Big Fat Scary Goals: My 2016 Race Plans

Just like a runner needs rest days, sometimes runners need a “rest year.” No, not necessarily taking the whole year off, but scaling back. in 2015 I scaled back, but 2016 is here (well, it’s been here for 2 months already) and I’m ready again for a Big Fat Scary Goal (BFSG).

While races aren’t the sole motivation for me to run, I’m very goal-oriented (teacher, yo) and when I can work bit by bit toward something I enjoy, such as racing, it’s the extra kick in the pants I need to make the training happen.

I’ve got all of my races planned (and most are paid for) for this year. One advantage of entering early is not only to put the goal on the calendar, but the race fees are cheaper! (Again, teacher, yo) Here are my races for 2016:

2/21/16: Big Chili 5k, Danbury, CT  I signed up for this in January, then later booked my daughter’s birthday party for the same morning. OOPSIE. There was no way I was going to skip her Star Wars/Peanuts/Shopkins-themed movie party. I was also needed to help put assemble the totally rando favor bags, which contained a Shopkin and a whoopee cushion. Take that, Pinterest suckas! Anyway, last year’s Big Chili was the one where I won an Age Group award because I showed up. While I wasn’t there to defend my “title”,  watching my daughter teach nine 2nd-grade girls how to use a whoopee cushion was totally worth it.

3/20/16: New York City Half Marathon, NY, NY  Back in December, my bank alerted me that this would be my spring running goal. How? Entry for this race was via lottery, and I’d forgotten I entered (what can I say? Mom Memory). Turns out I not only entered, but won a slot, when the alert from my bank app let me know that New York Road Runners charged me for the race. That’s what happens when you “put things out to the universe” and then forget about them.

This race will be an interesting experiment, as I had fairly major sinus surgery in January, and I’m not back to full fitness yet. I’m tempted to Galloway myself (run/walk intervals) through this race and aim for a sub 2:00-hour time. We shall see. Might be pie-in-the-sky. Another post on that later. I ran this race in 2013, and it’s in my “Top 5 Most Fun” races list (in my head). Before that 2013 race I was on the road to recovery from illness (pneumonia) and I vowed to have fun instead of gunning for a PR. I will most definitely have fun again this year. Here’s a pic from 2013:

NYC Half Marathon

Times Square

 

5/1/16: Redding Road Race/The Run For the Cows Half Marathon, Redding, CT  This race sells out every year, as it’s gaining in popularity because it’s super challenging/hilly and very well directed, with nice swag and prizes. Not to mention gorgeous scenery. Luckily, it’s just a 10 minute drive from my house, so I can train on those very same hills. Since NYC will be an experiment-slash-training run, this became my A-goal race. I’m not sure what my A-goal is at the moment, though. Stay tuned.

5/8/16: Run Like a Mother 5k (Volunteering) Ridgefield, CT This hometown race is just a hop, skip, and a jump from my house, too (sleep, yo). I’m volunteering again as  The Run Fairy: Coming In Last So You Don’t Have To. I get to see tons of friends (sometimes it’s their 1st race!) and cheer them on. It’s super fun and uplifting, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m going to up my costume game this year, too. PREPARE YOUR EYES. Here’s last year!

5k, mother's day, run like a mother

The start of the kids’ race. You can’t see the wings, but they’re there! (Photo by Lisa Cousins Photography)

 

6/5/16: Tri-Ridgefield Sprint Triathlon, Ridgefield, CT I can practically just roll out of bed and be there for this one (again, sleep, yo!) This will be my 3rd time racing Tri-Ridgefield, having done it in 2013 and 2014. I skipped 2015, as I did the Brooklyn Half Marathon around that time last year instead. This tri is an 800 yd (maybe meters? not sure) swim, 12.5 mile bike, and 5k run, because triathlons like to make life harder by measuring in both metric and US units. I’m looking forward to the (almost) annual triathlon date with my husband as the run course is out-and-back and we get to slap hands when we pass each other, how romantic. I’m not looking forward to potential freezing lake water (open water panic attacks) or potential high pollen counts (wheezing). But I’ll be there to kick off the triathlon part of my Year of the Big Fat Scary Goals.

wetsuit triathlon Ridgefield

This was 2014’s swim exit. Gotta dust off the ole ripplesuit, er, wetsuit. Oh the humanity.

So far, any of the races or distances I’ve listed, I’ve done before. Next I’m bracing myself for some new Big Fat Scary Goals (BFSG’s).

7/17/16: Litchfield Hills Olympic Triathlon, New Hartford, CT  An Olympic-length triathlon is just about double-length of a sprint: 0.9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride, and a 10k (6.2 miles) run. This race will be at a nice, calm lake in central Connecticut, with rolling hills on the bike ride. But this is just a mere tune-up for the big enchilada…

9/4/16: Big George Half-Iron Distance Triathlon, Lake George, NY!!!!!   1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run! Logically, I can do this. I know I can run 13.1 miles. A couple of years ago, I worked up to a mile in the pool, so I can do that again. But 56 miles on the bike? Don’t tell my butt; it will freak out. Emotionally, I will focus on the positives and not the scaries: I purposely choose a fall tri so that I could train over the summer, when I have more time. My family and I are making a vacation weekend out of it. Lake George, NY is positively gorgeous, and no matter what happens, I get to do this race with one of my BRF’s, Lori. I can’t remember who roped who into this, but we’re in it together.

Big George Triathlon

WOWZA
(From their website)

Also on my radar:

I want volunteer for the NYC Marathon again this year, in early November. Last year I was a finish line marshal, and it was amazing. It was like riding along with others’ highs. If my schedule will allow I will volunteer again.

I feel like I need a late-fall goal, since Big George is pretty early in September. I’m thinking possibly the Richmond (Half) Marathon, as it’s a three-day weekend allowing for travel time, and my dear cousin lives there!

There you have my Big Fat Scary Goals for the year. Please tell me I’m not alone in my craziness of having BRSG’s, but they give me joy, anxiety (in a good way), and ultimately remind me that I am alive. Tell me your BFSG, right now. Even if it’s not endurance-related. Here’s to all of our BFSG’s in 2016!

 

 

 

Kissing 2015 Buh-Bye; Hello-ing 2016!

This runner did not write about any races this year. GASP! WHAT? A runner ran races and didn’t talk/write/blather about it! I am proof it can happen.

I had a lot going on. Some of it fell into the “extremely stressful” or even “awful” category. But once again, running was my respite. While it was somewhat accidental, I ran less weekly miles this year, but made every mile count. The result was 6 solid races, including my first sub-2-hour half marathon, and no injuries. I think I might be onto something here in the “less is more” camp. I learned something from each one, which I’ll save for future posts, as they are GEMS, I tell you!

So here’s my 6-in-1 race recap for 2015 in a nutshell. Or should I say in a #hashtag. (#lazyblogger)

March 1: The Big Chili 5k, Danbury, CT

Hashtags: #snow #slippery #PR #1stinagegroup #exclamationpoint

5k, Big chili, PR

As you can see the conditions were ideal. To you faster people who decided to sleep in, I won a chili bowl, and you did not.

 

April 26: NYRR Run as One for Lungevity Foundation 4M, New York, NY

Hashtags: #lungcancersucks

Lungevity, NYRR,

There was a giant whiteboard for notes at race central.

 

May 10: Run Like a Mother 5k, Ridgefield, CT

Hashtags: #runfairy #cameinlastsonooneelsehadto #fun

5k, mother's day, run like a mother

The start of the kids’ race. You can’t see the wings, but they’re there! (Photo by Lisa Cousins Photography)

 

May 16: NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon, Brooklyn, NY

Hashtags: #ran3daysaweek #fastandflat #shaved9minutesoffpriorPR #soakingrain

Brooklyn Half, half marathon

Before the start with my Ragnar friend Nikki. This race was a blast, besides getting drenched for most of it.

 

 

July 12: Mossman Sprint Triathlon, Norwalk, CT

Hashtags: #perfectconditions #solidoverall #didntdrown #didntcrash #didnttrip

This was my nerves freaking out and being photobombed by another triathlete.

This is my pre-race nerves face.

 

 

October 16: Inagural SONO Half Marathon, South Norwalk, CT

Hashtags: #nogps #nomusic #sub2hrsPR #tonsofexclamationpoints

Ah, the two faces of racing. This time, Im the one smiling instead of wanting to puke. Thats a sub-2:00 smile, by the way.

Ah, the two faces of racing. This time, I’m the one smiling instead of wanting to puke. Thats a sub-2:00 smile, by the way.

 

November 21: Mima’s Meatballs 1-miler for MSV (Predict Your Time Race)

Hashtags: #charity #predictyourtime #walkedwithDad #firstimeheeverworearacebib

My dad and I did this together. No words...

My dad and I did this together. No words…

It was a helluva year. I’m happy to kiss it goodbye and put it into the record books. 2016 is going to bring big challenges. Can you guess? Hashtag hint: #70.3

How did you feel about 2015? What challenges are you taking on in 2016? Do tell in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

Mingoman Triathlon: Calm the Heck Down

This is a very tardy race report. Since school started in late-ish August, I’m busier than a mosquito at a nudist colony.

The Mingoman Triathlon was pretty great for an inaugural race – one could tell this company has put on other tris before. Just some tiny little tweaks I would change, but no major issues. You can read about my pre-race tri-anxiety here.

So how was it? Short version: Pretty darn good.

Pre-event: We had over an hour drive to get up to Delaware, OH, a cute little town just north of Columbus. Dan was doing the Olympic version of the tri, and my friend Janet was doing her first sprint tri.

The point-to-point course complicated things a bit. We drove to the swim/transition #1 and set up our bikes in the dark. Then we drove to the finish/transition #2 and parked, and took the shuttle back to the swim start. I know, I’m confused too.

Once we were back at the reservoir for the start, it was daylight (albeit overcast) and I entered the water to warm up a bit. The water was 68 degrees, which meant it was wetsuit legal. When I got in, the water clarity was so poor that I COULD NOT SEE MY HAND EXTENDED IN FRONT OF MY FACE. Talk about sensory deprivation! That could definitely set off an Open Water Panic Attack. I told myself to calm the heck down, and continued my half-blind warmup.

Swim: After a delayed start (the prior waves did not go off on time), I ran into the water, and a little voice inside me told me that today would be a good day to try and dolphin dive to gain momentum. I should’ve told that voice to shut up. I dove a couple of times, bumped into a few people because I couldn’t see a damn thing underwater, started to freestyle, and immediately lost my breathing rhythm. After a few sputters and head pop-ups, and a brief chat with myself to calm the heck down, I was able to get some momentum. I knew I had to get used to being under-water-blind. Normally I sight (sighting is popping your head up and forward on a breath to make sure you’re going where you want to go) every 12th stroke, but this time, I did every 8th. After a couple of hundred yards, I finally found a rhythm. I wasn’t ever fully “calm and smooth” like my mantra was in last year’s TriFitness race, and I about crashed into other swimmers many times, because I couldn’t even see their wake of bubbles until it was too late. I almost got smashed in the nose with a foot —again with the water blindness. I finally reached the shore, climbed out, and breathed my usual big sigh of relief.

Transition 1: Due to this being a point-to-point tri, I avoided the dreaded DERP DANCE of INDECISION, (which is when one is so adrenaline-fueled that you can’t remember what you need next), and I was able to strip out of my wetsuit, hop on my bike and go. I did, however, need to make sure that all of my swim stuff was packed into the provided race bag, as it would be transported back to the finish line for me. Lost a few seconds there. Trying to pack a wet wetsuit into a small plastic bag is hard and silly, but it had to be done. Off I go!

Bike: Flat road. Corn. Soybeans. Sang to myself. Found a zen place in my mind. More corn. Sun came out. More soybeans. Kept telling myself to calm the heck down and enjoy it. Saw my shadow and thought, Who the heck IS that person? Marty McFly performed wonderfully. It was a lovely ride – I think this was my favorite part of the race. 21 miles…done!

Transition 2: Easy-peasy. Rack bike, change shoes, eat a GU, and go.

Run: The first half mile was a decent-sized hill. The sun was out, and it was hot, but I managed to pass a few people. I was working pretty hard, harder than I wanted, and I was trying to save some for the last mile. So I calmed the heck down, dialed back my pace a little, and just tried to keep in motion. There were some rolling hills, playing the part of equalizers, as many central Ohio triathletes don’t have many hills to train on but back in Connecticut I sure do! The run course was in town, so there were quite a few spectators, and the Delaware High School cheering squads were out in full force. As I came into the last 1/2 mile, I passed Dan as he headed out on his second lap. I stepped on the gas…

mingoman triathlon

“Two thumbs up!” appears to be my new thing.

My lungs were burning, and after I crossed the finish line in 2:03:22, I received a finisher’s medal that quickly rose to up to being in my top 3 of race medals:

Mingoman triathlon

Clever!

That’s bike chain encircling it, folks. And, it’s not big and gaudy. LOVE IT.

I got to spectate and cheer for Dan and Janet when they came in. I’m so proud of Jan.

mingoman triathlon

You go girl!

mingoman triathlon

Me nd the hubs on yet another tri-date.

Sooooo…did I meet my goals?

Swim: A dreamy result would have been 18:00 or under. I hit 18:09! (It felt a little short, though, I have to admit. Or maybe I just swam straighter? I’ll take straighter.)

Bike: I had no idea what my goal should’ve been for this, as 21 miles is an odd distance. I had hoped for 1h 20m or less. With an average of 17.2 miles per hour, I smoked a 1:13:04!

Run: Was really hoping to break 26:00 on this one, but the heat got me and I’m happy with the 27:41 I was able to pull off.

I found out later that was good enough for second place in my age group! WAA-HOO!

mingoman triathlon

It’s real plaque that I can hang on my wall and lord over my minions. #lookatallthesportssayings

My husband won 1st in his age group for the Olympic distance. IT’S A FAMILY SWEEP! (Kinda.)

So much for keeping calm.

can-t-keep-calm-i-just-placed-in-my-age-group

NEXT: New York City Marathon training continues…stay tuned!

Thinking To Much: The Upcoming Mingoman Triathlon

I have one last triathlon planned for 2014: The Mingoman Triathlon in Delaware, Ohio. It starts and ends in a place called Mingo Park, in case you were wondering what heck a mingoman was. This will be my fifth tri over all, and #3 this year. To think that I’m actually referring to my participation of the sport in the plural, still boggles my mind.

Coach Erin helped me fit it in nicely with the NYC Marathon training, right in that sweet spot before the weekly mileage gets too high. I’ve had all summer to train and put in some decent miles in on Marty McFly. The more I ride him, the more I love him (snicker). Good bikes are hard to find.

triathlon bike

Marty is clean, lubed, and ready to ride. Tee-hee.

This tri is in the heart of Ohio (the flat part – yipee!), and is in the heart of our annual family vacation to see my family. I’m doing a sprint version, and my husband is doing the Olympic version. We no longer go out on dates, we just race together.

This sprint tri has a bit of a challenge. Typical tri’s are 1/2 mile swim, 12-13 mile bike, 5k run. This one being atypical, it as a 21 mile bike ride…almost double a sprint distance. In fact the Olympic distance bike course is just 3 miles longer. Why? I dunno. *shrug* I can’t worry about what I can’t control. SPEAKING OF…

This tri is a point-to-point race, meaning that you start in one place, and you finish miles and miles away from where you started. It also means that the 2 transitions are not in the same place! Participants have to set up 2 different transition areas…a huge logistical nightmare challenge for me. Managing ALL THE STUFF.

triathlon checklist

stuff stuff stuff stuff stuffety-stuff

One positive thing about having two different, clearly-purposed transitions, is that it does reduce the DERP DERP DERP moments that I tend to have when I am standing in transition. DERP What do I need? Am I running or biking next? DERP DERP…Helmet, yes, sneakers, no. DERP…

Sweet Beezus, the THINKING that goes has to happen for a triathlon! That’s why I got into running, to think about nothing, for Pete’s sake. On race day, I roll outta bed, slip into some comfy race gear, and head to the start. VERY LITTLE THINKING REQUIRED. Here are some of the things I have to THINK about before a triathlon, brace yourself:

  • How do I carry my fuel? Do I tape it to my bike? Do I stuff it in a pocket after the swim? Will it fall out of my pocket? Will painter’s tape hold a GU on my bike?
  • Which tri top should I wear? My Run Like a Mother tank is nice, but will it not magically ride up to show my belly like it’s done the last 2 times? Should I wear my new cute Athleta tri tank that promised to hold D-cups but it really only holds at like 80% of what my regular sports bra does, so can I just get away with only the tank for 3.1 miles of running and not have to layer as I am loathe to do? Oh god, I don’t want to be that girl, the one who looks like she needs to go straight to the bra-fitter…
  • Which water bottles should I use? I’ve got leakies and non-leakies. I guess I’ll use one that leaks to rinse my feet after the swim (note to self: leave it at bike transition 1) and be sure to put 2 non-leaking bottles filled with Nuun on Marty. Oh crap, I forgot the Nuun in Connecticut. Gotta find some before Sunday.
  • Did I set my GPS watch correctly? I want to mark each change in the course by hitting the lap button. Will I remember to do that? It’s not a tri watch, but it’s waterproof, so I can wear it the whole time. How do I translate pace to speed, because I can’t change screens mid-bike. Maybe I’ll use my bike meter? Oh god, but then I have to remember to start it and check the sensors before the race, oh god. I have to remember to put Marty in a smart starting gear so I don’t do the crazy-spin at the start. Oh fudge…
  • Will I remember how to change a flat? Currently, my bike has the original tubes in both tires! They’re over 18 months old, and I know I am pushing my luck. Should I change them both and have fresh, new tubes for the race? That would also give me practice in changing the tubes, which I desperately need, since you know…it’s been 18 months. But should I fix what isn’t broken? Let sleeping dogs lie? Use more cliches?

That concludes the tour of my brain. It will start up again in an hour with fresh anxiety-riddled questions. I leave you with a souvenir, my current list of organization and fueling.

triathlon preparation Mingoman

list list list list listy-list list

Let’s talk about goals, shall we?

My goals are:

  • Swim strong, charge through, leave a wake.  (Dreamy: 18 min or less. Realistic: 20 minutes or less)
  • Bike the hell out of that flat bike course. (I’ve never done 21 miles in a race..so maybe 80 minutes or less?)
  • Run the heck out of the run course. (Oh god please let me break 26:00)

It’s supposed to be in the low 60’s and clear-ish on Sunday morning. Perfect temps. Hopefully I will get all of my thinking completed and out of the way by Sunday morning at 7:15 AM. At that time I will switch my brain to automatic reply: DON’T THINK, JUST GO.

positive-thinking-quote-7Mingo(wo)man, I’m coming for you!

 

 

 

 

NYC Marathon Training Week 4: A Wicked Week and a Bicycle Smoothie

This week’s blogpost is WICKED themed. It’s such a fun, useful word that clicks off the tongue. You’ve been warned.

NYC Marathon Training Week 4:

  • 23 miles run
  • 21.5 miles biked
  • One softball game
  • One Broadway show (well, it did take my breath away)

MONDAY: This was a rest day. Normally I would swim at the lake on Monday nights, but a WICKED rainstorm rolled through. So, I rested.

TUESDAY: I decided to take a 16 mile road ride – a rolling route so that I could get in some hill practice. The sprint triathlon coming up on August 17 actually has almost an Olympic-length bike ride (21 instead of 12 miles). I also worked up a little bravery, as some of the roads I rode on were busy. The more peaceful ones had roadside fuel waiting for me:

bike training fuel raspberries

YUMYUMYUMYUMYUM

Then, I missed a turn, got a little off track (not quite “lost”…okay, a little lost) and added an additional 5.5 miles for a total of 21.5, including some WICKED hills. Those of you who travel Route 35 from Cross River, New York to Ridgefield, Connecticut KNOW WHEREOF I SPEAK.

I realized I’m peaking my bike miles right on time; about 3 weeks before the triathlon. So it was a “happy accident” in Bob Ross terms. I also didn’t really pack enough fuel for a 16 mile ride, let alone a 21 mile ride, so I just about ate my own arm off when I got home. But I didn’t, because I needed that arm to pitch softball that night. I pitched a wicked game, but alas, Team Power Outage lost.

WEDNESDAY: 3 miles “easy” run, but I am finding that my easy runs are faster than ever. I’m consistently seeing easy runs in the wicked-fast-for-me range (9:00-9:30/mile), when last year they were usually over 10:00. I think this is due to only running 4 days per week (but I’m working out 6 days a week, usually, so wouldn’t I be tired?) but I think the big reason is the strength training, and all of the millions of squats I’ve done since January. I have no other explanation!

THURSDAY: Speedwork at the track: 800m repeats. Hot and sticky. I call these workouts “character builders.” It was WICKED hard. Or hahd, if you’re from Boston.

FRIDAY: I headed into NYC for a weekend with my mom. I was like this on the train:

sleepy-kittens

SATURDAY: New York City! I haven’t lived there in 15 years, and I haven’t worked there in 8. I truly felt like a tourist again. On three Saturdays in August, the city closes down Park Avenue from 72nd street all the way down to the Brooklyn Bridge from 7AM-1PM. I knew it was the perfect place for my “easy” 3 miler.

It was rainy and cool on Saturday morning, and for a while, Park Avenue was MINE, ALL MINE!

marathon training park ave summerstreets

Running the streets of the WICKED City.

One of the coolest things was getting to walk on the elevated section that wraps around Grand Central. Pedestrians aren’t normally allowed on that part anyway, so to be able to run on that section was a privilege and a joy.

marathon training grand central summerstreets

Grand Central: A true gem.

The elevated section shoots you through the Helmsley Building and pack onto Park Avenue.

marathon training NYC summerstreets

Helmsley (yes, that Helmsley) Building with the cool double tunnels.

As I finished with my run, I spied with my little eye a sign that said “Earn your smoothie.” Intrigued, I found out it was a bicycle advocacy group – Bike New York –  offering the smoothies, but you had to ride a stationary bike with a blender attached to it and blend it yourself. DON’T MIND IF I DO:

YUP.

YUP.

It was delicious.

marathon training bike smoothie Bike new york

YUMYUMYUMYUMYUM

Later that day, my mom and I visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It was overwhelming in many ways, and I found myself on my feet for about 4 hours. We had a lovely dinner and went to see the Broadway show Wicked. It was truly a magical show. I would absolutely see it again.

Wicked good.

Wicked good.

I’m through accepting limits
‘Cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try I’ll never know.

“Defying Gravity” from Wicked, the Musical

SUNDAY: Long run day! 12 miles through Central Park. It poured pretty much the whole time, and both my GPS and my Strava phone app were thoroughly flumoxed by the skyscrapers, so my run was really 12-ish. I felt pretty good, my feet were tolerant of the wet torture.

marathon training central park reservoir

SOAKED.

marathon training central park long run

Misty Manhattan morning.

Another solid marathon training week is in the books (or, on the excel chart as the case may be). I’m getting psyched about the Mingoman Triathlon in Ohio on August 17. It’s gonna be WICKED!

IMG_3549

What was WICKED about your week? Tell me in the comments!

 

 

 

Small Races Are Great For the Ego

 

“…and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman

Check!

I didn’t write anything about it prior to this, but I did my first race of the year (the Run Like a Mother 5k didn’t count, as I wasn’t racing it, I was coming in last on purpose) in mid-May. I didn’t write anything about it because I barely had time to even THINK about it.

Originally planning on spectating my husband, son, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law at The Ocean City, New Jersey Triathlon, I had the opportunity to jump in when my S.I.L. came down with a case of cranky knees (no I didn’t bandit the race with her number, it was legit.)

I was already kind-of in training for TriRidgefield on June 1st, and the NYRR Mini 10k on June 14th. And by “kind-of” I mean looking at my week and thinking, “There is no way I can fit all of this training in,” because May/June leaves my calendar crying “uncle.”

We drove down the Friday night before, still barely thinking about it. This tri was a quirky little tri:

  • 1/4 mile pool swim, timed separately (as in, no rushing out of the pool to the bike)
  • 2 mile run
  • 16 mile bike
  • 2 mile run

While the run & bike portions were longer than I’ve done in a tri before, being at the beach, the course is completely flat. I felt like this was a good tune-up for TriRidgefield, and a way to gauge my fitness now that I’m running again and I’ve been doing Crossfit regularly since January and healing my Incurable $hitty Toe.

triathlon Ocean City swim

triathlon pool swim

Part of my cheering squad.

The swim went well. When it was my turn, I handed my card to a volunteer timer and jumped in and started my laps. I lost a little bit of my warm-up energy waiting in line (there was a separate warm-up lane), so by the time my 7th out of 8 laps came, I was finally getting into a groove and then I saw the timer-person put the kickboard in the water as a signal that it was my last lap. Oh well.

triathlon pool swim Ocean City, NJ

You can see my son getting ready for his swim on the lane to my right.

I got to watch my son’s swim (1/8 mile),

Love this kid.

Love this kid.

and part of my husband’s and my B.I.L.’s. Then I showered (I HAD to get the chlorine out of my hair – if I don’t, it fades the color – PRIORITIES) and changed into my tri-kit for the run/bike/run. It was weird, and I was all thrown off having to change clothing mid-race. I even had time to put my hair into lopsided braids (it’s at a weird length where I can’t quite put it into a middle ponytail as needed for the bike helmet). After I changed I met the rest or the family crew in the parking lot and refueled on a bagel, almond butter, and Mallon’s Sticky Buns, an Ocean City staple.

triathlon ocean city pool swim

Sharing a mid-race smirk with my husband.

I walked outside and the weather could not have been more perfect. Low-60’s, mostly sunny, and a mild breeze. I put my bike in the transtition area, warmed up by running about 1/2 mile, and got ready to run-bike-run.

The race itself was fairly uneventful, but still fun. I took a while to clip into my pedals, as feared. I had a solid bike journey, and because it was 2x out-and-back, got to wave and cheer my family members from the the other side of the road (or while passing me, as my brother-in-law did.)

Off to bike!

Off to bike!

I finished the bike and started the run jelly-legged, and huffed and puffed my way through the last 2 mile run. My chest felt a little tight, and it was starting to get hot, but other than that, I just put my head down and ran. I finished strong, my toe survived, and I found the rest of my family.

triathlon Ocean City

A family that tri’s together…poses for photos together.

We stuck around for the awards, as my husband thought he might have placed in his age-group (he’s a very strong swimmer). As it turns out, my husband placed 3rd in his age group, my son won 1st in his age group, and I PLACED IN MY AGE GROUP!

triathlon age group place Ocean City

My spoils.

Initially, I was awarded 3rd place, and walked away with a spiffy water bottle, visor, and certificate. When the results were posted online later, they must’ve re-jiggered the results and suddenly I’M SECOND in my age-group! Twelfth out of 42 women overall. Small races are GREAT for the ego!

triathlon Ocean City

I shall now lord this accomplishment over the minions in my castle until…up next…TriRidgefield, two weeks later. DUM-DUM-DUMMMMM! Stay tuned for that race report!

Enjoying the Boardwalk post-race.

Enjoying the Boardwalk post-race.

Have you ever placed in a race? Did you lord it over your household? Leave a comment!

5 Tips For Conquering an Open-Water Swim

Last year at this time, I was thinking, “So this is what an open-water panic attack feels like,” as I did my first practice swim in a lake for TriRidgefield. I got through that swim (you can read about it here) and that race (read it here) and even another triathlon swim, this time in the waters of Long Island Sound (read about that here).

Tonight, I did my first open-water swim of the year, in practice for TriRidgefield next week. My friend Derry came to the lake to practice, as it was her first open-water swim ever. As she asked me for advice, I completely flashed back to where I was a year ago. To make the time pass faster on tonight’s swim, I thought of some tips that can hopefully help anyone considering dipping their toe in that cold, murky water. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Before you swim the course, get in and acclimate. DO YOU HEAR ME? Get in and your body used to the water! Paddle around! Stick your face in! Pee if you have to! That was the single biggest mistake I made last year. Between the cold water, the compressive wetsuit, and me naively thinking I would be able to see underwater, OF COURSE I had a panic attack. Get in about 15-20 minutes before you need to, and ACCLIMATE your body.

2. Wetsuits are your frenemy. On one hand, they make you more buoyant and keep your core body temp warmer. On the other hand, they can compress you like a weight on your chest, they can chafe you in unkind places (your neck, for one), and they just feel like you’re wearing a rubber suit, which you kind of are, which is weird, unless you are used to wearing rubber suits. Then you’re golden. Some wetsuit-specific tips:

  • Rent a wetsuit before you buy. I rented from triwetsuitrentals.com and they had fab service. It helped me realize I wanted a sleeveless wetsuit, which I bought later.
  • Practice getting your wet suit OFF quickly. That is a funky dance you don’t want to be wasting time on in transition.
  • Use body glide on your legs, arms, and neck to help slide the wetsuit on. Baby powder (just dump some right down the legs and arms) works too.
  • Make sure your wetsuit is yanked up in the armpits and the crotch, or you won’t have the range of motion you need for swimming; you’ll look and feel like a flailing water bug.
triathlon swim

Getting it off is a bear.

3. While swimming, count to yourself, over and over, until you reach a zen-like meditative state. I count on every other stroke: 1, 2, 3, 4, and on 4, when I breathe, I “sight” my target (when you lift your face out for a breath, quickly breathe then look forward before putting your face back into the water. It keeps me going relatively straight, and keeps me from freaking out too much. Other times, my mantra was “Calm and smooth, calm and smooth.” Just find something to occupy your mind.

4. Speaking of sighting, scope out large targets on the horizon that you can see easily. Buoys can be hard to spot from far away, so pick a larger target behind the buoy. For instance, I know that at TriRidgefield, I aim for a large rock face on the other side of the lake on the way out, and on the way in I aim for tallest tree on the beach.

triathlon open water swim panic attack

See that rock face in the waaay back? Aim for that.

5. Do NOT be afraid to stop and rest with a lifeguard. A decently staffed race will have lifeguards on kayaks and paddleboards throughout the course. According to USAT rules, you are allowed to stop with a lifeguard, as long as you are not being helped forward. No one will look at you funny if you stop. Do you remember any specific walkers from any running race you’ve done? I didn’t think so. The other swimmers won’t see you, let alone remember you. We all look like wet-suited, swim-caped minions. If you need a break, swallow your pride and rest. So much less embarrassing than having to be rescued by a lifeguard and being handed a DNF (Did Not Finish). AMIRIGHT?

And don’t forget…each time you do an OWS it gets just a little bit easier. If you have an opportunity to practice, take it! Hopefully, these tips can help you not only avoid a panic attack, but downright conquer your OWS.

Have I forgotten anything? Have you used any of these tips with success? Any open-water panic-attack survivors in the crowd tonight? Do tell in the comments!