Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Angel's Perspective

Last Sunday I had the enormous pleasure of being a swim angel in the SheRox woman's triathlon. I have never been a swim angel before, but my focus lately has been on encouraging and helping other triathletes with the swim leg. I also wanted to give something back to the sport that has given so much to me.

So what is a swim angel? My job was to swim along side other women who might not feel very confident in the water and in their ability to complete the .5 mile swim. While I was swimming with them I was to offer words of encouragement and, if necessary, a noodle. I swam the course three times with three different groups of women hoping to give something to them to spur them on to the swim finish line. It turned out to be so much more than that. I made connections with women and heard their stories.

I hope that I was able to give something to them, however in reality they gave more back to me than I could ever have imagined or hoped for.
I swam with women of all ages and all abilities. A few needed a noodle and a few did not. Regardless of their ability, their commitment to reaching the finish line and to completing the goal that they set out for themselves was inspiring. Each woman I met had a story - about why she tri-ed. One young woman (who happens to be one of my instructors from dance camp) set a powerful goal for herself and reached high and achieved it. One woman was swimming for her son who had been diagnosed with cancer, another swam for her very young son who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy and is not expected to live. Another woman had just recovered from having a brain tumor removed and, in an interesting coincidence, we were connected to each other through my son and her husband. Out of 2100 women in the race we were paired up to swim together. How amazing is that?

I have a very strong faith and I do not believe in coincidence. I do believe that God brings other people into our lives for a reason and that these women were brought into my life and into each others lives to see that we all share difficult stories and success stories and that we can come together as women to shore each other up and see each other through. I am going to be a swim angel again this weekend on Saturday and then swim with my relay team on Sunday. I will come to each with a whole new, humbled angel's perspective.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Running Tool

Yesterday was an amazing training day for me. I hit a new personal best with my run (aka jog/speed walk). How? My training buddy Obi-wan introduced me to Motion Traxx. These are podcasts that are geared toward helping your cadence while you run. Some of them are available free through iTunes or on their website

These are workouts that are set to music. The music isn't all that great and is highly repetitive however the beat of the music is customized for various workouts. For example, I began using the run 1 minute / walk 1 minute 5k workout. This was a great way to get me back into the groove of running. There is an increasing intensity to the 1 minute runs so that you are constantly building until near the end of the run when there is a cool down.

For the last two runs, I used the 150-160 beats per minute ~5 mile workout. This workout helps you to average between 10-12 minute miles. The first time I used it I averaged closer to the 12 minute mark and ran 4 miles before I just had to pack it in due to the heat and an earlier bike ride. Yesterday was a completely different story. I ran just over 5 miles at a little over an 11 minute pace. I have asthma which usually is a big challenge for me with running. But my breathing was regulated because I keep a consistent pace. I worried less about the speed and more about the distance and the metronome that the music offered for my cadence. Loved it! I highly recommend Motion Traxx podcasts.

I ended the night's training with jazz class. This was my last night of dance camp and I am sad to see the week end. However, Miss Kristen was wonderful and the class was a lot of fun. My body can move like a jazz dancer - so now I just need to work on moving it at the right time and in the right direction. I am sooooo excited that I will be able to take tap and jazz in the fall. These two classes were by far my favorite of the week. :-)

Do you have a workout tool that you use successfully? I would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bike, Run, Swim, Ballet

Yesterday was quite the workout day. I began with a morning bike ride with my friend and fellow tri girl Cori. We rode a respectable 17 miles with a couple of hills, but nothing crazy. We even hit one super sweet downhill along the ride. I spent a lot of the ride marveling at the progress that I have made on the bike during this season alone. Some of the small rolling hills that we rode yesterday were ones that I used to think were painful and which I previously had ridden in "granny gear". Yesterday I rode them in a higher gear than I ever thought sane or reasonable. I thank my friend and fellow tri girl+1 Chuck for encouraging me to shoot for what I thought was an unattainable goal. One of the great things about having others to train with is the encouragement and tips that we can give to each other along the way. I have lucked into a great group of tri girls and a couple of very patient tri guys, for which I am extremely thankful.

I got off the bike and convinced myself that I needed to go for a run. At least one mile... So I walked/jogged a little over a mile. I am simply not a runner. I was the girl who failed the 10 minute mile in high school - 4 - years - in - a - row! Running and I, well we just don't really speak to each other. In my twenties I sustained an injury that, for many many years prevented me from running (poor me!). Once I finally recovered from the injury I was motivated by my desire to do a tri. I can't say that I am a runner. I am definitely more of a jogger/speed walker. But I persevere.

In the early evening I headed to the lake for a swim with two of my tri girls - Allyson and Michelle. Truth be told, I didn't train all that hard in the water. I did a leisurely quarter mile warm up and then tried to hit the last quarter mile hard. The accumulation of the workouts over the last three days hit back. I was exhausted trying to push myself in the water. I ended up dogging the last eighth of a mile with the shore seeming farther and farther away with each breath rather than closer. I got out of the water and was starving, light headed, and in serious need of some sugar. I raced home and wolfed down some G2 and a Vitamuffin Corn Muffin before heading out to ballet class.

I arrived at the dance studio to find my friend and fellow tri girl Lisa finishing up the cardio class. She was quickly convinced to stay for ballet (yay!) and we started with a warmup at the barre which was not too intimidating. All went well until...the grand pliƩ. Not only did I snap, crackle, and pop but each of those 17 miles on the bike came back to haunt me. Oy vey! I soldiered along and didn't embarrass myself too much considering it has been 20+ years. But then the lovely Miss Kristen started talking about leaps...and then she demonstrated what she wanted us to do. Clearly if I had any hope of succeeding at this maneuver I would required both harness and trampoline. I gave it the old college try and had some great laughs. Lisa and I didn't collide into each other once during the whole hour, either!

I enjoyed the class and I still marvel at how much fun one can have when we push ourselves outside our comfort zone. I encourage you to pick one thing new to try - go for it, and then let me know how it went!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bike, Run, Dance...huh?

Today I threw a new sport into the triathlon cross training mix - dance. I woke up this morning and rode 10 very hilly miles with my friend Wonder Woman. We convinced each other to run two miles after we got off the bikes. We started jogging and quickly decided to power walk the two miles... so pathetic. But as we loosened up, we decided to push ourselves to 4 miles and to alternate power walking and jogging. Granted, we did walk more than jog but it was forward momentum and I was glad we did as much as we did. I ran four slow miles last night, so I convinced myself to take it even slower today. Besides - I had to save something for DANCE CAMP!!!

That's right, I am taking a week of dance classes this week. I'm calling it dance camp because it makes me feel a little less old. I haven't danced in any serious way for over 20 years. Tonight's class was a contemporary class. This is a style that I have never done before. I have seen it on So You Think You Can Dance and have always loved watching it and the way the body moves in this style of dance. Today my body was not quite moving with the rhythm of the rises and falls, but I learned a lot and had so much fun. There were only three of us in the class and I was, by far, the oldest. We did some moves where we had to roll onto our knees (ouch) on the hard wood floor (double ouch) so there might be a bruise or two tomorrow. But oh my! What fun!

My work out plans tomorrow include an early morning bike/run and an early evening swim followed by dance camp again. Tomorrow I will hit the floor for ballet - a little closer to home, but I am quite rusty and rickety in that style. At least my body might remember some of what it did 20 years ago, Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why Tri?

So many people have asked me why I participate in the sport of triathlon - how I got started - what compels me to continue year after year - am I crazy... The funny thing is when some of them try it out, they are usually hooked on it as much as I am. Triathlon is my drug of choice.

How did I get started in triathlon? Well, one day at work I overhead two women talking about how one of them wanted to start a relay triathlon team. She was a biker, she knew a runner, but they were having a really difficult time finding a swimmer. Hmmmm, I thought to myself, I'm a swimmer. I eavesdropped a bit more and then opened my mouth to volunteer. And that is how it began. We started out at the sprint level and did two all female races in that first year. We had so much fun that the next year we expanded and did more races, and then we kept doing them year after year. We eventually started competing in International/Olympic distance races and then moved on to 1/2 Iron distance races. We have yet to do an Iron Man relay - I hope that one day we will do one, just for the goal and subsequent accomplishment of it.

I moved into the solo competitions gradually. I started out doing a relay where I did the swim and bike and someone else ran for me. Feeling pretty confident that I could ride a bike, even though I hadn't ridden one since I was a teen - I registered for the race. I borrowed a friend's bike and hit the road hoping to be able to complete 12 miles. After 7 miles I realized that I must have lost my mind and that this was not for me in any way. However, I had already registered for the race, so tri I must. I kept at it and competed in the race and did okay. I was even a little disappointed that I didn't do the whole race solo. I could have easily walked the 3 miles if necessary. And so I was motivated to do the whole race the following year.

I began running - something that I had never been able to do - in March of last year. I couldn't even run to the end of my very short driveway. I started slow and built and persevered in a way that I don't think I ever had in my life. Once I knew that I could run at least one mile, I registered for the race. Now I had a goal. I finished the race, didn't embarrass the family, and felt a feeling of accomplishment like I had never felt in my whole life. I ended up doing two solo races that year (last year in fact). All the while, I was still competing with my tri relay team.

Now as I go forward toward my new goal of a solo Olympic distance race and I wonder, once again, if I have lost my mind, I am confident that at a minimum I can stagger across that finish line. And who knows - I may even plan to do it again?

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Goal

Several weeks ago, my friend Michelle (aka Wonder Woman because she's been training with only 2 working gears) and I signed up for the River Stock Tri in PA. We have both competed in sprint distance races, but neither of us has done an Olympic distance race. She is worried about the 1.5k swim distance, I'm worried about the very hilly 28k bike ride, and neither of is anywhere near smart enough to be worried about the 10k run at the end. I have been helping her with her swimming and she has been patiently accompanying me on some pretty hilly bike rides. Running??? Not so much. We are now six weeks away from the race and I have come to the realization that I need to get my feet on the pavement in earnest. And so it begins...

Today I did hill repeats on the bike for 10 miles - 1.25 miles down, 1.25 miles up, drink, turn around, repeat. The first 3 times up the hill I was able to maintain a high gear and to work the push and pull motions of my legs
simultaneously and hard. By the time I headed up the hill for the 4th time I was beat, the cloud cover had disappeared and the wind died down, the temperature soared, and I made the mistake of shifting into a really low gear. Ugh. It felt like hours and sweat was pouring off my brow and into my eyes. I was really happy to see the top of the hill!

I got off the bike hoping to hit the pavement hard for at least 1 mile, but that last hill coupled with the heat took all my reserves and I ended up walk/running the mile with pretty ineffective breathing - and no technique to speak of. Sunday morning after church I am going to try to just go running and see how it goes. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jasmine Rice and Shrimp

I made this recipe last night as a variation of "Pomegranate Rice" published in Better Homes and Gardens last November. I was unable to find pomegranate in the produce aisle, so I punted and modified and it came out quite delish!

1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup jasmine rice
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 small portabello mushroom, chunked
14 oz vegetable broth
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup peeled roasted salted pistachio nuts
1 cup pomegranate juice infused craisins
fresh lemon peel cut in thin strips - to taste
1/2 lb medium sized cooked shrimp

In a large saucepan, cook shallots in hot oil over medium heat until tender (3-5 mins.), stirring occasionally.
Add rice, mushrooms, ginger, and cinnamon and stir for 5 mins. until rice begins to brown.
Slowly add broth and water, bring to a boil and simmer covered for 14 mins.
Remove from heat and let stand covered for 10 minutes - until liquid is absorbed
Stir in nuts, craisins, lemon peel, and shrimp.
Serve hot and enjoy!!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Tonight I did my first ever bike/swim/bike brick with two other tri girls. It was fun and reminded me of when I was a little kid and I would ride with friends to the lake for a swim. Of course, now it's all technical. And there is also the wetsuit factor. How do you ride to the lake with (and not in) your wetsuit? Knowing the wetsuit would be really heavy on the ride home, I decided to forgo the wetsuit and swim in my bathing suit the old fashioned way. I packed a miniature backpack with a small tri towel, my bathing cap, and my goggles and we headed off to the lake.

The ride was 8 miles each way, not too hilly out and a little bit more challenging on the way back. We rode at a warm up pace to the lake and jumped in the water for our swim. We swam for only about 15 minutes because we were losing daylight quickly, but it was enough to stretch out all those muscles that were sore from my mountain bike ride yesterday. We hit a pretty good clip on the way back, but still not too fast. We averaged about 2 miles per hour faster than the initial ride - enough to get us home with some daylight to spare. I was glad that I didn't bring the wetsuit because that would have meant less time in the water with all the donning and stripping of the neoprene.

Tonight I am experimenting with a new jasmine rice and shrimp recipe.
It sounded like a great post-workout meal, hearty but not too filling. It is on the stove now and smells fabulous. If it tastes as good as it smells, then tomorrow I will post the recipe. My stomach is growling loudly and I am hoping the timer rings soon!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Black Fly Weekend

My triathlon team and I headed north on Friday afternoon for what ended up to be one amazing weekend. We stayed at the Black Bear Lodge with a whole bunch of Bradfords who were having a family reunion. There had to be over 100 of them all wearing lanyards - which made them easy to identify and avoid. ;-)

Waterville Valley is a great place to hang out for the weekend. The swim was in a small pond and was only .25 miles. It rained buckets during the race and I was chilled right through because it was only about 70 degrees. Every stitch of clothes that I had to put on after I got out of the water was soaked through even before I got my wetsuit on. Fortunately our hotel was only a few hundred yards away from transition and after my swim - once I started shivering uncontrollably - I bailed like a little girl and went to the room to change into something dry.

I came in first in the swim for my all female relay division and second out of all relayers. That makes me two for two this year. No where to go but down.

Our team came in 3rd place in our all female division and we were thrilled. After we had all changed into dry clothes and the rain slowed to a drizzle we went back to the race location to eat and have a post race massage. I will definitely do this race again, but as a solo participant next year along side my team.

That night we had a great dinner out at the Wild Coyote restaurant. My meal was seared scallops, black truffle mashed potatoes, asparagus and roasted squash all with a scallop au jus. It had to be in my top 10 meals ever. I highly recommend the restaurant. After dinner we went back to our room to watch the Italian Job and enjoy some Strawberry and Cherry organic beers and hit the sack.

We slept in until 8:00 am on Sunday (a luxury for triathletes on a race weeked) and then had breakfast and headed out for an adventure. We rented mountain bikes and took the ski lift up and up and up and up. I have never mountain biked before - but WOW, WOW, WOW. I had way too much fun careening down the mountain, splashing through the mud puddles, avoiding trees, etc. I only drew blood once and was ready to go up and do it again if we had more time. I think I won the award for the muddiest bike returned to the rental shop that day. All the rain made for a lot of mud on the trail. At first I tried to avoid it to no avail, so I just embraced it and succeeded mightily.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Reflections and Anticipation

The swim clinic went better than I could have hoped. I had a lot of help from my friend Obi-Wan (Curtis). There were 8 of us in total. Curtis started off with some swim start and T1 techniques. We answered a lot of questions from some first timers. Then he turned it over to me. I reviewed some basic technique before hitting the water. We played in the shallow end for a bit, working on breathing and hip rotation and then the real work began with applying what we all learned. Curtis was a big help here, too. We watched the others swim and gave them tips to help their technique. I expected that we would be done by 8:00 but I didn't get home until almost 9:00. What a great and energizing night! I can wait to do it again.

Today I head north with my tri relay team for the Black Fly Tri. My swim is advertised as a .25 mile swim so I should be in and out of the water pretty quick. I am debating if I should bother with the wetsuit for this one. That will be a game time decision to be sure. After the race we will have the rest of the weekend to explore Waterville Valley, maybe go to the Black Fly Bonfire, and just enjoy our girls weekend. Two great young men and two big old dogs will be holding down the fort here at home while I am gone. I look forward a great weekend!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Swim Clinic #1

Tonight I am giving my first swim clinic. I hope that it goes well. I am expecting about 4-5 people to attend and I really want them to get something great out of it. I am a little nervous because my primary goal is to help people succeed. Open water swimming overwhelms a lot of new triathletes for good reasons. I want to teach them to face the fear and to give them strategies to overcome that fear. I also want to help them with technique so that they can improve their swim times.