Friday, April 18, 2014

New website: Lean Green Island Girl

I have some exciting news!

After blogging on and off on three sites for the past five years, I have finally found a way to bring them all together! I am so excited to announce the creation of Lean Green Island Girl - A site dedicated inspiring you to join me on my journey towards a healthier, happier and more sustainable life.

It's bittersweet giving up IslandGirlLoves2Tri but change is good and I am still IslandGirl and I will always love 2 tri!

If you’ve been with me since I started blogging, thank you! I hope you enjoy the new blog as much as you have enjoyed this one! If you’ve just found me, check out the new blog and I hope you come back to visit many times!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

George Washington Parkway Classic

As the rain pours down and we anticipate a 27 degree low tonight, I sit here with my mid-day coffee and calf compression sleeves remembering the perfect day we had on Sunday for the Pacers George Washington Parkway Classic 10 miler.

While I missed my Cherry Blossom PR by 1.5 minutes, I still managed a sub 10 min/mile pace and, even better, I ran a negative split on very tired legs. The Cherry Blossom 10-miler was during a rest week and the 30-minute bike ride the day before was nothing like the 3-hour bike ride I did this past Saturday. 

To anyone training for an ironman or half ironman, you amaze me!

While I am a firm believer that every single one of us can do whatever we set our minds to, including completing an ironman, it is not an easy road. It requires many hours of training, endless amounts of willpower and months of dedication and I am truly honored to call myself an aspiring ironman.

I feel the same way about calling myself a runner and being surrounded by thousands of runners on the George Washington Parkway on Sunday felt amazing!

The morning started off with a short jog to the bus loading area. We boarded an Alexandria Dash bus, who like the Parkway Classic is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year, and were taken ~10 miles down the road to the beautiful Mt.Vernon Estate & Gardens.

Yep, you read that right, we boarded a bus that took us 10 miles away, just so we could run back. Silly runners!

The morning was a bit chilly and since we had about 45 minutes before the race, we joined the hundreds of other runners by wrapping ourselves up like burritos in space blankets. We skipped the coffee and water, having brought our own pre-race snacks, and about 20 minutes before the start we headed for a quick warm-up.

I used to never do more than a few pre-race stretches, but in recent years I have started appreciating the value of the warm up and I recommend warming up for at least 10 minutes, if not longer. I know what you're thinking: I'm about to run 10 miles, I don't want to exert any more energy than I need to!

Trust me, a solid warm-up is your friend.

Running on warmed up muscles decreases your chance of injury and allows your body time to get ready for the race. My heart rate, for example, has a tendency to spike whenever I start running. If the spike happens during the race, I lose time, because I have to slow down and get my heart rate under control. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather take care of that pre-race.

The race started a few minutes late and there was a bit of shenanigans with 2 buses arriving late and parking in the middle of the starting corrals, but once we started everything was perfect!

The run follows the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a long flat road along the Potomac River surrounded by trees. While there weren't many spectators for the first half, I was definitely not alone. It was actually quite breathtaking to look in front and behind me and see nothing but a sea of colorful runners surrounded by nature.

The volunteers were once again fantastic, providing water (and Nuun) about every 2 miles and as we reached the various neighborhoods spectators lined the course cheering us on and waving signs. As always, the cheers boosted my energy, especially when I saw my friends John and Amber!

The crowds picked up once we reached Alexandria and the last stretch down Union Street was pretty fun. Seeing the finish line for almost a mile before you get to it is a bit of a tease, but knowing this would be the case, I saved some energy for the last mile. As soon as I saw the finish, I gave it all I had, using the supportive cheers from the crowd to hold my fastest mile of the race!

Pablo, who finished the race in an amazing 1 hour and 8 minutes, was right at the finish line cheering me on and after receiving my fun 30-year-anniversary medal we headed to the Finisher's Festival.

While I was disappointed that there were no bananas and bagels left when I got to the Festival area, I enjoyed the treats in my Recovery Pack, the live band and of course a cold cup of Port City Brewing Company's Optimal Wit.

We had a great time celebrating your 30th Anniversary George Washington Parkway Classic!

Monday, April 7, 2014

My first very awesome Cherry Blossom!

My Cherry Blossom race review is the perfect post for Motivation Monday, because it has left me super excited about all upcoming 2014 races especially my next half marathon. I don't actually have one planned yet, but if my performance at Cherry Blossom is any indication of what I am capable of this year, I CANNOT WAIT!

My last half marathon was the 2013 Nike Women's Half here in DC, which had a course similar to Sunday's Cherry Blossom. Let's put it this way, had Sunday been Nike, my 9:48 pace would have brought me across the finish line well below the 2:15 half marathon goal I have been chasing since I finished my first half in 2:43 in 2005.

But enough about my half marathon ambitions!

The Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run was awesome for many other reasons. Besides the fact that the cherry blossoms weren't actually in bloom yet, there isn't really anything to complain about. The race is a lottery system, which can suck if you don't get in, but the nice thing is that if you are running with another person, as Pablo and I were, you can register together so that either both of you run or no one runs. Luckily this year we got in!

The course is flat and fast and, whether you're a tourist or a local, running past DC sights like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Tidal Basin never gets old. The DC crowds also did not disappoint and I discovered something while running with over 17,000 other people; while I love running alone, I love racing with crowds! I know it sounds counter intuitive, because crowds can be annoying when someone steps right in front of you or when a turn causes a bottleneck effect, but there is something special about sharing your race experience with thousands of other runners.

The crowds on the street also did not fail to deliver. People lined the streets carrying signs, cowbells, riding their trainers -yeah DC Tri Club- and even handing out beer (which I politely declined). There really is nothing greater than a “You got this Gabrielle” at mile 9 or high-five from a little 4 year old smiling up at you. Those moments make the entry fees, aching knees, and early mornings totally worth it.

Then there are the volunteers. If you ever run a race, consider taking some time to thank all the people at the start line, water/aid stations, finish line, medal distribution and recovery stations. Most of those people are volunteers and all of them are typically wearing a big smile, handing you your water, gatorade and banana lifelines while offering encouraging or congratulatory words. Sunday's aid station volunteers worked hard. I swear at one point I saw a guy holding out 8 cups of water at the same time! If you volunteered on Sunday, THANK YOU! My race experience was wonderful thanks to you!

I was also impressed by the event's environmental initiatives. As someone who is always trying to reduce my environmental footprint and live a more sustainable life, it was great to see recycling and compost bins at the finish line. Even better was the fact that there was actually someone there helping runners use the correct containers! Did you know there is a Council for Responsible Sport? Now that I know that, I am definitely going to encourage other events to make efforts to reduce their environmental footprint!

Last but not least, our parents (in France and Curacao) got to see the start of the race and watch us cross the finish line thanks to the webcast, which is still available here. How cool is that? Oh and I can't forget the medals...I like to say I don't race for the medals, but who am I kidding, medals are pretty cool and the 2014 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile medals do not disappoint!