Tri AC

Atlantic City’s neon skyline lights up the predawn sky across the back bay. The buoys are out for the swim course on the black water. There was no need for headlamps with the the huge spotlights flooding Bader Field. I easily found my racked bike and started setting up transition, keeping an eye on the time so I could check on my athletes racing today as well. Phil’s bike was next to mine on the rack as he set up for his first Olympic distance event.

At 6am, I met up with my athletes at the bike out for a quick picture, but one of them wasn’t there after waiting for a bit. I hoped he would make it in time for the race (he did, I checked his bike before leaving transition). Even though I’ve done many of these events, I’m always nervous before the swim start: I want to see what’s below, and I don’t want to see what’s in the water, all at the same time, so I tend to focus on eating my pre-race bagel with jelly and chatting with my athletes to see how they’re doing.

I timed the line for the port-o-potty to fill up the last thirty minutes prior to swimming. John Kenny of French Creek Racing was there with Christina, whom I met for the first time. We discussed the swim and the incoming tide, the water temp, the usual swim stuff. Soon, I went back to where Phil was waiting, gave Kathy a big hug before her swim start for the sprint race, and went to find Jamie and Margaret again so we can start swimming at the same time. Megan spotted me, and we talked for a bit before she went to find the rest of her Philadelphia Triathlon Club teammates. It was then that Geoff stopped by to stretch and warm up for the swim. The triathlon community is one big family, which is why I love the sport so much.

It was time to line up for the swim; Phil went to his swim wave and put on his cap and goggles. Jamie and Margaret were there as we made the slow walk to the swim start. Five athletes went into the water at a time off the boat launch to spread out the swim and bike course. Our turn came quickly, but we let the other two athletes in our group of five go ahead, and the three of us entered the water and started the swim. With a temperature at 81.5 degrees F, no wetsuit was needed. The saltwater instantly pickled my mouth, but it was smooth and calm. I passed lots of swimmers, and a few passed me, but I found my rhythm and had space to settle in.

Out of the water, I ran to my bike, quickly donning my gear. The wind was strong on the way out of Bader Field and on the Atlantic City Expressway to exit 5, but I hunkered down in aero and kept going. I got off at exit 5 and flew down the Expressway back to Atlantic City with the tailwind pushing me along. I kept up the pace for the second loop, trading places with Anne Marie from time to time. Christina passed by me and cheered me on. I kept waiting for Phil to pass me on the bike, but he didn’t catch me, and I didn’t see him until the run.

Into T2, I flew off the bike, racked it, and was on my way on the run. Police held back traffic for athletes on the way to the Boardwalk for the 10K. The boards were soft and springy on the run, until I hit the sand. Then, my legs felt like lead. There is always sand on the run at a DelMo Event. I ran with a few other athletes on course, one who was doing his first Olympic distance race.

I enjoyed every moment of the race, and I know my athletes did too. One got 2nd place in his division, another conquered fears of the swim, and others did their first tri ever. Phil isn’t new to the sport, but he did his first Olympic distance race! All of them finished strong, and I couldn’t be happier. I was on my way to getting a PR at that race, but with the shortened swim, it doesn’t count as a PR even though my pace per 100 was seven seconds faster than the last time I swam it. My bike time was three minutes faster too. I would love to do this race again, maybe next year?

Then and Now and Onward

I’m not one to do weight loss posts or befores and afters because I think those posts promote a sense that your past self is somehow bad, while your new self is better, and that’s just not true. Posts like that promote self-loathing and the idea that your body is never good enough when its capable of doing amazing things.

In light of that, during Ironman training in 2018, I found myself at the proverbial crossroads. My periods were getting to the point that I couldn’t do anything for about three days during each cycle. I won’t bore you with the details or gross you out, but I basically found myself on the sofa doubled over in pain for those days each month. I made an appointment with my OBGYN who recommended a number of options for relief: one of which was surgery. Obviously, I couldn’t possibly do anything about that while training for Ironman Maryland, so I sucked it up on the bad days and took way too many aspirin for relief, scheduling surgery for late 2019.

Ironman Maryland training gave me time to think. A lot. Especially with the long rides on Thursdays and long runs that followed. One thing that my doctor mentioned that stuck with me was cutting back on sugar for relief. When she mentioned it, I laughed and said, “I’m not here to experiment for months in order to find relief.” No way. I did nothing about my diet other than cutting back on chocolate chips for snacks and hot cocoa (see, even coaches have bad habits).

I did the Ironman and fell back into routine training of 8-11 hours per week, all while keeping the changes I made to my diet. Still, the scale kept going up for my weight. What the hell? How can someone like me who eats a salad with tons of protein for one meal and exercises up to 11 hours a week keep on gaining weight? Is it because I’m in my early 40s, smack dab in the middle of middle age? Is it perimenopause? Is it still the occasional Starbucks or those damn chocolate chips in the house? And for the love of God, is it cereal?

During training for Maryland, my weight dropped to 145 lbs at 5’4″. Not bad. Now, in February of 2019, I’m back up to 152 lbs? Seriously? Something has to be done.

I found myself frustrated and scrolling through the Women for Tri Facebook group instead of doing what I was supposed to be doing, and I stumbled upon a thread about weight loss. Whatever. No, I read through it, and some of the members recommended Stronger U.

I checked it out online and consulted Dr. Google, you know, the usual suspects, and figured out that Stronger U is a macro counting system customized for your current activity level, age, etc., etc. I’m a sucker and signed up for a weight loss program for the first time in my life, downloaded My Fitness Pal, and got started with a nutrition coach. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try out the program for three months, so I did.

But it turned out to be more than neurotically counting macros on the app, over time, I realized that my snacks made up half of my daily food intake. HALF. I like to eat like a baby: small portions throughout the day or every 2-3 hours. I am always snacking, but what I was snacking on totally sucked. Those chocolate chips? Yeah, I had three small 1/4 cup servings per day for ONE SNACK. Hot cocoa? Two to three cups (after lunch, afternoon, after dinner). Starbucks runs? Almost daily. Yikes! My main meals were healthy with vegetables, protein, and all of that goodness, but clearly the two bowls of hot cereal I was eating before bedtime wasn’t helping my body in any way.

So, did I lose weight with Stronger U? Inches? Of course I did. But I learned so much more about how to properly eat to avoid my hypoglycemic highs and lows that left me so shaky or jittery that I had to eat something slowly until the cold sweat and heart palpitations subsided. Yeah, my body used to spike and crash. It doesn’t anymore. Even if I feel hungry before I eat, I have yet to experience that sugar low. I’m also following up with my doctor because I think surgery is no longer necessary, and I would like her opinion. You see, I cut sugar down to under 60 g per day by counting macros.

Because of all of this, my past self wasn’t bad at all, and my present self is still learning. I’m not going to post the macros I use because everyone is different, and this is not my area of expertise. Nor will I post a “before” and “after” picture because those are lame, and there never really is an “after”. But, I will post data of my progress that took well over a year that is still “in progress” now. What this data does not show is my resting heart rate went down from 63 bpm to 57 bpm, my zone 2 pace for running is down a minute per mile from last summer, and I recover faster from racing that I previously did. There are no perfect numbers that I’m aiming for, but these numbers represent work over time: just like training for any event.

And, yes, it was the cereal. And the chocolate. And the hot cocoa. But mostly it was cereal’s fault.