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

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6 Weeks Left!

Just about 6 weeks until the big day!!  It’s hard to believe that it’s coming up so quickly.  Crunch time is upon us, ladies and gents.  Time to begin panic mode or beast mode. Which one will it be?

(Beast mode. Obviously 😉 )

So, remember that big swimming adventure I totally hyped up in my last post?  Well…. we didn’t go because the thunderstoms last weekend would have messed us up,  BUT we rescheduled and are going for real in a few days. Don’t you worry – swimming is still going to be turned up to the next level!

Before the storms hit last weekend though, we had a different kind of adventure – a “leisurely” bike ride in New Jersey.   And we learned a couple things along the way:

1. Bike racks are super awesome, but even the easiest one can take over an hour to install, even with instructions (that were only pictures and didn’t makes any sense) and 2 YouTube videos (though now we are pros at it).

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Now THAT is a fine looking bike rack!

2. Even if you are in the best shape ever (which I am not claiming to be) biking hills are killers on the ol’ gams.  My legs were burning and tired and dead by the end of that ride!

Seriously, it was no joke and the hills on the Alpine trail are brutal at times! It was great though – even without padded bike shorts on (noted, and I will not be making that mistake again) – and we called it a day after almost 23 miles of nonstop hills (mountains?) and some terrifying minutes a busy street with the tiniest bike lane ever.

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She’s alive!!!

Aside from that it’s been swimming and running, swimming and running.  Oh, and lots of swimming and running, too.  Here are a couple highlights:

What better way to strengthen those legs and build up some speed than some hill running, right?  So, the day after we biked up the Jersey equivalent of Mt. Everest, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to run 4 miles of Harlem Hill in Central Park – just up and down, up and down. If you know Harlem Hill, then no explanation needed. If you aren’t familiar, let’s just say it is no picnic – especially on a humid afternoon in the middle of they day. But, while the way up took effort (like a gasping for breath, sweat flying everywhere, whole body kind of effort) the way back down was actually fantastic, and I was happy with my splits. (And even happier for the downpour that happened right after I finished!)

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Ok, where are we? Biking, check. Running, check. Now on to swimming.

The other day was a milestone in this year’s tri training: the day I successfully swam a full mile. Yea!! I feel good in the pool and ready for the open water swim on June 13th. Except it is probably going to be super cold in that ocean. And I need to get a new wetsuit. Ok, maybe I am not quite as ready as I think I am!! 😉

That’s all for now, folks! Stay tuned for an update about that fabulous swimming trip and to hear about my introduction to the mile high club. (The Mile High Run Club. Get your head out of the gutter.)

I’ll keep doing the training if you all keep doing the donating. Deal? All this is for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – a great cause! – so please help me out in any way that you can.
http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

Thank You!!

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Thank you so much to everyone who has donated so far.  Because of YOU I am 36% of the way to my fundraising goal of $5,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Because of YOU we are that much closer to finding a cure for cancer.  Because of YOU this lady – my grandma, my first dancing partner and swimming (among countless other activities) cheerleader – is still remembered and alive in our thoughts and actions.  (She rarely got in the pool and when she did she made sure to NEVER get her hair wet, but she loved watching us splash around!)

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If you haven’t already, please consider donating to my LLS fundraiser.  http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/meredith

In other triathlon news:  Swimming is about to get kicked up a notch – Boyfriend and I are going to take it to a whole new level!  Wait until you hear about what is going to happen over the weekend.  All I can say is that I am SO excited and will take a ton of pictures for you all.  It is just what we need to prepare ourselves for the first team open water swim at Coney Island that is scheduled for June 13th. (Yikes – that is coming up quickly…!)

Stay tuned!

Little of This, Little of That

Yikes! It’s been a while since the last time I wrote! Don’t worry – my time has been training-filled and full of learning experiences. Since my last blog entry – the NYC Half – I have done 2 more half marathons! Last month was the More Shape Women’s Half Marathon, which was 2 laps around Central Park. Great race, boring route.  I know, calling Central Park boring makes me sound like a brat, but after the scenic-filled NYC Half, that park just seemed uneventful.  And 2 times on Harlem Hill was no walk in the park.  (Bad pun?  Is that even a pun?  Whatever, it’s staying.)  Here are some highlights:

IMG_2565-4 The race was sponsored by Shape Magazine, whose parent company is Meredith! It was nice to see my name plastered all over the place during packet pick-up and I pretended to be a celeb – the Meb Keflezighi or Deena Kastor of the race.

IMG_2579-1 Just me, my race, and my Nathan.  (Not that Nathan, sillies.  My other Nathan – the cool little running belt I got from my mom!)

IMG_2587 Here I am debating what to have for brunch when the race was over.  Tofu scramble with all the fixings? Toasted sesame seed bagel dripping in (tofu) cream cheese and Earth Balance?  Definitely a Bloody Mary.  Or a Mimosa sounds good.  I always want mi-more mimosa.

CP3 Done!  Apple in my hand and brunch on my mind (still).

CP4 Not bad for a “boring” course, right?!

 

Ok, all caught up on the Women’s Half?  Good!

Now on to the next one:
Last Saturday, over 26,500 of us tackled the Brooklyn Half Marathon – the biggest one in the country! Another spectacular event put on by New York Road Runners. The humidity (76%) and 15 minutes of rain could have thrown us all into a frantic state of disarray, but we pulled through!

Actually, I really hate to say this, but this race had a lot of casualties – many more than I am used to seeing. Probably because of the humidity?  I saw so many people fainting.  A seizure, maybe even 2.  AND heard that there was a heart attack right behind me.  I (along with some guy who was running near me) had to veer off couse one time to flag down a police officer for someone who needed serious medical attention, and helped to wave down EMT on at least 2 other occassions.  It was scary.  BUT all that, the humidity, and the rain aside, it really was a good run.  The Brooklyn Half is one of my favorite races and I had been looking forward to it for a while.

BKprePacket pickup.  No sleep ’til Brooklyn!!

BK1 DADA DADA DADA DADA BATMAN.

BK2Champions.  Warriors.  Winners.  (or just 3 people ready to go back to bed.  We had gotten up at 4:45am to get to the starting line for 7am.  By 9:30am we were far from home, tired, sore, and maybe a little delirious.  But we were done!)

What’s next on the agenda? A lot of swimming. It’s time to step up my game a bit and show that water who is boss. TNT group training sessions in swimming have continued to be extremely helpful and valuable. Even though I did most of the swim practices last year, I am still learning tips and tricks that have helped my form and overall execution of the stroke and I feel surprisingly calm, cool and collected in the water (a welcome change from this time last year). Regardless – there will be plenty goggles, open water swims at Coney Island, and Body Glide in my immediate future, and I am perfectly fine with that!

Although I have a high commitment to my training, I still need some motivation to keep me going sometimes. Your donation to my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) fundraiser is just what I need to push me through rainy days and mental blocks, to get me pounding the pavement, into the water, and spinning those wheels. Your donations helps me to realize that this is all for something bigger, and I thank you!

http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

Click on my fundraising page and please consider making whatever contribution you can. No penny is too little, and no dollar is too large- everything will help to make a positive change.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”  – Anne Frank

It’s About That Time

Official kickoff for the Team in Training’s (TNT) NYC Triathlon team is in just about two weeks, which means one thing: the triathlon is just about 4 months away!!  While I cannot wait to jump into the Hudson again (and even more – I can’t wait to step out of the Hudson after!), I am excited for the opportunity to be able to once again fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).  Since I first came into contact with TNT and LLS last year, I’ve been pretty open about what sucked me into their mission.  I was only fourteen years old when my grandma died from non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and I wanted to make sure that she was still remembered, that what she went through was not forgotten, that it could be used to someway, somehow, change someone else’s life for the better, so that maybe some other little girl somewhere could have more time to spend with her own grandma.  And so here I am!

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But I am not doing this on my own.  I am just a small part of a team with the same goal of eradicating cancer once and for all so that our loved ones could live fuller lives and stick around with us for a bit longer.  Not a bad goal, right?

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Training for the triathlon will be just as eventful as last year, so you don’t want to miss any of these updates!  The NYC Half Marathon is coming up in less than 2 weeks, followed by a couple more awesome runs, some epic bike rides, (hopefully less traumatizing) swims in the ocean, and so much more – and you can have a front row seat to all the training successes, mishaps, and lessons along the way.  This winter has been way too cold and long, and adventures are calling my name.  Treadmills, stationary bikes and indoor pools: get ready to take five – I am heading outside!

Now, what can you do to help?  Every penny that is fundraised goes to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Want to see the impact of your donation?  Well, here you go:

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Here is my fundraising page: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri15/Meredith

Thank you so much in advance for your donations, your support, encouragement, words of wisdom and everything else you all throw my way.  I really appreciate it all.

Alright, let’s go!

4 Miles for Ian

What? You didn’t think I would let a couple weeks go by without doing another race, right?

Last Saturday morning, bright and early with 71% humidity, was the 4th annual Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe 4 mile run. Named for Boomer Eslason, an NLF Hall of Famer, this race originally started out as a 10k but has since been shortened so that more individuals with CF could participate.  Katharine’s friend from college died from CF so I was doing this race with him in mind. I had only met him a handful of times, but even one time was enough to know that he was someone special and one of the most hilarious people out there. So here’s to you, Ian.

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(Kath and Ian circa 2005.)

The race was in Central Park (like the last few) and so I was very familiar with the course. No sweat. It was a beautiful morning (even with all that humidity) and every good weekend should start with a run. I went down my usual checklist as I was walking to the park:

– Nike+ watch? On my wrist and linking sensors
– Phone? Strapped to my arm
– Earbuds? No, totally forgot about them
– Runner number 6651 (formerly known as runner 4929)? Right next to me
– Race bib? 3654 was proudly sprawled across my shirt
– Vivobarefoot sneakers? Absolutely

Ok so far I was doing much better than the previous race!

6651 and I were in separate corrals and so, having already decided that whoever was in the faster one wouldn’t slink back so that we could start together, we walked for as long as we could together before heading to our respective starting places. The course was pretty much the same as the last couple races I’ve done. It started on the east side just south of the Cat Hill, went counterclockwise up to and through the 102nd street transverse, down the west side, and to71st Street and ended near the bandshell.

Ok – so we started and headed up to the Cat Hill.  My pace was good but I knew I wouldn’t be shattering any records that day, which was fine because I knew that 6651 would be. As long as one of us had a record breaking day then it would be all good!

The humidity was pretty brutal but I chugged along, sweating out the vegan pizza and wings I had the night before. (Vegan or not, if you’re ever in Long Island make it a point to stop by 3 Brothers Pizza. I promise it will be worth it.) Miles one and two went off without a hitch. Just a little girl and the pavement – one of the most freeing feelings out there.  My legs started to feel a little tired around mile 2.5 for some reason, but I pushed it out of my mind and was fine by mile three – just in time to sprint the last mile!!

I turned onto the 72nd Street transverse and looked up ahead to see the finish line. I love to see that thing in the distance. I’ve run a ton of races, all different lengths, and the first sight of the finish line looming up ahead is like magic.  I hope it always feels like that.  I got one last bit of adrenaline (which happens every time, whether I run a 5k or a half marathon) and really picked up my speed.  According to my trusty Nike+ watch I crossed the finish line in 32:48 – an 8:05 pace. I grabbed some water, wiped away the sweat that was dripping off of me, and searched for 6651, who did great – records were shattered!  We rewarded ourselves with a NYRR plum and headed home to register for some more races!

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In other news – today was the second Team in Training open water swim, but you’ll have to wait a day or two to hear about how that went!  At least you know that I didn’t drown in the mighty Atlantic.  And tomorrow is TWO WEEKS until the triathlon. How is that even possible?!

“It’s Like Swimming in a Washing Machine.” : The First Open Water Swim

The first open water swim has come and gone.  I woke up at 5am on Saturday and jumped out of my bed, ready to take on Coney Island with a force that would even surprise myself.  I had a rhythm down when swimming in the pool and was excited to see it translate to the open water.  I headed out at 5:45 to meet a fellow TNT-er at the subway, picked up a few more along the way, and we made the nearly 1.5 hour trek to the ocean. 

We got there, met the rest of the team, pulled on our wetsuits and waited anxiously, excitedly, and nervously to hit the water. 

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 After splitting up into 3 groups, we ran in!  No swimming at first – just getting acclimated to the water (which was colder than I expected!)and getting loose (jumping around, putting our heads under the water, and shaking our arms and shoulders to release any tension).  So far so good.

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Then it was time to actually swim.  We picked buddies to swim with and headed back in.  I was nervous, but still excited – until I started swimming.  I put my head under and started going.  Stroke – the water was murky and it was hard to see.  Nothing like the pool.  Stroke – there were people’s feet kicking and arms moving all around me.  It was a little claustrophobic and reminded me of the scene in Titanic after the ship sank and everyone was crowded and flailing together in the water.  Stroke – I had heard that ocean swimming can be like swimming in a washing machine and I was suddenly aware of the waves and all that was different from the pool.  Breathe – I had forgotten to breathe out, so when I turned my head to take a breath, I couldn’t.  Then I think I forgot how to breathe altogether.  Alright, panic attack, I feel you coming.  Let’s just get this over with.  My buddy was calm, cool and collected and totally helped me out, but it was too late – I was too far inside my head and there was no turning back.  I kept trying though, but it was hard to push my head under the water, and my body was so tense.  I was frustrated and it showed.  After a little bit, I got out of the ocean to shake it off and headed straight to the head coach for advice.  So helpful.  He calmed me down, reassured me, and reminded me that I had done this in practice.

Ok, back into the water, where I was greeted by some TNT pals – some who were experiencing the same thing I was, and others who swam next to me and offered their own advice.  By the time the open water swim ended, I was just getting comfortable.  I left the ocean feeling let down, but confident that I could do it the next time. After the swim (and 5-mile boardwalk run that followed), we feasted!  We all gathered at one of the millions of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs where I had fries and calmed myself down with a good old Coney Island Mermaid.

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Here are some things I learned:

You will probably get hit or kicked along the way. There are a ton of people in that water – some pros, some beginners, all trying to reach the same finish line. With all the arm strokes and kicks, it would be a wonder if you made it through without any hits! Get used to it. (And for the love of God, don’t think about that scene in Titanic while you’re swimming!!)

Learn to sight. There is no thick black line at the bottom of the ocean to help guide your way like there is in the pool. (And if there is, the water is too murky and gross to see it anyway!)

Breathe.  Every time I felt an inkling of uncertainty, I held my breath. I forgot to breathe, which added to the whole panic thing. Breathing is pretty key. Who knew? 😉

Relax.  Much easier said than done, but once you remember everything (that you’re not going to drown, that your wetsuit is buoyant, that you know what you’re doing because you’ve done it in the pool, that breathing is kind of an important part of swimming, that slower and calm strokes will get you there faster and more efficiently than quicker, rushed strokes, that you’re not trying to race or keep up with anyone so it’s fine to just go at your own pace, that YOU’VE GOT THIS) you will relax. And you will be fine. And you will enjoy the swim.

Ok so maybe my first attempt at open water swimming wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be, but it was a learning experience and can only get better. The next ocean swim is in July so you can bet that I’ll be back out at Coney Island – wetsuit and all – working on my open water swimming before then. Whether it be by myself (near the lifeguards of course, Mom), with other TNT team members, or with other friends, I’ll be there. But at least I didn’t leave the ocean feeling completely defeated, so I guess there’s always that.  And I had a great day with my team!

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 I went to the pool this morning before work to make sure I still had it in me. We’re supposed to be able to swim 20 consecutive minutes before the triathlon, and I did 17 right off the bat pretty easily and ended up swimming a total of 40 mins.  Coney Island won’t know what hit it next time.

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