Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Running in a Monsoon & Dodging Tourists. Why, What Did You Do with Your Weekend?

With just a few more weeks until the big event, I thought I had put all my training "firsts" behind me, but these last two weeks have surprised me.

  • Running in a Monsoon: Many of you will remember that the weekend of the 13th-14th was rainy to say the least, and biblical in actuality. Sunday, the rain let up a bit at around 9am so I decided to try a 9-miler. Our workouts are so focused on hill workouts and speed intervals that we almost never get to just enjoy a long run, so as I ran, I played tourist, looking at scenery, enjoying street art, marveling at the tai chi taking place under the FDR. I hit my turnaround point at South Ferry and the sky just opened up. Four and a half miles in the rain can make anyway feel like a badass to say the least, and a jackass (for not checking the hourly forecast) in actuality.
  • Clipping In: For the last few months I've had a shiny silver pair of cycling shoes and fancy new pedals collecting dust on the floor of my closet, but this week, I actually had the pedals installed and took the bike for a spin. The feeling of being locked into this lightweight mode of transportation while careening through New York City streets is nothing short of terrifying at first, but being in the park and being able to ride almost twice as fast usual is euphoric. And then you forget to unclip at a stoplight, almost fall over, and like that you're right back to earth.
  • Outdoor Brick: Saturday was our first group outdoor Brick workout (bike + run) and it was supposed to go: Run (10 minutes) Bike (1:45) Run (30). Unless you live downtown like I do in which case it became Bike (30) Run (10) Bike (1:45) Run (30) Bike (30) Crash (zzzz)
  • Biking to New Jersey: Despite the long brick on Saturday, despite the fact that she had run a half marathon and I had run about 7 miles along the course, my Wildflower teammate and I decided to attempt a bike ride to New Jersey over the George Washington Bridge and into Palisades Park. We made it through the gauntlet that is the West Side Highway path and Riverside Park, dodging small children, weekend warrior bikers, and wayward scooters. "On your left" became a mantra. We made it over the bridge and thought we made it to Palisades Park not once but twice! The first time was a parking lot, the second, the park itself... but the road was closed due to fallen trees. We ended up riding for about 10 miles along "River Road" which is significantly less peaceful than it sounds and would be more aptly named "River Highway." We ended up taking a ferry back to Manhattan!

I may be bruised, confused, and exhausted, but at least I have some great stories to show for it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In Honor of Valentine's Day: Why I Love Tri

For the last week, TNT has been posting "Why I Love Running" entries on our website, so today I have decided it's my turn to post my own. Here, then, in easy to read list form, is "Why I Love Tri:"

  • Early Morning Workouts in the Dead of Winter: You know those days when you're like "oh, it's not as cold as they said it was going to be today!" Actually, it was that cold today...at 6am. And now I get to spend the rest of the day feeling tough (and frostbitten).
  • Running on the East River: The baffling presence of fisherman from 23rd-14th streets, practitioners of tai chi and backwards running under the FDR by the Manhattan Bridge, bewildered tourists at the Seaport.
  • Running Tights on NYC Subways: Because you don't know funny looks until you ride the subway in skin-tight spandex. And because with that post-run sweat, it's the only time you'll find your own space on a crowded train.
  • Making friends with people in your lane at group swim training and immediately forgetting who they are in the locker room when you no longer have a swim cap and goggles covering your face, then awkwardly re-meeting again. Twice as many friends!
  • Cookies: See. Want. Eat.
  • Bike Shorts: Indispensible on the bike. Irrefutably comical on the walk from bike to subway.
  • Bike Shoes: Ditto.
  • BRick Workouts: Have you ever ridden a horse? Have you ever tried to walk after getting off that horse? Imagine that feeling but say you had been on that horse for 2 hours and then someone said go run a few miles.
  • Sculling: What it is - A swim drill in which you stick your head in the water, place a pull buoy between your knees, keep your elbows out and use only your wrists and hands to get you across the pool. What it looks like - A desperate attempt to will oneself across the pool has failed miserably and the individual has stuck her head in the water while her but breaks the surface. In other words: cute.
  • Cookies: See. Want. Eat More.

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm asking everyone to please make a donation to my site and if you feel so inclined, leave a message there about what silly fitness endeavor you love. http://pages.teamintraining.org/nyc/wildtri10/arashbaum

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Watch Your Wheaties Box, Phelps

Last night, I rocked a 20-minute half mile in the pool during our group swim. Actually, let me qualify "rocked" by noting that I have no idea if that time is fast or not. What I do know is our coach said "Swim for 20 minutes. A half mile is 33 laps." So when I successfully completed 33.5 laps in that time, I decided this was cause for celebration, cookies, and a new blog entry.

This is a particularly momentous achievement for me since swimming has never been one of my favorite activities. I didn't learn to properly swim until I was about 9, and up until about two years ago, I was that weirdo holding my nose when jumping in the water. At summer camp I managed to avoid swimming as much as possible, and believe it or not, there aren't all that many moments in life that call for swimming skills beyond the doggie paddle.

And yet for some reason in 2008 I thought it was a good idea to train myself for a triathlon. The first time I got in the pool with my training buddy, she laughed at my absurd swim form (every time I took a breath I would pop my head straight out of the water facing forward). The swim during the tri was the longest swim of my life. As you may recall from my first post, I came out of the lake looking like this:

For days and days I kept telling everyone how "OMG I totally thought I was going to DIE on the swim" and "Swimming is stupid!" and "I'm hungry from this triathlon, please give me cookies." Mmmm cookies.

Anyway, it would seem completely logical then that a year later I would decide not only to take on another triathlon but to do one where the swim is almost 3 times as long. Sweet. For the past three months sheer fear has driven me to the NYC rec center pools twice a week, braving sticky locker-room floors, frigid water temps, and fellow swimmers who consider their ability to doggie paddle a reason to be in the "fast" lane. As I've worked to improve my technique I've swallowed and inhaled pool water that contained many things worse than chlorine, questioned various popping noises in my shoulders, rocked some sweet goggle marks for the better part of an hour post-swim, and bravely donned the most unflattering of swimsuits (seriously, Speedo? Seriously?).

After last night, I'm willing to say it's been worth it. Next stop: Olympics!

Feel free to congratulate me on my achievement with a donation here:


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Letter From Our Honored Teammate, Fran

This week, all the triathlon participants who have raised over $1,000 were given a letter from our honored teammate, Fran. I've pasted the letter below in its entirety.

Dear Wildflower Participant,

My name is Fran and I am a Lymphoma survivor.

I have two reasons to write to you: first, to thank you from the bottom of my heart for commiting yourself to raise funds to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). The LLS is truly one of the great organizations working in support of cancer patients today. As you probably already know, the LLS provides critical support for blood cancer research funding, You may not have heard of, however, the unparalleled patient support services provided by the LLS.

Before I had cancer, I never knew how terribly hard it is to be a cancer patient. I knew that chemotherapy could make you bald, and that cancer was a frightening diagnosis – but I didn’t understand how this disease impacts every part of your life. For me in particular it was coping with the uncertainly of cancer that proved to be the most difficult. At the time of my diagnosis I was overcome with fear of the unknown. I tried talking to friends, bugging my doctors, going on the web (a very bad idea), reading Lance Armstrong, but nothing seemed to make a difference. That was when I called the LLS. They answered all of my questions, even those I was too afraid to ask. They understood that having cancer is so difficult that you really want to speak with someone in your shoes. Through the LLS’s unique First Connection Program I was able to speak with fellow patients who had my exact diagnosis and who were one year cancer free. Believe me – it was a huge boost to me to speak to someone who had been where I was, made it through chemotherapy, and was cancer free for a year.

Today, I too am in this fortunate position: 16 months out of chemotherapy, with no evidence of the disease and training to be a First Connector myself. However, not a day goes by that I don’t think about if or when the cancer will return. My fellow patients tell me that for people like me this is the “new normal.” Once again, it’s a lot easier because the LLS continues to be there for me. Every month they hold seminars to help those living with cancer and I am a regular at the meetings. The topics range from treatment advances, to how to talk with your medical team, to employment issues surrounding cancer.

As you can see – you are making a real difference in people’s lives. Without your efforts there might not be someone at the end of phone answering those difficult questions, making the key first connections or setting up that seminar. Without you I know that the over 900,000 blood cancer patients in the US today would be much worse off.

My second reason for writing is about YOU! Congratulations! You have embarked on an athletic endeavor that may seem a bit scary, but, trust me, will be a hugely rewarding experience. As I’m sure you have learned already, your TNT coaches and mentors are dedicated, skilled, inspirational and generally fantastic. You will make sacrifices over the next few months – training can be hard in the cold and dark of winter but it is well worth it. Believe me, you are going to be so proud of yourself and your teammates when you cross the finish line! (And you will cross it!) Rarely in our lives do we get to experience the unity that Team in Training is able to foster. It helps all of us be part of something larger than ourselves.

I have close friends, relatives and others who asked when they found out I had Lymphoma; what can I do to help? You have already figured that out. By being part of the Team in Training Program and raising funds for the LLS you are helping me and all blood cancer patients and survivors to live better and longer lives.

So again, thank you so very much for being part of Team in Training. And if you are training and you hear someone groaning behind you – way behind you. It’s probably me! I am doing the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in the spring. It is my second tri with TNT. Last year, four months out of chemo, I was close to the last person over the finish line – but my smile was as big as that of the first place finisher. This year, I am looking for a few people to pass on my way to the finish line – so keep training!

With Love,

"I'm Not Sure Whether to Be Frightened by Your Schedule or Impressed by Your Dedication"

That quote came courtesy of Jon, upon realizing I woke up Monday morning at 6am to make it to a 6:30am spin class after going to bed at 1am. Well, Jon, this triathlon's not going to swim, bike, and run itself, and as I've mentioned in previous postings, I tend to revel in the early-morning Rocky-style workouts which, in the last week, have involved trips to Chelsea Piers for which I ran two miles across town before dawn, as well as the aforementioned 6:30 spin class, followed by another 20 minutes on the bike.

The Team In Training runs for the last two weekends have been somewhat intense - not because of the workout, mind you (our coaches have a better sense than I do of how hard we should be pushing at this time), but because of the frigid temps we've been training in. How cold was it? Well, the bike option was cancelled because they don't encourage cycling when it's under 30 degrees outside. Yeah.

The first of the last two Saturday workouts was a 30-minute out-and-back with an extra 10 minutes out-and-back for those crazy long-course Wildflower folks (i.e. me). As we turned to the traverse at 72nd street, the coaches decided to work some stairs into the mix with 5 sets for the group. Then, at each traffic light we passed (there are about 10), we were stopped and required to do a set of squats or lunges. A tough workout by any standards but me being, well, me, I also decided to run home for a total of 7 miles.

The second Saturday, the bike was again cancelled. Brrr. I warmed up on the way to the park with an easy 3-miler, and then joined the group for a 30-minute out-and-back, followed by a bike clinic at a nearby shop where we learned how to change a flat, were taught what to wear on the ride (in case you're wondering what to get me for Hannukah, I need a cycle jacket. Thanks!), and were schooled on the importance of leg warmers (think Lance Armstrong, not Jennifer Beals) for those in-between weather days.

In between, I've been doing my best to work on what I think is the scariest part of the tri: the swimming. With swim practices not starting until January, I have employed the very scientific method of learning by watching YouTube videos, trying to copy the technique of the really good swimmers in the pool with me, and harassing Marissa until she came to the pool with me to critique my style. I'm up to 60 laps with some drills suggested by our coaches. 74 laps = a mile, so I'm on my way!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joe Kleinerman 10K with a Pair of Kleins

Before a recap of the week's workouts, I should backtrack to mention an awesome race I did on 12/6. The race by itself isn't particularly noteworthy: 10k around Central Park. What made it amazing, was that my mom and stepdad ran the race as well. What made it even more amazing was their decision to do it with Team In Training, raising $500+ each for the cause.

We met at the start line at 7:30am, all of us tugging at our purple tees to ensure they fit over multiple layers of warm clothes. I'd like to think I made my Jewish parents especially proud that day by completing my look with a santa hat.

I raced solo at my own pace to the soundtrack of "merry christmas" comments from fellow runners (coming out sometimes as a grunt, sometimes as an excited shriek, depending on their levels of exhaustion). At the finish, I turned around and doubled back along the course to shout words of encouragement to Sari (racing her first 10k!) and to run my mom and George to the finish line. By the time I reached them, they were moving at a fantastic pace and were still sporting smiles!

This marks the third race I've done with my mom (well, fourth if you count the Advil Mini Marathon - more accurately a few miles - we did when I was in middle school), and second with my stepdad, and the very first time we've all done one together.

I couldn't be more proud!

Adorable, no?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Did You Join Team In Training? Well...

"I have a wildly innacurate understanding of my physical limitations."

That was my response to the seemingly simple question on TNT's "Get to Know Me" form: Why did you join Team In Training.

And it's true. As mentioned in the last post, I'm not entirely in tune with my body when it comes to understanding its limits for exercise (or cookies for that matter, but that's another post entirely). I've run myself into at least 4 (diagnosed) stress fractures. Me and my 5'3" 115lb body decided it was an excellent idea to play roller derby for a year. Downhill skiing wasn't tough enough so I opted for telemarking (essentially cross-country skiing downhill, or, as I like to call it, downhill walking lunges for 7 hours). After four marathons, I decided to do a triathlon last year. I also decided it was a great idea to train myself.

All this to say, I'm grateful for the TNT schedule of workouts to ensure I remember that two-a-days are not necessary and that yes, there is time to properly learn everything instead of, say, jumping in the pool and swimming a mile on day 1.

Last Saturday's workout started with a lesson about proper running apparel and riding technique. Biking lesson #1 (self-taught): a tee shirt and a thin running jacket are not appropriate apparel for a 30-degree ride. The workout was a frigid bike ride around Central Park for 1.5 hours, but lovely in that our coaches were waiting at the end of each loop to watch our form and pace.

On Monday, rather than just throwing us in the pool and yelling "swim, Phelps!", the coaches spent time walking us through drills including "sculling." I have determined that sculling is a cruel joke and/or hazing ritual of the coaches. Essentially it involves lying face down in the water with a buoy between your legs and trying to get from one end of the pool to the other by moving only your forearms and wrists. That is to say, it gets you absolutely nowhere fast. For the entire first lap I was positive that if I looked up I'd see all the coaches snickering and pointing at the new kids.

Since I wasn't able to make the Wednesday practice, the rest of the week's workouts were drawn from the coach-provided calendar and included another solo swim and a few runs, meaning that, for the first time since I've been training for any event, I seem to be exercising proper restraint.

Here's hoping that next time I can answer that Get to Know Me question with a sunnier: Because I have a perfectly reasonable understanding of my physical abilities... but I'm going to train for this endurance event anyway.