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A battlefield finish

Day 4:   Bicycling from Elizabethtown, NC to Moores Creek National Battlefield
40ish miles — and bonus points for headwinds

The fourth and final day of our East Coast Greenway WAY (Week-A-Year) tour, cut short due to Hurricane Matthew began at the Corner Cafe in the heart of Elizabethtown.  A cafe that is open “All Day” according to the neon sign on the window, or just until 2 PM according to the fine print.  We were certain to be done with breakfast before 2 PM.

Continue reading A battlefield finish

Wine’ing down

Day 3:   Bicycling from Fayetteville, NC to Elizabethtown, NC
43ish miles — and who’s really counting when there’s so much to see?

The third day of the East Coast Greenway WAY (Week-A-Year) tour began with breakfasts piled high with ham and bacon and a side of bacon fat with fresh steamed or raw vegetables a distant memory (unless you carried your own).  With Hurricane Matthew dominating the news and expected to take out the Eastern seaboard from Florida to North Carolina, many cyclists who lived along the coast or needed to take care of business went off in separate directions.  Those cyclists who were left behind were grateful for the chance to ride another day.  And a half.      Continue reading Wine’ing down

Hogs, Logs and Miles

Day 2:   Bicycling from Smithfield, NC to Fayetteville, NC
70ish miles — and who invited Hurricane Matthew to the Carolina coast?

The second day of the East Coast Greenway WAY (Week-A-Year) tour began with new routines and new grooves setting in.  The pre-ride routine included two trips (maybe more) to drag your luggage and bicycle from your room to the lobby.  Bonus points were earned for not spilling your cup of Joe.   If you made it to the lobby without losing Joe, you treated yourself to a sit-down in the lobby lounge, chatting with bike mates, and planning your departure time for the day’s ride.  Minutes are ticking, and it’s time to keep moving, so you find your way to the luggage truck to hoist your bag onboard — a bag that has mysteriously doubled in weight — and discover there is still time for more socializing.   You then grab a tire pump, one that puts more than 40 pounds of air pressure in your tires, and quickly realize you’ll be riding a lot faster today with air in your tires.   A long glare at your bicycle seat followed by a quick request of the saddle gods to be kind, and your group-du-jour of riders — with bright visibility lights flashing — are ready to cycle on. Continue reading Hogs, Logs and Miles

Transitions

Day 1:   Bicycling from Raleigh, NC to Smithfield, NC
42.5ish miles — or more depending on bonus miles & wrong turns

The first day of the East Coast Greenway WAY (Week-A-Year) tour began in downtown Raleigh with nearly 40 cyclists jones’n to get on their bicycle legs.   Many drove double-digit hour-long car rides, tipping the scales of 70 mph speed limits for the right to transition to a pace that resembled something much slower.  Cycling at touring speeds, with the winds at your back if you were lucky.   A pace that averaged 10-12 miles per hour once you factored in the stops – that were many, especially on day one. Continue reading Transitions

The technology behind the cue sheet

Paper Cue Sheets
Paper Cue Sheets

4 days and counting:   Bicycling from Bar Harbor ME to Baltimore MD

Prepping for stage 1 (Bar Harbor Maine to Baltimore Maryland)  of our cross-country (north to south) bicycle ride, I have had the opportunity to test drive everything from Adventure Cycling paper maps to electronic GPS devices searching for one piece of gear that would keep our bicycle rides on course.

Now, to be clear, my best bicycle rides are those where I get lost, face off with a little adventure (such out-sprinting a loose dog) and magically end up exactly where I needed to be.  A quick peek at the sun, a few best guesses and a gut feel has worked quite well in navigating my bike and I back to some destination.   The notion of actually ‘needing’ a route, planning a route and trying to follow a route goes against my organic  ‘lets just let it evolve’ grain.   But alas, we will be bicycle touring – with daily destinations, daily mileage goals and legs that will eventually run out of steam.    Continue reading The technology behind the cue sheet

Back on the Saddle

Getting into a bicycle accident, a near miss or experiencing a moment of road trauma, can cause emotional scars that far outlive physical injuries.  As a cyclist, runner and inline skater, I’ve encountered occasional collisions and many near-misses; with cars, trucks, Sunday AM church-goers, squirrels, bucks charging out of the woods, hitting potholes and losing layers of skin, the dreaded biker road wobble at high speed descents, dogs without leashes, cattle crossings, geese crossings, falling trees and have gone airborne after getting nicked in a draft-line.  After each incident, the physical injuries heal (mostly), yet the emotional scars take more work.   Sure, we return to our favorite activity, maybe gently at first, maybe more aware of the potholes, or the lurking dog, but the confidence has been eroded.   And, confidence needs re-calibration in the form of encouragement to make it’s comeback.

Last week, my touring bicycle partner found herself in a nasty cycling accident.   The kind that requires a trip to the hospital ER, but fortunately not the kind that requires any long term stay.   She was bruised from head to toe, her bike trashed.  Her bruises changed color every day, and gradually the body does what it does best.  It heals.  One week later, my touring partner returned to her bike saddle.  Still scarred, still wounded, she returned to the saddle to join me for a 55 mile training ride.  And, I couldn’t be more inspired to be in the company of a true road warrior.   A nod to you Lois as we train for the B2B  (Bar Harbor to Baltimore) bicycle tour – 3 weeks away.

Everybody needs somebody, sometime…

There is nothing quite like a road trip.   A destination of fun.   And an added dose of endorphin’s waiting to be consumed.

Meet Team Virginia Beach – consisting of Team  Support Director – brother Chuck…and exercise obsessed Tri-Sista’s Jill and Jane.   We were prepared for yet another half marathon.  Weekly long runs consisted of 1.5 – 2 hours and yes, we even ran all summer during bouts of intense heat and humidity.   Another half marathon?   Well, this would be a snap.

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Our travels took us on the back roads along Route 17 which was mostly without traffic stress.  Arriving in Virginia Beach – we proceeded to:

  • stimulate the Virginia Beach economy during packet pick up
  • seek food
  • walk the beach and boardwalk
  • realize it is VERY hot here
  • seek A/C at a Sweet Frog chain
  • discover frozen yogurt + toppings has been missing from your diet
  • Google every Sweet Frog chain on the Eastern seaboard

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After walking 40 blocks in the afternoon Virginia Beach heat, we eventually stumbled onto a dinner gem – appropriately named “Eat”.  Simple as that, and anything but.   The food was almost too beautifully prepared to eat, but we did anyway.  And savored every bite!   Life is good on the VA Beachfront!   Back to the hotel for early bedtimes, as we prepare for the Rock n Roll Half Marathon.

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By 5:40AM Sunday morning we were seated on one of the many shuttle buses – to take us from our hotel to the Start line of the 1/2 marathon.   The temperatures didn’t feel too bad at 6AM, tho it was humid.   It would have been great to START the event at 6AM – instead of waiting for the sun to rise by 7AM – but no such luck.   By 6:45AM – we, along with 15,000 other runners were in the corral queue — waiting for the run to get moving.

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Pre-race photo op

Let me just summarize the event before it escalated into high drama:

  • by mile 1 we were drenched with sweat
  • 92% humidity
  • every water station we hydrated and doused with water
  • we body slammed to each hose / water spray along the route
  • discovered it was much cooler running without a running shirt!
  • watched the elite runners (opposite direction) sprint toward the finish
  • make note of the Jamaican band play “Three little birds”  (Everything is gonna be all right)
  • make note of how strong Jill is running
  • do my best to keep up with Jill
  • Fading fast at mile 11
  • couldn’t wait for each water station
  • couldn’t wait for the finish line
  • More Photos!

When the Kenyan runners (winners) admitted the temps were HOT and even THEY were not feeling well in the heat – you have to wonder about your running choices!

Now for the drama.  As I write this blog and reflect on the day, it’s amazing that I didn’t recognize any of the “signs” earlier…I wasn’t drinking nearly enough.  Before or during the event. I was drenched in sweat…and probably lost 5 lbs of water.  I had no juice.   I felt “off”.  When I tried to drink, my stomach immediately cramped.  I just wanted to sit down.

An hour after the finish, preparing to depart from VA Beach, my body had enough.  While waiting in line at the Starbucks with TriSista Jill, having not hydrated since mile 11 (due to stomach cramping)…my world suddenly went into a tailspin.    Everything went blurry and I knew I was about to faint, and lowered myself to the floor in the middle of the Starbucks sending my frantic sista-in-law into a whole new level of panic.

This is where so many angels appeared from nowhere.  A mother and her 3 daughters keeping me comfortable…the paramedic, the physician assistant who just happened to be in the crowd, the Starbucks employees and countless others who tended to me while waiting for the EMS team.   When I went into a bout of chills…someone whipped out their beach blanket to cover me.  The ambulance crew of volunteer paramedics arrived and whisked me off to their truck — while I held tight to Jill and Chuck and begged them not to leave me.    Anything and everything medical terrifies me.   After taking a bunch of ‘vitals’ and deciding that I was going to “live”…the paramedics offered me a choice — they could take me to the Runner’s Medical Tent or the local hospital.   I wanted to be with my runner comrades…so off we went.   Jill rode in the ambulance, while Chuck chased us via car.

Unfortunately, the medical personnel would not allow Jill and Chuck in the medical tent.  I was sent to the Runners Medical Tent – and they were assigned to a nearby waiting room tent.  Inside it was like a MASH operation.  I was amazed at all of the medical personnel – one nurse for each bed/patient…and 3 other nurses who worked the needles.  3-4 Physicians were roaming among all of the patients.  Since I was severely dehydrated, they had trouble finding a vein that would accept a needle for IV.  After three excruciatingly painful attempts — they finally got the needle in the vein.   There is a reason why I don’t like medical!!   But today, there was no other option.   Blood work, EKG, IV with all sorts of magic fluid – I received the most amazing care and treatment at the Runners MASH Tent — and all the while receiving updates on Chuck and Jill.  I was repeatedly informed how concerned they were for me….and at one point just broke into tears.   The nurse told me it was a good sign that I could cry — as I was becoming more hydrated.  Then I laughed…and I knew….that the song “3 Little Birds” we heard earlier on route – were meant for me.   Everything was gonna be alright.    Included in the entry fee for the Rock n Roll Marathon – is the medical service they provide.   And the organization of countless volunteers and medical personnel.   I will never complain about an entry fee again.   Everybody needs somebody….sometime.   You never know when…it will be you.  And I couldn’t be more grateful for the angels whom I’ll never see again, and for my angels who never left my side…Jill and Chuck.

All smiles at the podium!

There is a pattern to this fitness madness.   It goes something like this:

  1. Sign up for an event that you are not ready for
  2. Start training for that event way too late
  3. Taper for the event way too early
  4. Carb load when it is not really necessary
  5. Hope that you won’t be the last person crossing the finish line
  6. Throw your biorhythms completely off by getting up at 4am on event day
  7. Setup your transition area with extra food – as if you may be out for the ‘day plan’
  8. Scope the other athletes, and realize no one has an ounce of body fat
  9. Hide your extra food under a towel – as apparently you are the only person obsessed with nourishment
  10. Miss the mandatory race instructions – identifying route changes – cuz you were in the bathroom
  11. And make one more trip to the bathroom with 3 minutes to spare before the event starts

sendoffThere you have it, the Wadsworth Sista-hood each poised on “race” day for our respective Olympic distance events at Fort Richie – located in Cascade, MD.   Sista Jill – would be taking on the Triathlon – which consisted of a 1.5K swim + 40K bike + 10K run, and I would attempt the Duathlon, consisting of a 5K run + 40K bike + 10K run.   We proceeded to get body marked – where your bib number appears on one leg – and your age on the other.  The rationale for broadcasting your private information (age) to a bunch of athletes you’ve never met — is to identify those in your age category – and turn them into your competitors.  Or something like that.

wetsuitjillIn an unusually cool mid-summer morning with the air temperatures ranging from the 60s to low 70s – the water temperature registered at 73 degrees.   Anything below 78 degrees,  makes the swim leg of the triathlon ‘wet suit legal’.  This immediately put Jill in her ‘happy place’.   Wet suit = extra buoyancy = float higher in the water.   It also means that when you look out on the swim course and wonder why they allowed a motor boat to be on the same course with the swimmers, well, that’s no motorboat!   Meet Jill.   More on that in a moment.

The duathlon event started 25 minutes before the TRI.   This gives Jill more time to spend with her pre-race jitters, and gives me a head start on the ‘day plan’.  I lined up with my peeps.  The start whistle blows and the runners sprinted!   I thought this leg was a 5K – and not a 100 yard dash?!   I fought the temptation to sprint (as if I could!) with them, and opted to stay at my pace – slow n steady.   Within the first mile, I had passed a few older men and even a handful of women, but the bulk of the runners were long gone.   And then there was #51…a women.  Someone in my age category.   Someone I did not know.  I scoped her from behind.   I needed to pass her.  I did.   Now I needed to stay ahead of her.  And, suddenly my event that started as the ‘day plan’ turned into an all out competition with some women I’ve never met.

By the time I finished the first run leg – Jill was beginning her swim.  Without a wet suit, Jill swims like a fish with a motor….but WITH a wet suit – she is practically airborne!  The swim course is actually a funky swim-run on land for a tad-swim course.   Basically, the swim course is designed for the shorter Sprint version – so as the sprint swimmers were exiting the lake, the Olympic distance swimmers had to exit too…and then run across the Fort Richie lakefront to the nearest dock…and dive back in again for their second lap.   From the transition area, I thought I heard waves crashing on the shoreline – only to discover later that swim-motor-Jill was burning up the swim course.   She swam the entire distance in an amazing 34 minutes.   I don’t think she even came up for air.

With the 1st leg of the run now over, I managed to have a fast transition onto the bike – and made sure to pack some food and electrolyte jelly beans in my waist pack.   You never know when you’ll get hungry!   I haven’t seen my nemesis #51 – so I wasted no time climbing the first hill away from Fort Richie.

The bike course goes something like this:

  1. Climb this insane hill the moment you exit the Fort
  2. La de da thru a lovely flat wooded section
  3. Notice a big hill ahead of you…and wish you weren’t already in your granny gear
  4. Get to the main road with wide shoulders and descend for miles
  5. Realize that you have to go BACK the way you came…so better enjoy the descent!
  6. Weave off to a 10 mile country farm ride with rolling hills and bumpy roads
  7. Talk to the cows….

And WHAM….#51 BLOWS by me during the rolling hill descent.   I’m no match for her on the downhill – so opt to just keep the girl in my sight.  I’ve started strategizing on catching her on the uphill.   So much for the day plan.

As I return from the 10 mile farm loop toward the main road – I see Jill just beginning this loop and keeping pace with all of the zero-body fat male athletes with the $10,000 bike wheels.   “You go girl” we yell to each other, and I watch momentarily with awe as she keeps up with the boyz at her 100 rpm Tour-de-France cadence.

With Jill outta sight, it’s time to refocus onto #51, who is now within passing distance.   I wait until we reach another climb, in the hopes that she won’t be able to stay with me…and make my pass.  Now I have to stay ahead of her (not sure why?  but I do!) for the 8 mile ascent and return back to the Fort.

Here is what occurs during that final 8 mile ascent into the Catoctin Mountains on the bike course:

  1. You try to stay 1-2 gears above granny – just in case you need her
  2. Pace slows to 8mph
  3. Male athletes with fancy bike wheels pass you as if you were standing still
  4. You get to see all roadkill up front and personal
  5. The ‘day plan’ returns
  6. You try to eat something…but it won’t go down and stays in your cheeks as mush

Back to the transition area, I rack my bike and begin the final leg of the event — the 10K run.  The legs are a bit mushy at first, but within 100 yards – light feet return.   The first mile + of the run is uphill, so I’m breathing heavier than I would like.  No sign of #51 yet, so I have to sustain this pace.  For the final 10K run, we have to do 2 laps on the same course.   This means, as you NEAR the finish line after your first lap…don’t think about it – and turn the other way.   You have another lap to do.  It’s all mental at this point.   Jill had shared with me 4 jelly bean electrolytes – and I had eaten 3 of them during my first lap.   Was holding on to #4 for lap 2.  Turns out that wasn’t the best strategy – as the jelly bean morphed with sweat in my palm – and turned into a sticky mess.   Live n learn!

Still no sign of #51 (i.e. she hasn’t passed me) – so I amped up the pace of the last mile for added assurance – and was happy beyond belief that I had finished before the day was over!    Moments later – I watched Jill finish her first run lap – and begin lap #2.   I’ve never seen Jill with such giddy-up in her run!   She was even smiling and talking – and if you have ever run with Jill before – that is rare!   The run has been her least favorite event — but it seems like for today — she has made friends and peace!   30 minutes later — Jill sprints across the finish line – beating her prior PB in an Olympic Tri!

podiumjanepodiumjill01All the pre-race anxiety was long gone – and there were smiles everywhere.   I met my nemesis #51 – a lovely lady – and we vowed to look for each other in the next event.  As for an added bonus – Jill and I each earned a spot on the podium for our efforts!!   And earned the right to eat whatever we wanted (within limits!) for the rest of the day.

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Historic Half

Notable moments of the Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg VA

  • when the temperatures are hot and humid AND it is raining, it is still hot and humid
  • 10,000 runners + NO wave start is mass chaos at the beginning of the run
  • the run began with a military prayer
  • historic downtown Fredericksburg seemed like a good place to meander
  • I meandered and enjoyed some jazz music along the way
  • one man ran 13.1 miles backwards
  • I barely passed the backwards running man.
  • long slow distance running = fat burn
  • I burned A LOT of fat!
  • canned fruit was served at the finish line
  • I didn’t care and ate it anyway!
  • a very nice marine placed my finisher medal over my head
  • the highlight of the run!