Monday, July 22, 2013

Long live the YAM Part 1: With coconut and cranberries

Year-round, through triathlon training and gluten free (and newly paleo) cooking, I have had one close, and indisputable friend: The sweet potato.

It's friendly to my sensitive stomach, and has lots of nutritional benefits.

My standby sweet potato recipe is to coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and baked until they're just a little crispy. But lately, sick of most of my usual recipes, I've been experimenting. I present to you: 10 things you can do with sweet potatoes. The full feature will appear in the Democrat and Chronicle sometime this fall, but I'll post the installments here as they're ready.

But first, one must understand my methods.

Jessica's rules of cooking: 

  1. Make massive quantities at a time, usually on a Sunday evening. Freeze them in batches. Throw in crockpot the morning they are to be consumed. That way you don't have to cook for yourself everyday. 
  2. Foods with foreign ingredients are scary, and sometimes make me sick. Use fresh where possible.
  3. I only own one measuring cup.  
  4. Whenever a recipe calls for garlic, use extra garlic. If a recipe calls for two tablespoons of cilantro, go ahead and use a whole bunch. If it calls for olive oil, add an extra splash. At least. If you couldn't tell from my last name, I'm very Italian. 
  5. If you drop food on the floor, just say the magic word "Lizzie" to summon the black and white blur which will whiz through the kitchen, making the food disappear. 
  6. Until someone invents a magic machine that washes my dishes for me (#smallapartmentproblems) I try not to use too many. If something is particularly messy, those throwaway tins for baking come in handy. 

Ok, enough with the intro. On to recipe 1!

Lightly mashed sweet potatoes with coconut and cranberries. 

My food photography skills leave much to be desired. 
I'm trying a strange hodgepodge of the real food and paleo diets this month. Been exhausted lately, and I think it's because I started eating more processed food around Musselman. Day two and going strong. Goal is 30 days straight.

I adapted this recipe from Paleo Plan's sweet potatoes with coconut, pomegranate and lime recipe. I find pomegranates too labor intensive though, and forgot to buy limes.

Per my batch cooking tendencies, I tripled the recipe which yielded enough for a side dish each day and maybe a little left over to freeze.

My ingredient list:
7 smallish sweet potatoes
1/2 bag coconut flakes
1 can coconut milk (I used Goya, bought at Wegmans, but I do need to make my way back to the Asian market soon and stock up, much cheaper there.)
Salt to taste
1/2 bunch cilantro (I happen to really like cilantro. If you don't love it as I do, maybe use less.)
1 bag (8 ounces) of dried cranberries from Aldi.

I started off by peeling the sweet potatoes, pricking them with a fork and baking them at 400 for about 50 minutes. I probably could have cut some corners and nuked them but, hindsight. They came up a little brown, probably wouldn't have happened had I left the skin on but I prefer no skin. They tasted fine.

I mushed them up with a giant spoon and fork (I do not own a potato masher) and added everything else in. Very easy. Cilantro was supposed to be reserved as garnish but I just mixed it in. (See rule #4.)


I've got a bunch of other ones I'd like to try! I have the makings for sweet potato pancakes, have a recipe for paleo sweet potato hash, at some point will revisit my sweet potato chili, and will give a shout out to John H's yamanator (I tried to make a version at home. It pales in comparison.)

Long live the yam. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

I'm half crazy. Should I go all the way crazy?

Love this, an official race photo. I am going
to buy it. 
Coming in 40 minutes shy of my goal time, it's fair to say I crushed my half ironman. Read my blogs about the Musselman Triathlon in Geneva, part 1, part 2, part 3.

I'm not 100 percent sold on doing a full ironman (and if I decide, I don't know if I'm going to go with the capital I version). We'll get to the pros and cons of it in a minute. But for planning purposes, I'm going to assume I'm doing it, and I can always back down to the half later.

I'm a goal oriented person, always looking ahead, so I've just written out the following three goals for the remainder of the winter. Likely I'll take a break this winter from excessive cardio to weight train, as I did last winter.

  1. Improve my cycling and swimming to condition for a full ironman in Sept. 2014.
  2. Complete the Highlander Cycle Tour and the Wine Glass Marathon with no concrete time goal (under 5 hours in the marathon would be nice). Do the summer sizzler formula 1 and maybe another Olympic.
  3.  Bike around all 11 Finger Lakes. (I might knock out Conesus or Honeoye this week)

To round out the year I'm doing the Summer Sizzler Formula 1 triathlon Aug. 10. You go shorter distances, then you do it twice! 400 meter swim, 17K bike, 3K run, 400 meter swim, 17K bike, 3K run. I'm hoping for another late-year olympic distance, and possibly a relay or two where I will be the swimmer.

I've decided to take the marathon easy. At some point I'll try and crush my PR of 4 hours 13 minutes, but now isn't the time.

On to the big question:


I've fantasized about it. If I do, my preferred race would be Ironman Mont Tremblant near Montreal (my first international race!) I don't know if I want to do a name-brand Ironman, which are more expensive, or just an ironman distance race. If I go for the latter, my preference would be REV-3 Cedar Point, a little cheaper and not too far from my parents.

It's a big commitment. So let's do a pros and cons list.

PRO: I'm young and childless. If I want to do something like this, now is the time.

CON: I have a full-time job, teach classes, have two dogs and an apartment to keep up. I got really worn down with half training.

PRO: Half training was totally worth it in the end. In looking at full schedules, it's not that much more, except for the weekend days. Plus it's only a few months. Looking back, training for Musselman just flew by.

CON: It's expensive. Crazy crazy expensive. We're talking $500+ just for the registration fee, then travel!

PRO: I'm thinking about it now, so could save for it. There are also other races, everyone mentions the HITS series, that are cheaper.

CON: I might only do one of these in my life, and maybe I would want that one to be a name-brand Ironman (the only logo I'd ever tattoo on myself, upon completion, of course.)

PRO: My support system is amazing and if I take the plunge I know people will have my back.

CON: While the equipment I have got me through the half, I love Flower but she still is just an entry level road bike.

PRO: It would be a huge accomplishment and one that I'd always have with me.

CON: Looks like there's a 17-hour cutoff. That means I'm thinking about doing an event that would take me almost that long. What sane person does that.

PRO: We've already established that I am not sane.

It's a lot to think about. I just emailed Ironman asking them how quickly IMMT sells out, I read that it happens fairly quickly. In that case, I do hear great things about REV-3!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Musselman 2013, my first half iron Part 3: Post-race high, and planning what's next


See Part 1 and Part 2 (about the race itself). (Related: I am a marathonerI am a duathleteI am a triathlete.)

After I set out to do this in earnest almost a year ago, I completed the Musselman half ironman, Geneva, NY in 7:18:15. It broke down like this: 1.2 mile swim in 49:17, T1 6:21, 56 mile bike in 3:42:36 (included an 8 minute wait for an accident to clear), T2 8:02, 13.1 mile run in 2:31:59. This put me far under my goal, the 8 hour cutoff that I was so worried about making

I felt like a rockstar coming through that chute. They mispronounced my last name, and I finally stopped. A volunteer cut off my timing chip, and two young girls handed me the greatest medal ever, and the greatest water bottle ever. 

These are real bike gears! I got a mid-sized one. Photo by Victoria.
This bottle is supposed to glow in the dark. Haven't tried it yet.
But someone on Facebook pointed out that the mussels are in the
wrong order, run bike swim!
I took a few moments to recover, and told Victoria she needed to make me walk so I wouldn't cramp.

I needed not worry about Victoria being bored. While I was out killing myself, she took pictures and Tweeted constantly (even finding a plug in a state park - a feat! -  to juice up and Tweet some more!), updated Facebook on my behalf, made friends with the Moms in Motion, spent a few hours volunteering in the food tent, took a photo of the winner then tweeted it, and proceeded to make friends with him, and still found time to lounge by the water. She blogged about the experience here. (We're first and foremost writers. It's what we do.)

Wegmans catered a delicious meal, I had some pulled pork, potato salad and ice cream. Victoria saw it fit to take a photo of the carnage before it got packed up. (I had spread out a bit before this was taken, I was not a bad transition neighbor!)

I was surprised how awake I was, and how good I felt, after the race. I tried to nap, but sleep didn't come. I was going to stay in Geneva another night, but I was feeling restless and wanted my bed and my dogs so I came home early. Wegmans fed me again, this time with sushi and a frozen pizza, and I finally dozed off.

Monday I was off work, a good decision. I woke up and no muscle wanted to move. I spent the day on the couch. Tuesday I went to work with some stiffness. Standing up and sitting down hurt, being on my feet for more than five minutes at a time hurt, but mostly I was physically tired. It's now 9 p.m. and I'm ready for bed. At lunch, I went out and got a new item for my car. My bumper is getting slightly ridiculous.

I want to send a very sincere thank you to my friends and family who were stalking Victoria's Facebook updates and supported me through this journey. If I didn't have a support system, I wouldn't be able to make it through. We do this first for ourselves, but having people asking you how it's going and cheering you on keeps you motivated.

That's the beauty of social media. Facebook and Twitter played very different roles. Facebook was about connecting with the old friends, in Columbus, whom I miss dearly. I could share things a bit more intimately with them, details that I wouldn't put on a public blog.

These comments appeared underneath a photo I used in Part 1 -- my Musselbaby inside the beer mug from my first 5K as an adult. They keep me motivated, but keep me grounded. Molly was the one who introduced me to Fleet Feet's marathoner in training program.

On Twitter, I was able to connect with others doing the race, and get my questions answered. On Twitter, I found people who were in the exact same boat as me. On Twitter, I realized I was not the only first-timer with nerves!

And, of course, since it's Twitter, share other random thoughts that pop into my head.


Musselman is where I'll peak this year. I have the Highlander Cycle Tour and the Wine Glass Marathon.

Right now I am considering doing a full. It's very much a consideration right now, and I know I'm still on my post race high so I need to approach it with a clearer head.

For now, I'm going to get my life back together, clean up my apartment, do some yoga to try to provide some relief to my stressed muscles. (Sorry, mussels.)

Speaking of which, the whole weekend was a quasi-celebration of the mussel, a sea creature that prior to I was more apt to think of as food.

But after seeing the mussel as a mascot for such a great event, I think I might need to pass on them from now on! 

Musselman 2013, my first 70.3, Part 2: Swim, bike, run -- for a very long time


See Part 1 and Part 3. (Related: I am a marathonerI am a duathleteI am a triathlete.)

After I set out to do this in earnest almost a year ago, I completed the Musselman half ironman, Geneva, NY in 7:18:15. It broke down like this: 1.2 mile swim in 49:17, T1 6:21, 56 mile bike in 3:42:36 (included an 8 minute wait for an accident to clear), T2 8:02, 13.1 mile run in 2:31:59. This put me far under my goal, the 8 hour cutoff that I was so worried about making

Races have a tendency to sneak up on you. You sign up months in advance, train, thinking you have time, you have time, then boom! The event is next week. This one came up quicker than most. 

One last look in transition before it closed. Photo by Victoria. 
I had prepared well. That morning I was on autopilot. Everything was set, I just had to set up and execute. I choked down a bagel with sunflower seed butter and got the cooler of ice out of the secret fridge. I needed more ice so we stopped at the gas station. The clerk wished me luck. 
Transition was laid out. I found the secret bathroom with no line. I greased up and slid on the wetsuit. I bid good luck to David and Ben, friends who were also doing their first. has a wonderful photo of athletes in the water during the National Anthem. I got a quick dip in the water, then lined up with the other yellow caps. 


Almost time for our wave. Photo by Victoria. 
The waves were huge. I've only done one other organized swim, at Keuka Lake. I should have done one at Quakerman but it was cancelled due to high algae levels. 

I've never swum with so many people. 

The buoys were bright orange and easy to spot, but they were so far apart. It's easier to swim in a straight line if they are closer together. 

It was a blur, wading into the water with a bunch of other women my age. Somewhere in that blur a horn went off and we started swimming. No horror stories, no one swam over me, no fights for a good spot. 

I fell into a peaceful rhythm, but it was tough. Breathing to the right is more natural for me, but the buoys were on our left. When I breathed to the left, the sun was in my eyes. I went back and forth. The water temperature was perfect. 

I only got kicked in the face once. I only kicked someone else once. 

Swimming in a pool makes me nutty, but I find open water peaceful. Once you're in for 10 or 15 minutes you lose track of time, and checking the watch throws you, so it's hard to tell how far you've gone or for how long. Which is how I made my first -- and only -- mistake: I didn't study the swim course.

What's the big deal, right? Just follow the buoys and swim in a rectangle. Not exactly. This course took us around three sides of a rectangle, but then went into a canal so we'd finish at a different spot than where we started.

Out of the water, ready for the bike.
Photo by Victoria. 
I knew that much, but I hadn't studied how long that canal was. So when I entered, I thought I was almost done. Not exactly, there was still about a third of the course to go. I got through, and a volunteer helped me onto a boat dock.

When I first started swimming, an hour in the water would leave me exhausted, but I did 1.2 miles in 49 minutes and felt strong. Ready to tackle the bike. 

I spent 6:21 in transition. At some point I might want to get that down, but I'm not worried right now. Bike jersey on, fuel together, water bottles on the bike. I'm glad I brought a cooler. It was getting hot out. 


Off on the bike! Photo by Victoria. 
I am so glad I practiced the bike course. So glad. SO glad. 

I was off. The first 15 miles were gradually uphill. It wasn't so bad this time. Miles were anywhere between 3:20 and 4:00 depending on the grade. I was making great time. I stopped at the first aid station, even though it was a bottle exchange. Later I'd go through without stopping.

We rode down 96A and passed a bunch of Mennonite buggies coming from church. Each had 3-4 children in the backseat waving at us. 

I saw signs for Knapp Winery and some others as we went down 414, a slow decent. When I got Gigi, my first dog, in 2007 I did the Grapehounds wine tour through this region. Dogs could come and it benefited greyhound adoption. I went with my parents and with Gigi we toured the region. In 2011, I lost her at age 6 to cancer. I'm not the spiritual type, but as I pedaled through this beautiful country I imagined her looking over me, hanging out wherever she is now with the old family mutt, Katie. I asked her to help me through the race. She meant a lot to me, and these are the thoughts that get us through. I felt strong. Miss you, girl.

Bike map. 
Bike details. 
Volunteers make a race like this, and those out today were phenomenal. Imagine standing out in the heat for 4-5 hours holding a flag. Imagine passing out water bottles with cyclists zooming by. Imagine holding up upset drivers who wonder why they have to stop -- not the people on bikes. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all you do. 

Around mile 23 I was looking for the next aid station. They were supposed to be about every ten miles but also had to be placed strategically. Another mistake: Not knowing exactly where they were. 

I heard yelling at Mile 25, and a bunch of cyclists were stopped, as was I. A woman was down. The mood got really hushed as the group of stopped cyclists would slowly grow to about 60. I didn't want to rubberneck, didn't want to scare myself, but it looked bad. She had slowed for the aid station and lost control. 

I used the port-a-potty that was there. No cyclist was worried about their time, it could have been any one of us and that was a heavy thought. The rules of the road came to the forefront of everyone's mind. I was stopped for eight minutes, where volunteers graciously handed out bottles of sports drink. We were able to finally walk our bikes around the scene. Everyone was very careful going down the hill. 

We rode along Cayuga Lake, then hit Swick Road, the big hill. It wasn't as bad as it was when I practiced, but it was the first time in the small chain ring. Cyclists talked each other through. The climb eased but there was still a gradual uphill.

Lots of hills. 

Coming back in. Photo by Victoria.
We turned a corner at a penitentiary and zipped downhill, and turned into Sampson State Park. The road got a little rough. I was lucky not to get a flat tire, but many did. They were almost never alone in fixing them. Most of the time one of the official race vehicles stopped -- I even saw the official ref helping someone instead of penalizing us for drafting :)

After Sampson there was another hill, this one I wasn't expecting, since I didn't practice this part. I tagged back and forth with another woman. She'd pass me on the uphills. I'd get her on the downhills. We emerged, and turned back to Seneca Lake State Park. Victoria was there, with her camera. I took my time getting ready for the run. It didn't feel like eight minutes, but it was.


No matter what would happen in the next 3 hours, I would finish.
Photo by Victoria. 
I knew what I was getting into. Sign up for a race in February, it's going to be cold. Sign up for a race in July, it's going to be hot. End of story. 

I'm normally not good with heat, so I knew it was a hazard going in. All week I drank a gallon of water a day, sometimes more. I took electrolytes, I boosted my sodium intake, I was prepared. 

I started the run at 11 a.m., as the sun is reaching its peak. According to my Garmin it was 82 degrees, felt like 86, with 66 percent humidity. People were walking at Mile 1. People were finishing, walking. I'm afraid to find out how many people did not finish. 

It was bad. 

I told myself I was going to run the whole thing, with no time expectations. I had more than three hours. I could walk the hills, and walk through the water stops. I would stop at every water stop -- every mile. I had my hydration pack. 

My legs were numb from the bike, and I couldn't control my speed. As tired as I was, I finished the first mile in 10:30. I could not sustain this pace. I vowed to go 11:00 or slower, and I did. The pace evened out to a 12:00 mile with all the stops. I was thrilled with that.

My splits were: 10:26, 12:28, 12:46, 11:51, 13:41, 12:03, 11:57, 12:30, 11:42, 10:50, 10:09, 10:43, 9:53. All over the place. It was my first time looking at the numbers post-race. I finished stronger than I thought, averaging 11:36.

Run map. 
Run details. 
I thought with no headphones the run would be lonely, but it was anything but. Since no one was allowed headphones, the other runners were chatty, and this made the sweltering miles pass by quicker. 

I come from the Randy Olson school of negative splits, but I quickly learned that this was the exception, and my speed started to vary dramatically. When I saw a hill in the distance, I started to run faster, because I knew I'd recover while walking the hill. When the road was shady, I sped up. When the road was sunny, I slowed down. I picked it up a little at Mile 9 but four miles seemed like a long way. I felt like I was poking along. I wanted to be done. I also refused to walk across the finish line. I had to be smart. 

Volunteers continued to be amazing, so encouraging and helpful. The aid stations had bananas, pretzels, animal crackers, gels, ShotBloks, water, defizzed coke and sports drink. I took a little at a time. I don't remember who it was who suggested the ice in the sports bra trick, but that person is a genius. The cold, wet sponges were a lifesaver. Residents cheered. They sprayed us with hoses, but asked first. 

My favorite was the sprinkler near the sidewalk with the sign "ball chiller". (It's a male dominated sport.)

I would like to see the volunteers put a ban on the phrase "It's all downhill from here." I know you meant well, volunteers, and believe me, I know it's hard work to stand out in the heat doing any of these tasks from handing out water to ringing cowbells. Thank you thank you thank you. 

The course trended down after Mile 8, but there were still some ups. And when you're tired, you've gone so far, any small hill is still a hill, and is disheartening to see after you've been told otherwise. So please, unless you actually mean that the runner will be running downhill with no ascent until the end, don't use that phrase!

Run elevation. After Mile 8, those little blips up didn't seem so little.
Let's put it with "only a mile left". When you've come so far, a mile seems like a long way to go. 

I continued with my strategy, and after almost two grueling hours in the heat I finally came to the shore of Seneca Lake. Two and a half miles to go. This territory I knew. This was flat. I knew when the aid stations were. 

But more importantly, I still had more than an hour to get through these two and a half miles. I could walk it, and still finish in time. I was going to do it, I was going to be a half-ironwoman. 

These last two miles were spent in a sweaty daze as I plugged along. I was smiling. People noticed. "How on earth are you smiling?" 

"Because I'm going to do it. I will finish this race."

A half mile from the finish, I said to a random person, "I'm going to make it."

I finished. Photo by Victoria. 
I didn't have the gas to pick it up much at the finish line, but I stepped it up a little. I was soaking wet, had a huge chafing rash on my back from my hydration pack, and put my arms up. 

Victoria was there with her camera.

I did it. 

Read about the aftermath in Part 3.  Also see part 1. 

Musselman 2013, my first 70.3: Part 1 - Practice, preparation, and a friend by your side

Me after the Musselman Triathlon with the greatest medal ever.
Photo by the wonderful Victoria Freile. 

(Related: I am a marathoner, I am a duathlete, I am a triathlete.) See part 2, about the race itself, and part 3, about the aftermath.

After I set out to do this in earnest almost a year ago, I completed the Musselman half ironman, Geneva, NY in 7:18:15. It broke down like this: 1.2 mile swim in 49:17, T1 6:21, 56 mile bike in 3:42:36 (included an 8 minute wait for an accident to clear), T2 8:02, 13.1 mile run in 2:31:59. This put me far under the 8 hour cutoff that I was so worried about making

This came almost three years to the day after I completed my first 5K in Columbus, July 17, 2010, so it was only fitting that Musselbaby, the little stuffy they gave all of us, now lives inside the beer glass I got from that 5K (if I ever travel to the top of Mount Everest or the bottom of the ocean, I need to take Musselbaby, get a photo, and then I'll win a prize.)

All in all it was a phenomenal experience. Geneva is a wonderful and welcoming town, and the race was top notch. My personal experience was all about planning, practice, and having an unbelievable support system to see me through.

But there was a cloud cast over the race. This year's event was in remembrance of Heather Boyum, who participated last year and two weeks later was killed while riding by not one but two drunk drivers, who were later cleared of the top felony charges.

This year, during the Saturday sprint race, a cyclist was killed. On Sunday, the bike portion of the race was held up because a cyclist was critically injured. Everyone participating walked away with a heavy reminder to be careful on the road. I'm buying a new helmet soon -- I learned this weekend that they do wear out. I am going to join a group here to learn more about cycling safety.

I'm seeing now that the triathlete community is very small, and has become a wonderful group of people to be around, so these losses ran deep.

This race report will be divided into three parts: Leading up to the race, the race, and after the race. As usual, I'm setting them up to autopost late at night, so I'll probably find a million typos in the morning. This focuses on my experience in Geneva. Part 2: The race. Part 3: The aftermath, and the crazy things I'm thinking about now.


DeCordova Hall, where I stayed.
Like the Keuka Lake Triathlon, you got to stay in the dorms, this time at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, for cheap. I came into town Friday evening intending to get some R&R and escape the Corn Hill Arts Festival, which would involve someone selling watercolors on my front lawn, a beer garden 30 feet from my door, and good luck trying to leave.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges is a lovely little private campus in the heart of Geneva. The camaraderie built through conversations in the shared bathrooms helped ease me into the event, and into what I was about to do.

The volunteers were wonderful and accommodating from the start. I got checked in, and put my yogurts and bag of ice in the secret fridge in the dorm.

Wine ice cream on Seneca Lake. As wonderful as it sounds.
I walked down Route 14 to the water, where I got some wine ice cream. That's right, it exists, and it's delicious. I had half Cherry Merlot, half Chocolate Sauvignon.

I ended up at Microclimate, a cozy little wine bar in downtown Geneva. I ordered a flight of Riesling and chatted it up with some other folks in town. Very friendly place.

I fell into bed that night feeling calm and ready. I only had forgotten one thing -- sunglasses, easily remedied by a trip to Wal-Mart after realizing it halfway to Geneva. (The Canandaigua Wal-Mart is a somewhat scary place.)
Musselman swag.

Saturday I was up early, went to the expo, did some yoga outside and took a nap.

I bought a plant stand and old National Geographics at The Second Hand Shop in Geneva. The clerk gave me the wrong change, and made me feel like a good person, thanking me for being honest when I corrected her. I took it as good race karma.

At 4:30 was the pre-race meeting.

Race director Jeff Henderson did a great job explaining the course. USA Triathlon has so many rules. The USAT race official demonstrated what constitutes drafting. Strict! She also asked us to check our helmets to make sure they were legal. I didn't know there was a such thing as not legal helmets, but there were! Mine was good.

But still, the nerves were back in full force.


Pre-race cuddles from Victoria. 
I'm used to doing these events by myself, and I was content to go to Geneva on my own. It's freeing to not have to worry about someone else's schedule or travel arrangements, and the racing community is wonderful -- so you're never really by yourself. But Victoria wanted to come -- and still wanted to after I made it very clear that it would mean getting up at an ungodly hour then eight hours of waiting around while I was out killing myself.

"Sure, if you want to," I said.

Victoria is a marathoner, and knows how races work. She blogs for the paper, and also at Scootadoot. She also knows how race brain works, the crazy things we do like swing back to the room for something I forgot -- and almost forget to grab that very thing (I should note: In this situation, that thing was my bike.) Earlier in the day I almost left the room with my toothbrush instead of my room key.

I was a bundle of nerves as I left the pre-race meeting, and met Victoria back at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

I cannot put into words how wonderful it was to see a familiar face. Not just a friend, but someone who understood exactly what I was going through.

Next up was a delicious pre-race meal at the college, where we met another friend, Solveig, who was doing the aquabike. Then we dropped Flower off at the transition area at Seneca Lake State Park.

Seneca Lake State Park.
When I practiced the bike course, I debated whether paying $7 to get into the park was worth it. I was so glad I did. Sounds silly, but knowing what the park looked like, the layout, approximately where transition was, helped me. I joined the steady stream of triathletes walking their bikes in and leaving empty-handed.

I bid Flower goodbye. We stopped at another lakefront park and put our feet in the water. The temperature was a little chilly at first but then perfect.

Back on the fourth floor of DeCordova Hall, Victoria helped me pack the rest of my stuff. We packed a swim bag, a bike bag and a run bag. We sorted my nutrition, laid out clothes and went down to put the bags in the car. We checked everything twice.

We walked down five steps. "Wait, did I get my goggles?'

Victoria: "Yes, we put them in the bag, but look we'll check, see?"

A few more steps. "The envelope with my race number, where is it."

"We'll check, yes, it's in here," Victoria said.

That's how pre-race brain works.

Everything was good to go. The next morning I just had to remember six things, which were on a list.

I tossed and turned all night. When I started getting nervous, I'd grab my phone and reread all the well wishes from friends on Facebook and that calmed me. The alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., and I joined the other weary eyed athletes in the dorm bathroom.

It was go time.

See part 2, about the race, and part 3, about the aftermath.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Musselman half ironman: I did it!

My post on completing my first half ironman will be forthcoming, but I wanted to do a quick "I did it" post! I completed the Musselman half iron distance in 7:18:15, far exceeding my goal of 8 hours.

SWIM TIME: 49:17
T1: 6:21
BIKE TIME: 3:42:36 (included an 8 minute stop for a fallen cyclist :( )
T2: 8:02
RUN TIME: 2:31:59

It was a wonderful event and I'm thrilled with the experience. I have three posts coming on it!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

That Moment When I Got Really Nervous

I'm sitting at my desk typing up some notes on affordable housing in Rochester's suburbs when the "(1) Facebook" shows up in the tab that's often in the background.

Distracted millennial brain went to check it, and in the Musselman Triathlon page someone had posted a link to the wave times and swim cap colors.

7:07 a.m. Yellow.

I've prepared for the half ironman like a madwoman. I know my weekend plan. I know the course. I've made my packing list. I've visited the ATM. I've been chugging water, flavored with cucumbers and lemons, like crazy. I've been slightly obsessive about it, trolling the Facebook page and Twitter hashtag compulsively. I've read every word of preparation material on Musselman's web site.

Still, it hasn't felt quite real to me that the race is in four days.

Until I saw that one little bit of information. I felt myself shaking a little bit and suddenly that affordable housing report was hard to focus on.

7:07 a.m. Yellow cap.

Zebra Mussels that live in Seneca Lake...
...and might bite me. 
Perhaps it was knowing the exact minute I'm going to start that set all the "what-ifs" off in my brain. Ya'll know what they are, or can imagine. Passing out from the heat. Forgetting my water bottle. Forgetting my helmet. Forgetting those magic straps that keep knee pain away. Waking up with a stomach ache. Getting bitten by a Zebra Mussel (it has happened.)

I've only guessed how far I've gone in open water. What if I'm wrong and my swimming is worse than I thought?

What if I run into transition and forget where my bike is?

What if I forget one of USA Triathlon's many rules and get disqualified?


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Packing list for Musselman

I've secretly been making my packing list for about a month.

I'm living with a never ending paranoia that I'll forget something.

I don't know why I'm so scared of forgetting my helmet, but I seriously have nightmares about it!

Using my packing list from the Keuka Lake Triathlon as a guide, here's what I need. It's a longer trip, which basically means more clothes and a good book! I also need to get to MedVed to buy more fuel!


  • Wetsuit
  • Sports bra and shorts to wear under
  • Goggles
  • Cooking spray
  • Sandals to wear beforehand
  • Garmin and heart rate monitor
  • Garmin charger

I probably won't need ear plugs, I don't get swimmers ear in open water, or a swim cap, they'll give me one, but I'll likely bring both anyway.


  • Flower
  • Helmet
  • Unique towel
  • Clips
  • Padded shorts and sleeveless jersey
  • Two water bottles
  • Possibly a small cooler to keep bike water cool?
  • Extra tube
  • Bike gloves
  • Body glide
  • Plastic bag for seat
  • Floor pump
  • Portable pump
  • Sunglasses
  • Tire lever
  • Tape, in case I need to attach bike number
  • Real food for fuel


  • Asics
  • Knee thingys
  • Calf thingys
  • Extra calf thingy
  • Hydration pack
  • iPhone arm band
  • Hat
  • Socks
  • Extra socks


  • Gels, chews, at least some need to be caffeinated 
  • Extra towel
  • Comfy clothes to change into after
  • Garbage bag in case it's raining
  • Sunblock
  • Baby wipes


  • Fans
  • Comfy sleeping clothes
  • Clothes and toiletries for three nights
  • Shower stuff
  • Pepto and meds
  • Freezer bag
  • Almond butter, rice cakes
  • Phones and chargers
  • Extra pillow and blanket
  • Wallet

Monday, July 8, 2013

Everything I need to know for Musselman

Less than a week out from race day, it's time to think logistics. I'll probably get a packing list and weekend schedule up tomorrow.

The race director put out this set of instructions for the race. My thoughts and questions:

Ahhh! What if I can't wear a wetsuit? That's what I've been practicing in and I swim better with it? Then do I wear my sports bra and shorts under the suit still? Eeep. 

I think I'm going to sit the MicroMussel out, but it will be fun to watch. 

I'm excited to stay in Athlete Village, but I hear it's not air conditioned, so I need to add fans to my packing list. You can't beat $30 a night in Geneva, even if it is a dorm!

If it's not raining I'll rack my bike Saturday night. I wonder how the bike racks are assigned, if they are. 

It looks like the aid stations are well stocked, but I wonder how the ones on the bike work. I just emailed the race director. 

Do we get wine at the end? I really hope we get wine at the end.

It's going to be hot hot hot hot! Me and my water bottle are going to be good friends all week. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Random musings: I'll be a half Ironwoman one week from today

The past few Sundays I've found myself sitting in the Wegmans cafe, either at East Ave or Pittsford with my iPad sipping their delicious coffee (I've been drinking too much coffee lately), reading the D&C (love the app btw Traci) and getting my head together for the week. Android battery is dead (again) so it's quiet time. I'm listening to my calming playlist on Spotify (note to self: link to it later.)

One week from today is my race, and I'm here trying to figure out what's left. I can't train anymore. I peaked at a 70 mile ride then a nine mile run. Friday I swam one hour continuous in open water and felt fine. I was confident in my sighting and didn't have to break or switch to breaststroke at all. I wonder what the buoys will be like at Musselman. Hopefully close together and easy to see.

I can't control the weather. Right now it's looking like it will be sunny and hot. On my 'plan for the week' I wrote: "drink so much water you feel like you might explode". I have a ginormous water bottle, purchased at Wegmans, and my goal is to get through it three times each day. Just added lemons to the shopping list. I should probably get some s caps, or maybe just choke down Gatorade.

Haven't seen the training schedule for this week but I'm assuming it is light. I purposefully defied it this weekend, what was there seemed like too much so I scaled it back. I did a seven mile run Thursday, one hour swim and two hour hilly bike Friday, and a half hour swim and a half hour bike yesterday. I tries both HEED and Hammer gels, which will be on the course at Musselman. Didn't love the sports drink but it worked.

I subbed out my Friday class but picked up one on Wednesday. I'm going to run and ride outside mid afternoon to get used to the heat. I love that my job is flexible and allows me to do that.

The one thing I can control - and must control - is my nutrition, hence the focused shopping list writing this afternoon. I've been off the reservation with food, eating too much crap and gaining weight. My stomach has not been fabulous, and I've been downright exhausted. I'm trying to come up with a focused plan and stick to it. I'm going to make some egg frittatas for breakfast, easy and re-heat able. Lunch, I have some chicken in my freezer, which I'll eat with rice and veggies and some kind of yummy sauce I'll no doubt find in the gluten free aisle. Dinner, fish at the beginning of the week with garlicky greens, and pasta with sausage at the end of the week. Lots of fruits and veggies, but all the veggies will be cooked to avoid tummy upset.

Looking for some kind of snack recipe I can use the tons of sweet potatoes on my counter for. A girl at a tri seminar was eating baked sweet potato with plain chobani yogurt. Interesting combo but worth trying. Which reminds me, I need yogurt, lots and lots of yogurt. The probiotic kind.

I can't eat crap this week. No sugar, no gluten, no alcohol. I'll allow myself all three after the race. I should probably ditch the caffeine too, at least anything beyond green tea.

There are a number of blog entries I need to do, I kind of dropped the ball last week. Maybe I'll do a daily nutrition blog to keep myself on track. Yea, that's a good idea.

I want to find an Olympic distance to do toward the end of the year. Thinking about asking my mom and sister if they want to do a tri relay in Ohio later this year.

Shopping time. Hopefully more blogging time later.