Moving Day


I have moved to http://racingtales.com – please bookmark my new site!

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Pretty, Shiny Things…


The only thing I like more than a bargain is sharing a bargain with others. Swim Outlet, my go-to site for swimsuits and gear, is having a huge sale on Sporti items. Check it out.

While I prefer TYR suits (what a swim snob I’ve become), I do have a Sporti suit and will buy another if the price is right and it’s cute. Important to look good even though especially when your form sucks. There are also some nice caps…I’m thinking about getting this one:

Speaking of cute stuff, have you ever signed up for a race based on the shwag or the medal? My friend Meggan hunts down the cutest medals and signs up for those races. Medal-hunting has become a sport in itself. The race could be down a dark alley in D.C. or through a Florida swamp but, if the medal’s cute, she’s in. She also actually studies the medals. I mean, she knew my D.C. Tri medal (speaking of D.C. AND swamps…how about that swim in the Potomac?!) has “IN TRI WE TRUST” engraved on it (it’s a penny) and I’ve had that thing for over a year and didn’t notice.

I’ll bet that, had Meggan run the Shamrock half marathon back in 2006, when I first ran it, she would have noticed the typo on the medal. Can you find it?

Did you find it? Don’t scroll down until you’re done looking…

Yep, several thousand people who thought they were in VIRGINIA Beach were actually in VIRGINA Beach. Now that’s embarrassing. Especially if you say it a certain way.

If you wondering which are the best (and worst) medals of 2010 (and who doesn’t?), check out Steph’s blog. Steph ran a lot of marathons on her way to completing the 50 states challenge; 27 alone last year! Given some of the doozies-passing-off-as-medals she receives, I’m guessing she doesn’t pick races based on medal ratings…

Which are your favorite race medals? (Meggan wants to know.) Do you have any really terrible medals? Do you wear your medals? Do you pick races based on schwag or medals? Do tell!

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Dragging my Feet


Of all the jobs in the world, the one I’d hate the most is salesperson. I am not ashamed to admit that I’m the worst salesperson I’ve ever known. The thought of knocking on doors or making cold calls is enough to make me break into a sweat.

As a race committee member for Stone Ridge 5K, I have to obtain sponsors. This is the part of the job that I hate the most. I absolutely cannot stand going to businesses and giving a speech while handing over my little pieces of paper. So I’m not. I’m sitting at my computer e-mailing sponsorship info and race flyers. My excuse is that it’s more efficient, because it’s faster and the e-mail goes directly to the source. The reality is that it’s the only way I will do it. Fortunately, there are other committee members who love going to businesses so I let them handle most of it while I work on putting together letters, spreadsheets, and creating a facebook page for the race.

Speaking of races, I ran the Rockville Rotary Twilight 8K Saturday night. I think this was the coolest night in the history of the race. It is a notoriously hot race that, even though it’s held at 8:45pm, has a large number of participants puking, passing out, and requiring medical attention for dehydration and heat exhaustion. So even though the weather on Saturday was uncharacteristically cool, the warnings and reminders to runners to stay well hydrated and stop (or not even start) if you didn’t feel good still went out. There was lots of water available at the start and along the course. There were also two or three overhead sprinklers you could run through.

To be honest, I did not have high expectations for this race. I felt sluggish all week, my ear was hurting (probably infected from the pool) so I was taking rather a lot of ibuprofen, and I haven’t exactly been training for short races. Still, my track workout Wednesday morning went well (considering I had to start at 5:15am and do it alone) and I had a good 2 hr nap Saturday afternoon, so at least I was well-rested.

During my warmup, however, I started getting a headache and stomach cramps. So I stopped warming up and went and drank some water and walked around. 15 mins before race start I had to visit the porta-potty. Stood in line behind a very large man in two-sizes-too-small singlet doing some rather inappropriate stretching so I made sure I looked the other way. Mercifully, my line moved fastest (when does that ever happen?!) and I was in and out and to the start line in time.

The first mile felt awful. I seriously considered bagging the race but decided that, at worst, I would just have to slow down, so I kept going. I’m glad I did because, after a couple of miles of dragging my feet, I actually started feeling better. Most frustrating was that it was dark so I kept having to turn on the light on my Garmin to see my pace. It’s amazing how difficult the small act of pressing a button can be when you’re trying to run fast. So I didn’t look at the Garmin very much and just tried to hang on to a couple of ladies in front of me.

That's me in the black and white PR uniform, hanging on to the ladies on front, whom I later passed. 🙂

I guess it was about halfway through the race that I realized there was a large group in front of me and I needed to regain contact with them since it’s much easier to run in a pack than on your own. I managed to regain contact as we snaked through a parking lot and actually pulled to the front of the group and then moved ahead to the next group. That gave me a boost and I started picking up the pace.

The last mile was my fastest as we turned on to 355 for the final straightaway and I decided to go for sub-35:00. That didn’t quite happen but I cruised in at 35:22 for 288th overall, 45th female, and 5th in my age group. I enjoyed some awesome post-race munchies and a great band that played until 11pm. There’s something much more appealing about night-time post-race festivals.

Given the choice between making cold calls for 35 minutes or running an 8K, I know which I’d choose!

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I am not a car, but I am on facebook


It takes a lot of effort to run with a jogging stroller. And I’m not even talking about the part where you’re actually pushing the thing while your kids are screaming for snacks, asking you to sing a song, telling you to run faster, or trying to get out while the ride is moving.

That’s the easy part. The hard part for me was getting everyone ready to go outside. One time I had the kids locked in, blanketed, snacks packed, and realized I was still in my pajamas. Or there was the time when I just had to go to the bathroom real quick, so put the 2-month-old in a bouncy seat but didn’t expect the 2-year-old to climb my dresser and pull it over on himself, breaking his leg. Yeah, we didn’t get a run in that day but had a nice ride in an ambulance instead.

So once you’ve managed the gargantuan task of getting the little people in the stroller, it’s nice to be able to enjoy some great weather like we had on Thursday, isn’t it? And if you happen to get lucky and the kids are content for a while, it can actually be peaceful. Maybe you’re actually able to have a zen moment.

And then some complete moron driving her car like a bat out of hell through the neighborhood starts yelling profanities at you. That’s what happened to my friend Katy yesterday. Katy was running with her two boys, ages 13 weeks and 2 years, at about 8:15 in the morning when woman-who-needs-her-license-revoked decided to harass her. When Katy got home, thankfully in one piece, she posted this on facebook:

dear nice woman:
thank you for yelling profanities at me while i was running with my 2 kids this morning. also, thank you for clarifying i am not a car. i was really confused. i am very sorry you had to put down your food to turn your wheel to get around me.
p.s. the speed limit is 25mph in our neighborhood.

Don’t you just love facebook? Katy was able to blow off some steam, share her feelings, and make us laugh at the same time! Of course she got a whole load of comments from people who had experienced similar harassment, people who wanted to try to make her feel better, and people like me who ‘helpfully’ posted words like “Moron.” I especially liked the comment, “Damn Katy, if you can’t run 25 mph then get your ass on the sidewalk!”

It feels good to share. Katy: I hope idiot woman didn’t ruin your day. I hope she felt bad about what she said and did. And next time, please get her information so I can send her a running club membership. She probably just needs to get out and run. 🙂

While we’re talking about the powers of facebook, notice that I now have a facebook page so please visit and “like” – thanks!

Have you ever been harassed while running? Have you ever run with a jogging stroller? Have your kids ever harassed you while you were pushing them in the jogger? Did you ever make them get out and run home? 😉

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An Attention-Seeker with an Identity Crisis…Brooks Racer ST 5


I wanted this shoe the minute I saw a picture of its bright (but not day-glo) orange upper. But the Brooks Racer ST 5 and I had a rocky start. First of all, this shoe has a serious identity crisis. Minimalist but supportive enough for pronators? Lightweight for 5Ks but durable enough for the marathon? I had no idea when or where to run in the shoe.

So I wore it for everything except running. These shoes look so cool with jeans that I received compliments every time I wore them. Definitely attention-seeking. But could they perform? I took them out for their first tempo in April, and almost fell over half a dozen times. The shoelaces – pretty, blue, and ribbonlike – kept coming untied. And I double-knot my shoes. Every time. Heck, I even double-knot my kids’ shoes. You should see them trying to untie the laces…

So the Racer ST 5s were relegated to the closet until I went to Potomac River Running and got some lock-laces to replace the ribbons. Unfortunately, they were out of blue laces so Meghan suggested orange ones…as if the shoes didn’t scream loudly enough. Coincidentally, she had just raced a half marathon in the shoes and had no problems with the laces. Must be my (lack of) tying skills.

Before...

...After

Lock-laces in place, the Racer ST 5s were ready for their next run. I decided they would make their debut at the Charlottesville Sprint Triathlon, since, with the lock-laces, they were ready for a tri anyway. The run course was on some quite technical trails, and they performed magnificently. There’s a lot of ground contact with these shoes, and they really gripped the trail well.

I decided to see how the Racer ST 5s performed on the road, taking them to the Firecracker 5K in Reston July 4th. Again, the large amount of ground contact really enabled me to get a good midfoot landing and strong pushoff, and the lightness helped me maintain a good turnover in those late tired-leg stages.

It’s bold and it has some identity issues, but the Brooks Racer ST 5 more than lives up to performance expectations.

By the way, the shoe is only available in men’s sizes…ladies, just size down 1.5 sizes. I wear a 7 in a women’s shoe…the 5.5 fits me perfectly.

Note that Brooks didn’t pay me to write this review and the opinions are my own.

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A Conversation with Chung Minh


“Hello, may I speak with Alison Gittelman?”
“Speaking.”
“Oh, good, this is Chung Minh.”
“….”
“I was given your number by [person’s name] regarding [something inaudible].”
“I’m sorry, who? It’s raining really hard here and I can’t hear you very well.”
“It’s about the shoe collection.”
“Oh, right, the Shoes for Africa! Yes, I’ve started a collection through my running club; we have about 50 pairs already.”
“Good, that’s enough for one box. Now please make sure you only have shoes that are sizes 7 to 11.5 and that none are very badly worn.”
“Sure, will do.”
“I will send you some boxes.”
“No need; I already have three. I ordered them online. So I guess I’m all set. I’ll just take them to UPS once they’re filled?”
“Yes. And I’ll probably be out your way soon. I always run the Leesburg 20K.”
“Oh, that’s a great race. I’m actually in Leesburg right now! Really bad storm here! Well, thanks for calling. What did you say your name was?”
“Jay Wind.”

I hear a CLUNK as the other shoe drops. I feel like a complete idiot. I’m talking with local running legend Jay Wind. Jay has run over 130 marathons with a PR of 2:27:25 at Boston in 1980, and runs over 100 races a year. He is director of the monthly Tidal Basin 3K, the indoor PVTC track meets, and Marathon Charity Cooperation races. And I thought he was a Vietnamese guy called Chung Minh.

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Shoe Review – New Balance Minimus Trail


This will be the shortest review in the history of shoe reviews. While I can squeeze my foot in the NB Minimus Trail, in an ugly stepsister – “It fits!” – fashion, it really doesn’t. Here’s why:

As you can see, my foot is wider than the shoe. Normally my wide feet don’t give me too many problems. I know I can’t wear Nike or Adidas shoes as those are always narrow, but I don’t generally have to order wide Brooks shoes, the brand I normally wear. But that’s because shoes stretch and flex. The NB Minimus Trail, however, has an inflexible rubbery piece that stretches across the top of the foot, just below the toes, and exactly where my feet are widest.

So I put the shoes on, hobbled around for a bit, and took them off. Fortunately, I am currently collecting shoes for Africa through the Perpetual Prosperity Pumps Foundation, a great organization that actually sells the shoes at an affordable price in Africa and uses the funds raised to provide families with tools and know-how to farm independently. So someone in Africa who doesn’t have wide feet like me can own a new pair of shoes!

50 pairs of shoes ready to be shipped. If only I could lift the box...

I’ve been collecting shoes through my running club, SRRC. It’s been very exciting to see the shoes pile up on my doorstep. I’m still collecting, so if you’re near South Riding, VA and have used athletic shoes that still have life in them, let me know and I’ll tell you where you can drop them off.

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An Uncelebration


Happy 4th of July, people. Someone told me a few years back that I should not be celebrating since Independence Day marks my country’s miserable defeat. So I ran a 5K instead. Not much to celebrate there, as I didn’t PR and I didn’t break 21 minutes, which is a silly goal for me to have right now because I haven’t exactly been short distance training.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. After all, I raced last weekend, then had to take a few days off because I caught strep throat. I biked and swam a bit and ran one short tempo during the week. I decided to race today because I hadn’t exactly overexerted myself over the past week. I thought the sub-21 was possible because my training and racing buddy, Bill, with whom I’ve run my last two races, ran 20:36 on the same course last year. (Or maybe they lengthened it, since he was almost a minute slower this year?)

The race was the Firecracker 5K in Reston Town Center. Had a fabulous 9 hrs sleep pre-race, ate a nutella sandwich (new pre-race breakfast; seems to work well and more portable than oatmeal, my previous choice), drank some black coffee, and drove to Reston. Picked up packet and encountered a slight problem when I got the timing chip. Instead of the D-tag, which slides around shoelaces, this race used the Ipico chip, which requires you to put your laces through holes in the cardboard chip. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, but I was wearing locklaces (the bungee laces triathletes use to get their shoes on quickly) on my Brooks Racer ST 5s. After a bit of fiddling I managed to untie the ends of the bungee laces and slip the chip through those.

While I was warming up I ran into Tracy, who was dressed for the 4th in a bright Nuu-Muu dress and flag hat and glasses. Here’s a nice pic of Tracy (Miss America) and me, looking suitably unpatriotic, since I’m not celebrating.

Boring race details: fast course with a couple of short hills and a few turns. Garmin was measuring a little off, and I should have paid attention to this if I really wanted to break 21 minutes because, while it told me my overall pace was 6:37, it also measured the distance as 3.21 miles. So, averaged to 3.1 miles my pace was 6:50, for 21:12 overall. Still, I’m not sure I could have run faster. I paced it well, running the 2nd and 3rd miles faster than the 1st. Hearing Stuart yelling at me in the last 100 did help me pick it up for the final stretch.

I was 20th female overall and 1st in my age group, so did not go home empty-handed. And I remembered what I like about 5Ks: you don’t sit around forever waiting for awards, because it’s all over so fast.

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Surprises and Challenges in Charlottesville


Racing friends, let me ask you this: you’re racing on single-track trail, are a mile from the finish, and hear an athlete coming up behind you. Glancing back, you realize the athlete is the same gender as you (i.e., your competition). Do you:

a) Run faster
b) Block him/her
c) Move aside and let him/her go by

Which did you pick? b)? OMG that’s a bit evil, even for me. c)? Did you come across my blog by accident?

OK, I think most of you would pick a). I know I would. In my mind, if another runner wants to pass me, she’s gonna have to fight for it. So I was caught a little off guard at Charlottesville Triathlon yesterday when the woman in front of me said, “let me know when you want to pass.” What? “You’re fine. Just run your race.” I replied, absolutely gobsmacked that this woman, who was obviously a good triathlete, was willing to move out of my way!

I wasn’t ready to attack at that point, anyway, because I wanted to wait until half a mile to go, when I knew I could make a move and hold on if she launched a counterattack. But when the trail opened up and I slid past, she just let me go. I pushed hard through to the finish, convinced she was going to come back and try and nab me right at the end. Heck, it’s what I would do.

Letting me go cost her $100. I beat her by 3 seconds and won a $200 gift certificate for placing 4th, while she took home $100. I just can’t fathom that one. Is she not competitive? Did she think she could catch me? Is she just a super-nice person? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know. She was very complimentary at the end and didn’t seem to mind being beaten like that at all. I would have been spitting blood. I would have stayed to chat but needed to get my bleeding ankle taken care of.

We had been given plastic disposable ankle bracelets for our chips, and I guess I put mine on a bit too tight as it cut into the skin around my ankle. I could feel some minor discomfort toward the end of the bike leg but it wasn’t until the run that I felt the searing pain of my skin being rubbed off and looked down to see the blood. I stopped to push the bracelet up my leg several times during the run, because despite my efforts to ignore it I just couldn’t run through the pain, but with a mile to go and 4th place in my sights, I managed to put it out of my mind.

OK, let’s start at the beginning because I know I rarely do so I’m going to give it a shot. I headed down to Charlottesville Saturday afternoon, after watching my youngest son swim very well at his swim meet (2nd in backstroke!!!) and simultaneously hosting SRRC’s 7th anniversary breakfast. (When I planned the breakfast, I didn’t expect my son to qualify for an ‘A’ meet!) So there was half an hour or so when a bunch of runners were breakfasting at my house while I was at the pool. Luckily he was swimming in South Riding so I was able to bike the less-than-a-mile to the pool and back in time to at least mingle for a bit…then I kicked everyone out so I could go watch him swim in the relay.

So anyway, my team mate Annette and I drove to Charlottesville and headed straight to packet pickup. When I got my packet, something looked familiar, but I couldn’t work out what it was. It certainly wasn’t the hideous yellow swim cap that I was required to wear. Note to Charlottesville Tri Club: searching for a yellow bouy in a sea (ok, lake) of yellow swim caps is frigging impossible. Back to the something familiar…I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time but now that I’m home, I can. My number was 34. I was number 34 in my last race, too. That’s uncanny.

After getting our packets and stopping for a Starbucks, we headed to Walnut Creek Park to drive the bike course. After not driving the bike course at Strasburg and literally freaking out when I saw the elevation chart, I wanted no surprises.  Let me just say there were shrieks and gasps coming from the occupants of the car most of the way. Charlottesville has three things: UVa, Monticello, and hills. The 16 mile course was steep, twisty, and narrow. It started with a steep climb out of the park, then switched to rollers with a few nasty climbs for good measure. There was only one spot (relatively) flat enough to take on board a GU. The turns were sharp. Many downhills had blind turns. And I loved it. I hammered as hard as I could, riding an average speed of 18.3 mph for 4th fastest female bike time, so that matched my overall placing perfectly!

Crap…I’ve gotten out of order again. Oh well, I tried. Talking of crap, the bathrooms at this park were full of flies. And you know what that means. I have never ‘been’ in and out the loo so fast, and that wasn’t an easy feat, either, because I was wearing my new one-piece tri suit. Let me say first that, after racing in it, I love the one-piece and will never go back to a top and shorts. It’s great not to have to yank the top down or pull the shorts up while racing. You feel super-streamlined in the water and on the bike. It looks cool. It does, however, pose a challenge to using the bathroom as you have to unzip and pull the thing down. And all the while the flies were buzzing around, looking for something to land on…

Moving on to the first leg of the race, which pretty much means my race recap is backwards again: swimming is my weakest of the 3 triathlon legs but I worked hard at reaching, pulling, and rotating, got into a couple of fights as I held my ground in my attempt to swim as straight a line as possible between bouys, and ended up with the 17th fastest female swim time: 14:49 for 750 meters. It still sucks that I can’t be more competitive in the swim, but it gives me people to pass on the bike and run so in some ways it’s a benefit.

What was interesting about this tri was that, because it was small, all the women started together. That meant that I knew exactly where I stood in terms of my competition, just like in a running race, whereas normally in a tri you don’t really know how you’re doing compared to those around you because you started at different times. And that’s when three seconds can really count.

Team TPR takes on Charlottesville..and I definitely need hair help.

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Product Review – Honey Stinger Waffles


Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get an energy food company to make a product that tastes like one of your favorite foods? Well, if you’re Lance Armstrong, you can. You see, Lance was a big fan of these waffles that professional cyclists in Europe eat, and so he asked Honey Stinger if they could come up with something like that, and, being the nice people they are, they did. The result is the Honey Stinger Waffle. It’s organic and is available in honey or vanilla. I won a box of the honey flavor waffles from I Run Like a Girl’s blog! One waffle has 160 calories, 7g fat, 21g carbs, 14g sugar. I ate one before my track workout Wednesday and another before my swim Thursday. It’s a bit sweet but makes a nice change from gels.

Lance keeps his waffles in his back pocket. I'm not sure why but Honey Stinger feels this is good to know.

But I’ll tell you what. If Honey Stinger offered to make moi an energy supplement (after all, I am European), I wouldn’t ask for a stinkin’ waffle. Nope. Much as I like the waffle (and I do) I am tired of sticky sweet supplements that are either fruit or chocolate or some sort of dessert flavor. So you know what I’d ask for? Roast beef, potatoes, peas, carrots, and gravy. Nothing like enjoying your Sunday dinner and a run/ride at the same time. Talk about multitasking.

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