Drumroll Please….

January swim camp mileage: 55 miles!

Some facts:

Las Vegas is 55 miles from Valley of Fire State Park.

Last January I swam 0 miles.

When I swim a lot, I blog about swimming a lot.

I would have rather just run the 55 miles….at once.

Some (unverified) facts:

I am leading the pool “100 miles in 100 days competition” still.

Ryan is very ready to be done with my swim camp phase. (He’s being a trooper and doing as much as possible with me!)

Coach Hillary is not quite done with my swim camp phase.

Swimming makes your arms fall asleep while you sleep. (Haley said she’s never heard of this phenomenon. Jury is still out.)

The odds of the lifeguards filling the pool while I swim is directly proportional to the odds of me swimming in the lane the cold water dumps into.

Somehow swim camp always lasts longer than run camp or bike camp….

I have a lot of Baggage

Ever wondered what some people could possibly do with all of the bags they acquire going to races? Having built up quite the collection, I’m pretty sure they could do some sort of TLC Hoarders-eque show on me. My name is Alyssa, and I am a Bag Lady.

When I leave the house in the morning, it is indiscernible whether I’m leaving for a day or a month. Carly often gets a confused look on her face as she watches me leave and asks “Did I miss something? Are you going away for a week?” Nope, just a day!

First, I have my work purse. This has all my essentials, from nail polish to gum to a screwdriver (don’t ask). There’s also a ziplock bag with my credit card and license in it: the ultimate cyclist’s wallet. Also inside my purse is another bag. This one doesn’t appear to be a bag at first glance because it’s folded up into a little ball. I keep this bag with me in case I am grocery shopping and want to go green a little bit and put my purchases in this one instead of a plastic one. Just as the hipster behind me is about to be like “Psh, she drives a Tracker and uses plastic? I hope she sees me drive away on my fixie with this tweed satchel and feels bad about herself” I can be like POOF. A environmentally friendly grocery bag. Fooled ya!

Want to guess the number of times I’ve actually remembered that I am carrying this bag that folds up into a ball and used it? Here’s a hint: it rhymes with Beero.

I also throw my lunch bag in here. Bags in bags in bags…..in bags.

Bag count: 4

Then I have my laptop bag for my work computer. Since I’m on call 24/7, this goes with me everywhere. Even into the gym because lord knows I learned my lesson about leaving nice things in the car while I go swim.

Bag count: 5

Then I have my swimming bag. This has my paddles and my pull buoy, my towel, another bathing suit for swim #2, etc. Inside that bag is another bag with my SBR Shampoo/Condish/Body Wash/Lotion (one more bag is totally worth not being itchy and smelling like chlorine all day). A separate bag holds my makeup so I can attempt to cover up goggle marks with a quick swipe of mascara and some bronzer. Then I have a bag of work-appropriate clothes for post swim.

Bag count: 9

Oftentimes I also have to leave from the pool for a run as well. That means I’ll carry another bag, with my running shoes and weather-appropriate running clothing. In that bag will be another bag with my clothes for after the run since I have a fear of sitting in sweaty sports bras for a long time post-workout (weird apprehension about ringworm).

Bag count: 11

If I am going to Ryan’s after work and/or my workout that means another bag with clothes to sleep in. And another bag with work clothes for the next day. And, in case I’m running the next morning, another bag with more running clothes.

Bag count: 14

And finally, so I can make the walk to my car in one trip, I often take my big soft-luggage bag and stuff some of the little bags into it to consolidate.

Bag count: 15

I am addicted to bagging. The madness must stop somewhere.


“Try a little harder.”

– me

Yes, I know I’m not the first person to say this. But this has been a common theme in my mind as I have witnessed races and training sessions the past couple months. I look at people and can see it in their face – whether or not they are really giving everything they’ve got. Whether or not they are totally focused on the effort, or if they are planning their dinner or thinking about work.

And I’m just as guilty of it too.

So as you find yourself in the middle of your workout today, tomorrow and the next day, ask yourself: can you try a little harder? Then do it.

Club Challenge

It’s a silly little race.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t count for anything.

No one peaks for this race.

It’s supposed to be fun.

….but, we’re going to win.

Since 2009 when I first ran the RRCA Ten Mile Challenge put on by the Howard County Striders, Falls Road has won the overall co-ed team competition, and several times has won the male or female team competition as well. This race has become a friendly competition amongst the area training groups. It has also become a rite of passage within our own team. It’s a tough, unforgiving course, both in the elevation profile as well as the time of year. Ryan likes to rally our troops early and get everyone especially excited for this race. It is one of the few times throughout the year we can race as a team in a local event.

This past Sunday our team had 22 runners out training on the course, some of us shown below:

We were at many different levels of fitness, and it definitely showed. But you know what? We were the only people out there. And even for those at the back of the pack, it felt good to do it. It felt good to see no one else but our own team out there, minus a few old men who gave us confused looks as they ventured out to walk their dogs.

The secret to winning that we’ve had for the past few years isn’t hidden in any training plan or book: it’s preparation. You either want it bad enough to prepare for it, or you don’t.

I have a funny feeling that in another 4 weeks we will know what team wanted it bad enough to put in the time and prepare:)

In French, Haley Chura means….


Psyche, it doesn’t really.

But seriously guys, she is pretty cool. After having “one of those days”…you know, the kind where you oversleep and proclaim “This is going to be a terrible day!” and then since you enjoy self fulfilling prophecies, it is? I knew better than to remove the coffee pot from under the stream of coffee that was still brewing, but I did it, because it was a bad day and therefore I had to spill coffee. And then I had to delete my report from Microsoft Word before saving it, because yes, it was a bad day and that would confirm it!

But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I was meeting Haley Chura, my blogger and triathlete friend extraordinaire, in York, PA for dinner! Haley lives in Atlanta, but was in PA for work, and so we decided to meet in the middle. A little background on us…..

Last May, I began reading Haley’s blog after she won Rev3 Knoxville. Then at Eagleman, I swam in her wake and never saw her on the course, as she raced to her Kona spot!! At that point, I knew what I had to do: comment on her blog.

And thus, a beautiful friendship was born.

We were both doing IM Louisville, but still had no plans to meet. Fate had other plans for us though, and despite starting nearly 30 minutes apart due to the time trial start, we found ourselves out along the run course together …sort of, at least. Haley was on her way in from a loop, and I on my way out. In an effort to distract myself from the pure misery I was going through, when I saw her I just blurted out “Hi Haley!!”. Her look of confusion slowly registered as she realized it was just me, and a quick “oh hey!” was exchanged. No better way to feel like you’ve known each other for 10 years than to acknowledge a common moment of suffering. I properly introduced myself the next day at the roll downs, and also met some of her Dynamo Multisport friends (they live up to their name!). Such good people.

When Haley was going to be coming to PA for work, we decided it was time to really catch up. And after a brief hiccup due to the fact that I gave her (and myself) the wrong address, landing us both in the hood-iest-of-hood sections of York, we sat down and had a meal — no GU, no spandex, and no bikes involved! It was super fun to compare schedules for the upcoming year and have someone who understands the highs and lows of this sport to hang out with. And of course, we couldn’t leave without getting a proper picture!

Just kidding! Here we are 🙂 Please note the large tiki (thai?) man who is photo bombing us!

So fun and looking forward to some adventures with Haley in the future!

Holler to my people

Hello, people at the pool.

I don’t usually say hi to you, because I usually see you early in the morning and I’m barely awake as I slip into the water.

Or it’s after work and I’m people-ed out for the day and don’t feel like talking to you.

So now, I’m trying to do it. I’m trying to be friendly, and say hi. Because I realize that my affinity for C.B.F. may give the illusion that I’m not friendly.

Hello, first, to you, swim ninja. You have an erratic swim schedule; I never see you on the same mornings or times. You arrive in black spandex, having run to the gym. Your tri shorts are under your spandex and you strip down right there on the pool deck. You fold your clothes neatly and get in, pulling goggles out of a non-existent pocket in the outfit. You swim your swim and hop out, apparently not even needing a towel to dry off before you put your outfit back on. Your skin must be of a different material than mine, as pulling spandex over wet skin never really worked out well for me before. And then you disappear before I lift my eyes up on my next breath.

Hello, old man who is so old you must be retired so why are you at the pool so early why don’t you wait until after you have a nice leisurely morning that retired people deserve? I also think you were the Michael Phelps of 1960, as you can easily out swim me at your age.  And props to you, for showing that you can never be too old to rock a speedo.

Hello girl in the cash money bathing suit. I like that one, where did you order it from? You swim kind of my same pace, maybe we should swim together. Nah, you’re right, let’s just awkwardly exchange smiles when we accidentally catch each other’s eye when we’re really looking towards the clock.

Hello, lady that smells like strawberry bubble gum. I like you much more than Mr. too-strong cologne. You can hop into my lane anytime and swim. It’s like you Febreeze the water, I love it!

Hello man who insists on standing on the one side of the lane that I’ve been swimming on, until I finally give in and move to the other side, the wall-side, where I will inevitably hit my hand on the drain pipe thingy 10 times. I really wish you would just explain to me some sort of good reason for doing this. But, I admire your persistence. You weren’t going to budge. Who cares if I was there first? You want it? You got it!

Hello swim team kids. No, my face to you isn’t CBF. It’s real BF. Because yes, it’s annoying that your practices fall right in the times when I prefer to swim. And yes, it’s annoying when your practices run even 5 minutes over. But I’m trying to be more patient. Hey, maybe while I work on my patience, you can work on not staying in the showers for 20 minutes and throwing shampoo around and making all the floors really slippery? Thanks. And yes, it’s cute that you have my same bathing suit. If only you realized that in 10 more years you’d still order the same one too, because your mind will always think you’re a 32. Thank you, I like my toe nail polish color too. It’s called “pink.” I think you can get it at CVS, maybe your mom will take you. Oh, I think your mom is calling. See you tomorrow.

Hello fins lady. Zoom, zoom, zoom. That is all.

Chrissie Hears A Who(uston)!

I have written on my blog a lot about the amazing group I train with here in Baltimore. Sponsored by Falls Road Running store, Team That’s What She Said serves as a training group for many of the elite runners that have come through the area. I am just lucky to tag along for the ride.  One of said runners is Christine (Chrissie) Ramsey. I first met Chrissie in 2008 when I moved to the area. Looking for a reason to meet more runners, I agreed to run 200s with her at the track. In my non-track-knowing brain, I figured 200s wouldn’t be that bad because they aren’t that long. Seemed like an appropriate way to break myself in. If I knew that I had agreed to run 200s with a future Olympic Trials marathon qualifier…I probably would have made alternative training plans that day! Nonetheless, Chrissie met me that day and sure enough, we ran 200s. Granted, I was quite a ways behind. But that is one of the great qualities Chrissie has – She appreciates all of the people in the training group….she would have never turned me away despite being slower than her. As recently as October 23rd, Carly and I ran into Chrissie in Baltimore as we were beginning the tempo portion of our long run.  Chrissie threw away previous route plans of the day and helped Carly drag me through the rest of the run!

Since 2008 my own knowledge about competitive running has evolved and my appreciation and respect for the athlete Chrissie is has grown as well. When I am going to be spectating a race that Chrissie is running I am excited, because I know she will put on a good show. Watching her run is fun. One of my favorite memories of watching her race was at the 2008 Baltimore marathon. This was not her goal event for the season, it was more of a testing ground for her legs. We watched Chrissie come through the half in about 1:34. She then proceeded to drop the hammer and negative split the second (harder) half of the marathon with a 1:24….ending up at 2:38. That phrase of dropping the hammer really is the best way to describe the way Chrissie races. It is a really amazing thing to watch the moment when it happens, when her form changes, her eyes lock forward, and you can just see the utter concentration.

Unfortunately I missed one of the most recent times she raced to greatness, no doubt dropping that hammer yet again, to qualify for the marathon Olympic Trials by running the Philly Half Marathon in November. After a tough spring in which she faced a serious injury while peaking for a marathon-trials attempt, many athletes would have written off the year as a loss. Chrissie chose the other route, and tells about it in her own words here.

As a result, she is heading to Houston this weekend!! I caught up with Chrissie and asked her to answer a few quick questions. Here’s the interview:

What is your favorite workout?  Progression runs.  I do them about once a week for 60-85 minutes starting at a comfortable pace and gradually getting faster until my last mile is at a 10K race effort.

I also find that 10-20 x 1 min hard one min easy starting at 5K effort and progressing to mile effort or faster is a great way to build speed without overtaxing myself.

Generally I don’t like running on the track or taking too many splits.  I find that doing things based on effort and perception keeps me from pushing myself beyond my current fitness level.  If I let my body tell me how fast I’m able to run instead of the other way around I’m more likely to avoid mental burnout and injury.  And it’s a lot more enjoyable 🙂

What is your favorite place to run in Baltimore? Honestly, I don’t love running in Baltimore.  There are a lot of great people to run with, but not a lot of green space.  I do most of my workouts in Druid Hill park and mix up my long runs between the city and Patapsco state park.  Mostly I try to find places with as little traffic and road crossings as possible since I tend to get too focused on the running to pay attention to my surroundings, especially if I am doing anything at effort.

What is your favorite quote to run by? “Everyone has talent.  What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” ~Erica Jong

And to live by? “Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you.  It is meant to, and it couldn’t do it better.  Every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition.” ~Florida Scott-Maxwell

Do you train with an iPod? Yes, pretty much anytime when I am not doing a workout or running with people.  I also commit other “serious athlete” faux pas like running on the treadmill in cold weather and eating cheesecake icing directly out of the container.

Does being faster than most men ever get old? Absolutely not.  I have nothing else to say here.

Putting the marathon aside, would you rather go to the Olympics for the Javelin or Synchronized Swimming? Tough call.  The Javelin scares me, but I also can’t hold my breath for very long, I also don’t swim very well.  So I’m going to go with choice C: curling.

THANK YOU AND GOOD LUCK, CHRISSIE! You can follow her on Saturday and beyond at @CRamsey1982!

So many possible captions….so little space.

Feet First

What’s the best way to get into a cold pool at 5:30 am? Jump in feet first, of course.

How do I usually roll? Slowly lower myself in going “ohmygodohmygodihatepoolsohmygod.”

But judging from how Coach Hillary set up my training plan she believes in the feet-first method 🙂  I am back in full swing of things with no time last week to gently ease myself into it. And I have to say, I feel good and all the workouts went really well – so there is something to be said about jumping in feet first.  This is how I did with each of the 3 disciplines:

Swimming: Just a hair over 12 miles on the week! I am measuring my swimming in miles right now because my gym has a “100 miles” competition going. This week I surpassed the 10 mile mark, earning myself a swim cap (that wasn’t ready yet because “they didn’t think anyone would get there that fast!”), and am currently the pool leader for mileage. I am going to hold on tight to this as Ryan and I think there are at least a handful of people who will give me a run for my money in this one. But I have some tricks up my sleeve and big swim days coming yet too.

The bike: This weekend we were lucky enough to have temps up to 67 here in Maryland! And what better way to jump into training on the bike than a good old-fashioned ride on the Columbia course. Andy/Chicken Tender invited me to ride out on the Columbia course with him on Saturday, and I managed to dupe him into 2 hours which meant the lollipop portion of the course twice. In case anyone was wondering….the hills are still there. That course is always a rude awakening and it hit me a little harder than I would have expected, but I had great company and his ride data showed that we were moving at a good clip for the ride. The extra bonus was the 5 miles running off the bike too!

The run:  My stealthy speed work over the holidays is paying off, evidenced by Friday morning’s workout. The Shrimp ‘n’ Grits 5K is this weekend in Charleston and I’m looking forward to see where I’m at.

Beautiful sunrise == reward for Friday's early speed sesh!

And for the first long run of 2012, what do you get?? SEVEN ladies meeting on Sunday morning for the run! It was a great turnout and I’m pretty excited to keep this attendance up. As I learned last year, the best way to get faster is to run faster…and that’s most easily accomplished in a group. While not everyone is running too long yet, the reward for sticking out the whole thing was lunch at the Grilled Cheese Company in Federal Hill. YUM!

Rev3 Runs Across America!

In 2012, Rev3 set some big goals. Not only were they going to continue to add races to their series (perhaps another yet to be announced? c’mon just tell us already!), but they were going to continue to foster an amazing Pro Team as well as an Age Group team. I am continually surprised by the generosity and encouragement that I have already received from the team in just about a month….this is something so unique and special that it really says a lot about Rev3 as a brand!

But that wasn’t enough. Rev3 wanted to do more. And thus the Rev3 Run Across America was born. On Monday, March 26, Team Rev3 will set out for a 3,458 mile run to end 21 days later at at the Georgetown Hospital’s Lombardi Cancer Centers in Washington, DC.

Ten people. 3,080 miles. 21 days. Don’t even try to do the math about mileage per person – it’s a lot! But they are going to be able to get through it with the motivation and inspiration that comes from doing it for a cause that is near and dear to their hearts. Taking this directly from the “Why Run?” portion of the Rev3 RAA website:

Rev3 events provides athletes the opportunity to achieve personal goals, overcome obstacles, and push their inner limits beyond what they think is possible. On race day the rev3 staff is honored and privileged to share in that excitement with our athletes and family members. We delight in watching their months and maybe even years of hard work and dedication to their training become a reality.

Run Across America gives us the opportunity to touch lives on more than just race day. Rev3 has partnered with the Ulman Cancer Fund. It is a charity we believe in. Each year more than 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer in the united states. In fact, cancer is the leading disease killer among 20-39 year olds. Cancer has in some way shape or form has touched all of our lives. What a better way to celebrate perseverance, determination, courage, and heart than to run across America side by side with people whose lives have been forever changed as a result of this disease. They have had their “defining moment”. It’s time to make ours.

There are a couple ways that you can help them get through this huge feat! First is pledging your support through a donation to help get to the goal of $100,000. Just click on the Donate button on the left of my blog. Another way to get involved is to be a relief runner! I will be out there in the final 3-day push of the run helping get those miles in! If you’re interested in that (check out the website here for the map of all the cities they will be running though) contact me and I’ll forward you on to the right people. And of course, if you have another idea for to become involved in this project as an individual or team, please let me know. No contribution is too small!

Dear Self

As I sat down to write my New Years resolutions and/or my 2011 reflections it somehow warped into this – a letter to my 2011 self, had I known what I know now, at this time last year. 2011 was a truly special year for me, and if I can take what I learned into 2012 I have the opportunity to make it even better.

Dear Self,

First, get a watch. A good watch. That takes splits. And learn how to use it – you will need it this year.

You are about to begin a year that is going to stretch you beyond what you thought you were capable of. You will do more in the hours of each day, more in the minutes of each hour, than you ever have before. You will survive on less sleep than you did during your 2 year stint at the Naval Academy – never thought you’d willingly do that again, huh? You will get in the pool. A lot. Things will start slow, but Hillary knows exactly what she is doing and will make a fish out of you yet. Swim hard. The benefits are great in the first part of the year. You will be encouraged by the seconds and minutes that drop off your times in the pool. Be patient. It will take time for that to translate into open water. Don’t get caught up in the numbers either. Remember that an improvement can be measured in using less effort to swim the same times. You will swim many of these workouts alone, but be thankful when Ryan joins in the work. Enjoy the days when you can out swim him…there will only be a couple 🙂

Get a new saddle early. Changing it up a couple weeks before IM LOU probably isn’t the best approach. Get comfortable on it, and stock up on movies and TV shows to watch on the trainer. You’ll spend a lot of time there. Go riding with the boys any chance you can. You don’t need fancy tools. You don’t need a power meter. You have a handful of really talented guys in your area willing to ride with you. They are your fancy tools and your power meter. Ride hard, and keep up for as long as you can. Ask questions. Learn to fix your own bike. And for the love of god, make sure you have 2 tire levers before you start a big race.

Get uncomfortable with running. Yes, you can run a really long time, longer than most people like to drive. Learn to run fast. Learn to hold on when you think you’re going to die. Because none of the workouts this year are going to kill you, no matter how much you think they will. Your arms will tingle and go numb. Your form will go to shit and you’ll feel like an ogre trying to keep up. Work on it. Think it through and stay calm. Similarly to the bike, you’re lucky because you will have the opportunity to train with a group that is much faster than you. Take every opportunity you can to run with them. It sucks to always be the slowest one, and that is not ever going to change this year, so suck it up and get used to it. These girls work hard too and deserve their speed, so don’t resent them for it. Learn from them. What do they do when they are tired? How do they recover? How do they run their easy days? Take it all in and apply it in your training. Work hard.

Give back when you can. If you can help another get through their long run, do it. If you can help brainstorm training plans with a friend, do it. Watching those around you achieve their successes will keep you going.

Build your tribe. Not everyone is going to understand what your goals are this year. But do not be offended by their lack of understanding. Keep those who do get it close. You will spend many weeks in the cocoon of Hillary, Ryan and Carly’s support. These are the people who will be there for you every single day. These people will bring you out of the bad days (expect one in late August). And they will be there to celebrate with you on the good days. Be observant and seize the chance when you have the time to reach out to those who have seemingly lost touch. You will find it’s not a lack of caring that has caused it; you will rebuild the bonds and they will be stronger than ever. Oftentimes what seems to be a lack of support is really just uncertainty in how to support you.

Don’t let that make you shy away from holding yourself accountable and letting people know what your goals are. Don’t undersell yourself. You’re working hard and deserve credit for what you’re attempting to do. Stand with your head high, even after failed workouts, even after you raced slower than you ever thought you’d have to suffer through, and keep your eye on the prize.

You know all those cliché statements about hard work paying off, and talent only taking you so far? The ones about using your heart to compete? Hold on to them because they are true, and will become your mantra for the year. Don’t be jealous of those who had the opportunities to swim, bike or run competitively from an early age, or compete at the highest level in college. Take solace in the fact that your meager Evergreen Dolphins Swim Team in the summers of the 90’s gave you a decent freestyle form. Running local 5k’s with your dad instilled a competitive edge in you that will never burn out. Playing soccer and lacrosse allowed you to realize the value of a team early on, and you will build a team in a seemingly individual sport.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. At the end of the day, you still have to go to work. You still have to pay your mortgage. You still have to be a friend, a sister, a daughter, a girlfriend, in addition to being a triathlete. Life will get in the way some days, and that’s okay. No one is going to think what you’re doing is cool if you’re grumpy and angry all the time. So if it starts going down that road, take the time to re-evaluate what needs to change. Similarly to how you schedule in races, schedule in time to *not* race. Cross something off your bucket list. And if you go to run in the Grand Canyon, pack food and water for 2, because Dave will not bring enough. And you probably want to check the shuttle times before you start that run. Just sayin’ 🙂

Do the work, and have faith in what you are doing. You are working with Hillary for a reason and that is because you believe in what she is going to have you do. Believe in the process. Have patience. There will be a time this year when all of the hours of training will come down to one minute. Let it all go, and (spoiler alert) run your butt off. That will be what you came for.

You will realize that in achieving some goals this year you have found yourself not nearing the end of a road, but only at the beginning.



PS – If you go for a long run, pack toilet paper.