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Off Topic Thursday: National Championships!

31 Oct

I realize my Off Topic Thursdays have been very athletics-focused lately but that’s been a bit part of my life lately. After my last triathlon race of the season, I thought I would be able to change topics for a little, but there’s more.

My friend Paul got it stuck in my head when that race was over that I might have qualified for National Championships. I doubted him at first, because of the small size of the field but the more I read into it, the more I kept thinking that I might have really qualified for nationals.

I was in an elevator with my mom when I checked my email and saw that I’d qualified not only for Olympic National Championships but Sprint distance as well! I guess my second-place finish at a race in June was enough to get me through for that distance. We talked it over during dinner and I realized I did want to go. My 2019 season went so much better than I could have ever imagined and I look forward to seeing what I could accomplish at the Olympic distance if I tried again.

The next step was convincing my husband. After how much money I spent on my half, I thought it would be a hard sell, but he seemed fine with it. We’ll have the expense of the hotel but I don’t plan on buying a new bike so there’s not a ton more to it than that. We talked about our house-buying and family plans and it seems to work into what we’d already agreed upon. What I thought was going to be a hard sell turned into an easy conversation. He was more concerned about how it would affect my plans of going to swim nationals in April. That’s a different post altogether.

I think the reason I’m so pumped about this is that I’ve never felt I was a good enough athlete in anything to be considered a national contender until this year. In high school, I never made State Meet for swimming and even now, I’m not qualified for Nationals. I never seem to place well in running events (until this year) and I always felt I was a middle-of-the-pack triathlete. That’s why my win in September was such a shocker. I’m still a little bit in shock and I want to ride this out because I don’t think it will last forever. Though how awesome would it be if it did?

So I plan to be back at it in March or April. I’ll use the same training plan book I used for my half. I expect a bit less time commitment requirement but I’ll expect a higher intensity from the workouts. Or at least I can expect that of myself. One more year of this intensity won’t hurt. I don’t mind the weight loss that comes with it either!

Until next time write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers Group: To NaNo or Not To NaNo?

7 Oct

As the writing community approaches November, talk always turns to NaNo. National Novel Writing Month (NaNo to the idiots who compete) is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I’ve done it once and I’ve doing editing efforts in other months since. I’ve been saying I need to get started on another novel for a while now, so I’m thinking of doing it? I’m still unsure? I wonder if anyone here will try to talk me into it?

We talked briefly about blogs and I’ll mention here one thing that some found useful. When you’re blogging, recognize that you’re putting out content for free. If your writing is available for free, publishers have to have a really good reason to want to publish that same content and ask people to pay for it. Why buy when it’s free? Be wary of publishing anything on a blog that you want people to pay for later.

We spoke about signatures. If you’re publishing under your real name, you may want to change your handwriting or signature to sign books. It’s probably not a great idea to have your legal signature floating around on copies of your book! Practice changes for a signature repeatedly, practice handwriting changes by writing slowly and using pangrams to practice every letter.

Two writers brought forward writing contests that we should be aware of. The first was the Write Michigan Short Story Contest. The second, with some broader appeal, is the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Both have deadlines in November so there’s plenty of time to enter!

The last thing we touched on was a computer program, Outlining Your Novel Workbook. It’s based on a book by the same title and goes for $40. It follows a three-act structure recommendation. No one in our group has used it so I have no personal testimonials.

I’ll be missing this group in October but will be back at it in November so I guess I’ll have to decide if I’m NaNo-ing before then.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: 2019 Triathlon Season Recap

26 Sep

Yes, I’ve used most of my Off Topic Thursdays to talk about triathlon and this one is no exception. The 2019 season is now over in my climate zone and I had a stand-out season and I wanted to take a minute to reflect on it because I’m not sure if I’ll see another one like it.

My friend Andrew and I at the Triceratops Triathlon

I started training early this season, in February. I had the Half Ironman in July and knew I needed to start training early to be ready for it with all of the travel we were looking at through the summer. It paid off well! I had my first race of the season in June, a sprint triathlon (0.5 mi swim, 20k bike, 5k run). This tri was part of a series of three held throughout the summer. I’ve done the full series twice and the past two years I’ve done just the June event. I had a friend from swimming who had the goal of completing a triathlon do this one with me so it was doubly special for me.

My goal for the race was to go under 1:30. My best time on the course was a minute off and I felt like I could do it. The swim felt good, as did the bike, and I flew through the run. I ended up going a 1:23.18, my best on the course by more than seven minutes! It was wonderful and extra memorable for my friend Andrew joining me and my husband and mom being there. I took second in my age group and got a cool mug.

My next race was the Half Ironman. I’ve talked about that enough. You can read more here. In summary, it was amazing and I’m still blown away that it went so well!

My last race was earlier this month, an Olympic Triathlon (1 mi swim, 40k bike, 10k run). This is a race I’ve done twice before successfully and last year I didn’t finish it. The swim was canceled last year due to a strong current and my knees were not excited about a duathlon (run, bike, run). I ended up getting two flat tires on the bike course and had to get a ride in a truck back to transition and my family. So my goal for this year was to finish. My secondary goal was to go under 3 hours. I was at 3:12 two years before and I was feeling good and thought I could do it.

The race was a time trial start, which means one athlete starts every three minutes. They ask you to line up by expected swim finish time. I got fourth in line, the man in front of me saying he thought he was going to do a 25-minute swim. I passed one person by 50 meters into the swim and by the halfway point, I passed another and I was in second. I never ended up catching the guy in first but the announcer was shocked to see a woman get out of the water five seconds behind the leader! My family laughed at how poorly he contained his surprise.

I’m not a strong cyclist and the whole time I was riding, I kept waiting for a woman to pass me. None did! I was passed by several men, but no women. I got to the turn around point and realized they were a ways behind me and I had a chance of getting to the transition area still leading the race! I’m an okay runner so I had the same thoughts on the run course, thinking one of them would finally catch me. At the turnaround, I realized I might do it, I might win! That spurred me forward and I ended up crossing the finish line in 2:48.11, dropping 24 minutes and being the first woman across the finish line! Because we didn’t all start at the same time, there were a tense few minutes while I waited to see if I’d finished far enough in front of the second woman to win and I ended up beating her by only 40 seconds. She was a great runner.

Me as the Overall Womans’ Olympic Winner at Sunrise Side Tri

I’d never been on an overall winners podium before, let alone on top of it! It was such a cool feeling and I felt so great. My family was a little shocked, I’d never been dominant in a race like that before and they weren’t completely sure what was happening! It was a great way to end my tri season. I’m not sure yet, but it may have qualified me for Nationals in 2020. I’ll have to do some serious training if I make it but I think that would be a really fun opportunity.

I’m not sure I’ll ever train as hard as I did this season. It was a great feeling to do well and see my hard work pay off. I had a lot of personal bests this year and I’m trying to figure out where to set my sights next.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Happy 6th Birthday to Taking on a World of Words!

19 Sep

This is actually a bit delayed because I’ve been reading so much and had so many book posts lined up, but I’ve hit six years of blogging! This has almost outlasted my longest tenure at a job. It’s just younger than my marriage. This blog has been a consistent part of my life for years and I love it so much.

One of my rituals on my blogoversary is to think what my blog would be able to do if it were a child. My mother might prefer it another way, but this is what I’ve got.

  • Realize the effects of decisions
  • Recognize the feelings of others
  • LEARNING TO READ!
  • Learning to share
  • Start to understand puns
  • Focus for fifteen minutes

It’s off to first grade for my little blog! I hope she makes good friends.

Yet again, here are some numbers to show my blog’s growth over the past year. Numbers are taken from 14-Sep, nine days after my blogoversary. It came on so fast I didn’t have time to celebrate right away.

It’s crazy to me how much my most popular pages are affected by movies and tv shows. I’m honored that my feelings on Bird Box became more read after the Netflix movie, but I hope those people read the books! I think WWW Wednesday is having a stronger pull over my blog and I’m really excited by that. The idea that the community has taken over and is making itself heard and connecting with each other makes me really happy. I still think I’m being plagiarized for high school essays…

Thank you all so much for reading along with my reading adventures. I love sharing a love of books with you all. You make finishing a book even more exciting!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: I am a (Half) Ironman

29 Aug

Last month I wrote about how nervous I was to do my Half Ironman. The race was just after the post went up so I’m almost a month out now and I’m so excited to share how it went! The day was unforgettable.

My husband and I drove down on Friday night. We got in late and went straight to sleep. In the morning, I got in my last workout: a 20-minute bike ride. Our hotel was right across the street from a Metro Park so I was happy to ride through the paved hilly roads there and enjoy the scenery. After a quick shower, we stopped at Meijer to pick up the things I had forgotten (because you always forget something): hand towels and nail polish. I needed the towels to dry my feet off after the swim. I need the nail polish for moral support. It’s a race tradition I have.

We went to Athlete Village, the check-in and staging area. I went through check-in and even ended up buying a bike jersey at the shop. They put the names of all registered athletes on the jersey and I found my name three times! I also bought the IronMan Ohio sticker which I would put on my car if I finished successfully.

I had time before the mandatory athlete briefing so I headed a few miles north to the beach where we would swim and where Transition 1 (T1) was set up. We had to check our bikes in on Saturday and leave them overnight. I got my bike racked successfully and was shocked how few people had done so. I was the only one on my rack which would end up holding 50 bikes. I covered my handlebars with a bag and a cover on my seat. I wouldn’t leave the towels, helmet, and spare glasses overnight so it was just my bike and I headed back to Athlete Village.

Transition 2 (T2) and the finish line were right with Athlete Village so I got T2 ready to go. I wouldn’t be back here before race time so I had to leave everything: shoes, visor, food, and race number. These all went in a bag which I tied to the bar that would hold my bike when I finished up and left it there.

The Athlete Briefing was 45 minutes of information and all of it was so necessary! I only tuned out when they talked about qualifying for World Championships. That wasn’t going to be me! I loved looking around at all the athletes and families at the meeting. We are all different ages, backgrounds, and experiences and we were all there for one goal. I was cheering for every single one of them.

We left the Village and met my parents and cousin for lunch. After church, we had dinner and I went to bed early. Or, I tried to. My nerves got the better of me and it was a rough night. I had to be up and at it early and I got in about six hours of sleep (which is good for me).

I’m the one smiling like an idiot.

The next morning, husband and parents and I headed to the T1 site. I pumped my tires, laid out my towel, snack, helmet, and glasses. The water was too warm for wetsuits to be legal so I raced in just my tri kit. I seeded myself for about a 30-minute swim. I wanted to go slower, but my husband and a friend running the race convinced me to go for it. The race start was what’s called a ‘time trial start.’ This means that every five seconds, four athletes left. You’re supposed to get in order from faster to slower athletes so that, in theory, you don’t get passed or pass anyone. One guess how well that works. There was a ton of passing and being passed. I will say that the athletes near me were good about keeping their elbows in and swimmings straight so I didn’t have a lot of trouble with getting elbowed or kicked. I finished the swim in 34:30, a bit slower than I wanted to but still a good time. I ran up the beach and had to delicately step through the parking lot so my feet didn’t get cut up by gravel. I got to my bike and started getting ready to ride. My friend Jamie had told me she had fun at her race a month earlier because she made it fun so I took that advice and started dancing. I’d treated the swim like a warm-up, the race was about to really start. My rack was only one row over from the barrier so my husband and dad were standing there watching me dance my way into my bike shoes and asked me if I was OK. Clearly, I was fine.

Biking is my least favorite. It takes forever and it makes my back hurt. I picked this race because it’s flat because the hills make everything worse. It was still a 56-mile bike ride. I’d given myself four hours to make it happen and meet my goal time of 7 hours. I started off killing it. The north-bound stretch was on a state route protected by cones and it felt easy. I could tell from my bike computer that I was going too fast, but it felt easy so I went with it. When we turned south, I figured it out. We’d had a tailwind for the first 20 miles. It was time to pay my dues. I ate a Lara Bar every 20 miles as planned but I had to play games with myself to keep focused in between. I said my morning prayers every five miles, I repeated movie monologues to myself in between, and I chatted with other riders as much as possible. They were all passing me pretty quickly so there wasn’t a ton of opportunity for that. Before I knew it, I was at mile 40 and I realized I was going to crush my 4-hour goal. I was going to come in closer to 3:10. Knowing this, I was able to relax the last ten miles or so, knowing I was doing great and I didn’t need to worry about the droves of people passing me. I wrapped up with a 3:08.11 and was beyond pleased. I got into T2 and I honestly thought to myself “Just a Half Marathon to go.” I will never think that again. My family had positioned itself so they saw me come in on my bike and I ran past them on the run. I shouted to them, “Never let me do this again!” and they agreed.

The run was a lolly-pop style with two looks of the circle. As I was running up the stem, the lead male was coming into the finish. I screamed and cheered for him and was really hoping to see the lead female, but I had to turn onto the circle before she came through. The run was not fun and I don’t know another way to say it. The course was a little hilly but mostly flat. There were fun signs along the side of it. There were plenty of stops that were well stocked with water and ice and snacks. But it was over 90 degrees that day. And by this time, it was noon and the sun was getting to me. I drank water and Gatorade at every stop and even had some potato chips for the salt content. I kept ice in my shirt the whole time to keep my core cool and to snack on between stops. I have to thank the spectators who had signs and who cheered for every athlete even if they didn’t know who I was. The run went way better than I expected. This was my third Half Marathon distance and it was my second best time, 2:17.39. When I run ‘just’ a Half Marathon next month, I hope it feels easy.

The finish of this race was really cool. T2 was set out in the middle of the football field and this field was surrounded by a track. We finished through the tunnel under the stands and then did a half-lap on the track so that the finish chute was right in front of the stands. My husband and parents were there cheering for me and I got to hear the official say my name as I sprinted across the finish line. My official time was 6:09.28, a whole 50 minutes faster than my goal time. I’m so glad it was better than I wanted because I didn’t feel like I had to try again. I got my medal and finishers’ hat while they found me. I haven’t been that tired in a long while but I couldn’t think of sitting down just yet. I found a good friend who had finished 30-minutes in front of me and congratulated him on his race. There was food for athletes of which I ate way too much before we headed home. I needed a shower and air conditioning very badly.

Official time of 6:09.28. The clock doesn’t match because I wasn’t the first athlete to start.

I’m very happy to check that goal off of my Bucket List. It’s one I’ve been thinking about for a long time and the icing on the cake is how well it went. I still plan to do triathlons, just shorter distances. I love this sport and the support of the community has been amazing.

Thanks for reading this far (if you have). What big goals have you accomplished this summer?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: It’s Time

25 Jul

I’ve been talking about it for a long time and now it’s here! Well, it’s coming. My Half Ironman, Half Ironman Ohio 70.3, is on Sunday, July 28th. I’m. Freaking. Out!

I feel ready. I’ve trained according to my plan, making small adjustments for personal obligations and larger adjustments for injuries that I’ve learned to manage and help heal. And now it’s time to see if it was enough. It’s time to see if my bike (I’ve named her Bike) will hold up and if Bike and I will ever want to look at each other again after 56 miles in rural Ohio. And we’ll see if my knees still work after a half marathon to end the day. My husband and my parents will be there to support me and I’ll probably cry when I see them coming through the shoot. I’m almost crying thinking about it.

This has been a pretty major life goal of mine for some time. I’m glad to finally be staring it down and ready to check it off the list. I don’t ever want to do one of these again! So many of my friends from my tri club told me I’d get addicted. I have back and knee pain and a terrible hankering to just run a darn 5K and stop. I’m nowhere near addicted and I have no intention of doing a full Ironman ever in my life. I plan to focus on Sprint and Olympic distance races (about a quarter and half the distance I’ll do on Sunday) and swim more. I love swimming. I miss doing it as much as I used to.

If you’re terribly bored on Sunday, you can look me up. I’m number 446 and you can Google the race (Ironman Ohio) after it starts Sunday morning and track me throughout the day. I hope to finish in under seven hours. I should be in the water by about 7:30 EST (it’s a rolling start so no guarantee on a start time). It will be a long day and you can bet that my August post will be a reflection of how it went.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers’ Group: Writing Longhand and Book Promotion

22 Jul

My writers’ group met last week and we covered some very different topics. The first was software that takes written words and translates them to digital words in a word processing software. This is good for those that prefer to write longhand or who (like me) do not have power or an internet connection. (We lost power during a heatwave. I’m writing this from the air-conditioned library.)  This technology is called Optical Character Recognition. For those of us with MS Office, OneNote has this capability (more on how to do it here) so no need to buy new software! Another option for those without MS Office is an app called Pen to Print. To use this software, the written words must be on lined paper.

I’ve mentioned before that one of our writers recently self-published his book. I asked how it’s been going and got some good details I’ll keep in mind if I ever self publish. We talked about a Goodreads Giveaway Jason ran. The writer gets to select the amount of time the giveaway will run for and how many copies he or she wants to give away. When the time runs out, Goodreads gives you the names and addresses that you will be sending the copies to. It falls on the writer to pay to ship the copies. There’s an option to give away Kindle copies if the book is in that format and this avoids shipping costs. We had another writer at the meeting whose book was available through Barnes & Noble though it wasn’t carried in any store. It could be ordered to a store or ordered on their website. He said that he’d gone into a store and talked to an employee about this though I’m sure there’s a way to do it online. Another writer pointed out that the book would qualify for the Michigan Notable Books program that our state library runs. For those who are Michiganders, you can read more here. It’s worth looking into other states and countries to see if these opportunities exist in other areas.

It was a quick meeting so that’s all I’ve got this month. I’m sure I’ll have something to contribute once I start writing again. And that should be next week! Should be.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Day Off (Again)

11 Jul

I feel I’ve done this a lot during my 70.3 training, but I’m giving myself another day off. It’s a mix between having a slow reading run and finally being back to full training load that’s slowed me down with posts. I’ve got a few things lined up for next week that I’m excited about, though. You’ll see. Until then, enjoy your weekend and your books as I know I will. Happy reading!

Happy Fourth!

4 Jul

It’s Independence Day here in the States. We celebrate by not working and I celebrate by doing super sprint triathlons for fun! I’ll try to remember to post a picture to Instagram if you want to check it out.

For those in the States, I hope you get to celebrate today. I’m hoping to get caught up on some posts and some reading over the weekend to leave me in a good spot for the week to come.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Off Topic Thursday: Wizards Unite

27 Jun

My husband will be the first to tell you that I was not encouraging when Pokémon Go came out. He was teaching at the time and would spend six hours a day playing. H would go on hour-long walks and drive to places so he could play the game. It seemed like too much to me.

And then Wizards Unite came out. And I’m doing the exact same things he did. I drove through a parking lot today on my way to a friend’s house to get Spells. I’m using my external battery so I can play for a half hour at the stop closest to my apartment. And I’m having a lot of fun.

I won’t get too deep into the game, but there are a few things I want to touch on. I think the tutorial for battle needed to be stronger. I ended up using a YouTube video to figure it out. I feel like I see the same items all the time and I’ve never seen others which is probably encouraging me to play in other locations. Oh well, I will eventually. I think the spells are very limiting. I think the baby niffler is adorable.

I’m not sure how long I’ll continue to play. I had a slow weekend because it was a recovery week for training and I’m nursing a sore knee and thus not running. It’s good for me to still be getting outside and walking around, stretching it and staying active. With some busy travel coming up, I’m not sure it will go on.

But for now, it’s fun. If you want to add me as a Friend, I posted my Friend ID on Facebook over the weekend so check that link in my closing block.  Maybe we can trade fragments soon? Maybe?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!