2012 Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon Recap: I Won! (Basically…)

You better believe I hung this baby on the wall!

When Michael K. Farrell sprained his ankle and asked me to do the third leg of his upcoming half-Ironman distance triathlon, I immediately said yes. I hadn’t trained to race 13.1 miles, but all I needed to do was finish. “Make it a long training run,” he said. I was nervous about running well, but my anxiety melted away when we arrived in Tupper Lake, NY. The sleepy little Adirondack town is like Xanax for even the most worry-riddled racer. That’s not to say the competition wasn’t intense—the relay team lineup for the 2012 Tupper Lake Tinman Triathlon on 30 June was fierce.

Windy conditions made for a choppy swim, and Michael K. Farrell swallowed a good amount of Tupper Lake. But he managed to regain his focus during the first transition. Waving away the bottle of Gatorade I held out, he jumped on his bike and was off. I saw him again two and half hours later for a brief 40 seconds, during which I ripped the Velcro strap with the timing chip off of his ankle, wrapped it around my own, and took off for the run.

Michael K. Farrell was second off the bike (he hammered the 56-mile out-and-back course!), which meant there was only one relay team ahead of us on the run. I didn’t think I’d be able to overtake that guy, but I was hoping to hold on to second place.

The first four miles were hot, lonely, and uphill. A woman on the sidelines shouted, “You’re the first girl!” as I rounded a corner, and I since I didn’t have the time or the energy to explain that I was a relay team so technically I wasn’t first, I simply shook my head. Michael K. Farrell jumped onto the course out of nowhere to lift my spirits. He reminded me to use the aid stations (“Dump all the water you can on yourself and take in some calories!”), and hobbled along by my side until the halfway point. (He said his ankle felt fine, but his gait was totally off.) By then I was feeling a lot better and I settled into a steady 9-minute pace. I was passed by a relay runner, pushing us into third place in my mind—still podium worthy, so I wasn’t all that upset.

I picked up speed in the last three miles, but still managed to get passed by a third relay runner just after the 12-mile marker. I was deflated. I felt like I had let Michael K. Farrell down (they don’t usually hand out hardware to fourth place finishers), yet I continued to push the pace.

I was psyched when I spotted Michael K. Farrell cheering on the sidelines up ahead–the end was near! He sprinted the last half mile with me and we crossed the finish line together. My watch stopped on 1:58:30*, and I had that satisfied, I-just-ran-a-half-marathon feeling.

Michael K. Farrell and I proudly accepted the award for 1st Place Co-Ed Relay. (I wanted to tell everyone it was the Cutest Couple award, but Michael K. Farrell wouldn’t let me—he thinks I need to be more modest.)

And then we learned we won! Turns out the three relay teams that finished ahead of us were made up of all men. We were the first co-ed team to cross the line! Thrilled and slightly dumbfounded (who knew there’d be awards for every category!?), I high-fived Michael K. Farrell and we shuffled off in search of dry clothes and sunscreen (I have a thing about reapplying every couple of hours).

Participating was a lot of fun, and showing the world that Michael K. Farrell and I make an award-winning team was exhilarating, but I still don’t have plans to take up swimming or cycling (outside of a spin studio). I’m more than happy to leave those legs to Michael K. Farrell, the best teammate a girl could have!

*The official results clocked my run at 1:59:30. I guess my watch decided to snooze for a minute.

Have you ever completed a triathlon? Do you swim or bike on your cross-training days?

Sometimes I’m Crabby in the Morning


I’m not sure why it looks like I’m having fun here. This was a tough workout!

Remember when I mentioned my bird-like arms? (How could you forget? I talk about how weak they are all the time.) In a recent effort to give them a little more girth, I hit up Stacy’s Bootcamp in Central Park. But while getting a dose of much needed upper body work, I discovered that I have no control over my hips.

Imagine, crab-crawling your way across a gorgeously bricked section of Central Park. The sun is shining. Birds are chirping. Sounds nice, right? Now, add to that scene one seriously buff, totally tough woman who won’t stop yelling, “Get your hips up, Kim!” And suddenly you’re no longer an extra in a Disney film.

I don’t know why, but my hips just don’t want to tilt up towards the sky when I’m back on all fours. They have no problem heading in that direction when I’m in a downward dog, and I’ve never had trouble convincing them to shake on the dance floor. You might guess that they simply don’t care for shellfish, but they went their own way during the bear crawls, too. I heard Stacy shout, “Get your hips down, Kim!” several times. (Geez, lady, make up your mind.)

Luckily, there were lots of other moves that morning that didn’t cause Stacy to comment on my hips. Namely, walking lunges, sprints up a set of stairs, walking lunges, jumping jacks, walking lunges, mountains climbers… Did I mention the walking lunges? All in all, it was a phenomenal workout and a lovely way to spend my cross-training day.

Have you ever been to a boot camp? Are you more motivated when there’s a trainer standing over you?

Sister Tested: Capoeira at Stroga in Washington, D.C.

It takes a lot of concentration to be a good dance fighter. Here I am perfecting my Ginga.

Baby Sister is a bit of a yoga buff, so I wasn’t surprised when she asked me to join her for a class at Stroga on a recent DC visit. Stroga is one of the top yoga studios in our Nation’s Capital, and it’s so popular that mats are spaced precisely 3-inches apart in the gorgeous ballroom during peak times. But Baby Sister didn’t sign us up for simple flow session. Nope, she threw me a cultural curve ball and took me to Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that looks a lot like dancing. Dreaming of becoming a world class dance fighter? It’s tougher than it seems to get the hang of, but even if you lack rhythm Capoeira is still a good workout.

Warm-up The class started with a series of walking lunges, side lunges, handstands, and cartwheels across the huge hardwood floor. We moved in three lines and every few turns the instructor changed things up by adding in an extra step, twist, or movement, eventually connecting everything together. Most of the positions kept us low to the ground, which required concentration, balance, and core strength. Still, all those cartwheels reminded me that… Hey, I can still do a cartwheel! And they’re just as fun now as they were when I was 7.

Learn the basics We spent a lot (and I mean a lot!) of time working on three simple moves—Ginga, Queixada, and Esquiva. Ginga is ready-in-motion foundation of Capoeira. To do it: Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and torso low. Sweep your right foot back towards a center point, while your left arm swings up and over to cover your face. Return to start, then sweep your left foot back and swing your right arm across. Queixada is a side-swiping kick used to attack your opponent that easily flows from Ginga. And finally Esquiva, which literally means “escape” in Portuguese, is a move where you crouch down and throw your arm up to protect your face. Esquiva when someone attempts to Queixada you in the head.

Practice makes perfect Our instructor wanted those three moves to become second nature, so we worked on them for nearly an hour. (Did I mention this was a two hour class?!) I got really bored and caught myself thinking, “I’d rather be running right now.” But Baby Sister’s enthusiasm snapped me back, and I continued to Ginga, Queixada, and Esquiva until my thighs almost gave out.

Esquiva! I like to crouch down while my opponent wears himself out with all that attacking.

When all else fails, Esquiva Towards the end we circled up and the dance fighting began. Two players faced off in the center, while the rest of us clapped to the beat of a traditional Capoeira drum. I felt ridiculous during my turn in the middle, I only knew three moves and I wanted to fall to the floor in a puddle of giggles. But everyone else was taking it so seriously that all I could do was smile, Ginga, and Esquiva. (I had already forgotten how to Queixada. Oops.)

It won’t be my first choice for cross-training going forward, but Capoeira did end up being a fantastic sweat-session. All those low-squatting stances really worked my butt, hamstrings, and quads. (Hello, DOMS—delayed-onset muscle soreness, my rear end was sore for two days!) And trying something new was a pretty cool way to bond with Baby Sister on a hot, humid DC afternoon.

What’s your favorite non-running workout? Have you ever been to Stroga in DC? Think you might try Capoeira now?

Fresh from the Pool: Workout Tips and Beauty Secrets from USA Synchro

Posing with members of USA Synchro. Where’s my sparkly swimsuit, ladies?

In my 9-to-5 life I often write about beauty tricks and makeup tips. I try not to bring that to my, ahem, running blog. But this is one situation where the line between looking good and training hard gets a bit blurry. I had the opportunity to get in the pool with members of the United States Synchronized Swimming (USA Synchro) National Team—mere weeks before a couple of them fly across the pond to represent the US at the 2012 Olympic Games, and I dove right in!

I’m not much of a water bug—I sink more than I swim. I mean, I could save myself by dog paddling if I had to, but I didn’t actually finish swimming lessons as a kid. (My family moved halfway through the class and no one thought to sign me up again.) Still, I struggled into a really tight one-piece and threw myself into the pool. There in the shallow end, these incredibly talented women shared their best training tips and beauty secrets. Here’s how to get what they’ve got:

Rock-solid musclesTreading water eight hours a day, six days a week is bound to keep you slim and trim. But these ladies also engage in “land training.” They’re in the gym for at least an hour three days a week working with free weights and machines to strengthen their arms, legs, and core. Weight bearing exercises and swimming are terrific cross-training activities for runners—you’re using similar muscles to keep your body moving, and you’re giving your joints a break from all that pavement pounding.

I’m ready to learn a few tricks in the shallow end—nose plug and all!

Incredible breath control One full-team presentation lasts about three minutes, and about half of that time is spent under water, which means at any given moment these girls are holding their breath—often for up to 45 seconds. Woah!  The trick is to increase your lung capacity with deep breathing exercises. A good one: Fully inhale, hold your breath for 2 to 3 seconds, and then completely exhale slowly. Practice this (outside of the water) a few times a day. Runners can totally benefit from better lung capacity and mindful breathing. You never want to outrun your breath—it should always be consistent, even during hard efforts.

Not a hair out of place The women practice in swim caps, but for competition their hair needs to be on display. To keep their adorable chignons and top knots secure they rely on Knox Gelatine. Mix it up and slather it on for super stiff, super shiny locks. (Believe me, those buns don’t budge!) Gelatin is surprisingly good for your hair—it’s strengthens the hair shaft and protects if from drying pool chemicals. But it’s tough to get it out: “You need hot water, a fine tooth comb, and lots of patience,” one team member jokes.

Getting a leg up (that’s me!) on the competition with Jane Katz of the 1964 US Synchronized Swim Team.

Run-proof eye makeup I spent about 20 minutes in the water with these lovelies and came out looking like a raccoon—my “waterproof” mascara clearly wasn’t. Meanwhile, their makeup was flawless. The secret to its staying power: ChapStick. “We load on the color and then slick ChapStick over top to seal it against our lids,” reveals one team member. This is ultra-important during competition, because 50% of the score is based on artistic impression and presentation—points off for runny mascara! As for lash boosters, they’re big fans of CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Blasting Waterproof Mascara and Dior Diorshow Waterproof Mascara (though they admit even those formulas wear off after hours of chlorine contact).

Lots of support Pricey pool memberships and sparkly swim suits aside, it costs a lot to train and compete in synchro on the national and Olympic levels. These ladies wouldn’t be able to do it without sponsorships from companies like Infusium 23—which kicked off a partnership with USA Synchro in March. Everyday athletes and runners need a lot of support, too—and we get it! Just think about all those volunteers passing out cups of water at races, and partners and spouses who put up with our whininess when we taper.

Olympic-medal hopefuls Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva show off their routine.

All that time in front of the mirror and in the pool has paid off for two members of the team, USA Synchro’s duet, Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva, are headed to the 2012 Olympic Games next month. They’ll be in London for the opening ceremonies on 27 July, but won’t compete until 5 August. Will they have tea with Prince Harry and play in Piccadily Circus until then? “Nope, we’ll be training at a pool in Dublin until it’s time to compete,” says Mary Killman. “There isn’t enough free time in the pool at the Olympic Village for us to practice our routine.” All that sightseeing will have to wait until after the medals are given out, I guess. Good luck, ladies!

Will you be watching Olympic coverage of the USA Synchro team? Do you ever cross-train in the pool?

All The Runners In The House Say, Om!

I haven’t been running much, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted. (Have you missed me? I’ve missed you!) I took some time off to finally clear up that lung infection, and now I’m slooowly getting back into my old routine.

I’ve been relying heavily on cross training during my comeback tour, focusing on getting my cardio fitness level back up with spin classes and strengthening weak areas of my body.

Yesterday, I took a yoga class with Lisa Priestly at AS ONE. And today I feel like a new runner. (Albeit a little sore in the back and shoulders—all those downward dogs add up!)

AS ONE, a fitness center run by George Vafiades (Ironman athlete and USA Triathlon Level 1 certified coach) and Mark Merchant (founder of ALTA Physical Therapy and a 2011 Death Race participant), offers up a program of high-intensity training that builds strength, stamina, and flexibility over an 8-week period. It’s perfect for runners, triathletes, and others looking to get stronger and faster, and to circumvent injury and muscle imbalance.

Lisa guided the class through a series of hamstring stretches and hip opening poses that left me feeling limber. And she explained that yoga is the perfect companion to cardio and strength training, because it lengthens muscles, opens up joints, and works the kinks out of other tight spots. I’m sold—again.

I’ve talked about yoga before, but I’m certainly guilty of skimping on the stretching—I mean, who hasn’t heard me whine about my hip flexor? So it’s time to do something about it. I’m heading out now to tackle a few miles in the park (running again feels so good!), and before I go I’m rolling out my yoga mat. This way it’s ready for a quick toe-touching session when I get back!

Do you stretch regularly? How often do you incorporate yoga into your routine?