One More Tri 2016 Recap

I’ll admit: I had no intentions of participating in the One More Tri triathlon this year. After a pretty miserable experience last year (almost entirely of my OWN doing, mind you), I wrote off the sport of triathlon as a fun distraction from my usual running and that was that. But when Jeanene Leppert, the Special Events Director of Special Olympics New Jersey, reached out to tell me about the positive changes they’d made to the race and invited me to this year’s event, how could I say no?

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There’s Jeanene: one of the sweetest, most hard working women I know!

To keep things low-key, I registered for the Super Sprint distance; knowing I’d be smack in the middle of half marathon training, I didn’t want to push too hard and this .1 mile swim, 6 mile bike, and 1.5 mile run was just the right effort. It worked out even better because I ran a solid 11+ miles the day before, my longest run since May, and I was tired!

On Sunday morning I packed up the bike and headed down to Asbury with Mike, arriving with plenty of time to check in, get my packet (and a BIG hug from Jeanene!), set up in transition, and go wait in the car while the temps rose from a chilly 49 degrees!!

Once the sun came up it got warmer, and we made our way to the boardwalk for race announcements, the national anthem and the reciting of the Special Olympics motto: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” And that’s when I was reminded why I was SO happy to do this event again: being able to compete alongside Special Olympics athletes is a true honor. No matter how rough the water is, how strong the winds are, and how hard it is to keep running on tired legs, the fact that I get to take on all these challenges with these inspirational folks by my side is one that I will never not be moved by.

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As we marched to the beach for our swim start, we were informed that the swim portion had been shortened for everyone due to the rocky surf. Seeing the crazy waves the day before during my long run I figured as much, and we all clustered on the sand to keep warm after shedding our layers. It wasn’t long before our wave – the last wave, of course! – was next, and I laughed with some of my fellow Super Sprinters as we calmed each other’s nerves and passed the time. One woman had us roaring about how we should just “go to Waffle House – we’ve got the shirts already!”

After just a few more minutes, our gun went off and we ran into the water (which was almost 20 degrees warmer than the air!) and quickly discovered that the “swim” turned out to be a “fight for 35M through the waves and walk to the lifeguard who keeps getting knocked over”.

It was BRUTAL! I’ve never felt the surge pull me back so strongly – once one wave crashed over us, the current pulled my legs from under me and I had to fight to stay upright. After a few minutes of walking through the waves – and laughing and screaming – we made it to about 5 feet from the lifeguard. While the goal was to go around him, it was like running into a brick wall when each new wave pounded us! I laughed the whole time, and finally when a wave pushed me out, I grabbed onto the lifeguard’s shoulder to keep from getting swept out, rounded him and promptly got swept right up onto the shoulders of the guy in front of me, who got pushed into the girl in front of him, and so on! After apologizing and laughing, (“Thanks for the ride!”), the water calmed down enough for us to make a break for the shore again, and I ran. It was TOUGH. My legs burned from running against the strong current & jumping over waves, but I finally made it out.

The run back from the water to T1 was long – I’d estimate about a quarter of a mile or so, mostly on sand – but when the course is lined with volunteers and spectators cheering you on it’s hard NOT to feel awesome. Once I got into transition I rinsed my feet off, tossed my sneakers on & ran out with my bike. The volunteers were super organized, pointing me in the right direction with clear instructions and lots of encouragement, and I jumped on the bike in no time, speeding off for one loop of 6 miles.

There was a headwind for the first 3 miles out, but the course was clearly marked and filled with volunteers pointing us in the right direction (and police blocking traffic for us, thanks guys!). As I turned back at mile 3 and took a gel, I couldn’t help but smile and notice the absence of blue bibs around me. There weren’t that many folks in the Super Sprint wave at the swim, I wonder if I could Age Group place?? That was enough to make me pick up my pace and push for a bike finish of 26:10.

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After Mike snapped me bringing my bike in, I tossed my helmet off and headed onto the boardwalk for the 1.5 mile run, going slowly. My legs were now pretty shredded from the ocean, sand, and bike, but as I made it to the boards I fell into a rhythm and kept pace at a surprisingly fast 10:30. I’m just always faster when I bike!

It was on the boardwalk that I realized just how good my chances were to place – I saw only a few other blue bibs around me, and none were in my age group. The volunteers on the run course were phenomenal – SO many more this year than last year, and their enthusiasm was contagious. Once I got to the turnaround ahead of the full distance folks and headed back for the finish, I picked up the pace and couldn’t stop smiling over what a completely different, positive experience I had this year compared to last year!. When I spotted the folks at the finish line I broke into a sprint and crossed in 15:23 (a 10:15/mile pace!) and a total time of 51:41.

And of course I burst into happy tears when the little 5 or 6 year old Special Olympics rep placed my medal around my neck and gave me a high five, because that’s what I do.

After finding Mike and celebrating with him on a great finish, we wandered to the food tent where they had a CRAZY spread of amazing food – sandwiches, muffins, kale salads, Girl Scout cookies, donuts, recovery shakes, iced tea… you name it, you got it!

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::Liz Lemon voice:: I want to go to there…

After eating and sitting for a bit, we hung around for the awards and cheered on as the winners were announced in all divisions. It was so fun seeing everyone get recognition for their hard work. But the biggest shock of all came when they announced the Top Three Super Sprint Female Winners – and I placed THIRD OVERALL!

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Seriously, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Standing nearby helping organize medals and presenters, Jeanene screamed and grabbed me for a huge hug when she heard my name, and I went up to the podium for my first ever Overall medal!

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I was so stoked – sure, it’s really a numbers game when the field of participants is that small, but I still came in 11th overall in the Super Sprint, and 2nd in my AG too! I’ll take it!

Needless to say, this race is now a Must-Do for me every year. The Super Sprint distance the perfect way to challenge myself while not interfering with my half marathon training, and I can definitely see myself doing this one again next year – maybe I’ll see you too? 😉

Jersey Girl Triathlon 2016 Recap

Since it’s been almost two damn months I figured I might as well get you a recap of the Jersey Girl Triathlon! When I did this event last year as my first ever triathlon, it was a great experience. The training and group meetings ahead of time were extremely helpful, the folks who manage the whole thing were great, and it was a perfect first time event. This time around, things were slightly different but in a variety of ways. Let’s jump right in.

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I signed up for this race with my running buddy and coworker Alex, who had just started dipping her toes into the triathlon world earlier in the summer and loved it. So we woke up bright and early and met as the sun was coming up over the Atlantic on a sticky, humid morning.

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When we got to transition we had a good laugh: I warned her as I set up my area that I’d brought my good luck towel, a Star Wars printed number featuring my Space Boyfriend, Kylo Ren. “I swear, I’m not a 9 year old boy,” I said as I laid it out. She simply smiled as she unfurled her towel and said, “That’s nothing.”

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So apparently we are BOTH children at heart, and that’s why we get along so well.

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Also I had a small BB8 towel to wash my feet off after the swim. #sorrynotsorry

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After milling around and getting marked up, we headed down to the beach with Mike and got into our wave start area. I learned from last year not to assign myself in the LAST wave, as that would set me up for a lot of disappointment later on in the race. Being last in meant being last out and as a solid back of the packer when it comes to triathlons, I need all the help I can get. So we signed up for Buddy Heat 1 and both got into 11 (out of 14 or 15 I think).

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We watched as the earlier age group waves started and got out of the water and noticed that the water was QUITE choppy. I hadn’t done an open water swim since last summer (bad triathlete) and while I wasn’t nervous per se, those waves definitely gave me pause. After about a half hour we got ready to hit the water, and the same woman from last year was at the start, giving us all a pep talk and boosting our confidence. “You guys are going to rock this so hard! You’ve already done all the hard work, this is just the icing on the cake, and then you earn your ice cream or your beer or your pizza, or ALL THREE!” She was the best – I remember her calming my nerves last year!

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Finally the gun went off and into the water we went – and it was much warmer than I thought it’d be! But it was also MUCH CHOPPIER than I expected too, which made for very tough swimming right from the start. It also made my motion sickness act up pretty much 2 minutes into the swim, which lingered with me for the rest of the swim and most of the bike. Every time I ducked down to swim and glanced ahead underwater, the rocking of the water combined with the totally blank view ahead of me didn’t mesh and my stomach would lurch. At about the halfway point in the swim I gave myself a short break and floated for a bit, then accidentally swallowed some water too. A big gulp of saltwater + an upset tummy = no bueno, let me tell you. Finally I turned the last corner and headed back to shore, where Mike snapped me getting out of the water before I ran up the beach to T1.

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As I made my way to my bike I decided I wasn’t going for time, I just wanted to not throw up or fall off the bike from being so dizzy. I drank some Cocogo and a full bottle of water to rinse out the salty grossness in my mouth while I washed my feet off and got into my sneakers, then hopped onto the bike and out I went.

Miles 1-3 clicked by super easy – it was my first time racing on my new bike and I couldn’t believe how much faster I was going! Every mile that beeped by on my watch made me laugh out loud with joy. After a gel at mile 4, my stomach started to settle so I cranked up my pace a bit and pushed through the turnaround, so excited to finally be saying “On your left!” and passing folks! Compared to last year’s bike portion where I had to literally STOP on the course to ask a volunteer if I had to turn, I was surrounded by other bikers and knew where to go the whole time.

Before I knew it we were at the bike finish and I was running my trusty steed back into transition, dropping off my helmet and tossing on a headband/sweatband (that I later discovered made me look like Axl Rose, which was fantastic), spinning my race belt around for my number to face forward, and taking off on the run.

Or should I say, the walk. It was HOT. Too hot. 90+ and full sun hot. Within a few feet my legs felt heavy and my hips just didn’t want to move; I must have pushed a little harder than I thought on the bike. Combined with the weather, I knew I was going to be in for a long 3 miles. So I just shlepped along and told myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Quite literally, that’s how I managed to finish: by moving forward and not stopping. I walked a lot, drank even more, and finally took off in the last mile, but I did it.

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Note the Axl Rose headband. Welcome to the jungle, baby.

I was even more psyched to realize as I neared the finish: they changed the race course this year so we didn’t have to pass the finish and loop back around! It’s the ultimate cruelty when you’re dying of heat stroke and have to run another 1/2 mile past the finish, turn, then go back. They must have gotten the memo, because once my watch said 2.8 and I could see the finish I knew I didn’t have much farther to go and I gunned it through the finish line for a sweet finish.

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Oh that stupid headband.

I met up with Mike and Alex, who had finished ahead of me, and we walked over to the nearby snack shop and had the most delicious smoothies I think I’ve ever had (or maybe that was the exhaustion and starvation talking), then we headed back to check our times – where we discovered that all chips above 700 DID NOT REGISTER. Meaning MY CHIP. I didn’t have a time. Any times.

I was livid, but I lucked out and ran into the race director, who told me about the old chips that he had used were apparently deactivated or somesuch. He reassured me that they’d come up with a way to track our times and that they had backups that would take a few days, but still. It turns out that their “backup” was us looking at the timestamps on our race pics and entering them for the race officials in a Google Doc the following week for them to calculate how long we spent in each portion (transitions not included) then come up with our official time. It wasn’t a perfect solution – my leg times also include my transition times so I don’t accurately know how much better I did in each portion of the race compared to last year – but at least I had an official FINAL time of 1:47:39 (and that time was better than last year by more than a full minute).

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Overall it was another great race and a fun way to challenge myself and keep my training interesting over the summer. I’d definitely recommend this event to anyone who’s looking for a first time triathlon with no pressure – heck, you might even see me out on the course next year again!

NYC Triathlon Recap

Oh my goodness what a long strange month it’s been! Sorry for the lack of updates – its basically been non stop running, training, and racing every day for the last 4 weeks, but let’s take a look back and recap the fun, starting with July 24th, when two friends and I took on the NYC Triathlon in a relay team! Let’s see if I can cram two jam-packed days into one post. Ready? GO!

Announcements had been made earlier in the week that the run course was shortened from 10K to 8K due to the heat, and I could see why when we arrived in the city Saturday morning: it was like a blast furnace outside. After we got to the hotel and checked in, we found Alex & Chris and headed up to the expo for our pre-event briefing and packet pickup. The crowds were stifling – but if you cram 4,000+ people into any place you’re going to run into bottlenecks, I suppose. The layout forced us into very narrow walkways and I got stuck behind a thick crowd of people a few times. Plus the briefing and packet pickup was upstairs and expo/tshirt/swag bag pickup was downstairs. It all made for an uncomfortable expo experience, I won’t sugar coat it.

To get it over asap, we sat thru the briefing, got our hands stamped so we could get our packets (at the Pro & Relay check-in table, thanks for lumping us all in together!), asked a few questions of the helpful volunteers there, then walked downstairs to fight thru the expo crowd for our shirts and swag bags, then hoofed it across town to drop off Chris’ bike and check out the transition area.

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That turned out to be super helpful – just seeing the transition area and the in and out spots helped put our minds at ease. Plus we got a sneak peek at the sarcastic tags they used to mark off our areas:

After Chris left his baby on the rack, we ended the day with a quick Uber (my first Uber ride!! I felt so millennial! ) to meet back up with Mike at the Cock & Bull for dinner and drinks.

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4 people, 9 beverages. We take our pre-race hydration very seriously.

After parting ways (Chris and Alex stayed at a hotel much closer to the start), Mike and I sat outside for a bit to enjoy the sunset and people watch, then headed back to the hotel to relax and prep for the the next morning.

I have to take a moment to shout out the true MVP of the weekend (aside from my husband of course): that little backpack up there. It not only held everything I needed for a night in the city, but it also held Mike’s overnight stuff, ALL my race gear AND my expo swag bag so Mike only had to carry one bag while I raced. Brilliant, right? Round of applause for the little backpack that could.

OK, so after managing to get about 3.5 net hours of sleep, I woke up before the alarm at 3:45AM.

This was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole weekend. I miscalculated how long it would take me to get ready and the leisurely pre-race time I usually have ended up as a frantic 3-minute last check to pack up all my hotel stuff (because Mike was checking out while I ran) and throw my race gear and breakfast into my clear transition bag (and prayed Chris would have room in his bag to carry the stuff I couldn’t run with). After a quick picture to show off my race tats, I sprinted out of the room and made it onto the shuttle bus only to hit every red light.

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I arrived at Red Transition at 4:55 when the transition areas closed at 5:15AM – and I still had to go a half mile to Yellow Transition to meet Chris and Alex before Alex left for the mile long walk to the swim start! My heart was pounding by the time I jogged into our area and found them, and we snapped one quick pic before our swimming phenom took off for her start a mile up the Hudson.

Thankfully, it all turned out to be smooth sailing from there on out. As the sun came up, Chris and I BS’d for an hour before the Elite and Pro people started coming in from the swim to the bike. We all cheered and stood in amazement – these folks were incredible!

Shortly after, we started checking the event tracking site to see when Alex jumped into the water – once we refreshed the page and saw she’d been swimming for 3 minutes, Chris gave his now famous announcement: “Shit just got real, son!” and took off for his bike. To keep the already crowded bike rack area clear, I had to wait outside. But I got to hang out with Alex’s towel and be her personal sherpa which was fun.

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Chris climbed into his bike shoes, got his helmet on and gave the paparazzi a smile just as Alex made her way in WAY sooner than anticipated (20:03 for a 1.5KM swim, 1:12/100 yds!) and our first transition was underway!

They traded the timing chip, Chris took off on his bike, and Alex met me with a big hug – she crushed it! She was covered in Hudson grit (some people came out entirely covered in gray and black, it was quite gross), but she was psyched and happy with her time. After toweling off and talking for a few minutes, she wished me luck then headed back to their hotel to shower, check out, and meet us at the finish.

At that point it was just me – but it was one of my favorite parts  of the day. As an only child, I really value alone time. And even though I wasn’t really alone but surrounded by 150 other relay triathletes, the hour or so that I got before running was pure bliss.

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While I couldn’t race WITH my headphones, bringing them with me to transition for the wait turned out to be a great decision. Having my music helped me get in the zone and calm my nerves while waiting. I leafed through my magazine, ate my fuel (a Starbucks bagel and PB with a tiny bit of banana), hydrated, used the porta potty, and then returned to the steps for pre-race stretching. It also helped that this was my view for the whole hour:

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When my timer went off 75 minutes after Chris took off, I started to pack my things away and made one last bathroom stop. He had estimated his time to be around 1:45-2:00, but after seeing some other relay folks start to roll up, I didn’t want to chance not being ready for him in case he was early. It turns out I made the right decision there too: he crushed his time and came in at 1:38: 07 for an average of 15.2mph the whole 40KM!

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Chris, Crushing It (TM)

After he rolled in and racked his bike, he passed the chip along to me and I took off up the hill to 72nd street. After spending the whole morning in the shade by the water with a nice breeze, I was shocked to feel how hot it had gotten. Landing on the cookie sheet heat of 72nd street’s asphalt was a gut punch, but I felt good. Really good, actually, thanks to the unbelievable crowds of people lining the course. There were folks the entire mile from the transition to the entrance to Central Park with signs and cowbells, all cheering and clapping – one guy even yelled out my name after I passed and he saw it on the back of my singlet!

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This was my face the whole race, for real!

As I got to the entrance of the park, I spotted Alex yelling my  name, which gave me a nice boost. I cheered right back and gave her a fist pump then glanced at my watch as we entered the park. I was shocked to see I’d already run a mile – in 10:20! It felt like nothing!

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At the first water station I slowed to a walk and grabbed two cups – one to drink and one to dump over my head – and continued on my way. It was really cool being surrounded by FULL triathletes as I ran. Being passed by speedy people definitely had something to do with my great pace I’m sure. Mile 2 clicked by at 10:55 with the water stop, and I laughed, amazed at my speed.

Finally, around mile 3.5 I started to flag – there was now no relief from the sun and the hills were brutal. At the next to last water stop, volunteers were handing out baggies of ice and I grabbed one – what a brilliant idea! I alternated between running with the baggie at my neck and throat and wrists, and grabbed a few cubes out to chew on every few minutes too.

A little after mile 4, I was walking up a hill when a guy passed me: “Come on Jess, it’ll be over faster if you run,” he said as he whizzed by. Knowing my teammates and friends and family would be there at the finish, I glanced at my watch – just over 3/4 of a mile left. As good a time as any to drop the hammer, I figured. The crowds grew thicker and I could hear the roar at the finish line, so I downed the last cup of water I’d been carrying and took off.

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Note the serious face and airborne running form.

I pushed through the pain and focused on the people screaming on the sidelines.. My watched ticked to mile 5 and I groaned – the course was long, 8K was under 5! As we rounded the last few tight corners to get to the finish I went into a full out sprint and glanced at the crowds scanning for my people. Unfortunately, I was so overheated and focused on finishing that I didn’t see anyone. BUT that final extended kick managed to get me over the finish line at a freakin fantastic time: 56:29 for 5.22 miles (!) for an average of 10:50 per mile!!!

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I was so pumped – but also dehydrated and overheated. So I pounded some water, accepted an ice cold wet towel from a volunteer, grabbed the three medals our team earned, turned in my timing chip and headed for the Family Reunion area where I met up with Mike and my friend Lizzie (who had just finished TEN miles that morning for her training run!!)

Alex and Chris showed up shortly after with a crew of their friends, and we all hung out to bask in our post-race glow before heading out to celebratory brunch.

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Also, I will never forgive you for not putting the shirt on for the picture, Chris. Never. 

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2,000 words later, I’ll sum it up: this was a great event and we were super happy with our performances. Being fresh for each leg of the event makes a huge difference that I’m grateful for this time around: shortly after we finished they shortened the run to 1.2 miles and had people go right to the finish upon entering the park!

The logistics of it are huge and while the expo/packet pickup situation was a real stress-inducer, it was surprisingly well managed and all the volunteers were super helpful. I’d give it a solid A and would gladly do again as part of a relay team, possibly even on my own!

From Zero to… Two

So last year I had two extremely different experiences at two sprint triathlons.

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look at the happy!!

The Jersey Girl Triathlon was everything I could have hoped for in my first tri: fun, low-key, perfect weather, an overall A+ experience.

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look at the very real tears!

The One More Tri, on the other hand, threw everything it had at me and nearly broke me. I was almost last out of the water after they mis-measured the swim (nearly doubling it), I was last to finish on the bike thanks to my lead legs, busted bike gears and high winds, and the run was a footrace with a woman I affectionately dubbed “Bike Basket” because she beat me in the bike at the last minute on a beach cruiser with a basket.

But, because I’m not one to turn down a challenge (and part of me NEEDS to conquer that Asbury Park course, dammit), I’ve signed up for not just one, but BOTH of these races again this summer! I’m taking my training slow for the Jersey Girl – haven’t even done an official brick workout yet, with like 2 weeks til race day! – and actually chose to do the Short Sprint in Asbury because it falls smack dab in the middle of peak training time for my fall goal race, so I guess you could call these… Triathlon Lite?

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Call it whatever I want, all I know is I don’t have a spare $600 to upgrade my janky mountain bike and I’m doing these just to have some fun, not break records. Also, the One More Tri has the added bonus of benefiting the Special Olympics, so I’m honored to be raising money for them again. If you’re so inclined, feel free to donate here – every little bit helps, even $5 would be much appreciated!

So there’s my big summer plans in a nutshell – doing two races I said I’d never do again as long as I lived because I don’t know how to say no and have a silly competitive streak with myself! Have you ever done a “never again” race again? Which one? How did it go? I bet you didn’t regret it!

Avoiding Confrontation, Sweating thru Christmas, and more…

First off: Happy Holidays everyone! With the yuletide madness, things have been quiet here on the blog but crazy in real life. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you all got to spend some time with people who make you happy, because isn’t that what it’s all about after all?

I promise to get some more posts up in the next few days (teaser: I ran a race dressed like a reindeer/elf!), but today I’ll sum up the highlights of the past few weeks:

1. I took a boot camp class and almost karate chopped a lady in the throat on purpose.

Allow me to explain. The boot camp was GREAT, but there was this one lady in the class who insisted on doing everything *better*. I’m sure you know the type: the one who’s done the class before and does all the moves before the instructor starts, exaggerates each motion, does jumping jacks and runs up and down the length of the room while the rest of the class takes a water break… WELL. In the beginning of the class, the instructor asked if anyone was new to class, so my workout buddy and I raised our hands. He welcomed us and told us to take some water or a breather when we needed it. Awesome. Class starts. It’s great! Sweat is pouring, the moves are challenging, but not so hard that I had to huff or puff or stop to catch my breath. 50 minutes later class is over, and as we’re packing the weights away, Miss Congeniality comes over to me and makes a big show of patting my shoulder and saying, “You survived your first boot camp! YAY!”

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“I run thirteen miles FOR FUN lady, so I suggest you take that patronizing hand OFF my shoulder before I bite it off and spit it out.” WAS WHAT I WANTED TO SAY. But didn’t. Instead I just smiled and nodded and added 15 minutes of angry abs to the end of my workout just to show her I can survive more than a 50 minute low-impact boot camp.

I know I may have been a little sensitive (Thanksgiving weight gain is a very real thing and bouncing around a room lined with mirrors isn’t the best self-esteem booster), but come on.

2. It’s been RIDICULOUSLY warm here in NJ. Like, 68-70 degrees some days, which means I get to run in shorts and tank tops past inflatable Santas on people’s lawns. It’s kinda weird.

3. I went swimming again! For the first time since my disastrous OWS during the One More Tri in September!

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The credit for this one goes to Workout Buddy Kevin (TM) once again – I was content to hang out and prepare for Christmas by eating cookies hand over fist, but Kevin, the voice of fitness-minded reason suggested we go for a swim at the gym. 300 meters later, I was back in love with swimming (in a pool, at least) and looking forward to adding it back into the workout rotation!

4. Christmas was a blast! In addition to fun stuff like a record player (so I can finally listen to my old record collection), Santa brought me a bunch of running swag that I’ve already started breaking in.

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How about you? Have your days been merry and bright lately? Dish in the comments!

NYC Triathlon: I’m IN!

A month or so ago, my coworker asked me how I felt about being the runner in a relay team for the NYC Triathlon. After a little research showed me what a ridiculously cool race this is (and that the run was only a 10K around Central Park, yes, please), I was stoked: of course I said yes!

Cut to a few weeks later when we realized that the entry was a fundraising spot that we’d all have to raise upwards of $1k for, each, in addition to the entry fees. That’s a lot of money, so we shelved the idea until the race lottery opened and we decided to enter as a relay team that way. “Who knows”, we reasoned. “If we get in, we get in, and if not, no sweat.” We’d find another event to enjoy together.

Fast Forward to this afternoon when I came face to face with the following email:

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Few subject lines make me squeal as much as “You’re In!”

I immediately ran to find my coworker – the biker of the group – and we promptly high fived and jumped in the air, Anchorman-style.

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(but with less mustaches)

I then texted my other co-worker (or rather, former co-worker, as she recently accepted an awesome new position!) and we freaked out for a bit via text. She’s the swimmer of our group, and the initial idea was hers in the first place.

Once I got through all of the details and filled out our form officially registering us, it finally sank in: I’m going to be doing the NYC Triathlon, and as a part of my first-ever relay team! How cool is that? I never pictured myself doing this event, but once the tri bug bit me, I knew I had to be a part of something larger like this. My confidence in my swimming skills, however, are somewhat lacking, and my biking… well, let’s just say I’m more Beach Cruiser than Iron Man. But with two unbelievable athletes like these folks by my side, with their own strengths in swimming and biking? Piece of cake!

The Reluctant Tri-ers (yes, that’s our team name) are headed to the Hudson River on July 24th, 2016!

How about you – have you done a relay race before? Or the NYC Tri? Any tips for a first time relay team member?

I’m a Triathlete… again

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I completed my second sprint triathlon this past Sunday and while it was hands down the most challenging race I’ve ever participated in, it was also the most rewarding. I finished emotionally and physically drained, in 3rd to last place (!)… but I FINISHED.

Life is crazy right now so I promise I’ll post more later, but I just had to share my excitement 🙂 How about you – how is training going? Any awesome milestones to share? Let’s hear it!

Jersey Girl Triathlon Race Recap

It’s been 2 days but I’m still riding high on the post-race victory wave! Now that things have settled down (and I’ve caught up on my sleep, hello 9PM bedtime two nights in a row!), I can finally give you guys a good race recap. So here we go!

Before a big race, I always say I’m going to get a good night’s sleep and end up hitting the pillow close to 3 hours late after rushing around packing my race bag, figuring out my outfit, and obsessively checking/re-checking everything. This time, I was determined to NOT let that happen, so I spent all day Saturday taming my nerves by creating order around the house (while also packing my things and taking my bike out for a test spin around the neighborhood). I did laundry, dusted, cleaned the kitchen, and it felt awesome. As a former OCD sufferer, I find happiness in order, so I dealt with my pre-race jitters in a constructive way, and as a result, woke up at 3:30 Sunday morning with a smile and a sense of calm!

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The gorgeous sunrise didn’t hurt either.

We arrived at Pier Village at about 5:30AM and found a parking spot easy peasy lemon squeezy. This also made my anxiety-prone mind happy! After a simple walk along the boards, I was marked with my bib number, entered the transition area, and staked out my little spot.

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Transition slowly started to fill with people, and after only about 5 minutes of putzing around and setting up my space, my cousin arrived and parked next to me – hooray for someone to race with!

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There was some more milling around as we used the bathroom one last time, hung out with my husband on the boardwalk, then shed our flip flops before transition closed at 6:30. The first wave of swimmers was due to go out at 6:50, so we hung around and watched them, and made our way down the beach once they set off.

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After hanging out for a while and running into our new friend Amanda before she set out in her wave, Mike came down on the sand with us and kept us company while we nervously waited for our wave – the LAST wave – to go out at 7:29.

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Once we were herded into our pen, an amazing volunteer stood at the front and gave us probably the sweetest pep talk I’ve ever heard. “Here we go, Wave 14! You guys are last but that just means you trained the hardest!” Accompanied by our coach (who was wearing his trademarked tiny gold speedo, as you’ll see in the photo below), we were assured repeatedly that the swim would be awesome.

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I didn’t doubt it! The swells were nowhere near as large as they’d been in the past 2 swims I did with the group, and the course seemed MUCH shorter. They even spotted some dolphins out there! Finally, the countdown was up and we were released into the water.

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The water was so warm!! I was thrilled and couldn’t help running right into the waves, laughing. I could hear Heather right next to me chatting with our coach, and I knew she was going to do great. I put my head down and paddled through the breakers, and within a minute or two I was already at the first buoy! The energetic volunteers in kayaks and on surfboards kept yelling out encouragement (“The hard part is over, guys!”) and once I rounded the first corner I settled into a rhythm. Stroke, stroke, stroke, look up, breathe, repeat.

After a few minutes I took a moment to soak everything in – it was really happening! I was competing in my first triathlon. The sun sparkled over the horizon in a cloudless sky, the women around me were all cheering each other on, the water danced calmly all around us. It was a moment I’ll never forget – it’s amazing where your life takes you sometimes, isn’t it?

Once I made it to the second buoy to turn back to the water, I kicked and paddled for a bit and let the ocean do some of the work to get me back to shore. I touched my toes to the sand and saw about a dozen people in the shallows helping swimmers out of the water. Just as I was about waist deep, I made eye contact with one of these volunteers – just in time to see his eyes go wide and hear him say, “Duck.” Without a second thought, I ducked straight down and felt a big wave crash right over my head. I was safe! When I popped back up I saw him making his way behind me for another swimmer and yelled out to him, “Thank you!!”

Well, I spoke too soon. I made it 2 steps before the water surged backwards around my shins and glued me in place for the next wave to smash right into my back, knocking me chest-first into the sand. I put my arms out so I didn’t tumble around, but I felt the sand rush into my top and bra, and down my shorts. Thankfully, two volunteers rushed for me as I got to my feet a second time, each one taking an arm and asking me if I was OK – these volunteers were ON POINT! I said I was fine and shook some sand out of my top when I spotted Mike on the water line. I called his name and smiled: how fun to see him right there!

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I honestly don’t remember what I said to him, but he kept me company as I got my feet under me, and then I was off, running up the beach to T1.

Swim Time: 9:04 (.17 miles)

The volunteers at the stairs, standing with hoses, and offering water before transition were all so kind. I can’t overstate this part: the volunteers throughout the entire event were AMAZING. I’ve done a lot of races, but the people that worked this one were the best I’ve ever seen. Every one had a smile and a kind word, and not one of them was being paid. Seriously fantastic!

Once I got into transition I sat down at my towel and washed my feet off, got my socks & sneakers on, and realized that Heather was nowhere to be found. I got my helmet on, drank some Nuun, and putzed around for another minute or two when she came running in and we were able to go out on the bike together – and Mike was even able to get a pic of me as I was running out!

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T1 Time: 7:47

We hopped on our bikes and made our way onto the course, and despite the sand wedged into my bra, top, and shorts, I powered through and fell right into a groove. The first flat mile clicked by under 5 minutes, and I was happy. Heather and I chatted a bit for miles 2-4, and once I took a nice long drink from my bike bottle I took off ahead and went for it. The course was almost entirely empty at this point – damn Wave 14 being the last – and I made a mental note to register for an earlier wave in my next tri.

Even though it was empty at the back of the pack, I just kept pedaling and smiling and singing along to myself – I’m sure I looked quite mad, but I was having a freakin’ blast! The course was nearly completely flat, all through Long Branch, Deal, and into Asbury. I laughed to myself when I biked over the same streets I ran just a few months ago during the Asbury Park Half Marathon, and turned around at mile 6-ish to head back the way we came. There were a few other people now along the course – some were just recreational bikers and others were a part of the race – so I got the satisfaction of picking a few off as I passed. I was certainly not breaking any speed records, but I wanted to avoid that strange cramping I experienced on my last brick workout.

Once I got to mile 9-ish though, I panicked briefly & slowed: the signs and road cones were all gone. Did I make a wrong turn? If all else fails, I thought, I can just bike to where we came out of. Finally, at mile 10.75, I approached a corner and saw a few people standing between cones that continued past the street. I slowed and asked them “Do I go straight or turn?” Evidently I was dealing with the only two volunteers who kind of stunk at their job. They didn’t hear me at first, so I had to full-on stop and ask again, “Do I go straight?!” Finally, one of them says, “Sure, if you want?” Incredulous, I spat out “I’M IN THE RACE!” to which he replied, “OH, then go right!” I laughed and shook my head as I turned and started up again, a little annoyed at having to stop like that.

But once I came around the corner and into the finish area, the other volunteers were on point again. As I dismounted, one genuinely asked me how I was feeling, and walked with me until I answered, “Great!” and ran my bike back into transition for T2 and the run.

Bike Time: 55:18 (11 miles)

This transition was even simpler – I just had to drop my bike & helmet off and put my hat on, but I stayed a moment to slug back another 1/3 of my bottle of Nuun. Then I was off – Mike even got me there too!!

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T2 Time: 2:08

Within a few strides out of the gate, I could tell this was going to be difficult. In the first quarter mile, I passed two women who were walking and really struggling, so I slowed to walk and offered encouragement to each of them: “We’ve got this, one foot in front of the other!” Honestly, it was half for them and half for me at this point. I had been feeling good, but the full sun right on the boardwalk was harsh. But I told myself it was only 3 miles and the quicker I moved the sooner it’d be over. So I ran.

I looked at my watch at .60 and let out a few curses that I kind of regret now, seeing as how there were children in the area. But it was getting really raw out there. At the turnaround near mile 1, I had somehow convinced myself that the race was only 2 miles. The finish line was right near transition, and all we had to do was run back to there, right? I know, I was delusional, but it got me through that middle stretch, OK?

I turned to cheers and high fives from the volunteers there and plowed through without even looking at my watch. At around 1.3, Heather passed me going in the opposite direction – all she could manage was “Where’s the turnaround?” I pointed behind me and said, “Not far!” But once I got near the finish line at mile 2 and saw that the finishers were coming in from the other direction, I realized I still had another mile to go. And that’s when I felt like crying.

It might have been the emotions of the day catching up with me, but I just wanted it to be over. Especially after seeing the finish line area filled with people already wearing their medals and celebrating, knowing that I had nearly another mile to go was a real gut punch. Instead of letting it get to me though, I put my head down and told myself – out loud – to suck it up and just finish the f*cking race. Once I made it to the final turnaround at mile 2.6, I made a mental promise to start running once I hit the boards and not stop until I had that medal around my neck.

That’s where I passed Heather again, and we gave each other some last minute encouragement. When my feet hit the boards I just kept trudging. I didn’t necessarily hurt, I just wanted it to be done with. I glanced at my watch and saw an average time of 11:45 and thought: Hell no, I’m not going out like that! So I pulled a little extra out of the tank and picked up the pace for the last quarter mile. Once I was in sight of the clock and saw 2:27, I wanted to beat 2:30 (never mind the fact that the time wasn’t adjusted for wave starts).

So I pushed and smiled and heard the shouts of everyone at the finish line cheering me on as I crossed the mat with the announcer’s voice booming out my name: I was a triathlete!!

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Run Time: 34:45 (3 miles, 11:35/mile pace!!)

At the finish line I thought I’d cry or collapse or something – but I was honestly so amazed that all I could do was laugh and smile and shout out “YEAH!” as the volunteer handed me my medal. Mike was right there to give me a big hug and lots of congrats as another volunteer removed my ankle timing chip – and that was that!

TOTAL TIME: 1:49:00

Mike went to feed the meter while I waited to cheer Heather in – she finished not long after – and we had done it!

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Even though I felt like crying there during the run, I knew from the moment I crossed that mat that I was going to do this again.  The people in charge of this event deserve their own medals for organizing such a seamless experience, from the outstanding volunteer support to well-thought-out transition areas – it was all perfect. The experience was so overwhelmingly positive and rewarding that I’m already planning my next triathlon in September!

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I’m a Triathlete!!

I promise I’ll post a full recap later, but I just had to shout it from the rooftops:

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I’m a TRIATHLETE!!

The whole experience was so much more challenging, rewarding, and exhilarating than I could have possibly imagined. Everything went smoothly and fell into perfect alignment: fueling, prep, execution, all of it.

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and support along the way. There were plenty of times that I was anxious to the point of tears, but knowing that you all had my back really helped. I’m now 100% hooked on the triathlon, and I’m already looking for another one!

Can’t wait to share all the details soon 🙂

Long Time No Blog!

Hey everyone! Sorry for the lapse in posting – I’ve been on vacation for the last week and made a point to spend a little less time “plugged in”. It was hard to break the constant habit of checking my phone, but the less I did the easier it got. I had my first open water swim (eeeek!), Hubby and I went to the movies, we went hiking in the park and we did some shopping at the fancy mall (don’t we all know one?). 

  

Wednesday night I made a dream come true and saw the Smashing Pumpkins at the PNC Arts Center. I don’t mention it very much here, but next to running, music (most notably 90’s alternative music) is my life, and the Pumpkins are everything to me. Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin were a few of my first celebrity crushes, my father took me to my first concert at MSG to see them, I used their lyrics in our wedding vows… You get the point. So I met up with a bunch of my best girls (one even came all the way down from Cape Cod!) and we had an amazing night filled with nostalgia, laughs, and fun 🙂

  

As if my week could get any better, on Friday we schlepped into NYC to celebrate my birthday with some adventures at the Museum of Natural History!

  
 
After about 7 straight hours of walking and climbing stairs, my legs were fried. So this morning’s final open water swim before tomorrow’s triathlon was just what the non-existent doctor ordered!

  
I also got to try out my new birthday gift from hubby: a GoPro! 🙂

When I first dove into the water on Monday night, I didn’t know what to expect. I joined the Jersey Girl Triathlon crew for a group swim to conquer all the unknowns I faced: what would swimming in the ocean for the first time be like? What kind of crowd would be at the race? Was I going to regret this? You know – the stress inducing questions that keep you up at night. Well it turns out the answers were: awesome, the best, and hell no!

  
I’m listening to my towel from now on.

Today’s swim was no different from my first, either. Waking up at 5:30 to drive down to the starting line, making a new friend (What’s up, Amanda of King Yogart?), swimming, getting my ass handed to me by a few waves, and sitting through a Q&A with the race coach was the best thing I could have done the morning after my birthday.

  
Amanda, Heather (my tri-pro cousin), and I were all smiles after our swim!

And now I know: if I can swim 300 meters, get knocked face-first into the sand and spun around like a plastic bag in a tornado, get sand rash all over my elbow, and still feel ready to bike & run, I can do anything!

So now that I’ve got 7 weeks of training, a handful of solid brick workouts (in pretty atrocious weather, to boot), and 2 open water swims under my Fuelbelt, I’m ready to take on the Jersey Girl Triathlon tomorrow morning!