Friday, March 30, 2012

Nevis Day #4 - 1 more sleep until TriStar Nevis 111

The swim
This morning began with a swim course preview organized by the race directors and TriStar.  I swam with pros John Hirsch (he's dreamy), Amy Kloner and Laurel Wassner.  I was dropped for their "easy" course preview withing 10 seconds, but it was pretty awesome that they all joined in.  After the swim, we did our own run course preview.  It's hilly and going to be hot.  Macca did this race last year and after checking out his spilts, we knew there had to be some evil during the 10k run.  He ran it in 40-something minutes last year!  Good.  I like a hard race.

While we registered I performed my original choreography of the Caribbean Race Wheel Dance.

It was breathtaking and graceful.

Now we're on pre-race shut down for a bit.  We have our feet up until we head to the pre-race pump up dinner.  I'm really excited to go because everything has been tons of fun so far.

If you want to follow the race, check out and follow TriStar Live on twitter!

Nevis Day #3 - Donkeys, coconuts, and a bike course preview

We woke up at 5:30am and dressed for a run. Our short run started on top of a cloud covered hill (the home of our new friend Greg) and ended at the home of his 8 donkeys! I LOVE THEM! First we met Rio, Michael and Star. They are very friendly and we got to play with them a lot. Then we got to meet some of the others who are still a bit tough to approach.

This is Michael. Look at that face!
Greg is training them for donkey tours. In exchange for their donkey tour work they get food and tons of love from one of the nicest guys I've met. I mean honestly, Greg loves these donkeys and can't even stand to miss a day of visiting them. He can explain their personalities and their likes and dislikes. I can totally see why he loves them so much. So we fed them all and walked around with them a bit. To get home, we hiked trails that are centuries old to get back to Greg's house in the clouds.

This nice lady was hanging out by the trail
When we got back to Greg's driveway, he walked into the backyard, pulled some green coconuts off of the coconut tree, then shared some fresh coconut water and coconut meat with us for breakfast. It was unbelievable and one of the best mornings of my life.

Fresh green coconut
Then we were off to the local radio station to be interviewed for their sports radio show! It was super cool to get to be inside of a radio station and to see how everything works. We even got to wear giant headphones and talk into a microphone. Just like in the movies! I mean... we're kind of a big deal.

It was a packed show because after us they interviewed Kristina and Nic of They're leaving on Sunday to start a bike ride around the world. Kristina is going for the Guinness Book record as the first woman to complete the trip on the bike. Her story (she is a canadian referred to by the islanders as "our sister") is amazing. You should check these two out.

Then, we checked out the Agricultural Fair and Farmer's Market. I wanted to see everything all at once. There was so much to take in! There was live music and it had educational demonstrations about composting, water reclamation for irrigation, local animal rights, local animals in general, etc. We also got delicious guava smoothies and tasted other local treats. I wished I had a giant bag to buy one of every fruit and vegetable to bring home and eat!

Later, we got back down to business and did a loop of the 20 mile bike course. The race will be 3 loops of the course, plus a separate mini loop. We have *heard things* about the TriStar Nevis 111 race course. Scary things about an Anaconda. The Anaconda is a 5k climb at the start of the loop. Doing the loop 3 times means the Anaconda = 15k of climbing. The climb was definitely brutal, but I feel prepared for it after SLB and because I'm a strong climber. That said, after a fast descent, the course isn't exactly flat. It rolls steadily in a way that suits me well. I'm riding a road bike and VERY happy about that!

We made dinner at home after the ride. It was our stand by, simple, travel meal: a Veggie Rice Bowl. I cooked brown rice, topped that with 2 eggs over easy, black beans, lettuce, onions, and carrots. Also, hot sauce. Never forget the hot sauce. It was a perfect meal.

A perfect end to a day that I would never want to end... except that the days just keep getting better!

Nevis Day #2 - Falling in love with the island

So, the bike shop, Wheel World,  is on the beach - which also makes it the swim spot. Not only that, there is an outdoor food spot at the same location on the beach. We rode to the bike shop, changed into swim gear, swam over pretty (and enormous) starfish, and then grabbed an amazing carribean/vegetarian lunch on the beach. Sitting there I realized how easy it would be to blink and have 10 years go by.

During the swim, John worked on drafting with me. Swimming is my weakness, mainly because I only learned how to swim a few years ago and I've never really put in the time it takes to improve in the water. March has been a "get serious" swim focus for me and John has been coaching me through form drills, speed intervals, and some racing and open water drills (like drafting). I did well with the lesson on the beach until my bikini bottom fell off. I should have worn an actual training swimsuit! Whatever though, my tan looks great.

Our lovely swim spot
Later that evening was the TriStar Nevis Pink Lily Charity Run. While we waited to start we hung out with our new friends Amy Kloner (female pro) and her boyfriend, Tom.

Amy and I decided to keep it easy and do the "fun run" for fun and not ruin our legs for the race on Saturday. I ran the first half at a strong pace, chatting the whole time, but then I think Amy picked it up because it became much less conversational. I dropped back and kept it easy and threw in a few pick ups to get snappy and finished between 22 and 23 minutes. The finish was a HUGE party! Tri Star and the race directors are great at making a giant presence and making everything a party.

John with our homestay (he's also one of the race directors, Greg - we love him.

I danced, I played with a monkey, and just full on enjoyed the powerful positive and happy energy of the islanders. Honestly, coming from NYC it feels like an enormous exhale from the tense energy at home. Everyone is happy. All the time. It's amazing!

That night we were off to bed early so that we could wake up and go through our homestay Greg's morning routine with him! This is honestly my favorite way to travel. Hang with the locals and tag along while they do their thing. There's no better way to experience a new place. It would be even better with a visitor's guide written by TheyTri, the website designed by a dear friend of mine to support triathlon sherpas and families.  Throw a bike in the mix and you have yourself a heaping pile of traveling perfection.

Nevis Day #1 - Travel Day

John: "did that sign say 'monkeys crossing'?"

Homestay (Greg): "yes, we have monkeys on island"

Me: "really? What will they do???"

Greg: "they LOVE alcohol"

There are 7,000 monkeys in Nevis and 11,000 people. Woah.


Our trip to Nevis began with 30 degree weather at LaGuardia Airport. By 1pm we were swimming at a gorgeous beach in St Maarten. We actually waltzed out of the airport and into the ocean during our 5 hour layover.

This is how close our layover swim was to the airport!

Then, all sun soaked and sand covered, we got onto the tiniest plane I've ever been on for a 30-minute flight to Nevis.

Our teensy aeroplane
As soon as we landed, we were welcomed like long lost friends and they made a really big deal out of our arrival! We hardly had to lift a finger as they walked us through baggage claim and customs. From there, we were brought to our homestay to shower and get ready to go out to dinner with the TriStar Nevis family and some of the other pros and athletes. It was a great first impression of island food and we heard some pretty incredible stories of the people joining us for dinner, including Kathryn, a former elite triathlete who was challenged by ESPN to qualify for the olympics through any sport possible.  She tried everything and found cycling to be her best chance.  Check out her story, and book, here.

In bed that night, I remember thinking... "How can I possibly fall asleep? I'm already dreaming".

Saturday, March 24, 2012

NYC Half - Wicked Fast Report

(Me in my new Spanish cycling jersey)

In my last post, I explained WHY I chose to run the NYC Half with Team Continuum.  Now, you get to hear HOW I ran so danged fast!

I went into the race wondering if I could somehow pull off a 1:37.  I haven't tested my stand-alone long distance run legs in years.  My half-marathon PR was 1:44, though that was after a 1.2 mile swim and 56 mile bike.  All of my previous half-marathon times were about 2 hours with the races having been completed BEFORE I figured out how to run fast.  With a 1:44 HIM run and my 3:54 marathon in a 140.6, I thought *maybe* I can kill this thing.  Having a time goal made me really nervous about the race, especially because I hadn't trained for it and had only run about 10 times since 2011.  I was depending on my general fitness to punch this ticket for me.

On race morning I wrote my goal splits on my arm and asked John a bazillion questions about how to pace myself.  He said to run the first 10 miles at a fast but conversational pace and the last 3 I could push.  The gun went off and 8 minutes later I was through the start! (Gotta love big races in NYC).  I went with my usual crowded run tactic, which is to have fun bobbing and weaving through people and climb past the other runners as if they are rungs in a ladder.  There is always someone to set my gaze on, catch, and pass.  This had my mind preoccupied and when I got to the 1 mile marker I was a minute ahead of schedule even though I felt like I was running easy!  I continued at a faster pace than planned and kept reminding myself to hold back - even though I felt like I was going too easy.  I held onto that minute that I gained in the first mile and put it in my pocket, just in case I needed it later.  I never needed it.  I ran at an easy 7:15 pace through mile 10.  At mile 10 we were running into a head-wind and it felt a bit harder to hold pace but I pushed a bit more anyway.  With a mile to go I gunned it.  I finished in 1:35:04, about 2 minutes ahead of what I hoped for!

As I ran this race I got lost in my thoughts and asked myself, how the heck did I get to be such a fast runner???  I came up with 3 good reasons.

1)  I watched Pro-Triathlete, Cait Snow, in awe as she ran in the RI 70.3.  She is insanely fast and she makes it look so easy!  I noticed that she was taking tiny steps and her cadence incredibly high.  I started to mimic this in my own training by shortening my stride and increasing my cadence.  Whenever I'm running, if I check in with my cadence and make my turn over faster, 2 things happen - I go faster and my perceived effort is much easier.  In a race, if I want to speed up or catch someone I pick up my cadence.  If I feel tired and like I need to slow down, I pick up my cadence to help hold my pace.  An added benefit of learning this has been that I am not needing stability shoes anymore.  I'm not over-pronating.  If you want to try to increase your cadence you can use a metronome to get a sense of where you need to be. And beware of subconsciously matching your stride with the people you're running with!

2)  I learned a lot about form from Jessi Stensland and gained a lot of run knowledge from all of the coaches at ZenTri Camp.  There are a few things that Jessi taught me that I regularly focus on while running, such as lifting my knees, pushing the ground away with my feet, and strongly swinging my arms.  These things have made an enormous difference in my running.  You should check out her MovementU training programs!

3)  Lastly, I just got WICKED fit destroying myself on my bike in Spain at SLB training camp.  I didn't run at all while I was there but I definitely got super strong.  I wasn't sure if this would translate to general fitness and not just bike fitness (which I knew had improved) but it definitely built me up!  I didn't even train for this half-marathon and I felt like a 7:15 pace was effortless.  Strong Like Bull gave me super powers!

Next up, I'm racing the 111 at TriStar Nevis next weekend, Saturday March 31st!  Check out this race course!  The bike is 3 loops that start with a 5k climb called "The Anaconda".  I ain't even skeered!

(Random last thing: I happen to love this e-card)

Monday, March 19, 2012

NYC Half-Marathon with Team Continuum

Thank you to Team Continuum for inviting me to race with them!  They are a very important running/charity group and an enormous piece of my training and love of triathlon.  If you aren't familiar with Team Continuum's mission, you should check them out.  TC is a non-profit group that raises funds, through endurance sports, to help people with cancer (and their families) to fund household expenses.  They also donate money to fund health care facilities to enhance the delivery of care.  Why do I choose to race with Team Continuum?  Here is a little background story:

In 2005, I graduated from New School University.  My father made the trip to NYC to attend my graduation -- with a 1.5 inch "cyst" on his neck.  We weren't concerned- it was just a cyst.  After graduation I went back to MA for a visit with my family. One morning, I decided to keep my dad company to get the results from his biopsy.  We still weren't concerned.  Then... I was in the room when they told my dad he had stage 4 throat cancer, I watched the color drain from his face, I saw him faint, I called my mom and told her to come home from work.

It was over a year that felt like we were trapped in a bad dream.  With chemo, radiation, morphine, and a feeding tube (because he couldn't eat solid foods), my dad was a shell of his former self.  I drove from NYC to Boston every weekend to help take care of him.  It was the entire focus of my life at that moment.  Luckily, he had a lot of support, including the gift of his full salary from his boss, Steve Grossman, of Grossman Marketing Group.  Steve is also the MA State Treasurer. Here's the thing -- my family was lucky, most jobs are forced to lay off sick employees.  I don't know where we would have been without that help.  We would have been one of the many families applying for help from Team Continuum.

With so much love and care my dad made it through chemo and regained his strength.  With my nutritional guidance, he was able to eat solid foods again and he made them ALL healthy.  We transformed his diet, and during a walk one day I said, "Dad, I bet you could do a half-marathon.  I bet you could finish that distance even if you had to walk most of it - with me".  Within a week, my father, my grandfather, and I were registered for the Inaugural NYC Half.  My dad focused his energy on following a run/walk training plan.  He continued to build his strength through nutrition.  He finished a long run of 14 miles!  Then, because of issues with his knees, he wasn't able to race.  But I raced for us both that year and I proudly delivered his hard-earned finisher shirt to him after the race.  He WON his race the day he decided to fight cancer and not to give up.
My goal splits for the race

Back to present... I ran the NYC Half with Team Continuum yesterday.  I can officially call myself a NYC Elite runner with a qualifying finishing time of 1:35:04 and I'm thrilled.  I flew, feeling weightless and effortless, over that course and I thought of my dad and of Team Continuum.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to contribute to their mission.  Come race with us!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March is Swim Month

The Big Boy Pool (Riverbank State Park 50m)
"One great big festering neon distraction, I've a suggestion to keep us all occupied. Learn to swim." Tool

It has been decided that it's time for me to get serious about swimming. I've had very few training weeks with more than 2 swims. I have managed to scrape by with the bare minimum in the water and I'm ashamed to be such a slacker. It isn't even that I mind swimming, I actually like it. I'm not *that* afraid of open water swimming and I even have an awesome Xterra wetsuit. My problem is that I want to be perfect. I'm a trained yoga instructor and there is a reason that I chose Atmananda yoga for my training -- alignment. I love knowing what my body is supposed to do and I enjoy controlling my body. I appreciate the ability to develop strong body-awareness and focus. That said, I do not understand swimming. I don't know what a perfect swim stroke should look like, and therefore, don't know what my very specific goals are. I hear conflicting opinions and it confuses and frustrates me. Am I doing this all wrong? Am I training myself to swim improperly? And even worse, my body-awareness is WAY OFF in the water! In order to avoid crossing over with my left arm, I have to swim as if I am pulling my left arm way out at my side. I feel lost and IMPERFECT. The horror!

So now its time to figure this out. I got some excellent tips during swim sessions at SLB and I'm ready to dig way into this. Maybe I won't get it perfect in the end. That's fine, because I'm pretty sure that just being in the water and making an effort will help me improve at this point. And even if I don't get faster I won't have to feel like I'm not trying my darnedest to kick ass in this sport... to earn my results.

My solution: This month I will swim at least 3-4 times per week. I will include form drills and speed sets. I won't just get in the pool and do continuous swims (what I have always done). I will also bring my coach to the pool with me to give me tips and take videos. Then I will cook him dinner, as a way to say thank you ;)
My plan may not sound like much to most of you. Keep in mind, this is a start. We'll see how it goes and maybe I'll be swimming across Tahoe with Brett and Morgan someday!