Category Archives: renewal

First Triathlon – The Swim

I was pretty calm when we approached the water. I grew up swimming in the Atlantic and even though it was a bit rough, I didn’t have any trouble getting in. My strategy however wasn’t great. I thought the slower the better because I wanted to save my energy for the bike and run/walk. Well that’s okay but I was in the water long enough to swim three times the distance. Life Guards kept approaching me and asking if I was okay. I was. Just incredibly slow. The next time I want to relax an swim my regular swim.

Advice, if your triathlon involves open water swimming and you haven’t done this before (splashing around in the surf doesn’t count) please see if there are training swims on location so that you know what to expect. If you are uncomfortable with the swim, do several training swims. Then swim, your swim don’t let anything change your style.

Triathlon Journal

So this will only be helpful to potential triathletes or newbies like me. I was not prepared for my Tri. I thought that I had done enough training but I was slow in the water (I swim daily) and the bike almost killed me even though I had done the distance in the park where I ride. I don’t run due to knee issues but the walk was not bad. Not my fastest but not bad. 

I think the worst thing was that as soon as I began to tire on the bike I lost my mental game. I began to think that I couldn’t make it. If Nancy Daly hadn’t come up next to me and convinced me to continue, I was going to stop and rest and try to start again. She rode with me and talked to me the last 3 – 4 miles. 

So what’s my point? Make sure that you can do the distances with ease. The water is always an unknown but at least be comfortable with the distance. Ride, ride, ride and do your 5K runs/walks often. Lastly have a positive mental game and don’t let anything take you out of it. I can’t imagine an Ironman but lots of people do them. They must have a serious mental game because sheer will has to help you finish something that physically punishing.



The Bike……..Chapter One



So after not riding for over twenty years I bought  a bike three weeks ago.  They have a name for the category but I guess you would call it a hybrid bike. It’s a Giant Escape. I am not ready for a road bike and probably won’t ever be.  My goal is to ride at a reasonable rate of speed  and finish in a reasonable time (for me) in my triathlons.  This bike is a major step up from the heavy borrowed mountain bike that I rode a few times this past fall.  Anyway I am still learning how to ride the dang thing. I had no idea how to use the gears. Little by little I’m getting the hang of it. But here are a few things that I didn’t expect.

It’s still been cool in the morning and my hands have been freezing.  I didn’t expect that. My right hand actually got so cold and numb that I couldn’t feel my fingers or change my gears without trouble. Part of the problem is that I have a death grip on the handle bars. This is related to the fear that I still feel when riding. I bought some riding gloves but haven’t been on my bike  due to my ongoing knee treatments.

The second thing I didn’t expect was how excruciatingly uncomfortable a bike seat could be. It was so uncomfortable I had to stop riding. I bought a new seat but again I haven’t had a chance to ride with it.

Issue number three is that my feet keep slipping off of the pedals. I discussed this with the folks at Hilltop Bicycles where I bought my bike but they could only suggest cages or clip pedals.  Both scare the life out of me but I may have to reconsider if my feet keep slipping.

So if biking isn’t your thing but you need to ride I suggest that you buy your bike from  folks in the know. New or used a bike shop is a good place to go. Get the best bike that you can afford. Be ready to maintain it properly and take good care of it.  Although I haven’t been able to ride with them I belong to a group of female riders HbWomen who ride out of the Hilltop Bikes in Summit and Cranford. They are supportive and helpful and know a lot about riding.  If you are unsure, look for a group that can support you.  Lastly, just go for it. I am still nursing a bit of fear but it gets easier every ride. More bike stuff later.

Where Do I Begin? — Tri 101

So I just read Leah’s comment to me and I do have to remember that I am not competing with those ladies that are setting their watches and running like hell into the water. I cannot promise yet that I won’t let them fluster me. In the end of April my buddies and I entered and indoor Triathlon at Montclair State University here in New Jersey. This was just for fun as far as we were concerned. I didn’t even know that the “winners” were getting prizes. So the deal was swim for 10 minutes, ride spin bikes for 30 minutes and run(in my case walk) on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Keep in mind that I swim three to four days every week.

We had to swim two in a lane. I was in the lane with Debra who is one of our teams best swimmers. When the man said go I began to swim and by mid length I had lost it. I couldn’t breathe and was convinced that I was going to swim in to Debra who was at least a half-length ahead of me. I would be embarrassed to tell you how few lengths I did in 10 minutes.  The bike and treadmill were fine.

So what’s my point? Most of the Triathletes that I have met so far did one of the three sports when they signed up for the Tri. In my case swimming is my sport. That doesn’t mean I’m good but I’m consistent. So I was extremely upset when it was over and I had gotten so psyched out that I couldn’t do the one thing I am counting on in the Tri.

I must get control of the mental game to finish this thing. Some of those ladies can be pretty aggressive when they are doing their Tri’s. That coupled with open water (I am a pool swimmer) has me pretty nervous. Not to mention that I am incredibly slow in all three at this point.

At least I can swim with my age group not that there aren’t competitive, aggressive 60+ women but maybe they’ll be nicer? We’ll see won’t we.  Jersey Girl Triathlon, August 3, 2014, Long Branch, New Jersey will be my first!

Self Talk and It’s Power

So yesterday when I was walking my second 5K of the year I engaged in a lot of negative self talk. After finishing the second of probably five small hills I began to tell myself you can’t do this. You should have done something to get ready even if you couldn’t walk in the park. Your legs can’t handle this, is that my heart I hear? OMG I instantly forgot that my average walk is 3 1/2 miles and on a good day I push that to 4 miles. Granted the hills were a surprise and I could have been in better shape to handle them but in the end it was the same 3 mile walk that I do often. At the mile two marker I said to myself okay get a grip. There is one mile to go and since you are following the same route back basically, a lot of it should be down hill. It was and before I knew it I was at the start/finish line. When I saw 55 minutes on the time clock I actually started to do my version of a jog  (It’s kind of sad) in an attempt to beat my 58 minutes  from the January 5K. I did it! Wow. I am only competing against myself so I have to quit the negative talk. It is so powerful!! Remember that the next time that you find yourself saying those counterproductive things to yourself. There are plenty of people to say negative stuff to you once you leave your head, the least you can do is be nice while you’re in your head!

Triwomen Kick Off the Season

Several of my swim buddies and I belong to a group called Triwomen, a group of ladies who volunteer their time and put together a fabulous training season for female triathletes.  Every January they bring together a group of girls and women (14 – 70’s) who want to complete sprint triathlons. Now for those of you who have completed an  Ironman or two a sprint Triathlon may seem like nothing for me the 62-year-old anti-athlete it’s a big deal.

This group has all types of free activities for members of the group (no membership fees) and they pretty much start in January with the goal of having members ready for  August (Jersey Girl) and  September (Iron Girl) events. They have swim clinics, riding clinics and running clinics. Any money donated to the group or realized from the sale of Triwomen gear is donated to Breast Cancer research. It’s a win win situation! They have taken many women from beginner to triathlete in less than a year and have lots of finishers to show for it. So I’m in.

Must overcome fear of  the bike! Stay tuned.

Gratitude Is In the Eye of the Beholder

I call my Sunday walk my gratitude walk. I  am so glad that I am able to do it. Today I lost count of my laps picked a number and continued. Ran into a friend and then I was truly off. I was aiming for my usual 3 miles.


Gratitude Walk

Not bad for the 62 year old!!

February Challenge – Cupids Chase 5K

It’s done.  Signed up for the Cupid Chase 5K in New Jersey on February 8, 2014. This  5K supports people with disabilities and is fundraiser. Donations can be made in my name (Karen Hilliard Johnson) at the Community Options, Inc website. All gifts are welcomed. If you’re local come cheer on participants or join in. The website says runners, joggers, walkers and those with wheels are welcomed! This is my next goal for the year. I’m praying for moderate weather but will do it short of bitter cold!

I am still here!!

2013 was an interesting year. It was about focus and change and patience. Things I had to learn. It ended well but it was a tough year in general. Anyway it’s 2014 and who knows.  I did my first 5K  New Years Day. Don’t get excited  can’t run but I can walk. A group of my swim friends and some runners I know and some runners who are swimmers (confused yet) did the January 1, 2014 Hangover Run in Westfield, New Jersey. Three of us walked. I had never done an official race so when I saw all of those people I decided to let them run and walk past me. We were the last three to complete the race. Lol. Did it in 58 minutes. I was happy. Now I have a best to beat. We had a cheering squad by the time we reached the finish line. And a plan was hatched!!!

I intend to do some type of athletic event every month this year. Well that’s my plan. I am going to sign up for a 5K in February but I must admit if it’s too cold I will not do it. We’ll see. I signed up for a practice triathlon that takes place at Montclair State College (indoors) in April and I am signing up for the Irongirl Triathlon in September. I will let you know as I fill in the blanks.

Happy New Year, it’s about the mind, body and spirit this year.


that’s me back row second from the right. 62 and going strong!!!

A Kind Word Can Mean So Much

Today at church a young man came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for encouraging him the week before. At first I was thinking what did I do? I thought some more and said to myself I guess that telling him perhaps learning patience was the lesson that he was to get from his recent undiagnosed illness. I told him that this summer for a variety of reasons I had begun to learn the same lesson. Things are not  always done in our time frame but one way or another they get done. Any way, after two separate hospitalizations he finally has a diagnosis and is receiving treatment. He is beginning to feel better and I was happy to hear that news. I didn’t think I did any thing and he felt differently.

So if the kind words are in your heart, let them out of your mouth. They may help some one.

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