Tag Archives: Trial By Fire

Trial By Fire—I Finished!

Yesterday morning, I completed one of Full Throttle Endurance’s most brutal, yet fun-in-a-masochistic way endurance workouts:  the infamous Trial By Fire.


Straight up cheesin’ afterward.

If you’ve been reading a while, then you may remember when I got “called up” last year to put my training to the test in this swim, run, repeat suffer fest.  If not, then here’s the workout:


Total distances:  1,500 yards and five miles

Yep, you read it right.  Swim 100 yards in the pool, jump out, take a brief detour outside, enter the indoor track from the ground-floor, run 400m, head back to the pool, dive in, swim 200 yards, etc.


The yellow cap is me!

And you may remember, a mere 100 yards stood in the way of finishing the session as prescribed last year, so this time around, I went in with one goal:  Finish the entire thing.

Prior to the race, my coach outlined my run splits I should hit and hold (1:45-1:52/400m), and as per usual, it seemed like an aggressive range.  He also said which females I should try to maintain contact with and which ones I needed to let go.  But he did not mention I would be racing alongside our elite women.  Which is probably a good thing.  It totally would’ve psyched me out.

Anyway, the workout progressed like a real race:  setting up transition on deck with sneakers, warming up on the track and in the pool, etc.  There wasn’t a lot of time to be nervous.  And I wouldn’t even call it nervousness.  Maybe anxiousness.  Or simply knowing the next hour would be brutal.



So the first sections of the workout progressed seamlessly: 100 yards, 400m barefoot (putting on shoes would cut into transition time and by extension total time, a lesson I learned last year), 200 yards, 800m barefoot.  I felt good, I was hitting my paces, and surprisingly I was keeping the top girls in my sights.  But I knew it wouldn’t last.  It was the calm before the storm.


Forget shoes—get me outta here!

During the 300 yard set, I inadvertently swam an extra 50 yards, which caused me to move from the middle to the back of the pack.  And during the following run section, I fell off the pace; 1:50, 1:53, 2:00, 2:03.  I couldn’t wait to get back in the water and recover.  The 400 yards went fine, but I couldn’t rally on the next 1.5 miles; my splits were stuck in the 2:0X range, and mentally, I was in a bad place.  I did my best to break the six laps into, well, six laps and focus on chipping away one at a time.  Looking back, I’m obviously upset with the decrease in pace, but it’s the mental slip that makes me feel the most unsettled.  This is exactly the battle I’ll face during a race, and I can’t become complacent.


Plus, while swimming the last 500 yards, all I could think about was the daunting seven laps around the track.  I knew I would get through it, but I didn’t know how or how fast it would get done.

By some stroke of good luck, I exited the pool for the final time with one of the elite woman.  We gasped for air chatted as we slid on our sneakers, and she proposed hitting a 1:50-1:55 pace.  In all honesty, I expected to fall behind, but said I’d stick with her as long as I could.  And by some miracle, I did and got it done.

So my finishing time for the workout from hell?  A semi-respectable 1:08.  Yes, faster (and technically longer because I actually covered the entire distance) than last year’s race, but it left me feeling unsettled.  The lead women finished in 1:03-1:05, and I know the bulk of that time was lost during the 1.5-mile section.  And I know I’m not quite “there” yet—in terms of experience and development—but I want to be.  My coach said I’m on the brink right now, and I just need to trust the process, remember that I’m only 24 years old, put my head down, and keep working hard.

What’s the most intense workout you’ve completed recently?

Race of Truth

Good morning, everyone!  TGIF!  Any fun plans for the weekend?  I head to Boston today for the MuckFest MS Mud Run, which takes place tomorrow.  I’m so excited!



Also, thanks for the positive comments on yesterday’s post.  Now that the USAT Age Group Nationals has a spot on my race calendar, it changes my outlook and training goals this season; as my “A-plus” race, I will train with the intention of peaking in August.  Obviously, I want to do work at my other events, too, but doing well at this race will be my primary goal.  My coach and I exchanged a few emails yesterday, and moving forward, I need to get my act together and get my butt on my bike—and improve my run off the bike too.  My swim seems to be at a good spot (even though it will always be a work in progress), but I can and need to make some serious gains in terms of my bike and run.

And that process started this morning.

Remember Trial By Fire, the swim-run event?  This morning, Full Throttle Endurance invaded Central Park at 5:30 a.m. for another competitive training session–Race of Truth. (Yes, that’s the name.  When I first saw the email, I started laughing hysterically—these names kill me, ha!) Since spring is hopefully here to stay, we’ll have organized team rides outside at least two days a week; during these outings, we’ll ride in groups of eight, and everyone in each pack should be about the same speed.  To determine the pace groups, we had a one-loop (about six miles) time trial in Central Park, and the coaches will use the finishing times to form training groups.  Because everyone rides the same course, we can’t argue with the times—hence the name Race of Truth.

Anyway, my time trial went OK.  My bike computer didn’t work, so I essentially rode the course blind in terms of distance, time, and speed. (The tech fail was totally my fault. Wednesday night, one of my teammates hosted a tire-changing clinic at her apartment, and after plenty of hor d’oeuvres and glasses of Prosecco, we got around to figuring out how to fix flats.  I brought my front tire to her apartment, and in total newbie fashion, I put it back on the wrong way, so my bike computer’s sensor didn’t work obviously.) One of the coaches said anything sub-20 minutes was acceptable, and I think my unofficial time was 19:XX; good starting point with lots of room for improvement.


Hey, it’s not a breakfast sandwich (only because I’m out of spinach)!


Instant oats, plus protein powder, one mashed banana, and plenty of peanut butter.  Hopefully this keeps me full on the train.

Have a great weekend, friends, and talk to you Sunday!

Five Things Thursday

Hiya, friends!  Yes, I’m alive!  My week has been crazy, so I have lots of updates to share.  Let’s list it up!

1.  You knew this one was coming.


T-minus 24 days until South Beach!  I’m obviously super pumped, but I’m starting to get nervous—about the ocean swim (because I haven’t been in open water since September), the bike (because I haven’t been outside since October), and the run (because it will be hotter than Hades).  Quite honestly, I don’t feel ready to race, so good thing it’s classified as a “C” event, meaning I’ll train through it and not “race” it.  I’m more than ready for some beach time, though!

2.  Speaking of training, I’ve had some pretty kick-butt workouts this week.  Scott, the head coach of Full Throttle Endurance, led Monday’s speedwork session—and I survived!  We did a ton of 400m, 600m, and 800m repeats, and my pacemates and I took turns leading and sharing the workload.  However, Scott being Scott was hooting and hollering during our final 800m set and wanted me to overtake our pacesetter during the last 200m.  I had a ton of gas left in the tank (come to think of it, I might be in the wrong pace group, but whatever), but I didn’t want to be “that teammate” who blows by the paceleader.  No one “wins” practice, right?  But I did it anyway.  It felt so good to full-out sprint!  Scott totally lost it and started cheering, and after I finished, he came up to me and said, “Now that’s how you finish a race!” and gave me a fist pound.  Hopefully he forgot about Trial By Fire.

3.  Wednesday’s indoor cycling workout went really well, too.  This was my second session with Scott, and I love his coaching style.  Don’t get me wrong:  Andrew is the man, but whereas Andrew reminds me of my high school basketball coach, Scott is my high school basketball coach; his loud, intense, in-your-face coaching works for me.  It definitely isn’t for everyone, but I value a coach who will push and challenge me.  Anyway, Scott used me as an example of good cycling technique (totally shocking!), and he also asked if I’m a strong cyclist outdoors; I guess my engine and power inside are pretty decent.

4.  If you follow me on Instagram, then you know I went rock climbing Tuesday morning.


So much fun!

5.  Speaking of non-triathlon happenings (I swear, I do other things besides swimming, biking, and running), I went to yoga this morning.


Logistically, it’s been tough to go before work, and it felt great to return to my mat—perfect form of exercise for an active rest day.

Time to shop for groceries and tackle a freelance assignment.  Have a great Thursday!

Have you ever been rock climbing?  Would you try it?

Return of the Wetsuit

Hey, hey—happy Friday!  First, thanks for your supportive comments on yesterday’s downer of a post.  Even though I’ve moved past it (sort of), I’m still struggling with the fact that I didn’t finish the 500 yards due to lack of effort; I would be OK with the cutoff if I had given 100 percent, but that wasn’t the case.  However, I do feel a little better because my teammate who also completed the “race” wasn’t pleased with his performance either, and like me, he was in a bad mood all day.  Takes one to know one, right?  What really turned my outlook around, though, was an email from Andrew. (I also briefly talked to him at our team meet-up last night.) I feel like I let him down (and myself, obviously) by doing not-so-great yesterday, but he said it’s a different kind of event that requires a different strategy, and it was my first time doing it—and he was happy with how I did.  Live, race, and learn.

Workout – Swimming

Guess what came with me to this morning’s swim session?


Hey, wetsuit!  Long time no see!  Our practice was wetsuit optional, and based on my high school basketball experience, I know optional really means required. (My high school coach was notorious for holding “optional, but highly encouraged attending” open gyms, aka mandatory.)  I haven’t worn it since the DeRuyter Triathlon in September, and it’s been patiently waiting in my closet to make its 2013 debut.

According to my teammates, Nautica South Beach will be wetsuit-legal, so it’s time to start logging some time in it.  I forgot how snug it fits up top, and I thought my arms would fall off during our 500-yard warm up.  I was also overheating a bit, but wearing the suit proved to be worth it—we did the doggie paddle and water polo drills again, and the extra buoyancy was great!  More importantly, it was my first time wearing my wetsuit since really working on my swim, and it was awesome to feel the improvements.  It’s all about progress!


As soon as I got home, I inhaled a mashed banana and some plain Greek yogurt before taking a shower.  After, I made some instant oats and added half a scoop of Jay Robb egg white protein powder.


Plus some cinnamon and brown sugar—so good!

My sister Margaret is here, so we’ll be exploring, shopping, and eating the day away.  Have a great one!

And Happy International Women’s Day!  Be sure to read Gina’s post too!

Trial By Fire

This morning, I attempted to complete a new-to-me triathlon training challenge:  a swimming and running race, which Scott, the head coach of Full Throttle Endurance, rightfully dubbed Trial By Fire.


I got burned.  Big time.

The sport of triathlon is very humbling:  It’s crazy that I can kick butt on the swim during an indoor event, yet DNF on the same section less than one week later.  Yep, you read that right.  I notched my first DQ/DNF this morning.  Sigh.

Here’s the breakdown:


The FTE racing team took over Chelsea Piers around 5:20 a.m. to set up transition and warm up.  The “race” started at 6 a.m.  I’ll be honest; I was intimidated going into this event.  Andrew invited one of my teammates (the guy who won the indoor tri last weekend) and me, and beforehand, we joked about being called up to the big leagues.  Everyone was very friendly, and I asked a few people about their strategies.  The consensus was to not go out too fast.  I also talked with MB and exchanged a few emails with Andrew, and based on their input, I decided to pace myself (duh!), recover during the swim, and use the majority of my energy during the run.  This is a very unique event because it caters to my strength and weakness Achilles’ heal, so I expected it to be quite interesting.

Sidenote:  There were photographers and camera crew who documented the entire thing.  Not that I should be surprised after a photographer attended Monday’s practice.

Anyway, around 5:50 a.m., Scott outlined the logistics:  The elite wave, which the top 10 men comprised, would start ahead of everyone else.  After they finished, the rest of the team would begin.  That’s standard, but what really surprised me was the swim-to-run transition:  Each time we exited the pool, the “course” took us outside and down a set of stairs, so we entered the track from the ground floor.  I totally didn’t prepare to run outside in 30-degree weather.  There were flurries, too!

Next, Scott and Danny assigned lanes, and after each run segment, we would hop back in the same one to swim again.  There were 10 people in my lane, which led to a total washing-machine start.  Like swim starts in open-water, there was jostling and fighting for position, but in a super-condensed area.  At least during OWS you can spread out.  I didn’t want to waste energy trying to pass and swim over people, so I waited about five seconds and then started.

During the opening 100 yards, I conserved energy by drafting off the swimmer in front of me, but the pace was too slow.  I wanted to make moves, but passing in a lane that contained 10 people (we were circle swimming) would be nearly impossible, so I settled in and hoped this conservative start would pay off.

During the first transition, I made some my rookie mistakes like putting on my shoes (everyone ran the 0.25 and 0.5 mi. segments barefoot) and taking off my swim cap and goggles.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it was lost time.

Up to the 500-yard mark, the race was a blur.  I followed my plan of recovering during the swim (I passed only three people) and somewhat attacking on the run; I dialed in to my default 8:00 min./mi. pace, made up ground lost, and passed who I could (about 10 people).  Surprisingly, my heart rate stayed under control during transitions (I think the cold air outside had something to do with it), and my body seemed to respond relatively well going from swimming to running to swimming, etc.  The discomfort never seemed out of control, and cardio-wise, I felt really strong.

Spoiler alert:  I didn’t make the cutoff for the 500-yard swim segment.  The master’s swim team had the pool reserved for 7 a.m., so we had to be out by 6:59 a.m.  I completed 400 yards before Danny told me time was up.  What?!

An expletive dropped, and my mental game went down the tubes:  How could you DNF?  Did you really think you could hang with these triathletes?

Not finishing part of the session never crossed my mind.  Sure, I knew it would be tough and hurt quite a bit, but I thought completing 1,500 yards and 5 miles wouldn’t be an issue.  That being said, though, I knew my run splits, but didn’t track my time in the pool.  I knew I was swimming conservatively, but I should’ve been aware of how much time I was taking.  This DNF situation can be compared to not making cut-off times during half- and full-Ironman races.  It’s a horrible feeling, and I refuse to let it happen again. (Also, I didn’t learn this until afterward, but at least 50 percent of our group didn’t finish the swim.)

Luckily, I turned around my mindset on the track.  I stuck in a pace line with three other women, and although the laps blur together, I do remember trying to find another gear for the final 800m, and my legs simply wouldn’t respond. (Probably due to lack of adequate fueling and inexperience going from swimming to running to swimming, etc.)

Technically I finished the “race” in 1:12:XX, but there will be an asterisk or DQ/DNF next to my time.  In the grand scheme of triathlon things, I know this isn’t a big deal, but I’m really frustrated and disappointed.  I mean, I’ve never DQed or DNFed before—but I guess there’s a first time for everything.  And as I’ve known since day one, swimming is my Achilles’ heal, and this subpar showing has definitely relit a fire (not that is was extinguished, but still).

So what’s the plan?  I’m grabbing drinks with my teammates tonight—and doing major work in the pool tomorrow morning, and staying positive.  T-minus 30 days until South Beach!


Have you ever received a DQ or DNF?  How did you handle it?