Tag Archives: Confidence

What’s in that Swim Bag?

What’s in that Swim Bag?

My recent blog post about swim goggles splashed up several good questions from friends planning their first open water Triathlons, so I thought one more post about swim preparations would be refreshing. If you have absolutely no interest in open water adventures, you might want to skip this one.

Sooooooo, inquiring minds want to know, what’s in my swim bag? Here’s a little secret, I use the same swim bag for pool swims as I do for open water swims. My wetsuit came with its own bag, so it’s on its own. Once I get used to the contents in my swim bag, I change absolutely nothing during the season. I always workout and race with the same stuff. If something breaks, gets lost or I eat it, I replace it with the same stuff. For me, change equals the dreaded ‘p’ word. I like to avoid that.

What’s not in my swim bag? A swim buddy. Never ever, ever, ever Never (that could be a new jingle?) swim in open water without a swim buddy! You’ll need someone who is willing to swim beside you and not let you drift away (it happens!). Someone who will tell you with a straight face that the slimy matter twisted up in your toes is really weeds. Someone to remind you to breathe in and out slowly. That’s important. I enjoy swimming in pods (group swims) with my Tri club because we have experienced open water swimmers willing to offer tips and sometimes kayak support. Kayak support is the greatest! Someone to watch over the pod, the weather, and for motor boats/jet skis. There is also the matter of food. Eating with the pod after swimming is the best part especially if it turns in to a beach party!

I actually learned how to swim in open water at a golf course – before it opened and golfers started yelling, Fore! Crazy as that sounds, the small watering hole was comforting and it was easy to get from one side to the other while chatting with friends. Confidence builder! I believe I also attempted my first wetsuit swim here. Being close to the shoreline as my wetsuit (which was way too big) rapidly inflated with water and took on fishy was ideal. There was lots of water in that wetsuit. I could have swam inside of it.

The best advice I received before attempting open water was to achieve my skills and distance in the pool first. I find open water swimming to be completely different than pool swims, but confidence, good form and strength is transferable. Once that was established, I took the plunge. With my swim buddies, of course!

I was still a bit nervous, so I brought along my trusty yellow ‘duck feet’ aka short fins that I use for the pool. Sometimes too much. Beware, you can’t race with them and ideally you shouldn’t be able to hide them in your wetsuit. Not that I’ve tried. My experienced swimming friends say ‘do whatever makes you comfortable’.  Comfortable also includes staying alert of ever changing conditions (environmental/physical) and sighting. I’ve never had an issue with sighting because I prefer to swim with my head up like a sea turtle. I am hoping that habit will dissolve this year. I’ve built up considerable core strength and have worked on my relaxation techniques. We shall sea. Ha!

The more time I spend in open water the more I acclimate, but I’ve improved my actual swimming by joining the pod, swimming in various watering holes, signing up for clinics and 1 mile open water races. I’ve also started swimming at the pool on Thursdays at 5:00 am with my super talented swim buddies. Why 5:00 am at dark o’clock? I think it’s a good idea to mimic race day situations. I don’t have Triathlons starting at noon. And if you have friends with lots of swimming experience who make swimming both fun and challenging, you’ll show up at 5:00 am.

So what’s in my swim bag? I’ll spill out the contents and the sand…

Swim bag loot!

My loot includes swim caps collected from various races, my favorite tie dye cap (it’s good to be super visible when the top of your head is the only thing visible), a turtle towel, no drip sunscreen, fins, goggles – tinted and clear, anti-fog lens spray, dry ear drops, gels, hair ties, extra contact lenses, water resistant swim drills book (I also write out my workouts on sticky notes) in a Ziploc bag. Absent are my post workout clothes, bottled water and saltine crackers.



Tack Trunk Tuesday


Welcome to Tack Trunk Tuesday!  I don’t own a fancy wooden custom tack trunk with my name embossed on the front, but I am always intrigued by what other people chose to store in them; therefore, I present to you…drumroll, please…my very own virtual tack trunk.  Once or twice a month on Tuesday I’ll add an item to my virtual tack trunk that I think is very cool and worth sharing.  I tend to blend my sports, so it won’t always be horse-related as the title might imply.  If you have a favorite item you think I should know about, please comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Is the hustle and bustle already getting to you?  It gets to me too.  I’ve decided this year to not get stressed during the holiday season.  I was reminded the other day that it is in fact a choice.  One of the ways I’ve taught myself to avoid stress is by doing something fun and out of the ordinary with friends.  It’s about making memories regardless of how imperfect.  Growing up in the land of ice and snow, I’ve learned to appreciate outdoor ice skating parties which are really an opportunity to show off your warmest most stylish toque (translation knit hat or toboggan).

As I recommend to my friends who grew up in the land of sun and swimming pools, your ice skating kit must also include flexible padded pants and waterproof insulated gloves.  Scarves are risky.  While we are on the topic, some advice for the moms out there, don’t be tempted to dress your child up like a pink elephant.  It has lasting impact.  I added that because mom is reading this entry.  Hi mom!

Outdoor ice skating parties are so inclusive.  You can rent skates that already have lots of scuff/paint marks, there is loud nondescript rock music playing, heavily watered down outrageously hot chocolate in flimsy foam cups (those waterproof insulated gloves are not actually used for ice skating) and comedy hour for those who don’t skate.  For anyone willing to try, but has not yet mastered the art of upright on ice skates, bring/borrow a child and help them navigate the rink while pushing the skating ‘shopping cart’ aid.  You may unexpectedly pick up a few new friends along the way.  If you want to look super cool, wear a professional hockey team jersey.  Afterwards eat a hearty dinner at a local restaurant while sitting or sometimes standing.  I recommend chicken and waffles.  Together.  The perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates or rather carbohydrates and protein.

I promise you this is the ultimate ‘I am not getting stressed this year’ package all bundled up.

Being average is hard work!


It’s officially Friday, at dark o’clock (aka 5:26 AM) and I am at our local gym sitting in my parked car staring blankly ahead at the pond that belongs to the resident ducks and geese.  The fog is starting to lift.  I hear a slight rustle from the wind and there is a splattering of raindrops across my windshield.  There are exactly 7 other cars in the parking lot right now, I counted.  I grab my workout bag and zombie shuffle towards the indoor pool.

I am here for Basic Training.  It’s week 2 and there are 13 weeks in total.  I am crossing them off one by one on my office whiteboard.  My friends recruited me for this intensive “off season” cross-training adventure that will build Confidence.  I was initially drawn in just like a paperclip is to a magnet by the cool T-shirt they were wearing, not going to lie.  There must be 35 people in the class just like me who really want that T-shirt.  Which has to be earned by the way.  How do I balance this with my riding?  I have a dedicated schedule.  Basic Training is 3 days a week (for me) and I ride 4-5 days a week, doubling up one day a week.  I also have strength training & spinning class on Tuesdays, a long run on Sundays and work full time.  It’s not perfect, but I try to avoid too many excuses to change it.

The course description:

Basic Training is a unique fitness course based on the exercises used by the elite U.S. Navy SEAL Teams.  Basic Training is not a SEAL-wannabe or pseudo-military course – it is a fitness program designed for the general population. Consisting of a variety of exercises and ‘motivational techniques’, this course will push you to new levels mentally and physically.

So let’s face it, statistically very few athletes will ever reach an elite status in their sport(s).  I realized this when I selected the sports of Triathlon and Dressage.  I am an average athlete.  Average swimmer, runner, cyclist and rider.  I signed up for these sports knowing that I would have to work tremendously hard towards achieving my goals.  I am not trying to reach illusive goals written for some unknown.  I’ve often pondered if it’s the ‘I can’t reach elite status’ that puts so many people on the sidelines reluctant to participate in the sport(s) they’ve chosen.  Success comes with so much variation.  Techniques can be modified to suit the individual and/or horse.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the sidelines watching others become stronger.

Today I become stronger.

We start in the pool with warm-up laps.  I am instantly impressed with fellow teammates who are swimming laps for the first time. Captain R instructs us to do 10 swim laps, going out with focus on form, returning with focus on speed.  After each lap, we are instructed to do 10 push-ups on the deck.  A quick transition from the pool to the workout room and we are doing pull-ups followed by 2 laps outside running around the building.  We regroup in the parking lot and prepare for 200 meters of moving burpees, out and back.  Captain R is watching my technique as I declare, “I am doing them!”  He responds with, “You are crushing them!” These burpees bring my mental strength into play.  I ask my teammate beside me as we struggle to complete them why the faster folks ahead of us have not yet turned around.  He replied, because today we are going further.

Running back to the building and finishing up the hour, I shared with my friend that some people say I am crazy for doing what I do.  She responded with, perhaps they aren’t thinking so much about what you are doing, but what they aren’t doing.

The conditions aren't always ideal, but my passion remains strong.

The conditions aren’t always ideal, but my passion remains strong.

It’s all about the cupcake, not really, but really


For my Triathlon ‘off-season’ this year, I’ve pledged to keep my body in race ready shape by working on my 6 mile pacing / overall run time because ultimately I have this fire burning within to be more competitive with the Oly distance.  Running is my weakest leg of the Triathlon.  Even though my body is built for sprinting, I don’t like to run fast.  If I run, I very much prefer slow endurance, did you see my Turtle shirt?  Granted, I am still slow with open water swims; however, my weakness there is lack of Confidence (that dreaded C word appearing) and not swimming.

I really have no excuses.  I often think about how lucky I am to have these strong legs, lungs, and heart so that I CAN run.  I often think about the people who wish maybe even dream about running, but physically can’t because they are battling significant health issues instead.  I am fortunate right now to have the choice to run anytime, anywhere.

I am signed up for a couple of running races (is that what they are called if under a 1/2 marathon?), so that I stay on track with my ultimate goal of completing 6 miles under 1 hour.  My first off-season race is the 5.17 mile (yup, the .17 matters when talking about time) Bull City Race Fest.  Why Fest you ask?  Because runners like to eat and drink beer apparently, but I prefer the cupcake.  A little bird told me there is a cupcake truck at the Finish, so I faithfully believed them.  I challenged myself to run the race 50 minutes or under.  I then pictured a cupcake with striped green & orange leggings coming up behind me, running past me and towards the Finish hollering catch me if you can.  This imagery is not too far-fetched because some people did dress up in costume for this race.  Entertaining for sure and breaks up all the seriousness.

It’s 5:35 AM and a chilly 48 degrees.  I have already spotted the Port-a-Stinks.  Could something else be invented, please?  Those are the worst part of racing.  Due to my experience with dark o’clock, I am one of the first to get checked in and grab my bib.  The T-shirt is very nice, great job organizers!  I spend the next hour back in my car napping with one eye open on the time.   I don’t typically run with music because you can’t have anything in your ears per USAT rules, but decided this was a fun race and I would indulge myself.  I download exactly 50 minutes worth of songs.

The announcer asks us to line up around the starting area.  With 5900 runners this really isn’t a line up more of a crowd up.  My inexperience shows here because there are run pacers with signs – 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 and upwards.  I thought these were for the 1/2 marathon runners and not the rest of us.  I position myself at the back of the bus.  Literally.  The gun goes off and I feel like this is more related to open water swimming than running and am battling out my space to get from the back to the front without injury to anyone.  This is a real struggle because my mind would much prefer I stay safely behind a slower runner.  I zigzag through the runners and catch up with the 10:30 pacer.  My first 3 miles were somewhere in the 10-11 pace range which is where I am at right now on a rolling hills type course.  Give me a flat run and I can zoom a bit more.  My plan was to sprint the last 2 miles.  Along the way, I saw so many people I knew.  Hugs & High Fives!  How cool was it to run a bit with my friends who I admire from our run club?  Very cool, and motivating!

The course was quite hilly, but I was feeling great and ready to push to my limits.  At the 3 mile mark I was prepared mentally to gear up.  I felt like my legs were flying with quick turnover, but I wasn’t breaking the speed of sound according to my watch.  I did manage to push out 9 minute miles for 4 and 5.  I almost lost it right there at the Finish.  First time I’ve felt like that.  Odd feeling, but it didn’t last long and I think it was just the limits.  Gun time was 54 minutes and change, but my watch was 51 minutes and change.  Not sure which one is correct.  I am going with something in between.  Really happy with the result.

Adore my swag!

Adore my swag!

And I ate the damn cupcake.

Earned it!

Earned it!

With the Confidence to win it!


The mushroom (my road bike for Triathlons) got a bubble bath today complete with dish washing soap, a garden hose and paper towels (beware bike chains will eat them!).  My previous ride left the mushroom with a nice coating of mud, so it was good to see some blue sparkle again.  I was admiring how much the mushroom has evolved this season with the addition of ergonomic handle bars that actually fit the width of my shoulders – goodbye shoulder pain! a chain guard – farewell nightmare of a frequently dropped chain! clipless pedals – see ya skin on elbows! and blinky light bling to keep us visible for miles.  Of course, I always have a list of things I want to change.  Right now it’s the seat, but that will have to wait because I am exactly one week out from my final Triathlon race for the season on Sunday, September 29th.

I am in 4th place right now for my age group in the 2013 TrySports Triathlon Series.  I checked the standings a few days ago and expected to be middle of the pack like I was last year, so I was really surprised.  So much so that my dear husband asked whether I thought the standings made sense.  I don’t know exactly why I am in 4th place, but I do know that an algorithm is entered into the computer and it spits out points.  Somehow a lot of points got spit out for me.  I will call them dedication points.  I am hoping to move up to 3rd place after my race and qualify for year end awards.  I will race my little heart out!

It’s been a season filled with first time accomplishments – group road cycling, open water 1 mile swims complete with Islands (really who swims past a freaking Island?!?), a fashionable wetsuit with yellow duck feet, and an Oly distance (1 mile open water swim, 26 mile bike, 10k run) in the mountains of NC!  Despite all of that, the ginormous ‘C’ word eludes me this season.  I am obviously not one who is afraid of taking risks, so why am I missing Confidence?  I would like to blame the mushroom for not being fancy enough, or that I don’t own the fastest shoes or maybe it’s my lack of exposure to racing; however, none of these are what’s holding me back.  I am holding my very own self back.  For me, it’s not about standing on the podium (although that would be nice because I have an ongoing bet with my husband that involves a Tri bike), it is about racing with the Confidence to win it!  Not losing my focus, chatting to other competitors or slowing down during a race.  Having the Confidence that I have trained hard and have earned the right to race with these other seasoned athletes.  Pushing to my limits rather than settling for what’s comfortable.

So, I bought this shirt.

And I am hoping to replace it after my race.