Monday, September 30, 2013

Redman Half Ironman Pre-Race Activities

This year my goal race was the Redman Half Ironman in Oklahoma City.  This was my second half ironman and a return to Redman for me.  This race is very convenient at just 4 hours from home and is just 40 minutes from my sister's house so I have built in cheerleaders!  Unfortunately this year my family was double-booked so instead of the whole crew at the race I got my brother-in-law Tim.  He served as head race sherpa and cheerleader and did pretty good on both jobs! Up first for my race recap is all the activities on Friday!

Redman is an athletes race...put on by athletes for athletes.  One thing they are really good about is pre-race communication.  There are several scheduled smart mails that each participant receives with detailed information for pre-race and race day schedule as well as a very active Facebook page where participants share tips and information.  Leading up to the race there was an unexpected storm that unfortunately damaged the race site on the day before registration/packet pick up.  The team quickly communicated the situation and delayed the registration schedule slightly.

I drove over to OKC Friday morning and dropped my dog Sidney off in Norman at my sister's house.  I put her crate together and got her situated in the guest room.  My sister's cats of course had to check everything out!
Annie thought that she should pack herself into my transition bag! 

Percy stood guard over Annie playing in my bag and always manages to stress poor Sidney (my dog) out.

I then did some shoe shopping and then made my way to Lake Hefner.  I made really good time and ended up arriving about an hour before the new pickup time.  Here's a tip for participants...the lake access road will be barricaded but there is room for a car to go through.  You can drive through and then park along the access road to head to packet pickup.  It will look like the road is closed but it's okay for racers!

New this year was a new check in process.  Athletes were required to attend a safety briefing in order to go to packet pickup.  This was done in small groups of athletes.  You checked in with your bib number so make sure you take note of that in advance.  Then you listened to the briefing and received a small paper with notes from the various course element directors.  Once the briefing finished, the athletes proceeded to two computers where upon providing your bib number you received a receipt detailing out your entire registration.  That receipt gained you admittance to the packet pickup tent.  After checking your ID and USAT membership card, you proceeded to the appropriate line for your bib number.  This year racers received a sling backpack, cotton event shirt, and a nice coffee mug.  There were vendors and race merchandise on the other side of the tent as you exited.  I bought a new running vest and one of my favorite visors by Headsweats!

Once you receive your packet you are ready for bike checkin.  The race uses personalized stickers for all the events and they are all labeled so it's pretty easy to figure it out.  I loved the bike number because it stayed out of the way.  Bike numbers are always so frustrating but this one was great! Once the numbers were on my bike, I made my way into transition.  My bike passed the inspection and then it was time to find my rack spot.  Now for some reason, as I looked at the bike rack signs I thought that my race number was 888 and the signs showed a gap between 850 and 900.  I was sooooo confused and asked for help.  The first question back was what's your race number...oh yeah that would be 688!  I found my spot and unfortunately my bike didn't fit on the rack by the seat.  It was breezy and the bike was just swaying in the wind so I took it down and switched it so that it was racked by the handlebar.  That solved the problem and after a brief chat with another racer I was done and headed back to Norman.

Lindsey cooked a great pasta dinner and even made a Pinterest find that I had shared with her.  Unfortunately the cooking time for the veggie dish was not right on Pinterest and so we had to eat dinner in two courses! Here's a photo of the dish...super pretty and quite tasty!
After dinner, I went back through my triathlon bag and confirmed that I had everything packed.  I laid out my clothes for the morning and laid out water bottles to fill up.  I set the alarm for 4:40 so that we could leave the house by 5:00AM.  I fell asleep okay and managed to sleep pretty well for a pre-race night.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Recap

So this little race happened on Saturday...Redman Half Ironman in Oklahoma City.

Would you believe me if I told you that I won the Athena division?!?!?!??!?

I know, I was shocked too! I couldn't believe it and I'll share a full race recap later this week.  Right now I'm nursing my sore muscles and blistered toes and eating all the food in sight!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged Conference

Three years ago I discovered a new tribe of women called the Arkansas Women Bloggers.  My friend Lyndi of NWAFoodie introduced me to the group and brought me into the folds of other bloggers in our state.  At first I didn't always feel connected since many of the bloggers wrote about being a mommy as opposed to my blog genre around fitness and running.  But I stuck with it and kept looking for connections with other bloggers in real life compared to just the virtual connections we normally find with other bloggers.  After getting to know some of the ladies better I was able to see that blog genre doesn't matter, friends can come across many different topics! 

Fast forward to this weekend and our annual gathering at the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged conference.  After that first year, the conference name has been a misnomer since it hasn't actually been unplugged! Sometimes the wireless service was spotty but for the most part we were able to be connected the whole weekend...and tweeting during sessions was highly encouraged too! Got to show some sponsor love! (I even won a prize for tweeting during one session!) 
Chef Donnie Ferneau sharing his secrets for cooking success! involves a 500 degree oven! 

This year there were 100 bloggers at the conference and a few guys were let in as speakers, sponsors, and conference friends! There were so many sessions to choose from that it was hard at times to decide which to attend.  Mixed in between the sessions were some great keynote speakers from P. Allen Smith and Sophie Hudson aka BooMama.  There were also fun activities like the New Balance of Arkansas 5K run...which I'll recap in another post.  
P. Allen Smith talking Arkansas, farming, and supporting Locally Grown / Made initiatives.

One of the messages that many of the speakers echoed was the trouble with comparison.  Comparing yourself to others doesn't serve you any purpose. (It's okay to know your blog statistics but only for a purpose...don't spend your time stressing over page views or comments!) The message was that only you can determine what is your measure of success and that is true in blogging just as in life.  The other thing that you have to remember is that blogging is the outside you that you choose to share with the world and it isn't fair for you to compare your inside self with the outside self that someone else has chosen to share.  It's highly likely that there is more beneath the surface that you can't see that would change your comparison.   

Sophie Hudson, aka BooMama, delivered one of the keynote addresses.  She based part of her speech on the lyrics of the Bruno Mars song Treasure.  
Give me your, give me your, give me your attention baby
I got to tell you a little something about yourselfYou're wonderful, flawless, ooh you're a sexy ladyBut you walk around here like you wanna be someone else

It's true...we all sometimes get caught up in comparing ourselves to someone else and forgetting what a treasure we are as the one and only unique you that we all are. There is only one you and there is a reason for that which translates back to your blog and that only you can determine your goal for your blog.

Blog branding - determining your blog brand attributes and brand promise to deliver to your readers.
Another thought that I took away from the conference was the notion that we have been blessed for one bless other people.  So true...and such a simple yet powerful statement.  It was great to spend time learning and being inspired by the other members of the Arkansas Women Bloggers.  If you have the chance I highly encourage you to meet up with other bloggers in real life whether at a meet up or a blog conference.  I look forward to sharing more of my learning from the conference over the coming months and possibly even introducing you to some of the other ladies from Arkansas Women Bloggers

Thursday, September 5, 2013

It's time for camp!

Today is my Friday at work and I'm so excited since I'll be taking time off tomorrow to head off to camp.  It's time for the annual Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged blog conference!  The conference is in its 3rd year and it really is more comparable to camp than any of the large big name blog conferences.
AWBU b&w
This year about 100 bloggers from across the state will be meeting up at Ferncliff Camp and Conference Center for a weekend of fun and blog learning.  The site offers either hotel style lodging or bunk style cabins but really the agenda is so full of fun that we'll probably only be in our rooms for a minimum amount of time.

This is my 3rd year to head off to #AWBU for camp.  The first year was at the Ozark Natural Science Center about 45 minutes from home.  Last year we headed to the Ozark Folk Center State Park which is a unique gem within our state located in Mountain View.  The organizers of #AWBU always pick a beautiful spot to gather and I'm sure this year will be the same.

The conference begins on Friday evening with a visit from P. Allen Smith. This reception will feature foods prepared by the Foodie Friday participants.  Foodie Friday is an optional add-on to the weekend that is a 1/2 day program of topics for those who write about food.  Every so often I share food on my blog and I think that is something that I could do more of so I have signed up to do the Foodie Friday program.  I'm still trying to figure out how to incorporate foods and recipes into my blog more but it definitely interests me since it is so important to fuel your active lifestyle with good foods!

On Saturday, the conference kicks off with a full range of topics.  There are multiple sessions throughout the day and each time slot offers 3 different topics for you to choose from.  Some of the topics I'm really excited for are "Blogger to WordPress - Logan Lovelace"  and "Smart Phone Photography- Julie Kohl" and "SEO – What Does All That Data Mean?."  Last year at #AWBU was the first time I heard much about SEO and honestly I haven't done much to improve my blog's searchability since then so I'm looking forward to learning more during Jackie's talk.  I began my blog using the free service with Blogger and have wondered over the last year if I should make the move to WordPress but it terrifies me.  Logan's session is going to be a hands on demo taking one of the attendee's blog through the conversion.   Sprinkled throughout the sessions will be opportunities to network with other bloggers and also learn about some fabulous companies based out of Arkansas.  
Just hanging out with Smokey the Bear during a long run at #AWBU in 2012! 

Sunday morning there will be a 5K run sponsored by New Balance.  I'm looking to it because it can be very hard to get my workouts in during #AWBU.  Last year I went on a 6.5 miler during #AWBU and had fun goofing off on a short run the next day.  I also showcased some of the photography tips that I picked up at the conference in that post.  I think I'll have to get up again at o'dark hundred on Saturday to fit in a long run since this year #AWBU falls just 2 weeks prior to my half ironman.  I can't abandon all my fitness for the weekend...this is when you really have to plan out your workouts.  (I'll do my bike workout on Sunday night when I get home from the conference but will have to fit in my long run there.)  After the run, we'll have two more sessions with more great topics for both the technical side of blogging and the motivation/inspiration side of writing.  

Attending this conference is fun for me but also stressful since I'm an introvert in large social settings. Meeting new people is always intimidating to me so I'm glad that I know several attendees from the past two years.  I also discovered that my neighbor is going! I didn't even know that she had a blog and it's full of cute ideas.  I'll be sure to share some of the tips and things that I learn in upcoming posts but first I'm going to go knock this day out and be super productive at work so that I can relax and enjoy my vacation day at camp tomorrow! 

P.S. If you live in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Mississippi, or Alabama you should check out the Women Bloggers groups for your states.  I have enjoyed the mix of bloggers within our group since I primarily read sports/fitness blogs it is nice to network outside of that genre and learn about technical aspects as well.  These blog groups were founded by Stephanie The Park Wife and she is an amazing individual with a great idea to help women bloggers gather, connect, and grow with other bloggers in their state.