Race Report: Ironman 70.3 New Orleans

Before I start, I must admit this this race report is long, long overdue.  As in, it’s now August and I completed this race in April, but hey- better late then never!

This was my first 70.3 distance race, so I was definitely nervous beforehand, but I had my parents and The Marine there as my support crew all day to keep me motivated. I had set some goals for race day.  The first goal was to finish.  The second goal was to finish under 8 hours, but push it for under 7 hours if I was feeling good.  My third goal was to soak in the whole experience and try to have some fun.

It was definitely a high energy atmosphere when we arrived at the race start that morning.  Usually bikes are dropped off the day before for this race, but the weather was so bad (thunderstorms), that the race coordinators waived that rule and we were able to bring our bikes with us in the morning.  We got to transition around 6 am and I set up all of my stuff.  Everyone around me was so serious and they were starting to stress me out, so I wandered back out of transition and hung out with my parents and The Marine by the finish line.  I made sure to drink a ton of water and Nuun and tried to relax.

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Dad and my by the finish line

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The Marine and I

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Mom rocking her “IronMom” T-shirt

The traffic getting to the race was apparently pretty heavy that morning, so they delayed the race start by half an hour to give people time to arrive.  Uggghh- that meant more waiting! I was ready to just get going!

The Swim:

Finally it was time to head to the swim start.  I was really nervous about the swim because I had such a horrible swim during the New Orleans Olympic Triathlon and this Ironman 70.3 had the same swim course, just slightly longer.  It was wet suit legal, which made me feel a little better.  I’m not sure why, but the wet suit gives me an added sense of security in open water swims.  Luckily I had The Maine to help me into my wet suit, and of course my mother was there to document it all (as mothers do)!

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Tucking me in to the wet suit

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All ready to go

I found the rest of my people with the same colored swim cap as me and joined their group.  There were a lot of first-times in the group so we all nervously chatted as we got closer and closer to the dock.  At one point I started to get a little teary as I approached the dock, but I squashed it quickly.  Just take it easy, take your time, and just relax.  It’s an easy swim, I can do this.  I jumped into the water and waited for the panic to set in like it did during the previous race, but it didn’t.  The water was calmer than my last race and I felt really good in the water.  I made it round the first buoy, feeling good.  Rounded the second buoy, still feeling good.  Off to the last buoy and then I’m done!  Woo!  I got out of the water feeling great, not shaky and weak like last time.  I had no idea what my time was, but I wasn’t too concerned about it.  I trotted off towards transition, skipping the wet suit strippers because I knew I was going to take my time in transition anyway.  I saw my Mom and The Marine as I got into transition and waved.  The Marine tried to yell my time to me, and even though I couldn’t hear him, I was impressed he was keeping track!

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So I came in just under 35 minutes for the swim.  Considering I was trying to take it very easy and no push myself at all, I’ll take it!

After dousing myself in sunscreen and slathering my lady-parts in body glide I was off on the bike.

The Bike

I was feeling like a million bucks as I set off on the bike.  My swim was good, I was feeling energized and hydrated, and I was ready to tackle the next 56 miles.  I decided to wear my Camelbak for the bike portion of the race and I was glad I did.  I know it’s not the sleekest or most stylish triathlon accessory, but I was petrified of dehydrating so I felt better having it with me as well as my two bike water bottles filled with gatorade and nuun.  I also had lots of snacks- a peanut butter sandwich and a variety of gel flavors.

The weather was great for the first portion of the bike.  No wind, the sun wasn’t too hot, and the course was mostly flat.  I kept track of my pace for the first half of the bike course and I was flying!  (Well, for my standards I was flying!)  I was easily averaging 17 mph, which put me on track to come in well below a 7 hour race time.  In fact at the rate I was going, and with my great swim time, I was guessing I might be able to come in close to 6 hours if I pushed it hard on the run.  I was killing it!

Well, I was killing it until about mile 40 when my bike portion of the race kind of fell apart.  The last 16 miles of the race were terrible.  There was a lovely 18 mph head wind that had kicked up and I was quickly running out of energy to fight it.  My butt was killing me, and my shoulders were sore from leaning over the aerobars.  Basically, I hadn’t put in enough miles on the bike before the race and it was catching up with me.  Then, about two miles away from transition, my chain came off my bike while I was changing gears up a hill.  Are you freaking kidding me?!?  I was so close to getting off this damn bike and now I’m stranded on this beast of a hill trying to fix my stupid bike chain.  Uggghhh!  This is when the tears started again.  These were tears of pure frustration.  It had taken me almost an hour an a half to do the last 15 miles and I still hadn’t made it back.  But, again, I pulled myself together after a few minutes, fixed my chain, and made it the last 2 miles to transition where I could FINALLY get off the bike.  I don’t think I’d ever looked forward to running a half marathon so much in my life as I did at that moment.  Anything but a bike!

My parents and The Marine were waiting or me outside of transition.  “Did you get lost?!”  The Marine asked as I was getting off the bike.  “No, smart ass, but I had to stop and fix my chain.”  I pointed down to my hands and legs that were covered in chain grease and he seemed to accept that answer.

I knew my bike time was shit at this point, but at least this meant I could take my time on the half marathon and not run myself to exhaustion.  When I saw my stats afterwards I realized just how bad my bike time was.

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My pace ended up being 14.39 mph, which was slower than any of my training rides.  But whatever, it was over with, onto the run.

The Run

The run was great, because I knew there was no way I would make my 7 hour goal at this point, but I could walk at a snail’s pace and still make it under 8 hours.  So that’s pretty much what I did.  I enjoyed all of the snacks at the aide stations and made some friends as I walked along.  I did run a little bit, but I probably walked more than half of the 13.1 miles.

As I got to mile 12, the Marine was waiting for me.  “What are you doing?” I asked.  “I’ve come to run the last mile with you,” he said very matter-of-factly.  I wasn’t really sure if that was allowed, but I wasn’t going to argue with him.  Half way though my last mile I saw my friends who were just arriving to see me finish.  Unfortunately the official Ironman New Orleans website had the wrong finish location posted and they first went to the wrong place (grrrrrr!!!), but they made it in time to see me running and hang out with my afterwards.

I ran across the finish line feeling surprisingly not too worse for wear.  My “run” time was pretty rough, but like I said, I gave myself a pass after the horrific bike ride.

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14.25 min/miles isn’t the best, but I’ve seen much worse.

Overall it was an awesome experience.  I’m not going to lie, I did enjoy doing absolutely no exercise (other than walks with Pepper) for a good month or so after the race, but then I was ready to get back into it.  I’d like to do this race again next year  (with more bike training!) now that I know what I’m in for and set some good goals for myself.  I’ve also been kicking around the idea of doing the 140.6 in the Woodlands next May, but ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone yet- I haven’t totally decided 🙂

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All finished!

Total time 7:51:05.  I am officially a (half) Ironman 🙂

Race Report: Rocketchix Triathlon (and my first race injury)

I think this race might have been doomed from the start.  I signed up for it a mere 3 days before race day after humming and hah-ing back and forth about whether or not I should do it.  I had told my friend Pam I would do it with her, and she’s not really the kind of person you want to back out on (I mean, she has triplet boys- she’s a tough one!) so I sucked it up and decided to sign up.

I hadn’t done much any training since my Ironman 70.3 back in April (race report coming soon, I promise!).  I’ve been in a walking group with my friends, but as for biking and swimming, that has been non-existent.  This was a short race though- 350 m swim, 12 mile bike, 2 mile run- so I figured I could wing it and just have fun.

Race morning I was up at 3:30 to pack my bag and head to Baton Rouge with Pam.

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Race day supplies!

 We arrived with plenty of time to pick up our packets and set up in transition.  As we’re attaching our race numbers to our helmets and bikes, Pam noticed that my bib was a different color to hers.  “Did you sign up for the duathlon by accident?” she asked.  “No!” I said with earnest, “I signed up for the tri!”.  Well after a quick check of the email, I realize I had in fact signed up for the duathlon by accident.  Whoops.! I wasn’t heartbroken about skipping the swim (which ironically is my best event), but I also wasn’t crazy about running an extra two miles before I jumped on the bike.  But, whatever, it’s not like a trained anyway, so I decided to go with the flow.

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Pre-race photo

It was still nice and cool when I set off for my first two-mile run.  We ran around LSU campus so it was interesting scenery.  I skipped the first water station and just kept on going.  I felt good.  I was relaxed, my muscles we loose, I was in the zone.  That is, until I tripped over the flat sidewalk and busted my ass. Hard.  I was like Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and City walking the catwalk.  One moment I’m owning it, the next second I’m on the ground.  I was triathlon roadkill.  I picked myself up and kept on running, as it didn’t really hurt very much (at that point!).  Before the next water station I looked down and realize my leg was covered in blood.  Ugh, that’s no good.  I rinsed it off with water at the next aid station and kept on going through transition and onto the bike.  I felt like I had made pretty good time, even with my wipe out.

The bike portion was great.  No headwind, and a nice flat, smooth course.  Again, I was just having fun so I didn’t pay attention to my speed and just enjoyed the ride.  The second run was the same route as the first, so I decided to walk through the aid stations (the temperature was much hotter this time around) and run the rest.  I felt great by the time I crossed the finish line.  When I checked my splits later they were all a lot faster than I thought they would be, which was a pleasant surprise.

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My friend Teresa was waiting for us, as her sister Larissa was doing the same race, and so we hung out by the finish line and watched Larissa and Pam finish.  It was a nice, relaxed race.  Except for the road rash, which is actually getting more sore as it starts to heal.  But, hey, I ran a race with a bloody leg and gravel still in the wound- I feel like kind of a bad ass!!

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Yesterday

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Today

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New Orleans Triathlon Race Recap (More of a Race Fail!)

How does the phrase go?  “Piss poor planning produces piss poor results?”  I think that might be the tag line for my race this past weekend.  It was the New Orleans Olympic Distance Triathlon– 1500 m open water swim, 40 K bike ride, 10 K run.  The swim location and part of the bike and run routes are the same as the upcoming New Orleans Ironman 70.3, so this was the perfect warm-up race before my first 70.3 in three weeks.

Except it wasn’t the perfect warm-up, it was pretty horrible.  Here is the nitty-gritty race breakdown:

Pre-race:

The problem with living in New Orleans is that there is always something going on.  This weekend was the big Hogs for the Cause BBQ competition and my friends’ team was participating this year (Peace. Love. Pig.- you should check them out) so I volunteered to help them out on competition day.  We all had such a great day hanging out, cooking, selling pork sandwiches and piggy pudding, listening to the bands, and checking out what all the other teams were cooking.  Unfortunately, I was having so much fun that I neglected to ever eat a proper meal that day, so my pre-race fueling was half a bag of pork cracklins, a few bites of piggy pudding, and a few pieces of the whole hog that had been smoking for 14 or so hours.  Not really the kind of nutrition that provides good race day energy. Poor planning. Not only did I neglect to eat, I also neglected to hydrate properly.  I drank water throughout the day, but the beer was steadily flowing also, so I probably caused a net hydration loss for the day. Poor planning.

I drank fluids when I got home that evening and figured I’d have plenty of time to hydrate and eat in the morning as well.  My friend Diane was picking me up at 5:20 am, so I packed my race bucket, set my alarm for 4:20 am, and settled down at 9 pm for a good night’s sleep.  Then, around 2 am, the pre-race nerves kicked in and I found myself wide awake.  I stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep for about 2 hours, and then I woke up to Diane calling me to let me know she was at my house ready to pick me up.  What!??!  I checked my phone and was indeed 5:20 and my alarm had failed me.  Thank goodness I’d packed the night before so I was able to brush my teeth, throw on my clothes, fill water bottles, and dash out the door in about 7 minutes.  In my haste, I did not have time to eat breakfast or get more fluids in me before I left the house.   Again, very poor planning.

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Proof the alarm was originally set!

Swim:

I’ll spare you the details of my set-up once we arrived at the course, as everything went smoothly.  The swim was 1500 meters through the Southshore Habor and would be my first open water swim.  Eeekk!  I’ve always been a strong swimmer, so the swim portion usually never bothers me, but this was a little more intimidating than the pool swims I’m used to.  Diane walked over with me and showed me where to go (she was doing the Sprint so her swim started in a different spot) and once she left, I made friends with another girl who looked equally as nervous as me.  This was her first open water swim as well and she was also doing this race as a warm-up for the Ironman 70.3 in a few weeks.  It was comforting that someone else was in the same boat as me.  We discussed the path through the harbor- “So, wait, do we zig-zag-zig through those buoys or is it zag-zig-zag?” and reassured each other with the “yeah, we got this” line.

Then we were off.   I jumped in, popped my head above water, and started swimming Baywatch- style (head above water) so I could catch my bearings.  After about 10 seconds I felt myself starting to freak out.  I don’t know if it was my adrenaline or the cold water temperature, but I couldn’t seem to catch my breath.  I also couldn’t see.  The water was the iced- tea colored and I really couldn’t see more than an arm’s length in any direction, which was also a little disconcerting.

As I was making my way to the first buoy my imagination started to run wild- what exactly could be in this water?!  It’s a known fact that there are bull sharks in Lake Pontchartrain from time to time, there are also alligators occasionally, I’m sure some kind of venomous snake species, killer whales, carnivorous plants, Nessy, the list goes on and on and that’s before I even thought about the parasites and bacteria.  Clearly I was going to die on this swim.  I flipped over to kick on my back for a minute or two to catch my breath, just waiting for nature to take to my watery demise, but it never happened.  So, I decided to get my sh*t together and get on with things, because the water was cold and waiting for a shark attack wasn’t getting me out any faster.  After that, I was fine.  I found my groove, zig-zag-zigged around the orange buoys, made a bee-line to my favorite green buoy (the last buoy!) and got the hell out of that lake.  Phew, 1500 meter down in 32 minutes.  I’ll take it!

As I was left the swim exit I waved to Diane who was waiting to start her swim and trudged towards transition.  My legs were a little wobbly so I was happy to take it slow and let the blood redistribute itself in my body.  As I was nearing transition one of the volunteers caught my attention as he was yelling, “the strippers are up ahead.”  What?!  Damn, I thought, I know this is New Orleans, but that’s a little crazy even for us.  But still, I was intrigued, so onward I went looking for said strippers.

Turns out the strippers were two very nice middle aged-ladies who helped me take my wet-suit off.  I have to say, I was little relieved.  I wasn’t sure I could handle strippers after surviving what I can only assume was a very near miss with the whole shark-attack situation.

Swimming Wins:  My new wet suit was awesome, my time was faster than I expected, I swam (almost) the exact Ironman course, no shark attack.

Swimming Fails:  Having a mild panic attack, swallowing half of Lake Pontchartrain, need different goggles for buoy sighting purposes.

The Bike:

I took my time in transition, headed off on the bike, and everything was fine.  I was fairly confident that there weren’t any man-eating creatures hiding anywhere on this portion of the race, so I felt okay to eat an energy goo and drink some gatorate as I cruised along.

Then I hit “the hills”.   Now, we don’t have hills in New Orleans.  Our highest point in the city used to be Monkey Hill at the zoo, which was constructed so kids in New Orleans could learn what a hill was (no joke) and it can’t be more than 20 ft tall!  However, this bike course was riddled with overpasses and bridges, and I swear every other mile there was another damn bridge to go over.  Gah!  It wasn’t as bad when the wind was behind me, but on the way back pedaling uphill and into the strong wind got a little tiresome.

Then, to make matters worse, I got a flat tire. This wouldn’t have been that bad, except I used my last tube to change another tire last week and hadn’t replaced it yet.  Again, poor planning.  Luckily for me, after a while of walking my bike back towards the starting line, Dave the bike-tech guy pulled up in his handy van and changed my tire for me, quick as a flash!  (Thanks Dave, and I’m sorry I secretly cursed you for driving across the bike course about a half-hour earlier).

I hopped back on and finished my very underwhelming bike ride.  Average pace was around 13 mph, which is incredibly slow for me, but that did include the flat tire factor.  However, I did feel like I found my “cruising altitude” as I like to call it, where I have a comfy pace that I feel like I could maintain for hours.  This was what I really wanted to feel out on this race so I would have figured out before the Ironman.

Bike Wins:  I hydrated well, I found a comfortable “cruising altitude”, I didn’t fall off.

Bike Fails:  My pace was slow, I was not prepared for a flat tire, I handled hills (and wind) quite poorly.

Run:

The run was pretty horrific overall.  My lack nutrition (poor planning) hit me hard and I had no fuel left in my tank.  My hydration level was okay and I didn’t have any cramping, I just had no energy.  Out of the 6 miles, I probably ran half, and did find a good run-walk interval pace for myself for part of it.  We had to run the 3 mile loop twice and honestly I thought about cashing in at 3 miles, but I didn’t.  I figured it was better to complete than to cash out early, even if it meant walking a lot.  My pace ended up being 12:54 min/mile for the run, which is terrible for me, but I did it and I lived to tell the tale.

Run wins:  I did it

Run fails:  Everything else.

Here are my overall stats from the day:
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Today I actually feel okay and not as stiff as I thought, but that’s probably because I was moving slow damn slowly through the race.  I’m going to go for a short jog today with Pepper and then stretch really, really well afterwards.  Tomorrow it’s back on the bike, hopefully for a 30- 40 miler.

I don’t have any shots from the race (thank God, because I’m not sure I want to remember it), but here is a pre-race selfie of Diane and I and a few that the Marine took of me on the route.

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Ready to go!

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Heading out on the run

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Finally done (not an accurate time)

Shamrockin’ 8K Recap

So, Ironman training was mostly a fail last week.  It rained all week (ugh!) and I came down with a sinus/respiratory/virus/plague situation early in the week that I still haven’t quite managed to shake. 

However, I did run the Shamrockin’ 8K on Sunday morning with a group of my friends, so at least I accomplished that much.  I had worked until 2 am the night before so I wasn’t feeling particularly energetic when we left for the race, but this is one of my favorite races of the year and I didn’t want to miss it. 

I peer-pressured Pam into joining me and we met a few of our other friends down around the starting line also.  Here is our traditional pre-race selfie- as you can tell I’m quite tired!

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I also realized that The Marine isn’t the greatest at temporary tattoo application as mine ended up reading “hamrockin’ Run”.  I personally found this hilarious based on my affinity for food.

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Rock that ham!

Anyway, once we’d filled our selfie quota (and peed a few times) we lined up and off we went.  The weather was gorgeous (overcast and not too hot) but I still worked up and good sweat.  I decided to run the whole race and just walk for a few seconds while I pounded gatorade at each mile water station.  The Marine competed in the “Guinness Challenge” portion of the race where he drank Guinness every mile.  At first I was a little jealous that I had decided not to partake in that race option, but by mile 4 I was glad I didn’t have a belly full of Guinness! 

I finished in a decent time.  Not super fast but not hatefully slow.  Considering sickness and lack of sleep played a roll, I was satisfied with my performance.  My splits aren’t the fastest, but they certainly are consistent.

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After the race I picked up my fancy beer mug, filled it with Guinness and enjoyed the post race party in Audubon park with friends.  All in all, a successful Sunday morning race.

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My First Duathlon

So, in a moment of “brilliance” a few months ago, I decided it might be fun to complete a duathlon.  The Bridgeman Duathlon is a local event that consists of a two-mile run, a ten-mile bike ride, and another two-mile run, which sounded like a good way to try a multi-sport event without having to fully commit to the swimming training needed for a real triathlon.   However, due to the break-up, the end of my nursing semester, and moving twice in two months, I ever really committed to any kind of training that I needed to do for the race.  Whoops.  I suddenly realized that the race was a month away and maybe I should do a bit of preparation.  I mean, how hard could it really be, right?

I already had a bike and I already had feet, so I figured I had all the gear I needed.  I was wrong.  I went out for my first bike ride (8 miles) a couple weeks before the race and felt fine afterwards.  My legs were a little sore, but other than that, nothing immediately jumped out at me.  Then the following day I could barely sit down.  My butt was so sore!  I quickly hopped on amazon.com and ordered a pair of bike shorts, you know, the ones with the padding that help to cushion your tooshie from a very hard bicycle seat?  Turns out they are a life saver on the bike, and actually very comfortable to run in, so there was one problem solved.

Next, I ordered myself a helmet (safety first!), and made sure to get one that matched my bike colors, because color coordination is obviously one of the keys to becoming a successful athlete.

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Now I at least looked the part.  I spent the couple of weeks before the race doing some cycling and some ginger-jogging with Pepper, and as race day approached I was feeling a little better about myself.  After topping up my tires with some air, I almost felt prepared.

This race was a great race to do as my first multi-sport event.  It is a small race, only about 400 entries, so I wasn’t over whelmed by a huge crowd and was able to learn the ropes pretty easily.  My strategy was to take the first two miles fairly easily, take my time in the transitions, do as well as I could on the biking portion, and then just survive the final two mile run.

For the first two-mile run I hung back in the pack and averaged an 11 minute-mile pace, which was exactly what I was aiming for.  As I grabbed my bike and rolled out of the first transition stage, I was feeling pretty good.  The first portion of the biking was great- nice, flat roads and I was able to get up to a good speed and start passing people.  Then I got to the bridge.  Yikes.  A large portion of the 10-mile biking leg was over the Crescent City Connection bridge that crosses the Mississippi River in New Orleans.  Needless to say, the bridge is rather tall, and therefore biking the incline on a fixed gear bike was a bit of a challenge to say the least.  I just took it slow and steady, and pushed through up and over the bridge to the turn around, and then back up and over the bridge the way I came.  I completed the bike portion in 42 minutes, which was much faster than the hour I had anticipated it would take me.  All in all, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I did make a mental note to get a bike with gears before I attempt to do another race with hills!

The last two miles of running were a bit rough.  The run was along the Mississippi River levee, and by this point the sun was blazing and there was little to no breeze.  I walk/ran the last two miles, but still managed t average 13-minute mile pace, which was better than I expected.

My total time was 1:32.34, which gives me a good benchmark now of times to beat.  My goal was to complete the race in less than two hours, and I never thought I would be close to 1:30:00, so I was very pleasantly surprised by my time.

I had a great time and really enjoyed participating in a multi-sport race.  Until now, I had only ever completed 5k’s and half-marathons, so this was a fun change.  I think it’s safe to say I have caught the triathlon bug, and now have my sights set on a short triathlon race at the end of July In Baton Rouge.  This one will include the swim portion, which will require some additional training, as well as some additional gear. Luckily I have convinced my friend Pam to do the triathlon with me, so now I have a friend to keep me accountable for my training.  And, of course, Pepper is keeping me on schedule with my ginger-jogging, so I’m hoping to be much better prepared come July.

I will keep you posted on my training, but until then, here are some shots from the race last weekend.

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P.S. Special thanks to my Marine chauffeur and photographer for the day.  It does tend to make you try a little harder when you have a Marine cheering you on!