Monday, October 21, 2013

October is my favorite month for a reason!

Two great weekends in a row? How is this happening? Things are looking up!!

Saturday I actually had time to go see Cherry in the morning, since I no longer have that whole "training for the marathon" commitment thing.. which means I don't have to squeeze 3+ hour runs in on Saturday mornings. I've taken 2 easy weeks of recovery from the marathon (first week I ran 0 miles, last week I ran 10) and now I am ready to get back into it, but it will be nice knowing that I don't HAVE to do these long runs on the weekend and can go see (and even ride) my poor neglected horse instead! However, I really don't want to lose my run fitness so I am going to try to keep my mileage steady. Maybe no 20 mile runs for a while but I would like to keep my long runs at about 2 hours on the weekends when I can.

After visiting with Cherry on Saturday and doing a bit of homework, I donned my ballgown, pinned on my race number, laced up my running sneakers, and walked the half-mile to Johnny's Irish Pub where the annual Johnny's Run Like Hell Halloween race is held. I love this race and I do it every year if possible! Usually I race it as a typical 5K but this year I was asked to be in a 6-pack (6 people dress up in a theme and have to run together, attached together) by my friend Rich. Our theme was Cinderella, and 6 of us ran together, with Rich pushing his daughter, Chloe, who was dressed as Cinderella, in a stroller that was paper mached to be a giant pumpkin (aka, Cinderella's pumpkin carriage). Rich was the stagecoach driver, we had a Prince Charming, a fairy godmother, 2 ugly stepsisters (I was one of them) and... the horse pulling the pumpkin carriage. It was pretty ridiculous but we ended up winning the costume originality contest!

a dress with puffy sleeves - not the easiest ensemble to run in
with medals and celebratory beers!
 I spent the rest of Saturday working on my homework, which I made a lot of progress on which left me feeling good for Sunday - Ellison Park Cyclocross day! This is a 2 day race but I had skipped Saturday's race so that I could do all of the things that I just talked about. I love cyclocross but it is definitely time consuming and sometimes I need to do other things instead. Anyways, waking up and dragging myself to the race on Sunday morning was a chore. I was tired, it was FREEZING in my house, I couldn't find any of
my gear (since I was too lazy to pack it up the night before) and I almost bailed. This seems like the story of every cyclocross race that I have done this year.

I am soooooooo glad I went.

  I got there, rode the course once to get a feel for the hills and the rhythm. It wasn't very muddy which was good, although there were some sketchy sections and a muddy run-up called "the ladder" plus the famous section going up the hill that they love referring to as the Alpe d'Huez. I raced Saturday last year (as my first cyclocross race ever), which is ridden in the reverse direction. I've heard that Saturday is harder than Sunday.. which, after yesterday, I can agree with. Either way, it's still hard in both directions and it has the most climbing out of any of the cross races I've ever done. There were 5 women in the CAT4 race and I needed to either get 1st or 2nd to get my points for my upgrade to CAT3. I really didn't care which place I got going in.. but then we started racing and I was right on the tail of the leader, Leah, for the whole first lap, and the other 3 women had fallen behind. So I am thinking "don't do anything stupid, and you'll get 2nd" fully knowing that ANYTHING can happen in a cyclocross race. She wasn't able to pull away from me in the first lap, and she was riding more conservatively than I was on the downhills. I was following her up the switchbacks and the last turn at the top of the Alpe d'Huez was muddy, and she jumped off and ran it while I was able to ride it, so once we rounded out the top of the hill and started going down, I made my pass going around a corner. And that was it.. I led for the remaining 2 laps, although she was not very far behind me. I had the world's best cheerleader there - Emily - who also took some great photos. I managed to not mess up at all except when I caught one of the CAT4 men that had started 1 min before us. He had some trouble at the muddy, squirrel corner at the top of the hill and slid out right in front of me, which caused me to stop, and I had to hop off my bike (on the wrong side), run around him, get on the left side of my bike, get back on and get going again, still while going up the hill. Not happy. Then he passed me going back down the hill. Seriously, just make up your mind and get away!! Ugh.
down the hill
the barriers, where the race announcer complimented me on my technique :)
the ladder.. I need spikes in my shoes!
pushing it into the finish (that's my game face for the entire 40 mins)
 Anyways, I won! It was awesome and I loved being referred to as "the women's leader" by the announcer (yes, at these pro races they actually have an announcer!). I got a sweet medal and (I think) my upgrade points! The 2nd place woman, Leah, also got her upgrade points so YAY for more women in the open races that are around my speed! I stuck around for a bit to eat some food, drink some Rohrbach's delicious root beer, and spectate the female pro race.
women's CAT4 podium! sadly missing 2nd place

Emily, Ken, me, Solveig cheering for pro women

I then had to head home and finish the rest of my homework, which took much longer than expected - oh well. Also, I finally had to turn on my heat last evening. I was wearing a coat while trying to do my homework which is just ridiculous. My AC units are still in my windows (that is a whole different story) so I haven't wanted to turn on the heat because it will just go right out through those vents and talk about throwing your money away! But I had to because it was 62 degrees in my house! I NEED to get those things out this week!

I'm trying to tone down the next few weekends. I need a break. It's been fun but there is always a "homework panic" on Sunday night and it really stressed me out!

Also, for some other (much more interesting) blog reading, check out Jennie's Kona race report here!

Friday, October 18, 2013

You're gonna hear me ROAR

I had the most fantastic weekend at one of my closest friend's bachelorette party. Even though Jessie lives in New Jersey and most of her friends are from the Philadelphia area, she wanted her bachelorette party to be a wine tour in the Finger Lakes! (Lucky for me). We rented a huge house in Geneva on Seneca Lake, got a limo for the day on Saturday, and went to ~5 wineries (plus 3 other wineries on Friday night). Everyone else had a 6+ hour drive but mine was only 1!

this was my first time in a limo!

No details ;) .. but it was awesome. I was apprehensive going in because I had never met any of the other girls and being in a house with 9 other people is not my ideal situation. It was amazing how much fun we all had and how it didn't even matter that I had never met any of them! I kept saying "I was so worried about this, I am an introvert" and they kept telling me that there was no way that I am an introvert. (True story - I am totally an introvert though). We even jumped in Seneca Lake in freakin' October!

there was a lot of screaming going on here

good thing I am used to freezing cold lakes

This is my first time being a bridesmaid and I am very excited. Jessie has been a very close friend since college. Even though we don't see each other very often, when I do see her it's like no time has passed at all! I am sooooooo excited for her wedding which is next spring!

me and Jessie!!
Anyways, the weekend was exactly what I needed. I have been so stressed and bogged down with lots of things lately.. going away for 2 whole days and not thinking or worrying about anything was perfect. I came home with a clearer head (plus a hangover and 3 misc. bottles of wine) and with a new attitude. Mostly just to do what I need to do in order to be happy.

I have a bunch of new friends :)
And, I am over halfway through my class! As of right now, the class average on the one quiz was a 55 (which I got a 60 on) and the professor already said that he would do something about that grade (either adjust it or make it worth less). I have gotten at least a 9/10 on every homework assignment (except perhaps this last one that I handed in on Tuesday - oh well). And the project that I spent 20 hours working on before and after the marathon (which I definitely handed in with parts incomplete because I ran out of time/patience).. I got an 89% on.. and with the class average at about an 80, means I got an A on it. It also turns out he "intended" the project to take 7-ish hours and it took everyone WAY more than that, so he is going to cut the following two projects in half in terms of size! Which means that I won't have to kill myself two more times. So it will be manageable, and I am certain I will pass (barring any disasters).. just whether or not I will get the A or B that I need to be reimbursed remains to be seen.

If there is anything to be learned from this class (other than the obvious which is programming in SAS and R) is that I am incredibly tenacious. Sometimes I will get really upset - there are rumpled, tear-stained pages of my textbooks to prove that - and I am terrified of failing and want to quit, but I don't. I will fight on, and on, and on for what I want and think that I deserve. Sometimes it gets me into trouble, but most of the time it enables me to do things like Ironman, grad. school, etc.

I think I am going to keep writing. I took a loooong break and most of my blogger friends have also ceased writing, but it's very therapeutic for me. I can spew my thoughts into the world without anyone having to actually be on the opposite end of the complaining (unless they choose to click the link).


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wineglass Marathon Race Report

Sunday I ran my 2nd ever marathon (I don't count the IM marathon as a real marathon since for me.. there is not much real "running" after about mile 13) and first marathon since 2009!

I didn't really have a time goal going into this race. Due to my 9 week training plan and stress from school, I was happy to make it to the starting line. I was also grumpy because I had spent about 20 hours in the 3 previous days working on a huge project for class. I guess I hoped to run faster than I did in Philly (3:59) but I really had no idea what was going to happen.

me and Solveig at the start of our trip
I rode down to Corning with Solveig and we picked up our packets and wine glasses. For some reason, the half-marathoners got really nice colored shirts and the full marathoners got construction cone orange ones. Awful! We hung around Corning for a bit until it was time to go to the pasta dinner at the Radisson where we both met Bart Yasso (of Yasso 800 fame) and got autographed copies of his book. He was awesome! If you ever have a chance to go see him speak - do it! He's hilarious and even though he once was pretty fast and now is not (due to Lyme Disease) he still runs, loves it, and advocates for it around the world. Then we went to our hotel in Elmira and went to bed. Woke up at 5 and took a shower, stopped at Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and a bagel and then got on the shuttle to take me to the marathon start. It was about a 30 min. ride on a school bus. The start was pretty laid back. There were lots of porta-potties so the bathroom lines weren't unreasonable, and while it was a bit chilly, the weather could have been much worse (i.e. rain) at the start. I headed over to the start line at about 10 til 8 and lined up with the 3:55 pace group.


Bart Yasso!
impossible to run the Wineglass Marathon  without having a glass of wine the night before the race!
The start is downhill and I immediately felt like crap. I felt like I couldn't stick with the pace group which was slightly disheartening. This went on for about 4 miles - I didn't like running in the middle of the pace group because it was really crowded, hot, loud, and smelled like BO. But I didn't want to run behind it because I thought I might lose it. I ended up running right in front of it while worrying that it was going to engulf me if I slowed down, and then after about 4 miles I started to feel really good and dropped them. I ran along by myself just listening to music (good decision to wear the headphones) until about the halfway point where I then found myself running and chatting with a random lady. I ran with her until about mile 18 (and my friend Will for a while in there too) and at that point, I started to feel REALLY good and eventually took off from them. Somehow, my fastest 2 miles of the day were miles 19 and 20 at 8:16 and 8:15 pace. Considering my longest run since 2011 was 18 miles and most of my long runs were done at about 9:30 pace, I don't know how I did this. All I know is that I was FLYING through marathoners. I was passing people like they had been running for 20 miles and I had just started. I don't know where this burst of speed/energy came from or how I was able to do it. I ran like that until about mile 22 and then my quads started to really complain. At mile 24, I was done. At that point I was forcing myself to keep running (hobbling) and not to walk. My Garmin was also 0.20 miles ahead of the actual distance so that was annoying, I would look at it and think I was closer to the finish than I actually was. I crossed the finish line in 3:53 and was sooooooo happy to be done!

right after finishing - too hot for that space blanket!

Solveig and I with our medals!
what a lovely finisher's medal!
I found Solveig and my parents, got changed, pounded some caffeine (mmmm Coke.. liquid crack), went to lunch (where I couldn't eat anything because my stomach was messed up still) and then headed home to.. do more homework! And eat a TON of desserts that I shamelessly bought from Wegmans.

Nutrition worked out well for me - I ate a Shot Blok every 2 miles and drank mostly Gatorade at every aid station. I guess it was pretty hot and humid out, but there was no sun, so the heat didn't bother me until I finished, and then I felt like I was on fire.

So, thoughts on my race.

It's weird, in some ways I am really happy with my race. I knew going in that it was going to be a crap shoot. My knee has still not 100% recovered from my injury (from almost 2 years ago now), I essentially did all of my training runs at endurance pace, my weekly mileage peaked at about 40 mpw, and my long runs did not give me a lot of confidence towards the race. Just a lot of mediocre feelings going in (plus so much school stress in the weeks leading up to the race that it was literally the LAST thing on my mind).. so the fact that I a) ran the entire race (with the exception of a few walk breaks at aid stations to avoid splashing Gatorade all over myself) and b) I did PR - make me happy. I was really happy that I was able to pick it up so much at the +18 mile mark. I have never been able to do that before, that's for sure. And I definitely have more durability after the 3 Ironmans.

That being said - it was an easier course than Philly and I think I paced better (did not go out too fast) because my goals were much less optimistic than they were in Philly. So only a 6 minute PR after 4 years of massive amounts of training hours and an easier course is not very impressive to me.

It really just lit the fire to do another stupid marathon. I am looking towards Pittsburgh in May. (Even I am not stupid enough to try to do anymore serious training until this class is over).

Friday, October 4, 2013

Graduate School as a (Relatively) Serious Athlete


Let me recap my life since my last post. It's been: marathon training, house painting, more biathlon, some roller-skiing, a bunch of cyclocross races, and class.

Now, it's basically just class.

My marathon is Sunday. Sadly, I have barely had any time to get excited about it because I also have a GIANT-ASS project due for class on Monday. So if "tapering" means "4+ hours of sitting at my kitchen table writing code every night of the week" then yes, my taper is going swell!

I am just happy that I am still doing the marathon (I considered dropping out due to this project) and I am going to try to just enjoy it, not think about school for the duration of the race (hah), and not get upset when I don't do very well (which is probably the case since I definitely crammed all of my training in last-minute). Although I will thank Jennie for writing me a training plan and being very reassuring that I will make it though in one piece! Thanks Jennie!

So let me talk about my class. I am 6 weeks into the hell known as "Statistical Software" at RIT. My first class in this M.S. program (Applied Statistics). Some background. I was a 3.98 student in undergrad. Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Slippery Rock U. and won the "Outstanding Biology Senior" award. I have taken graduate level classes before when I was in graduate school that other time (which I also did well in). Nothing.. NOTHING prepared me for this god-awful class. Three hours of class on Monday night where we execute code for two different statistical computer programs. (SAS and R). I have actually used SAS before so I thought I would have a slight advantage: wrong. Then homework outside of class which takes at LEAST 12 hours to do. Every week. Plus reading the assigned chapters in the book. Plus going through all of the in-class code that we don't get to in class because we are learning not 1, but 2 programs simultaneously. It's basically - here's 2 books (I bought a 3rd book to help myself out), google, and 2000 lines of code as notes - have fun. Trying to actually absorb and understand the material is just out of the question, as I am struggling to just get the homework completed every week.

What's sad is that I actually kind of like the programming. It's basically data manipulation and problem solving. I don't even mind doing it. It's just too much all at once I think and it's like my brain is just overloaded with information and things to try.. and it takes HOURS to figure a problem out.

I know that I am whining. But I am a hard worker. I am smart. I am a good student. I love to learn. I love to be challenged. What I don't love is busting my ass on these homework assignments, which I have managed to do well on (at a great personal sacrifice called my life) and then going to class to take a quiz which I had no time to study for (due to aforementioned homework assignments).. and then getting a 60 on the quiz because it was so specific and detailed that I had no idea what some of the answers were. I don't get 60s. What was the class average? A 55. I feel slightly better.

Like I said, I am ok with working hard. What I don't like is being asked to work at a level that is beyond my ability as a 29 year old woman with a full time job, a home, hobbies, and daily life responsibilities.. to give more hours for which I have time, to sacrifice the things in my life that I enjoy and make my life happy and worth being here for (like exercising, riding my horse, seeing my friends, working on my house) in order to *barely* get my work done. I can't even get the things done that *need* to get done (like mowing my lawn, getting the oil changed in my car, taking the AC units out of my window.. I could go on and on - my house is falling apart). I didn't expect going into graduate school that I would be able to keep a lazy schedule. I didn't think I could go to class and then spend the rest of my time lying around on the couch watching Netflix. However, I did expect there to be some balance. Like maybe I have to cut out weeknight activities sometimes because I need to study. Or I spend some time Saturday and Sunday afternoons doing homework. Not spending hours every day writing programs or fiddling with code, and then mentally breaking down about it because I can't commit at that level. I don't want to feel guilty doing the things that I love because I am worried about all of the homework I have to do. I don't want to have to leave my friend's birthday party before getting to eat cake because all I can think about is the pile of homework waiting for me at home. I don't want to be a bitch to everyone all the time because I am that stressed out.

Being able to balance is incredibly important to me.

I hit my limit this weekend with this class. I cried every day last week, I called my parents and cried on Sunday, I went to see my RIT adviser (who I had never met) and cried to him. I was ready to give up, withdraw from the class and the program, and go on with my life $5000 poorer but ultimately happier. Because for me - happy needs to come first. Talking to my adviser saved me I think. He assured me that this particular class is not indicative of this program. That if I can make it though this class, it WILL get better. I WANT to do this Master's Degree. I just have to get over this hurdle first. It's going to be 9 more weeks of major suck-fest, but I know I can do it now. I have made my decision and I am determined. And if I can get an A, that will just be a big F-you to this stupid class!