Archive for November, 2007



November 30, 2007
Thank you so very much to all of you who emailed me over the last few days about the “My Choice” entry. If you didn’t see it, it was a bit about my eating disorder and the 13 year recovery I am blessed to call my own. It never ceases to amaze me just how many of us are affected my EDO’s, and it always comforts me more than anything to know… that we can at least reach out to one another. I am very honored to have made some very beautiful friends through writing, and even more honored that those of you who are affected by this disease would choose to reach out to me. Together I say…. is the best way to be.


Today I set an intention as I dipped into the water at Masters practice. It was 5:45 am and I looked at the pool filled with swimmers, and I looked at my lanemates. It’s amazing to me, we have swum together for years. Shared very difficult sets, moments. We have laughed very hard at very stupid things. We have just swum quietly together in times of grief.

When you share yards, miles, or even miles per hour together you become family in many ways. One year ago I became part of the Stud lane. One year ago it was my intention to just live through it. And that I did. Ken, Bill, Eric, Les… they all lapped me. And they lapped me a lot. In many ways I was just a reflection of the swimming talent that I have. That I spent 12,000 yards a day in college learning how to shine.

When you evolve into multisport, those pure runners have to let go of some of those fast 5k times just as we swimmers need to let go of the good old college days. When 200’s were swum on 2:20. When 100’s were done on the minute. When the workout entailed 12,000 yards a day.

I am lucky to average 10,000 yards a week now. And that’s a good week.

So this morning when I swam behind Bill who was behind Ken I set the intention. No longer would I just survive this lane. One morning I am going to lead a set this season. I don’t believe that improvement to my swim requires more time. It requires more effort within the time I swim. Rather than hang on…. I will take aim. I will swim next to Bill in lane 1 and as long as it is not breast stroke… I will stay right with him.

I will not get lapped. At least for a 500 🙂

This morning I was able to set the tone. I made all of the intervals, I did not get lapped (okay so we did swim 20 X 25’s………) I didn’t die. I wasn’t even close.

Which goes to show what you can achieve when you set your mind to it. When you set a goal and expect nothing else than 100% of yourself. When you finally allow yourself to show up.

I saw Ken getting closer but I did not let him lap me. When Bill M. pushed off the wall I gave him 2 seconds and I stayed closer. For a whole 50 I even stayed in his bubbles.

And it felt good. I know I have more to give. I have much more to give. It begins with stripping down the walls that hold be back from reaching, from being, and from taking aim.

Thank you for stopping by.

🙂 Mary


My Choice

November 29, 2007

I am extremely excited to announce my participation in an event that I fully believe in, that will be happening here in Rochester this coming February. I was recently invited to speak at a Symposium that will be held at the University of Rochester, as part of a traveling exhibit highlighting Eating Disorders. It is a combination of voice and art which will demonstrate and help educate people as to exactly what an eating disorder entails and means and does not just to a person… but to their family.

I will also be giving my annual talk at the State University of New York at Geneseo on February 11th. We’d love to have you along.

Many of you know that I am all too familiar on this topic. I am in my thirteenth year of recovery from an active 10 year run of Bulimia Nervosa. Yes, do the math that is correct. I began to binge and purge when I was ten years old.

My son is seven years old. I was only three years older than he is right now when I began my journey on this almost deadly road. Truth is, I was one of the lucky ones.

As I said I am now in my thirteenth year of recovery, and just like every other process of recovery…. it is one day at a time. There are days when I feel absolutely free of this illness and then there are days where I feel I am still under its thumb.

Eating Disorders are a tricky business. They begin with weight and they morph into something very frightening and very difficult to understand. Look at an anorexic and tell them how thin they are, how can they not see that?

On the surface when an anorexic looks into the mirror she sees a different image than you do. But on the inside is where the illness is truly happening. There are issues of control, fear, etc.

Bulimics tend to look normal and they know that the binge / purge cycle is “disgusting”. We know it’s horrible. That causes us to become even more ashamed. To rid the feeling of shame we binge to stuff it down and then vomit…. to get rid of it.

For me Bulimia was a lot about getting rid of feelings that were too big for me. I had a terrible relationship with my older brother. He was physically and emotionally abusive towards me. Most brothers can be, but I learned to handle it very badly. I learned to soothe the feelings of pain by eating and then I learned to rid myself of those very same feelings, shame, pain, fear…. by throwing up. I did know that this was not the right way…. but it was the only way I knew at age ten. Age ten.

Because that was the way I dealt with life that became the way I dealt with life. From disappointments to elation…. this is what I did. From exams to swim meets to enduring adolescence. This is what I did.

My parents did everything they could to help me. But until I hit absolute rock bottom, until I had to stand on the edge of life and death…. all the help on earth wasn’t going to save me. Save me from myself.

Believe me everyone on earth tried to help me. The harder they tried the sicker I became.

Over those years I did a lot of physical damage to my body. My teeth, my esophagus, my heart. every single day that I look in the mirror I can’t believe I have finished four Ironmans.

13 years ago I was supposed to be dead. My senior year in high school I was voted most likely to be dead by 30… for this reason.

The doctors told me I would never have children and I would not be healthy enough to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. I would have problems forever they said.

So at the finish line of my fourth Ironman, my fastest Ironman, I thought about what they all told me. And here I was, a sub eleven finisher, a mother, a wife, able to fulfill a dream that most healthy people would never even try to embark on …….

The issues with my heart were one of the biggest catalysts to my recovery. The bigger inspiration to me were the children I met at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I was a volunteer there, trying to learn what nursing was like before I embarked on my nursing career.

One day I sat in the game room of the hospital. My job was to play with whoever came in. A boy who was eleven was sitting in there watching TV. His parents were working and he had cancer so long that it didn’t affect him that he was alone. We got to talking and he told me he dreamt of being a hockey player. He dreamt of it every single night. He told me that he would close his eyes and he could feel the stick, he could smell the ice, and if he tried really hard, he could feel the wind as he skated towards the goal.

I realized that this boy would have given anything to be in my shoes. He would have done anything to only have an eating disorder and not cancer (which he did later die from). And I felt so selfish. I felt that I had created this illness within me, and this was something I could recover from, and this was something I…. in a way …. chose.

I think about that boy very often. I think about him when things feel like they are heading up hill. I think about him when I feel tired or sore, or even when I lean towards those old thoughts and feelings.

I don’t believe I am someone special because I am recovering from an eating disorder. I put my own fingers down my throat by my own accord. No one diagnosed me with a disease that I didn’t know was happening to me. I had opportunity after opportunity to get help. And I had refused.

The first day of the rest of my life came after a hospitalization 13 years ago. I felt absolute gratitude. Absolute gratitude. I vowed to the memory of this boy that I would earn what I was given. I’d earn this life.

I have tried very hard to do just that.

When I speak about my experiences I try to emphasize that we have help available to us. All we have to do is make the decision that we need to get better. We need to reach out our hands and take hold of the ones that have been reaching to us.

We need to stop making it complicated. We need to do what we do with everything else. Make a decision, put our head down and get better.

I imagine my little friend is skating away somewhere in the universe. Free of cancer, free of pain. I imagine he can now hold the stick and now head towards the goal.

And I realize that my recovery is my choice.

Thanks for stopping by.



My Victory Lap

November 27, 2007

Please forgive me in advance…. I am going to take a victory lap. Because tonight I opened up my bike box, which was sealed on November 4th as I rolled it onto an airplane after Ironman Florida. A day that held many great things for me.

My fourth Ironman. My first sub elven finish. My first Ironman that was not Ironman Lake Placid. The second Ironman in a year. The second time I crossed the finish line feeling that feeling of… I have more to give to this race.
The day I laid doubt to rest.
My race bags still had sand in them. My Ironman Florida cap still has saltwater inside of it. My wetsuit still smelled of the ocean.
I remember reading one of Elizabeth’s race reports. I think the title was something to the effect of…. The race is won in your head….. and never before did it ring so absolutely true for me. Before race day Jen sent me an email and all I remember it saying was BELIEVE.
And believe….. I did.
Since my injury in 2005 I was full of doubt and my 70.3 results showed that. When I teamed up with Coach T in August he helped me find so much more than pace. He helped me see a lot more clearly, just how in my own way I truly was. It was nothing physical except learning pace and not trying to reach for a pace I was not ready for.
He took care of the training. It was up to me to clear the space between my ears and that I did.
As I assembled my bike tonight and mounted it on my computrainer…. I felt like a breeze of Florida air was washing over me, and with it excitement spread through me.
As I picked up my cap and goggles that still had remnants of the day on them, I was full of memories. Funny ones.
Did I ever mention that there was a big rip in my wetsuit that morning? It made me laugh. Did I mention that I have never seen so many lines as I did at IMFL? I waited in line with Jen and Jerome for a long time…. for… now I forget what we waited for. The merchandise tent perhaps? When we found out if was another 90 minute wait to get to the register we bagged it. And then we waited for something else. Of which I really don’t remember!
Did I mention that there were girls dressed in S&M gear on the run? They were handing out beer. They were funny.
Did I mention that nearly everyone out there wore Pipi Long stocking socks? They looked hilarious.
Did I mention that I passed Amanda Lovato somewhere on the run? And I will say it was not a good feeling to pass Amada Lovato, she was having a really rough day. It never feels good to pass someone who is suffering but she cheered me on. I was grateful to see a professional woman walking, aiming to finish, and still cheering others on. Did I mention Amanda Lovato has a hell of a lot of class?
Did I mention I launched my spare tubular? In retrospect I was glad I didn’t go back. I only broke 11 hours by 61 seconds and that would have been it.
Did I mention how hard I worked for this day? I put in a lot of hours at Ironman pace. When training that doesn’t seem so fast but at 20 hours per week after you have just done Ironman Lake Placid… it took a lot of focus. When no one was willing to ride long, and I was up on the parkway alone.

This season I achieved all of my goals. The last one… breaking the 11 hour barrier was the most important. I have more to give to this race and I will say it out loud…. I will aim for sub 11 at IMLP this year. Given the right day, and the stars aligning….. I believe I have a shot.
I might be a little shot at it in Placid, but I will be the littlest shot with the biggest smile and the biggest heart. Because it will be my last Ironman… for a while.

One last run around the track, the victory lap. Tomorrow morning the silver bracelet is removed and I continue through one more week of active recovery. Come Monday it will be December and I have a lot of work to do. Taking aim at a dream is my goal.

And now that doubt has been laid to rest, the dragon has been slain. Going forward there is only opportunity, and I am going to be right there to greet it.

Thanks for stopping by.

🙂 Mary


Between The Black Lines

November 25, 2007

The swimming questions keep coming! Thanks so much for writing in, keep at it and I will keep throwing back the best answers that I can! Keep in mind that all of this is my big opinion. I have swum forever and it’s my first love. I have had terrific coaches and they taught me all I know. So it’s my opinion!

1. Do you like to pull? My favorite thing on earth might be pulling. I swear I was born with paddles on!

I love using pull sets for a few reasons; strength and catch. If you have no shoulder issues I recommend paddles. A few different types of Paddles are out on the market.

My favorites are the TYR Catalyst, shown here. Each color signifies a different size. I use both the red and the blue, and sizes are very individual. My shoulder health is terrific, as is my shoulder flexibility. If you are not sure where to begin or have shoulder issues, go for a smaller size, or skip it all together. Paddles should NOT hurt your shoulder. Using them with an existing shoulder injury, using them when you are not ready for them, using them too much, or using them with a significantly impaired (AKA BAD) stroke can cause a shoulder injury.

How do paddles help your catch phase? Take off the wrist strap. Your fingers must point to the bottom of the pool to execute the catch, or they’ll flip up.
Great sets for paddles are 200-1,000 yard repeats. I can not stress enough the importance of shoulder health previous to using paddles.
2. You said you use Swedish Goggles, what are those?

I have used Swedes since I was a kid. They do not have the foam piece around the eye, they fit right into the eye socket. Swedes come in pieces so you can achieve that custom fit. I do not race open water in these as they do fog up. I don’t care if they fog up in a pool. It is annoying if they fog up in open water, but I can easily get through a race if I forget my other duds. Swedes should not hurt your eyes. If they do they are too tight. If the eye piece is too big for your socket, then try children’s Swedes.
Hint; best anti fog….. spit. Lick the insides of your goggles before hitting the water, do not rub with your finger, same goes for any other goggle. If you wear a special goggle for open water, never ever touch the inside of the lens with your finger. Most have an anti fog film already on them.
3. I always lose my pull buoy, should I go bigger or smaller?

There are a few tricks to keeping hold of your buoy. Go smaller, I use a children’s size. It is enough to float my legs to the surface and small enough that I don’t lose it on a flip turn. Another trick…. buy an inner tube. (deflated 😉 Cut it into strips and you’ll have a great band to slide around your legs.

Note: if you area runner and you “band” your legs….. know that most runner’s legs sink, so dropping your legs will change the dynamics of your stroke in a negative way. Band and buoy I always say, and keep your shoulders healthy.
4. Zommers or fins????? I am old school and I hate Zoomers. If you are putting on fins, put on fins. Many triathletes are addicted to Zoomers, which I believe are “fake fins.” to me it is like drinking decaffeinated coffee or fat free ice cream. Use regular fins. I find the best pair to be the simplest pair. If you have issues with blistering or chafing you can wear socks inside your fins.

Fins will help develop ankle flexibility, as well as enhance your kick, emphasizing kicking from the hip rather than from the knee.
How is ankle flexibility? Sit on your knees. Then bend and sit on your heels. Does that hurt your ankle? If so, you need to improve your ankle flexibility. Nothing blows up your total immersion style than toes pointing to the bottom of the pool.
5. What can I do out of the pool to enhance my swimming? Keep it simple outside the pool. A simple set of cords will do. I have a Vasa Trainer and I have tried the TriTon swim trainer. Vasa is the gold standard. Nothing compares to it, but remember I used it all through college.

6. What were your events in high school and college?
High school; 500 free, 200 IM and 200 Free. College; 1000 free, 1650 free, 500 free, 200 fly 400 IM.
All this talk about swimming has made me realize how blessed I am that my parents threw me in the pool at the age of 2. I don’t work very hard in swim training to swim a good IM swim. My husband has to work a heck of a lot harder to swim the same pace. With all the tools and opportunities I have however…. I can regain some of those former swimming days.

Thanks for inspiring me… your great questions have motivated me to really find the pool focus again. Rather than hanging on in the stud lane…. I am going to go for it.

And please….. more questions!
🙂 mary


November 24, 2007

I am not sure what I have gotten myself into. Last week I received an email from Jen Harrison… it was an invitation, and it was intriguing.

An invitation to a weekend of training. In North Carolina.

So far so good.

Then I read the list of characters…. no one whom I knew, but I knew by reputation. Jennifer herself, the speedy little Elizabeth Fedofsky , super star Ashley Long, and some other super size names; Amy Kloner, Tracey McKee, Stacey Richardson… Kristin Villipoto…. (please forgive me if I have missed anyone) I could be in form some big time trouble.

None of them know me, but they are graciously welcoming me along, and Ashley opened her home to all of us. Thank you in advance Ashley.

I don’t know what is in store, but I know this…. it will be good, it will be adventurous, it will be fun, and heading south in the winter? The timing could not be any better. Just when the miles on my comptrainer will start getting to me, just when the darkness of winter is making me a little crazy… a little sun and a little fun.
If nothing else it gives me something terrific to prepare for as I head into my own busy season. Work, school, teaching, it all gets quite busy very soon. I will have to be on top of my game in all areas, especially ahead of my school work.

February isn’t that far away and on the other side of this trip there are just a few weeks between touchdown and take off again.

I never went on spring break in high school. I never even did that in college. I braved the cold of old SUNY at StonyBrook and buried my head as I trekked to the pool on New Year’s Day. Coach Dave and the rest of my team…. we hunkered down on Long Island while the rest of the University were tanning themselves, we had our fuglies on and we had business to attend to.

So the time has come. I am going on a winter break trip. Being that I am not one for drinking much (remember my sister’s wedding?), but I am one for working out a lot. Anything above 32 degrees will be tropical and I am a damn expert in keeping warm and staying dry.

Whatever these awesome ladies have in store for me, I will be ready. I will be waiting. Likely I will hang at the back, but I will be the caboose with the biggest smile.

And I hereby appoint myself and Elizabeth in charge of the coffee. We are the coffee captains and no one who should not have coffee (Jennifer Harrison) will have it if we do not say so.

Now, it’s time to get rid of this off-season…. winter break is waiting!

🙂 Mary


Wat’s A Ceiling?

November 23, 2007

I received a few questions about the below post, that I thought I would clarify;

1. What is a ceiling? I call a ceiling … the slowest I’d go. In the below set

30 X 100 on 2:00 with a ceiling of 1:20; the 1:20 is the slowest I would go. The early ones it is “easy” to hammer out some 1:10’s… and then struggle through just making the last 5. I would slow down and aim for 1:15 and aim to hold that the whole set. So think of a ceiling as the slowest pace you allow yourself to go.

2. What’s the best yardage to shoot for? Again, an individual answer. In an ideal world we all have 60 minutes 3-4 times per week to swim. If that were the case I’d aim for 3,000-5,000 yards. I always favor frequency over yards. If you can swim 5 days a week for 40 minutes, I would suggest that over 2 X 60 minutes per week.

3. How much do you swim? I swim 2-4 times a week, 60-90 minutes per session. My masters team swims 2 times per week (the 90 minute sessions) and depending on the focus 3-5,000 yards. In contrast I used to swim 10-12,000 yards per day in high school and college. Added contrast… I swam a 5:30 500 yard free in college…. I am lucky to swim a 6:30 now.

4. What kind of goggles do you use? In the pool I use Swedish goggles. For open water swimming I use TYR Goggles, but I don’t know what kind they are!!!

🙂 Mary


Take The Plunge

November 23, 2007

It’s a common belief (and of course I’d support it…) that swimmers make the best triathletes. In my experience it is much easier to teach a swimmer how to run, than a runner how to swim. . Now I know plenty of amazing runners who became awesome swimmers, and I know plenty of good swimmers who struggle on the run (ME!). The common thread in these runners turned swimmers is …. hard work.

It is true that swimming is 90% technique. Make no mistake about that. With that however comes the component of pace, just like in running and in cycling.

Through out my swimming career I have seen it all. The advent of Total Immersion, the positioning of the head, and the progression of turns. Namely the backstroke turn. When I began swimming we did the bucket turn. In high school it evolved to the flip but touch the wall turn, in college it evolved even further.

I left competitive swimming just before the introduction of the speed suit. In college we wore paper suits. Since I swam the 500, 1,000 and the mile, I had to get a new suit every meet. At the end of the mile it was disintegrating.

So how much does it take to improve swimming? It takes longer than cycling and running. Apply the same frequency and dedication as you do to bike and run, and you will see results within a few months.

I like to cycle my swimmers through a swim camp at least once a year. In swim camp they swim 4-7 days a week for 45-60 minutes at a time. This will last from 4-6 weeks and depends on pool availability. Within their workout there is a warm up, a drill set a main set and a cool down. I take a look at their strokes to give them the proper drills and we repeat those drills over and over and over.

Broken down, my swim workouts tend to follow this style:

1. Warm up. Ideally my athletes will warm up 600-1,000 yards depending on ability, experience and time constraints.

2. Drills; I use a variety of drills and we repeat that drill for weeks. Drills are meant to over emphasize a portion of a stroke.

For example the 6 kick switch drill; this drill is done wearing fins or zoomers and the athlete kicks on their side for 6 kicks, and then switches sides. The head is looking down yet slightly forward. The front hand is pressing down, not just hanging out in front there! This drill emphasizes the catch phase, getting on the side, balancing and rotating. And it’s very simple.

We repeat this drill for weeks to allow it to absorb. When the swimmer swims their regular stroke the above points are emphasized but the swimmer does not swim identically as the drill.

3. Main set; I like to use the T Time method with my athletes. To establish your T Time swim a timed 1,000 yards (40 lengths). From that final time you can determine your 100 yard repeat time, by calculating the average pace per 100 yards. From that T Time you can then establish your 100 yd repeat time, and from there you can establish appropriate repetition for all distances.

A favorite set of mine is this and it progressed through the season. Let’s use a T Time of 1:20.

The set begins as 30 X 100 on 2:00 holding a ceiling of 1:20

It then progresses to:

30 X 100 with a ceiling of 1:20.
#1-10 on 1:45
#11-20 on 1:30
# 21-30 on 1:25

And the final set whittles its way down to; 10 X 100 on 1:20 holding a 1:18.

This set teaches pace, teaches pain tolerance, and improves your speed. How I create this set is determined by the distance you are training for.

4. Cool down; my cool down sets are from 200-600 yards. I like to swim slow, but swim the most perfect stroke that I can.

Mixing the drill and main set portion of a workout can always be fun.


5 X 100 on T Time + 5 seconds

4 X 75 50 drill / 25 swim on T time + 10 seconds

repeat X 4

If you have a coach have them or someone who is a “swim expert” watch you swim. The key to having someone critique your stroke is to have that same person be the one who always critique your stroke. My swim coach will get upset if we give each other swim tips. She has a great point as to why; she is the one who sees us swim in practice. We give each other tips and then don’t watch each other swim.

Swimming styles have as much individuality as running and cycling styles. Watching a video of Michael Phelps swim is a great idea, he has a gorgeous stroke, but trying to look exactly like him is impossible…. unless you have a wing span longer than your height too!!!!

Michael Phelps has a Popeye style breathing technique. So do I. My husband does not. Why? Mr. Phelps and I have been swimming forever. Curt has not. So while Curt swims the same speed as me we will look different when we breathe. So Curt trying to look like Michael Phelps when he has never breathed in the same style…. pointless.

Therefore….. Having the same person analyze and critique your stroke is vital, because they would know your background. They know your style of swimming, they see the progression and if the swim tip they give is being executed correctly.

How often should you swim? Again this is individual to you, and what you are training for. If you are a 20 minute 1k swimmer competing in Intermediate Distance or ITU races, it is worth the extra time and frequency in the pool to aim for 18 minutes. In an Ironman you can have a swim over an hour and still win.

Based on those two factors, and see what you can realistically fit in. Think about scheduling a swim camp, perhaps during the fall or the winter when you might be laying low on the running or cycling miles.

The bottom line…. don’t be afraid to take on your swim. If you don’t have access to a Masters swim team, find a reputable coach who has experience in stroke analysis. A good coach will give you one thing to work on for a few months. One who aims to change it all…. turn and run.

Addressing your weakness in the water will add speed to your stroke, if you give it time. It will also ensure you exit the water a little fresher than you would if you could swim the same time on no swim training at all.

It’s all a matter of perspective and having the guts to take the plunge!

Swim Fast!