What Motivates You?

It’s 4:30am, and my alarm is going off for the third time. I set it for three different times in case I accidentally turn one of the alarms off. 4:03am. 4:20am (because it’s funny for this former high school teacher who’s students got a kick out of this particular number and begged to write the date on the board). 4:27am. I choose weird times so my brain doesn’t know when to expect the early wake up.

It doesn’t matter. I’m up at 3:50am.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to stay up way past midnight and get up no earlier than 8:00am. That’s all changed with trying to fit in triathlon training around family and work schedules. Getting up early ensures that I get at least one of my two to three workouts for the day completed.

So, how do I motivate myself? Lots of ways! Please add some comments below and tell me how you motivate yourself to workout early in the morning, after work, or even late at night:

  1. I lie to myself. “It’s not that early.”
  2. New gear helps: “I get to wear my new swimsuit today!” Woohoo! Or, “I get to test out my new shoes, watch, tights, shirt, hat…”
  3. I joined US Masters Swimming, so my coach and teammates will wonder where I am if I miss a practice.
  4. I organize a 5am Meet Up run, so I know my running buddy is waiting for me on the corner at 4:45am in order to run up to the meet up location. No kidding. I used to think 6am was early.
  5. I get to show off my race gear. Yeah, I like to silently brag while wearing my Ironman Maryland cap.
  6. Strava will show that I didn’t train today.
  7. My friends on Garmin will rack up more miles than I did.
  8. I can go to Starbucks later and get a mocha and not feel that bad about it.
  9. I have a race or event to train for, and if I don’t workout, I won’t be ready.
  10. I can watch the sun rise while I run.
  11. I can run or bike through a new neighborhood or check out a new trail.
  12. I overcome my fears and know that anything is possible, especially in the open water.
  13. I meet the best people through triathlon and running.
  14. I can post another swim, bike, or run post on Facebook because that’s what I do all the time besides writing, reading, gardening, doing crafts, drinking decaf coffee, eating chocolate, or driving the kiddo to gymnastics.
  15. I am going to realize my dream of kicking butt into my 90s. Keep moving!

What motivates you? Leave a comment below!

Almost 2019

Darkness arrives unannounced just as I begin to make dinner. I didn’t ask darkness to come over or darkness’ friend, freezing cold weather, but they sat down at the table anyway so I set extra places because what could I do? Shortly after dinner I fall asleep on the sofa under a blanket because it seems like it’s been midnight since six o’clock this evening even though I know it’s not, yet I don’t want to go to bed before 7pm or do the strength workout I had planned. And, on top of all of this, my 5am morning swim seems to have happened yesterday because it seems so long ago.

All motivation disappears after dinner under that blanket. I want to eat mac and cheese and chocolate chip cookies all day with a mocha to drink.

If many of you are feeling like this, please give yourself a break and peek out from under your blanket, especially as New Year’s approaches with resolutions that seem to negate all the things you’ve done in 2018 in the hopes that you will be a better you in 2019. Remember, you are perfect as you are right now. Always. Even if you are like me on the sofa and not at the gym right now.

In fact, if you’re going to make any resolutions, I suggest changing the way you talk to yourself during training:

Instead of: I’m trying to survive the swim and not drown.

Say: I am learning how to swim more efficiently.

Instead of: I am terrified of riding my bike.

Say: I am practicing my bike handling skills often. 

Instead of: I’m a slow runner. (one of my own that my coach told me to never say)

Say: I am working to improve my speed in running.

Besides changing the way you talk to yourself, start planning out your race year with family and work in mind. I cut way back on what I normally do because I’ve been feeling burnt out lately. I decided that this year is the year that I will do at least one distance swim of 2.8 miles (maybe a 5K swim), improve my times in the sprint and Olympic distance triathlon, and maybe do a 70.3 near the end of the season with the goal of a possible PR. The swim is my big goal, and if I don’t PR in the other distances, I’m OK with that. I train for one thing at a time. I’m committed to three races, but I might do five events, and I chose local races to save on travel costs (2018 was an expensive year with the Ironman, hotels, and travel).

*1. Fort Ritchie Swim Fest-2.8 mile swim or 4500 meters in a lake, May 2019, splitting an Air B and B with my BFF from high school who’s also swimming!

*2. Philly Women’s Tri-sprint distance, July 2019–near me, no hotel needed.

3. Tri AC-Olympic distance, August 2019??? I might do this with my swimming friend…

*4. Waterman’s Triathlon Festival 70.3, September 2019, staying at my triathlon friend’s house three hours away.

5. Richmond Marathon–not a definite…yet., November 2019–Phil and I LOVE this marathon and have run it three times.

All of this takes into account time to visit family and friends, our family’s work schedule, my daughter’s camps, and family time at home.

If you’re short on funds, organize a fun swim, bike, or run with your friends with a plan to meet at a restaurant so that it has the same feeling as a race without the cost or travel. Plan within your budget and look for off-brand races, choose one big goal, and change the way you talk to yourself. Now, when darkness comes over for dinner, you’ll be focused on where you are now and looking to the light of summer. You will see improvement. No resolutions necessary.

Holiday Swim Workouts

12 Days of Christmas Workout

1×300 swim
2×50 drill
3x100s Individual Medley
4x100s as swim, kick, pull, swim
5x50s sprints on 1:00
6x75s IMO (no free) kick, drill, swim by 25s
7x100s on 2:00 FAP
8x25s as streamline kick and swim on :35
10x kicks for 3 strokes for 1×100
11x25s IMO with free
12x 10 seconds Vertical Kicking in deep end

Merry Christmas!

I’m late with Chanukah already over, but my athletes did do an 8 Days of Chanukah workout as well as a 12 Days of Christmas Workout. There are more holidays on the way, so why not do some of these fun workouts? I am already writing a New Year’s Workout! Happy Holidays!

8 Days of Chanukah Swim Workout

8x75s as kick/drill/swim by 25s

8x50s IMO as drill

8x25s as streamline kick/FAP free

8x150s as free/back/free by 50s on 2:30

8x75s free-build on 1:30

100 cool down

3100 yards total

Happy Holidays to all during the month of December!

Forget the Scale

I started taking measurements once I stopped taking a medication that was causing some weight gain even with Ironman training and cleaning up my diet. I reached a weight I never thought I would see, but there it was on the scale: 152 lbs. on my 5’4″ frame. 


I train over ten hours a week, so was all this extra weight disguised as muscle mass? My clothes started to get tight in all the wrong places, so that led me to believe that it was more than that: I was getting fat. But how? The weight kept tipping the scale over the last three years I had been on that medication, so it was time to reassess why I was taking it. 

The next day, I made an appointment with my doctor to discuss weaning myself off of the meds that caused my weight to slowly creep up. I also fished out the measuring tape deep in my sewing kit and measured my hips, waist, chest, biceps, and quads and wrote those down too. To keep myself from obsessing over these numbers and the scale, I decided to take the measurements once every three months. Then, I hid the scale deep under our bed so that I actually had to lie down and use a broomstick to retrieve it. 

And you know what? It worked. Since February of this year, I’ve lost 7 of the 15 pounds I gained over three years, but I’ve also lost over 13 inches. Even though the scale has yet to budge since August, and I’m stuck at 144-145 lbs. now, I still lost an additional two inches! What? 

So, the scale can take a hike. I’ll continue to log measurements once every three months to follow the muscle, and maybe check in with the dreaded scale to see if it too complies with the measurements… or not. Whatever you decide to do, remember that you are not a before or after, but are training your body for a race, swim, bike, or run. If you give your body time and appreciate it’s hard work instead of thinking you’re out of shape all the time, your body will see you through. You are perfect as you are right now. 

Post Ironman Blues

I’ve eaten too much leftover Halloween candy. Bia hasn’t moved from where I left her after the race, front tire askew against the basement wall. I dust off my bikes every now and then and spin the pedals, but they haven’t moved more than that. I feel like I’ve abandoned Ikaika and Bia. I struggle to go on a run because I’m sick and tired of feeling slow with faster runners passing me as they huff and puff up the hills on the trail. That’s when the “I don’t care” attitude sets in, and I pretend I wan’t passed.

Swimming and strength training have been my salvation at least, but I haven’t done much else. I love the water and hearing nothing but bubbles as I fly in between the lane lines. 

I haven’t signed up for any races next year as I’m staring at the winter wonderland outside my house while I type this, hot cocoa in hand after eating more than my fair share of the kid’s chocolate stash. I just don’t want to train for anything after being so focused the last two years on the half in 2017 and then the full Ironman in 2018. I’m done. Or D-U-N done because I’m too lazy to spell.

Post-race blues are real. And if you experience this, it’s totally normal. If you don’t, then you’re a freak of nature or something. So, to deal with these post-race blues, I plan to do the following: 

  1. Plan out my race schedule with family stuff in mind for next year. I’ll sign up in a few weeks to make it all official. 
  2. Be thankful that I can race and focus on strength training and doing what I love the most: swimming. 
  3. Take care of myself first. I already went to the doctor for an ongoing ear infection and saw a podiatrist about my foot issues. Rest and recover. 
  4. Enjoy the ability to bag a workout or put everything down to do something revolutionary like read a book while sipping cocoa, finish my painting, or finish revising my book for publication. 
  5. Give presents to others–this makes me really happy. 
I like brown paper packages and surprises. Keep checking back for freebies! 

Represent Women

I find numbers fascinating. One number that sticks in my head is 37. It’s not the answer to life, the universe, and everything like 42, but it’s the percent of female athletes in the sport of triathlon.

Thirty-seven percent. Women make up fifty-one percent of the population and have begun to dominate the running world, slowly at forty-four percent for the marathon distance; however, women make up for what they lack in numbers as seen in the recent New York City Marathon where American women performed better than expected with four U.S. women placing in the top ten. Shalane Flanagan placed third and got on the podium once again (last year, she placed first), which is a huge feat.

So, why only thirty-seven percent in triathlon? Gwen Jorgenson won gold in Rio in 2016 for triathlon, but didn’t seem to inspire lots of women to join the sport. As for cycling, women make up about 25% of riders, and for open water swimming women only make up 37%, the same as it is for the sport of triathlon. I can’t bear to look at the numbers for African Americans in triathlon: it’s .5% in case you’re wondering. POINT 5%. But that’s another post.

In the U.S., Title IX didn’t allow for girls’ teams until 1972, which kept my mom and the women who came before me from participating in organized sports–we had few role models because adult women we knew weren’t on any teams of any kind, didn’t run in road races, etc. Because of Title IX, I was on my high school’s first girls’ soccer team in 1992 when I was a junior in high school. We had swimming, track, and other sports, but soccer was late to the game even though we had a boys’s team prior to 1992. I’d like to say we’ve come a long way, but there is still a long way to go, especially in the sport of triathlon with only 37% participation for women.

What keeps women out of the sport? Intimidation? Time? Money? Work and family obligations? A bigger problem is that women currently in the sport don’t give themselves enough credit: women apologize before they even begin group rides or runs even though the guys don’t care.

This has to stop, and I know I’m guilty of this too. I often apologize for the few group rides I go on, not expecting anyone to wait for me. I let other swimmers go ahead of me in a lane even though I may be faster. I pick up the rear in runs when I want to give up. I plan to change these attitudes about the three disciplines with myself, and I would love to see other women stop apologizing, get some more friends, and get into the sport so that we represent ourselves properly. Maybe then that 37% will go up to 51% like it should.

Together We Are Strong

Greek Girl Runs will now be V Formation Multisport. So, why the name change? I started out coaching runners, and now I also coach triathletes, and the new name includes all of that.

I’ll reveal the new logo soon, but here is the back story to the new name:

During the swim of Ironman Maryland, the wind picked up the waves, creating a chop. I felt my body go up and down with the swells moving to shore. My wetsuit choked me, making breathing difficult, so I flipped over on my back to steady my breath and look at the sky. A few swimmers splashed me as they passed; I glanced around to spot the kayaks or paddle boards to see how far they were in case I decided to quit. The usual fears invaded my mind–fears of sea life, getting kicked by other athletes, sinking to the bottom without a trace…

But, I couldn’t quit. I am lucky to be able to compete in an Ironman, and I have so many people tracking me at home while my family is waiting at the swim finish. I imagined all of them, near and far as a giant V extending behind me–so they all came with me like an unstoppable wave, and I was at the top, cutting through the brackish waters of the Choptank River.

I held onto that image for the rest of the race and brought it to mind when I could no longer sit on my bike, when my stomach refused to take more food, when I thought I was going to pass out on the run course, and when I thought I was alone in the dark– I knew that wasn’t true: a whole team of people was right behind me.

None of us do anything alone, and the V Formation is proof of that: Geese use it to bear the brunt of the wind, cyclists draft off of teammates and take turns riding ahead, and even the Nike runners used it in Breaking 2 for the attempt at breaking the two hour marathon barrier.

The V Formation is strong, and it works. Because if we work together, great things can happen. I look forward to continuing to train my current athletes with this philosophy, and I always welcome new athletes. Together we are strong. Send me an email to get started: laurie@vformationmultisport.com

Ironman Maryland

While running the marathon of the Ironman, two runners asked me why I was doing this. I can’t remember if I asked them why they too were completing an Ironman or not because that would have been polite (and I was beyond polite at the time).  My memory is foggy at best through the delirium I experienced on the run, but I remember replying to each one of them: “I just don’t know; I should have that answer in a week.” So, if you’re looking for an inspirational blog post about my revelations before, during, and after Ironman Maryland: this is not that kind of post.

And, It’s been a week.

Well, more than that, and I still don’t have an answer to that question. But I do know that I would like to do another. Maybe I’m just out to punish my body– to escape responsibilities in exchange for training– to wake up at 4am to train — to ride for hours on end on Saturdays– to swim endless laps in the pool staring at the black line (actually, I like this part)– or swimming loops around swim buoys in a lake for hours, flicking seaweed away– to run on exhausted legs every. single. day. where every run is absolutely a punishment and all of your running friends leave you behind— or worse– to ride for over five hours on a trainer.

Not all training is grueling. I’ve met some Ironmen who have trained with me on the bike or run, and I adore the masters swim team I train with three times a week, and I’ve met the BEST people while preparing for the Ironman.

In any case, here’s my Ironman story. It’s not pretty, but neither is the Ironman.

Four hours from Chattanooga, Lacey sends me a text: “The swim is cancelled; I’m so pissed.” She was checking in on Thursday for Sunday’s race while I was in the car en route. My heart sank. I was devastated: a year’s worth of training and now the swim is cancelled? How can I call myself an Ironman (silly, I know) if I don’t do the swim? The swim is my best sport of the three. With the new staggered time trial bike start for Chattanooga, I wasn’t sure if I would make the bike cutoff, or if I would get pulled from the course at some point. I vented my frustration on Facebook and to my friend, Catrina, racing in Maryland. Lacey received many of these texts too. Catrina sent a message saying that the race director for Ironman Maryland is doing walk-up registrations on Friday from 10am-1pm and that I should consider changing course and race Ironman Maryland instead. There were 30 slots available.

For many of you who do Ironmans, a walk-up registration the day prior to the race is almost unheard of. Phil and I deliberated in the car for over an hour while parked at a gas station four hours from Chattanooga. I texted family and friends and talked to Cathy for awhile. We decided to take the chance and drive to Maryland. It was five o’clock on Thursday, and we pulled into Cambridge, MD by midnight.

The next day, Phil and Sophia slept in while I drove to the transition area for Ironman Maryland. I arrived by 8am and started asking around about the walk-up registration. One volunteer didn’t think they were doing that–it couldn’t be! I was still determined and hung around, watching athletes practice their swim in the Choptank River. I spoke to anyone who would listen and felt like a total outsider. I didn’t belong here. What was I thinking? Did I throw away Chattanooga for nothing?

I headed to the bike in/out for transition when I noticed more activity. An athlete there spoke to me and mentioned that the race director, Gerry, was the guy in the pick up truck right next to me. He knocked on the window, and Gerry eased my concerns when he said that they are doing walk up registrations at 10am where they were setting up tents. Finally! I hugged Gerry too! I was able to sign up, got my green Ironman band, and then proceeded to panic since I had to race on Saturday instead of Sunday. I had to get all of my gear ready and dropped off by tomorrow. Back to the hotel!

Race day came before I knew it. Phil drove me to transition while Sophia stayed with his parents (they were kind enough to head to MD to watch the race after being so close to Chattanooga). I handed my gear and special needs bags to the volunteers and carried my swim bag to the swim start where I still needed to get a timing chip, or this whole thing would really be for nothing. While waiting for volunteers, I forced myself to eat something more, but ended up dry heaving in a trash can near the swim start. I found Catrina and Dylan and calmed down chatting with them and getting my wetsuit on. Soon, Catrina and I lined up for the swim ready to go.

In the corral, I talked to experienced Ironmen and calmed down again. I was ready and still had to pee, which I couldn’t possibly do in my wetsuit. All of that vanished in the rolling swim start–I got my head wet, adjusted my goggles, and swam for the buoys, one at a time. Waves lifted me up and down as I swam forward. My wetsuit felt tight around my neck despite cutting it lower. I flipped over on my back three times before the first turn buoy 500 meters away just to breathe. I thought about quitting and searched for a kayaker. The waves were choppy enough that sighting was difficult, but I told myself I am a good swimmer, I won’t drown, and I have a wave of people who support me coming along for this race. I closed my eyes and pictured all of them following me like geese in formation. I am not alone. I held this image throughout the swim for all 2.4 miles. Whenever I hit sea nettles with my hands that bubbled up from the deep, I pictured my friends and family with me. As I prepared to exit the swim, my calves seized up, and I wan’t sure if I would be able to stand let alone ride my bike. I flexed my feet to stretch out before getting out of the water, which seemed to help.

In the changing tent, a volunteer helped me with my cycling gear while I drank a protein shake, swallowed a salt stick capsule, and ate some gummies. I found a port-o-potty on the way to my bike. Phil found me and cheered me on while I ran with my bike to bike out.

The bike course was fast, flat, and windy. So many cyclists passed me in the beginning, but I stuck to my plan and held my pace and heart rate to prevent burning out later in the race: I ate every forty-five minutes, drank a bottle of Tailwind every hour, and stopped to pee. Around mile 50, I knew I was going to have GI issues, so I stopped again, ate a banana every time my fingers tingled–that happened three times on the ride. Overall, I thought I was going to be OK for the run. By mile 70, I could no longer sit on my saddle and adjusted my position every few minutes. I sang songs out loud to myself and passing cyclists. Wind pushed me around when I was in aero, but I tried to enjoy all of it–even the last 42 miles of wind, wind, and more wind. I smiled for the sports photographer, watched a blue heron land, and traced the ripples on the water as I rode by. I wanted to be here, and I’m lucky to be here.

As I entered transition to prepare for the run, I saw my support crew, which made me feel really happy. I started the run strong with the intent to walk as needed. My stomach was still uneasy, but I ate some pretzels and drank some Gatorade Endurance upon leaving transition. I felt good. Bring on the 26.2 miles!

The first 8 miles went well, then GI issues were back in full force. I went through cycles of feeling hungry, dizzy, and dry heaving, to full for a few minutes, followed by severe stomach cramping that stopped me in my tracks. By mile 16, I could no longer run because of my stomach. All I could eat was chicken broth, pretzels, and water. The aid station made me want to vomit with its cookies, gels, bars, and Gatorade. Just give me chicken broth, please.

The cycle of nausea, temporary relief, and stomach cramps stayed with me for the rest of the marathon. I saw Catrina and Dan twice on the run through some of the most desolate sections of the course–seeing them gave me the motivation to keep going. I tried to speed walk, did calculations in my head to see if I would make the cut offs, felt utterly alone in the darkness when the crowds went home, and when my friends were ahead of me. If I passed out, who would find me? Should I go to medical? All would be lost if I did that, so I continued anyway. At the last turn around, the bright lights made me dizzy, so I looked at the blood orange moon instead. I heard Mike Reilly calling out names of athletes who finished, and I desperately wanted to get to that red carpet.

I passed the last cut off, so I could walk if I needed to. This was such a relief. I heard a song that reminded me of Sophia’s friend, Hope, who beat cancer, and began crying as I ran to the last turn around. How many people are able to do this? How many people have the financial means to do so? How many people have the luxury to train and the family support behind them? I walked faster and maybe even ran. I don’t remember.

After the last turn around, I started to see people behind me, which made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Thank goodness. At the last aid station, I ate an orange, possibly the best orange I’ve ever tasted and kept speed walking. When I hit that red carpet, “Stayin’ Alive” was blasting from the speakers, I sang, I danced, I shook Mike Reilly’s hand, and I became an Ironman.

To answer that question about why I was doing all of this, it’s because the challenge is there, and I can.

Thank you to my coach, Mary Kelley, without whom none of this would have been possible. She make schedule changes, told me when to take a break, and pushed me when I needed it. Thank you to Phil and Sophia for putting up with all of my training days, cleaning the house, cooking dinner while I napped, and for being supportive even when I was hangry, which was all the time. Thank you to my family who had to work around my training while I visited and watched Sophia on the long rides–I took my bike everywhere I traveled this past summer. Thank you to Jan and Clint for driving to Maryland to watch me race and to Aunt Nancy for making so many phone calls to secure lodging in Cambridge. Thank you to Friends Central Masters Swim Team, coached by Kerry, for making me faster and for the friendships there. Thank you to all of the Ironmen I know: Cathy, who got me into this sport in the first place, Dan, Mary, Mary, Lacey, Amajit, Lou, Catrina, Dylan, Bill, Sue, Steele, and John. For being .01% of the world’s population who have completed an Ironman, I know a lot of you! Thank you to all of my running friends near and far: Kim, Marianne, Caroline, Gene, Mira (my running twin), Jen, Megan, Hua, Kelly, and the running pups: Moose, Marla, and Packer! Thank you to my friends all over the place who never doubted that I could do it–Becky, Vince, Angela, and Amanda. I’m sure I missed someone, so thank you everyone!

Surry Century Ride

SurryCentury

The Surry Century Ride on September 8 was my second century ride of the summer while training for Ironman Chattanooga. My friend, Catrina, suggested the ride because it was perfect timing in our training schedules–she’s training for Ironman Maryland the day before Ironman Chattanooga.

This ride is in it’s 26th year in rural Surry, Virginia on rolling country roads through lush farmland. Compared to my last century on July 28, I would have to say that this one was a success: I didn’t get hit by a car, I didn’t get lost, and I didn’t get a flat. And I finished all 102.41 miles of the three loop course.

The three loops for the full century was an ingenious idea compared to one incredibly large 100 mile loop because after each loop, I could return to my car to get anything else I might need, fill up on more food, or refill my water bottles. The first loop was 50 miles, the second was 28 miles, and the last loop was 23, which made tackling all 100 miles mentally manageable. The long 50 mile loop had three rest stops, and the two shorter loops had one rest stop half way through the ride. All of the stops were well-stocked with homemade and store-bought goodies: the banana pudding was a favorite.

My goal for the ride was to keep my heart rate in check. Sure, I could have gone faster, but for the Ironman, I must be in zones 1-2, and that’s exactly what I did. I averaged 14.7 mph for the full century– all despite the hills, a headache that began around the three hour mark and intensified, menstrual cramps that made me want to double over the on bike, and hot and humid conditions. Even though I kept getting blasted by bursts of hot wind over the fields, my heart rate stayed within the required zones. I’ll call that a win! My speed for zones 1-2 used to be in the 12-13 mph range, but now I’m close to 15mph for a century in the heat and humidity with some hills thrown in. Let’s just say that I am pleased. I could have easily gone the 14 miles more that are in Ironman Chattanooga’s bike course, and I would still have time to enjoy the full marathon run afterwards. Because I can run on tired legs for pretty much forever.

I made sure that I fully enjoyed this ride: I rode with five guys riding in a pace line, maintaining 17 mph and weaving in between the tires, I rode slowly with some single riders needing a boost, and near the end I made sure to ride in aero to cut through the relentless wind while going uphill without a care in the world for my speed.

Thank you to those pace guys who let me join them for awhile and were confident that I could keep up–the Star Trek jersey one of you wore was perfect. Thank you to Arnett who was a pink beacon of hope in the distance when I saw absolutely no one else on the second loop through Chippokes Plantation State Park and thought a bear and her cubs would come lumbering out of the woods; I’m glad I caught up to you! Thank you to one of the ride organizers who rode me into the finish and chatted the whole time.  Thank you to Michael who could read the cue sheet expertly while riding and made sure we were on course. A BIG thank you to Catrina for recommending the ride and for keeping me on the right track at the very beginning  (you rocked those hills and rode FAST). And, thank you to Phil and Sophia who support me through all of this crazy Ironman training. No one does anything alone. Ever.

USAT Nationals

 

Cleveland is my home town, so when USAT decided to hold Nationals for 2018 there, I was beyond thrilled. Two of my athletes were also competing as well, which meant that a trip to Cleveland was in order.

If I’m not participating, I love to be a spectator for these events. The weather leading up to Nationals looked iffy at best with thunderstorms in the forecast, but by race day the skies cleared, and the Lake was deemed safe for swimming after high bacteria levels from storms forced beach closures on Tuesday.

At 7am on race morning, the water was calm like glass. That quickly changed–winds picked up and hacked at the smooth surface, creating greater than two foot choppy conditions far away from shore where athletes cut through the water. Sighting with water slamming your face from every direction is nearly impossible, yet the swim went on for over two hours with staggered heats to prevent bike traffic and congestion on course.

I set up the app to track my athletes, got coffee, and sat down on the rocks near the Lake to watch the swim. From the rocks, I could see where the bike and run courses seemed to overlap from the Shoreway to the trails below, which made this event very spectator-friendly. The Lake was clear from my vantage point revealing the rocks hidden below. But don’t let the calmness fool you–Lake Erie is one of the most treacherous of all the Great Lakes with an average depth of 55 feet and a max of 210 feet combined with a nasty undertow that has pulled many swimmers offshore and has swallowed numerous ships en route to interior ports. One man from Oklahoma died during the race and was found floating at the surface, rendering CPR useless. He was pulled out by the US Coast Guard who did their best to resuscitate him. (I didn’t find out about this until after I got home since I was already waiting for one of my athletes to exit the water).

Because of the location at Edgewater Beach, I was able to see each of my athletes finish the swim and locate them on the bike and run course. This was a challenging race with one of the hardest swims I’ve ever seen combined with hills on the bike and run. Athletes who competed in this event are tough, just like the city of Cleveland.

Cleveland is the kind of town that gets up when it’s knocked down, and this event is part of the revitalization of this rust-belt city.  I hope that all of the athletes enjoyed Nationals, despite its challenges and tragedy, and will come back to visit the city to appreciate its museums, especially the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, the restaurants, the West Side Market, Playhouse Square, and much more. If you are an athlete visiting the city of Cleveland, bring your gear! Cleveland has hundreds of miles of trails and roads through the Cleveland Metroparks and along the Towpath for the Ohio and Erie Canal. I’m happy that USAT chose Cleveland to host Nationals, and I’m proud to be born and raised in this great city.

Congratulations to my athletes for competing in a tough race with the best in the nation!

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