New car, new apartment, and back to racing…Oh my!

That title had a much better ring to it in my mind.

Moving on, I knew that I was falling behind, but I didn’t realize that it’s been two full months since my last post.  Time is really flying here in Minne-SNOW-ta.  Since there’s a lot to catch you up on, I’ll use a couple of sub-headings so you can read it one part at a time if you’d like.  Here we go!

New Car

My original automotive plan was to try to squeeze a little more life out of my Acura (at what point does it become a lemon?) and drive it from Maryland to Minnesota.  I figured that since I’d taken good care of it for the last seven years, I should be able to continue to use it until I established my bearings and could more comfortably afford a new car.  However, life happens as it does and I was uncomfortable driving that distance so soon after my August incident.  In my mind, the best thing to do was to sell my car at home and buy a new one in Minneapolis.  After some back and forth about what to do, my parents took it to have a few things fixed in case I decided to keep it, but were told that it would cost a couple thousand dollars.  WHAT?!  I guess my gut instincts were right.

Just a few weeks into my time in Minnesota, it became clear that my transportation situation needed to change.  I was able to use a bike to get around a bit (to the grocery store, to the gym, to the coffee shop) but it was difficult to get out of the house to see friends, run in different places, or explore the Twin Cities.  Foreseeing this a few months ago, I had already done some research on new cars and knew that I wanted a Ford Focus.  However, I didn’t feel comfortable making my first big purchase on my own, so my parents flew out to Minnesota to help me shop for a car and see Minneapolis.  They arrived on Saturday morning and by Monday, I’d signed all of the papers for my new 2012 Ford Focus!

My new 2012 Ford Focus

It actually worked out really well because our team is sponsored by a local car dealership, Owatonna Ford Chrysler, which provided me with a great deal and experience.  Fun fact: Owl City‘s Adam Young is from Owatonna and purchased a new souped-up Mustang the same day I bought my car.  Famous by association?  Okay, not quite, but just go with it.

The time that I’ve had this little guy has been great for the most part, except for one minor thing that happened about two weeks ago, which leads me to the next section…

The Accident – A Different One

‘Twas a beautiful, albeit snowy, Saturday morning in Minne-SNOW-ta  – well, actually, it wasn’t.  I went out for a long run in the morning  during the first snow of the season.  I thought to myself, “Self, it could be refreshing to run in the snow and it can’t be that cold yet, right?”  After all, isn’t it weather like this that some people say makes them feel alive?  That may be the case for some, but I think I need to spend a little more time acclimating before I can say I agree.  That said, the only truly unbearable part for me was the horizontal sleet (do they use that term anymore or do they just call it a “wintry mix” now?) that was hitting me in the face like knives.  I suppose the 20 mph winds didn’t help either.

My POA (plan of action) was to tackle the rest of my long run on the treadmill at Life Time Fitness.  Think about it.  It would be warm and free of nature’s elements, I could mechanically control the pace, and even maybe catch up on some Food Network shows to help the time pass.  That part of my day was fine, but getting there…that’s a different story.

On my way to the gym, which is 4 miles from my apartment, I quickly realized this may have been a mistake.  As the snow started to accumulate, the roads instantly froze, sending careless drivers in all directions.  Knowing the state of the roads, I was cautiously driving about 15 mph when a woman went through her stop sign and pulled across my lane right in front of me from a side street.  When she realized I would not be able to stop in time because she cut me off so closely and it was icy, she made a terrible judgment call and rather than committing to her turn, she stopped.  I successfully maneuvered to avoid T-boning her car, but was unsuccessful when it came to the car coming towards me in the next lane.  Luckily (very, very luckily), my car suffered no damage and the accident was not my fault, so I will not be responsible for the damage inflicted on the other car.  It was kind of a downward spiral from there as the woman refused to exchange her insurance information with us but instead flaunted irrelevant aspects of her life and tried to initiate a screaming match.  Does she know that I’m Italian, Hispanic, and from New York?  Okay, forgive the stereotypes, but all I’m trying to say is that I’m confident that I could have held my own against a Minnesotan’s words if that was the only option.  My more sensible response?  I called the police and had them take care of it.

New Apartment

I’ve also moved to a great little apartment right on Lake Harriet.  Even though the apartment needed a little work (a fresh coat of paint does wonders!), the area and the view from my front door are incredible.  Check it out:

The Building

View from Front Door

It’s a one-bedroom apartment with a bathroom, living room, kitchen and lots and lots of closet space (so much so that I converted one of my closets into a pantry).  It’s right on the water, and as I’ve found out over the past few weeks, the lake is home to a few bald eagles!  I have to say that it’s pretty awesome to go for a run right outside my apartment with bald eagles flying twenty feet above my head.  The apartment is also just around the corner from several of my Team USA Minnesota teammates, as well as Linden Hills and 50th & France, which are two great areas for eating and shopping.  All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the location of my new place :-)

Manchester Road Race

2011 has been a year of a lot of firsts for me, and my participation in the 75th Annual Manchester Road Race added yet another: this was the first time I’ve ever raced on Thanksgiving.  And believe me, this is no small-town Turkey Trot; instead, registration was capped at 15,000 and the elite fields had long since been established.  I arrived in Connecticut a few days before the race and stayed with a great host family.  They fed me, transported me, took me on a course tour, showed me around town, and provided great conversation.  Then came race morning.  I’ve already said that it was the 75th anniversary for the race, but there was another huge milestone anniversary that morning – the 50th since Julia Chase-Brand ran this race for the first time.  Why is that a huge milestone?  Well, she was the first woman ever to complete a road race and thus has been called “the first true American woman road racer.”  She even wore the same gym uniform she wore on this day back in 1961 – now there’s a testament to olden day seamstresses.

When the gun went off after the flyover, so began my first race in almost six months and my first as a professional.  I almost immediately felt laborous at our opening pace, but I thought we’d settle in and I’d get used to running that fast.  The lead group and I came through the first mile in 4:18, and then we started a 1+ mile climb.  Oyyyy, by the time we crested the hill, I found myself off of the lead pack but still ahead of the next group – a place I affectionately refer to as “no man’s land.”  Lemme tell ya…not a fun place to be.  I ran a lot of the 4.75 mile race on my own until I started to catch a few guys in the last mile.  I ended up a decent 12th place overall.  While it wasn’t quite what I wanted, it was a good starting point and rust-buster knowing the lack of race-specific workouts we’ve done and the fact that at the time of the race, there were still 31 weeks until the ultimate goal, the Olympic Trials in June 2012.

One of the things that I’ve found really interesting about post-collegiate racing is that at any given time, the competitors are likely preparing for different events.  Some of the people at Manchester were starting their season, others were finishing, and still others were right smack in the middle.  It’s not necessarily like the college system where everyone is peaking for the same championship meets.  Granted, many will focus their attention on the US Championships and this year the Olympic Trials, but take a look at how many US National Championships there actually are.  That’s quite a few, so chances are that not everyone will peak for the same race.  In my case at Manchester, I was ending a 6 month racing hiatus, and my season will continue this weekend.

Up Next

I’ll be racing in Seattle this weekend at the USA National Club Cross Country Championships so check back next week for a report on how that goes.  Hopefully I’ll have some good news to share with you!

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