Nine Year Blogiversary

By , July 21, 2014 6:35 am

Craziness – today marks 9 years that I’ve been writing at ilaxSTUDIO.com!

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I’ve said it many times before, but I never expected my blog to become what it has for me. I started it in 2005 to get used to writing (and hand coding) before I moved to Rome in January 2006 – my main intent was to use the blog to share stories while I lived overseas. But right away, it became a platform for connecting with other people and reading their stories. And it still amazes me that many of the people I love and consider to be family, are people I’ve met through blogging. 

Awww.

I am really happy with what my blog is – my stories/experiences/highlight reel, my training and a discussion board. And I am pleased with the reception and readership too. Like I said above, its main purpose started as documentation, so any connection beyond that is always exciting. I am honored that you stop by to read/participate!

I do sometimes wonder if blogging will die out, or if I will get sick of it… but I really don’t see that happening. It’s just such a useful tool for me – I use it to document my life, store photos, connect with people, keep myself entertained (and sometimes procrastinate), and to feel creative and engaged. Onward we go, in to year 10!

Which blog(s) have you been reading the longest? What makes you “stick” with reading a certain blog?

Training Week 248

By , July 20, 2014 3:12 pm

Highlight of the Week: Getting positive feedback from my Monday night strength class. 

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Monday | July 14, 2014: 4 m run + teaching strength class
Loc: Millennium Trail, Temp: 77°/76°, Time: 42:10, Pace: 10:32 avg, Difficulty: medium/hard, Felt: annoyed by all the bugs
Strength: Kettlebells and plyo box with boxing, Difficulty: hard for them! Felt: great! had a lot of fun!
Tuesday | July 15, 2014: 5 m run (w/Bobbi + Kelly)
Loc: Grayslake, Temp: 56°/56°, Time: 52:00, Pace: 10:24 avg, Difficulty: medium, Felt: tired
Wednesday | July 16, 2014: rest
Thursday | July 17, 2014: Softball Game #8
Friday | July 18, 2014: teaching strength class + 10.5 m ride
Strength: Kettlebells and plyo box with boxing, Difficulty: easy, Felt: overtired
Loc: Round Lake, Temp: 78°/76°, Time: 46:52, Pace: 13.4 mph avg, Difficulty: easy, Felt: good, agitated by the wind & cars
Saturday | July 19, 2014: rest
Sunday | July 20, 2014: 9.2 m run (w/Bobbi & Efit)
Loc: Libertyville, Temp: 58°/75°, Time: 1:44:06, Pace: 11:19 avg, Difficulty: medium, Felt: meh/crappy

Notes:

  • A question just for fun… would you try a nude race? Hee hee. 
  • My knees hurt on Monday and for a second I was worried something was wrong with them… then remembered I fell on them at the trail race two days before. Derrrr. They also hurt on Sunday’s long run, again, from diving (and landing on my knees) to stop a ball at softball. Oops. 
  • I was (am?) in a funk for the last five days of this week as I tried to sort out some work stuff in my head, and just couldn’t stop thinking about it, even on the weeknights and my days off. It’s not like me to churn work stuff over and over like that! I am working on trying to see things in a different light to help deal with it. I that clicks soon, cause I don’t like feeling this… anxious so much of the time. 

Link to Training Week 247

Runner’s high vs… cyclist’s high?

By , July 19, 2014 8:02 am

Is there a cyclist’s high*, similar to how there is a runner’s high**?

I wonder. 

I love riding my bike. It definitely provides exhilarating thrills that running cannot, like cycling downhill at 30+ mph. It also gets me farther, and quicker. 

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But does it ever get me to that euphoric state that running does? Not quite. Not yet.

A lot of my short little rides have the opposite effect than a run. Instead of leaving me calmer/happier, they leave me a bit agitated. By the wind. By the people yelling at me from their car. By the car that cut me off on a turn and almost made me ride in to the ditch. By the wind again – why is it coming from that direction, too? Ha ha. 

I am bound to find this cyclist’s high! It must exist! Maybe I will find it in a week, on RAGBRAI***!

*Not doping
**According to this link, “the effect can occur anytime that people engage in any strenuous exercise or activity, not just running”
***I had my first RAGBRAI nightmare last night. It was Saturday, and we spent so much time screwing around we missed starting the ride. Then it was the next day and someone suggested we do the ride then, after all the pass-through towns were closed. I have lots of dreams about missing events and I hate them!

Friday Question 255

By , July 18, 2014 11:46 am

When did you get your first digital camera? Do you still shoot on actual film, or all digital now?

Backing up some photos recently, I realized it’s been 10 years since I got my first digital camera (as a gift, from Steven)! And of course, in those ten years, I’ve had three digital cameras, and several phones that take photos too. It’s fun to look back through all of the photos and see how the quality has changed. I wish I took photos more on a daily basis, back then, like I do now. But the phone leads more to that than the camera. 

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I wonder what the future of digital photography will hold for me! Ever since Steven got his DSLR, I rarely use my point and shoot. In fact, I took it with me for Bobbi‘s hang gliding trip and found out it has a mark on the lens. And wasn’t even upset. I just thought to myself “Whatever, I’ll photoshop it” (since it’s only larger when you zoom out on the lens).

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I am interested in my future including one of these, so I can take action shots during some of my outdoor adventures… 

A bridesmaid dress you can wear again

By , July 17, 2014 6:21 am

So many of you left nice comments about how much you liked the bridesmaid dress I wore at Christina and Will’s wedding. Thank you! And many also commented about it being a dress that could be worn more than once (or not only to formal events). In fact, when Christina gave it to me last summer I asked her (jokingly) if I could wear it to work before the wedding. Ha ha. Just kidding…

But I am actually doing that today!

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Yep! Same jewelry! Different belt and added a cardigan. 

I am really nervous about making a good impression at an important meeting I have this afternoon. More nervous than normal, as I’ve been assigned tasks for this project that I’ve never done before… and don’t quite know what I am doing. And feel very frustrated. ANYWAY! Wearing this dress that so many of you left nice compliments on has me feeling more comfortable, about my appearance, at least!

Thinking about this dress, I wonder if I’ll ever be in any other weddings. Most of my closest friends were married when I met them. You never know what the future holds though (meaning meeting new people – not something happening to my friends’ marriages, ha ha).

Before this wedding, I was only in one other, well, unless you count my aunt’s wedding, which I think maybe I was in? I just remember my dress matched a few other people’s dresses. 

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I love that all three of my siblings are in this photo. Sorry for the diaper shot, snister. 

But I have definitely only been a bridesmaid that one other time, and that dress is not one I’ve used since. It was pretty to wear at the wedding, but I should probably donate it. 

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How many weddings have you been in?

I have to share our family photo from the wedding. I really like how it turned out and can’t wait to see more photos from Paper Crane Photo!

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From L to R: My brother Anthony and his wife Amber, Stefano and me, Christina and Will, my brother Nick and his sons Thomas and Nicky, and Mamba and Daddio

We’re all screwed cause we sit too much

By , July 16, 2014 6:26 am

You’ve probably seen countless studies lately, telling you that the amount of sitting you do during the day almost negates any exercise you also did that day. YES. We get it. A lot of us lead a sedentary lifestyle. A lot of us have desk jobs. 

But now you can determine exactly how much your sitting negates your workout! According to this study (pdf here), each hour of sitting during the day negates 8% of the gain from the same amount of vigorous activity, or 16% of the gain from the same amount of moderate-intensity activity. So, to use the example from the article:

…if you run for an hour in the morning, and then sit for 10 hours during the day, you lose roughly 80 percent of the health benefit from your morning workout.

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Health benefit? What does that even mean?

I know this is awful to say, but I am getting tired of hearing about this. It’s discouraging. I get up early to run at 5:00 am so I can start my sit-at-my-desk all day job at 6:30. I work 6:30-4:00, usually taking a one hour lunch break. So yeah, according to the formula above, my 8.5 hours of sitting negates 68% of the benefits of my run (and that doesn’t even count any sitting (or exercise) at night). But let’s be honest… my running is probably more in the moderate-intensity activity level anyway. So that negates 136% of the run. Might as well just sleep in! Ha ha. 

Despite all of the information coming out about the harm of sitting so much, it’s not really something I am worrying about. I try to be active every day, and even more so on the weekends (I suppose this isn’t something we can “bank” up on by being active on the weekends, similar to how you can’t do that with sleep). I am not going to start calculating how much I sit during the week.

Do you worry about how much you “sit”? And that it negates the efforts of your workout? Do you actively (har de har har) try to do something about it?

All of these articles recommend standing desks, treadmill desks, sitting on an exercise ball, walking meetings, taking the stairs… and so on. Those are all great ideas, and interest me, because office design is actually what I do. But I don’t see a lot of these ideas being used, at least in my field. Ha, at home though, I have been standing up to work at our kitchen bar – not because of the sitting thing – but because I’ve been getting too hot sitting at my desk with the west facing window! And standing does make me feel more refreshed. 

Is asking for permission old fashioned?

By , July 15, 2014 6:17 am

Listening to that song “Rude” has me thinking about when Steven asked my dad for permission to marry me. And the whole idea of “asking for permission,” at all. Have you heard that song? It’s about this guy who asks his girlfriend’s dad for permission to marry her, and the dad says no, so the boyfriend asks “why you gotta be so rude?”* The song is super catchy!

I went back to my archives to see if I had already told the story of how Steven asked my dad for permission to marry me and whoops… I wasn’t even blogging then! Ha ha. And, of course, this story is second hand, since I wasn’t there. 

Steven and I had plans to go to the restaurant where we had our first date for our two year anniversary in September of 2004. On his drive in from Chicagoland to Iowa for the date, he stopped at my parent’s house. I asked him if he thinks they knew why he was stopping, and he said he wondered if they thought he was stopping by to ask a car-related question (legit logic there!). 

So he stopped and they chatted a bit then he asked my mom if he could have a private conversation with my dad (aww) and that is when he asked him. He obviously said yes, then he showed both of my parents the ring**. And then he was on his way! But not before my mom gave him some things to give to me, which was really funny, because we unloaded his car to my apartment when he got to Iowa he had to hide the stuff from my mom until after he proposed so I wouldn’t know he had stopped there!

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I remember after Steven proposed I asked who knew***, and he told me he stopped at my parents to ask. And that he was really nervous when he did. And that when he asked, my dad wanted to make sure that it was still in the plans for me to finish school. Ha ha, yes. I was in school for three more years after that!

If you’re married, were the parents asked for permission? If you have kids, would you want their suitors to ask you?

I wonder how common it is to get the parent’s blessing for marriage. It would be interesting to see how it is from culture to culture. And really, from relationship to relationship. Each family is different, and each with their own drama. 

Personally, I like the courtesy of letting the parents know. And I am happy my mom was somewhat included and got to see the ring. I bet she was just waiting all night for me to call!

I asked my dad if he appreciated Steven asking, and if he would have cared, if he hadn’t. He said in some ways he appreciated it, as it’s a respectful thing to do, even if a bit outdated. But that he also wouldn’t have thought anything of him not asking. He said he felt the same way about Will asking for Christina. 

Then I asked my dad if he asked his father-in-law for permission, and he said he didn’t! He was too involved/freaked out about asking my mom that it never occurred to ask her dad! He remembered thinking after, that he really should have. 

Aww, my parents have a super cute engagement story. And hopefully Dad will comment if I get a detail off (update – see first comment for his version), but I think for Christmas, my dad got my mom a tool box. And I bet she was looking at it like, “wtf?!” but then he said to her, “would you marry a man who gave you a tool box?” And she opened it and there was a ring inside. Say it with me – awwwwwwwwwwwww!

*Wow, I read the wikipedia page about this song, and the song was actually inspired by what I thought it was originally about before I heard the whole thing – a rude girlfriend. They changed it to be about a girl’s father.
** And they both commented on how “big” it was. This was a common reaction from people in Iowa, but not so much in Chicagoland, which we found interesting. A few people were appalled by the size of it, which was kind of annoying. It’s not that big, and it really is appropriately sized for my large hands, ha ha!
***I wasn’t expecting Steven to propose because he had just bought our house. But during the ONE time we went to look at rings, he secretly bought the engagement ring and it had been at his brother’s house, so his brother knew and my parents (and probably his, too). 

Psycho Psummer Trail Run Race Report

By , July 14, 2014 11:31 am

Gosh, I love trail running. Even with my slower pace, falling, and squeaky shorts… I can’t NOT enjoy myself on the trails. Especially when I have my trail buddy, Rachel, with me. This weekend we ran 10 miles at the Psycho Psummer Trail Run (put on by Trail Nerds) in Wyandotte Country Park in Kansas and had an amazing time! I’ve already got it in my head that we need to do this race next year (and go for the 20 miles we originally signed up for, ha!).

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Why a race in Kansas? Ha, why not? Really though, we were casually talking about how neither of us have ever been to a game at Kauffman stadium (where the Royals play). We discussed dates, one miraculously worked, and when I found this trail race, I knew it was meant to be! And with a course description like this, how could we NOT drive over 500 miles to do it?!

A beautiful but challenging run on hilly single-track trails. This course is very different in many ways from the February “Run Toto Run” Race. 50K Run, 10-Mile Run, and 20-miler. All on bridle trails and single-track trails. This is a rocky and hilly UNPAVED loop course. 9-hour time limit.

The course was a 10 mile loop you did one, two or three times, and we signed up for the 20-mile option. We’re of the mindset “the more time on the trails, the better”… but we also had a baseball game to get to and we wanted to spend some time with my family before, so we hoped to be done with the 20 miles around 1:00 pm. With the race starting at 8:00 am (for 50k and 20-mile, 10-mile was at 9:00) that gave us five hours – a 15:00 minute mile pace. No big deal, right…? Hee hee…

It was nice to “sleep in” a bit the morning of the race, especially after the long (but so fun) drive the day before. We were out the door around 6:30 and made the short drive from my father-in-law’s to a church parking lot, where we were being bused from to race start. I wasn’t sure about the buses – would we have to wait long to get a ride? But we didn’t have to wait to get there or get back! Awesome! Logistics for the whole race were this easy – everything was really well organized, the course was marked great, there were plenty of port-a-potties, food, and so on. Trail Nerds puts on a great race!

We did same-day packet pickup, and I was really excited that we got a mug*, pin, and shirt, and with such a cool design!

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I put the pin on my vest (queue ominous foreshadowing) right away. We body glided, put our bags in gear check, and it wasn’t too long until the race started!

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Everyone had been warning us about the heat (really, telling us we’d be miserable, except Trail Nerds, who just said to prepare). It’s hot in Kansas in July. It was 84°F with 51% humidity when we started and 89°F with 45% humidity when we ended. That is probably the hottest I have ever started a race. Rachel and I laughed when we were researching the race and saw how many people do the race shirtless! But we weren’t worried. We had our water vest (you were required to carry water in something) and were going to take it easy. We weren’t out there to RACE.

And guess what? The heat didn’t bother us at all. The course was almost completely shaded. And for the most open portion that wasn’t shaded, there was a breeze. I didn’t have any chafing despite being completely drenched in sweat. So, yay! for the heat not being an issue. 

Alright! About this course!

One thing that intrigued us in the race photos we saw before (which were FREE by the way! how awesome is that?!) is how rocky the course was! And it started out that way!

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The first few miles were up and down (it was ALL up and down) with some single-back dirt trail (always with roots) but a lot of rocky crossings, too. We always walk the uphills in trail races, but we had to carefully walk a lot of the downhills that were so rocky! Can you imagine falling down that?

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Don’t worry, we both made sure to have our falls just be in the dirt. Ha ha. Rachel won for first fall of the day, shortly after our first manned aid station (there were also unmanned water jugs out there for us). We got to the switchback portion, which was where we were able to do most of the running – it seemed to have the least roots and rocks. But Rachel tripped over a little root sticking up in the trail, and got right back up… covered in dirt. We laughed – falling when running trails is expected for us!

I really liked the switchback part of the trails. We quickly ended up in the back of the pack (as we expected) but we could see more people on the lower parts of the switchback, which was fun! And, obviously, it made the hills easier, since they were gradual!

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The course went around a lake, and every once in awhile, we’d get a peek at it! I kept hoping we’d get to run along it at some point!

But first we had to run by a snake (can you see it?):

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Then get our photographs taken as we slowed down to climb over a log, ha ha:

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Then we made it to the second manned aid station, and it was AMAZING! All of the aid stations were. You got there and you were treated like VIP. They asked you what you needed when you got there, and got it for you.It was like having your own personal race assistant. I was really impressed this aid station had grilled cheese sandwiches and bacon! I didn’t go for that (ha ha) but I ate a ton of chips and pickles. 

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Then we kept running and got our view of the lake!

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At that point we were a little over half way done but I could tell we were not on pace. I had switched my watch over just to show overall time (not mileage), and when they told us the mileage at the aid station I realized our pace was not where we thought it would be. The course was much more technical that we expected! Nothing bad about that… it just slowed us down. 

We kept trucking along, back to more single-track, roots, hills and rocks. The 10-milers, who started an hour later than us, started catching up and passing us. They almost always called they were coming, so we’d just get over and let them pass (and admire the shirtless males). We could NOT believe how fast they were running, and their agility up and down the hills! They were amazing! The 10-mile and 50K winner had an overall pace in the mid 7:00s!!!

At one point I noticed the new pin that I put on was clinking with another pin on my vest. The noise was bugging me so I went to adjust it… and wasn’t looking at the trail and had my crash. Ha. I did not get up as fast as Rachel, but I was quickly laughing about it. 

When we got to the next aid station, they came up with towels to wipe us off, and we were all “NO! Get our picture first!” (then wipe us off)

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We took some other goofy pictures there, too:

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The volunteers at the aid stations were so great. The mile 7 aid station (above) put all these fun signs up before and after their stop. We hung out there for quite awhile… oops (not really!)?

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After we left that aid station I heard this weird whistling noise every time I moved. I thought something was going on with my vest… then I realized my shorts were so soaked in sweat they were making a squeaky whistling noise. Ha ha ha. Again, I am AMAZED I had no chafing, and felt so good – all that water, salt and the electrolyte tabs really helped (my hands and toes did swell though, and my toes were still swollen the next day).

The last part of the course had the steepest, rockiest hills. The three hills are named “the three sisters” (see elevation map here). We were struggling just to WALK up them. Fasties would pass us and start to run up, but even they had to stop to power-hike their way to the top. 

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As we got closer to the end (and more and more people passed us) we started discussing if we wanted to stop at 10 or do another loop for 20. We had talked about this before the race as an option if we didn’t feel good because of the heat. And we actually felt great, heat-wise. But we were a bit sore from our falls (my ankle must have twisted), and since the first loop took us three hours – much longer than expected – we had no idea how long the second loop would take. Maybe four? Which would get us back in a rush to get to the baseball game, and then we might be too fried to enjoy the game**. 

So we got to the finish and decided to drop to 10 instead of keep going. 

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We felt completely fine with this decision, until the volunteer at the finish made a really sad face when we told her we were dropping. Rachel and I reassured her we had a blast… just that we had too much going on that evening and didn’t want to feel like crap. Ha. That is probably not a thought that ever enters a true trail runners mind. TRAILS FIRST! TRAILS BEFORE BASEBALL! TRAILS BEFORE FAMILY! I asked the volunteer if we were the only ones to drop and she said no… I wonder if everyone got that sad face when they delivered the news. 

Ha. I was just happy that we got a medal, for doing the 10 miler, too. And it’s really neat!

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I felt so happy the whole time I was doing this race. I never had that “ugh, when is this going to be over?!” feeling, like I sometimes do at road races. And since I had never run this course, every turn was interesting and beautiful (as I bet it is for people who run it over and over!). It’s actually kind of nice we had to go so slow, and take so much in. 

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And I love running trails with Rachel. Our approach to trail running aligns perfectly. And we have fun whether we are chatting, simply saying what a beautiful view/fun course it is, or just running in silence (plus squeaky shorts) together. It’s kind of selfish, but I am hoping Rachel and I can do another trail race together this year! Local is fine, ha ha – trail communities everywhere seem to rock, as this one did. Everyone was so friendly (runners and volunteers) and nice. We had fun chatting with a few different people, and just admiring the different types of runners that were there. It’s true that the trail community is very inclusive!

*I got the coffee mug and Rachel got the beer mug
**It’s really good we stopped when we did at the race, because the game was SO hot for the first 5-6 innings. It was in the 90s, and despite being in the shade, we were all really feeling the heat. I think if we had done two loops that day we might not have enjoyed the game, which was the starting reason for the trip!

Training Week 247

By , July 13, 2014 8:21 am

Highlight of the Week: Doing a super fun and challenging trail race with Rachel in Kansas!

Week247

Monday | July 7, 2014: teaching strength class
Strength: Kettlebells and plyo box w/boxing, Difficulty: medium, Felt: good
Tuesday | July 8, 2014: 3 m run (w/Anne)
Loc: Independence Grove, Temp: 79°/77°, Time: 38:57, Pace: 13:00 avg, Difficulty: easy, Felt: great! only 48% humidity, yay!
Wednesday | July 9, 2014: rest
Thursday | July 10, 2014: 15 m ride + Softball Game #7
Loc: Round Lake, Temp: 76°/75°, Time: 1:07:22, Pace: 13.4 mph avg, Difficulty: easy, Felt: kind of pissy, but the ride helped a bit
Friday | July 11, 2014: teaching strength class + 5 m run (w/Bobbi)
Strength: Kettlebells and plyo box w/boxing, Difficulty: easy, Felt: good
Loc: Grayslake, Temp: 57°/60°, Time: 51:54, Pace: 10:23, Difficulty: medium, Felt: okay (tired – <4 hours sleep, ha ha)
Saturday | July 12, 2014: Psycho Psummer Trail Run (w/Rachel)
Loc: Wyandotte County Park , Temp: 84°/89°, Time: 2:58:23, Pace: 18:29 avg, Difficulty: hard, Felt: great! happy!
Sunday | July 13, 2014: rest

Notes:

  • My calves (and usually the right, more than the left) have been getting sore on and off since June. I thought it was from riding my bike – that I over power with my calves and need to be re-fitted – but then I was doing a strength move this Friday and really felt it, so maybe that’s it! I still think I will get fitted for my bike again. I wonder if I can fit it in before RAGBRAI? Hee hee. 
  • It was so nice to have a “cool” run with Anne on Tuesday night! It was still in the high 70s but the humidity was so low, I felt great! I hope we have a few more days like that this summer. Wishful thinking! We did our run at a local (to me) forest preserve that had a free concert that night, and the concert ended up being a Beatles cover band! I really enjoyed it! What is your favorite Beatles song?
  • Gosh. This trail race Rachel in I did on Saturday was so much freaking fun. And so freaking challenging, too. It’s definitely the most technical trail I’ve ever done!!! Running it really made me want to hit up more trails !!! (but then I think about how much longer it takes me to run them and wonder where I’ll ever find the time, ha ha!)

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Link to Training Week 246

The joy of sharing your passions

By , July 10, 2014 5:53 pm

Gosh, I absolutely loved reading Kristina‘s Ironman Coeur d’Alene recaps (swim & bike/run). And really, reading about her training up to the big event. She had such a strong mental stance in training and at the race. You can just tell by reading her recaps how the positive talk and logic she spoke to herself during the race really helped her (as well as all the physical training, too, hee hee). Congrats, Kristina!

One of the things I read in her recap got me thinking about another topic. She mentioned that her parents came to spectate (awesome!) and how it was such a new experience for them – their first triathlon ever! So she got to tell them all about fun triathlon things like body marking, the costs of some of the bikes, what transition area is, and so on. And they had a great time!

That experience reminded me of when my family came to spectate our Half Ironman Relay last year, and what fun it was to have the same conversations. I mean, we put so much time and effort in to our hobbies, it’s nice when someone is genuinely interested, and you get to talk about something you actually know about!

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I remember my dad being über impressed by it all, but especially that Andrew swam 1.2 miles. He actually congratulated Andrew and shook his hand. Geesh, I don’t think my dad has ever done that after I’ve run anything. Better take up swimming. Ha! Just kidding. 

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That was such a joyous day to me. It was cool enough that I was doing the relay event with my two (not then, but they are now!) brother-in-laws, but to have our families there supporting us made it much more special to me. And it was fun to share the knowledge and tidbits I’ve picked up about the sport (ha, mostly running, of course) with people who were truly interested!

When was the last time you got to share something you were passionate about with a genuinely interested audience? What was the topic?

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