Sunday, April 14, 2013

Battenkill Race Report, or yes I am still alive!

Blogging is such a conundrum to me. When I'm in the habit, I love to blog. When I'm not, it's overwhelming. That is stupid. I think it's the photo upload process that kills me for some reason. What a dumb reason.

Anyway, I am starting to get back into the habit with a race report. I raced Tour of the Battenkill yesterday, a classic season opener in the Northeast about 3 hours north of New York. I haven't seen any race pictures yet, but here's one I took from another site:

The race is pretty epic. Here are some stats:
- 64ish miles
- Per my Garmin, 4,200 feet of climbing
- 25% or so on dirt roads

SO much fun. I was in the 4 field and I frankly thought I could win. Which would have been very helpful on my quest for my Cat 3 upgrade. The race tends to split up on the first decent climb which is around mile 10. We started out pretty moderate but at that climb that's exactly what happened. I tried to push the pace on the climb to make things more selective, and so did a few other girls that I knew would be contenders. We got the group down to maybe 9 at that point. We organized well into a nice rotating paceline. I kept dropping them on the descents - that's what I hate about 4 fields, many of the girls who are strong just started racing so they are fast but have no idea what they're doing. So I would either try to get more of a gap or just sit up and let them catch back up. I also ended up doing a LOT of work, way too much. That was just plain stupidity on my part. I think I learned from it.

The next big climb was around mile 30. It was 'new' - it had been in the course in 2011, then removed for 2012, then they put it back in for 2013. Holy cats this was tough. I had a moment when I thought I would pass out and fall off my bike, I was going that hard. It was dirt (I think - hard to remember!), and steep. But I made it with the group somehow.

The next action was the three-step climb around mile 50. I basically lost the top two girls here. SUCKS. I don't know, I just couldn't climb as fast as they could at that point. The field kind of splintered again here and it was the top two ahead, then three of us, then the rest got dropped. We tried to catch them but they just didn't get any closer. There was one more climb after this that was just frankly demoralizing. But I was able to stay with my little group so that was good. After that it's flat to the finish. I tried to drop them at 1k to go, but one girl came around me with maybe 150 meters to go, and I couldn't catch her. Once again this was a dumb rookie move - I basically gave her a nice leadout. Next time I would try to sit on someone else's wheel and slingshot around them. But I rolled in for 4th in a pretty solid field. So ultimately I can't be mad and I think I got enough points for the upgrade, which makes me very happy. All in all it was a great day for my team - two of our girls went 2-3 in the 3 field, which is amazing, and we had two more in the top 10. I am so proud of all of us.

After the race, we had a GIANT pizza. I didn't take a picture of that, so I leave you with a hilarious picture (to me at least, I have a weird sense of humor), depicting Peeps as High Fashion (Blakleys are obsessed with marshmallow peeps):

I will really try to blog more now. I know, I always say that. But I will!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Manhattan Half Marathon 'Race' Report

Well I signed up for the Manhattan Half Marathon a few weeks ago to make myself do a longer than 8 mile long run, which I seem to be incapable of without several thousand other people to run with. Eh, what can you do - besides be glad that we have so many races here! I was pretty hung over and sleep deprived but I woke up at 7:00 and didn't feel awful so I decided to show up. And it was a balmy (for recent conditions) 19 degrees. #winning. Or something.

The course is two loops of Central Park plus another loop of the south end. It is hilly but it's my normal training loop so I knew what to expect. I pretty much wanted to run a normal long run pace and just get the miles in my legs. No racing for me. I strolled to the start around 7:58 am for an 8:00 start, which is a benefit of living half a mile from the race start! I love where I live. Not only do we have the best stoop on the Upper West Side....

But it is so close to the park, which is my favorite place in the world.

So the entire first loop of the park I was busy coming up with reasons as to why I was going to quit after one loop. Oh my foot hurts, oh my butt hurts, etc., etc. But I sucked it up and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. The funny thing was I kept feeling better and better and my splits showed it - my first 5 miles or so were maybe 8:45 pace, whereas my average miles over the second half were closer to 8:10-8:20 pace. Not bad for a 'long run', for me at least! Around mile 11 my IT band did actually start to lock up a bit and that was unpleasant, but at that point I really wanted to finish! Strange what the brain will do over 1:50 of running. My last mile was 7:47 - I did want to pick it up a little for that and pass as many people as I could. No real reason, just to see how my fitness was. I have to say outside of my aches and pains, and a very bad chub rub (the shower was extremely unpleasant for the first two minutes or so), I feel like I am reasonably fit! Thanks to a very easy week after the coast ride, I feel recovered, and outside of my poor chafed legs, I don't feel too much worse for wear. Especially because the race/run was immediately followed by a large, steaming cup of coffee. There are few things coffee can't fix.

Now I am off to pick up my road bike, which will be sporting a fancy new chain and (hopefully) a sweet 11-26 cassette. I was thinking about swimming but the idea of chlorine mixed with my poor legs doesn't seem like a great idea. So it may be a mellow afternoon, followed by a hot chocolate date with my UWS bestie and a chili festival downtown later on. Good day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Coast Ride, or why I love California

Sooo to continue the trend of coast ride reports I read today, I thought I'd write my own before my memories get fuzzy. In a word, I would describe the coast ride as awesome. But that is like saying that cookies are delicious - it just doesn't quite get the essence of HOW awesome it was.

Let's just start with the view from the beginning of the ride.

Yeah, that could be worse! The night before was pretty awesome too - hanging out with friends I hadn't seen much or hadn't really met in person, and finding out how easy it was to settle right in with them.  I actually slept pretty well the night before the ride even though I was a little nervous - I hadn't ridden over a century probably since my Ironman in 2011, and had never ridden 375 miles in three days before, because I am not insane. Well okay I'm a little insane. But you know even I have my limits.

We started out day one and the biggest challenge I had was that my bottom bracket started making a really bad noise. I mean really bad, like a very loud clicking noise every time I pedaled. Yeah so I was that guy who came to a very long ride with a ghetto bicycle. But it really wasn't doing it before! I still felt like a giant idiot. So after the first 30 miles out of San Francisco I stopped and talked to the nice Sag driver and lost my group and rode the next 40 miles by myself, which wasn't that bad, because the scenery looked like this:

The ocean is just past those pretty yellow flowers. Yeah, I am cool with that. Later on during the first day I also flatted so it was definitely not my day. Because of the mechanicals and other stuff I ended up chasing a group for a LONG time towards probably miles 105-110. That was fun - how high can my heart rate get that late in a ride? Pretty high! I did finally catch them and ride in with them to Seaside, California. I immediately checked into my room and rode 5 more miles to Pacific Grove to the Winning Wheels bike shop, which SAVED my ride. Those guys are awesome. They stayed like 45 minutes past when they were supposed to close and replaced a bad bearing I had in my bottom bracket. Seriously amazing. I owe them so much more than I paid. Now that extra 10 miles on the first day gave me a total of around 139 for the day, so that was a long one.

The next day was the one I was most nervous about but also most excited about - I had been told it was the most challenging yet prettiest day. And I would say it was both. The scenery was insane. For the first 80 miles it was a lot like this...

So it was pretty enough that the climbing that was pretty much constant didn't seem that bad. We also made a stop in Big Sur, which was much smaller and more quiet than I expected, yet also really beautiful. It's a little bit inland but I found a quiet spot with a nice stream.

We stopped at a place called Ragged Point for lunch at about 80 miles in and then the next 45 were pretty awesome. I got in the group with the fast guys (we had two awesome pros from the Kelly Optum team that would just pull like all day long), and somehow hung on until we reached Morro Bay. It was so painful at times, especially on a long section with a wicked cross wind and a chip seal surface. But I did it! That really boosted my confidence.

Morro Bay, our stop for day two, was really beautiful - there's a volcanic rock or something right off the beach. I am not sciencey. But it was cool to see.

Here I am surprisingly not feeling that bad the morning of the third day. Yet I just feel that I am not photogenic in kit. Who knows what that's about.

My new friend Mark took this picture. I liked the perspective on it with the sun rising in the background. He's a professoinal photographer so he has a good eye. It's early on the third day when we cruised into San Luis Obispo, which is amazing, and I can't wait to go back there. It was nice to warm up the legs slowly and get a huge muffin. I love muffins. I kept that bad boy in my pocket for hours, I kept eating it and it wouldn't go away!

So after SLO we rolled out and things were going well. I stopped for the bathroom and lost the group (I rode with the fast guys to that point) and the pros from Kelly Optum came back and rode me up to the group. They are awesome. After that I was determined to stay with them to Santa Barbara, and I did!! I am so proud. It was very hard at times. Mostly on the big climb after the lunch break and then on the long section on the 101 right before we finished, with lots of traffic and a crappy surface. Day three also sadly included two crashes. One happened right in front of me, and one right behind me (I mean RIGHT behind me - the guy behind me tried to bunny-hop a grate, hit my back wheel, and went down). The first one I don't know how I avoided it. But I feel very lucky that I did. Three guys were injured in that crash. It's a reminder of how dangerous our sport can be. But outside of those little blemishes, it was an incredible day. I am so proud of myself for hanging with the guys for 125 miles.

After the ride we showered up in Santa Barbara and drove back with a very full car!

Four bikes, four bags, four people. Luckily it was a large vehicle.

Today has been a long day and I am very hungry. I suppose that's par for the course. My legs are tired but happy. I am tired and happy. I love California. And most of all I love the people I have met through triathlon and cycling, that make my life better all the time. You know who you are!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back, looking ahead

Well it's almost the end of 2012, so I thought I'd do a year in review post, and put some words to what I hope to accomplish in 2013. I can't believe it - this year has flown by! I guess that's a sign that I was having fun. Since my sports career took a turn this year, this entry, like the year, will be a little bit different. I thought I'd structure it with a few lists. I hope you enjoy!

Top Three Sports Moments of 2012 - Banzo Edition
1. Winning my first two bike races, both in solo breakaways. There is nothing like winning a race.
2. Joining my awesome new cycling team, Asphalt Green. What a fun, strong group of girls. And some excellent riding, with nice views.

3. Even though I didn't train for tris this year, I would put REV3 Maine in my top three sports moments - in spite of my lack of training, I was able to place third in my age group (second if you remove overall placers), in a pretty non-awful time. If I had actually swum in the six months prior to the race, who knows, I probably could have broken 5 hours!

Top Three Non-Sports Moments of 2012
1. My one year anniversary of moving to New York. I must admit, moving to New York was not my least impulsive decision ever. That could have not ended well. However, when I hit the one year milestone, I gave myself a big pat on the back for doing it. I love it here so much and I'm grateful every day that I get to live here, and have a life here.
2. My little sister Kelsey's wedding. There was family drama involved, but when isn't there?! How cute are they!!!

3. Getting it done in my career. Towards the end of the year I had to make a major job decision and I think I did well.  It's hard to know when you're making a decision based on the right factors. I frankly never do. But in my opinion, the most important thing to do is make the decision, and move forward with purpose.

Top Three Sports Goals - 2013
1. Get my Cat 3 Upgrade. I am so close - I just need one more win or a few decent places. This is so crazy to me. When I did my first bike race in 2011, I thought there was no way I could ever be a Cat 3 cyclist. And look at where I am now! I really can't wait.
2. Participate in a tri or two with actual swimming involved in the preparation to see how I can do. I am so fit on the bike now, and my running injuries from last year seem to be mostly behind me, so I think I could actually do fairly well.
3. This is a big one - but I want to make a strong push to get on the podium at GMSR. Although I couldn't have been happier to go to my sister's wedding, I missed this race in 2012 and I cannot wait to try it next year. It's probably my number one A race right now. The only thing that makes me sad is that I'll probably have to do some crits to get ready. Meh.

Top Three Non-Sports Goals for 2013
1. Be a better person every day. Who doesn't have this goal? I guess people who don't care, I don't know. It should be second nature, but I want to write it down and think about it with purpose every day.
2. Be Type A in the best possible way. As anyone who knows me know, I am a classic Type A Personality. I don't want to just do things - I want to do the BEST things, ALL the time!!! I want to continue to do this the right way, not in a douchey competitive way, but in a positive, affirming way. I want to crush anything I set my mind to in 2013. This picture reminds me of my goals - it's at the base of the big Bear Mountain climb. Whenever I see it, I think about attacking that climb.

3. Continue to work towards having a healthy, mindful relationship with food. I have always struggled with this and I made a conscious decision late in 2012 that it was time to focus on this and put some real energy into addressing it. I think I've made a ton of progress so far and I hope to get to a really good place in 2013. I think I can do it - and I think achieving this goal will help me accomplish the things I want in the sports area too.

Have you thought about your year? What are you proud of? What are you going to achieve in 2013? Something awesome I think. I'm sending positive energy into the universe for me and for all of my friends and family.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I went to Spain, and all you got was this lousy blog post

HAHAHA I suck at bringing back souvenirs. But I know my mom would want me to write a blog post and share some pictures from my trip to Barcelona last weekend, so ask and you shall receive!

Left on Thursday after a nice warm-ish ride for a red-eye. Luckily I had booked my ticket in first with miles. It was the type of seats that lay down completely so I think I slept for five of the seven hours I was on the plane! This is first class smile. The way back there was an 'I am sitting in Economy surrounded by a family with four children after being selected for special security screening and humiliation' grimace. That will not be pictured!!!

One famous thing in Barcelona is a big market called the Boqueria. They have lots of PIG, and chocolate, and produce, and awesomeness. Here is a whole stand devoted to the delightful pig.

I was trying to stay on New York time which meant sleeping until around 11:00 am every day. Luckily the Spanish lifestyle is quite conducive. It was best to start every day with copious amounts of strong, delicious coffee.

Next walking on the beach... there were these guys making elaborate sand castles and other sand art forms. I liked this one the best. I'm not sure if you can tell but it's a drunk passed out on the couch. Very apropos for Barcelona!

Not to give the impression that it was all sitting around on the beach eating pork, we did rent bikes and go up a pretty big hill with three gears. It was fun!

The view was great, the payoff I would say was definitely worth the 20 minutes of leg press, i.e. riding uphill.

The last full day we did a tour of Mont Serrat, which translated means 'serrated mountain'. There is a monastery and a church pretty close to the summit. Apparently a black virgin was found there. You could touch her and wish/pray for a miracle. I wanted to wish that I could come back and ride my bike up the mountain but I promise I tried to find something slightly more meaningful.

After going to the mountain we went to a gorgeous vineyard and did a wine tasting. It was so interesting. They only do organic wine. Organic wine is just as delicious as conventional wine. I love Spanish wine. They don't age their chardonnay in oak barrels so even the chardonnay is good. They also make a sparkling wine called Cava which is delicious. The Spanish like dry wine. I swear I could have been Spanish.

All in all it was a great and relaxing trip (until the worst flight back). I highly recommend Barcelona. I'd like to learn some more Spanish, go back at a warmer time of year (it was a bit brisk especially on the water), and somehow ride a bike there!!

Now believe it or not it is time to get serious about training and not being an off season fatty. Bike racing season starts in March and San Juan will be here before we know it. I will write a goal post (hahaha, PUN INTENDED!!!!) probably this weekend.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Well this has been different

So you may have noticed I didn't write a NYC Marathon race report, because it was canceled! We have had a lot going on here in the Northeast. Hurricane Sandy really beat the crap out of us, and then while we were still recovering (one of my clients STILL doesn't have power), we had a Nor'easter. In all that hullabaloo, they canceled the marathon, because it seemed gauche to create a lot of chaos especially on Staten Island which was really devastated by the hurricane.

So that happened.

Which was probably good from a purely physical perspective because I was in no shape to run a marathon. Although my butt (hips really) has been doing better, I still can't really run 20 miles, much less 26. I'm sure I could have gutted it out, but I wasn't disappointed. I still have to figure out whether or not I'm going to run NY next year, as I would assume anyone who was signed up this year will get a guaranteed 2013 entry. I am of two minds.

I also almost signed up for Philadelphia, since I'll be there next weekend anyway, but the process for NYC Marathon entrants included your confirmation number which I had totally forgotten and deleted any record of. So that didn't happen. Which is fine because I shall go to Philly, and have fun, and not care how far I run!

Anyway here is a snap from the post-Sandy wreckage.

Yeah that's a tree that fell on a car. There was a lot of this. I have to say, if I owned a car, I don't think I would have left it outside for the hurricane. Just saying.

So I know I never blog but life has been somewhat mellow. I have been riding my trainer during the week. I don't really mind it (I know, I am nuts). I have been riding outside on the weekends. You should have seen the roads near Piermont and Nyack. There are so many trees down, it is really sad. I am joining a new gym that is two blocks from my apartment so I have no excuse to not swim. That will be fun. I lifted for the first time in a few months yesterday, I am very very sore. That is a good feeling.

All in all, life is good. It has been so busy. I would like things to slow down just a little. I think December is  the time for that so I am looking forward to it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Different type of blog entry - Per Se dining report!!!

As many people who know me know, I love to exercise and race, but I love to eat almost just as much. Which probably explains why I am a chubby little thing in spite of exercising all the time! Anyway, in that spirit, and because my mother has been asking about this a lot, I decided to do a Per Se dining report. Per Se is a restaurant that is super fancy. I had been wanting to go forever and when my friend Randy decided to come to town for a wedding I got us reservations. Which was kind of a quest in and of itself, and definitely took a while. It reminded me of when you really want to go to a concert and you have to get online the day tickets go on sale and you try and try to get them and hopefully you do. But I got us a lunch reservation and so we went!!

I thought I would go through the pictures and talk about everything we ate and the overall experience. We are food dorks so I made Randy take pictures of pretty much everything we ate. Luckily we did a five course lunch menu so there is only so much food you have to look at.

First up were two amuse bouches which we did not photograph. Tiny gougeres (basically bread wrapped around melted cheese, yum) and a little cone with salmon tartar inside it. Bananas.

Next was something I was nervous about - sea urchin "panna cotta". Now sea urchin (often called Uni at sushi restaurants where it is most commonly served) is definitely not beginner sushi. It is briny, funky, and can cause all kinds of weird feelings when you eat it. And I must say I know I must not have a sophisticated palate or whatever but I didn't love it. It is just a very strong flavor. 

For the rest of the courses there was often a choice so we would get one of each and trade halfway through. So many flavors. This was a kampachi dish (google it, I don't really know what it is) which was incredible. Very light, lots of citrus and bright flavors. I really enjoyed it. The picture doesn't do it justice but the colors were incredible.
That was a nice counterpoint to a much heavier dish which was veal sweetbreads. No this is not like a sweet roll (google it, I don't want to think about what it actually is, but it was delicious!!).
I think the next course was perhaps the highlight but well frankly everything was so amazing it's hard to say. I had half an order of these scallops:
I can't even remember everything that came with them (and they've already changed the menu) except I know there was pistachio involved. It reminded me of California. Awesome. We also split an order of halibut which was amazing:
There's crispy potato on top and then soft potato below it. So many flavors and textures that all went together so well.

After that we had a crazy Wagyu brisket that we forgot to take a picture of. It was amazing. They braised it for a day or something ridiculous so it was quite tender, and it came with pasta, spinach, and a crazy sauce. I can't give it a better description than that - it was insane.

That was followed by the fanciest "cookies and cream" dish I've ever had.

This kind of shows why I love Thomas Keller so much. He clearly was obsessed with Oreos as a child, as was I. Yet he elevates the idea of an Oreo to a fancy and amazing dessert. On the right it is a marshmallow-like substance that was bruleed. It was so good.

So you would think well that is pretty good. BUT there is more. After all that they bring you more treats in a fancy French thing called MIGNARDISES. I love them whatever they are. Some nice young man came by and showed us 24 chocolates and let us take as many as we wanted!!!
We only got four, I mean how gross can you be. They were fun to try. The best one was dark chocolate with salted caramel inside.

Then they brought something called 'coffee and donuts'. LOVE. The coffee substance was a semifreddo (kind of like ice cream) and then the donuts were warm and soft and perfect.  And there was also a tin with macarons, more chocolates, and then these little candies that looked like taffy inside.
This is seriously like heaven for me. They apparently have a five course dessert tasting menu which I will go and do if I ever reach my goal weight. Ha, like that'll happen in this lifetime, living where I live.

Anyway, I think we both agreed it was the best meal we'd ever had and just an incredible experience. The service was ridiculous. You couldn't even walk to the bathroom by yourself - they insisted on showing you the way. They sent us on our way with little bags of shortbread sandwich cookies and a book on where they get all their ingredients. Truly a meal of a lifetime and I am really lucky to have had it with my food soulmate!

Thanks also to Hurricane Sandy for barricading me in my apartment so I would get this written!