The Official Kick-Off!

Last night, amid vegan sandwiches and fantastic company, Farm Sanctuary’s inaugural NYC Triathlon team officially kicked off training season!  Here we are: plant-based, powerful, and passionate folks who are ready to put in some serious training to benefit an organization that we hold very close to our hearts.  unnamed (1)

Terri, an “[a]iry fast-food joint offering carefully sourced, vegan & kosher spins on casual comfort food” was kind enough to host our gathering and provide some pretty fantastic food.  (My favorites: their buffalo ‘chicken’ sandwich, crunch burger, and cold-pressed strawberry lemonade.  YUM!!)

The night was full of food, introductions, and an overview of our training plan.  We also got a surprise Skype call from Farm Sanctuary’s founder, Gene Bauer (who is quite the athlete himself – he is a regular triathlete and is currently training for his first ultra-marathon!).

Let me tell you a little bit about Farm Sanctuary and why we are so passionate and excited to be on their team.  Well, better yet – let Hilda start the conversation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ia5kLbRz9I

Since Hilda, Farm Sanctuary has become a safe-haven to thousands of abused, neglected, and tortured animals, most of whom were saved from stockyards, factory farms, and slaughterhouses.  They lived in perpetual fear and pain, and were doomed from the moment they came into this world – until Farm Sanctuary rescued them.  Since its inception 30 years ago, Farm Sanctuary has flourished.  With 3 current locations and a 4th slated to be opened next year in New Jersey (thanks, in part, to Jon Stewart!), nearly one thousand “rescued residents are given the care and love they need to recover from abuse and neglect. All of the animals enjoy nourishing food, clean barns, and green pastures each and every day.”  Not only that, Farm Sanctuary does a huge amount of education, outreach, and legislative work surrounding animal welfare and protection.

Please help us help the animals while keeping us motivated to get out there and train by donating to this special organization.  My boyfriend, Nathan, and I have a joint fundraising page and would be so appreciative of any support: https://give.everydayhero.com/us/tri-ing-4-animals

Until next time ❤

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Entering the Home Stretch!

17 days – thats it! In 17 days I will swim a mile in the Hudson River, ride 25 miles and run 6.2 in the NYC triathlon in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society! And I am ready (for the most part- I do plan to get out on that bike a couple more times for some long rides. But THEN I’ll be ready!). Swimming isn’t nearly as concerning for me as it was last year; in fact, it might be my favorite event now. Yes, even before running! (I can’t believe I just said that.)

Yesterday was the fundraising deadline and I am still a bit away from my goal. But the good news is that donations will still be accepted through July 8th so there is still some time if you haven’t already donated! Please click the link below and consider donating to such a great cause. Do it because everyone, in some way, is affected by cancer. Do it because swimming in the Hudson River is crazy and you support my insanity. Do it because it was just payday, or because you are SO happy that this is the last time you will read a post from me begging for money. Do it to change someone’s world. Every penny counts!  Here is my fundraising page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

And also watch this super short video of my experience from last year’s triathlon. http://magis.to/eisiTEQHAgd6LnEBDmEwCXh7?l=vsm&o=i&c=m

Two things stand out in that video:

1. I had SO MUCH FUN.  Those smiles are so incredibly real and I plan on having even more fun this year!

2.  I need to actually purchase race photos so not all my pictures say “proof” across them.

Ok, want to hear more about training?

On Sunday I ran in the Achilles Hope and Possibilities run, which is probably the most inspiring race on the NY Road Runners calendar. Achilles International was founded by Dick Traum, the first above-the-knee amputee to finish the NYC marathon! (actually, I think he was the first amputee, period.  Forget the above-the knee part!) He refused to let his disability hold him back and wanted others to feel the same and so he founded the organization.  According to their website, “Able-bodied volunteers and disabled runners come together to train in an environment of support and community. Within this community, runners gain measurable physical strength and build confidence through their sense of accomplishment, which often transfers to other parts of their life.”  Awesome, right?  And Jon Stewart hosted!

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The race itself was fantastic. 5 miles through Central Park with 3,317 other runners of all different shapes and sizes and abilities. This is one race that really encourages you to give it your all; we ran with runners with prosthetic legs, blind runners who were being led by Achilles guides, wounded war veterans, and runners with other physical impairments. Everyone. Together.

photo 1 A before picture – just seconds away from the starting horn!

It was a cloudy and humid 64 degree morning, but the spirit of the event made everyone forget about the looming thunderstorm that was threatening us and everyone seemed excited and happy to be there.  I know I was – and I was even happier when I realized that we wouldn’t be running Harlem Hill!  God that’s a great feeling.  I was happy with my overall time.  Here are my splits:

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And some obligatory after photos:

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Other than that, I’ve been running on my own and with Team in Training (TNT), swimming even more, and biking a bit – soon to be much more as we head into the home stretch. Despite having done TNT last year, I have learned so much during this year’s training. My coaches and teammates have had some invaluable advice and I am going into the triathlon with so much more knowledge and confidence than last year, plus the added advantage of having done it before.

I’m ready for you, Hudson River!!

No Guts, No Glory!

Someone once said that “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” Well, having had all three yesterday, I can tell you it is a true statement (though I prefer sweat and salt water).

Yesterday my NYC triathlon team and I took on Coney Island with a vengeance as we completed our first open water swim practice of the season.

7:30am, Coney Island, triathlete states of mind.

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(Picture stolen from TNT teammate C. Oh)

I had a new wetsuit to test out – Orca 5S, this year’s version of the fabulous one I had last year – and was excited to see how it compared.

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Just like last year, we got into the frigid water and acclimated ourselves to everything – the temperature, the waves, the murkiness, the flailing limbs around us – before we started actually swimming. And just like last year I had trouble putting my head into the water. WTF!? The amount of expletives going through my mind for the first 20ish mins was enough to make a sailor blush and I was at a total loss. I wasn’t panicking like last year, which was a plus, but I was frustrated, mad and confused as to why it was not as easy as I expected. So I swam with my head up.  Ugh.

Then it was time for a 30 minute continuous swim. Ok, I thought, do it like you know you can – like you’ve done it before – and get out of the water feeling good and confident, or continue being a scared little p**sy and this whole thing is for nothing and a waste of time. Up to you.

Good pep talk, right? But it worked and I tuned everything else out – the other people all around me (Boyfriend included because he was doing great and didn’t need me worrying about him), the waves, my foggy goggles, the sunburn that was inevitably going to be on half of my face because I am a left side only breather, all of it – and slowly but surly got my head in that ocean. And once I did, everything started working like it was supposed to. My body became horizontal which helped me to glide through the water better, my arms were calm, my legs didn’t kick in overdrive, my breath was rhythmic and natural, and I actually felt fantastic. (And that new wetsuit did an awesome job!) I remembered key swimming techniques that I had recently learned and just focused on those. By the end of the 30 minutes my hands were numb from the cold water but I felt good – which was a huge improvement from this time last year!

Little victories.  I’ll take them anywhere I can get them.

And speaking of swimming, last week Boyfriend and I spent two days at Hungry Ghost Guest House in New Paltz. Known as a vegan “active retreat”, Hungry Ghost is owned and operated by athletes/super awesome couple, Mike and Petra Trunkes, who encourage swimming, biking, running, and a variety of other outdoor activities (which happen to be a few of our favorite things!) We took about 5 hours of Total Immersion (TI) swimming lessons with Mike. Because the lessons are taught in a small pool with a wave machine that makes a current to essentially keep you in one spot, TI focuses on mindful practice so that changes and corrections in swimming can be made immediately. There were also mirrors on the inside of the pool and cameras so that we could watch our technique and immediately see what needed to be tweaked. Seriously – it was fantastic, Mike was a great teacher and the two were the best hosts!! (Not to mention Petra’s chocolate chip and banana pancakes with apple compote were out of this world!) I have a strong feeling we’ll be back in New Paltz very soon for an open water swim or tune-up before the triathlon. While we were there, we also took advantage of being so close to the mountains and ran around Lake Minnewaska. Here are some highlights:

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Ok that’s it for now! Please keep me motivated by donating to my fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as I continue to train. Right now I am 59% of the way to my goal and need your help to keep the momentum going. Let’s do this together! http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

NYC Triathlon (part 1): The Build Up

It took me a while to write this because I didn’t even know where to begin! The triathlon is over and I not only survived it, but had an amazing time doing it.  It was so much fun and I kind of can’t wait to start training for next year!!  The weekend started on Friday with the Team in Training Inspiration Dinner where we gathered together one last time and basically patted ourselves on the back for getting through the training and making it to race weekend.  When we walked in to the banquet room all the mentors were lined up in the doorway with cowbells and cheering for us, which was actually pretty awesome. We heard from a cancer survivor (and fellow triathlete) who reminded us just how important the nearly 1 million dollars we had raised were to patients and their families.  And then some awards were given out. I was one of the top 10 fundraisers (which was a surprise to me!) and got a certificate and a TNT visor. At that point I had raised $6,320, but donations are still coming in and I am now up to $6,475 and counting! Thank you to everyone who donated. Seriously – it means so much to me. I have until the end of September to stop fundraising, so let’s get to an even $6,500! (You can donate here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri14/meredith)

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On Saturday I went to a mandatory briefing where we were told pretty much everything we would need to know for race day.  I thought it would make me a little more relaxed about everything, but by the end of the briefing my stomach was in knots.  And where there weren’t knots, there were butterflies fluttering around.  And where there weren’t butteflies, there were feelings of anxious uneasiness.  I picked up my race packet (which made the anxious uneasiness change over to excited anxiety), bought a triathlon t-shirt that had the names of all 4,000 participants, and went home to grab my bike and bring it to the transition area. I got some good advice to stop in at the bike shop before checking in my bike, which turned out to be a great idea because my front wheel was really loose and a bad pothole could have been disastrous!  It seems one can’t ride without a front wheel.  Live and learn, I guess. 😉  I also got some more air put in my tires by a shocked employee who could not believe that I was doing a triathlon with such an old bike.  He wished me luck and told me to stop in sometime to try out some “real bikes.”

My transition – yellow transition – was in the same place where we had met for alot of TNT group training bike sessions and where I’ve played wiffleball a few times so I was very familiar with the area. The field was pretty unrecognizable, though.  There were hundreds of spaces for bikes – most of which were already filled with the bike of a corresponding race number, and people were rushing around getting last minute things in order. I racked my bike (with help from a seasoned triathlete and super nice stranger who actually knew what he was doing and could tell I was clueless about the whole thing) and walked home with adrenaline building with every step.

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I had been too busy and overwhelmed with all the pre-triathlon stuff to really be excited before, but now it was real. Now there really wasn’t much else to do aside from putting my number tattoos on my arms (which I had almost forgotten about), making sure all my stuff was packed and ready to go (which it wasn’t) and going to bed early (which I didn’t).

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Ok – fast forward a few hours. Dinner was eaten, last minute supplies were picked up and I was excited, feeling like I could bounce off the walls and not the least bit tired. It was Christmas Eve x 10. My birthday x 50. The last day of school before an epic summer vacation x 100.  Time for number tattoos, which were carefully stuck to my arm like tattoos from a Cracker Jacks box.  I also wanted names on my arm so that I could look down at them in case things got hard during the triathlon – names that had inspired me to do this in the first place with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and TNT.  The cancer fighters.  The survivors.  The victims.  My grandma.  Her name was first, followed by three more, and the list ended with initials of a good friend – a survivor who helps motivate me every day.

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(I also tattooed this guy. 20140811-105715.jpg Check out those guns. 🙂 )

 
Then I set my alarm for 3:30am so that I could get to my transition by around 4:15am and tried to sleep.  Much easier said than done.  I slept for maybe 3.5 hours, jumped out of bed at the sound of the alarm and headed for yellow transition with one hand squeezing my boyfriend’s hand while my thumb on my other hand nervously played with a ring I had on. (Props to him for everything – for getting up so early, for making my tattoos and the names on my arm perfect, for just being there.)   We made there just around 4:30am and I ran into the transition area to make sure all my stuff was set up and ready.

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I got my stuff situated, met a few of my teammates, and we started the mile walk to the starting line.  I was in my corral with 2 of my teammates by 6am, and kept going from excited to nervous as we pulled on our wetsuits and talked about who knows what for the next 40 mins.

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One thing that kept me calm though was my fan club of 7 (and counting!) who were already assembled right on the other side of the fence cheering me on with posters and everything right at 6am!! I didn’t expect that – especially so early and in the cold drizzle.

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Ok – now it was around 6:40am and the line was moving.  I was freezing and ready to be in the water, but was really wishing that the rain would stop and the sun would come out.  There were 15 people in each 15-second wave, and so the line was moving quickly.  We were told to put our goggles on and make sure we were ready before even stepping onto the barge.  I was so happy to be with my 2 teammates because I think I would have been freaking out if I were in a wave where I didn’t know anyone.  Now we were on the barge – and waiting.  Waiting for the horn to sound.  Waiting to officially get this triathlon started.  Waiting for the plunge into the Hudson River.  It couldn’t have been longer than 10 seconds, but it seemed like forever.  I was ready, I was excited, and I knew my fan club had my back every second of the way.

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And then the horn sounded.