A Taste of My Own Medicine!

I love the saying, “Be careful what you ask for” because it always comes back to bite us in the ass.

Just an update on my swimming progress as I try to get my butt back in shape to swim at the State meet next month.  The 400IM is my new challenge for 2012.  I was getting bored swimming the standard 500, 1000 and 1650 at our State Swim meets…and my times vary by 5-10” every year.  So, unless I give up running and cycling – they are not moving that dramatically any more.

So, enter the new challenge:  400IM.  No matter what people think, I am really not a “real” swimmer.  I did not swim in college or all of High school…and all I did was freestyle, really.  I just have worked really hard these years….I mean, really, really hard.

I had someone say to me last weekend, “For such a good swimmer you have really small feet.”  (my feet are size 7 ½ and I am 5’8”).  I said, “Yes, they are, but I just figured out how to swim efficiently with small feet!”

Enter 2012.  I was going to Masters and trying to get back into shape after time off after IM Arizona…and I was like, “what in the heck am I going to do at State?”  It is the focus of the masters team I swim on and I swim with some pretty amazing swimmers.

So, decided to challenge myself with the 400IM and urge my friend, Elizabeth to join me – maybe she was thinking about it before, but I definitely threw that challenge out there.  Misery loves company.

I am a huge fan of swimming different strokes in practice – and quite frankly, the better swimmers can swim the other strokes smoothly.  They just have that better feel and presence in the water.

I have been working hard.  Most weeks I am swimming 4x/week, which for me, is plenty..but definitely 4500-5000 a pop….so not like I swim 4x/week at 2k….I have been working on my turns and my form…which means I must slow down.

Here is where the problem is and where I had a moment in the pool this AM.   Sunday mornings are my favorite swims because I am not swimming at 8pm at night (our other practices, which I dislike), so I do not feel totally trashed.  Then, I throw myself in a lane where I am working hard – we have 2 fast lanes:  Male/Female – not because we are sexist, it is just where the cards fly in our pool – and here is the fact:  I can swim freestyle and I beg for harder, longer sets in my lane..but with the stroke I get my ASS handed to me and I am at max speed for all my stroke. They are doing drill work = I am swimming full stroke to keep up.

Today’s swim – honestly, I felt like it was 5000 with maybe 1000 of freestyle.  Ok, let’s be honest, 5000 is a long way to swim but put in STROKE for most of it and I had a moment in the pool.

After about 3500 the set was:  4 x 300 stroke.  OK….so 300s are fine and dandy….but please let me swim freestyle..better yet, let me pull..but where does that get me?  NO WHERE….b/c that is what I am good at…so this was the lane:   300 FLY, 300 Back, 300 Breast, 300 Free on 10” rest.  Yep, 10” – maybe it was 15” but it doesn’t matter, it is all short.

At about the 300 breast, the masters coach pulled me aside and said the timing of my breast was OFF and I was not doing a good job with the pull and I was rushing my stroke.

I felt myself getting frustrated…not at her – she was doing her job…but at myself.  Before I could save myself, I said, “I am in the wrong lane for stroke work…I am at max effort and these gals are gliding along – I am just swimming like SHIT lately trying to keep up!”  It is so lopsided b/c my free is fine but my stroke sucks.  And, I told her all I cared about was my 500 and 1000 at State and I am going to get hammered in that stuff because I spend my time getting my ass smacked doing 300 Fly with these girls that will WIN 200 fly or 200 breast at the State meet (think:  200 fly in less than 2:15)…..And I felt myself getting choked up and wanting to cry…and I just put my goggles on and swam away from the coach and told her I needed a moment.

WHO DOES THAT?  See, a taste of my own medicine!

But, as I finished my breaststroke and did the freestyle (where I can think) I thought – THIS is exactly what I wanted and needed.  I asked for a new challenge.  I asked for something different and something HARD.  Every year I swim State for the 500 or 1650 – there has not been a massive challenge in my age group (this year there is (Krista!))…and winning never gets old, but I NEED this and I pulled my bad self together and finished the workout and immediately went up to the coach and apologized.

I told her that I hate when Triathletes tell me that they cannot do other swim strokes – or at least will not try.  And, I am not a beginner swimmer, so shame on me.  I just told her that I don’t want my freestyle to suffer at the expense of the 400IM (that will last 6 minutes)…but she is JUST doing her job…just doing what I asked her to do…get me ready to meet my goal in 1 month at the State meet.

So, shame on me.  Shame on me for swimming away….but I thought about it for 3 minutes and immediately knew I was wrong and fixed it.  Honestly, not much free swim, bike or run really throws me on my heels anymore – I have done it all – but this stroke work with swimming is just what I needed and I am so challenged, it is SO refreshing albeit very humbling.

One more month until I swim this 400IM and I swear I will do my best to win this event at State…and I swear, if I win this event at State….I am going to Disneyland.  (ha….)


  1. I don’t have a great comment. I love how much of a b&*ch you can be. :) It is what makes you the best. :)


    I am in your corner, but you know that. :)))

  2. You are not alone my friend in the small feet swimmer club! I wear size 7 and have heard that comment countless times:)

  3. A couple summers in college, I swam for the Carmel Swim Club in Indiana. That was one heck of a fast team and we did a TON of stroke work and I got my derriere handed to me too, yet I rarely raced in anything but freestyle events. Here’s the kicker, my freestyle kicked butt those summers, faster than I swam in college! Although I can’t get many triathletes to do much, if any stroke work, I am a big believer in it helping freestyle. So watch it, you may very well have your fastest freestyle events at state ever! 😉

  4. I have small feet too! Is that why my breast stroke sucks???? LOL!

  5. Jen – you won’t notice any slowing in your freestyle. Once you switch your focus back, it will be right back to where it always is. Happy swimming!

  6. 300 fly? Ouch. I don’t know if I can even do a 300 breast stroke! I like this post because it’s honest (not that you aren’t ever honest, but you know what I mean). And I agree with Cheryl, the stroke work isn’t going to slow down your free. Maybe next year you’ll do the 200fly as your challenge? Hahahahahaha. Ouch.

  7. I have no idea what I just read, really, but know you and KNOW you will do your VERY BEST!!! Keep up the hard work!! It always pays off :))
    ironic coming from me….huh?? xoxox

  8. Ha, love that you right something very real, amkes me remember nearly crying when presented something difficult as a teen swimmer when my attitude cap was a little “skii-whiff” that day…I would think all that extra stroke work will only increase your total feel for the water – and the butterfly increase you strength…can’t wait til you do that set again…with Fly in it!! Good luck in your IM, I think that’s an awesome challenge – and fun.

  9. Oh man, did I really put “right” instead of “write”??? Geesh. Oh and “amkes” instead of “makes”? Hellllooooo editing.

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1/2 Marathon and March…

There are NO complaints from me about the highest temps here in Chicago in March in 141 years.  WE are SO LUCKY!!!  Except for when we all want to race a hilly ½ Marathon.  A large group of us raced a ½ Marathon this AM – the hilliest one in Illinois – but also a yearly tradition for many of us that live up near the race course.  And, honestly, we were just all excited to race without ice, snow or 20F degrees.  But, nearly 80F is a whole different ball game – for us who are not used to it for a longer race.

I signed up for this race in December, when I was not running.  Honestly, I had to sign up because I have rarely missed it – but at the time, I wasn’t even running and I was unsure I would be running 13.1 miles on March 17th back then.  But, my Achilles was feeling much better after mid-February and I luckily was able to start running.  No speed, except one workout with Dave that was hard, but I felt really good (it is all a matter of perspective!).

But, I had to have this conversation with myself yesterday AND today about my race….

Ok, Jenny, you need to leave your old self at home.  You need to really alter your time goals for this race.  In fact, you should not have ANY time goals.  And, you need to get over it and actually start super easy….DO YOU hear me, Jenny?  Jenny….Jenny…

UGH!  But, I was in the right mind frame for this ½.  In fact, this is the new Jen Harrison….not being able to race one that I entered would have been unheard of me 5 years ago…I would not have even of raced unless I was @ 100% fighting shape.  But, with age and experience comes wisdom and I quickly got over it.

I only wore a stopwatch.  At nearly 80F in March, clearly the HR would be zone 4, so let’s not kid ourselves….so, I planned on running 7:20-7:30 for my first mile., 45 seconds slower than last year (but this was the only time I let myself think/say that).  I hit it at 7:25 and just ran.  I was doing a good job of keeping it real.

And, I felt good…not great…but fine.  I ran slow.  In fact, I have never run this slow in an open ½ and it is a WHOLE different crowd at this pace – how funny to notice that.  And, I am super proud of myself for keeping things in perspective.  My Achilles did not bother me at all for the race, I was just not in shape yet.  Simple as that.  My Achilles is tender now, but not worse for the wear.

I will say this….it was not only a tough race day for me, but also a SUPER tough coaching day.  I had to have many, many tough conversations today. ;(   There were a lot of athletes and friends on this course for me that I work with.  NOT one PRd…it was brutal.  I could not say enough things to everyone about the heat, cramping, needing salt tabs, slowing down SUPER easy first 5k for sure, etc.  I warned everyone, but the heat doesn’t grab you until after mile 8 or 10, really.  And, everyone has run this race so much faster (easier in 30F degrees for us here in Chicago in March than 80F)…I tried hard to keep up with the texts, calls and freak outs all afternoon and evening.  I felt horrible for everyone, but it was simple:  TOO HOT and no one is acclimated and prepared for that heat….whether they ran a 1:20 or 2:30, it was too much.  And, the athletes needed to re-adjust their goals based on this extreme heat for us.  And, of course, everyone feels good until about the 10k and then the shit hits the fan.  Athletes were cramping, walking, shuffling…it was a tough day and it was a tough day at the office for me.

I will say a few athletes had VERY solid days out there – so hats off to them!!!

I hope everyone understands just how hard it is to have a good race in these conditions, some do, of course, but 90% of these runners did not.  March is a super tough month – everyone is itching to race and feeling out their fitness…and usually these races are good indicators of fitness.  But, unfortunately at 13.1 miles, it was just too much and had everyone freaking out today, questioning their fitness, questioning their upcoming races.  A tough day all around for everyone indeed and one that left a huge pit in my stomach – I still have it at 7:30pm at night and I have not stopped working since I crossed that finish line today.

The bright side:  It sure will make the great days even better!  And, there will be great days coming up.

And, I had 3 neighbor friends do this race….they have been on and off training for this and I felt awful because it was cruel really that they picked this race ON this day with this heat…it was challenging enough for experienced athletes, but you know what?  They did great – so proud of them.  But they did say that they thought I was nuts that I did this normally – they missed their green beer last night for St. Patty’s Day and were NOT happy about that.

AND, more importantly, where are my DAMN M&Ms?



  1. Nice post, Jenny. Man on man- yes, your athletes have to be flexible with goals with inclement weather (heat) counts, it is a must!!!! I think better goals for those hot days are built on having a successful race, not necessarily a fast race- and those two aren’t always the same thing. Glad the achilles is good and you are getting back out there.

  2. Ouch. That was me the weekend of Napa! And I’m sure you all didn’t go into your race hungover…
    Props to all of you! I’ll call that some primo Tucson acclimation–bring on the heat!

  3. Yep… a VERY hard and hilly race….thanks for still being there when I crossed the finish line! Always so nice to see your smiling face! I just REALLY dread that 90 minute hill workout you have for us on Saturday….for some reason, I think you will make it “extra” hard! Guess we all deserve it! : )

  4. Congrats on a solid race in brutal conditions! I was one of those really hurting toward the end. I didn’t think the hills would ever end! It was fun seeing you cheering near the end – it kept me running!

  5. Oops…ignore my question in the email I just sent you asking you if you raced the Cary 1/2!!! I hadn’t seen this yet. I’m sure it was a tough day for all…too early in the year for this heat, no one’s ready for it! Way to stick w/ your plan :)
    And be easy on us next weekend…the way things are going, it’s going to be just as hot!

  6. Good job on the race. When I was running home from work the other day while it was warm, it reminded me how different running in heat was. It wasn’t a race, and it was just a run, but I was definitely thinking of it. How funny you had to race in heat AGAIN!! :)

    Have a good week. Tell your athletes life has tougher stuff than less than their best race. Perspective perspective perspective. :)

  7. You guys have really had some amazing weather lately. Not so good still over here. Way to go in today’s race. Sometimes the toughest thing is to stick with your plan.

  8. Glad you wrote this-I am feeling better about Not hitting my time out there- it was not an easy day. Only in Chicago! Onward is right!!
    Good job managing it all Jen and thanks for checking in w me :-)

  9. yup yup yup:)
    I think we learn more from races like that ( at least that is what i am telling myself) and as you said, take it for what it is, we got to race! Glad the achilles isnt too pissed. See ya soon:)

  10. Sometimes I think races like this are a good smack in the face (I totally typed “race” instead of “face” – ha!). I think it’s easier for more seasoned athletes to pick up the pieces and move on after a race like you described than it is for the newbies. But if the newbies can hold on, keep their heads up, the perfect days to come are that much sweeter. And I would like a perfect day soon… I’ve been waiting for a while. 😉

  11. This weather is NUTS! I agree that it is soooo hard to keep it all in perspective. Onward and upward!

  12. Heat really does suck when you are not acclimated. I have had my fair share of bad races because of heat!

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Healthy and Ready for 2012!!!

Well hello March, I have been waiting for you!!

I was whining on Twitter about not being motivated to work or blog or finish up the article I owe to Training Peaks. You know when you have no thoughts in your head?  That is how I feel tonight.  THE only reason is that it is late for me @ 7:35pm!  I know, I know….but Graham is at soccer practice and I am at some café pretending to work.  Yeah, that got me as far as Twitter, FB and Pinterest  thankyouverymuch.

Little Miss Molly on Twitter asked me to blog about my 2012 races.  YAWN!!!  I told her it is NOT riveting at all.  I was just laughing about this with Jerome this past weekend in Tucson (which, by the way, was dreamy thankyouverymuch)….and I was telling Jerome that I cannot believe I am this fit in March (bike and swim coming along) and I really have no major races on the horizon.  I am so not like that.

But, here is the deal…and for those who read my blog regularly you understand….I had not run hard since last August….my Achilles was screwed….and after IMAZ I did not run one step for 6 weeks.   January 1st came and I said I would start slowly again with the running and I did.  3 x 20 min runs, 3 x 25 min runs, 3 x 30 min runs, 3 x 35 min runs…oh yes….just like that with NO intensity (of course)….I mean super slow and because it was winter cold, I was smart (stretched, rolled, etc)….and kept up my strength sessions (OF course, I would be a bigger mess w/o them)….so by the time I got up to March 1st, I allowed myself to add the speed back in…8 weeks is not a huge base, but for someone like me who has a massive base from years upon years of training, it is sufficient.

March 1st rolled around….I picked up my phone and called one of my favorite people:  Dave Walters and told him I was driving my A$$ down to see him and run with him…even if I need a wheelchair to get through his workout.  Last week I drove to run with him.  This was after I was nauseous after I brilliantly decided to do TWO back to back 10k TTs on the bike on Sunday AFTER Masters….yep, I am smart like that.  OH and smack talked about the whole event (s) all day too.  Best day EVER.

Anyway, I had warned Dave that this was my first speed workout since..well August (run wise) and this could be a total disaster.  My Achilles is basically 100% now, but the body is out of run shape.  We started to warm up and I thought, “just go with it, Jen” and I did.  I turned off my brain and ran as hard as I could up those hills and for the repeats of the main set.  Dave was pleasantly surprised and told me I am a sandbagger.  Ironically, I have been called a lot of things but a sandbagger, rarely.  So, maybe I am in better shape than I think?

Now, truth be told, I paid for that TT effort /Masters on Sunday and stress from putting our house on the market last week AND this hard 75 min run with Dave….I got a cold sore on Friday in Tucson…felt like I was hit by a truck.  But, that was all that I walked away with…pretty damn impressive really (because I was stressed out).

Then, in Tucson I was able to put in my long run….I ran 2 hours pretty easy but in the rolling terrain at Sabino Canyon…dreamy – but I was no worse for the wear.  So, here we are, early March and the game is ON.  So, now I can plan the season.

BUT, I promised myself (and Jerome, who is flexible) that this would be a step back year for me…all local because this house can sell at any point and we have to move and all that good stuff (to where, who knows!).

But, on December 31st, when I was NOT even running, I signed up for a ½ Marathon on March 17th.  Wholeheartedly knowing I would not be able to race it, but it fills so fast that I would lose my slot if I waited longer than 15 minutes.  So I entered.  Now I am in a position, 8 weeks later to run it.  Race it is a dicey word…but I can run the course and be respectable.  Five years ago I would never have done that…I would have to go with all guns blazing or not go at all.  Ah, with age comes wisdom.  And desperation.  I saw the other side:  The side of no running and I will tell you what, it is UGLY…so if I am 3, 4 minutes slower b/c I healed up this injury, I will take it and do the HAPPY Dance!!!

Now my 2012 just fully opened.

So, with that, I read the recent article on the girls from 40-44 that qualified for Kona at IMAZ…well, that was me, but I was not mentioned b/c I turned the slot down.  BUT for some reason it made me crazy for a brief minute and I immediately whined about it and then said, “your choice, Jen…your choice.”  And, so it is.

So far this is my schedule for 2012:

  • I have done 3 x 10k Bike TTs so far
  • Racing ½ Marathon next weekend
  • I have done a big swim meet already
  • I am swimming in a big meet this weekend, HELLO 200 IM
  • I am swimming out of MY SKIN at the IL State Swim Meet next month:  400 IM + 9 events
  • Galena Triathlon in May
  • 10 mile run Race in May – Memorial Day weekend
  • Leon’s Oly Triathlon in early June
  • Lake in the Hills Triathlon (same weekend as Eagleman, which I am not doing this weekend, Morgan has a dance recital that I would never miss)
  • Twin Lakes Sprint Triathlon late June
  • Bike TTs all of June, July and August…from 20k – 40ks
  • Door County ½ Ironman (see, I threw in a ½ IM in the mix!) in mid July

I need to figure out past mid- July.  No marathons…no major travel, so we will see!  Maybe I do the Chicago Triathlon – what a concept!  Or another local ½ IM.  I know REV3 has a ½ IM up in Wisconsin Dells, which is only 3.5 hours north of me…so we will see!   I am open to anything!  I just want to race a lot and have fun.  I want to be in good enough shape to jump into anything but a full Ironman…but also flexible enough so that I can pack up and move and start building a house if I have too quickly.  That is my theme for 2012.

And, soon back to the track..oh have I missed the running track.  I left a message for Dave begging to meet me at the track soon.  SOON!  And after nursing this darn Achilles for months, I am JUST happy to be 100% again.


  1. Injury -free!! I’m so happy for you!! What a fun, FAST year you have planned!

  2. So glad you’re healed up! I have to tell you – I really admire and respect the way you balance everything in your life…I love following along on your blog.

  3. Ooooh, I am surprised you blogged. You sounded tired on Twitter. :) Good Luck on the half mary, and all the other races obviously, and everything else going on.

    Busy is busy sometimes, but also exciting too I think. Especially with good weather on the horizon. :)

  4. Sounds like a great year ahead!! :) Good luck at your swim meet this weekend. 200 IM BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. So glad you are getting some wind back in your sails, Jen. I’m learning that endurance sports definitely eb and flow. So glad that all you got was a cold sore from that stress… and not the shingles outbreak that I ended up with. I do not recommend that at all. 😉 Best wishes to you on your half marathon next week. Sometimes the “low pressure” races end up being the best ones– maybe not in regards the time on the clock, but rather, sheer enjoyment!

  6. Nice post. You really sound like you’re in a good spot mentally and physically.

  7. Nice post! You really sound like you’re in a good spot mentally and physically.

  8. WE know, we know that was your slot and when i read that i was proud bc i knew your heart would skip a beat and you would move forward. Body management, here we are. Glad its a good start to the season:) and when you “Race” on St Patty’s day you can virtually run with me!

  9. I totally get your excitement for being able to run!!!!
    When I manage to get my ITB under control and I can do some runs then I am like off leash:)

    Good luck on HM!

  10. Sounds like a fun and busy 2012. Great update:)!

  11. I read this & thought, “OMG she is going to race IMOO!” Even though I know that race is pretty much out of the question with how many athletes you have racing it. :)

  12. YAHOOOOO!!!! We are doing a lot of the same races this year! What fun! Totally low key fun season with NO IM RACING!!!!! But lets go up to Madison to train anyway! Always a fun trip!

  13. I am soooo glad that you were working hard on those hill repeats! You made it look easy Jen! I read that IM article too and thought it was a shame they didn’t mention those that turned the slots down.
    Sounds like a great season ahead!

  14. Allowing time for the body to heal is SO worth it! Nicely done!

  15. Thanks for the comment Jen! Nice race schedule you have planned :).

  16. I am so happy that you are running injury free now. That is great new so Cheers to a great year!

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