Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Recalling the one year anniversary of the West Webster tragedies

On Facebook today, my former Democrat and Chronicle colleagues are posting their recounts of Christmas Eve 2012 and the tragedies that happened in West Webster. I will follow suit.

It was a day that was hard to forget.

That morning I figured I was in for an easy day at work and thought I could sleep in a bit. Then I checked my phone and leapt out of bed, barely took time to put myself together and went to the office. I saw the footage of smoke streaming up over Lake Ontario on the various TVs as I headed into the building.

As we'd later find out, a man named William Spengler had killed his sister, set the house ablaze and waited to ambush first responders. Two were killed. Two were injured.

"Don't take your coat off," my editor said when I got to the fourth floor. Beats aside, all hands on deck, I was going to Webster.

I stood out in the cold for several hours with the other reporters trying to gauge what was up before I was tasked with community reaction. Normally we were a chatty, social bunch but today things were tense and worried.

I went to a Webster bar. Instead of catching up and blowing off steam from shopping and cooking, people sat quietly around the tables, jumping and crowding around the television whenever a reporter cut in.

It had gotten late in the newsroom and people were working hard on a day they should have been cutting out early. Very apologetically, I was asked to cover the vigil back in Webster. I assured them I didn't mind, I had celebrated Christmas with my family a week earlier, but it was still hard standing there knowing those outside the fire house surely would rather be doing something else on Christmas Eve, but felt a pressing need to be there instead.

The fire chief hadn't planned on making a statement, but seeing the overwhelming crowd he came out, but barely choked out a few words.

One week later I covered the funeral of Tomasz Kaczowka, a 19-year-old who had volunteered for duty that day. Firefighters from across the state and beyond came to honor him.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Life in Albany

Once again, I've been a bad blogger. Life has been moving in fast-forward since I moved here, I feel like I blinked and the move, my birthday and the NYC trip went past, and I'm realizing it's probably about time to buy some Christmas presents.

(I still have 7 days. #plentyoftime.)

So here are some random notes from the past few weeks:

Since I moved here, I've gotten exactly one run in. Part of that's by design, since I'm not training for anything at the moment, I might as well put my expendable energy into getting my apartment together. I'm getting close. Amazon is delivering a table. I just need a couch.

Bronchitis is singlehandedly the worst thing on the planet. I reliably get a cold-flu-sinus thing when the seasons change, and two weeks ago after being a little sniffly I thought I had gotten off easy. But the next week I'm sitting in a hearing in New York City and my nose won't stop running. I limp through the rest of my trip, go home then later end up in urgent care. The next three days become a haze of falling in and out of drug induced naps as Despicable Me plays on a loop in the background. Thank you, Redbox.

Do I love New York? I haven't been since 2008, but I spent a couple days there last week. Knowing my superior sense of navigation, I was quite proud of myself for not getting lost on the subway system. I generally don't love crowded places, but the energy was fun. Plus getting to finally meet many of my coworkers was wonderful. Next time I go, though, I'd prefer it to be a few degrees warmer, and you know, not be coming down with bronchitis.

I guess I'm 30 now. Doesn't really feel any different. Plus I'm no longer competing with all the speedy 20-somethings at races. Yea. #brightside.

About the job. After almost two months, I'm finally starting to settle in. I work in New York's capital building in a small windowless area with all the other reporters. Our four-person (we're adding a fifth soon) office functions well, it's a good and talented team. In between my immediate colleagues and the New York City office there's a lot of passion for what we do, and it's exciting to work in such an environment. I'm excited for the hustle and bustle of the legislative session.

And the apartment. It still has a ways to go, but I'm enjoying where I'm living. I ordered a kitchen table online, so next I need a couch, then a TV. Brandy dog is relieved that there are no tile floors, which she has trouble walking on.

My neighborhood is Center Square in Albany, and my apartment is a half mile away from work. Living on Lark and State is great, everything is so close. The dogs love walking through Washington Park. I realized the downside of street parking with the snowstorm this weekend, but fortunately the job comes with a parking spot, so I've been leaving the car at work so I don't have to deal with it.

I found a new coffee shop. In Rochester, I lived at Boulder Coffee Company. Here my place of choice is The Daily Grind, right near my apartment. I'm dangerously addicted to their lattes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two things come to mind while moving

When it's time to move, two things always come to mind: The #AnniesMove episode of Community, and this cartoon from Hyperbole and a Half. 

Annie's Move, well, just because it's hilarious. The Community gang destroys Annie's old apartment above a porn store as they move her in with Troy and Abed where -- SPOILER ALERT (seriously if you haven't seen the episode by now...) her room is revealed to be a blanket fort. They tweet the whole thing, which is how Jeff gets busted for faking illness and going to the mall instead where the dean blackmails him into hanging out, and Shirley and Britta pick up an interesting passenger.

In the Hyperbole and a Half post, the author, in great detail, describes her dogs' complex and not-so-complex emotions as they move.

The characterizations of "simple dog" and "helper dog" fit my two to a T. Lizzie is "simple dog." She's fairly intelligent, independent and carefree. She doesn't let things bother her until they really bother her, then she breaks down into a bundle of nerves.

The first canine breakdown came when I brought her home from the sitters. I had taken a carload of stuff, packing the car after I dropped them off, and when she came home, she paced around the house, looking for all the missing things.

Then she stopped. Her eyes got wide. Her ears pointed. Like she just remembered something really important. She rummaged around her crate, emerged with her tail wagging, prized green ball in her mouth. We tossed it around, and all was well with the world again.

It squeaks.
The next week it happened again. I was packing and Lizzie was hanging out, unphased. Then someone came to buy my dresser. This was her tipping point.

As the strangers carried my dresser out the door, she started whining, and it didn't cease for 15 minutes. I tried petting her, coaxing her, feeding her, nothing worked. She finally laid down on my bed. I sat down next to her, talked to her like an adult, and promised her everything was fine.

Oh, Lizzie.
I scratched her ears for awhile. Then she suddenly jumped up, rummaged around her crate, again emerged with her ball, and all was well again.

While Lizzie is having her ups and downs, Brandy has settled into the role of "helper dog".

Brandy is a quiet, shy girl, and gets startled easily. Unlike the dog in the cartoon though, she didn't pick up on the fact that her environment was changing.

Until Lizzie had her first panic attack.

While Lizzie recovered, Brandy hasn't wanted to be alone. She gets anxious when I leave, and when I get back. She hoovers over me when I'm packing. She freaked out when I moved the couch.

My landlord was showing prospective tenants my apartment. When I go running, Lizzie and Brandy take turns lapping around Corn Hill with me. One tenant showed up early, Lizzie was with me, Brandy was at home.

Steve described her reaction when the strangers walked into the house: "She was like, umm, I don't know if you're supposed to be here and I don't know if I'm supposed to do something about it." So she stayed on the couch and watched intently.

Lizzie wears her emotions on whatever the canine version of a sleeve is. Brandy is harder to read, and I can't tell the difference between her worried look and her "feel bad for me and let me on the couch" look.

The Brandy look.
Either way, our lives will return to normal soon enough.

In defense of Candy Crush Saga

Level 254. I'm stuck. 
There's a communal thing going on in social network land that's been around for awhile, and not going away anytime soon: A minor addiction called Candy Crush Saga.

I normally resist the Facebook crazes. I refused to change my profile picture to a giraffe. I never posted 5 or 7 or 10 or 25 things about me. And I never played games, until now. I was that person who silently cursed that Facebook friend I haven't talked to in years who would send me daily invites to FarmVille. I never played Angry Birds.

I'm not quite sure what made me pick up Candy Crush Saga. Possibly the perpetual ads on Facebook or friends announcing their achievements. I think I was just bored one night. The latest news is that the game has reached 500 million downloads.

I'm one of them. At first I'd sigh reluctantly. "Yes, I'm one of those people. A candy crusher."

But, as I played through the levels, I grew to appreciate it. It's a very good game. We'll get to why in a minute. But first my one major criticism: It does try to trick you into Facebook spamming your friends. Sorry about that. But there's a way to block it. So hide all requests from Candy Crush and get over it.

I've been on a roll lately, passed about 20 levels in a week. But I think my streak has come to an end. Enter Level #254, you have to line up two disco balls or whatever they're called, together. I have yet to get close.

First, it's a game for intelligent people. You need smarts to make it through. Especially in the later levels, you have to think strategically and think ahead. But it's also a game of chance, you don't know what candy will come from the top.

Some people like to say the game uses the science of deprivation. I like to think it looks out for my best interests. You can only play five lives at a time, then you have to wait a half hour for another one. So, it's impossible to kill hours, instead you just make slow progress. This also makes it last so you don't get sick of it.

It's free. You can pay if you want to, and I'll admit that I've thrown King, the game's maker, a few bucks. At first I didn't want to bug my friends to get to the next episode so I payed to unlock the first few (but then realized everyone else was doing it so what the heck.) I'll also confess, I was stuck on a level for weeks, the move was one away, and I paid for extra moves. It befuddles me to think people spend hundreds of dollars on the game, I guess it feeds a gambling addiction. But I've gotten a lot of entertainment from the game, and the $4 or $5 I've shelled out is not a big price to pay.

It encourages interaction with people. Real, live people. Well, on Facebook, anyway. Every 15 levels, you can either pay $1 or find three Facebook friends to send you a train ticket. As you go through the levels, you can see how your friends have scored and what level they are one. Sometimes they send you lives. I consider a life played that came from a friend good karma for the level.

The game seems to sense when I'm getting frustrated with a level, because at some point the right pieces will magically fall into place. Normally I'll play all five lives before bed, but if I'm getting sick of a level that will slow to once or twice, or none at all. I'm sure there's a probability factor at play, but that disco ball-striped combo that saves the day always seems to come when I'm getting frustrated enough to quit.

So well done, King, and please send a double disco ball soon to get me out of Delicious Drifts.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

5 in 1 blog: The #ROC, The Lizzie, The Y, The iPhone and The Birthday

Life has gotten a little crazy lately.

I've been splitting my time between Albany and Rochester. My Albany days are consumed by the drive, hitting the road before dawn, spending the night, then coming back around 9 or 10 p.m. the next day. On the road I've been playing the license plate game. I have six states left: Hawaii, West Virginia, Wyoming, South Carolina, North Dakota and Nevada.

While I'm in Rochester, every moment I'm not working, I'm cleaning, packing or running around town dealing with the logistics of the move.

I'm in Rochester through the weekend. Most everything is done now, so I can finally relax a bit.

As I'm shuttling back and forth, I've written a dozen blog posts in my head, only to find myself too exhausted when I get home to get them in type.

So here's a potpourri of sorts, little things that have been floating around in my head that I've been anxious to get down.


(Cross posted from Capital New York's anticipations, coming out Friday)

After college, I lived in a series of small towns. Then one day I'm sitting at my desk in Newark, Ohio (somewhere between Columbus and I-77) when Len, a former editor and mentor, called me up and told me about an opportunity in Rochester, New York.

Rochester was my first experience in a bigger city, getting to be a young professional in a place with a culture of young professionals. I have loved living there: The unique neighborhoods, the culture, the recreation, the friends I've made. 

It's my last weekend in the Roc, and I have a long list of "lasts" I'd like to get in: Last run around the South Wedge and Park Avenue, last dog walk around Corn Hill, last trip to the public market, last drink at Tap and Mallet, last cup of loose leaf tea at Boulder Coffee Company.

I'm going to dodge weekend Pittsford traffic, where I'll give Rochester's beloved grocery chain Wegmans a sizable portion of my paycheck to stock up on some of their more unique goodies, have another eyes-bigger-than-stomach moment at the Food Bar and grab a couple cases of Finger Lakes vino from Century Pittsford Wines.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Dirt Cheap Stage Race report: Lingering in last place, running with the devil

Last weekend I participated in Fleet Feet Rochester's Dirt Cheap Stage Race, three races, two days, 19 miles. I took the races easy, with a combined time of 4:23:46.

Report on Stage 1.

Devil's Bathtub.
Stage #2: Devil's Bathtub

Stage #2 was a 5-mile (4.82 by my GPS) run around a landmark called Devil's Bathtub, a kettle hole. I finished in 1:08:43, and this involved a small but well-worth-it set back.

Allison had already given me one heart attack earlier that morning. As I snoozed in my car in our downtime, I had misread her texts and thought she was en route. I'm parked overlooking Devil's Bathtub at Mendon Ponds State Park. It's beautiful.

Several cars are parked next to me. We're all resting up.

The race starts at 1 p.m. Just before noon, I hear from a mildly panicked Allison. She's still tied up, hoping to break free soon, and still in Greece.

12:10 comes along. She's getting gas, she's coming!

12:15. I can't get ahold of her. I don't want to give up on her... but... I make a playlist. Just in case.

12:30. Ok, she forgot her ATM card, now she's really getting gas, she's finally coming. I GPS it, 40 minutes from Greece to Mendon.

"Step on it!" I tell her. "Drive like there's a pregnant woman in your backseat. Actually, no, drive like you're the pregnant woman! Traffic laws don't apply to you right now." (But do be safe.)

She curses the many grannies on Ridge Road.

"Allison, I don't know if you're going to make it."

"Oh I'm going to try!"

I love this girl.

But wait, isn't the race chip timed? I go up to a race official. "If we start ten minutes late, is it a big deal?" Yea, he said, it kind of is. "We pick up the flags after the last person."

So I hatch a brilliant scheme.

With Allison zooming down Clover Street, the race starts. I trot along at the back of the pack, Allison on the line. "Keep coming. I'll be that last person, and I'll go slow and speedy you can catch up."

(Another thing the old me would have hated.)

So I shuffle along, chatting on the phone as Allison is pulling in, trying to keep the person ahead of me in sight, but stay ahead of the guy coming up behind me, picking up the flag. I can just feel him looking at me. "Are you really being that person barely running and talking on her phone in a trail race?"


After seven minutes, I'm a half-mile in and Allison is at the start. They don't know if she can find me, the trail was curvy and relatively easy to follow up until this point, but now we're in the woods. Dilemma. "Wait, I can see a mile marker from here, I'll just wait for you there!" Allison said.


"The guy here is probably thinking 'Are you really being that person jumping in mid race.' I should probably explain," she said.

Whatever. But wait! I'm in last place. I don't like being in last place! I step on the proverbial gas, pass a few people, and then there's a grinning Allison, standing with a volunteer one mile in. "We did it!" We're both laughing hysterically.

Me and Allison. We found each other!
The course is challenging, but easier than the first. The scenery is breathtaking. Allison, full of adrenaline from rushing to the race, keeps pulling ahead. I'm exhausted from the morning, and trying to keep Sunday's 11-miler in mind. We eventually find a rhythm.

Staircase to the finish. 
Allison and I, along with Tara, my Wine Glass buddy, Kim and Nupur all met on Facebook knowing two things about each other: We ran at about the same pace, and we all had fall marathons. We got to know each other in an online Facebook chat, conversations often drifting away from running.

This is just the third time Allison and I have gotten together. We ran once, before she did the Rochester Marathon and I met her at the finish line of her race. But in this new world order, we know each other well.

We caught up as we followed the flags, twisting and turning through the woods, then attacked the staircase to the finish.

"Great teamwork ladies" Ellen says as we cross.

I eat more than one hot dog, and we part ways.

I get home, stumble around the block with the dogs, then collapse to the tune of Arrested Development on Netflix.

I wake up hacking. This always happens to me, I cough excessively after the first cold-weather run of the year. I took some Sudafed, rested the rest of the evening, and woke up Sunday well-rested for Stage #3.

I don't know how Allison does all that she does. She worked all night, and has two children.

Part 3 will post at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Dirt Cheap Stage Race series report: Adventures in Mendon Part 1

Exhausted selfie. The point is, I got the
coveted sweatshirt.
This weekend I ran 19 miles through the woods, split up over three races in Fleet Feet Rochester's Dirt Cheap Stage Race in Mendon.

Last year I did Stage #2, at Devil's Bathtub, billed as a 5.5 mile race but actually a little shorter. I was jealous of all the people who did all three and got the coveted sweatshirt. I vowed to come back.

Life being as crazy as it has been lately, though, there was a good chance I might have let this one fall through the cracks. Enter Allison. We decided to do this series long ago, before our marathons, and she kept reminding me. She had me on the hook, I couldn't back out.

I was by no means trained for a trail race. I've just run casually since the Wine Glass Marathon a month ago. I haven't done hill training in eons.

So I took it slow, walked all of the hills, Allison stuck with me in the last two stages (more on that saga, an adventure in itself, in Parts 2 and 3.) I finished the series with a combined time of 4:23:46.

This will be a 3-part blog. Stage 2 will post this afternoon, and Stage 3 Tuesday morning, then a special post on Wednesday.

STAGE 1: Time Trial

The first stage was a 3-mile hilly time trial Saturday morning, which I finished in 40:46.

The morning started with an adrenaline surge. Alarm went of. Hit snooze for ten minutes. Drifted away again. I wake up to the phone ringing. The caller ID says "Allison."

I immediately assumed it was a runner's first nightmare: I overslept and Allison was going to say "where on earth are you?" I relaxed when I saw it was still 7:30-something. The phone call wasn't good news, she had a family matter to attend to so she'd have to miss the first race. Bummer, but I'd still have her for the second two stages.

Took the dogs out. It wasn't that cold. Drove to Mendon. What a difference 20 minutes makes, burr, why didn't I bring gloves?

They lined us up, and we started one runner at a time, 5 seconds apart, I was #145, so I had about a 10 minute wait. In this time it started snowing oh so slightly. We started on a slight uphill grade, my legs hated me immediately.

When they said hilly, they meant hilly. These were some of the most treacherous, brutal climbs I've ever faced. I walked most of the inclines, some I couldn't have run if I tried. I laughed at my old self who might have forced myself to run the whole way. The light snowfall made the run absolutely beautiful.

The best volunteer ever stood at Mile 2. She cheered us on as we turned a corner and started to attack a giant hill. "This is a bad hill, it is not the last hill, and you are not almost there," she said.

The well-intentioned-yet-lying volunteers at Musselman constantly promising me that "this is the last hill" still haunt me. Gotta love the honest ones.

I clawed my way up the beast, which seemed never ending, and at the top was Boots, coowner of Fleet Feet. "This is a no standing zone" he says as I'm huffing and puffing my way to the top. I grin. "It's all downhill from here, right?" I say, repeating an oft-heard but rarely true phrase that comes from most volunteers.

"Nope. There's a little one, it doesn't last long."

"Thanks for being honest!!"

I slog my way through the remaining mile, then head back to the lodge for delicious Nutella and cashew butter. A chiropractor there adjusted my back, oh so good, then I got coffee and drove to Devil's Bathtub, the start of Race #2, put my headphones in and closed my eyes for a bit.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Updates on life: Getting used to Albany

Less than a month until yet another move.

This one is different from the others because I get to do it slowly instead of throwing everything on the cheapest moving truck I can find.

Being given the luxury of taking my time to find an apartment for me, Lizzie and Brandy, it was only natural that I had a total a-ha moment with the second apartment I walked into. I will be living in a brownstone near the intersection of State Street and Lark. The apartment is two blocks from work, in a wonderful neighborhood called Center Square. The place is close enough to the fun (which includes a wine store and a gluten free bakery in a very easy walking distance) and close enough to a few parks will be great for the dogs.

Though this is the second apartment I've had to give up a few luxuries. When I moved from Newark to Rochester, I had to give up quite a bit of space, in-unit laundry and a dishwasher. Now I'll be giving up off street parking and on-site laundry.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The excitement and challenges that lay ahead

Exciting news: I have accepted a job as a reporter with Capital New York, and am beginning the process of relocating to Albany.

The job offer happened so quick, amid an already crazy week, so it has just been in the past few days that I've been able to catch my breath and start to get really excited.

Capital New York is a startup project run by Politico, a publication that I've always admired and sought to work for. It's growing, it's profitable, and I agree with the direction the company is going in. 

After my layoff, I had my hesitations about staying in journalism. But there's one area of journalism that is staying strong: Publications with a niche audience. Politico has mastered the business model, one that is a hybrid model of free and paid content. The bigger stories are free, but the more specialized stories that you can only get from us are behind a pay wall.

My new colleagues are some of the best in the business, and I'm considering it an honor to have my byline next to theirs. 

I'll be covering campaign finance, ethics reforms and lobbying, all issues I am passionate about.

But it does mean another move. Another stop on Jessica's east coast and Midwest road show. And that was the hard part about taking this job.

Purple: College. Blue: Professional life. Yellow: Albany.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Post race recovery, and what's next for me

First, happy Ironman World Championships day. I'm excited to check in on the race, especially Jennie Hanson, from Rochester, who is competing.

It's been a relaxing week of laziness following the Wine Glass Marathon. I haven't run at all, and haven't done anything outside classes and dog walking.

I did cycling just two days after my race, and spent the class pedaling with no or little resistance on the bike. I think this really helped my recovery, allowing the blood to start flowing without impact or pressure.

Tomorrow I'm going to attempt a slow 3 or 4 miles followed by yoga and maybe a half hour swim.

Things will be changing for me. I have accepted a job in the Albany office with Capital New York, which has recently become an arm of Politico. More on that in coming days.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Race report: Wineglass Marathon, and running with Bart Yasso

Note: My tired brain is posting tonight, since the running buds want to read it. I'll clean it up tomorrow, fix the typos and add more links!

I went into today's race knowing it wouldn't be great. My training wasn't great to begin with, I had some burnout after my half ironman, caught a cold the week before then rolled my ankle last Wednesday.

I managed my expectations and set a reasonable goal and race strategy. Then, when the race strategy wasn't working out, I took a break, reassessed, and changed my plan to something that did work.

The goal was to beat my Flying Pig time of 5:21, and I ran the Wineglass Marathon today in 5:11:08. The race started in Bath and went to Corning. I'm proud, not because it was a PR (4:13) or anything close, but because I was realistic, resisted the temptation to try to do something I was once capable of, and ran smart.

I also found myself running side-by-side, and then getting career advice from none other than Bart Yasso, the Chief Running Officer of Runner's World magazine.
Me and Bart after the race.
There were beautiful fall colors, on a course that ran through a series of spectacular towns. At the end we got a wine glass (of course), a split of champagne and a HUGE medal made of glass.

The medal needs two hooks

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A busy day of race prep: Wineglass Marathon tomorrow

The leaves haven't started to change in Rochester yet, but they are in full bloom an hour and a half south, between Bath and Corning, where I'll be running the Wineglass Marathon tomorrow.
This out-the-van-window photo does not do the scenery justice.
Shirt and number.
My running buddy Tara and I drove down to Corning this morning to pick up our race packets and check out the course. The Wineglass Marathon is a nationally reknowned race. It's also smaller field and sells out quickly. The course is beautiful. It is 26.2 miles point-to-point, and they shuttle you from the either the finish to the start or the start to the finish, depending on where you park.

Starting in Bath, we run through Savona, Campbell, Coopers Plains, Painted Post and then arrive on Market Street in Corning. It's all country roads, and is cumulatively downhill. All the uphills are very gentle. 

At the end, you get a wine glass (of course), champagne and a beautiful glass medal.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An open letter to the Wall Street Journal

Dear editor,

As a slower marathoner, I took offense to Kevin Helliker's article Sept. 19, "The Slowest Generation".

Not everyone gets a medal. Actually, very few people do.

The people who stop training because it's too hard, or too much work? They don't get a medal. The people who train dumb and wind up injured or burned out? They don't get a medal. The people who don't train and drop out midrace? They don't get a medal.

The people who don't even try? They definitely don't get a medal. 

What's left, the people who train hard but smart, who get out of bed at an ungodly early hour whether it's 100 degrees, raining or snowing to run 3.1, 6.2, 13.1 or 26.2 miles, they deserve medals regardless of if it takes them 3 hours or 6.

Saying the decline in elite runners has something to do with the boom of nonelites is false logic, and faulting a generation of people who are racing to get fit and have fun is downright insulting. We run because we love it. We race for the camaraderie, the support, to raise money for our favorite causes, and -- yes -- for the competitive atmosphere.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Volunteering at the Rochester Marathon

Big bucket of medals.
I spent most of this morning sorting and handing out medals at the Rochester Marathon.

Seeing the faces of everyone crossing the finish line -- those I knew and those I didn't -- was a wonderful experience. I hope to find more volunteer opportunities in the future.

I hadn't wanted to race this event this year, instead I'm planning on the Wine Glass full in **gulp** two weeks. But two weeks ago on Facebook Yellow Jacket Racing put out a desperate plea for volunteers.

Close to home. I know people running. Why not? I contacted them, and said they could put me where they needed me, happy to give back to the running community. But please, fingers crossed, not road marshal. Standing at an intersection for five hours with a flag did not sound like fun.

Ok, the volunteer organizer wrote back, how about the finish line?


I arrived at about 9, just in time to see my friends doing the half start to finish. I was put on full marathon medal duty, and started pulling the medals from a giant bucket, unraveling them and sorting them into piles that would be easy to grab when the masses started coming through.

Friday, September 20, 2013

September: A good running month

I've been on a great streak lately.

Every run lately has felt great, and I'm back to the point where I look forward to each run.

To recap, I burned out from running after the Flying Pig Marathon in 2012. Then I moved to Rochester, didn't have my running buddies, so I started training for a triathlon instead. In July, I checked the half iron off my bucket list, then turned my sites to the Wine Glass Marathon.

Training did not start out well. On Aug. 8, I couldn't find the motivation to train. On Aug. 17 I regretted signing up for the race.  

But now I feel strong and ready.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tips for the first time marathoner

Right now is the running boom. More and more people are taking up the sport, and I'm so excited that so many people on my Facebook and Twitter feeds are about to run their first marathon or half marathon!

My first was the Cleveland Marathon in May 2011. I've run two others since and am about to tackle the Wine Glass full on October 6. In my mind, I'm still very much a beginner, but I'm happy to offer some tips to the first timers out there, pulling off my limited experience. I'm no pro, but I'm happy to answer any questions you may have leading into your first!

In this post, I'm assuming you trained well, or as well as you could. I'm assuming you know the very basics, nothing new on race day, carb up, hydrate, eat smart, arrive early, use the facilities before you go, remember to fuel, dress for the weather, yada yada yada.

The following are things that I'm either glad I knew or wished I would have known, or just things I believe are really important and want to reinforce!! In the comments, feel free to add your own, I'll do my best to add suggestions from others into the main part as I see fit, or ask questions!!

(Computer is being difficult right now, I'll add a couple photos and links and make this post look pretty later!!)


Monday, September 16, 2013

A long overdue music post (that's not about Miley Cyrus.)

It's been awhile since I've done a music post. A long time. So here's what I've been listening to lately.

(Disclaimer: This is not a post about new songs. Because I really have no clue what's new nowadays.)

Much music talk nowadays involves Miley Cyrus ramming the final nail into the coffin of Hannah Montana. Even though search engines love it when you talk about Miley Cyrus, I will absolutely not mention Miley Cyrus' name on my blog as a shameless attempt to get web hits. I'm one of those snobs that's above cheap music, so again, I will not talk about Miley Cyrus.

But I will talk about Katy Perry. I cringed at the fact that I had to talk about Katy Perry. I heard this song on the radio, loved it (apparently they play it all the time, but I don't listen much), then found out it was by her. I guess the part of her that isn't completely plastic can sing. (UPDATE: One week later, I'm sick of this song.)

Then a new hit by an old band, "Rebel Beat" by the Goo Goo Dolls. The song got my attention with the lyric "We'll take what's ours for once, and baby, RUN LIKE HELL!!" It's a bit generic, but I still love it.

Looking ahead: Wine Glass Marathon logistics

Training has had its ups and downs, but my excitement is ramping up for the Wineglass Marathon Oct. 6, 18 days away.

I got my long run in with Tara, a Fleet Feet connection, on Sunday. I'm feeling prepared.

I'm hoping for nice, cool weather and incredible scenery. The race starts at 8 a.m. so I'll probably start with a throwaway then go with whatever the forecast calls for. According to the FAQs the weather traditionally is in the 40s, but it's been so wacky lately.

It's a smaller race, 2,250 in the full, 2,000 in the half. It doesn't look like headphones are banned so I'll come with a fully charged phone so I'll have music.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hello, potential employer

Dear potential employer,

You are most likely here because I sent you my resume, and you decided I was worth at least a second glance so you plugged my obnoxious Italian last name into Google. Welcome to my blog.

Brandy and Lizzie
This is my life outside of work. I like to run, bike and swim. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy wine. I have two aging-yet-obnoxious greyhounds, Lizzie and Brandy. I love them dearly. You'll also see me talking about Flower. She's my bike.

I earned my 70.3 triathlon title (half iron distance) in July, after training for a year. I'm contemplating going for the full Ironman next year. It's a big decision. I'm a slowpoke, I'll never win anything, but I enjoy the competitive nature of races and triathlons. My next race is the Wine Glass Marathon Oct. 6 in Corning. I'm one of "those people", the back of my Honda Fit is now up to six oval stickers.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Highlander cycle tour ride report: Pedaling on

Naples, New York, one of the many beautiful scenes at the Highlander. 
This blog post was almost about quitting a century ride at Mile 30. I wrote it in my head as I looked for the SAG wagon as we turned onto Route 6, heading east toward Prattsburgh during the Highlander Cycle Tour's Corkscrew Century from Canandaigua Saturday. My quads hurt. I was exhausted.

Would I have blamed myself for quitting? No, just add it to the list of things that have gone wrong in the past few weeks. Most days have brought new challenges. Why should this slightly-chilly morning be any different? (And why didn't I wear a base layer?) Pile it on. 

Ahead were 73 miles and some brutal climbs. French Hill nearly killed me and now this flat road was fatiguing. But what if I managed to hoof it up that beast of a hill from Naples on Flower the Cannondale Synapse, my trusty companion, then five easy miles until pulled pork and a bottle of wine? 

If I could finish this ride, it would mean that all the crap life has put me through these past few weeks would not win. If I could ride 100 miles, I could definitely wake up Monday morning, bang out a few cover letters, and move forward.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What started with a stupid decision brings back my racing mojo

I had a phenomenal weekend.

Among other things, I surprised myself today and now am confident that I can own the Wine Glass marathon Oct. 6.

After falling off for a couple days, I was determined to follow my training schedule through the weekend, a one hour run Saturday, and a one hour and 15 minute run Sunday.

But due to standing plans and some ickiness of varying natures, the Saturday run never happened, and I ran 18 miles Sunday in 3:34.

(Sorry for not listening to you, wonderful person who has helped me out considerably with my training, I will will will follow my schedule from now on. Oh and congrats on IMMT!)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Catching up, but losing heart

I have about four unfinished blog drafts to get done, including a recap of my absolutely awesome race Saturday and pondering whether I want to raise money for charity to compete in an Ironman.

It's just been one of those weeks. I've skipped a bunch of workouts, partly because I genuinely have been really busy, partly because I've felt really tired.

Some of it may have been residual, from the Summer Sizzler. I took it really hard. I haven't done a hard, intense workout like that in quite some time, so it's natural to feel the physical exhaustion for several days after.

I've come to the conclusion that I really shouldn't have signed up for this marathon. Completing Musselman was a huge thing for me. But I didn't consider the cycle. With every up comes a down, and you need to cycle through said down before taking on the next challenge.

With the deferral date past, I am going to make it through the wine glass, heck I may have to cross the finish line on a stretcher, but I'm going to do it. But then I'd need a real and honest break, so I can get excited for whatever comes next.

I have other personal goals I'm trying to accomplish, so it's fitting that I take some time to focus on them. I have some projects at work I'm really excited about, and want to see through. I'm trying to have more of a social life, and manage my money better (which isn't easy when you are constantly throwing down for races). I'm trying to do a better job keeping up my apartment. I'm trying to lose ten pounds.

But I'm committed to the Wine Glass, so I will see it through.

Maybe a long run with a couple new friends tomorrow will turn things around. I said that last week,

Have you ever signed up for a race, but lost the motivation to train? How did you make it through?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

That moment when you lose yourself

Earlier I wrote about the slump I've hit since my race.

But I forgot about one shining moment.

Monday I did my longest open water swim yet: 90 minutes. It was mostly nonstop though I did have to touch a few times since the sun made sighting very difficult.

Kershaw Park

Kershaw Park in Canandaigua is a haven for triathletes. They have buoys set up for open water swimming and any time of day you'll see people there swimming back and forth. It's very safe, the swimming area is in between a guarded beach and the boats/kayaks. The water is calm and you can always touch.

I'm not on a plan but knew I wanted to get a longer swim in. I had subbed a weights class and planned to jump in the pool after.

The problem was, ever since I started swimming in open water I've equated lap swimming to running on the dreadmill, and feeling like being a fish pinging back and forth in a tank that's too small surrounded by the silence that is the DFC pool in the late evening was not exactly the motivation I've been seeking. (If you're reading this John, I'll take the silence of your pool above the sound of screaming kids and inattentive parents any day, but some music would be nice :)!)

So I jumped in the car and headed east, listening to O.A.R. and Bob Dylan (I'm a weirdo) full blast and singing along to songs I didn't quite know the words to. The embarassing ones always seem to be playing just as I go through the toll booth. I should get one of those EZ Pass things.

(OK, given that I had thought to put my wetsuit and an extra towel in my car "just in case" maybe I did have it in the back of my mind, and the trip wasn't quite as spontaneous as I would have hoped).

"How's the water?" I asked a guy getting out of his wetsuit.

"Perfect," he said.

And it was.

Normally I'm the biggest baby about getting in the water. I inch in slowly. I'm nervous about Saturday's tri because it's a beach start! But getting in was easy Monday.

The swim started out tough because the sun was in my eyes. I had this problem at Musselman, I'm sure someone sells goggles that are better equipped to deal with glare.

It takes me about 16 minutes to go from one end of the buoys at Kershaw to the other. On the first lap, the sun was killer, and I kept touching to get myself back on track. I made it to the end and swam back easily. On the way out again I had a brilliant idea, why not just spot the sun? I found that if I aligned myself to just the left of the sun kept me pretty much on track. I made it out to the final buoy again, about 45 minutes in, realized I wasn't even remotely tired. That's when I decided to see if I could go for 90 minutes.

The lake was really crowded at this point. There were a ton of swimmers, people on the beach and people on boats. It was peaceful though, and I felt comfortable and at ease in the water. I got back to the beginning and like clockwork went out again.

I got back out, maybe a half hour after I noticed how crowded the beach was, and everyone was gone.

There was one other open water swimmer, one kayaker, and a bunch of people walking dogs and running along the beach. There was a slight moment of panic followed by an incredible calm. The sun was going down quick, but I only had 15 minutes left, plenty of time.

Coming back was an incredible, peaceful, serene feeling.

I got out of the water and dried off. Before I got into my car, this happened.

So beautiful.

I made it, a 90 minute swim. Sure I felt like my dogs were going to yank my shoulders out of their sockets when we went out after.


With the Wine Glass in two months, kicks in the ass are welcome and encouraged

In part 3 of my Musselman recap, I talked about the power of Facebook in training. Knowing you're not alone in whatever it is can be a very powerful thing.

I hit a major slump right after Musselman. After a year of training hard, post race I found it hard to dig up the motivation to do anything.

And that just doesn't include training. Leading up to Musselman I put a lot of things on the back burner, saying I'd get to them after the race. Three weeks later my apartment is still a mess, I haven't done any of the blogs or projects I've been meaning to get to, I've done exactly one long run, one long swim and one 20-mile bike (and a few shorter ones). I've also gotten through most of Prison Break, rewatched Breaking Bad and renewed my addictions to Words With Friends and jigsaw puzzles.

I told myself I'd try a real food/paleo diet. I have yet to make one week without slipping, in part due to a slight soda kick (perhaps the sparkling water I've been drinking lately was the gateway drug.) I've been slipping big time on the gluten factor as well.

The Wine Glass Marathon is in two months. I haven't run more than six miles since my half, yet I can't find the drive to get out there. I did hit a new record today though, I slept in until 10:30 on a weekday! (Working a later shift, it's debate season again!)

One thing I learned from my wonderful friends back in Ohio is that I needed to give myself time to rest, eat junk food and come around, complete the circle. I've done that.

I'm giving myself two more days. Saturday is the Summer Sizzler Formula 1 Triathlon, with shorter distances done twice. I should have done either a long run or a bike run brick this week but that didn't happen, with the primary in a month work is getting nutty. Me and early mornings haven't been getting along lately.

Then it's time to ramp up quickly for the Wine Glass. I'll have six weeks to get my long runs into the 20s. I'll train and race slow, I'll train at a 12-minute mile and probably race there too. Muscles have long memories so I'm hoping I can jump back up to the half level and progress from there, but I'll be seeking some expert advice first.

I'm hoping being around the excitement and race atmosphere will give me a boost Saturday. But kicks in the ass are welcome and encouraged.

EDIT: Realizing I need to give my blog a facelift. The title is no longer accurate!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Long live the YAM Part 1: With coconut and cranberries

Year-round, through triathlon training and gluten free (and newly paleo) cooking, I have had one close, and indisputable friend: The sweet potato.

It's friendly to my sensitive stomach, and has lots of nutritional benefits.

My standby sweet potato recipe is to coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and baked until they're just a little crispy. But lately, sick of most of my usual recipes, I've been experimenting. I present to you: 10 things you can do with sweet potatoes. The full feature will appear in the Democrat and Chronicle sometime this fall, but I'll post the installments here as they're ready.

But first, one must understand my methods.

Jessica's rules of cooking: 

  1. Make massive quantities at a time, usually on a Sunday evening. Freeze them in batches. Throw in crockpot the morning they are to be consumed. That way you don't have to cook for yourself everyday. 
  2. Foods with foreign ingredients are scary, and sometimes make me sick. Use fresh where possible.
  3. I only own one measuring cup.  
  4. Whenever a recipe calls for garlic, use extra garlic. If a recipe calls for two tablespoons of cilantro, go ahead and use a whole bunch. If it calls for olive oil, add an extra splash. At least. If you couldn't tell from my last name, I'm very Italian. 
  5. If you drop food on the floor, just say the magic word "Lizzie" to summon the black and white blur which will whiz through the kitchen, making the food disappear. 
  6. Until someone invents a magic machine that washes my dishes for me (#smallapartmentproblems) I try not to use too many. If something is particularly messy, those throwaway tins for baking come in handy. 

Ok, enough with the intro. On to recipe 1!

Lightly mashed sweet potatoes with coconut and cranberries. 

My food photography skills leave much to be desired. 
I'm trying a strange hodgepodge of the real food and paleo diets this month. Been exhausted lately, and I think it's because I started eating more processed food around Musselman. Day two and going strong. Goal is 30 days straight.

I adapted this recipe from Paleo Plan's sweet potatoes with coconut, pomegranate and lime recipe. I find pomegranates too labor intensive though, and forgot to buy limes.

Per my batch cooking tendencies, I tripled the recipe which yielded enough for a side dish each day and maybe a little left over to freeze.

My ingredient list:
7 smallish sweet potatoes
1/2 bag coconut flakes
1 can coconut milk (I used Goya, bought at Wegmans, but I do need to make my way back to the Asian market soon and stock up, much cheaper there.)
Salt to taste
1/2 bunch cilantro (I happen to really like cilantro. If you don't love it as I do, maybe use less.)
1 bag (8 ounces) of dried cranberries from Aldi.

I started off by peeling the sweet potatoes, pricking them with a fork and baking them at 400 for about 50 minutes. I probably could have cut some corners and nuked them but, hindsight. They came up a little brown, probably wouldn't have happened had I left the skin on but I prefer no skin. They tasted fine.

I mushed them up with a giant spoon and fork (I do not own a potato masher) and added everything else in. Very easy. Cilantro was supposed to be reserved as garnish but I just mixed it in. (See rule #4.)


I've got a bunch of other ones I'd like to try! I have the makings for sweet potato pancakes, have a recipe for paleo sweet potato hash, at some point will revisit my sweet potato chili, and will give a shout out to John H's yamanator (I tried to make a version at home. It pales in comparison.)

Long live the yam. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'm half crazy. Should I go all the way crazy?

Love this, an official race photo. I am going
to buy it. 
Coming in 40 minutes shy of my goal time, it's fair to say I crushed my half ironman. Read my blogs about the Musselman Triathlon in Geneva, part 1, part 2, part 3.

I'm not 100 percent sold on doing a full ironman (and if I decide, I don't know if I'm going to go with the capital I version). We'll get to the pros and cons of it in a minute. But for planning purposes, I'm going to assume I'm doing it, and I can always back down to the half later.

I'm a goal oriented person, always looking ahead, so I've just written out the following three goals for the remainder of the winter. Likely I'll take a break this winter from excessive cardio to weight train, as I did last winter.

  1. Improve my cycling and swimming to condition for a full ironman in Sept. 2014.
  2. Complete the Highlander Cycle Tour and the Wine Glass Marathon with no concrete time goal (under 5 hours in the marathon would be nice). Do the summer sizzler formula 1 and maybe another Olympic.
  3.  Bike around all 11 Finger Lakes. (I might knock out Conesus or Honeoye this week)

To round out the year I'm doing the Summer Sizzler Formula 1 triathlon Aug. 10. You go shorter distances, then you do it twice! 400 meter swim, 17K bike, 3K run, 400 meter swim, 17K bike, 3K run. I'm hoping for another late-year olympic distance, and possibly a relay or two where I will be the swimmer.

I've decided to take the marathon easy. At some point I'll try and crush my PR of 4 hours 13 minutes, but now isn't the time.

On to the big question:


I've fantasized about it. If I do, my preferred race would be Ironman Mont Tremblant near Montreal (my first international race!) I don't know if I want to do a name-brand Ironman, which are more expensive, or just an ironman distance race. If I go for the latter, my preference would be REV-3 Cedar Point, a little cheaper and not too far from my parents.

It's a big commitment. So let's do a pros and cons list.

PRO: I'm young and childless. If I want to do something like this, now is the time.

CON: I have a full-time job, teach classes, have two dogs and an apartment to keep up. I got really worn down with half training.

PRO: Half training was totally worth it in the end. In looking at full schedules, it's not that much more, except for the weekend days. Plus it's only a few months. Looking back, training for Musselman just flew by.

CON: It's expensive. Crazy crazy expensive. We're talking $500+ just for the registration fee, then travel!

PRO: I'm thinking about it now, so could save for it. There are also other races, everyone mentions the HITS series, that are cheaper.

CON: I might only do one of these in my life, and maybe I would want that one to be a name-brand Ironman (the only logo I'd ever tattoo on myself, upon completion, of course.)

PRO: My support system is amazing and if I take the plunge I know people will have my back.

CON: While the equipment I have got me through the half, I love Flower but she still is just an entry level road bike.

PRO: It would be a huge accomplishment and one that I'd always have with me.

CON: Looks like there's a 17-hour cutoff. That means I'm thinking about doing an event that would take me almost that long. What sane person does that.

PRO: We've already established that I am not sane.

It's a lot to think about. I just emailed Ironman asking them how quickly IMMT sells out, I read that it happens fairly quickly. In that case, I do hear great things about REV-3!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Musselman 2013, my first half iron Part 3: Post-race high, and planning what's next


See Part 1 and Part 2 (about the race itself). (Related: I am a marathonerI am a duathleteI am a triathlete.)

After I set out to do this in earnest almost a year ago, I completed the Musselman half ironman, Geneva, NY in 7:18:15. It broke down like this: 1.2 mile swim in 49:17, T1 6:21, 56 mile bike in 3:42:36 (included an 8 minute wait for an accident to clear), T2 8:02, 13.1 mile run in 2:31:59. This put me far under my goal, the 8 hour cutoff that I was so worried about making

I felt like a rockstar coming through that chute. They mispronounced my last name, and I finally stopped. A volunteer cut off my timing chip, and two young girls handed me the greatest medal ever, and the greatest water bottle ever. 

These are real bike gears! I got a mid-sized one. Photo by Victoria.
This bottle is supposed to glow in the dark. Haven't tried it yet.
But someone on Facebook pointed out that the mussels are in the
wrong order, run bike swim!
I took a few moments to recover, and told Victoria she needed to make me walk so I wouldn't cramp.

I needed not worry about Victoria being bored. While I was out killing myself, she took pictures and Tweeted constantly (even finding a plug in a state park - a feat! -  to juice up and Tweet some more!), updated Facebook on my behalf, made friends with the Moms in Motion, spent a few hours volunteering in the food tent, took a photo of the winner then tweeted it, and proceeded to make friends with him, and still found time to lounge by the water. She blogged about the experience here. (We're first and foremost writers. It's what we do.)

Wegmans catered a delicious meal, I had some pulled pork, potato salad and ice cream. Victoria saw it fit to take a photo of the carnage before it got packed up. (I had spread out a bit before this was taken, I was not a bad transition neighbor!)

I was surprised how awake I was, and how good I felt, after the race. I tried to nap, but sleep didn't come. I was going to stay in Geneva another night, but I was feeling restless and wanted my bed and my dogs so I came home early. Wegmans fed me again, this time with sushi and a frozen pizza, and I finally dozed off.

Monday I was off work, a good decision. I woke up and no muscle wanted to move. I spent the day on the couch. Tuesday I went to work with some stiffness. Standing up and sitting down hurt, being on my feet for more than five minutes at a time hurt, but mostly I was physically tired. It's now 9 p.m. and I'm ready for bed. At lunch, I went out and got a new item for my car. My bumper is getting slightly ridiculous.

I want to send a very sincere thank you to my friends and family who were stalking Victoria's Facebook updates and supported me through this journey. If I didn't have a support system, I wouldn't be able to make it through. We do this first for ourselves, but having people asking you how it's going and cheering you on keeps you motivated.

That's the beauty of social media. Facebook and Twitter played very different roles. Facebook was about connecting with the old friends, in Columbus, whom I miss dearly. I could share things a bit more intimately with them, details that I wouldn't put on a public blog.

These comments appeared underneath a photo I used in Part 1 -- my Musselbaby inside the beer mug from my first 5K as an adult. They keep me motivated, but keep me grounded. Molly was the one who introduced me to Fleet Feet's marathoner in training program.

On Twitter, I was able to connect with others doing the race, and get my questions answered. On Twitter, I found people who were in the exact same boat as me. On Twitter, I realized I was not the only first-timer with nerves!

And, of course, since it's Twitter, share other random thoughts that pop into my head.


Musselman is where I'll peak this year. I have the Highlander Cycle Tour and the Wine Glass Marathon.

Right now I am considering doing a full. It's very much a consideration right now, and I know I'm still on my post race high so I need to approach it with a clearer head.

For now, I'm going to get my life back together, clean up my apartment, do some yoga to try to provide some relief to my stressed muscles. (Sorry, mussels.)

Speaking of which, the whole weekend was a quasi-celebration of the mussel, a sea creature that prior to I was more apt to think of as food.

But after seeing the mussel as a mascot for such a great event, I think I might need to pass on them from now on! 

Musselman 2013, my first 70.3, Part 2: Swim, bike, run -- for a very long time


See Part 1 and Part 3. (Related: I am a marathonerI am a duathleteI am a triathlete.)

After I set out to do this in earnest almost a year ago, I completed the Musselman half ironman, Geneva, NY in 7:18:15. It broke down like this: 1.2 mile swim in 49:17, T1 6:21, 56 mile bike in 3:42:36 (included an 8 minute wait for an accident to clear), T2 8:02, 13.1 mile run in 2:31:59. This put me far under my goal, the 8 hour cutoff that I was so worried about making

Races have a tendency to sneak up on you. You sign up months in advance, train, thinking you have time, you have time, then boom! The event is next week. This one came up quicker than most. 

One last look in transition before it closed. Photo by Victoria. 
I had prepared well. That morning I was on autopilot. Everything was set, I just had to set up and execute. I choked down a bagel with sunflower seed butter and got the cooler of ice out of the secret fridge. I needed more ice so we stopped at the gas station. The clerk wished me luck. 
Transition was laid out. I found the secret bathroom with no line. I greased up and slid on the wetsuit. I bid good luck to David and Ben, friends who were also doing their first. Syracuse.com has a wonderful photo of athletes in the water during the National Anthem. I got a quick dip in the water, then lined up with the other yellow caps. 


Almost time for our wave. Photo by Victoria. 
The waves were huge. I've only done one other organized swim, at Keuka Lake. I should have done one at Quakerman but it was cancelled due to high algae levels. 

I've never swum with so many people. 

The buoys were bright orange and easy to spot, but they were so far apart. It's easier to swim in a straight line if they are closer together. 

It was a blur, wading into the water with a bunch of other women my age. Somewhere in that blur a horn went off and we started swimming. No horror stories, no one swam over me, no fights for a good spot. 

I fell into a peaceful rhythm, but it was tough. Breathing to the right is more natural for me, but the buoys were on our left. When I breathed to the left, the sun was in my eyes. I went back and forth. The water temperature was perfect. 

I only got kicked in the face once. I only kicked someone else once. 

Swimming in a pool makes me nutty, but I find open water peaceful. Once you're in for 10 or 15 minutes you lose track of time, and checking the watch throws you, so it's hard to tell how far you've gone or for how long. Which is how I made my first -- and only -- mistake: I didn't study the swim course.

What's the big deal, right? Just follow the buoys and swim in a rectangle. Not exactly. This course took us around three sides of a rectangle, but then went into a canal so we'd finish at a different spot than where we started.

Out of the water, ready for the bike.
Photo by Victoria. 
I knew that much, but I hadn't studied how long that canal was. So when I entered, I thought I was almost done. Not exactly, there was still about a third of the course to go. I got through, and a volunteer helped me onto a boat dock.

When I first started swimming, an hour in the water would leave me exhausted, but I did 1.2 miles in 49 minutes and felt strong. Ready to tackle the bike. 

I spent 6:21 in transition. At some point I might want to get that down, but I'm not worried right now. Bike jersey on, fuel together, water bottles on the bike. I'm glad I brought a cooler. It was getting hot out. 


Off on the bike! Photo by Victoria. 
I am so glad I practiced the bike course. So glad. SO glad. 

I was off. The first 15 miles were gradually uphill. It wasn't so bad this time. Miles were anywhere between 3:20 and 4:00 depending on the grade. I was making great time. I stopped at the first aid station, even though it was a bottle exchange. Later I'd go through without stopping.

We rode down 96A and passed a bunch of Mennonite buggies coming from church. Each had 3-4 children in the backseat waving at us. 

I saw signs for Knapp Winery and some others as we went down 414, a slow decent. When I got Gigi, my first dog, in 2007 I did the Grapehounds wine tour through this region. Dogs could come and it benefited greyhound adoption. I went with my parents and with Gigi we toured the region. In 2011, I lost her at age 6 to cancer. I'm not the spiritual type, but as I pedaled through this beautiful country I imagined her looking over me, hanging out wherever she is now with the old family mutt, Katie. I asked her to help me through the race. She meant a lot to me, and these are the thoughts that get us through. I felt strong. Miss you, girl.

Bike map. 
Bike details. 
Volunteers make a race like this, and those out today were phenomenal. Imagine standing out in the heat for 4-5 hours holding a flag. Imagine passing out water bottles with cyclists zooming by. Imagine holding up upset drivers who wonder why they have to stop -- not the people on bikes. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all you do. 

Around mile 23 I was looking for the next aid station. They were supposed to be about every ten miles but also had to be placed strategically. Another mistake: Not knowing exactly where they were. 

I heard yelling at Mile 25, and a bunch of cyclists were stopped, as was I. A woman was down. The mood got really hushed as the group of stopped cyclists would slowly grow to about 60. I didn't want to rubberneck, didn't want to scare myself, but it looked bad. She had slowed for the aid station and lost control. 

I used the port-a-potty that was there. No cyclist was worried about their time, it could have been any one of us and that was a heavy thought. The rules of the road came to the forefront of everyone's mind. I was stopped for eight minutes, where volunteers graciously handed out bottles of sports drink. We were able to finally walk our bikes around the scene. Everyone was very careful going down the hill. 

We rode along Cayuga Lake, then hit Swick Road, the big hill. It wasn't as bad as it was when I practiced, but it was the first time in the small chain ring. Cyclists talked each other through. The climb eased but there was still a gradual uphill.

Lots of hills. 

Coming back in. Photo by Victoria.
We turned a corner at a penitentiary and zipped downhill, and turned into Sampson State Park. The road got a little rough. I was lucky not to get a flat tire, but many did. They were almost never alone in fixing them. Most of the time one of the official race vehicles stopped -- I even saw the official ref helping someone instead of penalizing us for drafting :)

After Sampson there was another hill, this one I wasn't expecting, since I didn't practice this part. I tagged back and forth with another woman. She'd pass me on the uphills. I'd get her on the downhills. We emerged, and turned back to Seneca Lake State Park. Victoria was there, with her camera. I took my time getting ready for the run. It didn't feel like eight minutes, but it was.


No matter what would happen in the next 3 hours, I would finish.
Photo by Victoria. 
I knew what I was getting into. Sign up for a race in February, it's going to be cold. Sign up for a race in July, it's going to be hot. End of story. 

I'm normally not good with heat, so I knew it was a hazard going in. All week I drank a gallon of water a day, sometimes more. I took electrolytes, I boosted my sodium intake, I was prepared. 

I started the run at 11 a.m., as the sun is reaching its peak. According to my Garmin it was 82 degrees, felt like 86, with 66 percent humidity. People were walking at Mile 1. People were finishing, walking. I'm afraid to find out how many people did not finish. 

It was bad. 

I told myself I was going to run the whole thing, with no time expectations. I had more than three hours. I could walk the hills, and walk through the water stops. I would stop at every water stop -- every mile. I had my hydration pack. 

My legs were numb from the bike, and I couldn't control my speed. As tired as I was, I finished the first mile in 10:30. I could not sustain this pace. I vowed to go 11:00 or slower, and I did. The pace evened out to a 12:00 mile with all the stops. I was thrilled with that.

My splits were: 10:26, 12:28, 12:46, 11:51, 13:41, 12:03, 11:57, 12:30, 11:42, 10:50, 10:09, 10:43, 9:53. All over the place. It was my first time looking at the numbers post-race. I finished stronger than I thought, averaging 11:36.

Run map. 
Run details. 
I thought with no headphones the run would be lonely, but it was anything but. Since no one was allowed headphones, the other runners were chatty, and this made the sweltering miles pass by quicker. 

I come from the Randy Olson school of negative splits, but I quickly learned that this was the exception, and my speed started to vary dramatically. When I saw a hill in the distance, I started to run faster, because I knew I'd recover while walking the hill. When the road was shady, I sped up. When the road was sunny, I slowed down. I picked it up a little at Mile 9 but four miles seemed like a long way. I felt like I was poking along. I wanted to be done. I also refused to walk across the finish line. I had to be smart. 

Volunteers continued to be amazing, so encouraging and helpful. The aid stations had bananas, pretzels, animal crackers, gels, ShotBloks, water, defizzed coke and sports drink. I took a little at a time. I don't remember who it was who suggested the ice in the sports bra trick, but that person is a genius. The cold, wet sponges were a lifesaver. Residents cheered. They sprayed us with hoses, but asked first. 

My favorite was the sprinkler near the sidewalk with the sign "ball chiller". (It's a male dominated sport.)

I would like to see the volunteers put a ban on the phrase "It's all downhill from here." I know you meant well, volunteers, and believe me, I know it's hard work to stand out in the heat doing any of these tasks from handing out water to ringing cowbells. Thank you thank you thank you. 

The course trended down after Mile 8, but there were still some ups. And when you're tired, you've gone so far, any small hill is still a hill, and is disheartening to see after you've been told otherwise. So please, unless you actually mean that the runner will be running downhill with no ascent until the end, don't use that phrase!

Run elevation. After Mile 8, those little blips up didn't seem so little.
Let's put it with "only a mile left". When you've come so far, a mile seems like a long way to go. 

I continued with my strategy, and after almost two grueling hours in the heat I finally came to the shore of Seneca Lake. Two and a half miles to go. This territory I knew. This was flat. I knew when the aid stations were. 

But more importantly, I still had more than an hour to get through these two and a half miles. I could walk it, and still finish in time. I was going to do it, I was going to be a half-ironwoman. 

These last two miles were spent in a sweaty daze as I plugged along. I was smiling. People noticed. "How on earth are you smiling?" 

"Because I'm going to do it. I will finish this race."

A half mile from the finish, I said to a random person, "I'm going to make it."

I finished. Photo by Victoria. 
I didn't have the gas to pick it up much at the finish line, but I stepped it up a little. I was soaking wet, had a huge chafing rash on my back from my hydration pack, and put my arms up. 

Victoria was there with her camera.

I did it. 

Read about the aftermath in Part 3.  Also see part 1.