Monday, March 31, 2008

Franklin & Friends

This past weekend was like a mini-vacation! A little getaway that combined so many of my favorite things:
- Spontaneous adventures
- family (well, one member – Love ya Mom!)
- friends (Matt, Andrew, Brian)
- a beautiful setting (hills of Franklin, NC)
- cycling (can we say climbing?!)
- waterfalls
- breathtaking views from the top – and speedy trips down
- men willing to cook, clean, map routes, build fires, ride, run, tell stores…
- good food and wine: wait until you hear about our dinner
- S’mores cooked over open flames
- Camping (yes, in the cabin without heat. Sleeping on the floor… but, with bathrooms and a kitchen.)
- An escape, if only for 24 hours (no tv, cell phones, internet)

Earlier in the week, I got a call from my friend Andrew Starykowicz…. “Hey Ashley, what do you have going on this weekend? Because, I was thinking of getting some people together and going to Franklin for riding. We have got to get out of Illinois and this [choice word] SNOW. Your mom said we could use their cabin… you game?”

And, when he called Sally to ask about the cabin, she decided to come as well. GREAT! (in truth, I think she had approximately 3 tons of stuff she wanted moved into the cabin… Andrew & friends became a built in moving crew)

Me, “yes, count me in!” I had a long ride and run scheduled, which would be much more enjoyable with friends, in the mountains, and getting to see my Mom! Yippee!

I asked a few friends from this area, and got the “bring it on” response from Matt T.

So, Sally and her posse left IL on Thursday night…. They drove through the night and got to Franklin on Friday morning. From what I understand, they did some riding, unpacked 30 boxes of Long Family photos and random pieces of furniture from the trailer, cleaned the kitchen (and let me tell you, that kitchen is looking gooood – great job guys… I promise to fulfill my end w/ bathroom duty), and went out to dinner. We made plans to start our ride at noon on Saturday.

I was working on Friday – then spent that night getting my things together (it kills me … you need almost the same amount of stuff for one day or one week of riding).

Matt was at my house bright and early. We were both ready to get out of town and have some FUN! We packed his car to the limit – loaded the bikes on his roof rack (where they became buddies) – spun through Liquid Highway for coffee – and headed NW.

Ooooh, that’s when the rainy day moved in; the sky got dark, low hanging clouds looked ominous, my mood about the ride became one of concern. Matt and I went from smiles/laughter to silence. Lightning flashed across the sky, and we exchanged a look. We kept driving… and I’m pretty sure we were both mentally preparing for a wet ride.

After much winding, turning, climbing… about 11:00, we arrived at the homestead! Hum, 3 bikes – no people in sight. Matt and I got our stuff unloaded, and then waited, and waited. Luckily, the storm moved out. The conditions were still damp and cloudy, but it was not raining.

Sally and the boyz FINALLY rolled up. Evidently, they’d driven to some trails for running… gotten caught in the same storm. They were hungry, wet, tired. But, I was READY (past ready) to RIDE! We said hellos, shared some hugs, and I got their rear-ends revved up for riding. Being good sports, they scarfed down PB&J sandwiches, changed clothes, packed bikes, filled water bottles, and we were off. Andrew had done research during a previous visit to Franklin, so we looked to him for a route.

Bikes out, gear on, and we set off. Everyone had a different plan for the ride (distance, time, etc…), but we started out together. The pictures just can’t do justice. It was beautiful, challenging, amazing. We rode up for miles, broke through clouds, stopped for pictures at scenic overlooks, coasted down the hills. After one 20 mile loop, I found myself riding with Matt. We were all smiles, and stopped for a few minutes trying to figure out where to go next. All I could think was about attacking that climb again – I wanted another hit, we’d gotten high, and I wanted more! Matt said, “let’s go” and we went for the top again.

3 hours later, Matt and I made our way back to the van. Mom, Brian, and Andrew were waiting, napping, and eating. Sally had done some gas station shopping: producing a picnic meal of peanut butter M&M’s, Payday bars, chocolate milk, bagels ‘n peanut butter, etc… Everyone shared quick stories about their ride, and the conversation quickly turned to, “did you see __________?”
#1 funny sighting: the Pagan Worship Cabin of Witchery DIRECTLY across the street from the Christian Training Center. (we had to go back for pictures)

Our next stop was Bi-Lo for dinner ingredients. Who knew that Matt and Brian are killer cyclists and CHEFS?!
#2 funny sighting: a newly wed couple (I mean JUST married… bride still in white/sequinty dress and groom in tux) leaving the Bi-Lo… really?! Who goes from alter to grocery store?!
The 5 of us roamed the store, gathering items requested by our resident foodies.

Back at the cabin, it was shower rotations – and trying to help in the kitchen. The smells were fantastic and I grew hungrier by the minute. Matt and Brian bonded over chopping and marinating ;) They really did make a cute couple, he he he. It looked like an episode of Iron Chef: knives flying, ingredients everywhere, people running around, all burners hot, food in the oven… I was in awe.

Menu (as described by Chef Matt):
Tex-mex guacamole
Hint of Lime Tostitos
Toasted Head Cabernet

Dinner Wine:
2005 Longwood Shiraz, Australian
2004 Ramspeck Cabernet, Napa Valley

Main course:
Marinated and broiled Garlic/Ginger/teriyaki Salmon
Orange glazed sautéed shrimp
Sautéed mushrooms, onion, garlic with red wine, oil and butter
Mashed sweet potatoes with brown sugar and honey
Seared & seasoned asparagus
Tossed salad with oil-based dressing

Might I say... Ladies and Gentalmen - that was GOOD!

Conversation went from around the table to around the fireplace. Somewhere along the way, we lost Sally (when her battery hits empty, she checks out quick). We roasted marshmallows for s’mores, told more stories, went horizontal, and soon fell asleep. Not a bad way to camp: shower, gourmet meal, fireside conversation, and dry place to curl up in a sleeping bag.

Andrew was the 1st person to stir. He set out for a quick ride – and I managed to fall asleep for another hour. Once I did get up, I put on a sweatshirt, and sat out on the porch. What a way to start the day… (wishing I had a hot cup of coffee), I caught a few quiet minutes of morning mountain sounds. Brian came out next, we caught up on our 2008 race plans – and his fiancé Ashley. When Andrew got back everyone got changed for running.

Not wanting to finish our run with a 3 mile climb, Andrew, Brian, Mom, and I took the van down to the main road. (Matt, on the other hand, wanted more time in the saddle). Down in the valley – we ran. I was to do some harder efforts… Brian and I gutted it out on the first one, before Andrew doubled back to push me on the next few. (thanks for pushing me Brian and Andrew!) Luckily, I was distracted with mountain views, the river, fog… and although I was in pain, I felt so lucky to be right where I was.

The run was great, hard, but great. I earned that PB and banana sandwich! Back at the cabin, we began packing up the van/trailer for their long ride to IL (bags and bags of wet clothes and wet towels – Yum!) Bikes, wheels, bags, suitcases, drink mixes, shoes, pumps, and many, many, many other items tossed in – 3 exhausted people say goodbye and exit Long Ranch.

I spent some time packing my stuff up. Got Matt’s things together and ready… then waited for him to get back. I really didn’t know where he’d gone – and cell phones were of no use. He was definitely gone longer than I’d anticipated. Then, at 3:00, Matt climbed up to the cabin. “A few wrong turns,” was what he said… 65 TOUGH miles. Good for you Matt! Great job.

We got our things together, packed into the car, and headed from Franklin to reality.

What an amazing 24 hours! Cheers to good friends, health, smooth roads, a fantastic dinner, fun campfire stories, swift feet, hot showers, dry clothes, GREAT getaways.
And Brian
I had a Blast, thanks!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

MDA Stride & Ride - 1

Athletes of South Carolina - please mark it on your calendar NOW! This is going to be the best 5K of 2008. You get to run a timed 3.1 miles around Furman, and help send children with neuromuscular diseases to MDA Summer Camp at the same time!

Registration forms are available at many "athletic store" locations around Greenville. Or, email to get signed up.

Date: Saturday, May 17th
Time: 5K begins at 8:30 am
Location: Furman University, Physical Activity Center
Entry Fee: $25
Early Race Packet Pick-Up: Race packets can be picked up at the Citgo Corner Mart, located at 2560 N. Pleasantburg Drive—near Cherrydale Plaza, Friday May 16th from 11 am—1 pm.
Race Day Packets: Race day packets can be picked up from 7:30 am—8:15 at the Registration Station. Day of registration will be accepted, but t’shirts will only be distributed based on availability.

Shout out to our Awesome Sponsors:
The Corner Mart
Greenville Federal Credit Union
Set Up Events
Diamond Springs (water)

Where the Money ($25 race entry) Goes:

$85— 1-minute of MDA research
$100— 1 support group session
$200— 1 MDA clinic visit
$800— 1 week of MDA Summer Camp for a child with MD
$2000— Assistance with the purchase of a wheelchair for an MDA family

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Oatmeal: usually a breakfast food, but good any time of day. Sometimes, to make oats a meal, I find myself looking for fun and healthy "mix-ins." The following are recipes I've invented along the way. See OATMEAL for more information on oat power!

Types listed in the recipes below:

-Instant – fine in a pinch. The packets are great for travel (I’ve seen many people use the coffee makers provided in hotel rooms for quick prep). processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling. Usually packed with added sugar!

-Old fashion oats – a step up nutritionally. Also, have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.

-Steel cut oats - Steel-Cut Oats are whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) which have been cut into only two or three pieces. They are golden in color and resemble mini rice particles. How are they different from Rolled Oats? Rolled oats are flake oats that have been steamed, rolled, re-steamed and toasted. Due to all of this additional processing they have lost some of their natural taste, goodness and texture.
*cooking tips for steel cut oats: if you have time, the best way to prepare is stovetop or croc pot. However, if you’re like me… cooking usually requires a microwave. So, here you go.
*Microwave - Mix 1/2 cup of steel cut oats with 2 cups of water in an 8 cup bowl (the size of the bowl is important as it must be large enough to allow the oats to bubble up without spilling over). Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and run at full power for 5 minutes. Stir and finish cooking for another 5 minutes (since microwaves vary in size and power, cooking times may need to be adjusted for different models).

-Grain Cereal (see Bob’s Red Mill): They have 2 versions.
*10-Grain Cereal - made from stone ground high protein hard red wheat, rye, triticale, oat bran, oats, corn, barley, soy beans, brown rice, millet, and flaxseed.
*7-Grain Cereal - milled and blended from freshly ground whole grain high protein hard red wheat, rye, oats, triticale, barley, brown rice, oat bran, flaxseed.

Some ways I like to enjoy my oats:

Reece’s (great for recovery!)
Old fashion oats, a little grain cereal (mix, add water, and microwave)… then add: milled flax seed; a spoonful of natural peanut butter; ½ packet of Clif Recovery Hot Chocolate Mix

PB and Banana
Old fashion oats, a little grain cereal (mix, add water, and microwave)… then add: milled flax seed; a spoonful of natural peanut butter; and sliced banana

Tree Hugger
Steel Cut style oatmeal; walnuts; mixed dried fruit; honey

Blueberry Muffin
Steel Cut style oatmeal; blueberries (fresh, frozen, or dried); sliced almonds; a little brown sugar; splash of milk

Vanilla Almond
Oatmeal (any way you prefer); a few drops of vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean GU); sliced almonds; splash of milk; maybe some dried cranberries

Oatmeal (pick a version); raisins; brown sugar; splash of milk

Old fashion oats, a little grain cereal (mix, add water, and microwave)… then add: crunchy cereal of choice (I like Kashi GoLean Crunch); honey; brown sugar or cinnamon; splash of milk

List of fun mix-ins:
- your favorite gu or gel
- hot cocoa powder (see Clif Bar Recovery Hot Chocolate)
- milled flax seed
- natural peanut butter
- honey
- cinnamon
- fresh, frozen, or dried fruit
- nuts
- milk
- dry cereal

Friday, March 21, 2008

Memoir to Marit

I have been off of “blogging” for a few days… but, that doesn’t mean blog friends are far from my thoughts.

With driving around for work, it’s been easier to communicate via cell phone. And you know what, if you think Marit is upbeat and spunky in writing – you should hear the girl over the phone (or better yet, in person!) Pain meds or not, she’s a bundle of positive energy. (it’s just a bit more jumbled when she’s “doped” up ;)

Please see “my friends” and read Marit C-L for medical updates. She used a whole bunch of words I can’t spell, let alone locate in a human body.

Marit, we are all thinking about you! You are an endurance athlete – and this bump in the road will only slow you down for a short while. There is no doubt in my mind that you will be back, and stronger (physically and mentally) than before. Liz and Jen: thanks for keeping everyone in the loop as things progressed this week. As Liz mentioned in a recent post, we are all living our own lives – most of us in different states around the US – but the internet, an invisible bond, created some very special friendships. I am so lucky to have you guys in my life!

Here are some quotes for my FLSS (Florida Soul Sister)

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin -- real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” ~Alfred D. Souza

“The question in life is not whether you get knocked down. You will. The question is, are you ready to get back up… and fight for what you believe in.” ~Dan Quayle

Marit – tell your doctors that you need your bones to HTFU!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

go-go Burn

No time for an update: but, I did want to post these new pictures (thanks Matt! Sorry about camera-phone + GU in the jersey pocket "mix-up"... guess that's what happens when you put'cho back intowit ;)

Burn (the BEST energy drink out there - great citrus taste, NO high fructose corn syrup, even a sugar free option) can get you through a ride (I mix it in a water bottle w/ water). It didn't save my legs from Sun burn... but, it got me through some intervals. The cans could also serve as ammo when ambushed by redneck junkyard dogs.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

HTFU almost SATC

I can't remember when I got hooked on the show, but some years back I became a Sex and the City addict. Now, as most of you know... I don't have cable or full-on internet (thanks again to my neighbors - you kept our blog readers happy!). Therefore, I didn't watch the show on HBO. Instead, I purchased the seasons on DVD as they were released.

Karyn, Jen, and my mom will remember traveling to Memphis in May - my laptop and DVD's in tote. Everyone has their own pre-race-night routine... well, mine used to include watching a few episodes of SATC.

Today, as I reminisce about our HTFU weekend - I think about girlfriends, and the beauty of coming together to enjoy a common interest... and having a BLAST at the same time. The ladies of Camp HTFU might not have been discussing Manolo Blahniks, but there was something different in the air. Something you don't experience when you're trying to keep up with the boys.

Here is one of my favorite SATC quotes:
"Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous."

Marit opened me up to something new and exotic: a ZEST for training. I have become so used to training fatigue. Endurance sports involve repeat/routine/consistency.... but, somehow Marit made each workout Exciting! She kept a positive outlook on everything. The girl bonks on a brick run - and was happy about it, because it gave her the chance to investigate a nutritional question. Seriously, I would love to have 20% of her enthusiasm in my training... and, now after spending time in her company - I will pull from that energy as I set out.

Jen is old and familiar: first of all because she is old, "Miss Daisy." he he he. I'm only kidding... Jen has been my triathlon ROCK - in so many ways. She is Super Strong in all three disciplines; loves the training, loves the sport, loves to race. I admire her fire. Jen is not only a stud athlete, she knows how to motivate others. She proves that it is possible to balance life: family, training, coaching, friends, shopping ;) Jen has been, and will always be, my tri-Idol.

Elizabeth brings up lots of questions: Mind you, we did deem her "silent by deadly." So, she wasn't the one with lots of questions - we had lots for her. (All the girls involved are smart, and have much training/racing knowledge). I just found myself drawn to Liz's input during our conversations. She may be small, she may be quiet, but there is lots going on up in that head of her's. A quote Marit and I picked up while running with Heather, "the longest distance covered in a race is that between your ears." Well, Liz has that course mapped out. She is a headstrong competitor. *and she can tell you the number of calories in just about anything, especially race fuel: gel.

Leslie brought me somewhere unexpected: Before the training weekend, I knew nothing about her. But now, through the friendship I witnessed (between Liz and Leslie), I see where triathlon can take me... and I don't mean in the athletic sense. So many of us train to drop time, win a race, find a PR - but, don't forget about the other things you gain along the way. Meeting Leslie, and hearing about her triathlon career/successes (spanning 20 years) inspires me! She has been in this sport for a long time, won national championships, but still seems to value the camaraderie and journey above all else.

Mary will bring me far from where I started: She has motivated me to "own my destiny." When something needed to be done, the girl was first on the scene and always seemed to know the answer. When I began triathlons, I acted like a sponge... and over the weekend, I realized that I'm still in sponge-territory. I have so much to learn, and want to be more like Mary: extremely capable in any situation! She is driven, she knows what needs to be done, does it, doesn't complain, works hard, has fun, takes care of others... we were so lucky to have a Mary at camp. Gulf Coast, baby - here we come!

Sally (Mom) always brings me back: as an honorary HTFU camper, I had to say a few words. She is the reason I got into triathlons - and is often the motivation behind my training. She constantly reminds me that life is about the People you surround yourself with. Through her, I've learned just how important and delicate friendships are. She taught me the power of positive thinking. I love you mom, we missed you! HTFU next year.

Marit, Jen, Liz, Leslie, Mary... thanks for being "my girls." It was a weekend I'll never forget.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Camp HTFU, part 2

On Sunday morning, we woke up to the birds chirping (remember that Spring sound – huh, Jen?) I stayed under the covers and flexed my legs. Still there, intact? Yes. Ok, good – trail run, bring on Paris Mountain!

Insert some clever comment about the 97th bowl of oatmeal cooked in my microwave in 3 days.

Endurance Mike, trail running guru, and I had done a test run the prior weekend. Satisfied with our route, we planned to meet up for the run at 8:00. Another SUNNY day of training in the Carolina Hills.

Paris Mtn State Park is a fantastic “outdoor playground” practically in my back yard. There were mountain bikers, hikers, runners, and rednecks out fishing (no offence Vaughn)…. All taking advantage of the gorgeous day. Evidently, this is also where Luke Wilson hangs out on the weekends.
I love the simplicity of running: shoes – and go! Well, unless you’re Marit… and then you need gels, salt tabs, bars, a camera, water, etc… ;) So we decided to brave the trails (rather than just running on the park road). Off we went like a troupe of hardcore girl scouts.

Approximately 3 minutes into the run, before we’d really gotten on the trail, at the base of the climb… I heard a THUD behind me. We all stopped to see Jen curled up on the ground clutching her arm. To be honest the thoughts that flashed through my head included the following:
“ohmygosh, please be OK!!”
“You have got to be kidding me – the girl climbs Panther Mtn on a TT bike, descends like a champ, and bites the dust after tripping on an acorn?!”
After she gets up, brushes off the dirt, picks rocks out from under the skin on her palm, and shows us the bruise already forming on her hip... she's ready to keep going:
“Jen you are the epitome of HTFU!”

We continue on our way. For awhile the trail just rolls along. Hopping over roots, leaping over rocks, sidestepping branches… and then it goes up. Since I’d run the route once before, I knew how long we’d be climbing. Liz, on the other hand, had no idea. Spunky just took off and bounded upward. I saw her ascend… and I put my head down, pumped my arms, and focused all energy into staying on her heals. Liz pounded the mountain, while Marit and I followed.

Finally, after feeling like we’d run to the Mt. Everest base camp, we crested the climb. Gorgeous view… what a reward. A second to catch our breath, and off to trail loop #2. This one got more technical. That’s one thing that stinks about trail running: you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery, but the moment you look up to take in the sights… your foot catches a root. Remembering JH’s position on the trail earlier in the run – I took extra care in my footing and tried to pick my feet up.

Soon we were done with the trail. The way back to the car was downhill via the road. I could have had us go by way of the trail – but, come on, we’re triathletes. I’m not even good at running down stairs. So, we opened up our stride and lunged down the hill. There’s one way to feel fast: Spend over an hour climbing your way up a mountain on a tricky trail – then run down the mountain on a paved road. Who-hoo flying!

Again, the non-IM-slackers (or as I like to call us: SMART), finished up an hour and a half. Marit sped off into the woods still yelling “root,” and other words of caution; Mary and Leslie continued as well. We waited for everyone to finish up… can’t really remember what Liz, Jen, and I talked about. It did strike me that a coffee shop would be an excellent addition to the State Park.

The weather had turned stellar, we’d just finished an amazing run, and we were within a few miles of the Atlanta Bread Company. Life was good.

Coffee, bagels, soup, sandwiches, and Vemma (Thanks Leslie!!!). It hit us – Camp was coming to a close. A wave of sadness spread over me, no… not because everyone was leaving… but because we still had a swim workout planned. Long course meters.

I’ve never wanted to go shopping so badly in my life!
We begged, we pleaded with Jen… Leslie got louder than I’d heard her all weekend. Marit yelled, “Car Back” as Mary veered big momma into the right lane. Liz finally justified our swim by saying, “if we don’t do it today, then we’ll have to do it tomorrow.” Fine, fine – bring on the 50 meter stretch of water.

However, before we could go to the pool, everyone needed to pack up. I’d talked Marit into saying an extra night… in an attempt to wean myself off the camp. Somehow, I’d gotten used to the 5 extra people living in my home.

Yet again, Mary was schlepping bikes/wheels/boxes into the van. As quickly as the tornado had swept in – bags were packed and flung from the house. Since the pool was (North) on the way to Charlotte, I needed to drive my car to the pool. A battle broke out about who would ride shotgun in my car – making it quite obvious that HTFU wanted a final van trip. NO worries ladies, I can ride alone ;)

Back to the YMCA locker room. I opened my bag… and, OOPS – no suit!

Just kidding (but, that would have been a great plan)

We all put on our suits and headed out onto the deck, minus the peppy zip I’d noticed on Day 1. The lifeguard took an HTFU Splish Suit photo (front and back). Mary decided to do a 3,000 pull (huh?! Crazy lady) The rest of us got into a lane together. True to form, Marit took off like an 8 year old at a water park. We all began to swim… 50 meters has never felt so long. We did 200’s, some swimming, some stroke, some drill. Jen made Marit swim with her legs crossed, he he he.

And then I heard Jen say, “only a few hundred more.”
Ah, relief.
And then she said, “Waffle House.”
Oh, this is getting even better.
And then Mary stopped swimming and suggested Waffle House.
And I pushed off the wall to get in my 200 cool down (which was probably faster than any of the other 200’s I’d done that day).

Showers, a visit to the sauna, dressed, and ready – down the street to the Big W.H. And we had the place to ourselves! Camp HTFU with a personal waitress and chef… ready to batter, smother, cover, grease, flip, scramble us some GRUB.

We ordered waffles, eggs, raisin toast, apple butter, grits, hash browns, and of course: coffee. Liz impressed me by ordering in diner lingo (who knew ELF spoke “greasy spoon?”). Leslie braved the Southern hit of butter. Jen spilled a spoonful of grits on her pants, but didn’t even miss a beat – scooped ‘em off her lap and kept going. We found the 131st thing Marit’s never experienced: a meal at Waffle House. Mary tried to get a souvenir mug. We took pictures for Bree. The average bill was around $3.20.

Sniff, tear – we had to say goodbye.
Queue the music: “these are days, to remember.”
I think Marit cried.

We parted ways on 85: Marit and I went South, while big momma maxed out at 69 mph and headed North.

Alright from 6 to 2. And… the 2 kiddies: Marit and I are 26/27. We began to make plans. Movie, sushi, wine, s’mores. She truly is my Soul Sister. We went to a matinee showing of “The Other Boleyn Sister.” Good movie, and history lesson in one (thanks Marit… can’t say I usually like people talking through a movie, but I did learn some valuable European history).

Next it was back to Publix. Marit approached a guy in the produce section – trying to find me a date. We got sushi and ingredients for a crab dip I’ve been known to mix up from time to time (crab meat + fat free cream cheese + cocktail sauce…. Mix and serve with crackers or whole wheat pita bread).

That night Marit and I plopped down on the couch. We had the TV on… but were much more interested in our food selections, wine, and conversation. It was one of the most enjoyable nights I’ve spent in a long time. We talked a little about triathlons, but the conversation quickly turned to jobs, politics, friends, guys, etc… it was great. And we put down some serious s’mores.

By 11:00 I was D.O.N.E. Reality was going to hit hard, and I could already feel it. We set our alarms for 6:45 for a 7:00 am run. It was to be 45 minutes of EASY.

I closed my eyes and the next thing I knew, the alarm was going off. Groan, moan, get vertical. Thank goodness Marit was with me on this one. We headed out the backdoor and established a comfortable “conversation” pace. Uphill toward downtown. As we took a left onto Main St, I noticed another woman running the same direction – on the other side of the road. She was going fast, was obviously in great shape, and I had no idea who she was. G’ville isn’t too big and I’m usually able to recognize the serious runners. Marit asked me about her.

Before we headed down the stairs to Falls Park, the mystery phenom runner crossed the street toward us. “Hey, do you guys know where the ‘rails to trails’ path is?” she asked.
“Oh, wow, are you Heather Gollnick?!” asked Marit.
“yeah, I am” she responded.
I jumped in, “well, how far do you need to run?”
“I’ve got an hour left. Could I just run with you guys?”
*Now at this moment, I know Marit and I were thinking the same thing… so much for 45 minutes of easy. We were going to run an hour with Heather, and it wasn’t going to be at a recovery pace.
“Sure, let’s go this way.” I said.
“Hey, are you girls here for the girls triathlon training camp?” she asked.

We were talking, running, describing the HTFU weekend. Marit did a great job of asking open-ended questions… well, someone needed to keep Heather talking if we were going to survive this run. I decided to add on the McDaniel hill. Well, since both Marit and Heather train in Florida, I knew they were not looking for a flat run.

I have no idea how I/we made it through that run. Longer & faster than we were planning, by far. But, it was awesome. Somehow the weekend had surpassed all my expectations, and a run with Heather Gollnick was the perfect way to cap it off. Seriously, when an IM champ crosses your path – and asks to join you on a run – HTFU and pick up your pace!

So, getting to work on time was going to be a challenge. Marit cleaned up the kitchen while I showered and put on makeup (first time in about 4 days). This might have also been the first time in 4 days that I’d put on underwear. Ah, the beauty of training camp.

I hated saying goodbye to Marit. As much as I razzed her about talking/jumping around/yelling… I knew I was going to miss the energy she brought to training. And just like that, I got in my car and drove to the office. Exhausted, exhilarated, changed, motivated, and already making plans for Camp HTFU 2009.

Ladies, I already miss you all.
I'll begin working on a "things learned during Camp" report...
as well as an 2009 Camp HTFU Application

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Camp HTFU, part 1

You might not have heard about it on the news: but, Greenville experienced a tornado over the weekend. Wait, maybe it was a tornado/earthquake combo?! (at this point, the whole tri-world knows Jen Harrison fell during our trail run – damn near shook leaves from the trees on Paris Mtn.)

Really, it does feel like I’m recovering from a tornado encounter. A swirling, loud, vivacious, charged-up, cloud of ENERGY. It swept in via “big momma” on Thursday… girls, bike boxes, and bags tumbled out of a 16 passenger van – and from that moment on, the only quiet my house experience was when Marit was asleep.

Oops, I almost got ahead of myself. Rewind to Thursday afternoon: I was volunteering at packet pick-up for the Reedy River Run. Cell phone close at hand, waiting for notice that HTFU participants made it to Charlotte. (to note: I had emailed specific driving instructions to all – CLT airport to my house in G’ville) JH called to tell me that they were all there, bags in hand, waiting for the rental van.
* 5 minutes later, I get another call:
“Ashley, yeah… uh, we’re lost – how do you get to I85 South?”
Well, obviously they figured it out.

Official introductions were made at a more formal dinner that night at Soby’s. Yeah, the rest of the weekend was spent in spandex/lycra or sweatpants. And if your initials are JH, then you wore MY spandex/lycra sans underwear for 3 days. Sweet.

Somehow we found another girl w/ bike on Main St. – so, we nabbed her (Marit) and the group became 6. Friday was to include a bike ride, and 4 of the girls only had pieces of bikes. While those 4 played with wrenches – Marit and I hit the grocery store… we had a breakfast order to fill.

I’m actually surprised Publix still has oatmeal and bananas… we have to have skewed their inventory numbers for the past few days. Not to mention the now infamous Jazz apples.

Quite a day: Southern touchdown – drive to SC – borderline JH “I’m starving FEED ME” melt down – dinner – bike building in the dining room – decorating the kitchen by hanging HTFU Splish Suits on the cabinet doors… and we crawled into bed. Sorry Jerome, no gusto for pillow fighting that night.

The next morning began like ELF described: coffee & oatmeal (seriously, next year Quaker should sponsor this darn camp). Soon, my house became a flurry of packing; preparing for a swim and ride… and we know what that means: finding goggles, towels, filling water bottles, locating helmets, cycling shoes, extra tubes/ CO2, gloves, arm warmers, sunglasses, gels, bars, etc… etc… x 6.

Surprisingly – we were on our way to the pool right on schedule. I credit Mother Mary with this miracle. This woman can build bikes, fix bikes, pack bikes, and RIDE a bike better than any other woman I’ve seen!

Thankfully, the YMCA was not familiar with the acronym: HTFU – so they let us in. We suited up and strutted out on the deck. Two lanes quickly formed: Marit, Mary, Jen in one – Leslie, Liz, and myself in the other. Can we say “A lane, B lane?!”

Highlight of the swim (other than those beautiful words: “cool down”)… Leslie popping her head out of the water, in full-on mask… trying to catch Jen’s orders for the next set. I will never forget the priceless grin on her face. The positive perma-grin she wore all weekend… it was just funnier when paired with the scuba Steve snorkel mask.
Lowlight of the swim… realizing that I have 8 vacation days for the whole year, and that one of them was being spent covering 4300 yards in a pool. (ok, ok – I’ll admit that training is exactly what I’d do if given the day off, just maybe not a swim workout)

Well, I didn’t drown in the pool; therefore, the ladies were spared their tour guide for at least another workout. The next few hours were spent killing daylight hours… I mean, driving to the bike shop, getting bikes checked over, drinking coffee, shopping, talking. Finally, an embarrassingly long amount of time later, we rolled out.

By this time, the wind/clouds had moved in. Not the gorgeous day I’d hoped for – but no rain, no snow. We pulled through the River Falls neighborhood, down the first hill, up a longer hill… and I had to laugh when, at the top, I heard someone yell, “nice climb.” Oh no, my friends, these are still rollers.

For the next few hours we rode, lost Mary to tire malfunctions, took turns pulling, went down hills, pushed up hills, admired redneck yard ornaments, pissed off men in trucks, listened for junkyard dogs (reference ELF’s favorite 4 words: “it’s on a chain.”), introduced Marit to the small chain ring, and enjoyed watching the road move under our wheels.

After 3 hours and 10 minutes, Liz, Jen, and I were done; Mary was riding alone; and the IM couple (Leslie and Marit) still had some ground to cover (or maybe they wanted to continue the tour of homes “Southern Style” – or the “tour de’trailer park”)?

A brick run requires running shoes, and those shoes were in the locked van, and the keys to the van were in Mary’s jersey, and Mary was riding her bike… so we had a long “transition.”

We had started at the YMCA at 8:30 am – the sun was now beginning to set – and we were starting our brick run. Liz, Jen, and I ran 30 min… and then it hit: invasion of the body snatchers – Jen’s “hunger monster” took over. Scared for our own lives, Liz and I allowed the deranged woman to startup the van and go after Mary. As Jen slowed to 5 mph, we flung open the door, and pulled Mary off the road.

Off to Publix we drove. Appetizers, aisle who knows? I just followed Jen.

After the monster was appeased, Jen returned to her “normal” self… and Marit/Leslie danced a celebration two-step under the moonlight to commemorate their brick run.

Dinner?! Anyone? Still in our running attire, smelling of roses and other fragrant flowers, I directed us to Moe’s (a favorite burrito restaurant of mine – known for their speed/convenience… and casual dress code). Not so much conversation, more stuffing/chewing/swallowing.

When we came home, I learned that Internet is to Liz what Food is to Jen. A life-force, if you will. So, thanks to some atmospheric phenomenon… my living room was graced with an ever-so-small window of access to an unknown connection. This led to blog-geeks writing updates, passing the laptop to another blogger, so that we could read aloud everyone’s updates… even though 6 of the 10 readers were IN the living room, having participated in the activities discussed in the post. Whatever, we know we’re losers. Which is how we lost our H’s.

Off to bed again: Leslie spooning w/ Liz; Jen spooning w/ me; Marit quarantined to her own room (I’m sure that girl talks in her sleep… which warrants her own space); and Mary on my comfy couch.

Saturday morning was a bit more relaxed. The sun poured into my bedroom… and Jen, acting as though she hasn’t seen sunshine since 2007 – oh, wait, that’s right… she hasn’t seen the sun since ’07 – proceeded to run around my house opening every blind. Not to worry, she was fully dressed. However, lets not talk about the Medusa style bed-head.

Hum, what did we have for breakfast? OATMEAL, that’s right. New day, same mush, different toppings: berries, nuts, honey, cinnamon, yogurt, all good stuff. More packing, discussion of gels/nutrition, locating gear… Cycling friend Matt arrives… Mary packs the van for the 12th time… and we’re off to the mountains.

A few months back, I talked with my friend Dustan. It went something like this: “Dustan, I’ve got some awesome ladies coming to town for training. Think you could come up with a hilly 4 hour ride? Climbs? Yes, please, they’re looking for climbing.”
The man, with a devious look in his eyes, grinned and said something about “the Panther” needing fresh blood. I heard the word sacrifice. I got scared.

So on Saturday, Camp HTFU stood and listened to Dustan, aka: Spider Monkey, talk about our ride. Where we were going, the names of the mountains (which included terms like the “birthing canal” and “fallopian tubes.”)

We mounted our rides and followed Dustan (who I am convinced is an unknown relative of Lance Armstrong’s). He said something about the Panther climb start line… and I tried my best (in a 23) to hang on. Liz quickly turned back (and NOT because of fatigue mind you – the ELF was listening to the smart side of her brain). I decided to push the pedals until I tipped over – which happened not too much further up. Jen, Matt, Marit weaved back and forth up the climb. Dustan was probably already at the top finishing a cup of coffee. (picture of Panther Mtn)

I made my way back, hooked up with Leslie (same gearing), and then we found Liz and Mary. The 4 of us tooled around – trying to NOT get busted for breaking and entering a gated community (Liz wins the “best Female Lead” Oscar for the film: Fake Mechanical When Resident Exits Community.)

Finally, Dustan, Matt, Marit, and Jen safely return from the Panther Mtn sacrificial climb. Offerings included a large percentage of quad muscle, Marit’s vomit, and skin from Jen’s fingers.

The sun kept shining. We saw lots of other cyclists out on the roads. I tried my best to keep Liz’s prancing pedals in sight. Dustan probably road an extra 50 miles… as he spent the day riding back and forth, making sure the group stayed “together.” Marit yelled, “CAR BACK” for the 1,000,000th time in 2 days. Matt spent the day in his big ring. Liz not only hammered up the hills, she also hammered down the hills to make up for featherweight decent limitations. Marit, having climbed Panther, continued to kill it up the mountains – AND cheer everyone else on. Jen, a self admitted “flatlander” made the whole thing look too easy. Leslie did it all with a smile and said something about, “not being in Kansas anymore.” Mary faced her downhill anxieties, and had a great ride.

Us non-IM folk finished up a 3:45 ride… and waited for the IM pair to get in some extra miles. Marit might have done Panther Mtn 4 more times had we not told her to “cool it.” So, she and Leslie rode on. Jen and I ate M&M’s. Liz ate peanut butter with her fingers. Mary began packing the van. Matt DJ’d our activities via is car stereo.

M and L returned from their add-on miles… and Jen’s monster began to show its fangs. M&M’s can only quiet the beast for so long. Marit begged for a brick run – Jen (or maybe it was the beast) said “NO!” So, as a compromise, Marit jogged in place for a few minutes.

Once again, clad in sweaty, stinky cycling apparel – the ladies of HTFU ignored all common decency and went straight to a restaurant. This time we graced Barley’s with our presence. I wondered about running into my non-tri friends (of which I have a few ;)… but then remembered, they really wouldn’t think twice about seeing me dressed in spandex – while eating at a downtown establishment. This was not a first for me and will not be a last – no shame.

Exhausted, full, satisfied – we made our way back to home base. More blogging, reading each other’s blog entries, reading blogs written by people not at Camp HTFU, eating peanut butter M&M’s, and rehashing stories from the day, was how we spent the rest of the night.

I waited for JH in bed… and we talked late into the night. Laughing like 2 girls during a slumber party. That’s actually how the whole weekend felt: like a big slumber party. Except instead of playing “light as a feather / stiff as a board” we played pass the massage stick. Instead of watching scary movies, we told scary tales of descending down the mountains. Instead of talking about boys, we talked about bikes. Instead of painting our nails, we dressed our wounds. Instead of gorging on M&M’s… oh, yeah… we did that.

(Sunday - Monday.... To Be Continued.....)

Monday, March 3, 2008

I'm alive

and my house is still standing!

Sorry, no time for an update just yet.

I will be working on a Camp HTFU recap later tonight.

*but, get this: Marit and I capped off the weekend by running with Heather Gollnick this morning. (hummm that 45 min EASY run quickly changed to an HOUR Tempo - how about that. Marit, can you feel your legs yet? No, me either)
Boo-YAH! That was serious icing on the HTFU sundae.


I already miss you.

Thank you to our "charter members": Dustan, Matt, Mike, Angie (Middle Tyger YMCA)