July 31, 2008

One of Those Days

Have you ever have one of those days where everything you have planned just doesn't seem meant to be? Today was that day for me. I intended to do a mid-morning long(ish) run, but had some things to take care of that pushed me to a later start. Then I got sidetracked looking for my flight to Madison to visit family, volunteer at Ironman Wisconsin and sign up for the 2009 race. This took awhile since I had a number of scenarios to explore, but it was worth the time. I found a frequent flyer ticket on an airline I never fly anymore and had just enough miles to cover it. I'll be in Madison for 9 days and it's only costing me $7.50. You can't beat that.

I kicked around the idea of doing a short ride instead of running, but as the day moved on, it got hotter and hotter and my motivation waned. I decided to redeem the running and biking tomorrow and just settle for an evening swim. I was more tired than usual so a semi-rest day felt like the right thing to do.

Since I was sitting at a computer all day, I decided to walk to the pool rather than bike. I enjoyed the walk and got to the pool fairly quickly. I showed my ID to the security guy and headed upstairs to the pool. Within minutes I had my cap and goggles on and was ready to get started. And then I noticed it was missing. Again. My ID was nowhere to be found. The last time I lost it I didn't notice for days, but this was ridiculous, I had just used it to get into the building! I ditched the cap and goggles, threw on shorts and walked back the way I came to see if I could find it. This involved two sets of stairs, an elevator and a long trip across the building. It was nowhere to be found. So I headed back to the locker room incredibly frustrated. I had wasted 20 minutes at this point. I turned my bag inside out one more time and finally found it.

The pool was a little more crowded tonight so there were only two lanes left to be shared. There was a guy who was a good swimmer and a girl floating and backstroking. Just as I was thinking the guy was the right choice, he started doing the butterfly so I had to go with the backstroker. I waited for her to reach the wall before getting in and sure enough, it was the woman that swam right over me a couple times last month and then freaked out because I touched her. Just my luck. She was meandering again so it was hard to get into a rhythm. Luckily butterfly man left after 10 minutes or so and I was able to take over his lane. I had a great swim albeit a short one. I was still a little tired, but was able to swim a bit faster than yesterday with the same amount of effort.

I decided to walk along the new Hudson River Park on the way home to enjoy the nice evening. The sun was just starting to set and it was beautiful. I was strolling along enjoying the view, not really looking where I was going, but happened to sight a rather large dog pile up ahead. Apparently Fido's owner forgot to bring a plastic bag along. Unfortunately, the guy headed my way didn't happen to notice and shuffled right through it, smearing it everywhere. Suddenly I realized my day wasn't so bad after all.

Swimming
Distance - 1350 yards (.76 miles)
Time - 26:03

July 30, 2008

[ No Subject ]

Sometime this evening, I had a witty, brilliant thought about a title for today's blog post. But three pints of beer later, I cannot remember. I've been sitting here racking my brain to no avail so I've settled for the generic [No Subject] like you see on so many emails. Emails that in fact have subject matter, but nothing worth declaring.

I had a great swim this morning. The pool was sparsely populated yet again, which is always a nice treat. I did a warm-up and then a half-mile, what I'll be swimming in my race Sunday, to see how I'm faring at that distance. I have been historically averaging 20 minutes, but today I did it in 18:22. This is still pretty slow, but a tiny bit faster for me. Even though I felt like I had worked harder, I still had the energy to continue. So maybe swimming is like running after all, where I've finally reached a point that my usual seems easy and I can push harder and swim longer.

To digress a bit, I rode my bike to the pool, a whopping mile. I usually do this in about 5 minutes or so, depending on traffic lights. I hopped on my bike and was swiftly reminded that I bought a new saddle. I felt as though my "sit bones" were bruised. I hovered above the saddle as long as possible and finally sucked it up. I think the ride took about 10 minutes since I only pedaled when necessary. It was painful and uncomfortable to say the least. Good thing I didn't have a ride planned today.

After my swim I ate (yet again) and then headed out for a run. It was pretty hot and humid (yet again) and I hadn't run since the half marathon so I planned just 4 miles. My goal was to run a faster pace and this went generally well. I was faster in the first 2 miles, with stretches below 8:00/mile. I slowed a bit for the second half and had a good average overall. I felt a little dehydrated from the swim so I had to drink a ton from the drinking fountains and put even more over my head, down my shirt and on my arms because it was hot! I need to start being more consistent with my running and I think it will build nicely. I've made a commitment to run more in August to help with motivation.

My training was done early today so I took advantage of the opportunity to do something social and civilized, sans spandex and any hint of tri gear. Wednesday nights are a big gathering night at my local bar so the timing was perfect. Even more perfect is the fact that my 5-week beer moratorium ended on July 20 after the NYC Tri so I can enjoy my beer guilt-free. So this brings me full circle to where I lost my blog topic and ended up with no subject.

In closing, here is a pic from the NYC Half Marathon, back in the spandex and most certainly miserable. This was taken somewhere in the final 3-mile stretch along the West Side Highway when I was praying for the finish line to appear.


However, this second photo shows how much I really wanted to enjoy this race. Despite my misery, I crossed the line with a smile. That's all I can ask for.


Swimming
Distance - 1800 yards (1 mile)
Time - 40:00

Running
Distance - 4 miles
Time - 32:39

July 29, 2008

Test Drive

The big highlight of my training today was trying out my new bike saddle. Since I'm not sure it will work and they are technically not returnable, the sales guy told me to tape the rails and ride very carefully a couple times on it. So I taped it up, put it on and took it for a spin.

I don't think any seat is ever 100% comfortable, so you end up settling for the lesser of evils. When you're riding for hours at a time, what more can you expect? My former seat was old, but I also wanted to replace it due to a change in preference. It was a typical female-specific seat so it was wider to accommodate the female hips. Only I'm not really built with curvy hips so I think it was too wide for my bone structure. But it was kind of comfy and it was really soft and padded so I kept riding on it. But it started to cause discomfort and it chafed a bit, which no one wants to hear about. Then it caused the dreaded saddle sore, which no one REALLY wants to hear about. So it was time to go.

I bought the Terry Damselfly, a narrower "performance" saddle that gets very mixed reviews. Some women sing its praises and others say it feels like it's made from wood. It's definitely firm, but the squishiness of my old seat wasn't working too well either so I figured I'd give it a try. I love the streamlined shape of it and it is thinner and lighter as well. It also has the obligatory female cutout which is supposed to make it more comfortable. For the first 8 miles or so I was really happy with it. It seemed to be exactly the shape I needed and I wasn't experiencing any discomfort. Then slowly over the next few miles the happiness faded away. The description says this saddle is for "racers and those that don't want to lose the feel of the road." Well, that's accurate for sure! I felt every bit of the road for the last 10 miles.

So the jury is still out on whether or not this is the saddle for me. I'm not giving up just yet because I didn't have any lingering pain or discomfort, which is usually a good sign. I might just need to put in a few rides to get used to it.

I did another evening swim tonight. While I find myself less motivated to swim at night, I'm always glad I did. The pool is virtually empty or has one swimmer per lane tops. I did my usual warm-up and cool down with 3 main sets of 400 yards. I tried really hard to speed it up since I continue to be slow in the water. Amazingly enough, I was able to do each set in about 8 minutes. While this isn't a massive improvement, it's better than where I usually am so I was happy. Every little bit counts for me. I couldn't help but think about the 2.4 mile Ironman swim during my laps. It's a distance I can't quite fathom at this point, but know by next year I will be comfortable with it. I'll still be slow, but I'm ok with that. I can always make up for it on the bike and run.

Biking
Distance - 20.3 miles
Time - 1:16:09

Swimming
Distance - 1600 yards (.91 miles)
Time - 34:00

July 28, 2008

The Big Decision - Ironman 2009

In previous posts, I've talked about my Ironman aspirations. I think many triathletes have this goal deep down but it's often difficult to decide when to do it. Before I even took my first swimming lesson, I wanted to do Ironman Wisconsin. I have family there so for me, there couldn't be a more perfect place. After discovering I love triathlon, I immediately thought about doing IMWI next year but then started to have second thoughts. I didn't want to wipe the entire race season just for the sake of one race and I'm still in this for the fun and don't want to drain the enjoyment out of it. But after some serious reflection and soul searching, I made the decision to do the race in 2009. I will be flying out to Madison for this year's race on September 7, volunteering for as many posts as I can squeeze into the day and then signing up in person on September 8.

While this will certainly change what the 2009 race season looks like for me, I am determined to keep it balanced and enjoy it. I'll still be doing my two half-Ironman races - New Orleans on April 5, which I'm already registered for, and Vineman on July 19, which I'll register for November 1. I'm going to build the rest of my season around these three key races with shorter, local races.

I'm excited and terrified at the same time. I've always known I wanted to do this, but never thought I would be able to survive the swim. Now that the swim isn't an issue (except for my snail's pace), there is nothing stopping me. When I run the NYC Marathon this year I'll no doubt be thinking about the fact that my next marathon will come after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike ride.

With that thought in mind, today was all about rest. And rest is a beautiful thing. After the beating my body took yesterday, I briefly thought about swimming, but ended up deciding otherwise. When my alarm went off at 7:30 I could barely lift my head off the pillow. My eyes were heavy and without moving, I could tell that various parts of my body hurt. I turned it off and went back to sleep thinking I might swim tonight. Then I got up, went about my day, ran some errands, and decided to skip the swim. I walked a lot and my legs were getting more sore as they day went on so I thought it best to take it easy.

I usually don't like a full rest day, but I really enjoyed today. I caught up on a lot of things that have been nagging at me and I took advantage of the free time to visit Cadence Cycling, my favorite tri-bike shop, under the guise of needing a new saddle. I bought the saddle, but spent most of my time looking at the bikes and getting a tour of the training facility. The bike I have my eye on turned out to be a little cheaper than expected which was very exciting news for me. I'd like to have it by fall so I can get some time in on the roads before winter, then do some indoor training while the weather is less than ideal. My biggest challenge will be being prepared for Ironman 70.3 New Orleans by April 5. I didn't even start riding this season until the first week of May.

I'm planning to book my Wisconsin trip tomorrow and officially sign up for my volunteer posts. I'll take whatever is available, but I'm going to request: (1) Body marking pre-race; (2) Female athlete changing tent (only because they won't let me volunteer for the male athlete changing tent!) at transition 1; (3) Finish line catcher. If I can get all of these, I will have the chance to experience the full race day. I can't wait.

If my legs still hurt, and I have a feeling they will, I think I'll swim and ride tomorrow. I want to try out the new saddle to be sure it's going to work. I checked it out on the trainer for a bit and it felt a little rough so we'll see. If I ever find the right combination of cycling gear, I'll be a really happy woman.

July 27, 2008

The Good. The Bad. The Ugly. - NYC Half Marathon

I ran my third NYC Half Marathon this morning. I've done this event each year since it started three years ago and have had a relatively good time. I finished last year in 2:04:54, establishing a PR for the half marathon distance.

As shared this past week, I wasn't sure what my legs would be capable of in this race, but they turned out to be fine. They didn't hurt until Mile 11 or so where we were running on the hard concrete of the West Side Highway. This surface kills my knees every year so it was no surprise. The surprise was how poorly everything else felt throughout the race. I'll break it down for you.

The Good

After another scorching hot week, the temperature was much more tolerable this morning at 74 degrees, although humidity was 90%. There were little bursts of rain that made it overcast, sparing us from the sun. The race was incredibly well-supported with aid stations almost too often, all with Gatorade Endurance - a blessing in this heat - and one with gels. And you can't beat the middle of the course where it passes through Times Square. I love this part of the race and there is really nothing like it in another running race. Lastly, if you're up for it, there is an incredible finish area festival that seems to be getting better and better each year.
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The Bad

This race is incredibly popular with entry by lottery only. Because it's so popular, it is also incredibly crowded and this year seemed worse than ever. While my finish time last year wasn't super fast by any means, it was respectable and should have earned me a good start corral position. However, I was placed in the 13000s, which just as the number implies, was really far back from the starting line. I had to walk about a half mile to get to my corral and then discovered the runners around me were aiming for 10-11 minute miles and some were walking. How could this happen? The pace New York Road Runners has on record for me as "average" this year is 8:26 per mile.

Next, there were very few porta johns within the start corrals so the lines were a few hundred people deep. I really had to go so I waited 30 minutes and then finally had to bail. This wait cost me even more positioning in the corral so I had to snake through the crowd (and surely made a lot of people angry) to try to get at least back to where I started.

Finally, my number one complaint about this race goes back to the crowding. The course in Central Park is fairly narrow making it impossible to establish and stay on pace. I had to run off to the side of the road on grass, rocks and cobblestones to pass and just hoped I didn't roll an ankle. I also took more elbows to the arms and sides than an Ironman mass swim start. There was no way to avoid getting hit and hitting people if you were attempting to pass. So you either had to push ahead and try to navigate or resign yourself to an 11-minute mile pace. I pushed ahead.
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The Ugly

You can't have a great day for every race and I experienced that full force today. Ironically, my big worry was my legs and they ended up being fine. I never thought about all the other things that could go wrong. My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I had a hard time getting up. On a normal day, this would be no big deal, but I'm usually up immediately on race days. On my way to the park, I noticed I wasn't feeling well. My stomach was upset and didn't seem to be getting better. During my 30 minute wait for the porta john it only got worse. I forced down a gel and a salt packet with a little bit of water and headed to the start line. Luckily as I got closer, I was able to hop off the course and hit the bathrooms with no line before starting the race.

As anyone who runs long distances knows, your stomach sometimes disagrees with the activity. It usually hits you mid-run but I had to start the race already feeling under the weather. I thought I could run through it and it would get better, but that was not the case. I was in misery by mile 3 and feeling really weak by mile 7 as we exited the park. I had a hard time taking in fluids so I was skipping every other water station. When I stopped I only had sips of Gatorade and even had a 3-mile stretch with no fluids, yet my stomach felt sloshy the entire race, as if nothing was absorbing. I started to feel dehydrated and worried about muscle cramps. I was able to get down a Gu around mile 10 as we neared the West Side Highway. I kicked it into high gear for this final stretch just to get the race over with.

I was sick immediately following the race and for hours after. I ended up napping for two hours before resting most of the day. It was quite some time before I could tolerate eating and drinking even though I was incredibly hungry.
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I don't want to be perceived as complaining about the race because that's not the case at all. In fact, I couldn't be more thrilled with my finish time - a new PR of 1:52:33. This is far better than I thought was possible given my training and how I felt. It's just that I don't race only to set PRs and reach goals. I race because I enjoy the experience. Sure I set goals and it feels great to reach and exceed them, but it is secondary to enjoying the sport. I really wanted to enjoy this race and I simply couldn't. At times I wasn't sure if I'd be able to keep going, but it didn't diminish the experience entirely. After all, you have to have unpleasant challenges mixed in with the good challenges to fully appreciate what you're capable of. My next half-marathon will feel like a walk in the park now.

After a full day of resting and re-hydrating, I had one more task at hand. I had to ride my final 18.04 miles for the Tour de France Challenge. My plan was to finish the race, eat and immediately do the ride, but my stomach didn't allow it. It was almost 6 p.m. before I was finally able to get started. I rode on the trainer due to the weather and my physical state. My legs were feeling tired and slow and my body was even slower so it was the longest ride I've ever had on the trainer. I had to bribe myself with a break every 6 miles in order to keep going. I wanted to quit, but I didn't want to let my team down. I promised them I would find a way to get the miles in despite my race schedule. And so I did. After I finished, I had my second shower and second soak in the tub for the day. I'm always amazed at how many times a day I have to shower due to triathlon training, but today certainly takes the record. I showered after the race this morning, then soaked for a bit in the tub when I wasn't feeling well, then showered after the ride and soaked once again. I'm either squeaky clean or my skin will fall off at any moment. I put an entire 4-pound carton of Epsom salt in the second soak. Anything is worth a try to avoid what I fear will be some pretty sore and tired legs tomorrow. I think tomorrow will be a nice, easy day.

Running (NYC Half Marathon)
Distance - 13.1 miles
Time - 1:52:33

Biking (on trainer)
Distance - 18.04 miles
Time - 1:32:54

July 26, 2008

Triathlon Turned Me Into a Slob

I've never been a neat freak, but I used to be the tidy sort. It was the result of 10 years of living in some of the smallest apartments known to man, typical of life in NYC. I loved throwing things away and keeping clutter to a minimum. But that was before I took up triathlon. I've been watching my surroundings gradually go to pieces yet I haven't set aside the time to clean it up. So tonight it was finally time.

Let me first confess that the only reason cleaning suddenly took priority is because the cable, and therefore the Internet, is out. Otherwise I'm sure I'd be online reading more triathlon stuff or browsing the Beginner Triathlete forum. It's amazing how much I was able to get done during this Internet-free period. Of course I'm forced to thumb out this post on my BlackBerry which is no treat, but it might keep me succinct for once.

During my clean-up quest I discovered I still have a dining room table. I haven't seen the surface of it in months. There were magazines, piles of old mail, info from races and the boxes and instructions from my recent gadget and gear purchases. Piled in the recycling room, the boxes looked like the remnants of some sort of athlete's shopping spree - Garmin, Shimano, Tanita, Specialized, Sidi. My sporty neighbors will be jealous. If only they knew the boxes piled up for months, threatening to overtake my apartment.

It looks much better in here now, but there is still work to be done. I can only handle so much domestic duty at a time so it will have to wait. But never fear, my bike is still in the foyer, there are at least 6 pairs of shoes and two helmets by the door and my wetsuit is hanging in the bathroom. Otherwise it might feel like someone else's apartment.

Before my cleaning spree, I had another great open water swim at Brighton Beach with my swim buddy Roberto. I got a late start since I had to pick up my race packet for the NYC Half Marathon tomorrow. The water looked deceivingly calm, but felt much rougher once we got in. The current was fairly neutral so we were able to swim down and back with the same resistence in each direction. About 2/3 of the way through the first length the water got significantly more choppy and remained that way the entire way back. I got rolled over once while breathing, most likely from a boat kicking up bigger waves. We saw our jellyfish friends a couple times but they were a few feet below the surface so contact wasn't an issue for once. Overall it was a great swim and a beautiful day for it. I can't believe how far I've come and I will never forget how helpless I felt my first time at Brighton Beach just a month ago.

Tomorrow bright and early is the NYC Half Marathon. I've done this race twice before so I know what to expect. What I don't know is how my legs will feel given my lack of running training in recent weeks. The tri took priority so I don't regret it, but I'm likely in for either a painful or slow race, or perhaps even both. Or maybe my legs will surprise me. I'll just have to wait and see. But I know I'll enjoy it regardless. There's nothing quite like running through Times Square and having the streets to yourself. I'll also be racing on the West Side Highway for the second week in a row, only downtown this time. I love thinking about the ground I've covered in NYC on my feet and on my bike. There is no better way to see it and experience it, and for that I feel fortunate.

Swimming
Distance - 1760 yards (1 mile)
Time - 40:24

July 25, 2008

Final NYC Tri Photos (I Promise)

The time has finally come. I have finished uploading the photos from the NYC Triathlon into an online album for sharing. I was lucky to have a lot to choose from so it took quite some time. The photos can be viewed here, or by clicking on the slide show in the sidebar.

http://picasaweb.google.com/LazyMarathoner/NYCTriathlon72008

I was up late last night so I was beat this morning and decided to sleep in. I had planned to run, but my legs weren't feeling it so I decided to ride instead. I still have a lot of miles to cover for the Tour de France Challenge so it was great to be on the bike. It was a beautiful day for it, not as hot as the past few days. It was a bit sad to ride past the transition area from the tri and see it empty. There was a big chunk of railing missing along the river and I realized it must have been where we entered the water. It was strange to see it all back to normal, as if the race never happened.

I stayed along the river to be sure the ride was flat. I wanted to go easy on my legs in preparation for Sunday's race. I have pretty much accepted that the race will be a challenge in the least. My running has been good, but I haven't been training for distance. I'm going to try to have a good time, but I'm not expecting to run a good time.

As I finished the ride, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. The Hudson River Park south of Houston is finally open! I slammed on the brakes, got off my bike and walked over to check it out. It was filled with people relaxing and enjoying it as if it were always there. This has been under some level of construction since I moved to this neighborhood 10 years ago. Seeing it finished made me very excited about going for a run there. It was beautiful and looks to have been worth the wait.

I wrapped up the day early and headed off to my local bar. It was nice to be there in regular clothes instead of spandex. I'm not sure anyone really understands me anymore, they probably think I've gone insane, but it's still great to be able to go there and know there will be at least a few friends at any given time.

I'm planning an open water swim tomorrow and then will be resting up for Sunday. I hope my legs are ready.

Biking
Distance - 25 miles
Time - 1:25:49

July 24, 2008

Looking Ahead

While I had a light training day, my day was otherwise very productive. When I'm not training, I often spend time looking into what I might want to train for next and have spent a lot of time obsessing over races lately. I know I want 2009 to be a busy season so I will need to start in the spring. And I figured, what better way to kick it off than with my first half-Ironman? That's exactly what I'll be doing on April 5, 2009 when I do Ironman 70.3 New Orleans. It's a new event and looks like it will be a great course and a great time. I am going to have to work hard this winter to keep up my training, especially on the bike despite the not-so-great NYC weather. On November 1, I will be registering for my second half-Ironman, the Vineman Ironman 70.3 in July 2009. I'll use these two races as a starting point for my 2009 calendar and plan everything else around them.

The big question still up in the air for me is whether or not I try to get into Ironman Wisconsin. I had decided to do it and then decided to wait until 2010. But the more I think about it, the more I don't want to wait. I have over a year to prepare and with the number of longer distance races I'll do before then, I am confident I can complete it. I have a little more time to think about it. If I decide to give it a go, I'll head out there for the race this year and sign up in person the next day. My mom and brother live in Madison just a few blocks from the Ironman finish so it will be the perfect place for me to complete this distance regardless of the year I choose.

Today was a day off from swimming and running, so I did some biking on the trainer tonight. Ah, the dreaded trainer. Luckily I had this week's Project Runway waiting on DVR to get me through the hour. I have avoided the trainer successfully for almost three weeks, but it was finally necessary. I'm alternating running and biking this week in an effort to keep my legs from giving out before my half-marathon on Sunday, plus I still have 58 miles to ride for the Tour de France Challenge so I chipped away at that a bit. I'll be able to finish the challenge this weekend for sure, meeting my goal 100%.

I'm taking a break from posting NYC Triathlon photos today to post something far cooler. They captured short video clips of everyone crossing the finish line. I'm in the red approaching on the far right, looking deliriously happy and surprisingly energetic given the challenges of the race. The guy carting the box across the finish line on his shoulder almost ruined my video, but he luckily moved on just as I approached the line.



But don't worry, I'm not quite done posting NYC Tri photos just yet. I uploaded dozens into a Picasa album today and just need to organize them and get a few captions in before sharing. That will end my NYC Tri posting, but there's always the NYC Half Marathon this weekend and the Niantic Bay Triathlon next weekend!

Biking (on trainer)
Distance - 15.2 miles
Time - 1:00:00

July 23, 2008

I. Love. Running.

I love running. This is the mantra I repeated in my head over and over again when my alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. I'm normally not an early morning workout girl, but it has been so hot and humid in NYC these past couple weeks, I decided to try to get out there before it really heated up. I dragged myself out of bed around 6 and was out the door at 6:40. Of course it was raining when I started, and I even heard some thunder, but they say you have to train in all conditions, right? The rain stopped within the first 10 minutes or so and I was actually kind of happy about this until I started roasting and then wished it were raining again. Even before 7 a.m. it was hot. And incredibly humid due to the rain. It was so hazy I could barely see the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge disappeared into the mist. I like to see the bridge when I'm running as a reminder of how far away I'll be at the marathon start line on November 2. But not today.

The run started out fairly well, particularly given my recent lack of training. But around mile 5.5 or so, I felt like I was dragging a body behind me. I literally couldn't have felt heavier. This feeling lasted about a mile, then I was able to step it back up for the remainder, but the entire 8 miles was a struggle for pace. On good miles I was able to keep it close to 8.5 or a little less so I averaged 8.71 for the entire run, but not without having to fight for it. The half-marathon will certainly not be easy on Sunday. I couldn't imagine cranking out another 5 miles this morning and maintaining that pace. My goal is to finish in under two hours, even if it's 1:59:59. I need to be at or below a 9-minute pace to achieve this. I'm going to do two more easy, shorter runs this week and hope for the best.

Since it was early and I was done, I headed back to the pool for a quick swim. I did a 200 warm-up, three sets of 400 with another attempt to speed it up (unsuccessfully) and a 200 cool down. I'm going to keep working on my speed until I see some sort of improvement.

I officially signed up for my next races today. I'll be doing the Niantic Bay Triathlon in Connecticut on August 3. It's a sprint race with a half-mile swim in a protected ocean bay. My previous sprint was only a quarter-mile so this will be a good challenge for me. I'm hoping to do it in less than 20 minutes since that's what a half in the pool is currently taking me. I did .44 miles at Brighton Beach recently in 14:00 so if there is any current, I should be able to come in under 20. It's a nice flat course so I should be able to do well on the bike and run. After that I'll be doing a practice race in Long Branch, NJ, a 1K swim, 19 mile bike and 5 mile run. That one has an ocean swim so it should be a good time.

I still have the dilemma of which September race to do. I'm signed up for the Triathlon at Pacific Grove in California on September 13, an Olympic distance race. It was going to be my "tri-vacation" but is looking unlikely as I'd have to travel alone. I'm seeing if anyone can join me, but if it turns out I'm solo, I'll be doing the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon in Sag Harbor. This was not my first choice for a September race, but it's local and it was close to selling out so I registered. It's September 14 so once I decide between the two, I'll have to drop out of one.

Now that I know I (a) Can swim; (b) Love triathlons; and (c) Actually enjoy the training (um, that's an understatement as those of you who know me can attest) I'll be able to plan my next season way in advance and much more logically to avoid the challenges I've had in the past couple weeks. And with a little luck, I might be able to squeeze in another race or two this season. There can never be too many!

I'm off tonight for a post-race get together with my JackRabbit training group. I'm really looking forward to hearing everyone's stories and having one more chance to talk about the race before its shelf life officially wears out. Speaking of shelf life, the photos scattered throughout this post are obviously from the race. I at least tried to keep within the theme of running. By the end of the week, I should have a full gallery up with a lot of great photos. Don't worry, they aren't all of me. There were 2,999 other athletes there after all!

Running
Distance - 8 miles
Time - 1:09:43

Swimming
Distance - 1600 yards (.91 miles)
Time - 35:00

July 22, 2008

Back at It

Before I delve into my day, I figured I'd share another photo from the NYC Triathlon. Eventually no one will care about the race (if you already don't care, please just pretend you do) and the photos will start collecting dust. I browsed through the general event photos and found a couple of me in the wetsuit where my number wasn't visible, including a prime swim exit shot. If you look closely, you'll see the Hudson River dirt goatee I accumulated during the race. I was told this would happen and yet I didn't think to wipe my face before the official photographer started snapping away. Note to self for next year...


After a post-race day of rest, I jumped back into training albeit feeling a little slow. My plan was to do a longer run, maybe 8 miles, in preparation for the NYC Half Marathon I'll be running on Sunday. I'm a little concerned about my lack of running training leading up to this race. My shorter distances have improved tremendously, but I've only done one run longer than 8 miles so far and it was over a week ago. But my left shin and right calf were still hurting so I decided to ride instead. I had the added incentive of having 92 miles to cover this week to meet my TdF Challenge goal so it was good to get in some time on the bike.

I felt relatively good on the ride, but definitely still tired from the race. I wasn't able to push as hard as I would have liked so I just took it easy. I know I've said it before, but Central Park is getting really boring. I'm thankful it's there, but I'm even more thankful to be able to ride somewhere else for a change. I seriously need to learn basic bike maintenance so I can feel confident leaving the city to ride by myself. With my current level bike ignorance, I need to have a Metrocard in my jersey pocket and be walking distance to a subway station at all times.

My first post-race swim was also good, but slow. Then again, all of my swimming - except for zipping down the Hudson River with the current - is slow. I worked with a new coach the week before the race and he told me I'll never get faster unless I correct a couple minor issues. The problem is that I'm just not grasping how to make the corrections. I tried tonight with no success. So I just swam my usual pace and enjoyed it. I'm still in the honeymoon phase of being able to swim so every trip to the pool is a little personal victory. And my shoulder didn't hurt, and hasn't hurt since before the race so I'm hoping I'm past that. The only thing that wasn't so great about the swim is that I swallowed tons of pool water. I'm not sure if I was being lazy or if my stroke was off from the race, but it was kind of gross, especially because I saw a lot of particles and a few more band aids in the water. Again, what is with all the band aids in the pool???

I'm going to try my best to get up super early tomorrow for that long run. The heat and humidity in NYC have been oppressive even at normal morning hours. I keep telling myself I can finish the run and go back to bed. Hopefully that will be motivation enough.

Biking
Distance - 33.2 miles
Time - 2:02:29

Swimming
Distance - 2100 yards (1.19 miles)
Time - 50:00

July 21, 2008

Other Perspectives

I wasn't quite sure what today would bring so I didn't have a firm plan. I was exhausted beyond belief yesterday and knew today would be fairly light. I slept 9 hours and when I woke up, I had a massive migraine. It was the kind that made me want to stay in bed all day, but I knew it wouldn't get better so I got up, took some Excedrin Migraine and waited for it to kick in. I was shaky and nauseous for a couple hours before gradually feeling normal again. I think it was a combination of lingering dehydration, my metabolism being completely thrown off and lack of sleep over the past 48 hours.

I briefly considered swimming in the evening, but decided to work, catch up on some personal things and have a drink with a triathlete friend who also did the race. I will be in the mindset of wanting to talk about the race as much as possible for at least a week, so this impromptu get together fed into that need very nicely. We exchanged war stories, talked about how we felt, what we saw, looked at photos on the blackberry and planned our next races. It's nice to know my obsession is shared by at least a few others.

I have so many incredible race photos but need time to sort through and resize them before I can post a gallery, hopefully sometime this week. In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few that offer other points of view of the race. With so much happening simultaneously, it was impossible to take it all in, but the individual moments captured along the way told a different story for each of us experiencing them. First up, the infamous jellyfish that were the talk of the day for so many swimmers. Pretty nasty.


The swim leg of any triathlon is significant for a lot of athletes. It tends to be a weaker discipline for most of us so there is a strong sense of accomplishment when completing it. Here is a swimmer that took a great deal of time in the water. She had a guide with her and kayakers following closely. As she reached the swim exit you can see she is clapping her hands in joy and the kayakers around her were cheering. She got a tremendous amount of support from the crowd as they watched her push through and complete this challenge.


I've admitted that I keep the 2007 Ironman Championship on DVR and watch it whenever I feel the need for inspiration. The last time was Saturday night as I packed up my bag for the race. I love watching it and love the people profiled. So imagine how thrilled I was to hear that two of them, Charlie Plaskon and Scott Rigsby, were competing in NYC. Here is a great shot of Charlie and his guide during the swim. He's 65 years old, legally blind and has completed the Kona Ironman.


Scott Rigsby was the first double amputee to complete an Ironman. His story is incredibly inspiring and really makes you reconsider what is possible. Here he is just after the swim and again on the run course across 72nd Street. It was a thrill to see him competing.


There was a man in the race who pulled his handicapped son through the swim and bike, then pushed him through the run. I don't know his story, but it touched everyone who saw him. I was finished and packing up my transition when he was just entering the run course.


Lastly, I wanted to share a photo from transition that helps define the magnitude of the race. There were more than 3,000 athletes divided among two transition areas. You are given a very small space to rack your bike and put everything you need at the front tire. After the race there were items scattered everywhere, reflecting the rush of activity taking place during the previous few hours. It was somewhat sad for me to go back to transition after the race because it really signaled that it was over. It went by all too quickly. That may be another great reason to do an Ironman. I'm sure no one has complained about that going by too quickly.

July 20, 2008

Race Day - NYC Triathlon

Today was finally my big day, the race that started this journey for me 10 weeks ago. It's hard to believe how much has changed during those 10 weeks, how much I've changed really. What started as a mission to learn how to swim evolved into the most serious commitment I've made to training for anything. I had no idea how far it could take me so today was about discovery and possibilities.

My alarm went off at 3 a.m. and I was immediately on my feet and strangely wide awake. Perhaps because I slept very lightly and only for about 3 hours. I still wasn't nervous, but rather anxious and ready to go. I arrived at transition around 4:45 and proceeded to set up. The girl next to me offered to help with my tires so I took my time and waited for her. I got body marked, packed my Swim Start bag and left transition about 5 minutes before it closed. As I made the one mile walk to the start I saw the Pros swim by. I looked at my watch - I would be in the water in just 30 minutes. By the time I arrived at the start, I had just enough time to get my wetsuit on, pick up my chip, drop off my bag and get in the start corral. I waited no more than 5 minutes and was on the start barge.

Swimmers held onto a rope in the water to keep from being swept downriver in the strong current. They were already two deep so I sat on the edge of the barge. In three short minutes, the horn sounded and I jumped in. I got caught on the rope a bit and had to fight through the washing-machine effect of all the swimmers so it took a moment to find a rhythm. I was surprised by how great I felt. I didn't experience any panic, but did have to work to get my breathing steady in the first few minutes. The contact wasn't as bad as I expected. It was mostly just crowded so I ended up zig-zagging a lot, which likely added some time and took more energy. I raised my head to breathe at one point and saw a 600 meter sign on the seawall. I glanced at my watch - 7.5 minutes. It was a great motivator to realize I had the chance to finish in under 25 minutes.

About halfway through the swim it happened. Another jellyfish attack. It's as though they followed me from Brighton Beach just to torture me. I had been told by several people, including those who have swam in the Hudson, that there aren't jellyfish in there. But the stinging I felt first on my lips, then across my cheek and forehead said otherwise. About 50 meters later it happened again, this time on my arm. After my next breath, I looked down in the water and saw one. I scrambled to get away, but tried not to let it get to me. Of course it made my mind race and then every time I felt something in the water, I freaked out a bit. Luckily it wasn't my first experience with them so I was able to push through it.


Before I knew it, I was about 100 meters from the Swim Exit and was completely overjoyed. This was the most crowded part of the swim and the only place I really got knocked around, but at this point, nothing phased me. There are some really slimy rocks under the water at the end of the exit ramp so we had to swim just until we hit the ramp and then were helped out of the water. I immediately started my 400 yard jog to transition, stopping only briefly under the shower to rinse my face as I'd been advised to do. But then moments later, I brushed my hand across my face and it was covered in dirt! I can't wait to see the official photos snapped right as I came out of the water. I must have looked like I was wearing a Hudson River silt mask. Very attractive. And actually, if you look closely in the photos of me swimming, you can see that I have a little dirt mustache.

Transition 1 was very long due to the barefoot jog. I also took a moment to wipe the rest of the Hudson off my face before heading out on the bike. The course was great, set on the closed northbound lanes of the Henry Hudson Parkway. It was mostly rolling hills with a couple more challenging climbs, but nothing too exhausting. The course was really crowded so I may have ridden a bit conservatively and I was also afraid of burning up my legs for the run. I probably could have ridden harder, but I'm not at all disappointed in the ride. I wanted to do it in 1:30:00 or less and I did so I was thrilled. With just two miles to go, I felt an enormous sense of relief knowing that I could run my bike from here if disaster were to strike. I saw a couple people waiting for SAG due to maintenance issues and really felt for them. I was extremely grateful to have had an uneventful ride.

After a much shorter transition I was headed out for the run. I'd heard how hot the first stretch across 72nd Street can be so I was prepared for the worst, but as I took off, the clouds moved in and it was overcast. The sun re-emerged as I entered the park. What a stroke of luck. My first mile was my fastest so I slowed a little, but still maintained faster than my usual 10K pace. Once I cleared the challenging hills just past the halfway point, I decided to push it. I was on track to finish in less than 3 hours, which is something I did not think was possible coming into the race. As I approached the finish, I was overcome with emotion. I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment and could not get the smile off my face.

If I were to have a dream race scenario, today was it. I beat my open water fears, I swam comfortably without stopping, my bike held up and I ran my fastest 10K ever, setting a PR of 50:29. I'm thankful for this. I know it wasn't the perfect race day for a lot of people, including some friends of mine that had a variety of issues. As I said earlier this week, you can only prepare for so much and the rest is luck. I guess today was my lucky day.

Swimming
Distance - 1500 meters (.93 miles)
Time - 23:01

Biking
Distance - 24.85 miles
Time - 1:27:31

Running
Distance - 6.2 miles
Time - 50:29

Total race time - 2:51:20

July 19, 2008

The Heat is On

Today was another scorcher in NYC hitting 95 degrees by noon. That was just as I was finishing my third mini-workout of the day, a quick 15 minute run. My coach wouldn't have to worry about me cheating today - I was definitely not going to do one second more than 15 minutes. I had a hard time keeping my pace up and if the heat continues, I should expect a similar pace tomorrow. Prior to running, I did a short ride to check all my gears and loosen my legs up. I got to try out my new helmet and what a difference it made! It's so light that I couldn't even tell I was wearing it after a few minutes.

I weighed myself prior to the ride and then after the run and was down .8 pounds. My body comp scale said I was hydrated, but based on the amount of sweating and weight loss, the word for tomorrow is hydration. I'm already having flashbacks to the Chicago Marathon last year. It will be around 75 and 80% humidity when I start the race at 6:29 a.m. Suddenly a dip in the Hudson sounds kind of refreshing!

I started the morning with a 15 minute swim. In my final check of my swim bag, I realized my member ID was missing. I looked everywhere and couldn't find it. Luckily I still had my guest pass and the security guy recognized me so I was able to get in without too much hassle, but I was really late. I had exactly 15 minutes so I did a short warm-up, a comfortable quarter of a mile and a short cool down. I felt great in the water and I'm looking forward to the swim tomorrow.

After a quick trip to get a new pool ID, it was time to drop my bike in transition. I went a little later to lessen the time my bike was sitting out in the fluctuating temperatures, but it didn't help with avoiding the heat. I'm in the transition with a lengthy barefoot run from the swim exit, but I figure the adrenaline will kick in and make it tolerable. I racked my bike, let some air out of the tires and counted the number of racks I was from the exit. I then met up with Michelle, another person I met through Beginner Triathlete. She did the race last year and has given me a lot of great tips along the way.

Before heading out, I snapped a few shots before the madness really begins. Bike drop is open until 9 p.m. tonight and there were still hundreds of empty spots on the racks.


It turns out I'm not the only one who thinks a dip in the Hudson will be refreshing.


Everyone always talks about this really steep, technical turn and hill on the way out of transition. I wandered around trying to figure out the course and saw this sign laying on the ground, which confirmed which hill it was. It really wasn't that bad, it's just steep and narrow so I imagine it can be tricky with the crowds.


All I have left to do now is pack up my transition bag, which will involve checking and re-checking the contents approximately 100 times. I'll probably even get out of bed at some point and check again. I'm actually not nervous yet, but imagine it will kick in when my alarm goes off at 3 a.m. I'm planning to get to transition really early so I have time to deal with any surprises. If there are no surprises, I'll walk the mile to Swim Start slowly and take it all in. You only get one first big race and this is mine. I plan to enjoy every moment of it.

Swimming
Distance - 700 yards (.4 miles)
Time - 15:00

Biking (3 short rides combined)
Distance - 11.2 miles
Time - 43:55

Running
Distance - 1.71 miles
Time - 15:00

July 18, 2008

Ready. Set. Go.

Today was my first rest day since June 22. I have to say, it was really great. I slept until almost 9 and spent the entire morning working and catching up. I headed off to the NYC Triathlon expo and mandatory race briefing in the afternoon, figuring I'd beat some of the crowds by going on Friday vs. Saturday. I met up with a guy from Beginner Triathlete, which made it a lot more fun. The people I've met in this sport continue to be some of the best people I've met. We got the race briefing and packet pick-up out of the way before checking out the expo a bit.

I got stuck with a slightly boring white swim cap. My age group has two waves, one white and one fluorescent orange. The orange would have been so much cooler! However, my race number is 1896. I liked the sound of it as soon as I heard it, but not for any particular reason. So I checked it out and it turns out that the first modern Olympics were held in Athens on March 24, 1896 with 484 athletes from 13 countries. Is that good luck or what??? Also, the U.S. bicycle industry hit sales of $60 million that year with the average bicycle retailing for $100. Of course, they didn't have gears until the next century, but imagine being able to score a bike for that price?

While we're talking about bikes, tri-bikes were on full display at the expo just torturing me. I spent some quality time with a Cervelo I have my eye on. I'll have to wait and see in a few months. In the meantime, I bought some socks and gels, a little more in my price range.

Before receiving the race packet, we had to sign a swim waiver. No one really reads this stuff, but while in line for my packet, I caught the first line, "I acknowledge that the swim portion of the Nautica New York City Triathlon will be an extreme test of my abilities..." No kidding. Although I've definitely reached a point where I'd rather swim in the Hudson than some other bodies of water. Check out this photo from the 2006 LA Triathlon.


Now that's just scary. I would have turned around, gotten back in the car and gone back to bed. This gives me comfort knowing that Sunday will be nowhere near as challenging.

I stopped off at my friendly neighborhood bar after the expo to catch up with friends and rest some more. I allowed three beers this time. After all, what harm can it do at this point? After 5 weeks of barely drinking, I've gone from having a hollow leg to being quite a lightweight. But don't worry, I had a pint of water for every beer like a good triathlete. It was really great to be with friends and get my mind off the race for a bit. I'd be lying if I said the swim cap didn't make an appearance, and there is photographic proof, but I'll save those shots for family and friends.


I picked up the sunscreen I like, which was officially my last item to buy. Now I have a bunch of small things to do:
  • Try to remember how to change a flat (please, please, please do not let me get a flat)
  • Learn how to disable my back break just in case I blow a spoke (x10 my plea above)
  • Learn how to let air out of my tires and then re-inflate them properly, due to the expected heat, which means I'm going to have to figure out how to use that fancy tire gauge I bought (I think I admitted recently I don't know how to do ANYTHING with my bike... I wasn't lying)
  • Adjust my new helmet so it actually fits
  • Put the speed laces on my running shoes
  • Decide which race belt to use and attach my number to it
  • More laundry, yet again
I get to do a super-mini-triathlon tomorrow as my final activity before the race. This is by no means for any fitness, it's simply to be sure everything is working properly and to keep my muscles loose. I'm planning about 20-30 minutes of each sport, starting with a swim. Then I need to drop my bike off in transition and spend a few minutes familiarizing myself with the route so I'm not confused on race day.

I'm so excited at this point I can barely sit still. I have a feeling I won't be sleeping much, but that's ok. There's something about race weekend that allows you to get everything done and show up ready to go on race day regardless. I'll be ready to go for sure on Sunday at 6:29 a.m. when my wave starts. Hudson River, here I come.

July 17, 2008

Odds and Ends

Today was another relaxed taper day. My schedule called for a final 3-mile run with the JackRabbit group followed by a race briefing. Since this wasn't until 6:30, I had the whole day free to tie up loose ends, obsess about the race and plan the remainder of my racing season. I briefly thought of sneaking in a short ride, but listened to the coach for once (after all, isn't that what I paid for?) and skipped it. Instead, I slept a little later and stayed off my feet for the entire day.

I'm starting to compile real and mental lists of things to buy, things to remember and things to do before race day. I'm hitting the expo and mandatory pre-race meeting tomorrow afternoon to hopefully beat some of the rush and allow Saturday to be more relaxed. My new helmet arrived today, which I couldn't be more thrilled about. It's the new Specialized S-Works, allegedly the lightest helmet in the world. It was on backorder, but then surprisingly shipped and made it before the race. It will be so nice on what is looking like it will be a very hot day in NYC. Too bad I didn't have the time or motivation to get the cleats on my new Sidi T2 shoes. Those will have to wait for another race.

Speaking of another race, I've been very perplexed over what is next for me now that I know I'm not going to drown in the swim and am really enjoying this sport. I've been looking into a number of races in August and September, some local, some far away, some more serious and others just for practice. I'm looking at three Olympics and one sprint, all spread out nicely over the next two months. I have to decide quickly about the first, the Niantic Bay Triathlon in Connecticut, since it's just two weeks away.

My run tonight was short and sweet. Our coaches monitored us and made us run a nice, slow pace and we did most of it on the bridle path, which is a lot nicer than running on asphalt. I chatted with my training partners about the race, our future plans, our nerves, our worries. It was a fun run and one last chance to get together with the group before we all go our separate ways. There are many different types of people in the group: those who want to do just one triathlon for the experience, those who might do one or two a year, and those who see it as a lifestyle. We're all very different and our reasons for doing this are very individual, but for this 10-week period, we all had the same goal. When I signed up, I thought I would fall into one of the first two groups, but as it turns out, I'm in that third group. I can't imagine not swimming, biking and running just because the race is over so eventually I'll just shift from training mode to lifestyle mode.

In closing, the photos from Sunday's 10K were posted so I thought I'd share a nifty finish line shot. I think that look on my face was me thinking, "you're going to run another 4 miles now? Are you nuts?" My next 10K finisher photo will be snapped on Sunday assuming all goes well. Hopefully I'll be finishing with a smile.

Running
Distance - 3 miles
Time - 29:11

July 16, 2008

Reflection

Here I go, getting all nostalgic in the final days before my race. I knew it was only a matter of time. I've been able to keep the nerves at bay for the most part with mini freak-outs happening only here and there. I was feeling good, looking forward to it actually, and then I read the Athlete's Guide that was released earlier in the week. It's essentially just a schedule of events, but it forced reality to set in. Then I signed up for the athlete alert at Accenture and saw my race number, which made it even more real.

Until a couple weeks ago, this race for me was all about the swim. It was about winning my own private battle with myself, in beating fear and self-doubt that I've carried around for a long time. But as I started to improve as a swimmer, albeit still very average and still a beginner, I started thinking about other things that could potentially ruin this race for me. One of my Beginner Triathlete Tour de France Challenge teammates had a race last weekend and ended up with a DNF, not because she didn't train or wasn't prepared, but because she had a flat coming out of T1 and then flatted again a few miles into the course. These are the things you can't prepare for and have to accept. It bothered me for a couple days, thinking about how I would feel if that happens to me on Sunday. Then this morning I read a discussion thread about a long-time member of Beginner Triathlete who lost her battle with a brain tumor this week. She was only 41 and until just a few weeks ago, seemingly healthy. I didn't know her, but her story really touched me and put things into perspective. Someone else from the group once said that every race is a celebration of the fact that we get to be there. So that's how I'm approaching this Sunday. If my bike falls apart, so be it. The forecast calls for thunderstorms and 91 degrees and there is nothing I can do about it. Sure I'll be disappointed if something goes wrong, but I'll have the opportunity to do another race at another time.

This journey for me turned out to be so much more than a quest to do this one triathlon anyway. Over the past two months, I've experienced a complete lifestyle change, have found something I really love and feel better than I've felt in years. I've met a lot of great people and look forward to meeting so many more as I continue in the sport. It has given me a new sense of confidence and what I'm capable of. And for that, this has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. Metro Sports New York did a piece a few weeks ago on the race, and finished by saying:

"Swim like a dolphin, ride like you stole it, and run like they’re chasing you!"

That's what I'll be trying my best to do on Sunday. In the meantime, today was another light day with just an evening swim. Despite some lingering shoulder aches about halfway through, I believe I have never felt more comfortable in the water. I did a short warm-up and then another continuous mile. I was a couple minutes slower than the last time, but it's not important to me. I still have the very recent memory of not being able to make it more than 100 yards so I'm grateful to have gotten this far.

Speaking of swimming, here is the video I promised yesterday. This is from one of my open water swims at Brighton Beach last weekend. Let's hope the Hudson doesn't look like this!



Swimming
Distance - 2200 yards total (1.25 miles), 1800 continuous
Time - 50:00

July 15, 2008

Passing Time

Day 2 of taper week. Our coach put together a schedule calling for an easy 12-15 mile ride today. After crawling out of my skin yesterday with just the swim - and yesterday was supposed to be rest - I decided to go for the 15 and add a short, 2-mile run. It's early in the week so I figured a final brick would be nice. Since I was half following orders, I kept it easy by staying along the Hudson where it is flat. There was a strong headwind on the first half that made it kind of slow, but I reminded myself that the ride was supposed to be relaxed. When I turned around and headed south, I was able to make up some time. My transition was really fast today and the run was great. When I started training, I was dreading the bricks because so many people hate them. But I've actually enjoyed them. When I start doing longer distances I'm sure I'll be singing a different tune.

Since my workouts are short, I have a lot of time on my hands. I spend 90% of it obsessing about the race and try to occupy the other 10% with positive distractions. My official race photos arrived from the Flat as a Pancake Tri so I figured now is a great time to scan and post them here.

First up, they captured a shot of me at the swim exit. Note the "oh my god, I can't believe I didn't drown" look on my face. Also note that there are several people with pink caps still in the water, which means I wasn't last! Of course the guy in the blue cap started 5 minutes after me.

Next up, here I am on the bike looking very serious. This was coming into the u-turn from the first loop. I think I was still in awe that I made it through the swim.

And finally, the finish. I was elated and actually had a smile on my face, or as much of a smile as you can manage after a roasting hot run with no shade. But it's not my happy finish face that should be noted here. My fellow finisher's face was hidden as she looked down to stop her watch, capturing her exact finish time.

People stopping their watches in race finish photos is not unusual. What's unusual is this second shot, where she appears to be checking her heart rate monitor on the other wrist. This was a little local race on Staten Island. I forgot to start my watch at the beginning and forgot to reset my bike computer in transition, so I didn't have a clue what my time was. Someone once said that it's better to have had a good time than to have run a good time. But I guess we all have different priorities. If I could thank her though, I would. She encouraged me to sprint with her to the finish and as a result, I set a 5K PR.

Next up this week, I'll be posting a video of one of my open water swims at Brighton Beach. After that, I'll have to find something else to occupy the rest of my taper time.

Biking (brick workout)
Distance - 15 miles
Time - 58:47

Running (brick workout)
Distance - 3 miles
Time - 16:13

July 14, 2008

Taper Madness

It's just 6 days until race day, which means I should be tapering my training throughout the week and have a solid day or two of rest. You'd think after training pretty much non-stop for the past two months that I'd be looking forward to a little break. I haven't had an actual rest day since June 22 after all. But it turns out that's not the case.

I was supposed to do the early morning run course preview with some JackRabbit folks. I figured I'd do the run at a nice, slow pace and then go back to sleep. I woke up at 5, briefly asked myself what the heck I was doing, and slowly got out of bed. I put on my running gear and headed downstairs for some coffee when I heard a faint ticking sound on the window. Rain. I had checked Weather.com while lying in bed and it said nothing of rain. But a glance out confirmed that it was raining pretty hard. There was no way I was going to drag myself out for a 6 a.m. run in the rain. I sent a text and went back to bed, totally changing my plans for the day.

I decided to go for a swim instead. After open water, my stroke is often really off and takes a bit of practice to get back into shape. Since it was still drizzling and I was feeling out of sorts, I decided to walk to the pool instead of riding my bike thinking it might wake me up a bit. I had this feeling you sometimes get the day before you come down with the flu, where something isn't quite right, but you're not yet sick. So of course I had panicky thoughts of getting sick in these final critical days and that worried me all the way to Tribeca.

The pool was quiet so I was able to get in and out quickly without interruption. I did a slow warm-up of 450 yards with a little kicking mixed in, then two main sets of 450. I tried to do the second set faster, but to my dismay, it was exactly the same time as the first set. My shoulder was still a bit achy, but my form felt good. I never thought I would reach this point, but I'm feeling really comfortable with my swimming. I'm not fast, but I'm able to cover the distance easily and after tackling the challenging conditions at Brighton Beach this weekend, I'm feeling less anxiety about the Hudson. Of course we'll see how I feel at 6:29 a.m. on Sunday when my wave starts. I'm sure the fear will come flooding back in, but I'm prepared for it.

I finished swimming early and had the full day ahead to rest. And thus began my taper madness. I felt crabby, tired and frustrated. I was hungry all day even though I only did one short workout. I focused on tying up all sorts of loose ends in an effort to occupy my mind. First on the agenda was picking up my beautiful new Sidi T2 shoes at Cadence. They finally got my size and they are a perfect fit. I then headed up to JackRabbit to stock up on gels, an economy size Gatorade Endurance mix and CO2 refills. Since no one had the tinted goggles I needed, I ordered them online for rush delivery. But even after all of this, I was still having a taper tantrum. So I planned my training for the rest of the week so I'd have something to look forward to. My plan is to train normally tomorrow, then scale back Wednesday and Thursday before a full rest on Friday. I'll have the race expo and briefing to do on Friday so that will burn through unused energy.

I'm not nervous yet, but I know it's just around the corner. This is a place I could only dream of being just a few short months ago so I want to take it all in and enjoy every moment of this week. Even the highs and lows of the taper. Because when it's over, I'll inevitably miss having the goal to work toward. It's time to sign up for my next race.

Swimming
Distance - 1350 yards (.75 miles)
Time - 40:00

July 13, 2008

Attack of the Killer Jellyfish

I'm going to lead today's post with my second workout because while it was short, it was far more interesting. I made the journey out to Brighton Beach again to get in one more open water swim before the NYC Tri. Sure enough, Hurricane Bertha continues to churn up the Atlantic making the water actually harder to swim in today. The waves didn't look as high, but they were more frequent and I thought I felt a rip current at one point. I used my handy new Garmin to confirm the distance between jetties is .44 miles. I swam this with a bit of a struggle in 14:50, including several inefficient pauses for sighting since a slight glance up only led to a wave in the face. Every other breath was a mouthful of water today and I felt like I was being thrown around even more. Yet when I made it to the jetty, I figured I'd turn around and go back. Why not? I wanted to make the most of my time there.

As usual, the return was into the current so it was a bit more challenging. I was just getting comfortable when it happened. The attack of the killer jellyfish. I saw tons of jellies right off the beach but didn't encounter any on the first stretch. Like yesterday, I felt the stinging on my arms and ankle simultaneously so it was a definitely a group assault. But unlike yesterday, I came face to face with my attacker. Just after I felt the first sting, there it was. A big, ugly pink gelatinous thing about two inches below my face. If it were possible to scream under water I would have. I didn't want to stop for fear of forcing it to sting me more, but I didn't want to keep going for fear of running into his group of friends up ahead. So I stopped. Most of my left arm was hit and was already red and blotchy. A good length along the inside of my right arm was also burning and red as well as the top of my right ankle. I wasted tons of energy treading while inspecting the damage and since I was alone, I felt panicky. Since the jellies were likely still lurking nearby, waiting for my naked arm to pass by again, I decided it was time to head in.

I hated to cut the swim short, but in reality, swimming in swirling, choppy water isn't really necessary to prepare for most races so I felt like I achieved what I went for. It was hours before the sting marks faded, but the image of my pink nemesis lasted much longer.

Taking a step back to my first workout of the day... Today wrapped up week 2 of NYC Marathon training. I've pretty much just continued triathlon training with an extra day of running each week. On the fairly lazy schedule I'm following, my long run this week was supposed to be 8 miles. Because of the NYC Tri next week and the NYC Half Marathon the following week, I had to step it up and go a bit longer this week so I can rest a little next week, but still be ready for the half. So I modified the plan and did a 10-miler. I signed up for the Naples-New York Park to Park 10K so I could practice racing the tri distance and make some of the time go by faster. After finishing the race, I did the remaining miles on my own.

I had a pretty great race. I was conservative on the front half, which worked well since it was the hilliest part, and picked up the pace in the back half. Even though it was only about 72 degrees, it was 81% humidity so they issued a heat advisory. Last year's Chicago Marathon has stricken fear into race directors. They sent out an email a few days ago, there were a few ambulances trolling the course and they had 3 or 4 misting stations. Despite all this, I saw a runner down about 500 yards from the finish, lying flat on her back while medics tended to her. This is not uncommon since so many people overdue it in the end. There were people at the finish in oxygen masks looking pretty miserable. And I still had 3.8 miles to go. Luckily I felt great aside from a lack of fuel. My last remaining gel mysteriously disappeared so I had to do the 10 miles with nothing but water and two tiny cups of Gatorade I grabbed at the finish. I felt fatigued as a result, but pushed through. It's my own fault. I need to start buying my gels in massive bulk considering how many I'm consuming these days.

I hit 10 miles and headed back to the finish area for water and food. They had the usual assortment of bagels and some apples. I held a water in one hand and the bagel and apple in the other hand, and managed to eat both pretty much simultaneously in a very un-ladylike fashion. I'm lucky I didn't accidentally eat a finger.

I'm doing an insanely early run tomorrow morning with some JackRabbit training mates. I really shouldn't be running, but we've agreed to do a nice, easy, slow pace. We just want to experience the run course so there are fewer surprises next Sunday. Wow. Next Sunday. I think my freak out may have just begun.

Running (10K race)
Distance - 6.2 miles
Time - 52:17

Running (extra miles)
Distance - 3.8 miles
Time - 34:08

Swimming (open water)
Distance - 1100 yards (.62 miles)
Time - 21:50

July 12, 2008

No Sleep Till Brooklyn

I spent the majority of my day training in Brooklyn. I spent the rest of my day on the subway going to and from Brooklyn. It started with an 8 a.m. ride with the JackRabbit group in Prospect Park. I usually ride in Manhattan on Sundays, but there is a New York Road Runners race tomorrow so they encouraged us to join in Brooklyn today instead. It sounded like a great change of pace after riding so much in Central Park this past week. Of course the trains weren't running so it took a short bike ride, a transfer and a lot of waiting to get there, but it was worthwhile.

Prospect Park is significantly smaller than Central Park, about 3.4 miles around. We did a 1-loop warm-up, 3 X 2-loops at race pace with short rests in between, and a 1-loop cool down. My first two sets were at a consistent pace, a little under 22 minutes for each. But on the last set, I rode with a girl from the Manhattan group and we chatted the entire way. It slowed us down, but who cares. It broke up the monotony of looping around and around a small park.

I went back to Manhattan, dropped off my bike, got into my swimsuit and raced back out the door to Brighton Beach to meet up with Roberto again from last week. The Brighton Beach stop is on the elevated line and when I stepped out of the train, the wind nearly knocked me over. Even though I couldn't see the beach, I knew we were in for a challenge. The waves were about 2-3 feet or more at times. There was a light current so we swam with it on the first leg, although it didn't make it much easier. If this were just two weeks ago, I would have turned around and gotten back on the train. There is no way I could have handled these conditions. We were getting tossed around the entire time. I got flipped over a few times when rolling to breathe and at least every 2nd or 3rd breath ended up being a mouthful of water. The waves were going over us at times and lifting us out of the water at others. We had to stop about every hundred meters to get our bearings since sighting was nearly impossible. We were laughing the entire time over just how ridiculous it was. But we figured if we could swim in those conditions, we could swim just about anywhere.

We swam from jetty to jetty and back to cover about .88 miles. It was slow going with the quick stops and we needed a moment to catch our breath after reaching the turnaround. We considered walking back to the start and swimming with the current again, but decided to give it a go against the current. It was definitely more difficult and took longer, but totally doable. It was on the return trip that I was stung simultaneously by two jellyfish. It was as though they got together under water, saw me coming and hit the only exposed flesh on my body. I got it on my left ankle and the front of my right shoulder. At least this time they weren't stinging my back since I was actually swimming!

I hit a new level of tired today. I felt relatively good for the ride, but my legs have definitely been fresher. After riding 153 miles this week, I couldn't expect more. When I left Prospect Park and had to carry my bike up and down long flights of subway stairs, I got so exhausted that the thought of riding it down the stairs seemed appealing. Climbing stairs even without the bike made my legs burn. I was moving like one of those slow people I am usually cursing under my breath as I try to get by. By the time we finished the swim, I was toast. I spent what little time was left in the day trying to stay awake and take care of a few odds and ends.

I have two more days of early starts ahead. I'm running a 10k race at 8 tomorrow followed by 4 extra miles to make it my long run this week. Then on Monday morning at 6, I'll be meeting up with some of the JackRabbit group to run the NYC tri course. Since we can't swim or bike the course, we figured it would be good to at least be familiar with the run. I'm thankful I have the luxury of being able to go back to bed afterward. That is definitely something to look forward to.

Biking
Distance - 26.84 miles
Time - 1:34:39

Swimming (open water)
Distance - 1550 yards (.88 miles)
Time - 45:00

July 11, 2008

Summer Friday

I had a very heavy training day planned. I was going to swim in the morning and do a longer brick to be sure I'm ready for the race distance. I was already questioning the feasibility of the swim last night as my shoulder continued to hurt. I iced it and took ibuprofen, but it was really achy. I didn't sleep well in general and the shoulder only made it worse. When I woke up, I knew I needed to rest it for another day so I skipped the swim.

I got off to a later start than planned for the brick. My lazy nature kicked in full force and it was a struggle to motivate myself out the door. I wanted to ride around 20 miles, but really didn't want to go to Central Park again. It would be my third trip this week. So I decided to ride as far north on the Hudson as possible and loop back a couple times if needed to make the miles. I set up my transition area just inside the door and finally headed out. It was a beautiful day, picture-perfect really.

I rode as far north as the river path would allow, to 129th Street, and then headed back south. I had ridden just over 18 miles when I reached my planned stopping point so I figured it was close enough. My transition is never as fast as I'd like since I have to wait for the freight elevator. My doorman and neighbors must think I'm insane when I come running in with my bike and then run back out without it like there's a fire or something. It was pretty hot and sunny by the time I hit the street so I settled on running 4 miles. I'm always pleasantly surprised by how well I am able to run off the bike. I definitely have the lead legs feeling everyone talks about, but I don't find it too uncomfortable to push through. My first 1.5 miles were pretty quick, then the next .5 was a bit slower. I found a stretch of shade to get some relief from the sun and was able to run the last .5 under an 8-minute pace.

After I finished, I relaxed in the park for a bit and made some phone calls. I was in the shade as much as possible and couldn't believe how many people were spread out in the grass in full sun baking themselves. I guess they missed Skin Cancer Awareness Month back in May.

I dropped by my local bar to say hi to friends and eat something so I could survive until dinner. The best part of being a regular somewhere is that you can stroll in at any time in any condition and feel at home. I sat at the bar in my all my spandex glory and enjoyed the company of a few friends having an early summer Friday. You all know I've given up beer until the NYC Tri next Sunday except for a few special times where I've made an exception. I wasn't planning for it, but today became one of those exceptions. As my friend Louise, one of the bartenders, said, "are you going to sit there dressed like that and drink a glass of wine?" Absolutely not. It was a moment that demanded a beer. So I had just one, a Victory Saison, the perfect end to a perfect day.

Biking
Distance - 18.32 miles
Time - 1:09:09

Running
Distance - 4 miles
Time - 33:18

July 10, 2008

Back to the Beginning

It was time to take a day off swimming to give my shoulder a rest. This created another opportunity for a ride, which was great for my Tour de France Challenge goal. I decided to ride north along the Hudson River Park and Riverside Park to 99th Street to get a look at the swim start for the NYC Tri. There were a few detours along the way and an incredible amount of human traffic that slowed the ride down, but it was well worth it to have a few moments of reflection at the place where I'll be jumping into the Hudson River in just 9 days.

The water was a little choppy because of the wind, but it looked relatively swimmable. Yet standing there safely behind a railing, it was still hard to imagine actually getting into that water. Everything will look different on race day and I'm sure I'll feel like I've never been there before. I didn't feel nervous, but rather slightly disconnected, as if the reality of the event hasn't entirely set in. I'm sure my full-fledged freak out will begin shortly. I'll just apologize to my friends and family in advance. I'm sure none of you will want to hear the word triathlon after next Sunday.

I rode south to the swim exit to get a sense of what that mile will look like. Not surprisingly, it looked really far. I just have to hope the current is everything it is said to be and that my training and preparation kicks in and carries me through.

After the site inspection, I rode across 72nd to Central Park to get in some quicker miles. I did about a loop and a half, and then a middle loop before heading south again along the Hudson. It was mid-day by then and the park was extremely crowded so it was nice to get in and out quickly. I was supposed to have a group training run tonight, but a series of unfortunate events precluded it. I left on time for once, but then waited for about 10 minutes for the 1 train. It was packed like a can of sardines so each stop was painfully slow. By the time we reached Penn Station, still four stops before my destination, it was already 6:30 and I figured it would take another 10 minutes. I got off at Penn and hopped on the Downtown train thinking I might run on my own. But after some calculations and reflection, I decided this was a good thing in disguise. I really shouldn't have been running today given the brick I have planned for tomorrow and a long run this weekend. I got off the train about a mile from my apartment figuring I would at least walk off the Espresso Hammer Gel I had in preparation for the run. It was a nice night and a nice walk.

My new Conti 4000 tires arrived to much excitement. It used to be that when a package arrived for me it would be from Bluefly, Zappos or Saks containing fun things like shoes and dresses. Now I'm overjoyed when the doorman gives me a box from BikeTiresDirect. I can't wait to ride on those tires tomorrow and see how they feel. That's assuming I can get them back onto the bike.

On another gear front, I headed back to Cadence Cycling to try on the Sidi T2 shoes they brought up from Philadelphia for me. To my dismay, they were way too big. It turns out the ones I tried on before were the right fit and of course, they were gone. The pair they had in my size had the full carbon sole with an extra $110 on the price tag. Definitely not worth it for a cyclist like me. So they got on the phone with the Philly store again and found me a pair. They will arrive at Cadence on Monday and be all mine. These shoes were definitely worth the wait. I just need to pick up a few more odds and ends and I'll be all set for the big race. Let the countdown begin.

Biking
Distance - 21.3 miles
Time - 1:19:56

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