Holy s***, I’m training for a HALF MARATHON!

That’s basically a daily thought for me anymore. I wake up, swing my legs over the edge of the bed, stretch my toes and the balls of my feet in the cool dark of morning…and think about my training. I shower, brush my teeth, and get ready for the day…and think about training. I go to work, I teach the kids amazing lessons, I grade brilliant and hastily composed essays…and I think about training. I finally leave work to go train, and while I’m working out, I think about…food. Obsessed? Perhaps a little. No, I’m not crazy obsessed like I was back in 2012. In fact, I think my obsession is a healthy one this time around since I now know to balance strength training with cardio. I’m also much more in tune with my body’s needs, and I don’t push myself when I know I should be resting and/or recovering.

Still, the thought that I am competing in a half marathon – something I never saw myself doing – is not only exhilarating, but it’s also slightly daunting. The 5K is where I live, and though I will do 5-mile training runs from time to time (as in once every 10 days or so), anything beyond that is foreign to me. I have been saving my long runs for Sundays, which I always do out on the trails. Stephen, my physical therapist from my surgery/post surgery days advised that I do 2/3 of my weekly miles on soft surfaces, so I have been doing exactly that. It’s definitely more challenging to run trails, but it’s excellent training and much easier on my knees and hips. Plus, when I do run on the road, it feels so much easier, and I have already gained in speed.

Conquering the trails

Conquering the trails

The past couple of weeks have been especially interesting since I am now at a point where the daily mileage is more than what my body is used to. I can pretty much tell when I have run three miles – give or take a tenth of a mile – so when I hit that 3-mile point, my body wants to be done. Though I’ve only added 1-2 miles to that total distance so far, my brain and my legs are quite confused. “Why haven’t you stopped yet?!” my thighs seem to scream at me with every stride past three miles. I may have yelled out loud a few times “Because we’re not done yet, so shut up!” undoubtedly creeping out all of the other people on the trails.

Despite my nervousness, I am having a lot of fun training. I’ve really missed the routine, and who doesn’t love to see the physical results of their hard work? I’ve already lost about five pounds and I’ve dropped approximately an inch and a half off of my waistline (thanks to those vacuums!). I feel like myself again, and there is no greater reward than that.

Twenty-eight more days to go. We can do this, legs!

Food Talk!

I continue to play around with GF and Paleo recipes, and I am having so much fun experimenting in the kitchen. Loving all things pumpkin, I made up my own protein pumpkin smoothie. It reminds me a lot of the sweet potato smoothie from the Racing Weight Cookbook in terms of flavor. Here’s the recipe. The serving size is for 2 medium-sized portions…or one GIANT smoothie. To each his own.

    • 2 cups of almond milk (unsweetened vanilla is best)
    • half a can of organic pumpkin puree
    • 3 tbls natural peanut butter
    • scoop and a half of vanilla protein powder
    • splash of vanilla extract and a dash of pumpkin pie spice
    • 4-5 ice cubes
    • blend until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth
sprinkle some extra pumpkin pie spice on top for extra spicy sass

sprinkle some extra pumpkin pie spice on top for extra spicy sass

I follow a blog called Cookie and Kate, and I tried one of her recipes for a GF/Paleo/Vegetarian quiche containing arugula, cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, and goat cheese with an almond meal crust. It was delicious! I’m going to attempt to make her “no noodle” Pad Thai for my lunch tomorrow, so I’ll be sure to post about how it turns out.

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Lastly, I found a Paleo stew recipe on Pinterest that was super tasty! The recipe suggested that I shouldn’t add potatoes since they get mushy, but I did anyway. I added sweet potatoes during the last hour and a half of cooking (I cooked mine on high for 4 hours), and they turned out just fine. This stew makes for the perfect fall dinner. Click here for this easy crock-pot recipe.

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Stay happy and healthy, friends!

 

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Autumn Tom-Foolery

Hello, world! It seems like ages since I last blogged. My stars, so much has been going on since late August! Between kicking off the new school year, planning my sister’s baby shower, dealing with a flooded basement, and all of the other minutia of life, updating the ol’ blog unfortunately had to take a back seat. However, the shower is over, the flood is cleaned up and we’re slowly putting things back together, and I think I’ve finally settled into a routine at work. Plus my mom commented at the baby shower that she has no idea what’s going on in my life since I haven’t blogged in “forever.” Got it, Mom.

I channeled my inner Martha Stewart to make the shower centerpieces. Word.

I channeled my inner Martha Stewart in order to make the shower centerpieces. Word.

Well, I can safely say what hasn’t taken a back seat is my training. Though it took the rest of August and the first week of September to get my breathing fully back under control, I planned out and eased into a very regimented training routine that will extend through to the end of November. Why? Because I’ve done something completely insane: I signed up for a half marathon. Eek! The Cleveland West Running Club is sponsoring their 39th installment of the Fall Classic Half Marathon and 5K on November 23rd.

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That’s right: pencil and paper, baby.

I signed up for the race the second week of September, and after taking off close to eight weeks of training due to my asthma, it was going to be a challenge to come up with a routine that would get me ready to perform well at a half marathon in less than three months. I tried to find a plan online, but everything I came across was either too short, too long, too intense, or not intense enough. After a long search, I decided to sit down and hash it out old school. I printed off some calendars, tallied up how many miles I could run during week one of my plan, and increased each week’s mileage by roughly 10%. In between, I have included plenty of cross training, from strength days to swim days. Once I had it all planned out, I entered everything into my iPhone calendar. Huzzah organization!

Fancy new trail kicks to tackles those trails

Fancy new trail kicks to tackle those trails

I’m a few weeks into the plan, and already I am seeing a difference. I put on some extra poundage while on the asthma roids, so I am happy to see my body returning to the shape I know and love. My energy level has started to increase and my stress level has started to decrease. I do about 2/3 of my weekly miles on the trails, and everyone knows the most fabulous time to run in Cleveland is during the fall. There isn’t much more that I love than hitting those leaf-strewn trails.

In addition to getting back into the swing of things in my training world, I’ve been doing more playing around in the kitchen. I’ve cooled it on the smoothies a bit because I’m in full-on fall recipe mode, though I did find a recipe for a pumpkin smoothie I’m dying to try.

photo 3-23In my trusty Racing Weight Cookbook, I tried out the roasted root vegetables on page 220. I tossed the baked beets, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, and parsnips with field greens, toasted walnuts, and chèvre in an attempt to recreate a scrumptious autumn salad I fell in love with from one of my favorite Grand Rapids haunts, Marie Catribe’s.

photo 1-34I’ve also been dabbling with some Paleo recipes. No, I haven’t gone completely caveman. I’m Italian: there’s no way I’m giving up my pasta. I am intrigued, however, by the whole-foods concept, and some of the gluten-free recipes floating around out there are quite easy and tasty. The recipe I found on Pinterest for Paleo chocolate chip cookies is by far my favorite. The cookies are made with almond flour and coconut oil, which makes them taste sort of like the pastry version of an Almond Joy. I like to snack on one before a run to give me a little boost of protein.

That’s the rest of August and all of September in a nutshell. I’ll be sure to keep you updated (Mom) on the fall training for my half as well as on my quest for new and yummy fall-flavored food. Stay happy and healthy!

~JLD

 

 

 

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Au revoir, Gay Games Cleveland!

The GG9 Closing Ceremony was last night, marking the end of the fabulous week-long sporting and cultural event. It was an incredible evening, moving and powerful as well as light-hearted and entertaining. The gorgeous summer sunshine and Lake Erie breezes at the Mall C provided the perfect backdrop to the ceremony.

At 5:00, there was a procession of all of the GG9 board members, athletes, and others involved with the games from the Convention Center across the street. Wearing my triathlon medal North Coast Multisport owner and GG9 Triathlon race director Mickey Rzymek sent to me as an honorary participant and Gay Games supporter, I lined up and rubbed elbows with athletes from all over the world including Australia, England, Puerto Rico, Germany, France, and many others. As I stood in the bottom level of the Convention Center, I took a long look at all of the colorful, happy people around me. The positive energy was palpable, and I radiated it back ten fold.

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We made our way up the stairs and out onto the street. In a snaking line, we wound our way around the Mall lawn, passing spectators and volunteers who were cheering and clapping for us. Never in all my life have I felt more like a champion. I smiled and waved, shook hands and gave high fives, had my picture taken: it was as if I was a celebrity! The huge crowd made its way up to the stage, and after all of the people had gathered on lawn, a series of moving speeches were delivered by people including representatives of  the Gay Games Federation, Gay Games Cleveland, and the Paris representatives who will be hosting GG10 in 2018.

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As my husband and I wandered around the grounds, we took in the beautiful sites, sampled some of the delicious food from the food trucks of Cleveland, and soaked in the last few moments of this week-long celebration of inclusion. It was magical.

When I think back to the beginning of the week, I remember how heartbroken I felt that I was unable to participate the way I had intended, but by Saturday’s closing ceremony, I had made my peace with it. Hey, I still participated! I supported, rallied, cheered, and attended. I crossed the finish line at the 5K hand-in-hand with some remarkable people. I heard visitors from other cities and countries praise the city I love, which made me love it all the more. In the end, it didn’t really matter that I didn’t get to race; what mattered is that I was a part of it all. I was part of history. I believe with all of my heart that these games have impacted Cleveland, Akron, and Ohio as a whole more than we truly realize. We became and international symbol for equality in one week’s time! Being a part of that alone proved to be more exiting than I ever could’ve imagined.

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Thank you to all of the board members, the volunteers, the participants and athletes, the spectators, and the supporters for making the Gay Games Cleveland the tremendous event that it was. See you all in Paris in 2018!

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No-Go for the Gay Games

After visiting the doctor yesterday, it was decided that my body just isn’t up to the task of competing in the Gay Games sprint tri and the 5K. I have yet to fully recover from my asthma attack in late July, and am now on a much stronger and longer dose of steroids to help get me back to breathing normally and feeling more like myself.

Words cannot accurately convey how sad and disappointed I am that I can’t participate. For those of you that know me well (and probably even those of you who don’t since I’ve blogged about it so much), you know that I have been looking forward to GG9 since I registered for the games in 2012 and signed up for my races in 2013. I’ve worked so hard for the past two years recovering from injury and surgery, and training to become the most physically and mentally fit I have ever been in my life. To be this close and not be able to compete is utterly heartbreaking.

I think that the Gay Games are a hugely impactful and momentous occasion not only for Cleveland but Ohio as a whole. I still plan on attending several of the events and ceremonies because I believe it is important to show my full support. Perhaps these games will finally tip the point in the long overdue decision to legalize gay marriage in Ohio and afford more rights to the LGBT community.

Thank you so much to the Federation of Gay Games for selecting Cleveland as your host city for GG9. Good luck to all of you who are participating, and thank you to all of the volunteers and event coordinators. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this amazing and historical event, and proud to celebrate the city I love. And who knows…maybe I’ll participate at the next GG10 in Paris in 2018.  🙂

cleveland

 

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Eighteen and counting!

logo-gg Yup, only 18 days until the opening ceremonies of The Gay Games in Cleveland and 19 until the sprint triathlon. I am so freaking excited! Sure, I’ve been racing all season with a mix of swimming events, one sprint triathlon, and a few road races, but the GG9 sprint triathlon is the one I have been waiting for since I registered last year. The Gay Games are going to be an historic event for Cleveland, and I can’t wait to be a part of them!

Last week set me back a little since I suffered from an asthma attack, but my lungs are finally beginning to feel like they are back to normal, which means it’s time for me to hit the training hard these next couple of weeks. I know it’s not proper training to be doing so much strength training during the season, but since I’m still working on getting stronger and building up muscle from my downtime last year, I’m breaking the rules a bit. I don’t expect to place in my age group at GG9. I’m sure the competition will be stiff as I am certain the pros/elites will be out in force. At least, that’s what I’m hoping because I really just want this event to be fabulously successful; however, I’m not settling for just finishing either. I “just finished” races years ago. Now it’s about setting PRs and doing my very best.

Speaking of doing my very best, I ran another 5K last weekend – Believe in Yourself 5K in Avon sponsored by the Lakeshore Day Camp – and I managed to shave off 15 seconds from the LULA 5K time putting me at 24:23. That’s still two minutes slower than my AG win at the Greyt Race back in 2012, but considering I managed to trim so much in such a short period of time, I’m feeling pretty damn proud of myself, especially since my lungs aren’t feeling 100% as of yet. I also managed to snag my second AG win. Not too shabby.

But as I’ve said before, this summer is not going to be all about the training. Last year was the “Summer of Glory” due to its length, but this year is the “Summer of Fun.” I’m pushing myself to try new things and get outside as much as possible. New in my training world are track sessions. I will complete my first one later this week, and I’m excited to work these sessions in on a regular basis since I know they will not only help improve my endurance, but they will also help me dial up the speed factor of my racing, especially the kick. I’m also trying SUP (standup paddleboard) later this week. I am so excited about this! I’ve signed up for one of 41° North’s “Sunset Tours” where we start by paddling down the Rocky River and make our way out onto Lake Erie for the sunset. Doesn’t that sound perfect?

This weekend I’ll be heading to Columbus to visit my friend and fellow shark lover Moffat (her name is Beth, but I am too used to calling her by her last name to make the switch). My Columbus experience is severely limited, so I am psyched to get a tour of Ohio’s capital city from one of my favorite people. I’m not sure what’s in store for me, but I’ll make sure to report back next week. Huzzah for summer adventures!

Food Love

I’ve made more food items from my beloved Racing Weight Cookbook and a couple of new smoothies in the Vitamix. Now that it’s summer and I’m home from traveling, there are some slightly more advanced recipes in the cookbook that I am eager to make and taste. I use the term “advanced” loosely because everything in the book is pretty darn easy to make. IMG_8341 IMG_8175 IMG_8337I tried the “Apple, Blueberry & Chicken Salad” on page 211 and it was the perfect summer salad. The most challenging aspect of the dish was making the glazed pecans, and it wasn’t that hard at all. I also made the rice with pine nuts and Parmesan cheese on page 121. It was crazy easy and great for a quick and filling lunch (along with some roasted Brussels sprouts). I also made the “Spiced Sweet-Potato & Almond Smoothie” on page 194, and even though it’s a cold drink, it is like fall in a glass. Think blended version of a sweet potato pie. Dee-lish. Additionally, I created a couple of fun non-recipe book smoothies. The first I’m calling “Berry Spinach Cream.” The ingredients are almond milk, coconut water, spinach, vanilla protein powder, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Use some ice if you’re not using frozen berries, or else you’ll have to chill the smoothie. It’s not a pretty color, but it’s quite tasty and makes a great recovery shake. Another yummy and good-for-you recovery shake is my “Tropsicle.” The ingredients for this summery creamsicle-like treat are almond milk, pineapple juice, vanilla protein powder, half a banana, frozen mango, frozen peaches, and fresh orange slices. Again, throw in some ice cubes if you’re not using chilled almond milk and/or frozen fruit. Sorry, but I don’t have any pictures of the above two smoothies because I consumed them immediately after making them. Whoops! I’ll make sure to take pics next time. Happy cooking!

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Travels and Training

Ah, the familiar sights and smells of home. Though my back-to-back trips to Massachusetts and Aruba were perfect and wonderful in every way, there’s just something about being home that feels so good. But now that I’m done traveling for the summer, it’s time to get down to brass tacks with my training.

I managed to keep up with a light workout regiment while I was living the island life at Palm Beach in Aruba, but I didn’t over do it. I still wanted to enjoy my vacation without being overly sore or worn out. In addition to my workout days, my husband and I took long walks on the beach (that’s right; I said it) after breakfast every morning. Here’s my travel week training log:

Saturday: Absolutely nothing.

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Our hotel, Riu Palace.

Arrived in Aruba with the family. Lounged, ate, drank, and gambled a little. It was awesome.

Sunday: Strength

I hit the resort gym for a 10-minute treadmill warm-up, followed by 3 x 12 of the following: chest presses, leg presses, bent-arm lat pull downs, and one-arm dumbbell rows (which I had to improvise a bit since there was no bench). I returned to my room to to complete 20 each of my PT moves: vacuums, left lifts, side leg lifts, clamshells, bridges. I threw in a few planks for good measure.

Monday: Run

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OWS goggles for the win.

Mark and I took in the northern coastline of Aruba with a jog along the boardwalk that stretches behind all of the resorts and hotels. The scenery doesn’t get much better than beautiful white sand beaches. I left my Garmin at a home, but based on our pace and the time it took us to complete the run, I estimate that we ran close to 3 miles. Later in the day we went tubing, which was so much fun that I couldn’t stop screaming or laughing (scraughing?).

 

Tuesday: Off

I got a little sunburn on my shoulders and neck, so when I put on my sports bra I felt like crying. I decided to take the day off…and sip margaritas in the shade.

Wednesday: Run

Last run in Aruba!

Last run in Aruba!

We repeated the same run from Monday, and it was just as gorgeous as the first day. This was also the day we went out on jet skis, which also happened to be my first time on a jet ski. The water was quite choppy which made for a very exhilarating, slightly terrifying experience. I absolutely loved it!

Thursday: Strength

I did a 15 minute warm-up on the elliptical in the gym followed by 2 x 15 of the following: bent-arm lat pull downs, chest presses, and leg presses. I went back to our room to round out my workout with 20 each of vacuums, clamshells, leg lifts, side leg lifts, bridges, and knee raises on my stomach.

Friday: Off

It was a grueling travel day back home due to delays caused by hurricane Arthur, which is perhaps the least scariest name for a hurricane ever. I decided to chill out and hit it hard the next day.

Saturday: Trial Run

I really missed my shady forest trails, and I was in need of some soft-surface running, so I headed to my favorite spot in the Rocky River Reservation. I busted out 4.5 miles with some heavy post-run stretching.

Sunday: OWS

I was a little sore from my run, which prevented me from doing more, but I still managed to get in about 1100 yards with my swim sister Carolyn. The water was flat, clear, and cool.

I plan on spending July focussing on my strength training and my running game. I’m looking to do a trail race and possibly another 5K before August, but I’m not committed to anything as of yet. My primary objective is to be healthy, happy, and fit enough to do well in the Gay Games sprint tri and 5K in August and my 10-miler in September, all of which I am super psyched for. I also plan to put that Vitamix cookbook to good use. Yum!

 

 

 

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Swim, Bike, Run, Smile

Almost two years to the day, I have finally competed in my first post-injury/post-surgery TRIATHLON! It was a remarkable experience, highlighted by the uniqueness of the race itself. MRA Multisport in Massachusetts puts on a triathlon called the Summer Solstice Sprint, located in Sutton, and what makes this race so special is that it takes place in the evening. Yes, the evening. The beauty of the race is that it takes place on the longest (or at least, very close to the longest) day of the year, so there is plenty of daylight to complete the entire race. In short, it’s brilliant. Here’s the recap of my day.

Pre-Race

For those of you who race, whether that’s in road races, triathlon, cyclocross, etc., most of the time you probably race in the morning, so you can understand how totally weird it felt that I was able to sleep in until 8:00 (yes, that’s sleeping in for me), get some breakfast, and just chill out. At first it made me nervous, but that quickly dissipated since I was able to while away the hours at my favorite place on this earth: Walden Pond.

Race Night

I made my way to Sutton (about 45 minutes away from Concord). When I arrived at the race venue, Marion’s Camp, I set up my bike and racing accoutrements, and it did not escape me how natural all of the motions felt even though I hadn’t laid out a transition spot in seemingly forever. When it was all said and done, I met with my friend David Heller who I became acquainted with back in 2009 at the Walden Woods Project’s “Approaching Walden” conference. David lives near Salem, and I suggested to him (coerced?) that he join me for the SSS. I’m so glad he did. It was nice to see a familiar face and to catch up a bit.

The Swim

They had us get into three separate groups for the swim: Men, Women, and Novices. If a person thought he/she should be in the “new swimmer/nervous swimmer” group (as MRA put it), that person had to tell the volunteers at registration who would then issue the racer with a yellow cap. Are you enjoying my foreshadowing? I took my non-neophyte pink cap and proceeded to shoe-horn myself into my wetsuit.

The men, in green caps, went out first, followed by the women in their gender-specific pink. It was a two-at-two start, and before I could even think I was in the water, making my way to the first buoy. In just a few short moments, I was upon some of the green caps that had gone a couple of minutes before me. I quickly – and to my great dismay – found myself stuck between two men who CLEARLY should’ve been wearing the yellow caps. The swim was only a quarter-mile, so I should have been able to blast through it, but I was caught between the panicked and unskilled flailing of the two green caps, and in no time I too was rolling onto my back gasping for air after a flailed arm slapped me across of face. In short, I was pissed, but I was also determined not to let these two newbs ruin my first race in two years. I put my face in the water, began to kick furiously, and beat my way past the melee of limbs. In a flash I was on the shore, unzipping my wetsuit, tearing off my cap, and making my way up the winding steep path to T1.

T1

I told myself days ago, even weeks ago, that I was not going to kill myself trying to speed through my transitions. This was the first time in a long time that I had done this, and with no practice under my belt, I knew things could get a little complicated. I did spend a few too many seconds contemplating where to place my soggy wetsuit since I had only ever raced with one once before (The dreaded Maumee OLY!), but eventually I just threw it over the bike rack. But to my surprise, transition went very well. I got out of my wetsuit with relative easy, slid into my bike shoes, grabbed my helmet, and was off.

The Bike

The course was pretty much perfect. With the exception of a few rough patches on the asphalt, which was easily navigable, I enjoyed the rolling hills and beautiful scenery. Most of the course was around a large inland lake, and I loved looking at all of the beach houses. One area of the ride was a dark canopy of tall oak trees, which was both scary and exhilarating. There were two incredibly fantastically fun downhills where I reached speeds I can’t mention here or my mother will worry. I screamed with joy, tears from the wind streaming out of the corners of my eyes. I wish every ride had hills like that. The course was only 10 miles long, and at the very end there was this slow, steep, son-of-a-bitch of a hill that made me want to cry a little. Right in the middle I though for just a second that I would have to get off and walk the rest of the way, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. There was no way I was going to “quit” on my first race. And so I slugged on, up to the top, and back into transition.

T2

My hands were shaking from the adrenaline so I had a hard time tying my shoes. I opted not to put in my speed laces before I left home because, again, it wasn’t about the time; it was all about having fun. Though I had to deal with the annoyance of tying actual laces, I managed to speed through it. After a friendly reminder from a volunteer to grab my bib number, I was on my way out of the run exit. It has been a long time since I have made the bike to run transition, and I had forgotten the “wonky leg” feeling of trying to get my legs under me, but I was so happy to be running, I didn’t care. I was almost done!

The Run

The out-and-back 5K was on the same portion as the beginning of the bike, so I already knew what to expect as far as terrain. There was a slow uphill, not too steep, at the beginning. It leveled out pretty much after that, with only a few minor elevations and dips here and there. After about 1.25 miles, I finally got into a normal feeling cadence and started to pick up my speed. Once I rounded the half-way point, I was feeling comfortable, and with one-mile left to go, I turned it up. I passed several people before the last turn, and I was feeling FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. The last quarter-mile was uphill, my specialty, so I knew I would be able to pass a few more. I put everything I had into that hill, and when I crossed the finish line, the only thing that hurt was my face. Smiling does that to you.

After the race, I packed up my bag, grabbed some grub, and chatted with a few of the racers as I waited for David to cross the finish line. It was starting to get dark and chilly, but the muscles in my arms and legs seemed electric. David and I said our farewells, and as I made my way back to my car, hauling my hulking transition bag and awkwardly wheeling my bike up the one-mile stretch to the parking lot, I felt as light as air. And that feeling right there, that is why I tri.

So happy! YAWP!

So happy! YAWP!

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