Archive for August, 2009
How is it almost Labor Day?!? Get those buns in gear, because fall is almost here!
Monday: 6:15 p.m. Arm Strength, 7 p.m. AbSolution and 7:45 p.m. Step at Palisades Sports And Fitness
Wednesday: 6 p.m. Couch To 5K beginner running group small group training at Feminine Fitness; 7 p.m. Intro to Step/Step I at Feminine Fitness; 8:15 p.m. Strip And Core (last class!) at Feminine Fitness
Thursday: 5:15 a.m. Go The Distance half-marathon training group meets at location TBA
See you around!
Barefoot and dripping, I peeled off my swim cap and speedwalked to the transition site where Bertha awaited. “Have some water! Wash the Hudson out of your mouth!” volunteers cheerfully shouted, handing my fellow racers and I cups as we made our way to our bikes. I was smiling, laughing, giddy for no other reason than the fact that I hadn’t drowned in the river.
And despite the fact that I was jogging in a bathing suit.
I dried off as best as I could and donned my running shorts and tank top. It felt so weird to have my clammy suit stuck to my skin underneath everything, and I gave myself a few liberal swipes of Body Glide in an effort to avoid chafing and blisters. It should be noted that triathletes generally try to get in and out of the transition area as quickly as possible; good transition times can make up for slowness during the legs of the race. But I just really didn’t care. I wasn’t drinking mimosas and lounging around, but I also wasn’t freaking out when I temporarily couldn’t find one of my socks (like a woman was in the next row over).
Helmet on, I walked Bertha out onto the course and hopped aboard. In the next two hours, I had one of the most fun bike rides of my life. I charged up a hill and sped out onto the 79th Street entrance to the West Side Highway. With the Hudson on my left, I pedaled north on a road normally reserved only for cars. (The city had shut it down just for us.) The uphills weren’t horrible, and the downhills were heaven. I felt like I was flying, going faster than I’d ever gone before with no turns or traffic to slow me down. People passed me, I passed people. Just like the swim, it didn’t matter. My only concern was not beating up my legs too much; I still had a 10K to run when the biking was done. I breezed through the tolls at the Henry Hudson Bridge — no EZ-Pass required — and continued north to the Moshulu Parkway exit, the turnaround point.
I saw people of all body types on bikes of all price points just doing their thing. I tried to keep my shoulders loose and made a mental note, as I stood up and stretched during a flat section of the course, that next time I’d wear shorts with a chamois in them. When I spotted race photographers out along the road, I sucked in my gut and grinned.
And then it was over. We turned again and re-entered the transition area, where I traded my helmet for a cap and basted myself with sunblock before bidding Bertha adieu. I started the run with legs that felt so heavy and feet that felt like they were barely moving. I followed all the other participants onto 72nd Street, also closed to traffic just for us. And when I crossed Broadway, The Boyfriend was right where he’d promised he’d be.
It was humid and sticky. It was still early. He’d been up as long as I had, and he’d been waiting in his spot for a while because we had no idea how to gauge my time. His face was so happy, so proud, so genuinely excited for me as he snapped photos of my approach.
I love this man.
I stopped to kiss him, and he did what he always does in this situation: He asked how I was feeling and then told me not to waste time with course-side PDAs. So I was off again, doing a slow lope into Central Park. The course snaked north through the park’s hilliest section, and I told myself that it was just a little more than six miles, a distance I’d run many times before. So I focused on picking up one foot and putting the other down. I thanked as many volunteers as I could at the water stations. And I laughed out loud when a random woman on the sidelines, after seeing that I happened to be running among a pack of men, sang out, “You just stay strong, sister!”
The beautiful thing about a 10K is that just when you want it to be done, it is. And when I crossed the finish line, I felt like I did at the end of my first marathon. I can’t believe I did this. It’s impossible that I did this.
And then, the best prize, better even than the subway token medal placed around my neck as The Boyfriend hugged my sweaty, sandy, salty self tight: I totally did this. I am a triathlete.
Oh, and lest I forget…
Hmm… When it’s rainy and blech outside — as it is at this very moment in northern New Jersey — how does a Haul Buns girl pass the time? After all, you can’t be running/walking/swimming/biking/dancing/sculpting/group fitnessing every moment of the day…
Shopping can provide something similar to that exercise high, especially when you take advantage of the fabulous online discount Reebok is offering to its friends and family until Sunday. And since you’re all my friends, go ahead and use code REBOKFF at discount to receive 30 percent off your entire order PLUS free shipping! I may or may not have been checking out their hot pink yoga bag, or this classic blue number…
If you’re looking for a little inspiration, watch Spirit Of The Marathon, which is now available for free online at Hulu.com. This awesome documentary is all about the Chicago Marathon and a few runners — some amateur, some elite — who are preparing for it. Really cool, totally inspirational. And best of all, it’s free!
A good diversion at work way to spend your time is to calculate your health footprint at the Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield site. Answer a bunch of questions about your lifestyle and your fitness routine, and the site will tell you how many people you affect through your healthy choices and activities — similar to a carbon footprint, but this one won’t make you feel guilty for opting out of the work carpool. Even The Biggest Loser’s Trainer Bob is doing it!
That should keep you occupied until the sun shows its rays again…
At first glance, Time magazine’s Aug.17 cover story, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin,” is enough to make you want to hurt an elliptical machine through a plate-glass window. Seriously?, you might think, I’m busting my buns at the gym or logging miles on the road or twisting myself into Gordian knots at yoga just for the heck of it?
But John Cloud’s piece isn’t actually advocating the abandonment of all workouts. Instead, he drives home a no-duh point… that 99.9 percent of us exercisers have ignored at some point: Those of us who move our bodies vigorously often eat more because of it. At best, we’re nullifying our workouts. At worst, we’re adding on hundreds of calories in addition to those we’ve burned.
And here we thought we were doing so well! Bummer, right? But don’t set fire to your Nikes just yet. “Public-health officials have been reluctant to downplay exercise,” Cloud writes, “because those who are more physically active are, overall, healthier.” What’s more, “In addition to enhancing heart health and helping prevent disease, exercise improves your mental health and cognitive ability.”
What are your thoughts? Do you tend to eat more if you’ve worked out that day? I work really hard not to overeat my exercise, but it definitely happens from time to time. Do you reward yourself for energy expended? Tricks to avoid doing so? Leave a message and confess all!
If you weren’t there for Strip & Core last week, you missed a good time! But don’t fret, just join us this week! Also, I’m subbing Deb’s Step 2 class at Feminine Fitness on Friday. Details below.
Monday: 6:15 p.m. Arm Strength, 7 p.m. AbSolution and 7:45 p.m. Step at Palisades Sports And Fitness
Tuesday: 6:30 p.m. Body Sculpt and 7:30 p.m. Power Abs at Excel
Wednesday: 6 p.m. Couch To 5K beginner running group small group training at Feminine Fitness; 7 p.m. Intro to Step/Step I at Feminine Fitness; 8:15 p.m. Strip And Core at Feminine Fitness *Bring a zippered sweatshirt or button-down shirt with you to class if you like! We’ll use it during the choreography section. *
Friday: 6:15 p.m. I’m subbing Step 2 at Feminine Fitness
Hope to see you hot mamas there!
I was up before my alarm went off the next morning: Race Day. Trying to make as little noise as possible, I tiptoed around The Boyfriend’s Upper West Side apartment as I ate breakfast (cereal with skim) and got dressed in the clothes I’d laid out the night before: bathing suit, shorts, tee shirt, flip flops. Everything else I’d need for the day — swim paraphernalia, helmet, sneakers, energy gels, etc. — were in a duffel bag laying in the middle of the entryway so there was no chance I would forget it. At 4:45 a.m., he blearily walked me to the door, wished me good luck and kissed me good-bye.
“I’ll see you at Gray’s,” I said. He’d told me he’d be standing on the course near his favorite hot dog joint on 72nd Street. Though he’d once missed one of my race finishes because picked the exact moment I crossed the finish line to patronize the bar sponsoring the event, I wasn’t worried. What did worry me, as I hailed a cab to the transition area, was the first leg of the race: an almost-one-mile swim, scheduled to start in about 90 minutes.
It was raining when I left the apartment. Not awesome. I had racked my bike the night before in the transition area, a fenced-in piece of land in New York’s Riverside Park where volunteers watched participants’ stuff all night to make sure it didn’t get stolen. Awfully nice of them, right? Bertha, my blue Trek 7.2 FX, was hanging where I’d left her in her designated spot. I dropped my bag, arranged things in a way I hoped would help me get on the bike quickly and then followed everyone else north along the riverwalk to the swim start. The rain had stopped.
I walked near a short woman who was chatting with her male companion. “Can you see any jellyfish?” he asked cheerily, peering over the railing into the murky Hudson. She seemed less enthusiastic about exploring and just as relieved as I was when he couldn’t find any jellies.
“I just keep telling myself, ‘I am a good swimmer. I am a good swimmer,’” she said to me, adding, “This is my first Olympic.’”
Yay! Someone who shared my anxiety! “This is my first ever!” I said in a burst of camaraderie that fizzled when I saw her reaction.
“Really?” she asked, her face hard to read. “Well… good luck!”
I slowed down a little to avoid any more awkward conversation. The butterflies cued up their iPods, laced up their shoes and redoubled their efforts.
We walked nearly a mile before picking up our timing chips (worn on a Velcro strap around one ankle) and getting body marked. A volunteer with a stinky black permanent marker wrote my race number on my left arm and the back of my left hand, then my age on my left calf. I put my shirt, shorts and sandals in a plastic bag and placed it in a truck that would carry it to the finish line. From then (around 6:15) until the end of the swim, it was just me, my bare feet, my bathing suit, swim cap, goggles and noseplugs.
Laugh if you must.
I joined the other women in our corral (determined by age and sex) and waited to be moved closer to the barge floating at 99th Street. Every time a wave of swimmers would jump in the water, we’d move up. The waves were leaving the start every three minutes or so; the barge was getting closer and closer. I tried not to get freaked out by the fact that I was one of only a few people not wearing wetsuits. They make you streamlined and more buoyant in the water, and they keep you warm if the water is cold. But the river temperature was 74, the race announcer had told us, and I had no driving desire to shimmy myself into a thick rubber bodystocking.
Finally, my wave walked down the ramp and everyone jumped in the water to get ready for our start. I sat my tush on the edge of the barge and eased into the Hudson, then came dangerously close to a moment of pure panic. Because there were so many women in the water in front of me, I couldn’t get a handle on the rope we were supposed to hold on to so the current wouldn’t carry us away before our wave began. I was surrounded by swimmers who were going to thrash and kick as soon as the horn sounded, and I was sure I’d be pushed under with no way to hold my ground.
“I can’t get the rope,” I said, trying to sound like I wasn’t freaking with a capital F. Rationally, I knew that there were lifeguards on the barge, at the finish and in kayaks all along the swim route. But all I could do was think about how the water was so murky, I couldn’t even see my feet beneath me; if I went down, how would they ever find me?
I will forever love the woman in front of me who turned her head and said, “I’ve got it. You can hold onto my shoulder if you want.” I did, I exhaled, and we bobbed companionably for a few moments before it was time to go.
The first few seconds of my swim were all about getting out of the way of the faster women in my wave. They all pulled ahead pretty quickly, leaving me and a few other stragglers to do our thing in peace. I settled into my breast stroke and the panic left me. Just like that, I wasn’t worried about anything anymore. I was going to be fine. Snail-like, but fine.
I lost count of the number of race waves that overtook me. I tried to swim a straight line so I wasn’t wasting energy. I tried to keep the river water out of my mouth — it was safe to swim in, but would YOU want to drink the Hudson? As I neared the finish barge, I thanked the nearest lifeguard for keeping me safe.
“Sure. You okay?” he asked. I couldn’t see him clearly, but I think he had just caught sight of the ’plugs.
“I’m fine. Just slow,” I chirped back cheerfully and set my eyes on the prize.
The most disgusting part of my entire first triathlon experience came when I realized that the river was so shallow in the lead-up to the finish barge that I’d have to walk up to the barge’s ramp. THE BOTTOM OF THE HUDSON IS THE MOST HORRIFYING THING I HAVE EVER TOUCHED. It felt like pudding full of silt. It felt like rot and slime and ick. Every time I put my foot down, I felt like it was being sucked into the river bottom. Totally disgusting.
But soon that didn’t matter, because I stepped onto the metal ramp and a volunteer helped me up onto the barge. I started hooting like a crazy person: I was done! The swim was done! And I was alive! My hardest part was over, and I was pretty damn psyched.
No rest for the weary, though. I still had some biking and running to do!
To be continued…
I pride myself on being pretty unflappable in most circumstances. I like to try and take the “Everything will be fine in the end” outlook, and it usually serves me well. But I’m not gonna lie; as my first triathlon approached last weekend, I was pretty damn flapped.
When I signed up for the Nautica New York City Triathlon last November, I pictured myself using the event as a new goal to put some fire in my fitness routine. I would run! I would bike! I would (learn to) swim! I envisioned long sessions in the bike saddle and hours in the pool. I’d take lessons to learn how to really move my body through the water rather than rely on my subpar breast stroke. And once and for all, I’d learn how to swim underwater without holding my nose.
Yeah, you read that right. I’m 31, and I can’t master the art of going under without water invading my nasal canal. But we can talk more about that later.
I’ve prepped for endurance events before, and I know you’re setting yourself up for disaster if you don’t devote time and planning to your training program. But life got a little more in the way than I’d thought it would — doesn’t it always? — and I felt like I hadn’t gotten in as much swimming and biking as I’d like. About a month before the event, I realized that my schedule didn’t allow time for any lessons, so I committed to letting my anemic breast stroke carry me as far as it could. If worse came to worse, I could always backstroke, right?
The weekend of the tri arrived, bringing with it a cavalcade of butterflies that swam, biked and ran through my gut every few hours. The Boyfriend assumed his duties as my race crew and began reassuring me that I’d do fine, great, spectacular, no worries, no problems. He read the race information booklet cover to cover. He promised me he’d be out on the course, cheering me on. On the day before the race, he accompanied me to the Hilton Towers in midtown Manhattan for the number pick-up, where many of our conversations in the first 15 minutes went something like this:
ME: (panicky) Why does everyone have their bikes with them? Should I have brought my bike?
HIM: (patiently) I don’t remember it saying you should bring your bike.
ME: What if I need my bike? What if they won’t give me my number without my bike?
HIM: I’m pretty sure you don’t need your bike.
ME: Everyone’s bikes are better than mine.
HIM: That doesn’t mean anything.
ME: Everyone here looks really fit.
HIM: So are you.
ME: Everyone here looks like a sports goddess.
HIM: So do you.
And so on. We took a seat in one of the mandatory information sessions, where one of the race announcers just basically reiterated what was in the race booklet. He stressed that the nearly one-mile Hudson swim would be quick for everyone because the current was so strong. No one asked about the jellyfish that plagued the swim last year, and I didn’t want to look like a wuss, so I didn’t, either. When he asked how many people were first-timers, me and about half of the room raised their hands. Everyone else clapped for us, which made me feel pretty good… for about 30 seconds. Then the butterflies came back from their Gatorade break and started up again.
To be continued…