Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Who is this strange man in my bed?!

Front and center in the business section of today's local paper--my husband's newly bald head.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

C'ville Oly Race Report

The weekend brick was shortened since many of us IMFL girls were racing the Charlottesville Olympic distance tri today. So Saturday morning bright and early, I met up with Fave for a 12 mi bike and, for me, an 8 mile run. Since Timberman is her last race, Fave had to run 10. Other girls not doing C'ville biked 24 and ran 16. Oooph.

Fave and I made it through the bike, and met up with Lynn to do the first 8 miles together. Man, I love running with these girls. We chatted, laughed, and ran. The time always seems to go so much faster, and goodness knows that misery loves company. Lynn has become such a strong athlete--with two ironman races under her belt in less than a year, she has developed such stamina. This week seemed a managable amount of training for me until Saturday afternoon, when I went to lie down for just a few minutes and ended up sleeping for 2 hours. I got up just in time to shower and get dressed for a dinner date with Lynn, her husband Derek, and a another couple at Havana 57. I did manage to limit myself to ONE, yes ONE, mojito. Today's early (4:30am) wake up call meant that it was a good thing we skipped out on wine/cigars on Lynn's deck in favor of bed at 10pm.

I picked up Grandison a little after 5am, and we headed west. It seemed as the sun came up that it might be overcast, which I think is the best kind of race weather. Most of the 2007 IMFL girls had done this race last year, and loved the course. Charlottesville is nestled up against the Blue Ridge, so picture lots of rolling hills, and horse farms. Emphasis on the ROLLING. The lake was warm (about 82) so no wetsuits, but they sent us off in nicely-sized swim waves--not too much chance to get knocked around jockeying for position. I felt very good about the swim, and was able to quickly settle into a rhythm. Sighting wasn't bad, and I came out of the water about 6th in the swim wave of women 40+. Swim time: 33:08.

Right from the start on the bike, I was passed by Patty. I couldn't catch her to save my life. (And she ended up placing first in her age group!) The hills came one right after another, and there seemed to be more grind-it-out-in-your-lowest-gear gradual climbs than bomb-it-downhill runs. Bummer. I'm starting to really enjoy getting in a tuck and flying. Anything to help that average mph! I still have a lot of work to do on getting enough food in me on the bike. Even ClifShots start sticking in my throat after an hour, so I'll have to work on that this coming weekend. Total time on the bike: 1:31.

The run sucked. It was entirely on trails, very hilly trails, and I was getting tired. You couldn't look up and enjoy running through the woods for fear of tripping over a rock or exposed root. I know, in the picture I'm smiling, but inside I'm not. There is something very humbling about being passed by a 75 year old man (whose swim wave took off just 3 mins before ours). By the second loop of the course, I did manage to catch up with him again, and we played leap frog the rest of the way in. I was so afraid this man was going to trip (which he did once) and break a hip or something. My sucky run time: 1:16. Yuck.

The way home went quick--aided by the iced coffee and wrap sandwiches Grandison and I found just outside UVa. It was nice to have time one on one with my TriGirl coach, and chat about everything. We beat the thunderstorms home, but only by a couple of hours. This afternoon was lazy: reading in bed, napping a little, and then fixing dinner. Looking ahead to this weekend, I know I'll need all the extra rest I can get. Our third and final Blue Ridge ride is this coming Saturday, 70 miles of hills and FUN!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An entree of IM Lake Placid, please, with a side helping of drinker's remorse

My trip up to Lake Placid started very early Saturday morning, but almost not early enough. I woke up at 4:30 and jumped in the shower, planning to hit the road by 5:15am. Joe and I had talked over my morning logistics the night before, and determined that the optimal time to leave in order to make my flight out of Dulles, up in Northern Virginia. Well, what he heard as a 9am flight departure, was in reality an 8am departure--something I realized as merged onto I-95 at 5:30am and checked my purse for my boarding pass. Dulles is a good 2 hour drive from our house in Richmond. Yeah, I know, the math just didn't add up--7:30 arrival at Dulles, and I'd still have to park the car, get to the terminal, go through security, and walk to the gate for an 8am flight. Crap! Luckily traffic that early on a Saturday morning was negligible, and I was able to stay just behind a couple of cars going 80-85mph. It was a little stressful, but I was able to pull into the parking lot at Dulles at 7:15and made the flight with 5 minutes to spare. Whew.
Lynn, Amy, and Jeff got into Burlington around noon, and we collected the rental car and headed out for the drive to Placid. Lunch was at Al's Fries, which is apparently a Vermont institution, much like Ben & Jerry's. The drive was quite lovely, with rolling hills and lovely farms, and included a ferry ride across Lake Champlain. As we crossed the lake, we could see the looming mountains of the Adirondacks in front of us.

We got into Lake Placid around 3:30 that afternoon, and immediately hit the Oval--the speedskating ring from the 1980 olympics which is repurposed for the transition area for the Ironman. It's always so amazing to see that sea of bikes, racked and ready for the race, the field of race bags hanging, and athletes everywhere. When I volunteered at Florida last year, I didn't get in on time to make it to Ironman Village before the race, and the morning of I was volunteering as a body marker. The excitement at Placid was palpable the day before the race, and very catchy. I was thrilled to be there, but also humbled--is it possible that in 3 short months I'll be in their shoes, trained and ready to race?

That evening we met up for dinner with the rest of the TriGirl/Maramarc crew that had driven up earlier. Quite a few of them were able to ride the bike course, and I was relieved to hear from TriGirl40 (who reportedly hated the hills from our second blue ridge ride) that she LOVED the bike course. That's when I started thinking, "Well, yeah, maybe I can do this one after all." The group had also managed to swim the course, and reported the lake pristine and warm enough not to require a wetsuit. We all went to dinner, and had a good time. TriGirl Shelley stayed with me in town since she was volunteering as a wet suit stripper and had to report for duty at 6am, the rest of the crew stayed at the group house about 15 miles away, up in the mountains.
Race morning was cool and overcast, and the weather report was not good--calling for rain all day. But it wasn't just rain--it was monsoon type rain. All day long it poured, at times so heavy that it sounded like a stampede. I had a great view of the swim portion of the race. My hotel room was right on the lake, about 1500m from the turn around bouys. I pulled a chair onto the dock, and heard the national anthem play, and watched both the pros and age groupers take off. From my vantage point, it looked like a wonderful swim. Only when I got home, did I realize how brutal the Lake Placid swim start is. For a good first hand account, read Mary Eggers blog. Over the next year, I will need to learn to swim defensively, and try to get in as much in-water swim start practice as possible.

At about 8am the rain started to pick up, and I was able to watch the rest of the swim from the dry hotel room window. I met up with Lynn and Jeff for breakfast, around 9:30, and they had watched the swim start too, but were already soaking wet! Our waiter was a dear and gave us some large trash bags to wear over our clothes. We then trundled downtown to watch the first of the pros come through on their way to their second bike loop. Man those guys are fast! After a short respite and swim in the lake, it was soon time to go volunteer.
The volunteer slot I was given was to work in the bag section of transition--as athletes come into T2 (transition #2) from bike to run, their race number is called out. A volunteer runs to their racked bag containing their run gear, collects it, and gets it to the athlete before they hit the changing tent. On Saturday I wasn't able to find anyone still in the Oval to pick up my shirt and wrist band, but since Amy and Lynn were slated to work in the medical tent, I decided to work with them instead. Am I glad I did! I felt so bad for all those out racing--battling horrible conditions including wet roads, wet decents, wet running shoes, wet everything. The medical tent was blessedly dry and warm--TriGirl Cyndi had worked as a bike catcher in T2, and ended up wearing plastic bags inside her shoes in an effort to keep her feet dry. TriGirl Fave's boyfriend Greg reported that the inside of the transition tent was a mud pit. Yuck.

When we reported for duty at 3pm, there were only a few patient/athletes inside the tent, and what looked like WAY too many beds (ah, lawn chairs). From what I heard, I knew by late that evening, most of the beds would be full. Around 4:30 we started seeing the pros come in--I hate to say it, but they absolutely trash themselves. They can't walk, and frankly look like hell. But after a couple of IV bags, some food and gatorade or hot chicken broth, they become human again. Since we weren't trained medical professionals (doctor, nurse, or emt), Lynn and I were runners--taking care of things such as grabbing IV start kits, warm IV bags, blankets, food, or thermometers, to helping remove shoes, change clothes, and flip beds for new patients. Like last year in Florida, it was great to be able to help the athletes, and many were extremely grateful for our care. By the time our shift was up at 8pm, that tent was innundated with athletes, most of whom had won that battle against the elements and finished. We did see our share of those that didn't--at 6:30 I ran outside to get some pizza for one of the athletes and saw a woman still in bike helmet and cleats who had just come in from the bike, an hour after the cutoff. She was in tears and walking around like a lost soul. I felt so bad for her.

We met up with Jeff, who had spent over 6 hours in the rain at an aid station along the run course, Greg and his friends at a restaurant/bar in town. Instead of following Lynn and Amy's suggestions on wine, I decided it was martini time. We ate, and drank, and caught up with the guys--swapping volunteer stories and having a good time. After martini #3 was when that drinker's remorse kicked in--and lasted until about this morning! Lynn and Amy were both able to eat a slice of pizza in the volunteer tent, but I didn't. Two of those martinis were on an empty stomach, and #3 came during/after dinner. Big mistake. Greg was a dear and kept me company outside while I emptied my stomach, then we all said good night and trundled our separate ways. Lynn and Amy ended up staying with me at the hotel while Jeff drove back up the mountain to stay at the group house.

He must not have had much sleep, since he was knocking on the door at 7:30, getting most of us up to go stand in line for sign ups. Needless to say, I still wasn't feeling any where near good. After they left, I had to really struggle to haul my sorry ass out of bed, get dressed, and walk down to meet them in line. The whole time I kept telling myself, "This is why you're here--suck it up!" The kind folks in line behind us lent me a stool to sit on, and as soon as I had that signed paper and an IMLP slot in hand, I left the celebrating TriGirls to huff it back to the hotel and dry heave some more. The drive back to Burlington that afternoon became less painful as the aspirin kicked in and I was able to eat again. I parted company with the group, whose flight was supposed to leave at 4:30 and went to lie down and wait for my plane at 7:30. The drive home from Dulles was tough--I was tired, hungry, and still somewhat hungover. I kept thinking, "What am I doing signing up for IMLP?!" Today I've resolved to put it out of my head, focus on the task at hand, and get through Florida. Then I'll worry about it. As Scarlett O'Hara claimed, "Tomorrow is another day!"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Joys of Home Ownership

This is my kitchen ceiling, or lack thereof, thanks to a leaky supply valve to the kid's bathroom toilet. FUN STUFF!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Blue Ridge Part Deux (of Three)

This weekend, we survived--albeit with a couple of casualties--our second installment in the "Blakey-blake's Terrible Trio" of hills up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The majority of us were on board for a beautiful but challenging 50 miles to start from mile marker 23--IMWisconsin and Louisville folks rode about 80 miles, while Coach Blake himself rode about 120 (does this tell you anything about the man?!) Early that morning, Lynn met me at our Wintergreen rental condo for some power breakfast--coffee, pancakes, eggs, bacon, and toast--before we loaded up our bikes, and kissed the husband and kids goodbye. The rest of the Oliver family had a great day planned, full of hiking with the Sophie dog, swimming, and golfing.

We started the ride at about 8:30, heading to mile marker 13 and back. That 10 miles went pretty quickly--about an hour, as we are all getting over our fear of bombing down the hill at 40+ mph. Along the way back UP to mile 23, Shawn, Derik, and I stopped for a little action-snaction, wild blackberries! The self-portrait was taken early that morning. I wasn't looking so happy later on...

Following a quick rendezvous at the cars to refuel and pee, it was off again, this time headed south to mile marker 38. Ah, what glorious downhills. There was one stretch that was dead straight and blistering fast. No need to worry about cars, turns, or shady spots hiding pot holes. I think I'm glad my spedometer/odometer is broken--I really didn't want to know how fast I was going. My butt was up off my seat, my head was low over the handle bars, and I just FLEW. I didn't give a second thought to how I would feel headed back up this bugger. But I did think "Thank God half the bike in Placid is need to pedal." Ha. Down, down, down we went for 15 miles....uh oh. At the turn around at mile 38, everyone was bemoaning our return trip, and how much it was going to SUCK BALLS.
And it did. For the record, I much prefer not stating the obvious--why remind myself of what pain and torture it is or will be to climb for miles going all of 8mph? I tried to tune everyone around me out, and focus on my pedal strokes, pulling up as much as pushing down, and just turning that crank. I held on to Lynn and Shawn for dear life, knowing if I fell behind I'd only become demoralized with my slowness. Headed back up that straight downhill, just 4-5 miles from our cars was tough. At that point, I'd had it with climbing in the saddle. I had to stand up and grind through it, otherwise I'd quit. I was so glad to finally see mile marker 24--the end was in sight.
All in, the 50 miles took about 4 hours. Many folks said their average speeds were about 12-14mph. A newbie BRP'er, bless her soul, had cleat issues and could not stop on the way back without having to remove a shoe before exiting her bike. We all battle our own demons out there, and I must give kudos to TriGirl40, who admittedly HATES hills and stuck it out and finished all 50 miles. She did not look happy at the end, but as always looked amazingly strong. Back at our cars, we happily met for our picnic on the pavement--a tradition begun on our first Blue Ridge ride last year--to rehash the ride and refuel. The party continued on at Bethany and Bart's, with tons of yummy food and Sandy's great Mai Tais.

Today we packed up our kids and dog, and drove Maddy to camp before driving the 3 hours back to Richmond. Maddy'll be at camp for 3 weeks, having a great time. We'll miss her so! Home now to long runs, laundry, and packing for Placid!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What the heck am I thinking?!

On July 19th I get on a plane for Burlington, Vermont. July 20th, I'll be volunteering/cheering at Ironman Lake Placid (IMUSA). July 21st, I'll be standing in line to register for next year before driving back to Burlington to fly home. Just for comparison, here are the bike and run elevations for IMFL (in orange) and IMUSA (in red).

So, what the hell am I thinking?! Nothing like signing up for ironman #2 before I've even finished ironman #1. The good news is I'll be in good company: there are about 20 Richmonders--many of them TriGirls and Maramarc folks--heading north to do the same thing so there will be no lack of training partners. Coach Blake has assured me that my weeklong vacation in Europe planned for late June next year will not hurt my chances of finishing, with the caveat that it is the consistent training before the vacation that matters. My husband's take on all this: he's sure I'm crazy, but as long as I sign him up to do the bobsled ride, he's game to go.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Fun Fourth

Independence day: on tap a 45 mile ride and post-ride festivities at Ironman Jeff's house. Fave was on time for our 7am meeting, and after 15 mins of waiting around for Lynn, we decide to head out. A quick check of our phones and I realize....oops, I was due to pick up Lynn at her house. Zip to Lynn's load up bikes, food, bathing suits, etc and we're off. About 20 of us rendezvous at Jeff's house, and gear up for the ride. Pumping up tires, loading water bottles, and spraying on the sunscreen.

Fave and Lynn, locked and loaded for the ride...

The country road we rode on was perfect, with some rolling hills, beautiful fields, and some crazy dog that runs out at you and threatens to bite your leg or rear tire. (I didn't get a picture of him...I was too busy pedalling like mad to get past him.) Most everyone turned around at the country store, while Lynn, Jeff, Coach Blake, Rick, Carlton and I rode another 3 miles out before turning around. The way back was tough, there was a headwind all the way back. I tried hard to keep in first Blake then Jeff's draft, but ended up getting dropped. I pedalled almost 15 miles back alone. Lynn, who also got dropped, graciously waited for me at the one light before our turn back onto a busy divided highway for the last 1/2 mile back to the ranch.

Back at Jeff's house, it was time to throw on the swim suits, jump in the pool, and crack open a beer. Husband Joe had driven out later that morning to drop the kids off before heading out with 5 other TriGirl s.o.'s (significant others) for 18 holes of golf. Maddy and Joey were happily frolicking in the pool, jumping off the diving board, and going down the slide. They didn't get out of the water until the thunder started at 6:30pm! Jeff and Denise outdid themselves with yummy burgers, dogs, and chicken--we feasted (and drank) the rest of the afternoon away.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

15 Years Ago Today...

Happy anniversary honey! I am one lucky girl.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tagged by Marit

10 years ago I was....
Was that 1998? Let's see. Maddy was 1, Jim was 13. I just struck out on my own as a designer and was building up a client base. We took Maddy to Italy that summer for 2 weeks while Jim went to Texas to visit his grandparents.

5 years ago I was.....
2003... Joey was 4, Maddy was 6, Jim was 18. That summer Jim graduated from high school and we had a fun week at the beach with Joe's parents. I had just installed my showhouse room up in Maryland, which was featured on the cover of the Washington Post's Home section and later picked up for publication in a book on Brunschwig & Fils.

1 year ago I was.....
I had just finished my first 1/2 iron race, Eagleman, and headed to California with the family for some fun with the in-laws and attempt the Ride to Cure Diabetes in Sonoma. The wine-tasting was fun, the ride was not. The organizers were the same group that put on the Badlands Ultra Marathon, and they chose many of the same roads ridden in the Tour de California. Can you say brutal hills?! Our team coach's garmin recorded several hills w/ a 26% grade, one for over a mile. I had to replace my cleats afterwards since they were trashed from walking my bike up those hills. I only finished 85 of the 100 miles I wanted to ride, and I was on my bike for 9 1/2 hours! The rest of the summer I was taking a business class and working at an internship as part of my MFA requirements. It was a busy summer!

5 things on my to-do list today:
vacuum/dust LR/FR/DR
iron some pants
get my hair done (such a hardship...)
pick up food at farmers market
bike 3 hrs/run 1 hr

5 snacks I enjoy:
Triscuits and goat cheese
cottage cheese and pears
frozen Girl Scout Thin Mints
Salt and Pepper Kettle Chips
Peanut butter, chocolate, and banana smoothies

If I was a billionaire I would:
Fund diabetes research, and give to philanthropic organizations working to end third world issues of malaria, aids, and hunger; buy a house in Italy; travel more.

6 people I would want to have lunch with tomorrow:
Vanessa, Lynn, Heidi, Nelson Mandela, Lance Armstrong, and Natalie Merchant.

5 places I have lived:
Dacca, Bangladesh
Athens, Greece
Warsaw, Poland
Lusaka, Zambia
Beirut, Lebanon

5 jobs I have had:
Bakery girl (even had to wear a black/white maid outfit)
Biographic Analyst at the CIA (now I have to kill you)
Telecommunications Analyst for USAID project in Poland
Sales girl at Calico Corner
Interior Designer

Tag, you're it!