Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pine Bush Sprint Triathlon Race Recap

Since moving away from Albany, a couple of my friends I have actually probably talked to even more via Messenger and Chat than when I did live there, due to my new and stronger interest in triathlon. My friends Jeremy and Katie I used to see all the time at sprint triathlons, but I always went to those solo and didn't really talk to many people at the races. I wasn't involved in any sort of triathlon group, didn't particularly train for the sprints, and was always the "loser on the hybrid bike" in my mind.

I remember the summer before moving away talking with Katie about running and having her say, "I wish that we had begun hanging out sooner, we could have run together!" And now that I'm into triathlon more, we could have swum and biked together I'm sure! Timing can be such a challenging thing and there's always a few people that you wish you'd been able to spend more time with or been better friends with or hung out with more when you lived in a certain place (Hi Lauren! Two blog cameos in one week!)

Anyways, when I mentioned I was coming up, Jeremy suggested I do the Pine Bush Sprint Triathlon while in town, which is a race I had never done and is right in Albany! He offered to loan me his road bike, which he rode for two of his full Ironman races and happened to be the right fit to me. After checking with my coach to see about fitting it into my training schedule, I took him up on the offer and signed up a couple weeks before. I was excited as this was going to be my first Sprint Triathlon (and likely only one) this season.

The day before the race I was given a little advice on the course and also was suggested to do packet pickup the day before. However, I had already missed the deadline to do the early pickup, so it was morning registration for me!

Online said that I needed to go to the Pine Bush Preserve Rensselear Lake for the packet pickup, start of the race, and T1. This was a point-to-point race, which made morning of a bit complicated. For those who aren't as familiar with triathlons, usually there is a "transition area" for athletes where everyone is assigned or claims a location where they leave their bike and everything that they need for when they transition from swimming to biking, then later biking to running. The race uses that transition area as a steady location and the start and finish of all three sports are from this main transition location. However, in point-to-point races, you are essentially doing the whole thing in one straight line. So you need to set up two transition areas in different locations with just what you'll need for that exact transition.

I arrived in the morning, checked in, got marked, and dropped off my bike and bike supplies at T1. The volunteers were not marking ages for this race since it was a NOT a USA Triathlon certified race. Which also means that I got to race as a 29 year old. My 30th birthday isn't for another couple of weeks, but in USAT races, you compete in the age that you will be at the end of the year. So for example, when I raced in Chattanooga, I was already 30 years old according to Ironman, which follows USAT rules. So, no ages on my legs (which I sort of like so I can check out the competition) and my marking on my arm was originally written wrong by the girl, so she then had to cross out one of the numbers by scribbling it out in big black sharpie. Awesome.

It had rained the night before, and the little lake area was calm and peaceful but the ground around was muddy and gross and I immediately felt bad getting my loaned bike covered in dirt.

When I was setting up in T1, I felt incredibly unprepared. I didn't have a towel to lay anything down on the ground, I didn't have any water to leave for myself at T1. I really just had the bare essentials for riding, my bike and helmet and shoes and socks (also sunglasses and gloves, but who is counting.) The bike racks were too short and it was really awkward to rack your bike. And without a towel, I just threw my items down on the wet ground next to my bike. As I was doing that I made a mental note to myself to think these things through the next time I travel for a race -- which will be for Half Ironman Sunshine Coast in Australia!!

After setting up, I had an awesome surprise of running into an old coworker of mine who I have run with many times before. Most recently was when I was in NYC in November for business and we ended up on The Today Show before our morning meetings. We chatted for a bit until I remembered that I actually had to drive over to T2 and leave my items there. He made me super nervous with his reaction of "What?! You haven't been over there yet?!? You're supposed to do that first!" and ushered me off, saying that he would set up my transition area. I wasn't sure exactly what he was going to do... since my area was pretty set up to my standards, but just said okay.

I hopped over in my car the 10 minute ride to the Guilderland YMCA where the finish of the race was set up and the T2 area. The transition area for T2 was a longggggg shoot. It was essentially just a portion of the road and there was only one timing mat that I saw for transition. Not having done the course before, I wasn't sure which end you biked into and which end you ran out from and wanted this information to know where to set my sneakers. Usually, it is nice to be as close to the "Bike In" area as possible since you are generally forced to dismount your bike and the closer you are to your transition area, the less time you have to run in clunky bike shoes and with your bike. There were people set up at both ends of the long transition area, which confused me, but after receiving confirmation of where we biked in, I set my sneakers down as close as possible. Again, it felt a little odd because I was basically just leaving a pair of sneakers and my race bib sitting on the side of the road.

Then, BACK over to the start area, where I met up with my coworker and chatted some more before staring the race. This race had 8 different waves, which was a lot I felt, and they were each spaced 4 minutes apart. The first wave was relays and triathletes under 20. Then I was in the 2nd wave of all male and female 20-29 triathlets.

It was a point to point swim, keeping buoys on your left, which is a little awkward for me since I am most comfortable breathing to my right, but whatever. It was listed as a 325 meter swim, which is rather short so I knew it wouldn't last long.

Swim portion (325 yards) - 5:06 (1:43 per 100/meter)

I started in the front of the pack of swimmers, four people to my left, who I had a pretty strong hunch would be really strong, with one girl in the group. This was my competition.

We started and I went out strong, wanting to just swim hard with such a short swim. The small group of swimmers took off like rockets, as anticipated, and I separated myself from the rest of the pack pretty easily and had an uneventful swim of just me out swimming on my own. I didn't run into anyone outside of the first few feet and nobody was by me. I felt fine for the most part but I could tell I could tell I was kicking too hard but I just couldn't get my arms to feel powerful. The only other point of note was that I misjudged when I would be able to stand too soon when leaving the water. I was close to the shore and there were weeds hitting my face so I went to put my feet down and couldn't touch. There was no bottom yet but now my whole body was wrapped up in those weeds. EW all around.

T1: I felt awkward in T1. It was in the grass/muddy dirt and I had no towel to dry my feet off or anything. My friend had put a shirt down on the ground and lay my things on top of them, which was really nice. I sat on the ground to put my shoes and socks on over soaking wet and sandy feet, threw on my bike gloves, glasses, and helmet and turned to look for the bike exit and couldn't find one. I had run over a timing mat when getting off the beach area and onto pavement but I didn't see another one so I wasn't sure where to head and the transition wasn't roped off or anything. I took a best guess and wheeled over and eventually just hopped on my bike and road down the street. There was no direction given, with all volunteers and spectators being immediately by the swim exit. Being one of the first waves and one of the first out of the water, there weren't a ton of people in transition. It was SUPER awkward to me.

Bike (11.5 miles) - 40:49 (16.9 mph)

The first mile or so, I actually was not sure if I was in the right place. Did I just bike away from the race? How long should I bike before I turn around and figure out actually where I was supposed to go? I was riding on a bike path and there was nobody in front of me, no signs, and no volunteers. It was quiet and very strange.

Eventually I caught up to a couple of the relay riders in front of me so I knew I was on the right track. When we got off of the bike path, there were tons of volunteers throughout the course, which was actually amazing. At every intersection, even small neighborhood ones, they had people patrolling cars and cheering along the riders. I said thank you to everyone and just kept grinding.

My legs felt heavy at the beginning of the bike which I thought might have to do with going to hard on the swim and kicking too much. But I just told myself, this is a SPRINT triathlon, so no need to hold anything back and forced my legs to keep moving.  At one point I tried to stand on the bike to pick up some speed but I immediately realized that I was not used to the weight of this bike and trying to ride out of the saddle takes some practice to get used to how a bike feels (for me at least) so I decided to try and avoid that this race. It also was a little hard for me to manage the gears on the borrowed bike, since the way they click through gears and the effort for each gear is slightly different per bike.

My TomTom Watch completely died recently so I was doing this race completely blind essentially. I had left my phone in my car and I had no way to tell how far I had gone or how long I was riding. There were no mile markers, and that made it a little tough to me. I just kept telling myself to keep going hard. Usually I use the miles to break it up for me a bit mentally, and it was hard to just tell myself to go hard for what felt like an unknown and indefinite period of time.

I caught as many people as they could, but knowing that they were relay people, it wasn't super motivating. Most of the time I was on the road by myself and had one male rider pass me towards the end. There were a few tight corners to turn on the ride, a few inclines, but a pretty uneventful and boring bike. There was one portion that we had to ride within the cones and the shoulder area they gave us was SO small. That was a bit frustrating. As was the fact that my water bottle fell out of my water bottle cage pretty early in the race!

My plan had been to take some Gu or Salt midway on the bike, but without water I couldn't do that. Eventually I made it to the T2 area and again, had no idea how I did, but just kept moving.

T2: So remember how I mentioned it was a really long shoot and I set my sneakers right by the bike in area? Well, I realized that just as there had been no mat to mark the bike out from the first transition, there was also no  mat here. Which meant that our transition times would be included in our bike time. Additionally, some people were BIKING THROUGH THE TRANSITION. This is a huge huge no-no in USAT races. You get disqualified for biking into the transition and there are set, marked dismount areas. The people who had set their sneakers up by the Run Out area had clearly done this race before and knew the advantage they'd get from being able to bike the abnormally long shoot area. It's a small advantage, but in a sprint race, every little thing counts. I racked my bike, again, on the super short bike racks, and changed into my sneakers, put on my bib and visor, and ran out. People were biking by me as I ran. Which was super annoying. And my glasses fell off somehow at one point so I had to stop and back track a few feet and pick them up before even exiting the transition.

Run (3.25 mile run) - 27:35 (8:29 pace)

As I began the run, I again, was not sure which way to go when I left the transition and ran over the mat. I asked a volunteer and she pointed me in the right direction and I also grabbed some water from her. A female runner came up beside me and said, "I am glad you asked because I didn't know which way to go either!" She was not the same age group as me so must have caught up to me during the bike (probably one of the people who rode past me in transition!) The first half mile was downhill and she got a little ahead of me, as I was trying to pace myself, but I caught up on the flat and we ran next to each other for a bit. At what I am guessing is around a mile she said to me, "I guess we might be stuck with each other." I said it was fine by me and we chatted a little. She said she had a baby last year and was just getting back out there and that she used to do longer races like Half Ironmans, etc.

We bobbed back and forth for the next mile, staying together. I drank some water from a couple aid stations, and we passed the few other relay runners who were out on the course. One or two fast guys caught us. I tried to estimate our pace but really was not sure - my guess was high 8s/9s. It seemed like it was an out-and-back course and it felt like it was going on forever. It turns out it had one little loop in the course and when we turned to start to head back, the woman got ahead of me. I knew she was already at least 4 minutes ahead of me time wise since she was in a different swim wave, but I tried to keep up as motivation even though I knew I couldn't beat her place wise.

In the last mile she got a bit further ahead and one other woman in a different age group passed me too and there was nothing I could do to stick with them. I was cramping and was mad at myself that I had lost that water back during the bike. The last half mile was up the same hill we had run down at the beginning and it was challenging. The finish felt like it was forever away, but the good thing about the last hill is that there were tons of people cheering. I also was passing so many people just going out on the run and I was so happy I was not them!

Overall - 1:13:29 (35/152 athletes; 4/67 females; 1st in 20-29F AG awards)

I knew the whole time that my competition would be that one girl that was out in front of me during the swim. I never caught her (and didn't really expect to) so I knew I would be 2nd in my age group when I finished. What I wasn't expecting was to be the 4th overall female! The two woman who passed me on the run, and the other female in my age group took the overall 1-3 spots in the race, which left me with the 1st in Age Group medal! At first I was a little annoyed that I didn't run harder to try and stay with the two women, but I had to keep reminding myself that they had already beaten me since they were in a later wave.

When I immediately finished, I was excited about the 2nd AG but also felt a little disappointed when I saw my times. I had been thinking the bike was a 10 mile bike and that the run was a 5K so when I saw my times posted I was a bit  bummed to be honest. I feel like there are a number of things I executed on poorly in the race, and my transitions especially were rather sloppy. I also thought I would be better at running that hill than I was, so it made me feel like I need to get more hill work in me. And train more on flats during the bike. There is always something to improve I guess.

I actually biked back from the T2 area to the start and finish with my coworker, hoping to avoid the shuttles and having to drive back to pick up bikes. It was nice to get some cool down miles in and chat more, but as soon as I got back to the start area, I realized that I was missing the awards ceremony. For some reason I had in my head that it would be taking place by the start. Which I realized as soon as I got there and saw how dead it was, that the thought didn't make any sense.

But oh well, we got to catch up more, which was fun.

I did go back over to the Guilderland YMCA to pick up my medal. Or plastic and ribbon. Whatever. A win is a win and I wanted the bling!

Plus, I think is probably my last race racing as a 29 year old. In a few weeks I will "officially" age up in all races, as I'll be entering my thirties. It was fitting to me that this race wasn't even broken into two different twenty-something age group, but that I raced my last race in the 20-29s and came out #1. Racing in Albany, NY where I first started this fitness journey, learned to run a 5K, and competed in my first sprint triathlon. It's fitting and means so much to me. I can't wait to get home and hang this first place medal on my wall. 

Overall time: 1:13:29
Swim (325 yard): 5:06 (1:43 per 100 m)
Bike (11.5 mile bike): 40:49 (16.9 mph)
Run (3.25 run): 27:35 (8:29 pace)

P.S. Serious special thank you to Jeremy for letting me borrow his bike and encouraging me to sign up for the race. I am so, so glad that I did and appreciate your help!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summer Reunion Days and Nights in the Capital Region

When I last left you guys, I was heading out from Heidi and Dave's and met up with some friends in downtown Schenectady for drinks and a blast from the past with a summer concert series featuring Gin Blossoms!

Before moving away, I was the coordinator of my group of friends when it came to social activities and things like happy hours. I had sent out an email to a group of friends the week before, letting them know I would be in town and retaining my duties of social coordinator. We chose the newly opened Schenectady Biergarten... which isn't super new for my friends who are still local, but I had never been! I loved their Albany location though and the convenience of the new site with their super close access to the office was perfect. Plus, there was one night that all my friends were at this bar and Snapchatting the whole night. It looked so fun and I really wanted to recreate that, haha. FOMO runs strong with me.

They also allow pups in, which allowed me to meet some of my friend's dog for the first time! I had such a good time catching up, reminiscing, and drinking my favorite beers and throwing around peanuts with my friends.

The concert was also pretty fun and it was a gorgeous summer night. I didn't realize how many Gin Blossoms songs I would actually recognize and be able to sing along to (kind of...)

I joked with some of my friends because we were looking through some of the "On This Day..." memories that pop up on Facebook lately and some of the things we used to post were so late at night!  My Center Square crew in Albany used to consist of the group of friends that all lived within 5 minute walks of one another and we used to hang out all the time. Ernest and Jeff are two of those friends and I found an old photo on Facebook from August 2009 vs. July 2016. Our bedtimes have significantly changed during this time period.

Saturday morning started bright and early for me with a trip to the Guilderland YMCA. I did a short weights session for 30 minutes followed by 30 minutes of swimming laps. It was a light workout but I was happy to get something in! And to stop at Stewart's on the way back and pick up some Blueberry Crumble Coffee. My coffee cravings are through the roof and I look forward to coffee on a daily basis. Stewart's, the Upstate NY classic gas station store, has pretty darn good coffee.

I spent Saturday bopping all over the Capital Region. Spending a little time in Saratoga to meet my friend's new baby (ummm she's the cutest and tiniest thing ever, btw.) Hanging out in Niskayuna. Then hitting up a few different locations in Albany, checking out my old neighborhood and meeting up with different friends.

I had to pick up a bike that I was borrowing from a fellow triathlete and runner, who had encouraged me to sign up for a local sprint triathlon while I was in town. I ended up making it work into my schedule and took him up on his offer to borrow his road bike. This is likely the only sprint triathlon that I will do this season so I was pretty excited for it. And felt honored to be getting to ride a bike that has done Ironman Lake Placid 2x!

Saturday night also included one of my favorite salads from one of my favorite restaurants, The Barge, that sits on the Hudson River in Albany. I met up with Jeff for some drinks and laughs and even more reminiscing about our younger and wilder years. I love summer evenings with good friends.

I began Sunday with the sprint triathlon, which I will recap in another post, then ran errands around Albany before jumping on the road to head to New England for some much needed family time.

I had such a wonderful time in Albany and it felt all too short. So many friends I didn't get the chance to connect with or get enough quality time with. I loved being able to get to see the people that I did and I am continually overwhelmed by how hospitable my friends are. I slept in three different spare rooms of my friends (yay for everyone being grown ups and having houses!) and felt like I was at home at each one. I love friends whose houses I don't have to knock when I enter into. Going to Albany will forever feel like going home to me. I miss the Capital Region so much and miss my friends there more than they know. It's incredible to me how some people I know bash the place that I used to live. However, as much as I love it, I also hold strong that I don't want to be living there right now.  It was great to see my friends who are all in new stages of their lives, while I am living out my own. The next week I will now be catching up with family. Happiness all around!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Training and up north visit

Hey everyone, I'm writing to you today from my lovely old home of Upstate New York, where I arrived yesterday to spend the next couple of days. I have been looking forward to this trip for so long as the last time I was in the Capital Region was last September! I can't even believe it's been that long and I've been missing my friends here so much.

This week, I was just anxiously awaiting the days to count down to make it up this way and so far it has been great. I'm already feeling a little challenged about fitting in all of the training that I need to do while I am here, but I am trying to stay focused and do the best I can with what I've got.

What threw me off was that this past week's training didn't go exactly according to plan, so I feel like I am missing even more of training than I originally imagined.

On Monday, I started the day with my Masters swim class, and then went to get in a bike ride in the evening but got rained out 30 minutes into it. On Tuesday I was supposed to do a 4 mile run, but was having a problem with a defective sneaker that I had just purchased and ended up only doing 3 with my trusty companion, Janet.

On Wednesday, because of some of my problems running, I switched my run into a swim, and although it felt amazing to swim, I felt a little guilty about it. [Side note: I was definitely feeling like I looked pretty strong when I walked into the pool to swim on Wednesday.]

Thursday was a rest day and then today on Friday, I did a 4 mile run in 90% humidity in NY (I can't escape it!!)

Aside from that, I am just happy to be in New York and seeing friends.  When I landed in Albany, I immediately jumped into a rental car and head to one of my favorite places for lunch, Ambition Cafe, on Jay Street in Schenectady to meet a friend. My lunch was so unattractive as I ordered a black bean patty on top of a salad with lots of salsa, but it was so delicious.

I then worked for the afternoon from my old campus, which happens to be the former Headquarters of my company. I joked on Instagram that this place is "GE Mecca" but it is sort of a little bit true. I can't help but get excited when I return to this place and see the "GE Exit" off the highway and the bright big letters of the "General Electric" sign that sits atop the main building on campus.

Following my work day, I head over to my friends Heidi & Dave's house, where we dined on homemade pizza and caught up about everything that's gone on over the past year and I played with their super cute baby. Some of you if you've been around long enough know that I stayed with Heidi and Dave when I was in the process of moving two years ago. And have been staying with them every time I come back to the Capital Region since - including spending a romantic New Years Eve as their third wheel.

Whenever I am here, I am always completely overwhelmed with how hospitable and welcoming they are to have me with them. Through Heidi's pregnancy and even with a young baby in the house, they make me feel so welcome, serve me delicious homemade and healthy foods, and we just have the best time sitting around talking and hanging out.

I ran Friday morning, worked throughout the day, and took a short break to play with Heidi and their babe before they head out of town for the weekend. I'm bummed we didn't get more time to hang out, but happy that we had more than none!!

I've got lots more fun planned throughout the next few days and more babies to hang out with, so you know it's going to be a good weekend. Hope you are all doing well with everything you've got going on!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Adventure weekend

It's fun to every once in a while have a weekend where you get to try new things and go on an adventure in your own city. This weekend was one of those for me.

After two back to back weekends of traveling for weddings, I was looking forward to having a relaxing weekend in Atlanta. It turned out to be a really fun weekend, as well as a relaxing one.

Friday afternoon, Brick came over to have an afternoon work party with me and hang out in the early evening. Our schedules are going to be out of sync for a little while, so we are trying to grab as much hang out time as possible. Unfortunately, I was pretty exhausted from a week of work and tough morning workouts, and ended up asleep on the couch. Woops! At least you know it was relaxing.

My weekends don't tend to be much of a break from early mornings and this one was no exception. I started my Saturday bright and early meeting a group of runners in Atlanta for a "solidarity run." As the organizer said when we gathered together, many of us grieve and mourn and heal and find community in the act of running. So with the events of this past week, a solidarity run, in remembrance of all those who lost their lives due to senseless violence, was much appreciated.

It was great to catch up with friends I hadn't seen in a while and also have some moments of reflection at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial site. I sometimes forget that I live in such an amazing city that played such an incredible role in the civil rights movement. There is so much history here and the MLK Jr. Memorial is an incredible thing to have right in your backyard.

The route was 3.5 miles, which was challenging, with a number of hills packed in, and then I kept going for another 1.5 to get to 5 miles for the day. It was supposed to be a 8 mile day for me, but I've been feeling some pain in my left hip and decided to take it easy rather than try and hit the number and potentially aggravate it more.

I came home, iced my hip, watched some Tour de France, ate breakfast and hydrated, then got ready to head out with my friend Janet on an adventure day. Both of us had been wanting to try an Atlanta summer bucket list staple of "shooting the hooch" or floating down the Chattahoochee River in inner tubes. Generally done in big groups and with a cooler.

Unfortunately, we couldn't round up a group, but decided what the heck, let's just do it the two of us? Sometimes you wait around and say you're going to do things and say you're going to do things and never get around to it. So we just went for it and had an awesome time!

It started out a little iffy as the registration was totally chaotic. We weren't entirely sure what to do, what lines to get in, what we needed, or basically anything. But after a bit of standing around and being patient and forking over some moneys, we ended up with two inner tubes along a path to the river. It seriously was the most confusing process ever, but whatever. We got through it.

We left our phones in the car, only bringing with us a couple plastic bags with snacks and water and some beers. Then toppled into the river (literally) off of a dock and set out on an adventure down the Chattahoochee!

I have no pictures from being out on the river but it was really beautiful, peaceful, and the current is VERY slow. At times we were unsure if we were even moving and I often rowed or walked us down the river (it was also incredibly shallow.) There was great people watching, float scoping, and endless amounts of sunshine and beauty to take in.

There were a number of moments were we felt like such the slackers out on the river, with plastic bags tied to our raft handles holding our snacks and beers. With no phone to know what time it was or music to play. No sunscreen and no idea how far we'd gone or how much further we had. It was a time where we had to revert back old school and have actual conversations and it was pretty freaking awesome.

When we finally got to the point where we disembarked and got off the rafts to take the shuttle back to our cars. We took bets of what time we thought it was when we'd return to the car and turns out it was about 5:45 and we had spent about 3.5 hours out on the river. I was a bit sunburnt and we both were tired but it was an awesome, awesome afternoon.

We took notes throughout the day of what we'd do differently if we were to go back, so we're basically pros now and available for leading guided tours down the Chattahoochee if anyone is interested!

Following the river adventure, we got some food at a restaurant near my place and then I returned to my apartment to spend the rest of the night on the couch. I was wiped from being in the sun all day and also needed to be up early.

My Sunday started earlier than my normal weekdays with a 5:00 a.m. wake up time to be out the door at 6:00 a.m. to head out for the Georgia 400 Hospitality bike ride. When planning out my workouts for the weekend, I switched around to do a long run on Saturday and a long ride on Sunday, specifically so I could participate in this event. However, it also worked out really perfectly because it allowed me join the solidarity ride, as well as have my day free to shoot the hooch on Saturday.

The Georgia 400 ride is an annual bike ride that attracts a lot of riders because the beginning of the ride, the Georgia 400 highway, one of the major highways in and out of Atlanta, is shut down and cyclists are allowed to ride on the highway! Georgia 400 is one of the busiest traveled roads so there is no way in the world this could ever happen any time besides 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, but even then, it's pretty amazing that they do this. The ride has a 10 mile, 27 mile, 45 mile, 62 mile and 100 mile route and they are all supported with rest stations every 10-15 miles or so.

We arrived at around 6:30 a.m. and checked in for the bike ride then lined up. There were TONS of cyclists there and we were way in the back. The first mile we were barely rolling, and it was WAY crowded for the entire first 10 miles.  The first 10 miles were a little rough because that is what most of the inexperienced cyclists, just out there to be able to ride on the highway and get the experience, were doing. There were a couple steep hills right in the beginning with lots of people walking their bikes up and crowded roads. Luckily, there wasn't really any road traffic at this time though. The most shocking thing for me was that there were a number of people out without helmets. What?! I couldn't believe people were riding on the roads without helmets and that the race organizers allowed this.

The coolest part was about a mile into the ride, we entered into the on ramp for the Georgia 400 and rode a portion of the race with the highway completely to ourselves. I loved it! It was an amazing sight with the sun coming up and I snapped one picture and then just took it all in. I was really happy that it came out not blurry because I wasn't looking at the picture quality midride.

The rest stops throughout the race were awesome. We stopped at every one of them and I tried to take some pictures. They all had food consisting of peanut butter and jelly and peanut butter and nutella sandwiches, oranges, bananas, rice crispies treats, pretzels, water, ice, Gatorade and bathrooms. If only every bike ride I did had this type of spread! Or, at the very least, the ability to refill water bottles. Having cold water throughout the ride was such a luxury today.

The ride was actually really challenging for me with almost 4000 feet of climbing. There are 3 major hills that were around 50 miles in that everyone called the "Three Sisters" - the first one is huge and then middle sized and then smaller, but all with pretty steep inclines. These hills are only for the riders doing 62 or 100 miles, so it is mostly experience cyclists, and there were a number of people walking up each of the hills, as well as a couple climbs right before the finish. I'm sure it was hard for them, but it was a little bit of a confidence boost and adrenaline kick to me that I was still going strong even this far into the ride.

One of the things that saved us throughout the day was that for the majority of the ride, the clouds were hiding the sun, protecting us from that extra bit of heat. Towards the end the sun was out and shining, and I was a little worried that my sunscreen that I had put on at 5:30 a.m. was no longer effective as it was now nearing noon!

The whole thing was an adventure to do this type of ride and I really liked riding a new route that was unknown to me. I was miserable for a good portion of the ride but all in all, it was pretty fun. My pace definitely slowed at the end, I was tired for sure. My hip and knee gave me a little bit of twinges of pain, but was mostly good. We even have the unique and pretty cool experience of having a deer run across the street, literally right in front of me. It was crazy!

Anyways, when we got through all the hills, they had a band and a big finish line set up and all sorts of post race food. It really was such a cool event and my first bike ride of this type. I would definitely be open to doing more and it was a cool way to get in the miles. I think if I were to ever build up to riding 100 miles, a good transition into it would be doing it with a supported ride like this. It is so difficult to manage and think about all the nutrition, water, and things that could go wrong on a 100 mile adventure. However, the support throughout this whole day was great. They even had roaming mechanics!

Instead of eating the food at the finish, my friends and I head out and got post race burgers. Or at least some people did. I went with a salad with grilled chicken on it because I am trying to be a healthy human being, but more on that later...

This was just the second time I have ever ridden this distance before, and it was more challenging I think due to the climbing in this route and also just not knowing the route. However, I did stop a number of times throughout, which makes it feel like cheating a little bit to me since when I ride this distance during a race, I definitely do not intend to take long breaks for peanut butter filled pretzels and nutella sandwiches (about that being healthy thing, woops.)

It was a really wonderful weekend with lots of new things and lots of adventure and friends. This is exactly the kind of summer training weekend I imagined for myself at the beginning of the year so I am really happy about that. I hope that you all had a great weekend as well!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Black Lives Matter

I am not usually one to get too political on the blog, but some things transcend politics. I've been listening and reading a lot over the past week, and having discussions with friends as well. I've been feeling angry, shocked, confused, and a wide variety of other emotions.

This past week has been a scary one for race relations in America. It's been a scary year, or couple of years, for race relations, and it feels like right now, everyone is on fire with unrest and anger. This week, two black men were shot by the police, on video tape. And while we don't know exactly what happened before the cameras start rolling - some of the facts we do know are sobering and make you feel like you've been punched in the stomach when you hear.

One of the victims, Philando Castile, who was pulled over for a broken tail light, ended up being shot in his car and lay there slumped over  until he died, with his 4 year old daughter in the backseat, his girlfriend still sitting next to him, and an officer pointing a gun to them the entire time. We don't know the details of the conversation, what was said by the police officer or him that led to the shooting, but the facts just do not line up. He was pulled over for a broken tail light and ended up dead in his car and something is not right there.

Yesterday morning, in Atlanta, in Piedmont Park, where I often run in the mornings, at 5:00 a.m., a young black man was found hanging from a tree. The initial reports say it is suicide but how that is determined, I do not know. The call of "suicide" I don't think is believed by many. The Mayor also announced that the case was being turned over to the FBI and there are also statements going around social media that the KKK was recruiting in the park the night before.

I was not there and I do not know the details, but I spend a lot of time in that park, and the idea of it being a suicide does not make sense in my mind. It doesn't make sense in many people's minds, and yesterday peaceful protests and marches took place throughout Atlanta, with some of my friends participating, shouting "No justice. No peace." as they stopped traffic on the 75/85 major highways through the city in a plea for answers.

Throughout the rest of the country, people organized themselves as well, which also included some tragedy as well, with the terrible shooting and killing of police officers in Dallas. Police officers who just earlier before were taking pictures and supporting the protesters they were there to protect. For this, and all good police officers who are in further danger right now, we mourn.

How is this the world that we live in?

It is scary to see things seemingly spiraling in front of you and feel helpless. This situation. The entire U.S. political situation. And not to mention, the mass murders that I haven't written about on here, are taking over our news and it is becoming common place. The night club shooting in Orlando completely broke my heart and had me crying at my desk for a full week. It is so senseless and heart breaking to steal peoples lives in this, or any way. It is horrible.

We've got to be better. We've got to have conversations. Respect one another. Break down barriers. build up communities. And stop killing each other.

I can't begin to know how to solve all of the problems that face our world. These issues run deep and are complex and complicated. But I will continue to learn. I will continue to read, listen, and ask questions whenever I have the opportunity. I will continue to offer my help and support and do what I can to be an active force of change in my community... even if that just consists of my immediate circle around me. To me, recognizing that we are ALL impacted by the early deaths of young black men, is important. The effect that has on their families, friends, and the loss to our whole community of what that individual's impact on the world could have been. We're all one connected race, no matter where you live or what you believe in or who you love or the color of your skin. We need to start living that way.

It's not a myth. It's not just in people's heads. It's not something we can hide from. Racism is real and it exists and people are dying. I know I more regurgitated some of the news here rather than share my exact thoughts, but it's almost people I am a loss for words. I'm scared and I'm angry for my friends and the fear and prejudices that they have against them. As a white women, I was born with privilege. It's not my fault nor and nobody is saying that it is, but I recognize that and it is important for my friends of darker skin to know that and know that I am angry for them. I am scared for the children of the police officers killed and the black men killed this week and the prejudices they may grow up with. Something needs to change and it can start with you and me.

My friend Brick posted this to Facebook yesterday and I wanted to share it.

"Dr. King said, "Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they cannot communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated." He was speaking on segregation in the South, but I ask you this... Are you voluntarily living a segregated life, even from those who look like you? What community are you actively supporting before tragedy strikes at your front door? Let's build up our communities showing why we are magical and our lives matter! Let's support initiatives for job training and better education in our neighborhoods. Let's support our businesses! Let's get to know each other at the gas station, in grocery stores, at church, in the park."

It's a simple message and resonated with me. Let's show some love and community in our lives this weekend. And remember, black lives matter.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mariel's Long Island Wedding Weekend

I promise, I won't turn this blog into a chronicle of weddings, but I have another wedding weekend to post about in here! And it was a fun one. The whole weekend was a fun one.

In addition to everything I posted last week about knowing when you're a triathlete, I guess another thing to add to that list would be when you schedule your travel in order to fit in workouts. As this weekend, I booked a Saturday evening flight to JFK airport in NYC specifically so I could get in a 50-mile bike ride in the morning. Despite the fact that I flew in the evening to fit in the workout, it did not mean I was any less excited to get to the city. Sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do though. And then we fly.

I landed in New York super anxious and excited to get myself to Manhattan to meet up with KV, one of my best friends from college. We had plans to go out and stay out late and laugh as much as possible and my Uber driver could not get me to the city fast enough. I chose "Uber Pool" thinking it would just drive other people from JFK to Manhattan, but instead it had us pulling off the highway multiple times to pick up random people and drop them off and made my trip to the UES way way way too long for my liking (I was trying to bribe the Uber driver to change it off of "Pool" and just take me right to the city and to my friend.) At least I had a beautiful sunset to look at while I was trapped in his car.

When I finally arrived and met up with KV, we did exactly what we set out to and had an awesome night laughing and dancing and talking. I miss seeing her more often and every time we're together makes me think how much fun it would be if we lived in the same city. [We also ran into her cousin while we were out, which was a fun coincidence!]

In the morning, KV had to be up early and head out of town, so I slept in slightly later then made my way out to the East River pathway to get in an 8-mile run alongside New York City (who was pretty much still asleep on this Sunday morning.) I'm not going to lie and say it was the best run of my life... the lack of sleep and addition of late night pizza and beer left me feeling pretty crappy during these miles, but they were finished.

I met up with KO for an NYC bagel breakfast before hopping on the LIRR and making my way out to Ronkonkoma, Long Island to meet up with my Syracuse senior year roommates for another wedding celebration! Last summer, we had the first wedding of our group, which was an amazing reunion and non-stop party. It was amazing to get back together for the second wedding of the group. Mariel, who undeniably married her soul mate on Sunday, was my roommate for a year in our sorority house (yes, I was in a sorority) as well as a year in an apartment. She's one of the most loyal friends you will ever meet and is non-stop going out of her way to make people feel welcome and comfortable. Her wedding was no exception.

We took a shuttle from the hotel over to the country club where both the ceremony and the reception would take place. At first I was a bit nervous as I was the only one around.

But then my friends showed up!

Every detail of the wedding was incredibly well done. Mariel and her (now!) husband are huge Disney fans and part of the theme of the wedding was Disney princesses. Throughout the cocktail area there were framed Disney love quotes and small details throughout the reception such as the seating charts that brought the magic of Disney to the wedding.

In addition, Mariel is a 3rd grade teacher, whose students were not only involved in her proposal (her fiance surprised her in her classroom and had the students hold up signs spelling out "Will you marry me?") but they also contributed to the wedding. Also in little frames were marriage advice given to Mariel and her husband from the students and it was really adorable.

The ceremony itself was really nice as it was the first time I have attended a Jewish wedding ceremony. The sorority I actually joined in college was a nationally Jewish sorority (despite not being Jewish myself... that's a story for a different day...) so I have many Jewish friends but for some reason had never attended a Jewish wedding. I love experiencing new cultures so being able to experience a different type of wedding ceremony was really fun.  Everyone looked absolutely stunning.

Immediately after the ceremony, the eating began. The food was amazing and some of the best wedding food I have ever had. Amidst the macaroni and cheese, asian noodles, beef, calamari, spanikopita, and of course champagne, our friends had the opportunity to catch up and learn about what's been going on in one anothers lives in person. Technology makes it easy to stay in touch but you can never beat in person conversation.

Dinner itself was incredible as well as cake, ice cream bar, and the fact that Mariel had flip flops for everyone so I didn't have to try to attempt the night in heels. Another little detail that I loved and was so Mariel, was that she had wedding themed coloring sheets for the kids and also special cookies for a few of her guests that were either celebrating weddings or anniversaries the weekend of her wedding. As someone who attended weddings the past two years on her birthday weekend, I thought that was SUCH a sweet touch to have her acknowledge those special days in her guests lives. Plus - the cookies were made at the bakery owned by Kristina, the sister of our college roommate who had gotten married the year before! Kristina, who couldn't be at the wedding since she just gave birth to her second daughter - joined us via Snapchat as we all missed her.

We danced and laughed and had an amazing night.

There was no after party since we are all apparently super old now and the "after party" consisted of the two girls who were bridesmaids laying facedown on the hotel beds and me pulling all of the bobby pins out of their hair. I did this job for my friends the weekend before and I must say that I am pretty good at it.

Monday morning, which was the actual fourth of July, we joined the bride and groom and the rest of the guests for a morning brunch before sleepily taking the train back to NYC. I don't know if it was all the food I ate or the workouts from Saturday and Sunday or the lack of sleep or what - but I felt like I had gotten hit by a truck on Monday. It was a rough day and I wasn't even drunk the night before!

After hanging out for a bit in the city and enjoying my friend's rooftop views from her apartment, we head to JFK and all got on planes heading in different directions. Back to Atlanta for me and to a break from weddings for a couple months. It was so wonderful to get to see so many people who were special to me in my life over the past few weeks. From seeing all my home friends at Teenie's wedding, to now seeing all my college friends in NYC and Long Island (if you include Ariel's visit to Atlanta in June) that's all my best friends from those two times in life! The summer is shaping up to be pretty incredible.

I was a little bit bummed about not doing anything "Fourth of July-y" on the holiday. But on the way home, as we landed in Atlanta at around 10:00 p.m. I could see not one, but TONS of fireworks shows for miles around setting off. It was an incredible sight and I literally had my face pressed up against the window like a little kid (which also made me laugh since I had yelled at one of my friends earlier in the day for pressing her face up against the NYC subway pole.) It was an amazing way to end the weekend and there is no way that pictures could do it justice.

Hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!