If I totally fall apart…

Hi friends, happy June! How was your #NationalRunningDay on Wednesday? Mine was awesome-sauce. I got to run with the world’s best running team, so OBVIOUSLY it was a kick-ass celebration. My favorite part of the day was that we all got to write WHY we run at the end of our team workout. It was great to see the reasons that motivate my teammates to run, and it was a good reminder for me as well.

I run because it brings me joy.

Running brings me joy. So does swimming and biking, playing outside, chilling with friends and family, fundraising for important causes, and snuggling up in bed after a day well spent. I’m immensely grateful to be able to do so many things that bring me joy on a daily basis. Which brings me to my recap of the Rock Hall International Triathlon.

Going into the race last weekend – a totally new distance for me – I had three levels of goals: 1) If everything went absolutely perfectly – perfect conditions, feeling amazing, etc – I was (and am still) confident that I could race an international distance in 2:35; 2) A realistic goal of 2:45 that could be achieved with a less than perfect performance; and if I totally fell apart, my goal was to race under 3 hours. As referenced in this post’s title, I fell apart. Even from the start of the race, I knew that goal #1 was out of the question. It was too hot, too windy, and too choppy for a perfect race, but I still felt that 2:45 could be within reach.

First up – the water. It was 79 degrees (no wetsuits if you’re familiar with USAT rules). That is straight up bathwater! It was also super choppy. Due to the wind, the bay had issued a “small craft advisory,” which means that the water on the bay was so choppy they don’t recommend small boats go out on the water. It wasn’t too bad in the harbor, but it was far from calm. Whatevs – I’m comfortable in the water no matter the conditions, so I jumped right in!

My wave went off and I got to the first turn buoy no problem and headed to the next one. It was difficult to sight with the chop, but between following the pack and catching a glimpse of the buoys when I could, I was staying on track fairly well. Then we turned at the second turn buoy. Suddenly, there was no buoy in site. WTF! I kept swimming by following the pack, but knew we weren’t headed in the right direction. I poked my head up near a kayak and asked where to go. Turns out, a WHOLE massive group had taken a much harder left than needed. I redirected, found the buoy, and kept going. Back on track after at least an extra 100 meters – ok. THEN, as I turned at the next buoy, swimmers started swimming TOWARDS me. Ummm….what? Turns out, some folks didn’t stop to redirect and were literally sent back to go around the buoy, putting them in complete opposition to the direction of the rest of the swimmers. Welp, didn’t realize this would be an obstacle race, but ok. Dodged the swimmers and continued around the next buoy to start the next loop of the bay. I turned the corner, only to see people WALKING. I’m sorry, whaaaaaat is going on here?

At this point, I’m totally confused. First there were no buoys, then swimmers were going the wrong way, and now people are walking? Was something wrong? Were they stopping the race? I swam with my head out for awhile to try to figure out wtf was happening. The race appeared to be going on, and it seemed like people were just walking because it was shallow and they could, so I kept swimming. Finally, I turned at the last turn buoy before the final stretch. The sun was directly in front of me, and I couldn’t see a thing straight ahead. Bugging that I’d end up swimming the wrong way again (and lose even more time by swimming extra legs), I kept poking my head out and taking off my goggles to squint and see if I was still headed straight. I wasn’t trusting ANYONE else to follow to the end. After a very confusing swim leg, I made it out of the water and ran across the pier to transition. I came out of the water at 30:57 (6/20 AG) – 5 minutes slower than my usual comfortable pace. Goal #2 was slipping away, but still wasn’t impossible. I’d just need a kickass bike leg.IMG_2052In stark contrast to the swim, the bike leg was amazingly well directed. There was a volunteer or cop at every turn and every intersection. I felt incredibly safe the entire course, and it was gorgeous. I spent most of the bike leg just having a blast (and watching folks on tri bikes with aero wheels speed by me- whatevs). We hit a gravely patch of road mid-race that was pretty irritating, but otherwise the road conditions were solid. However, the second half of the bike leg met me with a BEAST of a headwind. I kid you not, there was a moment where I came up on a little hill and I was SO happy because it blocked the wind for a minute. Womp womp. In spite of it, I had a decent bike leg, nothing to write home about, but at 1:24 (10/20 AG), not a total disaster either. I’ll take it.

Coming off the bike, I had two thoughts on my mind: 1) I want a beer RIGHT NOW and 2) It is really hot out right now. I’d run the run course a few weeks before in cooler weather and it was hot then. The whole course is on asphalt and has very little shade. Oh, and it’s two loops of the same thing. I knew it was going to be brutal. In addition, at this point, I needed to run 8 min miles to come in under 2:45. On a good day – a 10K under 50 mins is no problem, but on a hot day? Forget it. I haven’t run in the heat at ALL this year, so I knew it was just not going to happen.

My wonderful parents and Charlie were cheering me on as I came out of transition, and I decided I was just going to enjoy the run as much as possible.IMG_2053After the first mile, it became very clear to me that this run wasn’t going to be particularly enjoyable. The sun was brutal. I started bargaining with myself. Run the first loop straight through, and then you can walk through water stations for the second loop. I picked up two cups of water at every water station – one to stay hydrated and one to dump on my head. I threw my nutrition plan out the window – it was way too hot to take in a gel while running (It would’ve made me totally nauseous). After seeing my cheer squad at the end of the the first loop, I just shuffled on. Run to the next water station – drink, dump, walk, shuffle on, repeat. I wasn’t tired or sore, I was just HOT. (Note to self – start training in the heat and trouble shooting for it). I rolled into the finish with a 57 min 10k (7/20 AG) – my slowest to date, ever – for a finish time of 2:56:25 (8/20 AG, 61/194 OAW).

Nothing to write home about, but in spite of it all, I was having fun the ENTIRE race. Even when I had no effing clue where I was swimming, and when I felt I was going backwards on my bike due to the wind, and when I felt like I was going to physically melt into the pavement on the run. I kept thinking how cool it was that I get to do this, how beautiful the scenery was, how lucky I am to have a kickass support system, and singing songs to myself about the beer I was going to drink at the finish line. I enjoyed every minute. Which is really why I race in the first place. It brings me joy – even when all my best laid plans totally fall apart.

So from a competition standpoint, my race was a complete failure, but from the perspective of a day well spent doing something that brings me joy, it was a total victory. Here’s to enjoying life!

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How it all went down

What a week! I kid you not, I put in a title for this post and promptly fell asleep on the couch. So here’s to take two!

IMG_2009Last Saturday was my birthday, and it got off to a great – albeit rainy – start on the Brooklyn Half course. I joined some of my teammates from Brooklyn Tri Club, and some friends and families of runner buddies to give ALL the cowbell. My ears are still ringing – but it was worth it. Sadly, all of my beautiful posters melted in the rain, but they were fun while they lasted!

P.S. – If you need more cowbell, call me. I’ve gotcha covered.

Afterwards, Charlie and I did super exciting things like dropping off the bags full of clothes we don’t wear anymore at Goodwill, and getting the massive pile of old mail that’s been building up behind our couch since we moved in shredded at NYC ShredFest. I kid you not – I was SO jazzed to get that stuff out of our apartment. #win. I also got in a little birthday run before taking a power nap and getting ready to party.

IMG_2027Huge thanks go out to everyone who came out to help me celebrate last weekend – it was a blast to drink beers and eat carbs with you! If anyone’s in need of a casual venue that can accommodate a large group in Brooklyn, I highly recommend Die Koelner Bierhall. They were so good to us, and made it super easy for us to split checks and such. (My fave pic from the night is to the right.)

In addition, I’m immensely grateful for all of the fantastic donors who made a birthday donation to my fundraiser for Back on My Feet. Your generosity means the world to me, and will make a huge difference for Back on My Feet – thank you! For those of you who want to make a donation, you have until the NYC Triathlon on July 19th!

After a weekend full of festivities, I got to jump right into some professional development on Monday at the American Express Leadership Academy run by the Center for Creative Leadership. I was super skeptical about spending a week locked in a hotel convention center to learn how to be a better leader with a bunch of strangers, but it ended up being an INCREDIBLE experience. I’m still trying to process everything I learned, but I’m confident that my participation in the Academy is going to make me a better leader at the office – and I’m so thrilled to have met so many of my colleagues leading nonprofits across New York City.

I’m proud to say, that in spite of the insanely busy week – that included spending a few nights at a hotel – I got some solid workouts done this week. Nothing impressive, but I got them done. And thank goodness, because I’ve got my first race of the season NEXT weekend. How did that come up so quickly?!?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for next week. It’s my first international distance race, so it’s longer than any tri I’ve raced before, and I have to travel the night before since it’s on a Saturday morning. It’ll also be the first tri I’ll race in a wetsuit, so there’s an added complication to T1. So many things to worry about! But ya know what – I’ve worked pretty hard this year. I could definitely have worked harder, gone out a little less, and gotten up earlier more often, but I’ve been pretty committed. I’m sure I’ll improve throughout the season, but I have faith that I’ll be able to push out a solid race this weekend. Good juju and words of encouragement welcome!

Here’s to a productive taper week for me – and a wonderful week of whatever you’ve got on your plate! I’ll report back with a recap of my first international distance tri next weekend!

May is Bike Month!

I’ve always known that May was the best month of the year. The weather is perfect, summer swim team starts, baseball is in full swing, and well, I was born in May, so obviously it’s a winner.  In addition to those wonderful things, since 1956, May has been National Bike Month! Started by the League of American Bicyclists back when everyone liked Ike, National Bike Month is dedicated to getting more folks on bicycles. There are tons of events across the country to get you on two wheels, and if you can’t find one near you, the League of American Bicyclists has some resources to help you start one! If you’re in NYC like me, check out bikenyc.org for all things Bike Month.

IMG_1993A few weekends ago, I grabbed some buddies and headed down to the Red Hook Crit. For those who aren’t familiar – and believe me I wasn’t until I stumbled upon this Crit a couple of years ago and then googled the shit out of it – a criterium (or crit) is a bike race that happens on a short, closed track. The cyclists go around the track in multiple laps and get REALLY fast. Oh, and did I mention they’re riding track bikes – fixed gears with NO brakes. It’s pretty awesome. In any case, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to convince anyone to go with me, but Charlie and his buddy agreed to join me and guess what? We all had a blast! If you ever have a chance to go – do it.

In other cycling news, I finally made it to a morning bike workout with the tri club, and wouldn’t you know –  it was awesome. I can’t wait to get faster with all the new skillz I’m learning. It’s crazy how much a good coach can teach you in a short while.

Now, to get away from the bicycles, I should mention that this Saturday is my birthday, and I will be eternally grateful if you would make a donation to my fundraising campaign for Back on My Feet NYC! I’ve set a very ambitious goal, and I need your help to reach it. BoMF is the reason I wake up early, and my motivation to race the NYC Triathlon.  The organization and its members inspire me daily and I know that if you look into it, you’ll be inspired to – so at least click on the link and check it out. Everyone needs a little inspiration!

Last but not least – if you’re running the Brooklyn Half – I’ll be cheering for you along with all my homies and about a dozen cowbells at about mile 7.5. If you want to come out and cheer with me, pop me an email at afennecken@gmail.com and I’ll hit you up with the deets – it’ll be a blast!

Happy Bike Month all! Let me know what you’ll do to celebrate in the comments :)

I’m in a glass case of emotion… and I #WipeforWater

Life, you guys! It totally gets in the way of training! Amiright? After two + weeks of fending off a cold, I lost all motivation at the end of last week. I took two EXTRA rest days on (yup – one week, three rest days) and just kind of…gave up. Didn’t try to get up early, didn’t bother to pack my gear in case I got the itch to workout.

I figured I had the Verrazano Half on Saturday, so I knew at least I’d get in a long run. Instead I went on a lovely evening stroll with Charlie on Thursday, and on Friday walked the two miles home from packet pick up. And dammit if I didn’t feel like a new woman by the time I hit the starting line on Saturday morning.

Saturday was GORGEOUS here in New York City. The sun was shining, it was warm and there was just enough breeze coming off the harbor that it didn’t get too hot. It was the kind of spring day that makes you believe in Disney, love at first site, and all that ish. I’ve only been running twice a week, so I didn’t have any big plans for the Verrazano Half. In fact, I only signed up to motivate myself to do 10+ mile training runs earlier in the season. I wanted to shoot for an 8:30 min/mile pace, not go out like the Flash and hobble in like the walking wounded, and test out my race-day nutrition strategy.

I ended up with a surprise PR! It was only a minute and a half – nothing to write home about – but I’ll take it. Now I’m confident that I can maintain a decent pace for the 10K off the bike. Woot! I may even sign up for some running races later this season to see how my running fitness improves.

Moral of the week is: burnout is real, sometimes you have to honor it. Take a few days off. Cut yourself some slack. It’s cool. You’ll get your mojo back.

And to TOTALLY switch gears – Happy Belated Earth Day! As part of the #WipeForWater campaign, Influenster sent me a packet of Neutrogena Natural’s Purifying Makeup Remover and Cleansing Towlettes to try. I took the #WipeForWater challenge and used the wipes, instead of water to clean my face at the end of the day for three days. So, what did I think?

On the whole – I liked them! I’d definitely buy them again to keep in my gym bag for post-workout wipes, buuuut I really missed using facial cleanser and water for the end of the day. I have sensitive, acne prone skin, so I’ve got to be careful about what I put on my face. These definitely weren’t problematic – which is awesome – but I don’t know that they can replace a real wash in the long term. The challenge did make me think about 1) how much I take for granted living a comfortable existence in a first world environment and 2) the impact my consumption has on the planet and those who were born into less privileged environments.  I’m absolutely going to do some solid research this summer and figure out what I can be doing better.

To all my tree huggers and social justice advocates out there: what should I be doing to reduce my environmental impact and consume responsibly? I need some tips!