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Friday, March 30, 2012

Galveston Greetings!

  Alright!  So, somehow, two weeks have passed, and I'm sitting in a hotel room on the eve of the eve of the Galveston 70.3, aka, in my little world, as my first pro race.  For some reason, I'm preferring the "first pro race" terminology to "pro debut".  This is a matter of pure semantics, I know, but for some reason, "first pro race" sounds less intimidating-to me, it conveys more of a getting the feet wet, starting a journey, controlling what I can control and hopefully being able to compete a little feel, while "pro debut" implies that I should be coming out the gate, guns blazing, expected to make some sort of huge impact.  I'm actually feeling, for me, surprisingly more calm than I expected at this stage in the game.  The fact of the matter is, I had more at stake that wasn't in my direct control at my 70.3s last season-the desire for a Vegas slot at Mooseman and a podium spot in Vegas (I wouldn't even allow myself to think of the pro card, either) were enough to push me over the anxiety edge, into the realm of crying before the swim start, telling myself to just get through it, then I could go back to just running.  Anyways.  That promise to myself (luckily) hasn't come true.  Because I don't want to be in that state again, I just wanted to take some time tonight, when I'm still clear-minded and sane, to reflect a little on some of the positives heading in to this, and to analyze what's about to come.

1.  One of my fears in signing up for this race, thanks to living in upstate New York, was that I just wouldn't be able to get in the outdoor riding time I'd need to feel moderately comfortable on a windy course.  It's no secret that my bike skills, well, suck, so jumping on saddle off the trainer for the first time since camp wouldn't have been too comforting to me.  Well, even though the winter was a disappointment to my snow-enjoying self, Rochester's March came through.  Three consecutive weekends of long outdoor rides, some of them complete with winds worse than what I should seen on Sunday, along with a few other shorter outdoor weekday rides mixed in here and there, have eased these fears to some degree.  I'm still (and probably always will be) a relatively tentative rider, but at least the confidence grew a little with each successive ride.     

2.  My training the past couple of weeks went pretty well.  Johnny's proved to me that I'm in better running shape than I had been giving myself credit for; as a result, I actually began to worry less and execute a little better.  Shortly after that, my running paces seemed to come around a bit.  I've had a couple of long rides that I've been able to at least finish strong.  The overall pace might not have been anything to write home about, but when the time came to push, I was able to push and feel good doing it.  Swimming-well, I have stagnated, but at least I'm ahead of where I was last time I took to the line of a tri.  I'm also well aware of my tendency to mentally take myself out of an open water swim, which hopefully is the first step in correcting this habit.  I have to say, when my training has gone well, I tend to get nervous in a waiting for the other shoe to drop sort of way (still keeping my fingers crossed that the perma-sore throat I've been rocking the past week+ is in fact allergies), but overall, I'll still try to take it all as a good sign!

3.  I didn't pick up a stomach bug (yet...knock on wood) presumably from the plane, a la QT2 Florida camp.  This is self-explanatory.  I might have doused my entire general seat area in hand sanitizer the second I took my seats yesterday, to the point that the flight attendant commented on how nice and mint chocolately it smelled, thanks to my Bath & Body works sanitizer (Emma got me hooked on those.  It's like I'm 12.  I love them).

  In terms of what I'm expecting out there, I'm just going to focus on what's within my realm of control.   I know my swim isn't pro quality.  This isn't negativity; it's realism.  I'm hoping to at least have a couple of women around me, but I'm mentally prepared to be alone.  Regardless, I need to freaking push.  Mary has told me this swim is long, so the time on my watch will be somewhat irrelevant.  Once on the bike, I can control my nutrition and influence my pacing.  I've spent a winter putting in greater bike volume than I ever have, so I'm hoping this translates into improvements on the race course.  There's snippets from training I know I can draw upon-intervals on the trainer, moments at the end of my last long ride when I had attack mode channeled-when needed.  And for the run, my main thought right now is to simply stick to my HR plan, and don't freak at my pace during the first, and even early on in the second (of three) laps.  While I've tried to prepare for the heat, I haven't been able to replicate 90% humidity in my basement.  Trying to bank time in the first few miles=bad idea.  Those last few miles, though...just race.

  Otherwise, this will certainly be an experience.  Five months ago, I put my faith in Mary, Jesse, and QT2.  I've had my share of ups and (nervous break)downs, and they've had to talk me off the ledge a few times, but overall, I've at least made it to Texas in a good state (and Mary hasn't stabbed me or punched me in the face, much to her credit).  Prior to QT2, I was the typical, type-A, have to run or bike x pace every single time I hit the road in order to have confidence that I can do it in a race triathlete.  Now, I've had to reign in that mentally.  I currently don't know that I can run or bike x pace because I put forth some maximal, full distance effort in training.  I'm trusting that I can because I've executed certain hard efforts on hard days while taking it easier on easy days, and because those with far more experience than me know what that equates to, provided I execute what I can control correctly.  This simultaneously makes me nervous, yet relaxes me.  I don't have to doubt what I've done, I just have to have confidence in what some of the best coaches out there have given me to do.  As I said at the start, this is just my first pro race.  I've done what I can to this point, and honestly, I'm itching to get out there, for better or worse.

  As always, thanks to everyone who's supporting me and rooting for me (special thanks to Kestrel, WoolsportsPowerbar, and ridecarbon.com).  I'm still amazed at how many people follow and offer encouragement to me, and it always helps to get through the low points of the day.  I'm inspired by so many others, I know that I'm in a position that few others get to be in by doing something I love, and I feel fortunate every day to be there.  I often feel that I have a responsibility to make the most of it, and I'll take this with me on Sunday.  I might just be calm right now because it hasn't totally registered with me that I'll get the chance to race in the pro wave, starting with some of the fastest women in the world!  Until then, I'll finish up with some pictures!

Giant boat.  Maybe it can tow me.

Random expo shot.  Sadly, the guy that was wearing his full race kit and doing some running drills directly down the middle wasn't in the picture.

Looking around transition

Looking at the special little row my bike goes on.  I hope it won't get too lonely on the rack waiting for me Sunday morning.

Aero Bailey.  In case she doesn't look ridiculous enough normally.  The things we do to this poor dog.




Saturday, March 17, 2012

Johnny's Running of the Green-race report! (another one??)

  One week after taking on Syracuse's St. Patty's day race, I was off to try my hand at Rochester's version, Johnny's Running of the Green 5 miler.  This race has always been a favorite of mine since I first took it on as a mere freshman in college; after all, it ended up being a deciding factor in my decision to switch to longer distance track racing.  Apart from the fun St. Patrick's day atmosphere I touched upon last week, it's really the main kick-off of the Rochester running season, when we all come out of hibernation, test our mettle, and catch up again.  As far as results go, Johnny's and I, well, we've had somewhat of a spotty history, as I've run all over the board there, having some of my best and worst races there, as well as everything in between.  I missed it one year with a stress fracture, I ran it as my first race one year after a stress fracture, I've run it sick, I've run it getting over being sick, and three years ago now, I had arguably one of my best performances there (even factoring in that we all turned around early, cutting ~100m off the course)-but, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was well on my way to two stress fractures (possibly already there; I remember limping through my warm up).  The year after that, I missed it due to a bridal shower; then, last year, I had been feeling great heading in...until I lost a battle with the flu, and ended up running within 24 hours of breaking an 102 degree fever.  Needless to say, the race didn't go so well for me.  So, Johnny's and I had some unfinished business.  I woke up this morning somewhere in between all of those states- flu-less, not close to the peak running shape I'd been in three years ago, but not limping and broken either (I'll take that trade-off-in retrospect, ruining my body was not worth one great early season race)!

  Dave and I actually arrived at the race site early (after the stress of my rushed warm up last weekend, I was maybe a little anal).  I warmed up with eventual race winner Jen Bigham and Vanessa Martell, who's great to have back in Rochester and racing again.  After last weekend, I was hoping to at least run under 31:00, figuring that I could hold the same pace for a flat 5 miler as I could for a hilly-ish 4 miler.  In the back of my mind, the 30:20 was stuck in my head as my "reach" goal.  I'd run about that four years ago, when I had been pounding out some good treadmill/track workouts all winter; I somehow thought I'd just feel a little more confident about my fitness if I could hit that mark.  Vanessa mentioned that she thought she'd be in the 30:00-30:45 range; I thought that sounded pretty reasonable for myself, as well, and figured that working with her early on would be a good plan.  This week's training had consisted of more volume than last week, but without huge amounts of intensity.  So, while I wasn't feeling quite as fresh as I had last weekend, I wasn't feeling too bad, either.

  Early on in the race, I hung back a bit behind a group of women, staying relaxed.  By half a mile in, I'd worked my way up to Vanessa; we hung together for a bit, and went through the mile right around 6:00, as planned.  She commented something about the good pacing, I responded with something along the lines of "right on"!  I briefly thought about the fact that I'd probably gone through that first mile in 5:40 before and felt momentarily discouraged; then, I shut that voice up and soldiered on.  The urge to smile at everything and everyone I'd had last week wasn't exactly there today, but heck, I was racing.  I kept the pace steady and managed to move into fifth place by the second mile, and was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) to hit the two mile just over 12 minutes-I hadn't slowed down.  When we neared the turnaround point, I was beginning to feel it, but I still managed to shout a little encouragement to some of the leaders.  I saw that I'd been easily gapped by the women in front of me (all high-caliber runners), but that I had a group of some quick women close behind me.  I didn't mind though- nothing I could do but run to my abilities for the next 2.5 miles, after all.  The next half mile went by quickly, as I felt fortunate enough to have lots of support from the runners heading out, including numerous people who cheered for me by name-thank you, all!  I went through three miles a few ticks under 18:10, and began to realize that my unspoken 30:20 goal was well within my reach.  Sure, I hurt, but I could handle 12 more minutes of running hard, I rationalized with myself.

  I began to question myself a bit that fourth mile, as I'm almost just flat out not used to running pain.  Luckily, I've run the last mile of that route in abject pain many, many times, as other races I've run have finished in the same area, too.  I recalled trying to hold my breakfast down during the last mile of the Flower City Half last year, and knew that if I could just make it back over the Ford St bridge, I'd be within a mile of the finish with a just the slightest of downhills to push me towards the finish line as we turned onto Exchange Blvd.  I saw the four mile mark and checked my watch: 24:06.  Even then, breaking 30 didn't really dawn on me; it'd require a huge last mile, and I was working near capacity at that point.  All I knew is that the end was approaching, and I was in the clear to begin the drive towards the line.  About half a mile from the finish, my boss stood cheering, which picked me up in some small way.  Finally, I could see the finish clock.  I glanced down-29:07.  Crap!  Could I break 30?  Was I close enough to the line?  Push, push.  Look down again.  29:30.  Don't think I'm going to make it-running out of time.  29:40.  The line is right there.  Sprint.  SPRINT.  You can make this.  Don't tell yourself it's ok if you're just over, you've done it before and you know you'll HATE yourself later on for that.  29:50...:52...:54...just a couple yards left...there's the line...cross it, hit the watch stop...29:58!  $h!t!  Don't throw up!  (I didn't, no fears.)

  I'm not sure when the last time I pushed like that the last 200m of a race was (even though I still got outkicked by a high school boy, I swear that happens every road race I run).  But, before I even got through the finish chute, I knew those two lousy, stupid little seconds had made a huge difference in how I'd perceive my race, my fitness, and my confidence as a whole two short, short weeks before Galveston.  I hadn't thought for a second that I had any business even thinking sub-30 heading into the race, and honestly, I think if I had, it wouldn't have happened-I would have pushed too hard early on, or I would have freaked when I had no "under 6:00 pace cushion" at any point during the race.  I'd probably have gone through four miles thinking there was no possible way I'd be able to pull a final mile faster than any of the previous ones out of my butt, and I might not have just shut off my brain and pushed down Exchange.  As with last week, this wasn't the fastest race I've ever run, but for me, it was pretty darn solid and even (Garmin file here)...it's getting there.  I'd managed to match the pace I ran for a 5.25 miler on vacation last year, when I was in the midst of some of my best tri performances (and a bit lighter to boot).  So, I'll take it.  After throwing on another hour of easy running, Dave (who ran a huge 5 mile PR today-better watch my back!) and I caught up with various members of our quirky runner/triathlete community (social time for the Hansens!  Love the people around here), I gathered my award bottle of wine, and I headed out afterwards happy, optimistic, and just slightly more ready for what's to come on April 1st!

Dave ~4 miles in.  Sorry ladies, missed your chance.

Pushing along...

...not sure what's going on with the old form here

Striding out pre-race, having some fun!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tipperary Hill 4mi race report (yes, that does in fact say "race report") and more!

  After yet another post-long run breakdown last week, likely in an attempt to get me to shut up, Mary threw out an idea-find a race for this weekend.  Immediately, I checked both the Rochester and Buffalo race calendars and came up with...nothing, other than a 5k in Jamestown.  Not to be discouraged, I looked into Syracuse, and discovered the Tipperary Hill 4 Mile Shamrock Run.  The race received a resounding "yes" of approval, and before I knew it, I had filled out my first race registration in over three months.  Yikes.  After the swim/bike focus of late December-early February (at the expense of my running mi/week), followed by another month of struggling with what I had been perceiving as slow running (minus getting a little out of control those two days last week), combined with how awful the 5k at QT2 camp had felt, I was unsure of what would happen.  In a way, I think this eventually worked to the advantage of my mindset, nerves, and race execution, but I'll get into that in a bit.

  Before the race, though, came a week that was mostly easy, with the exception of some swim and bike tests thrown in.  I took to the pool Tuesday for a 200/1000 test.  I had done this test about a month earlier after my swim focus; unfortunately, I let the idea that my swim volume and interval length had dropped since then get into my head, and predetermined that it'd be perfectly acceptable if I was slower than last time.  Not surprisingly, I felt sluggish, and I touched the wall over 1.5sec/100 over 1000y what I had managed previously, but felt more disgusted with myself than disappointed.  On the plus side, I used this to fuel my bike test and race later in the week.  I knew that for no good reason, I'd predetermined what I shouldn't be able to do, and I used this as an out to avoid the real, lung-searing, arm-burning discomfort that I should have been seeking out.  That feeling of irritation in myself lasted a heck of a lot longer than swimming 1000 lousy yards did.  I tucked this bit of knowledge into the back of my mind, and looked ahead to the rest of the week.  Thus, I went into Thursday morning's bike test with the opposite mentality-let's see what you've got, Hansen.  I was more than ready pour myself into that bike. The details are quite anti-climactic (I'd never done the 3min/20min test before, so I had no basis of comparison), but I was still shaking a little bit for a good ten minutes after finishing.  I could live with that.  Mary's email response also included some expletives of positivity (not sure how else to put that...), another good sign, I suppose.

  But enough of that-onto the race.  I knew of Buffalo and Rochester's St. Patty's day races, but somehow hadn't heard as much about Syracuse's Tipperary Hill run.  Thus, I was somewhat surprised to learn that the participant numbers were huge-over 3100 finishers!  I got to the park an hour prior to the race start, but it still took me 15 minutes to navigate my way to a parking spot.  Despite an easy and efficient number pickup and an abundance of port-a-potties, I somehow found myself setting out for my warmup less than half an hour prior to the race start.  Oops-there went my obligatory post-warm up bathroom run.  Luckily, for once in my life, my bladder decided to comply.  In our winter of weird, ever-changing weather, my car was reading 27 degrees on the drive out, and several inches of fresh snow (luckily, the roads were perfectly clear) greeted us once we hit Syracuse.  This was fine with me; I double-layered some of my Woolsports shirts, though, and was perfectly temperate and good to go.  As I touched upon before, I didn't have any clear expectations heading into the race.  The four mile distance, a few hills on the course, an unfamiliar field, and the time off from racing gave me a license to just experience racing again, without having to obsess over time, place, what I had done the week before, etc, etc.  I felt decent on my warm up, and despite some unexpected nerves on the car ride over, I hit the starting line fairly relaxed and ready to go.

  After the airhorn sounded, we took off for the downhill first mile.  I knew that what went down would eventually come up, so I made an effort to stay relaxed.  Feeling smooth and, well, good, I soon found that I couldn't help but smile at the spectators and volunteers.  St. Patrick's day-themed races, in my opinion, rank up there with Halloween races in terms of the fun of the overall atmosphere at road races, so I was legitimately enjoying myself.  Plus, I was out there racing (God, I had no IDEA how much I really missed it!), I wasn't miserable, and I felt like I was running within control of myself.  I even noticed Tipperary Hill's upside-down stoplight, something that Dave had told me existed.  Suddenly, that became my pacing strategy-reach mile 2 still feeling good enough to smile.  I was glancing at the numbers on the Garmin, but that was about it-let them register, and move on.  Don't force it.  After a short, flail your arms and try not to wipe out sort of downhill, the race headed back up for the third mile.    The climb was challenging, but luckily I still felt good enough to sort of hold it together better than I have in some previous instances, and the hill went by surprisingly quickly.  I managed to squeak out one final smile to the spectators standing at mile 3 (somehow, that always makes it easier), and then turned my attention onto pounding my way through the final mile.  The course evened out a bit, my pace rebounded a little, and soon enough, the finish line was in sight.  I crossed the line in 24:48 (Garmin file  here), good enough for second place behind fellow Rochesterian Jess Snyder, who's one heck of a runner, and is always quick to say something genuinely nice to you post-race.  Following a 35 minute cooldown focused solely on trying to figure out where the heck I was going, I met up with Dave and my sister-in-law, and we were off for some lunch and catching up!

  Overall, I was pleased with the effort, especially after putting it into context.  Obviously, I've run much faster, but today wasn't about that.  More importantly, I got my competition feet wet, ran stronger and smarter throughout the course of a moderately challenging race than I have in quite some time, and gained a little more confidence in my training and my run- it's better than I was expecting it to be.  It still hasn't fully set that I only have 22 days until my first pro race, but today's little boost will hopefully help get me there!  Once again, thanks to Woolsports for outfitting my morning, Powerbar for fueling it, and QT2 systems for making it happen!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Light my fire...

  Last Wednesday was another one of those days.  After a third consecutive week of seemingly making little to no progress with my long runs and again fighting my pace and heart rate, I knew I was at my limit.  I'm sure I'm where I'm supposed to be, but at that point in time, the world had become black and white.  With just a month until my first pro race, I was freaked- although improved, my swimming will still leave me in the back of the pack with the stragglers (being realistic here; at least we're not in the "two minutes off the last straggler" territory anymore, though), without riding outside, I have no idea how to interpret computrainer watts and mph, leaving me with no real clear of where I stand on the bike, and running...ugh.  I'd run that same loop a full minute per mile faster last year.  I mostly was concerned that I'd just completely forgotten how to push and hurt on two feet, and that once presented with the situation, instead of embracing it, like I used to, I'd just crumble.  As much as those around me have tried to convince me that I'd be fine, I wasn't going to believe it until I saw it.  And so it only became a matter of time until I snapped.

  "A matter of time" turned into "two days".  I didn't set out on my run Friday morning (which was supposed to be a simple 60min at zone 1) with any intention to let loose...but after trotting through a mile, I'd had it.  I can't tell you why that was the point at which I lost my self-control; it just happened.  I subtly picked up the pace.  My garmin was freaking out anyways-my HR was reading in the 190's, and it started telling me I was running 4:30 miles (yes, I love technology...).  I took that as a sign to just run-I wanted to hurt a little, I wanted to remember what it felt like to run strong.  I didn't need to be redlining, and I didn't need to turn the run into a personal time trial, but I did need to clear my head and prove a little something to no one other than myself.  With 20min left in the run, when the loop I was running had leveled out after a longer ascent, I finally found enjoyment in running again.  I had that fleeting, light, float-y feeling that can be fickle and hard to come by; my pace felt quick but comfortably so.  I finished the run smiling but shaking my head at myself.  Nothing about the run had been even remotely close to what I was supposed to do (and yes, I did pay a little later when I hit the bike after work), and it wasn't even the fastest I'd ever run over that particular loop.  But, we've been trying to get my mind to shut off more.  Covering the garmin for a bit had helped, but that little internal self-sabotaging voice of doubt wasn't going to go away until I showed it otherwise.

  I'd thought I'd gotten it out of my system, but yesterday became more of the same.  Somewhere around the 3.5-4 hour mark of my long ride, I was averaging one watt lower than what I had finished at the week before.  With my garmin safely chucked on the floor (out of sight, out of mind?  I knew I'd at least started the ride well within control) I decided that I needed to at least meet the prior week's wattage.  I also realized that I could hit the computrainer "century" ride mark.  Once I met the wattage, I still had over half an hour to go-so why not try to get just one lousy little watt more?  And so, this resulted.  Whoops.  Still, I didn't actually realize it was happening.  Plus, I was actually having an occasional conversation with Dave (mostly about how miserable we were) and one-fingered typing on Facebook to Mary about why she wasn't making my favorite people list (ha!) during that last hour.  After the overzealous last couple of hours of the ride, we headed out for a brief run in the hurricane-force winds.  The worst of the gusty headwinds were over after the first 1.5 miles of the run, I turned the corner and-bam!-found myself aided by a sweet tailwind.  I was sort of surprised at how good I felt after the amount of time I spent on the bike, and again, I (dangerously) wasn't paying attention to the garmin, so I went with it.  And so, this resulted.  Again, whoops.  Not quite zone 1 there.

  So, where has all this misbehavior gotten me?  For today, at least, back into my zones (and, for four minutes of bike tabatas, absolutely gasping for air).  More importantly, though, some small fire has been re-lit underneath my butt.  Instead of dreading the next time I'll toe a starting line, I'm starting to feel the itch again.  It's been missing up to this point.  Last night, I had a glass of wine (given the last time I'd had any alcoholic beverage was at the QT2 Christmas party...in December, it hit me like a ton of bricks), took a deep breath, and pulled up the Galveston bib list.  I found my name...and I saw the "F PRO" next to it.  A small shiver ran through my body; this time, though, not just of fear, but of excitement, too (the wine helped).  Realistically, I know the level of talent and desire that exists in the relatively large women's pro field there will leave me towards the back of the pack (hopefully not DFL...hopefully).  Still, if nothing else, at least the past few days have given me some small amount of confidence that maybe, just maybe, I almost sort of belong there.  I know that more than likely, I'll be spending a good amount of that swim and bike totally alone, but I have a little more hope now that I'll see a person or two on the run, which had been my greatest fear.
 
  The irony is, I probably should have just been more patient.  I spend my workdays on the other side of the equation-trying to convince patients that their pain will take time to go away, that their exercises may not seem to be doing much at first, but they should stick with it, and give things a little time to work.  Inevitably, I'll be asked how long it will take, and I'll never really have a good answer-everyone is different, everyone responds differently, and if we have to stop and readjust, we'll stop and readjust.  Sometimes, I'll hear mentions of slow progress as we go along; other times, after a few weeks of continuing frustration on both our parts, we'll change something, and we'll see a breakthrough.  Yet here I am, not following the advice I dish out every day and losing my patience (I'd want to kill me, after all).  Suddenly, though, I feel back in the game.  I know I'm not in peak shape right now-but, it's March.  I should be fine.  I'm only a few short weeks from getting my feet wet (literally) in the pro field, and I know that while I won't be able to control a whole host of things that happen that day, I can control my mindset going in.  If I'm not there mentally, then my physical preparation will go to waste.  And, if my last few days of misbehavior have taught me anything (and assuming that they didn't totally destroy me), it's that maybe I've got just a bit more in my physically than I was willing to give myself credit for (I'm hoping!!).  Rats.  They're always right.  :)      

Friday, March 2, 2012

Random people that brighten the day

  Because I have nothing better to do on a Friday night but blog (note: by "better to do", I mean "something else that involves sitting on the couch", so anything that involves "standing" or "thinking", such as "cleaning the house" or "finishing paperwork" does not fall into this category), I figured I'd try a positive approach to life, and give credit to some of the people that can make my day (or workout) better just by being themselves, without even trying.  I started thinking about this a couple of days ago, when I saw a piece on the Today show about a cheery mailman who was smiley and nice to everyone, despite the fact that he had been imprisoned during the civil rights movement years ago.  But I digress.  So, in no particular order, here's a few random, unexpected people that have the power to add a little light to sometimes dull days.

1. The crossing guard(s) at the corner of List and Hoover
I know I've mentioned the crossing guard before on Facebook.  Lately, a different one has been manning this corner, but all of this will apply to either one.  These crossing guards are great.  Despite the fact that I'm a 27 year old runner, they'll both hustle out into the intersection, holding up their stop signs, so I can cross without stopping.  That's not the best part, though.  No matter what the weather is like, these women (who I'd guess are crossing guard-ing as something to do in retirement) clearly just genuinely love what they're doing.  They'll give me the hugest smiles ever, tell me to have a good run, day, weekend, etc, and make a few seconds of small talk as I run past.  Because I was feeling a little down on running lately, I made it a point to go past this corner on my run today; I knew at least I'd get a little pick-me-up there.  Plus, when I'm running with the Bailey, they'll pull out treats for her.  She likes them, too.

2. The friendly cashier at the Webster PetSmart
It seems like every time I've gone into this store, I've ended up in the line of the friendliest cashier ever.  Generally, I enjoy any cashier who doesn't act like you're bothering him or her with your business; this woman just seems to love ringing out my dog food and guinea pig food, and chatting about pets.  She's also given our dogs treats before (seeing a theme here?)  Sometimes, it's just nice to get a smile along with 35 lbs of Purina.

3. Any cheerful elderly man
This is sort of a general category, but cute old men are the best.  I can think of several current/former patients who fit the bill.  Today's example was the older man out for a walk that I ran past on the Lakeside trail.  When he saw me coming, he stopped, leaned forward while pretending to look at an invisible stopwatch, and just said "wow! Four minute mile!" as I ran past.  It made me laugh a little, and was a welcome little diversion to the run.

4. Lane sacrificers at the pool
As time has gone by, Dave and I have started to recognize the morning pool regulars, and they've apparently started to recognize us.  They know that we're generally working pretty hard, and that it's easiest if the two of us can share a lane, equipment, water bottles, etc.  On a couple of mornings, each lane has been filled with one person.  One woman (who knows my name, I feel bad that I don't know hers) has now twice volunteered herself to go share a lane with the older man (a #3, in fact) who swims in lane one on a daily basis and counts his laps with checkers, just so that Dave and I can share our own lane.  This, in my opinion, goes beyond pool etiquette, and falls into the "just being nice" category.  In the past week, I've also had one man ask me if I wanted to switch lanes with him so that Dave and I could swim side by side to "push each other", and another man tell me that if the situation ever arose that Dave and I were sharing the lane against the wall (it's happened once, and we survived without a problem), to just tell him, so he could switch with us.  Once again, examples of people being considerate and selfless in ways that I'd never expect, but that certainly do not go unnoticed (especially when I've dragged myself out of bed to plunge into cold water at 6 am)!

5. The Allstate mayhem commercial man
This is completely random, and clearly I don't know this guy in real life.  But I love this ad campaign.

That's it for now, just some light Friday night writing for those of us without lives!  I live for this all week, after all :).