Archive | Off Topic Thursday RSS feed for this section

Off Topic Thursday: Triathlon Season 2020

24 Sep

Well, there wasn’t much of a triathlon season to 2020 but it did happen. I was originally signed up for five triathlons this season along with two road races and two swim meets. Of all that, I did one triathlon.

The race that did happen is a favorite of mine. It’s in Northern Michigan near my parent’s lake house, so it feels like a hometown race while it’s in a destination setting. This is my fifth year participating in the event. It’s always the week after Labor Day which is the beginning of the slow season for Northern Michigan. The weather can be a bit unpredictable.

My husband and I spent the week before the race at the lake house which afforded me the opportunity to swim on the course on Thursday. It was the most ideal weather swim I can ever remember. Lake Huron can be unpredictable, though, and the glass-like water I experienced on Thursday was not the 3 foot waves I saw on Saturday morning. Fortunately, the water temperature stayed above 60. They’ve canceled the swim in past years because of cold water temperatures mixing with cold air temps. This year, they kept the swim but shortened it from 1500m to only 500m. I was crushed. The swim is my strongest discipline and I usually gain 5-8 minutes on my competitors in the water. With a shortened swim, I knew my chances of finishing on top of the podium again were slipping away.

There were a lot of COVID procedures for this race but they were well communicated and people were good about following them. One was that we wouldn’t have volunteers to write our race numbers on our arms and calves so we had to do it ourselves. This ended up with racer #6 trying to left-handed draw a six on his right bicep which was fun to watch and he was a good sport about how bad it looked. We also had more spacing in transition, wore masks, had our temperatures checked, and had no awards ceremony after the event. All perfectly reasonable and safe steps to bring us back to racing.

We were lined up in the order we registered which made me #3 because I signed up the first day. It seems the first 10 of us signed up that day. We were released three seconds apart and I easily overtook the first two swimmers before the first turn. The swim was a bit difficult because the waves made it hard to sight the buoys but I made it in pretty fast time. The KayaTri (kayak, bike, run) athletes got mixed up with us so the worst part was almost being hit by a kayak near the end of the swim.

The 24.8 mile bike went pretty well. I didn’t get as much bike training in this year as I did last year and I still averaged 17 mph which is good for me. I had two other woman in my race pass me on the bike but I kept pushing and I’m happy with how it went overall. It was colder air temperature than I’d hoped for so the day before I went and bought a quarter-zip pullover at WalMart that ended up being a saving grace on the bike course.

The run felt off from the beginning. I was passed early on by a woman who I knew from the previous year was an amazing runner. I ended up walking a little bit every mile because my body was exhausted. I had some men pass me but no more women. About 1.5 miles from the end, I saw an athlete in front of me. I asked a volunteer if it was a man or a woman and he looked at them as they were walking through a water station and said, “That’s a man.” I was relived that I didn’t need to feel pressured to pass! However, the volunteer must have thought I was asking about the people manning the water station because as I got closer, I realized the athlete was a woman and she was fading fast. It was one of the women who passed me on the bike! I was able to move ahead of her with about a mile to go and a kick in the pants not to stop again before crossing the finish line.

The end of the race was odd because we immediately picked up our bikes, gear, and finisher plaque and left. They were going to do drive-by awards where you told a volunteer your age, race, and number so they could hand you an award. I was surprised to see I’d finished in 3rd overall! One woman who beat me was the strong runner. I’d beat her last year only because of the longer swim. The woman who won was new to the race and had a fantastic finish. The woman I passed in the run was an amazing biker who came in 3rd last year.

I have no idea when I’ll race again but I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to do so this year. If nothing else, I hope to do this race next year as it’s a favorite course for me. I’ve just got to work on that bike speed.

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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Processing…
Success! You’re on the list.

Off Topic Thursday: Cross-Stitching

28 May

One of the things I’ve found a lot more time for with the lockdown has been cross-stitching. It’s something I’ve found relaxing for a long time and I wanted to share it with you all. Mostly it’s because it makes pretty pictures which I think we’ll all enjoy.

I don’t have pictures of my first cross-stitches but they’re coasters with hummingbirds on them. My mom had gotten four as a set and asked if I’d be interested in making one or two. My husband and I still have these on our bedside tables. I remember learning about backstitching (outlining) and messing up by using two strands to outline instead of one. It’s a much thicker line and not as good looking in the end, but you probably wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t say anything. I made a few small samplers after this that made for good ornaments but I gave those all away.

I’m not sure when I started it, but this is the oldest cross-stitch I could find and I think it’s the first full-sized one I did. I believe I did this in the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college. I loved all of the purples in this pattern and I remember working with mixed colors, half stitches and the dreaded french knots. I think I almost gave up on it when it came to decorative knots even though I was almost done. This fit simply in a frame from the craft store. I had it displayed in my first apartment but I packed it so well when we moved that I didn’t find it until years later. It’s displayed in our office now.

These two are hanging on the wall in my living room. I believe the top one of the butterflies was the next one I did. It’s a nice, small size and I was able to do it pretty quickly. I stopped for a while in the middle and came back to it much later but I think it turned out okay. I learned that cross-stitch patterns are odd shapes and it can be hard to find a frame that will fit them well! I believed I ordered this one on Amazon from China. The one below it was a pattern my brother picked out. I think it’s supposed to be a Christmas angle but I hang it up year-round. This one was the most involved technically. There are beads and sequins that decorate this one and make it shine. She’s holding up a charm on a chain which meant I had to learn a few new techniques. I had to make the chain that involved my husband holding one end of a string and lots of twisting. I then had to do some couching which means having the long string lay on top of the fabric and then tacking it into place. I’m not happy with how this one is framed. It’s not pulled very tight and you can see the wrinkles in the fabric.  Part of that I could fix. The other part of it is because I left the hoop that I used to keep the fabric taught on it when I wasn’t using it and it left lasting kinks in the fabric. That was a hard lesson.

This was a gift from my Italian Mother in Law (very appropriate) that I have hung in my kitchen (even more appropriate). Nothing too special about this one but it was really fun to do. I like all of the lettering and how it used different fonts, colors, and thicknesses of floss to create such different effects. I was able to finish this one rather quickly.

I don’t have a lot of pictures of the next few I want to talk about. I have two nieces and a nephew, all through my husband’s sister. We weren’t dating when their first daughter was born. But for the second daughter and their son, I made birth announcements. The first one was pretty small and the second was a bit larger. The picture I have is from when it’s unfinished. During quarantine, I wanted to get a head start on a forthcoming niece or nephew so I’m working on another one which I’ll leave blank and add a name, date, and weight when I know one. That’s nice and quick to do! I might start another one soon.

View this post on Instagram

Making progress!! #100happydays #day83

A post shared by Sam Ann Elizabeth (@samannelizabeth) on

What I’m most excited about is a project I’ve been working on for years. I ordered these Harry Potter Hogwarts House Crests patterns off Etsy. I’ve finished the Slytherin one (my husband’s house) and I haven’t started the Hufflepuff one (my house). That’s probably my next project. I plan to hang these above our beds and I’ll make a small one that says Sam & Jay to hang between them. It’s a really fun project but I’m not a fan of the patterns that I bought, I wish I’d looked into them more.

It’s a nice thing to do to pass the time. I tend to watch TV or movies while I work on this. It’s hours of work but I love the feeling of making good progress with it.

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: My Life Under COVID

30 Apr

I didn’t talk about this last month in hopes that when I talked about it this month, I could say that it’s over. It doesn’t look like that’s the case or that this will be ‘over’ and things will be ‘normal’ again anytime soon. So I might as well talk about it now.

I want to start off by saying that I’m very fortunate. I haven’t lost a loved one to the disease. I did not lose my job. I was able to find toilet paper at the store. So as far as major impacts, I’ve been OK. I wanted to detail my situation and hear from all of you how you’re coping.

I haven’t been to my office since I left for Greece on February 26th. When I came back, they asked me to stay home for two weeks since I’d traveled to Europe. By the time that was up, everyone was working from home. I’ve set myself up on my kitchen table. It’s not the most comfortable, but I’ve found a way to use blankets to make it work. My husband works from our office room so we don’t disturb each other during meetings or get too distracted from each other. We had an access issue when I first started but that was quickly resolved and I can do 95% of my job from home. I miss meeting candidates when they come in for interviews and it’s harder to track down certain coworkers who aren’t great at answering their phones, but it’s mostly the same. I do miss my coworkers fiercely, though.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading. It helps me relax and escape to a place where we don’t have to be six feet apart from everyone else. When I think, “I’ll just turn on the TV,” I pick up a book instead and tell myself I’m battling my TBR mountain. I’ve taken a sizeable chunk out of it with digital titles and my unread books at home. I’d say this is where I made the most progress during isolation.

I’ve been knitting and cross-stitching a lot, too. Anything to keep my hands busy. If I don’t craft while I watch TV, I tend to eat. That’s not what you want when your movements are restricted. I’ve already made two baby blankets and I’m working on a birth announcement cross stitch for a pending niece/nephew.

Athletics is what has been most notably impacted by this disease. I’ve had five events affected so far and I’m awaiting news on more.

  1. 5K/8K combo race. I picked a St. Patrick’s Day race that had me visit a new county in my state. I have a goal of running a race in every county of Michigan’s Lower Penninsula so this was a bit of a disappointment. I’ve deferred my registration to next year so I should still get to do it.
  2. Meters-pool swim meet. This was a small let down. In the US, there are not a lot of swim meets in meter pools so this is always a chance to get a National Top 10 time. I was having a great year in distance freestyle so I was trying for an 800M free and 400M free record. Oh well. I got a refund.
  3. Swimming Masters State Meet. This was a big disappointment. I’d had a great year and it was my last year in the 25-29 age group. Also, a good friend of mine had a birthday less than a week before me and the meet fell between our birthdays so she would be 30 while I was still 29 so we didn’t compete with each other. We could both win! Unfortunately, we’ll likely never have that chance again so I’ll resign myself to 2nd place. A bunch of friends had rented a house near the pool and I heard there was a joint birthday celebration planned for the three of us with birthdays that week. All canceled. Lucky the house and the meet fees were refunded.
  4. 5 Mile Trail run. I love trail running and I was looking forward to a chance to compete in it. I hadn’t trained too hard for this one so I wasn’t heartbroken to hear it had been rescheduled. I’m planning to run the new date.
  5. Sprint Triathlon. This is the latest announcement. It was scheduled for late May and they decided to move it to early August. It’s now scheduled for the same week as Age Group National Championships which is a huge issue for me. I know myself and I know I’d push to hard in the sprint tri and not be in the best shape for AGNC. I’m going to wait and see if AGNC is affected, but I think I’m going to take a credit for this one and let my husband use it to sign up for a race.

Probably the biggest impact has been on my mental health. I’ve never been diagnosed with a mental health condition, but I think I have some degree of depression or anxiety and this situation has made it trigger. I’ve had days where I cry all day and I’m terrified to go outside, even for a run or to walk to my car. The grocery store scares me. I’m very irritable and I’ve had many days I don’t work out because I don’t see the point. I hate feeling out of control and that’s exactly what this situation is for everyone. Working out helps so I try to make myself get outside and run even when it’s hard to find motivation. It helps to talk to people I love so I’m setting up Zoom meetings with friends to keep up. I’m trying whatever I can to fight melancholy and it works 95% of the time. But my brain will be so happy when this is over and I can make plans again.

I hope everyone reading this is well. I hope you all have been able to see your way through this quagmire and are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel like I’m finally getting a glimpse of. We’ll get through it, I know. I pray for everyone’s safety and that we can find our ‘new normal’ as satisfying as the last one.

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: Greece

26 Mar

I like to use Off Topic Thursday to talk about things other than books and reading. It seems there’s an obvious topic this month with the global pandemic, but I’ll save that for later and focus on the positives: my trip to Greece with my mom.

We left on a snowy Wednesday in Detroit. This proved to be problematic because we missed our flight in Paris and had to be re-booked. This became a small nightmare as we raced through the Paris airport with no boarding pass (thanks a lot, Air France!) and had to go through security three times. We did finally make it to Athens but our luggage was lost! We had only our carry on bags and were five hours later than planned. No matter, we found our AirBNB, dinner, and a bakery. Sleep was needed.

The next morning we stored our bags and went for an ebike tour of the city. This turned out to be one of my favorite things we did the whole trip. There was a mother-son pair from the states with us and our guide was amazing (and adorable). We saw a lot of the sights we planned to check out again later and got a great overview of the city. We spent a large chunk of the day getting our ferry tickets and some more clothing before venturing down to the port. We got ourselves only a little lost before finding our ferry to Santorini and settling in for the night.

The boat was supposed to arrive at 5AM but the captain announced around 3AM that we were unable to continue on due to high winds. We were in Mykos port and would be staying there until the national weather service gave us permission to continue. That ended up being 11AM so we did not arrive in Santorini until 3PM. It gave us just enough time to make it into Thira to watch the sunset while we ate dinner.

The next day was amazing. I went for a long solo walk in Thira before mom and I took the bus to Oia. If you’ve ever seen pictures of white buildings with blue roofs against a peaceful sea, it’s likely it was taken in Oia. The city was beautiful and we spent a few hours there just taking in the amazing view. We had a great breakfast on a balcony restaurant and I ventured a long walk down to the port at sea level. Exhausted, we made our way back to the hotel and to the airport to catch flights to Heraklion, Crete. We picked up my suitcase on the way and my mom’s was waiting at the hotel in Crete. Finally, we had our clothes!

I was surprised at how big a city Heraklion was. I hadn’t thought an island would have such a bustling city, but I should have guessed such a big island would! We spent the first day visiting the Archeological Museum and Knossos Palace. I had no idea that the oldest building from the most ancient civilization in the world would be a half-hour from our hotel! It was a great place to explore. We had fun that evening getting treats and watching people walk around the main square.

With our clothes returned, I finally went for a run the next day! The sea wall made for a great path and one that was hard to get lost on. We took a cooking class and sampled foods that we both fell in love with. We were surprised how many of the ingredients the women had picked from the mountains the day before! We just don’t have anything equivalent in Metro Detroit. We made our way to a beach so my mom could put her feet in the Mediterranean Sea and grabbed the biggest dinner I’ve ever seen before heading to the port to take another ferry back to the mainland. This one was massive and happily unaffected by the winds to get us to Athens bright and early the next morning.

It was Acropolis day! We started out early and took it slow due to a knee injury my mom has. We started with the new Acropolis Museum which was really informative and well done. It helped us understand a lot once we got to the buildings. There’s no easy way to access the ruins, you have to climb the hill. Once you get to the top, it’s really breathtaking. The remaining buildings are being restored to show their original glory. Some are further along than others and it made me really excited to see how much this will advance in my lifetime. We rode the tour bus for a full circuit to see the other sights from afar and used our city pass to see the Temple of Zeus ruins. I wonder if that monument will ever be reconstructed like the Acropolis.

We used our city pass to see a lot of remails the next day. We started at the stadium from the first modern Olympics which also serves as the finish line of the Athens Marathon (see picture 1). The Olympic nerd in me was in love. We saw the Lyceum, Hadrian’s Library, The Ancient Agora, and the Roman Agora. Needless to say, it was exhausting but absolutely amazing. We spent the evening on a rooftop bar, waiting for the lights to come on the Acropolis.

We used our final day to do a trip to Delphi and see the Oracle. We got on a tour bus and had a great tour guide tell us a lot of stories about the Oracle on our way there. The ruins themselves would have been lost on me if we hadn’t had the guide. She took us through the museum as well. The story goes that the women at Delphi were probably epileptic and were also exposed to methane which induced their ‘visions’ and accounts for the convulsions they’re said to suffer. It was amazing to see the artifacts that were found at Delphi from so far away because of travelers coming to the Oracle to hear their fortunes.

Our trip home was only a little stressful because of the Paris airport again. Honestly, I’ll never fly through PDG again if I can avoid it, it was horrible both ways. But we made it home on time and I got to see my loving husband again. It was an amazing trip and I’m so lucky to have made it home before the really crazy travel restrictions were put in place. I’ve been working from home since I returned, but that’s a story for another month.

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: The Friend You Don’t Talk to for Ages

20 Feb

(Yes, it’s a week early. But I’ll be on vacation next week so you’re getting Off Topic Thursday a week early!)

I hope this isn’t a solitary experience because I love it so much. Does anyone else have a really good friend that you sometimes go weeks or months without talking to? For me, she’s my best friend.

When I was in high school, I met Hellen (name changed). She was a year behind me in school and we clicked immediately. She was sad when I decided to go to school out of state but we both knew it was best for me. She ended up coming to visit me during my Sophomore year for a weekend and it was one of the most memorable visits I had while in school. She got along with my friends immediately and I’d talked about them enough she felt like she knew them. She didn’t think I was crazy for going to a Spanish language mass and even joined me for a baby shower for a woman I was tutoring in English.

When I moved home, she helped me move into my first apartment. She calls my parents Mama and Papa and started a trend of my other friends doing the same. After I called my parents, she was the first person I told about my engagement. Of course, I wanted her to be my maid of honor. She was the best choice I could have made because she had high expectations for my husband and wouldn’t have joined me at the alter if she didn’t truly believe in us.

Despite being so close, we go for long stretches without talking or seeing each other. And it’s never mattered. Whenever we see each other again, we pick up right where we left off. Nothing in awkward and we’re never angry with each other for the long time that’s passed. We’re just so happy to be together, how could we be mad?

I have other friends who feel like strangers if I go more than a few weeks without talking to them. I have friends who have drifted away because we went too long without speaking and now I don’t consider them friends anymore. But Hellen will always be different. I don’t need her to reassure me that she loves me, I know she does. And she knows I’d do anything for her in a heartbeat. It’s a friendship different from any other I have and I treasure it more than anything.

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: My Life As An Introvert

30 Jan

Off-Topic Thursday is a way for me to get a chance to talk about my life outside of books and reading. I appreciate the chance to give you all a little more insight into my life so please chime in with your thoughts!

I’ve had a lot more downtime these past few months since the triathlon season is over and I’m not in school. There are a number of ways I’m finding to fill my time between swimming, reading, and finally working on book submissions. The biggest thing that I’ve realized is that I really am a strong introvert.

In high school, I thought I was an extrovert. I had a lot of friends and I was outgoing and not afraid to talk. I’d mistaken these for signs of being extroverted when they’re just signs of being friendly. You can be a talkative extrovert and I think that’s what I am. In college, I didn’t think much of it. I went to parties with friends and had dinner with them in the cafeteria but I needed to study and do homework in peace. I struggled one year when I had a house with four other girls and I couldn’t find any peace and quiet. I became well acquainted with the library and the corners of it no one would bother me.

Since I’ve gotten married, I see what an extrovert really is. My husband is the epitome of an extrovert and lives it daily. If we’re out on a Friday night, even though we woke up at 4:30 AM to hit the gym, he’ll stay hours later than me. On the only free night of a busy week, he’ll make plans to get out of the house. He thrives from being around people. He doesn’t get tired and it actually gives him energy. I’m stunned. I’m the one yawning after an hour and leaving as soon as it seems socially acceptable.

This really forced me to admit that I’m an introvert. I’ve started planning my week and weekends around it and I think it’s helped my mental health. I don’t worry about getting out of the house more than twice a day on the weekends. I skip on some events I’m not excited about. My husband and I will drive separately to social events so I can leave when I’m ready and he can stay. I plan nights in. I feel more in control of my surroundings when I’m home and I feel better prepared to leave the house when I do go somewhere. It’s been really good for me.

I will force myself to go out when I don’t want to at times. I think it pushes my boundaries a bit. If there’s a social event that I’m free for but nervous about not knowing enough people, I’ll still go about half the time. The other half, I give myself a pass. I am an introvert, after all.

I’m sure there are a lot of introverts in the book blogging community so I hope this resonates with more than a few of you. How do you cope with being an introvert?

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: Going to Greece!

26 Dec

Off Topic Thursday is a way for me to get a chance to talk about my life outside of books and reading. I appreciate the chance to give you all a little more insight into my life so please chime in with your thoughts!

I got an early Christmas/Birthday present this year. A few weeks ago, my mom called me with the startling revelation that I’ll turn 30 next year in March. To celebrate, she bought the two of us tickets to spend a week and a half in Greece at the end of February and beginning of March. I’m. So. Happy!

Here’s a little background on this. When I was 19, I studied abroad in the UK. In our program, we got three- or four-day weekends every weekend and we were encouraged to travel. I picked my destinations and I was looking to tack on a trip to Athens to one of my weekends. Uncharacteristically, my mom got angry and said, “You can’t go to Greece without me!” So I didn’t go. She promised to take me one day. My mom retired last summer and I reminded her of this promise. I think she was hoping I’d forgotten but I didn’t. When she quickly got another job teaching at a community college, I thought the trip was dashed but realizing I had a milestone birthday coming up, she booked the trip around her mid-semester break. She even asked my husband if he minded giving me up and he was glad to see me go.

We’re going in the offseason which means low numbers of tourists but also that the beaches don’t hold much appeal. Our rough plan now is to go to Crete for a few days and spend the rest of the time in Athens. We figured that Crete is large enough to support a year-round population and things to do and is also the furthest south so we can enjoy the warmest weather possible. I’m hoping for some great food and some good wine. In Athens, I’m hoping to do an ebike tour and take a day trip to Delphi. My mom likes doing the hop-on, hop-off buses to see the big landmarks.

I’m sharing this early to see if anyone has any additional ideas we should look at. My mom has a metal knee so she can’t walk a lot which cuts out a lot of overly-athletic things like hiking. We’re both adventurous foodies and history geeks so that kind of thing would be right up our ally. Of course, any insight on where to stay and where I can find a public lap pool to get a workout in would be greatly appreciated! I’ll be in the middle of training for my state swim meet so I’d like to swim once or twice.

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: 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!

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!

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!