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#Track My Training “I’ve been riding my post-race high…and still can’t believe that I actually finished the race.”

9/15/17

They say you never forget your first – and boy will I never forget my first half Ironman!!!  I’ve been riding my post-race high for a few days now and still can’t believe that I actually finished the race.  I knew I was more than well trained to complete this race but there’s always that little thought deep in the back of my mind that always thinks “What if I can’t?” (Answer to that: Life goes on and there will be other races to do).

Before I get into my race recap, a huge CONGRATULATIONS to everyone reading this who toed the start line.  Lake Placid is no easy course and the weather conditions at the beginning made it challenging for sure, so big high fives for just getting out there.  I hope you all had as much fun as I did!!!

Ok now onto my race recap…

Pre-Race

Having just gotten back from Portugal and needing to unpack, do laundry and repack, I honestly didn’t really have enough time to do very much in the way of workouts.  Which to be quite honest, I was totally fine with.  I had some great workouts the week before so I was fine with ending my training on that high note.

Drove up to Lake Placid on Friday morning – it was a long drive, but man is it gorgeous! Once we got off the highway and started weaving our way through the mountains I got really excited for the race.  I knew it was going to be a beautiful course, but I didn’t know it was going to be this gorgeous!

After we arrived and checked-in to our Airbnb, fellow Empire teammate Howard and I decided to go for a short shakeout swim in the lake.  We were only going to go to the second buoy, but ended up going to the third.  It took us a bit to find the famed cable, but once we did, it was great. The water wasn’t that cold, but after getting out and standing in the cool air was when we got chilly.  It was a good mental prep for what Sunday was going to be like.  My swim felt great and gave me a good boost of confidence for race day.

After our shakeout swim, we went to athlete check in and got all of our stuff – it was definitely getting more and more real by the second.  The rest of the day we just chilled out, went to dinner, and got to bed early to try and get one last good night of sleep (I knew I wouldn’t sleep much Saturday night).

Saturday morning we went for a short 20 minute ride on River Road to get a glimpse of the run course.  Again – beautiful. Even on a cloudy, dreary day.  Made sure all was in working order on my bike and everything felt good.  I had wanted to go for a short run as well, but with the weather cold and rainy, I didn’t want to risk anything and skipped it.  I wanted to run more so for a mental piece of mind – I came into triathlons as a runner so running always calms me down and that’s what I wanted before the day. To give me a little peace of mind.  But oh well, it wasn’t in the cards this time!

We did some more relaxing, checked in our bikes, met up with some friends who were there volunteering, went to an early dinner, got our stuff ready for the morning and then early to bed again.  I’m not going to say I got a great night of sleep, but I did sleep better than I had anticipated. Wooooo!

Race Day Morning

4:00 am alarm clocks are never fun – especially when it’s still dark and cold outside.  I peeled myself out of bed and started making coffee. Because, priorities! We didn’t need to leave our apartment until around 5:30, but I’m one of those people who can’t just get up and go, I need time in the morning to ease into the day, have breakfast (oatmeal with PB and banana in case you are wondering) and coffee and let it digest a bit.

Did one last check of my bag, and that I had everything I needed. We headed out the door at 5:40 all bundled up trying to stay as warm as possible for as long as possible.  As I peeled off my two layers of long sleeves to get my body marking done, I thought, “Oh, it’s not THAT cold out”. Spoiler alert: I will highly regret saying that in about an hour.

After getting my transition area all set up, pumping my tires, and getting into my wetsuit, we headed over to the start area.  Around 6:50 I finally took off all my extra layers and headed into the 45-55 minute swim group.  Standing there in the cold with bare feet felt like the longest 40 minutes of my life.  I was starting to get worried because my feet were so cold and starting to go numb.

Before I knew it the national anthem was being sung the gun went off.  The race had officially begun!!!

Swim

The swim was what I was most nervous about for this race – but I have to say I ROCKED IT (or at least in my mind I did)!!!  By the time I finally got to the water, I took my time getting in, found my lane, and started.  I knew I wanted to start a little slower to ease into it and get myself into a good rhythm.  Luckily, I got my rhythm and got into the zone right away – I really think it’s  because in swimming, you immediately put your head under water and can drown out everything else around you.

My hands and feet did start to go numb just before I reached the turnaround, so that made me a little nervous, but I dealt with it.  There were a few parts that felt a bit crowded, but I was able to maneuver around people and to my surprise was passing people pretty much the entire time.

Starting to see the bottom of the lake under me and running out of the water was the best feeling ever!!!  I knew the rest of the day would be a breeze (relatively speaking of course) now that the swim was over.  41:59 on the swim – not too shabby!!!

Transition 1

I thought keeping my wetsuit on while going from the swim to where our bikes would help keep me warm, and it did, but I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to take my wetsuit off with halfway numb fingers.  Should have had the wetsuit strippers help me – oh well – live and learn!

I made sure to dry myself off as much as possible to not be so cold on the bike.  Putting on multiple other layers also presents a challenge when your fingers are a bit numb and don’t have full dexterity in them.  Again, live and learn!  10 minutes later and I was finally heading out of transition, all bundled up.

Bike

This bike course is no joke – but man is it beautiful! Not going to lie there were definitely times where I COULD have been going faster, but I really wanted to just enjoy all the beautiful scenery around me and take it all in.

Also, major kudos to the people who do the full and do this TWICE!  For those of you unfamiliar with the course it’s hills on hills on hills – especially at the end.  You start off with a decent climb for about 6 or 7 miles, which felt great to help warm me up a bit – then it’s the famous Keene decent for the next 6 or 7 miles.  Holy moly – did I pick up some speed! I think I topped out at about 35 mph.  I don’t really remember too much about the middle except a pretty long out and back to Ausable Forks.  The shit gets real and those hills just start coming at ya – I may not have been the fastest but I was pretty consistently passing people on the uphills (I have a road bike, so the hills are easier).

Luckily by mile 40 I had finally regained feeling on my toes again and I was able to take my gloves and sleeves on my jacket off.  Once the sun finally came out it made a world of difference.  Getting back into town and knowing I was ⅔ of the way to becoming a half Ironman was an amazing feeling.  The energy of all the spectators in and around the oval was palpable and gave me a good boost of energy as I pulled into transition.

3:43:49 on the bike – again, I’ll take it!!!

Transition 2

Not much to say about this one – went much more smoothly than the first time around. Stripped off all my bike layers, put my sneakers, hat and bib on and I was out and running in about 3 minutes.

Run

The run course is just as beautiful as the bike course.  Again, there were times when I could have been going faster but wanted to just enjoy the beautiful scenery around me.  My goal for the run was to start slow and stay strong – I didn’t really care how fast I was going – and stop at every aid station to make sure I was hydrating.  Much like the bike course, the hills get ya at the end – not going to lie I had to stop and walk a bit after one of the hills because I felt my heart rate skyrocketing and wanted to bring it back down a bit.  Once I did though, I was good to go.  The last out and back though, is just mean; it felt like it would never end.  I kept thinking “Where on earth is the turnaround point?!”  Before I knew it though I was turning the corner, the red carpet and finish line in sight, so I picked it up with everything I had left and crossed that finish line!  The sense of accomplishment I felt in that moment was overwhelming – I was so proud of myself!

2:05:03 on the run – not too shabby if I don’t say so myself!!!

Post Race & Final Thoughts

After getting my medal and picture taken, I headed to the athlete food tent and grabbed some water, oranges and of course a slice of pizza (which happens to be my favorite post-race food).  I found my boyfriend (well more like he found me) and we sat in the grass and hung out for a bit before heading back to transition to get my stuff and head out.

Overall, I absolutely loved this race and while I don’t necessarily want to come back in 2018, I would definitely do this course again! It’s a great town, the course is beautiful, and all the volunteers are so nice.

So, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m hooked on doing triathlons.  I told myself I would wait until December to start planning my 2018 race calendar, but I broke my own rule and already started looking at races for next year!

This has been an absolutely incredible journey – I’ve learned so much about myself not only as an athlete but also as a person.  I’ve also had such an incredible support system – from everyone on Empire Tri, friends, family and my boyfriend.  Without everyone, this would not be possible.

So for now, it’s not goodbye, it’s I’ll see you later – in 2018!!!!

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#Track My Training “I take a few deep breaths to center myself and visualize myself out on the course.”

8/30/17

Workouts for the week:

Monday: strength in the morning, swim in the evening

Tuesday: yoga in the morning, run in the evening

Wednesday: morning ride, yoga in the evening

Thursday: strength in the morning, run in the evening

Friday: long ride

Saturday: long run

Sunday: rest day

I usually try not to favor workouts, but I have to say, this week my favorite workout was definitely my long run.  I went home for the weekend and ended up doing my long run around a lake by my house and it was absolutely glorious!  I love being in nature, especially in and/or around bodies of water, so I was happy as a clam during my run. It was so quiet and peaceful, I just couldn’t resist to take a few moments to sit down and take it all in and meditate on training so far.  Anyway, a little more on that later…..

For anyone paying super close attention to my workouts of the week, this week was a little different and I had to shift some things around.  One *major (* – it’s really not actually that major, just feels that way) change was that I didn’t do a brick workout this week, just a long(er) ride.  I went home for the weekend for a baby shower and knew I needed to shift my longer workouts back a day, which meant doing long ride on Friday morning before work. Which meant if I wanted to get to work showered and on time, something needed to give – and in this case, it was my run off the bike.

Normally something like this, so close to race day, would give me a lot of anxiety, but in all honesty, I was one thousand percent okay with it.  Since I started training I’ve done a run off the bike after every single long ride, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that my body knows the feeling and what to do at this point.  In the next 2-weeks I might try and get one or two more shorter brick workouts in, just to make sure my body doesn’t forget too much, but if it doesn’t happen then so be it.

It’s weird to be in taper mode now – usually when I’m tapering for a marathon my body is so ready for a break by this point. Tapering for a triathlon feels so much different though – while I’ve had some long, intense workouts that have certainly kicked my butt, my body doesn’t feel like it’s beat up.  I’m guessing that’s because swimming and riding aren’t really high impact activities like running is.  So, it’s actually been hard to dial back the intensity in my workouts now because I still feel great – but, I know I need to save some up some energy reserves for race day!

 

What’s been the absolute hardest about being in taper mode though, is the mental aspect of it.  All season I felt super strong and completely capable of completing a half Ironman.  Now though, those pre-race nerves are setting in.  Over all, deep down I know I will finish, but I still have those moments of “Oh sh*t, can I really actually do this?”  This is where all my yoga and meditation comes into play – I just take a few deep breaths to center myself and take a moment or two to visualize myself out on the course.

I know it’s going to be hard, I know there are going to be moments when I’ll want to stop; but I also know all those moments will pass.  I have a yoga teacher who always says “The moment you want to get out of the pose, is the moment the true yoga starts.” What he means by that is it’s about being comfortable in the uncomfortable knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – some tunnels may be longer, some may be shorter, but they all eventually lead to another side.  It’s how you deal with being in the tunnel that makes getting to the other side better or worse.

So needless to say, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga and meditation this past week and will continue doing so up until race day.  So, if you need me and I’m not in the pool, on my bike, or out in Central Park, I’m most likely on my yoga mat calming my nerves 😉

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#Track My Training “Challenging for sure, it gave me a really good confidence boost.”

8/25/17

Workouts for the week:

Monday: Swim in the evening

Tuesday: Strength in the morning, run in the evening

Wednesday: Ride in the morning, swim at night

Thursday: Strength in the morning, run in the evening

Friday: Rest day

Saturday: Brick workout

Sunday: Long run, open water swim (!!!)

Well, this past weekend’s training was my peak and longest weekend of training – wooooo!!!!  I needed to move things ahead one week based off of what our plan in Training Peaks said since I’m going to be going to Portugal for a wedding the week before Lake Placid.

For my brick workout, I rode to Rockland State Park with Howard and we did a loop in there before heading back – hooooo boy, it was challenging for sure, but in a good way.  Gave me a really good confidence boost that I can totally tackle those hills in Lake Placid on race day [insert muscle arm emoji ;-)].  My run off the bike felt a bit more challenging than usual because it was so hot out, but otherwise felt strong.  My long run on Sunday felt really good too.  Since I knew it was going to be my last long run, I used it to really hone in on my pacing and practice my hydration and nutrition – and all went well!  Another confidence boost for race day.  (Side note: the salted watermelon w/ 2x sodium Clif shot blocks are SO GOOD.  I normally like more citrus-y flavor nutrition, but these were great.)

I also had some really great breakthroughs in the pool this week.  Something in my stroke changed, without me really consciously changing it, and I feel like it made me so much more efficient so I didn’t tire as quickly and could push myself a little harder.  The first day it happened, I thought it was maybe just a fluke but then it happened again the second time I was in the pool.  I tried analyzing what it was that I was/wasn’t doing, but I couldn’t really think of anything so to heck with it, hopefully it wasn’t just a two-time fluke.  I’ll chalk it up to- all the training is paying off and showing.

I also went to Coney Island for a little open water swim on Sunday late afternoon.  Nothing too long as I didn’t really have a lot of time – it was more so just for me to get some open water practice in.  IT felt good and made me think back to the first open water swim clinic I attended with Empire and how much I’ve improved since then.  I’m not saying I’m the world’s greatest/fastest open water swimmer, but I’ve learned that for me, I need to start off slow and get in a good rhythm with my breath – and as long as I can do that I’m good!

So, I guess this means it’s officially taper time for me – which is crazy to think about.  It feels like when I started training way back in March, September seemed so far away; but here we are, just weeks out from race day.  So now all my workouts will start getting less intense and be a little bit shorter.  As they say, the hay is pretty much in the barn – now it’s all about keeping my mind as calm as possible and trusting all my training that it will get me to that finish line on September 10.

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#Track My Training “I got my first flat tire!”

8/18/17

Workouts for the week

Monday: Evening swim

Tuesday: Easy run & a shortened strength training workout in the morning

Wednesday: Bike in the morning, swim at night

Thursday: Strength training in the morning, run in the evening

Friday: REST DAY

Saturday: Brick workout

Sunday: Long run

Well, it finally happened.  That moment we all fear while on our bikes.  No, I wasn’t hit by anyone/thing (thank goodness – *knocks on wood*).  I got my first flat tire!  It was bound to happen sooner or later and I always try and look at the bright side of things, so I’m glad that it happened now, during a long training ride rather than during race day.

I was on my way to Nyack Beach and was under the Tapan Zee bridge when it happened – honestly, I don’t really remember hearing a loud pop or anything, but I do remember the road being super bumpy and full of potholes from the construction.  A few seconds later I hear what sounded like something was stuck in my breaks – so I pulled over to check it out and low and behold – flat tire.

My first thought? Sh*t.  My second thought?  I’ve never actually changed a tire before, I don’t know how to do this. My third thought (well, okay it was more like a little pep talk to myself)?  Lauren, you’ve had those bike maintenance clinics with Empire and you are a smart person, you can figure this out and get it done! I also told myself I was going to try and do as much of this as possible without having to use YouTube, haha.

I should also preface this by saying, I’m a morning person.  So much so, that if it was up to me I’d be out for my long ride at 5:00 am; but I’m at the mercy of the GWB gates only being opened at 6:00 am, so I’m on my bike and headed out for my long ride at 6:00 am.  Mainly because going over the GWB still scares me, so the earlier I can go and the less people on there, the better.  I also like going earlier so I can be done earlier and still have the rest of my day to get things done and spend time with my boyfriend.

Howard (Voletsky, fellow ETC teammate) usually joins me for my long rides but he was away this weekend, so I was riding solo.  So, here I was standing on the side of the road in Nyack at 7:30 in the morning with a flat tire on my bike, no other riders that I had passed and knew would be coming my way eventually, and only about 50% confidence that I knew what to do to change it. But you know what, sometimes you just need to be thrown into the fire to figure out what to do – and that’s exactly what I did.

I won’t give you all every single detail of my tire changing adventure, but I will say that about 5 minutes in, another rider, by the name of Al, came by, stopped and asked if I was ok and/or needed help.  I told him I was pretty sure I was okay, but that this was my first time doing this and, without hesitation, Al got off his bike and helped me finish up.

As we were changing my tire and chatting he asked what I did for a living, so I told him I was a yogi and worked for a company that manages yoga teachers business.  To which he said “No wonder you were so calm about everything when I came by”.  I admitted to him that I did have a few moments of panic and worry, but after a few deep breaths I knew there wasn’t anything I could do except be proactive about the circumstances I was in.  Sure enough, after a few minutes I was back in the saddle and continuing on my ride.  I know I would have been able to do it my own, but it probably would have taken me twice as long, so THANK YOU AL for stopping to help me.

So, moral of the story – Sh*t happens.  And most of the time being angry or panicking about it, isn’t going to help. Take a few deep breaths to calm you down, get your senses back in order and your thinking cap turned on, and trust you know what to do.  And go to bike maintenance/tire changing clinics!  I also now vow to ask every rider I see on the side of the road changing a tire if they are okay and/or need help – because you never know who might!

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#Track My Training “It was the hardest thing ever to take two days off”

August 4th, 2017

Each week I’ll let you all in on the workouts I did for the week. So, for last week my training looked like this:

Monday: swim in the morning @ Riverbank State Park; bike in Central Park

Tuesday: strength training in the morning, run in the evening

Wednesday: yoga in the morning, swim at night

Thursday: strength train in the morning, run in the evening

Friday: REST DAY! (which includes some light stretching and foam rolling)

Saturday: Brick workout

Sunday: Long run in the morning and yoga in the evening

I realize that for some people looking at the above, it probably seems like a lot of workouts and all this may not be possible for everyone. For me this is all possible for a few reasons: I’m a morning person, so when the alarm goes off at 5:00 am, I’m instantly out of bed; I have fairly flexible work hours; my body is used to being very active and moving a lot – having been a dancer for a good part of my life and having 8- 10 hour days of classes and rehearsals, I respond fine to this training load.

I try to follow our plan in Training Peaks as much as possible, but sometimes I do tweak it here and there. I also try to keep it as consistent as possible, but, hey, sometimes life just gets in the way; and as Type A as I am, I’ve learned to let it go because, I’m not a professional athlete out there winning races (one can dream though, right?!)

I’m also going to try as much as possible to not talk about or mention specific times for any workouts. Why? Because I used to be that person who saw other people’s times/paces and would compare myself to them.  Newsflash: I’m NOT them.  I’m my own athlete with my own strengths and weaknesses and my own life circumstances that affect my training.  What feels or looks slow for me one day, might be someone else’s fast, so it’s all relative.

So, speaking of paces, this past week’s training, I definitely kept up with what workouts I did, but as far as the intensity goes dialed it back a bit.  I was sick for a few days last week and actually ended up taking the weekend off from all workouts.  Getting over fatigue from being sick plus the horrendously hot temperatures – I do NOT do well in heat and humidity- I knew would be a recipe for disaster.  So, I made the decision to give myself some extra recovery days (ok, I may also have had some pressuring from my boyfriend to take off and rest).

Mentally it was the hardest thing ever to take two days off, let alone two days of pretty key workouts in my training; but let me tell you, physically it was the best thing I could have done for my body.  Once I got back into workouts, I literally felt like I had a whole new body and the freshest pair of legs ever!

I ended up having to do my speed work workout on Tuesday and that was where I really a noticed a difference.  Having fresh legs meant I could have a quicker leg turnover.  I also have to say that having come to triathlon-ing (I think I just made that word up) from being a marathoner, biking has also made such a huge difference in my running.  Again, it’s taught me how to have a much quicker leg turnover. My swims this week also felt so much better in the sense that I wasn’t gasping for air after what had previously been not a real problem for me to get through.

So, moral of the story – as much as my Type A brain thinks taking a few days off is going to completely derail and undue all the training I’ve done, it is not going to. It actually helped me a lot- not only physically but mentally as well.  Rather than push through tiredness and potentially just dig myself into a hole of over training, giving my body a break gave it the rest it needed to fully recover.  Mentally, because I felt so good during the week’s workouts it gave me an extra confidence boost and has me looking forward to getting back to my normal intensity levels for next week’s workouts.

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#Trackmytraining: “I knew I had to be a part of this.”

7/28/17

Meet Lauren.  Fresh out of our Beginner Program which trains for a sprint distance triathlon, she decided to instead compete in an Olympic distance race as her first triathlon!  We’re excited to have Lauren share her journey with us as she prepares to dominate the inaugural Lake Placid 70.3 on September 10th, which will be her first Half IRONAM distance.  Join us here and on social media to follow along as we #trackhertraining!

The question I get all the time when I tell people I’m training for a half IRONMAN is “Wow, how many have you done before?”  They are always a little shocked (but very supportive) when I say “This will be my first one.”  Even more surprising when I’m talking to fellow athletes is when I say that up until this year’s NYC Triathlon, which was only about a week ago, I’ve never even done a triathlon.  Yep, you read that correctly – I signed myself up for a half IRONMAN before I’d even done so much as a sprint triathlon.

 

So where did this come from and what makes me think I can do this you ask? Well, I’ll spare you the FULL backstory but I will say that it all really started when I volunteered at the Lake Placid full IRONMAN in 2016.  I had gone up with one of my coaches and knew two good friends (and awesome athletes) racing.  For anyone who wants to be inspired beyond belief at the ability of the human body and determination of the human spirit, go volunteer at an IRONMAN race.

 

The second I saw the first athletes come by the aid station I was at, I knew I had to be a part of this.  The yearning I had always had to do a triathlon was palpable.  I knew I needed to sign up for one while I still had this feeling of excitement before it faded. Now, I’m most certainly an optimistic person, but I’m also very realistic – so I knew a full IRONMAN was not quite something I was ready for; but a half IRONMAN seemed challenging enough of a goal.  Not completely out of reach but most certainly something that would push me out of comfort zone.

 

It just so happened that IRONMAN was going to be holding its first ever half IRONMAN in Lake Placid in 2017. Fast forward to about a week or so later and I was officially registered for the Lake Placid half IRONMAN.  I, somewhat surprisingly to myself, hit that “submit” button so fast – I immediately thought to myself “What did I just get myself into?” A moment of doubt crept in, but I assured myself that I was a good athlete and with proper training, I would be more than capable of doing this – I mean, it was over a year away.

 

After that I kind of put it on the back burner and told myself that in January I would start really looking into training plans, getting a bike, training for training…yada, yada, yada. January rolled around and I started the process.  I know myself as an athlete well enough to know that yes, while I would diligently follow a training plan on my own, I’m much more motivated in training with a team.  Even before I signed up for the race, I had been talking with friend and fellow Empire teammate Howard Voletsky (who also had a big part in convincing me I could do this), so he was the first person I went to, to chat about training.  He immediately recommended Empire – so after a few months of research, attending an info session, and a lot of emails with Ali and Claudina, I was officially signed up to be a part of Empire Tri Club!

 

I came into Empire having completed a few marathons, but had never really been on a bike before and I was a self-proclaimed decent swimmer.  Ali recommended I joined the Beginner Program and then from there, since Lake Placid was a race the team was doing as well, I could join the club and continue training with the team. That program is over and I’m now part of the team, but I’m so glad I did the Beginner Program instead of just jumping right into the club.  For anyone who even has the slightest inclination of wanting to do a triathlon but isn’t sure if they can – I highly recommend Empire’s Beginner Program. The whole program and training plan was perfect and the coaches are so helpful and so supportive.

 

I’m now happy to say that so far in my training with Empire I’ve successfully completed my first ever triathlon at the NYC Triathlon on July 16.  It’s such a great feeling to know that I have the first one under my belt – and NYC Tri couldn’t have been a better one to do!  Since it was local, it was nice to not have the added stress of worrying about travel/hotel logistics.  Because this was my first triathlon ever I was a little nervous that I was jumping right into an Olympic distance and not doing a Sprint distance first, so I went into it with absolutely no expectations whatsoever.  Literally my only goal was to cross the finish line, have fun, and feel strong the whole way – and that I did.  It was absolutely a great learning experience, there were some things that went even better than I expected and there were also most certainly some things that need some fine tuning and attention to over the next few weeks.

 

So, here we are – Lake Placid half IRONMAN is about 7 weeks away and I cannot believe how fast this training is going by.  I’ve been having the absolute best time in the process. I’m one of those people who loves having a race to build towards, but in all honesty, I actually love the training process way more than racing.  To me race day is one day in a training program – a day that could go perfectly as planned or a day that could go all wrong – but it does not define who you are as an athlete.  We all have good days and we all have bad days and race day is just another day where it’s luck of the draw.

 

I’m so excited to take you on my journey for the next few weeks as I keep building towards what I know is going to be a life changing day on September 10, 2017.  I’m a total nerd and love talking about training and hearing about other people’s experiences in training so feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, concerns, anything really – let’s make this an open conversation!

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#Trackmytraining: “I AM a Triathlete!!”

image001Date:  10/4/16

I started writing this week’s entry during the bike so you’d think it’d be easier for me to get down on paper… ok the screen… but it is still all sinking in. I did it!  Me!  Someone who, when this began, couldn’t even run a mile! Someone who a year ago weighed 75lbs more and was so accident prone walking was nearly an extreme sport. I started this journey with a Little Engine That Could mentality… I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… and Sunday, I proved I COULD.

The night before the race, I was talking to someone who asked me how long I had been training for this race, and without thinking I answered 10 weeks. I knew I missed the first 2 weeks of the 12 week beginner program so it was an easy calculation for me. It wasn’t until I saw the look on his face that I realized how much I had accomplished in such a short time. At the beginning of this, I couldn’t run a mile without stopping and now I am a triathlete! In case you were wondering, saying that doesn’t get old! The word alone is intimidating- triathlon. That’s three times an athlete! I wasn’t an athlete at all when this began- and as my mom will lovingly remind me, I never really was. Beginners start at all different levels, but for me, this was very much stage 1.  Empire gave me the tools, the training and the confidence to get there without even realizing the amount of hard work I was putting in. How do you eat an elephant, they ask? One bite at a time.. well how do you train for a triathlon- one work out at a time! Each week, I’d seen improvement but not until I was really put to the test could I see it all come together. The camaraderie amongst the team helped push us all further, in our work outs but also on race day. With 23 of us testing our training, there were plenty of supportive faces around the course, and each time I saw someone or heard someone yell out “EMPIRE” or “caliente,” I knew I had to kick it into high gear (sometimes literally).

Some of you may be reading this thinking about signing up so let me give you the Good, the Bad and the Ugly so you can see, from my perspective anyway, what it’s really like.

The Ugly: The mental game is so much more important than you realize. Telling yourself you can’t even for a second can put you back minutes or completely. The moment you start to doubt yourself or get scared, you give yourself a window of saying ok to failure. That’s not why you work hard each day to get to this point. Can’t is my least favorite word, because it’s bs. What you mean is won’t- you won’t try harder, you won’t go out of your comfort zone and that’s fine, but you won’t accomplish all that you can either. Sunday’s swim was particularly difficult for me. I don’t know if it was my anxiety going into the day, the crowds or just fear but I found the swim to be the biggest challenge (and as a water baby this threw me). Close to the first buoy, I had been swum over, hit, grabbed onto and probably even inhaled some pond. I heard myself saying, “why are you doing this?? This is stupid! Just stop now!”. I didn’t like the way this voice sounded in my head. I remembered my training, took a second to treadwater, let people pass, shook my head and thought about all the Empire people there with me, my parents who had driven nearly 5 hours to watch me cross that finish line and how hard I had worked to get to this point, was I really going to give up that easily?? I changed the tune- slow and steady I repeated to myself. And in the end, it was only 6 minutes longer than it took me in the pool! Keep stay positive, it’s not easy, but the negativity is ugly and if you’re not careful, it will win. 

The Bad:  Man, it’s hard work! Each day, each work out, each milestone is a hard won victory. Every day is a day to conquer a different work out and push yourself harder. Uphill speed drills, biking up the Harlem hill- I wouldn’t say it’s fun during, but I have always felt better after and been impressed with what I was able to achieve. You have to push yourself each step of the way. Race day is no different- the swim was hard, getting onto the bike and going almost immediately up a long slow incline was hard, talking myself into not stopping running even though I was tired, was hard. Each step of the way can feel difficult and almost tedious but getting back to transition to start the next activity, I knew I could keep going and was that much closer to crossing the finish line. During I felt like I did all I could do, but now looking back, I think I could have pushed harder! This is not for everyone, but everyone can do it if they’re willing to work for it.

The Good: Crossing that finish line was the greatest and most proud moment of my life. I surprised myself by being so overwrought with emotion I was fighting back tears. I had done it!! I finished! There is no better “good” than setting out to accomplish something and working hard to achieve it. The confidence the beginner program has helped me unleash comes out in all areas of life, not just in my fitness routine. The friendships I made during the last few weeks are ones I know will stay with me for a long time, our racing days are just getting started after all! I have definitely caught the bug and am looking forward to another race- I’m not saying I’m going right to the Olympic distance, but I know I can do better and I am looking forward to proving that to myself! 

The Mightyman Montauk Triathlon was by far the hardest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I couldn’t be happier to have done it! The Empire Beginner Program comes with a group of incredible coaches to help guide and push you as well as a group of people who are in the same boat you are. It’s not about how fast each person finished, or how well you did, but that we all finished, therefore we all crushed it!

I am so thankful to everyone for all the support along the way, for believing I could do this, especially when I needed the reminder and for reading these updates so I knew I couldn’t let you down either! Thank you for sharing in this journey with me!

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#Trackmytraining: Montauk, Here I Come!

Date: 9/26/16

“After the LBI Tri you’ll officially be a Triathlete!” The words hung heavy in the air, I hadn’t even thought of that! A year ago, I was just starting out and hadn’t even thought of completing a triathlon yet and now I was looking at this as practice for Montauk, but it’s true! I did it! I finished my first triathlon even if it was a mini sprint and for me just practice! I know I could have done better, but I felt like I pushed myself and I still finished in under 1:30 which was my goal.

400m swim- Check
10 mile bike- Check
3.1 mile run- Check!! 
1:29:01 – sure I can think of a few better ways to spend an hour and a half, but by 9am, I had already completed more than most people would all day!

I’m so happy I decided to do the LBI Tri this year, not only is it my “home course” and my original bucket list race, but it gave me the practice and confidence I need for Montauk. I definitely have a lot of changes to make but I wouldn’t have realized them without this experience. 

The swim, which I had envisioned being the easiest part for me, proved to be more difficult than I anticipated. I’m blaming most of that on the wetsuit I borrowed. I didn’t realize there was a difference between a surf suit and a swim suit which made it a little harder, but what really did me in was the fact that it was too big! Just a couple of weeks ago it fit fine, and now I felt like there was an inch of water between me and the suit anchoring my whole swim. I still finished in a little under 9 minutes so not too bad, but felt I could do better. Working on sorting out the wetsuit for Montauk now, so glad I practiced in this one before October 2nd!

My first transition, was just shy of disastrous and will be the biggest area of improvement for me! I decided I’d wear the same thing I did for the Empire Mini Tri several weeks back, putting on the tri shorts with suspenders and t-shirt as well as my sneakers before the bike. Between putting my clothes on in the wrong order (suspenders should go first, duhh!), not using a racebelt and needing to re-pin my number, twice and forgetting to untie my shoes before, I lost a lot of precious time- 5:40 to be exact! I am looking forward to the next Empire shopping day so I can get my one piece Tri Suit to wear under the wetsuit, a racebelt and the quick ties for the shoes so I don’t have to worry about tying my sneakers at all. I knew this transition would take a longer than it should, but I didn’t expect to watch people come out of the water after me and start the bike before I could. It really helped show how the transition areas can make or break it- you know if you’re really racing.

The bike took a lot longer than expected! Having done 9 miles in 20 minutes at a not race pace, I had high hopes for making up some time on the bike. But three loops half into increasing head winds, gears changing on their own (have I mentioned how awesome my 25 year old Caliente Schwinn is?) and hairy turns at each end brought me in with a time over 40 minutes which really surprised me. I did make up some ground from the transition which was good. Now looking back, I can say I just didn’t push myself hard enough.  Each time I passed my family and those who came out to cheer me on or even one of the friends I did the race with, I got a new spur of energy and picked up the pace. Montauk will be even better for this with so many friends participating and everyone cheering me and the Empire team on. 

The run and transition to it were pretty uneventful which is all I could hope for. I walked a little here and there in the beginning but felt my muscles seizing when I did so I slowed the pace and kept to a jog for the remainder. Getting my “land legs” back after being on the bike, and the swim, was my biggest challenge here. I can see, if need be, walking a little in the beginning and then pushing hard with the run the rest of the way through. They had so many awesome volunteers to really cheer us on during this part which also helped. 

All in all I’m really proud of myself. I finished, which was all I really wanted to do and I came in 2nd place of the Athenas.  Which still feels a little embarrassing to admit, even if it took losing 72lbs to get there (and now I’m 74lbs down and officially no longer even qualify for this category).  I hoped when I had to check that box that perhaps it would mean I’d be the best out of the category, but I had no idea I really did it until they called my name!

A fellow Empire beginner (thanks Yael!) gave the great advice of smile the whole time, this way you get great pictures! While I tried my best and felt like there were definitely times my smile was traded in for a classic- “why am I doing this??/how many more laps is it?” look  instead, I have it on high authority I had a big, proud, heartfelt smile on my face and even a couple of pictures to prove it! It was a really great experience overall and I’m so thankful to have participated in a more formal race as practice for Montauk- MightyMan here I come!! 

 

 

 

 

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#Trackmytraining: The Big Reveal! Total Transformation

img_0691-1Date: 9/13/16

A year ago today, I made the hardest decision of my life… to get off my butt and make a change. I set out to lose 80lbs by my 35th birthday (10/27 if you’re marking your calendars).  I started working out and a week later changed my diet fully (even gave up cheese for 6 weeks!). 

My only real goal at that point was a revenge body. My trainer asked me at our initial meeting, “revenge on who?” and I just said “everyone”. What I didn’t realize is that it really was on the old me. The girl who made excuses and allowed everything else to be a priority aside from herself. That has all changed now! 

As I’ve said, I’ve never been a runner or cyclist (or as I’ve realized now-a “real” swimmer). I was working to get in shape and lose the extra weight I’d been carrying around my whole life. I had been really enjoying the weight training and even the menu planning, but couldn’t make myself do the cardio. I had no problem (most mornings) waking up to meet my trainer and get my butt kicked, in fact I loved it. But largely, it was the other days I found my motivation lacking.  Having always heard from my many friends who have always done triathlons and some not so gentle nudging from my friends who belong to Empire, I decided it would be the perfect complement to my fitness regime- and boy was I right! I have been absolutely loving the routine, comradery (in case you’re not sick of hearing me talk about that yet!) and the work outs! I started my training with Empire in early July and feel like a different person in the last two months.

The training has given my workouts purpose. The goal was no longer to get just to in shape but to finish this pretty cool thing. I have still been working out with my trainer twice a week and continuing to do the total body conditioning in addition to the Empire workouts, but with this new goal in mind, everything seems a bit clearer.  The weight is coming off, the meal prep is easier to do, because I am striving towards something and I’m not doing it alone. Having the goal of the race has been more helpful than I imagined. It pushes me to reach a goal and by a certain date. There’s a sense of accountability now that I didn’t have before. If I slipped and missed the gym or didn’t eat well that day, it wasn’t the end of the world, it was just me I was letting down, which now I know is the most important person to not let down! With the Tri, I have more people supporting me and cheering me on and an actual thing to finish! I may not have a real time in mind, but after this week’s LBI Tri I will. Even if I really still just want to finish, preferably not last!

While doing a sprint triathlon was on my bucket list, I don’t know that it was something I ever really imagined I’d check off. Now less than a month away from MightyMan Montauk, I can’t wait and am already considering an Olympic distance one (we’ll see how 10/2 goes first!). And I’ve even signed up for a mini sprint this weekend as a practice workout. The LBI Tri was the race I wanted to check off my list and now it’s my practice! This Sunday, I’ll be testing my skills with a 400m swim, 10 mile bike and 3 mile run. I would never have even seized the opportunity to sign up for this if it hadn’t been for my Empire friend Julie who pushed me to do it with her. I’m so thankful to have a buddy to complete this with but even more so to get to do the race in my hometown.  

In the last year, I have lost 70lbs, gone from size 16 to a 6 and have muscle definition I didn’t know I could even have! I even wore a bikini on the beach for the first time ever! I can run three miles, without stopping, and in 28 minutes, swim 400m in 11 minutes (in a pool, but still!), dead lift 225lbs and so much more! People always ask, do I feel better and I almost laugh, because I know they mean physically and want me to say yes. But the truth is, physically, I don’t feel much different. It’s not like I couldn’t breathe or anything before. I do feel like I can DO more now. I never really let the weight hold me back from anything, I will say it is all A LOT easier now! The best part is how I feel MENTALLY, that’s where the biggest change is. After being out of the workout routine, even though I had more fun than I even expected on vacation, I see the difference! And I am fighting my way back. I didn’t realize how much I needed the structure (and endorphins) for my sanity.  I have already worked out three days in a row and feel like the new me again! I’m really starting to see the Tri addiction thing now!

I’m not one for public showings but this felt worth sharing. The picture to the left is a year ago, the middle picture is at the end of May before my training with Empire began and I kicked my overall fitness routine into high gear and the picture on the right is now! It’s been a year of hard work and lots of changes but I feel great and am so incredibly proud of myself. The year has flown by (as they tend to do) and being in the position I’m in now vs where I was last year makes each missed happy hour, each uneaten bite of cake worth it!

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#Trackmytraining: Ready to Ride

FullSizeRender-1Date: 9/9/2016

I never put much value into routine and always thought of myself as too spontaneous to really appreciate it. That seems to have changed! Being on vacation was everything a vacation should be, but it was NOT good for my workout routine. Sure, I could have been better about it- I had the time, the resources, but I lacked the motivation. I didn’t have my work out buddies around me, I was surrounded by all kinds of good foods that I don’t normally go near and I didn’t have my routine.

After talking with several Empire Buddies throughout the vacation and some more “exercise inclined” friends, I re-found my motivation. Went on a 9 mile bike ride (at a leisurely zone 2 pace) in 20 minutes and ran 3 miles (in 28 minutes) to an hour spin class! I had never felt better!! I’ve never been able to run 3 miles straight- I hadn’t been able to run 1 when I started! And now less than 2 months later I can do more than triple! I felt so good in fact, I signed up to do the LBI Tri on 9/18 as a practice race since it’s a little shorter (400m swim, 10 mile bike, 3 mile run) than Montauk it doesn’t count as my first Sprint. It’s also a great training terrain since it’s completely flat. Guess that bug really did bite!

I just keep thinking now how much more I can and should be doing but if the last year has shown me anything it’s that I can achieve it and will only get better! I am looking forward being back in the game now and ready for action.

Stay tuned for next week’s before and after reveal, marking 1 year since Rachael began her mental and physical transformation. We’re so proud of you, Rachael!