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Team Training New England (TTNE)
PO Box 271872
West Hartford CT 06127
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Please feel free to contact us with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-256-4491.
Coaches Lynne & Janice
Below is a list of all the workouts, their dates, the kind of workout and the location we have planned for the 2014 training season.
You can review the list to make sure that our training calendar works with your schedule prior to registering. If you have already registered, please take a moment to check off the sessions you plan on attending (1, 5 or 10 sessions) depending on what your purchased.
Wednesday workouts meet from 6:30-8:00 p.m.*
Saturday workouts meet from 7:00-9:00 a.m.*
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2014 marks the spot with an X!
We are thrilled to celebrate our 10th season of training women (and men) for their first sprint distance triathlon. We hope you will join us. Please visit our programming page for details and dates.
We’re very excited that you have chosen to join us for the upcoming season. Please take a minute to complete this form so that we can properly enroll you in the program(s) of your choice.
Any item with a * by it requires that you fill it out in order to complete this form. Five minutes, tops!
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Please review our refund policy below.
We will refund your money at any time for any reason upon written request. Our policy is to pro-rate your training program minus a 10% administrative fee. You may also transfer your registration to another TTNE program with coach approval.
DROP IN SESSIONS
Single or multiple workout sessions are NON-REFUNDABLE. However, if you get injured or no longer have any interest or need, you may transfer the remaining sessions to another person with written advance notice. We ask that you please not take advantage and purchase a multi-pack and share it with another person. These drop in sessions are priced very fairly. All drop-in sessions will expire at the end of the year in which they were purchased.
Coach Lynne & Coach Janice
Click here to read the August, 2013 TTNE newsletter.
As I swung back into the park, I could hear the Spirit Squad’s cowbells and the cheers of “We Know! We Know!” Obviously, all my teammates had passed along word of my predicament. I held up one grease-laden hand as a badge of honor and pedaled by them. I had to loop around passing them again and was serenaded with the oddest sports chant ever, “Leland changed a flat! Leland changed a flat!” I guess it was better than “William wants a doll.” This was why I trained with a team, knowing that everyone was pulling for me and could appreciate the obstacle that I’d just overcome.
I tried to visualize that my legs were like two, tiny, pale pistons, working up and down for the second loop. The speed I felt I lacked on the first loop appeared and helped me power up the two hills and back to the transition area, where I dismounted.
Running on biking shoes is similar to running on tap shoes with heels under your toes. I took care to cross the plastic matting with care, not wanting to add “wiped out in the transition area” to my list of triathlon firsts.
I was now 2/3 done with the race. I swapped out my biking gear for a running hat, shoes and sunglasses now that Apollo had seen fit to drag his ass out of bed and burn away some of the fog. Still wet and kind of tired, I headed out for the three-mile run knowing I was going to have to do it without an iPod or a workout leader to talk me through it.
I exited the park and spied another TTNE jersey…was that Kristen, a workout leader? “She’s hilarious and would be a great person to run alongside,” I thought. I picked up my pace a little and noticed she had stopped to walk. Awesome (for me). I caught up to her and we started to chat a little bit. Then the crusher, “I’m doing walk/run intervals,” she said. Oh man, I really was going to have to do this solo. We chatted until it was time for her to walk and I jogged onward.
A long, shallow incline greeted me at the first turn. I wasn’t happy, especially since the course was a tight loop and all the runners ahead of me were now passing me on their way to the finish line. I’m not sure what I thought about, but I kept going. The air was thick and still, and I felt like I was running in a steam room. I allowed myself a moment to walk at one point, and then kept going.
Then I saw them. A slow parade of TTNE jerseys. Tanya, Nance, Destiny, Jeananine, Johanna, Laurie, George Mary Ellen all with words of encouragement, low-fives and totally positive energy. Even the volunteers, out sweating in this weather, were in good spirits, offering funny comments that kept me going.
At the turn-a-round, I grabbed several cups of water to drink and dump on my head. A dad stood in the driveway while his young son played nearby. “You’re halfway there,” he said. “I keep hearing that, “ I replied. “I’d like to run the whole way back, “ I said to my new sensei. “That’s a great idea,” he said. Having agreed on how brilliant my race strategy was, I set off downhill.
I kept an eye on my heart-rate monitor, knowing that I had to keep my number somewhere in the 160-170 range. I passed a few people and then saw one more TTNE teammate working her way up the hill. I tried to offer her the same encouragement I’d received when I was in her position. I’m not sure if it helped, but it was nice to see a familiar face.
I made the turn back towards the park and spied another TTNE jersey up ahead. Could I catch up to her? I tried to pick up my pace, but it was hot and my legs were heavy at this point and I’m not sure if there were a noticeable uptick in speed. I fantasized what it would be like to finish. Would one of my teammates sprint out to run alongside me and encourage me? Should I raise my arms, flex my biceps, do the Gangham Style dance (do they still do that?).
Suddenly, I was behind Jane and chatted with her for a second as I moved past her onto the sidewalk alongside the beach. The final stretch before the finish line. I could see Lynne in the distance with a camera. Did I look ok? Was my hat straight? Was I running with a purpose or running like a porpoise? Did I look tired or strong? There was one more runner in front of me…could I catch her?
I ran past Lynne and started to extend my stride. I checked my watch. 182 beats per minute. Totally too high, but it was the last 100 yards. I passed the runner and made the turn towards the finish line. A volunteer said, “you made it. Empty the tank.” I wanted to go faster, but I think the tank was pretty much empty.
Then I heard the cowbells and the Spirit Squad and, specifically, Patty the workout leader’s voice shouting encouragement. Isn’t it funny that in a huge park, filled with spectators and a PA announcer, your ear could pick out a few distinct sounds? I ran down the chute and crossed the finish line with my hands high and a smile on my face.
The volunteers stopped me to take the chip off my ankle and gave me a bottle of ice-cold water and my medal.
My first medal.
Hanging from a ribbon was this bronzy disc that said I had completed a triathlon. The thing I never thought I could do, never conceived that I could do, was now done. The medal was heavy in my hand and I soaked in that accomplishment.
I exited the finish area and hugged Lynne and saw Janice and the rest of the team coming over. My flat-tire story had earned me an additional badge of honor, and I smiled sheepishly. At this point, it was a bit of a blur, people asking if I had fun, if I’d do it again, if I liked it.
24 hours later, I still can’t say if I had fun, but as my son said once, “I’m proud of me.” I can’t even say what the best moment was, but I can tell you one that’s in my top three.
Immediately after finishing, watching all the TTNE participants come in and be cheered on by the rest of the team. That was a great moment. There are few things better than this kind of moment. It’s a moment filled with people whom you care about, who care about you, who had an interest in your effort and knew what the experience was like. Sharing this moment, in the moment, is totally unlike Facebook or Twitter or the Kardashians kind of sharing. It is a pure, unfiltered joy borne of collective hard work, humor and, in many cases, kindness.
The triathlon for me was not only about the race itself, but also the journey I took to get across the finish line. If that’s clichéd, so be it. While I never thought I could do a triathlon, never even thought about doing it, I do know that I NEVER could have done it without my coaches, the workout leaders and my teammates.
The phone rang. It was 4:30 a.m. Normally, a call at that hour can only mean bad news. In this case, it was just a wake up call. A call that I honestly never thought would come.
Even after our trial swim, there was part of me that thought something might intervene, a tornado, a hacking attack to shut down the Northeastern power grid, even my own nerves to keep me from date with Destiny.
Destiny, you see, is Destiny Vince and is one of my teammates and we were scheduled to do the race together. So, with a name like that, I really couldn’t back out, could I?
We packed the car with Denise (another teammate, but a Date with Denise isn’t quite so prophetic is it?) and headed to the race course. There was some quiet chatter in the car, but no major signs of nerves. My stomach, which is usually a good barometer of my stress level (similar to Charlie Brown’s), was quiet.
We arrived at the park and a heavy fog was immediately visible. In fact, it was pretty much the only thing that was visible, since it obscured the golf course, the water, and the two small islands that lie just beyond the beach. We unpacked the car and walked over to the transition area, already sweating due to the high humidity.
For those of you who’ve never seen the transition area of a triathlon, here’s a quick primer. Imagine the coatroom at a banquet hall combined with a shantytown and some police barricades and you’ve pretty much got a transition area, only slightly more orderly and filled with expensive bikes and people in spandex. Every athlete has a rack where they can hook their bike and set up all their gear, hopefully doing it neatly and compactly enough to avoid a turf war with anyone on either side of you.
We’d gotten there early enough that I could stake out the end of our rack right near the fencing, thus allowing my expansionist tendencies enough space. After getting my stuff squared away, I went to get my first race number
markings. He didn’t have the best penmanship (was that a six or a zero on my bicep?), but I was officially marked and ready to go.
After a team photo, we waddled down to the swim start. Doing the swim the day before made the journey a little less daunting, knowing that I was capable of doing the distance provided a nice confidence boost. On the downside, there were now 600+ people doing the swim as well, so I really wasn’t sure what that would look like. The one saving grace was that the water was smooth and calm.
The first wave (elites) went off and then the second wave. It was my wave’s turn, so we walked, single-file, past the scanner that registered the chips strapped to our ankles that would provide all of our race times.
I stood on the water’s edge, getting used to the water temperature, watching the other swimmers, and contemplated one of the major perks of being in a triathlon. In any other setting admitting that you urinated on yourself would probably be met with disgust or concern that you had some bladder control issues. However, standing in a wetsuit about to do a race somehow turns peeing on yourself (and everyone else if you think about it too long) into a rite of passage. Who was I to stand in the way of the glorious tradition of public urination in the world’s oceans? Sanitary? Not really. Ecologically sound? Probably not. A time-honored tradition? Hell yeah!
The race director counted down from ten and then blew the air horn and I tumbled into the Long Island Sound along with over a hundred other swimmers. I staked out a position far on the outside to avoid the flailing scrum. My training kicked in and I was able to maintain a calm, steady pace. The right-hand turn for the main portion of the swim came quickly and our wave began to spread out.
Some people were doing backstroke, other breastroke, but my freestyle, now a force of habit, was steady. Five strokes and a quick peek. In the past, where I would look for my destination, I now had to figure out a path between the swimmers ahead of me. Slowly and steadily, I progressed down the course, passing some swimmers, being passed by others. There were some occasional toe ticklers and rib smackers, but nothing I wasn’t used to at this point. It was blessedly calm in my head amongst the churning limbs and I was on my way.
I made the second right hand turn and headed for the beach. Even as my fingers scraped the bottom, I kept stroking, remembering what Lynne and Janice instructed. I passed other people who’d stood up and were lunging through the water, knowing my swimming was more efficient. My toes hit the beach and I stood up, quietly quoting MacArthur. I had returned.
The TTNE Spirit Squad was on hand hooting for us as we came out of the water and encouraging us onward. I wrestled with my wetsuit and pulled it down to my waist and I trotted to the transition area. My bike was easy to find, so I began the awkward tango of getting off my wetsuit and into my biking gear. All the little tricks paid off and I was soon on my way, pedaling onto the bike route.
The bike route required us to do two loops, which was great for the spectators who would see us several times as we rode in and out of the park. But, first we had a brief quick hill to climb, followed by a longer, gentler hill that we rode up and down back toward the park. As I descended the second hill, I was aware of several athletes passing me who seemed to be going much, much faster. I tried to ignore them and just focus on my race.
Back on the main road heading toward the park, I felt like I was working even harder to propel myself. I looked down and thought that my rear tire looked a little too squashed. It was losing air. “Great. My first flat tire ever and it’s during my first race.” I thought I could nurse it along until I got back to the transition area and have a bike mechanic quickly change the flat. Within 30 seconds, the sound of my rim on the pavement took that option off the table.
“This baby’s coming out now, “ I said to myself. Growing up, I was a big fan of the TV show “Emergency” and loved it when they would say that phrase and deliver an infant in the back of a car, elevator, sock hop, Ferris wheel, what have you.
I pulled over to the curb right across from a policeman and a volunteer who were directing cyclists and cars, figuring that if this whole thing went south, there’d be someone nearby to radio for help.
Luckily, one less-publicized element of the training is Bike 101, also known as the fix-a-flat lesson. Our instructor Jeff explained all the steps you’d need to follow to successfully change a flat tire. Equally importantly, I actually had purchased and stored all the tools and spare parts I would need on my bike to attempt this bit of cycling triage.
Changing the rear tire is really two separate acts; getting the tire off the derailleur (and then back on) and actually changing the flat tire itself. Within 10 seconds my hands were black with bike grease. I sat down and started the process of getting tire off the rim and pulling out the compromised tube. I had my phone with me and contemplated texting Lynne that I had a flat and was changing it, but then thought she’d be mad that I took the time to text. I skipped the Facebook update as well.
And then it started. All of my teammates started passing me, calling out my name, making sure I was ok, offering sentiments of sympathy and then speeding by. After the 8th person, the policeman was looking at me wondering who the hell “Leland” was and why everyone cared about my tire. My race was shot, or at least my ideal race was shot. I was trying not to rush, fearing that I could butcher the job and then I’d be out of the race for good.
I’m not sure if it was the sense that I was falling farther and farther “behind” or just that my muscles were still in race mode, but my hands were trembling as I attempted to seat the new tube into the tire. I decided it was time to quote my friend Jamie Cole, a co-owner of my kids’ sleep-away camp, and breathe (she organizes a retreat for women of the same name…). I stopped for a moment, closed my eyes and took a breath. “I am going to finish this race,” I said. I took another breath and finished seating the tube.
To re-inflate the tire you use a CO2 cartridge connected to a small adapter that goes over the tire valve. At first it wouldn’t go over the valve, then the gas wouldn’t flow, but then, with a welcome “whoosh” the gas flew into the tire and it inflated. Frost quickly formed on the cartridge and I had to wrestle with it to get the adapter off the valve.
I realized I didn’t have the second set of hands that I needed, so I flipped my bike over and managed to massage the wheel back on the frame and the chain somehow went into position. I cranked the pedals and realized that this little magic trick had worked!
I wiped my hands on the grass to no avail, flipped the bike back over, packed up my tools and got back on my bike. The tire didn’t collapse and neither did I. I have no idea how long this took me, possibly somewhere between five and ten minutes, at this point, I was just happy to have the opportunity to finish my race. Now I just had to transition from bike mechanic to triathlete.
[Note: Like a triathlon, the post about my race will be divided into 3 parts. A triathlon trilogy]
Since 1995, I’ve watched Lynne do triathlons of varying lengths. I still remember navigating (pre-GPS) up to Bear Mountain for one of her first races and wondering why anyone would do such a thing.
In all the years that I’ve watched her, my thoughts were never “I don’t want to do that.” They were always, I “I CAN’T do that.” The entire enterprise seemed more than I could ever imagine doing (the training itself, much less the race). The early wake up call was pretty much the only portion that seemed within my grasp. The swim seemed especially daunting.
One small piece of long-ago Leland history. When I was 5, I was pushed backward, headfirst into a swimming pool. My father fished me out, but not before I sucked water up my nose and generally freaked out. Hysteria followed.
After that, I wouldn’t go into a pool above my waist or put my face in the water. No matter how much candy or how many coins my camp counselors tossed into the pool, I wouldn’t fetch it.
It wasn’t until I was 13 that I finally learned to swim thanks to a steady stream of swim lessons. Even after all that, I didn’t like water polo or people hanging on me while swimming. Even synchronized swimming fired off all the old panicked memories. As you can probably imagine, my contemplation of swim portion of the triathlon was loaded down with a lot of baggage.
Ok, enough of the reading selections from “Leland’s Sad Childhood Chronicles.” Honestly, it wasn’t all-bad. And, these stories just slay the ladies (just ask Lynne!).
Lynne and I spent two days in New York City prior to the race. We had a good time relaxing, playing Scrabble with my mother (my father was on-hand for color commentary), seeing movies (thumbs up to the “Way Way Back”) and a play (a hilarious farce called “The Explorers Club”). All of this was a fine distraction to what lay ahead.
We drove to Norwalk, CT to meet up with several teammates for registration and to go for a practice swim. After figuring out my number, I got on line to get my race packet.
Talking with Elise, a workout leader, about what wave I was in, she mentioned that there was something fishy about my wave, mostly because it was a women’s wave. Now, I’m in touch with my feminine side, but I don’t think that qualifies me for the women’s wave. Some quick scrambling with the race organizers and I was moved from wave 5 to wave 3. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing.
A group of 15 TTNE members gathered at the beach for a practice swim. It was 4pm and the Long Island Sound wasn’t in a good mood. The water was choppy, with a constant rolling surf. We walked approximately a half-mile to the location of the swim start.
Our race would require us to swim out into the sound, turn right a giant, candy-corn shaped buoy and then swim a looooong way to the next candy-corn before turning right toward the beach.
The water was cold, the waves were making their presence felt and my wetsuit was nowhere to be seen. I had decided not to wear it, thinking it wouldn’t dry in time for the race. Not my best idea.
As we ran out into the waves, the old panic song began to play in my head. “What are you doing? You are out of your depth (literally) and you don’t have the buoyancy of the wet suit to fall back on. Isn’t the salt water salty?”
I couldn’t swim freestyle. The waves kept hitting me in the face. I couldn’t put my face in the water, just breast-stroke. Power-sapping, totally inefficient breast-stroke. But, it kept me moving forward against the infinite onslaught of the waves.
I made the turn and the waves weren’t in my face, instead they rolled over me, pushing me around like a floating log. I did five strokes of freestyle and it was ok. I was way behind, with one of my teammates nearby. She and I shared a few moments of gallows humor and I relaxed a bit more. It was a long way to my finish point, but I tried to just keep swimming. One-two-three-four-five, I counted my strokes. I’d pop my head up, look to make sure I wasn’t headed to Havana and then counted another five strokes.
Eventually, I staggered out of the water, thinking that if the swim on Sunday was anything like that I might be in for a spot of trouble. Luckily, no one else seemed to enjoy the swim either, so I had that going for me. Survival was half the battle for me. Choppy surf had rattled my cage, but my training (mentally and physically) had pulled me though.
We headed to our hotel, rinsed off the salt water and I went to hunt for my breakfast options since finding anything open at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday as unlikely. Later, we had a team meal, which was a great opportunity to see everyone in a fabric other than spandex, meet the spouses, and have any last minute questions answered.
The end of the evening was a guided meditation/visualizeation led by Laurie Silverman, a workout leader and therapist.
With the lights dimmed, she played a CD of ocean sounds, while she calmly led us through some relaxation exercises and then visualized the hours before and during the race. Luckily, Lynne’s snoring wasn’t terribly distracting and the ocean sounds didn’t make me have to urinate.
It was a good time to quietly focus on the race to come, to mentally arrange my race plan. Here were a few things I added to my list:
• Eat bagel before leaving the hotel.
• Use the bathroom before putting on wetsuit
• Remember ear plugs for the swim
• Tear open my race snacks as I set up my transition area. Those little buggers are tough enough when I not rushing
• Pray for calm waters
We ended the visualization and headed off to bed. I set 3 alarms and arranged for a wake up call. You can never have too many wake-up options when you are trying to get up at 4:30 a.m. I focused on my last job for the night, getting some rest. Oddly, falling asleep wasn’t too bad. I’d anticipated a rough night of nerves, but managed to drift off without too much effort. My 4:30 wake-up call lay ahead as did the race - a day that I thought would never come.
[To be continued]
It’s hard to believe that the training is coming to an end and that my triathlon is this coming Sunday. It seems like just a few weeks ago, we were riding around Farmington, wearing several layers of long-sleeve shirts and wishing we had more. And now, it’s so muggy out, that I feel like I’ve moved to Mississippi.
I had a chance to have an interesting bit of contrast in my training which I will explain.
The last few workouts have been what Janice and Lynne affectionately call “mini-tris”. These early morning miracles have us do a few swim starts, followed by a 7-9 mile bike ride and finished off with a 1.5 mile run.
This practice session was taking place in Windsor on the shores of the Farmington River. The highlights of this location was a quiet neighborhood for the bike and run, ample parking space and what seemed like 82% of the mosquito population in the state of Connecticut. Thankfully, my wetsuit proved to be an excellent bug shield. On the downside, the 113% humidity combined with my wetsuit caused me to quickly shed 3 pounds.
We had a few practice starts, out from the beach, across the river to a landmark on the other side and back. On the way back, I noticed that I wasn’t on course. Was my internal GPS on the fritz once again? I thought I’d figured that one out. Then I noticed that all of us were pretty much off course. Our quiet, lazy river had a little gift for us, a current that was subtly moving us downriver. Relieved that it wasn’t my fault, but geology’s, I re-adjusted my course and made my way back to the shoreline.
After the third swim start, we walked the rocky path back to the transition area to shed our suits and head out on our bike. My ability to shed my wetsuit has improved topped off by the knowledge that I can just leave it in a pile on the ground (take that mom!). I sat down and started to pull on my compression socks.
Have I mentioned the compression socks yet? These seem to be the latest rage in spots attire. Calf-length, super-tight socks that are designed to keep the blood from pooling in your legs, minimize cramping and make you look SUPER dorky. I think I look like an elderly tourist who has somehow misplaced his sandals for sneakers and been shanghaied into a footrace. When dry, these little satchels of constriction are tough to pull on. I had discovered that pulling them on over my wet limbs was comically slow. So, I switched to a set of sleeves, basically socks with no feet, figuring this would be easier to get on during the race.
Sadly, my calculations were just as accurate as my Powerball picks (who knew that 1-2-3-4-5 was a statistical longshot?). My wet feet and calves quickly put the brakes on any quick transition I’d hoped for. The compression sleeves fought me every inch of the way. My heart rate ticked up, I was noticing the people around me, moving past me, getting on their bikes and I was still sitting on the ground. ”This is taking too long,” I thought. Frenetic thoughts, urging me to go faster pulsed through my brain, even though I was aware that kind of rushing only would lead to a mistake.
I finally got out on the bike and got my breathing under control. I did the laps with Xi (“she” ) one of the workout leaders and slowly started to dry off. We chatted a bit as I tried not to notice several of the other team members whizzing by me.
I finished the bike ride, as many of the athletes were already out on the run. My second transition was much faster, mostly because i just had to rack my bike, shed my helmet and change my shoes. No socks was good news. Patty, another workout leader, had kindly offered to wait for me as I had mused that the run might be my undoing.
We headed out on the run and settled into an good pace. Well it was a good pace for me, it might have been a pity pace for her. The first part was flat, but as we made our first turn, we saw a long, slow uphill grade. Amazingly, the power of idle banter kept me from focusing on the hill, my tired legs, my wheezy breath, the oppressive humidity and the travel problems facing Edward Snowden. Who knew conversation was so powerful?
We ran the whole way. I had never run the whole way. We crossed the finish line and I was feeling pretty good about my effort that day.
As I was packing up my stuff, a workout leader came by (to protect his identify I’m using a fake name) named George Porter (oh wait, that’s his real name, oh well) and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’d feel badly if I didn’t tell you that watching you wrestle with those compression sleeves took you WAY too long.”
Now, usually when someone says, “don’t take this the wrong way” I start wondering what the worst way to start a dialogue would be:
1) Don’t take this the wrong way…
2) With all due respect….
3) To be completely honest with you….
4) I’m not going to lie to you…
Luckily for me, George is a gentleman and his advice was spot-on. After talking it through with him, he suggested I put the sleeves on before my wetsuit. So what if they get wet he pointed out, “you put them in the laundry, don’t you?” And, as an added bonus, he guessed that they might even make it easier to get the wetsuit off in transition. So, hats off to George the Yoda-like Workout leader (because of his words and not his looks).
For contrast, 24 hours later, I was in Norwalk, CT with Lynne as she set up her half-iron triathlon. To compare:
Swim: Leland 1/2 Mile Lynne 1.2 miles
Bike: Leland 12 miles Lynne 56 miles (56 hilly miles)
Run: Leland 3 miles Lynne 13.3 miles
We arrived early….very early. Wakeup call was at 4:30am, so I was precariously close to “Night of the Living Dead” territory. It was early for the police as well, as they showed up to their assigned traffic locations 30 minutes late, so the race didn’t start until 7am. Lynne worried that it would be even hotter during the run portion.
As she started the race, I took some notes:
1) Smile. She was smiling as she came out of the swim. That seems like a good way to go.
2) Eat. Lynne ate something around 1,200 calories. It was like a buffet of athletic supplements.
3) Bring a book. My race, lord willing, will take under 2 hours. Lynne’s race took just under 6.5 hours.
It was such an incredible race on some many levels. The length, duration, temperature all emphasized the dedication these athletes have in order to prepare for it. While amazed that Lynne was able to train for all these months and complete the race (almost an hour faster than her prior time), it also solidified my feeling that the distance for my race was just right.
After the swim/run brick in Coventry, Lynne thought it would be fun to scoot over to Storrs, CT to the new zip-line adventure park that recently opened. Of course, what else should we do after swimming a 1/2 mile and running 3 miles? Climb around the trees? Sure! I’ve tested my physical state, why not test my mental state as well.
We’d been there a few weeks earlier for our 8-year old son Eli’s birthday party. I spent the entire time on terra firma because, as everyone knows, someone needs to stay behind to take photos, escort kids to the bathroom and shout encouragement. It had NOTHING to do with the fact that I have some issues with unprotected heights, tightropes and jumping off platforms hoping that fabric straps will hold me.
But, Lynne didn’t want me to miss out on the all the fun she had with the kids…and thought it would be a good addition to my “Year of Living Uncomfortably” repertoire.
On my way to change after the workout, I realized something very important. I had no underwear. In my haste to get out of the house, I had packed everything I needed for the workout, but had forgotten one vital garment for the post-workout.
Luckily, CVS carries underwear (left at the hair-care products, right at the giant bag of Sour Patch Kids, next to the pantyhose in case you need them as well). The selection isn’t grand, but they had the right size, so I wasn’t complaining.
We made our way to the adventure park and had the same safety session instructor from Eli’s party. Rick remembered me and quickly ran us through our paces, showing us the “tweezle” connectors that made up our safety harness. Basically, this device has two clasps, one of which is locked at all times. To move from one section to the next, you take the unlocked clasp and attach it to the next safety wire. Then you push the locked clasp against the tweezle, which unlocks it while simultaneously locking the other clasp. Brilliant.
He then sent us on our way. We started on the entry level course. The entire park is up in the trees, with a platform on one tree leading to an “element” you have to navigate to get across to get to the next platform on the next tree. This repeats until you get to the end of the course via a zip line or some sort of lowering mechanism.
So, it goes like this: Platform. Tweezle. Element. Platform. Tweezle. Element. and so on.
For me it was more like this: Platform. Platform. Deep breath. E-L-E-M-E-N-T. Deeper breath. Shaky hands on tweezle. Repeat.
Almost all of the elements had some form of instability built into their design. Some had handholds, some were total leaps of faith (and I’m an atheist), others were almost like doing a Rubik’s Cube, 20-feet off the ground.
While it was fun, I also found myself getting very focused. My balance, foot placement and core strength were challenged. Sweat pored from my brow. My eyes focused not on how high I was off the ground (high enough), but more on each step, hand placement and how close I was to the next platform. My feet and legs strained to keep me upright on the sawed off logs that served as footholds.
By the time we had completed two courses, I was mentally and physically exhausted. Lynne, the energizer bunny, decided to do one more run, tackling the blue course, which was higher off the ground and had much more challenging elements. Needless to say, I made the right move stopping when I did.
With Rick’s encouragement, Lynne navigated the course, enjoyed two long zip lines and trusted me just enough to get her down at the end of the course. It was a proud spousal moment when I told her to just jump off the platform and trust that the device she was attached to would magically lower her to the ground.
We finished, happy but tired and very, very hungry. Luckily, my trusted Yelp app on my iPhone directed us to a small Mediterranean restaurant called Sara’s Pockets in Storrs. Run by an older, friendly, Greek fellow, we ordered food and sat down. I asked Lynne if she thought it would be weird if I laid down on the floor I was so exhausted.
The man brought over our food accompanied by several repetitions of his catchphrase “Big Pleasure.” The food was amazing and we savored the meal as we talked about our adventure.
After that, we drove home, both of us exhausted. I showered and collapsed into my bed, thinking about my full morning of swimming, running and zipping. “Big pleasure” indeed.
Never has there been so aptly named aworkout as “The Brick”. Useful? Yes? Pleasant? Not so much. Think of all the cliches you know that involve bricks and most of them aren’t all that soothing:
Hit you like a ton of bricks.
Just another brick on the wall.
Hit the bricks
Thick as a brick
So, waking up at 5:30 in the morning to tackle anything brick-related wasn’t ideal. I should also mention that I’d just dropped my kids off at summer camp, so this was my first free morning…and I’d chosen to get up before my sprinklers went off.
This was a swim/run brick. So, we had a few race starts, to continue the ongoing effort to reconfigure my facial structures using only other people’s feet and hands.
The facial massage was followed by a 1/2-mile swim. Oddly, the swimming, once my greatest fear, has become a somewhat manageable activity, which I fully credit to the coaches and the constant repetition. One issue that has continued to haunt me is my inability to swim anything that resembles a straight line. I’m fairly sure that an overhead outline of my route would resemble an EKG.
At the turn-a-round point, one of the workout leaders who was stationed there to make sure we were doing ok, asked me if I knew I was taking the scenic route. I can only imagine how much longer I made my swim due to my GPS-challenged route. But, I wasn’t tired. I was spacing out and would lose track of my stroke count. “1-2-3, gee, I wonder what movies are playing later today and where am I going to get lunch once this is done. I cannot believe I let Lynne talk me into going to a zip-line park after all of this, wait, how many strokes was this? 4-5.” This sort of commentary would bubble through my mind, and I would then pop my head up to make sure I was still in U.S. waters.
After what seemed like forever, but was probably closer to 30 minutes (who knows really, time flies when you are open water swimming, as the saying goes) I stumbled out of the water like a much paler, Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Hauling off my wetsuit with zero grace, an inelegant dance from one leg to the other as I wrestled with the wet rubber suit, I sat on the ground to get my shoes on for the 3-mile run. I’ve started wearing compression socks to try to deal with the calf cramp I’m prone to getting when I think about running. These socks pull all the way up to your knee and squeeze your foot and calf as if they were tightly bound in Saran Wrap. Getting these on with dry feet is a challenge. Getting them on my wet feet and legs was comically slow. Eventually, I tugged them on and headed off on the run.
It was warming up and humid…the course was a little uphill on the way out and all I could think was how I hadn’t run three miles since my kids were born over 12 years ago. I was able to run almost all of the course, and even picked up my pace as we came to the home stretch. That was a relief, because one of my ongoing concerns is my ability to string all three activities together. I had just completed the swim and run distances I’ll have to face in the race, a great measuring stick for me thus far.
I’d always thought they called these workouts “bricks” because they were Bike + Run + Ick = BRick. Now, I realize that it is more because these workouts more literally, hit you like a ton of bricks. Phew.