Tag Archives: triathlon volunteering

Ironman Lake Placid 2015: Flying Unattached

A few weeks ago, I once again fled New York City and retreated north to Lake Placid for the iconic Ironman weekend. If you’ve been reading a while, then you may remember I’ve been on-site for this 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run in both 2013 and 2014. Even though it’s become a staple trip, this adventure ended up being much different.

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Let’s recap quickly: in 2013, a friend and I went to train, volunteer, and cheer for one of our fellow teammates. After the race, my friend registered for the 2014 event, and I jumped at the chance to venture back and be her Sherpa. In 2014, my primary focus centered on fulfilling Sherpa/emotional guardian duties, so not a lot of training got logged.

This year, I knew the most people doing Ironman Lake Placid—there were 12 people loaded into my tracker app—but I was not “responsible” for anyone. Of course, I told everyone I’d be available, but typical Sherpa duties like going to packet pickup and organizing gear backs did not apply. I could do whatever I wanted—swim! Bike! Run! Sleep!—whenever I wanted. Case in point: upon arrival on Thursday, I took my time unpacking before heading to Mirror Lake. The lake was there. I was going to swim whenever I was going to swim—but I 100 percent would, of course.

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It was absolutely ridiculous how happy I was swimming here. #ThisIsOurLab

There was no schedule, and although I did a little work, the only real structure I had centered on my workouts. Friday ended up being a monster training day that resulted in an unintentional 66.2. Doesn’t have the same ring as a 70.3, but it was still a solid day: fifty-six miles on the bike course, nine miles on the run course, and 1.2 miles in Mirror Lake. Saturday saw another loop both the bike and swim courses. Hands down, this was the most productive training block I had in Placid (aside from WorkLiveTri Camp in June), and there’s no way it would’ve happened if Sherpa-ing had been my number one priority. Plus, it was perfectly timed because Nationals (a.k.a. #Hammerfest2015) was two weeks out.

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As seen on my long run.  Definitely not in NYC anymore.

Placid always helps me get some quality headspace: chilling out, reflecting on life, and getting my creative juices flowing. Since I was doing my own thing (and not acting as a pre-race logistics coordinator), I was truly able to enjoy the physical and mental distance from the city. Even though I worked everyday, it still felt like a vacation. Case in point: my boss told me to go ride for a few hours and start thinking about an upcoming project. Brainstorming … in the saddle … in Lake Placid. Yep, I’m definitely working for the right people.

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Total bliss

From a pre-race standpoint, this trip clearly panned out differently. Not better, not worse. It was just incredibly different.

Onto race day.

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As a volunteer, I had an absolute blast. Not surprising, of course, but it was the most fun I’ve had as a wetsuit stripper.

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Race French braids for race day … even though it was not my race … yet.

I recognized folks from previous years, and I also peeled off a ton of neoprene—and have the battle scars to prove it! One of the highlights of the day was being tipped a wet and sandy dollar bill for my efforts as a wetsuit “stripper.” I also spotted all of my friends exiting the swim so it was a great morning.

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As a spectator, I experienced the normal Ironman race-day emotions—inspired, worried, humbled, anxious—and enjoyed the day as friend and fellow athlete and not as an emotional guardian. Don’t get me wrong; there were tough moments. But for the most part, everything was less intense than last year, which makes total sense. After all, in 2014 I trained with them everyday so I was more emotionally invested in their race. That simply wasn’t the case this year. Even though I tracked my now Ironpeople obsessively, that all-consuming connection didn’t exist. I obviously cared, but it was nice to watch a race without that amount of heightened emotions.

Finally, you don’t go into Ironman weekend with any expectations, but my people this year were the most outwardly grateful. (I say “outwardly” because it isn’t in everyone’s nature to say “thank you” multiple times.) One of the most memorable moments was when my friend entered the Olympic Oval, made his way to the finish line, but stopped, gave me a hug, and thanked me for being there.  That selfless act was easily a highpoint of the weekend.

Every though taking on the Ironman there tempts me every year, I did not sign up—and I will not for another 10 years. This will absolutely be my race, but it’s not time for it yet. So rest assured, folks; I’m stick with short-course events for the foreseeable future.

Change has defined this season, but Placid always reminds me why I do what I do: I feel alive when I swim, bike, and run, and I feel like the best version of myself.

Ironman Lake Placid 2013 – The Volunteering

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday’s post discussed the workouts I did in Lake Placid, and today’s post details the volunteer experience.

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As you may remember, I volunteered at the Ironman Syracuse 70.3 last year and loved it, so when my teammate told me she goes to Placid every year to volunteer, I jumped at the chance to make the trip.  We spent five days in the area, and it was my first time visiting in six years.  Back during high school basketball, my team played in a tournament there.  I hadn’t heard of triathlon at the time, and we didn’t get a chance to truly explore and experience the village.  I blame the chaperones—ha!

Anyway, it took 4,000 volunteers to help the race run as smoothly as possible.  Believe it or not, the volunteers actually outnumbered the athletes! (Three thousand triathletes registered, and close to 2,700 raced.)

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Serious bike envy.

A few months ago, my teammate signed us up for “gear bags out,” a shorter shift that lasted slightly less than an hour and a half.

Here’s how it worked:  After the triathletes exited the water and jogged to transition, they grabbed their bike gear bags, entered the changing tent, and made necessary clothing changes for their 112-mile ride.  Then, volunteers working inside the tents slid the bags (now filled with swim gear) back outside.

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From there, 30 or so volunteers organized the bags in numerical order and then placed them back on their respective racks.

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Even though our shift was short—we finished in a little less than an hour and a half—I loved being in transition; a true hot spot and high-traffic area, this location lets you see everyone coming in from the water and heading out on the bike.  Not only do you get a front-row seat of the actions, but you also get to help the triathletes—you can beat it!

Plus, completing a shorter volunteer shift gave us plenty of time to spectate!

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More on that in a bit!

Have you volunteered for a race?

Packing for Lake Placid

Hey, friends—happy Thursday!  Is the week flying by for anyone else?  Although maybe it’s because I leave for Lake Placid today—woohoo!

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Even though I signed up for body marking and wetsuit stripping at Ironman 70.3 Syracuse last July, Ironman Lake Placid will be my first time volunteering this year. (Side note:  how did Syracuse take place more than one year ago?!) I’m traveling with one of my teammates who’s volunteered at Placid before (five times to be exact, so she has the weekend down to a science!), plus another friend who’s tackling the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run.  And being supportive triathletes, we made signs and t-shirts last night.

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Shhh, it’s a surprise.

Anyway, I finally got down to packing for the long weekend, and unsurprisingly, I’m bringing more workout clothes than “real” ones.

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Here’s what I’m packing:

For swimming – swim suit, wetsuit, BodyGlide, flip flops, three pairs of goggles (really), plus way too many swim caps.

For biking – my too heavy road bike, helmet, cleats, water bottles, biking shorts and jerseys.

For running – shorts, tank tops, Garmin, only one pair of sneakers. (I know—I’m proud of me too!)

Miscellaneous – sunglasses, sunscreen, lots of socks, etc.  Oh, plus a bag filled with snacks and nutrition.

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Hey, it’s going to be a long drive!

And like I said, I will have some “real” clothes, but I’m crossing my fingers that t-shirts, sweat pants, and running shorts will be the unofficial dress code.

Talk to you in Placid—and have a great weekend, everyone!

My First Big-Girl Job Promotion

Hiya, friends!  I feel like I haven’t talked to you in forever!  As you can tell from my absence, it’s been a busy week, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Here are some highlights:

1.  Hello, Saucony Kinvara 3’s!

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These new sneakers carried me through two runs this week:  Wednesday’s run off the bike and today’s speedwork.  I’m tempted to #shoegeek out and share the details, but I’ll spare you. (Unless you come to the store for a shoe fit, then all bets are off!) I will say, though, it’s an extremely light and comfortable shoe, and I plan to use it for speedwork and racing only.  On a related note, does anyone know if Lock Laces come in orange?

2.  Speaking of racing, I officially signed up to volunteer for Ironman Lake Placid in July.

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One of my teammates is tackling the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run, so another one of my teammates and I decided make the trip, volunteer at the race, and support him.  We also plan to turn it into a fitness-cation of sorts, meaning we’ll bring our wetsuits, bikes, and running shoes.  When in Rome Lake Placid …

3.  My aunt and uncle sent the sweetest card from our MuckFest MS Mud Run escapades.

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In total, our team raised more than $8,300 for the National MS Society.  Way to go, Mighty Mucks!

4.  And now for the big news—I got my first big-girl job promotion!  I’m the new Community Outreach Coordinator for JackRabbit Union Square!

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Since day one, this job has really clicked, and I absolutely love it:  doing shoe (and wetsuit!) fits, talking about training goals, and helping people discover healthy living.  I’m excited to take on more responsibility, and in this position, I’ll be in charge of brainstorming, planning, and organizing community events like yoga classes, informative workshops, and basically getting JackRabbit’s name out there.  There are a few ideas I’m kicking around already, and did I say I’m so excited?  Oh, and I get a company email address and business cards.  Woohoo!

Tell me about your first job that clicked.  Did you love it immediately, or did you grow to enjoy it?

23

At approximately 8:41 a.m. this morning, I turned 23 years old.

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Holy cow—talk about old!

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Ballet days throwback.  My grandparents included this photo in the above birthday card–aren’t they sweet?

It seems like yesterday I was playing high school basketball, then hanging out at CampHoho going to college.  Where has the time gone?

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In all honest, though, 22 treated me very well.

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I rang in my second year of official adulthood with plenty of homemade cupcakes and Pinot Grigio.

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I ran my first relay race, the Seneca7, with some awesome Writing and Rhetoric teammates.

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What?!  Who doesn’t like pondering grammar?

I had so much fun fully embracing the sweetness of senior spring—after completing my Honors project, of course.

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I survived my first wine tour.

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I graduated?!

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I decided to give blogging and triathloning a shot.

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I volunteered at the Syracuse 70.3 Ironman—and watched MB kick some serious butt!

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I partied through ran the Boilermaker 15-K with Sara.

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I bonded with Zelda at the Grapehound Wine Tour.

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I finished my first triathlon—and was instantly hooked!

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I completed my second and third swim-bike-run events.

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I moved to New York City, survived Hurricane Sandy, and found a big-girl internship.

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I explored Brooklyn with Gabby and Connie.

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I spent lots of quality time with my family during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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I officially started training with Full Throttle Endurance.

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I trigeeked out and met Craig Alexander.

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Twenty-two was pretty sweet, but 23, I’m ready for you—let’s do it!

Reflections and Afterthoughts from Ironman 70.3 Syracuse, Part II

Whew, I can’t believe the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse was only two days ago!

I had a blast volunteering, cheering, and watching the triathletes complete the 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run.  Since there is now some distance between the event and my initial reaction, I want to articulate some additional reflections and afterthoughts.

Happiness, belonging, pride – After my first job as a body marker, I spent the rest of the day with volunteers from Fleet Feet. (Someone asked if I was a “Fleet Feet girl,” and it killed me to say no!) Since I’ve been to Fleet Feet more times than I can count, a few of the girls recognized me, and it was awesome hanging out with a group of people who love fitness, specifically triathlons, as much as I do.  And since MaryBeth works at Fleet Feet part-time, everyone got to know me as “Carrie, MB’s cousin.”

Everyone had nothing but great things to say about her—as both a person and triathlete—and I felt so proud watching her kick some Ironman butt.

Inspiration, motivation, drive – The pro athletes—and a lot of the age groupers, like MB—populate an elite level of physical fitness, and it was inspiring to watch them complete this journey.  As they crossed the finish line, a bunch of them looked good, as if they could’ve kept running. (Most do, for this was an half-Ironman/Ironman 70.3; a full Ironman entails a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run.) However, there were a ton of “everyday” people competing, too.

Seeing them complete this race sparked some personal motivation; if they can do it, then I can do it.

Inadequacy, laziness – Watching each and every athlete embark on this journey was awe-inspiring, but with it came sense of inadequacy.  These individuals completed a half-Ironman; they swam, biked, and ran anywhere from 4:16 to 8-plus hours straight—the only thing I’ve done for 8 consecutive hours is sleep!  Moreover, it made me question my workout plan and fitness outlook.  The individuals train hard and diligently for the 70.3.  Comparatively, in the words of my high school basketball coach, I seem to be “farting around” with my workouts.  Sure, I run, bike, lift, etc., but not at the level that would adequately prepare me to finish a half-Ironman.  But I’m starting to accept that it’s OK—I have yet to complete an official sprint triathlon!  In terms of my triathlon training, I’m starting at the beginning, learning the ins and outs of the event, and building my swim-bike-run endurance; I’m guessing most of Sunday’s triathletes have completed multiple sprint and/or standard/Olympic-distance triathlons.  However, I know if I made completing a 70.3 Iron one of my fitness priorities, I would make it happen.  But since it’s not on this summer’s calendar, I can still attack my workouts with more intensity, vigor, and dedication than before.

Every shape and size … – It’s so surprise the pro male and female athletes—and a lot of the age groupers—have enviable physiques:  chiseled shoulders, defined arms, and strong legs.  These individuals definitely looked like triathletes, but there were athletes of every shape and size who tackled the course—extremely tall, pocket-friend short, (sadly) dangerously slim, football player-like hulkiness, you name it.

This proves that everyone—and literally every body—can train, compete, and complete an event like an Ironman 70.3.  Now that’s inspiring!

… and every age – From body marking and holding swim wave signs, I got a pretty good visual of who participates in triathlons.  When I body marked, I met only one 22-year-old guy who was competing; the youngest female athlete I marked was 26, and the majority of individuals were between the ages of 30-45.  During the swim starts, the 30-35-year old men were broken up into two separate waves (based on their last names) because there were so many of them.  Out of curiosity, I studied the race results, and only 13 women comprised what would be my age group (18-24), most of whom were 24.  Interestingly, the youngest men seemed to be 26, and the biggest groups seemed to be the 30-35 divisions for both genders.  I’m guessing age 26 is the first big group because these individuals have graduated college, have jobs, and have settled into a routine that includes triathlon training.  I think it’s difficult to find a tri-community in a college setting, and plus, most college students are busy … being college students if you know what I mean.  Moreover, training for a half-Ironman is a yearlong fitness endeavor.  Right now, I have no idea where I’m going to be in one year or what I’m going to be doing, while the 26-year-olds have established lifestyles.  With this in mind, I think training for and completing an Ironman 70.3 is definitely feasible down the road.

From volunteering, spectating, and/or competing in triathlons, have you noticed similar things?

Volunteering for the Syracuse 70.3 Ironman, Part I

Hey, everyone!  I hope you had a restful weekend!  As you know, I spent Sunday volunteering for the Syracuse Ironman 70.3—what an amazing experience!  I’m still teasing out some reflections, afterthoughts, and takeaways, so look for that post later today.

Day as a Volunteer

2:50 a.m. – Woke up before my alarm went off—I was that excited!

3:00-3:20 a.m. – Got dressed, chugged two cups of coffee, and ate a banana—there was no way I could stomach a “real” breakfast at this hour.

3:30 a.m. – Left the house.  It was still dark.

3:57 a.m. – Arrived at Jamesville Beach Park.  I was one of the first volunteers who arrived, so I waited in my car for about 15 minutes.

4:15-4:20 a.m. – Congregated at the volunteer tent with fellow body markers and reviewed the proper procedure:  With our permanent markers, we would write each triathlete’s race number, or bib number, vertically on both arms and both thighs; on their left calf, we would write their race age. (For the professional athletes, we just had to mark a “P” on their calf.)

4:30 a.m. – Assembled outside the transition area and began marking the early-bird athletes.

5:15 a.m. – MaryBeth arrived!

She came right over, gave me a hug, and I marked her appropriately.  We chatted for a few minutes, and then she went to layout her transition gear, get into her wetsuit, and prepare for the race.

5:00-6:30 a.m. – About 20 people comprised our body marking team, and in total, we marked around 1,100 athletes.  I even got to mark one of the professional (and very cute!) men!  Although the conversations were relatively short, I really enjoyed welcoming each athlete to the competition, shooting the breeze, and talking about the triathlon. (The big question of the day was if wetsuits would be permitted, and I got to break the good news that the water temperature was 75.3 degrees, which meant it was wetsuit-legal.) There were more men competing than women, but I probably marked an equal number of each.  One interesting thing I noticed during this process:  nearly all of the female athletes sought out female body markers, but the men didn’t seem to gravitate toward same-sex markers; in fact, I marked several very fit and good looking 25-35-year olds.  It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!

6:45 a.m. – Headed down to the waterfront to help out with the wave organization.

In order to reduce congestion in the water and traffic on the bike/run course, triathlons began with wave starts for the swim. Divisions are broken up into “professional” groups (known as the “pros”) and age groups (individuals referred to as “age groupers”).  Since the pros finish the triathlon the quickest, they have the earliest starting time for the swim.  Down at the shore, I held up a sign for the women’s pro swim wave. (In this picture, the pro women waited outside the corral because the pro men occupied it.  After the men took off, the women filed into the area, and the next group moved up.)

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Thirteen women stood in front of me, and it was crazy knowing they were some of, if not the fittest women I’ve ever seen in-person.

7 a.m. – After the National Anthem, the male pros were off.

7:03 a.m. – The professional women started three minutes (I think) after the men.

7:10 a.m. – MB’s wave started, so I snapped a few pictures.  I lost her in the crowd, but I think she took a starting position on the left.

7:23 a.m. – The first pro men finished the swim.  This is insane—they swam 1.2 miles in 23 minutes!  The pro women had an astonishing showing as well—the first swimmer finished in 24 minutes, and the other pro women posted times around 25-28 minutes. (There’s a generally accepted notion that the person who places first in the swim rarely/never wins the overall triathlon, and this hypothesis held true at the Syracuse 70.3:  Two male pros completed the swim in 23:10, but they placed fourth and sixth overall.  The female won finished the swim took second place overall.)

7:30 a.m. – Watched the rest of the waves begin.  During the starts, I stood near the lifeguard tower, manning the chip/swim cap station with a few other volunteers (in case an athlete lost their swim cap, misplaced their chip, etc.), which was about eight feet from the starting line.  As each wave inched to the corral, the group engulfed the lifeguard tower and volunteers, and we would be standing next to the athletes, which was pretty cool.  Let’s just say I especially enjoyed being surrounded by the 25-29 and 30-35 men’s waves—just a perk of being a volunteer!

7:40 a.m. – Headed over the wetsuit stripping area to lend a hand.  As each athlete completes the swim, most will start unzipping and taking off their wetsuit as they jog to the transition area; this multitasking—covering ground and transitioning—eliminates wasting precious time.  As a wetsuit stripper, I help up my hand and yelled  “Wetsuit peeler!” and “Wetsuit stripper!” to the athletes as they exited the water. (Holding a hand shows the athlete you’re available.) As the athlete approached, they would most likely have their wetsuit taken off to their waist, and it was my responsibility to get them to sit down and literally tear off the suit.  Needless to say, I couldn’t take any pictures, but here’s what a wetsuit peeling station looks like:

Something interesting about this process:  The majority of female triathletes sought out female wetsuit peelers, and most male competitors went to male peelers.  I was stationed next to a guy peeler, and nearly all the male athletes bypassed me and went to him.  Also, not all athletes took advantage of the peeler volunteers. (I can’t say if the pros used peelers because I was still watching the wave starts.) Those who did were extremely grateful—nearly everyone said thank you.

I saw MB come out of the water, and she was in the zone.  I was hanging out with the Fleet Feet group of volunteers, where MB works part-time, so nearly all of the volunteers knew her or knew of her, so as soon as she exited the water, our group’s coordinator took over:  “Here comes MB!  You two, peel her!  MB, we’ve got two peelers for you right here!”

8:40 a.m. – Got some rest, ate breakfast—I brought a Kashi granola bar from home and grabbed an apple and banana from the food vendor—and hung out by the volunteer tent.

9:30 a.m. – The first male pros finished biking, returned to the transition area, and set off on the 13.1-mile run.  Again, I still cannot believe the athleticism these guys possess—they biked 56 miles in basically two hours!  The first biker took 2:09 to cover the course, and he had a solid, three-minute lead on the second place athlete.  The top pro women took around 2:21-2:28, which is super impressive.  As to be expected, there was a gap between the pros and age groupers, and MB was with the first overall “wave” of women to finish the ride.  Our group cheered for her as she ran by and set off on the 13.1-mile run.  There were several CNY Triathlon members competing, and it was easy to pick them out (and cheer extra loudly!) because of their CNY Tri tops.

10:50 a.m. – Continued to camp out by the transition area and watched Joe Gambles, the first pro male, cross the finish line—in 3:53:51!

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Seeing his half-marathon splits is astounding; after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 miles, he ran 5:40 miles!  Canada’s Angela Naeth took first for the women, posting an overall time of 4:16:27.

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I still cannot wrap my head around her splits—6:21 miles!

12:00 p.m. – Headed over to the finish line to watch MB cross.  She wanted to break 5:20 (conservative for her), so I assumed my post at what would be 4:55 for her. (She started her swim at 7:10 a.m., so I adjusted the overall time accordingly.) I’m glad I headed there early—she came charging in at 5:03!

I found her in the athlete tent afterwards, and we talked and recapped the race for a bit—she thinks I can do the Syracuse 70.3 next year!  I’ve added a half-Ironman (Ironman 70.3)/the Syracuse 70.3 to my fitness bucket list!

Paying It Forward

Hey, hey!  Happy Saturday!  I have some exciting news to share, so let’s zip through my workout and eats!

Workout

Man, I sure missed Ron yesterday, so I was extra pumped to go to spin class this morning.  After 45 minutes on the bike, I was in “the zone”—thank you, endorphins!—so I headed into the weight room and completed about 20 minutes of upper-body work.

Breakfast

Say hello to an old favorite—the best breakfast ever.

However, this isn’t your typical overnight oats in a jar.  Last night, I prepared overnight oats in a bowl (no almost-empty PB pars yet) using FAGE Total 2% yogurt (with strawberry jam in the mix), 1/3 cup Quaker Oats, and 1/3 cup almond milk.  Before digging in, I added about two spoonfuls of chia seeds and banana slices.

Lunch

We’re getting into food desert territory.  Around 1:30 p.m., I searched the fridge for signs of food.

An open-faced sandwich:  Two leftover pork medallions and hummus on a slice of Ezekiel bread.

Syracuse Ironman 70.3

So far, my transition from runner to triathlete has been incredible.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have several individuals and groups help me over the bumps and face the learning curve head-on; all the components of the triathlon community I’ve enlisted—Fleet Feet, Syracuse Bicycle, the CNY Triathlon Club—have been simply amazing.  Embarking on this fitness goal has been extremely nerve-wrecking—and, at times, it still is!—but everyone has been helpful, encouraging, and supportive.  I feel truly grateful to have both these individuals and mini-communities at my fingertips, ready and willing to offer help, advice, or guidance.

Since I’ve gained invaluable knowledge and constant support from this triathloning community, I’ve decided it’s time to give back:  Tomorrow morning, I will be body marking triathletes for the Syracuse Ironman 70.3.

Not only will this be my first time volunteering at a triathlon, but it will also be the first true triathlon I attend.  This is the ultimate win-win opportunity:  I give back to the community and learn from the best-of-the-best triathletes.  Volunteering will also give me a true “behind-the-scenes” look into what happens on raceday.  And let’s face it—right now, I might not be able to complete the Syracuse 70.3 (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run), but simply being around these athletes will provide a burst of motivation and inspiration.

I have an extremely early wake up call tomorrow—volunteers must be on-site by 4 a.m., which means I need to get up at 3 a.m.—so my Saturday night will be spent sleeping.

Have you ever volunteered at the triathlon or other race?  What was your experience like?  Did you enjoy it?