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5 Things I Learned from Doing the New York City Triathlon

Written on August 6, 2014 at 11:13 am , by

Last year, my colleague Samantha and I participated in the New York City Triathlon relay-style. (You can read about our experience here.) But getting just a little taste of the inspiring event wasn’t enough for me. After that day, I made a promise to myself to do all three legs the following year and immediately marked my calendar to solidify the goal. This past Sunday, I competed in this iconic New York race—swimming in the Hudson river, biking along the Henry Hudson Parkway and running through Central Park—and got so much more out of it than just a super cool medal. Here are my top takeaways from race day:

1. Make Friends.
I have always trained for and competed in triathlons by myself, and quite frankly, it gets lonely. In the past, I’ve been too reserved and nervous to get chummy with other people, but this time I was feeling unusually calm and ended up meeting a bunch of awesome triathletes. Chatting with them kept me feeling relaxed and made my race experience much more enjoyable. So don’t be shy—even though it’s an individual sport, you’re really all in it together.

2. Stay Calm. 
As mentioned above, I was surprisingly chill on race morning. I can only attribute this to a ton of pre-race visualization and feeling properly prepared. I put in all the hard work in the weeks leading up to the big day and if you train right, there’s really nothing to worry about except having fun! The worst thing you can do is spike your heart rate before you jump in the water, so even if there are a few worries in the back of your mind, push them out and repeat positive thoughts to stay relaxed. It actually works and makes a huge difference.

3. The Bike Matters. 
Personally, my strongest leg is on the bike, but even if it’s not yours, it’s still important to care about what wheels you’re on. This year, I rode my Specialized Alias (prices vary, specialized.com). It’s like the Jekyll and Hyde of bikes: two personalities—a road bike for training and a tri bike for racing—all wrapped into one slick, aerodynamic package. The geometry is designed specifically to allow you to swap between road position and triathlon position with ease. This explains it in more detail, but it was the perfect bike for my training. I just popped off the clip-on aerobars for the long group rides I incorporated into my schedule and then snapped them back on for when I was practicing race pace on solo jaunts. On the Alias, I was able to shave five minutes off my previous year’s time despite slick road conditions. True story: I actually saw a girl riding a rent-a-bike from Central Park complete with pannier on the course (!). Needless to say, her struggle was real and I smoked her. So seriously, it’s worth it to invest in a solid set of wheels.

4. Pace Yourself.
I tend to be a zero to 60, all or nothing, give it 100 percent type of person, especially when it comes to working out. And hey, that’s not always a bad thing. But in triathlon, you’ve got to get through three events before you can taste the sweetness of that finish line. The smartest thing I did was start every leg slow and steady. If I had extra gas in the tank, then I kicked it into high gear near the end. With this strategy, I had the smoothest race and strongest finish yet.

5. Remember to Smile! 
I get laser focused during races and unfortunately suffer from “resting b*tchface, so this one is important for me. If you want some cool in-action race photos, you better cheese when you spot a camera lens. Plus, anytime I fake smiled I mean, real smiled at the crowd, they went nuts and their enthusiasm gave me the shot of energy I needed, which in turn made it really fun and led to lots of genuine grins. Yay!

More from FITNESS: 

Your 10-Week Triathlon Training Guide

Must-Have Gear to Ace Your Race

The Perfect Pool Workout

Softball Pro Jennie Finch Reflects on Her NYC Triathlon Experience

Written on August 14, 2013 at 10:48 am , by

It may have been her toughest leg, but Finch looks good on a bike. (Photo courtesy of Matt Peyton/Invision for Aquaphor/AP Images)

You know her as a U.S. Olympic softball player, but in the last few years, Jennie Finch has proven to be quite the well-rounded athlete. After hanging up her glove and settling into motherhood, Finch has taken the fitness world by storm, tackling major events like the New York City Marathon. This summer, she did it again and dominated a completely new-to-her sport: the triathlon. After swimming, biking and running in the New York City Triathlon – finishing in 2:51:15 –  we caught up with the supermom to find out how she felt on race day, and whether we’ll see her back in the Hudson River any time soon.

You conquered the New York City Marathon in 2011, and now the triathlon. What made you want to do it? 

Actually, my coach and a girl who ran the marathon with me are both triathletes and they wanted me to do it. And then Aquaphor wanted to know if I was interested, and it’s a brand that’s been in my house since my [softball] playing days. Now that I’m a mom, I use it on my kiddos. It looked like a fun challenge, so I figured why not?

Did you have any kind of experience in swimming and biking before signing on?

Other than riding my beach cruiser in high school and playing marco polo in the pool, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t know how to breathe properly or even freestyle properly in the swim. It was all so new and I was just tapping into a new community. It’s been fun to get in and figure it out.

Which part of the tri was your favorite? 

I thought running would be my favorite leg, but running after swimming and biking is a whole different ball game. I’ve grown to love swimming, which I was most nervous about. It’s less stress on your body. Biking just took a long time to get the training miles in, but  swimming was never more than an hour, which was refreshing and a nice change-up.

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Conquering a Triathlon, Relay-Style

Written on July 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm , by

Molly and I all smiles post-race. Bring on the full next year!

Swim, bike, run…they’re all amazing workouts when you do them alone. But putting them all together? Now that’s a good time. If you’re a triathlete, you know that already. But if you’re not, putting all three sports together for one epic day of racing can be quite intimidating. Add in over 3,000 athletes, the Hudson River and a bunch of mileage—one mile of swimming, 25 miles of biking and 6.2 miles of running—and you’ve got the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon, which looks downright terrifying.

Luckily, Aquaphor allowed me to dip my toes into the world of triathlon without diving in head first. Instead of tackling all three sports myself, I rounded up two more FITNESS friends—both with more swimming and biking experience than I—and signed up to tri, relay-style!

Despite an obnoxiously-early wakeup call (hello, 3:00am), Emily, Molly and I had the time of our lives out on the course. For Emily, she was courageous enough to swim in the scary waters of the Hudson River. The girl sliced through the water with ease, and before we knew it, she was handing off the timing chip to Molly, our hard-core biker! Here’s what she has to say about riding on the West Side Highway:

After a few anxious hours of waiting for the race to start, the excited buzz in transition was contagious! I grabbed my bike and started jogging toward the exit with a million worries on my mind (Will I get a flat? Do I have enough hydration? What if I crash? Will I make all the hairpin turns?). But as soon as I crossed the mounting line and clipped in, every thought disappeared. It was just me and my bike, like any other day, and I was ready to race! The course was bumpier than I expected—Despite tight cages, I lost my first water bottle at mile 4 and the second at mile 19—and the hills were tough, so I took my time climbing. Since my legs were fresh and I didn’t have to save up energy for the run, I tried to cheer on others along the course. Prepping my tush and upper thighs with Aquaphor seriously saved me from painful saddle sores post-race. Before I knew it, I was already making the last turn back into transition to pass the chip (and my biker’s-high encouragement) to Samantha for the last leg.

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Boxing Superstar Laila Ali Shares Her Triathlon Secrets

Written on July 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm , by

Ali proudly sports her medal after conquering a triathlon! (Photo courtesy of Matt Peyton/Invision for XX/AP Images)

Written by Lisa Turner, editorial intern

Blessed with beauty, brains and athletic ability, undefeated boxer Laila Ali is a woman who knows how to stay fit and inspire others. She makes the most of her gifts by giving back to others – this summer, she’s taking part in Stars Earn Stripes, a reality show series that helps raise money for military charities. She also heads up the Women’s Sports Foundation, which helps girls and women from all backgrounds get involved in sports.

With her undefeated boxing record behind her since 2007, Ali was ready to face her next challenge, so she teamed up with Aquaphor to participate in the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon (in between a busy filming schedule!) and finished in 3:06! After all of the swimming, biking and running, Ali sat down with FITNESS to share her training secrets and what surprised her most about the race.

Why did you decide to do the triathlon?

Aquaphor asked me to be an ambassador for the brand and participate in the race, and I’m always looking for a challenge so I had to say yes!

How did you fit training into your schedule?

I’m always looking for new ways to stay fit, but it’s harder and harder with two kids and a busy schedule. With boxing, I had to stay fit because it was my job, but now I have to make the choice to take the time to do it. Usually, exercise is the first thing to go when life gets in the way, but with the triathlon, it became a priority again, as boxing used to be. And I’m doing it publicly, too, so I couldn’t just go out there and do it any old kind of way.  As an athlete, I pushed through the pain, kept going, and always had that inner coach telling me to keep working hard.

What surprised you most about training?

I learned a lot more about myself. Before, I was kind of ignorant about triathlons and wondered why anyone would do them. But then I realized, “Wow, this is fun.” Just biking in my neighborhood, finding new roads that I never knew were there, or riding past a new restaurant I’d never seen before. It feels good to just get out there on the bike, relax and get away from the cell phone.

Did you swim beforehand?

No. I knew how to swim but I wasn’t a swimmer. I didn’t realize how much of a swimmer I wasn’t until I had to go do laps. I knew how not to drown, that’s what I knew about swimming! I had to learn all the techniques. It was encouraging to see how my endurance increased day to day, and it happened quickly.

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