have a gorgeous house right on the beach, and we were fortunate enough to stay there for the weekend. Another G'ville couple: Tim & Babs joined our house party late Friday night.

(stepping on the beach - right at sunset)

(Team "blue windbreaker" ready to go)

Race morning provided perfect weather. I saw 75% of the Greenville running community while making my way to the start. I should have known better, but when the gun went off I got excited (too much pent up race energy - after missing many late season tri's)... The course was amazing, my Garmin displayed a pace I had no business trying to hold for 13.1, bongo players added to the excitement at the 1st major turn, I felt good... it felt so good to be running, racing with many familiar faces.

Making our way to the turn around, I saw G-man right behind the lead female (I know I yelled something about him getting "chicked"... fyi, he did end up passing her toward the finish)... I also saw the 2nd place female a short while later. Then, there was one girl right in front of me. Amazing, I was in 4th.

I caught up with the 3rd place girl and we ran together from mile 6 to 9.5 or so. She was great, perfect to run with, and we actually passed comments here and there.

With so many G'ville people in the race... I heard many "Go Ashley's" after making the turn. So many friends yelling, that 3rd place chick laughed and said, "I think I'm going to pretend my name is Ashley." Ha, that was right before leaving me and going ahead.

Great support out there Greenvillians!!!

Then I got to mile 10... in PR time. OUCH. Never again will I go out that hard, under prepared for a race. I was toast and still had a 5K. Normally, that's my favorite time to pick it up... whoa, notsomuch at Kiawah '08. One girl passed me around mile 11... and I had nothing to try and keep up with her. Then, a girl came up on my side and passed: with the finish line in sight! I gave this race my all, finishing 6th (and made some obvious mistakes, from which I learned)... 3rd-6th female only had a 50 second differential.

Not a stellar race... but awesome for many reasons. I love this course, and loved being back in a race! I hope to be back at this one next year.

Now, my friends Bea and Caralyn were doing the marathon (2 loop course). So after getting myself under control, I did a "cool down jog" (I use that term loosely) backwards on the course. I found my girls at mile 11. Bea was already hurting (nursing an IT band problem)... I tried to get her to pull out at the half, but she would hear none of that.

I left them to continue for the second 13.1... and I made my way to the car to change.

The rest of the day was cheering friends in and hanging out at the finish.
Everyone did AWESOME:
Sara, G-man, David, Tim, Caralyn, Bea, Mike, Kerrie, Kyle, Jeni, Jimmy, Brad, and others.

For the rest of the weekend: we celebrated. From a house party stocked with wine and food to an organized group dinner at Shrimpers, to a trip to The Sanctuary (a five star resort on Kiawah). Then, after a coma-like sleep (early race + watching for 4 more hours + party + wine + dinner + more wine) I woke up at the beach. Not ready to leave... I asked Tim and Babs if I could ride back with them later in the day (Caralyn and Bea had to get back to G'ville early).

(At The Sanctuary.... many glasses of wine since finishing the race)

Per Tim's marathon training, he had to get geared up for a 2 hour run. Not wanting any of that action, Babs and I hopped on beach cruising bikes and rode while he ran. It was the perfect way to see the Island. What a neat community. Even in the winter months, this place is magical.

After our jaunt around Kiawah, we packed up and got on the road.
Then, I heard the line that would make this weekend Perfect.... "Ashley would you mind if we stopped at Waffle House for lunch on the way back?"
Had sweeter words ever been spoken? I think not.

A trip to Kiawah Island with 2 fantastic friends.
Staying at an amazing beach house (THANK YOU Mr. and Mrs. Hagy)
Wonderful race and finish.
Fun times at parties and with friends.
Pedaling a cruiser with ocean in sight.
.... and a stop at the 'ole W.H.
Life is good.

Thank you Caralyn and Bea. It was a special weekend - one I'll cherish forever.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Family Time

Alright... My Grandma Jo thinks I've fallen off the face of the earth.  Just to clarify: I'm fine, still living in Greenville, and enjoying Fall (while rehab continues).  

- After leading RunFest on my bike, I caught race fever and unofficially ran a 1/2 marathon a week later in Raleigh, NC.  I actually felt great throughout the 13.1 and posted a better than expected time (you see, I'd set out to simply jog around the course... but, you know how it goes... put yourself on the start line 10 min after the gun goes off... you start to catch people... you're wearing a Garmin... and something takes over your mind/body... you get high on the race...)  All in all, I remembered how to run.  Ah.

- I ordered a new red/white Rudy Project helmet, which just came in the mail.

- I'm enjoying all the Seasonal Flavors:  Pumpkin Spice Clif Bars, cranberry bread, chocolate/peppermint milkshakes @ Chick-fil-A.  The list continues.  Hello Thanksgiving!

- I registered for the Myrtle Beach 1/2 marathon (February 2009)

- I've swam a total of 300 yards in the last 3 months.  Got in the pool ONCE... it was not pretty, nor did it feel good.  Kat, are you reading this?  HELP

- TEAM LONG was featured in the local Multisport Publication... GO! Magazine.  To read the article, click HERE
(for an autographed copy with pictures... contact Doug Long, Team Manager)

- Right now, I'm off to dinner/movie with Dad.  007....wooHOO.

More updates soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a Marathon

Yesterday I did a marathon...

and I was in the lead for 26 miles!!

Ok - I was on a bike and the other 2,000 people were running.

It was the Spinx Runfest here in Greenville, SC. A half and full marathon with a kids fun run and 5K. The weather was not ideal - but thankfully, it wasn't pouring down rain.

I'll admit... I've been in a funk and lacking any sort of athletic motivation. Not really wanting to blog - for fear I'd find myself moaning about being out of shape and suffering through recovery. Yes, I've been running. Slightly painful (not clavicle pain - just "I haven't run in 2 months" painful) and very slow. The doctor asked that I hold off on the swimming. Then, he said I could return to cycling. Hummm. All those hours on the couch. All the walking w/ my sling. All the urges to take my bike out for a spin. I thought I'd jump at the chance to ride.

But as he told me I could get back on my bike - I felt my stomach turn.

My road bike was still covered in mud and grass from the crash. My helmet in two pieces. The other cycling accessories (gloves, water bottles, sunglasses) stored in a bed-pan the hospital handed to my mom as they rolled me out of the ER. I hadn't touched any cycling related gear since the crash.

Then I get a call from Joe Hammond. Joe, one of the Spinxfest race directors, was looking for a bike escort. Evidently, 2 of his cyclists backed out last minute. Was I interested?
Yes, without thinking - I said yes.

So, this week I took my busted and very dirty bike over to Go Tri Sports. Matt, the manager, had offered to look it over. I crossed my fingers, hoping the only breaks/cracks suffered in the crash were already repaired during surgery!
I awaited his call like a mother worried about her sick child.
Phew - nothing major... just cosmetic damage to the bike.

Joe and I continued the hunt for more cyclists. I ended up recruiting fellow triathlete Cameron Dorn. Side note: Cameron showed up to my house with a disc wheel on his bike. I asked if he wanted to use my aero helmet... there might be some Kenyans. Hilarious.

After finding my cold weather & rain gear, Cameron and I road to the start from my house - two miles, just enough to shake off the nerves. The roads were wet, I hadn't been on my bike in 2.5 months, and I was worried about making it 26.2 miles!
Arriving to the race site just felt right. I wasn't there to race, but being with my friends and feeling the energy was exactly what I needed. Set Up Events was doing the timing, so I got to see Jeremey and Raly. Many friends were racing: Gail, Rick, Kenneth, Nicole, Caroline, Derrick, Bea and her iRun group, Ashleigh, Aaron, others (sorry if I forgot to name you)... Gman was on his moped (driving around the person taking video footage), Cameron and I were part of the bike escort team... other friends had helped to set out the 2,000,000 cones.

I ended up leading Daniel Hughes, who tore off from the pack right at the start. Our hometown boy posted a 1:11:44 in the half! Seriously, I found myself pushing on the bike just to stay ahead. After Daniel entered Flour Field to finish, I doubled back in search of lead marathoner (it was a 2 loop course). Turns out, I didn't have to wait long.
Chuck Engle, the "marathon junkie", was racing. I took over the lead again as Chuck began his second lap. As I watched this machine churn out an amazing pace - I couldn't help but be amazed. He thanked volunteers and police officers. He thanked me for riding ahead to clear foot traffic and get people prepared at drink stations. He showed NO signs of slowing, fatigue, or discomfort.

When I agreed to assist with this race, I thought of it as a good way to get involved (without having to run). But, in retrospect, it ended up being so much more.

- it got me back in the saddle. I was so focused on guiding the riders, I didn't have time to worry about the wet roads. And, lets face it... I ended the day with around 35 miles with an avg pace of 10.1 mph.

- I got to see all my race, tri, running buddies!

- I realized why I ride - because I love the way it feels to push the pedals. I might have waited much longer before getting back on my bike...

- I spent hours with Top Notch runners. Usually, in watching a marathon, I only see the "fast guys" as they fly by. But, by riding with them - I was able to really witness their race. Daniel (half winner) and Chuck (full winner) are incredible. Both seemed to speed up through turns, never break form, remain totally focused, and never waver. Daniel was a graceful gazelle, while Chuck displayed muscular strength. Totally different forms of running... both SO fast.

*** all of this lead to a Great Sunday run. Today was the best I've felt since before the crash. Still nothing fast... but, I almost felt possessed by my former self. Some of the depression must have washed away as I road that marathon course. Thanks to everyone who has helped and is helping me get back.
Me and Cameron... and his disc

Jeremey at the StartGiordanelli driving the moped

And they're off

Nicole, pretty in Pink

Go Bea!!

Rick, finishing the 5K in style

Kids fun run... how cute!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

look Ma, TWO hands

The rumors are true... I broke up with the Ultra Sling II! I'm not fully functional yet, but being able to use both hands is a GIFT. I go back to the doctor on Thursday - if he really wants to be my Best Friend, he'll clear me for running.

Here's a short list of things I can finally do again (once taken for granted):
- put hair in ponytail
- apply deodorant
- type with 10 fingers (or 8 fingers and 2 thumbs, whatever)
- tie my own shoes
- sleep in my bed (I was on the couch for weeks)
- wear tops that go over my head
- interact in public w/out the "what the heck happened to you" stare

I tried to make the best of my sling-time. I've spent way too many hours on the indoor spin bike, done intervals on a recumbent bike, walked miles and miles and miles around Greenville, performed lunges up and down the bike paths (there's one way to elicit strange looks: try forward, reverse, or side lunges while dripping sweat and wearing a huge black sling)...

The sling and I had some good times. It was actually a great, medically prescribed, fanny pack. My cell phone hooked nicely to the waist strap; and the arm cradle held my iPod, camera, money, small snacks ;)This provided a good opportunity to take pictures of my favorite running route. Fyi: walking 8 miles while frequently stopping to take pictures is one way to eat up an afternoon. So, enjoy my Tour de Greenville. Cross your fingers for a clean bill of clavicle health on Thursday!

Making my way down to Cleveland Park
Eagle Trail (just under a mile, but a fun way to go through the park)
One of many playgrounds in Cleveland Park
The new "Swamp Rabbit Trail" -- offers both asphalt and track surface"Canine Corner" -- Dog Park Cleveland Park
Cleveland Park often becomes the Cleveland Crit... cycling groups morning, noon, and night!McDaniel Ave... memories of running with Gail - hey girl, do you remember that day of hill training? I award this place (on McDaniel Ave) the "Most Gorgeous Front Yard":
One of the largest magnolia trees I've ever seen:
At the top of McDaniel... RUN IN!! WooHOOMe & my favorite Shoe Nazi: Bea :)
Along the path from Cleveland Park to Falls Park
Downtown's beautiful Falls Park and Suspension Bridge
Looking down Main Street I've run along Main St. so many times, never stopping to read the quotes along the sidewalk. Well, on a walk... you can stop and smell the roses - or read the words beneath your feet:
"Adversity introduces a man to himself"
"When one door closes another door opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us"
"Nothing can dim the light which shines from within"
"Our bodies are where we stay, Our souls are what we are" Kids art project on a side streetFinally, almost there... you can see Paris Mtn from my street!
Now, I can't wait until these sights fly by as I run along...
I love Greenville - who wants to visit?!