Conquering my First Open water swim and bike session

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I completed my first open water swim and bike session this past weekend. My only swim sessions I have done has mainly consisted of doing some laps in the pool. The only other time I have swam in open water is during race day. Here’s what happened.

The new coach I just started working with asked if I wanted to join a free swim and bike session she conducts down at a local lake. I of course agreed. Thrilled that I would have an opportunity to work with her and meet other triathletes. The session started at 11:00am and I had to bike to meet up with the group at Porter Square at 10:30 am. Now I don’t bike in Boston, like at all. I am scared to ride on these streets with clipless pedals. The thought sends shivers down my spine. But if I want to get into this sport I need to man up and get on my bike (who I have named Missy because she’s a diva, just look at her design. It screams diva.) This session was a perfect excuse to get on my bike and ride.

According to Google maps biking to Porter Square from my place would take 25-30 minutes (4-5 miles). Well knowing my luck and lack of cycling experience it would take my 45 minutes, so I left an hour before the designated meeting time. Enough cushion time just in case I get a flat, loose my balance and fall over or get knocked off my bike by a car. All worst case scenarios but nevertheless I like to plan for the unexpected.

I got my bike ready and packed my bag. Another new experience I had to tackle was carrying a drawstring bag full of my swim gear, wet suit and recovery snacks which made me slightly apprehensive, thinking I would definitely have difficulties keeping that thing on my back. I kissed my half-asleep, half-hungover boyfriend goodbye and told him to wish me luck. He mumbled something back and I was out the door.

I hopped on my bike and I was on my own now. The only guidance I had was my GPS attached to a broken LifeProof bike stand. I have to wrap a rubber band around the top to make sure my entire phone doesn’t pop off the stand. I knew the general direction of where I had to go and my GPS proved handy. I was able to navigate through some pretty quite streets of Boston with ease. (Now I know the best time to ride a bike is a Sunday for that reason.) I arrived to the meeting place with 30 minutes to spare! Success! I locked up my bike outside of a bagel shop and waited inside to beat the heat.

There were a few more riders who showed up and I went outside to introduce myself. We waited for the coach and headed our way down the Minute Man Bike path to Winchester, where the lake was located. It was a really nice easy ride to the lake all of us chatting along the way. When we got to the lake we met up with a few more triathletes and hit the beach.

I brought my wetsuit to test out, because last time I wore it the zipper busted on me….during a race! It was 80 degrees out so I felt a bit silly trying to pull my wet suit on but there were others who had theirs too. But they got into their wet suits A LOT faster than I did. Fail. Finally pulling up my sleeve and zipping myself in I was ready to go.

Now I have never done an open water swim session before. I assumed she would have us start at the beach and we swim back and forth. Something like that. Nope. We had to swim out to a buoy located on the OTHER side of the lake, a good half a mile swim just to get to where we were working out! Great. Did I mention I hate fish. I had never really stuck my head in the water to swim because I do not want to see what’s lurking in that water.

We all got into the water and started swimming away from the beach where it was safe. I got my head in the water and told myself that I am bigger than any of these fish and not to panic. I tried to stay close to the others but they were more experienced, faster swimmers so it ended up being just myself swimming to the buoy. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I just thought about happy things in my head to fight my fear of lake fish.

I made it to the buoy, not dead last luckily. I was a little breathless but ok, and my wet suit remained in tact! Thank god. I have no clue what I would have done if it busted in the middle of the lake with absolutely no kayak, platform or flotation device to hang on to.

Now the real work began. What was supposed to happen was an interval swim with minimal rest in between buoys. We would start floating on our stomachs then swim as hard as we could to the next buoy, rest 20 seconds, do it again for a total of 8 lengths. Ok so not what I did. I took it as swim as hard as I could to the next buoy, sing my ABC’s (about 45 second – 1 minute rest) then swim easy to the next buoy. I targeted 5-6 lengths of alternating between hard and easy intervals. It was hard. Particularly because we had to tread water in between sets, I was literally in the middle of the lake.

After 6 lengths I called it a day, but oh wait, I had to swim half a mile back to the beach by myself. I can safely say the ENTIRE swim session was a workout for me. Which was good I really need to prove to myself I could swim in a lake practically on my own.

I reached the beach and stripped off my wet suit, chugged some chocolate milk and threw on my bike shoes. The bike workout was a similar set up to the swim. We rode on a 6 mile loop doing intervals. So it looked like: 1min race pace, 2min rest, 2min race pace, 2min rest, 3min race pace, 2 min rest, repeat. We were supposed to do this for 36 minutes.

I had my bike computer but it only reads MPH right now because my rear wheel magnet fell off on a race so I have no cadence. I figured my race pace would be somewhere around 20 mph. Fair guess. I ended up tailoring the intervals a bit. I did 1min race pace, 2min rest, 2 min race pace, 2 min rest, 3 min race pace, 4 min rest. I doubled my rest time at the end of the set of intervals. It was a great bike session and even though I was pretty sure I was the slowest I stuck to my work out. I finished at 34 minutes, my legs were a bit wobbly. But my day wasn’t over, now for the bike back home (about 8 miles.) I was struggling just to keep up with everyone else who was probably going 15 mph, really slow. My legs were just so tired.

I managed to get myself home. I was thirsty, tired and starving. I worked out from 9:30am – 2 pm, one of my longest work out days I have done. Looking back at the day I managed pretty well considering I have no experience in any of these disciplines. I conquered my open water, fishy lake fear AND gained confidence on Missy biking through the streets of Boston. Overall a great day. And on top of that the work out gave me an inside glimpse into how real triathletes train. I need to step up my game if I want to get serious and start winning some races!

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Missy!! She’s too pretty for a bike.

– Train Hard. Tri Harder.



Motivational Words from The Grind

I stumbled upon this amazing video from another blogger. The visuals and words are so powerful I wanted to transcribe it. It gives me chills every time I watch this video and read these words.


Rise and shine

6am and your hand can’t make it to the alarm clock before the voices in your head start telling you it’s too early, too dark and too cold to get out of bed. Aching muscles lie still in rebellion pretending not to hear your brain commanding them to move. A legion of voices are giving you permission to hit the snooze button and go back to dream land.

But you didn’t ask their opinion.

The voice you chose to listen to is one of defiance. A voice that says there was a reason why you set that alarm in the first place. So sit up, put your feet on the floor and don’t look back because we’ve got work to do. Welcome to the grind.

For what is each day but a series of conflicts between the right way and the easy way. 10,000 streams span out like a river delta before you each one promising the path of least resistance. The thing is you’re headed upstream. And when you make that choice and you decide to turn your back on whats comfortable, safe, and what some would call common sense, well that’s day 1. From there it only gets tougher. So just make sure this is something you want because the easy way out will always be there ready to wash you away. All you have to do is pick up your feet.

But you aren’t going to are you? With each step comes the decision to take another. You are on your way now but this is no time to dwell on how far you have come. You are in a fight against an opponent you cant see but oh you can feel them on your heels can’t you, feel them breathing down your neck. You know who that is? That’s you. Your fears, doubts and insecurities lined up like a firing squad ready to shoot you out of the sky. But don’t loose heart. While they aren’t easily defeated they are far from invincible. Remember this is the grind. The battle royal between you and your mind, your body and the devil on your shoulder who is telling you this is just a game, this is just a waste of time, your opponent are stronger than you.

Drown out the voice of uncertainty with the sound of your own heart beat. Burn away your self doubt with the fire underneath you. Remember what we are fighting for and never forget momentum is a cruel mistress. She can turn on the dime with the smallest mistake. She is always searching for the weak place in your armor; the one little thing you forgot to prepare for.

So as long as the devil is hiding the details, the question remains is that all you got? Are you sure? And when answer is yes and you have done all you can to prepare yourself for battle then it’t time to go forth and boldly face your enemy. The enemy within.

Only now you must take that fight into the open, into hostile territory. You are a lion in a field of lions all hunting the same elusive pray with a desperate starvation that says victory is the only thing that can keep you alive. So believe that voice that says you can run a little faster, you can run a little harder, and that to you the laws of physics are merely a suggestion.

“Nobody can judge effort. Because effort is between you and you.Everyday is a new day. And every moment is a new moment. So now you got to show them you are a different creature than you were five minutes ago.”

So rise and shine.

– Train Hard. Tri Harder.


My Guilty Pleasure: ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss

I admit it…I love watching ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss with Chris Powell. I can’t get enough of the show! I have never been overweight, I have some family members who are, but I have never experienced a journey like some of the contestants on the show. I’m curious of who these people are, where they come from and how they got to where they are today. It really has changed my perspective on people. Each one of us has a different story, battling different issues and all fighting our own uphill battle. It’s more of watching the psychological changes of all these people who have to overcome struggles and fight their demons. And we all have demons.

I absolutely love the moment when one of the contestants realizes they have nothing to fear. They can conquer so much. I also love Chris Powell. He is one pretty amazing guy who knows his stuff. If I could work out with him for a day and pick his brain I would be the happiest girl alive. Watching these people overcome their struggles is relatable to what I am doing becoming a triathlete. There are struggles I face, fears to overcome and demons to fight off in order to be the person I want to be. The show definitely emphasizes the idea of your mind controls your body. And seeing that makes me realize if these people can achieve such a great accomplishment (more than weight loss) then I can too. Cheesy, I know but this show is awesome and inspiring.

– Train Hard. Tri Harder.


My legs are mad at me

“I hate you!”

That’s what I can imagine my legs telling right about now. And it’s most likely what other triathletes in training can imagine their legs telling them. I’m learning that as I’m increasing training my legs aren’t very happy. But that’s a good thing right?

I just went home to Connecticut to get on my bike! I haven’t really attempted riding in Boston because it seems too daunting. Boston is great city, according to it’s also a great biking city. I don’t feel that way. There are too many cars when I need to ride (which is usually during rush hour) and not enough bike paths, not to mention I’m clipped into my pedals, which is scary to me. So if a pedestrian were to jump out suddenly I would surely topple over trying to avoid a head on collision.

Anyways, my point is I go home to ride my bike. Which isn’t very often. This past weekend I managed to fit in enough biking and strength work to fry my legs. This is what my weekend looked like:

Strength class am (1 hour)
– The class consisted of high intensity training full of sprinting, lunging, kettlebell swings and single leg work. I was thinking I could totally handle a bike ride in the pm but I was wrong. I could feel my entire central nervous system shutting down as the day went by. I took a nap instead. No biking for me.

Strength class am (1 hour)
Biking pm (1 hour) 20mi 
– I usually don’t do strength sessions back to back but my mother insisted I meet her personal trainer Shaun who is the personal trainer and physical therapist for big hockey and football teams in the New England area (like NFL status). I totally do not regret going! I absolutely loved the session. What I do regret is the pm cycling session with my dad. My legs were fried from 2 awesomely challenging strength sessions and I thought to push it for a bike ride. I asked for flat roads (which is hard to find in CT) and easy pace. I was super slow in the first 30min. My legs were burning! I couldn’t even keep up with my dad who was going 17-19mph. I was at a 15-16mph pace, snail pace. It just really hurt. By the time we hit some down hills my legs felt better, but by the end when I hopped off of my bike I couldn’t walk. Ouch.

Time trials (1 hour) 20k 
– This was my first 20k time trial ever and I wasn’t riding on fresh legs. My legs were definitely talking to me but I felt better than yesterday. The time trial consisted of 13 laps of 1 mile loops by the beach. It was a beautiful day and relatively quite early in the am. My first lap I completed in 1:03, by my last lap I was closer to 3:03. Big difference. My legs were tired and by the time I finished I was just dead. I could hardly push my pedals to get myself home (like 10mph tops! If that.) It just hurt so bad.

My 3 day training session proved to be challenging both mentally and physically. If you could see me now I can hardly sit down or stand up without getting a sharp pain in my hamstrings. I’m just sore. But I do realize I need to increase my volume and intensity at some point if I ever want to get better. So why not start now.

 – Train Hard. Tri Harder.


Weekly Spin Playlist #2

All righty…This weeks spin playlist was made on the fly (wheel :)). I tried downloading new songs to my computer but only half of them worked. So 15min before my class I created this playlist. It is a combination of my new songs + my old playlists. It’s 45 min long total and features hills, sprints and jumps! To understand how I teach my classes check out my first playlist.

This ride focuses on using your breath. I recently just posted an article on the importance of connecting your breath to movement using yoga. I use the same principles I have found in yoga and apply those principles to my spin classes. One principle I have learned is that your breath controls your heart rate (among other factors.) But if you can slow down your breath you can slow down your heart rate. On this ride, I encouraged my students to slow down their breath after short bursts of sprints by breathing slower and deeper in an attempt to lower the heart rate faster allowing time to properly prepare for the next sprint.

New Songs (35 minutes total) 

1. All Night – Icona Pop

  • Warm up song. Get yourself on a nice flat road (level 3-4)

2. Let the Good Times Roll (Mashup) –

  • Some warm up sprints to get your blood moving.
  • One Block: Increase cadence to around 90% effort level for 10 seconds. Back off to 60% effort level for 40 seconds. Repeat 10sec on/40sec off for the entire song. (About 4 sprint blocks.)

3. Treasure – Bruno Mars

  • Take this song as a seated and standing climb. Start at a level 5 (start of your hill) and increase resistance 3 times ending the song at a level 8. Stand in position 3 during the chorus then sit it back down. Repeat throughout the song.

4. Rock My DNA (Mashup) –

  • A wonderfully fun standing climb (position 3). Make sure your hips are pushed back over the saddle so you can feel the saddle underneath your butt. Remember to breath. Start at a level 6 and increase resistance twice ending the song at a level 8. Stay in position 3 the entire song!

5. Summer Jam – Quad City DJ’s

  • Take this song as 1/2 recovery and 1/2 working song with jumps. For the recovery, find your flat road and let your heart rate come down for about 2:50 seconds. After 1/2 way take it up to standing, position 2. Get ready for some jumps from position 2 to position 1 (seated.) Remember to try and focus on your cadence. Don’t let yourself slowdown as you switch positions. Start your jumps at 4 second counts, take a break in standing position 2 every 8 jumps.

6. Miss Jackson (feat. Lolo) – Panic! At the Disco

  • Everyone’s favorite spinning move, the seated climb! Yayyyyy! Start at a level 5 and increase resistance to a level 8. (Turn the resistance knob three times.) And stay seated. To better activate your working muscles (your quads, glutes and hamstrings.) Shift your weight back in the saddle like your sitting back in a chair. That will get your working muscles activated, versus shifting your weight forward in the saddle loosing the power from your glutes.

7. Scream & Shout (Mashup) – S.I.R.

  • Take this mashup song with some jumps. Just like we did before, stand up in position 2 and count to 4. Sit it down, count to 4, stand it up. Count 20 jumps, do 2 sets of 20 jumps for this song taking a break in between sets by standing up in position 2. Focus on your caedence again! Don’t slow down!

8. Diamond Thrones (Mashup) – The White Panda

  • I hope there are some Game of Thrones fans out there because this song is for you. The mashup is GOT theme song combined with Rihanna. Boom. Mind is blown. Use this song as seated and standing hill climb. Start at resistance level 5 and increase to a level 9 (turning the resistance knob 4 times.) Have fun 🙂

9. Work Baby Work (The Prep) – Quad City DJ’s

  • Use this as a recovery song. Get back on your flat road and relax. Let your heart rate come down.

10. Dance the Pain Away – Benny Benassi

  • All right lets take it out of the saddle. Standing climb position 3, starting at a level 5 and increase to a level 8. Turning that knob 3 times throughout the song. Enjoy.

Old songs (10 minutes total)

11. Just Give Me a Reason – Pink

  • Don’t touch that resistance! You’re going to hate me but stay on that level 8 for this song. Sit it down. Keep it there and stand it up on the chourus. Alternate between sitting and standing without changing that resistance.

12. Shake it out – Florence + The Machine

  • Who doesn’t love a little Florence to end the ride?? Standing hill climb with bursts of weighted sprints (sounds awesome right?) Get yourself on a level 6-7 hill, the more resistance you add the more you’ll work. Stay in position 3. As the chorus pick up the speed to a 90-100% effort level. Quick 30 second bursts of speed on a hill (your legs will be screaming!!) Repeat these bursts of weighted sprints during the chorus (about 3 times.)

Cool down and stretch it out!

– Train hard. Tri Harder


3 Reasons Why Yoga is Awesome for Athletes

Long before I started running and competing, I used to hate yoga. It was really hard, and holding all those different poses hurt. My body did not move, stretch, or bend in any way like the freakishly flexible yoga instructor who could turn herself into a pretzel. I gave it up for a while. Once I started college, I slowly started going to classes with friends and started to appreciate the mental and physical aspects yoga had to offer. Since college I started practicing yoga regularly (about twice a week.) I have included it into my training schedule to help my flexibility, breathing and mental awareness, all key elements when it comes to endurance sports.

Here are 3 reasons why athletes should include yoga into their training regime:  

1. Increases VO2max

  • Probably one of the most surprising statements I have come across. A study on the Effects of Hatha Yoga Practice on the Health-Related Aspects of Physical Fitness proved that regular practice of Hatha yoga improved VO2max.  VO2 essentially has to do with your amount of oxygen uptake. The more oxygen you can take in during exercise the better your muscles can perform. The average untrained healthy female will score an average of 27-31 ml/kg/min. Elite female athletes can consume 77 ml/kg/min. The study found that VO2max of the individuals who participated in Hatha yoga, on average increased 6-7%.

2. Improves flexibility 

  •  This one is obvious. But maybe you didn’t know that yoga is based on the premise of correcting the imbalances our bodies incur from daily activities and for triathletes that means activities like biking, swimming and running. The human body does not perform optimally when one aspect of the body dominates the other. Maybe one of your legs is stronger than the other or maybe one ankle can flex better when you swim. If you are unbalanced you aren’t using your body efficiently. Yoga has proven to decrease imbalances through the development of core strength. Your core is where all of your power and stability emulates from. The poses from yoga strengthens your core and elongates the muscles through stretching making joints more flexible by improving the range of motion (ROM). By incorporating stretching based practices like yoga you will improve your ROM which will help prevent joint injuries and keep your body in balance to help you perform optimally.

3. Creates mental awareness 

  • Have you ever listened to what your body is telling you? Besides being hungry. Taking a moment to listen to what your body is telling you while you tackle a busy day full of activities can prove challenging.  One aspect of yoga I believe is a key factor to being self aware is connecting your breath to your body movement. Yoga teaches you to become aware of your breath. Tracy Weber explains, “This integration of breath and movement requires mindful attention and is the key reason yoga is so powerful at connecting body, breath and mind.”  I cannot tell you how many times I have “checked in” with my body to see how I was breathing during my training sessions. Am I panting to hard? Can I slow my breath down? Yoga reminds you that you are in control of your breath, and in turn your heart rate (a key factor when optimally performing.) By practicing yoga and connecting your breath to body movement you become self aware of the power your breath has on your own body, and ultimately your performance.

I encourage all athletes to give yoga a try! You might actually enjoy a good stretch after weeks of pounding pavement. And who knows, maybe by next year you can turn yourself into a pretzel…..

That doesn’t look very plesent

– Train Hard. Tri Harder.