Monday, July 14, 2014

2014 Ironman 70.3 Muncie Race Recap! *WARNING!! SUPER LONG*

Its been a while since I've done a formal race recap.  Since Boston, I completed the 76mi route of the Horsey Hundred, the Triceratops Tri, and the first leg of the Oldham County Grand Slam 5K series.  I'll get those updates done and put in the right order (hopefully soon).  Thanks to facebook and twitter, I've been photo documenting (as always) my training and racing, but I need to go back and put all the thoughts and photos together into nice recaps.  With Muncie being this past Saturday, I wanted to jump on it and get everything out while it is fresh in my mind.

Muncie and I have a history.  It is creeping up there as one of the most repeated races of mine.  Crazy because it is one of the longest races that I do, and it just blows my mind that this is the FOURTH time I have done it.  2011 was magical because it was my first Ironman brand event AND my first trip away from my kids overnight by myself, and it was back before smartphones and navigational systems in the cars so I had a whole slew of new things to stress about.  Like just getting there- with a huge pile of printed google map directions.  2012 was a huge disappointment.  It was the hot year where it was shortened and then I got pneumonia days later.  2013 was initially supposed to go so well, but then I crashed in May, and racing and finishing was a victory in itself.  So, 2014 was going to be my year, right?  Third time's a charm (for the 70.3 distance).  I have wanted to go sub 6 in the half iron distance for pretty much as long as I have been doing this, and I have gotten pretty close.  2011 was 6:06:50, and only my second 70.3, then last year after my crash, I still managed to come away with a 6:08:54, two minutes off my PR and that was with all the issues I had with my crash.  I've gone under 2 hours on the run at Racing for Recovery, but that was it, and it usually came down to needing a sub 2 on the run to make it since my swim isn't so good.  I really didn't think I would come back to Muncie this year, but then when some of my friends got to talking about it, and Ryan's good cycling friend Austin signed up for IM Wisconsin and decided to do Muncie as a warm up, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and we signed up before Christmas to take advantage of the early bird pricing.  I had a good crew of friends from MI that came down.  Valerie, Austin, Bill, Eric, Christine (not Cristina), and Dicron (Chad's dad) were all racing.  Maria and Mindy had both entered and did not race, Maria due to injury and Mindy due to a crazy hard adventure race next weekend.  Plus, there was a huge crew of Landsharks that raced.  I found Elise, who I have been riding with, plus Linden, Nick, and Geri all before the start.  Plus I met Lindsay, who is a Betty Designs ambassador and good friend of Valerie's and everyone from MI. 

The whole family drove up to Muncie on Friday.  We took the tour of rural Indiana route, which I took last year.  Its not too bad, and it avoids all the construction traffic on 65N and the cities.  Thankfully we didn't get stuck behind too many slow moving trucks. 

When we finally got onto more of a civilized road, we ended up passing Elise and her husband!  We texted back and forth during most of the remainder of the drive and arrived at the expo together.  They moved the expo from the Horizon Convention Center to the reservoir, and thankfully our GPS had the coordinates in it from previous years.  Google maps just plopped you in the middle of the water, so Elise was thankful she had us to follow.  Elise and I got a couple pictures after check in near the finish line.

We checked our bikes the night before at the option bike check in.  I hadn't ever done it before because in previous years, I didn't go out to the reservoir because its a little drive from the city of Muncie with all the food and hotels.  Valerie was driving me to the start so Ryan and the kids could stay in the hotel longer, so it was best that the bikes were already taken care of.  We found Valerie, who introduced us to Lindsay, and the three of us attended the 5pm athlete briefing together before dinner at Noodles (my favorite prerace place).

That evening, back at the hotel I got everything situated.  I wrote my name in my new swim skin with permanent marker so that it wouldn't get mixed up in transition.  I wasn't too worried about my wetsuit getting mixed up, but I went over my name again in permanent marker  just in case.  The swim last year was wetsuit legal, so I was hopeful it would be again this year, but prepared for either case.  Before bed, I shaved my arms (which I have only done before IMLou and as a child playing with a razor).

We got up CRAZY early.  Initially, Valerie thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to leave the hotel at 4:30, but then I got a text from her before bed saying to meet at 4:00 to get loaded and roll out at 4:15ish.  They had also bought a reserved parking spot on a homeowners lawn to be ensured a close parking spot.  Lindsay rode with us too so her husband and kids didn't have to wake up so early.  The bike check the night before made it easy to fit everyone.

We arrived and as soon as I went to set up my gear, I realized that I didn't have my helmet sticker.  Ugh.  At my last tri I had forgotten my bike sticker, so I thankfully I knew it wouldn't be that big of a deal.  We just needed to find someway to label it non-permanently.  A staff member grabbed a marker and walked me over to a huge pile of blank number sticker sheets and we made a new one.  Boom, problem solved.  I also got a pin for my chip strap that I also forgot, and got everything else set up.  They announced that it was indeed wetsuit legal, so my arms and swim skin prep was for naught.  There will be another race I'm sure where I will use it.  I was racked next to my Coeur teammate, Nicole.  This was her 10th race this distance, and hanging out with her instantly put me at ease.  We got a picture by a banner.

Coeur also had 3 pros racing and 2 other ambassadors (than me).  We were able to get this group shot right before the pro start (note this picture is out of order because it is clearly very light out).  Beth Shutt was the only one missing.  There was also a great preview on the Coeur blog here
Me, Kate Bevilaqua, Jacqueline, Nicole, Malaika Homo right before the start

Then, it was time to track down the rest of my crew and wait for the start.  I found everyone after the national anthem.  (these are all out of order because they loaded by file name)
 Bill, Austin, Maria
 Christine and I
 Eric and I
 Geri and I
 Me and Austin.
 Me and Elise
 Me and Linden
 Me and Mindy
Nick and I.
Valerie, Christine, Lori, Me, Adam, Mindy, Eric
Valerie and Kent

I had Nicole, Christine, and Lori (also with Level) in my wave for the swim.  While I get stressed about swimming, it isn't like I used to.  I felt very relaxed the whole time and didn't have too much traffic.  I got hit in the head a couple times, but nothing terrible.  It was overcast so sighting was a TON easier.  I thought I would have a faster swim time than ever, but no, it was an average swim for me.  I really need to work on my swimming more!!!  I would have liked to have a bit more cushion here for the rest of the race to go under 6!!!

Swim: 49:14

I saw my friend Kathy right as I exited the water.  She was there supporting Greg, who is a physically challenged athlete who does not have the use of his legs.  There were wetsuit strippers to pull of the wetsuits, and then I ran into T1.  They have carpet to cover the rocks and I passed several people on the carpet from the water to the bikes.  I got situated and headed out for the bike.

T1: 3:32

The bike course was so much better than last year, except I would describe the first few miles as "technical" because of the pot holes.  They were mostly marked and to be honest, they weren't anything worse that what I am used to riding on here in KY after this winter (or MI all the time), so it really didn't bother me at all.  It was still so much better than last year's rough section.  It was a bit crowded on the way out, but I figured it would thin out before the end when I would hit these again.  I figured I should try to average between 18-19mph and it wouldn't be too difficult to run but still be fast enough to allow enough time for it.  The first loop was quicker.  I was entirely self sufficient from a nutrition standpoint on the first loop, and had 2 gels and 2 water bottles.  At the halfway point I ate a bonk breaker bar and 3 clif blocks.  My water was getting low so I stopped to get a new bottle 2 times.  I had thought about refilling all my waters at 1 stop, but figured it wouldn't really make that big of a difference in the long run.  I also had another 3 clif blocks on the bike.  I debated having 3 more right as I was finishing, but with the roads not being as smooth and me getting somewhat sick of being on the bike, I figured I was more coordinated to eat clif blocks while running than biking, and waiting 5 minutes wasn't going to be deal breaker here.  I made sure everything I wanted from my bento box made it into my pockets.  With the bike being a set of two out and backs (for 2 loops), you get to see friends a lot, which makes it nice.  I never felt like I was completely alone.  A few times I felt like I struggled to pass people in a timely manner.  For a while there was a lady in my age group that would pass me almost every time I passed her.  I was finally able to pass her for good in the last couple miles of the bike that were on the rougher roads and more uphill.  I was just tough because we were fairly evenly paced.  Then, as I finished the bike course, I saw Ryan and the kids.  Yay!  I wasn't sure how early they had planned to get there.  However, we knew that Austin, Bill, and Eric would rock it out and finish quickly, and he wanted to see them finish too.  I hoped they wouldn't get too bored waiting for me to finish the run.

Bike: 3:03:20

Hoping off the bike and getting into T2, I wanted to walk quickly but didn't quite feel ready to run yet.  However, as soon as I was ready to run, there were slow dudes in front of me with their bikes.  I politely asked to pass them and was able to get around.  While I was in the process of switching my gear from bike to run, I realized that a woman named Shannon, who is a friend of Erika, was there.  She had told me to say hi to her if I saw her, so I took this opportunity to say a quick "hi" and was off.  I think I popped my final 3 clif blocks in my mouth as I was running out of transition.

T2: 2:43

The run.  Oh boy.  I looked at my timex that I had started at the beginning of the race.  I was just barely under 4 hours at the start of the run.  I didn't need a sub 2 hour run to get the sub 6, but I could try for both.  It was actually not super hot.  Today is my day.  I just kept telling myself that.  I had a couple really nasty longish training runs where I had wanted to stop the whole time due to humidity and heat (and fatigue), and I didn't, so I just told myself to be careful, pace myself, and no walking unless I was drinking at an aid station.  I was NOT going to fall apart this year.  This was MY day.  I was extremely focused on not going out to hard, and making sure it felt easy in the beginning.  I walked a few steps at every aid station and just tried to keep track of my pace.  Not too fast, but not too slow.  I enjoyed watching the pros and other fast people on their way in.  I saw Eric and Lindsay on my way out, plus a few other people.  I was just trying to keep everything nice and easy and stay focused.  Push a bit on the uphills but not too hard, and relax and loosen up on the downhills.  The course profile is more downhill on the way out and more uphill on the way back.  I got to the turnaround in less than an hour and there is an extra aid station there so I took a few seconds to walk/drink again and then got running.  There was actually a cool breeze.  It was amazing.  I caught a few of my friends that I saw running ahead of me on the way back.  When I had 5 miles to go, I was still staying confident, but I felt like it was too soon to say that my sub 2 run/sub 6 day was going to happen.  But when I got to 4 miles left, with 40 minutes, I knew I could do it.  I just keep checking my time each mile and even each half mile.  With 2 miles left and 20 minutes, I felt a burst of energy and confidence.  I knew I could do it, I just had to keep going and be careful on the uphills so I didn't cramp up, but just keep going.  I could visualize where I was at home and know how much time it would take.  I did start worrying about Greg. He was super worried about making the bike cut off because swimming and handcycling for him is a lot slower than your average able bodied athlete, but the pushrim wheelchair is a LOT faster than a runner.  I think I had gotten to mile 12 before I saw him, and that was a huge relief to me.  That last mile I felt like I really pushed myself.  There is a big uphill and then I sprinted to the finish.  I couldn't believe I had finally gotten my goal of under 6!!!

Run: 1:58:14

Total 5:57:03!!  Huge PR!  Almost 10 minutes and both goals obtained!  Yay!!!

I nearly fell down when I crossed the line and stopped.  I probably should have just gone to medical right then and there, but my MOM was there!  I had called her earlier in the week to see if she wanted to just drive over from Ohio for the day, but she never got back to me.  I got my chip taken off and hobbled over to the Level Multisport tent where Eric, Kent, Mindy, and Adam were.  Ryan met me there and Soren melted down because it started to rain.  I felt really awful and laid down.  After several minutes of still feeling awful, Maria decided that I should go to medical for an IV.  Eric had already gotten one and was good as new.  I had Maria bring me over there and it took them a little while to decide to give me one.  They stretched me out, brought me a banana, but my stomach felt horrible.  Then they gave me an IV.  I felt a lot better after that and was able to move around again.  Maria had gotten Ryan so she, Austin, and Bill could head out.  We said our goodbyes and Ryan walked me back to the Level tent so we could find Valerie, who had finished with a huge PR too!

We got a few post race pictures, and then it was time to head home! 
 Austin, Valerie, Bill
 Eric, Christine, Me, Valerie
 The family!  Me, Ryan, Keira, and Soren
 Me and my mom!
 Me and Valerie
 Ryan and Austin
Support Crew!  (I really hope my mom was with the kids at this point.  Ha!)
It was so awesome to have so much support at this race.  Had I not had so many friends here, it would not have worked for Ryan and the kids to come because there is no way we could have had the kids at the race that early.  This is actually only the second time he was able to see me finish a 70.3 because of the logistics.  Having my mom come out was a fabulous surprise.  I'm sure it made it a lot easier on Ryan too for her to be there.  Plus, it is just so much fun to race when friends are racing.  Really, if it wasn't fun, I wouldn't be doing it.  Having so many friends there just makes it way more fun!

Its funny, I told Maria while in medical, that last year, I thought I was done with Muncie, and now that I have finally hit my time goal, that maybe this time FOR REAL I am done with Muncie and will pick another race to try (or focus on running more instead).  Now, two days later, I am not sure.  I looked up all my other race times and realized that while I had PR overall, none of the 3 disciplines on their own was a PR.  It was just a matter of having a decent day all around, and not ruining one discipline with another being overdone.  It also makes me think that I should be able to do even better than what I did, right?  Seriously, I have GOT to work on my swim.  I keep saying that I should be able to take 10 minutes off of that alone, and have yet to do it. 
The medal. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014- Best Birthday EVER!!!

So, I bet you guys were anxiously wanting to know how the Boston Marathon went, right?  And I ended up doing my blogging about it on the Coeur blog, and not here  (and I am backdating this post so it shows up in the right spot chronologically).  I meant to go back and copy, paste, and add pictures, but since I didn't do that yet, here are the links to the Coeur webpage.  It was awesome being a guest blogger for them and I loved the extra support of being part of the Coeur team.  You can read all about the weekend at these links:

Dispatches from Boston: Melissa

Dispatches from Boston: Race Day is Tomorrow

Final Dispatches from Boston: Our Heart Will Always Beat on Boylston

I need to go back and add more pictures.  Also, please note that while the majority of the content on the Coeur page was mine, Kebby and Reginal Holden had the final edit, and added information about my other teammates racing there and the weekend in general.  I unfortunately could not meet up with either of them, but I did get to see Cristina, Anita, and Stacy while out there.  Its a huge city and a huge race.  It really was the best birthday ever!!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Training recap, ready for Boston

I'm getting pretty excited for Boston.  Its in 12 days!  Wow!  I haven't really written as much about my training as I expected I would this time around.  I've just been busy trying to juggle life, so I just thought I would do a brief summary:

I was scheduled to do 5 20 milers.  3 of them were on snow days from school or days where it was so ice covered outside that running outside was not an option.  The 4th 20 miler was scheduled on a terrible day (rain/sleet), but I had enough foresight to move it up to the only nice day of that week, and rocked it out.  My last 20 miler was a bit dicey.  The weather was crazy windy and my splits were all over the place.  It was nothing like my training last year where I knocked every long run out of the park crushing my splits.  Granted, I took the actual splits from last year and aligned them with a tougher a plan, so I was working towards something more aggressive.  Still, it is humbling to experience more "failure" this time around.  The weather conditions were tougher this spring (if you can even call it that) than last year.  They were more reminiscent of 2011, when I PRed, didn't care about splits, and just got the miles done.  The weather was so nutty and all my long runs were done outside that there was nothing that I wasn't prepared for.  I sort of feel like that right now.  Hopefully I did enough character building in this training cycle to be properly prepared.  I feel like I could have gotten a bit more hill work in, and I either had an insane amount of wind or I was inside.  I didn't get much outdoor running with just "normal" wind.

My right foot is bothering me a little, but the taper has only been an improvement.  I'm pretty sure it will be fine on race day.  I want this so bad that I know it will be fine on race day.  It might be really not fine the next day, but I will worry about that later.  I'm icing as much as I can and wearing sturdier shoes to work for more support.  Although, this week has been a bit of a test.  Last Thursday, my long run day which is always the worst day of the week coincidentally, Keira was throwing up.  That resolved itself on it own thankfully, and I switched days of my plan around so that I did a short run while Ryan was at work, and then moved my long run to Saturday.  I also did some yard work and got a splinter!  Ugh!  A thorn, right into my finger.  It didn't come out until Monday night.  Then yesterday, Keira came home from school with Strep.  I typically take Wednesdays off and go into work, so I had to find someone to cover for me and then I've spent all day doing laundry and keeping the kids separate, and disinfecting things.  Keira is only contagious another few hours, but any of us could get sick in the next 1-4 days (it takes 2-5 days from exposure to infection).  As much as I gripe about our pediatrician's office not being as nice as the office in MI, they sure have been very accommodating.  Keira came off the bus yesterday at 2:30, burst into tears and crashed instantly on the couch with a headache.  I knew strep was going around and that this was NOT normal behavior.  With taper madness in full force, I called her Dr's office (my 6th time contacting a health professional this week since I'm going taper crazy), and they got us an appointment for 4:45.  By 6pm, we were home from the pharmacy and already had her first dose.  And we got $6 worth of candy from CVS for only $.53 thanks to extra care bucks.  Score!  Now we just have to hope no one else gets sick!

In addition to the training preparations, I am also starting my piles of things to pack.  My welcome kit arrived, and my mom bought my jacket already for me as a birthday present.  I still need to earn it, but its there, waiting.

I have been amazed by the support of my friends, family, and even strangers.  This week, a package arrived from Strava, after I filled out a survey for them stating I was going to Boston.  It was funny, because right after I filled out all the info and hit submit I thought, "either this is awesome that I am getting something cool for free from Strava or this is the most brilliant scam ever to get my info".  Thankfully it was the former, and I really didn't provide any information that wasn't already public record that anyone could access by asking at the county clerk's office or searching the internet.  They sent me a card that says good luck on the back, gloves, tattoos, and a wristband.  I love wristbands.  Last time I ran Boston, I turned my leg orange with a plastic bag.  I need to wash the wristband so that I don't turn my sleeve or arm orange!  Ryan reminded me of that. 

I have my visor from Kebby to wear.  So pumped about this, and I got a custom bib from Races2Remember today with my name on it to wear with my race bib.  The rules state that you cannot modify your bib at all, and this will look so much better.  I might have to order more of them for races where I can't get my name on the bibs because they look so nice and are really reasonable. I'm not going to post it until I figure out how/wear I want to wear it
The tricky thing about the race is that they aren't allowing any baggage check in Hopkinton.  Anything that you bring on the bus you either need to donate, consume, throw away, or carry to the finish line.  They also said no bags.  Hopefully ziplocks are ok, because I want to use chomps for this race, and they are difficult to open.  I want my food in ziplocks, and I can put those in my pockets.  I have a warm up suit that I have never worn that's been in my closet for ages, and I think I will donate it in Boston.  I was planning to donate it anyway.  I also pulled several tees out of my old shirt bin and will likely take an extra tee with me for an additional layer.  I have a heat blanket to bring, and I need to decide if I want to use my bolero or arm sleeves when I get there.  The nice thing about wearing a tri top is that I should have sufficient pocket space to store my sleeves or bolero should I need to take them off.  The only tricky part is taking it off with my garmin since both my sleeves and bolero have hand mitts attached.  I'm planning to run with my phone in my spibelt like I usually do, so I can easily find friends in the athlete village as well as after the race.  When I raced in 2012, I checked my phone at the start of the race and got it back after the finish, and carried a camera.  Hopefully I will get some decent pictures with my iphone so I don't need a camera AND phone.  That's just too much stuff to carry! 

I'm really excited to go to the race.  While I wasn't there last year, I was still affected because I WANTED to be there last year.  I had friends there, and it was such a swing of emotions for me because I went from being sad that I wasn't there to horrified by what had happened, and then gratitude for being home.  I am not afraid to race this year, and I am excited for this to be a celebration of life and that terrorists do not win or stop me from doing what I love, and that is to run.  I also cannot believe that I am competing in an even that will be televised nationally!  Really, how often does that happen?  Its not just that its on TV, its that its a big enough deal to be on TV!   Fleet Feet of Louisville is doing a send off on Monday for runners and their supporters that I am hoping to attend.  I need to make sure I can get Soren to soccer practice, but right now that is the only issue.  I'm excited to see who else from the area is going.  My neighbor, Ande, is going.  How wild is it that I had a neighbor Jen to do Ironman with me and now I have a new neighbor, Ande, to run Boston with me!  Best neighborhood we could pick!  Since we are both traveling with our families and friends separately, I hope we will meet up out there.  There are so many more runners than Ironman and with the different bus loading and start times, its going to be tricky, but hopefully we can meet up out there.  Cristina has already told me she would wait for me at the finish area. Hopefully she doesn't wait too terribly long!  She's starting ahead of me (as is Ande) so she'll have a decent wait.  My Coeur Sports teammate Emily will start early too, and I hope to meet up with her.  Anita will be there too.  I followed her in Detroit half when we were both trying to get into NYC. 

I'm not sure if I will do a post after the send off Monday or not.  Obviously, if it doesn't work out for me to go then I won't post about it, but I also don't know if I will have time.  In the meantime, I leave you with this picture of the medal:

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Car Problem

Never in my life have I been so stressed out about a car purchase before!  The past couple weeks have been crazy in our house.  I have felt every emotion possible in the car search.  The first emotion was probably fear.  The trusty mazda6 that I LOVE was starting to fail me.  We were definitely at the point where we needed to either replace or repair the car because the shifting was acting up and since I already feel like I have to go through a few dangerous intersections in the mornings, they were getting pretty sketchy and I needed a huge gap in traffic to feel safe.  Otherwise it still looked great.  Here it is brand spanking new, fresh from a hand car wash in 2004.

The next problem was that I had an odd (well, maybe after reading this, you won't think its so odd, but I felt like people I didn't know thought it was odd, but people I knew well were more like, "of course you thought that" ) attachment to the car.  This was MY car.  I hand picked it, searching dealer inventory daily.  It was the perfect car.  Ryan and I test drove several different cars before confirming that we did want the mazda6.  Working for Ford at the time, we got a discount on Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar, Mazda, Volvo, and Land Rover (and Aston Martin).  We considered the Ford Focus, Volvo S4, Jaguar S type, and mazda6.  The mazda6 5 door sedan was my favorite, and so that is what we got.  Being car people, cost was a factor, but it wasn't the only factor.  We were trading in my Mercury Cougar, a 2 door hatchback, the first car I bought all by myself.  You'd think if I was going to have an odd attachment to a car, it would be the "super cougar", and not my aged mazda6.  However, it was a fully loaded car with ALL the bells and whistles.  There was not an option this car did not have, and its the highest 60 month car payment we've ever had.  But, I had a good job and I had my cougar to trade in and cash to put down, so it was all good.  I signed the papers for this car myself and paid for a good chunk of the payments with my income while I was working (before Keira was born).  So, it wasn't really my first car, but more my LAST car.  The LAST part of my prior life before kids when I could actually use my own money to buy what I wanted.  Whatever replaced it should be special. 

I got the car the week after my first marathon, in October of 2004.  It brought Keira and Soren home from the hospital, and it was the only car that they ever knew.  This car went back and forth between Ohio and MI when Keira was a newborn and toddler.  It took the kids everywhere.  I drove it home from Racing for Recovery 70.3, my first half ironman race- I had driven the truck there and Ryan met me, but I found sitting with my feet straight in front of me in the car was much easier than more upright in the truck.  I also took the mazda6 to Muncie, my first solo trip and race since the kids were born.  Put the bike in the back and packed up and went.  It had been a long time since I went anywhere new by myself, and this was before we had a smartphone or a GPS.  I also drove my bike to bike check in at Ironman.  Seeing it in the back was when it got real and I had a good excited "I'm living my dream" cry.  I could drive it with my knee banged up after my crash.  I could fit both my bikes in the trunk and the kids to race in MI.  I brought Soren to the BMX track in it.  Keira rode in it to school.   It was (and still is) a great car.  It wasn't going to be easy to replace.
Ready for bike check in at IM Lou

Bringing Keira home for the first time
After my BQ in KY with my girl. 

I had my eye on the Ford Fusion for the past year.  I saw it at the auto show last year and fell in love.  The fusion was based off of the Mazda platform, so it would be replacing the car with a very similar sized and priced vehicle.  I had been looking forward to getting the new stylish Fusion. (this photo was taken in 2013 NAIS Detroit show)
This photo was taken a month or so ago at the Y.  One of our members drives my dream car!

I'd kind of thought it was a done deal.  I had been pumped about getting the Fusion.  I wanted a blue one just like the one in the picture above. 

Ryan and I started looking around at cars.  Since he works at Ford and gets A plan, our pricing is set.  So it should be really simple, right?  Well, with inflation and new technology available, we couldn't get the fully loaded Fusion for anywhere near the cost of the mazda.  They were looking a bit pricey.  And then we thought maybe we should get another Ford Escape.  I did not want another Escape.  I was against having two of the same vehicle, plus I felt like the escape was a downgrade from the Sport Trac we traded in from a size and utility standpoint.  Ryan primarily drives the Escape so it was his call that we got a pretty basic one.  It was a cash for clunkers trade and we were on a time crunch.  We were one of the fortunate ones who had our vehicle tagged and waiting for when the vouchers came available and with 27 dealers in the Metro Detroit area, it wasn't hard to find the options that Ryan wanted.  Amazingly, it was available at the dealer across the street from our condo.  Two tenths of a mile away and I could walk there.  Awesome.  The mazda6 came from just another block down.  We entertained the thought of an MKC for about 15 minutes.  We built one of those online and without A plan, comparing public pricing, the MKC with FWD was $80/month more than the AWD Escape, so totally not worth it.

We thought about a Taurus.  This is where all the drama began.  Those of you who know me well will also think, "of course you flipped out".  With incentives, when we were talking with one of the salesmen at our closest dealer, the Taurus seemed pretty close in price to the Fusion.  There were a lot more incentives, and Ryan felt like we could get a lot more car for the money going the Taurus route.  I was not thrilled, but the realistic side of me (yes, I know there is one in there somewhere) knew that I had to give it some thought.  Well, basically I tried to come up with real hard concrete reasons against buying the Taurus instead of "it makes me feel old".  And it did make me feel old.  My mom drives one, and Ryan's dad drives one.  Plus, any Taurus we would get would be far inferior option wise than theirs.  I really didn't want the cheapo version of an old person car.  I cried.  I felt like I was having a full blown midlife crisis.  My run on Thursday was horrible because it was windy, and then I felt even more old.   I came home and measured the garage.  The Taurus is approximately 203 inches long.  Our garage, from the front concrete block to the hardware on the inside of the garage door was approximately 210 inches.  Score 1 for me.  There wouldn't be room in the garage for this car AND my bikes, plus the kids bikes are currently in front of my bike, plus my stroller and our firepit are in the corner blocking the man door.  All of this stuff would need to be moved.  Obviously we could put the firepit outside and purchase a cover for it and move the kids bikes to the front of Ryan's car, and sell or move my stroller to the basement.  But the problem with the adult bikes would still exist.  I knew I would have a dent in the front of the car from an SPD mountain pedal.  One of my very sensible responsible friends suggested covering it with a pool noodle.  Sigh.  Everyone was coming up with solutions that pointed to the Taurus.  The dealer we were working with had told us that if we picked something from their lot, they would give us what we wanted for our trade.  Ok.  We'd see what we could come up with.  They didn't want to retrieve my "dream car" from another dealer because they would lose some money on the sale, so they would take that out of my trade.  Some people we spoke to thought they were being a bit extreme on this, but needless to say, we tried to find a vehicle from their stock.

The other issue with the Taurus/Fusion debate is that Ryan wants to be able to use this vehicle to travel, which means we need to be able to load up bikes and all sorts of stuff on and in it.  The Taurus has a huge trunk.  Massive.  Plus, our Yakima skybox will fit on it and we can take some pieces from the existing Escape rack and move them onto a Taurus.  We would need about $300 in parts from Yakima to make it work.  I called Yakima, and they have no towers that will fit with the Fusion for 2013/14, when they redid it.    However, the woman on the phone said that the skybox will fit with any crossbar as long as there is at least 3 inches of clearance.  Thule to the rescue!  They aren't American, which is a bummer, but they do offer a rack solution for about $600.  I was not about to let $300 be the difference of my happiness.  Then, Ryan found a Taurus with huge 20inch wheels, which I had said I would entertain a Taurus if and only if it had huge 20 inch wheels because that would prevent it from being "an old person car".  Or it would just really date me!  Well, Ryan found one in the sterling gray color with black leather (a must) and 20s.  Crud.  I agreed to go look at it on Friday after I picked up my race packet.   We looked at the outside of it, and I agreed it looked like a pretty decent car.  I had a good cry about my fabulous sporty mazda that was MINE being replaced by an old person sedan, but wasn't going to be totally unreasonable if this really was an affordable car for us and would be better for our family.  I spent the evening cleaning out the food, paper, and stuff that had accumulated in my car.  I ended up pulling an insane amount of stuff out of there.  Some of the items included: double jogging stroller, 5 pairs of safety glasses, a reusable shopping bag of CDs, two reusable shopping bags of reusable shopping bags, one reusable shopping bag of important papers and things not trash, plus a disposable shopping bag of trash and another of recycling, plus 3 unopened bottles of water. 

I ran the PJ10miler and had a great race.  With my parents in town, we thought it would be a great idea to be able to go to the dealer without the kids and test drive the Taurus.  The guy I had worked with in the past was not there, however the guy that confirmed the appraisal was.  We waited forever after the test drive, and finally sat down, about ready to close the deal.  The guy came and got us and we started to talk about numbers.  Wow, we were shocked.  First, they had devalued my trade.  I was irate.  That same man had told me earlier in the week that "had I picked something off the lot, I would get $X for my trade" because he really wanted to sell the Taurus.  Not $X-$500.  That made me and Ryan really angry.  We felt like we had been mislead and told a lie.  They would not budge on this.  Then, the guy we worked with wouldn't explain all the numbers to us as to how he got to our monthly payment, which was HUGE!  Holy moly!  It was bigger than the mazda6 payment.  When we talked earlier in the week with the other salesman, payments were over $100/month lower.  What the heck had changed?  $500 on the trade is only about $10 a month, so even giving us that didn't make this car affordable.  Not at all.  The lack of explanation offered to us and my lack of food from racing was a horrible combination.  I'm a math person, which means if I can follow everything, there is something in there that shouldn't be.  We really felt like there was something being pulled over our eyes here, and we walked out.  It sucked to be back at square one and waste the time I could have spent with my parents being incredibly confused and frustrated.  I went home and added everything up on my own, and it seriously should have been $25 less.  Still way more than the Fusion, but a lot less than what we had been quoted that day.  I read all the fine A plan print and included tax and the fees and that is what I got.  I called Ryan and said that was what we should expect for that size car, and if we really wanted a car that big, we would have a car payment that big.  For an old person car.

Being back at square one brought in more stress.  We circled back and Ryan asked if we should consider the Escape again.  No.  I wanted a car.  Fine.  We looked more at dealer inventory online that night and I decided to go look at another car on Monday with a few free minutes that I had.  They had a blue one online, and to have them go through detailed pricing with me.  These guys made perfect sense to me, except the blue one had been sold.  They appraised the mazda and agreed that it was worth the $X dollars I was initially asking for based on Kelley's Blue Book value for trade in.  They wrote up a fancy form on it too for me that I could bring back when I was ready.  They had two black ones that were affordable with the smallest engine.  I said I'd be in touch.

Later that day, Ryan and I met up at a dealership that had been recommended to us by my tri club.  I pulled up to that dealership and thought, "this is the kind of dealership I am used to in Detroit".  It was massive.  We had looked at their inventory on line and they had lots of options.  It was made from an old mall and had cars as far as the eye could see, plus a fun gallery of classic cars.  They were also a Lincoln dealer, so I could ask about the MKC (which Ryan actually knows more about from his internal Ford knowledge than the dealer anyway).  They people here treated us really well and Ryan took out two different Fusions for a test drive to determine which engine we would want because there were 3 options.  Ryan was mostly interested in the middle sized 2.0L ecoboost of the Fusion.

We had to give it a day because we both had activities on Tuesday night.  We did some searching online of inventory again, and it seemed like Bill Collins, the awesome huge dealership recommended to us by my tri friend, would have something.  We were up against the deadline of March 31st, when the incentives would change.  They might go away, stay the same, or get better, but we have no clue, and won't know until tomorrow!  I went there with the mindset of, "we WILL buy a car today".  I was just worn down of the search process and had decided that interior color (dark charcoal leather) was the top priority.  Leather is so much easier with kids.  Just compare my 9 year old mazda interior with Ryan's 4  year old cloth Escape.  We don't even eat in the escape and it is discolored from Soren being carsick on one trip.  Keira had reflux as an infant and threw up on an almost daily basis in the mazda.  It wiped right off!  Plus our sport trac just stunk like sweaty exercisers by the time we traded that in because the sweat soaked into the cloth.  Ew!  The cloth of the newer cars is supposed to be better, but I wasn't sold yet. 

We met up with our guy, Tone Wesley, on Wednesday.  We told him we wanted 2.0L Ecoboost, preferred dark leather, and few other options if any to keep cost down, and some acceptable colors.  We also said if they had a Taurus like the one at the first dealership, we would rather buy it from him.  He pulled 3 cars into their showroom, 2 Fusion 2.0L Ecoboost engines, and 1 Taurus.  The first Fusion had leather and was sterling gray, the second had cloth and a ton of other bells and whistles, and was black.  The Taurus didn't have the big wheels, but was basic and had light leather.  I didn't want light leather because I'm a jeans girl, and didn't want to stain my leather from denim.  After going to the auto show for years on the first public day, I had seen firsthand what dark denim does to light leather interior.  It turns it blue.  It can be cleaned, but its a pain and not something I want to plan to stay on top of from the beginning.  That car was out.  They had a similar with dark interior, but it was a demo car with a decent amount of miles.  I really liked the first one.  I didn't need all the bells and whistles.  It had Sync to use my ipod and satellite radio, so that was really what was important from an entertainment system.  It had heated seats.  It was sterling gray, so almost the same color as our Escape, but also the same color of the Taurus we almost bought.  Ryan liked the black Fusion with the cloth and all the extras.  We sat down and talked price.  For the first time EVER, the car I wanted the most, with the leather interior and nothing else, was the least expensive!  That was hard to argue with.  All three options were affordable, but it was really hard to argue with "I want the least expensive".  Then we had the mazda appraised a final time.  The kids said goodbye to it, and cried.  It was hard for me to not cry since it was such a great car.

Goodness I was stressed.  We got our $X trade in, and it was done!  We declined all the extras and we have the lowest car payment we've had.   Here's the new car!!!!!

And it fits in the garage!!! (and matches our other car, sort of boring, but it won't be this way forever!)

Sorry for this crazy post, but I really felt like I needed to get this out here.  I was crazy stressed out over this, and documenting it should hopefully help me know what to worry about and what not the next time around.