swimming (practice) in croatia

In less than three months, I’ll compete in my third triathlon. As a marathon runner, the 5k portion of the sprint triathlon is not at all intimidating. The cycling and swimming portions are a different matter, however. Thankfully, I’ve had the unique opportunity to practice cycling in the country that knows it best: The Netherlands. I’ve honed my “defensive” cycling skills, learning how to dodge traffic (pedestrian and fellow cyclists mostly), I’ve sharpened my problem-solving skills (Dutch bike are robust but with daily use issues are inevitable), and I have simply (and probably most importantly) spent more time getting comfortable in the saddle.

Swimming in Croatia #100DaysofMiaPrima 6Swimming in Croatia #100DaysofMiaPrima 1 Swimming in Croatia #100DaysofMiaPrima 2Swimming in Croatia #100DaysofMiaPrima 7

But where the Netherlands offers excelling cycling opportunities, chances to practice open water swimming are slim. The clear Adriatic waters in Croatia were a welcome opportunity to get some real open water practice in. The best swimming I found was on the island of Mljet, an enchanting place where lavender grows wild, tiny yellow butterflies flit about the salty air, and where, supposedly, Odysseus spent seven years in the arms of Calypso. The island contains a salt water “lake” that provides warm waters and perfect, peaceful swimming.

Swimming in Croatia #100DaysofMiaPrima 3Swimming in Croatia #100DaysofMiaPrima 5Swimming in Croatia #100DaysofMiaPrima 8

I have a lot more swimming practice to go, but swimming in Croatia has certainly helped calm my nerves about swimming in open water. After all, a dip in the crystal waters of Mljet demands that one stop, take a deep breath, and enjoy the moment. When I plunge into the cold waters of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York for triathlon #3 this fall, I’m going to hold on to the memory of the salty Adriatic for as long as I can!

Vidimo se uskoro!


This post is #54 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima.

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running (free) through the bossche broek

If you’re a runner (or a triathlete), you know how easy it is to get hooked on data: GPS watches, tracking apps, heart rate monitors… Whatever device it is, there is something absolutely addicting about knowing your progress, mile for mile (and often publicly sharing that progress too). But getting caught up in numbers can take away the basic joy of running sometimes. Besides a casual 10k race at the end of this month and triathlon in September, I’m not currently in the throws of training. But still I monitor each run with more gusto than it’s worth. I start to judge the quality of the run based on its length and pace- even for my “fun runs,” which should, after all, be purely for fun.

So today, I left my GPS watch at home and took a (who knows how long!) run through the Bossche Broek. Without a watch, I took moments to pause, take a breath, and really enjoy the scenery. It’s a run like this one that reminds me why I run in the first place.

Den Bosch, The Netherlands #100daysofmiaprima Den Bosch, The Netherlands #100daysofmiaprima Den Bosch, The Netherlands #100daysofmiaprima

Tot ziens!


This post is #33 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me on Instagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima.

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Because I Can: Pittsburgh Marathon Highlights

Pain is Inevitable; Suffering is Optional: Staying Motivated Through Injury

One Does Not Simply (Run) Into Mordor

19 days and counting.

That’s a mere nineteen days until the Pittsburgh Marathon, when I will run (and admittedly, thanks to a persisting leg injury, walk) 26.2 miles. This will be my second full marathon, but the journey has been no less challenging and no less exhilarating. I completed a 20 mile run (!) this past weekend and will (THANK GOD) begin to taper starting this week. But don’t let that fool you, my taper includes a 16 mile run this weekend. 🙂

Well said, Boromir

But what’s running for four hours straight anyway? To those who have never experienced it, I like to describe it as no different that doing any one thing for hours on end. At a certain point you just keep going and going. You stop thinking about the action.

To me, it’s not unlike trying to read the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy in one sitting. At some point, eating and going to the bathroom become second priorities to finding out what happens to your beloved characters. Usually, you enjoy the ride, but at some point the battle scenes start to feel too long and your eyes begin to glaze over the lyrics to another one of Tolkein’s songs. But you just keep reading.

After all, Frodo throwing the ring into the firry pit is obviously the objective, but becoming a spectator to the battle of Helm’s Deep or a sighing over a smoldering love affair between Arwen and Aragorn or witnessing Frodo and Sam hiding among the rocks in Mordor FOR THE THOUSANDTH TIME was part of the journey. You can’t really get to Mordor without it.

Running to Mordor

Did I really just describe the marathon finish line as Mordor?!

Well, hell, it basically is. There’s just a lot more cheering and a lot less fire. But in the end, you sure do feel like you just saved the Shire.



“It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.” 

Pain is Inevitable; Suffering is Optional: Staying Motivated Through Injury

How to Stay Motivated, Despite Injury #running #motivation #inspiration miaprimcasa.com

Imagine this: You’ve spent the last couple months studying for a tough exam. You enter the classroom, fully prepared, pencil in hand, water bottle at the corner of your desk, a fresh piece of college ruled paper in front of you. The professor gives the okay, and you’re off! You set your pencil to the page, when suddenly, CRACK, the lead breaks. Now imagine you don’t have access to a pencil sharpener, and this the only writing utensil you are allowed to use. Imagine also that you are a type-A student, who believes that the outcome of this exam is everything. It’s life or death.

If you can imagine that, you can understand a bit how an athlete feels when she’s injured weeks before her big race. Of course, injury is party of the game, part of the journey, and something many if not all amateur and professional athletes face in one way or another.

A couple months ago, I had to stop running due to a leg injury. I was smack in the middle of marathon training. And although this won’t be my first full marathon, the race is undoubtably important to me. My confidence was shattered. But then, I did what I do best, I made a plan. I’m no running expert, but I know the frustration of injury and the joy and pride of tackling your goals not just in spite of the pain but maybe also because of it. So below is my plan to keeping your motivation and confidence up through a tough training patch. I hope it inspires at least one athlete to keep her head up

How to Stay Motivated, Despite Injury #running #motivation #inspiration miaprimcasa.com

First of all, choose to view this “break” actively instead of passively. In other words, don’t think of your recovery time as a waste of time. Use it. Make the absolute most of it.

-Stay active. I understand that the thought of using an elliptical probably falls somewhere on the spectrum of watching grass grow and being stuck in the middle seat while flying coach. But staying active despite your injury is important. If you’re like me, as soon as you take exercise out of my routine, I become sluggish, start to eat poorly, and become less productive (due to a positive correlation between time on my couch and hours watching Netflix). Instead of thinking that your workouts are a poor second option to running, try to do something you’ve always been meaning to but maybe didn’t have a chance to before. For instance, I started going to yoga with friends. I’d been telling myself I wanted to do more yoga, and now I finally had the chance! It’s harder to feel depressed about not doing something, when you’re doing something else you love.

Eat&Run by Scott Jurek

-Read for inspiration. My suggestions: Born to Run, Eat & Run, Thrive, and Triathlete Magazine.

-Do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t. And I don’t mean just in terms of exercise. Remove stress where you can. I, for example, sometimes get a bit obsessive over cleaning my apartment. I suppose it’s because the end result is so satisfying and the process so straight-forward. Unlike, say, just about everything else in life. But I absolutely do not need to deep clean my apartment every day. Instead of spending that time doing something that, despite it’s clear result, feels like an obligation and an added stress, I try to do something I enjoy that isn’t necessarily required of me. Like sewing. Or even spending a few extra minutes petting my cat. When I do this, it always surprises me how much control I actually have over my stress.

How to Stay Motivated, Despite Injury #running #motivation #inspiration miaprimcasa.com

-Find your balance. Physically and mentally, I mean. Were there things in your life that you were missing out on during your training? Did you skip meditation in the morning so you could get a run in before work? Did you pass up invitations to go out to the bar with friends because you wanted to be fresh for the next morning’s twelve miler? Was (and is?) your mind so cluttered with anxiety about training and the race that you forget friend’s birthdays or catch yourself worrying during Monday business meetings? Relax, and take this time to catch up, and maybe even start to schedule a new routine around the stuff you’ve been neglecting.

Vegan Diet

-Focus on nutrition. Now is finally your chance to start paying better attention to what you’re eating! If you’re aren’t burning 1500+ calories on long runs every weekend, you don’t have the same excuse to stuff your face with any and every carb that you can get your hands on. Focus on quality foods. Explore new ways to gain energy or focus. When I was recovering, I used the opportunity to switch to a plant-based diet. When I was in the heat of my training, I was concerned that a plant-based diet would not provide the energy and protein I needed. But having time to experiment with recipes and new foods during my recovery ensured that I had a solid nutrition plan settled for when I was able to pick up the training again.

How to Stay Motivated, Despite Injury #running #motivation #inspiration miaprimcasa.com

-Remember your dreams and goals. Remember what you’re recovering for. Remember why you’re putting in the effort and time to get better and do better. And remember that injury and recovery is part of the game, just as much as crossing that finishline is.

Any other advise you would give a struggling or injured athlete? Or even a person who just needs some motivation to get started?



p.s. This post is dedicated you, Michelle. I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT!


Grandma's Marathon


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Best Advice I Can Think of for New Triathletes

So you want to race triahtlon? Best adivce for new triathletes on miaprimcasa.com

Triathlon Postcards

About a month ago, I competed in my first triathlon. Generally, I’m pretty relentless when it comes to researching something I’m about to seriously commit time and energy (and sweat and tears) to. When I trained for my first marathon, I read books, talked to experienced athletes, made friends with my local running shop, and otherwise drowned myself in any and all marathon knowledge. My foray into triathlon was different in only one respect: I researched even harder.

My mom is a pretty amazing athlete herself. She competed in her first half marathon this summer (having had very little prior running experience besides her training and coming away injury free- something I can’t boast at 23). Now, she says (and I plan on holding her to it!) she’s up for racing in the Finger Lakes Triathlon with me next year. So this list is for you, Mom! And anyone else who’s bold enough to tri.


First things first:

Triathlons aren’t as intense as they seem. Not that you have to tell your friends and admirers that. I don’t mean to say that the race won’t push you to your limits (and beyond, if you let it), but that the triathlon community is actually very encouraging and supportive. There is nothing more relieving than sharing your pre-race jitters with a fellow athlete. And most are willing to relate. I got quick bike maintenance advice from a veteran Ironman and embarrassing wet suit tips (yep, I was the girl who tried putting her wet suit on inside out) from a group of young women triathletes. Nobody is there to judge you, and if you make it to the start line, you can be sure that you’ve garnered a whole hell of a lot of respect from everyone of those wet suit-glad athletes around you.

Great Reads:

From inspirational to super practical, these books were some of my best reads to jump start my training.

Triathlon 101

Triathlon 101 by John Mora

This is a great read for beginners as it breaks down just about everything you would need to know to race your first tri. It also has fairly detailed training plans for the most common tri distances, which is why I picked up the book in the first place.

Every Woman's Guide to Cycling

Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling by Selene Yeager

I recommend this book to my girl friends who are considering buying their first bike but don’t know where to begin. The author provides a great quiz and lots of details to guide you on the big purchase. She also gives lots of useful information on cycling in general (particularly with women in mind). I enjoyed reading a women’s-specifc book because, as a petite women, I felt like there might be some logistical things (like finding the right sized bike) that a more general cycling book wouldn’t provide.

Born to Run

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

An inspirational true story of a long-hidden tribe of ultra runners and the crazy American ultra champions who decided to race them. I’ve heard this book (rightfully) called the runner’s bible. It’s informational, inspirational, motivational, and reminds runners that as focused as our sport is on the individual, we are all part of amazing community.

Eat&Run by Scott Jurek

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

Another inspirational non-fiction read about ultra marathon champion Scott Jurek and his experience with running…and you guessed it, eating. Jurek is a vegan athlete whose dedication to personal as well as physical and athletic health is inspiring. So inspiring that I immediately went on a six mile run after finishing the book.


Swim Drills:

The most difficult leg of the race for me (mentally, anyway), was and still is the swim. Unlike running and cycling, swimming requires you to focus relentlessly on technique and efficiency. Not that technique doesn’t matter for the other disciplines, but you can’t just expect to put hours and hours in the pool and see speed and endurance results. Swimming takes careful focus on techniques, a large part of which is breathing. I recommend taking lessons if you aren’t a strong swimmer or joining  a local swim club. Even having an experienced swimmer friend analyze your stroke is worth it!

Breath easy swimming tips and drills 

Swim drills for triathletes

Open Water Swim Wet Suits Triathlon

Open Water Swimming & Wet Suits:

It’s a good idea to practice at least one open water swim before race day. During the course of my research, I read horror stories about the massive difference between pool and open water swimming. It freaked me out considerably, since swimming in a pool was hard enough for me. I managed to squeeze in one open water swim with my wet suit in before the race and one thing I noticed: yes, open water is different, but you can do it because let’s be real, swimming in swimming. You might battle more waves, more people, and no guiding lap line in the water, but take heart that if you stick to your swim training you’re probably going to be just fine. If you can’t manage a practice swim during your training, I suggest trying to get a quick dip in the day before your race at the starting point. It’s a massive relief on the nerves to test out the waters!

And what about wet suits? My best tip: use one if you can! Wet suits provide more buoyancy in the water, which helps in swimming (obviously). It was also a relief to me to know that if I panicked in the water (which I did by the way), I could simply turn over on my back and float. I chose a sleeveless suit for my first race because I was using a rental and wanted the security of knowing I’d have free range of movement in my arms.

Choosing a triathlon wet suit

Online wet suit rentals

Buy and rent new and used wet suits from Xterra

Bike Maintenance:

For my first race, besides drowning in the swim leg, my second worst nightmare was getting  a flat tire. My local bike shop offered a class on changing a flat, during which I could change the tire on my own bike. It was the best research I could do, but I also reviewed some great informative videos to keep myself up to speed.

How to fix a flat tire

How to inflate a bike tire with CO2

Ok, now some straight up inspiration:

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Seriously, you can do it.

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My First Marathon Highlights

Grandma's Marathon

A couple weeks ago, I ran my first full marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. It was the 37th annual Grandma’s Marathon, and although a soggy, cold day was an absolutely amazing experience. Here are some of the highlights from the race:

-Running in 50 degree weather, in the rain, with a risk of hypothermia, and still thinking (thanks to all the training I’ve done in a Wisconsin winter), “This weather is perfect!”

Grandmas Marathon Duluth 2013

-Sprinting the last 200 meters and the crowd going wild when they saw me pulling ahead and across the finish line. That’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else.

-Running past a man who had run all 37 Grandma’s marathons! When asked how many more he’d run, he said, “At least three!”. That’s inspiring dedication!

-High fiving with strangers. I needed those high fives. My most memorable one was with a solider in uniform at the last half mile stretch. His words of inspiration weren’t original, just, “You can do this,” but that felt like it lifted a weight from my shoulders.

Grandma's Marathon- Duluth, MN

-It’s true; marathon runners will be pee anywhere when they gotta go…mostly off in the woods on the edge of a stranger’s driveway…

-The amount of food and water the spectators were handing out was impressive and much appreciated! The girl who handed me a banana at mile 18 had probably never heard someone give so earnest a thank you over a piece of fruit.

Grandmas Marathon Duluth

-The spectators and volunteers at this race were absolutely amazing! If it weren’t for them, I might have given into the temptation to slow down and walk at mile 17, might not have been able to hold a ten minute pace for the whole race (wow!), and probably would have collapsed to the ground after I crossed the finish line (the med team was amazing, and I owe them a big thanks for their care!).

The greatest satisfaction was working so hard and so diligently, and then seeing my dream become reality.

What’s next? A triathlon, of course!

Runners, please share you experiences training and/or finishing a big race!


p.s. Doesn’t matter how slow or fast you are for a marathon, or any race; as long as you run, you’ve already beaten everyone who never even started!

Gearing Up! Marathon Training Gear- My Post on Rather Be Runnin’

Gearing Up! Marathon Training Gear

This week, I was going to post my gear list for my marathon training on Mia Prima Casa. Instead, I was lucky enough to be a guest blogger on Rather Be Runnin’!

Check out the post: Gearing Up! Marathon Training Gear.


Windy City Run: Lake Front Trail & Grant Park

LakeFrontTrailRun- Chicago

Wow, was it great to be back in Chicago! My sister and I went down to the city for Easter weekend and took the opportunity to run through Grant Park and the Lake Front Trail. I started training for distance races about nine months ago, so I never ran in downtown Chicago when I lived in the city. Now I realize what I missed! The day was a gorgeous (though cloudy) with temps in the 50s. For two girls coming from 30 degree weather in Wisconsin, it was heaven! Below are some of my favorite pictures from the run (and some of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books):

Chicago Run 1

Chicago Run 2

“You don’t have to be fast. But you’d better be fearless.”
― Christopher McDougall, Born to RunChicago Run 3 Chicago Run 4

“That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation.”
Chicago Run 5 Chicago Run 6 Chicago Run 7

“Try the meditation of the trail, just walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don’t look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by,” Kerouac wrote. “Trails are like that: you’re floating along in a Shakespearean Arden paradise and expect to see nymphs and fluteboys, then suddenly you’re struggling in a hot broiling sun of hell in dust and nettles and poison oak… just like life.”
Chicago Run 8 Chicago Run 9 Chicago Run 10

“…there was some kind of connection between the capacity to love and the capacity to love [running]. The engineering was certainly the same: both depended on loosening your grip on your own desires, putting aside what you wanted and appreciating what you’ve got, being patient and forgiving and… undemanding…maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that getting better at one could make you better at the other.”

Chicago Run 11 Chicago Run 12

“The reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other,… but to be with each other.”

― Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

Where is your favorite running or cycling destination?