June 29, 2008

The Morning After

I went to Brighton Beach today for an open water swim workshop. I've lived in New York City for 10 years but had never been there. I always meant to check it out, but never got around to it. I was expecting the water to be disgusting, but it really wasn't so bad. I am definitely going to get back out there a few times before my big race.

The workshop was good, but for me it was mostly just another opportunity to get into my wetsuit and practice. We swam out far enough to clear the bigger waves and did some sighting work that required us to swim back to shore in line with a focal point and then back out to our coach. As usual, I was pathetic. I don't know what happens to me in open water, but the very few skills I have essentially cease to exist. I luckily improved eventually and tried to remember all of the good swimming advice I'd been given. We did some practice race starts, first swimming as fast as we could into the current, then slowing our speed and regulating breathing and rhythm. Then we did some group starts where we were clustered tightly together to get used to contact, particularly dealing with other swimmers' feat. We weren't kicking during this, which helped, but I know it won't be like that in my upcoming race.

I felt a lot more comfortable today having done the tri yesterday. But I needed a warm-up as usual before I was able to do anything of value. The challenge with the NYC Tri will be that you can't do a warm-up due to the current. You get in the water just 4 minutes before your wave start and have to hold onto a rope to keep from being swept down the course. I know I can basically float the race, but I really want to swim it so I'm going to keep working on it.

I probably should have changed before hopping on the subway. I was soaking wet in my tri top and shorts, sand all over my feet and eating an ice cream cone (hey, I did a race yesterday, a little visit to the Mister Softee truck was in order). I was freezing!

I decided to skip my brick workout this morning after not sleeping well last night. I think I was too wired from the race and a little overtired. I figure the race counts as a brick and I normally wouldn't do them two days in a row. It was hot, rainy and the annual Gay Pride Parade and festival was in full swing right outside my apartment so I ended up doing an easy ride on the trainer. I passed the time by watching the Freestyle Made Easy DVD. Can you tell my life revolves around triathlon?

Sport - Swimming
Distance - N/A
Time - 1:00:00

Sport - Biking (on trainer)
Distance - 12.25 miles
Time - 1:00:00

June 28, 2008

Giving it a Tri

I officially became a triathlete today when I crossed the finish line at the Staten Island Flat as a Pancake Sprint Triathlon. My finishing time was 1:21:56, which is actually not so bad. To say I was nervous is a huge understatement. I was fine until around 6:00 last night, when the nerves really kicked in. I laid out my transition stuff so I wouldn't forget anything (as you can see in the photo, Otis was helping me) and then spent the next several hours obsessing over the race and whether or not I would be able to finish. I slept very little and woke up at least every hour to look at the clock. I was relieved when 4 a.m. finally arrived.

I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I picked up my race packet and realized Mistake Number 1 of the day - I forgot my USAT card. I thought about this on the way to the race, but there was nothing I could do at that point. The girl that checked me in started to ask one of the other check-in people what to do when I think she saw the look of horror on my face, felt sorry for me and just let me go. I stopped for body marking, done with a green sharpie by the sloppiest guy in the bunch. Oh well. I headed off to transition and was glad I got there early. I took a great end spot that would be easy to find and give me a lot of space. I took my time setting up and chatted with some other athletes and race volunteers. Everyone was so eager to give advice to a first-timer. That's one of the best things about this sport.

Then I had Mistake Number 2. The purell in the porta john seemed like such a good idea. After all, it was like a biohazard zone inside there. Flash forward 10 minutes and I realized I had green sharpie marks everywhere. Smeared all over the palm of my hand, on my arms, legs, you name it. I had to ask someone if it was all over my face. Luckily, it was not. The only thing that removes sharpie is alcohol. Purell is made of alcohol. Live and learn.

I went down to the water to have a look at the course and check the temperature. The water was really smooth, which made me happy. It was cold at first, but I got used to it immediately, which also made me happy. Then the big purple jellyfish swam by. That did not make me happy. I'd been warned about the jellyfish but I didn't think they would be the size of melons.

It was getting really hot already and I needed to get my wetsuit on. Squeezing a rubber suit on a sweaty body is no easy task. After a quick pre-race meeting, we went down to the water start. I spent about 10 minutes doing an easy warm-up and getting used to the water. It was also really crowded so it was a chance to get used to being with a big group. My warm-up went great, I actually couldn't believe how well I was swimming. I started to feel optimistic. Then when my wave started, it all went away. I started way at the back and to the right, but I was still struggling for space. At times I was right between two other swimmers so there was no way to get in a real stroke. I didn't get kicked in the face or anything like that, but there was a tremendous amount of contact. I ended up backstroking to get out of the crowd and try to catch my breath. I flipped over and swam freestyle for a bit, then felt the need to turn back over. The went on through the entire swim. I'm not surprised it happened. I'm still a very weak swimmer and I've never done a group swim. But I felt good and was relaxed as I could be given the circumstances. Except for the jellyfish. I felt some stinging on the back of my arm and neck at one point. I guess that's what you get for backstroking in jellyfish infested waters. And then finally, I was about 50 meters from the final buoy and a quick swim back to the beach so I knew I would make it. I was elated.

I felt a bit winded exiting the water and we had to run up the beach in the sand to transition, which made me even more winded. When I got to transition, I knew I was moving kind of slow, but was still overwhelmed by the swim and simply could not move any faster. And then Mistake Number 3 happened. I'm pale. Very pale. And I can't be in the sun without SPF. I had the clear spray you can put on in seconds in order to save time. I was most concerned about my back being exposed on the bike, so I quickly sprayed my back and neck. The minute the spray hit my neck I remembered the jellyfish. Let me tell you, sunscreen and jellyfish stings do not mix. I felt like someone took a blowtorch to my neck. I had to pour water on it to put out the fire. Within minutes, I was on my bike for the 12-mile ride. The course was totally flat so it was a nice, easy ride. It took about seven miles for my breathing to settle from the swim and then I felt great. After three quick loops I was back in transition for the run.

This transition was a lot faster and I was anxious to start the run. I definitely had the lead legs feeling, but not as bad as I'd expected. When you transition from the bike to running, your heart rate increases and makes it harder to tell your pace. I felt slow and heavy so I assumed I was running a bit slower than usual, which was fine by me. But when I got to the turnaround at 1.5 miles, I looked at my time and realized I was doing an 8-minute mile. I was sure I must have calculated it wrong.

The finish was on a wooden boardwalk in the blazing sun. The entire run was super hot, but the second half even more so. I looked over to my right and there was the swim start. It already felt like that was so long ago and I had a moment of reflection on how proud I was that I was able to do it and that I was finishing strong. Another racer challenged me to a sprint at the end and I couldn't say no so we finished as fast as we possibly could. At that moment, I went from training for a triathlon to being a triathlete. My first race was over. When the unofficial results were posted, I confirmed that I actually ran less than an 8-minute mile and set a personal record for the 5K. What a great way to finish.

There is nothing I would change about my first race. Sure, I could be a better swimmer, but I could also be faster on the bike. I didn't have a meltdown and I didn't end up a DNF. I only started training six weeks ago and never imagined how challenging, exciting and rewarding the journey would be. I have just 21 days until my big race, the NYC Triathlon. The swim is almost four times as long and the bike and run are twice as long. But I've heard that a bag of Cheetos floated the swim course in just 20 minutes, so that makes me doubt myself a bit less. And for now, I'm thrilled to have experienced my first tri and I can't wait to get back to training to make the next race even better.

Race - Staten Island Flat as a Pancake Sprint Triathlon

Swim (.25 miles) - 13:26
T1 - 3:10
Bike (12 miles) - 39:17
T2 - 1:31
Run (3.1 miles) - 24:34

Total: 1:21:56

June 27, 2008

Quarter of the Way

Pre-race day. I should have gotten a good night's sleep, rested, been all packed up and ready by now. But since I'm disorganized and a procrastinator, plus I can't ever seem to get to bed on time, instead I got about 5 hours sleep, hit snooze three times and ended up rushing out the door to get to the pool. I arrived at 9 and planned one hour of what I hoped would be confidence-boosting practice.

I did a slow warm-up and then started a series of attempts to swim without breaks. I began with 100 yards and worked my way up to 200. I figured if I could do 200 comfortably, I might feel a little better about tomorrow since it's close to half the distance I'll need to cover. I did 200 and decided I could do more so I planned to add two more lengths. But then after two, I felt I could do more so I kept going. I made it 18 lengths without stopping, the equivalent of .25 miles. I was so happy and so relieved. This is the best day I've had swimming yet. And amazingly, I didn't feel like I was going to drop over afterward. If I hadn't gotten the help with my breathing last week, there is no way I could race tomorrow. Last Thursday, I still could only do two lengths without taking a break. I can't believe how quickly I was able to improve.

I stopped by JackRabbit, otherwise known as the perpetual hole burning in my wallet, to pick up some basics - a race belt, a box of GU, some CO2 refills. But as I walked into the store, something shiny and magical caught my eye - the new Garmin Forerunner 405. A beam of light was shining down on it from above and I swear it called out my name. I walked over, the guy took it out of the case, I took one look and I was sold. I have been wanting this for months and haven't been able to find one. If I didn't have the race tomorrow, I would have put it on and gone for a run. Instead, it is waiting patiently to be put to the test during my brick workout on Sunday. I can't wait.

I'm still not ready for the race tomorrow. I need to organize all my transition stuff and plan what I'm wearing. But of course, I'm headed out first for a pre-race drink to calm the nerves. I'll do my best to go to sleep early, but with a 4 a.m. wake-up, I doubt I'll get much rest. I never sleep much before a marathon and I've never had to worry about drowning during a marathon so I imagine it will be a long night. But don't worry, mom. I won't actually drown, my wetsuit will keep me afloat. The only thing that can be significantly hurt tomorrow is my pride. But I'll give it my best and see what comes of it. Stay tuned for the race report.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - 1800 yards (1.02 miles)
Time - 1:00:00

June 26, 2008

My Obsession

Ok, I'll admit it. I'm fairly obsessed with triathlon. This is partly due to the fact that I signed up for an Olympic distance with only two months to train and had never had a swimming lesson in my life. It's also partly due to the newness of the sport. I'm curious about all of the unknowns and there is more to learn than I could ever absorb in such a short amount of time. But most of all, I feel as though I've discovered something I could really love. I always enjoyed running and biking, but learning to swim has been a discovery. It is at once terrifying, intriguing, invigorating and frustrating. It has become a challenge that I wake up every morning determined to overcome.

I've had some serious ups and downs in my quest to learn how to swim. There are days when I think I'm finally getting it, and days when I wonder why I put in all the time and effort. Last week, I came home from a disappointing pool session and posted a plea for help with breathing in a discussion forum on BeginnerTriathlete.com. I recently joined this site in an effort to learn more about triathlon and meet people in the sport. Within minutes, help was on the way. I received a few responses and one guy in particular offered to help. He is also fairly new to swimming, but light years ahead of where I am. Because he's still learning, he was able to give me really great advice that was easy to understand. I kept all of the advice in mind today and finally had a good swim. My start was rough as usual, but after things smoothed out, I was swimming 150-200 yards at a time, the most I've been able to do yet. It was surprising to reach the end of the pool and not have the desire to stop. I can't thank him enough for taking the time to help out a stranger, especially a stranger with a million questions. But that's another great thing about this sport. Triathletes are eager to welcome, encourage and help beginners.

I was kind of glad it rained today so I had an iron-clad excuse not to do a ride. My legs were really sore this morning, which caught me by surprise. I guess adding the lunges to my routine right before flying wasn't such a good idea. I saved my legs for my JackRabbit group run tonight instead. It was pretty hot and humid, but the rain held off. We did a loop of Central Park, 6.02 miles. I ran with Pam again for the first half or so and we chatted the entire time so I knew I was a little lower than my usual pace, but my legs were tired and it was so nice to have someone to talk to for a change. I increased my speed a bit for the second half - the hilly half - and did pretty well overall.

I'm doing a longer swim tomorrow in preparation for Saturday's race. After the swim, I'm going to rest and get everything ready for the super early morning start. There are thunderstorms and 90 degree heat in the forecast, but it should be early enough in the morning to avoid the heat. The storms are another issue. I'll probably check weather.com 400 times between now and then hoping for a change. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - 1350 yards (.75 miles)
Time - 45:00

Sport - Running
Distance - 6.02 miles
Time - 53:32

June 25, 2008

Rain Check

Right before I went to sleep last night, I pulled up the hour-by-hour forecast and knew my planned open water swim was likely not going to happen. There was a 40% chance of thunderstorms and the wind at the lake was supposed to be at least 10 mph, meaning the water would likely be too choppy even if the rain held off. As soon as I woke up, I knew my swim would not be a reality. It was dark over the lake and the rain was already coming down pretty heavily.

I ran yesterday and have a run tomorrow, so I couldn't run today. This left me only one option - the stationary bike. I have a hard time running and biking indoors. The treadmill for me is like torture. I'd rather run in the pouring rain and brave sweltering heat than be stuck at the gym on the treadmill. It makes me feel like I'm in one of those hamster wheels and no amount of music or TV can distract me enough to enjoy it. It just doesn't work for me. When it comes to biking indoors, I prefer to be on my trainer so it's closer to actually biking, but in a pinch, I'll use a stationary if I have to. I get bored so even with the best of intentions to ride one hour, I bailed at 45 minutes.

Awhile back, I had gotten really good about doing 100 crunches each day in an effort to build some core strength. It lasted for a brief time, but after my big Memorial Day in DC, I stopped doing them entirely. So I started back at it today with 100 crunches and 30 oblique crunches on each side. I threw in squats and lunges as well. Because in addition to the NYC Tri, I have the Chipotle Underwear Run the Friday before to prepare for. What could be better than running 1.7 miles in Central Park with your two craziest friends (the only people willing to do it) in your underwear on a Friday night? And better yet, there will be Chipotle burrito bowls waiting at the finish line. Now that's a photo worth capturing.

I'm flying back to New York tonight and have some pretty big training days ahead. I'll be swimming, biking and running tomorrow, and swimming again Friday. About a week ago, I signed up for a Sprint tri on Saturday, thinking it would be good practice for the NYC Tri. I don't want NYC ruined by irrational, first-timer fears and thought this might be a good way to beat that. However, my open water swimming and subsequent pool swim here did not go as well as I hoped so I'm a bit concerned about this race. I was inclined to bag it and just keep working toward the NYC, but after some reflection, I've decided to do it. I am doing it with absolutely no expectations and I'm leaving my ego behind. I know there is a slight chance I won't be able to complete the swim and if that happens, it will be my first-ever DNF. I finished a half-marathon once on a fractured leg so the thought of a DNF is new territory for me. But the swim is short, straight and close to the shore, so I think I will finish, even if I have to side stroke and back stroke my way through. I know many others have had to even with the best of preparation and I don't care if I'm the last person out of 600 racers to exit the water. So wish me luck. If all goes well, I'll be reporting on my experience Saturday. If it doesn't go well, I may have to break the beer moratorium yet again.

Sport - Biking (stationary)
Distance - 11.03 miles
Time - 45:00

June 24, 2008

Off the Deep End

I got up early this morning (well, early for me) with the intention of doing a slightly longer run followed by an hour at the local pool during the mid-day lap swim. However, a few cups of coffee and two hours later, I was finally motivating myself out the door. When I started running, my legs felt heavy and slow so I was sure my pace was off. Since I never invested in a Garmin and I'm now patiently waiting to get my hands on the new 405, I have to wait a mile to know my pace. I hit the first one in about 8:15 so I was actually doing better than I thought.

I ran the reverse direction of the 4.8-miler I did the other day, then added on the 3-miler I also previously ran. This was my longest run since January, from before my big running hiatus. It was a good run and relatively trouble-free except for some minor plantar fascia pain around mile 4. Clearly this is going to continue to persist so I will need to pay close attention to my left foot.

Since I got off to a later start running and didn't have a car, I had to wait until 5:30 for my swim. There is a local Y nearby so I shelled out $10 for a day pass to swim for 30 minutes. Normally, this would feel very worthwhile, anything to get in a good, quality swim, right? Wrong. Today's swim was one of my worst yet. It gave me flashbacks to my first few times in the pool where I felt utterly helpless and wondered what the heck I was doing. I'm not sure if my open water swimming made me get a bit lazy with my stroke, or if it was the unfamiliar pool, but I was a total disaster.

There were a few things really throwing me off:

(1) The lap lanes ran from the shallow end to the deep end, a range of 3-12 feet. My pool is all one depth, around 4/4.5 feet. I like this consistency. I like being able to stop at either wall if needed and it gives me a nice, even visual line to follow. The really shallow start in this pool was a bit odd, the water was right around my waste. As the pool got deeper, I started to feel disoriented. I'm just not used to seeing the bottom drop like that. I turned around to head back and to my dismay, it was even more disturbing as the pool got shallower. It literally made me feel like I was sinking. I could tell this would be the longest 16 laps I've ever had to swim.

(2) The water was all the way to the top and overflowed into a drain, like those pools you see at resorts. For some reason, this also disrupted my visual perspective and it made it harder for me to tell where the wall actually was. I know it sounds odd, but I can't explain it. I stopped short a few times, which was then hard to recover from.

(3) The lifeguard actually paid attention. I've already established how much I HATE having someone watch me intently while swimming. Fortunately, the pool was almost empty so I had the entire slow lane to myself and there was only one other swimmer in the adjacent lane. Unfortunately, this meant the lifeguard had nothing else to do but watch my inept effort. Thankfully she took a break to test the chlorine levels and do some paperwork, which allowed me a few scrutiny-free laps.

After the swim, I broke my beer moratorium once more. I only had one, but it eased the pain a bit. I immediately located the email of the swim coach I've been meaning to go to. I'm hoping to see him as early next week as possible so I won't have to endure another disappointing session like this.

Weather permitting, I'm planning to hit Lake Michigan one last time tomorrow morning before I fly back to New York. My OWS opportunities will be very limited after this so I want to make the most of it. At least there, the only spectators will be a few early-risers, my mom (worrying the entire time I might actually drown) and the seagulls. That's just the way I like it.

Sport - Running
Distance - 7.8 miles
Time - 1:07:11

Sport - Swimming
Distance - 800 meters (.5 miles)
Time - 30:00

June 23, 2008

If at First You Don't Succeed

The Great Lakes "surf report" said the water was calm and winds were low, so I headed back to Lake Michigan for OWS Attempt #2. I left all expectations behind and just hoped to be able to gain a little more comfort in the water and stay afloat. When I arrived, I could see the current had switched directions and was now moving right to left, which is much better for me since I breathe on the left facing the beach, which would avoid taking the waves in the face.

It was much colder outside today, about 64 degrees, and the water felt colder as well. It took about 15 minutes of treading and breathing practice to get past the shock of the cold and get ready to start. My big plan was to cover the quarter-mile route with as much freestyle as I could muster and take rests with the back stroke or side stroke. I started out pretty comfortably, but after about 60 meters, I felt the need to stop and feel my feet on the ground so I didn't fight it. After all, my first OWS was such a disaster so I was just pleased I wasn't having a full-fledged panic attack. I rested a bit and started again. As the water got deeper and the waves picked up a bit, I felt a little uneasy, but kept moving. I reached my stopping point after taking maybe four breaks total. This isn't good, but I feel it's the best I can do right now. Since the current was so strong, I walked back to my starting point and did it again. The second round was definitely better and I stopped less, but it still wasn't the continuous effort I was hoping for. I spent about 30 minutes just practicing my stroke and breathing in the water, basically going back and forth between a few buoys. This is so helpful and I want to take advantage of it while I'm here since open water opportunities in New York are limited.

I'm still not sure I'm ready for the practice tri I signed up for this weekend. I'm hoping to get back to the lake at least one more time before heading home and hopefully then I'll have a better sense of my comfort level. What do you think?

I really wanted to run or at least hit the stationary bike tonight since my real bike is 800 miles away in New York, but I also really wanted to be with my family, so I let the desire to be with family outweigh my need to train. After all, I'm human, and I don't know when I'll be here in Michigan again with everyone. I can always fit in an extra session when I'm in NYC alone. So I had a fun night, drank too much wine, but am now overcompensating with water so tomorrow morning will be a fresh start. I'm hoping to find another OWS opp and a long run as well. Fingers crossed.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - at least .5 miles
Time - 1:00:00

June 21, 2008

Great Lakes... Not so Great

Today was my first open water swim, or OWS as we like to call it in the triathlon world. I had been excited about it and certainly a little nervous, but after walking the beach yesterday and plotting the course, I was feeling pretty confident. I did the swim at Silver Beach on Lake Michigan. For those who haven't experienced it, Lake Michigan is like a fresh water ocean. It's so vast you cannot see across or side to side and there is almost always a strong current and undertow. In fact, I read an article last year about America's deadliest beaches and the neighboring beach to Silver Beach was listed. Regardless, my pie in the sky plan was to swim part of the Steelhead Ironman 70.3 course, but to my dismay, there was a massive WWII re-enactment taking place this morning and the D-Day landing was coinciding with my swim so I had to move it next door.

I arrived relaxed and ready for the challenge, but the first thing I noticed were the waves. They were a bit rough and I could see a strong left to right current so this changed my plans of swimming from right to left. I waded out to the buoy line, spent a minute getting comfortable and took off. I immediately noticed how difficult it was, but figured, "hey, this isn't so bad." But then after about 35 meters, I raised my head to breath and took a huge wave in the face, which totally threw me off. I tried to side stroke to recover and it was hopeless. Then my recently reconciled Speedo Vanquisher goggles leaked. If lightning had suddenly struck, it would have been the only worse scenario for me. It took me a few minutes to recover, then I started out again and was wondering if the effort was a lost cause. I had developed the dreaded "open water panic" and not only couldn't breathe, but couldn't even exhale into the water. My chest was constricted and I felt utterly helpless.

I know I haven't been swimming long, but how could this be happening? I was so frustrated that I wanted to quit, but I decided to do some breathing drills while floating and make the most of being in this massive lake. After getting comfortable, I pushed on and made the .25 mile swim in increments of about 40 meters at a time. I never got used to being pummeled in the face by waves and at times I felt like I wasn't moving forward at all. It was like swimming in one of those endless wave pools, not that I've had that experience. I was frustrated, but I can't expect too much on my first try so I'm going to go back and try again on Monday. And if all goes well, I'll try again on Tuesday. I'm determined to get past my fears and get comfortable in the water.

On the more positive front, my wetsuit was incredible, my tri top and shorts were great underneath, and I wasn't stopping because I was tired, it was just because I don't yet know how to navigate the open water.

After a banana, water and Starbucks on the ride home, I immediately went out for a short run, still in my wet tri clothes. I did three miles and tried to push my pace to 8:00 per mile, but fell slightly short at 24:26. But that's ok, I seem to be getting my running legs back... finally.

My nephew is being baptized tomorrow morning and I am one of his godmothers, so I'm hoping to squeeze in an early morning workout, but if it doesn't happen, I think I have a good enough reason and can make up for it on Monday.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - .25 miles plus drills
Time - 1:00:00

Sport - Running
Distance - 3 miles
Time - 24:26

June 20, 2008

No More Excuses

I had an early start this morning with a 3:45 a.m. wakeup call for a 6 a.m. flight to Michigan. I got a decent amount of sleep last night and slept as much as you can sleep on a plane, but I was still beat by afternoon. Regardless, it was a really great day. I broke my beer moratorium for two afternoon drinks with family and then headed over to Lake Michigan to plan my first open water swim. The water was surprisingly comfortable at around 60 degrees and the distance was easy to map with a hand held GPS. I am so excited about the swim. There is a good chance I will struggle, but it's my first opportunity to really get a sense of what I'm capable of. After tomorrow, I'll have no more excuses at the pool. I'll definitely have to stop taking so many breaks and push myself harder.

Deep in the back of my mind, I had been planning at least a short run this afternoon. Then the total exhaustion kicked in and the internal struggle began. Would I be too tired? Or would it give me energy? Maybe I could just rest and do a longer run after my swim tomorrow. Or maybe it would be better to run more tonight and have a light run tomorrow. The debate went on like this for an hour before I finally decided to do it.

It was a great run on rolling hills with a good amount of challenging inclines. My sister loaned me her Forerunner so I was obsessed with monitoring my pace. I slowed tremendously on the hills, but made up for it on the flats and gradual inclines. At 3.8 miles, my old friend plantar fasciitis paid me an unwanted visit. I quickly stretched my calf and walked for a minute or two and it thankfully subsided. I will be sure to pay a bit more attention to my stretching and icing over the next few days.

Training aside, today was also really special because I met my baby nephew Maddox for the first time. He was born in April, but since he lives in Wisconsin, this was our first introduction. Needless to say, he is amazing and it will be a lot of fun to spend the weekend with him. All in all, I cannot ask for more.

Sport - Running
Distance - 4.8 miles
Time - 41:21

June 19, 2008

Take a Deep Breath

My training was a bit derailed today by life. I had planned to hit the pool in the morning for some breathing drills and then had a group run scheduled tonight. I also had to prepare to leave town early Friday morning and had a work meeting scheduled right in the middle of the day. I tried to get some things done this morning and ended up being too late to get to the pool. So I got ready for my day instead, packed, had my meeting and ran errands. I then decided to skip the group run and run alone, but then changed my mind and settled on going to the pool instead. After all, swimming is my weakness and you have to train your weakness.

I was absolutely amazed by how empty the pool was. Apparently, I may want to reconsider my scheduling. It was great to have the place virtually to myself and I was able to get a lot of tips from the lifeguard as well. I told her I was just learning and she said I looked like I had been swimming for awhile. I think a tear came to my eye when she said that. It was a proud moment to know I no longer look like I'm flailing around in the water.

I didn't go to the pool tonight to swim, but rather to do breathing drills. I got some great advice from an online triathlete community I joined and I could not wait to try it out. I did some breathing work just standing in the pool with my hands on the side, face in the water. I did a variation of this floating and facing the wall so I could rotate a little while breathing. Then I swam several laps of a breathing drill where you swim on your side, the bottom arm straight ahead and the top arm resting on your hip. You put your face in the water and kick, and rotate up to breathe as needed. Since you are on your side, you're already in position to rotate up to the surface so it's more natural. I then put all of this to work on a few regular laps, with very deliberate focus on body rotation and breathing without lifting my head. It works! It was amazing how easy those laps were. I wasn't breathless and my heart wasn't pounding out of my chest. For the first time ever, I thought I could get in an swim multiple lengths without stopping. I can't wait to practice more. This might be the elusive breakthrough I've been so desperately seeking. The only downside was the amount of pool water I drank. I hope the toddler swim wasn't right before adult swim.

I got yet another new pair of goggles today since my slick, new Speedo Vanquishers vanquished my face, or rather my eye sockets. I got the highly raved about AquaSphere Kaiman's, what clearly must be the most popular goggles. I was like a kid on Christmas morning, barely able to wait to get home to unwrap them and play with them. I burst through the door and still wearing a dress, I put on my swim cap and got my new goggles out for a try-on. It took several adjustments and they seemed good so I put them on at the pool and jumped in. At first, they were great. But then about 3 laps in, they started taking on water, a dribble at first, but then Titanic-like proportions. I had to pull them off to get the chlorine out of my eyes and reluctantly put the Vanquishers on. I'm going to give them another try after playing with the fit a little. I figured one out of the three pairs I now own have to come through for me in the end. Otherwise, swimming with my eyes closed is started to sound pretty good.

Sport - Swimming; breathing drills
Distance - I wasn't counting
Time - 30:00

June 18, 2008

Hungry Like the Wolf

Ok, it's time to discuss what training does to your appetite. I've trained for a few marathons and have done a couple centuries and have always been hungrier during the training, particularly at the end, but I have to say, I've never been the ravenous beast that I am now until triathlon training. I am hungry from the moment I get out of bed until the moment I fall asleep, and sometimes for small pockets of time when I wake up during the night. It's pretty much all I think about. I have to deliberately plan every thing I eat to get through my training and my day. I was out for a ride today and passed a girl and guy riding casually and chatting, and all I heard of their discussion was "roasted eggplant with a little goat cheese" and I was salivating. I was pretty depleted on this ride and got to the point where it was too late for a GU, but seriously, just hearing about food put me over the edge.

My day started with a swim, I did .75 miles and tried to focus on doing more uninterrupted sets. I had a fairly unusual experience today though - at one point, I was the only swimmer in the pool. I hate the crowds, but I also don't want to be the only one. Thankfully, the guy in the lane next to me must have been just hitting the loo because he came back and took some of the pressure off me. I had an ok swim, but still not great. I need to learn how to breathe more naturally and got some great advice on the beginnertriathlete.com forum that I can't wait to try out. This community has been a huge help to me. I'm so glad I found it.

My ride was great aside from my food fantasies. I kept a good pace and think I'll be able to clear the ride in my race in about 1:30:00 if all goes well. But the fact that I was hungry and fatigued was overwhelming. I ate lunch, then a snack, then a dessert, then had a coffee, then had cereal, and this was all before going out for drinks. Then drinks led to tons of guacamole, equal amounts of chips and a massive plate of pork tacos. I was with two fairly heavy-eating guys and I still ate more. I'm starting to scare people and I'm only scratching the surface.

Tomorrow I'm going to work on breathing instead of just distance. I want to be as ready as possible for my open water swim in Michigan, which I have no doubt will push me to a new level of hunger. I look forward to my response.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - 1400 yards (1280 meters or .79 miles)
Time - 45:00

Sport - Biking
Distance - 23.25 miles
Time - 1:35:54

June 17, 2008


I reached a major milestone today in my swimming - I finally covered one mile. In my pool, one mile is 72 lengths and I managed to drag myself about 76 lengths. It took an hour, but I felt pretty good the entire time even though I'm still taking a lot of breaks. I think I'm ready to push past the breaks and try for more consecutive laps with smaller rests in between sets. I just have to keep taking it one day at a time since this was still only my 14th swim ever. I'm just happy to have gotten this far so quickly.

Even though it rated as a good swim, I did have to suffer some more indignity. The pool is always crowded on Tuesdays so sharing a lane is a certainty. My lane mate left about 20 minutes after I started and for a brief time, I got it all to myself. But then, worse than the rippling-muscle-speedo guy from a couple weeks ago, the female lifeguard joined me. I've seen her swim before so I was immediately mortified. She got in and tore up our lane, totally putting me to shame and making me more conscious of my every move than before. She is extremely fast so she did her swim and got out. But then, to layer on more suffering, she sat on the dive platform at the end of our lane and chatted with - who else - the rippling-muscle-speedo guy who just happened to be in the next lane over! But once again, I was selected for the share instead of him, even though they are clearly friendly, because I am the slow, sad swimmer that makes the perfect lane mate. I hope she at least noticed my massive improvement since first coming to the pool on May 19.

Since I couldn't get in a real ride today, I hopped on the trainer after dinner for a one-hour ride. I can never bike as fast on the trainer as I can outside, but the effort always feels incredibly hard because I'm constantly pedaling. Even though I've gotten better at not coasting when outside, you still get the help of downhills and varied terrain that makes it feel different. But the hardest part of riding on the trainer for me is the boredom. An hour is usually my limit. I got in a little over 12 miles and called it a night.

I'm not working tomorrow so I'm hoping to get in a good training day. I'll wait and see what sounds good in the morning.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - 1800 yards (1645 meters or 1.02 miles)
Time - 1:00:00

Sport - Biking (on trainer)
Distance - 12.63 miles
Time - 1:00:00

June 16, 2008

Birds of a Feather

I finally had a good run today. I got up with the intention of swimming in the morning and running in the evening, but then saw in the weather report that more thunderstorms were expected. I switched my plan and did a 5-mile morning run instead. I felt good right from the start, something that has certainly been elusive lately. I was keeping a decent pace and was not struggling. I was loosely tracking where I was each mile and seemed to be averaging just around 8:30 - a little slower on the first couple and much faster on the final couple. I did my last mile in 8:15 for a 42:03 finish.

I did have a rather comical wildlife encounter along the route. I was passing through an area called South Cove where a group of tourists were strolling slowly and blocking the fairly tight turn. I made it a point to zip past them as fast as possible, hoping to remind them they were in a park with a recreation path. Just as I turned the corner, there was a flock of pigeons hovering kind of low as if they had just taken off. I've seen this sight hundreds of times and the birds usually move out of the way. Usually being the operative word here. As I ran through, a huge pigeon struck me on the head. It was like someone dropped a rock on me and I felt its poky orange feet in my hair. I screamed and then shouted "gross," as I continued to run. So not only did I teach the tourists a valuable lesson in blocking the park path, I showed them what an idiot New Yorker does when a filthy bird lands on their head. At least I gave them a good story to tell.

I'm ashamed to say that my evening swim never happened. I had a busy day and was tired so I bagged it. I have yet to drag myself to the pool at night. I can sit here and make all the excuses in the world, but they will only be excuses so I'll just admit to deciding not to do it and leave it at that. I will try to swim Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday since I'll be in Michigan for six days starting Friday. However, I found a local pool I can visit while there and I'll be doing an open water swim in Lake Michigan this weekend. I'll be sure to watch out for the seagulls.

Sport - Running
Distance - 5 miles
Time - 42:03

June 15, 2008

Little Bricks

Today was my first-ever brick workout, with my twice-weekly JackRabbit training group. We met bright and early (emphasis on early) this morning at 7, instead of 8, to avoid the Father's Day race in the park. That means I had to get up at - gasp - 5:30 to have time for the appropriate number of Eggos and coffee before my ride up to the park.

The air was wet this morning, but it wasn't yet warm. It was a particularly disgusting brand of humidity that makes you wish summer was over and fall was on the way. I arrived on time and was ready for the day's challenge. We proceeded to set up a transition area with our running shoes and assorted accessories, then took off for a loop ride. If we weren't stopped after one loop, that meant to ride on for a second loop before the run. I wasn't stopped so I did two loops, 12.04 miles. I rode well, but not nearly as well as last week's time trial. There were a couple people in the group that I tried to keep up with, but my legs failed me and they continued to pull away. There was one girl that I tried to follow the entire way and I was elated to blast past her on the second time up Harlem Hill, but she still managed to dust me on the straightaway. Clearly, I need to work on my speed.

I rode into transition, which was only about 1.5-2 minutes total, slipped off my bike shoes, pulled on my running shoes, ditched the helmet, put on my running hat and off I went. It's no wonder they call the workout a brick because that's what your legs feel like. I had ridden 16 miles total with the trip up to the park, so nothing too crazy. But I was asking my body to fire totally different muscles, and it seemed to take forever for those muscles to kick in. I felt like I was running in slow motion, yet my heart rate was sky high. All of this subsided after about a mile. Too bad I was only running 1.7 miles! As I reached the one-mile mark, I realized the guy right in front of me must be in my group (what other guy is running in Central Park in bike shorts?). I gained on him, we chatted a bit, and to my delight, I passed him. He had started before me and I comfortably overcame him. While I'm not competing with my training mates, I'm competing with myself and my running has been disappointing lately so this made me feel great. I finished strong and felt really good.

I had a nice, short four-mile ride home and was able to hit the local diner before most people even rolled out of bed for the day. Getting up so early has made today feel like two days instead of one, which is most certainly a great reason for early rising (although not likely to motivate many repeats).

I registered today for the Flat as a Pancake Sprint triathlon on June 28 on Staten Island. I think I need the warm-up in advance of the NYC Triathlon. I don't want to be experiencing a world of "firsts" that day and am hoping this Sprint will let me work through the unknowns and anxieties of race day. And, best of all, they serve pancakes. What more could you ask for?

Sport - Brick (Biking, Running)
Distance - Biking: 19.42 miles total; Running: 1.7 miles
Time - Biking: 1:22:19 total; Running: 14:05

June 14, 2008

All Over the Place

Each day while training, I think about potential titles for the day's posting, usually in reaction to whatever has been most prominent. However, my thoughts today were all over the place and I was unable to pinpoint just one observation. So today, I'm posting in sections.

Weekend Warriors

Since yesterday turned out to be a total bust training-wise due to a late birthday night, I decided to make up for it with a morning swim, my first visit to the pool on the weekend. There was no one on the street and the building was virtually empty so I was feeling excited that it might be nice and quiet at the pool. Alas, that was not the case. Apparently there are tons of people who enjoy a nice Saturday swim. The pool was packed, but luckily there was one lane with just one swimmer so I hopped in.

Every time I swim, I do better than the last time. I'm still not breathing properly, but everything else is coming along so nicely that I've let it go for now. I noticed today that I don't need breaks as much, but I've gotten into the habit of stopping after each lap, like it's a reward for doing well. I need to break this habit, particularly when I don't need the rest. I swam 25 laps today (50 lengths), which is the furthest I've gone yet. I wanted to get to 54 lengths because it equals .75 miles, but just as I finished my last lap, the swim time was up. Next time.

Before I move on to running, I need to make a note about my previous swimming entries. I've been referring to lengths as laps. I'm an idiot. A lap is actually two lengths, a round trip from your starting point. So from now on, when I refer to a lap I'll be doing it correctly.

The Color Purple

When I got back from the pool, it was already getting pretty toasty outside. My lazy side kicked in and I really didn't feel like going running. But after remembering my lazy day yesterday and all the birthday beers I drank, I finally motivated myself to go. It was 82 degrees and I run along the Hudson where there isn't a speck of shade, so I slathered on the SPF 55 and was on my way.

I used to be a runner. I vaguely recall finishing a marathon not so long ago, even despite record-high heat. I remember going from a 9.5 minute mile to 8.5 or less in just a month after that marathon. I remember thinking a 12-mile run was short. But lately, I don't feel like a runner. I have struggled to get it back after my plantar fasciitis break and I admit I'm not putting in enough miles due to the other parts of my training. Today's run was a little frustrating. I felt fatigued from the very first step and it did not improve. And just for fun, I had a horrible side stitch for the entire first mile. Always a treat. In an effort to avoid being Debbie Downer, I'm going to first point out the positives, then have a look at the negatives.

1. I actually did it, versus staying on the couch like I really wanted to.
2. My plantar fasciitis seems to be a thing of the past for now. In fact, I didn't experience pain anywhere during the run.
3. It's finished.

1. My legs felt like lead the entire time. Every step was deliberate and labored.
2. Side stitches - why am I suddenly getting these? It's such a pain. Literally.
3. I had to take a couple breaks to find the motivation to continue. Sad.
4. During the last 1.5 miles or so, even my arms and back were fatigued.

Maybe I didn't eat enough this morning or maybe I used it all up on the swim. I just don't know. But it was a pretty awful run, one I could not wait to finish. Plus I'm just not used to summer running yet. I was so hot the entire time that no amount of water over the head seemed to help. When I got home, I noticed my face was literally purple! Tons of cold water and about two hours later, it faded to a nice shade of pink. I'm surprised no one called an ambulance for me.

Running is tough and I know it takes time to get back into so I'm going to step it up this week and hopefully see some improvements. My NYC Marathon training schedule begins Monday, June 30. I was hoping to have done really solid base training this year, but I got sidetracked by the tri. While I haven't been putting in the mileage, I know the tri training will pay dividends later through overall better fitness.

My Sincere Apologies to the Pedicure Lady

I'm a fairly girly girl. I take my $80 shampoo to the pool, I have a bathroom closet that looks like an aisle at Sephora, I try to be waxed, tweezed and pedicured, particularly in the summer months. However, due to work and training, I've let things slip a bit lately. Everyone knows that runners have ugly feet. The only thing uglier would be a triathlete's feet. I went for a very long overdue pedicure today and felt as though I should have been charged more for the service. It looked like Edward Scissorhands did my last pedicure and I can't even admit how long ago that was. So for at least a week, before the pool, friction from my bike shoes and the unforgiving torture that running inflicts, I'll be able to wear sandals and peep-toe's with pride.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - 1,143 meters (50 lengths; .71 miles)
Time - 45:00

Sport - Running
Distance - 4.65 miles
Time - 40:58

June 12, 2008

Birthday Surprises

All good birthdays are filled with surprises. Usually, these surprises are in the form of gifts or fun, unexpected experiences. But for me, I had a series of frustrating surprises as I tried to go about my day. I woke up and had a very limited amount of time to get to the pool. But this was OK, I was riding my bike today for the first time. I was all set to go when the surprises began. First, my fancy Kryptonite lock was way too big to wear around my waist. I've lost about 15 pounds over the last 6 months and I'm guessing that's the reason. I wrapped it around my seat post and went on my way. Next, I didn't think about what I would do with my perfect mesh shoulder bag. I guess I thought I would keep it on my shoulder, but as soon as I started to ride, it slipped forward and became a nuisance. Of course, I'm now in NYC traffic so no changes can be made. Nice planning.

My once-perfect mesh bag was scraping along the spokes with every revolution. I just could not keep it behind my back. And then that damn lock. It hit my leg every time I tried to pedal. I did my best to ignore it. Oh, and there was one more problem. At home, when I was getting ready to go, my bike computer threw me a curve ball. It's supposed to come off easily. But regardless of what I tried, it wouldn't budge. I was prepared to rip the damn thing off when I finally gave up and let it go.

I had a pretty good swim. It was really crowded so I ended up switching lanes a few times, but I felt I was doing well. I'm still not thrilled with how I breathe - I lift my head all the way out of the water and look forward, which makes your legs drop and makes everything more tiring, but I don't know how else to do it. I have tried and tried again to breathe to the side, but it just hasn't caught on. Everything else is going well so I can't complain.

Today was my birthday so after the pool, I wasn't sure I wanted to do more. I came home and killed some time, then decided "what the hell." I got on my bike and headed up to Central Park. It turns out my bike computer was still not working so I was unable to track distance or time. But hey, it was my birthday and I wasn't out to set any records. I rode up to the park and did a couple loops. But seriously - did the rest of New York not get the memo that today was my birthday and that they should all stay out of my way? I was surprised by how crowded it was and after two laps, after a random old lady called another cyclist a "dirty son-of-a-bitch" and told him to drop dead, I'd had enough. It was a nice ride, but it was very leisurely, as a birthday ride should be.

I headed home and made my way out to my usual bar for my b-day celebration. As said before, I'm not big on birthdays, but if you're going to celebrate it, do it with the people you most like to be with. And that's what I did tonight.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - At least .5 miles (lost count at 43 laps)
Time - 45:00

Sport - Biking
Distance - 20.02 miles
Time - Not sure

June 11, 2008

Taking a Closer Look

I looked back through my blog archives today and counted the number of times I've been swimming. I had two, one-hour lessons and have since been to the pool just 11 times. This realization was significant to me because it shifted my thinking from how much I suck to how far I've come in such a short period of time. In fact, until last Tuesday, I was barely swimming 18-20 laps and now I'm doing double that in less time.

Today was a good day at the pool. I loosened my goggles a bit so we've had a temporary reconciliation. I still had the rings, but much less severe. I did a few warm up laps to get comfortable, but had only 30 minutes today so my goal was to cover the same distance with very little stopping. I have finally started doing two consecutive laps each time with no rest, a huge improvement for me. Maybe tomorrow it will be three.

When I got off the elevator in the building where I swim, I noticed the faint smell of chlorine in the air, even though the pool is a good distance from where I enter. I had a flashback to childhood. Of staying in hotels with pools and of feeling so excited when I smelled the chlorine and knew I'd soon be playing in the water. It's funny how a pool is so magical as a child. It's no wonder children can learn to swim so naturally, so easily. I loved to play in the pool as a kid, but I waited almost 33 years to tackle the swimming part. On one hand, I regret I didn't learn sooner, but on the other, I'm grateful for this experience as an adult. I guess everything is as it should be.

Tomorrow is my 33rd birthday. I'm not working and my only obligation is to make it to the pool early enough to enjoy it. I'd also like to go for a mid-day ride, always a treat on a weekday. I'll then be gathering with friends at my usual bar for a very informal celebration. I'm not big on birthdays, it's just another year gone by after all. But this year feels different. It's a year where I decided to be a different person, to try new things. For once, I didn't over think it - I just did it. And the rewards have made it all so worthwhile. Now that's worth celebrating.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - .5 miles
Time - 30:00

Strength Training - 30:00

June 10, 2008

Ring Around.... My Eyes!!!

The passionate love affair with my new goggles came to an abrupt end this morning. Yes, they keep the water out and, amazingly, they don't fog too badly. Yes, I was able adjust them a bit better so my eyes don't feel like they are going to pop out any moment. However, after 40 minutes in the pool today, I slipped them off and headed into the locker room and, for the first time, I looked in the mirror before getting into the shower and was horrified by what I saw. I had HUGE red goggle rings around both eyes. I looked like some sort of insane masked villain only that was no mask, that was my face with quarter-inch indentations around my eyes. Hours later, the marks were still faintly there. I had to wear big, dark glasses in order to avoid frightening children and small dogs.

Raccoon eyes aside, today's swim was OK. I was definitely a bit rusty after the three-day hiatus so the first several laps were mostly just getting back into the rhythm. I tried to focus on glide to get further with less effort, which is great for the triathlon and keeps me from having to hang on the wall when I reach the end of the pool. When you watch videos of swimmers from under the water, they look so smooth and natural. This funny teaching DVD talks about "swimming like fishes" in this soothing, Bob Ross-like voice, how the right technique will get you to this smooth, natural movement. The only fish-like movement I seem to have adopted would be that of one flopping around out of water, gasping for air.

I did, however, have a realization today that was really good. When you lift your head to breathe, you often have a little water in your mouth, which at first, can catch you off guard and make you feel like you can't take a deep breath. I noticed today that I am getting a good, full breath even with water in my mouth so that's a baby step closer to getting more comfortable breathing properly.

To avoid the heat wave we're having in New York, I kept my second workout of the day indoors. Since starting training, I have barely been to the gym. I enjoy the real stuff so much more and especially love getting outside. But when it's pushing 100 degrees, the gym starts to look pretty good. To break up the monotony, I did a little bike/run workout where I did three sets of biking for 10 minutes, then running for 10 minutes. It made the hour fly by and kept the boredom mostly at bay, although I tuned out for a minute on the treadmill and almost went right off the back! That has never happened to me before and it gave me quite a jolt. If I had to admit I was injured because I flew off the back of a treadmill, that would trump any humiliation I've experienced at the pool.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - .5 miles
Time - 40:00

Sport - Bike/Run Sets (3 x 10/10)
Distance - Bike: 6.61 miles; Running: 3.21 miles
Time - 1:00:00 (30:00 biking; 30:00 running)

June 8, 2008

Small Rewards

I may never ever enjoy getting up at 6:30 on Sunday mornings, but I was thankful to have the early start today. When I started my ride up to Central Park at 7:30, it was already in the mid-80s and the sun was blazing. Today's group training was to focus on intensity with a time trial. We got started right away with a five-mile warm up, which is a loop of the park minus Harlem Hill, then reconvened to check in for our time trial, which would be two full loops (loop = 6.02 miles).

When I last rode in the park, I was averaging 22.5 minutes for every loop, which was pretty good particularly since it was my second ride of the season. But today I wanted to ride faster so I pushed a little harder. The park was crowded with all the usual obstacles I've written about before, and to make matters more challenging, the entire East side was barricaded for the Puerto Rican Day Parade so it narrowed the recreation area significantly. So I played it safe when needed and pushed as hard as I could when the conditions allowed it. I felt like I was riding very strong and despite my legs being sore when I woke up this morning, they were doing well.

I made my first lap in 20:13. I was trying really hard to hit 20 minutes, but this was close enough. There was no stopping in between so I kept going and continued to keep up the pace. I actually thought I was pushing harder and perhaps going faster on this loop and was excited that I might break 40 minutes, but ended up finishing in 40:33 - good enough! This is significantly better than where I was a few weeks ago and it can only get better from here.

I did another loop at a slower pace and called it a day. I rode home and immediately began planning my small reward for the effort - another trip to the Big Apple BBQ Festival. It pays to have a hard workout the morning of the festival. I was able to double up at Big Bob Gibson's relatively guilt free. I think I need to skip meat for about a week though.

Tomorrow will be a rest day. Because I increased my running this week, my legs are feeling really fatigued and I don't want to risk a foot relapse. The tightness and pain have pretty much subsided and I'm hoping to keep it that way as I gradually build my mileage. Sleeping an hour later will be another small reward, one I'm very much looking forward to.

Sport - Biking (time trial)
Distance - 12.04 mile time trial; 32 miles total
Time - 40:33 time trial; 2:08:46 total

June 7, 2008


Today was a really good day. I slept like the dead again last night, woke up at 7:00 and was out the door at 8:00 for a race in Central Park. It was the women's-only New York Mini 10K, a race of 4,104 women that has been run since 1972. It was incredible to be surrounded by female athletes of all ages and types. There was a more civilized atmosphere and despite the sweltering heat and humidity, the start corral definitely smelled better than your average 10K. The oppressive heat actually reminded me of last year's Chicago Marathon.

The race started on Central Park West at 61st so we got to run on the street for a bit before entering the park. My first mile was strong, but the second and third were all uphill so I had to push hard. I have been battling stitches since I haven't run for a few months so I had to fight through some terrible spasms, particularly after the water stations. I need to get back into the groove of eating and drinking while running.

I maintained a pretty consistent pace throughout and even though my legs, and arms from swimming, felt like lead around mile four, I pushed on and finished strong in 864th place in 54:08, an average of 8:43 per mile. I'm slowly making my way back to where I was last winter and again, it was a pain-free run.

I took my time getting home from the race, then immediately hopped on my bike on the trainer for a quick ride. I was really hungry and tired from the race, but didn't want to waste a minute, so I ate an Eggo and drank a coffee while I biked. I figured it would save me at least 10 minutes. There's nothing like drinking a nice, hot Mud Truck coffee while doing cardiovascular activity. I rode for an hour and watched the coverage of the 2007 Kona Ironman yet again to pass the time. I have a confession to make. I have watched this at least eight times and I never get tired of the incredible human interest stories, of Scott Rigsby being the first double amputee to complete an Ironman, or Charlie Plaskon, the blind grandfather that defied odds and finished the race. I just love it. And I watch it all the time. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.

After an active morning, I rewarded myself at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. I had pulled pork shoulder from Big Bob Gibson's, said to be the best pulled pork in the U.S., and two servings of the whole hog. I stood in the hot sun for about an hour total waiting for my delicious pig and it was totally worth it. I finished it off with banana bourbon Nilla Wafer pudding and smores. If that doesn't undo a morning of physical activity, I don't know what does. I'll be heading back there tomorrow for more pork shoulder and some Texas brisket. The BBQ festival is definitely in my Top 5 favorite days of the year.

I'm so tired at this point that I can barely stay awake. On a Saturday night, that's generally not a good thing, but we are doing time trials tomorrow for our bike training so I need the rest. At least I'll have another active morning to justify an afternoon at the pork festival. What a great weekend.

Sport - Running (NYRRC Mini 10K)
Distance - 10K (6.2 miles)
Time - 54:08

Sport - Biking (on trainer)
Distance - 12 miles
Time - 1:02:45

June 6, 2008

Did I Miss Something?

I had to prep for work this morning so I didn't have the luxury of strolling to the pool and back with no regard to time. So I set my alarm for 6:45 and dragged myself out of bed for my fourth consecutive day at the pool. Before I get into that, let me share how exhausted you sometimes feel while training. While yesterday wasn't a particularly strenuous day, I swam in the morning, worked nonstop throughout the day and then ran at night. By the time I went to sleep, I was tired to the core, an unexplainable tiredness that makes you sleep as if someone beat you over the head with a heavy object. It's the kind of sleep where you don't wake up a single time in the night and you feel cheated when the alarm goes off. I had fleeting thoughts of sleeping in, but I pushed them aside and got up for my final swim this week.

When I arrived at the pool, I had a momentary panic. You have to walk past glass doors to the pool to get to the locker room so you get a little preview of how busy it is. The pool was dead empty and the water was smooth as glass so no one was even in it recently. I immediately thought I had missed something, that perhaps the adult lap swim wasn't happening on Fridays or that I had the times wrong. I haven't yet been on a Friday. I went to the locker room and got ready, and by the time I made my way to the pool, there was one lone guy. It was really nice to have the place almost to myself, and to my surprise it forced me to try harder since the lifeguard had no one else to watch.

I swam well again today, but still with limitations. I'm able to do more without stopping and I'm slowly finding my comfort zone in the water. I am feeling motivated to keep pushing because the elusive breakthrough must be just around the corner. If not, I'm enjoying it and it's a great way to spend the morning.

And I'm pleased to report that my new goggles were incredible! How can a pair of goggles called "vanquisher" fail you? They are a little tinted so that took some getting used to, but at least it dulled the image of someone's purple bandaid floating around under the water, still looped in a perfect circle. It's moments like those where I'm thankful for the burn of the chlorine.

Tomorrow morning I'm running in a women's-only 10K in the park. I plan to spend some time on my bike on the trainer, then will reward myself at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park. What better reason can you think of to get up early to run and bike?

Sport - Swimming
Distance - .5 miles
Time - 35:00

June 5, 2008

Goggle Debacle

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a debacle is a great disaster or complete failure. This, my friends, is what happened with my goggles today. I strutted in feeling rather confident from yesterday's mini-breakthrough. I selected a lane to share and hopped in, ready to see how different today would be. I slipped on my goggles and started to swim. All was blissful for about 5 seconds, which was the point when water came flooding into my left goggle. I've had some minor leakage before and I'm convinced the classification of fog-resistant was an utter fabrication, but I have never experienced a full-scale, complete failure - or debacle - quite like this. I went back to the wall, took them off and attempted some minor surgery, but it seemed to be a loss. I sucked it up and started my laps. After the one-mile walk to the pool and the effort of just getting into the water, I figured I'd rather swim with my eyes closed than throw in the towel.

My shaky start smoothed out quickly and I felt as comfortable as yesterday. I didn't make any massive advances, but I feel like I'm able to do more with less effort. I feel like I'm at least on the right path.

After my lane-mate exited, I had the lane to myself for a bit before another swimmer joined me. It was a guy in incredible shape that you could just tell was a good swimmer. I'm sure he's a lovely person, but it's not the kind of guy I like to share a lane with. After all, when I choose a lane to share, I look for very slow swimmers or the nice, older neighborhood ladies that paddle with a flotation board. But after observing for a few minutes, he picked my lane and joined. We exchanged niceties and were on our way. I was immediately mortified to have to swim alongside him, and even more mortified when it occurred to me that he likely chose me as a partner the same way I choose my partners - slow and barely swimming. So I not only swallowed my daily quota of chlorinated water, but I also swallowed my pride. I kept swimming and it gave me a little extra incentive to finish up quickly.

Tonight was my JackRabbit group run. We did something a little unusual since we needed to regroup at the JackRabbit store. We ran a long warm up from Central Park to the Hudson River Park (about .75 miles) then did a tempo run down to 14th Street with a long cool down across 14th to the store. I ran with some great girls and we kept up a good pace. However, I likely didn't run hard enough because I was able to chat along the way and on a good tempo run, talking should be difficult. But what's the fun of training with a group if you can't talk?

We ended at JackRabbit for our group shopping night. It was a great opportunity to talk to our coaches about gear and find all sorts of tempting goodies to further drive up the cost of this race. First on my agenda was, of course, new goggles. I got a great pair that I cannot wait to try out tomorrow. Next, I decided to ditch the one-piece tri suit I recently bought and tried on a million versions of tri tops instead. After another grueling half-hour in the dressing room, I found the perfect combo and bought two of everything. But finally, the most fun purchase of the day, and quite possibly for the entire tri, is the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboutit lock, the mother of all locks that not even a professional can bust open. It's so serious that if you lose the key, you have to contact Kryptonite with your special code and they will make you a new one. I can now ride my bike to the pool and lock it up with confidence. Plus, this thing weighs over six pounds so it doubles as a self-defense tool. And, people will mistake me for a bike messenger, which means they will clear out of the way when they see me riding down the street. A good purchase indeed.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - .5 miles
Time - 45:00

Sport - Running
Distance - Approximately 3.85 miles (loosely measured on gmap pedometer)
Time - Not sure, forgot my watch

June 4, 2008

Making the Most of It

I have never been a morning person and I'm assuming I never will be. But it's amazing how much you can get done when you get up really early. I ran a 5-mile race at 5:30 this morning so I was up about as early as I can manage to be. I was all ready to go and headed out the door when I noticed it was raining. It was actually pouring. Even though it was in the 60's, it felt cold. But there was no turning back so I hopped in a cab and headed up to Central Park.

Because of the rain and cold, the first mile was very slow for me. I used it as a warm up and paid close attention to how my foot was feeling. All was good so I stepped up the pace to catch up a bit for the remainder of the race. The rain never stopped, but I don't mind running in the rain. It's a great sensory experience that takes your mind off the fact that you're actually running for at least some of the time. It was also great to be in Central Park so early. It's amazing that 2,000 people agreed and showed up despite the weather. I ended up finishing in 45:06, not bad at all for my first race in New York this year.

Since I got an early start, I decided to make the most of it by going right to the pool after the race. I was worried I might be tired in the water, but it was actually quite the opposite. I swam my best today. Maybe the race was the ultimate warm up. Maybe it was finally time. I don't know what it was, but it felt great. I did some drills, but was mostly just swimming laps, which has been fairly elusive thus far. I still had to rest a lot, but tried to shorten my breaks in an effort to keep moving.

I did 36 laps, which is a half mile, and then did an extra four to wrap up. I actually didn't want to stop, but I have learned that if I try to overdo it, I end up having a relapse and everything falls apart. So I left on a high note feeling optimistic about the next time. I might be closer to that breakthrough than I know. We'll see.

Sport - Running (NYRRC Anniversary Run)
Distance - 5 miles
Time - 45:06

Sport - Swimming
Distance - A little over .5 miles
Time - 50:00

June 3, 2008

Somewhere Between Love and Hate

Swimming. There are times I look forward to it so much I can think of nothing else than getting to the pool. Other times, it registers about as high as a root canal. Due to my unexpected cold, I have not been to the pool since last Thursday. So I went today, long overdue, and had expectations that I might have suddenly crossed that threshold I've been so desperately trying to cross.

While today was not a total loss, I have yet to reach that magical point where I'm feeling confident in my swimming. In fact, there were laps today that made me stop, grab the side of the pool, and utter how much I hate this. It's not that I hate swimming, but I hate being so inept at it. I get overwhelmed by the frustration and exhaustion sometimes (OK, often) and wonder if I'll ever get it. But other times, I absolutely love it. I feel free in the water and I always think about how I'm conquering something that I've wanted to do my entire life. Those are the days where I can barely wait to get to the pool and I don't care how much work it takes, I'm willing to keep trying over and over again.

Today's hate moments were perfectly balanced with love moments. I am definitely making incredible progress and am able to swim several comfortable laps punctuated by a few really botched attempts, but that's to be expected when you've only been to the pool about 10 times. I feel like I'm on the verge of that elusive breakthrough so I'm going to make my best effort to go as many consecutive days as possible this week in order to finally get there.

Tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m., I will be running in the New York Road Runner's Club Anniversary Run, a 5-miler in Central Park that will be finished before most people even get up for the day. It will likely be raining, but that won't spoil the fun of running in the park that early on a weekday. My plan is to do the race, then get to the pool early immediately after. It may take several coffees to achieve this, but I'm really looking forward to the challenge.

Sport - Swimming
Distance - I stopped counting
Time - 35:00

June 1, 2008


When I woke up this morning, I had a choice to make - join my group training ride at 8:00 and be prepared that it may be all I had the energy for, or skip it and do a longer ride on my own a bit later. As much as I hated to skip the training ride, I chose the second option. I felt tremendously better, but didn't think I had the strength to do the group ride plus my own ride after. I'm happy with the choice I made. I was able to get an extra hour of sleep, which my body desperately needed, and today was a picture perfect day for riding.

I did another variation on the ride to Nyack I've written about before, only I took the train to the George Washington Bridge this time and rode over. The bridge was filled with bikers, some already on their way back and others, like me, who decided to sleep a little later and were just getting going. I made the trip to Nyack through New Jersey like last time, only this time going directly from the Bridge. It was 25 miles to my favorite re-fueling stop, the Runcible Spoon. I felt great for most of the ride up. I was keeping a good, consistent pace and remembering to shift early and often, as urged by our coaches in the last training ride. I only started to feel fatigued about four miles from Nyack. I ate a tiny breakfast and it was finally catching up to me.

After a sandwich, a smoothie and a little rest, I was back on the road home, only this time I tackled the hills of 9W. I realized I haven't been on 9W since last year and while this ride gets boring toward the end of the season, I missed it. Immediately upon leaving Piermont, there is a very steep, difficult hill that really sets the stage for what's to come on the 18-mile ride back to the bridge. Next comes the worst of all the hills, what I fondly call "Humiliation Hill" since I'm generally pedaling my fastest - in the granny gear - when I'm passed by some guy with huge legs going well over two times faster. This hill is brutal. It's .65 miles and very steep, but what's worse is that it starts on a long curve so you think the top might be around that curve. But then you round the curve and there is a long straightaway that feels as though it goes on forever. And to top it off, there really isn't a downhill after, so it takes awhile to catch your breath. There are two or three more challenging hills on this route, which is why it's such a great place to train. The ride back was great overall and very fast.

My cold is still hanging on, but I'm glad it relented enough to allow me to get out and ride today. It was by far my best ride so far, even with the ever-present cough and sniffle. I plan to see how I feel tomorrow before deciding what's next. Hopefully, regardless of what I choose, I'll be doing it cold-free.

Sport - Biking
Distance - 48 miles (43 from the bridge and back; additional city/bridge miles)
Time - 3:20:00


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