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.
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.
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 onInstagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima.
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.
This post is #33 of the #The100DayProject. For more updates on my progress, be sure to follow me onInstagram and look for the hashtage, #100DaysofMiaPrima.
I’m 11,000 words into my first novel. Only nine days of writing and already 11,000 words! Not too shabby. I’m going to ignore the fact that my sister is 20,000 words in right now, and take a moment to celebrate some other cool achievements of November:
1. I’ve been a vegetarian for a month and a half! And despite the occasional temptation of proscuitto, it’s been surprisingly easy. The Veganomicon cookbook has been an excellent resource for delicious recipes, including baked goods (my weakness).
2. I’ve started a new training plan with a goal of a half Ironman this summer. Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing my trials and tribulations right here on occassion!
3. In September, I had a goal of not buying any piece of clothing for three months. Well, I lasted two months. I had to buy a new pair of jeans, okay!? Despite falling one month short, I am pretty proud of myself. I remember in detail the moment I put a patchwork maxi skirt back on the rack at GoodWill. Best $2 not spent.
Now back to National Novel Writing Month. I’ve got one month to write 50,000 words. Check out my progress here, and I dare you to start your own adventure this November (no, not shaving your beard doesn’t qualify).
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.
From inspirational to super practical, these books were some of my best reads to jump start my training.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Obviously, I was quite stressed preparing for this race. Certainly because of the swim (before February of 2013, which is when I started my swim lessons, I could barely doggy paddle and couldn’t tread water), but also because this was my first race without my twin sister, Angie. …And also because I was preoccupied with, you know, moving halfway across the country (Madison to Pittsburgh to be exact) as well!
During the race (probably a minute after finishing the swim), I realized that my stress was all for nothing. Here I was, finishing the swim leg (my biggest enemy until this point), and running to the first transition. I was doing it, and it felt both awesome and ridiculous (have you ever gotten onto a bicycle soaking wet?)…and not so serious at all! It was actually so fun! The racers were surprisingly chill and open. Like at my first marathon, I felt like I was a part of something bigger- sharing a well-deserved moment with like-minded strangers.
Honestly, when I first stepped up to the registration table to collect my bib and timing chip, I felt rushed, intimidated, and nervous. I thought, “I definitely don’t belong here!” Thankfully, a swim clinic hosted by Ironman athlete (she’s swum along side Lance Armstrong!), Mary Eggers the evening before the race, erased my unease. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of questions asked by the racers…everything from swim technique questions to how to best put on a swim cap. And each question, no matter how simple or obvious, was answered by Mary with enthusiasm. I realized, nobody was judging anyone here! After all, we were all here at the starting line, weren’t we? It didn’t really matter if this was our first triathlon or our 100th because we were all racing.
When Mary led those of us in wetsuits down to the edge of the water for a quick practice swim, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t wait to get into the water! Me, a girl who couldn’t float let alone front crawl eight months ago, was actually excited to swim. I had made it to the start line. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy, but for sure, it is where I belong.
Once again, I discover an amazing find at the Madison Farmer’s Market! This time, I found these adorable postcard-sized prints. They came in a variety of phrases, from “Drink Strong Coffee” to “Write a Letter.” Since I’m running my first marathon this weekend…and my first triathlon in August and that’s pretty much all that’s been on my mind lately, I put together the following combo. Check out Zip-Dang’s website if you want to create your own collection of sayings.