Monthly Archives: November 2016

Just Keep Swimming: Gearing Up For My Second Meet

Remember that time I reached a new milestone as a wannabe swimmer and completed my first meet? It turns out I am a glutton for punishment: I signed up for my second one!


Who is a wannabe swimmer and loves pain?  This girl!

Since all the strokes are going down again in a few weeks at the Metro Short-Course Meter (SCM) Championships—I registered for the 50m and 100m freestyle, plus the 100m and 200m IM—I’ve been reflecting on my first competition:  what I did well, what I could do better, and what I learned overall.  The most important thing—aside from not bellyflopping off the blocks, not losing my goggles, and not finishing last—is applying everything I experienced the first time around to my second showing. Ideally, this will translate to faster, smarter swimming and a more mentally sound mindset … plus ultimately growing as an endurance athlete–and a swimmer.

When I took the plunge—metaphorically, not literally—and registered for the Bearcat meet last month, I selected which events I’d swim based purely on the stroke and distance; I neglected to study the order of events and ensure there was enough time to recharge between each. Case in point: it was an aggressive move to swim the 200m medley relay and turn around and uncork a 200m freestyle just minutes later. On the bright side, I didn’t realize this would be less than ideal—it’s not like I knew what an adequate recovery time between events should be—so ignorance was a bit blissful.

This time, though, I was slightly more discerning with my selections. I say “slightly” because I did opt for both the 200m IM (the meet’s fifth event) and the 50m freestyle (the meet’s sixth event). That IM will be the biggest, most challenging event of the meet, so as soon as I complete it, I’ll be able to relax—and hopefully survive a 50m free right after.

Second, I need to warm up adequately.  In October, my teammates suggested swimming 800-1000m before the meet officially began, but I only did around 600m (because I was chatting with my amazing Work Husband who was there cheering for me). Would a longer warm-up have translated to better results? Maybe, maybe not—but I do know I did not feel ready for my first event.

However, I made it a priority to cool down between events.  After each, I immediately moved over to the designated warm-down lane and swam anywhere from 50m to 200m based on the length of the event: after my 50m free, I swam 200m easy; after my 100m free, I swam 100m easy. I buried myself in the hurt locker for each event, but in general, the shorter the swim, the more intense (read: faster) it is, which demands a longer warm down to alleviate the lactic acid buildup. Between events, I also slipped on a long-sleeved sweatshirt in an effort to keep my upper body warm.

Third, I will continue to play with my nutrition plan.  As a short-course triathlete, I don’t think a lot about fueling since my races last only 2.5 hours or so. However, for an all-afternoon swim meet—I arrived around 2 p.m., and we left for post-race libations around 6 p.m.—I was conscious about what and how often I was eating. My coaches and teammates advised using the same products I take in during triathlons, so beforehand, I had my normal pre-race breakfast, plus a carb-heavy lunch of sweet potatoes and plenty of coffee.  Throughout the meet, I consumed one bottle of Skratch Labs (which I drink during the bike portion of a triathlon), one banana, half of a Powerbar, plus water to thirst.  Toward the end of the meet, I felt hungry, but that problem was solved fairly quickly with pizza and adult beverages. Overall, the old athlete adage of “nothing new on race day” served me well. Since my next meet takes place at night, I will push back my meals as much as possible:  eating breakfast around 10-11a and lunch around 2-3p. I’ll also bring more “Carrie-friendly” foods like bananas and Picky Bars to eat on deck.

Finally, my main goal is developing a better handle on navigating my emotions during the meet.  Before tris or running races, I get amped up, but still retreat inward to deal with the anticipation that builds.  Once the gun goes off, the anxiousness vanishes, and I just race; it’s a slow release of adrenaline that I ride. During this swim meet, though, the rush of energy was unprecedented. I’ve played in some big field-hockey and basketball games back in the day, and nothing compared. I harnessed that all-encompassing excitement during each swim, but once it ended, I struggled to calm down. I was basically wired for the entire day.  In fact, I felt more mentally spent than physically exhausted when the day was done. My coaches and teammates said this would most likely be the case, and they were right.


How I felt at the end of the meet as depicted through Zelda

With this in mind, I hope to create a “between-event” practice. I don’t know what this looks like, but it will likely contain my warm-down routine, plus some form of deep breathing and meditation.

Much like triathlon, my life as a wannabe swimmer is a work in progress, and I’m focusing on the journey, not the destination.

When’s the last time you did something totally outside of your comfort zone?

Triathlon Training Log – Off-Season, Week 12 (Nov. 21)

And just like that, another whirlwind trip home has come and gone.


Hometown lake life

I’ve been home in Central New York since Wednesday—and I’m heading back to NYC this afternoon—but those four days didn’t feel like enough time. We hosted a “modest 21” for Thanksgiving this year (my family is pretty big), and we had our annual extended family Christmas gift exchange yesterday. Now I’m even more excited for the holiday season!

General training notes: this week ended up being all about the run. Originally, I planned to get in a swim before heading home, but I procrastinated packing. (I was also hoping the local pool here would be open, but unfortunately, it’s closed until tomorrow.) Per usual, I kept everything easy and gave myself an extra rest day mostly because running three days in a row is a lot for me. I also clocked in at 34 miles this week, which, again, is a lot for me as a short-course triathlete.

Monday – a.m. run

Although I usually take Mondays off, I decided to shake out Sunday’s long run with a super easy 5.5 miler.

Tuesday – a.m. run

Easy loop of the park with my tri training (long run) bud

Wednesday – off (travel home)

Thursday – a.m. run

Trot early, then eat all day: a lot of the local races were cancelled due to snow, so I ran one of my favorite hometown routes instead around the lake. I love running when I’m at home because it gives me headspace to reflect, and those 10 miles flew by.

Friday – a.m. run

Easy five miles to shake out yesterday’s long run

Saturday – a.m. run

Another easy, mid-distance run at home

Sunday – off (travel back to NYC)

What did you do for Thanksgiving?

Triathlon Training Log – Off-Season, Week 11 (Nov. 14)

Autumn is in full swing here in New York City, and it’s led to some stellar running weather.


Shorts in November!

Although it’s a different story back home in Central New York: the area received its first dusting, and unsurprisingly, it looks like we’ll have a white Thanksgiving.

General training notes: on Monday, it hit me—I really want to get back on my bike. An email to my coach followed, and we will start serious cycling again after … my next swim meet! Yep, I registered for another local one that takes place in December where I’ll do the 50m and 100m freestyle, plus the 100 and 200 IM. Anyway, since I have this event on the docket, swimming needs to remain a top priority. In the mean time, we’ll regroup after Thanksgiving and figure out how I can become reacquainted with my bike.

Monday – a.m. run

Monday is usually my rest day, but I had an evening work event and knew I wouldn’t want to wake up early the next morning so kicked off my week with four easy miles in Central Park.

Tuesday – off

Wednesday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters; p.m. run

The Russian coach made an appearance, and we spent a lot of time working on stroke “breakouts” or how to come off the wall effectively. In fact, he instructed us to go to the side of the pool and swim across horizontally. It was a low yardage morning—only 2,500m—so I impulsively ran 3.5 miles after work as well.

Thursday – a.m. run

More morning miles through the park: five-and-a-half easy ones, which included two loops around the Reservoir.

Friday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

Well, this workout more than made up for the easier one on Wednesday. We did a ton of IM work, and all I can say is the butterfly is absolutely exhausting. Part of the main set included 4×100 IM followed by 75 stroke, and it was brutal to go from all that IM to straight-up ‘fly. But in that discomfort is where the progress happens.

Saturday – p.m. swim with Bearcat masters

Distance freestyle day for the win! Plenty of kicking and pulling, plus longer intervals like 200s and 300s for a total of … drumroll … 4,700m!

Sunday – a.m. run

This weekend’s Philadelphia Marathon and Half had me experiencing serious “fomo”—it’s the first time in three years I didn’t do the 13.1. This inspired me to increase my long run, and I did 10, and I don’t remember the last time I’ve hit double-digits on the run. (Probably around this time last year …)

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

My Adventures as an Ultra Sherpa: Canyon De Chelly 55-K

About one month ago in mid-October, I expanded my Sherpa portfolio to the ultra distance when I traveled to Arizona for the Canyon De Chelly Ultra (pronounced ‘shay’) 55-K, a 34-mile trail run that takes place entirely on Navajo land.


About 150 runners out chasing the sunrise

If you’ve been reading a while, then you know I usually Sherpa once per race season when friends take on long-course events.  After all, these folks push me during workouts, so the least I can do is lend my support when possible. Case in point: when a training bud needed people power for the Challenged Athletes Foundation during July’s New York City Triathlon, it was a no-brainer that I’d volunteer as a handler. That weekend resulted in one of my most intense and rewarding experiences to date, and I had similar expectations for the Arizona outing.  It was my friend’s second time doing this ultra, so she prepped me before the race: running and the Navajo culture are deeply intertwined, and hearing how the physical act of running intersects with so many aspects of their day-to-day life fascinated me—and I was excited to see it come together.


Tsegi Overlook

Once in Arizona at pre-race briefing, it became clear this event would be a unique experience. The 150 runners gathered around the outdoor amphitheater’s stadium-style seats as Shaun the race director detailed the history of the race and discussed how running plays a critical role in Navajo culture: they run to celebrate, they run to pray, and they run to learn. Other prominent folks in the community spoke, including Shaun’s father-in-law who played a few instruments and sang a few songs in Navajo.  All in all, the briefing lasted about two hours, and the atmosphere was basically the polar opposite of what I encounter at triathlons.  No one was obsessing about getting in a last-minute swim or fixing their Di2 shifting. Rather, people appeared calm and relaxed. My friends who dabble in ultras and tris say this is normal; the ultra community as a whole is much more laid back.


Hanging out in a canyon

This theme of unprecedentedness continued through Saturday with the pre-race blessing and fire ceremony. Around 5 a.m., Shaun’s father-in-law built a fire and tended to it throughout the day. The burning fire symbolized life out on the course, and it would only be extinguished once the final runner finished.  The blessing ceremony took place around 7 a.m. during which one male and female runner were selected to receive a blessing on behalf of all participants. Around 7:30 a.m., the runners set off on their journey.


White House overlook. See the dirt path? Folks got to run on that.

My normal Sherpa duties include scouting the course and identifying areas where I can camp out and cheer for my friends, but this race had a wrinkle: only Nanajo are allowed in the canyon. Furthermore, if non-Navajo want to go in the canyon, they must enlist a Navajo guide. (Race director Shaun secured special permits so each runner was allowed in the canyon without a guide.) Throughout the day, I went to a handful of scenic overlooks to take photos and try to spot runners, and around 3 p.m. I headed to the finish area and hung out. There was a ton of food, including vegetable chickpea stew and Navajo fry bread. (No photos because I was too busy eating.)


Selfie in a canyon

One of highlights was witnessing and hearing about the sense of community and camaraderie. Several people who crossed the finish line gave credit to fellow runners for helping them through.  There was an out-and-back climb on the course, and I was very impressed when multiple participants said one of the top-five finishers cheered for every single runner he saw during that stretch. Plus, since the majority of folks were out there for nearly an entire day, packs formed naturally, and there’s nothing like running with someone for a few hours to get to know them. I have no personal experience with long-course racing, but from what I’ve heard, it’s typical for these relationships to manifest at that distance.


Finishing strong

There’s something to be said for the sense of solidarity when everyone around you is going through what you are going through. It warmed my heart as an endurance athlete to see this connectivity.

How often do you volunteer at races?

Triathlon Training Log – Off-Season, Week 10 (Nov. 7)

What a week.


Quiet park, still mind, lots of headspace

General training notes: overall, this was another productive and uneventful seven-day span with a fair amount of swimming and running. Truth be told, I am starting to miss my bike so we’ll bring that back into the rotation after Thanksgiving most likely.

Monday – off

Tuesday – a.m. and p.m. runs

Easy two miles before work (and after voting), plus 3.5 after

Wednesday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

It was a somber day at the pool. In total, we logged about 2700m with lots of IM work.

Thursday – a.m. run

Two loops around the Reservoir for 5.6 miles

Friday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

Lots of kicking, lots of pulling, and lots of IM work before real work: I logged 3200m before becoming a real person.

Saturday – a.m. run

My long run buddy is out of town for the next few weeks so I tackled this 8.5-mile outing solo. It went well, but these runs definitely go by faster when you chat the entire time.

Sunday – p.m. run

Easy 5.5 miles

How do you pull yourself out of a funky mood?

Triathlon Training Log – Off-Season, Week 9 (Oct. 31)

So there was a 26.2-mile race today. About 50,000 people ran.


… that post-marathon shuffle …

This was the first time in three years I didn’t work an expo or organize a cheer zone. I wasn’t consumed by the TCS NYC Marathon madness the run-specialty industry revolves around. For the first time in three years, I was able to run on Marathon Sunday. I still had #WingedFootLyfe responsibilities, but they weren’t all-consuming.  It was a good day.

General training notes: all in all, this was another great week of swimming and running. I’ve had a few moments in the water where I experienced a “swimmer’s high,” which felt exactly like the euphoric and allusive runner’s high—it feels easy, blissful, and almost like you’re flying. I’ve never felt like that in the water before, and even though it was for literally five seconds, it’s motivating to know I can get to that state.

Monday – off

Tuesday – a.m. run

Reported for dawn patrol and logged six easy miles before work

Wednesday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters; p.m. run

Solid 3900m swim before work and an easy 2.25-mile shake-out after through Central Park so I could soak in the marathon excitement

Thursday – a.m. run

It’s weird being removed from the marathon madness, but I loved seeing so many runners in the park. Luckily, I got there early enough before it became really crowded for my 6.5 miles.

Friday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

All I have to say about practice:



Saturday – a.m. run; p.m. swim with Bearcat masters

A most successful Sportz Saturday that saw an 8.2-mile run and 4000m swim

Sunday – a.m. run

Warmed up the park for the marathoners with an easy 3.6 miles

Would you ever run a/another marathon?

My First Swim Meet: 10th Bearcat Masters Invitational

A few Saturdays ago, I reached a turning point in my life as a #WannabeSwimmer:  I dove headfirst (six times to be exact) into a wet world of intense adrenaline and searing pain at my first-ever swim meet.


Time to fly! Er, do the butterfly.

Although I’ve been swimming with the NYC-based Bearcat masters for two years, I had yet to partake in a swimming competition. I really do identify as a wannabe swimmer—proficient in the pool thanks to taking swim lessons most summers as a kid, but not a “real swimmer” because I never did the sport competitively growing up (high school, rec meets, etc.).

So why am I all for the swim now? First, from my performance at races throughout the year and at Nationals, we confirmed: I’m a strong swimmer locally, usually exiting the water in the lead group; but, I’m extremely average for the outing we ultimately want to put together, logging a very solidly middle-of-the-pack split in Omaha. In order to improve my 1,500m open-water times, I would have to swim more. Crazy concept, right?


Chasing this feeling of being first out of the water. Is this what Andy Potts feels like all the time?

Second, I avoided the pool after the 2015 season for about three months because there was no concrete reason for me to be there. (And I take full responsibility for what happened—well, more accurately didn’t—during the off-season, and it honestly took several months to re-familiarize myself with the water.) I know myself: if I sign up for a race, then I am in 150 percent.

Finally, this triathlon off-season centers on building my portfolio as an endurance athlete and exposing myself to as many different experiences as possible.  Basically, we’re building the foundation for long-course racing by taking on new challenges—and training for a swim meet was perfect.


It became officially official when I received my Bearcat masters swim cap.

Once this was decided, the next task was to figure out which events I’d swim at the 10th Bearcat Masters Invitational. The distances themselves would not be challenging; after all, swimming just 50m or 100m or 200m at a time would be doable since I swim 1500m during tris. Rather, the details intimidated me—those specific to the physical act of swimming in a competition and those regarding the logistics of the meet itself: could I dive off the blocks without losing my goggles?  How many times should I dolphin kick underwater off flip-turns?  Should I touch the wall with one hand or two when finishing an event?  Also, how do I decipher the heat sheets and figure out when I was swimming each event?  I had never even attended a meet in-person, and luckily, my coaches and teammates helped me navigate everything.  Bottom line, simply attending the meet would be a new experience.

During our season review/off-season planning meeting, Earl and I identified which events to target: all the freestyle (50m, 100m, and 200m) was a no brainer, and we also decided an individual medley (IM) would provide a challenge because it demanded all four strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle). This also ensured I’d work on each during practice (a.k.a. not revert to freestyle). Although Earl was gunning for the 200 IM, the 100 IM seemed more “comfortably uncomfortable” to me, mostly because it called for only 25m of butterfly. (The joke was on me, though, because my masters coach put me on a 200m medley relay, and I had to swim 50m of butterfly!) In addition to these four individual events, I also indicated I was “available” for relays and was placed on the aforementioned 200m medley and 200m freestyle for a total of six events. At my first meet. Go big or go home!

With my race plan solidified, I discovered a greater sense of purpose, dedication, and connection to swimming. No longer was I just swimming to swim; I was logging laps with care, conviction, precision, constantly concentrating on technique, engaging the proper muscles, and aiming for efficient stroke after efficient stroke. By becoming more invested in the process, I grew to love it, and I found myself willing to embrace challenges. For example, after doing four, 100 IM repeats, it was tempting to revert to freestyle for the fifth.  But my goal—surviving this upcoming competition—held me accountable; I needed to make the next repeat happen.  Yes, it would be uncomfortable.  Yes, it would cause some self-doubt.  And yes, it would not be easy.  But that’s what this sport and life is all about—persevering through the challenge in front of you and doing whatever it takes to come out the other side.


Hello. It’s me.

The masters coaches warned me the meet would be more mentally and emotionally taxing than I anticipated, and I aimed to act like a sponge throughout the afternoon: soaking up everything about the experience, learning as much as possible, and hopefully not belly-flopping off the blocks, losing my goggles, or finishing last. I arrived at the pool around 2 p.m. for the 3 p.m. start and immediately exclaimed, “I’m feeling a lot of feelings!” when one of the coaches asked how I was doing. That statement basically summarizes the entire day: I got swept up in the adrenaline, the happiness, the pain, the uncertainty, and I loved it.

My nerves slowly subsided as the day progressed, but my heart was in my throat for my first few events.  I thought it would explode during the 200m medley relay, my first event ever at a meet. Not only did I not want to let my team down by doing something stupid (there are a ton of rules for relays), but I also had to swim 50m of butterfly.  Yikes.

My senses heightened as I carefully stepped onto the blocks.  My heart pounded, my teammates’ cheers reverberated around the pool.  Amidst this sensory overload, I quieted my mind for a few moments.  As I looked out onto the water, I couldn’t believe how I far I’ve come as an endurance athlete. When I started triathlon, I couldn’t even flip-turn, let alone swim 100m continuously in a pool. That’s the thing about this journey: there are no wrong turns, only paths we didn’t know we were supposed to take.

Heart racing and adrenaline surging, I reminded myself this uncomfortabilty was good:  it was this feeling—raw, intense, and daunting—that hooked me on triathlon, and inherently, I knew I was on the precipice of something good here.  This is where the magic happens.

My goggles stayed suctioned to my eyes as I hit the water cleanly.  Muscle memory took over:  I dolphin kicked, I broke the surface, and I swam with urgency, riding the excitement to the opposite side of the pool.  I am doing it.  I am doing the butterfly.  I am a swimmer!  Then the pain set in—as did my experience as an endurance athlete. I knew I could hurt.  I knew I was supposed to hurt.  I knew I could hurt more and longer.  I knew I could hurt for 25m.

That’s how my six swims went:  hopping aboard the pain train and refusing to relent even when my lungs were searing, when my legs were screaming, and when my arms were ready to fall off.  My body was trained, and my mind recognized this pain and knew it could be endured.


Rocking a pink cap and catching a quick breather between sets.

Looking back, I’d describe my 2016 triathlon racing season as a culmination of repetitiveness. I’ve been doing the same Olympic-distance races for the past few years, and although it was my first season working with a coach, there was a sense of routine: we did the same workouts in an effort to best prepare me for the same “A” race I’ve targeted for the past three years. However, my experience training for and racing a swim meet rejuvenated my outlook on the sport. It was new, fresh, and so much fun, and these factors will be the driving force behind the rest of my 2016 off-season and beyond.

I guess I should include results:

50m free – 34.32

First in my age group!

100m free – 1:14.89

200m free – 3:09.97

Inaccurate because I did not hit the timing mat hard enough coming into the wall, and the clock wasn’t stopped until I exited the pool. A few teammates said I was closer to 3:04 or 3:05.

100m IM – 1:37.84