Swim bike run: I’m now a triathlete

I met Michael Alcamo when I joined The Dashing Whippets Running Team and I quickly got the memo that he convinces lots of the runners to attempt a triathlon. It wasn’t long before I was one of those runners.

 

I entertained the idea slightly. However despite being a certified scuba diver, I didn’t feel comfortable competing with my swimming ability, or lack thereof. I quickly made the excuse that I didn’t have swimming techniques. He kept at it at almost every conversation. He was passionate about these. An Ironman triathlon was way beyond what I imagined for myself personally, still is but you never know.

 

I had a bike. I loved cycling. My dad is a competitive cyclist. Maybe I have it in my DNA? Surely something Michael mentioned also. Again, worried about my swimming I decided to start adding pool time to my training schedule. I obsessively watched YouTube and Michael shared the video of the most graceful swimmer, it took my breath away:

 

I figured I’d try mimicking the strokes in the water myself. I mean, how difficult could this be!? I took to the pool with some past coworkers and realized my capabilities quickly. After all, all that’s required for scuba diving is treading in water and swimming the size of a football field… All requirements that didn’t scream efficiency.

 

One day a lifeguard on duty at the pool was bored so I convinced him to teach me techniques and he happened to also be a swimming instructor. I quickly hired him. When he gave me a demo of how he swam, it almost brought me to tears. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in life. As the months progressed I realized how much swimming affected my recovery while running. It was amazing. Still unconvinced that I was an efficient swimmer, I met a woman well into her 70s at the pool who explained that the difference between a good swimmer and a bad swimmer. She said it’s really the amount of effort that they make in the water. I took that to heart. As the weeks went by, random people started complimenting my swims. Was I that great of a swimmer? I just enjoyed it as I became more and more comfortable in the water. I still compare myself as I watched others train at the pool. My swims were certainly more seamless, well, according to my GoPro when I recorded.

 

I still had hopes of swimming like the guy, Shinji Takeuchi, in the video.

 

My swimming got so much more effortless. Still ignoring Michael’s request to do an Olympic triathlon, I signed up for more marathons and ultras in fear of venturing into tris. I was convinced I wouldn’t be ready for open water, especially since the first time I went into a pool without lanes, I got so disoriented.

 

Finally, last year while on vacation, I received an email from Michael showing me the Central Park triathlon. It’s a 1/4 miles swim, 12 mile bike and a 5k. It’s in a pool and around the park. All logistics that should make me feel completely comfortable. Fine, fine fine… I couldn’t get out of it. Credit card was charged. It seemed as if I could get away with it since it was for August 2nd, months after my furthest ultramarathon.

 

However, being the ambitious person I am. I also decided to add a marathon two weeks prior. Plenty of time to recover right?

 

Ready, not readyAs the months progressed I slowly added swimming back into my routine. I ensure that I could swim at least 1/4 mile in 15 minutes and it seemed like I was surpassing that even with lots of breaks in between. I’ll be ok. As the date drew closer and closer, I fell for a guy who had done a couple half ironman triathlon. I was given the opportunity to see him race out-of-town and I felt more comfortable once I realized that there were athletes of varying levels. Some were competing for the very first time. Some were doggie paddling in the way. Some looked like they had never swam before. I can so do this! I also started commuting to work, being quite lazy about my cycling training but I figured 12 miles would be a piece of cake. After all, it was the first triathlon, anything I do would be a PR.

 

The day of the triathlon I made it to Lasker Pool where I set up my bike, got the mandatory prep announcement and lined up to start swimming. There would be 6 lanes and we would do a serpentine route until we got to the end, back and forth across the pool. One by one, we were each called to get into the first lane. I saw a guy blatantly walking across the length (he didn’t even try to swim). I saw others swimming with their heads above the water and a woman doing breast stroke. I’d be ok. When I was called, I tried to get into rhythm. It’s a race, I couldn’t help but move a bit fast but I quickly assessed myself and slowed my pace. I’d make it up on the bike I figured. 10 minutes and 50 seconds later, I guess I predicted well I did put 11 minutes down as my time, I made it across the pool and jogged to my bike.

 

Bike seatAfter I got all my gear on, I got on my bike and started pedaling. I immediately realized that something was wrong. My seat felt loosened. It wasn’t like that when I first cycled over to the pool. My boyfriend was cheering on the sidelines telling me that my swimming looked good. I thanked him but shouted that there was something wrong with my seat. I cycled most of Harlem hill and got off to check. It was definitely loose. I couldn’t fix it. I’d have to make do. I got back on. I started balancing the seat all the way around the park. It definitely felt uncomfortable. I assume I’d deal with the aftermath of the pain later, like tomorrow when my crutch gets all sore. I pedaled strong regardless cringing each time I went over a bump. The last thing I’d want is for the seat to fall off and be impaled by the bike frame (can you imagine?) As I climbed I tried to keep up 20 mph and climbed to 35 on the flats. As I rounded the corner going back to the pool to make the full lap, I saw a group of cyclist in front of me, unable to pass, I slowed down and as soon as there was a clearing, a cyclist cut in front of me barely a foot ahead. “Asshole!” I screamed out.

 

As we came around the corner, a police car was parked on the side and the slow down signs were on the path. I silently wished he had ran into the car. I know, I know.

 

I didn’t see my bf anywhere but as I came up Harlem hill for the second time, I heard his voice encouraging me on. I told him that there was something wrong with my bike. I pedaled on and did the last lap of the park once more. Climbing as best I could and when I made it back to transition 2, my bike seat fell off completely. People gasped and I was simply relieved. I parked the bike and started making my way out realizing that I had my helmet on. I quickly tossed it at the gate and continued on my strongest activity: the run. I’d never been so proud of wearing my teams’ singlet because immediately there were cheers and people who were familiar with me, called out my name.

 

Bricks. Well, that’s what they felt like. Every step was agony. I made it up almost midway Harlem hill and quickly settled into a speedwalk. I had to keep pushing. I attempted to jog once more and each step felt challenging. I can’t believe people enjoy this form of torture. I quickly chuckled to myself and imagined that they probably would think marathons and ultras are insane. After all, this triathlon should be over in an hour and a half (the goal that I gave myself). I came to the halfway point and noticed I could potentially do this in less than half an hour. I wasn’t really going at that slow of a pace after all. Besides the quick walks to ease the pain developing on my calves, the sprints weren’t that bad. I was still moving at sub 8s. It still felt like agony and I still reminded myself I didn’t quite train for this. I had ran a marathon two weeks prior for goodness sakes! I came back to Harlem hill and heard my friend Sharon call out, she was pacing one of her teammates. It was great to see her but I had to relieve my legs again and started speed walking for the last time. I couldn’t allow myself to walk down Harlem Hill could I? I’m a better downhill runner. Good thing I hadn’t continued walking. I ran as best as I could and I saw my bf again. He was cheering and I told him that he couldn’t pace me as much as he wanted to, it’s not allowed. I fought through the last meters because I knew the end was close. I made it back to the pool and circled coming in, according to my Garmin, at 1:25:37 unofficial.

 

TriathleteWow I had made my goal! I was slightly hoping it was a bit off (as in, I made it faster than that time) when they called the awards later. I jumped into the pool and waded around a bit before heading over to the bike where I saw my bf. He congratulated me and I joined him for another mile, he had a training run that day. He acknowledged that I just did a triathlon and didn’t need to join him but I insisted. After all, it would be an hour before they called the winners. When I got back, I hadn’t placed but I realized that my time was actually pretty close to 3rd in my age group.

 

A few hours later, Michael posted to my wall that I had been too modest in my announcement of completing. Despite my broken seat, I placed 5th out of 17 in my age group and I ran the fastest (25:32—I was a Dashing Whippet after all—well, I love running).

 

I hadn’t even noticed that I was that close. My official time was 1:25:39. 4th place had been 1:25:29 and 3rd 1:25:07. Of course the competitive part in me has kicked myself for the past few days about the time of the race where I hopped off my bike, or when I stopped to walk instead of run. However, I’m reminding myself that my projected time had been a 1:30:00 goal which I had surpassed and this is my first triathlon, I had no real transition experience and I felt strong!

 

I’m now a triathlete!

 

Whoops, IRONMAN 70.3 Syracuse (Rochester?)

Over the weekend I was honoured to spectate the IRONMAN 70.3 Syracuse and watch a medal get earned by months of hard work and dedication by an incredible athlete. When I posted the hard-earned medal to my instagram feed after he was done, I failed to realize that the skyline wasn’t Syracuse but Rochester. I lived in Rochester for a few years for school (I went to the Rochester Institute of Technology) but hadn’t noticed. In fact, this is the article where John O’Brien made it known. “The scene depicts an arched suspension bridge over the Genesee River, which runs through downtown Rochester,” stated John, “A spokesman for the Ironman did not have an immediate explanation for the error this morning.”

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse(Photo of the medal taken by me, actually picked up by the Wall Street Journal as well)

I was very curious how this mishap happened so of course, I googled “Syracuse skyline” and this came up:

thumb

Even more curious, I clicked and it led to this website city-data.com which has a thread about the “Best Upstate Skyline.”

The photo led to this pic posted by “585WNY” with the caption: “Rochester: My personal favorite upstate. A Beautiful waterfront, a clean and modern looking downtown, nice architecture.”

Rochester

The photo that proceeded had, “Syracuse: Pretty nice skyline. The only problem with Syracuse is that there is a difficulty in getting a nice photo of the city”.

syracuse

Somehow I guess the research ended without anything being read. The designer probably assumed it was Syracuse, never having been there possibly, and the medal was created. It’s sort of understandable because The IRONMAN company is based in Florida.

John mentioned again, “The race started with a 1.2-mile swim in Jamesville Reservoir, then on to a 56-mile bike course that wound through Syracuse’s Highland Forest and parts of Onondaga, Madison and Cortland counties, and ended with 13.1-mile run in and out of Jamesville Beach County Park. It went nowhere near Rochester.”

There were a few things that was super peculiar about the race. However, we weren’t alerted ahead of time. Besides the weather being unpredictable, which does happen, the parking arrangement that seemingly went well that morning caused a 2+ hour delay upon exit. It poured so some cars got stuck on the field. Some athletes were also taken off the course when the storms started happening around 2pm and thankfully allowed to take their bikes 20 minutes earlier because of lightning.

 

How to choose a running team

I’ve mentioned my running team the Dashing Whippets Running Team a few times. If you’ve seen me run races, you will also notice that I usually wear their singlets—infact I mostly wear their singlet as my running uniform, if you want to call it that. Sure, I prefer my soloruns (I’m notorious for them even if I push others to join our team). However, I have those and I get to benefit the other factors of my life. I definitely believe that joining a running team is one of the best things that any runner can do to improve their running career. I just happen to be on one that is competitive.

Photo by Da Ping Luo
Photo by Da Ping Luo

I decided to write this entry because right now it is a significant part of my life for my realization that joining the Dashing Whippets has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. This is a celebration of the improvements that I’ve experienced in the past few weeks/months while running with my team.

The Dashing Whippets Running Team (DWRT) is the coolest running team in NYC

Fine, this is a bias statement because I have some amazing friends outside of my team that I adore. Some of them are in groups like the NY Flyers, Gotham City Runners, Harriers, Van Cortlandt, etc. However, I took my sweet time to figure out which team to join. During the Fall of 2013 I got an email from the Co-Founder and I took a month to research all that I could about the DWRT. A few things attracted me to the team: The Branding (because I’m a designer, is this a play on Boston Colours? Brilliant), The Name (who doesn’t love double entendres—Handsome and Fast), The Co-Founders (who wouldn’t want to learn how to run a sub 3 hour marathon?), The Cost (I could try it out for 90 days without any commitments and see where it went) and the fact that they had coaches and panels that I could learn from to help me improve also didn’t hurt. It’s been almost 2 years now and I feel the same about them. I’ve also improved significantly. I’ve ran 4 ultras, a few marathons, felt more efficient at races and met many female (the men are amazing also) runners that I absolutely admire and look up to. Present Day: I’ve seen the team grow into an amazing online presence: Website | Instagram | Facebook and gained popularity. That’s so incredible to be a part of.

What should you consider when joining a running team:
Photo by Ben Ko
Photo by Ben Ko
  1. Location — Thankfully the Whippets are located throughout the city so most of them try to meetup to do random runs besides our scheduled runs.
  2. Coaching — Each week our coach Scott B. sends us what we should be working on. Isn’t it great to know that you’re supposed to do “8-16 uphill runs of 200m at a pace that is slightly faster than 5K. Walk-jog back downhill after each to recover” than making it up without knowing what you’re training for? I think any running group that you join should have a coach that is certified so you could ask questions for anything that you’re training for. This is invaluable on my team. I’ve known too many runners who’ve gotten injured by terrible advice.
  3. Knowledge — According to how big your team is, someone has done a race that you’re interested in before. Nothing’s better than saying what my next race is and someone lets me know the 411 on the course, location, etc. Not to mention feeling confident that I can do a particular race because of solicited advice.
  4. Pace Groups — My team is a competitive one. There are workouts where someone would ask, “So, who’s running at a 6:30 pace today?” I look in awe and slowly inch back until my pace is called. The I’m assured that one day I just might raise my hand with them. Hey, anything is possible. The point is: There’s always someone who is going to be at your pace. Even if you start in the back, maybe someone is recovering from a race so they will pace you. You can certainly move up.
  5. Cheering — Some of us even travel to cheer. If not, someone usually sees my gear and yells “Whippet Good!” I’ll take it. Either way, your team cheers for you. Also, one of the most valuable things we have is amazing photography by some of our own runners!
  6. Comraderie — I get the best feeling when someone passes me or I pass by them and we say, “Great Job Whippet, Keep it going Whippet, You’ve got this Whippet…” You get the idea. At every race, it’s great to see each other in the same gear and possibly start with them. We also have fun outside of races… like drunken brunches… and beermiles… C’mon Running and Beer, two of my favourite things.
  7. Recommendations — Nothing better than have a live database of recommendations for the best Sports Doctors, Masseuses, Physical Therapists,
  8. Goals — Joining a running team fosters goals. When I first researched the DWRT, I wanted to know how to get as fast. Then it turned into how could I run far? How do I get strong? These days it’s how do I get to be the fastest woman in NYC (hey, you never know). The point is, my goals matured with time. I’m more practical with them. Actually, my current goal is to see how my body handles the next marathon and evolve from there.

Are you a part of a running team? Which one and why did you join?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Dashing Whippets Running Team.

What Rachel Dolezal did wasn’t blackface, it’s time to move on.

Rachel Dolezal on the Today Show (photo from CNN)
Rachel Dolezal on the Today Show (photo from CNN)

Sorry for this nonsensical rant but, can we move on from this Rachel topic? There is much much more going on in the world right now. I’m calling it what it is: a distraction.

Rachel would’ve never been a story if it wasn’t for this reporter who called her out on television. In fact, Rachel never wanted to be the story. Her parents were the ones who decided to call her out. I would probably question that angle.
How many people do you know lie like that want to be the center of attention? She was obviously avoiding the questions asked by the reporter when he called her out.
That is exactly what the problem is with social media. We have thousands of people being displaced in Dominican Republic yet we are worried about a woman who has tried to alter her skin color. Now the story is just becoming more and more ridiculous.
Rachel wasn’t trying to be black face. She wasn’t mocking any black people. I don’t see this any differently than someone wearing wigs or getting fake boobs. So, if she wants to be culturally black, why not? She blended into society, if not successfully. I’m not sure what her mental state is, but that’s something that she and her shrink should probably talk about. It’s not our jobs. If she so desires, she probably could take a 23andMe test (it shows I’m over 70% black).
It’s arguable that being black is the most difficult race you could be. How many people you have in your life have tried to be black-skinned intentionally? (Oh boy someone is going to mention tanning.)  She was fighting for human rights, and I admire that. God knows we black folks need a great deal of help outside of our race, especially now with the likes of the police brutalities. Now we no longer have Rachel to help in the Spokane NAACP. See what we did there.
Anyway since we’re on the topic of Rachel how does she get her hair to look like that? I need some tips!

Happy National Running Day, I run for…

…me.

This photo on the left is my first running bib. I had no idea what it would be like to run outdoors when I signed up for my first 5k in 2008. I ran it in 34 minutes. The 34 minutes doesn’t matter in retrospect all that because all I remembered was the feeling of my shoe against the asphalt, the people cheering on the sidelines and trying my best not to stop for the duration of it. In the end, I had an incredible feeling of accomplishment. I had ran my very first race.

It was one of the better things that happened to me that year. 2008 was the year that I lost my favourite person in the world. Even now, he comes to mind at every race. Running had been a way for me to cope with the forever changing events that year.

Years later, and thousands of miles, I’m still running.

These days I’m tracking the races that I do on ATHLINKS, not for the timing but the constant reminder that I wasn’t an athlete prior and the distance that I can cover wasn’t possible prior to that girl that I knew in 2008. After that 5k, I ambitiously signed up for a 10k (because that was the logical next step right?), where I got injured and it wasn’t until almost 2 years later I got brave enough to attempt and complete a half marathon (then got injured in that race).

Photo by Dashing Whippet's very own talented Ben Ko
Photo by Dashing Whippet’s very own talented Ben Ko

All throughout this journey, running was alien. However, 2011 set the stage. I decided not to give up on what was happening to my body (I still don’t). I decided to make running a part of my life, if not the most central focus. The past few years was to teach me a lesson on the various reasons why I run. Here they are!


I run for the camaraderie.
When I run, I know there’s hundreds of others who feel the benefits that I do.10989120_10101277698419165_3576929163478365667_n I even meet new friends.

I run to prove myself (and others) wrong. “I can’t even run a mile,”—yup, that was my excuse, and I’ve recently completed a 50-mile race. Every time I complete race, I’m still in awe. I know it’s very weird to do at this point but, I’m the only one who feels what happens to my body.

I run to be happy. It’s definitely about the endorphins. When I’m cranky, just tell me to go run, watch my mood change. However, be careful, my best decisions are made when I’m running.

I run to meditate. As someone who barely has patience to do yoga, I love spending the hours by myself on a run just clearing my mind and focusing on what is happening just where my feet lands. Running is perfect for me.

I run to discover new places. Whether it’s seeing new places in my neighbourhood or traveling to a city I’ve never been like San Diego, San Francisco, Miami, Key West, Puerto Rico to log some miles with my running shoes… it’s a vacation well spent.

I run to keep me grounded. Everyone is different, one shoe doesn’t fit all. My first and foremost reason for running is unfamiliar territory. I learn something new from every mile logged (today, I learned that my favourite time is when the sun rises and the temperature falling somewhere in the 50s Fahrenheit). I lose my ego on my runs because I’ve witnessed the best, fastest, and strongest runners passing away, getting unrepairable injuries, getting slower over time etc. Anything can happen. I can only run for myself, it starts with me and I can only enjoy the now while I can.

I run to share it on social networks. Yup, you will hear about it.

I run because I want to run for life. After reading about the woman in her 90s who completed a recent marathon. I can’t help but hope if I get to that age, that I’m still strapping up a vintage brand of shoe (because I purchase lots of the same that I love) and running 5 miles to start my day.

Happy National Running Day! Tell me why you run.