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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!

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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!

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!

Off Topic Thursday: Tattoos

13 Jun

I’m hoping you all have different opinions on this one because I’m looking for some input. I think I’m ready (at age 29) to get my first tattoo.

I’ve contemplated for a long time what it would take for me to want to get something tattooed on my body forever. It would have to mean something to me, something deep and profound; something that would never change.

I’d contemplated a Deathly Hallows symbol for a while, and that’s still on the table, but I decided against it for now.

As a lot of you know, I’ve been training for an Ironman 70.3 since February. Finishing it has been a dream for a long time and I’ve been working my little tail off for five months to make this a reality. Recently, I’ve had co-workers and friends comment that I look like I’ve lost weight. I think of it has losing my social life and gaining a training regimen. I’ve also seen no change on the scale because I’ve gained it back in muscle. Anyway.

This major accomplishment is something that’s made me think about tattooing again. It’s a major accomplishment that I’ll be proud of for a long time. It’s something that at one point, I thought would be impossible for me. I used to be unable to run more than 3 miles before I was ground to a halt by knee pain. I fought through that and I’m so amazed at where I am now. 70.3 is within reach.

So that’s what I’m thinking of memorializing. I don’t want anything fancy and I don’t want color. I think I just want 70.3, or some combination of those numbers and a small word like ‘believe.’ I want it somewhere I can cover for work and I’m thinking on the side of my foot near the ankle (can’t decide on inside or outside).

Now I’m asking: Do any of you have tattoos? Any that you regret? What do they memorialize for you? Is this too trivial? Will I regret it in two years? Give me your thoughts as I have too many of my own.

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: Adult Friendships

25 Apr

Growing up, I never thought of ‘making friends’ as a skill I was taught in school. It just happened. You made friends with your classmates and maybe with people from outside activities. You were always surrounded by other people your age and there was always something fun and new to try where you could meet people.

College was the same and I left college with beautiful friendships I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I’m still in contact with most of them and I care for them deeply.

But then I moved back home. I was living in a town different from (but near) where I grew up and I had lost contact with all but a few friends from high school. None of my college friends were in the same state. It was just me and my husband and his friends. And I realized how hard it could be to make friends as an adult.

I’ve always had an aversion to being friends with someone from work. I’ll do an occasional thing outside of the office like a run or a large group family get together, but I’ve never thought of making friends with my coworkers. Even though I shared an office with another woman about my age at my first job, I never considered befriending her. Work is work, and life happens outside of it.

It took me a few months to start finding friends. The first success I had was through the website Meetup.com. I joined a writers’ group and even though it was a bit of a drive, I made three really good friends from that group. It took a few months before I had the confidence to invite them over to dinner and start building friendships, but I’m so glad I did. That gave me the confidence to know I could make friends on my own.

Unfortunately, two of those girls moved away and the other one and I don’t talk anymore. More miraculously, I have another group of three women from that group I’m now friends with. And I’m the youngest by about five years. But the eldest is older than my mother. This was another good lesson for me, learning that my friends weren’t always going to be my age. Some people give me a weird look when I mention my friend’s grandchild but I’ve gotten over it. We’re not bound to our age-peers once we’re out of school.

I’ve since found friends through my church and athletic groups that I’m very close with as well, but that writing group was a great first step for me. And friendships build on friendships. I’m friends with people I met through acquaintances I don’t speak with anymore and those friendships are incredible. I wish someone had told me making friends was a skill when I was in school. Maybe I would have practiced a little more.

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: Training

28 Mar

I’ve talked about my 70.3 Race in July so I thought this would be a good chance to talk about the training I’ve been doing to get ready for it.

Cover image via Goodreads

I borrowed a training book from my tri club with week-by-week training plans. This gives me workouts to do six days a week, usually more than one per day. I’m trying really hard to keep to this and have only missed one workout so far! It’s currently week six and I’m in the ‘build’ phase where I ramp up time and intensity and train my body to push harder for longer.

There are ten levels for each distance. I was going to go for level two, but a teammate talked me into trying level six! He said levels 1-4 were not enough and to go for six because if it was too hard, I could drop to five. So far, I’m sticking with six. It will have more than prepared to complete my goal of finishing the race. At this point, completing the training feels like more of a task than the race itself.

During a non-recovery week, I’m doing about ten workouts a week, ranging from 45 minutes to two and a half hours. Most of this is biking, my weakest discipline and where I need the most work. I replace one swim a week with my team swim practice and I’ll probably start swapping out other workouts for team workouts as the weather warms up and those start. I want to follow the plan, but I also want to be social and see my friends!

For cycling, I use an app called Zwift for indoor riding now since the weather makes it too cold to ride outside. Zwift creates an avatar that you control by riding your bike. It uses a heart rate monitor and speed/cadence sensors on my bike to estimate my power output which determines how fast my avatar rides. There are different maps available (London is my favorite) and you can use pre-set workouts or join groups of other uses for workouts, training rides, or races. It’s way better than staring at a wall and more motivating than watching a movie. I listen to audiobooks while I ride and I’m getting through them very fast with all the time I spend in the saddle!

To run, I prefer to go outside, but Michigan weather doesn’t always participate. I’ll also use the treadmill at my gym and I often take an iPad with me and watch Netflix. Comedy specials are a favorite but it can be hard to laugh and sprint! I try to run with my husband or a friend whenever possible. It pushes me harder and it makes it much more enjoyable.

I usually swim at my gym though I’m looking forward to swimming in some lakes once the temperature warms up. I still saw ice this morning so that feels ages away. Maybe by May?

So don’t mind me being absent from my friends and spending every spare second planning out workouts and meal prepping. July seems ages away, but I know it’s right around the corner. My plan is going to be halted a few times by weddings and other obligations so I’ve built some slack time into the calendar to let me enjoy life and to keep me pushing hard.

Until next time, run (bike & swim) 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: Volunteering

28 Feb

I heard somewhere that the Millennial generation volunteers more than any generation before us. I’ve also heard this is because we have no money because of student loans, but I’m going to focus on the good side of this. I have two groups that I volunteer my time with that I’d like to share.

The idea for this post came to me while I was on the train to Chicago for a conference. When I was in college, I joined a co-ed business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. The group provided me with amazing leadership opportunities, scholarship money, and recognition for the work I did. I enjoyed it a lot and upon graduating and moving to Detroit, I got involved with the alumni chapter as well as serving as a mentor for a local university. Each chapter has a designated mentor and I’ve been in the role for four years and have enjoyed my time doing so. It allows me to stay in touch with the collegiate members and help them develop themselves as leaders and professionals the way I was able to do in school. I was heading to Chicago to represent our alumni chapter in a voting session and visit my friends from my collegiate days, including an old roommate. It’s a perk that I get to see great friends while I do this.

The second position is with my local Friends of the Library board. I’ve been a board member for six years and have slowly taken on more responsibilities as time allows and as I move toward holding a position. I’m the unofficial ‘bookie’ right now, securing entertainment for our annual Gala event in the summer and helping to put on our fundraiser event in the winter. Most recently, I booked a barbershop quartette to sing show tunes. I like being able to advocate for the library in my community and help direct funds to new programs to serve the patrons. It really aligns with my passions and it’s been a great position for me.

I’m sure there are a ton of other ways I could volunteer and share my time, but these are my big two now. Who else out there volunteers? Anything you particularly enjoy? Anything that lines up with your passions?

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: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

3 Jan

I know that these posts usually come at the end of the month, but the end of December was crazy and I figured I’d start off the new year talking about something that’s become very important to me over the past year: plastic and recycling

I should really say using less plastic has become important to me. My husband and I were contemplating when I’d become such a hippy, and we pinpointed it to the day I saw the video below. Many of you know I love turtles, so this hit me in a very sensitive place and made me cry for days. When I was done crying, I decided I needed to start reducing the amount of plastic I consumed.

Be warned, this video is rather graphic.

I knew I needed to do something to help me deal with a man-made threat to my favorite animal. So I started finding ways to reduce not only plastic but as much waste as possible from my life. None of these have been very extreme but together, I think they are making a difference.

  • Brushing up on my recycling to make sure I’m recycling everything I can
  • Bar soap, shampoo, and conditioner instead of plastic bottles
  • Cardboard tampons instead of plastic (Diva Cup would be better… not there yet)
  • Cloth napkins instead of paper
  • Reusable grocery bags and produce bags instead of plastic
  • Wearing clothes twice when possible/not dirty
  • Wool dryer balls instead of sheets
  • Buying products in recyclable packaging (ex. eggs in cardboard, laundry detergent in a box)
  • Turning lights off when I leave the room
  • Wrapping gifts in newsprint or using reusable bags
  • SAYING NO TO PLASTIC STRAWS!
  • Carrying a set of bamboo cutlery and metal straws in my purse
  • Telling as many people as possible about the harm plastics are doing to wildlife and easy ways they can reduce their impact

I know these are small steps, but that’s the beauty of them. None of these have made large impacts on my life. They are easy steps that you can take if you want to which will positively impact the planet and help save turtles and other wildlife. If you’re interested in more information on any of these, please leave a comment. I’m no expert, but I can share with you what I know.

What do you do to reduce your impact on the planet? Is there anything else I should start doing?

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: Michigan

29 Nov

I think everyone is proud of where they’re from. I know I am. I was born in Metro Detroit and after living in southern Indiana for four years, I moved back and I’ve been here ever since. I’m very proud of where I’m from and I’d love to give people an idea of Michigan that’s not a bankrupt murder capital. I mean, that’s not wrong, but it’s not the whole truth.

When I was in fourth grade, we focused on Michigan history. We talked about Detroit (day-twa) founding Detroit and the Native American tribes that were common in this area. We visited Lansing, our state capital, and learned about state government. The summer after that year, my mom took my brother and me on a trip around the state that I’ll never forget. She was intrigued about the things I’d learned that summer. She wanted to see the Mackinaw Bridge, the boat wrecks in Lake Superior, the cherries in Traverse City (TRAV-erse), and the waterfalls in the UP (upper peninsula). So we spent a week driving around the state and seeing all these things. So when my brother started fourth grade, he’d already seen it all.

I’ve been lucky to see the city of Detroit change. When I was young, we didn’t go downtown. No one did. Unless you worked there, you never went and if you did work there, you came home right away. When I came back from college, things had started to change. The crime was better controlled and businesses were starting to see the future of the city. There were desirable things to do downtown. We went for fun and if there was a sports game, we’d go early and grab dinner or stay late and have a drink. Detroit is a rare city with four professional sports teams (Lions, and Tigers and Wings, oh my! [and the Pistons]) so there’s often a good reason to visit. I’ll be graduating from a downtown university soon and I got used to being in the city by myself and enjoying my time there.

The metro area is hugely diverse. The city has a majority African-American population and ten minutes west, in Dearborn, we have a majority Arab population. The high-tech automotive industry draws educated people from around the world. My husband’s high school was 40% East Asian. I went to high school in an area that was so heavily Jewish that we got Jewish holidays off in the public school district. Moving to Indiana, I really missed this diversity and never had appreciated it until it was gone.

I’ve made a point to visit more of my home state now that I have the means to. My husband and I had a wonderful camping vacation in the UP a few years ago. We explored old copper mines and had a campsite right on Lake Superior. My parents have a cottage 20 minutes from Lake Huron and we go up a few times a summer. One of my running goals is to do a race in every county of the Lower Peninsula and I’m making steady progress (though it will take some time!). As much as we’re known for Detroit, a lot of the state is rural and forested. There are a lot of farms and deer hunting is a major past time in the fall.

So I hope I can give some of you a slightly different look at Michigan. We’re not all Eminem and only a small part of our state still doesn’t have clean drinking water (Flint Water Crisis). Not all our cities are bankrupt (just the biggest one) and it’s not always cold. I love my state and every terrible and beautiful inch of it. I bet your hometown is great, too, but I wouldn’t trade Michigan for 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: Halloween

25 Oct

Welcome to this holiday edition of Off-Topic Thursday. It seemed appropriate to talk about one of my favorite holidays with it’s own post.

My husband is the reason I love Halloween. When we went to college in different states, he would always visit me for Halloween. We’d wear costumes and go to a party and it was when he met a lot of my friends. When we got older, we decided we needed to throw Halloween parties to celebrate every year. And we decided we needed to make our own costumes. Because those are always better.

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To infinity and beyond! #halloween2015

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

This was the first time I really rocked it. It involved scissors and fabric paint. A bit of work, but really not too bad. Last year, we did three costumes.

This was the simple one. It was punny and for a house party at our friend’s place. I had to eat at Taco Bell a few times that week and ask politely for extra (clean) papers, but it still wasn’t bad to make.

This was for a 10K run. It was my favorite. A lot of fabric paint and some scissors for this one. The worst part was the face paint. I don’t like face paint at all and I’ve vowed to not use it again. Which also includes my ‘no wigs’ rule.

This one was my other favorite. We had our two real turtles ‘dressed’ as the other two TMNT. (We printed out pictures and taped them on their tanks.) The shells on the back and the plates on the front were fun to do and I had a blast fabric painting in our kitchen.

My husband outdid me this year. I don’t have a good picture yet but it’s coming. Our party is this weekend and he’s been working on this costume for ten months. It does not disappoint. We’re going to have to come up with something really epic for 2019. Keep an eye on my Instagram for the bit update.

Until next time, spooky 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!