A week of quiet

I love this week every year. After the parties, travelling, food, drinks, and general wonderful chaos that comes with the holidays, I love the quiet week in between Christmas and the New Year. It's a good time to reflect, and for me, it's also a good time to jump back on the exercise bandwagon.

This has been an interesting year for me. As far as racing goes, it was great. I set a new PR in the 1/2 marathon and 70.3. I knocked a few items off my bucket list, including run naked, average over 20 mph in a 70.3 and finished two adventure races. I started mountain biking and got to watch John finish his first triathlon and talk with several old friends back in WI while they did their first triathlon. I bought my first carbon fiber road bike. For Christmas, I got snowshoes, a Camelback, and a compass. It was a good year.

On a more personal level, it was much more "interesting". I lost a close friend in June. It was the first person I lost that I was close to and who had a profound impact on my life. My dad lost his job and health insurance. My mom picked up a second job. My oldest niece (at the age of 5) is being bullied. One friend started having heart problems and another close friend was diagnosed with cancer. Other than my parents, all these people are 36 or younger. My brothers have had their own challenges and I've had my own personal struggles. It was a challenging year.

I'm ready to leave 2010 behind me. PRs are great, but I will gladly sacrifice all the PRs in my future if that will guarantee good health and happiness to the people I love. I always thought those wishes were empty, like a sales clerk saying "Have a nice day." But now I meant it sincerely to everyone around me:

I wish you nothing but love and happiness, good fortune and great health in 2011.


Christmas Lights Run 2010

It's that time of year again! Time for another Christmas Lights Run!! This year, I'm sticking close to home. A couple friends are meeting John and me tomorrow to run about 6 miles through Mission Hills. We're starting from the Blue Moose. If you're a local and you want to see some great lights, here' the route we're using.
John and I drove it tonight and it's pretty darn good. The highlight of the route: George Brett's house and the spectacular tree. The highlight after the route: $1.50 beer night at the Moose!


Next big race

You're thinking Rocky Raccoon, right? Well, my weekend started off with a chilly 11 mile run on Saturday morning. I had plans to do another 13 today, but between the weather and last night's activities, I decided it was a good day to stay in my sweats.

What was last night's activities, you ask? Well, here's a hint:

That's not a dentist chair. Still not sure? Here's another shot:

It's not finished, so I'm not going to post any other pics just yet. Once it's done I'll do before, during, and after shots. But if you're wondering, I was sitting in the chair for longer than I was running yesterday. All I can say so far is AWESOME.
I really hate to say this, but I probably won't be running Rocky. I started another kind of training this weekend, studying for the SE or structural engineering licensure exam. Another reason I wasn't outside today was I was parked at the kitchen table studying. After 4 short hours of studying, I realized that I have a whole lot of information to cover before April 8. While that may sound like a long time, I know that I don't have enough time to train for a 50 miler and properly study for this exam at the same time. That might mean a $75 race entry fees goes down the drain, but I've already put more than that into this test and I haven't even paid my registration fees yet. So, I don't think Rocky is going to happen for me this year.

The saddest part of this picture is that I only have half of the design codes books here that I'm required to have for the test and that doesn't include the personal references and text books that are allowed. I still need to figure out how I'm going to get all of this into the exam sight. I'm thinking a little red wagon.


Castlewood 8-Hour Adventure Race Report

I don't even know where to start on this one. I raced with a guy named Jake in the 2-person co-ed division as Wahoo 2, but we were actually racing with Wahoo, a 4-person co-ed team. The plan was to stick together, so I told Josh, Wahoo's navigator, that he was making all the calls and I was just along for the ride. Too many cooks spoil the pot.

So then there were six. Other than SF, I didn't know any of my teammates, which was a little unnerving since I was going to be spending all day with them out in the woods. Oh well, I thought it would be interesting no matter what, and I still believe that an 8-hour race is good training for a 50 mile ultra. Did I mention that I was racing with a sinus cold which just happened to move into my chest the day before the race? I am a snot-rocketing machine!

OK, so the race. We parked at the finish and were taken by bus to the start at a different park. They could have used a few more porta potties. I don't actually know what time we started or what time we finished. This course was a little different than Smithville in that almost all of the CPs could be done in any order. Since there is usually a bottleneck at the first CP, we decided to go to #5 first.

The race started and we took off. Josh was moving fast, and I was working hard to keep him in my sight. SF was just ahead of me and one of the Jasons passed me. I looked back, but I didn't see the other two guys. So I walked. Still nothing. Crap. I yelled ahead to get the rest to stop. The other two guys missed the turnoff and followed the main pack to CP #1 so we had to backtrack to find them. Not a good way to start the race at all.

We got the first orienteering section with no other problems and headed for the first paddle. I had taken off my fleece since we were running pretty hard and I didn't put it back on. Big mistake. I was freezing by the time we made it to the first bike section. It didn't help Jake dropped his paddle in the water and I had to pull it out for him.

Back on land, I put my fleece back on, put my heavy MTB gloves on and tried to warm up. There were teams everywhere on the bike trails going in every direction. We lost two of the guys again. Crap. We waited at an intersection until we found everyone. By this point, I think we all knew any chance of finishing well had flown out the window and it became a race to finish and not freeze. This MTB section was pretty tame, boring almost. We hit all the CPs and headed back to the canoes.

This is where is gets interesting. We had to put both of our bikes in the canoe with us and paddle to the next orienteering section. We took off and Jake and I got ahead of our leader and almost missed a CP that was in a back channel off the river. We navigated through some downed trees and other obstacles and made good time. At this point, paddling was still fun.

The sun started to peak out during the first paddle, but then changed its mind. There was no sun, only clouds and wind followed by more clouds and more wind. We'd work up a sweat only to freeze the next time the wind blew. You had to keep moving.

The last orienteering section was brutal. Hills and bluffs are an understatement. We were trekking into and out of 200-300 ft steep ravines. Everyone was getting tired and a couple of the guys were having knee issues. Team dynamics were... let's just say sketchy. It was probably good Shelley and I were there to buffer a little of the tension.

We had to hop back into our bike-laden canoes and paddle to the final bike section. The paddle never seemed to end! Then, Jake and I were on an open section of water when a huge gust of wind hit us broadside and the canoe tipped. Holy shit! We had two bikes tied to the canoe, if it tipped over, we were screwed. We held on and then wind calmed down but our hearts were racing. OK, paddling isn't fun anymore. I couldn't feel my finger tips and I was having a hard time gripping the paddle. I just wanted to be warm. I started daydreaming about warm, cheesy pasta.

SF and I were so cold after the last paddle that we put our rain jackets on as a wind breaker for the last bike. This section included carrying our bikes up a huge stair and some major descents over loose rocks. We hit all our points and headed for the finish.

We finished in 8:50 and we were glad to be done. We did make it back in time to get some of the free beer at the finish, always a priority. It was a great experience and a gorgeous and challenging course. I'm really looking forward to getting a mountain bike of my own. But in all honesty, it might be the last cold-weather AR I do for a while.

Afterwards, we went out for Italian and I had the best penne alla vodka con mare I've ever tasted. I slept like a baby that night.


Cycle City Spin

My husband is an earth-hugging hippie under all of his engineering-ness. So I wasn't surprised when he bought an indoor composter and put it in our garage. It's working great! I was surprised, however, how unpleasant the smell can be. Which means the garage is no longer my winter haven for spinning. That's OK, I'm not too bummed about it since spinning by yourself in the garage at night is not exactly the most enjoyable workout in the world.

After buying my Felt and keeping in touch with the guys up at Cycle City, I decided to drop in on their Wednesday night spin last night. I'm sure I'll spend some time in the garage, I'm just hoping not 3 times a week.

I'll be honest - I was kinda sand-bagging it last night. I'm trying to kick the last of this stupid sinus cold and I'm racing on Saturday, so I didn't want to go all out and pay for it dearly. But I had a blast. There were 17 people there total, good music and it was a good set. Actually, I was a little disappointed when we finished after an hour - I wanted to keep going! I think the one-legged drills were the most interesting for me - clearly something I can benefit from.

I'm hoping to make the Wednesday night a weekly thing and I'd like to make it to the occasional Monday night ride, too. It sure beats my (stinky) garage.