Guest Post: I am an Ironman

On Sunday, Sept 8, 2013, I completed the Wisconsin Ironman.

Wisconsin is a full 140.6 mile Ironman which means a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and then you run a marathon.  At least that’s how I used to explain it to people.  (I would come to regret that phraseology later on.)

While the race started at 7 in the morning, the journey to get there started about 8 months earlier.

Many people tell you that it’s not finishing an Ironman that is as impressive as getting to the start line.  This is because you train more than you can ever imagine training for something in your life….at least for us “recreational” athletes.  My personal mindset was just to push through the training.  And try not to kill myself in the process.

Let me note that I am not a life-long athlete.  Before signing up for an Ironman, I had done one sprint tri two years before and hadn’t trained in the swim or bike since.  I had six marathons under my belt, but it had been a couple years since I trained seriously and injury free.  I suggest a year or two of tri-training before you undertake an Ironman. But it’s possible without it.  I’m proof.

Since I had no clue what I was doing, I thought it best to hire a coach.  I interviewed a couple of coaches and chose to work with Ben Proko of Trifit-XT.  Ben has plenty of experience and his coaching style is nothing but supportive.  His method uses metabolic data to assess your physical capability and he sets your training zones from there.  I am an engineer.  I like data and targets and measurable outcomes.  Sold.  Ben and his wife Katie (also a coach) were both important to my mental well-being.

Ben started me on a routine that basically repeated every week, just with increased time per activity.  I ran, swam and biked three times a week each, and also did a strength routine 2-3 times a week (until I got closer to a race.)  Yep.  That’s 12 workouts a week.  Two each day.  Six days a week.  And just like that, my entire life became about training.

At this point, I’d like to remind you that I still had a job.  In order to get into the office at a reasonable time, I was generally up around 4:15 am, got one workout in, went to work, and then left to do another workout.  This would often take me to about 7:30 or 8 pm, at which point I ate dinner, did laundry (LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of laundry), and packed my workout bags and lunch for the next day.  By 9pm, it was time for bed.  That is how your entire life becomes about training.

While I’m lucky that my workplace is flexible, my job is demanding and results-oriented and is sometimes designed to bring conflict into our organization.  I do not have a cake-walk job.  I missed some workouts…over 8 months of training, I missed quite a few.  Ben set the priority for me that running and biking needed to come first and so that’s where I put my first effort.  But slowly the strength workouts dwindled (um, yeah…even before Ben took them off the schedule) and it wasn’t unusual later in the program to miss a swim a week.  It’s a lot to try and do.  But if I had to work late and miss a workout, I worked late.  You have to find balance.

Before we get to the big race, I want to mention the half-Ironman I did in Galveston in April because it set my expectations for the full IM in September.  The water was a fraction of a degree above where they would let you wear booties and gloves…just at 65 degrees.  My wave got into the water at 8 am (to start at 8:05 am) and the cold water was an immediate shock.

I calmed down and felt ok.  Then I tried to put my face in the water.  Nope.  Not gonna happen.  I couldn’t breathe properly (or at all, really) with my face in frigid water. Great.  The gun went off, and I tried to swim.  Nope.  Still not able to get my face in the water.

Within a few minutes I realize I’ll wear myself out hyperventilating so I grab a kayak.  Yes, I grabbed a kayak two minutes into the swim.  I am so cool.  It wasn’t a panic attack.  My head was saying, “Really?  Really?  Like you’re going to quit now?  Just start moving forward and get through the water so you can get on your bike.”  And I did.  I swam about a third of a mile with my head out of the water, then FINALLY settled into some sort of breathing pattern.  I eventually started passing people from my age group and finished with about 10 ladies behind me.  I chaffed the CRAP out of the back of my neck from swimming with my head out of the water, but I survived.  I did the swim in less than an hour even with semi-dog-paddle technique and kayak-hugging.

The bike went well (Galveston is flat, but super windy) and during the run I came into my element.  I ran while all those fancy-attired cyclists were suffering.  I passed bunches of people.  BUNCHES. And I felt great.  I flew into the end of the race having done it in under 6:30.  I was feeling phenomenal and proud as anything of myself.  And at the end of the chute were two good friends from my running group in New Orleans, Betsy and Aaron.  It was the perfect finish.  Perfect.

Fast-forward 5 months and I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin for the full Ironman race.  I was worried about the swim and confident about the bike and the run.  (Silly me, it would turn out.) The Madison course is one of the hardest Ironman bike courses in the world.  I chose it because the weather would be good and I had relatives close by in Chicago to cheer me on.  And I didn’t know how hard the bike course was.  I suggest doing more research before choosing your first race.  I entered the wrong race for me.  Where am I going to get big hills near Houston, Texas?  But for now, I was here and ready to complete the course in front of me.

The morning of the race, I was quietly nervous.  I knew I could do this.  I knew it.  I think you can already guess how worried I was about the swim.  But the rest of the race could be done with sheer will and determination and reliance on 8 months of training.  I had finished marathons in heat and hills with little-to-no training.  I knew I had the ability to endure what was ahead.

Ironman events require that you finish within 17 hours.  The race starts at 7 am, and you have to finish by midnight or you don’t get your medal.  There are also cutoffs for each of the sports.  The swim has to be done within 2 hours and 20 minutes from the starting gun (and Wisconsin was a mass start, so everyone had that same requirement.)  If I made that cutoff, I knew I had the race.

As 7 am approached, we slowly made our way into the water and swam out towards the start.  For me, the deep water start was desirable.  I got accustomed to the water and now just needed to relax in the crowded mass start.

The gun went off.  And I started to swim.  I was in a regular breathing pattern immediately.  HOORAY!!  Even if I was breathing every two strokes instead of every three, there was no panic, no hyperventilation.  Within a few minutes, I knew I had the swim, and therefore the race.  I said a prayer of thanks to the tri gods.  Now I just needed to settle in and move steadily through it all….which is hard in the swim because there are no lane lines in the lake.  You try to sight something in front of you, but people are crawling past you and they realize they’re off course so they turn and you t-bone them.  And then when you’re done quietly cursing them, you realize you’re off-course and you turn and someone t-bones you.  It’s fun.  Most people just keep moving.  There are more aggressive conflicts in the front of the pack, but I’m not in the front of the pack.  When I finished (in an acceptable 1:45), I was ecstatic!

Just out of the water I saw my tri-training partner Anjy who came up all the way from Houston to be there on the side of the course.  She and I both stress out in the swim and it brought an even bigger smile to my face that she was right there cheering.  I ran out of the water and up the helix (a pretty word for “multi-story parking garage ramp”) and at the top I saw a bigger group, including my boyfriend Jim, an amazing triathlete that I met during my 8 months of training.  Jim scooped me up in a hug and spun me around.  He was thinking what I was…that the swim was over and I had the rest of the race.

madison2Jen greets boyfriend Jim after her swim

I moved through transition and got onto the bike.  It was a little disheartening that there were so many bikes gone by the time the time I got to mine, but later we heard rumors that over 200 didn’t even finish the swim…either missed the cutoff or crawled out of the water onto a boat. It was good to be moving in a comfort zone. The weather was in the mid-70’s and there was total cloud cover (I hate direct sunlight), but it was windy.  We had a tailwind out to the main loop that we biked twice, and then it was a headwind back when you’re most tired.  The hills were terribly hard but there were huge crowds at the top of the biggest.

Madison is a race where you constantly have to think and plan. It’s hard to take fuel when you’re climbing a hill or rushing down a slope so you have to plan to eat on just a few flatter surfaces.  I had done a training camp in July where I rode the Madison course and that was definitely a good thing to have done.  I never bothered to know marathon courses, but this was definitely different.

All over the course I had incredible support from family and friends.  My mom, aunt, all four cousins and my college roommate drove up from Chicago.  My sister flew in from Albany with her boyfriend.  Anjy and her husband were up from Houston.  I have never felt so deeply wealthy in my friends and family as I did on that course.  They rode a bus out to the bike course to see me through two loops.  It took me 6:47 to finish the hilly, windy bike course and they saw me probably just 20 seconds or so total.  How’s that for a dedicated fan base?

madisonJen zooms past her fans

The ride back from the loops was like a death march.  We were all tired and riding back to Madison into the wind in somber silence.  But I made it, got through transition, and stepped out to start the run.

This is where the words, “and then you run a marathon” bit me in the ass.  That’s a horrible way to visualize it when you’ve already been on the course for 9 hours.  It took some effort to push that thought away and put one foot in front of the other.  After all, in Galveston, this is where I made my mark.  I was a runner, first and foremost!  I thought about my running club, my closest running friends, my running partner Nick, and those who had turned triathlete like me.  They were all following my GPS tracker and I couldn’t let them down.  This would be the best part!

Or not.

The first two hours felt pretty good.  And then I slowed down. WAY down.  I didn’t hit the typical wall in terms of feeling overall sluggish and slow.  I wasn’t dehydrated.  My legs were just DONE.  I was a runner, but not so much after 112 miles on the hardest, hilliest bike course I could find.  My friends and family were out on the marathon course and since it’s a double loop, I got to see them about 4 times.  I tried to make sure I was running when I passed them, but they knew and I knew I was slowing way down.  A few of them stepped in and ran with me for a short while.

The second loop became about survival, about finishing.  I walked a lot.  I was nauseous until I gave up on Gatorade altogether and drank coke.  I discovered that grapes are the best thing EVER to eat at the end of an Ironman.  I had been here before in marathons…where you know you will finish, but that the finish line is a long way off.  I just moved through.  DNF was never a thought.  And soon I was within a mile of the finish.

On the way up the busy street to the capitol square, I passed people who had had WAY too much to drink, who pounded me on the shoulder and high-fived me too hard.  I was too tired to voice complaint.

When I hit the streets around the square, less than half a mile from the finish, I saw Jim with Anjy and her husband.  A block later, I saw a couple of my cousins and my aunt.  More familiar faces were in the finish chute.  My family had spread themselves out along the last stretch and brought me in.  It brings tears to my eyes now to think of it.  They very nearly carried me.

I crossed the finish line in 14:15 with my arms over my head in victory.  I cried a little.  I hollered in triumph.  I was done.  Volunteers catch you and deal with medals and foil wraps and finishing shirts and hats.  They took my picture.

jenfinishJen finishes the race!

I realized I was disappointed.  How crazy is that?  I didn’t feel the euphoria I experienced in Galveston.  Maybe it was because the last couple of hours were so slow, and that had surprised and disappointed me.  But then there, at the end of the chute was my cheer squad.  I saw and hugged Anjy first as she had been there with me at 4:30 am too many Saturdays and Sundays to count.

Then I saw Jim, who knew from his own hard training history what I had been through to get there. (Jim would also catch the brunt of my skepticism over my performance in the days to follow, God bless him.)  The rest of my family and best friends closed around me and I felt richer than anyone there.  I had survived 8 months of insane training balanced with a tough job in a new city…I even earned a promotion which I was offered the day I drove into Madison.  I had achieved balance.

As I stepped out of the chute, the thought occurred to me, “Is that it?”  Eight months of training, and 14 hours passed in a flash.  THAT’S how people end up doing this over and over again.  I think I probably will, too…someday.  For now, I am truly content to sleep in and relax in the evenings…though I’m already starting to train for the Houston marathon in January 2014.  But that’s nothing.  I can make it through anything.

Because I am an Ironman.

Jen is a senior commodity manager at Momentive Specialty Chemicals. She’s completed six marathons and numerous shorter road races and loves the triathlon, consuming good books and delicious food and traveling.

Guest Post: Life’s A Beach Triathlon

This past Saturday I conquered my first triathlon! It was called the Life’s A Beach Triathlon and was held at Daytona Beach, Florida. Despite its laid back name, this race was anything but easy in my opinion. I figured it would be a good starter triathlon to see if I even liked the whole swim, bike, run thing. I have been doing the running thing for a few years now and made my marathon debut last January at Disney. After completing my first marathon I realized that distance was not my favorite. Honestly, it was so boring! After mile 18 I just wanted it to be over with. But after doing many types of races I now know what I like and what I don’t like. I like smaller, local races and ones where I am entertained. I love races with obstacles and funny themes. I run to have fun and be in shape and I am not out to prove anything to anyone. This race appealed to me in so many ways and I had been contemplating a triathlon for a while, so it was impossible to pass up.


When I arrived at the race I went straight away to the transition area so I could set up my bike. I was there early so I was able to snag a spot on the end of one of the racks. In my transition area I had 2 small towels, running shoes and socks, shorts, shirt with bib number already attached, a bottle of water for washing my feet, sunglasses, headband and my helmet. I had practiced my transitions the night before. I set everything up in my living room and practiced the order in which everything would go on. This was extremely helpful and took a lot of anxiety away from race day.


After everything was set up I headed to the marking tent where they take a sharpie marker and mark your body with your race number. My race number, 198, went on my upper left arm and the front of my left thigh. They also mark your age on your calf. Fantastic! Now everyone knows I am 33.


With every race there is always a possibility of being injured. Since this race was located at the beach, we were told beforehand about the possible dangers of swimming in the ocean. The first one was sharks. Fun! This is why I signed up for the second wave for my start time. I figured the first wave of people would scare anything away in the ocean. Smart huh? The second was a flesh eating bacteria that was found in a river south of Daytona. I didn’t have any open wounds so I figured I was good there. I was also wearing swim goggles and had no intention of opening my mouth in the water. Yuck! The last danger was being stung by a jelly fish. Every time I think about jelly fish I think of the Friends episode where Monica gets stung and Chandler has to pee on her to make the sting go away. Out of all the threats I figured this one would be the most probable. There were jelly fish washed up on the beach all over the place, so I knew they were out there. So despite all these risks I charged on and was determined to complete my first triathlon.

Swim: This triathlon started off with an “anything goes” swim for 200 yards. People had all kinds of flotation devices out there…noodles, rafts, inflatables and fins for their feet. Personally I wanted to do the race without any aides. I practiced once a week at the pool swimming laps and am very comfortable in the water, so I didn’t feel the need to have any swim aides. I lined up with my wave on the beach and as soon as they sounded the alarm I was off into the water. The first thing I noticed was the temperature of the water was perfect. I was worried it was going to be on the cooler side but it wasn’t. I was about halfway done with my swim when I felt the sting. I was swimming parallel to the beach when a huge wave crashed right into me and I felt the stinging on the right side of my torso, back and arms. I could not believe it! I got stung by a jelly fish!! I knew immediately that’s what it was. I finished my swim strong and made my way to shore. After we got on shore we had to crawl under some nets and then head on to the transition area to get ready for the bike portion. Even though I got stung by the jelly fish I did not feel like I needed any medical attention so I just kept going. (Later on when I told my mom about this, she was not happy with me, but you know how moms are.)

The first transition, also known as T1, went very smoothly. I stood on my orange towel and used the bottle of water to wash all the sand off my feet. This was a tip I got from my friends that were also doing the race. They had done this race before but down in Sarasota, so they were able to give me some great tips. After washing my feet I slipped my socks on, then shorts, then shirt, running shoes and lastly, helmet and sunglasses. I then had to walk my bike down to the beach and as soon as I hit the sand I was off.

Bike: The bike portion of this race was a 5 mile ride IN THE SAND! Because of the sand they insisted we use a mountain bike instead of a road bike. This was another reason this race appealed to me. I already had a mountain bike so my equipment costs were minimal. It was 2.5 miles down the beach and 2.5 miles back. No training in the world could have prepared me for riding my bike in the sand. I tried to ride as close to the water where the sand was more compact and easier to ride on. A few times a wave got me and my shoes and socks where completely water logged. There were tons of jelly fish all over the beach so I made sure I ran over a few to get my revenge for the one that stung me. (Insert devilish laugh.) I just passed the water station and was on my way back when I realized I had my bike in 7th gear (the hardest gear my bike has)! I quickly changed it to 2nd gear and flew the rest of the way back to the transition area. At the end of the bike portion I saw my family cheering me on. They were waving, jumping up and down and screaming my name. It was awesome!

The transition from bike to run, also known as T2, was a little easier. I just had to ditch my bike and helmet in my spot and make my way to the start of the run course.

Run: The run portion of this event was a 2 mile run on the beach with obstacles. To start off we had to weave through some plastic flamingos. About a mile into the run it started raining. I honestly don’t know where the rain came from because it was a bright, sunny day at the beach. The rain felt amazing. It helped wash away the sand and salt water off of me. Next on the course were some tunnels we had to crawl through and last was jumping over lounge chairs. The course was two laps, so once you finished lap one you had to do it all over again.  After doing the two laps the only thing that stood in my way of the finish line were stairs, 2 hurdles and the limbo. That’s right…the limbo. This race certainly did have a sense of humor. I crossed the finished line with a time of 1:16:03 and proudly accepted my medal. Victory!

I DID IT! YAHOO!!! I conquered my first triathlon! I absolutely had a blast doing this race. It was fun and I liked switching between the different types of events. It kept me from getting bored and the time flew by. I think the next step is for me to find a used women’s road bike and work toward a sprint triathlon.


P.S. If anyone is wondering how to treat a jelly fish sting, put an antibacterial ointment on it three times a day and it should heal in a few days. The only thing you really need to worry about is if the spots get infected. And for those of you who don’t know, here is what it looks like.



Sara is a wife, mother, triathlete, etiquette expert, and creator of adorable tooth fairy pillows. You can find her at The Classy Crafter.

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, and follow her on Twitter,

Runners giving back: Medals4Mettle

The running community is a strong and rowdy bunch. There’s a certain level of insanity the comes along with runners, people who choose to spend much of their free time running long distances for the love of the sport and achieving the impossible (with a side of bragging rights and medals sometimes thrown in for good measure).

After an event like the one at the Boston Marathon, there’s a certain sense of helplessness that hits us. We are doers, movers and shakers, so to do nothing is not an option.

Since Monday’s tragedy, we’ve participated in reflection runs; we’ve worn the Boston Marathon colors of blue and gold; we’ve donned race shirts from any and all events; we’ve prayed for the victims, first responders, runners and the city of Boston.


And we’re still left asking, What else is there? What more can we do to show support, solidity and love?

Well, friends, might I offer up Medals4Mettle?

met·tle  /ˈmetl/ Noun
A person’s ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way.

In May 2005, Dr. Steven Isenberg gave his own Chicago Marathon medal to his patient, Les Taylor, who was battling prostate cancer. Before his death, Taylor told Dr. Isenberg just how much the medal meant to him.

From that seed Medals4Mettle blossomed. I first heard about Medals4Mettle, or M4M, last year when I began running races.

Currently M4M is collecting Boston Marathon medals from any year to give to Monday’s victims and first responders.


For those who haven’t run the Boston Marathon, M4M will gratefully accept all donations of hard-earned half marathon, full marathon or triathlon medals to those battling life-threatening illnesses and severe disabilities.

“Think about when you are out on a course, and you have dozens to hundreds of people you don’t know who are cheering you on, and want to see you succeed and get to the finish line,” said Andrea Herrmann of M4M.  “This is our chance to return this encouragement to others, and to celebrate their strength in dealing with their health struggles, cheering them to their personal finish lines.”


Directors and chapter coordinators are all volunteers at M4M. I reached out to my local chapter coordinator, Reed Costello, who said that his responsibilities include local awareness and collecting/passing medals along to the area coordinator who then distributes them to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The children love receiving the medals and the runDisney medals are among the favorites; many wear the donated medals to chemo treatment or hang them from their IV pole.

A selfless way to lift someone’s spirits and give back, Medals4Mettle is a non-profit organization that assists runners and athletes in doing just that.

Have you ever given your race medal to someone else? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!