Jul 2012

A Beautiful Thing

I love the Olympics. I mean seriously love the Olympics. I will watch any sport and cry anytime the US wins the gold. I’m an Olympic addict. I can’t wait to watch the triathlon competition since this is my newest endeavor. Those triathletes are inspiring and unbelievable. Last night, the Women’s Gymnastics tore me apart as it did many people. So much hard work put in by all the ladies and I would love to see them all compete. But alas, it can’t happen. Today there has been video floating around the magical interweb of Aly Raisman’s parents watching her compete last night. In case you are the one person who missed it, here’s the video below.

The most common reaction that I’ve seen to this video is “I can’t wait to see SNL spoof this video” and “Kristen Wiig would be amazing doing a spoof of this!” While, I do agree that both of these things would be hysterical and will probably happen, I can’t help but watch this video and empathize with what they are going through. I’m not a mother and have never had a family member compete in the Olympics, but as the sister of a professional athlete, I can definitely relate to their experience.

I have watched my brother play football (and not play football) more times than I can count on all my fingers and toes. I don’t miss a single game whether he is playing or not. There really isn’t a way to accurately describe what it’s like to watch someone you love and have grown up with go out and compete at such a high level. I mean, I remember my dad and stepmom deciding to name him Matthew, and I remember him coming home from the hospital all pink with black hair looking like a little rat. I am so proud of Matt and all of his accomplishments. I burst with pride on a daily basis. If I could wear a flashing sign everyday telling everyone about how amazing and talented my brother is, I would. But, this would embarrass both Matt and my boyfriend Rob who would have to been seen with me wearing said flashing sign, so I don’t. My brother has worked incredibly hard for all of his achievements and he deserves every single good thing that has come his way and will come his way in the future. He’s kind, generous, humble, and was born to be an NFL Quarterback. But, enough about how much I love my brother…

Now, imagine that object of pride and love going onto a football field where there are 11 big, strong, angry men trying to squish him to the ground flat. Imagine that object of pride and love having the game rest on his shoulders, for better or for worse. Imagine that object of pride and love getting the praise when things go well, and subsequently getting the blame when things don’t work out, no matter who’s fault it was. Watching Matt play football is one of the most full body and emotional experiences that I have. When I watch at home, I’m up, I’m down, I’m hiding behind a pillow, I’m screaming, I’m crying, I’m throwing things, I’m cursing at the tv, I pausing to look at close ups of my brother and take a picture because I still think it’s cool that he’s on tv, I’m screaming more. I stand with every long pass he makes as if the energy of my standing will help the pass get to where it needs to go. Everyone in my family goes through a similar experience as we watch him play. We all keep thinking “just stay safe and play well.”

I thought I’d share some of my favorite pictures of my family watching Matt play so you can see that all athlete’s family members go through a similar journey. Matt’s first start in college was his Sophomore year at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta for the injured Jamarcus Russell. My dad, brother, and I were clearly enjoying ourselves.
Things worked out well though. They won and he was the MVP.
Matt after game
I went to go visit my brother his senior year of college and watched him play against Auburn.
We were both nervous, but once again, it worked out. In case you missed it, here was the winning touchdown. I nearly crapped my pants.

Then came the National Championship. Oh boy. We all descended on New Orleans and tried to remain as calm as possible.
Then it was game time and here came the serious nerves. That’s one of Matt’s best friends Tom biting his nails.
This is Mamma Roo in a rare moment of actually watching the game. She tends to watch much of the games with her hands over her eyes. I even caught her on the ground with her head between her knees once. I can only imagine what it’s like for her.
But, it all turned out ok.
Matt made his first NFL start in New England in December 2010 and my dad, stepmom, brother and I were all present. We knew that NBC would be filming us. When we got to our seats, we had black tape on the bottom of our seats. They had clearly been practicing filming where we were going to be sitting. I’m sure that Aly Raisman’s parents arrived to tape marked seats yesterday. We made an agreement with each other to stay calm and not look too panicked since we knew that NBC would be on the lookout for us. I think we did ok. 165755_821701985563_1300132_n-1
My friends teased me and said that I was talking to my stepmom every time the camera was on me. What? I talk a lot. Can you tell?

So, Mr. and Mrs. Raisman, I feel you. I can relate to what it’s like to put your love and energy into someone you love while they are doing what they do. I say, talk, lean, cheer, scream, wiggle, squirm and love all you want. It’s a beautiful thing.


Tri-ing on a Budget

Rest feels so good. Seriously. I got back in the pool yesterday and while I was still a little slower than I wanted, I wasn’t going to push myself. I decided to let my body do what it wanted and stop when it told me to. Today I had a nice hour long bike ride scheduled. Thunderstorms were also predicted for the day, so I headed to the gym since I didn’t want to risk getting soaked. I was a little bummed about this because I still need to log more hours on Taylor in order to get used to her and I don’t like the gym bikes that much. I wish I had a trainer so I could set the bike up inside, but a trainer isn’t really in my budget, so beggars can’t be choosers. Speaking of budget…

Tri gear is expensive! Wowzers! This is not a poor man’s sport. However, I’m determined to not miss out on anything that I need based on my budget. I’m going to find ways to make it work despite my budget constraints.

The biggest investment is the bike. You have to have one to compete in a triathlon. So, I started my research. I started by seeing what the cheapest investment was. I went to Kmart to see what they had. Most of the bikes there are lower quality, but completely acceptable for some things. However, I knew that it wasn’t what I needed for a triathlon. After talking to my brother, he said that I should start with a road bike. So, I narrowed my search and created my budget. I knew that I couldn’t spend over $300 on a bike. This makes for some really limited options, but of the few that I found, Taylor Dayne was the best reviewed and came pretty highly recommended, so I went with her. So far so good.

It’s amazing how many people kept saying to me, “well, if you just spend another hundred dollars or so you could get yadda yadda yadda,” or “once you start riding you are really going to want yadda yadda yadda, so you need to invest more now.” I kept asking these people if they were going to give me the extra money for the bike, because if they were, I’d be happy to buy the best bike available. No one seemed to understand that the budget wasn’t moveable. I couldn’t go over $300 no matter how bad I wanted to. So, this left a limited range of bikes to choose from, but I opted for Taylor Dayne and so far I’m really pleased with her. She’s a Vilano and they make a variety of bikes. I recommend them. www.vilanobikes.com

I needed some gear, so I decided to visit Roadrunner Sports on 14th Street because I read online that it was a great place dedicated to the triathlete. And let me say that this shop is great, but I learned quickly how expensive this gear was. I was looking at the prices trying to not gasp from sticker shock when I was approached by the saleswoman. She was tall, athletic, and had a glow about her that seemed to be a product of loving her job, or loving triathlons (or perhaps both). She even seems to glisten a little as if she had just come from a workout. Maybe they spray down their employees in the back in order to make sure they constantly have the post workout glisten and glow?

I wanted cycling shorts, but I don’t have $100 to spend on them. How about cycling gloves? Nope. I don’t have $50 for those. I didn’t even look at the triathlon suits because I knew they weren’t going to be an option. Roadrunner is an excellent store, and if I had the money, I’d have a field day there! But alas, my budget dictates otherwise. So, I went home and was determined to find what I could online for a much cheaper rate. I raided ebay and found some amazing deals! I was able to get three pairs of cycling shorts for about $50 total. I got a cycling jersey of $8. Cycling gloves for $9. I even got a trisuit for $40 brand new! The bargain shopper in me is really happy. So is my bank account.

The Importance of Rest

If you’ve been reading this blog, then you are probably my mother. Hi mom! If you have been reading this blog and aren’t my mother, I’m happy that you are still reading this blog. You have probably noticed that my two workouts this week were rougher than expected. I struggled in my easy swim on Tuesday and yesterday’s biking session, while eventful, was also a struggle. Well, I finally have answers! I’m sick!

Typically when you have a cold, you aren’t so excited about it, but I was thrilled to finally know why my body wasn’t cooperating. I was noticing a few allergy symptoms this week, but should have taken the physical struggle as a sign from my body. It was trying to get me to slow down! So today, I rest. And I mean really rest. Like, I’m-still-in-my-pajamas-at-2:00 kind of rest.

The problem with resting for me is that I have a pretty active lifestyle. If I had to name my current occupation, I would call myself a gradstudent-waitress-performer-teacher because I spend most of my time doing one of those things. I love all of my jobs and they definitely keep me busy, but it’s the second on the occupation list that takes the most physical toll. I work at an amazing restaurant that I love so, so, much. It’s like my second family, but being on your feet for 8-10 hours without sitting down and or stopping to rest, doesn’t go along with triathlon training. Especially when you spend your training rest day working at said restaurant. This is what I did this week. BIG MISTAKE! So, when I was supposed to be resting from training, I was working on my feet for 8 hours. THIS WAS NOT SMART.

So, I learned my lesson. Rest is essential to successful training. And real rest, not just “I won’t go to the gym today rest.” So, my body has taught me this the hard way and I am now giving it what it wants. Real rest.

Oh, Hey There Central Park

Today was bike riding day. Hooray! I’ve been dying to get my new bike out and about. Speaking of my new bike. I’d like to take this time to introduce you to my new best friend, Taylor Dayne.
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Yep. I named my bike after the 80’s singer. I figured that if I ever got lost, love would leave me back. I know. Horrible joke. Stop yelling at me.

Taylor arrived last Thursday in a big box and my boyfriend and I took her to the Bike Stop around the corner on Saturday to be assembled.
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I rode her for a short rid on Saturday, but I soon realized that the seat was too high and I needed to take her back to the shop for a few adjustments. So, today she got a new fancy water bottle holder and a seat adjustment then we were off to Central Park for a ride.

I’ve never had a bike in the city, so this was my first time navigating the subway with one. I’m glad I chose to go in the middle of the day because traffic was low. Here’s Taylor patiently waiting for the train while garnering some inspiration for her upcoming ride. I think she’s ready.
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Not sure about me though.
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I got to Central Park, which is really only 4 stops from my apartment, so it’s not that big of a commute, and started looking for the bike paths. You’d think there would be a sign somewhere, but no. I mean, I’ve been to Central Park a million times and I always see bikers scooting along, but never really paid much attention. After a bit of trial and error that included just following other bikers, I found the bike lane and Taylor and I started working.

I’m still getting used to Taylor and which gears feel the best where and all that jazz. I suck when it comes to knowing what to do with the gears, so that was my goal of today. Futz around and figure her out. The ride started out really great. The first few minutes were mostly flat with a few small hills and I was feeling like the queen of biking. I could see myself in London next week biking alongside the Olympians. Then it started. I reached my first real hill and everything changed. Now, clearly I never really thought this through. If you had asked me, “Hey Amanda. What type of terrain is Central Park?” I would have said, “What a great question. It’s really hilly.” Then maybe what was about to happen to me would not have come as such a surprise. I started up this hill and about halfway up, I was done. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to get off and walk Taylor up the hill. I thought, “OK. I need to get warmed up and figure out what I’m doing. Once I get over this hill, it’ll be downhill for a while.” Holy Mother of Pearl was I wrong.

The hills kept coming. I know that this was my first “real” bike ride, but even I was shocked at how hard it was. Last week I did my rides on the bike at the gym since Taylor wasn’t here yet, so riding in the park is a whole new ballgame. So, I shouldn’t beat myself up about struggling with this. As I was riding along, I kept thinking, “it’s gonna go downhill just over this bend,” yet it seemed to continue to move upwards. It was almost completely uphill. How is that even possible?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Central Park, this is what it look like. The turquoise trail is the bike path and the red arrow is where I started.
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Since I started on the furthermore SE corner of the of turquoise trail, I intended to cut across West at 72nd street in order to not overdo it today. I was only supposed to bike for 30 minutes, so that seemed fair. I could always loop again, right? Well, I must have been distracted by the monstrous hills that laid before me because once I decided to check where I was on my phone. This is where I was.
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Yep. I was committed to biking at this point. I assumed that since I was at the halfway point there would be lots of downhill to come. I was wrong again. It was as if the hills just got steeper and steeper. Once again I ask, how is this even possible? There was more walking in my future, but I did the best I could. By the end of the ride, I did feel like I was getting the hang of Taylor and her gears. I was finally able to keep a good pace going up and down a hill, so that’s progress. I also managed to grab a great picture of the Reservoir while I was taking a quick break. It was a beautiful day here today.
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I was amazed at the bikers who kept passing me on the hills. Wowzers. They are really, really, good. Instead of beating myself up about it though, I decided to look towards them for inspiration. Someday I’ll bike as well as them. Or at least be able to bike up a hill. Baby steps.

First Sign of Weakness

Yesterday was my day off and it was glorious. My brain actually wanted to train, which was a new experience, but I let my body rest completely. I knew that I was entering week two of training and I didn’t want to hit a wall.

Today I swam and I struggled. This sucked. Last week I swam 200m without stopping, and I was pretty sure that no one had ever swam this far. In my mind, I was the pinnacle of swimming perfection. In this deluded fantasy Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte were fighting over my hand in marriage because of how far I could effortlessly swim. Now, I know that 200m is just about as short as it gets, but for me, this was a huge accomplishment. Naturally, since I did this with no problem last week, I was certain that today I would easily be swimming 400m with no problem. Not the case. I struggled to get through the 200m swim today. I guess it was partially just fatigue from working out so consistently over the last week and partially from making adjustments to my technique. I’m definitely pulling more now instead of relying solely on my kick. This is a big improvement on my technique, particularly for a triathlon. I also realized quickly last week that I was a one sided breather and that I needed to breath equally on each side. This has also improved. Today I focused on fully breathing out while under the water so that I would be actually refilling my lungs when I breath. This is also an adjustment to my technique. So, I guess that even though I struggled with endurance, I am making technical strides that will pay off in the long run. This is something to celebrate.

On a side note, I’ve been doing much of my swimming at the Astoria Sports Complex. This gym draws quite the crowd. Today there were two, ahem, *older* ladies in the lane next to me. I’m not sure what they were actually doing in the water, because they never moved from the wall, but they were wearing floral print shower caps, so I didn’t complain. What’s not to love about a, ahem *more seasoned* swimmer in a floral shower cap. They did, however, begin to take out their dentures and compare denture glues. Yep. Astoria Sports Complex: Harboring Denture Bacteria since 2012. Training for a triathlon is seriously dangerous work.

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First Goal Accomplished!

Well, I made it through my first official week of training! (Insert pat on back or perhaps a golf clap.) I spent two week unofficially training, but decided that I needed a more structured program to help me make the most of my training time. I bought Joe Friel’s book, “Your First Triathlon” and it has been an amazing help! I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for an intro into triathlons. You can even follow Joe on Twitter at @jfriel.
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I have 8 weeks until my triathlon in New Jersey, so I decided to start his 12 week training program at 8 weeks out. This seemed to work well for me because I was already in moderate shape. What is great about this program is that the training sessions aren’t that intense and overwhelming. You are given a very doable, specific task that makes the workout fun. There is no, “now go run for 65 minutes on the treadmill.” That type of working out makes me quit. I made it through the first week of training and I’m so proud of myself. I did every workout session and even did most of the optional exercises as well. This is huge.

Also, I bought a bike!! After much deliberation with my brother, we picked a bike that fit my extremely modest budget and it arrived on Friday. I had it put together at my lock bike shop, The Bike Stop on 28th Ave. in Astoria, NY, and went for my first ride. I need to make some adjustments to the seat, but besides that, she’s riding quite nice! I can’t wait to really break her in this week.

I'm Gonna 'tri' Blogging

So, I started training for a triathlon. I know what you’re saying. “Don’t you have asthma, Amanda?” or “Don’t you hate going to the gym?” and “Aren’t you terribly out of shape?” Yes dammit! I say yes to all of those things. Stop yelling at me.

BUT, I’m tired of feeling sluggish all the time. I’ve also been diagnosed with mild IBD and know that exercise and better eating habits will make me feel better. I rejoined Weight Watchers to try and get my eating habits under control and I decided that I needed something to kick my exercise habit into gear. I do hate the mundane routine of going to the gym and feeling like you have tasks to accomplish, but I love being active when it’s fun. I read an article in the most recent issue of Weight Watcher’s Magazine about triathlons and how almost anyone can complete a triathlon as long as you are in relatively good health and can commit to a training program. So, I decided I would give it a try. After all, I love swimming and cycling, it’s just running that feels like a task.

My older brother Adam has competed in a few triathlons and has been trying to get me to give it a try, so he has been a good resource as I get started in my training. Here he is on the left with his best friend Bruce after the Toyota U.S. Open Triathlon in Dallas.

And with my dad, stepmom, and nieces after the tri. Don’t they look happy?

Now, my brother has never really been the epitome of physical fitness. He’s a healthy guy who was an excellent golfer in college. He was on golf scholarship at Baylor and even competed with Tiger Woods during his NCAA days. However, I don’t consider golf to be much of an endurance sport. Then, after medical school and once my brother became a dad, his new hobby became food and wine. Also not an endurance sport (although my family would beg to differ). Then my brother and his friend Bruce decided that they were only happy when competing with each other, so they naturally opted for a triathlon. My brother even got his wife to compete. And his daughter. This is Adam with my Goddaughter Lexi after her first tri.
I mean, come on. She’s cute right! If she can do it, surely I can. Right? Right? RIGHT? Anyone?

I’m also only doing this so that someone out there will make signs like this for me. Find your inner sparkle? Why yes, I think I will.