Monday, August 17, 2015

Challenge Pocono Mountain Race Review: Olympic Triathlon OMG

Hello all --


Sorry it's been a while since I've last posted. So much has been going on. 


I've started training for the NYC marathon, competed in a local sprint triathlon a few weeks ago and have been going through the summer training for the Challenge America Pocono Mountain OLY triathlon. Which was yesterday. And boy what a shit show. 


This gets slightly ugly so go get comfortable and something to drink because this is going to be a helluva read. 



day before the storm
First of all, I've been struggling with biking and getting used to the damn "clip-less" pedals - (clip-less pedals means your bike shoes actually clips into the pedal and you and the bike are one. Don't ask me why they are called "clip-less") Anyhow, so I keep falling over in them and am having trouble getting used to them. So on Saturday, during a practice ride, I literally broke down and started crying over these damn shoes because I feel so awkward and klutzy in them. I felt paralyzed to even 'kick off' and get going. I was seriously freaking out. It took me 20 minutes just to start. The most terrifying part of them is stopping and getting out. that's when the falls happen. But I figured for the race I would just have to unclip once - at the end, so essentially once I got going I would only have to maybe fall once. This is relevant information for later in this blog. I considered switching the pedals out to the old fashioned flat kind but that's really not a great idea on the kinds of "hills" we were going to be doing on the course. 


Let's get on to the race.



In spite of the nervous breakdown about the pedals (and fears about feet and leg cramps in the water - which I'm prone to get) I'm feeling pretty excited about the day. All I have to do is not drown or crash and I think I'll be OK.  I spring from bed at 4:15 AM and prepare to 'be great' as my friend Travis would say. 

THE SWIM - .9 miles



The swim start got delayed because of fog. They told us at the pre-race meeting that they might have to cut the swim short because of logistics of closing the roads to traffic if a foggy morning delayed the race. They also told us that the swim cut-off was 1hour.



Well, we finally get in the water and this swim was HARD but I was determined. Like trout we had to swim against the current but unlike trout, I'm not a very strong swimmer and made the stupid error of not wearing a full wetsuit because I feared being too warm. I wore a "shorty" instead that was sleeveless and cut off above the knee. Once at the race, I realized that 99% of the field had traditional long wetsuits on and I had learned that a 'shorty' was less buoyant and effective. Terrific. 



The water felt good and was clean and clear - I could see straight to the bottom. Which made me realize how hard the swim was. At one point I was looking down at the same rock for what seemed like ten minutes. I was "swimming" but the current had me essentially standing still! No bueno!



For time perspective, last year I did an OLY Triathlon, untrained, stopping every 10 strokes to rest and having 0 swim technique and I was able to finish the swim in 53 minutes. This year I've actually trained AND had some solid swim lessons with great triathlon coaches. I am still far from fast and still have a lot to learn but theoretically, I should be MUCH stronger than a year ago. 

This swim was crazy (for me). It took me 45 minutes to get to the turn around point but once we make the turn the current would be on our side but we still had issues. 

First of all, I had to go around this little yellow-minion looking buoy. Apparently that buoy became "unhooked" and started floating away in the current so the more I tried to get around it, the more I was "literally" getting run over by it and it kept getting further away. It was nuts. Then I got around that thing and I was in shallow water that was filled with what seemed like a "field of grass." So I'm trying to swim thru this field of grass and literally these strands of grass is grabbing me and smacking me in the face. holy crap. a volunteer told me if I wanted to get away from the field of grass that I should move towards the center of the river - the only problem with that was the buoy was straight ahead so I would have to add more time onto my swim to swim out to the middle of the river only to swim back to that buoy.

Anyway, at about 55 minutes in and with the swim finish in sight, I was informed that I had two options: Jump on a boat and get brought back into shore - and be able to continue the day - or finish the swim but not be allowed to bike and run. THIS WAS A HUGE BUMMER!!  I wanted to finish that swim but myself, along with 8 other women, decided that the boat in and getting to do the bike and run was better than ending the day with the swim so we did that. Two women (ironically both friends of mine) both decided to finish the swim. 

Now to be fair - strong swimmers didn't seem to have too much trouble but as still a newer swimmer this was challenging for me. I had done more than a mile in under an hour a few times so I believed I could make this cut off. Apparently I was wrong. On the other hand, there was a woman on the boat who said she had done 2 half IM and that this was tougher than those swims. Who knows... All I know is it sucked. :/

OK, so I get on the boat. I'm scared shitless about the bike and am still pretty new to this triathlon thing. We get off the boat and there's an announcement "You have One minute and 30 seconds to get out of transition or you can't go out!" Whhhhhhhhhhat!! I'm a shitty triathlete. I'm scared on the bike, I need to eat a banana, get this stupid wetsuit off, put on socks, GET MY SHIT TOGETHER after swimming for almost an hour... All this is going through my head and then I hear, "ONE MINUTE!" So choice words are flying out of my mouth at record speed and I skip eating, skip my sunscreen, skip drying my feet, slap my socks on, crookedly put on my helmet and I'm shaking as I'm trying to get out of transition, "TWENTY SECONDS!" And I run out of transition to the mount line. I'm out. But I'm a f--king mess. 

So I stick the shoes on and gobble down a nutrition packet and sit there paralyzed as I try to get the strength to start biking. I'm now thinking, maybe I should've just finished the swim. I'm last one out and feeling scared to death. This is not an easy course. The bike is challenging. It's in the freakin' mountains for the love of God. What an idiot I am to be doing this race....

Anyway. The Bike: 24 miles of hell 

While I'm stalling my start I see an athletic girl on a bike next to me, also seemingly stalling - was she on the boat? I didn't know. She had a fancy Quitana Roo bike. I was wondering why she was still just procrastinating too but didn't give it much thought because I was out of sorts and scared to death.

I'm a way worse biker than swimmer and we know how the swim went...

Finally, I push off. I start going. And this QR bike girl starts riding behind me. And then she just starts chatting. "How are you feeling?" "How was your swim?" I don't even know what she's saying. Or why she's chatting with me but I'm OK with a friend on the journey. Why not? But then it hits me. The Challenge America team kit, the real tri bike, her sick triathlete body... Wait a second!?  Are you out here just for me? The last person out?

She smiled and said something to the effect of "Yes, I love being out here with the last person..." I'm not quite sure of the exact words but it was something like that. 

BUT SHIIIIT! Don't get me wrong I was happy for the company - but the f'ing race people sent a chaperone for me!! I'm trying to do a triathlon and now I have a nanny in tow!! Kill me now. Who gets a babysitter during a race?? I know I'm not fast but it feels, I don't know. But I push aside my pride. I suck at the bike and truthfully I'm far more happy for the company than insulted at this point.

AND thank God she was there. The first four miles of this course is CRAZY. Warning. If you haven't trained on hills and don't feel like you're a great biker, you probably want to reconsider signing up for a race with the word "mountains" in it. Just sayin'

I'm maybe a mile into the ride when we get to our first insane climb. And I can't. get. up. the. hill. I wind up almost falling off the bike but manage instead to unclip and get a foot down. On a hill. Well shit. No way I'm getting back in the clips now. So I have to clop, clop, clop, walk, walk, walk up this dumb hill. Talk about feeling defeated. We've got 23 miles to go. How the hell am I going to do this when I'm already failing at this bike thing? UGH. Shit. Now I'm starting to doubt that I have it in me to do this. I really was panicked and overwhelmed. I never wanted to quit something so bad in my life.

But those race people knew what they were doing when they sent Carmel (the name of my triathlon Nanny) out to stick with me. I think I would've quit if she wasn't there. She unclipped and walked her bike with me - chatting, smiling, encouraging me to not give up. I apologized, I worried, I told her I wanted to quit. She reminded me of what's written on the back of my shirt which said, "The greatest pleasure is doing what people say you cannot do." I had no idea that was on the back of my shirt. HA.  Carmel was great. 

So we got up that hill and rode some smaller hills and technical turns and bumpy roads - all pretty tough for me. We just kept going. And then we hit another killer hill. I tried to climb it again and again I nearly fell but managed to unclip in time to not fall. And clop, clop, clop, walked up a freaking hill again!! This was not going well.  22 miles to go. This is going to be a long day. Ugh. All the while I'm still having a heart attack about the shoes. So we keep going and going and then around mile 5 or 6 we get onto a regular road - this road was good. Some 'rolling' inclines but nothing crazy. 

So I was starting to feel a little bit better and then mile 10 hits. Almost half way there! Carmel rolls up next to me and says, "Listen, you're doing well. I'm going to remember your number and look you up and expect to see you got to the end of this thing. You go finish now." And my babysitter left. I was sad to see her go. It was me, the road, and all the bad ass triathletes coming back from their HALF distance races. So at least I wasn't alone, even if I was one of the last OLYs out there. There was one OLY girl still out there too. She had to walk up the hills too. At this point she was behind me. 

As I'm riding back on the regular road, somehow I managed to run over an already dead possum. That wasn't pleasant. 

And then I had to go back to those shitty hills. Tons of work, around mile 20 I hit the hill that about killed me. I couldn't get up this one either and tried to unclip to stop but fell over on my left instead. With the bike on top of me I just curled up in a heap on the ground. I felt like that poor possum. Dead and then ran over again. I grabbed my water bottle, and hydrated. I was so, so, so tired and drained. I didn't want to go back on that bike again. I didn't even want to stand up. I wanted to sell my dumb bike on Craigslist at that very moment and uber my sorry bike-riding ass to the nearest diner. But USAT rules disallows cell phones on the course so no uber. I was very, very done. I sat there between wanting to cry, nap and quit for a full 20 minutes. 70.3'ers passing by and offering help, aid, whatever I needed (thank you triathletes!) but I just wanted to lay there and have death come and take me away. Death never came. If I had my running shoes with me I would've just walked my bike back. I had ZERO desire to get back on. 

Finally I stand up and I know that only four miles is between me and ending this shit show. So I go to get on my bike and my chain has dropped. Under normal circumstances I can get this thing remedied, but with no where to balance my bike and drained from five hundred hours of climbing and 200 hours of swimming and 90 degrees of heat, I have no idea what to do. 

And then, as if on cue, a truck (the only vehicle I've seen on the course all day) pulls up. It's the bike mechanic. He asks me if I need help and he fixed my chain in 5 seconds. 

Ok then. No excuses. I hop back on the bike. It's still tough but the super hard stuff is behind me. I do the best I can to use the downhills and flats to gain the speed to get momentum to go up the hills and manage to get thru a few tough hills without having to get off the bike. 

FINALLY, I turn into the final little part to get off this bike! That bike ride was probably the very hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life. hands down. I was spent. 

Screaming at my best friend Angela that this ride was Bullsh!t

But I was super relieved! I didn't die and now I get to run! (or walk or crawl but I was pretty sure I wouldn't die.) 

Still giving Angela the stink eye in T2 over that ride
And off on the run I go... Just 6.2 miles keeping me from the finish line!

Out to run!
So I'm happy to be running but it's hard and hot. It's fine. I'm slow, I have to walk, I have to douse myself in ice but I just have to keep moving.

And moving, and moving.

It's on a gorgeous trail but that was really challenging too! Nothing easy about this race. there were a few very steep declines and inclines. I was cramping in my quads but still able to keep moving. So I just kept moving. 

Finally the end was near! 

And I turn the corner to see my son and husband! They were so excited to see me. My son chanted "Momma, Momma, Momma!" and it was awesome. 

hubby and son running to get to finish line as I turned corner
pictures are all courteous of bff Angela Lee 
My son decided to race me down the shoot (instead of crossing with me) - he won and proudly told me, "I won and you lost!" and crossing that finish line was the best losing I did all day. 

First smile all day! Ha! He might've won but I got the medal
Another proud picture:


After all that I looked up the results - out of the 8 in my (Athena) division a bunch quit the bike ride, or decided not to run at all. I actually "kind of" wound up placing 3rd. (I say kind of because next to my name, sadly, I have a DNF - which I assume is because I had to be pulled from the water.  And except for the last part of that swim I DID FINISH. I finished when I wanted to quit that first mile of the bike. It's a BUMMER. But I know I gave it all my heart so I am going to have to be OK with that little DNF next to my name.)  I also later learned that a bunch of even seasoned athletes had very tough time on the hills, a few also had to walk the hills and there were a few crashes and curses besides mine. 

I know this is very long but a few last words. The race people were great. Carmel was awesome. The race itself was well-run. I loved being there even though this was very, very hard for me. I may have reached too big for where my training was at. Although there was lots of cursing and tears, a sore day later I'm happy I did it. I'm proud I didn't quit. I was clearly not trained correctly for this. I think if the race was in the lake (like it was last year) and the bike was relatively flat I would've been OK'ish. Who knows?

My friends Angela and Michelle were great. My parents and family too. 

Yesterday I was quitting triathlon forever.

But today, I'm just more fired up than ever to get better, train harder, not have to have a babysitter on the bike... and figure out those damn bike shoes!

XO
Jen 



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Runniversary Edition: Sixth Year of run and fun at the New Jersey Half Marathon

I'm filled with such gratitude that I once again got to return to the New Jersey Shore to run my favorite half marathon.

This was my sixth year in a row!

4:30 AM and ready to go
The weather was good and I ran with a few good friends and we ran for fun. It gave me great joy to return once again. For a minute it looked like I might have to be away for business. And actually I was but I managed to get in the day before and still pull off running my favorite race. 

Mile after mile of this race reminds me how far I've come. 

I've had ups and downs along the way but I will forever be eternally grateful for that one February day in 2010 I signed up for it for the first time. 

The bling

Victorious
Next stops are a few OLY triathlons over the summer and then my dream race: NYC Marathon. :)

Do you have a favorite race or a race that you try to never miss? What's your longest streak of doing the same race?

Hope you are well!

XO
Jen


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

From Fat To Finish Line the documentary Nashville Premiere

So the last few weeks have been an exciting whirl-wind. I'm practically pinching myself that it all just happened.

Official movie poster! 


After three years in the making, From Fat to Finish Line the documentary premiered at the Nashville Film Festival this past week.

My "industry pass" and screening tickets


Wow. What a trip.

It was exciting and nerve-wracking to think that the film we've labored over for years (and one that showcases one of the most difficult runs of my life) was going to be viewed by strangers on an enormous screen and in a real-live movie theater. 

It started with a little more than half the team traveling to Nashville to be a part of the screening. A few of the team couldn't be there for various reasons and that was the toughest part. It made everything just slightly bitter-sweet because I kept thinking of them and wishing them there. I know that it was hard on them to not be there as well and that made me sad. We are planning on doing quite a few festivals so I'm sure that everyone will get the chance to see it on the big screen and enjoy a festival so that is the good news. 

Aside from Linda who came in a little later that day and Carly who came in for the second screening later that week, the team who was there and myself decided to kick off the premiere day by running a local 5K. It was fantastic and fun. Every run should be filled with that kind of joy.

Allison, Me, Rik, Lealah, Meredith, John

Then we had a nice post race brunch in a fun Nashville spot, relaxed for a bit and got ready for the premiere!  

There was a red carpet and we got interviewed and pictures taken! 

Me
The team and Director:

Allison, Meredith, Rik, Lealah, John, Linda, Me, and Angela
We had two screenings with Q&A's afterward. 

We were flying high and then Runner's World ran an online story about the premiere! How fricken cool.  You can see the article here and they even linked to the trailer

People seemed to really love the movie. 

Here's a girl with her own amazing story who wanted a picture with Carly and I after the second screening. Stuff like this makes all the hard work worth it. I was just blown away:

Carly, Annette, Me 
The plan right now is to do a festival circuit of various cities (I will let you know where and when) and then be ready to distribute for the public by January. 

It leaves me speechless. Who knew that all those years ago when I decided to pick up a pair of running sneakers, and try to run for a minute and made an audacious goal of running a race that it would lead to all this stuff? God/the universe/ whatever you want to call it just works in mysterious ways. I'm so thankful and grateful for this journey. 

XO
Jen 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Review: Running Strong

Recently Runner's World Magazine reached out and asked if I would be interested in reviewing Dr. Metzl's new book, Running Strong.





Dr. Metzl is a runner and Ironman. You know this guy "gets us." He knows the ups and downs of running, the issues we face, the health rumors we've heard and concerns we might have.

This book came to me at exactly the right time.

I have just been accepted thru lottery into the NYC Marathon (Yay!) but have begun feeling the effects of running. After long runs, my knees get a little achey, my hamstrings a little sore... you know the drill. Dr. Metzl addresses each potentially creaky part of the runner's body in a section called "Uh Oh What's That Pain?" He explains the mechanics of each body part, why the pain may be happening and how to correct it. And by the way, he does this all in a very interesting way.

Dr. Metzl recommends strength training (he has a whole slew of specific strength exercises recommended for us runners) and daily foam rolling. I've begun doing both. I know that both of those things are paramount for me but Dr. Metzl was able to give me the tools to actually do those things instead of think, "I need to do something" but not know where or how to start.

The book has a cool feature, an app. You can download an app called Blippar and when you scan certain icons in the book, the app will take you to videos shot with Dr. Metzl right in his office! These little "Blippar" opportunities are all over the book and another great way to get useful information.



Dr. Metzl covers EVERYTHING in his book and truly prepares you to run strong whether you are a beginner trying to figure out the right running shoe to a seasoned marathoner. There is tons of great information and take away. It's the kind of book you devour cover to cover the first time you get it and then keep on your shelf forever for reference.

Here are some useful links for you if you want to learn more about Dr. Metzl and Running Strong:
Here is where you can buy Running Strong. And find Dr. Metzl on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also visit his website to learn more.

Check the book out! It also would make a great gift to a fellow running buddy!

XO
Jen


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Does Running Make You Fat? Information Overload

Foiled again.

So I lose all that weight, I give up lots of favorite foods along the way, make all these (what I think are) positive changes and then I get smacked in the face with this annoying article:


Now I would've just chuckled this off if it hadn't been for the battling of the bulge I've been dealing with lately, despite my kicking up the mileage, so I decide to click and read the article.

Aaarrrrrrgh. 



So the article says that not only will running make you fat but can kill you too. Terrific. I thought that mayonnaise was going to make me fat and kill me but apparently if you follow a paleo or Whole30 diet, mayo is your friend and now according to 'research' running the enemy.

My head is about to explode.

Somedays I miss the simple old days. I know some of the rules were wrong but for the most part everyone was on the same page. Eat less calories (even if it meant using a sweet and low or some other fraken food) and the more cardio the better. So simple. Not so much to wrap your head around. Not so much information to digest. It's just too much now-a-days. 

My addiction to reading health articles on line is ruining my life.

Here's just a few of the million thoughts I've had recently:

I want to eat more broccoli, but crap I didn't buy organic so the toxins will keep me fat.
I thought I would try agave but then I learned from 2 out of 4 sources that it's no better than sugar.
I tried Whole30 because that camp says it's great and I have a few friends who've benefitted - it was  just OK for me but maybe I need to try again but what about all that fat?
Oh, maybe I should go plant-based because...
Should I just go back to Weight Watchers and point counting? Or maybe stick to the Simply Filling plan?
Then there's Isagenix - nah don't think I could do that and give up coffee
But research says coffee is good for you!
But this research says coffee is bad... 
Ugh. Maybe I should switch to green tea - Yes! I'll have some green tea. Oh, but this isn't organic green tea. Wonder if it's OK? 
I want to do strength training because muscle eats fat (or something like that.) 
Oh I have to do core and hip strengthening because then my running will get better but...
I shouldn't run because it's going to back fire - and make me fat.

So there's the madness... It's just not simple.

For now I'm going to keep drinking coffee, loosely follow Weight Watchers, skip the mayo and keep the running because I'm happy there. Yeah, I'll add some strength training too. The broccoli may or may not be organic depending on my budget and the week. 

Does your head want to explode with all the 'research' too? 

XO
Jen 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

TCS New York City Marathon Drawing Day

The day of the 2014 NYC marathon lottery drawing started like it had for the last 3 prior years before. A feeling of hope, excited anticipation and desperate want filled my soul and getting that elusive golden ticket occupied my thoughts.

It's a day where I will obsessively check my email, NYRR account status and credit card statement dozens of times (I now know my AMEX number by heart) like a crack addict waiting to find out the location of my next hit and then the sinking, sickening feeling of getting no update, no obscene credit card charge to my credit card and the slow realization that this, again, would not be my year. The feeling of despair and (I hate to admit) envy as I saw people celebrating online like this:

"Wow! I'm so lucky!! Got in the lottery for the third time to run NYC!" 
"My credit card is charged! I'm in!"
"Who's running NYC with me!?"

And then the final, 'you're not in' nail was in the coffin upon seeing this message on the TCS NYC Marathon Twitter and Facebook page


Well. There was no charge on my credit card, so no dice. I was crushed. Truly crushed. My fourth year trying to get in and I just knew I was getting in. But I was wrong. I was literally in tears and took to social media for a little consoling from my friends.




But then, somehow, a miracle happened.  A big fat, "Miracle on 34th Street" and the rest of the city type miracle because just as I was giving up my dreams this popped up in my email:

Wait. What!!?


Best. Email. Ever.

And then to be sure I rushed to my NYRR account and there was this:


So start spreading the news... I'm running NYC, baby, and I couldn't be happier.




XO,
Jen 



Saturday, January 31, 2015

What I love about marathon training and other things

Hello!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Ground Hogs Day.

I know it's been a while. I'm a terrible blogger but I'm going to work on that.

Things have been going pretty good. It's been a great start to the year for me even though I fricken hate winter and cold. 

I've been marathon training and things are going well. I'm not doing anything crazy long yet (Last week and this week's long run is 10 miles) but it's been going good.

And dare I say I've even enjoyed the many miles... and those many miles have been on a treadmill! I've been able to manage treadmill boredom by really digging into stuff on Netflix.  My longest run on the treadmill was last week's 10 miler and I've been doing just about every other distance on there.  I'm actually learning to really like the treadmill. I don't have to worry about the elements or where to carry all my stuff. I just have to hop on and go. 

Ten Treadmill miles thanks to watching Dirty Dancing
#NoOnePutsMyTreadmillInTheCorner
Here's what I love about marathon training - once you start building those miles it becomes almost like a "light workout" to run 4 or 5 miles. There's something very cool about that.  I'm also loving the feeling of accomplishment as I check off these workouts. 

And I'm super proud of the miles adding up - this month I managed to run 84.27 miles WOW!! 100 miles!! - the most I've run possibly ever in one month. 

the first few days of the year wasn't included in this graph
so I actually ran a solid 100 miles this month on the nose! 
I am now just 'loosely' following the simply filling plan for Weight Watchers. I am still keeping an eye on portion but am just concentrating on eating as healthy as possible. I feel like that is working out for me. I've lost a few pounds over the last few weeks but I'm trying not to be scale obsessed. I had to lighten up, i was making myself nuts worrying about the scale. I'm running lots and eating well. This is enough for me right now and I'm at peace with it.

Other good stuff this month included getting a rough cut of the From Fat To Finish Line film done! The finish line on that is in sight and we are excited! :) I also got to have a little reunion time with my good friend Linda from Fricken' Fabulous At 40

And I tossed my hat into the ring for the NYC marathon lottery again. We'll see and fingers crossed. 

And finally I happened upon a pair of compression running pants from Old Navy on the clearance rack.  They are a little loud for me since I'm a 'stick to basic black' type of gal (OK once in a while I get crazy and wear grey) but at just $9.99 on clearance had to give them a shot.

actual legging purchased
I have to say these are great running leggings (even though both my hubby and son kind of looked at them funny as I left for my run today). They didn't fall down when I ran and the compression feels great. They are on the Old Navy website in black or grey for $29.99 (but there's a 20% off code right now - you type in SAVE at checkout).  I'm definitely going to pick another pair up. This actual turquoise-striped color pair is on sale for $19.99 on the website so I really got lucky finding them for $9.99!

How is your winter going? Find anything good that's running or training related lately?

XO
Jen

PS: The legging review is my own entirely, Old Navy has no idea that I bought them or reviewed them - however, Mr. or Mrs. Old Navy - if you are reading this, feel free to send me an old navy gift card or a free pair of black compression running tights in a large. That would be fab. Thanks!! ;) lol