6.5 down, 993.5 to go

So it’s 2015. I was in bed and asleep by 9pm last night (although midnight fireworks did briefly wake me up). I decided the new year was going to come whether or not I was awake at midnight to usher it in and I needed a good night’s sleep.

Can I be honest? I hate New Year’s Eve. At least as an adult, they almost uniformly end up being a tremendous let down, although it was fun banging on pots and pans at midnight when I was a kid. Anne Lamott tweeted something today that summed things up for me:

So on Thursday morning I got up and I went for a run.

The last few days I haven’t been feeling the best, so I put absolutely no expectations on the run. I just wanted to get outside. And I ran (full disclosure: I walked part of it) the slowest 6.5 miles of my life, no exaggeration. But it was sunny and cool and the snow-covered Huachuca mountains were there in the distance and it felt important to start 2015 off doing something I wanted to keep on doing throughout the year: running.

I am still all over the place in terms of running goals. I know I want to run 1000 miles by the end of the year (only 993.5 more to go!) I’m doing weekly track workouts on Tuesdays with Sierra Running and I know that is going to help me get faster (hello, 8:10 mile this past Tuesday. Where did you come from?) I’ve got a few races on my radar, everything from 5Ks to half marathons. I have a few friends and relatives that I’d love to run races with this year (Susan, Danielle, and Portia, I’m looking at you). But mostly? I just want to love running.

I’m a fan of Krista Tippett’s wonderful podcast, On Being. Last week on her blog Parker Palmer wrote a post about “5 Questions for Crossing the Threshold.” (Spoiler: he meant the threshold for the new year, not death). I’ve been thinking about these five questions a lot over the past few days. My typical New Year’s “tradition” is to make a handful of resolutions that never, ever stick, usually because they are big and lofty and just not realistic (re-learn all of the French I forgot; learn to watercolor paint; learn to really play the banjo–you see where I’m going with this). So rather than think about specific things that I want to do in 2015, I am thinking about his five questions:

  1. How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
  2. What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
  3. How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
  4. Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
  5. What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?

There are all kinds of things I want to work on this year, but instead of making a list that I know I will never keep, I am going to think about these five questions. Being alive, human, open to beauty and love, and figuring out what new creation awaits…that’s what I’m looking ahead to in 2015. If I can learn french, painting, and banjo into the bargain, so much the better, but I’m not putting any expectations on things.

But one thing that I am definitely going to do is another #project365. I did this for the first time last year–took a picture each day for the entire year (if we’re connected on Flickr, check out my album, or you can see everything since late May on my Tumblr.) I can’t tell you how cool it is to scroll back through those pictures and remember some of the individual moments that made up my year.

So tell me: how do you greet the new year? What are your plans?

 

Thoughts on goals

The countdown to 2015 is on, and I’m working on setting some goals for coming year. The first and biggest: Run 1,000 miles. I’m aiming for 100 miles a month, knowing that my travel and summer bird camp schedule will make for some weeks when I just can’t get many miles in.

I’ve been using December as a test run, trying to get in a groove before January 1 comes around, and it’s been great, actually. This time of year, when the days get shorter and weather turns colder, has always been a hard time for me to get out and run, so I’m always trying to find things to keep me motivated.

Being part of the Oiselle flock has really helped (nothing like seeing the accomplishments of other people to get motivated). I’ve also started using my Garmin regularly on runs. I’ve had a Forerunner 305 for years. I’ve used it off and on, but the software it came with was a little clunky and for the past few years I’ve mostly been using my watch or running without keeping track of time at all. This month I dusted off the Garmin and found out that there is now a whole new system: Garmin Connect. It has all kinds of groovy features, including the ability to set and track progress on all kinds of goals–mileage goals (by week, month, year, etc.), distance goals, frequency goals, and even calorie goals for those who are so inclined. So I set weekly goals and monthly goals for December to try to get to 100 miles this month. And it turns out that seeing the progress bar shift to the right is a real motivation for me to run. The first thing I do when I get home is hook my Garmin up to the computer and upload my data.

I’ve also gotten back into listening to podcasts while running. I used to do this all the time. Then I began running with other people and started leaving my iPod at home. Fast forward to today, when I am mostly running on my own again. I struggled with motivation. Getting out to run on some mornings felt impossible. Then I remembered podcasts. Yesterday I went out on a run pretty much solely because I wanted to listen to the last episode of Serial. Current (and some perennial) favorites: This American Life, The Moth, Radiolab, Wiretap, Third Coast International Audio Festival, and 99% Invisible.

I also added a new widget to my website, over there in the upper right-hand side. I’m tracking my weekly/monthly/annual mileage and putting it out there for the world to see (well, I’m not that deluded–for the two of you who read this blog to see).

I’m working out a few more goals for the coming year, one of which is to write here regularly. But 1000 miles, watch out. I’m coming for you.

What are your goals for 2015?

Bird vs. Birder

For the first time in two weeks I woke up the other morning feeling, well, awake. I’ve been struggling with motivation to run the past few weeks and instead of waking up ready to start my day, I’ve been groggy more often than not, staying in bed for just a few minutes longer. I am a morning person, friends. This is not normal. A combination of a busy travel schedule and colder mornings just saps my will to get out the door, and sometimes my will to even wake up. This past Saturday I opened my eyes and knew I was going for a run. It’s so strange–some days I can’t wait to put on my shoes and head out; others I get completely dressed and end up faffing about on Facebook and Twitter (yes, yes, perhaps the lesson here is to not check social media before I run?)

I am most likely to get my run in if one of two things is true (and ideally both of them):

  1. I run with someone else.
  2. I run in the morning.

The running with others thing is a work in progress. Since moving in August I’m still trying connect with local runners. When I am in town I’ve been running with Sierra Running one or two days a week, and that’s been great. The days I’m on my own are a little bit harder to motivate. I’m doing okay, mostly, but some days are harder than others.

The running in the morning thing, well, especially on the weekends that conflicts with the other thing I love to do: birding. So this past Saturday when I woke up and wanted to do both, I thought: why the heck not? When I’m running I always keep my eyes and ears open for birds, but this time I put on my running clothes, put my binoculars and spotting scope in the car, and drove down to the San Pedro River National Conservation Area. There is a great trail system that runs along the river and into the grasslands. If you run south you’ll hit the U.S. Mexico Border in about ten miles. If you run north, you can just keep going and going. I’ve never followed the river that far, but I suspect you can go for about 30 miles, until you hit the confluence with the Gila River.

The San Pedro House

The San Pedro House

Birders had reported a Green Kingfisher just south of the San Pedro House, so I headed that direction. I don’t do a lot of trail running, so I was just in my regular road shoes. Fortunately the trail was fairly smooth and even; the worst sections were sandy, but even those were fine. I ran a 3 mile out-and-back section of the trail, opting to stay along the grasslands instead of dropping down to the river. It was a beautiful, cool morning. Although the leaves of many of the cottonwoods had already fallen, some of them were still hanging on with beautiful splashes of yellow and fall colors.

Heading down to the river.

Heading down to the river.

Heading down to the river.

The river in the distance.

I passed a few birders and photographers enjoying lots of White-crowned Sparrows as I made my way down to the river. Heading south along the river bank I came to a fork in the trail where I could either go low and run along the river or stay high in the grasslands. I decided to stay high, where the trail is wider and firmer.

The trail wound around an old oxbow, full of tall cottonwoods but without water. I passed Green Kingfisher Pond and kept heading south (this is the spot where Green Kingfishers have been found in the past, and the only spot in Arizona where I’ve seen them; until the sighting of this year’s bird, though, it had been a number of years since one was seen on the San Pedro).

Green Kingfisher Pond in the distance.

Green Kingfisher Pond in the distance.

Finally I hit Garden Wash and headed west. As I was running the clouds began to build and the wind began to blow, but it was still a great day to be out for a run. The wash, of course, was dry. Our idea of a river in southeastern Arizona is more like most folks’ idea of a creek, except during the summer monsoon, when our rivers transform seemingly instantly into raging torrents. This year’s monsoon is over, and although there was still water in the river, Garden Wash was long-since dry.

SPRNCA trail marker.

SPRNCA trail marker.

Garden Wash.

Garden Wash, dry for most of the year.

When I hit the 1.5 mile mark I turned back, retracing my steps, heading back north through the grasslands, and making my way back to the car. After swigging some sports drink, I grabbed my binoculars, scope, and field bag and retraced my steps down to the river. See if you can spot the difference between me as bird and me as birder in the next two pictures:

Did you catch it?

So I headed down the trail, but this time in no hurry at all, stopping, looking, and listening at every opportunity. White-crowned Sparrows still sang in the mesquite trees, along with a pair of Lark Sparrows and a lone Lincoln’s Sparrow. A Red-tailed Hawk flew overhead. Gila Woodpeckers called from the cottonwoods. It was a great morning.

When I came to the fork in the trail this time, I decided to go low and follow the river. I came across some birders who said they’d JUST seen the Green Kingfisher, as well as a Louisiana Waterthrush, another good bird for the area. They pointed in the direction the birds had flown, so I headed south again.

The weather turned more overcast and windy. There was no sign of the kingfisher or waterthrush, and even the common birds were becoming silent. I did spot a lone Black Phoebe foraging along the river and played around with some digiscoping.

Black Phoebe.

Black Phoebe, digiscoped with Leica APO Televid 65 + iPhone 5 + Phone Skope adapter

I got back to Green Kingfisher Pond, this time walking around it in search of, well, Green Kingfishers. This old quarry holds water year-round and can be a good spot for herons and sometimes ducks, but it was silent today.

Green Kingfisher Pond.

Green Kingfisher Pond.

The weather got even windier and more overcast. The sun disappeared. I had on a long sleever, but even so I was beginning to feel chilly after getting sweaty on a run. I turned around and walked along the grasslands back toward the San Pedro House.

Spectacular view of the Huachuca Mountains behind the San Pedro House.

Spectacular view of the Huachuca Mountains behind the San Pedro House. No filter!

A bird birding.

A bird birding.

It was a better day for running than birding, but even when the birding is slow it is nice just to be outside. I’m lucky to live in a spot as beautiful as southeastern Arizona–and good to remember that running and birding don’t need to be an either/or proposition.

Foot Pursuit 5k – UPDATED

This morning I ran the Foot Pursuit 5k, a race put on by the Sierra Vista Police Officers Association. I didn’t think too much about the name of the race or the sponsor until I got there and two helicopters were landing in the field, a police dog was walking around with its handler, and there was generally a strong law enforcement presence. Suddenly the pieces clicked. “Foot Pursuit!” I thought. “I get it!” It sometimes takes me awhile, but I usually get there.

The race was about ten minutes down the road from my house at a local elementary school. The church across the street offered up their parking lot, so it was really easy to get there and get set up. After getting my bib and timing chip I ran a few slow laps around the parking lot to warm up. I passed the time by looking at the costumes that some of the runners were wearing. There was a pair of inmates, some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a joker, and a tiny Power Ranger and his big sister, the Wicked Witch of the West. But my favorites?

Doughnuts!

Doughnuts! The other side of their inner tubes had sprinkles. When we were waiting for the start of the race they had two circular signs on each cheek that said “Jelly” and “Filled”. And they ran the whole race carrying those things. (Spoiler: they won the costume contest!) I am still trying to figure out the gold body suits.

The start was a little bit wonky. One of the helicopters took off. The DJ told us to line up, so everyone started walking down the road. We were still shuffling forward when he said, “Ready? Set? Go!” and suddenly everyone started running. It wasn’t totally clear if there was an actual start line or just a general start area (there was no timing mat at the start of the race), but either way: I settled in and tried to start with a nice, steady pace.

My goal was to run the race in under 27 minutes. My plan was to start steady for the first mile, pick it up a little for the second mile, and progressively give it everything I had left for the third mile.

In keeping with the theme of the race, the helicopter circled over us as we ran, as though the police were trying to chase us down. One man had a dog balloon tied to his waist, maybe to pretend he had a police dog chasing after him?

It wasn’t a huge race, so there wasn’t a lot of weaving and maneuvering for space, which was nice. I settled into what felt like a nice pace and was really surprised when my Garmin beeped at the first mile to see that I’d run it in 8:23, one of my fastest miles ever.

“Okay, maybe I should slow down just a little bit,” I thought.

I reined it in slightly, and mile 2 felt pretty good, too. I was breathing hard enough to know that I was running faster than my standard pace, but that was my plan and I felt solid. I passed a few folks but tried to just focus on running my own race. My mantra, repeated over and over in my head, was “mile two, mile two, mile two.” Not especially original or inspiring, but it worked. My Garmin beeped and I was really happy to see a pace of 8:41.

(Confession: guys, I wasn’t completely honest when I said that my goal was to run the race in 27 minutes. I wanted to place in my age group. I really, really did. About the only thing I’ve ever won in my life was thirty years ago in elementary school, when I got Bingo and won a punch pass to bring ten friends to the roller skating rink. After those first two splits, I thought it might just be a possibility. I had to clamp down on my excitement and focus on the road ahead of me, but I was feeling good.)

And then there was mile three. Oh, mile three, mile three, mile three. Curses upon you, mile three. The course, which until this point had been on roads, took a sharp, right-hand turn down a rocky dirt trail, which made up most of mile three. It wasn’t exactly hilly, but there were lots of winding ups and downs. I had to slow down and take care to keep my footing. I could hear someone behind me on the trail, and even though I was beginning to tire, that kept me pushing.

The trail climbed up a short incline to the road and we followed the road back for the last half mile or so. A woman that I had passed around mile two pulled around me and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t keep up. My Garmin beeped for mile three: 9:13. Definitely slowing down. At this point I had an internal dialogue with myself, telling myself not to give into the temptation to slow down, that the race was nearly over, and basically goading myself into continuing to run. A father was running with his elementary school-aged son and I could hear him encouraging him: ” Come on buddy, we’re almost there! You can do this!” I pretended he was talking to me as I passed them.

I got a little disoriented at this point. I could see a stoplight ahead and thought that the course went to the light and then turned left and headed back to the start/finish line. What I didn’t realize was that we were actually back on the main drag, where the race had begun, and that the finish was just up the road, before the stoplight. It wasn’t until I heard the announcer calling out finishers that I realized I was really almost done. I hit the gas and finished strong.

(Side note: that little boy that I passed? He turned on the gas, too, and whizzed by me just before I crossed the timing mat).

I crossed the line, gave the little stinker a high five and told him he did a great job, and that was it. The race was over.

I looked down at my watch: 27:37, unofficial time.

I hung around for the awards ceremony, you know–just in case. When they called out the third place person for my age group and it was my first name and a last name that started with the same two letters as my last name my heart jumped in my chest, but it wasn’t me. The second place woman in my AG? That woman who passed me when we came off the trail. Sigh.

So I didn’t place. The official results won’t be up until tomorrow, so I’m not sure where I’ll fall in the overall results. If I hadn’t psyched myself out by thinking the course was longer than it actually was, would I have started my final push sooner? Maybe. But I didn’t. And although I’m a little bit disappointed, I still had a decent race. Yes, it was slower than I’d hoped for, but I felt so much better than I did during the 5k trail run I did a few weeks back. I know I can get faster, and I’m excited about the work ahead.

Last side note, or maybe more of a P.S…this was my first race wearing my Oiselle Distance Shorts. They totally live up to the hype, really comfortable with two deep, zippered pockets for holding lots of stuff. This was a short race, so all I had was my car key in the back pocket, but when I do longer runs (like tomorrow’s 12-miler), I’ll be able to cram all sorts of food in there.

Oiselle Flock, ready to run.

Oiselle Flock, ready to run.

UPDATE: My Garmin was just as accurate as my race chip, and my official time was 27.37.313. I was sixth in my AG and the 16th overall woman (44th overall in the whole race).

 

What motivates you?

Last month I joined the Oiselle Flock, inspired by my childhood friend Portia, who runs for their ambassador “Volée” Team. Oiselle’s mission, besides making a fantastic line of running gear and clothing for women, is to build a sisterhood of support and community in the running world. One of the hardest parts of my recent move was leaving my running community. I’m a person who runs better when I run with others. I’m still struggling a bit to find my place here, figure out where to run, and find others to train with. While it’s virtual at this point, connecting with Oiselle couldn’t have happened at a better time. (Plus, when you work in bird conservation and run bird camps for young birders every summer, it is awfully hard to not want to be part of a company whose name means “bird” in French and who runs a “birdcamp” for their runners. It also doesn’t hurt that I love their clothing line.)

When they opened a limited number of new slots in the Flock last month, I was pretty excited to nab one of them. Since then I have gotten connected with a network of other Oiselle runners from across the country, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram–women that I’ve never met in person, but who are encouraging me, cheering me on, and making me feel part of a team. This weekend I’ve been trolling the hashtag #oiselleflock on Twitter to cheer on women I’ve never met before, feeling just about as excited for them as if we HAD met in person. Being part of a team–it’s a good thing.

Pretty much the only races I’ve done in the past nine years have been endurance events with Team In Training. While of course I have gotten stronger and faster over the past nine years, my overarching goals have not focused on myself, but rather on the fundraising that I was doing for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (I can’t stop: you can still donate here, at least at the time of this writing) and on being a mentor and captain to support my teammates in reaching their goals.

But now that I’m taking a break from TNT I have more time to think about the idea of running for…myself? Running just because I like it, and not solely as a means to raise money? Finding a training plan that is geared towards my personal goals, and not just the goal of getting me across the finish line in one piece? This is somewhat foreign territory.

I’m a bit adrift.

In my last post I wrote about trying to figure out what my goals were. I’m still working on that. What’s that conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat?

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

I feel like I don’t know where I want to get to with my running. It is hard to feel motivated some days because I’m not sure what I’m aiming for. Do you ever get completely dressed to run and then somehow end up  not actually going out for a run? Yeah, embarrassingly, that’s me some days. I don’t do well running on my own.

But I ran a 5k trail race at Kartchner Caverns State Park a few weeks back and I’m signed up for another local 5k next weekend. That is different and it feels good. I’ve been doing some track and speed workouts with a local group of women, and every time I come home feeling exhilarated and excited about running. But with the exception of those weekly group runs, I find myself feeling a little bit lost, like I’m not sure how I should be training or what my goals are, so I go out for the same 5-8 mile runs. Boring. I’ve been doing some reading and checking out different training plans. I want to find some goal races for early 2015. Becoming more consistent and faster are both high on my list, but beyond that, I’m not sure what comes next.

Basically, I’m a work in progress.

I did get new shoes this week, which always makes me want to run. And my new Oiselle flock mates? They kick ass.

Heaven's, they're bright!

Heaven’s, they’re bright!

What motivates you? I’m looking for some words of wisdom here, including a good, old-fashioned KITA, so don’t hold back.

Race Report: 2014 Nation’s Triathlon

So I thought I’d try something new and write my race report right after completing my race instead of waiting, oh, more than year. While I’d planned to do this three weeks ago, I will count getting it done less than a month after my race as a victory.

This was my third time at The Nation’s Triathlon. I did it in 2010 and had such a good time that I did it again in 2011. Unfortunately heavy rainfall led to canceling the swim that year, so when I began to think about doing another triathlon, Nation’s was still on my list–it felt like I should give it one more go and do the entire race.

We had a very small team training in Tucson that got even smaller by the race–it was just me and my teammate Jordana. We arrived (separately) to Washington, D.C. on Friday (September 7) and checked into our hotel near DuPont Circle. We headed to the Expo to pick up our race packets, check out the vendors, and check in with the Team In Training national staff, who was “in charge” of us for race weekend.

That evening I got together with my friend Danielle, who lives in the D.C. area. We met last year at a digital media training and hit it off but hadn’t seen each other since then. It was great to reconnect. She’s a runner, too, and I’m hoping we’ll get to do a race together soon.

IMG_6103

At Kramerbooks in DuPont Circle.

Saturday morning Jordana and I headed down to transition to pick up our bikes and get them racked for the race the next day. It was hot, muggy, and generally no fun to be outside, but fortunately the temperatures and humidity would both drop before the race started the following morning. We screwed on pedals, pumped up tires, took the bikes for a test spin (after I changed an unexpected flat), and then got them racked for the next day. On our way out there were volunteers marking the athletes–you get your race number on both arms and your age on the back of your left calf. So we got marked and then took the shuttle back to the hotel.

At transition the day before the race.

At transition the day before the race.

This was a special race for me because my honored teammate, Jan (my sister-in-law Nina’s mother) had been selected to be the speaker at the Team In Training Inspiration Dinner on Saturday evening. Even though she’d spent most of the previous week unexpectedly in serious condition at the hospital and had to stop chemo to give her body a chance to recuperate, in spite of the fact that she had just received the go-ahead from her doctor to travel the day before, Jan, her husband Pete, Nina, my brother John, and my little nephews all piled into a minivan and  made the trek up from North Carolina so Jan could speak at the dinner and they could cheer me on. My mom drove up from Pittsburgh, my sister Susan took the train down from New York, and my aunt Mary, who lives in Bethesda (she was married to my mom’s brother, my Uncle Kenny, who I also train in memory of). So by Saturday afternoon, we basically had a family reunion in the works. The dinner itself was nothing special–just standard convention center pasta and salad–but Jan’s speech was incredible. The following is the paragraph I wrote and submitted when I nominated her to be the speaker.

I have been doing 1-2 events per year with Team In Training since 2005. I have attended more Inspiration Dinners than I can count on two hands. The speakers are almost always wonderful, with an overarching message of, “We’re racing for a cure! We need to keep doing this until cancer doesn’t exist anymore!” This is a good and important message. We ARE racing for a cure. We need more money to fund critical research and patient care and advocacy programs. But what many people don’t consider are the important impacts of programs like TNT on folks with chronic disease, who are living with cancer. They aren’t realistically aren’t expecting a cure, but are just going on living. For Jan, chemotheraphy and other drugs are her long-term reality. The stark reality is that multiple myeloma will almost certainly take her life in the end. There is no “final” treatment that she is aiming for, no remission or NED diagnosis. But so much of the way that we treat cancer patients is geared exactly towards that, from ringing the bell on the day of your last chemo session to cheery supportive messages about finding cures. For some people, thankfully, this is how it works. But there is power in understanding that while, of course we want researchers to find a miracle drug that will cure multiple myeloma (or blood cancer, or any cancer), that finding cures is just one facet of a really complex issue. There are so many ways in which we need to support cancer patients. Jan continues to live through her chronic diagnosis and the serious physical and emotional challenges that she and her family have faced as a result. She told me, “I am very aware that I would not be alive today if it were not for all the incredible fundraising activities that have gone on to advance the research needed to come up with new drugs.” Treatments developed by researchers who received support from LLS have immeasurably improved both the quality and length of Jan’s life. Although she has had a few fairly frightening brushes with death, she’s still going strong and has outlasted her doctors’ initial predictions. She’s had time to see her grandsons born and start to grow up, to be at her son’s wedding, and to spend time and enjoy life with family and friends. She is helping doctors and nurses understand how to have a better approach to death and dying, from her own experience. Her story and perspective is so powerful, and so different from many of the stories we hear and tell in TNT. I hope you will select her to be the honoree speaker at the Inspiration Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Check out her amazing speech for yourself (and enjoy a photo bomb courtesy of my youngest nephew Benny):

After dinner we headed up to the lobby bar in the hotel. My mom had brought a Bethel Bakery birthday cake for me all the way from Pittsburgh, so we had a little belated birthday celebration right there in the lobby. Oh, Bethel Bakery, I love you so.

Happy Birthday, Jennie!

Happy Birthday, Jennie!

As nice as it was to be with my family, I had an early morning and a triathlon to complete, so by 10pm I headed up to my room, made sure all of my race gear was laid out and set for the following day, and headed to bed. I fell asleep quickly, but woke up around midnight not feeling so well. I was up for a few hours, unfortunately, finally falling back asleep around 2:30, giving me another hour and a half before my alarm went off at 4am. Suffice it to say that it was not the best night’s sleep of my life.

When I woke up I reached for my phone to turn off the alarm and then checked my Facebook feed (ahh, the embarrassment of admitting that one of the first things I do in the morning is check Facebook…) The first thing that I saw was a post from The Nation’s Triathlon page saying that the swim had been cancelled due to a sewage spill in the Potomac. For a minute I thought Facebook was showing me posts from 2011, but no. It was a repeat of three years before. Rains the previous night caused an overflow of some pipe or another, and they’d cancelled the swim. Again.

It was disappointing, of course. We’d been training all summer. But in the spirit of full disclosure, I felt a certain sense of relief at not having to swim. This partly frustrated me, because I know I can do the swim, but I was undertrained and hadn’t realized how anxious I was about the swim until I heard that I wouldn’t have to do it.

It was dark when we got to transition. We went in to set up our gear and then waited around for the sun to rise and the race to get going.

In the pre-dawn hours.

The Washington Monument in the pre-dawn hours at transition.

With no swim they had us line up to start with a run into transition as though we’d just come out of the water–no shoes, no bike helmets, just our tri suits. Some diehard athletes even wore their swim caps and goggles. As in past years, there were so many participants that it took more than an hour for me to cross the start line once the gun went off. I made friends with a few of the women in my corral and we passed the time getting to know each other.

Waiting for the start. I am the toes on the right.

Waiting for the start. I am the toes on the right; Jordana is on the left.

Lining up at the start.

Lining up at the start.

Soon enough we were almost at the start line. They lined us up in sets of nine and had groups run in about every 20 seconds to stagger things. I was next to my new friend, Carolyn, who I’d later see on the bike route as well as on the run. The horn blew and we were all suddenly running down the quarter mile pathway and into the transition zone. I quickly made my way to my bike, put on my socks, shoes, gloves, and helmet, grabbed my bike, and was soon jogging alongside my bike as I made my way out of transition into the “mount” zone.

T1 time: 3:51

And I was off! This was a different bike route than the one I’d done in 2010 and 2011. It was more compact, a sort of three-leaf clover that you did twice. The bike ride felt good, but a little slow. I had trouble with my rear derailleur, which didn’t want to shift properly, and it felt like everyone on the course was passing me, but it was fun to see the Riggs-Duberstein clan cheering me on at one of the turn arounds. I also enjoyed the fact that the course was a double loop. By the second lap I knew what to expect. There were even a couple of minor hills, much to my pleasant surprise; I do like climbing. I even found my new friend Carolyn about 3/4 of the way through the ride, hollering encouragement as I passed.

As I neared the dismount zone at the end of the ride I was keeping my eye on a man ahead of me who was trying as hard as he could to trim any possible seconds off of his time. He reached down. unlatched his shoe and pulled his foot out, leaving his shoe clipped in. I’d heard about people doing this, but never seen it. Unfortunately for him, he apparently needed to practice a little more, because as he pulled his foot out he lost control and crashed, falling arse over teakettle and sprawling on the ground in front of me. I was grateful for my overly cautious defensive cycling style and easily slowed down and avoided him (I could see him getting up as I dismounted–he was a little scraped up but fine).

Bike time: 1:32:36

Although I felt pretty strong during the ride, this was about twelve minutes slower than my time in 2011. I ran with my bike back into transition, found my space and racked my bike, took of my helmet and gloves, switched to running shoes, grabbed a few pretzels, a swig of water, and my running hat, and was off again.

T2 time: 2:39

The run was fine, but not great. It wasn’t the slowest 10k I’ve ever run, but it was close. My overall time was a full eight minutes slower than my run in 2011, which my fastest 10k ever at 53:40. Carolyn caught up with me around mile 3 and buzzed right on by–I couldn’t have kept up if I wanted to. By this point I was really feeling the lack of sleep the night before and not doing the greatest. Mile 5 was my slowest of the race, although I tried to rally for the final mile and speeded up a little bit. Finally the finish line was in sight and I put my head down and went for it.

Run time: 1:01:19

After I crossed the finish line I got my medal and immediately saw my new friend Carolyn, who’d been watching for me. We exchanged high fives, turned in our timing chips, got some food, headed over to the Team In Training tent so I could check in, and then sat down and had a picnic in the grass, exchanging race experiences.

Race time: 2:40:24

Finisher!

Finisher!

Parking was such a nightmare that rather than coming to the finish line my family just watched for me on the bike course and I met up with them at their hotel after the race. We had a nice lunch together, and then the North Carolina Riggs-Duberstein clan hit the road for the long drive home. I am so grateful to them for coming all the way up. It meant a lot to have them there, and having Jan speak at the dinner with all of our family present was the icing on the cake, especially in light of the big decision I was about to make (read on).

The Duberstein-Riggs Crew

The Vinograd-Duberstein-Riggs Crew after the race. Go Team!

After lunch I headed for a nap and that evening Susan took the train back to New York. I spent Monday at my aunt’s house, visiting with her and my mom (and maybe eating the rest of the birthday cake). I had meetings for work in Washington the rest of the week and the following Friday headed back to Arizona.

I left Washington, D.C. happy to have completed my race, but feeling a little dejected about my performance. I know that everyone has bad days. It stinks when these fall on race day, but that happens sometimes. The race itself was good, as disappointing a my own performance had been. There was excellent course support, beautiful bike and run routes, and really good post-race food. Having the swim cancelled for a second time was a disappointment, but beyond the power of race organizers. Fourth time’s the charm? Or maybe this was a sign that I need to find a new race for triathlon #4.

One of the biggest decisions I have made since the race is that I am going to be taking a break from Team In Training for awhile. To be honest, this might be a semi-permanent break. I’m still sorting out my feelings about things. TNT has been such a major, important part of my life for so many years. I have done 13 events and together we have raised over $50,000 to support the important work of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I strongly suspect I’ll still be fundraising for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in one way or another, but the time has come for me to move on from TNT and focus on my own goals, at least for now. (But you can still make a donation to my fundraising: just click here).

What are those goals? I’m still figuring that out. I plan to write more. Part of that is this new blog (you can still read my old blog here, but with my transition away from TNT I wanted a new space). I also want to get faster as a runner. I joined the Oiselle Flock last month (more on that soon) and am excited about running again after some months of feeling sort of meh about it. I’m training with a great group of women in town and have been focusing on shorter distances and speed. (Funny thing: when you train to run ten-minute miles, guess what happens? You run ten-minute miles! I want to see if I can speed that up a bit.)

As for the rest of it, I’m just going to figure it out as I go. Join me?