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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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

Coney Island, Take Two: Redemption

July 19 – the second open water swim with my Team in Training (TNT) crew. We all know about the first one and how that went, so – even though I swam great in the Hudson a few weeks ago – I started the trek to Coney Island that morning with an uneasy feeling in my stomach and nerves that were acting like I was on my way to the guillotine. I originally planned to meet some TNT folks and ride my bike to the beach with them, but decided not to at the last second because I wanted to just concentrate on the swim and not worry about being tired from the ride, where to stash the bike while I swam, and the logistics of getting back to the city after the morning at the beach was over. Instead, I met other team members at the last car of the Q at Union Square at 6:30am. One of the guys on the train with me was in the tapering phase of training for an Ironman that he was doing in 8 days in Lake Placid. I guess his 2.4 mile swim was a bit more intimidating than my 0.93 mile swim. What a show-off. (Seriously though – that is so impressive and I hope to get there one day, too!)

When we got to Coney Island, I immediately wished that I had a sweater and was glad to put on my wetsuit. It was 7:20am, cloudy and chilly and I was shivering from either the air temperature or my nerves. Or both.

Such a little drama queen, right?

TNT1 (Stolen from TNT team member Karen R. S.)

We pulled on our wetsuits on the boardwalk and then headed onto the beach for a Mission Moment – a reminder of why we are doing this in the first place. A team member gave a bit of background about her battle with cancer and chemo as a kid, and then talked about how she had run into her hospital roommate years later on a subway in Boston. Both were doing well, working impressive jobs and living. She emphasized living, saying that it’s not all about the money and effort that goes into treating and finding cures for cancer, it’s also about the lives that are given back when the cancer goes into remission. The lives that can then live to do great things and potentially change the world – which is something that they may not have been able to to without organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and donations through Team in Training. And how every penny is valuable, useful and appreciated.  (Don’t forget to visit my fundraising page and read more about my story: http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/nyctri14/meredith)

TNT2(Stolen from TNT team member Amanda A.)

Then it was time for the water. It was a bit warmer than last time, and this time around we just swam on our own within the group – no buddies to swim with. I high-fived one of my friends while we told each other than we would be fine and we ventured into the water, just after one of the coaches gave us all a warning that there were tons of jellyfish lurking about.

For some reason it is hard for me to breathe out at first when I put my face in the open water. Maybe it’s the cold or the movement of the current or something, but I have to really force myself to breathe that air out for the first 3-5 times before I settle into it. But I think it could also be some kind of natural response to something – I find that I hold my breath way more often than I should when I am punching in Muay Thai, lifting at the gym, or even hitting a tennis ball.

We jumped right into swimming – no acclimating to the water or slow warmups like last time. We swam in a rectangle – out pretty far, then parallel to the shore, then down toward the shore and back parallel in the shallow part until we got to where we started. To be honest, I kept my head above the water for a lot of this drill. But I concentrated on my form, specfically my arms, and slowed myself down when I felt myself overdoing it Otherwise I would be totally exhausted by the time I finished. “Keep your head down, little girl!” I heard a friend yell out to me. Oops, I had been spotted and called out. Couldn’t let that happen again! We did a few more drills in that rectangle and broke into smaller groups so that we could start in 15-second intervals like we would do on triathlon day. I was feeling alright. Still nervous, still a little anxious, but good. (And proud of myself, too.)

Then the coach told us that we would swim the rectangle for 40 minutes straight and that at no time were we to be in water where our feet could touch the bottom. I can’t imagine what the expression on my face must’ve looked like when he said that, but a wave of panic swept over me. 40 minutes? In the ocean. With the waves. In a place where I couldn’t touch the bottom. With the jellyfish. And the tons of other swimmers all around me. Ok. Maybe triathlons aren’t my thing. Maybe I got a little overzealous with this whole idea and am just not ready. Maybe I’m a duathlon girl. Let me run a marathon instead. An ultramarathon, even. Is it too late to bow out gracefully? Tell everyone that I was just kidding about this whole thing? Admit defeat and move on?

I swear I’m not always such a drama queen, but the thought of 40 minutes nonstop in the ocean brought out a 6 year old scaredy cat and I felt stuck between fight or flight. Luckily I am not one to admit defeat easily and was definitely not going to be the person to bow out. No way. I’ll fight over flight any day. The mantra that the coaches have been telling us since day one, drilling into our minds and repeating over and over again in weekly training emails came into my head. I am strong. I am alive. I will thrive. Not just survive.

I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. I am strong. I am alive. I will thrive. Not just survive.

I had this.

There’s nothing scary about the water. When I was a kid I would’ve given anything to be Ariel from the Little Mermaid and could spend days in the water. Maybe I didn’t have the cool mermaid tail but I had an awesome wetsuit. Lycra superhero (as one of the coaches put it). I got to the beginning of one of the lines and was in the 3rd group to enter the water. We swam out to where one of the coaches was treading water and acting as a buoy and went around him. Then all the way to the other side of the embayment where another coach was also treading water making sure that no one cut any corners. Back down the short side of the rectangle and then all the way back to where we had started. And repeat. I settled into a calm rhythm of stroke, breathe, stroke, breathe – turning my head for a breath on every left stroke. I passed some people, others passed me, but at no time did I try to compete with anyone. As far as I was concerned it was just me in there. (At one point though a family began their day at the beach and I had to swim around the grandma as she waded or did her Silver Sneakers water exercises or whatever she was doing.)

I loved being a little mermaid, but after some time I wondered how much longer until those forty minutes were up. I had done several rectangles and had no idea if 8 minutes had passed or 38. I was also a little nauseous from all the movement of the waves combined with continuously turning my head to breathe. I started the short leg of the rectangle and heard the coach whistle and yell that 40 mins were up – time to get out of the water!

Phew!

I got out of the water, quickly tried to turn my water legs back into land legs, reunited with my crew and got out of my wetsuit. I was freezing and shivering and my head was a bit dizzy, but I was smiling and ready for the 5 mile boardwalk run. I threw on my shoes, turned on the Nike+ app on my phone and ran. Since most of us had our race gear on under our wetsuits so that we could practice swimming in what we would be wearing on the actual day, the boardwalk was covered with purple LLS and TNT race tops, shorts, headbands, you name it. It was pretty amazing actually. I can only imagine how many more of us will be there on the actual day.

TNT (Stolen from TNT team member Karen R. S.)

So – the swim was a success, the run was great, and all that was left was fries from Nathan’s and a cold Coney Island Mermaid pilsner. Done and done.

Triathlon day is less than 2 weeks away and I feel ready. I am so excited to wear my purple, to jump into the Hudson, to get the adrenaline rush that comes with races (which I can only imagine is intensified for triathlons), to be a part of something bigger than I am, to swim, bike and run for my grandma, for the fighters, survivors and victims of cancer. To be able to say, after months of training, that I am a triathlete.

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Flashback Friday!

Let’s flash back to my first “real” half marathon, shall we? December 14, 2013 – a day that will first and foremost forever be remembered as Frickin Freezing. That day was the Brooklyn Holiday Half – 13.1 miles along the water in Bay Ridge near the Verrazano Bridge. It was 27 degrees, snowy and icy.

I had run probably around 6 “unofficial” half marathons before this one, but those were just for fun. They were long runs that I did by myself – just me and my Nike+ watch – or with a friend as he was training for the NYC Marathon.  They weren’t officially timed and documented races with a bib and swag and all the finish line glory.  Just your run-of-the-mill half marathons on a whim!  This was also my first winter half.

My friend Andy (who subsequently got me involved with Team in Training and the NYC Triathlon) and I ran the Brooklyn Holiday Half together. Here is my before picture.  (Poor little girl is so excited and doesn’t realize she will soon be a living and breathing icicle.)

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By the time Andy and I got our bibs and swag bag, my toes and fingers were getting more and more numb. I had layers and a fleece hat on, and awesome little running glove/mittens that I had gotten the day before, but thank God for the fleece neck warmer thing that I put around my face or I think it would have frozen right off. We took our minds off the cold by taking some pictures – it is rarely too cold for pictures.

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While we waited and after we checked our bags, Andy ran up and down a dock several times to warm up and I pretended to stretch while watching the falling snow and wondering if we were all completely crazy. It was perfect fireplace and hot chocolate weather. Grilled cheese and tomato soup weather. Snuggly blanket and a stupid RomCom movie weather. Not really half marathon by the water weather, especially for a little girl who tends to hibernate in the winter (unless she’s snowboarding).  But there were people there in shorts so I decided that if they weren’t complaining, then neither should I!  I knew what I was getting myself into and had fleece-lined running tights keeping my legs slightly warmer than their shorts were keeping theirs.

Anyway – we lined up, someone said remarks about how tough we were for being out there in the snow and sub-freezing temperatures and told us to be careful around water stations because the ground around them were already starting to ice up and would no doubt become worse.  Soon after we started I felt myself becoming warmer as I got into the groove of the race.  I ran for warmth but, more importantly, I ran for the free post-race pasta lunch.  I couldn’t wait.  I probably smiled just thinking about it.

The course was pretty straightforward – down along the waterfront, then turn around and back to the starting line, and then repeat.  The first half was fine.  Since it was a new place where I had never run before I was taking in all the sights and sounds.  I am a water girl, so just running by any body of water is always super calming and enjoyable for me.  Even with the Arctic chill smacking me in the face. (And it was smacking me in the face pretty hard!)  The highway was also right there and cars kept honking at us, cheering us on – I loved that. But by the time I ran the second half of the race, I had adopted a “been there, done that” attitude, since I had just literally been there, done that.  Snow had started falling a bit harder and the flakes that landed on my eyelashes were no longer whimsical, and there were newly formed patches of ice scattered around.  Parts of my face were numb and air that I was sucking in was so cold that it hurt my throat.

I was trying to break my standing record of 2 hours and Andy was using this race as a tapering run since he was doing a half Ironman a few weeks later (the man is a beast!) so we didn’t run together much.  I used two girls in front of me as pacers for a good portion of the second half of the race and tried to avoid any snowy or slippery spots on the course.  Somewhere along the way I pulled the fleece off of my face, rolled up my sleeves and considered taking my cool little glove/mittens off.  (I ended up compromising and only taking one off.)  I was warm – or fully numb – and running like it was just another practice run.  Until disaster hit near mile 9!! (ok, that might be a little dramatic.) I reached out at a water station to grab a drink and spilled it all over my bare hand and wrist.  The glove quickly went back on.  I had to clench my hand into a fist inside the glove to warm it up while I wondered how I would be able to properly function after my fingers were amputated from the frostbite that I would inevitably get, and the pros and cons of a Robo hand.  My fingers were fine after they regained feeling (poor little things were shocked!), but I refused to grab a drink for the rest of the race and let it sabotage me again. Take that, water.

The rest of the race was more or less fine.  I slid once on some ice at one point but it was nothing major.  (Later on my lower back was a little sore, and I think I tweaked it a little when I slid, but I didn’t notice it until a few hours later and within a day or so it was completely gone.)  I know that I definitely talked myself through the last mile.  Out loud.  A full on pep talk.  Sometimes you just need that extra push!  But I crossed the finish line in 1:59:40 – juuuuust under my 2 hour record!  I collected my medal, got a banana that I ended up throwing away because it was waaay under-ripe, and sat down on the cold ground.  Bad idea – I was frozen again in about 30 seconds flat and couldn’t move.  This must be what hypothermia feels likeDon’t people get a rush of warmth before hypothermia takes over? I waited for that warmth as I checked my phone.  My fingers were moving so slowly.  It took what felt like 5 minutes before I was able to send a text with my time.  I decided to get up when I figured that I probably felt similar to how Rose in Titanic felt like as she laid on that slab of wood in the ocean.  Andy and I had said that we would meet at the bar that was giving us the free pasta, so I dragged myself off the ground and headed over.  Andy had a great run and we were ready for pasta!  We ate, he had a beer while I had about 4 waters, and then we began the long journey home.

Overall – that half was a success!

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The trek took nearly 2 hours because of the usual weekend train trouble, and I felt like I had been dragged to the edge of the earth and back by the time I made it home.  I was sore, tired, and wheezing, and I had an old man cough for the next day.  My lungs hurt from all that cold air.  (I’m assuming. I’ve never had that happen before.)  BUT by the time I got home, Katharine had grilled cheese, tomato soup, hot chocolate with marshmallows, a snuggly blanket, AND a stupid RomCom waiting for me as a surprise.  All that was missing was a fireplace!

 

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Run as One – 4 miles in Central Park

Oops, I did it again.  I raced in sneakers that I had never run in before.

Last week I got some hand-me-down Mizuno sneakers from Carla because they aggravated her old Achilles tendon injury, and decided that they were the perfect shoes for the Run as One 4 mile race in Central Park, a race that supports lung cancer research.  I’d heard amazing things about Mizunos and had been wanting a pair for a long time so of course I would run in them for this race, right?  I mean, I wore them on that long bike ride yesterday and they felt great so I figured I was ready to run in them. Maybe not the best logic, but it worked out today!

Here they are:

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(I probably would have gone for a slightly different color scheme, but it’s all good – they were free!)

The temperature was predicted to be in the 60s today, but at 8am it was still pretty chilly so I wore shorts and a long-sleeve shirt with my Mizunos and got to the appropriate corral about 20 minutes before the start of the race, along with over 8,000 other runners.  Katharine ran this one with me, so I guess she helped make sure I wasn’t late and rushing to the starting line like my last couple races.  We started together, but I decided that since this was “only” 4 miles I would try to beat some kind of personal record.  Fastest mile? Fastest 5k even?  Something!  Olympian Steve Prefontaine once said “The best pace is a suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.” (He also ran a mile in under 4 minutes. ) Whatever – I planned to run the hell out of this race.

I started off pretty fast with 30 Seconds to Mars blaring in my ears.  The race started near 68th Street and went counterclockwise around the inner loop of Central Park, which meant that the Cat Hill was right there.  I sprinted up, glaring at the cat statue (as I usually do) and continued on my way.  My Nike+ watch had me at an 8:35 pace on the hill, so I started going faster – to a 7:48 pace.  It’s no Steve Prefontaine level, but it was all I had in me this morning (and I was digging it)!  Before the first mile was over, I had to do something that I’ve never had to do in a race before – pull myself over to tie my shoe.  In all my races, my shoelaces have never untied before but apparently my left Mizuno didn’t get the memo.

I slowed down a little bit near mile 2 because we were turning onto the 102nd Street Traverse and there was kind of a bottleneck since the street got a bit more narrow and there was a water station there.  I noticed that the Mizunos were heavier than what I was used to – most of my other sneakers are really lightweight and flexible, but these aren’t.  But they were still comfortable, so that’s a plus. And they offered much more ankle support, which might actually be better for my foot.

Before I knew it, mile 3 was behind me and I was wondering what kind of food they had at the finish line.  Probably the usual bananas, but hopefully they had muffins.  I was really in the mood for one a poppy seed one.  Maybe a bagel, but those tend to be too heavy for after running.  No, definitely a muffin.

And then I realized the laces on my right Mizuno had come untied.  Really, Righty?  You didn’t learn your lesson when the left one untied?  I had only about half a mile left and wondered if I could just run through it but, as I felt the sneaker get looser, I ran to the side of the road for a second time, tied it up, and finished the race.  My fastest mile was 8:12 (not a PR, but I was happy with it) and my overall pace was 8:24.  No records were shattered, but there’s always next time!

4miles

(Katharine crossed the finish line a couple minutes later with her very own personal record!!)

Tomorrow officially starts week 6 of triathlon training, which means one thing: our first of many BRICK sessions (which is running right after biking) begins this week.  I guess now is as good of a time as any, so bring it on!

March 26 – pink bikes and broken goggles

Some of you were asking how the first team training session went yesterday.  Well….. I didn’t go!  I know – super anticlimactic.  I didn’t bring my running gear to work, ended up working late, contemplated buying a whole new outfit, remembered I’m not rich, headed home feeling defeated, and immediately crawled into my bed to take a nap.  (But not before texting a friend or two to see if they wanted to go to the gym because I knew I needed some kind of workout.  I only asked the ones who I was 87% sure would say no, though. Oops.)

Don’t worry though – I woke up almost 2 hours later in full triathlete mode and did 15.5 miles on my bike!  My stationary bike. My little pink stationary bike.

Image awww, how cute.

Don’t let it fool you – 15.5 miles on that sucker was no joke. My legs loved it though!

Today I tackled swimming. Swim cap? Check. Goggles? Check. First full piece bathing suit I’ve had since I was 10? Check. Looking like a complete dork? Check.

I was ready! 

The pool was freezing, so as I lowered myself into the water my suspicions that this experience would be pretty similar to being on a sinking Titanic were closer to being confirmed.  Long story short though: I didn’t drown (success!) but my goggles broke and flew off my big head in 2 separate pieces, ending my swim 25 minutes in.  I guess you can never be too sure with clearance aisle purchases!

Is that a sign of bad swim things to come?  I’ll let you know.