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Tri Talk Tuesday: Gaining Confidence with Open Water Swimming

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It’s Tuesday and I’m back for  another Tri Talk Tuesday, linking up with CourtneyMiranda, and Cynthia! Today’s topic is: open water swimming.


Here’s the thing, I used to be really scared of the open water swim in Triathlon, like really scared.  I was so scared to the point where I would have anxiety attacks in the water, my heart would race and I would literally be grasping for air. I would train my BUTT off and would get in the water during a race and all of the practice and training would go out the window!  So aggravating! My swim time was what was separating me from a top place age group finish, even more of a reason to focus on fixing that confidence issue. You could fine me doing breast stroke or floating on my back to relax in the beginning of a race.  It would take me several minutes to calm down before actually getting into a freestyle groove.

Coming out of the water at Tri Fest Half Ironman 2013

Fast forward to now, and I am more confident than ever in the water.  I will honestly say, it takes years of practice and racing to get confident in an open water swim during a triathlon.  Granted, for some people it might take less time than it took me, but for most, I know this is a struggle. I was determined to get confident in the water and to decrease my swim times.  I have gone from finishing in the middle of the pack (or further back) during the swim, to finishing at the top of the pack in my age group… and I was never a competitive swimmer! I still have a lot to work on, like my technique, but there are a lot of things that have helped me gain confidence in the water.  Hopefully my tips can help you to gain confidence in the water!

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How to gain confidence in the open water:

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1. Practice, practice practice!  I can’t say this enough.  You need to practice in the open water in order to RACE in the open water.  Getting in the open water just once before a race is not enough.  I made this mistake during my very first triathlon, hence the panic attack.

2. Swim with a buddy who is comfortable in the open water.  When I first ventured into triathlons, I found a few girls to swim with and it made all the difference.  One of the girls was a college swimmer and triathlete, it gave me a sense of comfort swimming with her.  She was also faster than me and it gave me something to work towards. I always like to have someone next to me when I swim.  This also prepares you for race day when you have a ton of people all around you.

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3. Find a song with a good beat, and get it stuck in your head. This is my strategy for when I am scared swimming while training or especially during racing. I have mentioned this before on the blog, but it truly works wonders.  When you repeat song lyrics (my song of choice is ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry) it helps you relax and get into a rhythm… try it for yourself!

4. Realize that you are scaring any living thing in the water that might be near you.  I only practice in a pond, so I cannot speak for the ocean, but I know that nothing can kill me where I swim and I try to remind myself of this.  I also try not to think about the bad things that could happen, like drowning, because this totally freaks me out.  Whenever I get worried about seeing fish, I try to remind myself that they are more scared of me, than I am of them… THIS does not apply to sharks obviously.  But that’s why I don’t do ocean swims…

5. Warm up before a race, this is critical! Warming up in the water before a race is not only critical for warming up your muscles, but also your MIND.  All open water is different, whether is be a lake, pond or ocean.  Even if you practice in a lake all the time, chances are the lake at your race will seem a lot different.  There could be more waves, less visibility, etc… don’t wait until the gun goes off to see what it’s like.  I recommend getting in the water AT LEAST 10 minutes before race start.  Also, practice going around a buoy and getting a feel for the course.  Another suggestion is to familiarize yourself with the swim course before arriving on race morning i.e. reading the Athlete Guide and knowing what direction the course goes and what the turns look like… highly recommended!

6. Quit over thinking it. Easier said than done, but once you relax in the water, you will be much better off.  It has taken me years not to ‘over think’ the open water swim. I over think everything in my life, so you can only imagine what I used to be like in the open water.  Just give yourself the proper amount of time to train, and you shouldn’t have to over think:)


What scares you the most about open water swimming?  How do you overcome your fears?



IMMT Training Recap {Week 9}

Nine weeks… here we go…

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The Stats:

3 Weeks until Mass State Olympic Triathlon (my next race)
9 Weeks until IMMT! (54 DAYS)
Hours Logged last week: 10 (12, if you count our hike on Sunday)

Favorite training quote this week:
“When the pain comes, you know what I do? I smile..” –Chris McCormick

The first day of Summer was on Friday, which makes it more and more a reality that I will be racing my first Ironman VERY soon. The fact that it’s nearly July, is starting to freak me out just a littttle bit. I can’t believe I am less than two months away from Ironman Mont Tremblant and I have a feeling these next several weeks are going to go by faster than I can believe.

Here’s the thing my friends, when you are training approximately 15-20 hours a week and working full time, the days and weeks go by so fast, you don’t even know what hit you. All of the training and the days just blend together. I am in tunnel vision until August 17th, and while I am sad that my Summer is going to most definitely go by fast, I am ok with that. I’m training for an Ironman after all. I knew what I was getting into when I hit that registration button. Plus, Fall is my favorite season anyway and I will get to enjoy it post-race!

How am I feeling?
Now that I am getting so closer to the race, I am starting to feel ‘ready.’ I can honestly say that I am confident that I will be ready for the BIG race and I am feeling this sense of readiness more and more every day. Brick workouts are becoming, dare I say, easy. Riding the bike for many hours on end, while keeping a solid pace, seems like second nature. I raced my Half Ironman last weekend and I wasn’t even sore afterwards or the days that followed. I think these are all signs that I’m getting ready.


This weekend, when all of my workouts were said and done, I felt a rush of confidence. It’s amazing when workouts that were once difficult become easy, you realize how far you’ve come. My legs are feelings strong and I recovered quickly from the Patriot Half Ironman. I haven’t had any breathing issues since the race, and I have made sure to have my inhaler on me at all times, just in case. I am planning to meet with my MD soon to figure out what may have happened during the race. Part of me just thinks it was the humidity and pollen that day, but I’m not totally convinced with that idea. Last week’s workouts were done at a lower intensity, coming off of the race. I started to pick things up mid-week and felt great throughout. This week coming up, I start incorporating more speed work on the bike and the run! I’m excited because I seriously love speed work. The speed work will continue until race day, and I look forward to switching up my workouts.

One thing I’ve realized is that IM training forces me to miss out on other things I love in the warmer months, like hiking and camping. I did my long brick workout on Saturday (lots of crazy rolling hills in New Hampshire- fun!) and Sunday was scheduled to be a recovery ride and run (both short workouts). I decided that I wanted to hike instead, since we were in New Hampshire and the weather was beautiful.. I don’t regret that decision for one second!

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Here is what I was up to last week:

Monday: OFF (Rest day, walked Oliver)

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Swim: Open water swim 38 Minutes

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Run: 35 minutes Recovery pace

Bike: Ride @ Z1 HR 1:15
TRX Upper and Lower Routines

Bike: Ride @ recovery HR zone 45 min
Run: Z1 HR 50 min

Swim: 3,000 yds Masters Practice

Bike: 2:14 (43 miles) ~ 19 mph pace Z1/Z2 HR
Run: 1:01 Z1/Z2 HR
Both workouts done on some very hilly roads… great for training!

Hike 4.5 miles (2 hours 15 min)
Welch Dickey Loop NH with Todd and Oliver

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How was your training last week?

race reports, Uncategorized

Patriot Half Ironman- The Run, Race Results & the Podium!

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Continuing from Yesterday’s Bike Recap…. and onto the Run!

When I got off the bike, I was looking forward to the run, since it’s my strongest event. I was feeling really good on the bike and expected to have a strong run, since I was nailing my nutrition and my legs still felt fresh. My plan for the run was to stay with a 7:30 pace and break 1:40, or faster. This was not out of the question giving my training and my running ability. If I stuck with a sub 7:30 pace, I was would be on track to break 5:00 hours for the race (which was my goal!).

Once I passed through T2, I was on my way. The run course was one 13.1 mile loop, which I liked, because a lot of these races have a down-and-back run or two loops. At this point in the day, it was VERY humid outside and the air was thick… the sun wasn’t out, but it was hot folks.

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As soon as I started to run, I could tell something in my stomach was NOT right. I felt REALLY full and I had upper stomach pain and acid reflux. I have struggled with nausea before during a race, but this felt different. I felt like there was a giant air pocket in my stomach that could not get out, and I was sick to my stomach. On top of the stomach issues, I was having trouble breathing. Before I even got to the first aid station at mile 1, I started to get really wheezy with my breathing. I felt like something was closing my airway and I could not for the life of me, take a full deep breath. It felt like I had bronchitis, but I wasn’t even sick. I started to panic a little bit, worried that I was having perhaps an asthma attack (but I don’t have asthma, I thought…) Feeling frustrated and scared, I stopped before the first aid station and walked, trying to catch my breath and relax. I was wheezing like crazy, so I stopped and leaned over trying to breathe. A girl running by asked if I was OK and even offered me water, I told her I was fine (even though I definitely wasn’t). I struggled to get to the first water stop, and once I got there, I asked everyone around me for an inhaler, no luck. The volunteers asked if I wanted to sit down and they could call someone back at the race site, but I declined. I thought about stopping for a moment, but I knew if I stopped, I might not be able to finish. Thinking about how frustrated I would be if I gave up, I continued on, feeling like absolute sh*t. For the next couple of miles, I struggled, hard. I took mini walk breaks at each aid station and continued to ask everyone around me if they had an inhaler. I was coughing a lot and my breathing was fast… and I was still incredibly nauseous.

There were SO many times during the first 3-5 miles of the race that I wanted to give up. I knew what was happening to my body was NOT good and that I could potentially be putting myself in danger. I probably should have stopped at those first couple of miles, but I wanted to finish the race… every competitive bone in my body wanted to finish the race. I kept saying these mantras in my head: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, “Mind over matter…” I was averaging around a 8:30 mile and was trying hard not to get pissed off about it. At that point, I was throwing the idea of PR out the window and I just wanted to finish and be OK.


At mile 5 things started to change slightly for the better.  A guy ran from behind and said he was also coached by QT2 (my tri team/coach).. he knew I was on the team because of the tri kit. He asked who my coach was, and it turns out we have the same coach! This guy was my saving grace and I met him at my lowest point the race, when I wanted to give up. He asked how I was doing, I told him I wasn’t feeling well and he told me to just relax my breathing and try to burp and get some of the air out of my stomach (I found out later after the race that he’s a Doctor!). He was going at around a 7:45 pace, and I decided I was going to try and stick with him. Running with him helped take my mind off the pain, big time. We talked about what races we have this season and it turns out we are both racing in our first Ironmans this year, he’s doing Lake Placid and I’m doing IMMT. I took water at every aid station and tried to eat my Shot Blocks. I was supposed to eat a shot block every mile, but I felt so nauseous that I could not stomach eating one that frequently… I probably ate one block every 2 miles. I stuck with my runner friend for about 3-4 miles, until we got to a hill and I told him to just take off and not wait for me. Finally at around mile 8, I was feeling slightly better. My breathing was relaxed at this point, still coughing a lot but not as wheezy.  I got a surge of energy during the last couple of miles and was passing people left and right (it’s too bad this didn’t happen from the beginning, ugh). I saw men on the run course that told me they saw me on the bike course and were impressed with my speed… I also got comments about my great clip on the run… if only they had seen me in the first 3-5 miles. I was watching my Garmin closely, and knew I wasn’t going to break 5 hours, but I also knew I was darn close to my time at Timberman 70.3, which was 5:08. My goal at that point was to hopefully PR and break 5:08.

When I approached mile 12, I forgot about the pain and gunned it for the last mile. I remember a guy saying to me ‘this is the easy part.’ I don’t know if I agree with him about that, but I did cruise to the end. I was so excited to see the race venue and all of the spectators as I approached the finish. When I got to mile 13, I took a right onto a dirt trail and actually ran onto grass for the finish chute. Sprinting down a finish chute is probably my favorite thing on earth… it’s just so exciting! The adrenaline at the end of the race took away my stomach pain and I was able to forget about the breathing.

As I approached the finish line, I held my arms up in the arm, as I always do! You can see by the photos though, I was in quite a bit of pain… I looked down at my Garmin and it said unofficially, 5:11… not the PR I was hoping for, but at least I finished.

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As soon as I stopped and received my medal, I couldn’t breathe. I literally could not inhale and was struggling to take air into my lungs. This was probably the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me at a race finish. I felt really dizzy, almost like I was going to collapse. My poor husband, Todd, ran over to congratulate me and saw me struggling to breathe, being helped by a volunteer. The volunteer who helped me was fantastic. She sat me down in a chair at the finish line and put a cold towel with ice around my neck. Crazy enough, I had packed an inhaler in my transition bag, but did not take it at any point during the race. I only packed it last minute in case I wanted it afterwards. I sometimes have coughing fits after a hard race or from the cold, but have never been diagnosed with Asthma… and I have NEVER had breathing issues during a race, until this day. I mentioned to the volunteer that I had an inhaler and Todd sprinted over to transition as fast as he could and grabbed it for me (thank god I packed that thing!). Once I took the inhaler, it was like night and day, I could breathe again! I was still nauseous, but at least I could breathe. I was so angry at myself for not taking my inhaler with me on the run, but I didn’t think I would even need it. I also wish I had turned around at mile 1 to go back and get it… oh well.

I’m not sure what caused the breathing episode, but I am going to follow up with my Doctor about it. Part of me thinks it could have been the pollen (I am allergic to pollen), and perhaps I inhaled a lot of it on the bike? Part of me also thinks I might have sports induced asthma and will need to have me inhaler with me at all races going forward. I have also heard another opinion that it could have been a horrible case of acid re-flux from the sports drink and this could have impacted my breathing. Whatever the cause was, it was awful and I don’t want it to ever happen again.

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After I gained my composure, we walked over the post-race area and relaxed. I took my recovery drink (3 scoops of Cappuccino Ultragen), hoping it might make me feel better, which it sort of did. I did not want to eat anything AT ALL after the race. This happens to me often… I see everyone eating the post-race grub and I never want to eat it, I always feel queasy. Since I was still feeling crummy, I had Todd go over and check the race results, I wanted to know if I placed in my Age Group, but was scared to know the answer. I saw there nervous, waiting for him to come back with the news. When he came over, he said I was 2nd in my Age Group! I was relieved and really excited. Of course I wanted to win my age group, but given how I felt, I was happy with 2nd place. The awards ceremony was not for another hour, so Todd, Oliver and I hung out and relaxed. I snacked on pretzels and raisins, and drank some sprite (hoping it would help my stomach).

When it was time for the awards ceremony, I made sure I put on my QT2 podium T Shirt!

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They called up the female age groups first and gave us our awards. Standing on the podium is always a goal of mine, it is honestly the best feeling being up there. When I stood up there on the 2nd place podium box, my smile was beaming and I was so proud of myself. All of my hard training paid off and despite not having the run I wanted, I still had an incredible race!

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The award was a RacePak box, which I am pretty much obsessed with. It’s a wooden box that they stamped with ‘Patriot Half Ironman.’ My box said 2nd place Female 30-34. Inside the box was tons of goodies like dried fruit, sports drink, cookies, etc… totally awesome! Race Pak is a subscription service, similar to birch box, that you can give to yourself or your favorite athlete.

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After the podium, we snapped lots of great photos with my award and then we were on our way.

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Official Stats:

Finish Time 5:10:22
2nd Place 30-34 Age Group
10th Female overall (out of 239 females)

Hours Trained the week of Patriot Half Ironman: 15.5 hours (including the race!).

Todd and Oliver had a great day spectating! Oliver met lots of other doggies, including a golden retriever puppy, needless to say, he was almost as tired as I was… he even decide to ‘cool off’ his tail;)

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Sharing one last photo with you… my favorite of the professional photos (that I plan on purchasing)

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Next up: Mass State Triathlon on July 13th.  After that, it’s onto IRONMAN Mont Tremblant!

 What’s next on your race agenda? Have you ever suffered with breathing issues during a race? How did you cope?


race reports, Uncategorized

Patriot Half Ironman- The Bike!

Yesterday’s post was all about the Patriot Half Ironman Swim Course… Today’s post is continuing with a recap of the Bike course!

The Bike- 56 miles, two 28 mile loops

Once I got out of the water, I was excited to be on land and on my bike!  I am always relieved when the swim portion is over.  It’s funny though, by the time I get comfortable on the bike, I often forget that I just swam 1.2 miles (or whatever distance it might be). My goal on the bike course was to break a time of 2:44 (my bike time for the Timberman 70.3 last August).  I raced Timberman with racing wheels that I borrowed, and I did not know if I could maintain the same pace without the fancy wheels this time. Even without the race wheels, I went into the bike with high expectations, since I have been training so much!  I also wore my new Rudy Project bright pink Aero Helmet, which I’m totally obsessed, with by the way.

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As soon as I got comfortable on the bike and my heart rate was steady (about 10 minutes in), I took my four Power Bar Blasts (think shot blocks).  Through out the ride, I  drank my sports drink at a rate of one 24 oz bottle per hour, as I was instructed to do. The first loop of the bike course went really well and I was cruising along.  I noticed a lot of men on the course and not many women.  I actually passed quite a few guys who said they were impressed with my speed! Only one girl passed me the entire time, I was happy about that.  There were two aid stations on the bike course, but I did not stop at either of them, since I had all of my fuel with me on the bike.

The course was absolutely beautiful.  Think ‘mostly’ flat country roads with rolling hills (some that packed a serious punch).  I heard it was an ‘easy’ bike course, but I must say, I disagree. At one point on the course, we had both sides of the ocean around us, loved it!  At around the halfway point, at probably mile 27 there was a big hill that was killer at the end of the loop! The turns were all VERY well marked and there were volunteers and police officers at every turn.  There were a few sharp turns that required me to slow down and lay on the breaks quite a bit.. but nothing too crazy.  At the end of the first loop I got to see my husband Todd (and my puppy, Oliver) on the sidelines.

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After the halfway point, I knew my average pace was over 20 mph and my goal was to keep it that way for the second loop.  The good thing about two-loop bike courses, is you know what to expect the second time around.  I figured that if I kept a steady 20+ mph pace during the first loop, that it would be possible to keep the same pace for the second loop. At around 2 hours into the race, I took my three additional Power Bar Blasts and continued to drinks lots of sports drink.  I was drinking at a race of one bottle per hour (or more) and I could tell my bladder was getting full.  Once it got to the point where I really had to pee, I thought ‘now’s my chance to pee on the bike!’ This was a goal of mine going into the race- drink enough sports drink so I HAVE to pee on the bike.  I looked around me and no one was close by, or behind me.  I will spare you the details, but I did it!  It was really weird and pretty gross, but funny enough, I felt a sense of accomplishment!  I now know I can pee on the bike during my Ironman!

The majority of the second loop felt really good and I held my pace.  One thing that went awry, was I bit down too hard on my SpeedFill Aero bottle straw, and I actually broke a piece off of the straw!  The piece that broke off is what helps slow down the flow of fluid as I’m drinking from the straw.  At first I thought it was completely broken and I wouldn’t be able to drink my water, so I panicked.  Luckily, this was not the case.  My back of plan was to drink from one of the bottles that I keep in the  bottle cage behind me, but it is too much of a pain and takes a lot of coordination.  It all worked out in the end and I got the proper amount of fluid during the bike.

As I neared mile 56, I was excited to get off the bike and start the run (my favorite part), I was feeling good and strong!  I heard Todd, cheering for me as I neared T2 and I was happy to almost be on my two feet again.

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Official Bike time: 2:45:06, Average Speed: 20.4 MPH.  (I was hoping to break 2:44, but I’ll take it!)

At T2, I popped another Salt Tab, threw on my running sneakers, grabbed my gels and I was on my way!  I felt good getting off the bike, but my stomach felt really full.  I figured it was just the sports drink and I shrugged it off… stay tuned for the run…

race reports, Uncategorized

Patriot Half Ironman- The Swim!

Patriot Half Ironman June 14, 2014

East Freetown, MA


Let me start off by saying, the Patriot Half Ironman was such a fun, well organized race!  It was put on my Sun Mulisport Events (a very well known multisport event company in the New England Region).  I had been hearing about this race for YEARS and about how great it was… now I know why!  I can honestly say, I will be back next year.

The day started early on Saturday… really early. My alarm went off at 3:30 AM since we had to drive about an an hour and five minutes down to the race venue.  I had been freaking out about the weather forecast, so I immediately checked the radar on my phone upon waking.  I got so excited to see no rain on the radar and I was ready to get the day started. The ‘potential’ rain missed us and it was going to be a cloudy (rain free) day on the course!

I ate my breakfast at 4:15 AM, three hours before race start (which is what I was instructed to do by my nutritionist).  Breakfast consisted of 1.25 cups of apple sauce, 1 banana and 1 scoop of whey protein powder.  I also had 24 oz bottle of sports drink (Power Bar Perform, 3 scoops) in the car.  I ate the same pre-race breakfast before the Boston Marathon and will do the same for my Ironman.  The only bad thing is, I have trouble getting the whey down (I hate the taste with water).  I think I will try combining with the apple sauce next time.

At around 4:45 AM we got into the car with Oliver and were on our way!  Luckily I packed everything the night before, so it was seamless in the AM.

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The venue was located at Cathedral Camp in East Freetown, MA (close to the ocean). Parking at the race was really easy when we got there around 5:45 AM, and race packet pick up was seamless.  Once I grabbed my race packet, put my stickers on my bike and helmet, I was off to get body marked and then to over transition.

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My transition station (#203) was on the end of transition, which meant after getting out of the water, I would have to run a little further, oh well, I like running I thought:)   Also, I find that I’m always next to the person who brings a billion things to transition, including a giant towel that is overflowing into my ‘station.’  It’s a pet peeve of mine in triathlons (and in life) when people take over your space. Stay in your bubble people:)

Once I got my transition set up, I put on my wet suit and used the porta potties one last time, I was off to the swim start to warm up. Before getting in the water I took one Power Bar gel with caffeine to get something in my system before the start.  The swim course was a pond swim in Long Pond (the largest fresh water pond in Massachusetts).  According to my training plan, I needed to warm up for 12 minutes in the water with some fast and slow stroke movements.  I got into the water with plenty of time to get this accomplished and I was happy about that!  I hate being rushed. At lot of people were warming up and we were all saying how great the water felt. The water was honestly the perfect temperature.  Around 65 degrees and really calm.

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For the first time in my life, I was looking forward to a swim start.  This year, the Patriot Half tried something new with a time trial start.   They sent athletes in the water 3 at a time every 10 seconds, according to their start wave.  I was in wave 4, which included females 30-39 and males 30-34 and I was amazed at how quickly the lines were moving… before I knew it, it was my turn.  They had a counter that counted down for 10 seconds and then make a loud beep.  When it was my turn, I watched the countdown and then ran into the water to start my swim… talk about an adrenaline rush! It was so fun!  It was great not having to start the swim in a giant cluster of swimmers.  Loved the time trial start!

The course was a large rectangle shape, and it was pretty easy to sight the buoys.  I started off strong from the beginning and was very proud of myself for not getting anxious in the water.  I‘m amazed at how far I’ve come with this!  I played my go-to song Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ in my head to help get me in a groove.  Stroke by stroke, I felt strong and fast.  There were only a couple of times where I felt like I could get kicked by another swimmer, but I was able to move out of the way.  There were also clusters around the buoys (per usual) where people were doing back stroke, side stroke, etc… it was fun trying to maneuver around those people (not).

As I was swimming, it felt like it was taking longer than it should have.  At a few points I thought to myself ‘I feel like I should be finished by now.’  I tried not to think about it too much and just focused on getting back to the beach.  In the distance I could see the ‘swim finish’ sign and the beach… almost there I thought!  I surged at the end of the swim, passing people left and right.  I always swim until I am basically on top of the sand, it makes a HUGE difference when you have to run out of the water.  It’s less tiring to run out of shallow water versus deep water.. something to keep in mind if you have not done a tri before.  Always swim in as far as you can!

(That’s me in the white swim cap below!)

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I got out of the water and looked at my watch… I saw 36 minutes and was really confused/annoyed. I could have sworn I was going faster than that!  My PR is 34 minutes and I had planned on breaking that time.  I also felt fast in the water and did not expect my watch to say anything over 34 minutes.  I tried not to think about it as I stripped off my wet suit and headed to transition.

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When I got to transition, I took one salt tab at T1 (it was so humid, I needed it), threw on my helmet and bike shoes and was on my way.  My T1 time, from swim-to-bike was 2:00:1, almost under two minutes, not bad!

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As a side note, after the race, I heard A LOT of people talking about how the swim course seemed long.  Come to find out, a new person apparently laid out the buoys this year and overshot the course… by about .2 miles (at least this is what I’ve heard). The course was probably closer to 1.4 miles, not 1.2 miles.  No wonder my miles seemed ‘off’ on my Garmin when I finished the entire race!  This being said, I like to think that I DID in fact PR on the swim course!

Official Swim time: 35 minutes 57 seconds 


…. Bike and Run recaps coming up next.. stay tuned!