Thursday, February 28, 2008

run in the park

t-minus 6 hours until HTFU Camp.
My heartrate has already increased...

So, before I'm able to post stories about "crazy women taking down Greenville," let me leave you with this:
an email from my friend Kenneth, a fellow Greenville runner. Feel free to join the group!

Tuesday's and Thursday's
6:10am Run - Cleveland Park
We'll meet at that little parking lot across from the softball fields right over by the washington st entrance.

Maybe 4 miles or so - no we won't go fast, yes you can handle it, no it won't be too cold, yes Ashley is faster than you, and yes emily will cook breakfast for you if you show up.

You can do it! Deep down you know you really want to. We'll be done by 7ish so you can shower and be at work by 8. Cmon, come out and try it. You'll thank yourself Memorial Day when everyone goes to the lake and you'll be ready to lose the shirt and hit the water and no one else will.

Advantages to running once or twice a week at Cleveland Park with us:
--- burn 500 calories
--- the ability to guiltlessly order that porter ale you've always wanted to try at happy hour thursday after work
--- lose weight
--- justify the iPod you bought last year
--- rock out your swimsuit this summer

Disadvantages (few)
--- you will realize how much better it is too see the sunrise over falls bridge than it is to stare at a wall while on the treadmill
--- you might get addicted to the endorphins's time to get going!

Fwd this to other runners you know! The more the merrier! I promise we'll go slow!!!!

peace out warriors

Hot Links to get you pumped about not being fat and lazy anymore:

as an added bonus....this is the finish of the 1980 NCAA X-Country championship...see if you recognize who wins the national all know him.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

HTFU tomorrow!

Watch out Greenville - tomorrow you'll be meeting some new, crazy athletes!

It's training camp time... and since G'vegas, SC is the best place in the world - my friends will be coming here. That's right: we've got ladies coming from Illinois, New York, Florida, North Carolina, and Kansas. All very accomplished athletes and downright cool chicks.

The twist: they're all sleeping at my house.
This could provide for good blog stories. Especially since we now know that Jen Harrison runs around her house naked.
It's going to be one big slumber-party: complete with bikes, bike boxes, bags, towels, running shoes, water bottles, helmets, cycling shoes, bike tools, food - and more food. Let's get cozy!

Here's what we've got scheduled:

Thursday: 6:00pm they arrive (flying into Charlotte, renting van, driving down),
Unload at my house, go somewhere downtown for dinner.

Friday: 8:30am - 4000 meter swim at the Middle Tyger YMCA, from there we'll leave on our bikes for a 4 hour ride. Short brick run. Again somewhere downtown for dinner (no way will my kitchen accommodate 6 women after 6 hours of training... hum, that makes me wonder what restaurant will be able to handle us?!)

Saturday: Possibly watch the Road Race downtown in the am. Today will be all about climbing. We've got "Master Dustan" leading the way... 4 hours of suffering in the hills. Brick run. Shopping (including a stop at Run-In) Those left alive will eat... at this point, I might just go for an IV.

Sunday: 8:00am - long trail run (or walk/hike) on Paris Mountain. I did some reconnaissance on the trails last weekend (averaged 10:30 miles)... oh boy, after Friday and Saturday - this "run" could get nasty. Coffee at the Atlanta Bread Co. to follow. Then, we'll be swimming at the Middle Tyger Y at 1:00 that afternoon.

So, People of Greenville - Get Ready! Most of these girls have been cooped up for months: covered in snow, freezing in sub-0 temps, forced to complete 20 hr training weeks totally INSIDE... they are ready to hit the roads & trails.

If you happen to catch us out and about, just shout "HTFU"
Stories to follow, if I survive the weekend (and my house is still standing)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Myrtle Beach 1/2 M. RR

There was a lot of excitement about this race… with about 5,000 people in Myrtle Beach for the half & full marathons – the packet pick up and race expo were swarming with runners from all over. I saw many familiar faces… lots of people from Greenville! Made my way around the Marriott and got inline to get my race number. Here’s where I got the first positive “sign.” My race number = 2033.

Ok, I love multiples of 10. My birthday is May 20 (so, 20 happens to be one of my favorites). I also dig repeating double digits (I’m sure there’s a name for this – maybe someone could help me out?)… you know, 22; 33; 44; 55… and so on. So, to get #2033… I was stoked.

Thinking back to Friday night: I was on the beach, the weather forecast for race morning sounded perfect, I had number 2033 in my possession, and I was ready for a fun 13.1. After pinning the lucky # on my Run-In shirt, I once again thought about how easy it is to prepare for a road race. Shoes – check; timing chip – check; number – check; clothes – check; socks – check. And you’re ready.

After a quick chat with Jen and some pasta, I was ready for sleep. Sleep finally came, but then that damn alarm went off way too early (4:40am)… the race started at 6:30 (ouch).

I got my first taste of nerves upon arriving at the start. You all know the characteristics of a larger race: lights, thumping music, thousands of people congregating near the start line, huge lines for the rows of port-o-johns, police cars, an announcer giving updates over the loudspeaker…
I jogged off into the dark for a quick warm-up.
Tried to find my own rhythm.
Again went over the plan in my head. Conservative mile one, then push smart, and tear up the last 10K. Ready.

There were two START arches: one for the full – one for the half. I joined the crowd assembling behind the half start line. As competitors, this is usually when we find ourselves checking each other out… trying to determine who the “competition” is. Honestly, I wasn’t doing this on Saturday morning. I’ve never gone into a road race with expectations of placing… don’t get me wrong, it’s a race and I treat it as such. But, I am racing for a time, a PR, a faster pace. If I happen to place in my age group (or overall, better yet!), that is a HUGE bonus.

The gun went off and the heard lunged forward. Quite a few strides later, my feet finally crossed over the timing mat – and I heard that familiar beep. Game ON.

Half runners streaming down the left side of the road…. Marathon runners to my right. As we made our way to the first right turn, the groups began to meld. It was still very dark and all I could feel was race energy in the air. I forced myself to keep a controlled pace. Feeling as though I’d just blinked, the clock marking mile one came into view (6:45). Alright, time to pick it up. Things were feeling good.

We were still running around Broadway at the Beach, and I was ready to see the ocean. Soon I could see the sun creeping over the horizon. Runners were spreading out a bit and I’d found a good rhythm. Then, finally… mile 4…. The beach came into view.

The next 4.5 miles followed along Ocean Blvd. This street I know… Myrtle Beach memories. So many family vacations to Aunt Ola’s on the Grand Strand. I almost got distracted looking at signs/hotels/stores that took be back in time. To the days when Sarah, cousin Lea, and I would walk to the Pavilion.

Quickly after turning onto Ocean Blvd, we passed where the rides of the Pavilion used to stand. How strange to see an open piece of land, an area that used to be packed with a Ferris wheel, snow cone carts, batting cages, funny mirrors, roller coasters, a haunted house…etc….

I continued to pass familiar sights, and then came up on 2nd Ave. My head was turned right for a bit as I took in the scene of Ola’s house. It looked just as I remembered… I blinked, and could picture my entire family sitting out on the porch screaming for me. Not many of you reading this will understand the emotions that raced through my veins in that moment… but, a few of you know the extraordinary significance this house holds.

Further down Ocean Blvd. I passed the Family Kingdom (another fun park w/ rides… including the ‘ol Swamp Fox!). Myrtle Waves flew by on my left. I remembered racing down the waterslides. Past the Sea Mist, the Tropic House, the Darlington, Sand Dunes, and all the other 1 star establishments.

Took in some water and hung a right away from the ocean. I was trying to ignore any wind I encountered… I pictured myself like a knife. I ran a few miles with a male bandit runner… he complimented me, which brought up my spirits. Then, he told me to “chase down that chick.” So we picked it up and passed a female ahead of me.

As I began passing men, I heard grumbling… he he. One guy said, “only a few girls ahead of you.” Honestly, I had no idea there really were only a few girls ahead. I figured there were a few girls within close range… behind the girls out of range… behind the fast chicks I mentioned previously (and let me add here: I am SO happy with my time/place… but, I am a realist. There are many, many ladies faster than I… girls who run close to 10 minutes faster, in fact).

So, much of the way back was spent into a headwind – going up a 3% grade (not much, but long). I kept my focus on maintaining the pace I’d established. I heard Jen’s voice in my head… “come on Long, don’t slack off now – HTFU!!!” I imagined her little peppy step next to me. I remembered her telling me to suffer for the last 10K. Pain – check!

My eyes were glued to the female runner about 50 yards ahead of me. I tried to kick it in and catch her… but, she seemed to put in the same effort. Then, from an onlooker I heard, “hey – some girls!” Hum, I figured that was a good sign…

Mile 11, 12, all kind of a blur. Broadway at the Beach had never looked so good. We finally hit the finish line chute… which was the longest I’d ever run through. Seriously, the thing felt about a ½ mile long (maybe it was?!). There were turns!

I faintly heard them say a girls name followed by “second female.”
I sprinted toward the line.
“Closely followed by our third female from Greenville, SC… Ashley Long.”
Are you kidding me?!
I had set a time goal (missed it by just over 20 seconds)… a stretch goal of placing top 3 in my age group. Huh? To place overall?! Unreal.

It took some time to get the chip off my shoe.
I let the feeling rush over me… the feeling of NOT moving (this is a sensation I love to focus on after a tough run/race… close your eyes and really feel the stillness, ah… I’m not saying sit down or take a nap – but take a second to breathe, hold your arms above your head and open your lungs).

A few minutes later I heard them announce Richard Osborne (a friend/runner from Greenville)… and I greeted him as he came into the finish area. So glad to see him hit his goal of sub 1:30!

I got some water and walked around the post race area… lots of vendors, massage tables, food, etc… I found my bag in the claim area. Ran into teammate Bryan Benitez-Nelson, along with his wife, Claudia, and their super cute kids. Bryan had finished 7th overall with a smokin’ 1:17… sweet! Go team Set-Up.

A little while later – I positioned myself on the side of the marathon finish. Great to see Peter come across the line in 2:41. I can’t imagine running 26.2 that fast. Spent some time catching up with him and tri-friend Dean (who’s rehabbing an injury, forced to play cheerleader for the day - thanks for your support out there Dean!)

Other Greenvillians made their way in: Mike, Amy, Tate, Nicole, Fran…

Everything post-race was a blast. Kicked off by one of the most excellent showers ever… I actually sat down and spent time stretching in my hotel room shower. Ended up meeting people for lunch and then at R. Osborne’s parents beach house on Pawleys Island. We played football in the sand, others played horseshoes, there were drinks all around. Thanks for having me Richard!

Great day, race, weather, friends, times, finishes, laughs. Bring on tri-season already.

Monday, February 18, 2008

fast chick convention?

Huh?! Did I miss something... where were the speedy ladies on Saturday? Well, thanks to their mysterious convention (location unknown - presumably NOT Myrtle Beach), I was able to place in the half marathon overall standings! 3rd Female - 54th Runner (out of 2,842). Needless to say, I'm shocked. Very excited with the outcome.

The entire weekend was a blast. Excellent weather (some wind - although, being on the coast... it was expected), great race, fast times, ocean views ;)... I'll write more in a race report.

Let me leave you with some race day pictures I found online:

(Passing by the "Gay Dolphin"... a landmark in Myrtle Beach)

(Batman and Batgirl finishing the marathon... Amy and Tate, did y'all fly to the race from Greenville?)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Going to the Beach

Well, it's not exactly "beach season," but tomorrow is the Myrtle Beach Half/Full Marathon. I'll be running the half, while my travel buddy runs the full for "speed work." That’s right, Mike is preparing for Western States 100… so, I guess 26.2 is equivalent to a decent training run.

I’ve been looking forward to this race for many reasons:

-I’ll get to see the ocean, always a good thing.
-I grew up going to M.B. during summer vacation. My mom’s side of the family had a beach house on Ocean Blvd… and every summer we’d spend a week there. Walking to the Pavilion, going to the water parks, shopping at tacky surf shops, playing in the ocean.
-I’ve never run a not-so-hilly half marathon… so, we’ll see how it goes.
-Chances of repeating AORTA half weather conditions (freezing rain); on the slim side
-It’s a larger race! No way I’ll be in the lead pack here… but, I’m excited about seeing race supporters. It’ll feel like a big race.

I’ll be on the road later today… headed to the coast.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

run, swim...

RIDE! Over the past few weekends, I’ve raced in a half marathon and a masters swim meet… this past weekend, it was time to get out on my bike. No, no cycling race – just a fun, long day of training (with some intervals thrown in for good measure).

Since we’ve been experiencing warmer-than-normal temperatures here in SC, I was able to ride in shorts – lighter weight gloves – no shoe covers… and I felt free. The bike felt amazing, my legs turned over with ease, I found myself smiling. I realized, again, how much I enjoy cycling. The time/miles passed quickly. Honestly, it felt so good that I tried to capture the moment: to create a memory I can recall once the intense, exhausted, hot, tired summer months kick in.

It was 74 degrees here yesterday. Today, the high is 73 (with rain – almost spring like). I ran in shorts/short sleeves… in the morning… on February 6th! Life is good. The weatherman tells me that the temps will fall back down (high 50’s), but for now… there is nothing to complain about.

Now, more on the topic of cycling:

I’m sure many of you also have coworkers who question your “outside-of-work habits”. The running into the office w/ wet hair & goggle marks, collection of water bottles on your desk, face pressed to the window on a sunny/warm day, closing your office door to stretch… not to mention everything that comes with difficult training days: limping down the hall, falling asleep on a conference call, running out the door at the end of the day – just so you can go get on your bike and ride until the sun goes down.

I know my coworkers think I’m a bit on the crazy side. As proof, I’ve compiled a short list of quotes from Rachel (our Healthcare Services Coordinator, who is from OH). After seeing a few triathlon race pictures, here are her comments:

- “Ashley, do you have a tattoo on your shoulder?!” (in the pic, you could only see part of my body-marked number)

- “swim?... what? You were swimming this morning? Wasn’t it cold?” (I then told her I was lap-swimming in an indoor pool) “oh, right… did you wear one of those rubber thingies on your head?”

- “My husband and I love to make fun of those people who ride their ‘serious’ bikes through our neighborhood. Where do you guys find such ugly, bright, tight fitting stuff to wear? Actually, it kinda makes sense that people in South Carolina would wear that… I mean, Nascar is huge. They wear ugly, bright, tight clothes to those races too.”

- “do you wear one of those sperm-hats when you ride your bike?” (referring to an aerodynamic race helmet)

- “Ashley – you’re just not right”

Some people will never understand the world of triathlon – and that’s ok.
Be crazy – train on!

Friday, February 1, 2008

swimming - masters style

Last weekend, I was a swimmer. Well, my times might not scream “swimmer,” but I did officially race 5 individual events and 4 relays. Myself, 3 other women, and 2 men represented Team Greenville at the Sunbelt Championships in Charlotte, NC…. And we had a blast!
*special thanks to my friend, Amy - host for the weekend. Everything was wonderful, especially the Pizza. Thank you!

Triathletes: listen up… Check out the USMS website, find a meet in your area, sign up, and go for it! Swim meets are so fun, very social, and a good way to test your times… or try racing a different stroke (if you’re brave). And, it’s really fun to dive off the blocks! Btw, they “seed” you… therefore, you’ll swim in heats (starting groups) with people that entered similar estimated times. Do not worry about being creamed by some ex-collegiate all American… they’ll be in a faster heat.

Most triathletes are type A, competitive… making it hard for them to enter (race) in an unknown venue. Well, let’s get this cleared up: do not be scared! Lucky for me, I grew up in a “swimming household.” We had (actually, I think my parents still have) a downstairs bathroom dedicated to swimming & waterpolo. There are 20+ swimsuits, stretch cords, goggles, goggle pieces, ultra swim shampoo samples, towels, towels, towels, polo balls, bags, swim caps, kick boards, zoomers… the bathroom has a permanent chlorine sent.

My Dad has been swimming masters for years – and my sister inherited the swim gene. They are the official swimmers in our family… but Mom and I try to look the part ;) To tell you the truth, I just like triathlons… swimming is part of the game. Wait, I take it back – sorry Jen: I LOVE TO SWIM!

Many of you think of swimming as: being in the water for an hour to 90 minutes. You get the yardage in… you do intervals, and sometimes perform drills with toys. Eh, it can be fun… but, I promise you that it doesn’t compare to a real meet.

All Master’s Meets have the following:
- a man/woman in the 85-89 age group swimming 200 fly… and there will be a huge cheer from the crowd when he/she finishes (survives) the final 25.
- “older” people wearing speedos that are way toooo small.
- An “older” man wearing a speedo that is way toooo big (too loose, you catch my drift).
- A competitor who belly-flops off the starting block, creating a nice slap, followed by a tsunami wave.
- Adults… yelling team cheers and sporting team temporary tattoos.
- A man who shows up for the 50 free… posts a speedy time… and leaves.
- Swimmers strutting around in their $200 skin suits… which really just suck in excess “skin”.
- The ex-olympic/NCAA Champion/college hot shot… who will still be kicking my butt, even when they are in that 85-89 age group.
- People who take the meet very seriously.
- People who are there for fun (me)… just to race their own times.
- Everyone talking about where they’re going to drink beer after the meet.

That all being said, Master’s meets make swimming HARD… exciting! With triathlons or road races, you can socialize before/after the race. During the race, however, it’s a solitary effort. At a swim meet, you’ll find yourself racing for a few minutes… then hanging out, chatting, making new friends… until your next event. Oh right, be sure to keep up with what event/heat they're on… I almost missed the 50 back chatting with the girl who posted a 5:11 in the 500. I was trying to talk her into swimming for me in my next triathlon, ha ha.

For you Illinois people… SUNDAY could be your opportunity! My Dad, Doug, is directing a Master’s Meet at STC East High School. He started this meet up when I was in high school. I was a diver (part of the swim/dive team)… which gave my dad an excuse to come to the meets. He told me that diving was, “a great halftime show for the swimmers.” HA! Thanks.

Anyway, the high school swimmers/divers worked as timers – a fundraiser for our program… he continued this as my sister swam on the team for 4 years… and it’s become an annual Super Bowl Swim Meet. Now that all 4 of us are of “masters” age… we’ve been known to do a Long Family Relay: Doug-back; Sarah-fly; Ashley-breast; Sally-free…. Kind-of a fast to slow approach.

Dad – Congratulations on the 11 years you’ve organized and successfully hosted the Fox Valley Masters – Super Bowl Swim Meet! I’ve personally witnessed the paperwork/entry forms that begin to flood your office… but, instead of feeling overwhelmed, you get more excited w/ each entry that comes to the mailbox.

On Sunday, I’ll be thinking of you – in your element: poolside. Have fun and let me know how it goes! Swim hard, drink some beer, and tell the guys HI for me.
The Fox Valley Masters Team last week: during a very hard-core training trip in Mexico
(Paul; Doug; Tom; Dave)