Adding More Frames to the Gallery Wall

Wow - blowing off the cobwebs here ... it's been a very long time since I did a house-related project! As I'm sure is pretty obvious, my time in recent months has been filled with training, kids, trips, races and work.  There are only so many hours in the day, and even something as simple as hanging a frame (which, if you know me and how I approach such things, isn't actually simple at all), seemed like too much effort.

But now that I am focusing solely on the marathon, my training has eased up a bit, and I'm able to do some more projects.  Plus, the weather is cooler and I am feeling the urge to do more around the house again!  There is so much I want to do, but I am forcing myself to stick to the list that I created, which is filled with projects I have lined up and ready to go.  

First on that list: hang the additional frames for my gallery wall in the living room.  I started it back in March, and I quickly realized once it was up that it needed some more pictures.  Here is the room when I finished that phase of the project:

It wasn't bad, but I felt the space needed more.  Here is what I had in mind (with a little help from Photoshop):

I bought a bunch more frames on sale at Pottery Barn (in March) and have had them sitting, waiting to go since then hangs head in shame.  So, at the end of the Summer, I ordered some prints of the kids that fit the frames and was ready to go.

I used kraft paper that I have on hand to make templates for the frames and where the hangers are, just like I did here, and once I was happy with how it looked, up they went.

The wall now looks like this!

I think the addition of the four frames makes the wall look more full and finished, not to mention warmer and homier.  

So that project is crossed off my list.  I am on the hunt for one of those ceramic garden stools to sit next to my fireplace, and I'd really like to paint the dining room table and add new prints to the wall behind the dining room table.  But those things are not on my immediate list because they require purchasing new things.  

Next up: finish the kids' rooms!  Big's is first because I'm further along with his than with Little's room.  I have a bunch of things to share in Big's room, including a project that has taken us a few years to complete.  

See you swoon,

5 More Things About Moi

Who loves random things? Me! Me.  This girl.

And I know ... I KNOW (all caps) ... you want to know 5 more random things about me.  Although, for those who know me, these are not random at all. 

1.  I love ABBA.

I grew up listening, and dancing, to ABBA.  I know every single one of their songs.  I have a choreographed dance to every single one of their songs.  I have seen Mamma Mia in the theater about 4 times. There are an embarrassing number of ABBA songs on all of my running playlists and I will lip sync and/or do the choreographed dance when they come on when I am running.  I need to sing ABBA songs when I swim in triathlon to center myself and settle into a good rhythm and then to maintain that rhythm.  I'm not sure what more I can say about the Swedish super group.  

2.  I am terrified of clowns.  Terror.  The terror is real.  

Not even kidding how scared I am of clowns.  There is *nothing* scarier than a clown.  Nothing.  I don't know where the fear came from.  Maybe it is from the clown doll that my sister and I had that would WATCH US WHEN WE SLEPT (shouting).  Wherever the fear of (or, frankly, the normal reaction to) clowns came from, I have it and it is part of my life.  Thankfully, I do not typically have run ins with clowns in my day to day life.  I did once see one waiting for the Metrobus when I lived in DC.  He was just sitting at the bus stop waiting for the bus.  I was frozen in horror and slowly walked away and took the long way around to my destination.  Another time, I was driving down to DC to visit friends.  It was early in the morning (which is my favorite time to travel) and I came upon a clown car for real with a real clown inside.  The car said "Macaroni Anne Cheeze" and she is apparently some kind of party clown. Her car had a clown nose on the front.  How do I know this? Oh, only because I sped past her and obviously was terrified and instead of backing down, because she is a clown and therefore evil, she would speed up and chase me.  I don't know where I finally lost her.  But my God.  I'm not going to lie that finding a picture for this one was very trying.  I finally typed "nice cartoon clown drawing" into Google image.  This was the first that popped up and this is what you get.  I can't believe I am willingly posting a picture of a clown on my very own blog.  I made it as small as possible so his risk of murder is smaller. shudder. I am only doing this for you - the people who read my blog. I hope you are happy.

3.  My favorite wine is Petite Syrah.

Oh yes.  I think I've made it pretty clear here on the blog that I am obsessed with hoppy IPAs (especially Victory Hop Devil). And Jamie and I love a good wine night like no one's business, where we usually drink Sauvignon Blanc.  But my absolute favorite wine in the world is Petite Syrah.  It's just wonderful.  I discovered it about 10 years ago when I was living in northern New Jersey on what ended up being a 6 month long trial.  We would go out to dinner every night and some nights, we would get some wine.  I was hooked when the partner ordered a Stag's Leap Petite Syrah.  

4.  I may be 5'1", but I have the appetite of a 250 pound frat boy.

Anyone who knows me knows that I can put it away.  And by "it" I mean food.  I am always hungry.  I finish one meal and start thinking about the next.  My meals are: breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, pre-dinner snack, dinner, post-dinner snack.  I relate the the Saturday Night Live skit with Chris Farley as the hungry girl who says 'LEAVE ME ALONE I'M STARVING.'  Because ... I am always starving.  I am blessed with a metabolism in hyperdrive and the desire to swim-bike-run every chance I get.

5.   I am a horrible singer, but I *love* karaoke.  

It's true: I am a pretty bad singer.  A few weeks ago I was going to lunch with a colleague and I said that I liked to sing and I was sometimes good at it.  He told me a story about a guy who said he was a superhero whose super power was to be invisible ... but only when no one was looking.  And apparently, I was to extrapolate that I was a good singer when no one was listening.  I suppose this is true.  Even my darling children think so ... often a song will come on the radio, I'll sing along and Little, ever so sweetly and tactfully will say, "Mommy, I really like dis song, but can you please sing it in your mind?"  Ouch.  Rest assured that any perceived "lack of talent" will not stop me from hopping on the karaoke stage.  

this is how I imagine I look when I am singing. 

And there you go.  5 more things about me that you were dying to know.  Happy weekend!  Does anyone share any of my 5 things? I'm sure someone has an affinity ... yes?

See you swoon,

What I Wore {post 21}

These are the very last grasps of Summer.  Here are some recent late Summer outfits I wore to work.

* Printed Jersey Dress *

This dress was free and got me a discount on another purchase.  I was ordering something from Kohl's, and I needed to spend another $10 to get free shipping and an additional 15% off.  I looked at the clearance and found this dress for about $15 or so.  It's a Vera Wang for Kohl's.  And it was an additional percentage off.  So once I got all my discounts and free shipping, it was as though the dress were free.  I love love loved it.  It is so flattering and fun! 

* White LOFT dress *

I've been hunting for a white dress all Summer long.  I found one in late August at the LOFT clearance sale.  I think this was $12.  I got it and while I loved it, it felt a little bare for the office. 

So I paired it with my pink j.crew outlet cardigan and a pink grosgrain ribbon belt.  The dress still looked great, but it was a bit more office appropriate.  

* Indigo Top & Linen Swing Skirt *

This is my clearance outfit.  The top, which was $4 on clearance from LOFT, is a great indigo color and a sort of dressy t-shirt material.  It's got a bit more sheen than normal plain cotton tees.  I paired it with my linen j.crew pleated swing skirt from a few years back.  My leopard flats (payless - holla!) and wooden beads from one of the teeny bopper jewelry stores in the mall (can't remember) completed the look.  

And that's it for Summer.  My next "what I wore" posts are better described as Early Fall vs. Late Summer.  Viva Fall.  

See you swoon,

Oh-oh-oh-pen Water Swimming

Well, triathlon season is over.  My wetsuits are packed away and I'm back to swimming just once a week for maybe a half hour.  But I really do like swimming and I've learned, and improved, a lot since I started. 

One hurdle I had to face in racing and training for triathlon was the open water.  Now, when I began my foray into triathlon, I rationalized, "hey, I've swum all my life! I grew up swimming in lakes and pools!  I've got this."  I trained for months in pools: both 25 and 50 meters and my endurance was there. I could easily swim a mile in the pool and still feel great after.  So when I got to my first open water swim triathlon at the Quakerman Olympic Plus Triathlon in 2012, I felt confident and ready.  But nothing - absolutely nothing - prepared me for that swim.

I jumped in the warm, clear lake and swam around a little before the race started and felt great.  The buoys seemed pretty darn far away, but I was still feeling good.  Because the water temp was over 78 degrees and the race was not "wetsuit legal" (meaning in order to qualify for an award, you could not wear a wetsuit), pretty much no one was wearing a wetsuit in this race, which was a good thing because I didn't have one at that point.  My wave lined up at the start, the gun went off, I swam a few yards and .... OH MY GAWD.  My mind took over and my heart started racing and this is what happened:


I was used to seeing this:

And instead, I saw this:

So for about two-thirds of the .6 mile course, I did a modified side-stroke and back stroke until finally after I rounded the final buoy, I was able to get into a rhythm and bring it on home.  I realized then and there (and then for the next 3+ hours of the race on the bike and run) that I absolutely needed to get more comfortable in the open water.  

I am happy to report that I have reached that point.  Here are my tips for a newbie to get more comfortable and confident in an open water swim.

* Start Slow.  Start "Stupid Slow" *

The key to a happy swim for me is to start slowly - or "stupid slow" as I like to think of it.  If I race out of the gate like I am Michael Phelps, my heart rate zooms and it takes a long time for it to get back under control.  This actually happened when I was up in Lake Placid - no one was around me, the water was gorgeous, and there I was with my heart beating out of my wetsuit ... all because I started out way too fast.  So take it slow. Start at what feels like a crawl.  Breathe deep.  Barely kick.  Blow huge bubbles on the exhale.  And then pick up the pace.

* Sing Sing a Song *

This is a new trick my swim coach (note: another great tip - hire a swim coach!) taught me: sing!  Obviously not out loud, but in my head.  Singing a song keeps me happy and takes my mind off the distance that I'm swimming.  It also calms me down.  I do it in the pool, too, so when I'm in the open water, it is the great unifier, because I think to myself, "oh, it's just like the pool".  I gravitate toward ABBA in the water.  I mean ... I gravitate toward ABBA all of the time but I always sing ABBA in the open water.  That's the charm of me.

hello and thank you for the music ABBA friends - sorry

* Practice in Open Water *

Seems like it's pretty obvious, but I can't emphasize it enough: you have to get in the open water and practice swimming there.  Pools are great and I spend a majority of my time training in a pool. But the open water swims are key because you develop a comfort level with the water when you are in it more often.  There are several open water swim series near me - you pay for each session and you can swim in a 1/4 mile course in a local lake set up by a training company, and there are lots and lots of support kayaks in the water.  Make sure if you go into the open water you have someone with you or you are in a guarded spot.  I don't care how great a swimmer you are - this is just common sense.  If you need to find some open water swimming near you, you could just google "open water swimming" and your town or general area.  I actually found my open water swim series at an endurance sport expo.  So if your area has one of them, go check it out!  

* Practice in Pool *

You can also practice open water simulations in the pool.  The easiest way to do this is to simply close your eyes while you swim.  It is freaky at first, but really, it's a great way to make you feel a little more like you're in the open water.  You can also swim with a friend and ask them to start with you and/or to splash a bit when you share the lane.  In an open water race, you will get splashed and people will invade your space. It is all part of the game.  

* Wetsuit *

If you don't have a wetsuit, get one.  They make you incredibly buoyant, which makes you faster.  But the buoyancy is also peace of mind.  If I am swimming in open water and my anxiety starts to creep up, I remind myself that I am in a wetsuit, which will keep me afloat.  Obviously if you've never worn a wetsuit, you should practice in it before race day.  But wetsuits are pretty awesome.  And come on ... let's talk about how ridiculously sexy they are.

* Prepare Yourself * 

On race day, you may have a chance to warm up in the water or you may not.  At the very least, you should get in and roll around a little and blow out a ton of bubbles.  I don't know why, but this always helps me.  You've absolutely got to get your face in the water before you start swimming, especially if the temperature is cold.  Scope out the rescue kayaks.  Again, this is really just peace of mind: "ok, there they are. If I need them, I will find them. I will not drown."  Scope out the buoys.  Look at the water - is it really murky?  Is it clear?  You may not be able to see your hand in front of you.  When this happens, I just tell myself that the water looks like black coffee.  For some reason, that helps.  If you're nervous about swimming, find a "safe" location to swim.  Generally, this is off to the far side of the buoys and not in the middle of the pack.  You can also line yourself up at the back and even wait 10 seconds or so to start swimming after the horn blows.  Those 10 seconds are nothing in terms of a triathlon, but it will give you a bit of breathing room.  

* Mindset * 

Finally, adjust your mindset.  I used to think "it's so chaotic! They were kicking and grabbing and punching me! They were trying to swim over me!"  And really, except for the very rare tri-jerk, this just doesn't happen.  Everyone out there is doing the same thing: racing his or her own race.  No one is in that water intentionally throwing punches and grabbing feet or goggles.  It takes too much time and energy!  But contact in the open water happens.  And when it does, just move yourself over and remind yourself that the other person didn't mean it: she's just swimming her swim.  If there is repeated contact by the same person, a swift, light little kick should do the trick.  The person may just be trying to draft off of you (LOL - good luck if you are trying to draft off of me!) and the contact is truly unintentional.

There you go! I hope these tips are helpful.  I find these days I'd much rather swim and train in a lake than a pool.  I look at a pool much like I look at a treadmill or my bike trainer: it's great exercise and good for training, but it's just that: exercise and training.  When I'm in a lake swimming around or on my bike on the roads or running from here to there and back again, I have a distance and a destination, making the journey so much more fun.

Any other open water swim people in the house?  What are some tips or tricks that you have?

See you swoon,

Why I Run*

* and why I race.

Recently, within the span of about a week, my dad and a colleague asked me simple, yet difficult to answer, questions:  why do you run? why do you race?  The short answer is "because I love it." But I have thought about those questions since they were asked of me, and I think a post on the answers might be a good thing.  Running and racing are two totally different things in my mind.  


Running is my soul sport.  Don't get me wrong, I love triathlon.  But if I have an hour of free time and could choose any exercise out there, I will always choose a run.  I really like to swim. I kind of like to bike.  But running fulfills me in a way that no other sport does.  There is something about moving my legs and literally pounding the pavement that makes me feel amazing.  Even a bad run is actually a good run.

I run for therapy.

When I am stressed or sad or angry or overwhelmed, the first thing I want to do is run.  I need the outlet.  I think turning to a run versus a vice is a pretty good choice.  I do some of my best thinking and soul searching on my runs.  I'm able to solve problems, think things through and let all the "stuff" in my life fall away and focus only on myself.  When I am running, it's just me.  I can think about whatever I want.  I can be whatever I want.  It is both an escape and a way to center my focus.  When a runner friend is injured and cannot run, I completely understand the agony that the person feels when she is told she cannot run.  If running is your soul sport, nothing can replace it.

I run to eat.

Let's be real: running is a great way to get and stay in shape.  It burns a ton of calories.  And thank goodness for that, because I have the appetite of a horse.  I run so that I can eat whatever I want.  One of my favorite things to do after a long run or a race is to check out my Garmin and see how many calories I've burned and translate that to the meal I'm about to have: mmm, I burned 2000 calories! So that's a huge meal and at least two Hop Devils.  

I run because I can.

I am thankful that I am able to run.  I am healthy and have very little issues that prevent me from running or doing any other sport.  I have seen stunning sunrises and gorgeous sunsets on runs.  I have seen hot air balloons in the sky.  I have run in the falling snow on a snowy path with nothing but silence around me.  I've run in the Fall when the trees are on fire with red, yellow and orange leaves.   I've run super close to deer, fox, turtles and snakes.  I've run in the rain, the fog and the wind.  I've run in the heat and the bitter cold.  And there are those days - those perfect weather days  - where I don't want the run to end.  I run when I travel.  I have been able to experience so much of the world around me simply by going out for a run.


If running is all about the zen of life, then racing is all about the zest.  As much as I need to run, I also need to race.  I think racing may be harder for people to understand because I'm not a professional and I will never ever win a race.  But, nothing can replicate that feeling surrounding a race: the adrenaline, the excitement, the competitive vibe.  I also love that feeling of everyone around me who is racing his or her own race with his or her own goals ... all heading toward that exact same finish line.  

I race for the challenge.

I am Type A by nature (no!), so a race appeals to my nature.  I am always up for a challenge and competition, and I am always challenging myself.  I set time goals for almost every race I do, and if I don't make them, I try again.  It took me years to run a sub-2 hour half marathon.  I am still working on running a sub-4 hour marathon.  When I make that goal, I'll try to quality for the Boston Marathon.  There is always a new time goal to beat.  You can always try to beat your last best time.

I race for vindication.

Ok that sounds a little scary.  Talk about the opposite of zen.  I don't mean to invite bad karma, but there is a part of me that races as a way to show myself and others in my past that I am an athlete.  I played field hockey in high school and I loved it.  The coach, unfortunately, was awful.  An awful, mean, negative and overly critical person who should not have been allowed to coach teenage girls.  But she was a winning coach, so her behavior was overlooked.  She had her favorites, and everyone knew who they were.  I remember the last year I played hockey, I was not a favorite, and during a practice scrimmage, she had the favorites scrimmage with the other part of the team.  She kept referring to the favorites as "our team" -- "our ball!" or "ok, our turn to take the hit", and I remember thinking, we are all on the same team!  She made those of us who were not the chosen ones feel like non-athletes -- I chose my words carefully there.  It wasn't that I felt that way: she made us feel that way.  So when I cross a finish line or meet a goal, it is one way I say to myself -- both the 37 year old me and the 17 year old me who still lives deep down inside -- "you are an athlete."  

I race because it makes me believe things about myself that I never thought possible.  

This is the overwhelming reason that I race:  it makes me believe that I can do anything.  I never thought I could run as fast as I do on a consistent basis now.  I never thought I could get an age group award in a triathlon.  I never thought I could even do a triathlon.  I never thought I could do an olympic triathlon.  I never thought I could do a half ironman triathlon.  By pushing the limits of what I thought possible, I learn that really, truly ... I can do it and that sport (any sport) is part physical but mostly mental.  During every single race that I do, there is a point where pain is greater than enjoyment and I have to push through the pain.  That moment -- that moment where the pain is overwhelming and I have every reason to quit but don't -- that makes me feel alive and shows me that truly, this body and mind of mine are a team and can do anything I set out to do.  It may not be easy (it isn't) and it may take time (it will), but perseverance and belief in myself will get me there.  Racing changes the conversation from "why?" to "why not?"

I often think back to when I started running.  I remember it vividly: it was the Summer after my freshman year of college.  I was home and decided to try running.  I would run a bit, then walk a bit, then run, then walk.  This was in 1995 and there were no fancy GPS watches.  So I drove my route with my orange-red 1986 manual transmission Ford Escort and figured out where the one-mile mark was. My goal for that summer was to get up to 3 miles total.  I remember the day I ran a mile without stopping.  I felt like a rockstar.  I remember the day I ran 3 miles total.  I felt like a bigger rockstar.  I remember the first 5K I raced.  I felt like a rockstar.  I remember the first five miler ... the first 10K ... the first half marathon ... the first marathon ... I felt like a rockstar.  Life is too short and there is too much bullsh*t surrounding us to not feel like a rockstar any chance we get.

Running and racing are the Jerry McGuire of my life: they complete me.   I saw a sign at the Philly Rock and Roll Half Marathon that said, "one day you will not be able to do this.  Today is not that day."  That is something that goes through my mind every single time I run or race:  I owe it to my 80 year old self to run and race every single chance I get.  Because my 80 year old self will still be running and racing ... she'll just be a bit slower :).   In the meantime, I am thankful for every start, every finish line and every mile in between.  The Earth doesn't stand still ... and nor shall I. 

See you swoon,

What I Wore {post 20}

Hello and happy Wednesday!  September is such a great month weather-wise.  A little bit of Summer, a little bit of Fall ... I'm loving it.  Here are some recent Summery outfits.  

* Navy Top & Navy Striped Skirt *

You've seen this navy top before ... I wear it a lot because I love it.  It's from the Banana Republic outlet a few years ago.  I wore this on a super hot and humid day.  The skirt is from Old Navy and is soft cotton.  I thought the orange sandals would be a fun bit of color. 

* Purple Ann Taylor Outfit (circa 2001) *

I love this outfit.  I bought it the Summer before I started my first job out of law school right after I took the Bar Exam.  It's still as stylish now as it was then and it still fits like a dream.  It's hard to see in this picture, but the skirt has little white polkadots.  

* Turquoise Top & Seersucker Pants *

Sadly, the seersuckers are now tucked away until next late Spring (seersucker is one of the very few things that I really do believe belong only in Summer), but I really got my money's worth out of these pants this season!  I wore the pants (from LL Bean Signature Collection, which, incidentally does not do vanity sizing harumph) with a top from last year from New York & Co.  It was an easy breezy Summer outfit. 

It's that time of year when I'm just ready freddy for my Fall clothes.  I'm trying to figure out which new pieces to add to my wardrobe.  I had to buy a bunch of new suits for all of the trials I have in close succession this Fall, so that ate up a lot of my budget, but there are a handful of things I'd love to buy: new wool patterned skirts, a pair of booties, and I desperately need some new jeans.  

What about you?  Swooning over anything for Fall? It's almost here! 

See you swoon,

Race Recap: 2013 Philadelphia Rock & Roll Half Marathon

Wow.  Wow wow wow!

I raced the Phildelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon (formerly known as the Philadelphia Distance Run) yesterday.  I've always loved this race. It was my first and, still is my, favorite half marathon ever.  I did it two or three times back in the early 2000s when it was still the Distance Run and then a few years ago, Rock and Roll took it over.  The course is the same, but the feel is a little different. Rock and Rolls are great: lots of people, lots of energy, lots of fun.  

I cannot believe it, but I had PR!  I finished in 1:50:50, which is an average 8:28 pace.  This time I beat my prior PR of 1:51:34 at the Rock and Roll USA (Washington DC) half marathon in March 2013. And, it was 7 minutes faster than I ran this very race last year!  

I signed up for the Philly R&R as soon as registration opened.  At the time, I was "only" doing the Olympic triathlon at Quakerman the week before.  But, I eventually changed my distance to the half iron.  I was a little unsure of how (or whether) I would do this race after the Quakerman Half Ironman triathlon just 7 days before.  I decided to just roll with it, see how I felt and adjust my expectations accordingly.

After the half iron, I felt really good.  I was surprised at how great I felt.  As the week went on, I rested and ran only one 3-mile run at a moderate pace (somewhere in between a tempo and easy run).  My body felt good, I had no aches and pains (even the weird knee pain from the week before was gone), and my head was in the game.  

Race day arrived and it was perfect weather!  Cool at the start, breezy and sunny later on.  The sun eventually came out and was a bit brutal on the course, but it was really only for about 3 miles at the very end.  Enough chatter, here's the race recap.

thank you random stranger runner for snapping my photo!
As I said, I really did not have a race strategy.  I took it easy on myself ... I didn't go into this race planning to PR.  I knew I wanted to beat my 1:57 time from last year's race and I was pretty confident I could do that.  So, I thought, "OK - take it easy in the beginning, negative split and make the back end of the race strong.  Try not to hit 9:00 miles - stay in the low to mid 8s."  

Mile 1:  7:59

Um, yah.  Clearly the negative split was not happening at the first mile.  I realized when I saw that 7 that I needed to sloowwwwwww down.  The first few miles, though, felt incredible.  I have only raced in connection to a triathlon since May, so to just be running and not be tired from a swim and bike preceding it felt amazing.  

Mile 2:  8:10
Mile 3:  8:27

I forced myself to slow down before hitting the 5K split.  As good as it felt to be running in the very low 8s, I knew I would regret it later.  So I took it easier.  Miles 1-3 were through the city streets of Philly: down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway toward City Hall, then along 16th street to Market Street all the way down to 4th Street and back up Arch toward the Parkway.  There were a decent amount of spectators along this initial stretch, which was nice.  

Mile 4:  8:12
Mile 5:  8:31

I started to fall into a pattern: feel great and run fast for a mile; realize I needed to slow down a bit and took it easy on the next.  Repeat. Repeat.  Miles 4-5 were back on the Parkway heading out of the city and past the Art Museum.  The race would go up Kelly Drive, then cross over the river to Martin Luther King Drive and back to the Art Museum.  

Mile 6:  8:12
Mile 7:  8:19
Mile 8:  8:26
Mile 9:  8:28

Miles 6-9 were Kelly Drive.  You can see my pattern - totally followed it: two miles of fast; two miles of a little slower.  Kelly Drive was pretty quiet and very shady, which was great.  I looked across the river and saw how sunny it was on MLK Drive.  Yikes.  At this point in the race, I was still feeling really great and was actually racing it.  Around Mile 9 was my favorite sign of the day. It simply said:

Motivational Sign.   (with the period at the end -- LOL!)

Other great signs that I saw or my friends saw:
  • Run like there's a hot guy in front of you and a creepy guy behind you.
  • One day you will not be able to do this.  Today is not that day.
  • A Half Marathon is just a 5K with a 10 mile warm-up
  • You're doing a half marathon because you're only half crazy!

Mile 10:  8:15
Mile 11:  8:17

Miles 10-11 felt fast.  I knew I was closing in on the finish and started to realize that both a PR and a possible sub-1:50 finish were within reach.  If I could just hang on ... just stick to this pace, I could do both.  

Mile 12:  8:27
Mile 13:  8:24

Miles 12 and 13 were so freaking sunny and hot!  I'm not blaming that on my slower times - it's the pattern that I fell into.  But the heat and sun certainly did not help.  I was getting tired but I would not let myself slow down.  My Garmin was about .2 mile off of the race distance, which was frustrating, but I could figure out my time quickly based on the total time on my watch.  As I came close to the finish, which is a punishing hill after a course of complete flat terrain, I was hitting 1:49.  I knew that unless I sprinted with every fiber of my being, I couldn't do below 1:50.  But I also knew that if I stuck to this pace, I could PR and beat my DC 1:51 time.  So I stuck to my pace and happily crossed the finish at 1:50:50.  

A bunch of my friends also had PRs and/or their first half marathons at this race.  It was a good day.

I am really enjoying the momentum that I have right now.  Two years ago (or even a year ago), I wouldn't believe that I could do a 1:50 half marathon.  Each race I do makes me want to push harder and run faster.  And the thing is: I know that with some time and hard work, I totally can.  The next big running goal for me is that elusive sub-4:00:00 full marathon.  I'm training for the Philly full in mid-November.  

One more thing in September and then it's just training!  I have the MS City to Shore bike ride in two weeks.  A team from my office is biking, and I'm planning to do the 75 or 100 mile distances.  Though, honestly, at this point, it's looking more like 75.  But like today, it will be a game-day decision.  

See you swoon,

Race Recap: 2013 Quakerman Half-Ironman Triathlon

70.3!  SEVENTY POINT THREE.  That's the mileage of a half ironman triathlon and that's the mileage I did on Saturday September 7 at the Quakerman Half-Ironman triathlon in Quakertown, Pennsylvania.  Cutting to the chase: I had the race of my life.  Despite being race number 13 (eek!), the stars were aligned in every possible way to make this race simply fantastic.  Here's a picture of the race site, Lake Nockamixon, on race morning.  thank you to Amy for all the pictures!

Giving it away up front ... I finished in 6:31:20.  I was 3rd in my age group, 10th woman overall and 48th of 63 people total.  Yes!  

I did the Quakerman Olympic-Plus triathlon (.6 mile swim, 39 mile bike, 10K [6.2 mile] run) last year and the experience was not the best.  I underestimated hilly course, I did not fuel properly on the bike and I panicked on the swim.  I crossed the finish line, but did so completely demoralized and exhausted.  That is part of the reason I signed up for the Six Flags Great Adventure Sprint Tri a few weeks later: I wanted to end my triathlon season on a high note.  As soon as Quakerman opened registration for 2013, I signed up for the Olympic again. I wanted to crush my time from the prior year.  At that time, the idea of a half ironman seemed like a very far off thing ... and a full ironman felt like a pipe dream.  

The more I thought about it, though, the more I wondered why I couldn't do the half ironman.  I knew the Quakerman course.  The lake was perfect: no current, clean, warm and just a great place to swim.  Sure, the bike and run were hilly, but I could train on hills.  So, a few months after I registered, I emailed the race organizers and asked if I could change to the Half Iron tri.  And just like that: I was doing a half ironman.  

I've been training all season for this race.  New Jersey Devilman in May, Upper Dublin Sprint in May, Parvin Sprint in June, Lake Placid training in July, Steelman in August, a huge (scary) brick in August ... they all led me to this race.  

Two days before the race, I decided to enjoy the gorgeous cool sunny weather and do an easy 4 mile run.  So easy, in fact, that I left the watch at home so I wouldn't be tempted to look at my pace.  About a mile in, I sort of tweaked my knee.  It didn't hurt, but it felt "off".  I got home and it continued to feel off and ache all night. I iced it, took ibuprofen, used my muscle roller, elevated it and hoped I'd wake up feeling normal.  I didn't.  I woke up the next day - the day before the half ironman - and my knee was still bothering me.  Again, it didn't hurt, but it didn't feel great. Panic. I never have knee issues except when I wear shoes that are too old, but my shoes are new.  I babied it all day, continued the ice, elevation, compression and ibuprofen.  The only silver lining is all this focus on my knee took my focus and anxiety off of the race the next day.  Rather than worrying about whether I could finish, I was focused on the idea of actually getting to compete.  

Thankfully, I woke up on race day and felt fine. I'm not sure what the knee was all about, but crisis averted.  My friend Bill had decided to do the race, so we drove up together, while his wife/my friend Amy came up to the race later with their kids and our colleague.  It was great to have a cheering section!  

We left around 5:15 am, and were at the race site by 6:00 or so. Quakerman only has day-of packet pick-up and that opens at 6 am.  The half iron race was to start at 8 am and the Olympic would start at 9:30. 

Quakerman is a very small field.  There were only 63 people who competed in the half ironman and maybe 100 or so in the Olympic.  This is good and bad -- good in that the course is not crowded.  Bad in that, well, the fear of being last is greater.  Last year it was the same: small field.  It's a late season race and a very challenging bike and run, so my hunch is a lot of people don't consider it.  

Race day conditions could not have been better.  The air was cool, the water was cool enough for wetsuits and the sun was shining.  There was a bit of a breeze, which felt great on the run and the bike.  I was worried that the water would be too warm for wetsuits, like it was last year.  1.2 miles in the water without a wetsuit is possible, but a long way to go.  Thankfully that was not an issue.  

My goals for this race were to have a strong and steady swim, a strong and steady bike, to have fun and to finish around 6 - 6 1/2 hours.  

And now for the recap!

Swim - 1.2 miles:  43:29

Lake Nockamixon is why I signed up for this race again: it is gorgeous.  It's very clean, very clear, warm and great for a swim.  Quakerman has a triangular course that is .6 mile around - so the Half Iron athletes do two laps of the buoys.  The Half Iron race was one big wave of 63 people starting at once.  It was a very easy start: I put myself in the back and away from the buoys so I wouldn't get pummeled in the beginning and it worked.  Of all the races I've ever done, I had the least amount of body contact at this start.  Last year was my first open water swim, so I freaked out and couldn't settle in. This time, I am used to the open water and had a great swim. I had one weird moment about 4 minutes in where I wanted to stop but then told myself to cut it out and just keep going.  The key for me to a happy, strong swim is to zone out, sing ABBA songs and for the first few minutes swim "stupid slow" and not really kick my feet.  I keep my heart rate nice and low by doing this and then once I'm warmed up and acclimated to the water, I can get moving.  

getting assistance out of the water - a very steep rocky shore!
I will say that sighting was not so easy.  The race organizers had three big buoys for the triangle but only a couple of sighting buoys along the way. It was kind of hard (for me) to sight, and I don't think I was alone because at one point, someone ran into me (they were going the other way), presumably because they got confused about the course direction when they rounded the last buoy for the second lap.  

The swim was great.  When I rounded the last buoy and headed to shore, I could see people behind me.  And when I got to T1, there were still a lot of bikes left in transition, meaning there were a bunch of people in the water behind me.  This was very exciting to me.  I was also thrilled to, sorry have to use the pun, blow my Quakerman Olympic swim time out of the water.  I swam .6 miles last year in 25:10.  I am beyond thrilled with this swim.   I was 45th out of 63 on the swim. There were almost 20 people behind me!  

If you plan to do Quakerman, don't count on it being wetsuit legal.  It wasn't last year and I think this year was iffy. We happened to have a couple of very cold nights before the race, which probably brought the temperature down enough to allow wetsuits.  

T1:  1:58

T1 was largely uneventful.  I was able to get my wetsuit off easily and threw on my helmet, bike shoes, socks and glasses.  I also decided to take the extra 10 seconds and wear bike gloves.  The bike is my weakest, and least favorite, part of the tri, so I wanted to be as comfortable as possible, especially if I was going to be on the bike for 56 miles.  I got a lot of cheers from my friends and off I went. I was 29th of 63 in T1.  I am really good at transition.  I think it's because a mommy and I know how to get stuff done fast.  

heading out of T1 and ready to bike 56+ miles
Bike - 57.9 miles: 3:36:43 (16.0 mph)

Oy.  The bike.  This bike course is definitely hilly but not impossibly so.  And, unlike an official half ironman distance of 56 miles on the bike, the Quakerman is 57.9 miles (those extra 2 miles count!).  Because I have done this race before and Steelman too, which has part of the same course, I knew to put my gears in the small ring immediately.  There is a steep climb out of the park area, which lasts a good 1/2 mile.  Then it's a gradual climb out of the park for another mile or so.  This is very challenging right out of the swim.  Once you get out of the park, you make a right and essentially ride around the circumference of Lake Nockamixon.  The roads are not closed and are very busy at points, but it is marshalled well.  I also found the road conditions a bit dicey at points: gravel in the roads, very narrow shoulders at points, some ill-placed road kill and sand in the shoulder on the very steep descent.  So, if you do the race, be prepared to ride with traffic.  The course is mostly rollers with a bunch of flat spots.  There is a really great (and pretty!) descent when you turn off of Rt. 611, which then leads to a pretty difficult uphill.  There are a few more rollers until you hit the really steep descent and ascent on Rt. 313.  Then you make a right onto Rt. 563 and pass the Quakerman site.  I saw a bunch of people on the side of the road with flats, including one guy who said he blew two tubes.  

If you are doing the half, you do three laps of this.  THREE.  Ugh.  By the third lap, I was absolutely over it.  After my first lap, the people from the Olympic tri were joining the course.  I played leap frog with a guy from the Olympic for the remaining two laps.  It was actually really great because it made the time go faster.  He would pass me, then I would pass him, then he would pass me, then I would pass him.  We realized this early on and would joke and chat when we passed each other.  

Finishing Lap 1 of the bike and about to start Lap 2
I ate a ton on the bike, which is essential for me to have a good run.  I ate a Bonk Breaker (blueberry oat - yum), a cookie dough Lara bar, a bag of cherry cola Honey Stinger chews, a vanilla Gu, one full bottle of Strawberry Vanilla Hammer Perpeteum and 3/4 bottle of water.   I wanted to do the bike in 3:30, and I ended up doing it in just over that.  I was thrilled to maintain 16.0 miles per hour on this rather challenging course, especially since last year on that same course (though only 2 laps instead of 3), I had a 14.8 mph pace.  I felt very strong on the bike the entire time. 

I was so ready to be off that bike and get running.  So after the third lap, back to transition I went.  

Heading into T2 - look how happy I am to be off that bike. Ha!
T2:  0:50

The cheering section was waiting right outside transition near my bike, which was awesome. I felt great going into T2.  I wasn't gassed - I was ready for the run.  My legs were a little achey and my back and shoulders were absolutely ready to be upright again.  I put my bike back, changed shoes, put on my race belt and grabbed my visor to put on while running.  On the way out, Amy yelled, "WHO WANTS TO RUN A HALF MARATHON!!??!!"  LOL and OMG.  Me.   Apparently, I kicked butt in this transition because I was 8th overall.  Again LOL and OMG. 

Heading out of T2 to the run! 
Run - 13.1 miles:  2:08:20 (9:48/mile pace)

The first mile of this run was, as always, tough.  My legs felt like jello, I could hear my feet flapping on the ground and my breathing was all out of whack.  My plan for the run was to get my heart rate under control and settle into a good rhythm early, to walk at every aid station and drink, to walk the steep hills if necessary and to do between a 9:00 and 10:00/mile pace.  

The run is two laps of the same course for the Half Iron.  You run the same course as the Oly athletes but when you get back to the finish, you run around a tree and head back out for the second lap.  I ended up loving this, because I knew exactly what to expect, I got to see a ton of people and cheer them and be cheered by them and it made breaking the course into manageable bits, vs thinking about running 13.1 miles, much easier.  

The first few miles are on a running/biking trail in the Nockamixon Park.  It is mostly shaded with a few little up and down hills, but nothing crazy.  Nothing crazy, that is, until the climb out of the park -- that is a very steep and long hill with awful bumps and potholes in the road.  I walked part of this hill on both laps.  I would have barely been running if I didn't, so I figured the time gained didn't make up for the effort wasted.  There was an aid station at the top of this hill.  Then you are on Rt. 563 (which is also part of the bike course).  You run down a very long hill and then up a very long hill.  There is no shade on this road, so it's difficult.  It would have been brutal on a hotter day.  Once you are at the top of the hill, you head left into a very shaded neighborhood.  The turn around for the Oly is near an aid station.  Half Iron athletes continue a little farther and their turn around is there.  Then you head back the way you came and do it again.  

I loved the interaction with the other athletes.  On my first lap, I ended up running about a mile with the nicest woman who was finishing up her Oly run.  We chatted a bit and she was just so encouraging.  It made me forget about the fact that I still had half of my run to go.  I cheered her to the finish and looped around the tree to head on back.  I saw my bike leap frog buddy after my first lap. I was heading out and he was heading to the finish.  I said, "Hey! It's my bike leap frog buddy! You go!" And he said, "Yeah! It's the Mini Biker! You go too!"  After the turn around in the neighborhood, I started running with a guy that I met at Devilman!  Such a small world.  We walked and ran a little together and then he told me I was faster than he was (meep meep) so go on ahead.  I did and we wished each other well.

I felt really strong on this run.  I was thrilled to see my splits on my watch:  most were in the 9s.  The ones with the uphills were in the 10s.  I looked at my total time and realized I was within reach of a 6:30 finish and within reach of a half marathon pace of less than 10:00 miles.  This kept me going.  The course was marked with mile markers at every mile.  I tried not to focus on them, and instead broke the course into more landmark-based markers for me:  the trail, the hill of death, the big down and up on 563, the neighborhood, the turn around and back again.  When I saw mile marker 12, I yelled out, "MILE 12! I WANT TO MARRY THAT SIGN!" and the guy in front of me laughed out loud.  But it's true. I did want to marry that mile 12 sign and make little mile 12 sign babies with it.  

The last mile went really fast for me.  The next thing I knew, I saw mile 13 and could hear and see the finish and my friends.  I saw the clock said 6:31 and went as fast as I could to it.  And ... done!  My run time was 2:08:20, which was 35th out of 63 people.  THRILLED.  And mostly thrilled because the run felt good.  Such an improvement over my Oly run last year, which was 11:47 pace (because I did not fuel at all on the bike - duh).  

At the finish with Bill
I am a Half Ironman [please don't call me a Half Ironwoman - it's MAN]!  The woman at the end of the race took off my timing chip and gave me a medal and looked at me and said "congratulations. what you just did is amazing and inspiring."  Wow.  And as if I wasn't already in euphoric bliss, Amy surprised me with an iced towel.  HELLO.  

I was shocked at how great I felt during and after this race.  It was an effort for sure, but I felt really strong.  Never, not once, did I think "I can't do this."  I just kept moving.  I thought I would be more emotional at the finish.  I was emotional, but I didn't cry. I was just ecstatic and happy and beaming from ear to ear.  

I'd like to thank the following for making my Half Iron a great race:
  • the Quakerman race organizers and volunteers
  • my friends Amy, Sandy, Nathaniel and Andrew for being the best cheering squad ever (and the iced towel)
  • my friend Bill who raced the race with me and who didn't give up
  • Lake Noxamixon for being wetsuit legal
  • ABBA for making perfect songs to swim to
  • my nameless bike leap frog buddy in the grey and red tri suit who made the last 40 miles on the bike a bit easier to bear
  • ABBA, John Mellancamp, Don McClean, the Supremes, Elvis Presley, Jimmy Buffett, Jim Croce and the Spinners for making perfect songs to bike to (and sing out loud)
  • The lady I ran with from miles 5.5-6.5; the guy I ran from the second turn around until about mile 10.5
  • Hammer for making Hammer Perpeteum; Gatorade; Gu
  • The Mile 12 sign
  • My Garmin - for race day stats and for telling me I burned 4100 calories, which made the gluttony which was my race night dinner much easier to justify
  • Hop Devil and Sprite: those were what I was thinking about on the run.  
  • The announcer of the race, who actually pronounced my name correctly!  

And there you go.  The longest 70.3 race recap in the history of the internets.  And with that, my 2013 triathlon season is done.  I'm ready to move on to the Philly Marathon and start Ironman Lake Placid training in earnest in the new year.  In the meantime, I am going to ride high on this one for a pretty long time.  

See you swoon,