Saturday, February 20, 2021

Centerfield

In light of the fact that it's been almost a year since the world dramatically changed for everyone, I've been doing quite a bit of thinking.  Thinking about how different life was roughly a year ago - I was still living in Gananda, the kids were in school full time, I was second in charge of my program at work, and I was diligently preparing for a summer Ironman that I was SURE was going to be amazing.

Hah.  Funny what a year does.  Despite the shitshow of 2020, there were some amazing aspects to it, and one year later, as I sit here, reflecting, I wouldn't take any of it back.  We love our new home, the district we are in is amazing, my new director title has brought challenges but many rewards, and even though racing season 2020 wasn't what I expected, it made me so much stronger in so many ways. 

 Even though there are plenty of areas I would love to see change...I would say that life is good.  Of course, the definition of "good" has been heavily revised as each week seems to bring a new change - a demand to adapt and move forward.  As a result of so many of these changes, I have done a lot of reflecting on the concept of pivoting....of endings....and beginnings...in life. I'm not sure that this has any discernable direction on the future, but I suspect it does. 

This past week, I found out that my 6th grade teacher passed away.  On paper, this wasn't big news.  Back when I was twelve, Mr. Hickey (please refrain, this poor man had to endure decades of crap for that name, I'm sure) seemed ancient - according to his obit, 27 years ago when he taught me at State Road Elementary....he was 49 years old.  Yikes.  Funny how becoming an adult redefines your scope of what "old" is, right?  Man.  Anyway, social media being what it is, his passing brought together  memories from his students in the four decades he taught school.  And there were so, so, many.  It opened a dialogue with people I haven't seen in twenty five years, and pitched me right back to 1994, when I was an awkward pre teen, unsure about my direction in life and at a major cross road.  (Not much has changed, save for that pre teen status, which, if you look at my sense of humor, also hasn't changed much, but I digress).

As I thought about all of the important lessons that Mr. Hickey imparted, I realized that he was one of the "greats" in my life.  You know what I mean - those teachers that come into your life and change the course of it irrevocably.  You might know it at the time, you might not. But you never, ever forget them - or what they have done for you.  In my years,  I've been lucky enough to have a number of amazing educators that have left an indelible mark - my kindergarten teacher, my 3rd grade teacher, "Hick" in the 6th grade, my high school health teacher, my AP 12 English teacher, my high school guidance counselor, my sociology advisor in college, and a high school science teacher I met at age 35 (apparently, you don't leave that stuff behind when you're an adult, which I'm incredibly grateful for).  In some way, shape or form, they've all crossed my path at just the right time, worked their incredible magic, and left me a much better person for it.  The world doesn't appreciate teachers nearly enough.

And while each one of these teachers deserves their own standing ovation (as I'm sure I'm not the only student they've had whose life has been touched by their incredible gift), today, I'm a kid stuck in the mid nineties.  And I realized, that in his own way, The Hick taught me all I really needed to know...in sixth grade.

Sometimes learning can come from the most unexpected places. - Hick was a huge baseball fan.  Heck, a huge any sports fan, but he had a soft spot for baseball.  What better way to teach a bunch of sixth graders statistics?  We followed MLB for the Spring season of 1994, and I got to know Frank Thomas rather well (I wanted Kirby Puckett, but hey, my friend Erin beat me to it).  We learned about means and averages along with RBI's and while the Hick was Talkin Baseball, we were learning math and having a great time doing it! We capped off the unit with a trip to the Red Wings minor league game and our unit stars came in the form of french fries and dippin' dots.  Smart man.  I don't think a single kid failed the unit. I got a little extra credit with my same friend Erin via class presentation of "Who's on First" and at the same time got my first taste of drama club that would bring me well through high school.  Just call me Bud. Who? What?  I don't know. 

Lift up your head and pay attention. One thing the Hick was known for was his astounding ability to aim small projectiles at errant students.  While I'm positive it would never fly today, his track record of hurling erasers and chalk was well known to those of us not paying attention in class. You'd be passing a note or daydreaming, and BAM, a piece of chalk would whiz within an inch of your head. I caught more than my fair share of dusty erasers and calcite that year, more than likely as I was gazing dreamily at Jason Simoni (that poor kid, I feel bad for him, I was such a hot mess). The Hick taught me to sit up, keep your eyes on the prize and to avoid distractions, which has followed well for 27 years.  He didn't teach me to stop teasing the boys.  The man could only do so much, c'mon.  Not the impossible. 

Keep it Simple, Stupid. Sixth grade featured all the normal NYS curriculum back in the mid nineties.  Math, Science, Social Studies, English, and Spelling.  Rather than learning boring, every day words, we often got teasers thrown in, and to his credit, back in 1994, our class duly learned the longest word in the world - pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.  This 45 letter word sounded mad cool - or- if you will - "radical" as we came home boasting to our parents of how smart we were.  I don't think any of us misspelled the word on test day.  We were badass.  We found out, much later, that this awesome word was, in fact....a disease.  Namely caused by inhaling quartz dust.  Was it useful?  hell no.  Did it sound cool?  Hell yeah.  Thus, the Hick taught us that while things might sound impressive, the simplest method usually is best.  (Unless, of course, you were going into geology.  Then I digress.)

Even your greatest dreams can have limiters.  Back in the day, our elementary school housed grades K-6.  Therefore, not only did we have the coolest teacher in the school, we had top dawg status.  One of the big events in the school year was our "Medieval Days" feast.  It was huge, and we spent weeks preparing.  We made goblets in art class, read about the era in history, learned period dances in P.E. class, and as a capstone, had a full day event where we were to pick a social class for our feast day, which included a roasted pig, rabbit, squirrel, dancing, and a jousting event.  You could pick from peasant, jester, nun, monk, or noble person.  There were limits for each to reflect a standard village, and we eagerly awaited our turn to pick.  I wanted to be a noble, badly.  A Nobleman, to be exact.  All three teachers gently explained to me that I was not, in fact, a man, and could not be one.  I would not be deterred as I researched into this particular status - they had power, the best weapons, ample resources, and wore the best costumes.  What was there even to argue about?  I eagerly submitted my name.  I was heartbroken when they made me a noblewoman.  This, to every other girl in the class, was the best pick - it meant a pretty costume with lace and a long skirt.  To me, all I saw was an uncomfortable dress and floof.  And with that, I learned that even my greatest dreams had limiters.  The day of the feast, I dressed in my finest watched as my crush was crowned King.  And then, a noblewoman had its benefits!  Sadly, I was not crowned Queen.  But out of all the kids in our 75 person class, I did manage to snag second overall in the joust - while wearing stockings and a lace dress.  I lost to the King.  Funny, I didn't mind much then.  

Silence is golden.  The day after medieval day was known as "Monks Day", which meant we all wore a cool hoodie and weren't allowed to speak....for 8 hours.  We could communicate in writing and using hand signals only, and if you talked, you were sent out of the class.  Looking back, this was a pretty genius way to keep 75 pre teens silent for 8 hours and was undoubtedly the teachers favorite day of the year.  To me, I remember going through the day appreciating how much was conveyed without words and how taking the time to think about things before opening your mouth was, well...eye opening.  Three decades later, I still take my time before responding in many situations in order to form my thoughts and words well, and its been incredibly helpful!

When the going gets tough, it's the best time to just go for it. If you thought the Hick liked baseball, soccer was his first main love, without a doubt.  He coached the girls JV soccer team and saw it as his personal mission to teach us how to love running around on the field.  To a chubby, uncoordinated kid, this wasn't always welcome, but the Hick didn't care if you were any good or not.  Every day, rain, shine, or blizzard, he took anyone out to play soccer for 15-20 minutes.  We ran around, had a blast, and then came back to class ready to learn.  While this was a genius way of running off a 12 year olds energy, it also taught us to work together, to play the field any position, and to stick it through no matter what "the weather" was.  There was no bad day to play soccer, only days that were more challenging.  As an adult, I'm no more coordinated than I was as a kid.  Often, my volleyball bumps go backward rather than forward.  We won't even discuss me on a bike.  But I do have heart - and you've gotta have heart.  As an adult, even on my bad days at sport - I always rally back the next day - cause those tough days set your mind up to excel and go for it - if you can persevere when the going gets tough, you've got it made.  


Sometimes you know it's the last time...and sometimes you don't.  As the big cheese at State road, us 6th graders knew we were the coolest kids that ever lived.  And in June, as our last days as Elementary kids rolled around, we faced our first big transition - from the "Big Kids on Campus" to our next stop at middle school - which was the great unknown and a very big rite to our next stage as teenagers.  We created as many rituals as possible to mark this passing - our 6th grade yearbook, a mini graduation, and, on the last day of school, several run throughs around the bus loop singing our trademark song from the Hick - "Centerfield" and " Hey-ey Goodbye". We sang with all our hearts to John Fogerty as the tears rolled down our faces. We knew it was the end of an era.  We knew our past six years had come to an end.  And somehow, we knew we were crossing a bridge to the next stage in our life.  

And sometimes, life is like that.  Sometimes, you reach the end of a stage in life, look around, and know that you're moving on.  And sometimes - you don't.  You have no idea if this is the last time you'll all be together.  Or the last time you'll see someone.  And while we can't appreciate every single second of our life for the beauty that it is, that it's important to understand that life....is change. And to appreciate those special moments for what they are. And even if you don't know it at the time, and even if it seems painful, that change can lead to amazing growth and opportunities that you didn't even know existed.

Thanks, Hick.  For the life lessons.  For the laughs.  For the learning.  For the incredible memories and take aways that, as an impressionable twelve year old, made their mark.  You'll never know the depth of your impact on so many of us as we lead our lives today.  You will be missed, but we will carry on your legacy.  Put me in coach - I'm ready to play.  Today.  

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Running Down a Dream: 2020 in 2020

I know we say this every year but...WHAT A FUCKING YEAR. I could probably spend an inordinate amount of time navel gazing on the shit show of 2020, but I won't.  It's all the same story for everyone, and I salute us all for making it through it with some sanity (Seriously, that was close). 

This is also not a big oo-rah about 2021 and doing all the things.  I'm not there yet.  I'm eyeing 2021 with utter caution, defensive humor, and as much flexibility as I can.  I'll keep ya posted on how that goes. 

This post is about...running.  And the long haul.  I know, big shocker.  

So....backstory.  Three years ago, on January 1, 2018, I got out my cool dry erase marker and wrote a big "6" on my white board.  As in, 6 miles I had run that year.  With a big goal to run 2018 miles in 2018.  Seven months later, the shit show of Ironman Lake Placid happened and I lost my mojo.  I finished the year with a marathon, but fell short of my 2018 miles, landing around 1700 miles. 

In 2019, I began the year with another big mark on the ole whiteboard.  I finally joined Strava (I know, none of my runs prior to 2019 even counted), had a really amazing year for everything sport related , and around October, managed to sideline myself with a minor injury and then took a much suggested respite from running.  End of year mileage = 1864.

Third times the charm, right?  Again, this year, January 1.  I ran a New Year's day race with my buddy the outlaw  (it was hilly, which was a pretty decent foreshadow to the year!). After the race, I came home and proudly wrote "7.6" on my whiteboard.  It was pointed out to me, amidst stifled laughs, that Strava AND Garmin AND Training Peaks recorded my mileage.  Meh.  Probably.  But the simple act of updating my whiteboard after every run was both satisfying and ingrained as habit by this point, so low tech was how we went.

The beginning of the year saw some pretty wild stuff, in my naivete of what that meant back in February ….we sold our first home in Gananda that we had lived in for ten years, moved to Webster, and settled in to "where life was worth living" (Webster motto).  I ticked off the miles as easily as one does at the beginning of a long term goal - slowly and steadily.  I needed roughly 39 miles per week to achieve the goal, and I casually kept track via whiteboard.

Then, mid March hit.  I don't think I need to say more, right??  Our first race of the season was cancelled, foreshadowing a year that none of us saw coming.  We did a housewarming party and made our own race.

COVID hit.  Big time.  I remember doing a long run mid April with a sense of foreboding...only to come back and find out that my Ironman in August was cancelled.  And with that, I knew the season was done.  I spent a few weeks low key running and wallowing, and then, as I always do, came up with a plan B.  Or.... several plan B's.  With all of my summer races quickly following the same suit that my Ironman did, I turned to some challenges that I never would have.  

Goggins.  Or, running 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours.  Ridiculous?  Absolutely.  But I found out a few things about myself that would come in really handy down the line.  One, I'm consistent as hell when it comes to distance challenges.  Two, I could still do hard things.  I remember waking up at 1:40am, knowing I had to go out for my tenth run in 40 hours...off little sleep, and the simple act of putting on my shoes and repeating....You can do this.  You can. And I did.

Sounds silly, but it got me through what was a really tough time....kids out of school....lock down....and such uncertainty.  Through it all, there were my running shoes.

Summer came.  I logged a nice amount of miles with my buddy Matt, and we spent many Friday afternoons laughing, eating cheese, drinking err....water, and talking about life.  With the start of tri season....or um, not....I needed another thing to turn to.  Enter in my friend Lauren, whose brother Brad was planning a crazy challenge by running 266 miles in 7 days to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis.  I got to pace him on day 6 - that darkest day before the dawn.  I drove down to Catt county at 6am one morning in July, not knowing anyone but "sorta" this guy, and ran 42 miles through the hilliest country I'd ever seen.  

Over the course of 12 hours I made more friends than I ever have in a day, that, 6 months later, I am so thankful I've met.  It reminded me of the intrinsic joy of running as we joked through the countryside, running for such a wonderful cause.  

Halfway through the year and spot on to make my 2020 goal.  The rest of the summer was full of riding bikes with the juicy tri fam, running solo and with friends, with no races whatsoever planned.  

I had joined a virtual challenge to race across Tennessee - 1000k in 3 months.  This aligned perfectly with my run mileage goals, supported a great cause through a local food bank, and was orchestrated by the great Laz Lake, who RD's the most ridiculous race in the world I'd love to do someday - the Barkley Marathons.  I crossed the "finish" line for the race on August 8th, my 11th wedding anniversary with my favorite partner in crime, my husband, who started me in the world of multi sport and running, and remains my biggest supporter for any crazy idea I think of.

Speaking of crazy ideas....next up was a  half ironman, signed up for one week before race day.  It featured a ridiculous elevation gain, a fun rainstorm, and a bike I was totally un prepared for.  (Thanks Outlaw...no, really, I mean it).  The opportunity to do dumb, crazy things still existed in 2020, and thank goodness for that!  With summer over and four months to go, I was still roughly on point to make my goal. 

September came.  And 2020 reminded me why it was in charge.  Amidst the somewhat carefree living of the summer, with social distancing in place but a nice "bubble", reality came back full force.  One of our family members got COVID.  Despite the risk factors, they managed to stay out of the hospital, and we breathed a sigh of relief.  With doing the right thing in mind, our family got tested.  Greg and the kids did not contract it.

I did.

I told very few people about it at the time, as there was a huge stigma about anyone that contracted it and their life choices. This is not the post to ruminate on it, and I won't, but there wasn't a single way that we wouldn't have been exposed to this person so hindsight...well, you know.  

Honestly? I never would have guessed that I had it.  The flu was much worse. I was tired and run down and working 12 hour days at the time.  The emotional and mental fall out was much worse than any symptoms I had.  Every system we dealt with was fraught with inconsistency and contradictions, and it was a tough 14 days.  Physically, I had a cough and was tired....for about 48 hours, and that was it.  Two days post positive diagnosis, I felt pretty darn good and picked up running.  The last 8 days of my quarantine, I logged 44 miles on the treadmill (the only indoor miles of my entire year, I might add).  That first day outta quarantine...I grabbed my running shoes and ran out the door as quick as my little legs would take me!!

Post COVID, I kept it low key for a month or so, as I noticed my lungs were a bit weaker.  Slow runs didn't bother me, but anything under a nine minute mile was a chore.  I also entered a funk - I was down about the world, some of the reactions I saw in people I thought were my friends/acquaintances, and a general malaise.  

I signed up for the EVL half maraton, thinking it would dig me out. It didn't.  I finished the race in a respectable time - especially six weeks out from COVID! -  which very few people knew.  But I was grumpy.  I killed running or a full week and waited until I was ready to go again.

November 1.  360 miles to go.  I started up the run again and my spirits lifted.  I took every run in November with intent and took the time to run slow, remember why I loved it, and to look forward to the simple joy of running.  I signed up for a really low key half marathon and came in third female - and loved every. single. step. And.... I was back!!

With one month to go....there was a big push.  My step back in October had cost me, and I had 245 miles to go.  At this point, I backed off my training plan for Ironman 2021 prep, and took the last three weeks of the challenge simply by listening to my body.  I knew how many miles a day I needed to do (7ish) and opted to run between 4 and 10 miles every day, at a really easy pace, and with eyes forward and the gratefulness to be able to do this.

One of my new ultra buddies, Josh, tracked my progress and offered daily support (I love new running friends in the community!)  My coach, who understood my need to finish this one on my timetable, offered unfailing support, as he always does.  And my husband.... gave me the space to do every run, listened to every wind down, ran some miles with me, and was literally my rock when I doubted myself.  I am so friggin lucky.

There were hard days.  Days when I wasn't sure I wanted to run.  I practiced daily recovery with foam rolling, recovery boots, Epsom salt baths, and plenty of carbs (that last part was so tough....hah!).     

Bit by bit, I went down from three digits left...two digits...and then on New Year's Eve... a lucky 7 miles remained.  I set out mid morning for the final run.  I had no route in mind, but found myself following the route I run with my husband.  Turning on to the road that I had run that summer with the outlaw.  On to the trail that I had run that spring so many times with Matt.  and down the road that my coach had took me on during our first run together in Webster. At mile five I ran past a familiar looking figure....it was the girl that always steals my Crowns on Strava by biking them and logging them as runs.  I started to laugh, thinking it would have been incredibly appropriate if she was out biking, but alas, she was running.  With one mile to go, there was a full force headwind, which was really pretty fitting for the year.  I finished 2020 by running against the wind....running down a dream that was three years in the making.

I stopped my watch, 2020 miles done in 2020.  I grinned, walked to cool down a bit, and then hit that start button again and ran my fastest mile of the year (6:42).  Because...why would I stop at 2020?  And with that, I concluded, was the right way to kick off the new year!!

What will 2021 bring?  Who knows.  And that's a post for another day.  But after three years, I FINALLY ran the year.  Success is just as sweet even during a pandemic....maybe even more so!  

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

BYGI 2020 Half Marathon: Lovely Day

So, the question begs - if you don't talk about it and don't train for it, does a race happen?

The answer is YES.  And it was everything I wanted and more.  

Backing up - if you recall my last race, EVL - it was not the stuff dreams were made of.  I completely recognized my privilege to race, but I also was honest that I had lost my mojo weeks before the race, and if I was being REALLY honest, let my mental game lead to a complete failure where I wasn't pleased ... with my time, the experience, or even the desire to run.  Which jarred me.  

Post race, I put my running shoes aside and waited.  To heal.  Both physically and mentally.  Once again, whenever I hit bottom, I find out that I have a pretty kick ass circle of friends.  My husband was absolutely amazing and supportive.  My coach listened to me vent and offered support where I needed it and a kick in the pants when that was applicable, too.  I got the "in" on the 2020 turkey trot shoes from our fleet feet friends, and bought a pair to bring on the "Thankful runs".  And the day after the race, my friends Marcus and Maria offered me exactly what I needed, even though I didn't know it at the time: redemption...on every level.

As part of post race venting, I was talking to Marcus (fellow triathlete, runner, friend of ten plus years, fellow bad decision maker) about EVL, and he mentioned a little race that he was doing in November as part of a local running group.  It was capped at 50 runners, invite only, and totally grassroots.

It was also full.

Oh well, so much for that.  Or...for friends that sang my praises and got me a last minute invite.  For $10 I signed up to be part of the "BYGI half marathon", a race that was to take place on November 22, 2020.  BYGI = Best You're Getting In (2020).  Oh hell.  Take my money.  The race was no frills - $10 toward the top 3 places of the race (winners to get running store gift certificates from Rochester Running Company - support local sales).  Post race BYOB.  And a medal that absolutely needed a spot in my collection, designed by the RD's daughter - its a little Covee!!

Once I picked up my sneaks again on November 1, I ran for two reasons - to take a breather from life, and to get some low key miles in.  I did no speed work, had no plan, and did nothing to train for any type of race whatsoever.  I needed this.  It was running for me.  Running for where I was at.  No pressure.  No time goals.  Nothing.  I laced up my turkey trot shoes every single run, and whether the run was good, bad, or just "was", I took it with the grace that was intended at the time. And when I thought of BYGI....I smiled.  As the race got closer, the attention to social distancing and COVID compliance was evident and impressive from the RD - staggered start, masks required, directives and suggestions about social media, and so many options for an early start or virtual race that it could accommodate everyone. Even when our county turned into a yellow zone, further accommodations were made.  As someone that's pretty strictly bubbling right now, this was refreshing to see.

The week of the race was a little tough - I had started working with my coach for Ironman prep at the beginning of the November and I felt fatigued - the bike was ramping up, and combined with swimming, lifting and running, I was logging about 12 hours per week. Certain life events had left me more spent than usual - physically, mentally and emotionally - and I was struggling to hit my training metrics.  I gave a second thought to the race - with the current environment and my fitness, was it wise?  My body wasn't sure.  My head wasn't sure.  My heart...was.

And that was good enough for me.  I sent my coach a text letting him know I was gonna do the thing, and kept my expectations low.  He asked my goals and I said....to love it.  To have fun and enjoy it.  And, uh, sub 1:50 would be sweet (can't take the race outta the racer....since I had zilch aside from easy runs, an 8:20 pace was doable, or so I thought).

I laid out my race gear the night before, adding in things that made me smile - my turkey trot shoes, the RWB singlet I rarely wear to race but love running in, my "fineapple" CVG bra, and my "sus" mask.  And, of course, the Ironman visor with the sticker on.  You know I can't forget that one! (Its a superstition thing).

Race morning dawned clear, and cold!  It was about 35 degrees out, so I switched up a few things outfit wise, then left at 7 to get to the park for a quick warm up (about a half hour away).  I met up with some new friends and saw some old ones, including Josh, my best friend from preschool's husband (who just came into my life this year - life is weird!)  Everyone was masked.  Everyone kept their distance.  And everyone was so. friggin. amped. to be there.  I wasn't nervous, I was excited!!  I did a mile warm up, then loaded up my gear - there was one DIY aid station with water on course at mile 8, and that was....BYGI (2020).  Totally fine, but I opted for a handheld water bottle and stuffed a few GU's down my bra (really, yes, I stuff my bra and I'm proud of it...I fit my mp3 player, 2 gus, my car key, and probably the kitchen sink in there!!)

The race was organized into heats, and I was in wave 1, with those running "8ish" minute miles.  We trickled down started at 8:30 and were off!  The race was self timed, but set up as a strava segment, so your time was officially recorded on strava.  The first 6 miles were an out and back on the canal, with a few minor rollers (the overall net for the course was just over 400 feet per my watch).  I settled in right away at a 7:50-7:55 mile, which actually felt great.  In the first few miles I passed about 4-5 people, but never ran with anyone....a few happy comments, a few smiles, and waves at the turn around at mile 3, but I was racing solo and actually enjoying it!  The snow started to fall about mile 4, and I grinned and caught a few flakes on my tongue.  Was this a typical race?  Nope.  Was I "racing all out"?  Again, no.  But I was out running, with enough friends to feel like I was part of something, enough space to feel safe, in a setting where I would push the pace beyond a normal long run.  How lucky was I??

I held 7:50s until mile 8, when I stopped to refill my water bottle.  At that point, we turned off the canal and into Genesee Valley Park, which brought some weird turns and a few more rollers.  I slowed to a walk a few times as I wasn't sure of the turns (there were flags marking the course but I'm directionally challenged!!  I was passed here by one dude, who turned into my spotter for the rest of the race - if I could see him, I was good!!).  Miles 8-10 averaged 8:00-8:30...a combo of water stops, sighting, and I hit a lull about mile 9 where I downed a GU and it definitely helped.  I hit mile 10 in 1:19:xx and began to think I could do a sub 1:45 - which amped me up!  My PR is a 1:40, but without any prep or speedwork, this was....you got it....the BYGI 2020 and I was totally fine with that!

At this point the 10k had started (tandem race) and the winner flew by me at mile 10 with a quick pick me up - it was Marcus, my buddy!  (He handily won the race by minutes).  This gave me the boost I needed for the last 5k!  At mile 11 was our official "race photographer" - the RD's parents.  I gave them a cheese grin and a thumbs up (I am so cool) and headed up the last hill onto the Ford Street bridge.

With a mile to go, I hit mile 12 in 1:36 and knew I could bring it home - I had brough my pace back down to a 7:50-8:00 pace.  At mile 12.5, a girl I didnt recognize passed me - not lknowing if she was a half marathoner or 10k racer, I picked it up to try to catch her (I did not, but she was the 10k winner, so it was all good) - crossed the finish line in 1:44:29, for a 7:59 pace and 3rd overall female!  After I finished I thanked the dude who passed me for being such a great rabbit, and when he heard my name he commented that it was awesome to meet the "famed Rae Glaser".  According to him, I'm pretty well known as a runner around the Roc.  Why that is...I didn't ask.  Some things are just better left a mystery :-P

Post race we shivered around with happy grins - I caught up with Marcus and congratulated him, waited for his wife Maria to finish the 10k, and said hello to a few other friends I missed pre race.  I ended up bringing home a sweet gift card to Rochester Running Company for my "podium finish" - which was pretty awesome!  I cant wait to get some nutrition for Ironman training with it!!

After I got home and warmed up, I did some post race recovery - foam rolling, Epsom salt bath, and a cheeseburger the size of my face (it's science, y'all).  The next day I felt great - which told me that I still have the speed - hitting a sub 8 minute mile for a half marathon in 2020 didn't seem feasible, but the whole race, save for the last mile, felt comfortably hard, much like a long tempo run.  I felt good about the effort, the recovery was minimal, and I am so darn excited for 2021!  More importantly, it gave me exactly what I needed for the end of 2020...I wasn't happy with the way I ended EVL, and this gave me back that big ole happy dance I have when I get to run.  And when it comes down to it, that's way more important than any time could ever be for me.  All in all, it was a Lovely Day.  Bill Withers would totally approve.

So, what's next?  Oh who knows what 2021 brings.  For the rest of this year, I want to finish "running the year" (213 miles to go), and have a blast doing it.  2021, I'm coming for you - what that means, TBD, but I'm excited about it in any way, shape or form!!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Serendipity

 It has to be said.  It doesn't matter what I blog - I've always been honest, real, and unafraid to express things to you guys.  What I forget sometimes is how very okay it is to flat out admit I'm struggling with things that I convince myself aren't struggle worthy.  Yet, every time I pour out my heart on this blog with my failures....you guys catch me.  Your words of support mean the world to me, and I sincerely appreciate you.  Thank you.

After last weekend's massive setback, I took a little time away.  Time off from running.  Time away from certain stressors (well, the ones that allowed me to take a break - still gotta pay the bills, y'all!) and a lot of time for self reflection.  I allowed myself the space to be honest about a few things in life I had been either sticking my head in the sand about or coping with in horrible ways ( lack of attention to diet, sleeping, overtraining, and basically sabotaging the ability to be my best me).  I realized that my tunnel vision was really hurting me - I can't control what this dumpster fire of a year throws at me.  But i certainly can control the way I react to it.

I've often wondered if 2020 was really here for a reason.  Instead of being one shit show or another....was it meant to teach us mental toughness?  Humility?  Better communication?  Flexibility?  (Basically, this is one whole Friends Episode of the "One where they Pivot", right?)  What was it??

I feel like I've spent the whole year with one mantra...."Well that didn't f*cking work".".  Every time I feel like I have a handle on something, it changes.  And finally, running changed.  It was no longer what I remembered and loved so much.  It was a chore.  A "Do I have to?"

That...scared me.  For the past fifteen years, running has been my mainstay.  I realize I am so darn lucky to do it.  But hell if I wanted to.

So, I waited.  I started to notice little things that I hadn't in the past few months.  Upon hearing of my crappy race, I had a few friends step in and make me smile right away.  They offered hope and love, and a way for me to look forward to something.  That was amazing.  I reconnected with some old friends that I had lost touch with.  I started chatting with some of the people that made my early 2019 so amazing....it's crazy to think that was less than two years ago....when the world was different, all hopes lie ahead, and I felt unstoppable.

I realized a few things, guys.  I realized that I had totally forgotten the sheer giddiness of a fun run - of going out there and (yes, sorry) doing those big scary things with a sense of adventure and the knowledge that I might fail.  I had attached way too much pressure on myself this year - in a year that really couldn't take any more.  And while you can certainly turn coal into a diamond with the right amount of pressure, I forgot that the process requires a certain amount of heat and cooling to be successful.  

The seed was planted.  I went five days with absolutely no desire to change anything....just to step back, think, and analyze (yes, with science.  If you got that, I'm proud).  It was complete kismet that on Friday my friend Boots (yes, that awesome RD and Fleet Feet owner) texted me to see if I was interested in the new Saucony Ride Thanksgiving day shoes.  I've never been a themed shoe runner.  I actually hate Thanksgiving (this is another story).  But for some reason.....I wanted these shoes.  I saw the fun design, the fall colors, and the concept of being thankful....it was exactly the right tone I needed the most.  I made the split second decision to "regret nothing and buy the shoes" (such a girl) and immediately formed a plan.  These were my new November shoes.  It was time for a change.

Years ago, I started an "attitude of gratitude" for the month of November.  The idea was to remember all month the things that I was grateful for in my life. One a day, if you will.  THIS is the part of Thanksgiving I love, and I feel always gets missed in the massive orgy of food and Christmas shopping.  The fact that we really do have so much to be happy for in our lives.

I don't know a year where we need it more.  Today, on November 1, I laced up my shoes for the first time since my race and went out on a race to once again, enjoy life.  I knew I was grateful for every step.  And for the first mile, I ran with a smile on my face.  At mile 1, I saw another runner approaching and got my friendly wave on.  As he got closer, I realized it was my friend "Ironman Joe" who I swam for years with at the Downtown Fitness Club during my first Ironman days....2008-2012!  I've seen him out riding since I moved to Webster, but never on a run.  I went to school with his kids.  We acted in the theatre guild.  His wife directed our productions.  This family is amazing and I haven't had a chance to chat with Joe in a decade.  I immediately ditched my run and turned around with him - he was in the middle of a long run and welcomed the company to chat on a three mile stretch.  He apologized for his pace, which was slower and run/walk.  Did I care?  Not at all!  My whole goal was easy, comfy, and happy.  It was the perfect and I came home with the biggest smile on my face and a spring in my step that had zilch to do with pace, HR, cadence or distance.  I had found my running zen again.  

Today's thanks could be about great friends (which I have such an abundance of in a variety of ways - I love you guys).  It could be about being thankful for running.  But today is about....being grateful for chances.  For serendipity - things that are beneficial and happy that happen purely by chance.  

Serendipity is such a beautiful thing, and I believe we often don't think much of it.  Of when life gives us the opportunity to take a chance.  When we make a leap.  Ditch a plan and jump to something that randomly comes our way.  I think of the many things that I would have missed out on in my life if I went about my way with what made sense at the time.  My husband...and obviously my kids!  Many of my close friends.  Definitely my athletic career.  Our recent move.  I often find that this whole "the best things happen when we aren't looking for them"  idea shapes my life in ways that I forget are some of the most important.  

Too often I get caught in a tailspin of expectations that might not go the way I planned....especially for someone that so often enjoys "the plan".  It's a great idea to put in the work.  To be ready to go.  But often...the things that make me laugh, gasp in awe, and blow me away were all happening when I didn't march forward and force them to happen - I just....lived.

So, for all the amazing things that happen when I'm not looking....I am grateful.  And it's time to start paying attention to those for the rest of the year.  Because if I don't take the time to recognize them...I might just miss them.  And that would be such a damned shame.

Monday, October 26, 2020

EVL Half Marathon: Truth Hurts

 Whew.  This is a tough one to write. So...I know I pride myself in being fully honest with you, even if its painful.  I've sat down to write so many times in the past five weeks and just couldn't get the words to flow.  Truth is, it's been a really really rough go for me the past month or so.  It started mid September and every time I work myself out of it, something else slams me in the face and I just can't seem to recover from any of it.  This isn't a pity party - it's just the truth.  I absolutely know I've got many things better than a lot of people, but I know myself well enough to understand that it's time for me to re-assess certain things in my life and move forward with where I want to be (as much as anyone can this year!).  

This is not the post to discuss it, though when I can finally pull together the words to do so, I'll certainly share.  The beauty of a "real blog" is to share the pretty unicorn moments and the ugly times too.  Either way, I know the stumbling blocks will make me stronger and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I haven't found it yet, but it's there.  

However, today is the day to talk about "racing".  Yep, I air quoted that.  Much like a rare unicorn sighting, 2020 served up the opportunity to race in person again, and I chose to take it.  Was it a wise choice?  Read on!

Over the past year I have had the pleasure to get to know an amazing woman named Lauren.  I met her through a mutual friend at a wedding last summer, and she's become a great friend, a like minded person to run things by, and she bravely took a chance on me when I decided to delve into run coaching in 2019.  I coached her through her first 5k last December, we've run several iterations of virtual races in 2020, and she recently placed first female overall in her first 10k last month (she is a beast.  I cannot wait to see what she does next year).  Through all of it, her desire for 2020 was to run a half marathon.  We trained for a spring race, and that fell through.  We set our sights on some soft summer goals, and then looked to see what the fall had to offer.  Last year, she spectated at the EVL half marathon, minutes away from her house.  Would it actually happen this year?  Why not train and find out??

So, in addition to coaching an athlete to run the race, I eyed it with the thought that I might run it as well.  I left a lot on the table last year at this race, but after Cassadagaman and then the shitshow of life the past month, I was on the fence and leaning towards no.  I reviewed the race guide and noticed that it was set to go off in waves (every fifteen minutes), trickle start, self serve aid stations, and no spectators allowed, with masks at start and finish.  While I certainly appreciated the attention to safety, I couldn't decide if this was a race I wanted to do.  In the end, I opted out. 

Then, of course, life happened.  Through a series of random events, I found myself signing up for the waiting list on a whim.  And, of course, I got in.  While I was still on the fence about the actual event, I decided it would be fun to drive down to see Lauren (it had been four months since we hung out!), cheer her on at her first half marathon, and to give the course a whirl.  #baddecisions2020

In the two weeks between sign up and race, of course, 2020 reminded me it was still...2020.  I've made it through the year without injury (knock on wood), so of course, seven days out, my calf started to niggle.  I cut out running for a few days and took it easy.  The few runs that I did gave me the impression that the calf was probably tight and overused, but not injured.  I did a few tempo miles for fun to see what I could expect from race day and left them no wiser than I started.  With a few days left to go into the race I still had no idea what I wanted to do with it and can describe the idea of the race with no other word than ambivalence. I literally gave no f*cks if it happened, what I ran, or how I handled it.  Hell, I didn't even feel like running (WHO AM I?)

That was weird.

Prior to the race, my coach and I discussed my off season plans.  His thought was to take two weeks off from training totally.  My thoughts....led elsewhere.  In 2020, I can't imagine another restriction on my life, let alone one that took away my favorite thing to do.  I argued that without an on season, there was no off season.  He spouted some kind of gibberish involving words like "Goggins challenge 4x4x48" "42 mile run in one day in July" and "half ironman".  We settled on some kind of truce that I'm not clear on, except he wants me to be happy, while doing exactly what he expected me to do anyways.  Cool. That makes perfect sense. 

I mention this because a few days before the race I debated just canning the whole thing.  I blew off a run and gave no f*cks about it, which hasn't happened in about five years.  I just....didnt want to.  I'm not sure if it was the fear of not being in shape, COVID, the whole feel of the year, or what.  But....nope.  

I debated trying to switch corrals and running the race with my athlete.  She was going for a 1:54 or 1:51, which was totally doable for me to pace.  No go.  I talked with my coach and we decided to treat the thing as a Lactate Threshold test - warm up, go 95% effort for 10 minutes, go 100% for 20 minutes, die at mile 5, then recover and jog the rest.  While this wasn't a solid plan for a comfortable race (um, the opposite) or a plan that would net anything respectable (at this point, I was thinking a 1:45 would be sweet), f*ck it.  It's 2020.  I just don't care anymore.  

Race morning I headed down to Ellicottville about 8am - Lauren went off at 11:45 and I was slated to go off at 12:15, so I wanted to get there early to walk her through a few things, gab, pee, and warm up!  It was so awesome to see her - and she was so giddy and excited/nervous/scared about her first half!  THIS is what you go into a race with.  I really hoped it would rub off on me. I tried.  I swear. 

We discussed racing strategies - while we had prepped for a 1:51 (8:30 pace) she confessed she really wanted to try to go under 1:50.  I talked her through it - she DEFINTELY had the talent to do it, and it depended on weather, nutrition, pacing, etc.  I told her to go for that 8:20 pace and see what happens - to remember that a 1:51, 1:54, or any finish for a first half marathon was amazing, but to shoot for the stars!

I also made a few adjustments to my race plan - I still intended to go out hard and then die, but I decided to bring a little magic to the game with me.  Last year when I ran with Ryan , I made a joke that I raced as a ladybug and he went as a "fast runner"  and that his costume was superior to mine.  This year, like a boss, I decided that in lieu of actual race prep, I would go with the magic singlet - yep, I stole his Roadkill top.  (Note - I have a horrible history of racing or running in this guys clothes.  It's kinda weird.  Also note - I can't believe they (mostly) fit me.  Triple note - They have usually netted great results (I raced in his trikit last year at Barrelman and PR'd 18 minutes).  This was cllearly a good plan, right??)

With my fail safe plan, I was encouraged to go sub 1:42 by both Ryan and my coach - one offered up some pricey running goods, one offered up a partner run.  These guys.  I knew I liked them.  Also, one of them has the edge on incentive offering. You decide which.

Once we arrived on site, Lauren and I checked out her brother's new wellness center (he is the one I ran 42 miles with in July) and got down to business.  We got her to the start corral right at 11:45 and she was ready to go!!  I had a half hour to kill, so I did a nice easy warm up.  My calf felt ok (I KT taped it) but I felt kinda flat.  My HR was a bit high for a 9 minute mile, but I finished the warm up and did a few strides and called myself ready to go.  I hit the bathroom, tucked in my gu and mp3 player in my bra, and looked down to see a ton of blood.  WTF?  I didn't feel anything, and after a quick search noticed I'd somehow gouged a big chunk out of my pinky and it was bleeding uncontrollably.  Oh WTF.  This did not bode well.  Greg and I always joke about how even if our quads/feet/calves/shoulders/legs hurt pre race, at least our PINKY is ready to race.

Well, my pink said FU.  Great.  As I was trying to stop the bleeding, I realized that I had, again effed up my pre race nutrition.  In an effort to focus on Lauren's race and my own ambivalence about the event, I ate exactly one bagel and a quarter of my sports drink since waking.  So, 300 calories.  For a 12:15 start time.  Shit.  I slammed a gu, couldn't find any water, said F*ck it (this is a theme) and got ready to go.  Whatever that meant.

At 12:10, they called my corral up.  We trickle started, which meant a runner started every 15 seconds.  I'm pretty sure I screwed up my watch start, but with little fanfare, was off.  

The 12:15 corral was slated for those that hoped to run a 2:30 half, but since I got in the wait list, it was the only option left.  Since I had warmed up, I started right off with a 95% effort and passed people left and right.  This course last year was pretty flat with a few rollers the first 10k, hilly miles 6-9.5, then flat to mostly downhill to the end.  Last year we had a headwind for the last 10k - this year the headwind was on the first 10k (though, to be fair, I'm not sure we ever got a tailwind.  Thanks, 2020!) The first mile definitely felt tough, but they usually do.  I hit mile 1 in 7:16 and then encountered my first aid station.  I learned really quickly you couldn't run through these (damn) so I stopped got water, drank it, and was off again.  Protocol for the LT test had me hitting the lap button ten minutes in, but I screwed it up and hit lap in 12 minutes.  Whoops.  At this point I was running uphill, and was now supposed to go 100% effort.  Well, that worked until I found a friend on course (actually, she recognized my ass as I passed her, which I'll take as a compliment).  Smart Rae would have kept going.  IDGAF Rae stopped mid LT test and ran back to say hello. While I can't regret it, I think I knew at this point that my head had said "nope" to this whole race.  I managed to finish the LT test and hit mile 4 in 31:xx, which was actually horrible time for me.  Alright.  I let go of a 1:42 right there and aimed for a 1:45. Hit a GU at mile 5 and kept truckin'.

The next 3 miles were pretty uneventful.  I was clocking in 7:45-8:00 miles without much effort and passing people.  No one seemed super amped to be running and being in the wrong corral, I was doing a lot of passing.  (I got passed exactly once in this whole race by a dude that was also in the wrong corral).  Honestly, this didn't help my mental state a ton.  It just...didn't feel like a race.  Hit mile 7 in 55 and change and the uphill portion started.  I ended up leap frogging with a guy here - he was trying to pace 9 minute miles and we were running 8:30's.  There was a little back and forth at the beginning, but I ended up pacing him through mile 10, probably a bit slower than I would have run, but again, my motivation was somewhere back in Webster (maybe?)  Miles 9-9.5 I had the dreaded "dead leg" feel and this was my slowest mile in 9:41.  I'm not sure what happened here.  I stopped for a GU to try to rev up, but I honestly debated walking the rest of the race in.  Jogged it to mile 10 and then realized we finally had a tail wind.  Hit mile 10 in 1:21:45 and change and realized that I could probably hit a 1:46-1:47 which would stupidly be a course PR. It wasn't too far of my 1:45 goal, but in my head, I knew I was totally phoning the whole thing in. At this point, I decided against running by time and just tried to enjoy it.  I looked up at that point and saw all the color on the trees....the prefect 45 degree day and....

Nope.  Nothing.  Here I was, out, RACING in 2020.  My calf was a little sore, but not hurt.  I was in fine shape.  My head just did not want to be there.  Guys.  You know me.  I'm the one sailing at mile 12 of a half ironman run with a dopey grin on my face.  So happy to be there.  Out like a shot any time I can run.  LOVE IT.  And there was NOTHING.  NADA.  This was not good.  Not good at all.

I got a little pep in my step at mile 11.5 when my kid's "Among Us" theme song  (yeah, I know, my music rocks) and I got a little smile on my face.  I played it on repeat and managed to somewhat salvage the last two miles.  I ran it out to the finish in 1:46:58, a 90 second PR on a shit day.  Nowhere near what I hoped to accomplish, but alright.

Post race I caught up with a few fellow triathletes and we discussed the day (both also had tough days on the course but finished strong - and Bert (R) is the RD for a new tri series in Wyoming County, which I'm pretty sure I committed to in 2021.  Welp.  Sure, why not? :-D

I also found Lauren, who CRUSHED the race in 1:48:51.  She was all smiles and shivers, and I am so incredibly proud of her.  Not only did she slay it, but she followed the race plan to perfection, which led to pretty perfect splits and effort.  She is a coaches dream.  (Perhaps I should start listening to the stuff I spew.  Though, to be fair, my "plan" was different.)

The field was really tough this year - neither of us placed in our Age group (I would have needed that 1:40 to do so!)but we both shook out in the top 25%, which was great for a first half marathon (Lauren) and for a basically non present athlete (me). I think they did a great job with the whole thing, although I will say that this just didn't feel like a race to me.  The trickle start, masks at start and finish, lack of post race anything, and DIY aid stations that were impossible to run through were a little tough.  I say this with no criticism at all - the presence of an on site event is always awesome, this just didn't feel like a race, where Cassdagaman did.

Post race we hung out at Lauren's, ate pizza (with pineapple - her son has good taste!) and plotted out her 2021 list of goals.  Seriously, that girl is going places.  I am so incredibly excited to have a front row seat.

And for me?  I don't know.  I drove home Saturday night in a weird spot.  I knew I was incredibly off, and the drive home gave me time to ponder it.  Here's the thing.  Despite whatever my race goal was....I had a huge problem.  I don't much mind running for a PR...running for a fun run...running to pace someone.  But not only did I have absolutely no goal for EVL, I forgot the most important piece of gear an athlete can have.  I left my heart and my head at home....(or somewhere....they have been missing for a week or so....if you find them, I'm happy to offer a reward!)

  The body follows the mind - if your mind doesn't give your body a good reason to go....it won't.  It didn't matter that I was probably in decent shape to run a solid effort (that 1:42 was more than doable).  I didn't have the heart to do it.  Two days later,  still don't feel like running.  My body is feeling fine - my legs were a bit sore post race but after a post race shower and trigger point rolling, they felt fine.  I could have run yesterday, no problem.  My calf even seems to be fine.  So I'm in a new spot.  I haven't "not felt like a run" in five years.  Usually my coach is issuing direct threats for me to take a few days off.  This time....I'm fine with it.  I'm fine with a week off.  I'm fine with not getting out there.  I'm "fine".


And that's just not good.  So, I have some work to do.  I would have taken a few days off anyways post race, and maybe this is just a little "blah" spot to work through.  Or maybe it's not.  Either way, I'm slated to start Ironman training in two weeks, so this is now the time to pull my shit together and figure it out.

I'm lucky enough to have a great support system to do so.  My husband is unfailingly there for me and listened as I vented for for hours Saturday night without the slightest judgement.  My coach did the same yesterday.  Both are concerned and allowing me to the "unfiltered Rae" - the one that's raw, real, and doesn't always make sense, but is authentic. I also have some pretty great friends, two of which stepped in and offered exactly what I needed post race without even knowing the state I was in.  They gave me hope and something to look forward to, something that's sorely lacking this year.  I love you guys. More on that to come.

So....not the race report you are used to.  But the one that happened.  And with every race, I always learn something, and this was no exception.  Am I sorry I did it?  Nope.  I got to see my friend and athlete slay her first half marathon, and that was priceless.  But I forgot to bring Rae with me - the Rae that loves running and is always amped to jump into a fun run, workout, race, or anything.  and I needed her this weekend.  But....I'll find her again.  I always believe that the tough stuff is what makes you stronger- its easy to kick ass when everything is going right.  I'll be back.  Watch out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

BIZ IS FIVE!

Well, I don't even know where to begin.  A ginormous thank you to all of those that read my last post, signed up to follow, and sent comments.  You guys are the greatest and I look forward to filling your feed with mildly amusing and "keeping it real" info on all things triathlon and running.

But, as the title of the blog suggests, I try to balance all that stuff with the other "real world" things - family, friends, work, and "life".  And one of my biggest parts of me is my kids, of course!

Its crazy how time flies.  One moment you're dreaming of kids....then they spend about 5 seconds in your arms and are off, exploring the world.  As many say the days are long and the years are short, and I cant even believe that my baby....my biz....is a big five years old!  I blinked, guys.  I just blinked.

Well, ready or not, here Biz comes!  This crazy five year old is full of energy, sass, verve, DGAF, and all the cuteness in the world that makes people love all over here regardless.  She's....me....god help this world.  And I love her to tiny bits and pieces and have no idea how I called my world whole until she arrived!  To The BIZ!  Let's talk about you at 5....


Size - 43 pounds.  You have such a healthy appetite, my queen.  You are totally a savory girl - you love burgers, chicken, pasta/any kind of noodles, and potatoes.  You are borderline on sweets but love pretzels, goldfish and chocolate cake.  You equally adore broccoli and any kind of fruit.  You love to bake with mommy and make an excellent "soup" (coffee grounds, pepper, chicken stock, and goldfish crackers, anyone??)

Likes: You still adore the color pink.  Anything Elsa from frozen.  You are now into Minecraft hardcore and love TNT (god help us).  You love playing with LOL dolls, your barbies (girlfriends) and any kind of art.  You love being active - basketball, riding bikes, running, anything.  You LOVE dance parties and know all the words to "Savage" (ummmm, I'm a good mom).  You have about six boyfriend at any given time and plan to marry Vinnie someday (I like his mom.  Its ok.  Don't tell your Dad though.) 

Dislikes: Cooked celery.  Going to bed.  Being told No.  Peanut butter (you little weirdo).  You don't have many, but are very adamant about when something doesn't suit you.  You'll be a great cop one day (your new career ambition). 

Sleep: You're pretty good at this, but when you wake up in the middle of the night, you need snuggles!  You're an excellent snuggler and I'll be honest, sometimes when Daddy snores too much I'll come in your room and snuggle up with you and pass out.  Love me Biz snugs!

Eating: See above.  You love food so much!  I swear you eat more than I do sometimes - its really neat to watch.  Your favorites are turkey burgers, noodles and french fries.

Milestones/Firsts
:
Kindergarten!  You began your new school Klem North two days before your birthday.
Counting to 100, basic adding and subtracting, writing your name - You are awesome at this!
Dance Class - You started ballet class last winter and love it....my tiny dancer!


Best Moment: 
Oh baby girl, watching you b
ust out with all of your little "Biz"isms is just epic.  I love our dance parties to "Savage" and "Pieces" with cooking spoons as mics.  Doing Mommy Biz yoga (you are good!), playing with girlfriends (dolls) and our nighttime snuggle fests and Mommy singing your bedtime song "So In Love" (Tenerife Sea by Ed Sheeran).  Cooking and Baking together - Sunday pancakes are your fave. Really, it's the everyday wonder I see as you explore, sweetie.  I am so damned lucky to be your mommy and to see you experience the world full on!

Looking Forward to:  The world as it comes our way.  This year has been such a series of ups and downs....being 2020, nothing is certain but things being unplanned and by the seat of our pants, and you bring enthusiasm, love, and a spirit of adventure no matter what we do - your BIZZINESS and sweet nature make every day a day I am grateful to be part of your world and to be your Mommy.  I LOVE YOU!!




Thursday, September 10, 2020

Cassadagaman 2020: The Amazing Race

Well, THAT escalated quickly.

Like most of my racing stories, this one started rather innocently with some healthy grousing about the lack of 2020 races.  As I've said several times, I'm aware that not being able to race this year has been a first world problem, but I also know that I can, in fact, mourn the loss of "normal" as long as it's in proper perspective.  And as someone that's spent every summer since 2005 with triathlon on the brain (yes, even through my two pregnancies!) 2020 in terms of my "swim, bike, run" play was severely lacking.  I was lucky enough to be able to start training again with some of my buddies - many rides with The Boy, a few with the Banter, and a great training week with the Outlaw.  But. No. Races.

You see where this is going.  Last month, a somewhat local triathlon club/coach put on a sprint and Olympic distance event - I debated signing up, but something stopped me.  Was a COVID race going to be anywhere near the same as a "normal" race?  I had no idea.  I decided against the race.  I found out afterwards it was run rather well and the few people I knew that did it really enjoyed it.  Seed planted.

On August 23rd, I was supposed to be racing in my fourth Ironman, at Mt. Tremblant.  Instead of racing, I met up with the Banter and did a long ride (oddly fitting, as we both were supposed to be "Ironmanning".)  Well, it was supposed to be a long ride. But it's 2020, right??  Instead we had a mechanical at mile 10 and ended up fixing it and sitting in a park for three hours discussing life and then riding home.  I was interested in seeing how I would handle a 50 miler.  Instead, I got some perspective about the rest of my season and of course, life.  (Seriously, how did I get so lucky to have this guy as a friend and coach??)  Post ride, I immediately began thinking about my 2021 goals and how I might get a jump on those...once again, reshuffling my 2020 "season".  That Friday, I met up with my buddy Fred and did the 50 mile ride then. More seeds planted. 

So, the same tri club that put on the sprint and Olympic race in August was doing a Half Ironman on September 5th - the Inaugural "Cassadagaman".  It featured 4000 feet of climbing on the bike (harder than a loop of Placid) and almost 1000 on the run (ditto).  My 50 mile bike that I had just completed had 1700 ft of "climbing".  I had run, um, 13 miles a few times this year.  This was doable, right?

As a precursor to most of my recent bad decisions in life, I immediately called up the Outlaw, who has plenty of experience talking me into horrible ideas.  I ran it by him and he pointed out the cat 4 hills on the course, the timeline, and general idiocy of such a decision to race.  Followed up by, of course, he was in to do it.  Excellent.  So, with five days to spare, we both hit the "register" button and were committed (in more ways than one?)  First race since January 1, which was a 7.5 mile run.  First tri of the season.  A hilly Half Ironman.  What could possibly go wrong?? (So very 2020, no?)

Me and the Outlaw.  Intelligent decisions are not our forte, but we are fun!

With five days notice, I made the quick choice to control what I could: I would gain no benefit whatsoever with any more last minute training.  So I set up a very abbreviated taper, focused on rest, hydration, and nutrition (which in general, I suck at).  Of course, it was the last week of summer and the weekend before my daughter's birthday party, as well as our busiest season at work.  Which means my five days of rest comprised of menu planning for a party of twenty, shopping, gift wrapping, school shopping, and enough Zoom meetings at work to choke a small country (I did ask for a few 3am meetings.  They thought I was kidding.  I...wasn't).  Somehow, it all got done, including last minute snafus with bike brakes and a few training glitches. I managed to pack for the race (why do tris always require enough crap for a week vacation??) , and Friday afternoon I ventured out toward Cassadaga to meet up with the Outlaw and plan my last will and testament do a little course recon.


Packet pick up was super super easy and we checked out the lake first.  Flat, beautiful, and with almost no swims this year, 2000m would not be fast, but it would be fun!  The bike was....uh....yeah.  We drove the two looped course with careful attention to directions (marked well), road quality (meh) and hills.  We felt it was TOTALLY doable until about mile 4 when the WTF settled in.  The hills were pretty gnarly and never ending.  I had some race goals in mind - a 40:00 swim, a 3:15 bike and a 2:00 run - for an overall time of hopefully under 6 hours.  This was by far not anywhere close to my PR of 5:18, but with the elevation and my lack of distance training, seemed maybe doable.  Then we got to the run course.  They say what goes up must come down but I seriously think that adage doesn't apply in Cassadaga.  The 13.1 miles was clearly more like 20 miles (perhaps in 2020 20 is the new 13.1?) and I was quite confident that there were no downhills.  FUN.  But hey, YOLO, and even though we knew we were gonna die, we would go down swinging.

My new boyfriend, Aero.  Clearly I need more of him in my life!

Post course recon, we headed back to the Outlaw's house about an hour away.  I hadn't hung out with him in over a month, so my idea of a fun vacation is to go to PA for a night then do a half Ironman.  I'm not that bright.  But we knew that.  We washed his bike, ate dinner, chatted about all things tri and life, and I tried to steal his cat.  I think it almost worked.  He digresses. Clearly, I'll have to go back to prove my point on this.  

Race morning dawned super early, as always.  I think I slept about two hours and had the weirdest dreams.  We showered, grabbed breakfast, and were on the road by 445, to the race site by 545.  We got body marked (OMG some normalcy....though it was weird to say I was 38....we joked that in 2020, did anyone actually age up??), hit the potty about a dozen times, and fumbled our way through transition set up.  I swear I forgot how to do this, and the whole placed buzzed with nervous, excited energy.  The field was capped at 150 and due to COVID, we had to wear masks but had plenty of bike space!!  We shivered, checked tires, tried to drink Gatorade, caught up with a few friends, then headed to the lake for a quick dip.  Which was a HUGE mistake.  The water felt great and then we were directed out and back to transition for a pre race meeting where we turned to ice cubes.  The outlaw, myself and our buddy Zach joked about doing a relay - Zach swimming, the outlaw biking and me running.  Pity that one fell through, but after a rousing pre race pep talk by the RD (this guy was already awesome in my books - you could see the attention to detail and love for the sport in everything he did.  I met him for 5 minutes the day before and he knew my name already - he also gave a spectacular pre race prep with an athlete guide and youtube videos of the course).  This was the INAUGURAL race and one of the few 70.3's in the country in 2020....holy crap.  We were making history.  IF we survived.

Swim - 33:58 (1:47/100yd)
We hit the water just before 8am in our little spermy caps (dubbed by the Outlaw).  The men went off at 8:00 and the women at 8:03.  Before I knew it, I was treading water, watch poised and we heard GO!  And we were off.  The first few minutes were a bit crazy (I seed myself aggressively, as I can handle the swim scrum) and about 300m in, we started to settle in.  There was one woman right to my right, and we managed to trade leads for most of the swim - swimming right next to her the whole time and for the most part, breathing and arms in sync.  This never happens to me and it was kinda fun tradiing the pull with her - I hoped I wasn't being annoying but it felt awesome.  My watch beeped 500m in, which seemed to take about 5 years and I thought "Holy crap, what the hell am I doing - how am I going to last 70.3 miles???  I'm not trained for this".  Then I told my brain to shut up and enjoyed the water.  The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful - it was pretty seaweedy (spa experience) and about halfway through I remembered that I forgot to set my garmin varia and made a note to do so in T1.  I peed about four times (sorry) and before I knew it, I spotted the swim exit.  Hit the mat in 33:58 (OMG WHAT?) and realized quickly the swim was a bit short - but I smashed my goal of 40:00 and I started to think maybe I could pull off this sub 6 (uh, cause this was TOTALLY the time to decide that with five plus hours to go) as I headed for my bike!

Bike: 3:20:12 (16.8 mph)
I'll definitely admit my transitions suffered with lack of racing!  I felt slightly drunk as I grabbed all my bike crap, thankfully remembered to turn on my Garmin varia (car detector) and then stuck my feet in my bike shoes, to find out I had left hair ties in them.  Oops.  That wouldn't be fun for 3 hours!  Shook em out, ran my bike to the mount line, and was off!  

I noticed right away I had water in my left ear, so I shook it out....no go.  Eff.  This made hearing cars interesting, but luckily I have a little detector that beeps when one passes, so it was all good.  I felt a little off, but I laughed to myself and said, welp, maybe this is your issue on the bike!  I can handle that.  The first 5 miles passed rather quickly - I drank, slammed a gel, and kept mind to spin out at 85 rpms as much as possible.  With the rolling hills that made for a LOT of shifting, but since I've spent plenty of time working on just that, I felt good.  We hit the first hill about mile 5 and as I ascended I thought...well, this isn't too bad.  I selected an easier gear (YES IN THE SMALL CHAIN RING) and spun up as I heard.....gunshots? in the background.  OMFG.  Hunters on the course?  I was legit freaked out and then talked myself into a positive light....hey, just gotta get out of here quicker!  The last part of the uphill was a left turn that was unmanned and very gravelly, so I took it easy and then geared down for a nice speedy descent.

Except...holy hell.  In my quest to survive the uphills, I forgot I would have some speedy descents!  My coach warned me yesterday and brought up my lack of balls descending skills on the bike, and it bit me in the butt here.  I feathered the brakes a bit, hit 46 instead of 55, and was back on the road.  I was passed by a few people here and then gained back on them on the next flats and hills.  One rider from the Cleveland Tri club who I dubbed "Cleveland" cause I'm clever like that, leapfrogged with me the whole bike - we would yell out CLEVELAND! or ROCHESTER! as we passed each other (I later found out she was the woman I swam with, and she loved it - we are now Facebook BFF's and probably will announce our wedding next year :-P)

The next 5-6 miles were pretty uneventful, except for a small downhill where a deer ran out in front of me and scared the crap out of me - I knew where there is one deer, there are usually more, so I slowed and thankfully had no Bambi crashes.  Then we hit the big hill.  Holy mother of anything I have ever climbed.  I tried in vain to find a smaller gear.  No luck.  At this point, the rain (WHAT RAIN) hit, and continued for the next hour.  This cooled us off and wasn't an issue on the uphill, but the twisty downhill portion was another story, and while I wasn't white knuckling, I certainly gave away some speed in my lack of descending skill in the rain.  The last major hill of the loop (the course was a 2 looper - 28 miles each) was on a four lane highway, where I was SUPER glad to have my varia.  Traffic was actually pretty decent for a Saturday morning and this road had plenty of Semis.  Finished loop one in just under 1:40 and I realized my 3:15 bike split was a little iffy.  I took the first loop really easy, but without a doubt this was a much harder course than Placid (and later verified by the pro that did it as the hardest 70.3 she had ever done).  

Loop two was pretty uneventful save for the end of the rain and the beginning of the winds.  There were pretty decent winds at about 15 mph that never ended up being tailwinds, and a few gusts that blew me all over the road.  Thankfully, again having a device that alerted me to cars was a lifesaver, and I remembered to "play" with the wind a bit.  Nonetheless, I didn't descend very well with a crosswind, and need to work on that.  I'm also quite confident the RD inflated the hills the second time around (such a party trick!) and I debated getting off my GD bike and walking the big hill.  But, I'm stubborn ....errrr....tough.  So I gutted it out.  I took care to drink and to take in nutrition, and will say that I have never fueled so well in a race or shifted as well, either.  My legs felt the hills, but I cruised into T2 with a 3:20 bike split after 4000 feet of climbing and basically covering all the seasons in one ride.  Hey, its 2020 right?  I dismounted my bike without incident (I actually got a compliment on my smooth dismount, which, frankly, I would like in writing next time, as we know my history of falling on my ass in T2)....and headed out for my FAVORITE part, the run! 

Run: 1:56:59 (8:48)

I saw my buddy Cleveland as I headed out to the course and we fist bumped.  I knew how hilly this course was so my plan was to average 9 minute miles for a 2 hour run split - to walk the uphills and run the flats and downs.  I took off at an easy pace and found another member of the Cleveland Tri club about a quarter mile in - she told me I was her "Beacon of Light" on the bike with my varia, and we talked about how cool they were and how much fun this race was, even with the hills.  She urged me on and since my pace was a bit faster, I went with it, wishing her luck.  Hit mile 1 in 8:48 which seemed about right, and with aid stations every mile, I decided to do water at each station and go for a gel every half hour or so.  My stomach was feeling good and legs not too bad!  I checked my watch and saw that a 2:01 run split would keep me under 6 hours, but there was no sense in projecting anything until at least mile 7, so I shelved that and went off effort.  

I came across a runner about a mile and a half in that looked legit like he was dancing down the course - he ran on his toes and made it look effortless.  We chatted for a minute or two and I told him how awesome he looked - since the course was three out and backs (all different branches) we saw each other six times and the name "Twinkle Toes" stuck.  I managed miles 2-4 at about an 8 minute mile - probably too fast but stuck to my run/walk really well from mile 2 on.  I counted three women in front of me and was gobsmacked to be in 4th place - WHAT??  They were all pretty far ahead of me so I had no ideas of snagging third, but it definitely reminded me that with a sick bike split, I would be in contention.  2021 goals, baby.  I'm working on it!

At mile 5, the massive hills hit.  There were a few women behind me that were definitely ones that could catch me, but I ran my own race - joked with the volunteers about possibly knocking down some hills, power walked the steep parts, and kept in a steady flow of water and gu. I joked with anyone that would talk to me, and made a bunch of new friends on the course.  I was told countless times how happy I looked (yeah, I know, that's about right) but I was struck by how freaking lucky I was to be out there - even though this course played to none of my strengths, I was not trained for it, and I hurt - I was so. damned. lucky. to be out here, doing what I love.  And I just kept grinning like a silly girl.  I didn't care.  This was what it was all about.

The next 5 miles averaged about an 8:45-9:00 mile, save for a huge hill at mile 8, and then mile 11 as well.  I got passed by one woman here - the only person that passed me on the run.  With two miles to go, I was sitting at 5:35 and I figured a sub 6 was totally in the bag.  I kicked it in for the last mile, passed the final aid station who called out I was 5th and looked "Frickin fabulous!" and to go catch the boys.  Well, sure.  I can do that.  Hit mile 13 in 1:53 and realized the course was kinda long, but hey, extra mileage for my dollars!  I sped up and saw the Outlaw ahead who yelled out "RAE, when are you gonna RUN???"  Eff you, Outlaw, I'm running a 6 minute mile.  I flipped him the bird (yes, we got this on video) and ran it in for a 5:55:42 finish!

Post Race

Post race I caught up with my buddies, new and old.  The Outlaw crushed his goal and came in at 4:52:xx and told me all about his splits (calm down, buddy, let me breathe LOL).  I gave him a GIANT hug as he came in 4th overall!  Our buddy Zach came in under 7 hours, which was also his goal!


While I missed the podium, I came in 5th woman and the Outlaw and I both won our Age Groups - sweet!  I chatted with the Cleveland Tri Club (I think I'm an honorary member now) hung out for awards, snarfed a cheeseburger, and headed home.  

While I had a few thoughts about things I could have done better (descending, aero) overall I am super pleased with this race.  MY twelve day triathlon season of 2020 was a success!  My two goals were to go under 6 hours at a tough course and not be able to walk the next day.  Both achieved.  Winning.  The outlaw and I joked that we must be on a 2020 race streak, as we both raced New Year's day and then now. Apparently that means I'm in for two more half marathons and a half Ironman.  Well....we will see :-)

As far as Cassadagaman, I will say, hands down, this was an amazing race.  It featured every element you could imagine, with every kind of weather.  The course was gorgeous, the people friendly, the RD amazing.  I also hands down endorse any race run by Mark Wilson, the RD.  His love and excitement is infectious (can we even say that during a pandemic???) and he gave me something I won't forget....a beacon of hope in 2020.  A small moment of "normal".  A chance to swim, bike, run and play with my friends.  A MUCH needed stress relief.  And all in one weekend.  THANK YOU!