Lessons from a Stranger

Have you ever met someone who instantly knew who you are as a person, and changed the way you think about life? A couple months ago I had the chance to spend 24 hours with a man who changed not only the way I think about triathlons, but about life.

As much as you  might find me complaining about being a bedside nurse, this profession has lead me to meet some incredible individuals. I had the opportunity to be Mr. X’s nurse, an incredibly talented athlete whom fascinated me. I’ve met other athletes and triathletes, have had coaches, etc., but have never learnt so much about myself, about racing and training in under twenty-four hours. Well, perhaps in the back of my mind I knew some of the things he told me, but I’ve never had anyone tell them to me to my face. He gave me tips, hints, and advice that I would end up using for the last three races of the season.

Numerous times, he suggested I read Golf is Not a Game of Perfect; he said it was a “game changer” and should be read by everyone– not only athletes.  I went to a local library and glanced at it. Sure enough, it was about golf. You probably have the same thought as I did when I first took a peek at the book: I am not a golfer. I do not know anything about golf. High handicapper? Have no idea what that means. The only thing I know about golf is that golf carts are fun to drive (hah). I decided to rent it because, what the heck, and realized that Mr. X was correct:the psychology in the book can be applied to other aspects of life and other sports.

So I thought I would share some things that I learned both from those twenty-four hours, and take away messages from the book.

  1.  I remember Mr. X stating, “You are an anxious racer, aren’t you?” after just twenty minutes talking to him. When he said that, I felt like he could see into my soul :-p Being an anxious racer was brought to my attention back in June in Tupper Lake when someone else mentioned it to me. Yes, I am an anxious racer. I stress over everything. I stress over the appearances of other people in the race (and compare myself to them). Stress leads to doubts about my abilities. A certain amount of excitement and adrenalin is good in a race. But when doubt replaces trust, you are screwed. A [triathlete] must train herself in physical technique and then learn to trust what she’s trained. You spend hours during the week training for the big day, and you have to learn to trust yourself and all the hard effort you have put into preparing for the event. I’ve found I doubt my training and capabilities, ultimately leading to feelings of anxiety.
  2. This leads to the next point from the book: People by and large become what they think about themselves and Confidence is crucial [to a good game]…Confidence is simply the aggregate of the thoughts you have about yourself. If you don’t think you can do well in a race, you won’t do well. You “psych yourself out.” If you think you can win, you can win. Go to a race with confidence. “Don’t stray to the back of the pack. Push yourself. When you get to the race, think, ‘I’m going to own this motherf-ing course, and no one can stop me.’ Believe in yourself and start at the front. You are there to dominate.'” A little intimidating? Maybe. But I’ve become one of those people who starts at the front of the pack.
  3. [Athletes] who realize their potential generally cultivate the three D’s– desire, determination and discipline; the three P’s– persistence, patience and practice; and the three C’s– confidence, concentration and composure. I found it incredibly interesting to hear about Mr. X’s training routine when he trained for 140.3 races and other triathlons. He had three workout sessions a day, 6 days a week. It was not just the number of hours he put into his training, but he went into training sessions with a focus. “What is your plan today? What is your focus? Every training session should have a focus– whether it is a speed session on the track, power work on the trainer, or drills in the pool. Never go into a session without a plan….Train like you race. If you aren’t seeing stars at the end of a swim workout, you did not swim hard enough.” When training for my first two 70.3 distance triathlons, as well as IMLP, I put the training in “to log in the hours.” I didn’t focus on speed in the pool. I didn’t focus on speed on the track. I did workouts without any thought to it. When I was injured and started training for Aquabikes last March, my mindset regarding training changed, and meeting Mr. X emphasized that new mindset: train like you race. If you don’t train like you race, how will you perform on race day? If you don’t practice your transitions, how will you do no race day? “Don’t be that person who will not ride in the heat or the cold. Train in the elements. Know what it is like to push hard in the humidity or in the hail. Know what your body will do. Practice changing tires. Sit in front of the TV and change them over and over and over again until you can change a flat in under 60 seconds. When you are out on the bike course, concentrate on the road. Know the course. Never go into a race not knowing what to expect.”
  4. A golfer cannot let the first few holes, shots, or putts determine his thinking for the rest of the round. Okay, so how does this relate to triathlons? Triathlons are more complicated than a running race or swim competition: there are more elements involved, meaning there are more opportunities for problems and potential obstacles. I can give you a perfect example with my most recent race: the swim start was one of my most horrible swim starts ever. It was windy and extremely choppy, and I was unprepared for the choppiness. I felt confident when I first started but then found myself swallowing gulp after gulp of lake water, choking and coughing. I hated the swim start. It was not going the “way I wanted”. I freaked out and had to swim breaststroke for the first couple hundred yards to help gain composure, which means I was not swimming as fast as I had hoped. I could have just given up on the race then, and a part of me thought, “F- this.” But, another thought crept in, “no, don’t let this bad swim start ruin the whole race.”  Instead of dwelling on the negative, I accepted that the swim was not what I planned, and continued with the race….Golfers must learn to love the challenge when they hit a ball into the rough, trees, or sand. The alternatives–anger, fear, whining…do no good.
  5. Attitude and self-talk can make or break an athlete. I would say that I am probably one of the greatest negative self-talkers of all time. Unfortunetly, thinking negatively about myself has become such a habit after all these years, to actually have positive self-talk is rare (sad, I know). This negative self-talk does a triathlete no good during race day. Imagine being at the start of a race and thinking, “you suck, you are not going to do well, why do you even do this?” Fortunately, on race day, I’ve actually been able to change my negative self-talk into some positive self “pep-talk”–and I think those positive thoughts have changed the person I am. [Athletes] with great attitudes constantly monitor their thinking and catch themselves as soon as it begins to falter. It would be so much easier for me to tell myself that I am a horrible triathlete, that I cannot place, that the other women look like “true, slim and strong athletes.” And in the past, those thoughts have crept up in my head, like at the beginning of Tupper Lake. Now, if I start to have those questioning thoughts, I try to change them and rephrase them. I am *just* as good of an athlete as those other women out there.
  6. Which leads me to another lesson: If a [triathlete] chooses to compete, he must choose to believe that he can win. Winners and losers in life are completely self-determined, but only the winners are willing to admit it. It is highly unlikely that you are going to win a race if you don’t believe that you can win it. If you believe in yourself, anything is possible.
  7. Another thing: fear. I learned that fear is completely normal in an athlete. Personally, I have a fear of failure and of another DNF in my life. That one DNF left such an imprint on my life that I fear it happening again. I know in reality there are possibilities of future DNFs that are outside my control. Heck, the professionals have DNFs and DNS’s, so why can’t us “common athletes” have them? But you need to overcome that fear and not let it consume you. Courage is a necessary quality in all champions. But an athlete cannot be courageous without first being afraid. 
  8. (Okay, so this does not come from the book, but after recent news, I thought it  to be an important subject to bring up). You are not a product of your coach. You are a product of your own hard work and dedication. What a coach does in his or her own personal life is not a reflection of the you; their values and their life decisions do not represent the person you are.  I used to think having a coach whose athletes pulled off podium results was the one to look for. It did not matter if they were expensive: if they were able to have athletes win, then why not pay the money for them to coach you? But I came to realize that my own growth and progress as a triathlete was not because of my coach. My growth was because of the dedication and hard work I put into my training…It was for the mornings I woke up early on my days off to go to the pool, when I really wanted to sleep in and be lazy. My growth was because I followed a plan, and attempted things that were outside my comfort zone. The one person who had the biggest impact in my “triathlon career” would have to be my swim coach. She is the one I spent the least amount of time around, and met late into my training for IMLP. She is first one to push me to test my limits during an actual race– and for that I will be forever thankful.
  9. Lastly, A person with great dreams can achieve great things. If you asked me last year at this time if I would compete in a championship race, I probably would have laughed in your face. I think there is a little section in each of us that wants to excel at something, whether it is athletic or non-athletic. But before you can excel, you need to have a dream. I admit my dream has been to qualify for something– even if it was not the Ironman World Championships. And you can’t let anyone else belittle that dream or criticize you for it. Emotionally, participating in aquabike races last season instead of triathlons  was difficult. More than once I heard people say, “She only did the aquabike– she did not do the whole race,” and hearing that was hard. It is like telling a sprinter who does 5K races that “he only did a 5k and not a half marathon.” My reasons for not competing in full triathlons races was beyond my control, and it was not by choice I cut out the run portion. I was overjoyed to find races that had aquabike options.  I decided to dedicate myself to the disciplines that I could still complete, when I could have simply given up on the sports all together. To hear people say I didn’t finish the whole race felt like someone was telling me all my training for the events was not true training. But you know what? I trained long and hard for those races I participated in, and even if I was not able to finish the run portion, doesn’t mean I did not try or work as hard as the others who were able to run. If I let those people impact how I did in events, I would never have qualified for a race. Don’t let anyone belittle your dreams. They are just jealous because they may not have dreams of their own.

Now go, rent that book and read it 🙂

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All quotes taken from Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, by Dr. Bob Rotella

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Looking Back on a Year of Tri Training

The other day, well actually yesterday to be more precise, I was lamenting the fact that I wanted to write a post but felt incredibly unmotivated to do so, even though I have quite a bit I would like to share with the world. My friends response, “You could just start writing it and not publish it yet, right?”

I did take his advice to heart, and decided to start writing…Twenty four hours later. And, in order for me to sit down and watch a football game (I cannot ignore the fact that Boston College is playing Notre Dame…Even if the TV is on mute because I cannot really stand the commentators–is it obvious I’m not a huge American Football fan?), I needed to do something. Hence why I’m writing now. (FYI, Boston College is not doing so well. And I don’t like the change in their uniforms since I last watched them play, which was over a year ago…I know, I’m a bad alumnus. Honestly, their football went downhill after Doug Flutey).

So, it’s been almost a year since I started training for my first “big triathlon”–or really, just a triathlon. And after recent runs/rides/swims, I cannot tell you the difference I feel from when I started. I’m not saying I was in bad shape before starting my training–I had just never followed a formal training plan, nor had a coach before guiding what I should be doing, and when I should be doing it. And to those of you who are just starting out training for something–whether it be a running race or biking race or triathlon or duathlon–when you first start out, how you feel you are doing may be discouraging because you can’t really see the progress you are making in the midst of training. But after you finish that race, or in my case, attempt to finish, and look back, your strength and growth as an athlete increases tremendously.

My favorite place to swim at dawn

Last October was the first time I had entered a pool in years. Swimming 100 yards felt like infinity. I choked on water, swam into the swimmer next to me. My form was horrible–I didn’t kick, my body sank as I swam, my arms crossed below my body with each stroke…I could go on and on about what I was doing wrong. Oh! And, I didn’t put my head under the water (which you need to do when swimming, just FYI if you don’t swim). When it was time to swim in a lake with fish–might I add, a cold lake–in a wetsuit–I was terrified. I won’t be redundant because I’ve written posts about my first experiences with OWS.

When I went to the pool last week, I felt like a completely different swimmer, and, truth be told, I am. Strokes come with ease–all of the “high elbow/head under water/kicking….” etc my coach told me–is there when I swim. 100 yards now is nothing, especially after spending the summer swimming in a lake , which as you know, I enjoy better than swimming in a pool. I no longer swim into other people, or swim into the wall, or feel like I’m drowning. Crazy! Although, I cannot say how I feel in a wetsuit, since the last time I was in one was Mooseman–which, I will dominate next year. Just you wait. I don’t give up that easily.

Off of Turkey Hill Road

As for biking, I cannot begin to tell you the change I’ve seen in my stamina and strength on a bike (road bike that is). And it’s an awesome feeling when you can see how much you have improved. The “time trial” I had before I started my training program last year I can do in half the amount of time  as it took me last year, if not more. And, it seems like nothing. All the dreaded hill work and hill repeats my coach had me do made a huge difference. I remember when I first rode up my “hilly route,”  I thought I was going to have a heart attack and die, or that my legs were going to turn into mush. Since then, those “hilly” routes have become standard rides  (i.e. all the “Hills” in my area, including Turkey Hill, Millan Hill, Academy Hill…My question of why there are so many hills in this area will be saved for another post), and yes, I can feel the burn, but they are no longer dreaded challenges that make my heart rate increase to above 200. Okay, my HR never went that high, but I felt like it did at the time. And, I’ve come to realize that slimming down/eating healthier does make a difference in your performance. But to feel the progress that has occurred in a year rocks (woohoo! Riding in 11 degree weather dressed like a crazy person last winter paid off!) Furthermore, after spending so much time on a bike, it’s funny when you actually drive past roads you’ve ridden on and think, “Dude, that’s the road I ride on!” Okay, so my navigational skills have not really improved over the past year and I still get lost easily, but I do know my way around country routes in Dutchess/ Columbia/ and Ulster Counties better than I would ever know if only driving. And, even though I always somewhat knew this, I’ve realized I love biking (I know, I know, you already know this after the number of bicycles I’ve purchased in the past year). Not only this, but I want to pursue bike racing come spring. Don’t worry though, I won’t be one of those anal, mean road racers. Maybe.

Along with the positive aspects of my training also comes many things I learnt–and continue to learn. I would not neccesarily call them mistakes, but rather things I did/did not do which definitely affected race performance–most of which I’ve addressed in prior posts. No one (person or athelete) is perfect. Some might think of that as a blessing, some might think of it as a flaw. I’ve chosen to think of it as a positive–and this not only applies to training but about life in general. Everyone can improve upon something; they can learn, and grow from experiences. How boring would life be if you knew everything, if you were perfect at every single thing you did? Yes, maybe life would be easier. But the growth you have throughout life is what makes it exciting. And, you never know what will happen tomorrow, which is one thing my job has taught me–never take anything for granted. Because it could be gone in an instant.

Well, Boston College still isn’t doing very well, which I blame on their uniforms. How can you beat a team like Notre Dame which has awesome gold-colored helmets? And, I’ll end this post by telling you that if you dedicate time, and work hard, and continue to train towards something even if you feel you aren’t progressing, as I mentioned above, in the end, you’ll succeed.

OH and, if you are in the Hudson Valley and need baked goods for a special occasion, contact Thea at Thea Sphere Sweets— not only is she amazingly sweet, but will bake custom cakes, cookies, cupcakes…You name it. To say her baking is simply food is an understatement. Her baking is an art.

It’s Summer, What Do I do?

It’s officially summer now, atleast I’m pretty sure. Those who go to grad school have a few months to detox from papers and exams. Those with children in school now have their arms full again with speeding gonzaleses running around their houses. Its time for family members to visit, friends to visit, vacations to be taken.

So, what can you do? These are some of the things I have planned on my list. Most cost little to no money, which is good for people who are on money diets like myself ( racing is expensive!).

1) Berry picking! I mentioned this in a post I wrote earlier in the fall, called Welcome Fall which went into details of where you can go to pick apples and pumpkins and what there is to do in the fall. There are loads of farms which will let you pick your own berries. On my ride the other day, I came upon Grieg Farm in Red Hook where you can pick your own strawberries through June, and then blueberries come out in July. Mmmm. I love strawberries and blue berries.

2)Drive in Movies. I’ve never been to a drive in move before, but there are great drive in movies all over the place. Go check out Driveinmovie.com and see what’s playing where. There’s one up in Hyde Park, up in Greene County near Coxsackie called Hi-Way  Drive-in Movie, and you just need to check out that site to see what is playing!

3) Fourth of July

There are numerous festivities that go on for the fourth of july. I remember back when we live in Lake George, we’d bundle up and head out into the boat and watch the fireworks above us. The Dutchess county fair grounds does something special for the fourth of july, with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic which can be found here.

4) Hike. When you hike on Catskill trails, it’s free. But there are places in the Gunks which have amazing trails. On the Mohonk Preserve, which you do need to pay either a daily fee or membership fee for, in June, they have what is called the blueberry patch, where wild blueberries grow. The Hudson Valley Magazine has some great hike ideas.

5) Go watch the Windham World Cup — It’s the UCI’s world cup for mountain biking. I know some people who have worked their asses off, spending hours on the mountain preparing for this event– Mountain Bikers from all over the world will be there. Quite an exciting event, especially so close to where we are!

4) Tubing. Town Tinker Tube located up in Phonecia has a 5mile stretch where you can rent a tube (or kayak) and float or kayak on the Esopus. This may be more of a pricy event, but still fun to do.

5) Waterfalls, lakes, swimming holes– are all over in Greene county. And, some in Ulster county as well. (I haven’t heard of any in Dutchess county–if you know of any, let me know!) In this humidity and heat, there’s nothing better than to cool off in natural water–outside with nature surrounding you, instead of being in a pool outside (haha, this person who used to freak out by being in outdoor water can now no longer stand pools). Swimming holes tell you where there are in your area. If you are a distance swimmer and pass a swimming test, you can swim in Lake Minnewaska! There are also small parks that have little lakes with lifeguards if you have smaller children or prefer to have a lifeguard while you swim, such as Wilcox Park in D.Co, Ulster Landing Park over in Ulster County right on the Hudson (although, I’m not sure who would want to swim in the hudson….), Lake Taghkanic State Park is a state park located in the southern part of Columbia County which has swimming and also waterfalls!, Freedom Park, in the town of LaGrange, also has swimming area. I know some of these because they are the locations of triathlon and duathlons.

6) Race season! If you are into duathlons or triathlons, there are loads of races throughout the summer.Great little events. If you are a more experienced triathlete, they have a lot of half IM’s throughout the state, however those can get pricy. The smaller, local races aren’t too bad.

7) Cheer on the cyclists from the Tour of the Catskills and support the riders as they come up Devil’s Kitchen. ‘

8) County and State fairs. If you enjoy paying to look at animals and proud owners of mini dogs going to catch disks, and inhale the smell of overpriced, greasy food, go for it! (I grew up in the country and had my share of smelling farm animals, so county/state fairs aren’t my ideal events to attend). But, the Dutchess County Fair has really neat old farm equipment.

These are just a few of activities geared towards the more athletic person (sorry, it’s just who I am). But there are a lot of exciting events going on this summer!

I wish you all a wonderful and safe, fun summer! Don’t forget to keep hydrated and sunscreen at hand!

You Don’t Give Up, Do You?

It’s been, actually, a week and a half after my first attempt at a triathlon. It took awhile for me to actually accept the fact I was unable to finish the race. And whenever anyone mentioned it, I think tears would suddenly, involuntarily, make their way to my eyes. But, I’m now feeling back to my old self for the first time in a while–and, the skin on my back is finally healing from the horrible sunburn I got  at Mooseman. I guess I’ll never really forget my first attempt, since I have the numbers “171” on each of my upper biceps (the numbers shielded my skin from the sun, so they are a couple of shades lighter than the rest of my arms.) Biggest lesson learned from that race, was to wear sun screen. I’m so glad I am in a profession where I can go up to a colleague and say, “Can you put lotion on my back for me? It’s killing me.” (My first night back before the blistering started, my colleague exclaimed, “Holy sh-t Molly, what did you do to your back?”) Yeah. It was bad.

Since returning from NH and the race, I’m back into training for the smaller tri’s and duathlons that will be happening this summer. I thought about giving up on the whole triathlon gig, but then thought, why? I’m not someone who gives up, and I’m not going to start giving up now. I have my whole life to train for a HIM or IM. And, maybe, when I work day shifts and a more normal schedule, it might be slightly easier to train for those races, too.

I’ve actually developed a certain enjoyment out of open water swimming, which is weird, because it used to be an insane fear of mine. Okay, the lake I swim in is small and nothing near Newfound Lake, or any other large lake that can create waves. But, a month ago, I would not even attempt to stick my head under the water with my coach. Now, I go there, and just swim. And, swimming in a lake is so much different from swimming in a pool–you don’t have to switch directions every 25 yards. You can just swim. And, I actually like that. Mind you, I’m swimming alone and not in a mass of other triathletes with the splashing and kicking etc. There’s something peaceful about swimming in Lake Onteora. And, yes, technically, I should be swimming with someone else because the likelihood of someone attempting to jump in to save my life is very slim. But I don’t mind the murkiness now or inability to see what is below me. And, it’s peaceful when it’s just you in the water…With flies buzzing around your head.

View from my ride

Yesterday morning when I went for a swim after a bike ride, walking down to the water I passed a rather large black snake and then thought, “Hmm, I wonder if there are any water snakes in this lake.” The thought creeped me out slightly, but I still went in to swim. (I guess that is a positive of pools: you have no fish biting your toes, no potential water snakes, you can see what is under the water, and if you accidentally take a gulp, the water is chlorinated and not filled with millions of lake microorganisms and fish poop). It’s kind of weird, actually. A year ago I swore I’d never swim. And now, I look forward to swimming outside in open water.

I must admit, with my schedule, it’s hard training for things. And with the temperature on the rise, it might be more difficult to train when I want to–I guess I could go back to running at 0200?!? But work seems to leave me drained. For the second time in who knows when, Monday after working two crazy nights I slept on-and-off all day. Which, for those who know me, is extremely rare because it’s a known fact that I don’t sleep. I even slept through the night, which was even crazier. Yes, this girl who does not think running in the middle of the night is crazy, does find it insane when she is able to sleep through the night.

Anyway, this morning was the first time I’ve been on my road bike (minus the short 45min ride yesterday) since the race. And I forgot how amazing a ride can be, even if I’ve done it dozens of times before. Not only that, but to be able to see how the environment has changed seasons in my short sabbatical from riding. I learnt that I need to put suntan lotion on my arms and face, but now need to remember to put some above my knees as there’s an even more distinct bicycle shorts tan line on my thighs. Oops.

Now, after I’ve had my delicious iced coffee and applied more-than-enough aloe/cucumber/camomile lotion to my healing back, I’m off to Jockey Hill to spend time with the other love of my life, my Contessa Spark.

And to get into the mountain biking mood, I leave you with some Slackstring.

Was that a fish?

Lake Onteora

After who knows how many times I cancelled my open water swims due to work or fevers, today I finally had my experience swimming in a lake….Seven days before my race. Not too late at all, right? Don’t misunderstand me–I spent every summer of my youth at Lake George, so I’ve had plenty of fooling around and water play. Never, though, have I actually swam in a lake for swimmings sake (remember, up until November I swore I’d never swim). I was meant to do this last week, but the “mysterious disease” I’ve been suffering with for the past month would not allow it.

Today, at eleven o’clock, I met my coach once and for all at Onteora Lake which for people who are unfamiliar with the area, is somewhat close to the Ashokan Resevoir. Actually, if you are unfamiliar with the area, you have no idea what the Ashokan Resevoir is, so never mind. That comment was meant for people who do live in the area. I’m pretty sure there is a fair amount of mountain biking around the lake which I’ll need to check out once this dreaded race is over.

Here’s how my experience went:

I met my coach, who met me bright and early at a picnic table that is located next to the waters edge, carrying in her arms body glide, neoprene caps, a flotation device, and my wetsuit.

“You look tired, are you feeling okay?” Were her first words. I guess it’s obvious to nearly everyone I meet nowadays that I look like crap.

“Meh, not really, but I need to get into the Lake at somepoint before the race.”

My coach herself is doing a pretty popular, tough triathlon next weekend (and mountain bike race on Sunday—I want to be her) so she was going to watch me and not enter the water. After discussing my new baby and life, she went through the motions of putting on a wetsuit. I’ve only ever put a wetsuit on once before in my life and if you’ve never been in one before, it’s very…ehh… different. It took me about eight minutes to actually get into, even with the tri-spray D. used on the inside and body glide. The tri spray helps lubricate the inside of the suit, which makes it easier to take off. The body glide is for your wrists, neck, and ankles to help prevent chaffing.

“You have to inch your way with each leg, then the arms. At the race, you make lots of friends and will need to have someone zip you up. You are going to feel like you cannot breath at first in this, so that is a normal feeling,” D. said as she zipped the back of the suit up for me. There is a sequence that needs to be followed as to how you get into this suit. Holy crap, this is tight, and I cannot breathe at all!

Once the suit was on, I sat on the bench and put on my booties. Now, for race day, you need to remember in what order you put things on–if you put the booties on first and then the wetsuit, in transition, you need to remember to take the suit of first and then the booties. Apparently, Mooseman has people who help strip the wetsuits off you.

However, if you are doing a triathlon and the water is not 56 degrees, then you don’t even need to worry about wetsuits and hypothermia. I really have no idea why I chose to do a triathlon in New Hamphire at the beginning of the summer when the water temperature is in the 50’s. You know what, I really don’t know why I signed up for a half ironman distance triathlon either. I would strongly advise if you are going to try a triathlon, have your first one be (1) in warm weather so you don’t need to worry about a wetsuit and the feelings of claustraphobia associated with being in a suit that makes you have a better appreciation for batman and catwoman and any other superhero in skintight clothes and (2) don’t do a half IM distance one. Please. Listen to me. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever stop making silly mistakes, like signing up for insane races. Parts of me thinks I’ll have a normal thought process after this. And then there is a small part of me that will never learn. I’ll let you know how it goes in 20 years, if I survive Mooseman.

Back to wetsuit application. Once the booties were on,two caps and goggles, I followed D to the water where I continued to listen to her directions and try not to freak out because I felt like I could not breathe.

“Tie this around your ankle. Just incase,” She handed me the flotation noodle thing. Thank goodness she is prepared for if I possibly drown. The water was not too cold, and the fact I was sweating profusely in the skintight thick wetsuit helped me deal with the water temperature. As I tied the noodle to my ankle, I felt something nibble at my fingers.

“Ahh! I think a fish bit me!” I extracted my hand from the water.

“Ohh no! I should have warned you about the fish,” D. said.

My heart rate tripled. Not only was I going to drown, I was fish bait too.  No wonder I waited so long to enter this non-chlorinated water.

At first, I swam to the middle of the lake and back to my coach, mimicking how we would start the race. Then, my coach had me swim out for 5 minutes and then back to her, just enough to get used to swimming outside.

I started swimming when I heard my coach yell to me, “Molly, put your head under the water.”

I’m not sure it was because I’ve been sick and was afraid I would not be able to breathe under the water, the fact I could not expand my lungs enough to breathe in the wetsuit, my fear of what I would see in the murky darkness that loomed underneath me, or a combination of everything that stopped me from putting my head under the surface.

My wetsuit gear and tri suit

“Okayyyyy” I yelled back at her as I continued to keep my head above the water.

After another couple strokes I finally put my head in the water and began to swim normally. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, breathe. Stroke, look ahead and breathe. It took awhile to get used to the swimming rhythm, and despite the limited movement I had in my arms from the wetsuit (you are somewhat constricted in how you move your body in something really tight), I got back into my rhythm quicker than I thought. Mind you, I have not swam in a couple weeks due to the mystery illness, so it’s what I remember of my rhythm. It helped that the water was murky and I could not see too far ahead of me. When I almost reached the lake’s edge, I heard my coach yelling for me to come back. That’s when I turned around and realized that the breeze was facing me. I usually like breezes, but not when they cause currents in the water which you need to swim against, especially the first time you’ve ever swam in open water. That’s one nice thing about pool swimming–you don’t need to swim against currents. I was pretty sure seeing little waves coming towards me that I would never make it back, get really tired, and drown. But, eventually, I made it back to my coach.

“How was it?”

“Different,” I panted, out of breath.

“Okay, let’s go through what you’ll do at transition.”

I jogged back to the picnic table as I unzipped the back of the suit. Finally, expanded oxygenated lungs! The tri-glide and whatever other body lubricant I used for the inside of the wetsuit helped it slide off my body with more ease than attempting to get each of my large feet into it. My coach and I then continued to talk about transitioning and triathlons until it was time to leave.

I bundled up my two caps, wetsuit, booties and caps and balled them up on a towel in the back of my car.

“So this is it, Moll, you’re big race is in a week! Try to get a couple more OWSs in if you can, it would be best if you did not swim alone (uhh ohh, me having to wait for someone in order to do something?Not sure if that will be happening) and good luck! You’ll do awesome.” My coach stated as she got in her car.

To be honest, I could not be more anxious/scared/nervous about a race than I do now. My training these past couple weeks, as I’ve mentioned in a prior post, has been slacking do to exhaustion from working 12-15hr nights, lack of sleep, and sickness which I seem to be unable to get rid of. This race is freaking me out. Not necessarily the bike and run portions–I know I am capable of running and riding those distances. It’s the swim which terrifies me. Hopefully I’ll be able to breathe through my nose at somepoint before the race. I will keep you posted mid-week about further triathlon plans.

After a much needed nap, the grill was started up by X (yes, I have a grill and do not know how to use it. I do, however, know how to re-start a stopped heart if that makes you feel any better?) and we had a fabulous picnic feast outside in the humidity and heat.courtesy of Ironman events

So, Mooseman, after debating on whether or not I would actually go ahead and face you, it’s hard for me to give up. So, I’ll be seeing NH in a week!

I had this song in my head on the way to the water. It’s actually good for tempo keeping on a bike too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Can

“So, what will you do when it’s over?”

“It’s never over. That’s the awesome thing. There will always be something I can do.”

“But, why?”

“Because…I can.”

Over these past couple months, I’ve dedicated my life outside of work to training. There have been setbacks–illness, weather, work commitments. Training is tough. Anyone who has trained for any type of race–either  running, swimming, biking (or all three), knows that it is hard. It takes mental and physical strength to push yourself further than you think you can handle–to move each leg, one foot in front of the other, on a run after you’ve put in miles on a bike and your legs feel like jelly. It takes patience with yourself–to continue that bilateral breathing and practicing those strokes, even after frustration kicks in. It takes commitment, to spending those hours in the saddle. It takes…Determination to do hill work in downpour. It takes admitting your flaws, and dissecting them, so you can improve what is incorrect. Most of all, it takes…Time.

Training for triathlons and duathlons has become my life. It’s become a passion. I’m excited when I meet someone else who is training for a tri–whatever distance it is. “Which races have you done? Woahh!” Seems to be my reaction to any race completed by a triathlete I’ve met. Start talking about Scott’s Plasma 3 bike (which almost became a future member of my household today–save the fact I no longer allow myself to bring my wallet into bicycle shops with me), and you have my full attention. Food is now fuel for my workouts. Everything I put into my body has the potential to affect how I perform in races this season.

Yes, there are days when I’m exhausted and mustering up the energy to do an endurance swim workout is painful. But, after those first fifteen minutes in the water, from somewhere, you find this energy–this, renewed sense of self. You think, “Holy shit, I think I can do this.”

And, yes, to be honest, I’m scared of this race, mostly though, the swim portion of it. And, especially after I meet triathlete’s who say, “that’s a tough race. And the water is cold…Like, 58 degrees cold.”

Yet, this girl who would never be caught dead in the water five months ago, can now sense when her strokes are correct and breathing is efficient. Today, she tried on a wetsuit for the first time in her life.

My colleague was spot on the other night when he said, “There is no ‘I can’t’ in Molly’s vocabulary.” What he forgot to say was, “There’s no ‘I can’t’ in yours, either.”

Just try. Odds are, you’ll be able to do what you thought was impossible. If there is one thing I’ve learnt from this journey I’ve started, it’s this: nothing can stop human will when it wants something badly enough.

“Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.”- Unknown


The Sound of Sunshine

It’s suprising to  write two posts in less than a 48 hour span of time, but I just came back from a swimming lesson with my coach and heard The Sound of Sunshine playing on the radio, which has a couple lyrics about learning to swim, and was inspired to write a post on swimming (my thought process is odd). The swim lesson was good. I continue to learn so much about swimming and how important it is in a triathlon race.

In all honesty, I have a love/hate relationship with swimming. In fact, I think I tend to err on the bipolar side whenever anyone asks how swimming is going.

“Oh, it’s great–best activity and sport out there! Works every muscle in your body, I feel fantastic after a workout.”

Or, quite possibly less than two hours later, my response could be:

“F—ing stupid sport in water, whoever invented it should be PUNISHED. It’s stupid and I hate it! Who works out in WATER?”

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve tried to meet up with my coach atleast once a week for a swim lesson. Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I have swimming lessons and am in my 20’s.Had I continued with the swim team/spending time in a pool after the age of 13, I wouldn’t have needed the lessons. Then again, pool swimming and triathlon swimming are quite different. Main difference is that triathlons are usually in open water, and the water is not chlorinated. Right now, my sessions in the pool on my own are still composed of doing drills, and then some are just LSD (long slow distance) swims. I have no plans on ever becoming a member of another swim team again in my life, but do plan on continuing to do triathlons in the future (if, that is, I don’t die doing Mooseman, which is a possibility).

What are the drills?
  • The one arm drill: where you have your left arm extended underwater and then just stroke with your right arm, making sure you have a high elbow and enter with your arm above the head  doing that for a hundred or so yards, and then switch arms.
  • Catch up: where both arms are still below the water, but when you go to stroke with your right arm you reach past the left arm under the water, and then when you stroke with your left arm, you reach past the right hand. There is a lot of extension involved–extending the stroking arm past the other arm.
  • Swimming using Finis Forearm Fulcrum Paddles which helps your arm entry form ( whenever I use them feel like I am drowning) and hand paddles (which show you if you are bending your hand or not in water–you feel resistance if you are doing it wrong–I was always meeting resistance).

Swimming is simply hard. Trying to remember to pretend I’m diving into a barrel but keeping my elbows up our of the water (who does that?) then having my fingers impact the water first–and fingers snug against each other. Using my abdominal muscles to keep my butt up so that my legs don’t sink when I take a breath (she notices these things). Whenever I go to take a breath, one goggle should be in the water, and I need to look back behind towards my armpit while breathing and doing the stroke. Remembering to keep my legs together, and kick from my heels, not my knees. It not only takes being in good shape to be a swimmer, but being mentally capable of remembering all these things whilst doing them that gets to me.

My coach likes to end sessions on a good note, and as time was running out, i just swam fifty yards, which, she said, was perfect. “It looked like you were just swimming, not thinking about everything I was having you do, like your brain turned off, and, you just swam.”

Yay!

Here, More Amusing Videos for Triathletes

Some funny running/swimming/cycling videos.

It’s like watching myself in the pool…

Clip on, clip off…

No no, grab me a Latte…


It Clicked

It’s amazing how I continue to despise certain workouts, including trainer time, and pool time. Looking at my weekly schedule and seeing that on Tuesday and Thursday I need to be in the water, on Wednesday I have interval training, does not excite me. The cold weather does not help, nor knowing that there is possible snow in the forecast, when you have a long run or ride scheduled.

Yesterday, I found myself at Bard when they opened at 0730, wanting to get my swim workout over with as soon as possible. I’ve played around with going to the pool at different times during the day (on my days off), to see if that affects how the workout goes. It’s amazing how busy the small University pool is during “Lap Time.” I’ve come to recognize when certain people go to swim, who the recreational swimmers are, and even which swimmers are triathletes (which, I’m pretty sure the tri shorts gives away).

I began with drills my coach told me to work on after our session last week when she butchered my swim skills (it was okay though- I told her to find everything wrong and tell me, and that she did). One arm “side swims,” one arm strokes. I was so focused on bent elbows and reaching infront of me as far as I could, not inhaling through my nose while my face was under water, and breathing when turning my head to the right. I prefer to only breath to my left, which is something my coach picked up on right away when she saw me swimming. “Your head is too far above the water…Turn to the side…When you breathe, you cross your arm under your torso…Use your obliques…Remember to reach, like climbing…” It’s hard to focus on so many different aspects of swimming at once.

I’m not sure if it was the fact I had not slept in almost 24 hours, pure exhaustion, or an insane amount of caffeine that I recently consumed, but something changed on my date with chlorine. I was on my second set of freestyle. Suddenly, something clicked. The non-stop racing thoughts ceased. My breathing was at ease. I could feel myself gliding through the water, weightless, almost effortless. For the first time, swimming felt…Natural.

At the end of the set and once my cool down was complete, I stopped my timer and could feel myself smiling as I looked across the pool. Success. Dare I compare the feeling I had to a “runners high” after completing an unusually fulfilling run?

I am actually excited for the next time I can enter the water.

Observations by a Land Mammal Turned Amphibian

Yes, this land mammal is returning to her water roots, and finding amphibian life more complicated and difficult than she remembered. It seems like just yesterday I was starting my swim career at Pax River’s swimming pool. Boy, how times have changed.

Nowadays, between 3:30 and 4:30pm, you will likely find me spending time trying to grow gills at the pool. I was hoping my recent dates with chlorine would show some improvement in my swimming skills by now, but, I still seem to dread pool time, and continue to feel a need to gasp for air with every stroke and after each maneuver in the water. My attempts at flip turns are useless, and yet fifteen years ago, I could do them with my eyes closed.

I was discussing my swimming frustrations with my coach today who stated matter of factly, “You can’t be so hard on yourself, you just started swimming again.”

Dorothy was right, I can’t expect to be Nathalie Coughlin after a few sessions at Bard after a thirteen year swim hiatus. The only thing is, you cannot tell a perfectionist like myself perfection is hard to reach. “You have to give it time.”

Man, I really hate it when people tell me to “give it time,” even though I myself am guilty of telling others to do the same. Will I really be able to swim 1.4 miles by June without having a cardiac arrest?

I suppose “time” will tell.

Some observations I’ve noticed about swimming thus far:

1. Goggle marks around your eyes, and cap marks on your forehead, are not very sexy. Nor is wearing your swimsuit inside out, for that matter.

2. The black line at the bottom of the pool does not extend all the way up the sides of the pool.

3. Swimming hurts your thighs just as much as hill work on a bike. Try swimming 800 yards with a kick board.

4. I have not felt upper body fatigue like after a swim workout since my rock climbing days.

5. I’m hungrier after a 45 minute swim session than two hour bike ride, and have weird cravings for Ritz crackers after my time in the water.

Non-swimming related observations:

1. Brick workouts are painful, but an important part of multisport race training programs. They remind me of a quote about running: “running is like mouthwash, if you can feel the burn, it’s working.” Need inspirational/motivational quotes?Just ask.

2. Tears freeze to your cheeks when riding in cold weather. So do the other liquids that might come from your face, like your nose. Note: checking your reflection before going into a store after a ride in cold weather is strongly advised by yours truly.

3. I could easily own a European club with all the dance/techno/trance music on my workout playlists.

4. If compression socks are God’s gift to the recovering calves, then imagine what compression pants and shirt are to the body.

Miscellaneous Music Notes

Great tune for getting you out the door

JBT, bringing back memories of mishaps with Australian friends, is good for sprinting

And for a steady incline

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