Hey green team,
It’s April in New England, which must mean: it’s still snowing. That said, summer is coming, and with it: open water swimming! For all the newbies (or us old-bies) who see “open water swimming” and have mild heart palpitations, remember: it just takes practice. Take it from this month’s guest blogger Malia, who shares her powerful story below.
“I remember my first triathlon as if it were yesterday. When you feel you’ve survived a near death experience, those memories tend to stay with you. Okay, maybe it wasn’t “near death”, but I can at least say I felt like I might die.
I thought I had trained for my first triathlon. I swam in a 15 yard pool, I could ride a bike, and I have a running background. Doggy paddling was always my backup plan for the swim. A friend who had done one triathlon before gave a lesson on how to transition. I was ready!
The morning of the race I donned my rented wetsuit. I swore mine was way too small. The neck line was choking me, I was pretty sure it was going to compress my trachea. How were my lungs going to expand?!
I had registered for the ‘Beginner’ wave of the race and was given a hot pink cap. I headed down to the beach donning my new cap. We got instruction that it was a point to point race and we would stay on the right side of the buoys. There were kayakers available to help us if we needed them. If at any point we wanted to quit we just had swim to shore. We headed out onto the dock and one by one jumped into the water, ‘Oh my God that’s cold!!!!’ I felt my lungs and every muscle tense up. I slowed my breathing enough for the gun to go off.
Bang! I stuck my head in the water tried to swim, ‘I’m not moving!...Everyone is splashing me!...I can’t see where to go!...This tastes awful!....The waves are crashing into my face!’ After about 2 freestyle strokes I started doggy paddling to shore. ‘I’m not dying today! I’m getting the heck out of here!’ (Un)Fortunately, one of the kayakers told me I was going the wrong way, ‘No I’m not!’ I responded. Then this person wouldn’t let me go to shore! I therefore attempted to move my body with with a doggy paddle/breast/side stroke combination and somehow managed to get to another kayaker. They had one of those red lifeguard rescue buoys floating in the water. I latched on for dear life. I’m not sure how long I stayed. I didn’t want to let go, but I was encouraged by this lifeguard to continue on my journey. So I did.
I somehow managed to get the courage and doggy paddle-side stroke to the next lifeguard and repeated the process with the buoy. By this stage in the race, as you can imagine, there weren’t many people left in the water. This gracious lifeguard told me that she would follow behind me all the way to shore. I started out side stroking again, she cheered me on and told me I could do it. It was at that point that I felt that I could get my whole body horizontal, put my head in the water and start to freestyle. She followed me all the way to shore.
I don’t remember hitting the sand, but I remember I felt relieved. I remember I enjoyed bike ride and I somewhat remember the run. My swim time was the 2nd worst time posted for the day, but finished my first triathlon.
For some strange reason, despite that swim, I wanted to do it again. I knew I could do better. For years and races that followed I continued struggling my way through the swim. Through panic attacks and actual feelings that I might drown.
So how did I progress to the point of finishing more triathlons than I can count on two hands?
- I got my feet wet. I started swimming and swimming in a 25 yard pool.
- I talked to a lot of people about my fear, anxiety and inability to move myself through the water. These people helped me develop workouts and encouraged me to take lessons...
- I got lessons. This made a huge impact on my balance in the water. It also helped me become more comfortable in the water and address overuse shoulder injuries.
- I watched videos of swimmers, read articles and books.
- I started open water swimming with friends/teammates. It helped to get used to spotting and to not being able to see the bottom.
- I joined a Masters group. I think that this was the single most valuable thing I ever did as far as my swimming career is concerned. I had someone giving me daily workouts and I had to swim with other people surrounding me.
- I practiced swimming in a wetsuit. I’d swim in it as often as I could to get used to the compression at my neck.
- I use(d) visual imagery techniques. This is how it works: Imagine standing on the beach of your race in your wetsuit compressed on you. Imagine standing in a large clump of adults in black suits and all the nervous energy. Feel that you need to pee again even though you’ve already gone three times! Feel walking up to the water’s edge, crossing over the timing mat. Feel wading in the water. Hear the sound of the gun going off and the splashing of all the other swimmers around you. Think about what you are going to do to handle yourself in that situation. Will you swim with them or hold back a bit and let them get ahead of you? How will it feel to start sighting your buoys? Imagine every possible scenario (both the positive and negative) and play it over in your head before going to bed at night. When the time comes when you are living the experience, it won’t feel like the first time, because you’ve already visualized it happening so many times before it has.
Reflecting on my personal transition from anxious newbie to advice-giving triathlete is an interesting experience. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago, but there was a process that took place over a few years. Here’s my best advice: prepare for it. Physically, mentally, emotionally. And at the end of the day: even if you’re second to last in the swim, you still cross that finish line.
PS: That first wetsuit I thought I was going to die in? I now own it and have done nine half Ironman and two full Ironman races wearing it! It will be retiring this season for a newer (hopefully) faster model.”
See you at Walden, friends!
Q: Where's the best place in town for great food, delicious beverages, awesome giveaways, raffle prizes, and mind-blowing triathlon trivia?
A: Wheelworks Tri-Night!
Join us on Sunday, April 8 (6-8PM) at Wheelworks Belmont for our annual multisport celebration. All are welcome - teammates, prospective teammates, and triathlon enthusiasts who simply enjoy spectating and cheering! The event features a Q&A with USA Triathlon representative Ron Franklin, TriTrivia with fabulous prizes, and the big announcement of our Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation sponsorship recipients. And of course: snacks.
Prizes include, but are not limited to:
Ready to raffle?! The more you buy, the more you win - and there is a LOT to be won! Funds go to support the Wheelworks team, but more importantly, to support larger events like this. Tickets can be purchased here.
See you - and hopefully your new Tifosi shades - on April 8!
Hey green team,
Well, it’s official: another year come and gone. If your holidays were anything like mine, they included at least one person who posed the innocent question, “Why do you do triathlons?” This is typically accompanied by expressions ranging from awe to sheer terror. But the inquiry is one I’ve been thinking a lot about during the first days of 2018. So I sought to answer it.
In the quest to identify my personal reasons for participating in triathlon, I decided to list all possible reasons someone might love the sport. Here’s what I brainstormed.
While this is not an exhaustive list, it felt like a good start. From there, I wondered: which ones actually speak to me? I wasn’t sure how to go about this, so I engaged in a little exercise that I highly recommend before you answer the question. Ready? Take out your cell phone, open your Photos app, and look at your training and/or race photos. Really. Do it! I’ll wait. *pause*
Ok, now that you reviewed your photos and reminisced about warmer weather, reflect on the items above. Here’s where I landed.
What did I learn? For me, triathlon is primarily about the people, the de-stressing element of training, and possibly eating. I may not be in “it to win it,” but I’m glad we are all in it together.
No matter your motivation - the podium, the joy, the strength, the race - remember that as long as you love something about triathlon, triathlon will love you back. And that you’ll always have something on the list to fuel -8 degree runs, likely with a pack of neon-green-wearing weirdos right beside you.
Here’s to another amazing year, and #gogreen!
Hey green team,
First off: if you don’t get the title reference, look to your triathlon elders...and to the first-ever MTV video. :)
Second, for those who may be a little down with the darker nights, cooler mornings, and the impending doom of holiday cookies: remember that triathlon, like delicious hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon, is good for the soul. Not only do we have goals to set and accomplish, but we get to do both of those with some of the coolest people around. The sweat makes us warriors, the elements make us stronger, the selfies make us funnier, and the hours spent volunteering - both at races, and with folks like the Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation - makes our hearts grow right alongside our muscles.
So as we prepare to roll into the holiday season, remember that triathlon is inspiring, and the new year means a new chance to hit those new targets. Need a little inspiration? Check out this amazing Harvest Tri video courtesy of Tim Richmond and his team at Max Performance...and be prepared to watch some green magic.
Happy training, and #gogreen,
Hey green team,
As age-group athletes, we reward ourselves - rightfully - for conquering new distances, setting personal records, coming in 28th out of 30 (YEAH I WASN’T LAST!), and tackling a three-sport event with grace, integrity, a limited amount of Gu showing in the professional race photos.
For some of our WWMS teammates, however, age-group holds a bit of a different meaning: once you become truly outstanding in the sport, you have the honor of participating in the USAT National Championships. In order to qualify for Nationals, as one guest informed me, “[for the Olympic Nationals] you have to finish in the top 10% of your age group. If there are fewer than 10 people in your age group, you need to finish first. There are no qualifying requirements for the Age Group National Sprint. It’s open. All you do is sign up.”
To understand how Nationals differs from our local tri series, I caught up with David Crelling, Sherman Roberts, and Sharman Lappin - three of our esteemed Nationals competitors in recent years*. Here’s what they had to share.
JV: How did you find out you qualified? (Please say someone delivers the news to your door in a wetsuit, please say someone delivers the news to your door in a wetsuit…)
DC: I think Bonnie, my wife told me.
SL: Sorry. No wetsuit. USAT sends an email late fall.
SR: Just and email from USAT. No wetsuit sadly.
JV: What did it feel like knowing you were traveling to this race as a national-level competitor?
DC: I was doing ironman distances at the time so my focus was there. My training for that year was ironman distance training so the nationals field wiped the floor with me. I didn't have that short distance speed and power since I was training for more slow and long ironman distance.
SL: I was very excited and nervous. When I racked my bike the night before the race and looked at all the fancy bikes around me, I started to cry. I was quickly comforted by some really wonderful women. That was empowering.
SR: The first time a bit keyed up. It is a somewhat higher level of competition in the AG world.
JV: How did the race atmosphere differ from our local events?
DC: It was the same vibe as local races but the competition level was much higher. Better bikes and fitter people.
SL: A lot more energy.
SR: A lot more flirting and drinking... No, seriously, a bit more celebratory.
JV: What was the most exciting thing about participating in Nationals?
DC: We had other team members up there so being around the team was good. Racing against other strong dudes is always nice since you then get a check on where you stand against other people with similar experience levels. Going to Hot Topic and Wet Seal in Burlington mall was the highlight.
SR: They are fit and serious as hell at race time.
JV: What advice would you have for teammates seeking to race at the national level?
DC: Getting a training plan or a coach is really helpful. Find the local races that are national qualifiers and make those your "A" race. For the bike use a power meter and periodically do a ftp test to figure out your threshold and use that number to guide your workouts. On the run use a heart rate monitor to do a LT test and use that number as a guide for your workouts. Join a local swim group and do more of your workouts in the pool instead of open water. Ride with pure cyclists, run with pure runners and swim with pure swimmers. They will be stronger in their respective sport than you (most likely). Have fun, eat and drink well.
SL: Train – hard. A hint is to find a race with not much participation.
SR: Train seriously and be in the top 5 or so in you AG, although check with USAT on that. They are very attentive. This is REALLY a different level of AG competition.
As we wind down the 2017 season, the athleticism and determination personified by these former Nationals competitors provides fuel for the 2018 race fire. To all our Nationals participants: huge congratulations! To those with eyes on the Nationals prize: keep at it. Remember, we’re all blessed with an opportunity to compete in multi-sport events; a very small percentage of U.S. citizens are able to do this (in 2015, USAT had ~161,000 members - even if we add 40k for 2017, it’s still <1% of the US population).
So be inspired, and know that you are already inspiring.
*Note: we have many more Nationals athletes on the WWMS team! My decision to include these particular three was predicated by...them being the three who responded to my email.
Hey green team,
Amidst two of the most exciting triathlon months, I’ve been reminded by teammates to consider the “why” behind what we do - especially the morning of a race, when it’s 3:30AM and you’re trying to jam peanut butter banana toast down your throat while repeatedly questioning your sanity. In those moments, I invite everyone to call on the “spirit” of our sport. There’s no better way to do so than remembering the ones who fell in love with triathlon - and the ones we, as a Wheelworks family, loved right back.
So if you need a little motivation as we round out the season, I give you a story about Caitlin Clavette, a beloved teammate who was taken from us too soon in a tragic accident in the winter of 2016. Her family established the Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation (CCMF) with a vision to support a community where all people live healthy lives, preserve and appreciate the arts, respect and protect all living things, and live with passion. In 2017, the CCMF awarded 5 race entries to WWMS teammates who live the foundation's values. I couldn’t have written this story as eloquently as the authors: Louanne and Andrew Clavette.
You asked what inspired the CCMF to support Wheelworks Multisport athletes in their races this season. The answer is simple - yet the story is long. It involves a Tri- bike, a bird, a team and the unrelenting spirit of our beautiful girl.
Wherever you swim, bike, and run this season, remember this is not just about podiums and incentive points (though those are terrific). It’s about growth, determination, overcoming fear, gaining strength, and most importantly: it’s about the people triathlon allows us to be.
To read more about Caitlin’s passion for triathlon, the arts, education, and life in general, please visit the Caitlin Clavette Memorial Foundation website - and if you’re inspired, consider donating. Our generosity allows Caitlin’s “spirit” to live on, through athletes just like us. (See below for evidence of their WWMS racer support this year.)
Hey green team,
The weather is warmer. The days are longer. All around us, friends, colleagues, and loved ones moan “it’s so hot, all I want to do is sit here.” So what does this group of highly-educated people do?
Put on spandex to swim, bike, and run in the dead of summer.
Call it madness, but nothing beats the cycling-shorts dirt lines, the tri-kit back tan, or the room-illuminating whiteness of our feet because they are the only parts unexposed to the summer elements. In a brief recap of what folks have been doing since May:
And there’s more coming down the pipeline! Upcoming focus races include:
With all this in mind, we also wanted to share a few hot-weather training tips.
Finally, perhaps the hardest part: manage your expectations. The heat makes us a little slower; we give up more water and our bodies need to work a little harder. Be kind to yourself. That 9-minute mile may be closer to 10:30, both in training and on race day. Go into each practice session and toe each start line with one thing in mind: you are a Wheelworker, and you are a rock star.
See you on the road, and #gogreen!
Hey green team,
It’s May, and you know what that means: weather is warmer, race season is starting, ice cream is justified, and most importantly: TRAINING WEEKEND (TW)!
On May 19-21, Wheelworkers from all over MA journeyed to Franconia, NH for our annual tradition: cycling 40-90 miles, “recovering” in the hot tub, and a delicious three-course meal courtesy of the Franconia Inn - our trusty TW HQ for the past several years (shout out to owner Richard, who always joins us for a ride and led a group around Mt. Moosilauke). Some teammates throw in a run, some cycle twice, but most importantly: 25+ members of the Wheelworks family spend the weekend hanging out together. With thanks to those who shared their stories, here are a few TW highlights:
While WWMS members were living it up in Franconia, a parallel tradition began: Local Training Weekend (LTW). On Saturday morning, May 20, a small group of Wheelworkers convened at 7AM to try a new route, graciously led by Katelyn D. From there...well, keep reading.
Wherever your weekend brought you, we hope you enjoyed the fun, the stories, and the joys of knowing you will never be alone while training - there will likely be a Wheelworks teammate (or a chipmunk, or a horse) right there beside you.
Happy race season! #gogreen!
Hey green team,
Did you ever wake up one morning and think, “gosh, it would be so bad$$ to swim in breathtakingly frigid water and then ride my bike and then run a 5k?” If so, welcome to the New England Season Opener.
Living up to its name, Season Opener is the inaugural triathlon of the race season. Taking your place at the swim start brings a flash of masochism mixed with pride in your first open water foray since the previous fall. We won’t lie, friends: the water is cold. Getting into your wetsuit is, uh, unpleasant after consuming the necessary “essential fats” to keep yourself warm through the Boston winter. And the only brick you’ve seen recently is the brick of brie eaten for dinner while bingeing on Netflix last Sunday.
But here’s the good news: Season Opener is AWESOME. Sure, it might be chilly - but dust off that wetsuit, don your green kit and join us for one of the best sprints around (.25 swim/10 bike/3.1 run). We promise your later races will thank you.
In case you need tips and/or motivation, here are some words of wisdom - and inspiration - from our Wheelworks teammates...along with a surprise guest. Keep reading!
What advice would you share with someone participating for the first time?
And now: a word from Tim Richmond, esteemed Season Opener race director:
Season Opener is certainly a badge of honor when it comes to the local multisport scene. It's truly the kickoff to the season! Being hosted in mid-May, we can see air temps range from 75 down to 55. And then you can count on around 60' water temps! Many athletes join us because it's a great gauge to early season fitness, see where you stand against the competition....while most athletes are just itching to get outside!
We love this race, while it's a challenge logistically with Duathlon and Triathlon, we always try to give hearty athletes a great reward with a hot BBQ and post race celebration! And we couldn't do it without all the great volunteer support from WWMS through the years. :-)
See you in Hopkinton on May 14!
Hey green team,
Every now and again, we like to share stories of our awesome WWMS members. This month, we’re hearing from Alyson Fletcher, one of our longest standing members and coolest chicks around. (I love you all equally, Wheelworkers.) Want to know more about the March 25 Swim Clinic? Our annual Training Weekend? The World Masters Swimming Championships in Budapest?! Keep reading!
How long have you been on the Wheelworks team?
I've been on the team since 2009 save the four years I was in graduate school.
What's your favorite of the three sports?
Growing up as a swimmer all my life, the swim leg was a natural favorite. During a period of success with running marathons, I really looked forward to the running finale and when I was training to bike cross country, I fell in love with the biking. But my love of swimming stays strong through all the years..but I have never loved swimming in salt water. I have also been a big fan of the other legs of triathlon - strength training, yoga, and massage recovery.
What types of races are you training for?
After a little over ten years of racing tris, I am a bit crippled by injuries. So, I am focusing this year on training for swim competitions, charity rides, and aquabikes while rebuilding from chronic knee injuries. I'll be doing the aquabike at Musselman in the Finger Lakes and the aquabike at Lobsterman. If I can get my ducks in a row, I am also planning to compete at the FINA World Masters Swimming Championships in Budapest this summer.
What do you do for work?
I work in transportation planning - so, planning people moving there, too.
What motivates you to keep training?
I am motivated by having something out of my comfort zone on the horizon. In the past, that has been half-ironmans, marathons, and biking cross country. This year it might be swimming in an international competition.
What is your favorite thing(s) about our WWMS group?
The people! I love that we lead balanced lives where we can talk about more than your average gear and gu junkie.
You're involved in planning multiple awesome events: in particular, the Swim Clinic and Training Weekend. Can you tell us more about those?
Swim clinic - We will walk through drills you can practice on your own that segment the stroke to enhance efficiency and balance in the water. If equipment allows, we will also video your stroke along with some individualized feedback! Training weekend - It's the most wonderful time of the year! We will take the White Mountains for our annual training trip. For those that haven't been before, we takeover the Franconia Inn as our basecamp for a weekend full of tri training (with cycling having a large feature). Our friends at the Inn offer us a super affordable all-inclusive rate and the trip's a great team bonding experience for all against a backdrop of gorgeous high elevation scenery. You can even take on alternative training like riding horses or flying planes if you so choose.
Random question #8: what's your favorite brand of running sock?
Random question #9: what's your favorite race nutrition?
Clif Shot Blocks - new salted watermelon flavor is the bomb.
Random question #10: what's your favorite recovery snack?
Vega protein shake with hemp seeds
Three cheers for Alyson, especially for her leadership of the Swim Clinic and Training Weekend. See you all in Franconia - bring your helmets, and your party hats.