May 31, 2008

Sick Day

I woke up sick this morning. Yesterday, I was sure I was suffering from severe allergies, but felt relatively fine. I went to bed early in preparation for swimming today, but when my alarm went off this morning, I knew something wasn't right before I even tried to get out of bed. My seemingly harmless allergies had turned into a terrible cold. Not only was my head congested, but I felt like someone spent the night sitting on my chest, making it difficult to take a full breath. Needless to say, I turned off the alarm, let go of any thoughts of swimming today, and went back to sleep.

This is been a terribly disappointing week for training. I got off to a great start on Monday with a good race, but then had two consecutive days off due to being tired from travel and work commitments. I got back into the swing of things on Thursday with a good swim, but had to skip the run on Thursday night, then had more work conflicts on Friday that forced another day off. And now I'm sick.

But unfortunately, this is what training is about. There is the less fun side of things, the inevitable life or health conflicts that get in the way and so quickly derail the momentum you've built up. Unless you have the luxury of not having to work and being able to train full time, there will always be days where you try to strike a balance and may not succeed. And there is always the risk of illness or injury, particularly during peak training periods when your body is being pushed to the limit. My greatest fear every year before the marathon is that I will have a morning like today on the day of the race or the few days prior, where I wake up sick and know that just getting up will be a challenge and attempting 26.2 miles might be impossible. I've luckily never been sick on race day and I'm hoping today's minor setback will guarantee immunity for the triathlon. At least I'm likely not to catch another cold.

I'm resting today, drinking gallons of water and spending some down time with friends. I will go to bed as early as possible and I hope that when I wake up tomorrow, I'll be feeling good enough to join my weekly JackRabbit group training ride. My plan was to do the ride, then extend it by riding to Nyack and back. I'd like to stick with this plan, so here's hoping.

May 29, 2008

No Need For Speed

As promised, I went to the pool this morning to see if my breakthrough continued. While I wasn't magically transformed into Michael Phelps, I'm pleased to say that I am continuing to improve and feel as though I'm on the verge of breaking through a barrier. I wasn't as winded as before and while I'm still pausing between each lap, my breaks are getting much shorter. In an effort to keep moving, I alternated with kicking drills to catch my breath and change my focus. I also did several laps of the 10/10 drill that I've been finding so helpful. This has allowed me to improve tremendously in a short amount of time.

But I think the most important thing I did today was to simply slow down. I have definitely been trying to swim much faster than my ability will allow and it's wearing me out and making me uncomfortable. By slowing down, I was able to focus on my position and form, which combined with the pace, kept me from being breathless after just one lap. I am hopeful that a slower speed will actually help me build some endurance by not stopping after every 25 meters.

Since I was only able to swim one day this week, I'm planning to swim on Saturday morning. My goal is to begin reducing my rest time between laps. I need to pretend as though there is no bottom and I'm not allowed to grab onto the wall. My lazy nature has perpetuated this start-stop version of swimming for far too long and it's time to break out of it.

I was supposed to run with the training group tonight, but decided to listen to my body and take a pass. My foot was a little tight today and regardless of how much I stretched, it just didn't want to loosen up. I likely overdid it during Monday's race, but it was a race and that's what races are for. Another day of stretching should get things back to normal. I'll see how it feels and add a run either to Saturday's swim or Sunday's bike ride. It looks like I'll have a busy weekend!

Sport - Swimming
Distance - Not sure, likely around 20 laps
Time - 40:00

May 28, 2008

Slightly Off Course

I haven't posted since Monday because my training has veered slightly off course. After an incredibly fun weekend in DC, which thankfully included two great runs and a successful swimming attempt, I ended up coming back to New York a day later than planned and have not yet been able to reset my training schedule.

I am a freelancer, which is why I so often have the luxury of being able to go to the pool in the morning and fit in a run or bike ride later in the day. However, I started a new project today, which required me to be in the office, so I couldn't get to the pool. I decided to take a second day off with the absolute guarantee that I will swim tomorrow morning. I also have a group training run tomorrow night so it should help set things back into motion.

Taking two days off is not the end of the world, but I won't let it happen too often. The NYC Triathlon is way too soon and I want to look back and feel like I made the right decision to take on the challenge and that I gave it my all. It won't be my last triathlon, but I need it to be something I'm proud of in the end. I have no doubt I will be.

Sport/Distance/Time - N/A
Link to Monday's Race Results -

May 26, 2008

Gaining Ground

Every time I get up early - which today was 6 a.m. - for a race, I ask myself, "why am I doing this???" We were all pretty tired and moving quite slowly in preparation for the race, but it was nothing that coffee couldn't cure. We headed out at 7 for the "Sue & Connie's Run" in Rockville, MD, a fun four-miler that was mostly run in Rock Creek Park. There were five of us running - my sister, Jamie; her husband, Phil; their neighbor, Heather; and Heather's boyfriend, Chris. Chris was by far the fastest of all of us, finishing 11th in around 23 minutes. I was next, finishing 138th in just over 33 minutes. Phil, Heather and Jamie finished together in just around 40 minutes.

The course was great, starting with a steep downhill and mostly winding through Rock Creek Park over little bridges and along the park trail. That steep downhill unfortunately turned the finish into a steep uphill, but it was a good challenge nevertheless.

I had another pain-free run and was even able to speed up my pace a bit without trouble. I did the first mile in 7:54 and realized I needed to slow down in order to keep up a good pace. I did my second mile in 8:17, my third in 8:42 and the fourth in 8:50. Given the hills at the end, I was really happy with my time. I also felt pretty good throughout the run, which is most important at this point.

The backyard party is just beginning so the rest of the day will be dedicated to fun. I even got the chance to do a second "unofficial" test of my wetsuit, albeit in a much smaller pool with no swimming involved. I knew I wouldn't regret dragging that heavy thing all the way here with me!

Sport - Running (race)
Distance - 4 miles
Time - 33:43

May 25, 2008


I finally had a small breakthrough while swimming today. I've been reading up on drills and tried a new one called the 10/10. The drill is to promote proper head position and body roll, which helps with breathing as well. I also finally listened to my instructor's advice and kept my fingers together, which makes your hands like a scoop and pulls you more efficiently through the water. With so much going on, I usually ignore this and swim with my fingers spread open. It was amazing the difference such a small change made.

I did several laps of the 10/10, alternating with practice laps and kicking drills. There were quite a few laps where I felt like I was finally getting it. I had more energy, was able to breath more naturally and didn't feel like I was hyperventilating when I reached the end of the pool. I can't wait to swim on Tuesday so I can try it again and see if I can start doing more consecutive laps to increase my endurance ability a bit. Once I get more comfortable in the water I think I'll be able to push myself harder. For now, I'm still struggling to get past the newness and frustration, and hoping that every trip I make to the pool will yield some sort of advancement, however minor it may be.

I also tried out my new wetsuit today. I'm not sure what was more strange - the fact that I was swimming in an indoor pool in a wetsuit, or the fact that only one or two people seemed to think I was crazy. The suit was very comfortable and made swimming much easier. I only did a few laps in it before I overheated and had to take it off. But it passed the test so I'll buy it on Tuesday morning before my rental time is up. I'm excited to try it out on some open water swims during my training, especially in Lake Michigan this June when I'm visiting family.

We're doing a four-mile race tomorrow morning. It's an informal fun run and some friends will be joining so despite the early start, we should have a great time. The rest of the day will be spent relaxing in the backyard with good food and good drinks. That's what long holiday weekends are for after all.

Sport - Swimming (drills)
Distance - N/A
Time - 30:00

May 24, 2008

Slowly But Surely

Today was the perfect lazy day. The weather was amazing and everyone seemed more relaxed than usual. We got up earlier than I'd prefer, around 8 or so, and drove down to Alexandria for our favorite breakfast at Jack's. It's a bit of a drive from my sister's and it's always a long wait, but always worth it. After eating way too much, we were all tired so we came home and napped for awhile. We got up around 1:30 and finally made our way out for a run.

It's always great to run in an unfamiliar place. It breaks up the monotony and you forget about the mileage and take in the new surroundings. I run a bit faster so I had to run alone and didn't really know where I was going, which made the time fly by even faster. We did four miles in preparation for Monday's race and I'm thrilled to say that my foot did not bother me once. I slowed my pace to a nine-minute mile, which helped tremendously. I'm so aware of the foot issues that I think I obsess over it a bit and assume every little twinge of pain or pressure is a warning sign. Today, I barely notice my foot and it was my second pain-free run. Let's hope it stays that way and I'm able to increase me speed over time.

My sister lives in Maryland, right on the border of DC and right by Rock Creek Park, where we ran today. The park is closed to traffic on the weekends so it's mostly cyclists with the occasional runner. It was a beautiful place to get in a little training and lessen the guilt about the amount we ate and drank last night, and most likely will again tonight.

Tomorrow we are swimming (or something that vaguely resembles swimming) and I'll be testing out the new wetsuit. Maybe the added buoyancy will make the time at the pool a little easier for me. If not, I'll be in very good company and imagine we will have a great time. I'm planning to take it easy and try out some new drills that might help me get more comfortable in the water. Maybe it will be like learning to ride a bike. After I've tried and failed enough times, I'll just get it. It may not be tomorrow, but I'm sure it will be soon.

Sport - Running
Distance - 4 miles
Time - 36:07

May 23, 2008

Time Off For Good Behavior

After nine consecutive days of training, I decided to take today off to rest. I had a very hard time sleeping last night so I was low on energy when I finally got up. I had to catch a noon train to DC as well so today felt like as good a day as any for a well-earned rest. I did, however, do my 100 bicycle crunches that I have vowed to do daily. My core is in poor form so I'm making an effort to improve it for the sake of all three sports. I don't want another batch of Brightroom event photos showing me slumped miserably near the end of a race.

Since I'm thumbing this post on my BlackBerry while on my way to DC, I'll keep it brief - something I don't do often. I spent some time on the train reading up on more swimming tips and some open water options in the NYC area. The pool is great, and I'm thankful to have found a good one near me, but I'm dying to take my new wetsuit out for a swim outdoors. I noticed on this train ride that my entire perspective of water has changed. Every time we crossed over a river or passed a lake, I realized I was evaluating them as places to swim. Some looked quite appealing while others did not. Likewise, there are very mixed opinions about swimming in the Hudson River. I have to admit it was definitely part of the allure of the NYC Triathlon, but on the flip side, it is often a frightening thought. Many people think it's disgusting that I'll be doing the swim while just as many others think it's great. It's not often you get to see New York from that point-of-view after all.

I may or may not train tomorrow, but one thing is for sure - I'll be having a great time. I'll be sure to share my wetsuit test run findings on Sunday. Just imagine the looks I will get when I stroll into an indoor heated pool wearing a big neoprene suit. I'm happy to keep entertaining my fellow swimmers.

Sport/Distance/Time - N/A

May 22, 2008

Change of Plans

I woke up this morning and decided to skip the hour I was planning at the pool today. I was still tired after eight hours sleep and my back was aching before I even got out of bed. I slept a bit later and decided to save up my energy for tonight's group run.

I took advantage of the free time and hit JackRabbit (yes, again) to look for the perfect wetsuit. As usual, the guy that helped me was extremely knowledgeable and spent over 1.5 hours helping me choose a suit. Since trying on wetsuits is a fairly grueling effort, he also set up a big fan to keep me from fainting in the tiny dressing room in a sea of rubber. I tried three sleeveless suits, one of which was just right, and one full suit just to be sure. I chose the Blue Seventy Reaction, a nice sleeveless suit that is relatively easy to get on and had the best fit for me. I rented it for the weekend so I can try it out in the pool before committing to buying it. If all goes well, I'll own the suit on Tuesday. I'm really looking forward to seeing the difference the buoyancy makes. I was again told tales of the guy that floated the race last year. I wonder if he knows how legendary his story has become?

The JackRabbit group run tonight was really fun. We did a four-mile Indian Run, which I was correct in describing yesterday. We divided into three groups again by pace. Since my foot has been acting up, I dropped from the B group - 8:01-9:00 - to the C group - everything above 9:00. We ran from Columbus Circle to 72nd (about a half-mile) for a warm up at a very easy pace, then began the Indian Run. Our coach shared our pace a few times and it ranged from 8:30 at faster times to 9:30 at others. However, there were points where we were literally piling up on one another and it felt like a 10:00 or slower to me. There were about 10 people in the group and five of us were definitely a bit faster so we had a tendency to speed things up and force the coach to slow us down.

This was the first run where I felt really good, likely from the super-slow pace. I never really got out-of-breath and my foot thankfully didn't hurt. There were moments where I felt a bit of pressure in my heel as though it were threatening to hurt, but it never reached that point, even on my sprints. I'm hoping the five or more times I stretch each day plus the foot strengthening exercises are paying off.

I'm visiting my sister in DC this weekend where training will most certainly take a lesser priority. Since I'm leaving early tomorrow, I haven't yet decided what my plan for the morning will be. I might hit the pool one last time for the week, I may do a short ride, or I may just be lazy and sleep in. I will be swimming in DC on Sunday to test drive my new wetsuit and I'm running a four-mile race on Monday so I won't be taking the entire weekend off. But I most certainly will be enjoying the breaks in between.

Sport - Interval Running
Distance - 4 miles, plus about 1 mile warm up/cool down
Time - Not sure, I forgot to time it (likely around 45-50 minutes total)

May 21, 2008

Living up to the Name

Yesterday, I came to the conclusion that my major problem in the water is breathing. I was convinced my inability to breathe comfortably was holding me back. But then I got in the pool today and had another, far more realistic realization - I Am Lazy. We all know this, otherwise I wouldn't be blogging as The Lazy Marathoner. It's ok to be lazy, I actually embrace it. It provides me with some balance in my life, otherwise I'd likely be one of those neurotic people that never miss a training day and weigh their food. Being lazy allows me to reach my goals, such as running marathons or learning to swim, while still having a life and having fun. I'm blaming laziness for my difficulty swimming because I realized I shut down the second the swimming becomes physically challenging. As soon as my heart rate rises, I either feel the need to stop or quickly switch to the back stroke to rest. What I don't understand is how I'm able to push through the same sort of sensation while running for 4+ hours or biking for 8+ hours. It has to be the water and how different, and in many ways, how unnatural it feels.

My day at the pool was certainly a brief one. My friend Louise couldn't make it and I really didn't feel like going either. I decided to go a little later and just do some drills rather than try to swim actual laps. I spent about 1.5 hours online last night watching swim videos and when I got to the pool today, I had about 20 minutes to practice. I did a few laps of different kicking drills, some breathing drills and the fingertip drag, a drill designed to perfect your arm positioning. In between, I swam a few laps. Most were still labored, but at the very end, I had a few that felt pretty good so it was encouraging. Tomorrow I intend to spend an hour at the pool doing a combination of drills and laps with a focus on not stopping. I am going to try to push myself past my comfort zone rather than stop and rest.

When I told people I signed up for the NYC Triathlon, most were fairly encouraging, telling me I could do it tomorrow and that I shouldn't be so concerned. However, my friend Joe had a very different, very honest reaction. He was surprised about my lack of swimming experience and he reminded me just how hard swimming is. He said it isn't like running, where you can stop and take a break, that I would be in the open water and would need to keep moving for the duration of the mile. Joe, you were absolutely right. Swimming is extremely difficult and unlike running or biking, you cannot fake your way through a race just by being marginally good at it. I have a feeling that my primary training focus over the next eight weeks will be on swimming. For me, it's the key to being able to finish this race.

After a nice, long lunch with a friend and a fairly low key day, I put my bike on the trainer for an hour-long ride to round out today's training. I would have preferred to go for a real ride, but my afternoon plans interfered so this was the best alternative. For those who don't know, a trainer is a nifty piece of equipment that allows you to turn your outdoor bike into a stationary bike for indoor training. It's great for bad weather, early mornings and times when biking outside just isn't practical. You also get a different type of workout on it since you have to pedal constantly. When you bike outside, you inevitably get to coast a little here and there. The upside is that you can catch up on your DVR recordings while getting in a good workout. The downside is that it's incredibly boring. I biked for one hour, about the maximum I can stand to be on the trainer. The distance is never near what I could do in the same time outside, so I ended up clearing just over 10 miles. Nevertheless, it was good to add this to what was otherwise a slow day.

Tomorrow night is the second training run with the JackRabbit group. We're doing a 3.5 mile "Indian Run," which I believe is where you run in a single file line with your group and take turns having the last person in line sprint to the front. I think it will be raining, but you have to train in the rain in order to be prepared for anything on race day. As with most things in life, you can only control so much and the rest is pure luck.

Sport - Swimming Drills
Distance - N/A
Time - 20:00

Sport - Biking (on trainer)
Distance - 10 miles
Time - 1:00:00

May 20, 2008


When I woke up this morning, I briefly considered staying in bed, justifying it by thinking perhaps my body needed rest. After all, I wasn't able to run last night when I tried. But let's face it, I didn't want to go to the pool because I knew it would be challenging and frustrating. That's just not a good enough excuse, so I got up and went.

In some ways it was better than yesterday and in other ways worse. I still struggled, but when I really tried, my form was better and those few precious laps were much easier. There were more people today so most lanes were doubled up. There was a wider lane at the end, which I assumed was the slow lane, so I happily joined.

I realized today that my number one problem with swimming is breathing. The whole notion of doing a cardiovascular activity face down in the water with limited breathing is very foreign to me. When you can't catch your breath running, you can slow down and breathe more deeply. And you're almost never breathless on a bike unless you're climbing a steep hill. But it's nearly impossible to take a deep breath while swimming, unless I simply haven't yet figured out how to. I'm working on breathing more often so I don't get so tired so quickly. I'm hoping this will be the key to actually swimming some consecutive laps instead of my current stop-start routine.

My friend Louise is joining me tomorrow and we'll be swimming together once each week. This will be a great motivation booster and it might push me to try harder even if only for vanity sake. Louise has done several triathlons and is a good swimmer. I should be able to learn a lot from her.

Louise also loaned me a wetsuit in an effort to help me avoid yet another cost associated with this race. It looks rather small, as you can see in the photo, but she swore it should fit and according to the Orca size chart, it should. So I decided to give it a try. On attempt #1, I didn't pull it up high enough above my ankles so I couldn't get it up to my waist. It was stuck just above my knees and was like a legs-only version of a straitjacket. I peeled it off and went online to figure out how the heck to put this thing on. You have to love YouTube. Within minutes, I found a video tutorial on how to try on a wetsuit. I gathered my strength and went for attempt #2. I managed to get it on this time after about 15 minutes of pulling it up inch by inch. It took about another 15 minutes to get the zipper up in the back and then I was finished. I kept it on for about 10 minutes to see how it felt. It actually wasn't so bad, but it was pressing on my throat a bit, which I fear will make it difficult to breathe - and I already have enough trouble with that.

I think I'll head back over to JackRabbit tomorrow and try on some wetsuits to see how they are supposed to fit. If it turns out I've already got the right fit, and just need to get used to it, I will have saved a bit of money. Otherwise, I'll need to consider buying my own, which means this most certainly can't be my only triathlon attempt. I'll want to get my money's worth for sure.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - 18 laps (.25 miles)
Time - 30:00

Squeezing into the Westsuit - 30:00

May 19, 2008


As I get further into my training, there will be days where I post twice because I'll be doing two different sports in one day. I attempted that today, but unfortunately with some minor setbacks. Last fall, the neighborhood bar where I spend 3-4 days a week started a running group. Anyone who knows me knows that I love beer. This bar is quite simply the best beer bar in Manhattan and because I spend so much time there, about 90% of my friends are regulars I've met there so it's always a good time. When they started a running group, I definitely had to join. What could be better than running with good friends on a Monday night followed up with a few beers at our favorite bar?

My winter hiatus has kept me out of the group for the past five months. Since I've run a few times, I decided to re-join tonight even though I was a little tired from my attempted swim session this morning. We usually do a 40-minute run, 20 minutes out and 20 minutes back, rather than set a distance so people of different abilities can start and finish together. I was feeling ok for the first mile, then was suddenly hit with stabbing foot pain after about 12 minutes. I literally couldn't take a step on it and had to stop. At this point, I was about 1.25 miles into the run so I ended up having to walk 1.25 all the way back and it was a bit cold out tonight!

I've been plagued by an injury in my left foot as I've mentioned before, but I don't believe it was the cause of tonight's setback. Because I'm still not a good swimmer, I'm straining and testing a lot of new muscles and my back has been a bit achy as a result. I don't yet know how to stretch after swimming and tonight's experience reminded me that it's time to learn. Spasms in my back caused pain down my leg, which ultimately led to tightness and pain in my foot. It's all connected and since I'm now using my entire body vs. just my legs, I need to be more aware of this.

I'm signing off to stretch the muscles I'm aware of and to read the swim stretch chapter in my triathlon book. If that doesn't put me to sleep, I don't know what will.

Sport - Attempted running
Distance - Hard to say
Time - I had a great time with great friends

Let Go

My new pool membership kicked in today so I decided to take advantage of it. The adult lap swim hours are 7-10 a.m. so I waited until 9 to hopefully swim with a more leisurely crowd. I located the pool, got ready and was in the water at 9:30. My timing was perfect. There were only four other swimmers so we each had our own lane, and two of them were older women who were floating on their backs for very slow laps. Of course, the guy in the lane next to me looked like he had been there since 7 and seemed tireless, but you figure there has to be at least one of these people every time you go.

If I had to choose just one word to describe my experience today, it would be "disaster." I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was as though everything I had learned previously just slipped out of my mind and my form was truly abominable. It was very inefficient and therefore, exhausting. I ended up having to stop after every length to catch my breath. I think the lifeguard was appalled and thought she might actually have to dive in to rescue me in the four-foot waters. I struggled and struggled and made it about 14 laps and was thinking of throwing in the towel, but there were 10 minutes remaining in the session and I had been aiming for 18 laps so I decided to suck it up and try some more.

It was at this point that I let go of my expectations, my concerns over "doing it right," my thoughts about what the other swimmers or lifeguard must be thinking (which, by the way, I'm sure were hilarious thoughts) and just swam. I'm not going to say that I miraculously was able to do it well, but it was remarkably easier and I finally felt comfortable. In my final two laps, I think I discovered why breathing has been so hard for me and adjusted my form to be able to do it much more comfortably. I hit my 18th lap and very happily got out of the pool.

They say Olympic athletes use positive visualization to help achieve their goals. I try to visualize myself actually swimming, and making it several laps before I have to stop and rest. But for some reason, this just doesn't work for me. Instead, I overthink it and before I know it, I can barely stay afloat and I'm desperately reaching for the edge of the pool for a break. I'm hoping it will be like learning a foreign language, where you wake up one morning and realize you dreamed in that language and finally speak it fluently. I'm hoping that one day soon, something will just click for me and I'll realize I'm finally swimming. Until then, I will go every day I possibly can and keep trying. After all, someone has to keep that lifeguard entertained.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - 18 laps (.25 miles)
Time - 30:00

May 18, 2008

Minor Delays

I missed my post yesterday (sorry mom) so I'm including both yesterday's and today's training in one. Yesterday was lazy indeed so I didn't even make it out to run until after 4:00. I imagined going out all day, yet busied myself with things around the house instead. Truth be told, I was a little sore and fatigued from the previous three days of activity and I kind of wanted to rest. But I finally dragged myself out the door for another easy three miles.

It was warm and sunny, just about perfect except for one small thing - the wind was very strong and blowing, of course, North while I was running South. I felt like I was running very slowly and my legs were definitely a bit heavy from the previous days' activities, but when I hit the first mile marker, I was pleased to see that I had made it in 8:25, not bad at all! The second mile was slower, just like my previous run on the same route, at 9:08. I cleared the last mile, with the wind now luckily at my back, in 8:22.

I wasn't as breathless this time, but I still struggled. It's time to increase to four miles and keep at it until it gets easier. It's always surprising how quickly you go from being able to run 15+ miles to barely making it three. In a month, everything will be different. I just have to keep reminding myself.

One frightening observation I made about the wind is that it caused little whitecaps in the Hudson. The water was really churned up and if there was a directional current, it was impossible to see. God I hope it isn't windy on the day of the triathlon!

Sport - Running
Distance - 3 miles
Time - 25:55

Today was the second meeting of the JackRabbit training group. Luckily it was a short ride, 20 miles in total for me since I also rode to the park and back, which is just over eight miles. I say luckily, because my good friend Donna had an incredibly fun birthday party last night that I just couldn't bring myself to leave so I went to bed at 2:30 and had to be up at 6:30 to meet the group at 8:00 in Central Park. I felt surprisingly good and as soon as I got outside and hit the bike path, I felt wide awake. It's always great to be out on a bike early on a Sunday morning when no one else is up yet. I was able to get to the park in less than 15 minutes, vs. the 20 or more it can take when it's crowded. We had a quick overview and then divided into three groups - A were the fastest, B the intermediate and C either more leisurely riders or those with hybrids or mountain bikes - for two quick loops of the park. I wasn't confident enough to ride with A so I went with B. As soon as we started, I pulled away and ended up on my own since it would have been impossible to catch the A group and I didn't want to slow down to fall back to the B group. I usually ride alone so I didn't mind, but in future training, I want the benefit of riding with a coach since I don't really know much about biking technique.

The AIDS Walk was taking place beginning at 9:00 so we knew the park would be crowded, but were hoping to finish before everything really kicked off. But on the second loop, just as I approached Harlem Hill, I was directed to exit the park due to the road being closed.

I ended up riding down Central Park West with the traffic from 108th to 59th. It really wasn't that bad since it was still early so I was able to get through most of the lights without having to make a full stop. I eventually caught up with the C group because they had taken the transverse before Harlem Hill and ended up ahead of the B group.

It was a nice, slow ride with some minor delays, but nothing that couldn't be worked around. It was just the right amount of effort on four hours of sleep. I was home by 9:45, had a second breakfast and went back to bed until noon, making today feel like it was actually two days in one.

Sport - Biking
Distance - 20.41 miles
Time - 1:34:33

May 16, 2008

Taking the Plunge

I had my second swimming lesson today. Let's pause to remember that I'm not referring to my second lesson in the past year or so, but rather my second lesson in my entire life. I didn't have a chance to practice between last week's lesson and today since I didn't yet have pool access. But that will change on Monday, when my membership kicks in and I can swim to my heart's content. It was another rainy, miserable day, just as it was last Friday when I went swimming. It's actually the perfect weather for swimming. It frees you to walk around the city with no umbrella and no need to stay dry.

I had to share the pool today with a few five-year-olds, who were no doubt doing better than I. I couldn't help but think how much I wished I had learned that young when everything is easier. But then I would be missing out on this great sense of empowerment that comes with tackling something new, something a bit scary, as an adult. I was pleased to discover that I retained all that was learned last week. I was not pleased to discover that I still have very little endurance in the water. I end up hanging on the side of the pool, totally winded and exhausted after just a couple 25 meter laps. But starting any new sport is difficult and I try to remember what it was like the first time I tried to run, when it would have been unfathomable to run five miles, 10 miles and eventually a marathon. Running is different though. You can slow your pace, you can even walk, but what do you do when you're face down in the water and tired and out of breath? I found out today. My coach wanted me to try to swim four consecutive laps with no breaks. I've been doing a lot of drills in an effort to perfect my form, which has made it difficult for me to remember to breathe properly or often enough. With the laps, she said to forget about the form and just relax, swim and breathe. Sounds easy enough, right? I made it three laps without stopping, then crashed on the fourth. I was almost there, it was within my reach, but I simply didn't have the energy. How can this be? I've run four marathons and biked hundreds of miles. Swimming is just different. It's a new challenge that I'm quite anxious to conquer.

When timed, it turns out I'm swimming about 50 meters in 50 seconds. Apparently this isn't disgraceful, but after hearing about the guy floating the mile in 37 minutes, this clearly isn't good enough for me, so I'm hoping to improve. But I'm glad to know that I'm starting at a decent pace and that I'm taking the time to learn how to do it right.

Near the end of my lesson, we attempted the breast stroke. I've heard this is an easier stroke for many than the front crawl so I was intrigued. Ok. This stroke requires actual coordination, something I do not naturally have. Why do you think I run and bike rather than play a complicated sport? I can see how it might offer a nice rest during the tri, but first I'd have to figure out how the hell to actually do it. If there is no one else in the pool next week, I might try again. Otherwise, I'm content to suck it up and practice, practice, practice the front crawl so I can survive the full mile with this stroke. Because as they say, practice makes perfect.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - Who knows!
Time - 1:00:00

May 15, 2008

Let the Training Begin

Tonight was the first day of the JackRabbit triathlon training program I signed up for. I normally don't like to train in groups, but the NYC Triathlon was sold out and JackRabbit had a limited number of entries available through their training program. And since this is my first tri, I'm actually looking forward to having the guidance since I have no idea how to effectively train.

We meet twice a week, on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings, and will be doing running and biking training. We're on our own when it comes to swimming except for one open water workshop at Brighton Beach this summer. For me, that's just fine. I make a big enough fool of myself when it's just me and my instructor in the pool, let alone have to show 40 total strangers my inept swimming ability.

It was a surprisingly big group, with the majority aiming for their first tri. While there is definitely a range of abilities, most seem to be pretty fit and really experienced in at least one of the three sports. Only about five people called out swimming as their strength so I was feeling a lot better about my lack of experience. I was also thrilled to learn from one of the coaches that the buoyancy of the wetsuit combined with the Hudson River current makes for a fairly easy swim. He shared that last year, a guy actually rolled onto his back and floated the entire mile in 37 minutes. If that's possible, I think I can swim it!

Since we had a briefing and orientation tonight, the workout was a nice, short run (thank God!). Since breaking out of my winter running hiatus I've only run one time. I meant to run more before training began, but we've already established that I have a hard time keeping motivated and sticking with the training. Being only my second run in four months, I wasn't sure how well I would fare. Plus, I walked two miles round trip to the pool in Tribeca today in "cute" shoes that left me with a huge blister about 10 minutes before I left to meet the training group. I guess it's time to say farewell to the cute shoes for any distance beyond three blocks.

We ran the Central Park lower loop twice for a total of 3.4 miles. I ran with a guy wearing a forerunner for the first mile and we did it in 8:41. I kept up with him for about another quarter of a mile, then had to drop back a bit. I ended up averaging 8:46 over the course of the run. I was definitely struggling a bit, but I'm so happy that my time off didn't completely wipe out the progress I made last year.

I have my second swimming lesson tomorrow. I'm anxious to see if I'll be able to improve at all by the end of the session, or if the week-long lapse in between will make it as though I'm starting from scratch. We'll see. My summer pool membership starts on Monday so I'm going to get to practice a great deal next week. With any luck, I'll be able to swim by next Friday. Here's hoping!

Sport - Running
Distance - 3.4 miles
Time - 29:50

May 14, 2008


Every time I'm out on my bike, I wonder - why doesn't everyone do this? Biking makes you feel incredibly free. It's a reminder of childhood when nothing was more fun than riding bikes with your friends. And what could be more free than going 30 mph with your own two legs? (Ok, the only time I go 30 mph is on a steep downhill with the wind at my back, but you get the point)

But after wondering, I'm very quickly reminded why people don't bike, particularly in New York City. The city is a veritable obstacle course to a biker, even in designated recreation areas. Riding North on the Hudson River Park path I had to dodge roller bladers, baby strollers, joggers and other bikers, breathe in exhaust from the West Side Highway, avoid getting knocked down by the tornado-like winds coming off the helipad and try not to crash into huge crowds of tourists standing in the middle of the path near the ship terminal, oblivious to the fact that people actually bike and run on the path. But all of this is worth it to get to Central Park, the only decent place in Manhattan to bike in a relatively traffic-free and safe environment.

It took a bit of time to get to the park, but once there, my ride went very well. I was averaging 22.5 minutes per loop (6.02 miles) and felt strong on each. I'm not much of a hill climber, but I was able to keep up a faster pace than I could last season. Everything seemed just about perfect until my last loop, when Central Park served up the most troubling obstacle of the day - a confused squirrel attempting to cross the street. I saw him up ahead on a fast downhill so I slowed a bit. Just as I approached, he froze and then changed direction, running directly under my bike. I nearly crashed and let out an awful scream. Another biker said it was a close call and asked if I was ok. Sure, I was fine, but what about the squirrel? I stopped, rode back up the hill and I searched for him. I was delighted to not find him, which means he was ok and got off the road. What a relief. It was a lucky day for both of us.

Sport - Biking
Distance - 26 miles
Time - 1:46:06

May 13, 2008

Gearing Up

On day two of resting, I decided to hit my favorite store, JackRabbit, to pick up some of the necessary gear for training and the race. I love this store. I'm actually training with JackRabbit for the NYC Triathlon as it was the only way to get into the race at this late date. Every time I walk through the door, I leave with a bag full of really cool stuff and am set back at least a couple hundred bucks. But it's worth every penny.

I was still a little tired and weak today so the two hours I spent looking at, discussing and trying on various running and triathlon gear was a workout in and of itself. I was exhausted when I finally left!

Trying on triathlon gear is a humbling experience. I swallowed my pride years ago when I put on my first pair of bike shorts and went out in public, but these outfits take "tight" to a whole new level. There is nothing left to the imagination and no way to hide the fact that you're not in great shape. Let's just say that I hope the training leads to the physical transformation everyone keeps promising before race day, otherwise, I may just leave my wetsuit on for the bike and run! But regardless of the look, a great sales guy helped me find the perfect tri suit for the race, one that is comfortable, that I can actually take a deep breath in and hopefully will be able to forget I'm wearing and just focus on the activities. Now when the event pictures come out, that's another story...

Break Time

Well, I mentioned yesterday that I wanted to sleep in and rest up today, but the day didn't go quite as planned. I had been a little sick for a couple days, but chose to ignore it rather than rest when my body was clearly telling me to. So I finally paid for it and the little sick became a lot sick so I barely slept last night and barely got off the couch today. On one hand, this counts as rest, but on the other, it's another setback that will make jumping into my training this week a bit more challenging. The only endurance activity I managed to engage in was watching almost the entire season six of Sex & the City. I figured it would be good to have the refresher before the movie comes out this month. I saved the final two episodes for tomorrow since I'll hopefully feel better and only have time for that.

So tomorrow will be another day of rest and recovery. I'm thinking of biking on Wednesday, weather permitting, and my first day of Tri training is Thursday. Our Thursday sessions will be focused on running and I'm assuming the first one won't be terribly challenging (I hope). Until then, I'll keep resting and try to get my strength back. I guess there's nothing wrong with that.

May 11, 2008

Back in the Saddle

I did my first ride of the season today and it felt great to be back on the bike after a five or six month break. I rode a fairly easy 40 miles, a modified version of the ride we fondly call the "Runcible Run" since the halfway point is the biker-mobbed bakery in Nyack, The Runcible Spoon. A normal Runcible Run would start with a ride across the George Washington Bridge and then an almost straight shot up Route 9W. However, 9W is very hilly and can be pretty challenging when you are just warming up for the season. So my ride began in Englewood instead and wound through New Jersey and New York suburbia to Nyack. The Runcible Spoon is the best possible place to have a break during a ride.

There are a million different ways to refuel here, some of which likely undo half the benefit of the ride, but it's a tradition and the 25 or so other bikers there at any given time seem to agree. I had half of a PB&J on whole grain, a respectable mid-ride snack, and then finished it off with a "hostette," Runcible's version of the cream filled Hostess cupcake.

All in all, the ride felt great. It took about 2 hours, 45 minutes, which is slow compared to what I would usually be capable of, but it was the first ride of the year and can only get better from here. My legs are strong from a winter spent in the gym, so it wasn't as tiring as I expected. The only downfall is that I've been battling a stomach virus for the past four days so I stared out this morning a bit weaker than I'd like.

I have to digress to swimming for a moment. After my swim on Friday, I hit the gym Saturday and worked on my upper body to compliment the swimming. Who knew swimming could make you so sore! I probably should have skipped the gym because my back, shoulders and arms were achy today. I think I'll sleep in tomorrow, try to kick this virus and get back to it all on Tuesday. After all, there will come a time very shortly where I'll barely get to take breaks so I should enjoy it while I still can.

May 10, 2008

Taking a Step Back

On October 7, 2007, I finished my fourth marathon. It was the Chicago Marathon, my second in the windy city and one that would go down in distance running history for being the hottest on record and the first major marathon to be called off mid-race. Somewhere around the 2.5 hour mark, race officials decided to cancel the race to prevent additional medical crises. One runner had already sadly died during the race, likely from a previous condition, but with the heat, everything was more difficult. I was just past Chinatown, somewhere around Mile 23 when I crossed a chip mat and didn't hear the familiar beep. It worried me, but I pushed on. About two blocks later, people started yelling at us to stop and walk to the finish, the race was called off. What these people didn't know, is that after 23 miles of running, you cannot simply stop and walk. The muscles in your legs don't appreciate the sudden change, so I continued to run to the finish. I completed the race in four hours, fifty-eight minutes. This is not entirely shameful, but I trained (very hard) for a 4:15 finish so it was disappointing. But nevertheless, I was grateful to have had the chance to finish.

In the months following, I decided I needed to be a faster runner. I was down to an 8:10 or so mile by January and feeling very comfortable running at this faster pace. I was getting closer and closer to 8 minutes a mile, but then suddenly had to stop due to pain in my left heel. It turned out to be acute plantar fasciitis so I decided to take the entire winter off of running to rest and recover.

There is so much to be said for resting, something that is very foreign to most runners. After a 5-month hiatus, I went for my first run last week and did the first mile in 8:30, the second in 9:10 and the third in 8:36. It was difficult, but it was so much better than I was expecting. It's as though the break energized me and had set me up to pick up right where I left off and perhaps be even faster.

My brother-in-law qualified for Boston last week. I am beyond jealous of this, but I do not dare to fool myself for one second into believing that I might do the same. I'm running New York this year and my goal is four hours. If I even come close, I'll be the happiest woman in the world. If I finish below four, I'll be desperately searching for a flat Spring marathon that will allow me to shave an additional 15 minutes off my time and join my brother-in-law in Boston. If not, there is always 2010.

May 9, 2008

Trying for the Tri

I'm not sure if it was a case of monumental boredom, or if I got talked into it by a few overly encouraging friends, but I signed up for my first triathlon two weeks ago and have approximately two months to train. It's the NYC Triathlon, an Olympic distance with a 1500 meter swim in the Hudson River, a 40 km bike ride and a 10 k run. I figured - hey, how hard can that really be? My first ride of the season will be over 40 k and that's just for warming up. I've run countless 10 k's and even after a winter hiatus, I think it will be fine. But the swim... I am turning 33 in just over a month and until today, had never had a single swimming lesson. I'd never gotten into a pool and swam a lap. In fact, I had no idea how.

So today, I swallowed my pride and had my first-ever swimming lesson. Now this is something I've been planning, yet somehow beautifully avoiding, for the past couple weeks. But I was finally out of excuses so I finally did it. It was surprisingly one of my greatest experiences. I'm not afraid of the water, but I am afraid of making a fool of myself, and most of all, I'm afraid of failing at anything I decide to do (I know, major character flaw). I was thrilled to discover I'm actually pretty comfortable in the water and the act of swimming came fairly naturally to me. Aside from the fact that I couldn't make it a full 25 meters without gasping for air, it was actually pretty good!

I'm anxious to get back into the pool and give it my best. I have just over two months to become a good enough swimmer to have enough in the reserves to tackle the bike and run. I'll also be a few weeks into my NYC Marathon training by the time of the race so I'm going to be pretty busy over the next couple months. It's a great distraction and it feels really good to be able to keep finding completely new experiences in life, something to break me out of my comfort zone and force me to be a different person. Hopefully in a few weeks I can confidently say I'm a swimmer. But for now, I'm simply trying for the tri, a very worthy goal indeed.


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