Category Archives: Fun and Adventures

Getting Perspective in Lake Placid

About a month ago (yikes, I should’ve published this sooner), I packed as many synthetic socks, PowerBar gels, and Smashfestqueen cycling kits as possible into my backpack, vacated the Big Apple, and retreated north to Lake Placid for a triathlon training camp with the awesome Work Live Tri folks.

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Wheels up.  Lake Placid, here we come!

As a kid, I attended basketball, softball, and field-hockey camps during the summer, but I had yet to go off the grid and escape to this type of atmosphere as an adult. And I was so excited! Spending quality time swimming, biking, and running in paradise helped me regroup post-bike crash, refocus my tri training, and ultimately rediscover my motivation—in terms of triathlon and life.

Lake Placid will always be my happy place.

Long before I heard of triathlon, my high school basketball team traveled to this area of the Adirondacks for a holiday tournament. Unfortunately we didn’t win, but we made memories that we still talk about today—like that time we broke the hotel bed. My family has also made the trek up for a few daytrips, so my first impressions of Placid centered on quality time with friends and loved ones.

Fast-forward a few years to when I discovered the swim-bike-run world—and Ironman.

In 2013, I experienced this epic race weekend for the first time. They say if you watch an Ironman in-person, you’ll have one of two reactions: it’s either “yes, I am so doing this one day!” or “I will absolutely never do this, ever.” Training, volunteering, and spectating lit my 140.6 flame; even though I couldn’t (and still can’t) wrap my head around the 2.4-mi. swim, 112-mi. bike, and 26.2-mi. run, I knew then and there Lake Placid would be my Ironman. The atmosphere during race week was unlike anything I had witnessed, which says a lot coming from me as a former collegiate athlete. And training amongst trees, rivers, and mountains was also unlike anything I had experienced. Paradise had officially been found.

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View from my room:  home is where the lake is.

In 2014, I became even more familiar with Ironman training and Lake Placid itself when I functioned as a full-fledged Sherpa/emotional guardian. Everything that happened last year—watching the training, seeing the sacrifices, and becoming invested in the journey—highlighted just how inspiring it is to do an Ironman. And actually being there on race day—volunteering as a wetsuit peeler, getting swept up in the emotions, and celebrating the accomplishment—further solidified my desire to tackle Lake Placid one day.

Thanks to these memories, I could not wait for training camp.

The environment motivates me.

My bike crash resulted in some serious training funk, and I hoped retreating to my happy place would restore my spirits. And did it ever.

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Almost too beautiful to be real

Training camp centered on long-course athletes doing Lake Placid and Ironman Mont Tremblant, so I knew most, if not all, of my workouts would be logged solo. Aside from the first ride, I basically did my own thing and embraced the headspace.

Swimming in Mirror Lake and cycling through blink-and-you-miss-them towns was absolute bliss. Lately, I’ve been feeling uninspired by the NYC training grind, so I appreciated the sunshine, the clear skies, the mountains, and the breathtaking rivers even more. Finding inspiration in your surroundings is powerful: this is how training should be. This is why I love it.

The journey motivates me—and the feeling motivates me.

Each time I wiggled into my wetsuit and jumped into Mirror Lake, I found my groove quickly. Residual bike crash/rib flare-ups simply did not make themselves known. For the first time since wiping out, I felt natural in the water. I can’t believe it feels this easy—and this blissful. When I swim for distance, my mind wanders and eventually finds a zen space; and as I made my way to the other side of the lake, I felt grateful: to have the body and health that allow me to swim; to have supportive and genuine people in my life; and to physically be in such a gorgeous and peaceful place. Then I remembered where I was—physically, mentally, and emotionally—this time last year, and I was humbled by how much I’ve grown.

Each time I pumped up my tires and buckled my helmet, I felt excited and inspired to ride; these feelings have been missing since my crash. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect mentally during these solo rides, but Placid lifted whatever post-crash barrier was holding me back. I just rode and reacted to the course. I felt “at one” with the bike. My mojo returned!

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Signs of a successful smashfest.  Picture this setup on ten different bikes.

I didn’t think about the crash, but I spent a lot of time reflecting on last year’s training. For whatever reason, I was lucky enough where everything fell into place pretty perfectly. Although I knew it during the season, I didn’t truly realize how rare it is. It never happens like that. While out there on the course, I discovered an even greater sense of appreciation for last year, especially since transition has defined my training this year.

Basically, each time I thought about where I was at this point last year—in terms of training, work, and life—I felt incredibly humbled, grateful, and motivated. Even though I try to focus on the feeling during training, I definitely fell victim to the numbers game: chasing swim splits, becoming obsessed with power wattages, wanting faster run paces. If you’re looking to compete, this is part of the sport, but the trip to Placid reminded me I simply love the lifestyle: swimming, biking, and running. And really, that’s what it’s all about.

Teams and training groups have different vibes.

For the past two years, I logged essentially all of my triathlon training with a team, but I broke off and am currently doing my own thing. Because I have diversified my “triathlon arsenal”—it now includes folks from a masters swim team and my CompuTrainer studio—I’ve gotten to know, learn from, and train with new people, which has been beneficial for both my triathlon and “real” lives. And going to Lake Placid with a new-to-me group was an eye-opening experience. Prior to the long weekend, I knew only the coach and one other woman, but everyone welcomed me into the tribe with open arms. I’ve trained and become friendly with a lot of people in the triathlon community here over the years, and the Work Live Tri folks were absolutely top-notch individuals. (On a related note, this trip made me realize my old team dynamics/dysfunction is not normal, but that’s neither here nor there.)

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Also not normal:  having Podium Legs at your disposal.  I used them so frequently there was an inside joke about going through withdrawal.  I sort of did.

“There is comfort in that grind. I get solace and a sense of self out of that, but that’s not my life right now. And I’m OK with that. I’ve been nudged to do this kind of stuff, and I’m happy to do it, and I love it.” –Rich Roll

Overall, Placid reminded me that triathlon is about the journey, the progress, and the relentlessness to be better. “Unplugging” from power and swimming by feel highlighted how much I love this sport at its core. Although racing provides an opportunity to tangibly track progress, I don’t need to compete.

Aware of this front-of-mind perspective, I thought about Rich Roll’s recent podcast with Josh LaJaunie, specifically the abovementioned quotation. A lot of Rich’s ideas resonate with me, and when I listened to this statement, I felt like he had a birds eye view of everything that’s going on in my life. (Sidebar: Rich, will you be my life coach?) Even if I don’t have a race coming up, I’ll always find a strong sense of self when I swim, bike, and run, and it will always be an aspect of my lifestyle.

I say this because there’s an opportunity at work (#vagueblogging), and I want to immerse myself in it 150 percent. What’s on the horizon is reinvigorating my work life and giving me a strong sense of self and purpose. And honestly, I haven’t felt this excited and focused since … the only instance that comes close is Honors Week during college.

That’s not to say racing doesn’t matter any more, obviously. I definitely associate triathlon with who I am. But now, my #workflow also comprises my best, most authentic self (#fangirl).

“Congratulations, you’re a human being. It’s not going to be perfect.” –Rich Roll

In mid-June, Rich came to one of our stores for a social run and book signing, and he also hosted an informal Q-and-A session. As a self-professed fangirl, I took notes, and this quotation hit home.

Life brought a lot of changes this year—tri life, work life, and actual life—and coming off a nearly perfect 2014 training cycle, these transitions seemed even bumpier. My swimming, biking, and running essentially took a one-eighty, and although there were some who did not support this change, I know my current regiment is exactly what I need to be doing.

We’re still in the midst of a lot of work changes too. It’s cliché, but the focus and dedication that leads to solid swimming, biking, and running also sets up success at the office. All I can do is keep showing up, giving it my all, and trusting the process. Of course it will feel challenging and uncomfortable and maybe even impossible at points, but just like training, it’s about focusing on the task at hand and knowing the struggle is where the personal growth happens.

My Updated 2015 Triathlon/Race Schedule

Wait, has it really been one month since South Beach?

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All in all, it was a successful outing that served a few purposes and prompted some training/racing changes. As of now, here’s what’s slated for the swim-bike-run season:

Lake Placid training trip with WorkLiveTri

Although I originally planned to do Mighty Montauk in June, I felt pretty ambivalent about actually doing it: If it worked out, great; if not, no big deal. I also held off on registering until my tri peeps did, and no one was making moves. But when I heard one of the Tailwind Endurance coaches was leading a Lake Placid training camp the same weekend, I immediately wanted in. (Full disclosure: I have no intentions of signing up for the Ironman anytime soon.)

So why Placid instead of Montauk? First, I never need a reason to justify a trip up. It is paradise. Even though I’ve visited the past two years for Ironman weekend, I’ve never gone with the sole purpose of doing all the swimming, biking, and running. Let’s face it: between swimming in Mirror Lake and manufacturing all the watts on that brutal but gorgeous bike course (I’ll do some running too, Coach Pat!), training there for four days will be a far more efficient use of time than doing a “B” priority event. I cannot wait to get after it, lock it in, and hopefully return feeling like superwoman!

At the end of the day, it’s all about having fun—and I know I’ll have a blast in Placid.

Stamford KIC It Triathlon

Date: Sunday, June 28

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “B” race

This race is non-negotiable. It’s my first and only Olympic tune-up before Nationals in August. Plus, it’s 40 minutes away, and they had post-race iced coffee.

On the radar: Hopkins Vineyard Triathlon

Date: Saturday, July 18

Even though it’s a sprint, this race could be a good training day. It was a lot of fun last year, and I even won a bottle of wine. However, it takes place the same weekend as the NYC Triathlon, so there probably won’t be a lot of interest. This is another case of, “if it happens, great. If not, no worries.”

USAT Age Group Nationals – Milwaukee

Date: Saturday, Aug. 8

Distance: Olympic

Priority: “A” race

Well, obviously. #Hammerfest2015

Cazenovia Triathlon

Date: Sunday, Aug. 23

Distance: Sprint—0.5-mi. swim, 14-mi. bike, 3.1-mi. run

Priority: “C” race

After what will hopefully be a solid showing at Nationals, I’ll end my triathlon racing season with my hometown’s local yokel sprint. If you’ve been reading a while, then you may remember this was the race that started it all—and I’m pumped to take on the same course with three years of structured training!

… and then I’ll be running all the injury-free miles for road racing season. More to come.

Oh Snap!

Here’s a shocker: this is not a triathlon-training heavy post. Oh snap! These check-ins have not be happening consistently—partly because my day-to-day is routine and partly because work is still semi-unresolved.

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April acquisitions bring May transitions. Starting to nest in the new office.

April brought a lot of changes and stressful moments, which made tri training even more important; pedaling it out, running it out, and even swimming it out helped clear my head, keep me grounded, and focus on the present (and the feeling, of course).

#MatchRace

This past weekend, I helped Tailwind Endurance plan its Inaugural Match Race, a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

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We had four teams of three people compete by riding one loop of the Ironman Coeur d’Alene bike course. As the party warlord, I made sure we had plenty of snacks, swag, and raffle items, and we also organized a swabbing station so folks could register for the national registry. In total, we raised about $2,500, and we’re already talking about hosting another this fall.

#NomadStatus

Lately, I’ve been overcome by the urge to travel: Boulder, Austin, Seattle … or Alaska … or South Africa. Granted, I go places for races, but I really want to visit an exotic destination with the intention of experiencing everything (and not swimming, biking, and running). Anyone up for a trip?

#Noms

This is not something I’ve been keeping secret, but it is something I have not been broadcasting: for Lent, I gave up red meat, chicken, turkey, etc. I thought a lot about this decision, and the 40-day period seemed to be a good time to give it a shot. Full disclosure: I am still eating fish and am trying to eat more of a plant-based diet. So if a label is necessary, let’s call it a “plant-strong pescatarian diet.”

There have been two slipups—the most notable of which occurred after racing the South Beach Triathlon when I took a flying leap off the wagon at Yardbird with fried chicken—but I have maintained this eating plan. It’s been relatively easy to eat this way for a few reasons. One, I’ve never been a big chicken person. Two, I don’t deny myself meat, but honestly, I don’t crave it. And if you don’t crave it, why eat it? And three, I feel great from a training standpoint. Knock on wood, my workouts continue to go well, and I’m recovering better/quicker/more effectively. I also don’t become sleepy after eating kale, quinoa, and peppers at lunch. (At this point, I should note that although leaning out did not drive this decision, I have lost about eight pounds. That’s another post, though, so I’ll leave it at that for now.)

#GoingLong

One night in April, I had a dream I was doing a 70.3. “Was it a good dream?” asked Coach Pat. “Was it a dream or a nightmare?” asked Earl. Guys—I was rocking it. In my mind, the only discipline holding me back right now is the run, but Coach Pat and I are working on getting it dialed in. Maybe this jump will happen sooner rather than later.

#WannabeSwimmer

I almost, almost signed up for a swim meet.

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My actual swimmer coworker even filled out part of the form for me. One of these days, though!

#BlackSheepStatus

Because I’ve taken a piecemeal approach to training—swimming with the Bearcats, biking at Tailwind, and running with Coach Pat—there were some people who were not psyched I was hanging out with the team in South Beach. I’d rather not talk about dynamics, but this trip really shed light on the friendships that transcend triathlon—those folks know who they are, and I’m extremely grateful to have them in my corner.

#ProudAthlete

Speaking of Coach Pat, he crushed The North Face Endurance Challenge New York at Bear Mountain this past weekend: He ran 50 miles in 8:59, and PR’ed!

So what’s going on with you?

What I Ate In South Beach

In addition to doing some swimming, biking, and running in South Beach, I also did a decent amount of eating. Under normal circumstances, this would not be blog-worthy (considering how often I go grocery shopping). However, the number of delicious meals I enjoyed pleasantly surprised me, especially since I’ve done this race twice and have frequented a lot of Miami restaurants. Bring on the noms!

Diner

I love diners. I mean, there’s never a wrong time for breakfast food. During my five days in Florida, I visited not one, not two, but three different diners.

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First up was Fort Lauderdale’s Floridian, which came as a recommendation from my friend’s aunt. (Like last year, we stayed in Fort Lauderdale for a night before heading to Miami for the official start of race weekend.) The two of us met one of my friends and his mom for breakfast, and we ate a ton of eggs and drank all the coffee—and became “sponsored athletes.”  Our waitress found out we were doing the triathlon, and she told the owner who hooked us up with these baller trucker hats. We seriously considered wearing them on the run a la pro triathlete Luke McKenzie.

On Saturday night, ten of us invaded Puerto Sagua, a Cuban diner on Collins Ave. in Miami. Two years ago, I went there for breakfast, so it seemed fitting to go back. No photos, unfortunately, because I inhaled my grilled tilapia, black beans, and rice.

And on Monday morning, my friend and I visited the super retro 11th Street Diner.

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My metabolism always kicks in the day after a race, so I feasted on a veggie-packed omelet, toast, and not one, but two chocolate chip pancakes, my go-to side order at diners.

Mexican

Two words: Naked Taco. That’s me all day, ha! Two more words: lobster enchiladas.

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We also ordered chips and guac, but we passed on the mojitos and margaritas with a race coming up the next day. Full disclosure: our waiter gave us a shot of a fruity tequila-laced concoction, which I took one sip of.

Comfort

My typical post-race indulgence is a burger, but since there were no burgers to be found at drag brunch—crazy, right?—I went all-out at supper. Did I just type ‘supper’? Yes, it’s called supper at Yardbird, a southern-style eatery my teammates have hit up every year—and now I know why.

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Mamma’s chicken and biscuits, fried green tomatoes with bacon, and blackberry bourbon lemonade, plus unpictured shrimp and grits comprised the best post-tri meal I’ve ever had.

yardbird-dessert

Our waitress was impressed we did a triathlon. Or maybe we got this dessert because my teammate knew the manager.

Train hard, race hard … and eat hard!

When you eat out, what’s your favorite type of food?

Game On!

Oh, Winter Storm Juno. As a native of Central New York, I really want to tell everyone to calm down; but I do understand the city cannot handle half a foot of snow.

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Eerily quiet and beautiful walk home by the High Line

And I’m all for an adult snow day.

Anyway, apologies for my lack-of-blogging phase. It’s been one of those months—seriously, how can January nearly be over?!—where I’ve been firing on all cylinders all the time. But since I’m hanging out and hunkering down today, there’s no time like the present. So fill up your water bottle, top off your coffee, and, well, hunker down for some updates.

As far as work goes, I’m nearing the end of a transition. I don’t talk about JackRabbit a lot, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been moving away from the outreach/event planning stuff to the digital editorial/social media side of things. Yes, this is a vague description, but these responsibilities are more along the lines of what I want to do long term. I’m working on several projects now (#vagueblogging), and in the words of one coworker, “you have a voice, and it matters a lot.”

Some of my BFFs/Girls’ Club colleagues have transitioned too, which is bittersweet. I’m pumped for them—after all, they’re doing big things!—but it stinks because a lot of “my people” won’t be around any more. It’s tough when your inner circle changes, and yes, I realize it’s incredibly rare to work with your friends.

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Rabbits at the Rescue Mission!

Thankfully, not everyone is leaving. This should go without saying, but the people I work with and the community we foster are why I love (working at) JRab. And on the bright side, I’m becoming friendlier with higher-ups, which is good. (Sidebar: One of my teammates recently wrote about transitions too.)

My triathlon training is undergoing a transition too. This came up in my off-season recap, but basically, my mindset, motivation, and outlook have totally changed. I’m enlisting different resources (Coach Pat, Tailwind Endurance, etc.), and I’m cutting out the toxic aspects of my training. “Toxic” may be a little harsh, but I can’t think of another word right now.

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Non-toxic decaf almond milk cappuccino

For better or for worse, certain people and atmospheres alter my internal dialogue, and although it’s OK during races and tough workouts, it is not a narrative I want to hear all the time. Last year, I needed this tough, in-my-face coaching, but I’ve matured as an endurance athlete. I’m getting better at using mantras, finding that “second wind” on my own, and basically tapping into what motivates me.

Who knew running fitness translates to semi-decent swimming? I mean, it makes sense. Both are full-body activities. And people will aqua jog if they’re injured and can’t run. But if you told me I’d not only survive, but swim somewhat respectably during my first 3,000 yarder since August, I would not have believed you. But that’s exactly what happened. And I threw down some semi-respectable times for the 100- and 400-yd. time trials.

My new obsession is escaping to a cabin and writing, writing, writing.

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Up, On, and Over

Ever since going to New Paltz, I’ve been craving more trails, more nature, more outdoors—basically, the polar opposite of New York City. Coincidence my quarter-life crisis is coming up?

Overall, though, 2015 is off to a solid start. I’m pumped to see what it brings, and in the mean time, I’m continuing to work hard and dial everything in. Game on!

It’s November?

Whew—marathon madness has finally ended, so I can finally come up for a breath. Throughout October and the first week of November, JackRabbit was firing on all cylinders: various events and group training runs, plus a pre-New York City Marathon party and race-day cheer zone. So many 26.2 activities!

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Full Throttle Endurance says, “WHOA!”

Marathon week—plus Monday actually (because Meb Keflezighi had a book signing at our Upper West Side store)—centered on stress, semi-organized chaos, and tons of excitement. We live for this time of year and all it encompasses; for me, that meant making sure our Saucony pre-party and Brooklyn cheer zone were successful events.

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Behind the scenes–and mission accomplished!

And now, I’m embracing the work “off-season.” Thank GAWD. Here’s what’s going on:

Last week, my fam and I went to Florida to celebrate my dad’s birthday. My grandfather lives there, and my uncle flew in too, and it was great to spend some quality time with everyone. And it wouldn’t be a trip to Sanibel without plenty of beach time (where running, reading, and sunburning occurred).

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This weekend, I have my first “race” since Nationals in August: The Philadelphia Half-Marathon. Some of my teammates and (work) friends will be there, plus a few BoMFers and my family. I’m really excited! Not only is it an escape from the city, but it’s also an opportunity to test my training and gauge my progress. Coach Pat and I have talked race strategy, he things I can string together a solid 13.1 miles, race the thing, and shoot for a big PR. A few months ago, I planned to simply go out and run and see what happened; now, though, I feel confident pushing it. Speedwork is coming along, and my long runs have gone pretty well, and this is hands down the most prepared I’ve felt for a “straight up” road race. Fingers crossed I feel good on race day and can hop aboard the pain train for a while!

And then, it’s Thanksgiving, which means even more family time!

In other training news, I ended my 72-day swimming boycott and went to the pool. Honestly, I planned to wait until December, but several knowledgeable individuals—including but not limited to Coach Pat and my tri coach—said getting back in the water sooner may be a good idea. Specifically, “not swimming is totally going to bite you in the a** come January!” according to my tri coach. The race isn’t won during the swim, but one of my friends/Girls’ Club colleagues questioned: “How fast can you run if you’re last out of the water?”

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Talk about tough love—and a serious wake-up call.

So two weeks ago—about 12 hours after my endorphin-inducing 11 miler—I walked to the pool after work. On the way over, I visualized myself swimming, flip turning, and doing all the little things right, but I couldn’t shake the insecurity: what if I don’t remember anything? What do my arms do again? How does one execute a flip-turn?

As it turns out, swimming is a lot like riding a bike; you never forget how to do it. When my feet touched the water, I went on autopilot: adjusted my cap, put on my goggles, and just went. Sure, I felt semi-winded 200 yards in, but those 1,500 yards felt OK. And they felt slightly better—and faster—a week later.

To be honest, I’m not sure what will happen after Philly—in terms of training and life. It feels like I’m on the brink, like a breakthrough is right around the corner, but I don’t know what is it or what it will entail. But I just hope I’m ready.

(Almost) All of The Updates

Sometimes the words come easily, flowing from my fingertips to the keyboard with little thought. This is my favorite part about writing; when the thoughts, sentences, and ideas come together effortlessly.

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Obligatory sunset picture because I actually do things after work now. #realgirl

Sometimes the words need coaxing, wanting to come forward and make themselves known, but feeling inhibited. The intention exists, but the execution idles; it needs a spark, a prompt, or a reason to make the words come out.

Can you guess which scenario has been the case for the past month? Yikes, has it really been that long?

Since the end of triathlon season, I’ve embraced “real life,” and it’s completely taken over. There’s so much to share, but I’ve had a hard time articulating everything—and keeping track of it all too. So I’m going with a good ole fashioned list. Type-A personality for the win!

Biking and running have been going very, very well. I hope I don’t jinx myself with that statement. Up until a week ago, the only Full Throttle workouts I attended were the Central Park rides, but thanks to accidents, tickets, and general animosity among runners, pedestrians, and cyclists, I’ve decided to avoid the park until further notice. There’s no reason to put myself in those risky situations, especially since I don’t have any upcoming tris.

No Central Park hammer sessions means plenty of quality time with my people at Tailwind Endurance—and I’m totally psyched. My bike improved tremendously in 2014, and I’m excited to build on the progress.

bikeridersnyc-stem

Finally got my roadie re-fit so legit cyclists don’t make fun of me anymore: raised and moved back the seat; dropped handlebars; cut head tub; installed longer steam. Thanks, Bikeriders NYC!

From now until November, I’ll do one-two CompuTrainer rides per week for “fun.” What? You mean doing VO2 intervals, generating all the watts, and telling your legs to shut up isn’t fun?

Come December, I’ll do another functional threshold power (FTP) test and structure workouts around those values. The Tailwind coaches think raising my FTP by 30-50 watts is doable, but it will take work, obviously. On the bright side, everyone seems to be in agreement that I’m just scratching the surface of my cycling potential.

My run finally seems to be clicking too. Coach Pat has done a great job of structuring my run training and striking a balance between the biking and running. (Still not swimming. Still not caring. #sorryimnotsorry) Honestly, I can’t believe how well my body has responded to the increased frequency and mileage (I’m up to 25 miles per week, which is a lot for me), and I’m also learning a lot about the sport in the process. Dynamic stretches, strides, driving from the elbows, oh my!

I guess this would be a good time to share my next “race.” After talking with Coach Pat, we decided I could run the Philadelphia Half-Marathon as a long—potentially tempo—training run. As a short-course triathlete, I don’t need to be training for and racing 13.1 miles, but I do need to be able to run long as an aerobic workout. And I’m also a runner now.

So why Philly? First, I haven’t been there in forever—we’re talking elementary school Girl Scout days. I remember thinking it was a cool city and would be a great place to live; in fact, it made an impression on me long before NYC. Second, some coworkers plan to do the half and full (if they ever pull the trigger and sign up—c’mon, guys!), so it would be fun to road trip and race together. Three, the timing is perfect. Right now, my long run is 10 miles, so barring a catastrophe, I should be able to run 13 miles by Nov. 23.

I’ve started volunteering with Back on My Feet (BoMF). At JackRabbit, I manage our relationships with clubs, teams, and charities, and when I first met the BoMF representatives last spring, they made a huge impression on me. I immediately wanted to be their BFF, and they spoke about BoMF so passionately; their energy was contagious, and I decided once my triathlon season ended, I wanted to get involved.

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#BoMFlove #allthehugs

A little bit about BoMF: It’s a national nonprofit organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves; ideally, this helps them make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living.

The NYC chapter has four teams that run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings, and I’ve committed to one run per week so far. Even though I’m still getting my feet wet, I absolutely love it. The folks I run with—fellow volunteers and residential members (those experiencing homelessness)—are awesome, and it’s inspiring to see and hear how you can make a positive, tangible impact on an individual level. I’m so grateful to be part of BoMF.

This is pretty long, so I’ll wrap it up here.  Maybe there will be another post sometime soon?

What’s new in your life?

Ironman Lake Placid 2014: Tales of a Sherpa and Emotional Guardian

Where should I begin with this post? Let’s go alllll the way back.

ironman-lake-placid-2014-kona-or-bust

This trip north for Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) has been one year in the making. As you may remember, I went last year to train, volunteer, and spectate, and after the 2013 race, one of my teammates signed up to take on this 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run. And with her registration, I committed to returning in 2014 as a full-fledged Sherpa—and I was pumped! Placid epitomizes paradise, and I wanted to go back in any capacity.

It’s tough not to compare this year’s experience to what happened last year, but overall, they varied—a lot.

Let’s start with the Sherpa-ing.

ironman-lake-placid-athletes-training

I absolutely love training and racing, but sometimes it’s refreshing to be in a race environment and not actually race. Crazy concept, right? As a type-A person who does triathlon, I’ve discovered being a Sherpa utilizes my skill set. Not only do I have the logistics under control—planning our day to be the most efficient, knowing where to drop off special needs bags, etc.—but I can also talk the talk. And knowledgeably too. During race weekend, one of my goals included memorizing course maps and the athlete guide so I could answer every question my teammates asked me.

In addition to knowing everything about IMLP, I also took on the role of emotional guardian. I needed to be positive, reassuring, and flexible at all times. Moods swing easily in the days leading up to the race, especially when certain factors come into play: someone’s doing their first Ironman, someone’s shooting for a specific finish time, etc. Needless to say, everything became more intense, and when the crankiness and anxiousness kicked in, I wanted to be there to listen, calm them down, and provide support.

One main difference between 2013 and this year centered on training. I did some final tune-up sessions with teammates—a few race-pace efforts on the bike and some open-water swimming—but logging workouts was not my number one priority. Case in point: My Slice saw only 15 miles, tops. But I knew this would be the case, and I’m totally OK with it. My main goal was to be there for my teammates in every way possible.

ironman-lake-placid-goofing-off

Being there wasn’t exclusive to race day. This was the first time I watched people go through Ironman training. Each of my five teammates approached the distance differently—not to mention they came from various backgrounds, had different goals, etc.—and I learned a lot in terms of how I will navigate long-course training. (We’re talking at least 10 years from now, by the way. And that’s another post entirely.)

More importantly, this was the first time I trained with people who were tackling this distance. During the week, we’d do similar swim and bike workouts, and when Saturday and Sunday rolled around, they’d go long. Very long. Sometimes, I’d tag along and bike 40-50 miles while they did twice the distance. Or if they had a cutback week, then we’d ride together.

Bottom line, when you train together–for six months, at least five days a week, and for nearly three hours everyday–you become invested in their race. And when they have an Ironman on the horizon, it’s impossible to remain unaffected. When dull aches surfaced during long runs, I sympathized. When brick workouts got crushed, I felt invincible. When tune-up races approached, I experienced sympathy taper crazies. Basically, Placid became a pseudo race for me.

ironman-lake-placid-transition

During the race itself, I wanted to be there during all three disciplines, so I volunteered as a wetsuit stripper. At Syracuse 70.3 in 2012, I worked in the same capacity and had a blast. So not only would it be fun, but this position would also grant me access to athlete-only areas—which meant I could be with my teammates right up until they charged into Mirror Lake. Plus, I’d have a front row seat: I’d be able to pinpoint each person when they finished their each loop, and if I played my cards right, then I’d be able to help everyone take off their wetsuits. Four of my five teammates logged both loops of the swim, and I was able to see everyone during the wetsuit stripping process. (Due to thunder and lightning, the swim was cut to one loop or 1.2 miles. Some athletes swam both loops, but others were pulled from the water.)

After the swim, I camped out in front of our hotel—which was conveniently located on both the bike and run courses—rang my industrial-sized cowbell, and cheered until my voice grew hoarse. (And obsessively checked IronTrac, obviously.)

As the day progressed, my mental involvement intensified, which I didn’t think was possible. Waiting for the team colors seemed like an eternity: ‘They should be off the bike now. Why aren’t they here yet? Did something happen? What’s going on?’ Soon enough, the red and black kits appeared: ‘Yes! They look so strong and dialed in!’ And when not-so-great stuff happened, all I could do was run with them briefly, remind them they’re strong, and tell them they’ve overcome this before. But I couldn’t really do anything. I felt helpless. And it was the worst feeling. I had to trust their training and have faith they would work through the tough spells.

Sure enough, they pulled through.

And when they entered the oval, running strong and passing people and accomplishing their goal … being able to see the culmination of their dedication and their training and their hard work was incredible.

Clearly, it was an emotionally charged weekend. And I’m so grateful I was able to be a part of it.

Happy

I’m crossing my fingers and toes this post doesn’t act as a jinx and cause not-so-great things to happen. My check-ins have been few and far between, but that’s because I’ve been out living life—and being happy. It’s taken a while to figure it out—or at least partially figure it out—but I’ve found my groove. And that makes me happy.

Work

My schedule shifted to Monday-Friday two (or three?) weeks ago, and my productivity has skyrocketed.

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Sugar-free watermelon slurpee for National Slurpee Day

Even though I enjoyed having Thursdays off (and taking noon power hour CompuTrainer classes at Tailwind Endurance), I really thrive off these normal hours. Work does keep me on my toes, though. A lot of time, I don’t know what I’ll be doing until I get to the store; my role isn’t totally clear-cut, and there’s a lot of ebbing and flowing. But that’s OK. I can handle the combination of structured hours and dynamic responsibilities.

These new hours have led to some new and great friendships. When I worked the floor regularly, I became close with my fellow floor staff. (One guy calls me “Carebear,” which is a nickname reserved for family and close friends, and he knows it’s a big deal.) But now, I see our “downstairs” folks—think corporate like buyers, marketing, etc.—more often. They’re the ones who know about my training, my racing, and my general life happenings. For whatever reason, I’m better friends with the guys who work the floor, but my best friends downstairs are girls. (Shout out to Girls Club!) It’s taken more than a year, but I’ve finally found my work BFFs. And that makes me happy.

Triathlon

Where to even begin? First, I signed up for a sprint tri this weekend (0.5-mile swim, 10-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run). It ends in a vineyard. Total no-brainer.

hopkins-vineyard-tri-logo

In all seriousness, though, I wanted one more tune-up race before Nationals in August. This will give me a chance to work on top-end speed (or see if I have any) and test new equipment.  I’m also planning to test an aero helmet.  It even matches my bike, and we know it’s all about looking good in the race photos!

stamford-kic-it-triathlon-swim-exit-wetsuit

Not multi-tasking at the swim exit: ain’t nobody got time for that!

Training continues to go well: The swim is at a good spot, the bike is still a work-in-progress, and the run really depends on the day. Overall, though, the improvements I’ve made this season makes me happy—and I’m excited to see how everything (hopefully) comes together in August.

Speaking of Nationals, there are goals this time around. And these goals sound lofty and scare me. My coach has outlined race scenarios and expects me to dial in, arrive in top form, and piece together my best race of the year. His confidence in me makes me happy. Whether I have that confidence changes every minute (seriously), but knowing that he believes in me makes me happy.

Lake Placid

Before heading to Milwaukee, I’ll make the trip to Lake Placid to cheer, volunteer, and sherpa (yes, it’s a verb) for my five teammates taking on the Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run).

Last year, I logged some quality training, volunteered at gear bags, and soaked in the experience of watching my first in-person Ironman event. This time around, though, my priorities will be different. My teammates will dictate my every move; whatever they need, I’m their girl.

Another change this year includes how emotionally invested I am in this race. When swim splits don’t get hit, I feel frustrated and unsettled. When brick workouts get nailed, I feel ecstatic and unstoppable. Obviously I haven’t done the training in terms of hours and volume, but I feel like I’ve become part of their journey.  And being there for them makes me happy.

This involvement hasn’t affected my training. Aside from the pre-Timberman sympathy taper crazies, I’ve maintained focus and logged the workouts I need to log. However, as Placid inches closer, my mind has started to wander during sessions: ‘I’m doing a five miler right now. So-and-so is running 20. I hope they’re feeling OK. They were worried about their calf …’ I usually let myself think about it for a few seconds and then refocus.

Being this emotionally involved in a race I’m not even doing scares me, but it also makes me happy.

So that’s the gist of happenings here lately. Keeping busy and keeping happy. What’s going on with you?

Here’s the Thing

Hello, friends! Are you bored with all the race talk? Don’t worry; after Stamford on Sunday, there are no more triathlons on the schedule until August. (Although my coach wants me to do a sprint in July, but that’s neither here nor there.)

pat-griskus-triathlon-finish

[source]

Dammit, heel strike!  Coach Pat, this is why I need you!

Even though the past few weeks have been tough, life is going pretty well right now. Here’s the thing:

Let’s talk training first. It’s still going strong. By the way, thanks for putting up with my previous posts where I talked about all my feelings. This training cycle has been mentally challenging, which affects my mood outside of swimming, biking, and running. Thankfully, the next block spans about one and a half months, so I can dial in, put my head down, and focus on putting together the best race possible at Nationals.

My work schedule changes next week—which is bittersweet. Since starting at JackRabbit Sports last year (wow!), I’ve worked Monday-Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, which gave me Thursday and Sunday off. At first, I liked having a day off mid-week; running errands and catching up on life seemed easier when all of NYC wasn’t doing the same thing. However, as I’ve started expanding on my community outreach position, it’s become clear a “normal” schedule would be more effective. Ninety-percent of my job happens during regular hours—expos, races, and other events comprise the other 10 percent—so it makes sense that I work Monday-Friday. Hello, 9a-5p world! (Er, probably more like 10a-6p, but you know what I mean.)

This also means I need more real clothes. Yes, it’s a casual, non-corporate environment—I mean, I work in the basement—but I will need to pull myself together and put forth a decent 75-80 percent effort most days. But my (swimming) shoulders and (cycling) legs make it extremely difficult to find clothes that fit. And being on the tall side further complicates this quest. Blahhh.

I’m SO excited to go home for the 4th of July! I booked my tickets—Central New York, here I come! I haven’t been home since Christmas, so I can’t wait to see my family. The only downside is my Slice can’t make the trip too; taking it on the train during a holiday weekend would be an absolute nightmare. Guess that means I’ll do all the open-water swimming and running instead, including a 5-K my Dad and I do every year. Should be fun!

That’s all I’ve got today. What’s going on in your life?