Sunday, August 23, 2015

Help me choose a business name!

As many of you may or may not know, I am currently in the process of going into business for myself. I've been doing freelance editing, copywriting, and transcription work on the side for several years, and recently I decided to "up my game" and start soliciting editing work full-time.

As such, I need to do lots of fun professional things like building a website, buying a domain, and registering my business. (Oh and paying taxes. I've never felt so Republican in my life!) But first . . . I need a business name!

This is where you come in.

If you've ever bothered to read the acknowledgements pages at the back of a book, you'll notice that authors tend to thank editors by name (rather than thanking, say, Generic Editing Services, LLC, or even their publisher). Consequently, it's important to me to keep that person-to-person quality alive in whatever I decide to call my business. That being said, doesn't say much about what sort of services I am offering, and if you saw Allison L Goldstein on a business card somewhere, would you pick it up? (I might . . . if there was a cool writing-related image on it. But I digress.)

All of that being said, if you have two minutes to spare, please take a look through the business names I've brainstormed so far and let me know which you like/hate. And, of course, if you have any other suggestions, definitely send them my way!

Create your own user feedback survey

Friday, August 21, 2015

Timberman 2015: Run to the Finish (Part III)

(Missed reading about the swim and bike legs? Never fear, you can read it all here: Part I Swim and Part II Bike.)

Helmet off. Bike shoes off. Sneakers on. Grab that race belt and your headband, skip the hat, it’s too hot. Grab your Gu. All three are there? Okay, go! Go! Go!—wait!

I turned around looked longingly back at the row where my bike was racked . . . with my running watch still attached to the handlebars.

Feeling good, giving smiles.
Just go.

No! You need it!

You don’t need it, you know how to run. You’re wasting time dilly-dallying around in here. Just go!

No but your splits! How will you know if you’re controlling your pace?

You can use the race clocks.

But what if there aren’t any on the course? Going back will only take a second.

And really, what was another thirty seconds in the scheme of things? I hurried back to my bike and retrieved the watch.

Now I was ready to go. I started running again . . . only to realize that I didn’t know where I was going. I had been heading toward the Bike Out area, but that was the same as the Bike In area, so surely they wouldn’t have runners and cyclists all trying to go in and out of the same spot. . . .

“Excuse me, do you know where the Run Out is?”

The girl racking her bike looked up and glared at me.

“Sorry.” I tried to smile. “But do you know where it is?”

She gave me an exasperated look and pointed. I gave her a big, relieved smile.


Finally, the run had begun.

On my way out of the transition area and into the first mile, I saw R___—my wonderful fiancĂ© who rode in a cramped SUV for six hours and slept on a pull-out couch with me just to stand on that hot, muggy sideline for six hours in order to cheer me on.

“Go Allison!” he shouted. “This is where you shine! Go get it!”

That’s right, I thought, smiling and blowing him a kiss. This is where I shine. Time to get to work.

Now, maybe it was his cheering, or how fast I spun my legs on the bike, or the caffeine in the SHOT Bloks, or maybe I just started my watch late, but straightaway, my first mile clocked in at 6:15.

First lap "finish" . . . not a happy camper.
Whoa, whoa, I told my legs. Slooooow down. I know you feel good right now, in fact you feel like you’re floating, but you have twelve more miles to go. Come mile 10, it’s not going to feel this nice anymore. Relax.

My legs didn’t listen. Mile two was sub-six.

SLOW DOWN, I told my legs. RELAX. This is not sustainable. You wouldn’t even do this in a real half marathon, never mind after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56. You are going to crash if you keep this up, and it is going to hurt.

With a mantra of “relax relax relax relax” I managed to get into the 7s for the next several miles. Mentally, this put me a bit more at ease, although I was still wary of what was ahead. The course consisted of two identical out-and-back laps, with the first lap running straight by the finish line. The sun was beating down, and people were running through the finish line to booming cheers . . . and I had to turn around and start the trek back out. There were still seven miles to go. And of course, this was when my legs started to protest.

I saw R___ again on my way back out onto the course, and I knew I’d see him one last time on the way to the finish. I really wanted to look strong for that.

Keep running.

At this point, things were starting to disintegrate. I could feel my body temperature rising, and apart from dousing myself with lukewarm water at each aid station, I could not figure out what else to do to get cool.

Meanwhile, I was starting to feel that internal imploding sensation that comes from your cells sucking out every last bit of energy they can. I’d eaten my first Gu at mile five, so I held out until mile nine for the second one, sucking it bit by bit until I could reach the next water station to wash it down. I realized too late that I’d forgotten to alternate water and Gatorade—my mouth was already so sweet from all the Gu—so I started grabbing Gatorade when I saw it, but now my stomach was sloshing, and I could still feel my body giving up on me.

You just have to keep running, I told my legs. That was Goal #2 for this race. DO NOT WALK, even if you feel yourself slowing down. It’s all mentalyou know this. This is no harder than the last six miles of a marathon, and you’ve done those plenty of times. Suck it up. You can do this.

And then I heard it: "Ice!" They were handing out ice in little McDonalds cups at one of the aid stations. I tucked one giant cube into my cheek and, after tossing my last Gu onto the side of the course, took as many cubes into my palms as I could hold.

The turn toward the finish. I can see it!
Cool down, I ordered my body. Relax. Smile at the kid with the hose so she sprays you. Give a thumbs up to the little boy with the squirt gun. That’s right. Keep running.

Despite the way my body felt, despite that I could feel my stride getting progressively shorter and flatter and that I was pretty sure my left pinky toenail was peeling off, my pace wasn’t suffering as much as I’d expected. When mile twelve clocked in at 7:30, I decided to go for it. I had no intention of crossing the finish line “with gas in the tank,” and while I was pretty sure I was running on fumes, those fumes ought to be good for something.

Time to go, I told my legs. Let’s finish strong. I took about three quick, long strides when I suddenly felt my left hamstring tighten.  No, I thought. No! Come on legs. You never cramp. What are you doing? Then my calf muscle joined in, and now the entire back of my left leg felt like it was shrinking into itself.

Okay, I thought. Okay, okay. I won’t do that. I eased back on the throttle and let my feet go back to the tip-toe trot that they had been doing. Unfortunately, now my left leg felt like a bowstring ready to snap, so even that trot wasn't going to work. I tried to extend the leg and land on my heel to stretch it out, but that only made things worse, so I shortened my stride even more and began the familiar chant: don’t walk, don’t walk, don’twalkdon’twalkdon’twalk.

Finally, I saw R___’s red shirt in the distance.

“You look great!” he shouted as I wobbled past. “You’re such an inspiration!”

“She’s fast,” I heard the woman next to him say.

And those words, the kind words of a stranger, they did it. I knew I’d make it to the finish line. And I wouldn’t walk.
So happy with my new bling.

Down the hill, over the grass. No one in front of me, and I wasn’t going to let anyone behind me catch up. I swung my arms like my coach always told me to do when my legs were giving up. I leaned forward, hobble-stepping, and zeroed in on the finish line.

Smile for the camera.

And then it was over. My body slowed down, arms falling heavy, and the whole world tilted as I tried to get my legs back under me.

The medal they hung around my neck was weighty, substantial, the way it ought to be.

I didn’t know it yet, but I’d smashed my third and final goal. Not only had I finished in under 6:30, I’d finished well under 6 hours. Five hours, forty-three minutes, and twenty-five seconds, to be exact. And I was elated.

First races are the best.

Time Pace AG Place (F25-29) Gender Place (F) Overall Place
Swim 34:34 1:47/100m 20 / 79 106 / 624 431 / 1901
Bike 3:27:48 16.17mi/h 48 / 79 354 / 624 1352 / 1901
Run 1:33:56 7:10/mi 20 / 79 109 / 624 605 / 1901
Overall 5:43:25 N/A 20 / 79 109 / 624 605 / 1901

Timberman 2015: Bike Course (Part II)

(Missed Part I about the swim? Never fear, you can read it here!)

The farthest I have ever biked in my entire life is 60 miles, which I did three years ago. The trip took, quite literally, all day. I woke up early, ate breakfast, biked, stopped to meet up with people, biked, stopped for coffee and water refills, biked, stopped for lunch. . . . You get the idea: lots of stopping, and lots of food.

This Timberman bike ride, which was to take place immediately after swimming 1.2 miles, would be the second-farthest I’ve ever ridden and, if everything went according to plan, would happen without any stops at all. This latter fact presented the main conundrum I faced while planning for this race: how, when, and what was I going to eat?

I'm no stranger to endurance sports, just to endurance sports that last a quarter of a day. Marathon nutrition—at least for me, once I figured itout—has been fairly straightforward: a Gu at mile 6, a Gu at mile 13, and Gu at mile 20, with two of the three containing caffeine. However, a marathon has only taken me, at most, three-and-a-half hours. The bike ride of this race alone was going to take me longer than that . . . and then I was going to have to run for thirteen miles.

After collecting and considering a multitude of advice and practicing with a few different foodstuffs, I decided to go with SHOT Bloks. I don’t eat them when I run because I have trouble running, chewing, and breathing at the same time, but my breathing is much less labored on the bike, so chewing while continuing to breathe wouldn’t be as difficult.  And when it comes down to it, I much prefer anything chewable to gels. Gels are just . . . slimy. Plus, with all these little gummy blocks, I could parcel them out and divide up the bike ride into timed "snack breaks." I planned to eat one block every fifteen minutes, with an extra two blocks—at least one of which contained caffeine—on the hour.

In hindsight, I'm not sure if eating exclusively SHOT Bloks was a good nutritional decision, but breaking up the bike into fifteen minute “snack times” was enormously helpful to me mentally.

Oh, look at that, I’d think, glancing at my watch (which I had looped around the handlebar of my bike for easy viewing). Only five minutes left until my next snack. Which flavor should I choose this time?

The first five miles of the race flew by, and then ten, and then . . . and then we hit the steepest hill I have ever attempted to climb on a bike, otherwise known as the Marsh Hill Monster. This is a hill so long and so steep that as I started up it, huffing, puffing, and forcing my legs to grind in their little pedal circles, I actually saw people off to the side who had dismounted and were walking with their bikes. No way am I doing that, I thought, gritting my teeth and trying not to topple over onto another cyclist as my speed dipped down below 6mph.

Nearly one mile and 300 feet of elevation later, we crested the hill. If we have to do that again, I thought, trying to regain my breath and jiggle my water bottle out of its holster, I actually might not make it to the top.

Fortunately, that hill was the only one of its kind. The terrain flattened, and I zoned out (still eating my SHOT Bloks, of course) until mile 30, when I rode past an aid station and saw my GCR teammate K___! We rode the next five miles together, chatting about the race and just trying to keep our minds off of how much our crotches hurt. Seeing her and casually chatting, even for those short few miles, really lifted my spirits. It made me more glad than ever that I had chosen to do this race with teammates.

For the rest of the ride, I focused on keeping my cadence at 80rpm, so that my legs would “spin” and I wouldn’t wear them out. I traded positions with a woman in a black tri kit for a while, but eventually I let her ride ahead and focused on drinking the rest of my water before we got back to the transition area. After all, I still had a run to do.

Click here for Part III: Run to the Finish >>>

Timberman 2015: Starting with the Swim (Part I)

There’s something miraculous about first races. I think it must have something to do with exploring the physical limits of your own body. What will it do? How will it react? Will it team up with you to get the job done, or will you be fighting tooth and nail the whole way?

I still remember my first marathon like it was yesterday: the anticipation, the nerves. I remember the ankle I sprained the month before the race—how mad I was, how stupid it felt. And I remember the smile that I couldn’t keep off of my face from mile 1 to 26. I was so happy to be alive. I think that must be what true pride feels like.

In many ways, this past Sunday's Half Ironman—Timberman, as it was called—was very much like my first marathon. I had no idea if I was prepared, I had a very stupid setback very close to the race, and the experience itself felt surreal. I smiled for a lot of it. Not all, but a lot.

Let's rewind to taper week. At that point, I had averaged approximately 1 bike ride, 1-2 swims, and a handful of runs per week. This preparation felt like a joke compared to the time and energy I had put into marathon training the past few seasons, and I was really beginning to wonder how I would even finish 70.3 miles (1.2mi swim, 56mi bike, 13.1mi run), let alone “race” them.

Thusly, I set out my A, B, and C goals. In order of descending importance:

A – Finish the race
B – Don’t walk during the half marathon
C – Finish sub 6:30

Kate and Tara apply our specially purchased race tattoos
Goal A became virtually irrelevant as soon as I started the swim. This may sound cocky, but the moment the gun went off and I dove beneath water, with bubbles and feet and arms exploding around me, I knew I would finish. Of course, the moment I started to swim was also the moment that all the potential catastrophes I had been envisioning for the past two weeks—thunderstorms, bike crashes, exploding tires, heart attacks, vomiting, heatstroke—vanished from my mind. I was in motion, and the only place to stop was on the other side of that finish line.

Stroke, stroke . . . breath. Stroke, stroke . . . look for the buoy! That was my swim rhythm, and I stuck to it.

Now, in all honesty, I did not have the greatest swim. For starters, I procrastinated far too long in buying a wetsuit, which ultimately left me “high and dry” on race day. My only real consolation was that although swimming without the added buoyancy of a wetsuit probably added a few minutes to my race time, I also saved myself $100-150 on a piece of gear I won't wear again for at least another year.

The next hurdle was my start time. The field of athletes was broken up into waves by age and gender: similarly aged men started with one another, and the same for women. My age group (25-29-year-old women) was scheduled to start second-to-last. This meant that after waking up at 3am in order to drive to the race grounds for a guaranteed parking spot, we then had to wait another five hours to actually get in the lake and start swimming. (The race itself started at 7:00am; my group didn’t get into the water until 8:07am.)

Oh, and then there were the hundreds of other swimmers ahead of us . . . if you could call all of them “swimmers.”

Learn how to f-ing swim, I shouted inside my head as I tried to get around a man doing what I can only imagine was his best impersonation of a sinking windmill.

I'm in there somewhere fighting for space....
If you kick me, I will drown you, I thought as I veered around a woman doing some combination of breast/side stroke.

I would have felt sorry for the man doing elementary backstroke, except as you may have noticed, I get a little bit mean when I swim, so instead I tried to tamp down my annoyance and gave him an extra-wide berth. After all, he obviously wasn’t going to avoid swimming into me.

All of this nonsense, combined with my failure to swim good tangents (i.e. close to the buoys), resulted in a swim time that was decidedly less impressive than it should have been. However, my own personal race plan was to “cruise” the swim, and if I did nothing else, I stuck to the race plan: not too much effort, but not too little, either. When I reached the shore, I felt just the slightest bit fatigued but mostly eager to get on with the next part of the race. It was time to get on the bike.

Click here for Part II: Bike Course  >>>