What an (Iron)woman!

Over the weekend, I watched a friend and colleague achieve an impressive long-term goal. Those of you who already follow me on twitter know my news: Jessica is a half-IRONWOMAN!

That’s right. Jessica set her sights on her goal and worked steadily toward the prize, which in this case was among one of the coolest, greenest medals I have seen in a long time.

20130715-125808.jpgYes, those are bicycle gears. What an incredible medal!

For folks not familiar with Ironman and half-Ironman races, this was the Musselman. The triathlon includes a 1.2-mile swim in Seneca Lake, a 56-mile bike ride in the northern Finger Lakes and a half-marathon (run) in and around Geneva, New York.

I headed to Geneva Saturday afternoon and quickly met up with Jessica, who had headed to the race site one day earlier. Despite what she may say, she appeared to be pretty calm about her pending race the following morning.

At dinner that night, we learned that a local man, Michael Coyle of Irondequoit, died from injuries he suffered in a crash while racing the mini-Mussel, a sprint triathlon that was part of Musselman weekend. We were shocked. Race organizers announced the news and told everyone they would hold the Sunday race as scheduled.

I won’t give you a detailed rundown of Sunday — Jessica is going to share her thoughts with you all next week! Instead, I’m going to share a few high-lights and photos.

First: Here’s a cool Storify of tweets from race weekend! You might recognize my name — as a few of my tweets are in there.

The day was incredible. We arrived shortly after sunrise and were greeted to this stellar view:

20130715-183711.jpgSunrise in Seneca Lake State Park

I managed to catch Jessica at each of her transitions. The swim to bike and the bike to run, and again at the end. Here’s my fave pic:

20130715-183903.jpgJessica waves and smiles as she bolts from the water

I brought my phone charger and found a plug. As a result, I could tweet like a madwoman. And I did.

Saw and chatted with a few friends from Rochester as they cheered along others and volunteered.

I spent a good chunk of time lying by the lake. Ah. What a day.

20130715-184156.jpgWhat a view (and my legs look huge)

And I managed to snap a shot of the race winner Doug MacLean of Ithaca. He was impressive to watch (and fun to chat with later!). Congrats Doug!

I had a lot of down time while Jessica rode her bike so I volunteered in the food tent. One woman donated more than 1,000 HOMEMADE chocolate chip cookies for the athletes.

(Side note- Red Jacket Orchards apple juice is incredible. Tri it. Haha, I’m funny.)

20130715-124457.jpgSee? My shirt and pin.

I’ve never been thanked by so many people in my life. You are welcome. You are all the inspiration.

Check back to Scoot next week for a recap of Jessica’s race!

Have you ever considered or completed a triathlon? What entices you? What scares you? Tell us in the comments!

Guest Post: Jessica’s first TRI is in the books

We run because we love it.

You’re lucky if you never reach that day where that Wednesday tempo run on your training schedule starts sounding about as fun as scrubbing mold out of that water bottle you forgot to rinse, but it happened to me last summer.

Three marathons in, running stopped being fun, but quitting wasn’t an option. I was starting the process toward my fourth 26.2, and my heart wasn’t in it.

So as my job was bringing me to Rochester, New York, I changed things up, and Sunday evening I typed the words into my blog: I am a TRIATHLETE. (Related: I am a duathlete and I am a marathoner).

If all goes as planned, on July 14, I will be a half-iron lady.

I’m thrilled not only by my results but by the fact that I felt SO prepared, thanks to a great group of friends who advised me


The deets: Overall time – 1:47:21; 820 yard swim – 24:00; T1 – 3:12; 13.6 mile bike – 50:00; T2 – 2:00; 3.1 mile run- 27:40. I finished 168 of 260 overall, and 12 of 20 in my age group.

(Note: This is the cleaned up and shortened version of this blog. Click here for the exhausted, rambling, Keuka Lake Riesling-induced version.)

(Another note: Thinking about a tri? Read all the way toward the bottom, where I offer some tips.)


When I started this madness I thought I could get away with a one piece and a hybrid. By the time I got done loading my road bike, my wetsuit, clips and the other goodies into my car, my trunk looked like this. Remind me never to call running expensive and equipment intensive again.


I stayed in the dorms at Keuka College. Saturday night I sat on the same dock I’d be spotting the next morning from the distance. Could I actually do this? I was out of bed before 6 the next morning, set up my transition using tips from the wonderful coach Mary Eggers. I made my first rookie mistake, I left to stretch, forgot transition closed an hour before my wave, and had to ask the transition crew to hand me my swim stuff, giving them the “it’s my first time” smile.


At Mary’s clinic the previous day, she told us horror stories of open water competition that left me wondering if I should have done less lap-swimming and more aqua kickboxing.

With the joke, “ok ladies, if you end up passing a slower guy, remember this is a non-contact sport,” the last wave of Olympic athletes were off, and they let the mere sprinters into the lake to warm up. As others took the dive, I put my big toe in, and it took all my willpower to not be That-Person-Who-Jumps-Back-With-Her-Tail-Between-Her-Legs.

62 degrees is a lot warmer on dry land.

So I inched in, first to my ankles, then my knees, then my waist, then I finally took the plunge and almost came up in shock. You get used to it, the people around me said. I might as well had “first-timer” written on my forehead. I stayed in until they cleared the water. I caught up with two other first-timers, and for a half hour we waited.

That was the worst part.

I only learned to swim in August, taking a few lessons at the Y then progressing on my own. This was my second time in open water – the first time, as I was coming to shore, I came up for air and ended up face to face with a dead fish. I may have screamed a little. Ok… more than a little.

The silver caps, younger females in the sprint race, were finally up. 30 seconds. 10 seconds. Horn.

I didn’t get kicked in the face. No one swam over me. Mary’s spitting-in-the-goggles-to-get-rid-of-fog strategy worked beautifully.

But I was swimming like a drunk on New Year’s Eve, all over the place. Nice blue line at the bottom of the pool, I’ll never take you for granted again.

Four buoys helped split the swim up on the way out, but getting back we were just citing an arc that was deceptively far away. Somehow, I made it. No broken nose. No bruises. No dead fish. I stripped off my cap and goggles, ran up the stairs, and into transition.


The beautiful Flower awaited.

Flower is my lovely Cannondale Synapse, a gift from Uncle Sam who was quite kind to me at tax time. She’s named after her first race, the Flower City duathlon.

The wetsuit came off, the bike shorts, tank and clips went on, and inhaling a Honey Stinger I ran my bike out. I’m still getting used to the new clips, so I avoided embarrassment by the mount sign. Narrowly.


It was an easy 14-mile course with a few hills. And that’s where I learned the beauty of all the indoor cycling I did this winter – I crushed it on those hills, passing people left and right.

Less than an hour later I was back in transition. I re-racked Flower, and put on the Asics, knee straps and compression sleeves.

Money can buy speed on the bike. I didn’t have the advantage the people with fancy tri bikes had, but at least I was off the hybrid.

But running? It’s all you.

It’s only a half hour of your life.


I’m assuming this is a family-friendly blog, so I’ll keep what I was saying as I took those first few steps of the run to myself.

It was not pretty.

My legs didn’t know what to think at the sudden change of movement, so they just went numb. I sucked down a mint chocolate GU, saw my legs beneath me and trusted they knew what to do, since I couldn’t feel them.

The pain eased up after the first half mile, but as much as I told my body to slow down, I couldn’t control my speed. It was a weird autopilot kind of thing.

I had used my phone app for the bike, but as I came through transition, my hands were sweaty and shaking so I left it behind and ran without GPS. We were running along a back road by the lake, and even though everything hurt, I just wanted to be done.


I thought about my old friends in Ohio, I thought about my new friends in Rochester, I thought about my pups Lizzie and Brandy. At the moment it seemed like an eternity, but in retrospect, the last 27 minutes went quickly.

Mary was announcing. Shaky and dizzy, I crossed the finish line with that weird exhausted kind of grin. “Everything hurts but I feel great.”

I did it.

I got some ice cream. And a delicious bottle of Yates Cellars semi-sweet Riesling, which would be gone later that evening.



From one newbie to another, here are a few things I was glad I did:

1)      Swimming lessons: I signed up for basic lessons at the Y, but lucked out, with two triathletes guiding me, I learned things like spotting and working with your arms to save the legs.

2)      Equipment: You don’t need top of the line, but without my road bike and wetsuit I would have been at a serious disadvantage. Shop in the winter for a wetsuit, I got mine at half off.

3)      Seek out all the advice you can. Don’t be afraid to ask silly questions.

4)      Practice, practice, practice! Nothing can prepare you from that horrible feeling going from bike to run. But you can learn how to deal with it!

5)      Get in open water. Even though I only swam in a lake once, this one time practicing helped me out so much on race day.

6)      Learn the transition rules! All my stuff had to fit into a space about one foot by three feet. Plan it out ahead of time! What will you need when?


So what went right? I was prepared, had quick transition times, was ready for the hills and finished strong.

Where can I do better? More open water practice, if I can quit the zigzagging I can shave some serious minutes off the swim time. I should also practice mounting and unmounting on the bike with the new clips. Oh, and I should learn flip turns in the pool, no more being spoiled by that wall every 25 yards.

June 16, I’ll be doing double the distance at the Quakerman triathlon at Orchard Park. Then one month later I’ll be at the Musselman half iron in Geneva. I’ll finish the season with the Highlander Cycle Tour (Corkscrew Century) in September and the Wine Glass Full Marathon in October.

“But Jessica, I thought you were sick of marathons?”

Perhaps I needed a break, because tomorrow is my nine-mile training run, and I can’t wait for it!

Bring it!!

Follow my blog for more random musings as the big race day approaches. Hugs to the lovely Scootadoot ladies for letting me guest post, and happy miles!

Jessica Alaimo is a journalist and a three-time marathoner living in Rochester, New York. She completed her first triathlon June 2, and is training for her first half Ironman July 14. Outside of training she teaches indoor cycling, enjoys gluten-free cooking and competing for a spot on the couch with her two retired racing greyhounds, Lizzie and Brandy.

Like her shiny brand new Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/jessicatris703 and follow her on Twitter, https://twitter.com/jessicatris703