Mill City International Tri – A Spectator’s Report 
Monday, July 12, 2010, 01:23 PM
Posted by Administrator
Last week, we raced with Bill Rodgers. This week, it was Team Hoyt! If you’re not familiar with this inspirational duo, I encourage you to check out their website. Their story is guaranteed to motivate.

I should clarify that my role in this weekend’s race was as cheerleader, photographer and lugger of gear. Paul, on the other hand, actually swam, biked and ran in the Mill City International Triathlon in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Accustomed to the well-oiled machine that is TriTucson, I found this event from Double C Racing to be lacking in the organization department. First, they registered Paul for the sprint race instead of the international, and then made it a big hassle to switch the entry. When he was finally given race number 99, we walked over to transition only to find that the numbered racks jumped from the 80’s right to the 100’s. While this glitch was an annoyance, at least Paul was rewarded for his patience with half a rack all to himself.

Pre-race chatter was abundant, with questions regarding the course, the ins-and-outs of transition and the legality of wetsuits. Signage was non-existent, as was literature describing the race details, and so everyone was in the dark. This widespread lack of knowledge led to a 15 minute delay in the race start, as the “brief remarks” from the race director and USAT official turned into a full-blown Q & A session.

On the positive side, I discovered that a river swim makes for great spectating. It was impossible to pick out Paul in the mass of green-caps and splashing water, but I was able to follow the pack by walking along the Merrimack River.

I snapped photos of Paul exiting the water and then ran after him, across Pawtucket Boulevard, to transition. While it’s not ideal to have a major road running right down the middle of your race course, I think they did the best they could with the space they had. The swim and finish line were on one side of Pawtucket Boulevard and transition was on the other. Police were present to direct traffic, but they had their hands full with cars, spectators and racers coming from all four directions.

I cheered Paul onto the bike course and reminded him that this is where his race begins. With swimming as his weak sport, he typically spends the entire bike leg passing people.

While waiting for him to pass by for his second lap, I pitched in a bit at the water stop which was rather ill-staffed with two volunteers who appeared completely lost. They actually complained that racers were throwing their used water cups on the ground.

After a brief glimpse of Paul as he flew by, I realized that I was starving. It was only 9:45am, but, having last eaten at 4:30am, I figured this was a good time for lunch. Transition is conveniently located in the parking lot of Heritage Farm Ice Cream, which, I discovered, makes a mean grilled chicken sandwich.

After eating, I walked toward the bike dismount area where I was not too surprised to find that there was no signage – not even a chalk line on the street. There were just a handful of volunteers shouting directions and then getting frustrated when racers did not heed them.

Note to the volunteers and race director: Maybe it’s adrenaline. Maybe it’s dehydration. Maybe it’s intense concentration on the task at hand. Whatever the reason, athletes don’t always think very clearly while racing. In fact, yelling often sounds like the adults in Charlie Brown specials. Big signs with simple words will make your life easier, the course safer and the racers more compliant.

Paul looked great – hot, but great – as he headed out for the run. I knew I had about 45 minutes to kill and so I settled in at the finish line to cheer on the sprint race finishers, including Dick and Rick Hoyt.

I’ve learned from experience that Paul tends to be on par with the first female finisher. Sure enough, when I glimpsed the first tankini cruising down the street, Paul was right on her heels looking strong!

At the end of the finisher’s chute, Paul and another racer compared bloody ankles (maybe socks are worth a few extra seconds in transtition?) before plunging into the Merrimack River to cool off.

Then, we celebrated Paul’s impressive finish of 15th overall and 4th in his age group at Heritage Farm Ice Cream. Giving up their parking lot for the morning was a smart move for this business. How many people can hang out next to an ice cream stand for half a day and not indulge?

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Harvard Pilgrim 10K Race Report – Another PR! 
Sunday, July 4, 2010, 03:59 PM
Posted by Administrator
What better way to celebrate Independence Day in Boston than to run with Bill Rodgers at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots? Maybe “run with” isn’t the proper phrase as there about 3,000 other people there too. And he was never actually in my sight during the race. But I did see him twice while warming up.

As part of Project Whip the Family into Shape (which is bound to make some relatives wish we’d move back to Arizona), my brother-in-law, Jon, joined us for this inaugural event. We met up briefly before the race and then I wished luck to him and Paul before squeezing into the starting corral at the 9:00/mile sign.

Since changing my running gait to a forefoot landing a few months ago, I have been injury-free, feeling great and running well, as evidenced by a 5K PR in my last race. I went into today’s race thinking it would be nice to set another PR…but I haven’t done any speed work and I don’t like a lot of pressure…so I’ll just see how it goes.

The course was crowded and never really thinned out as much as I had expected, but this density kept me from going out too hard. My first few miles were just over a 9-minute pace and then I slowed a bit in the second half as the heat and some mild hills wore on me.

It started getting hard around mile 4 and this was right around the time the battery in my Garmin died. Luckily, it gave a warning beep and I was able to start my stopwatch to keep track of my time, but now I was not entirely sure of where I was in terms of distance. However, when I saw my time at mile marker 5, I knew a PR was in the bag – it was just a matter of by how much.

As I tired, I found that my stride kept reverting to a heavy, heel-strike landing and so my mantra became “quick, light and easy.” (If you’ve read Born to Run, then you know I Have Caballo Blanco to thank for this.) I repeated it over and over as I switched back to short, quick steps with a forefoot landing.

The highlight of this race is undoubtedly the finish. I definitely felt the excitement as I ran into the stadium, through the giant inflatable football helmet and onto the field. I threw my arms up, let out a “woo hoo” and gazed up at the crowds in the stands. (In all the hoopla, I somehow missed the gigantic jumbotron screen with a live feed of the stadium entrance, but I’m sure it was very cool for those who did see it.) Then, I realized that I had slowed to a jog, yet still had 50 yards before the finish line! I kicked it into the highest gear I had left and sprinted across the line with a time of 58:04, a 2-minute PR.

The Pros
* One-of-a-kind finish line.
* Plenty of aid stations.
* Impressive post-race food spread.
* Boston Billy!

The Cons
* While there was a 10K walker’s division, a more beginner-friendly 5K option would have helped with Project Whip the Family into Shape.
* The aid stations could have been better staffed. Those poor volunteers were hustling!
* As advertised, parking was easy. However, getting into the parking lot was not. It took us 15 minutes to drive the final ¼-mile to the stadium.
* Finishers were funneled from the playing field into the food area and then out of the stadium. This made it difficult to meet up post-race with friends who were also racing and this is why there are no finishing photos of me and Jon. They relaxed the barriers later on and we were able to get back on the field for some photos while the walkers were finishing.

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"Mother Road Run" Race Report 
Thursday, June 10, 2010, 08:03 AM
Posted by Administrator
When I realized that our cross-country trek would fall over Memorial Day weekend, I decided to hunt for some races. It would be a great way to squeeze in some exercise while on the road and it's always fun to experience racing in a new place. What I found was the "Mother Road Run" Route 66 5K in Springfield, Missouri.

We pulled into Springfield the evening before and had enough time before bed to taste a local favorite, frozen custard. The best part was the free sample cones for the dogs. Rex and Molly wolfed theirs down while Mielo politely licked his.

We gathered the next morning with 124 other racers for the 8am start. It was a pretty casual group and I was surprised to find that they had chip timing for an event this small. However, they didn't capture your chip time at the start, rather only at the finish.

While the course was flat, it lacked much personality. It wound through some generic-looking neighborhoods and there was absolutely no indication that we were in "the birthplace of Route 66" as touted on the race literature. I was looking forward to diners, old-time motels and other Mother Road kitsch, but it really could have passed for any American neighborhood.

After about 3/4 of a mile, I got behind two women who were keeping a good pace and decided to try to stick with them. It wasn't long before one dropped back and I was running shoulder-to-shoulder with the other one. We ran silently, side-by-side, until she pulled slightly ahead at the 2-mile marker. I tucked in behind her and just focused on her back.

I started this race without a good idea of how I'd do, especially after spending most of the past three days sitting in a car. My PR to date was 28:39 and, after running the first two miles at just under a 9-minute pace, I realized that I could beat it if I kept pushing it. My legs felt great, but my breathing was ragged.

When I caught sight of the building at which we started, I knew we were close to the finish and so I took advantage of a very slight downhill to pick it up and pass my running mate. However, and I hate when this happens, the course took an unexpected turn. Hoping to see the finish line, I saw the 3-mile marker up ahead instead. One-tenth of a mile is not much, except when it's at the end of a race, you're trying to PR and you started your finishing sprint a little too early.

My running mate passed me for the final time, but I was thrilled to see that the time on the clock started with "27." I pushed as hard as I could to make sure it didn't change to "28" before I crossed the line and I made it with 4 seconds to spare. There's no triumphant finish line photo as Paul hadn't been expecting me for another minute or two. I love it when I can surprise him like that!

I grabbed some water and a bagel and then discovered two differences between desert and non-desert races:

1. Grass. I plopped myself down on a thick, soft carpet of green grass. In Tucson, you typically rest your tired body on a curb, rock or, if you're lucky, some hard, crunchy, brownish grass.

2. Sweat. I'm accustomed to a little sweat and lots of caked salt. At this race, I sweated buckets out of every pore on my body. I made a mental note to wear a cap for future runs as the sweat had washed the sunscreen I had put on my forehead into my eyes.

I placed 5th out of 15 in my age group, which is an unusually high ranking for me. We hung around for the awards ceremony as Paul had placed third in his age group (and 15th overall) with a time of 20:28.

As the runners gathered, the race director explained that he had forgotten to pick up the plaques for the award winners, and so each winner should just take a bow when their name was called. He assured us that the awards are very cool Route 66 plaques and that they'd be happy to mail them to the out-of-towners.

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Friday, May 21, 2010, 01:11 PM
Posted by Administrator
Apparently, I was a little blogged out after 31 days of blogging during the west coast adventure. But I'm back! So, what have I been up to the past month?

1. Packing, packing, packing. However, with time on our side, we've been able to do little bit each day and still enjoy this much-appreciated sabbatical.

2. Cleaning house.Our load was significantly lightened after a yard sale, a trip to Bookman's, a few visits to Goodwill and some Craig's List and Facebook postings.

We also attacked the outside of the house which resulted in a very full roll-off dumpster and Paul and I taking turns pulling cactus needles out of each other.

3. Exercise! With the summer heat upon us, we've still be getting up early most days for a run or bike ride. And, since I'm not going into an office these days, I've had time to hit the gym later in the day for some strength training or my new favorite thing - yoga!

What's next? Well, I'm currently waiting for a moving trailer to be dropped off in our yard, at which point, we'll start filling it up. Like the packing of boxes, this can be a leisurely endeavor as they won't pick it up until Tuesday.

Then, next Wednesday, we'll hit the road for 6 days of books-on-tape, doggie pit stops and Motel 6's - because dogs stay free! Oh yes, in the midst of all of this, Paul and I will continue looking for jobs.

I'll try to blog as we make our way across the country. It's sure to be another great adventure for the Vyriotes family!

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West Coast Road Trip – Day 31 
Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 10:09 PM
Posted by Administrator
We had two items to check off our list before leaving Phoenix:

1. Stop by REI to return the “waterproof” gloves I bought at the Bend REI. Those things didn’t even stay dry for one hour of snow shoveling in Mt. Shasta!

2. Enjoy lunch at Picazzo’s!

We cruised down I-10 and were thrilled to pull into our driveway. Click here for the wonderful greeting we received.

In a nutshell, this trip was AMAZING! Not wanting to take a single day for granted, I often reminded myself that this was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that holds a spot on many people’s bucket lists. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to enjoy the journey at this point in my life and with an incredible partner.

Thanks for sharing in the journey with us!

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