A Day at the Beach

Went for my run this afternoon on the boardwalk in Spring Lake.  I made sure to charge my phone and my iPod so I could decide between running with my phone so that I could listen to music and take pictures, or with just my iPod so I could listen to music.  When I got to the beach it was such a beautiful sight that I decided I would just go with nothing other than myself and my thoughts.  If there was anything that I wanted a picture of it would have to be a picture that only I would see.

I did have one of my better runs — focused on relaxed form, a good workout and the beauty of my surroundings.  I ran an easy 10 minute mile to warm up then stopped and did some gentle stretching. Ran the next mile at 9:25, the next at 9 and the next at 8 followed by a cool-down mile at 9:30 pace.

My thoughts still wandered — I took in the beauty of the boardwalk and ocean in Spring Lake, the people paddling, walking, running or sitting on the beach.

At the end of my 4th mile I found one of my biggest pet peaves — a partially deflated balloon blowing around on the beach with a ribbon and a piece of plastic still attached.  Definitely headed towards the water.   The summer people may be gone but their trash isn’t.


Where is District 36 you ask?  This is what I found:
District 36 – (Bergen and Passaic)  Carlstadt, Cliffside Park, East Rutherford, Little Ferry, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, North Arlington, Passaic, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Rutherford, South Hackensack, Teterboro, Wallington, Wood-Ridge

Thank you Brian Fitzhenry, Rosina Romano, Foster Lowe and District 36.  You certainly wouldn’t be getting my vote if I did live in District 36.   Next time clean up your own trash!

You Make Swimming Look So Easy

For years other swimmers and triathletes have said that to me.  I usually just smile, but sometimes when I feel like they may really be interested in how I got there I tell them it takes an awful lot of practice.  The next logical question of course is . . . . practice what?  

Much of what I learned during my Total Immersion instruction has been very easy for me to implement since the methods and rationale seem to me to be so based in common sense.  

What has really allowed me to make a difference in my own swimming and for so many of my students’ and club members’ swimming all starts with just one basic principal — head position.  My own “ah ha” moment of how to achieve it and the “aha” moment of grasping a concept that I could share with my swimmers?  Feel as if the water is a pillow cushioning my head in the water, just let my head go to exactly where my head wants to be and trust that when I do release my head it will end up in just the right place.  

I’ve been part of several TI courses over the last year, both as a student and as an instructor.  Each time I’ve heard Terry Laughlin (the founder and head of Total Immersion) talk about head position I am struck with what a simple concept it is, but one that eludes so many.  When I practice it I feel the difference instantly, when I take the time to channel my focus.  I knew I was on the right track in passing it along when I was teaching some very new adult swimmers recently.  We were talking about head position and I said that if your head position isn’t right then everything else you do is just an attempt to compensate for that — I saw that same light bulb go on for a couple of them!  Since that morning I’ve seen their own personal swim practice change dramatically for the better.   

Simple concept, yes.  Simple to implement — maybe.  It takes discipline and focus to spend time in a pool or open water just focusing on head position.  Try it and see if it make a difference in your swimming.  I have a feeling that practicing good head position will do more to shave seconds off your 100 time and minutes off your mile time than endless “workouts” designed to improve your endurance and speed.  

Happy swimming!
* I am a USAT-Certified Triathlon Coach, a Total Immersion Level Two Swim Instructor and Coach and the founder of the Jersey Girls StayStrong Multisport Club.  If you are interested in working on your swim skills, please get in touch with me at moira@staystrongmultisport.com

JGSSM One Year Anniversary, Thank You For Your Support

As we made plans for our one year anniversary / end of season Club party I had big plans for getting some great random prize donations.  I had it on my schedule to start on Monday, October 29th.  Instead Hurricane Sandy visited us and knocked out power here for two weeks and did much worse to local towns.  A late start but still an overwhelming show of support from local and national businesses who have been beside us since we started.

First off, a big thank you to Devin Peppler of Peppler Photography for his donation of a photograph of the Belmar beach.   We raffled the photo as the kick-off for our Christmas / holiday giving campaign.  We raised $1,060, an amazing start!

The following businesses and individuals donated to our random drawing, please remember to support them when shopping!

Ironman No. 10 at the 2012 Ironman US Championship

My day in video is captured, what a great memory!

Don’t quite know where to start writing about my latest Ironman experience.  Seems like just yesterday I was with my Aussie friends Jason, Montie, Allie and Erin when I signed up for the race.  I decided that if I got in I’d do it, but not stress if I didn’t.  Well, we all know what happened — I got in.  The year passed with lots of changes, all good!  I coached myself for this Ironman, a frightening prospect at times, and I felt that I had a huge burden over my head throughout . . . . . I knew that I had the eyes of all of our club members on me, and a big number of them would waiting for me at the finish line.  I knew it would be a huge incentive to keep going when it got tough but it was also a big responsibility not to let any of them down.

My training progressed, I was fortunate to have people like my good friend Grace as one of my training partner.  We spent a lot of time checking out the venue and planning out our race . . . . it was wonderful to know the course and have a chance to spend time familiarizing ourselves with as much of it as possible. We ran and biked what we could several times, and drove the rest of it.  We booked several hotels, covering all bases until the actual race logistics were announced.  We even had a dinner reservation!

So many of my friends and members of the Jersey Girls StayStrong Multisport club were also always there, whether it was to keep me company on a bike ride or to keep me going at masters swim — thanks Julie Lehr!

Another big change this last year was my eating habits.  Huge thanks to Leslie Why Reap — it seems the answer to my weight issue was the need to be on a paleo / gluten free regimen.  I hit the starting line twenty pounds lighter, but  I have never felt leaner, stronger and mentally sharper in my life!  I’ve never felt for a moment like I was on a diet or restricted in any way.  Leslie’s help and guidance the last few days before the race were huge — I followed her guidelines on hydration and diet and it worked!  Your suggestions and my Infinit Nutrition custom bike and run blend led to absolutely no stomach or gi distress.  My race day nutrition consisted of a bottle an hour of Infinit and some additional water, nothing else during this race.  I did feel the expected “I can’t do this anymore” between mile 98 and 100 of the bike, pretty much a two mile uphill but I ate, drank and spun my way through it.  Although I felt like I was standing still no one passed me either during those two miles!

Anyway, race morning — 3:45 AM and out the door and onto the ferry.  As promised, we pulled out of the dock pretty close to 4AM.  I finished my race day prep, my nutrition and special needs bags were dropped off.  The smartest thing I did was go and check out the swim exit.  A very kind volunteer told me that I should not put my feet down until I was going to land on the swim exit ramp — more on this later!  I expected most people to wait to try to board a later boat for the more favorable current, when I walked to the ferry line I was surprised to find I was not going to be on the first boat out.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find my friend Grace!  Turns out we were on the third ferry.  When we boarded the boat I also saw my friend Gary Smith, and several people that I knew from various Fireman Ironman training camps over the years.  It was an interesting start, pretty cool actually!  Great to watch the pros start, and then the two boats ahead of us pull in and to see the age groupers starting their day.  All in all there was only a twelve minute offset in my start.  I walked to the edge of the start barge and saw the race director, John Korff,  I had several opportunities to work with John before race day and felt good to have a chance to see him and chat a bit at the start.  Off the barge I went and down the river.  I can’t say that I noticed the current, I swam my swim and actually realized that a time trial start for an Ironman with over 2,500 athletes was definitely an advantage.  I never tangled with another athlete till the end and I passed people my entire swim.

I’ve been running swim clinics for years now, I always tell other triathletes that they should stand up when their hand hits the bottom twice.  Well, my hand hit the bottom twice and I remembered what that wonderful volunteer told me in the morning so I picked my head up and saw the actual swim ramp quite a ways off.  So I kept swimming.  My hands swept right thru a mushy bottom and I realized that if I stood up I’d just sink.  So I kept swimming.  The exit ramp is still a ways off.  Slight panic as each time someone else got up the water turned a pitch black.  Keep swimming . . . . till I looked at a volunteer on the bottom step of the ramp and reached out my hand and he pulled me up.  My feet never touched the bottom!  A delay as I worked my way up the ramp — we were stopped for a medical emergency.  I chose not to look, I’ve learned I don’t want to see something that I know I don’t want to carry with me for the day.  Good decision, what I assumed was a panicked swimmer was most likely the swimmer who died.  Looking at my Garmin it was just over a minute that we were held on the dock but it did feel like an eternity.

Transition, and out on the bike.  Spun my way up what I knew to be a tough hill out of Ross Dock, made a right heading towards the Palisades Parkway entrance and there was my friend Ren!  A huge boost and a great video to look back on, thanks so much.    Some thoughts on the Ironman US bike course — while it was a very challenging ride it was also not very interesting, missing the scenery of Lake Placid, the stark beauty of the lava fields in Kona.  It was also scary — a lot of pot holes in the road and some spots that it would have been very easy to get caught in a crack.  I rode pretty aggressively, I refused to get caught in a draft pack, although someone did get a penalty for drafting off of me.  Looking back on the pictures was interesting, there always seemed to be a train on my wheel.  I saw some very poor cycling, and some extremely unsafe riding — I was passed twice on the right for absolutely no reason.  I spent a good part of the day saying “on your left”  but heard that very few times myself.

A big thanks to the supporters that I saw on the bike course — Jen and Dave, Megan and Michelle, Betsy, Lois, Kerry and Gary, and Pam, Jamie and Ken.  It was a tough bike course to support and it was great to hear my name.

Back to transition to get ready for the run.  Funny story — I had my Features right and left foot specific socks carefully powdered and rolled and placed in the appropriate running shoe.  When I got to the changing tent there was hardly anyone there.  I had two volunteers helping me, I looked up and saw one of them handing me an unrolled pair of socks and realized she had kindly taken my socks out of the shoes and unrolled them.  Although I wanted to scream I just softly said that she may not want to do that again.  Socks and shoes on the right feet and off I went.

What can I say about the run course?  It was hard.  Very hard.  In New Jersey, the entire run was always either up or down hill.  Great aid stations and support but hard!  Donna Rubin and the Central Jersey Running Club — thank you!  Chris Walsh — you worked very hard to keep me updated on where I stood in the age group and I can’t thank you enough.   Betsy and company — thank you!  Dave Deschennes, thanks for the support and cheers, and yes — I knew it was a race but I chose to take the opportunity at the special needs station to restock and regroup for a minute.  I knew what was next and it was that final uphill out of Ross Dock — what a surprise, there was another friend — thanks Bernadette Taylor, I took your cheers with me over the GW Bridge.

Besides asking a volunteer to walk in front of me on the steps down I made it over the bridge uneventfully.  Into Manhattan and along the river past the little red lighthouse I went.  I knew the Front Runners Club aide station was coming up and expected a huge boost there, I was not disappointed!  Matt, Mike, Tom, Lourdes and all the rest of my FRNY friends . . . . . . the biggest thank you possible!  You made me feel so special.  Next aide station was Tri Latinos.  Although I didn’t personally know any of you the energy at your water stop was contagious.  At this point I actually started looking at my watch and doing some calculations and was a bit scared about what I was coming up with.  Seemed I had a good shot at breaking twelve hours, not something I expected at all!

Next up, my good friend and long time supporter and sometimes training partner Ran Korolik.  He filled me in on some of my younger friends who were already done, and also filled me in on my standings.  He was also ready to take down the random cyclist on the run course who almost knocked me over!  I knew where I was thanks to my runs with Grace, and relative to an Ironman still felt good.  Just keep it going, finish is just a flat shot down the path.  Did I say flat?  Umm, that couple of miles of ups and backs were an unpleasant surprise — we climbed up to Riverside Drive and it included another set of stairs!  At this point every Ironman is just heart and will to keep it going.  Oh wait, I forgot that I saw my friend Monica walking before this.  I came up on her and said keep it going, Monica.  Her response — “this is hard”.  My answer, “of course it’s hard”  Enough to get her running again, all the way to the finish.

So, who do I remember seeing first — Kathy Carty and Marcie Jannetti.  Followed by what seemed to be my Jersey Girls all the way!  And Noel, who provided another awesome video for me to look back at.

The finish line, and Mike Reilly’s voice — thanks for telling me I am beautiful!  Yes, I did it again . . . . . my husband Bryan — my biggest supporter, more Jersey Girls than I could count, my friends Larry Parker and Ted Tierney from FiremanIronman camp

The best surprise of the day was my daughter Mary!

Thank you Mike, for the memory again . . . . I am an Ironman.  Ten times over.

Showered, changed and back to the finish.  Thank you Arianna Castellucci for the use of your apartment.  I would not miss the midnight finish for anything.  Although NYC, you lose — the music and sound turned off was definitely anti-climactic.  Ridiculously long ferry back to our hotel, I passed on my Kona spot but got what I wanted — 1st in my age group by a huge margin!

PS:  The surprise party on Tuesday night was amazing, the support I have from my club is more than I ever expected.  Almost makes me want to do another.

What We Are All About

After an amazing weekend at the New Jersey State Triathlon one of our club members, Mary, posted the following:

“What an amazing day I had yesterday with some awesome women at the NJ State triathlon. Words don’t come easy for me to effectively describe the kindness, nurturing and comraderie that was displayed by every single woman from our JG group that participated. We were made up of all ages, sizes and levels of athleticism, however the playing field within our group was level for all. Regardless of whether we were doing a leg of the tri or the entire Olympic distance, everyone was wholeheartedly cheered and encouraged until we were all over our respective finish lines. The humbleness of all involved as they completed their respective courses is inspiring…..no bravado here….just gratitude and thanks to their team mates for their encouragement and support….Amazing! 

Witnessing these accomplishments has encouraged some of us enough to entertain taking ourselves to whatever the next level of competion might be be for us….from the leg of a tri to a sprint, a sprint to an Olympic, Olympic to a 1/2 or full Ironman….knowing all the support that is needed is right here with the Jersey Girls.

Moira, what you have started and generated into what the Jersey Girl StayStrong Multisport Club is today is incredible. That a group of women of this size can always come together with no display of cattiness, jealousy or snide remarks, just the intent of participation and support to each other is such a credit to you. The fact that there is no segregation or special treatment of the elite or accomplished athletes from the novice within the JG’s lessens the intimidation and makes this group so welcoming. Your accomplishments are the inspiration for most of us to push harder, for longer time and faster pace……safely. 

For myself, I have come to believe that anything is possible athletically, even at my age! Thanks Moira and thank you to all you Jersey Girls!”

The icing on the cake to all of this is finding out that our team placed 8th overall out of 162 teams in the club competition, and we were the only all-women’s team.  For me, another grateful to be alive weekends!


I remember when it was my first triathlon

Another amazing week.  I can’t say it any better than what Amy, one of our newer club members, wrote in a post about her first triathlon experience.  I saw Amy coming towards me on the boardwalk and didn’t see her bloody leg or road rash till she told me she had fallen on the run, but she was still making forward progress.

Here is what our group is all about.  Thanks to each and every one of you for being part of my life.

* * * * * *

My first triathlon experience was great. I did not sleep much last night partly due to excitement and nerves, but more nerves. I woke up at 3:30 a.m., got ready and left my house at 4:00 a.m. I was on the very lonely and dark parkway at 4:15 and there were no distractions to keep my mind off of the tri. So there I was driving 30 miles south, stomach in knots, nothing on the radio, just thinking about how I am going to get through this. The more I thought about it, the worse I felt! I tried to eat, but it was making me sick. I made it to Asbury Park, got out of my car and realized my bike tires were a little flat. But, who do I spot, Moira! Thank goodness for momma duck! She filled my tires, padded my bike seat, and I was off to the transition area. I met Jeannie – she looks just like her FB profile pic, so it was easy to spot her, and I borrowed her singlet. (Thanks Jeannie). I emptied my transition bag, organized my stuff and contemplated for 30 minutes whether to wear or not to wear the wet suit for the 300 yard ocean swim. My decision to wear it was the best decision I made. That ocean swim (which I later found out was much more than 300 yards) was very very hard. I swam, I floated, I rested, I talked to myself and I repeated all of that until I completed the swim! Transition from the swim to the bike was easy – I have always had a hard time taking the wetsuit off – but today, it slide off with ease and Kris was right there to help me if needed her. Now the 10 mile bike ride. All I could think about was NOW I can “relax” on the bike and take it easy for a little while. Well, there was no relaxing. Each time I fell below 14 mph, I played with the gears and got back to my 14 mph speed. (I know what Moira is saying right now, “you need to learn about cadence!) At one point I was up to 19 mph and it felt good. I pushed and pushed, and never felt it was time to relax on the ride, until the dismount area. I approached the transition area again, got off the bike, threw on my sneakers and walked out of transition to grab a water. Yes, I walked!! After the water break, I ran. I ran past a cheering JG (wish I knew her name – but somehow she knew mine) and she was so encouraging! I love that!! But, as soon as I turned the corner, my legs decided to stop working!! WHAT!! What happened to my legs!! Oh my – down I went. Face first into the sidewalk, knees bleeding, left palm bleeding, right knuckles bleeding, pain in my knees and a stinging pain in my palm. I was embarrassed – two people ran over me, quickly asked if I was okay, and went on their way. so, I did too! I got up and said to myself that I just swam in the ocean, biked 10 miles and I am NOT quitting this run unless a limb is hanging off of me – and even then, that limb had better be broken if I decide to quit!! So, to finish the race, I walked for a bit and ran for a bit, but pushed myself throughout. As I approach the boardwalk end of the run, here comes Moira. I just love when she comes swooping in and trots alongside of me – effortlessly. She has this amazing way of being so encouraging, yet so intimidating at the same time. I wish I had the stamina to run the entire last mile with her by my side, but I told her I just needed to walk and run at my pace. (Damn, I wish I would have let you push me till I cried and even then you should have just yelled at me to quit being a baby!!). As I crossed the finish line, I was filling up with so much emotion – but did not want to look like a crazy lady finishing with tears – so I held it in (but they would have been tears of “wow, look that I did!”) Even though my training time was limited because of my three kids and their activities, I am very proud of what I did today. That actually is wrong – I am extremely proud of what WE did today. There is no way I would have been able to finish this without the great support of the Jersey Girl StayStrong MultiSport Club. You girls rock!! You are super encouraging – a ton of fun to be around – and I am very proud to be a part of your training family. (yes, yes, I am quiet and a lot more reserve that most of you – but I do love your enthusiasm, your encouragement and your company! I cannot wait for the Jersey Girl Tri in a few weeks!! To everyone who cheered me on – and all of our JG volunteers – thank you so very much for making this a top 10 in my most memorable experiences so far in my life!!


Just Another Weekend

Spent quite a bit of time outside this weekend.  Whenever I do (which is most of the time), I am reminded of how blessed I am to be where I am.  Barely a mile from the ocean — besides the everyday beauty of the water there is sea life, regular visits from dolphins, an occasssional whale sighting, surfers and so much more.

What is truly amazing is the difference just a few miles west make — an ostrich farm, horse farms, the Manasquan Reservoir, Allaire State Park and again, so much more.

Today while running at the Reservoir I notice a man with a fancy camera focusing on something in one of the small ponds off the trail.  Bird watchers with cameras and binoculars are a regular sight, but today something made me stop and see what he was photographing.  I am so glad I did because I caught sight of probably the biggest bird I’ve ever seen out side a zoo, just hanging out in the middle of the water, it was so big it look unreal!


A Day at the Office

A coincidence tonight on my way home from our group open water swim — as I pulled off the Parkway I saw my old bus unloading passengers, seemed like all the same people I once shared the life-sucking 4 hour per day commute to my past life.

Instead, I spent today with people I enjoy being around while doing something that I love!   I know we all have problems and issues and challenges in our lives but tonight our challenges were simple . . . . how to get our wetsuit on, how to swim a straight course to the buoy and just how much swimming we could do in an hour.  Can’t wait till the next workout.  


Pool Swimming

Had a funny encounter this morning at the Atlantic Club pool in Red Bank.  People are so compulsive about their lanes and their workouts.  We’d all like our own lane to swim in for as long as we want, but unless we are ready to build ourselves a private pool we are stuck with the availability at our local club.  “I don’t like to circle” is unfortunately not an option.

The members of our club (Jersey Girls StayStrong Multisport) who are also Atlantic Club members have decided that we will meet informally at the Atlantic Club pool in Red Bank in the morning one week a month to swim together as a group.  Whatever lanes we can get we will deal with, we are all full paying members of the club and many swim there regularly.  But many also take the drive to the Wall Township facility to take advantage of the masters swim that is available in the morning.  It’s just minutes from my house but I thought to be fair and to encourage swimming workouts for the group, I’d take the 20 minute drive once or twice a month to swim in Red Bank with the members that are more local to that facility.  Anyway, about 8 of us were swimming in the three lanes that are available there this morning.  I stopped to give a technique pointer to one of our group in the next lane when I notice someone tapping her foot on the pool deck.

I looked up and she rather impatiently asked “Could one of you give up your lane?”  I looked at her, rather puzzled at the request and didn’t say anything.  Her response was “I’m on a schedule.”  I said, “so are we, you are more than welcome to circle swim with any of us.”  The woman I had been helping said that she was more than welcome to jump in with them but her lane was “slow” (as indicated by the lane sign).  I looked up again and said “you are more than welcome to circle swim in my lane” to which she responded “you said you are slow.”  Well . . . . I responded, “I am anything but slow.”

My workout partner held her breathe at the challenge, I was ready to step up my workout to prove a point and I’m sure she was too, but the challenger chose to walk back to the locker room and skip her morning swim.  What a shame for her.  I’m sure it totally ruined her morning, but had she gotten in the pool she probably would have found that (1) we are a very friendly, supportive and encouraging group and (2) she most likely would have enjoyed swimming with us.

Not a minute or two later another swimmer came into the pool area, I looked up and said “you are more than welcome to circle swim with us” and he did.  Although my swimming partner and I were a good amount faster than him, we made it work and he moved to the next lane when it opened and we all enjoyed our morning and our workout.

So, until you can build your own pool . . . . learn to play well with others!


Last Long Run – Preparation for the Long Branch Half and Full Marathon

I am just re-posting what one of my favorite people wrote about today’s run.  She had hoped to run 22 but had some stomach issues so it just wasn’t working for her today.  Here’s what she wrote.  I couldn’t agree more, and it’s why I do what I do!

“I went to the reservoir this morning with full intentions of running long. I am a firm believer that “things happen for a reason.” Well, as it turned out, and I can’t even blame it on things beyond my control, because I really could have avoided my issues this morning…..ANYWAY…..I had to walk back (quickly) and call it quits soon after starting my second loop, so I was there with Moira when all of you ladies came in from your runs.

My inability to complete my run was not unfortunate, as it afforded me the opportunity to witness the milestones for many of you running today, and I am thrilled. There is a lot to be said about strength in numbers, and you all proved it today. Each and every single one of you ROCK!!! and a very special shout out to Missy Serbonich! What drive and determination you have Missy, and I will be your Number Two Cheerleader at the finish, because no one can replace Moira Easton Horan as their Number One Cheerleader and Coach! Great job today ladies!!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Susan!  The end of another perfect day.

The Manasquan Reservoir, so peaceful!