The Dream Star's Corner

Dare to Dream...and DO!
walk. run. fly.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Beginner Triathlete Lessons Learned: How to Prepare for and Survive Your First Triathlon

I learned a few things along the way as I journeyed from clueless newbie to triathlete. I think I still have a lot to learn, but for those athletes out there who are starting from zero, there are so many things that more experienced swimmers, cyclists, runners, and triathletes just neglect to share with you. I wanted to write a blog post about the things that I wish someone told me or explained to me a bit more and also some of the things I learned along the way that really worked well for me.

1. Train with someone.

Triathlon is a hard sport. Regardless if you're coming from a swimming, biking, or running background, putting these three things together and then creating and following through on a cohesive training schedule is a lot of work. Having someone around to kind of hold you accountable and to check in with you really gives you that added push to get your stuff together. Also, you get a sense of what it's like to swim, bike, and run in a group. I took my first spill on the bike while riding with others. I learned a lot on that first group ride. I'm not fast. It's not safe to try to go fast on a bike when you still need to learn how to control the bike and when you're new to learning how to use your shifters. It's important to train with a group who is knowledgeable about bike safety. Also, here's something no one told me: when riding on a road, the lay of the road tends to decline along the edges. If your tires get caught in a groove in that decline, you will ride off to the side of the road and you will crash. Stay to the right as much as possible but be mindful of where your tires are.

2. Learn about bikes.

I'm so glad I didn't listen to my parents. My parents both have hybrid Schwinns and told me that it didn't matter where I bought my bike...a bike is a bike. That's not true. Not saying I was going to be a natural born Lance Armstrong on two wheels, but I figured there was a reason why some advanced triathletes owned $12,000 bikes and some owned $3,000 bikes, etc. My budget was not in that range, but first things first, I had to learn WHY these bikes cost so much and then find what worked for me. Yes, it's true - you could complete your first triathlon on any old bike but I wanted to at least learn about road bikes and how to shop for one since the triathlon was taking place on...you know... a road. After learning about road bikes, I made the decision that I didn't need all the things that a $3,000 bike or even a brand new shiny $1,000 bike had to offer. I just needed a bike that I could learn on and get used to. I bought a $500 bike from Craigslist and that worked out just fine. But learning about road bikes FIRST can help you shop more effectively on your own.

3. Be prepared to put money into your bike.

Regardless if you bought a new bike or a used bike, be prepared to spend more money. You may want to change the seat or the pedals (for clip in) on your new bike or maybe the used bike you bought is in decent shape but needs some adjustments or a new shifter (like mine did). Just be prepared to spend more money. Then there are mandatory accessories like the helmet, bike rack, and gloves. I know gloves aren't required but I found them useful.

 4. Buy the right gear and find an economical way to do it.

You need a lot of stuff. I bought the REI Membership card and that was one of the wisest decisions I made. I had to pick one place that potentially carried most of the things I needed so I didn't have to run all over the place looking for things. The staff at REI was always super helpful and patient. Yes, I could've shopped online and got some better deals on lots of things, but honestly, do you really want to buy a tri suit online when you've NEVER tried one on before? When you're trying to figure out how to fit in 4 to 7 workouts in a week, the last thing you need to worry about is waiting on some piece of equipment or apparel to arrive only to send it back because it didn't fit or work out the way you expected. I liked the instant gratification of just shopping in person. Besides, I got most of my stuff on sale which worked out great. Also, they have this really cool membership benefit where you receive a check equal to 10% of your total annual purchase amount at the end of the year. You can spend it on anything! I'm looking forward to that.

5. Link up with a REALLY REALLY REALLY GREAT local bike shop (LBS).

Your local bike shop should be a place near your home or near your favorite riding route. It's a place to go to ask questions, buy tools, cycling gear, or even the place where you decided to buy your bike. I take my bike to Race Pace Bicycles and I've never regretted it once. The staff is SUPER friendly, down to earth, and professional. It's where I got the crash course on bikes and where I took my bike for repairs when needed. I bought my travel tools there and some other things like my helmet and gloves. When I'm ready, I will definitely buy my first new bike from that shop. In the off-season, I will make arrangements to have the proper adjustments done on my current bike done there and a formal bike fitting when I'm ready to buy my new bike. It's a really awesome place. The people at your LBS should be knowledgeable and helpful and shouldn't ever make you feel stupid or like you're in the way. They shouldn't put any pressure on you to buy stuff from them or make you feel like you need to buy something whenever you step foot in the store. To me, this is how you gain more customers - by being honest and helpful at all times.

6. Take swim lessons.

If nothing else, swim lessons should help you to feel super comfortable in the water. I can't stress it enough - if it weren't for my swim lessons, I probably would've freaked out during the open water swim in my triathlon. But because of a great teacher who simply told me "Relax! Get used to water being in your face, in your ears, in your mouth..it's gonna get all over! Water EVERYWHERE!! HAVE FUN!" I simply relaxed and found a method that worked for me to just get through the swim. It didn't bother me to have water in my face. I knew what to do in case something went wrong (like floating on your back and calming your breathing) and I learned that in my swim class. I took basic swim lessons at the local YMCA. Now that I know how to swim (for the most part), I know I need to work on technique. So now I will look into registering with a private swim coach. I don't think a new swimmer needs that kind of concentrated (and expensive) attention at first. And why not save yourself some money by going to the local Y? For $49, I have access to the pool, the weight room, and all of the exercise classes which included spin class which came in handy when I was still shopping around for a bike. And in all honesty, my shoddy performance during the swim is no reflection on the Y. I simply didn't practice enough. I had access to the pool but didn't go as much as I should have. That's the truth.

7. When the time comes, rent a wetsuit (if that's an option).

Depending on the time of year your first triathlon is taking place, you may or may not be able to wear a wetsuit. If you can, I highly recommend that you get one. They help you float, and keep you warm, and like I mentioned in this post, wetsuits are awesome. Rent one if you aren't sure if triathlon is for you. No use in shelling out $150+ for something you may never use again. I rented one for around $60 from Wetsuitrental.com and didn't have one issue with the company or the suit. They came highly recommended from more experienced triathletes who simply don't see a need to buy their own suit.

8. Use a backpack or triathlon transition backpack to carry your triathlon stuff.

This is something I did not do and I wish I did. The triathlon club that I belong to gave us a long talkin' to about this very thing but for some strange reason, I only focused on ONE piece of advice from that discussion. The tri club member presented his backpack:

Example. Not the actual bag.
And also mentioned that he sometimes carries along a crate to help him organize his things. Kinda like this:



I opted for the crate idea instead of buying the backpack (I don't think these things are mutually exclusive). But here lies the problem. When it's 5:30 a.m. and dark, and you have to get all of this stuff to the transition area along with your bike, how do you carry a crate and your bike to a location this far away?



Yeah...when you find out, you let me know. It was miserable. So please don't try to cut corners. Spare yourself the hassle and buy an oversized backpack or a triathlon pack. And I saw some people throwing their backpack on and riding their bikes to the car after the race. I envied them so much. 

9. Arrive at transition when it opens.

If the Race Director says transition opens at 5 a.m., get there at 5 a.m. Time flies early in the morning and every minute counts. Transition will have an open time and a close time - meaning you will not be allowed back in for anything. So to save yourself the aggravation of rushing, just get there early. Trust me, you won't be sitting around and waiting, and doing nothing for long. The list of things to do before the race is pretty lengthy - much different from a running race where it's okay to show up at 7:50 a.m. for a 8:00 a.m. race start (if you're as lucky as me and you don't have to go through a potty ritual each time).

10. Buy and bring throw away flip flops. 

We found ourselves standing on this sandy/grassy/questionable area while waiting for our wave to start in the water. There were shards of glass buried in the sand and some other random rocks, pebbles, and pieces of broken asphalt. You never know where you will have to stand before the race. Best to have a pair of throwaway $3 or $5 flip flops to wear before the race that you don't mind "losing" after you exit the water. If they are still there when you exit, then score! Pick them up and keep on going. If not, then there's no loss. 

Do you guys have any other tips and tricks that you'd like to share??





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon Race Recap

The next day after the triathlon, I traveled to Philly to run in the Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon. Why? I honestly can't remember if I had a reason for running in this race that was any more purposeful than fulfilling the gluttonous desire to earn this medal.


Earlier in the year, I ran in the Rock 'n' Roll USA Half Marathon in Washington, DC and questioned my sanity the next month for wanting to complete the Titanium Girl Challenge (which included running the Iron Girl Half Marathon and the Frederick Half Marathon within 7 days of one another). Yet, I'm pretty sure that crossing the finish line at Frederick knocked a few more screws loose and before I knew it, I was signed up to complete the Atlantic City Triathlon and the Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon in the same weekend.

Tri training partner signed up to be a volunteer at this race out of the kindness of her heart (read: to give herself something to do while I ran the race) and with that assignment, we scored some nice VIP parking. But let's back it up...

The alarm clock went off on Sunday morning at 3:45 a.m. We were still in New Jersey and had to pack up the car and drive to the Philly in time for Tri Training Partner to report for duty at 5:30 a.m. Well, I turned off my alarm clock and closed my eyes for 2 minutes *cough 30 minutes* only to see that time raced on and it was now 4:15 A.M.! Ugh... we jumped up and scrambled to get dressed and to get the car packed up without waking our gracious hosts. We were out of the house by 4:50 a.m. and on our way to Philly and actually made it to the parking lot after circling a few times by 5:55 a.m. Tri training partner met up with her volunteer group, and I sat in the car, sleepy and a little hungry. Yep... that's right, I didn't have time to eat a thing.

I went for a walk to try to wake myself up and watched the sun rise over the buildings. It was beautiful!

Good mornin' Philly!
I'm a city girl so I can appreciate every single dynamic and moment that a beautiful historical city has to offer - from the grime, to the noise, to the eclectic mixture of people, to the quiet and still moments in the wee hours of the morning. Awesome.

Anywho, I wandered back to the car and stopped to ask someone waiting in line at a porta-potty what time the race started. I seriously, had no clue. That's what happens when you do upwards of 10 races in a calendar year. lol After hearing 8 a.m. I decided I'd head to the start line around 7:50ish... baaah! I was in no rush.

I went to the car and double checked my new Spibelt to make sure I had everything in place and rummaged through our bags to find the snacks that were given out at the expo. I chowed down on some granola and a Larabar and that seemed to take the edge off. It was a pretty chilly morning and I really wanted to stay bundled up in my long sleeve pull over with the fleece lining but I decided to leave it. Glad I did. By the time I walked to the start line, the sun was up and the jittery folks in the corral were keeping the area pretty warm. I still hadn't decided what I wanted to run...what pace...how conservative... and I had no idea if my legs would actually work. I didn't see why not. All summer, I trained for the triathlon and the full marathon by completing a swim-bike-run workout on one day and the long run on the next day so my body was pretty used to it.

After setting up the Garmin, I decided to head down to a corral closer to the one I was supposed to be in and then I waited. I met up with Ashley, the friend that ran with in the DC half marathon and we chatted for a little while. Then the race started... I found that I was pushing a 9:30 min/mi and made myself slow down to a 10:30 min/mi pace.

After mile 3, I found it hard to slow down anymore than that. I wanted to run an 11:15 min/mi...or at least that's what I told myself at the start, but my body wouldn't cooperate. It wanted to just RUN! So I let it, but I still held back a little, telling myself, "I'll let go a little more if you can make it to mile 5... mile 7... mile 9...oh alright, let 'er rip!" I was a little worried because the course seemed to either lay flat or we were going downhill. I was worried about the one thing that usually rings true in EVERY race - what goes down must come up. I was anxious for the massive hill that might be waiting for me at mile 11 or something.

I didn't bother looking at the course map or an elevation chart before the race. My only goal for Philly was to make it there on time...seriously. So I was relying on my wisdom from other races. I took two walk breaks to make sure I got the Gu gel down at mile 4 and mile 9. But other than that, I pushed through and ran a negative split. I tried to pick up the pace toward the very end, but the lay of the road didn't help. It switched from flat to a lopsided decline then flat to a lopsided incline. It wasn't conducive to picking up speed but I tried to maintain a quick cadence. I noticed a lot of people stopping to walk at mile 11 and 12 and found it to be completely odd.

But honestly, back in October of 2011, I remember stopping to walk at mile 11 in the Baltimore Half Marathon - my first half marathon (for time). I remember that being the toughest point of the race. But now that I've run six half marathons in a year and now that I'm in the throes of full marathon training, I have surpassed that mileage threshold. I can run long. I was finally on the other side! I was seeing people lose their determination, their fight! Interesting, to say the least.

I kept plugging along, and at mile 12.5, we had to run up a very short but steep incline. I lowered my head, and dug in and climbed it, passing people who couldn't make it and opted out to just walk it. It wasn't the end and I could see the finish in the distance. I felt amazing! I couldn't believe that I was finishing a half marathon the day after a triathlon in another state and still felt like I could run on for another 5 or 6 miles. So I posed for the camera, holding up my arm in a bicep pose to show off my strength in that moment and smiled! I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal and my favorite snacks, met up with Tri training partner and headed for the car.

I finished the race in 2:19:37. I ALMOST PR'd and missed it by 2 minutes. I look back on those walk breaks and think that if I ate something that morning, maybe I wouldn't have felt so compelled to stop and walk to make sure I got down every drop of Gu gel. Perhaps there was a chance at a real life changing PR. Dah well... there's always Baltimore.

The course was great! Nice and peaceful winding roads along a river basin. It was a great blend of the more scenic historical streets and monuments and the beautiful natural treasures that Pennsylvania has to offer. Course support was okay. Water and Gatorade all around. But there were points where runners had to pass 3 or 4 tables before getting to a table with Gatorade and water. That's a little scary. Good thing I always bring my own hydration with me. Pretty good crowd support at the start and at the finish but I was a little surprised that there weren't more people out along the course since it's a major city. DC crowd support was WAY better. All in all, it was a good race. Nice and fast course! Great place to PR if you do it right, line up with your proper corral, and bring your own fuel and hydration.

The medal is a nice addition to the rack, for sure.



Monday, September 17, 2012

Atlantic City International Triathlon Race Recap

On Saturday, I competed in the Atlantic City International Triathlon in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was my first triathlon EVER! I got it done and earned the medal...but let's start from the beginning...

On Friday, Tri Training Partner and I met up and packed up the car and got on the road for Philly! First stop was the Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half Marathon packet pick up and expo (to be continued in the next post). Later, we took off for Atlantic City and made it just in time for the pre-race meeting.

Race Director in the distance telling us what to expect

The Race Director went over the course and the procedures for going through each part of the race. He practically reiterated all of the information that was written in the Official Athlete's Guide which was totally great. After going through the general information, he answered questions. It was nice to see the Race Director providing the answers and not someone from the staff or a volunteer. He reassured us that the course would be safe and that we were responsible for making sure that we simply kept some distance between ourselves and other participants. For some reason, this made me feel so much better about everything. I had fears of being kicked and held under during the swim, and run off of the road on the bike. But when the director said that an infraction as small as being rude to a volunteer wouldn't be tolerated, the weight was lifted off of my shoulders.

Next, we picked up our packets and found our transition racks! Naturally, we took photos.

I have the rack all to myself!

Somebody's owning that space!

We surveyed the end goal and made some mental notes about the course. We took a look at the water and got an idea of how we would enter and exit and captured an image of the most important point in the entire race... where we would go from being runners to triathletes.

THE FINISH LINE!!

The weather was gorgeous and we knew we could expect much of the same the very next day. We went to Egg Harbor Township and got settled in at my best friend's parents' house. They are super awesome for letting us crash at their house... the house that was so comfy and nice that we never wanted to leave...ever. We asked if they were open to adopting more children but given that they have been without their 3 children for quite sometime, this suggestion wasn't a crowd favorite.

So, instead we unpacked our things and laid everything out for the next morning and went to bed.

My triathlon person and all of her stuff!
Well 4:30 a.m. came fast! Soon, I was up and eating oatmeal and enjoying hot tea. We made it to the race by 6:05 a.m. Plenty of time to inflate our tires and get set up in transition before it closed at 6:45 a.m. NOT!

After getting settled with parking at 6:15 a.m., it was a MAD DASH to pump up the tires and make the long trek to transition. This does not include getting set up in transition. Lesson #1: If the Director says transition opens at 5 a.m., it's for a reason. GO EARLIER THAN EARLY! After scrambling to get body marked, and to affix stickers on bikes, we were finally allowed into transition. Once I found my space (so glad I found it the day before), I set everything out and lubed up for the donning of my wetsuit. The voice over the loud speaker said it was 6:35 a.m. and transition was slated to close in 10 minutes. So on went the wetsuit and before I knew it I was posing for photos with Tri Training Partner. lol

I was saying "What are you doing?!" moments before she snapped this photo lol
Then we heard the voice say "the closing time for transition has been extended by 10 minutes". YAAAAY!! Even though we were ready, we were still happy to find out that we had time to chat with other triathletes around us...many of which were competing for the first time like us!

And then asked them to take our picture. :)

Soon we headed over to the swim start which was at the boat ramp of the back bay. We stood there in our orange sherbert colored swim caps anxious and wide-eyed! But honestly, I think the wait between waves helped to calm our nerves. Sometimes all you need is time...and to see someone else do it... over and over again. We stood there watching wave after wave enter and exit the water. It got to the point where I felt like a total spectator then as I was standing there singing the song that was blaring over the loudspeaker, the race director called out "Females 30 - 34, you're up." It still didn't register until the girl standing in front of me said "THAT'S US!!" I was excited at first...you know, like in a "OMG! I just won the lottery!" kind of way... then I realized that something different was about to happen... I was about to embark on a new challenge that started with a single stroke.

In I went... anxious to see how cold the water felt... inching closer and closer to the water... letting my feet shuffle in, then my ankles... waiting for the shock of cold... then...nothing. It wasn't cold at all! It was really warm, actually. Nice! So I allowed the water to take me away, onward to the buoys that were set out about 50 yds away. I floated a little, backstroked, played like my triathlon training mentor taught me. I made my way to the buoys and waited for the count down... floating around, smiling anxiously at the ladies around me. I noticed how far away from the buoys that I positioned myself and started to swim forward as the director counted down "5...3....2... GO!" That's what I heard as I stroked forward, not hearing all of the words. The mental voice started coaching me... "Ok, KJ, nice and easy, just like the pool, sight! Keep your head neutral... *splash!* WHOA! That's salty!" Yeah. Super duper salty water in the bay knocked me off of my mental game.

I don't mind water over my head, in my face, in my mouth, up my nose... that's expected. But super salty water in the back of my throat and in my nose? I'm not a fan. I tried all I could to refocus but the cough-inducing salty water wasn't working for me. I had to make it through the swim, so I flipped on my back and back stroked a bit, but I didn't feel comfortable doing that because I couldn't see where I was going and really, what weak swimmer wants to make the swim portion of the tri longer than it has to be? So I flipped back over but not before seeing someone else in my wave get pulled out by the tug boat. I erased the image from my mind and told myself to "finish this swim on your own!" All around the course were guys on surfboards, waiting to assist in whatever way possible. I waved one over so I could rest. I had to think of a game plan...but in the middle of my thought, the guy said "ladies (as there was one other sherbert cap hanging on) I'd stay with you if I could, but I must go back to the start for the next wave. You're more than welcome to come with me but I don't think you want to do that." So off we went. I tried the backstroke again, but this time the leader of the blue caps was glaring at me and was only one body length away from me. I audibly let out a "UH OH!" and flipped back over, determined not to have anyone swim over me. I doggy paddled in a consistent line, allowing the next wave to swim by me. Once they were passed, I found that the default survival mechanism of the doggy paddle was working for me. I was moving forward, and not sucking down salty water, and I could see exactly where I was going! SCORE!

And there I was... doggy paddling my way through the tide. I made it around buoy #1 but not before almost getting sucked in by the turbulence caused by the hot pink swim caps that met me there. The salt water went flyin, and I was in need of some relief so I waved over a surf board and proceeded to cough up a lung. I apologized for my unladylike reaction and went on my way once the herd passed.  I was met with shouts of encouragement from ladies straggling from the other two waves, telling me that it was half over and I was doing great! One of the lifeguards told me that the waves that were giving me so much trouble on the first half will help me and carry me to the finish on the way back. This brought a big smile to my face, one that wouldn't leave my face until I crossed the finish line.  I paddled to the finish line, thinking "I'm doing it! I'm finishing on my own!!" And like that, I crossed the threshold of the "SWIM FINISH". WOOHOO!



T1 was...interesting. It's so hard to put dry socks on wet feet. lol That was probably the hardest thing to do. I tried to put my things up neatly and found myself piddling with things that didn't matter... hence the 8 minute transition time. The run from transition to the bike mounting line had to be a quarter mile. I wanted to lay down and take a nap halfway between the distance. lol But I kept pushing... I finally made it to the line and got on my bike. I pushed off and focused on gaining control of my bike and downshifting to make it easier to manage the flat terrain. The 10 mile bike ride was smooth and easy. The rides we go on through the tri club are MUCH more difficult than this one. I passed lots of people but I assumed many of them were International distance riders, going for 20 miles. But as I reviewed my results, I passed more than 50 Sprint distance people on the bike. I was shocked! I faced a nasty headwind on the first half but pushed through it. I glanced across the road at the people coming back down to the bike dismount and didn't see anyone grimacing in frustration so I read that as a sign that my torture was a lovely tailwind for them. And indeed it was! On the way back, I was flying in!



I got off of the bike feeling awake. :) I ran into T2 and didn't have to do much. I decided not to busy myself with learning how to clip in and unclip on the bike for this triathlon so I was already in my running shoes. I chose to cycle in them and that worked out fine. So T2 only involved me taking off my helmet and gloves and putting on my visor and race belt. I grabbed my Honeystinger Waffle and ran out. Here's the thing. Honeystinger Waffles are awesome when you're riding a bike. Not so awesome when you're running. Holy indigestion, batman! I kicked myself for not bringing any Gu gel with me. I've never fueled with anything differently before. But I've run on less so I pushed through. Afterall, it was only a 5k. Once my legs adjusted to the run, I decided to keep an even pace. I didn't wear my Garmin so I had no idea how fast I was going. This was probably for the best. I still had to run the RnR Philly half marathon the next day so I had to save something in the tank. I just wanted to finish this race and take it all in. I looked around and enjoyed the view of the ocean from the boardwalk and took note of the kinds of shops and restaurants along the way. Once the run started getting good, I was already back to the race site and on my way to crossing the finish.

I pushed through and crossed the finish line and received my medal. Yep! I became a triathlete! Woohoo!!

YAY! I did it!!

The organizers provided a hot breakfast with bacon, sausage, eggs, danishes, donuts, bagels, and fruit. A nice spread!! The weather was beyond gorgeous and everything just seemed perfect. I didn't pick apart my performance, and didn't have a real interest in running over to the results tent. I knew I didn't win. I knew I didn't place in my age group. But I didn't care. I did the one thing I set out to do and that included finishing and having fun! I just wanted to enjoy the moment. When you're an established athlete in one sport, it's hard to remember that baseline race... the one that you don't have anything to compare it to. I forgot what that felt like... it was nice!

We did it!
It was a long journey to this point, but we made it! It's only the beginning. All in all, the Atlantic City International Triathlon was a WONDERFUL triathlon. I never felt intimidated or confused. Everything was laid out for us and made simple. It was safe, and organized. I'd suggest it to ANYONE looking for a good triathlon in a great location. And afterward, all athletes are given complimentary admission to the Atlantic City Seafood Festival.

Sooooo worth it!
So if you're in town for the race, be sure to attend the festival! You can also chat with other athletes from the race! We met John from Facebook who shared his story with us. Many years ago, he experienced cardiac arrest and actually died! After being resuscitated, he laid in a coma for quite some time. When he recuperated, he decided to lose some weight and get in shape. This was his first triathlon but he's shooting for an Ironman someday.

Go get 'em John! What a way to LIVE!

At the end of the day, I went through my bag and found the race shirt that displayed the most befitting theme for the entire experience from start to finish.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wetsuits are awesome!

I rented a wetsuit from WetsuitRental.com (yes, that's the name of the company) and it was probably the best decision I've made since buying compression socks (can't live without them). Even though Maryland experienced one of the hottest July's on record, I wasn't convinced that I would be 1) warm enough when my triathlon finally came around and 2) capable of sustaining the swim without freaking out from sinking due to my terrible body position in the water.

That's right! I'm not afraid to admit it. I'm no Mary Meagher in the water. I have form issues but I can swim on a beginner's to intermediate level but I needed some support. I decided to go with a sleeveless wetsuit.

The temps have dropped SIGNIFICANTLY in the past week. The humidity decided to pack up its things and either take a much needed vacation from abusing us each day or leave for the year. Either way, I'm pleased. We're also experiencing temps in the mid to upper 70s and lower 80s. The water is supposed to be in the lower 70s on Saturday but please keep in mind that we're starting the race day off around 8 a.m. I doubt the water will be that warm by then. So I received my wetsuit on Monday. In my opinion, that wasn't early enough but it's a lesson learned. Actually, WetsuitRental.com gives you the option to receive your wetsuit weeks before your event for an extra cost. I selected this option and tried to get my wetsuit by last Friday but unfortunately, the wetsuit size that I needed wasn't available.

I received a personalized email from one of their associates explaining this to me along with the comment that they didn't want to send me any wetsuit but the one that would fit me perfectly. Wetsuit fit is really really important so I was okay with that. Furthermore, they refunded me the extra money that I paid to receive the wetsuit early. They also expedited the shipping to make sure I still received my wetsuit in time for the event. Great customer service!! And I didn't ask for any of this! Really shows initiative.

So I wore the wetsuit to my open water swim workout yesterday. With the help of the Workout Director of my local triathlon club, I learned how to don and doff the wetsuit and also got in a few laps in the water. My form is still sucky but at least I know that I can float with ease if I have to. I don't mind the open water swim as much now knowing I won't sink to the bottom because I've somehow forgotten how to tread or more importantly because of onset exhaustion caused by treading vigorously (I'm a terrible treader).

Either way, my confidence level is much higher now and I at least know that I will finish the triathlon. For the last two weeks, I've been cursing all things training but decided to accept the invitation to compete on the relay team for the Half Full Triathlon hosted by Rev3 as the runner on the team. We're raising  money for cancer research (and I will insert the link here for you to donate as soon as I receive it). Please consider donating to this worthy cause!

Cheers!

Monday, September 10, 2012

When a Rut Hits You at the Wrong Time

There are moments when training is going well and everything is on schedule...but then it happens. You hit a rut and you feel like you can't go on or you don't want to go on. Instead, you just want to sit...and do nothing OR do everything but train. It's okay if it happens towards the beginning or maybe even toward the very end. Nothing wrong with starting your taper period a little early. But when it hits during the peak weeks of training, it can really hurt you.

A few weeks ago, some friends and I went to the beach to celebrate a birthday! Woohoo! GOOD TIMES!


That weekend, I was supposed to run 14 miles as part of my Marine Corps Marathon training...but after a night of partyin' until 4:30 a.m. it simply didn't happen. After a day of rest and relaxation at the beach, I thought I'd give it another shot on Sunday... nope. Didn't happen.

So, I counted it as a loss. No big deal. I'm a pretty experienced runner who knows how to proceed after a weekend like this. Just move along with your training and don't try to make it up. As I returned to my regular ho-hum life, I felt less and less motivated to get back on track with my triathlon training. In an effort to feel like I was doing SOMETHING productive, I tried to run every so often and that helped to an extent.

Then another week passed and I hadn't been in the pool or on a bike... I tried racking my bike and taking it to the trail but it started to POUR down raining before I could make it to the trail. It took every ounce of effort in me to make it that far so needless to say, I carried my bike in the house and let it sit in my living room for 2 weeks...collecting dust. ( ._.)  I did manage to make it out to run a total of 10 miles that following week and fought through my 16 mile long run that Saturday.

But to make sure I rested adequately enough between long runs and training activities, I proceeded to do ZERO activity for 7 days. SEVEN...DAYS!!! But I got myself together last Friday, proceeded to carbo load like a champ and ran 18 miles this past Saturday.  Don't try this at home kids.

So here I am, 4 DAYS before the Atlantic City Sprint Triathlon and according to the athlete's guide, I will have 20 minutes to finish the open water swim. I managed to go to the pool yesterday to test my skills. I haven't been in the pool in about a month but I swam 450 yds in 17:30 minutes. That's pretty slow. Here's hoping that my wetsuit comes with some mini propellers or something. My stroke is somewhat efficient and I felt pretty relaxed in the water. I just hope I don't get kicked or I don't do that thing where I stop sighting and start swimming 50 yds away from the course. :(

In the meantime, all I can do is pack as much as possible, make sure I'm organized, and pray for the best.