Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Please Don't Stop the Music

For me, music and working out go together like peanut butter and bananas (If you haven't tried the combo, stop reading and go have a snack.).  Both elements are good on their own, but together they're really good!  When I first started working out, I used to spend most of my solo gym time, back around 2003-2004, plodding slowly along on the elliptical trainer (treadmills and running hadn't even entered my mind yet) staring at the tv's mounted to the wall. I was, to say the least, bored. One day, I borrowed The Husband's mp3 player and my workout seemed a little less dull.  I felt a little more motivated - sort of like I did in the classes I was taking at the gym at the time.   When The Husband upgraded to an iPod, I had him load a bunch of songs that I liked at the time on the old mp3 player and it became my constant companion on the elliptical, in the weight room, and eventually on the treadmill and the roads.  If memory serves, my playlist at the time included songs like Dirrty by Christina Aguilera, Crazy in Love by Beyonce, and Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm.

Old School (source)

When the old Rio died, I upgraded to an iPod Nano and started training for longer distances.  That iPod was with me as I trained for and ran my first half marathon. I found that the music gave me something to focus on besides how many miles were in front of me!  When I started training for my first marathon, this became even more important.  Running 20 miles takes a long time and scenery is only interesting for so long!  I also started listening to audiobooks during my runs at that time.  I think I listened to all of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (probably my favorite book on the planet) and several of the early Harry Potter titles.  I also recall listening to lots of  AC/DC, KT Tunstall and U2 as well.


Of course, my first marathon occurred during USATF's ban on music devices, so I had to race without it!  It wasn't bad since there were spectators to look at, other athletes to chat with, and just a general sense of euphoria for the first 18 miles or so.  By the time I ran my second marathon in 2011, the USATF ban had been lifted, so I was able to train and race with music which helped in so many ways.

These days, I usually choose to run with my iPod and have some sort of music (Spotify, iTunes, etc.) on if I'm riding on the trainer - but never when I'm riding outside as that would be unsafe.  So here's the part of the post where I get to embarrass myself by publicly admitting to what I listen to. 

My Spotify Spin Playlist
These days, my running companion is my iPod shuffle.  It's loaded with about 8.5 hours worth of music and I tend to just hit play and start running, usually content to listen to whatever happens to come on.  Here's a sampling of what I might listen to during a typical long run.

I think one of the most important factors in choosing workout music is finding songs that motivate you in some way. Maybe it's the lyrics. Maybe it's the beat. Maybe the song reminds you of someone or something.  For example, He's A Pirate always reminds me of climbing a nasty bridge during the Green Bay marathon since that was the song that happened to come on when I started up that hill and I then played it over and over until I got down the other side.  It reminds me of how strong I felt that I never stopped running on that bridge and pushes me to keep going. Then there's songs like Sexy and I Know It that just have a great beat, fun lyrics, and just amuse the hell out of me!

What about you? Do you like listening to music when you're working out or do you prefer nothing but the sounds of the world around you and your own breathing?  If you're a music listener, what do you listen to - I'm always on the lookout for new tunes!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Iron Inspired

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know that I am not a morning person.  So what possessed me to roll out of bed (and drag The Husband along too) before sunrise on Sunday morning and drive an hour south through some truly spectacular construction detours?  This:

Half Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

The Husband and I arrived at the event just as the male pros were coming out of T1 and beginning the bike portion of the race.

#11: Marko Albert

#8: Tim Reed

#1: Craig Alexander
 I was really excited that we made it in time to see the pros hitting the bike course because it meant that I caught a glimpse of reigning Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Champion Craig Alexander (who happens to be my favorite male pro triathlete) as he sped by!

After the majority of the pro men flew by, we made our way down the hill (yes, the bike course started with a truly evil-looking hill), past the transition area, and out onto the beach to watch athletes come through the swim finish.

Looking downhill toward Transition

Transition area: Racks upon racks of bikes, surrounded by Porta Potties

Standing on the beach and watching the swimmers come in was really cool.  When I looked out over the water, it appeared that there was a small breakwater just offshore. In reality, it was an unbroken line of athletes churning up the water!  Once they made the turn for the shoreline, they would swim until their hands touched the bottom and then stand up and begin running toward the beach, stripping off the top half of their wetsuits, swim caps and goggles as they made their way out of the water.

Best use of a kiddie pool - ever!

While we were on the beach, we met up with Miss Placed who was there to cheer on her mom, dad, and younger brother as they raced.  After Miss Placed's brother came out of the water, the three of us made our way back to the Bike Out/Transition area and watched for a while.

Bike Out/Bike In

I can't imagine trying to find my bike in that sea of bikes!

Female Pro Missy Kuck exiting transition

 The 'Bike Out' was chaotic as athletes ran their bikes to the mount line and then had to stop dead while they climbed onto their bikes, clipped in, and began the 56 mile bike leg with an evil-looking hill climb.

Evil Looking Hill

 I was a little taken aback by how many people had mechanical problems before they even got started. I suppose those bikes get bumped and jostled pretty good on the racks and that can lead to problems.  One person's back brakes were rubbing against their wheel. Another person toppled over and was nearly mowed over by other riders - fortunately a volunteer managed to get to her and help her unclip her foot so she could stand up and try again.  Yet another rider dropped his chain and had absolutely no clue what to do.  I can't imagine owning a $3000+ tri bike and not having at least basic knowledge of what to do if my chain fell off! Fortunately for some of those riders with mechanical problems, they didn't have to go running back to the mechanics tent because bike shop owner (I bought my bike from his shop) and former Olympian Brent Emery was on the sidelines shouting advice (although he wasn't allowed to physically assist any of the athletes) and coaching people on what to do to solve their problems!  I think the thing I heard come out of his mouth most frequently was, "Shift to a lower gear or you're never gonna make it up that hill!"  I hope that if I ever have mechanical problems at a race that Brent is nearby!

Eventually, the three of us made our way back up to the top of the hill and scouted out a shady spot to sit while we waited for the pros to finish the bike leg.  The crowd gathered at the top of the hill went crazy as the first rider turned the corner.  I think everyone had the same question brewing in their head: Is it Craig 'Crowie' Alexander?  It wasn't.  It was #24 Jordan Jones (who lead the race until the second half of the run when he had to retire from the race due to cramps)!  After he whizzed by, everyone leaned a little farther forward, expecting the next rider to be Crowie.  Nope.  The World Champion was 8th off the bike.  After he sped by, speculation turned to 'Can he make it up on the run?'  We would have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, our little trio moved just past the 'Run Out' area so we could hopefully catch a glimpse of Miss Placed's mom, dad, and brother as they began the final 13.1 miles of their half ironman journey.  The run course was a double out and back (2 loops), so there were multiple viewing opportunities without having to move from around the course.

We were standing right by the giant red arrow

 As we waited for various members of the Placed family to come by, the male pros were finishing the first lap of the run course and passed right by us as they began their second.  The crowd went crazy as the first pro approached.  They went even crazier when Crowie passed by!

Crowie finishing Lap #1

Pro's Joseph Lampe and Paul Ambrose beginning their second lap

Craig Alexander starts the final lap

Eventually we spotted Miss Placed's mom and brother as they ran by us looking happy and strong.  Miss Placed's dad elected to withdraw from the race after the bike leg.

Watching the age groupers run by was a unique experience.  Some people looked like they were out for a Sunday jog, never mind the fact that they had already put 63+ miles on their bodies that day.  Others had looks of grim determination on their faces.  Still others looked like they were on a death march, pouring every ounce of physical and mental strength that they had left into finishing the race.

Once the pro's had crossed the finish line, we bid farewell to Miss Placed and went up to the finish line to get a better look.
Getting this close to the finishing chute and having to do another lap just seems cruel!

I saw the craziest thing on the walk back to the car.

Yes, I was within about 5 feet of Crowie!
I seriously considered 'going fan girl' and running up and asking if I could get a picture with him, but he just looked so...I don't know...disheartened/exhausted/pissed off that I couldn't bring myself to do it.  I've had bad races and I know that the last thing in the world I feel like doing when that happens is being polite to anyone.  I want nothing more than to get home, take a shower, and figure out what went wrong, so I can't imagine that a pro athlete of his caliber feels any differently.  I would have felt disrespectful bothering him, so I'll settle for this picture.  I really hope he races this sucker and wins it next year, because if that happens and I get this close again - I'm so 'going fan girl'!

All in all, I had a lot of fun watching the race and I think it's almost impossible not to be inspired by the men and women, both pro and age grouper, that were competing.  I left the race determined to tackle my stupid fish phobia by next summer because I want to do this race.  A half ironman is probably at least two years away, but I'm convinced that by next summer I'll be ready to do some sprint distance races and possibly even an olympic distance race.  Whatever the case may be: I've been inspired to TRI!

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I was having a particularly crummy day at work yesterday, when out of nowhere I got some really good news around 4 o'clock.  Celebration was in order, so The Husband and I headed out to do just that!

Le Reve (translation: The Dream) is an adorable little French patisserie and cafe occupying a century old building that was once a bank and serving up traditional bistro fare and a fantastic selection of house made traditional french desserts.


Since it was absolutely gorgeous outside last night, we chose to dine al fresco.  After being shown to our table, we were left to peruse the menu, cocktail menu, and specials menu (it was Bastille Day after all). The Husband ordered a pint of St. Peter's Cream Stout, a heavy stout beer with hints of chocolate and espresso.  I'm not a fan of dark beer at all, and even I enjoyed the sip I took.

 I went for a glass of viognier.  It's one of my favorite white wines and Le Reve is one of a handful of restaurants in the area that has it on the menu!

Shortly after our drinks arrived, our appetizer, Escargots de Bourgogne was delivered.  The combination of flaky pastry, savory snails, and crisp mixed greens was delicious.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the mushrooms and artichoke hearts that had been sauteed along with the snails.

 The escargots were very filling, so by the time our main courses arrived, I knew I was going to have to make sure to save room for dessert!

My Entree: Tomato Brie and Pesto Sandwich with Pomme Frites and Garlic Aioli

His Entree: Scallops over Manchego and Rock Shrimp Risotto

 As delicious as our main courses were, the real star of the show at Le Reve is the dessert case.  They don't print a dessert menu as the offerings change daily.  Our server invited us to step inside, peruse the pastries, place our order, and head back to our table, where our selections were delivered.

I'm not much of a dessert person, but at Le Reve, I make an exception!

My choice (in the foreground) was the Dessert du Jour: a key lime tart topped with swiss meringue and seasonal berries.  It was awesome. The rich, buttery shell provided a welcome crunch and the sweet meringue contrasted with the tartness of the key lime filling.  The Husband chose the Chocolate Raspberry Dome: a light pistachio sponge cake base topped with raspberry mousse and fresh raspberries, and then bathed in rich dark chocolate ganache.  Chocolate and raspberry? There's nothing wrong with that! 

All in all, Le Reve is not the kind of place I'd go all the time (my pants wouldn't fit!), but it was a perfect treat for celebrating!