Rev 3 Triathlon Quassy Race Report

I’m going to start off by saying I haven’t been on a team since college when I was on, you guessed it (or maybe you didn’t), the varsity Fencing team.

I know. I am allowed to say it is the geekiest sport because I was on the team.

Truth be told, I never thought I would ever be a part of another team after that. I guess I didn’t realize that there were teams out there that you could be on, other than your local soccer club that got together during the week to play.

So being a part of the Rev 3 Triahtlon team was something that I never expected myself to be involved with. Not only that, I never pictured myself being “good enough” to be on a team. Through my limited number of years racing triathlons, I’ve always gawked at those super slim, strong triathletes who had team kits and special aero helmets and bikes, never imagining that I could be on a triathlon team the way they were.

Well, I guess you surprise yourself sometimes.

Being unable to make it to meet my fellow teammates back in January meant Quassy was the first time I would be meeting many of them. Although, through social media, I feel like I’ve known many of them for years. My weekend in Middlebury was not just about racing; it was about spending time with those familiar faces I’ve come to “know,” and it was about volunteering with an organization that gave me the opportunity to partake in triathlons back after times when I didn’t think I’d ever be able to race again.

Rev 3’s Quassy Olympic Aquabike was the first “aquabike” I raced last year after finding out about my running career, after only really taking part in triathlons for two years. It was emotional– not only because I realized I could still do what I love and what has become such a large part of my life, but because I realized I could be just as good as those other slim/strong/ incredible triathletes out there on the course with me.

Returning to do the same race this year was meaningful in the same way. It was even more meaningful being part of a team of triathletes who welcomed strangers with open arms. The team is composed of athletes from all different backgrounds and from all over. I know I’ve mentioned it before, that racing is a whole heck of a lot more fun when you do it with others. And after meeting my teammates, I know it is the truth. From the good luck hugs to the pre-race dinner, I am so thankful for the opportunity to spend time with these incredible athletes.

Day #1: Olympic Aquabike

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Being the first race of the season, I did not really have many goals for myself in regards to the Olympic distance aquabike. Who am I kidding. I wanted to be on that podium again ūüėõ I didn’t think it would happen, however, since it was colder than I expected and my goggles broke after two strokes during the warm up. When I realized my goggles broke within two minutes being in the water, I felt my heart drop and thought I was doomed for the swim. But I made do with what I had. A part of me just wanted to stay at the back of my swim wave because I didn’t know what would happen with my goggles. Then, I heard my swim coach from last year, telling me to trust myself and have confidence in my swimming. So after we passed through the starting arch balloon, I made my way towards the front. Yes, the same fears of being swum over, kicked and punched were in my head, but if I could just sprint for the first couple hundred yards to get away from people, then all would be well.

I’m glad to say that no one swam over me, punched me, or kicked me! I didn’t have any swim goals, other than to finish in a shorter amount of time than I completed the swim last summer. Since my semi-fancy watch does not track open water swims, the swim portion of my triathlons is always a bit of a surprise and I never really know how I do.

I think it well, considering I didn’t think I would even be starting it. I didn’t push myself and just got into that rythmic counting that I tend to do during the swim portion of races.

Like most races, I feel my transition time could be cut by practicing how to take my wetsuit off.

As for the bike, the short 26 mile ride is probably my favorite part of the race: with its rolling hills and ability to make you work hard while on the bike. The most memorable part of the bike was passing a teammate dressed as T-Rex encouraging people towards the end of the bike portion. [He also went on to run the half marathon course the next day dressed as this T-Rex].

It was fun entering back into transition, since it was one of the first times I’ve had people who “knew” who I was when racing. With this Aquabike race, my time ended once I entered back into transition. You have the option to jog down the finishers shoot, or simply finish your race in transition. Personally, a large part of the race is going through to the finish, so I took my time to put on my sneakers and take off my bike gear. As I made an effort to jog down towards the finish, I noticed a teammate yelling at me: “Go Molly! Run! Come on! Run!” As I made my way closer I stopped and exclaimed, “But I did the Aquabike; I am finished!!” The moment I said that, he laughed, “I was wondering why you were taking your time in transition! I thought, “What is that girl doing?? Why isn’t she hurrying up?””

Alas, another point of confusion occurred when I made my way down the finishers shoot and saw the “finishers tape” (is that even what it is called? I’ve never had to deal with this before) being held across the finish line. When I saw it, I had a little bit of an internal “freak out” session. As I made my way towards it, I stopped to the announcer and said, “But i am not the first female– I only did the aquabike– I didn’t do the triathlon.”

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Making sure the announcer knew I was just Aquabike

“It’s okay– you are the first female aquabiker, go ahead!”

So, despite my hesitation to go towards a finish with a “finishers tape” (and the fact I had no idea what you do when you cross a finish line and have “tape” front of you— or is it called a banner” I have no idea; I’ve never had this dilemma), I crossed with the realization that I actually was able win the women’s aquabike.

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My goal of beating last years time was met by one minute. (Which is nothing in triathlon time).

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After I finished the race, I met some other racers and volunteered at the packet pick-up. I must admit, it was pretty fun meeting people who were going to be doing the 70.3 race the next day. Only a couple people looked at me like I was crazy with my enthusiasm about the course. (Hah!)

Later in the evening, after indulging in the most delicious brownie I have ever had (hey I raced, I can eat what I want), I was lucky to have the chance to meet up with teammates for dinner and get to know some of them. I was able to have my “pre race meal” consisting of a veggie burger and fries. Other than spending time with my teammates, I will never forget being asked, for the first time as long as I’ve been a vegetarian (which is basically my whole life) how I wanted my veggie burger cooked. I’m pretty sure my mouth just dropped when I was asked that question, and I had no idea how to answer it.

“Umm, how you usually cook them? So they aren’t cold?”

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Seriously. Will never forget that question. From now on, when I order a veggie burger, I am going to specifically ask for it to be prepared in a certain way. I don’t know which way yet, but I am sure when I order, my preference will come to mind.

Day #2: Relay (my job: 56 mile ride)

I woke up bright and early at 3:50 after having an amazing sleep in a fancy hotel room…I cannot forget the drunk person who decided, at some point during the night, that it was appropriate to yell/ sing “Nants ingonyama…..” (There was a female with him, which I am assuming was his embarassed significant other, saying “Shhh! Shhhh!” Like a true idiot boyfriend, he was not listening to her wishes and continued his tribute to the Lion King.

Just listen to the first twelve seconds, and that is what I woke up to.

The second day of my Quassy trip was taking part in a relay with a couple teammates: Brian was swimming, I was cycling, and the runner was Zach. During the swim, I made friends with some other relay cyclists who were friendly enough to lend me some sunscreen. ¬†Truth be told, I was a bit hesitant to do the cycling portion waking up that morning. After doing a race the day before, my legs were tired.There aren’t a whole lot of flat portions on the bike course. But, I was considering this more of a trial run with nutrition more than anything.

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Brian finished the swim in an insanely fast time (26 minutes for a 1.2 mile swim?! That, to me, is flying in the water! Anything faster than 35minutes for that distance is crazy!).

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We exchanged the timing chip and I was off on a beautiful ride through the rolling countryside of Connecticut.

Despite constantly trying to tell my legs to stop hurting, the ride wasn’t as bad as I thought. Riding it on fresh legs would have been nicer, but I had a great day the day before and I was able to get my nutrition down pat for the 56 miles, especially a hilly 56 miles. Like my ride the day before, it wasn’t as fast as I was hoping, but I guess I can’t be too hard since I did race the day before. And, I was 15 min faster than in 2015 when I originally did the race.

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When I got back to transition, I exchanged the chip with our runner, Zach, and mingled around the finish line. Unlike other local Tri’s who only give you a half of a bagel and banana at the end of the race, they actually give you a BBQ (with veggie burgers which are cooked so they are no longer frozen). I tried out Normotecs for the very first time, and let me tell you, if I had a couple $$$ laying around that wasn’t going towards school, I probably would invest in some. Those things feel ahmazing.

Our runner, Zach, came in and finished the hilly half-marathon portion. Seriously, if you want a challenging 70.3 course, this is the race for you!Screen Shot 2017-06-14 at 5.40.55 PM.png

Unfortunately, I had to head back home shortly after.

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Relay team in height order

It was such an incredible weekend, and I am thankful for getting the chance to meet so many amazing triathletes.

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Thank you, as always, Revolution 3 Triathlon, for putting on an amazing race weekend. Next time, I want Maisie to cross the finish line with me!*

Thank you to my fellow teammates for the laughs!

And, thank you, Kevin, for supporting me with an activity that I love so much.

*If you have a dog, they let you cross the finish with him/her, and they have little medals for the dogs!!! TOO freaking cute.

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 ūüôā

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

Toughman Tupper Lake Race Recap

Prelude

SO I know I stink at writing posts nowadays…But my life might seem boring to others as it is basically work/ school/ school work/ swimming/biking/ repeat.

Since I have a paper due, I figured now was the best time to write a race report ūüėõ

Sometime during this past winter,¬†¬†I decided to sign up for Toughman Tinman Aquabike, which¬†was a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike ride. Basically, a 70.3 distance, minus the run. Perfect for those who are unable to run. Since March, I’ve¬†put my share of swimming and cycling in– and have¬†focused more on my training than I ever have in the past (to include IMLP). This race was going to be a fun one: one where a bunch of other women from the Hudson Valley would be “tri-ing” out their first triathlon race!A fellow Hudson Valley-er (and terrific mother/athlete) helped organize some swim lessons with Jane¬†who helped me with my swim last year. They did Monday night swim workouts together, to prepare for this race!

(My apologies ahead of time for going on and on during this post!)

Race-Recap: They say sometimes you have good races, and sometimes you have bad ones. 

Friday I drove up to L.L’s¬†amazing camp in Long Lake, where she opened up her doors to us ladies doing the race Saturday morning. We went to packet pick-up and tried out the water where the race would be. (Oh, and side note: the race is not actually in Tupper Lake. It is in Raquette Pond!).¬†Dinner was low-key and relaxing– it reminded me of summers growing up on Lake George. I loved everything about it. When I grow up I want a lake house in the Adirondacks.

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The 30 year olds are ready to race!

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The first of many selfies!

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Just a couple of nurses contemplating life and the race course…Photo courtesy of K. T.

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Pre-race healthy carb loading dinner! Yes, we wore PJ’s at 5:30 PM

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Good night, Long Lake.

Saturday morning we woke up and had breakfast/ coffee, and headed to Tupper lake for the race. I had my english muffins with PB and a local honey blend (which is my new favorite breakfast, thanks to Devon!).

Driving up, I listened to music and thought about how fun the race would be. I was not prepared to go out super hard, because I had not been feeling well the week before. It was all about fun– riding and swimming in the Adironacks!

(Toughman Tupper Lake is a relatively small, local race, but really great value for the entry fee!)

I knew that the Aquabike (AB) field was fairly small, but as I racked my bike and prepared my transition area, I could not help but notice the other women who were doing the AB with me. They were fit, slim, toned, had (more) expensive bikes, aero helmets, and donned fancy team tri-kits.

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Transition

I could feel my heart drop into my stomach.

Holy crap. Look at them. They are hardcore triathletes. I’ll never be able to keep up with them.¬†

I put on my wetsuit and took a dip in the water to get acclimated, trying to stay positive and not worry about doing well, but just having fun. I found the other Hudson Valley women and wished them luck on their first triathlon. Then I found my swim coach Jane and fellow RN/ Ironwoman-to-be, D.J.

“Did you see the women doing the aquabike? They are so fit!I have nothing against them.” I remember exclaiming.

“Nahh, don’t judge a book by its cover.” Jane said. “Man, Molly, you are really an anxious racer!”

Uhhh, duhh.

We waited for our waves to start.The swim start to the race is so low- key and relaxed– you can wait with family/friends right until you enter the water.

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These triathlon newbies about to DOMINATE!

I was not sure how my swim would be, but I was hoping for under 39 minutes, which is what I was able to swim one lap of the IMLP course last year. Jane kept saying, “I think you can swim a 35– try for a 35.”

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Staying calm before the start…

“Yeahhhh,” I remember responding,” Or maybe a 40 minute swim…” I¬†have a fear of pushing myself in the swim, and did not think it was possible to do¬†it in 35 minutes.

The aquabike wave started after the mens half swim wave. It is no surprise that I hate swim starts. They just freak me out. All the kicking, bubbles, shoving…Especially when you are starting with men! My goal was to start hard and then settle into a comfortable rhythm. Before I knew it, we were off.

Unfortunetly, I felt panicked quickly and tried to swim away from the buoys and the crazy people. After a couple hundred yards, I was able to weed myself out of the mass and tried to ease into my 1-2-3-breathe rhythm, but ended up breathing with every stroke. Oh well. I didn’t push myself, but went at a comfortable pace. Eventually,¬†I made it to the¬†turn buoys. When I was heading back to the beach, I found myself catching up to the men from the wave in front of us.Which meant, men swimming into me.

More than once I found myself choking on water and doing breast stroke to gather myself back together, and then sight. They had warned about the sun being right in your eyes on the way back, but other races I have done, like Quassy, have a similar return swim. Finally, I was back at shore. One unfortunate aspect of the swim was you had to run on rocks to get back to shore. Major ouch.

I thought there would be a clock showing your time, but there wasn’t. And my watch had no OWS tracking capabilities, so I had no idea how I did on the swim. I remember hearing Jane shouting ” Go molly!!!!!” and yelling back, “What is my time?????”

When I reached¬†transition I had to make a decision: do I worry about putting my socks and cycling gloves on? When I grabbed a glove and was about to spend time putting it on I though, “screw it,” and started on the bike course.

I felt good starting on the bike and since I had not ridden further than 30-32 miles this spring, I decided to race to the turn around in Cranberry Lake, and then at the turn around, have a race back to the finish. I was told the course was not too hard– just rolling hills. They fail to mention that the rolling hills begin two miles into the course. Thank goodness I’ve made it a point to do hill work once a week– I think it definitely helped.

Once out on the course, I realized i had made the mistake of spraying suntan lotion all over my watch, so it was nearly impossible to see the screen (and with that, see my distance, the time, etc). Not knowing the time was going to make nutrition a bit more complicated. But, I was fully prepared with bars, gels, and gummy chew things. (Yes, I was that oddball triathlete with a $3000 bike who wore a camelbak…Hey, ¬†I did not want to have to stop to get nutrition on the course.)

I rode hard, and had a couple gel chomp blocks in the 30 minutes on the bike. I have never had gel chomp blocks (NOTE: there IS a taste difference between types of gelled blocks) and thought they would be like the Gu chomps I used when training for IMLP. Wrong. I had three of them and they left me with a disgustingly sweet aftertaste in my mouth. Ewwwww gross. So I just sipped on my water and Biocharge along the rolling hills.

The first 28 miles out I felt fine. I was pushing harder than I would normally on a bike ride, but felt like I could maintain what I was doing. I ate a VO2 prime bar over the course of the last hour, and made sure to drink lots of water.

This isn’t so bad at all!

When I turned around in Cranberry Lake to head back to Tupper Lake, things drastically changed.

I felt myself incredibly nauseous and light headed, therefore I continued to drink more water thinking I might be dehydrated. I then noticed that I was not sweating at all (which was very abnormal for the girl who sweats walking up a flight of stairs).

Sh*t. Something is not right. 

I continued to push myself, despite the way I was feeling.

At¬†mile 30, I wanted to quit. I was mentally and physically done with the race.¬†I¬†tried to hum music to myself, which has helped me in the past. But after “singing” a verse in my head, my nausea would return with a vengence.

Why am I doing this? This is not fun. Why am I doing this? This is the last race I’m ever going to do…Why am I doing this? F-ck you, rolling hills!

I kept pedaling.

This is stupid. Just stop. You aren’t a good triathlete, so who cares if you finish or not? You aren’t like the other women. Just stop.

Then I would think, “No, get to the finish line. Just get to the finish line and you are done. Just finish and you can go home. Just finish….Just finish…”

The¬†5 mile distance¬†signs felt like for-e-ver. With each sign I tried to reason with¬†myself by comparing the distance to rides I would do at home, “this is the ____ loop you do at home all the time….No big deal….You got this”¬†

I felt like I was riding slower and slower. People started passing me.

The rolling hills that I hadn’t really noticed going to Cranberry Lake, were like mountains.

I thought about how my nutrition and hydration was so out of whack. The “200-300 calories/hour” on the bike did not happen. I calculated the amount of calories I had consumed total, and it was less than the amount I consumed on my olympic aquabike course at Quassy. I kept waiting for my body to bonk. I could feel the tears starting to well in my eyes.

I hate this. This is not the way the race is supposed to go. I’m not going to make it. I’m going to have another DNF.¬†

When I finally hit the 50 mile point I thought I could make it.

“C’mon Mol, this is just like riding to the Fork in the Road at home. You can do this”

Except, at home, we didn’t have two “hills” to climb in those five miles.

After what I felt like was an eternity,¬†I saw the “Welcome to Tupper Lake” sign. I was almost done.

I was going to finish.

Finally, I was able to dismount the bike.

I felt sick, yet relief that I had finished, and disbelief that I had completed the 56 mile bike ride in three hours.

I found my fellow Hudson-Valley-ers who had already finished their races (and PLACED!!! woo HOO, those women ROCK) and tried to force myself to feel better. It was a shame that I honestly felt like crap, because the post-race food was awesome, and there was even a post-race beer tent.

After about half an hour and  forcing myself to eat some orange slices, I started feeling better. I was still concerned with the fact I was not sweating at all, nor felt any urge to pee, and felt nauseous as heck.

Jane sat with me, and we chit-chatted for a bit. There was a live band (ah-mazing post race!) and despite not knowing how I did on the race, I felt a small chance that I might have placed in the race. I wanted to wait and see what occured with the awards before heading to my Adirondack home to shower (Yes, L.L.РI consider your amazing Adirondack camp MY camp HAHA). Jane ended up finding the results and came back to me:

“Well, good news: you won¬†your age group– because you were the only one in it….And, you also are first place overall in the womens AB division!”

Wait– I actually beat those hardcore women triathletes in their fancy kits and expensive bikes?

Wait– I placed in a long distance race?

Wait– I qualified for a “series championship race”?

I never in a thousand years believed I was capable of doing well in a longer-distance triathlon. Never before did I push myself. I’ve always finished long distance races (well, just the three long distances triathlons I’ve completed) with the mentality of “just¬†saying I¬†finished.” I never thought I was capable of swimming fast, or riding my bike faster than 15 mph.

Heck, halfway in, I never believed I was going to be able to finish that race to begin with.

But, I managed to perform better than I ever have, despite feeling physically the worst I have ever had.

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Male and female aquabike winners

So, there you have it. I managed to have both my best race time wise, and my worst race physically.

I’m stoked I did’t let the voices in my head win and tell me to quit.

A HUGE thank you to L.L, D.J., and all the other ladies for a great women’s weekend away! It was super fun.

A HUGE thank you to my swim coach, Jane, for pushing me to go faster than I believed I could go.I don’t think I would have done as well as I did if you were not there.

=)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Doable.

There are 15 days left until race day.

A little over two weeks.

While tying that I just had a “Ohh sh-t” moment. Seriously, only two weeks left?

Where did the time go?

Ironman Lake Placid has been a part of my daily life for the past 8 months. I’ve thought about it, in some capacity, everyday. Whether it was a long training ride, or jitters I had the night before a tough training day, or if it was a “rest day,” I’ve thought about this race on a daily basis.

Crazy? Yea, probably.

For me, it is crazy to think that now I am “tapering.” I don’t think I have ever really “tapered” before. There are parts of me that want to make up for all the long runs and rides I never finished. But I know that pushing myself now will not get me to the finish line any quicker in this type of event. It takes weeks to build up to riding the full ironman distance ride (and run, and swim). So one extra day will do nothing.

It may be because  I have settled into a more normal pattern at work, and finished up that summer class, but I feel I have all the time in the world at the moment (which I know will not last once I go back to grad school in the fall). So I figured I would enjoy this time and blog.

It is funny how as the length of the race you train for increases, your perception of training decreases. For example, I remember training for my 70.3 triathlons and thinking, “Holy crap, a half marathon after a 56 mile bike ride? Are you kidding?” Now, the thought of jumping on the bike for a 56 mile ride is nothing (heck, any ride under 4 hours is a short ride). I run half-marathon distance runs weekly, as if it is “just another run.” ¬†I never thought I would be able to finish a century ride, especially alone. But I’ve completed four 100+ milers since the end of May.

Despite wanting to complete an ironman in my lifetime, I never really thought I would ever be able to swim 2.4 miles in the open water without the use of flippers or a buoy (as crutches to use when I was tired). Yet, I finished my first 2.4 OWS alone on Monday. To my surprise, I did not drown, nor have a seizure, nor be eaten by fish. I put my mind to completing that distance, and I did it.

I remember vividly my first time back on the mountain bike last August after my nine month mountain biking hiatus. I was horrible. I was scared to ride over rocks and roots that I once was able to ride over without difficulties. The ride was supposed to be fun. All I could think about while trying to concentrate on the trails through my tears was how I wasn’t good at anything. I ended up walking more of the bike ride than riding. I gave up. I’ll never be a good mountain biker. Why can’t I do this?¬†Why can’t I buck up and be brave? I suck at mountain biking. I’ll never be good at anything.

¬†It is during this bike ride that I made the mental decision to sign up for IMLP–to prove to myself that I can do something that I put my mind to; that I can be brave, that there is something I am good at.

(Mind you, the next day of mountain biking was the complete opposite– I guess it took awhile for me to get my “mountain bike legs” back.)

Now, I am just your average beginner triathlete. I’m not out to gain a slot at Kona by doing IMLP. I’m¬†a back of the pack swimmer, and your average cyclist and runner. I don’t think I will ever be a triathlete who gets to Kona, and I am okay with that. I am¬†doing this race¬†because I want to do it. I’ve turned into an emotional guppy during training; whenever I see a video of people crossing the finish line at IM races, I start to cry. Yes, it is because I may be tired, but crossing that finish line is something I want to do so badly that even the thought makes me tear up.Why? Because completing this type of event is beyond what I think I am capable of doing.

Despite those little voices that tell me I can’t finish this race, there is a voice that states, “It’s doable.”

I did not realize those two (or three) words could have such an impact on me.

This Ironman is doable. Just like the 2.4mile open water solo swim was, and a century ride was.

It’s doable.

I know I am physically in the best shape I have ever been in. I’ve gained stamina and strength through all the training I’ve done. I’ve gained knowledge about my body, and the power of nutrition. I’ve learned that no matter the weather, you are still able to ride/run and swim. I’ve realized that on those rides where I’ve been cold, wet, and tired, I never gave up. (Well, being alone in areas without reception, you kind of have no choice whether you give up or not, because no one can get to you). My last long ride was horrible. I didn’t even finish the distance I was supposed to,nor did I finish the long run I had planned. But, I know in a little over two weeks I will be doing it all again. The next time time, though, there will be thousands of other athletes around me.¬†We will all be in the same boat together. Attempting for the first time (or second, or tenth¬†for others) a race¬†that so many people have called us crazy for attempting. Doing something that people say is impossible, and that is unnatural for the body to do. We will push ourselves, mentally, physically, and emotionally, to see what we are capable of doing.

Despite the doubts, pain, and fear, we will do it.

Quassy: The Beast of the Northeast

First of all, I would like to thank Kevin for being at the race: beginning/middle/end, race chauffeur, photographer, personal cheerleader. ūüôā Race support do not get enough credit for what they do. So, thank you!

Challenge Quassy. Where do I begin? I learned a few lessons the day before and day of the race–little hiccups–but this race was all about going with the flow; rolling with punches (is that a saying?). Middlebury, CT is less than an hour and a half drive from me, which was awesome, because we did not have to travel far. Quassy is a little amusement park that is right on Lake Quassapaug, and it wasn’t a horrible location at all to house an event.

Mmm Carbs!

Pre-trip breakfast. Mmmmm carbs!

Saturday we drove up and I was able to take part in the practice swim, get my packet, check-in my bike, attend athlete meeting, etc. When we were getting my stuff together, I realized I forgot my toiletry bag. Okay, no big deal, except it had my glasses and all my epilepsy meds. Sh*t. Usually, I’m not the most organized person and just keep meds in two places: cabinet, and thrown in a bag I use. However, recently, I have been attempting to be more organized, so I put everything¬†(meds included) into a toiletry¬†bag. No bueno. I should go back to being unorganized, because I always had something with me.

Anyway, my thoughts at the point I forgot everything: This is already going to be horrible.¬†Slight melt down, and we hadn’t even been at the race location an hour. If you have read some of my prior posts, having seizures (esp in the water when swimming) really freaks me out. Not having those meds (“safety net”) threw me for a loop. The rest of the things in the bag could be replaced, and we did indeed get what I forgot (minus my glasses). But, not a great way to start a race weekend.

My name! Bike is checked.

My name! Bike is checked.

Lesson #1: If you take medications for a medical condition, always bring extra in your purse or what have you.

Later, we checked into the hotel and found a restaurant with food that was decently priced where I could get my pre-race veggie burger with fries. That is the traditional meal I have before races (I know, I know, not the healthiest, but it is tradition and we know what happened when I broke my “Tradition” of throwing meds into a bag, right?).

There were no ice machines, so when I asked for ice, they brought

There were no ice machines, so when I asked for ice, they brought “just a little”

We were back at the hotel by 7:30pm, where I went through all of my belongings i would need for the race, and pack them. I am sure I am not the only triathlete who lays out all their stuff atleast two or three times, making sure they have everything they need.

“We are going to be late, we are going to be late!” I kept telling people, trying to get everything ready to bring to the race start. “It is almost 6:30 and transition closes!” I parked the car and ran with my bike and race bag to the changing area and tried desperately¬†¬†to put my wetsuit on. For some reason, it was taking forever, but I made it to the swim start. However I was still trying to zip up my wetsuit, and no one would help me. “Three, Two, One….Beeeeep.” The race director said as swimmers ran into the water. I was still on the beach when he looked at me, lifting up a red card. I was disqualified at Lake Placid before I even began the race. How could this happen? How could I let this happen?

I woke up at 3:15 to a nightmare of not even being able to begin the swim at Lake Placid. I was oddly not feeling anxious about the race the day before, but I guess the nightmare which woke me up would suggest otherwise! Being unable to fall back asleep, I hung out in bed until my alarm went off. Time to get ready! Quassy is neat in that instead of body markers at the beginning, everyone gets removable tattoo numbers that they apply. I’m not going to lie, I think it was badass ūüėõ When we checked in, the receptionist said to another person that they were having an early cold breakfast starting at 4am, and i was starving when I woke up, so I ventured down stairs and not knowing where breakfast was, asked the receptionist. She then pointed to a table and said, ” We have granola bars and fruit for sale, and complimentary coffee.”

I looked over at the table, with the $2 granola bars and $2 pieces of fruit. Are you kidding me?What am I going to eat for breakfast? I NEED BREAKFAST!!!!!¬†I returned to the room and stated, “Kevin, we need to find a Dunkin Donuts. There is no breakfast here!”

Lesson #2: Never assume a “cold breakfast” means actual food. In fact, just pack supplies for breakfast (which is actually what I usually do. Do not know why I did not do it today.

We were able to find a DD’s (Hallelujah!) And I shoved a raisin bagel with cream cheese down my throat on our way to the race.

The Swim

As with may triathlon starts, there is a lot of waiting. I made sure my transition area was all set, got into the wetsuit, and then it was time to head to the start. There was a small warm up area for people to go and I acclimated myself to the water (which was 66 degrees and it felt much warmer being in the water than in the 48 degree air temperature). I did learn something about warm up areas for races though. Well, I did not learn it per say, but it is a theory of mine. If you are waiting for the swim start and see a bunch of people waist deep in the water, just looking out, I am 99% sure that they are peeing. No joke. I guarantee you that is what people are doing. If you are a triathlete who has never peed in their wetsuit in the water, I want to know your name. Because (almost) everyone does it. I realized this when I was walking into the water and thought, Man, I am going to dunk my head in an area filled with the urine of hundreds of athletes. Maybe that is why the water was so warm?

My swim wave.

My swim wave.

ūüėõ

Anyway, I was oddly at ease waiting for the swim to start. Today was not a race for me. It was just a long training day, to see how my training for LP is going. After about 45 minutes of waiting and shivering, our swim wave started and the 1.2 mile swim began. It was a mass start, but I was able to find the outside and just get my groove on. It was slightly hard to sight the bouys because they were directly in the sun, but I didn’t mind, since we swam with them to our right and in OWS I tend to only breathe on my right. I swam then did short breast stroke breaks. Before I knew it, I was clumsily running out of the water. I looked down at my watch and saw 43:00. Holy crap. I could not believe that I swam that distance in that amount of time (the last half IM I did was in 55 minutes). I was ecstatic. I know if I didn’t take those breast stroke breaks the time would be even faster!

This is my

This is my “ehh how am I going to get the wetsuit off?” look

I ran to transition to get my bike and take my wetsuit off. Of course, the last time I wore a wetsuit someone helped strip it off. So, I wasted about 5 minutes trying to get it off. But then I was off on the bike!

Lesson #3: Practice taking wetsuit off

The Bike

Locked, loaded and heading out on the bike

Locked, loaded and heading out on the bike

Ohh, the bike. I knew going into this race that the bike course was hard. My goal was to keep plugging along, stick with my nutrition plan, and getter done. The bike course is really quite beautiful, and a lot is shaded which is nice. The thing with the Quassy bike course is that there is almost no flat. You are either climbing, or descending. I guess in a sense that is nice, because on the descents you can get “free speed” and recover. But the hills are relentless and there is 3,996 ft of elevation gain in the 56 miles. Now, this is¬†nothing I have not seen before; Dutchess county has terrain just like that of where the course is. Heck, the sprint duathlons I have done all include some sort of hills. The Patriot Half last year was flat as a pancake. Quite a different course. I found my training in the Catskills definitely helped with my climbing, and I found I was able to pass people on the climbs (and then they would zip past me on the descents).

Elevation of the bike

Elevation of the bike

People often wonder what you think about on the bike. I am pretty sure the same thoughts circled in my head. Keep going, this is really a lot like D.Co….Are the hills done….?Ouu, nice house.¬†

By mile 40 I was ready to be off the bike, mostly because triathlon shorts have no padding whatsoever and my butt hurt like the dickens. I will most definitely be wearing cycling shorts for IMLP. My legs were ready to be running. There were plenty of aid stations along the bike course which was nice. I did stop once for a pit stop (I have mastered peeing in the water, but not on the bike.) Towards the end of the course I was getting a bit fatigued, and the last portion parallels some of the run course. At this point I was slow enough to have a bit of a conversation with a runner.

“Hey, nice bike I have the exact same one.”

“Yeah? It’s great, isn’t it?”

“Yea, you are looking great. You look super fast on it!”

“Thanks!”

“You just need white shoes now!”

“Haha, keep up the strong run!”

It is funny how little comments like that can really give you that extra energy to keep you going.

Run

I made the dismount with my legs wanting to run. Kevin was there and shouted out some words of encouragement (how I love that man!). I probably could have saved some time on the transition, because I decided to run back to my bike to put more sun tan lotion on, but oh well. The run is similar to the bike: it is hilly. In retrospect, I do not think I have ever run such a hilly half marathon course. It was great though, a nice combination of dirt roads and paved. And, most importantly, there was a ton of shade! I took it easy and did not push myself. I thought about running and training. I questioned whether or not I will be able to finish IMLP, because this course is only half of that.

Heading out for the run

Heading out for the run

¬†People say the run tests you physically, mentally, and emotionally. And they were not kidding. There is over 900 feet of elevation gain on the course. Towards the beginning of the run, I decided to break it up into chunks of 6 hours. By mile six I thought, “Okay, only three more to go.” And then I realized, wait, this is not a marathon, it is a HALF marathon! Only one more to go! Mile 9 to the finish are tough. Like, “Are you f-cking kidding me? Another steep hill?” tough. Yes, there were downhills, but at mile 9 there is a 7-9% incline you have to run up, and they have the same type of incline at mile 12.¬†You know that you are going to be running up that hill at mile 12, because you run down it. (Actually, there is a similar out and back on the bike where you go down and then have to turn around and go back up). just keep moving along. Almost at the top of the hill, I spotted Kevin on his bike. It was a sight that made me so happy.
Run

Run

“Kevin, this course is no joke.”

“I know, that’s what they say.”

He rode next to me for a couple hundred feet until I turned into the park and headed down the finish chute. Well, I first ran past the finisher chute when people yelled, “wrong way! It’s down that!” Ooops. So, after I turned to head towards where I was supposed to be running,¬†I finished!

As I crossed the finish¬†it dawned on me that exactly three months and one day ago I had my surgery, and missed the whole month of March. Which means, I was back training for this beginning in April (so, two months). I remember first getting back into training wondering if I would be able to finish this race, this “Beast of the Northeast.”

And I did.

Not only did I finish, I had a PR 1.2 mile swim, and only finish the whole race 9 minutes slower than my first half IM last year, which was the total opposite of this race in terms of difficulty.

Right at the finish I met Kevin and gave him a huge, sweaty, salty, sun-tan lotion drenched hug.

“I did it! I finished!”

“You did awesome, Molly.”

Selfie!

Smile, Kevin!

Last week being sick, and reading about how hard the race was, I had some self doubt about being able to finish this. But, it goes to show what you can do with will power.No, it wasn’t a course record, nor am I as fast as other people, but I’m pretty happy with my time on such a difficult course. Excluding the nightmare, treating the race as “just a long training day” helped tremendously in that I felt almost no pre-race anxiety. I went in knowing what I had to do, like other training days, and just went in and did it. There is still work I need to do before IMLP, but I’m pumped and ready to train!

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Race day memento

Race day memento

The end.

ūüôā

Above all, challenge yourself. You may well surprise yourself at what strengths you have, and what you can accomplish.

-Cecil Springer

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.

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.

What a DNF really means.

As most of my family and friends are aware, I spent the last 6 months training for Mooseman 70.3. ¬†It kind of consumed my life.¬†I did ¬†plenty of runs and swims in the pool, but not enough pool time as I should, and have put over 356 miles on my bike since february. I can run a half marathon- I did two months ago. I’ve competed sprint duathlons in the past with no problem, and even did a short sprint duathlon a month ago. But I think, for some reason, Mooseman was the one race which I was not going to finish.

My cousin brought me up to NH, which truly is a beautiful state.It was hot, but clear crystal blue skies and gorgeous scenery. Newfound Lake is gorgeous–cold- but nice.

On our first day there, I went for a quick ride on my bike to make sure everything was working smoothly and met the friendliest (well, most triathletes you meet are the nicest people, them and mountain bikers seem to be very friendly) man who told me about the race and where to go for my quick ride. He asked if I had ever done 70.3’s in the past. “Nope, this is my first triathlon.” He looked at me in awe. “Wow, decided to go hard right away, huh?Good luck!” “Thanks, I really need it.”

putting the wetsuit on

looking out at the choppy water

The day before the race when i checked in my bike, and got my chip and athlete bag. There were loads of triathletes around, who came from all over the world to compete in this race. When the I decided to try on my wet suit (mind you, it’s the third time I’ve ever trained with a wet suit) and do a quick swim. And for some reason, once I got into the 56 degree water, with the waves, I couldn’t seem to put my head in the water and swim. My stomach leaped into my throat and I nearly had a panic attack. I can’t do this! I walked back to my cousin and then met tw0 w0men from Minnesota who were getting their wetsuits on to try out the water.

“Have you been in?”

“Yes, but I’m really nervous.”

“First HIM?

“No, first triathlon.”

“Wow, girl, you decided big for your first triathlon! Here, swim a little with us, and then see how you do!”

They were so friendly.Even still, I was terrified of the water. (Have I mentioned I have a fear of swimming in open bodies of water?). I swam with my head above the water, then swam back to shore- still with my head up.

After the “swim” and athlete mandatory meeting, my cousin brought me back to the hotel and I just relaxed. My stomach was in knots. My throat hurt and I woke up in sweats. Ohh man, the fever is back from the mysterious illness. I was worried but excited about the race. Since for the past couple of weeks I haven’t been able to train because of insanely busy nights at work leaving me with no energy to go for the required rides and runs in the plan. I fell asleep but woke up after a few hours–my night shift body is still used to being up at night and asleep during the day.

The day of the race I felt excited, but at the same time, something wasnt right. My head hurt and my whole body felt like someone had beat it with a baseball bat again (stupid flu!). Since I had been unable to train as much as I should have, my nutritional intact was poor and has been, and the fact I was exhausted, I set out to just do the race. My biggest fear was the swim start. I had never swam with anyone else in an OWS before. Not to mention the water was 60 degrees. We got there at around 6 for body markings, since I could leave my bike over night. Wow, first time being body marked!

in line for markings

There are different waves according to age and gender, I was wave 6. there were a couple waves that went before be and after a couple of minutes, more waves would start.

getting ready for my wave to start

Then, it was my turn to go into the water. Feelings of fear, anticipation, excitement all rolled into one was what I felt. I walked to the side of some swimmers and when the gun shot went off, I ran and jumped into the water with many other women.

my wave

The water was cold, and for the first 20 minutes, I swam a modified doggy paddle/breast stroke. Then, I thought of my coach who’d say, “put your head in the water!” And, finally, I did. And, I got into the rhythm of swimming, never pushing myself, but swam a relaxed pace, because I did not want to get even more sick.. I was swimming with other people in open water, and did the first 1.2miles I’ve ever done in the water!And, survived. And, faced my fear.

so happy I was able to finish the swim!

The transition was good, and the hills that everyone was talking about were  easier than the hill workouts I did in the past. it was a modified two loop course and I felt great on the first loop. Then on the second, things just went downhill. I lost any energy I had and could not get my legs to pedal. I would sweat profusely, then get frozen, stopping along the way to fix a tire and actually vomit. I rode the last loop longer than I ever have done 20 miles before.

When I got back to Wellington park, I missed the cut off time from the bike by one minute and was not allowed to complete the run.

I was devastated. My cousin came over to me, and I just wept with feelings of failure. Ohh how I wanted so badly to complete this race that i had been preparing for for months. But, with all the illnesses I’ve had, lack of sleep, lack of proper hydration and nutrition, high stress job, my body just couldn’t do it. And, I know I could have finished it if I pushed myself more, but my body had had enough of me pushing it through sickness and exhaustion.

This is the first race I’ve never completed. Yes, i was able to face my fear of the water and swim! And, had I not been sick and have bike trouble, I could have made the time for the run. (In reality though, I do not think I could have completed the run having the flu, so in a way, i think the DNF was a sign I was not meant to do the race at this point of my life with everything that’s been happening.

At first, I felt like a complete failure. How could I not have finished the race? There were people older than me completing it, and I couldn’t? I felt ashamed of myself and embarrassed. And then thoughts about giving up on triathlons all together came into my head.

Then I thought, wait, this was such a good learning experience. I had never swam with other people before this, and now i know I can swim in a competitive setting. For the next time, I’ll be better prepared at the swim, and transition. I’ll know how to have proper nutrition and hydration and rest before the race (which still might be hard with working night shifts). I’ll listen to my body more–if it feels sick, not to push it, even if I want sooo much to finish.

Yes, it is disappointing that I did not finish the race I so desperately wanted to. And for a long time I felt like a complete failure. But, there are many athletes who did not give up after setbacks or DNF’s. It’s like the quote below by Brian Tracy:

“Never consider the possibility of failure; as long as you persist, you will be successful.”

There are a vast number of races in the future which I can do. I’m not going to let one dictate how I do in the future. It was just bad timing, I guess. I was sick, exhausted, undernourished. And, now, I have even more determination to do finish one in the future.

” Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.” -unknown

Race Day Check List

As I leave for the race tomorrow, I thought I’d give you my “race day check list” which is much much longer than a race day checklist for marathons and duathlons (well that’s a given, since you are now adding another discipline to the race). What type of fuel will be a different post (just when you were done with my useless posts).

  • Confirmation of race registration (i have that printed out)
  • photo ID (i have two drivers licenses now, so my nightmare of checking in during the NYC half won’t happen…Actually, the half was why I had to get another license in the first place.)
Transition area:
sunscreen, watch, heartrate monitor (maybe)
race belt/chip strap, towel, couple gels/ gel blocks, a couple bottles
bathmat (maybe, or just old towel to stand on)
SWIM 

My wetsuit gear and tri suit

wetsuit
tri shorts/top
goggles (x2)
neoprene cap, neoprene booties
normal cap
body glide
nutrition
Bike

my baby

helmet
my bad ass sunglasses
cycling shoes (i’ll be using my tri shoes…maybe)
sunglasses
socks (maybe)
water bottle (s) or hydration pack
repair kit
spare tube, CO2
multi tool
tire levers
duct tape (to tape the gels to the frame)
Run

my tri shoes and running shoes- the other Lock Lace needs to be put on....And part of my big toe

Running shoes with easy lace up laces
socks (definitely if I don’t use them for the bike)
hat
fluel belt (? maybe)
And a big SMILE and camera ofcourse (for someone else to take photos of me!)
I’m off for a run then swim, leaving you with some more Moby.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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