Fitness / Running

A Week in the Life of an Accomplished Professional Triathlete

Nicole Falcaro shares her workouts, meals, and more for the week.

Nicole Falcaro is an Aaptiv-sponsored professional triathlete living and training in New York City. Follow along as she shares how she squeezes her workouts, her meals (many sweets included!), and her work as a digital project manager at Citi into a week.

Monday

7 a.m.: It’s a federal holiday and I have the day off from my full-time job! I wake up to a rain check with a friend I was planning to ride with. I’m focused on running the next two months and have some running races to train specifically for so I’m okay with not riding this morning and decide I’ll swim at noon instead.

10 a.m.: Wake up the second time! I enjoyed the extra rest from my 50-mile ride the day before, which I did with my boyfriend and three of his teammates. I’m no stranger to being the only woman on training rides, but this was another level since these guys exclusively race bikes. Luckily for me, this was their relaxed, second ride of the weekend and the pace was Zone 2, for them, which, therefore, with me drafting, was mostly Zone 2 and 3 for me.

I usually wake up hungry, no matter how much or how late I ate the night before. I made two pieces of multigrain toast with Kerrigold butter (Once you’ve had this butter, it will ruin all other butter for you. I’m sorry and you’re welcome!) with an espresso. It was so good, I had a third slice while passively watching “Game Night” that I rented on DVD. I don’t have WiFi in my apartment, which people think is nuts, but it curtails time I spend on the Internet. When I want to watch something, I rent it on DVD from the local video store. Yes, I’m living in the early 2000s!

12 p.m.: Head to Asphalt Green for Masters, which in swimming speak, is any group that does swim workouts post-high school. The workout was pretty relaxed, just 2500 yards, and most of it was freestyle. The workout theme rotates daily, and I’m super happy that it wasn’t an IM (Individual Medley, which means lots of butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke) day. I’m a one-trick pony who prefers freestyle over all other strokes. After all, it’s the only stroke I’ll ever do in a triathlon! My headache makes me realize that I’ve barely drunk any water today. Sometimes, you’d think it wasn’t free nor delicious.

1:30 p.m.: Eat a banana on my way to the subway. Spend $10 on six cookies from some really adorable girls running a bake sale on the Upper East Side. I immediately give away four of these cookies—they’re my ultimate weakness—when I get to Rapha to work on my partnerships for next year. It’s the time of year to reach out to my previous race sponsors for renewal and also inquire about new partnerships for next year. It’s “work” that I used to dread but now I love. Promoting myself and positioning my “brand” is like running my own small business! I order an egg and cheese on toast and a latte there. The store has a café as well as a cycling club for which I lead rides so I always socialize with people I know (in lieu of working, sometimes) when I hang out there. It’s fun to bounce around ideas for partnerships and talk about racing in general.

5 p.m.: Return home and do a zippy but smooth 5.7 mile run at 7:10 pace with a friend in Central Park. I have a run workout tomorrow so I keep the volume low. I am reminded I should do a few strides when I try to catch traffic lights on my way home. I know exactly how they’re timed. If I go at a 6:30 pace, I can make it from Park Ave. to 2nd Ave. without stopping!

7 p.m.: Finish my run at C-Town, the local grocery store. I slow my run to a walk and read the signs in the window to see what’s on sale. Krasdale brand ketchup—pass. Halo top—no thanks, sugar-flavored air. Siggi’s yogurt three for $5—oh hell yes (I’ll check the expiration date and buy as many as I think I can eat before then). I end up buying yogurt and bananas and decide to make breakfast for dinner. I go home and make whole wheat banana walnut pancakes from scratch with eggs and … Brussel sprouts. You’d think I fear scurvy the way I randomly place greens into my meals. I didn’t have a vegetable all day and felt it was appropriate to include.

8:30 p.m.: I watch half of “Call Me By Your Name,” a movie so enrapturing even the second time around that it’d be a shame to multitask on my laptop or phone during it. It was BOGO night at the movie rental store hence the double feature film day.

10 p.m.: Turn off the movie so that I have a chance of going to bed before 11 p.m., though sleeping in this morning means I won’t really fall asleep until at least 12 a.m. I get my purse ready for work and make overnight oats. Then, I feel bad about forgoing strength workouts for the past few days. It’s 11:30 p.m., so I do the shortest core workout on Aaptiv I can find. It’s just enough activity to make me feel like I did something but not something that’s going to wind me up again!

Midnight: Phone off, actual bedtime.

Tuesday

7 a.m.: I wake up an hour before my alarm. I tell myself, like every workday, that this is the day I will leave with 15 minutes of extra time and saunter on my way to work like Anne Hathaway in the second half of Devil Wears Prada. Instead, I fall back asleep after eating overnight oats and wake up at 8:45 a.m. Instead of Anne Hathaway, I’m Annie Oakley, wrangling my lunch from the fridge and half jogging, half walking to the subway. It’s unseasonably humid this week, and I am foolishly wearing my new fall pants to work.

9:40 a.m.: Arrive at the office and buckle down into some emails. I only have two meetings today and I get through about 30 emails and submit three requests for enhancements on Citi.com. I also comb the roadmap for next year, making sure the projects that I’m planning have clear requirements.

12 p.m.: Lunch can’t come soon enough. I have the most random lunch ever: a knish I got from the grocery store nearby. They were out of broccoli so I got a beef one. It turns out to be a snowball-sized sphere of beef and rice inside a puff pastry. It probably should’ve come with some kind of sauce or dip because the thing is a softball-sized meatloaf. It was actually very filling!

2 p.m.: I haven’t had coffee yet today so I go to Toby’s to get a cold brew. I’m not a big weekday morning coffee drinker because I don’t want to become dependent on a morning cup. That strategy backfired, though, since I am dependent on the afternoon dose of caffeine.

3 p.m.: Do non-work stuff after two meetings to clear my head. Email my coach to ask him how much cycling and swimming I should do during my running-specific Q4. He encourages me to make sure I am fully recovered from the long year and only do one swim and one ride a week in addition to my four days of running. I’ll have plenty of time to put lots of time on the bike trainer come December, January, and February. He’s right, but part of me also doesn’t want my butt off the saddle for too long—I worked hard to callus the soft tissue in that area! I also look up flights to Barcelona since I’m planning a cycling-focused vacation there with my boyfriend.

5:30 p.m.: Finish up an email and rush out of the office. I need to be at CPTC cross country practice at 6:20 p.m., and I have a 30-minute commute, a costume change, and a 10-minute run warm-up. I travel from Long Island City to the Upper East Side in just under 30 minutes, aided by my jog from the subway. I’m greeted by a box in my lobby full of nuun product for Q4, which makes me giddy for the workout! I never take for granted that I have these partnerships and always get excited when a product I used for years in training comes my way.

6:20 p.m.: I make it to practice with enough time to do a few pre-workout strides and discuss the workout with teammates. We are doing a 2K at 6K pace (about 6:00 for my current fitness) on the bridle path, then three 900-meter intervals and two 800-meter intervals at 5K pace.

The pace is hot, too hot, and we clock a 5:40 first mile en route to the 2K. Only in cross-country do we nonchalantly toss around metric and imperial units! We dial it back a bit for the remainder of the 2K and take a 3:30 rest break. I normally loathe standing around and I do my best to keep jogging between each interval, but it’s my first workout back and I know I’m not as fit as Brianna and Manon, my teammates six years my younger.

We run the next two 900s at a 5:40-5:50 pace and I feel fast and strong. But I also feel like I’m getting dragged out faster than I realistically am in shape to sustain. It’s also oddly humid and I’m breathing asthmatically at the end of each interval, a sign I’m overdoing it just a touch. I trail the group by about 15 feet in the next two intervals and focus on running smooth and relaxed rather than keeping up with the feet ahead of me. For the last one, I just try to stay relevant and end up running 5:36 pace. Yeesh! It’s been a while since my legs felt this warm and loose. I chat with the coach and cool down with Manon before heading back to my apartment.

7:30 p.m.: Assemble rice bowls for dinner. Snack on yogurt while fervently chopping zucchini, carrots, garlic, and onions. I take shortcuts with the boil-in-a-bag rice, but I won’t with chopping fresh garlic and onions because the combo enhances every meal. I also feel extra incentivized because I’m cooking for my boyfriend, who is also a serious athlete! I scoop a fresh avocado on top. It always makes me feel like a freaking hero when I have a ripe avocado at the ready. The trick is to have a constant rotation of avocados.

9 p.m.: Have a mini cone from Trader Joe’s. They’re vanilla ice cream cones and bake brownies for my coworker. This is one of the few things I make from a box because they are crazy good! Just add nuts and chocolate chips to make them more homemade. You better believe I’m helping myself to the residual batter I get from scraping the bowl!

11 p.m.: Prepare overnight oats and use way too much vanilla so I split the sample and add more oats, yogurt, milk, and peanut butter to even things out.

Midnight: Lights out.

Wednesday

7 a.m.: I didn’t plan to wake up just yet, but I feel oddly awake and take advantage. I feel a slight strain in my right hamstring so I hop on my road bike on the stationary trainer. My particular trainer is a smart trainer with a direct drivetrain, which means that I remove my rear wheel and affix my bike’s chain onto the trainer’s cassette. It connects to an app on my phone (I use TrainerRoad) via Bluetooth so I can control the watts I’m producing at any given time with my phone. I put the trainer in ERG mode, which means it will adjust the resistance based on my desired watts and cadence. For example, if I slow down my pedal stroke, the resistance will increase. It forces me to keep recovery rides easy and leaves me no choice but to go hard on tough workouts. I also connect my heart rate monitor. I usually connect my cadence sensor, as well, but I notice after I begin that it’s not on my cycling shoe and not worth hopping off to find it.

My road bike encourages a much more upright position than my triathlon bike so I opt to ride it to reduce any strain in my hamstring. Nothing hurts and I do 25 minutes at a super easy pace. I purposely end early to leave time to use the trigger point roller and stretch. I shower, get dressed, and leave for work.

9 a.m.: Arrive at work hungry. We have a rare breakfast meeting this morning and I eat two mini bagels and a plate of honeydew. I go through three butter packets for my bagels, an amount I’m surprisingly not called out on. I also have a mini scone and mini almond croissant. I dip all of this in coffee because I’m a serial dipper.

12 p.m.: I present two updates to a large business committee. I’m laser-focused thanks to the morning workout, coffee, and big breakfast. I’m not hungry until 12 p.m., for which I go to the local grocery store buffet. I avoid almost all buffets, but I feel like all of the patrons here are my colleagues. The food turnover is high and they always have ripe avocado (heroes!). Today I grab teriyaki salmon, spinach with goat cheese, craisins, and avocado.

2 p.m.: Run out for an afternoon latte. I have a full punch card to redeem so I get a large and split it with a colleague. We actually ran track in college together. It’s great to have another career-driven colleague and friend who always makes time for running! I eat one of the brownies I brought into work, you know, to make sure it’s good.

6 p.m.: I’m still working, and I start snacking on the vendor gifts. I make a vendor gift smorgasbord of popcorn, bite-sized vanilla wafer cookies, two nonpareils, and a chunk of dark chocolate.

I realize I should probably eat an actual dinner and heat up rice that I brought from home that I intended to eat for lunch. It’s suddenly 8 p.m., and I finish up my project and head over to Radio City Music Hall for a Ray LaMontagne concert.

11 p.m.: The concert ends and I’m pretty hungry but also going to bed soon. I almost buy pizza on my walk home from the subway but flies were claiming their territory of its dried out cheese behind the glass. Gross. I eat a small Snickers peanut butter and chia pudding I made two nights ago. I went on a chia seed buying rampage a few months ago when it was only $4 a bag, but now I have too much and it’s nearing expiration.

12:30 a.m.: Pass out before I even brush my teeth. Get up, brush teeth, and lights out.

Thursday

8:10 a.m.: Wake up at the last possible minute. My hamstring feels very tight as I take my first few steps. It’s even sorer than yesterday. I baby it, shortening my steps, and having a nearly visible limp. I try not to slip into a foul mood, but it’s tough when I’m feeling gimpy. I plan to take off today. I take a day off from all exercise every other week and prefer it to be on a weekday so I can use my weekends for longer workouts!

9:40 a.m.: Arrive at work, respond to important emails for a half hour, and go to the closest bagel place for a toasted bagel with olive cream cheese. They’re out of whole wheat so I get sesame. I can’t remember the last time I had a non-wheat bagel, but I can remember the last time I had a wheat bagel—it was yesterday.

1 p.m.: Grab lunch with a coworker at Toby’s since I haven’t eaten all day. They serve egg dishes until 3 p.m. so it’s perfect when you want to pretend it’s the weekend and brunch with your girlfriends! I have my first coffee of the day—funny how I’ve been skipping the morning coffee and somehow not getting a headache!

2 p.m.: Feeling a little groggy and sniffly, so I add a nuun immunity tablet to my water. I’ve mentioned I’m perpetually underhydrated, but flavoring my water a little with nuun helps a lot.

4 p.m.: Do a small raid of the corporate gift basket again and have my only call of the day.

5:45 p.m.: Leave the office and go to a Reiss sample sale. The dressing room closes before I can try on my second helping of clothes. I’m tired from work, the lack of endorphins of not working out, and playing hanger wrestling with other women my very popular and limited-in-quantity size.

8 p.m.: Heat up Trader Joe’s spelt risotto, one of their best frozen meals. It’s a small step up from a TV dinner so I amplify it by adding two whole green squash and a tomato to it.

11 p.m.: Bedtime. Sadly, the earliest all week!

Friday

6:40 a.m.: Leave my apartment and meet Bec and Laurel Wassner, two professional triathletes who also live in NYC, at Asphalt Green Battery Park for a morning swim. Both Laurel and Bec are in front-pack-of-Kona-type swimmers, and Laurel actually has been one! While I can’t push the pace with either of them (I swim 300s within their 400s!) they light a fire in me that there is time to gain if I work on swimming. I think my presence keeps the mood light and I’m able to enjoy keeping up on the shorter 50s and 25s. I get out of the water after 45 minutes and 2800 meters to head to work.

9 a.m.: The subway is behaving nicely this morning so I have enough time to grab a cart coffee and wheat bagel with butter before I get to the office. There are few things actually cheaper in Manhattan than in non-urban areas. These are manicures, fresh flowers, and breakfasts from carts. Nowhere else in the world do I know a place where I can get a full (granted, not complete) breakfast of a bagel and a coffee in less than 30 seconds for just $2. I admire the speed at which those guys work. What I do in transition in a triathlon is a lot like what those guys are doing—meticulous but fast grabbing of items with as few movements as possible.

9:30 a.m.: I have an end-of-year, all-day session with my immediate team. We break for lunch and I have leftover rice with chicken and a yogurt, but it’s not enough food so I also buy guacamole and chips to supplement my lunch. A colleague brought in chocolates straight from Belgium and I have about five of those during the session just to keep myself awake.

4 p.m.: My immediate team never goes out for happy hour so when my boss announces that “team building” on the agenda means we are headed to the local brewery, I have no choice but to go! I get an Oktoberfest because ’tis the season and snack on truffle fries and jalapeño poppers.

7 p.m.: Pick up dinner from Whole Foods and the place is packed. Apparently, I’m not the only one who wants to cook for this weekend. New York City: It seems like there’s not enough room for all of us sometimes!

8 p.m.: I cook salmon and broccoli and then my boyfriend and I wait another half hour for a butternut squash to finish roasting. I note that it tastes better and better as one adds more butter and salt. Like popcorn, squash is simply a vehicle for me to consume more butter and salt masked as a vegetable.

10 p.m.: Tonight’s special dessert is Van Leeuwen ice cream on Van’s mini waffles. Both of these are technically gourmet brands, but it does not make them healthy. If I’m going to have dessert, though, (which I do most nights in small quantities) I’m going to have the quality stuff.

11 p.m.: Lights out—earlier than on a non-weeknight! My sleep schedule makes no sense sometimes.

Saturday

10 a.m.: Wake up at a leisurely hour and have a leisurely breakfast. I make my favorite breakfast: avocado smashed on a bagel with eggs over medium. I grind fresh grounds and make a French press and enjoy a slow morning—my first since who knows when. I work on extending current and creating new partnerships for my triathlon season in 2019.

2:30 p.m.: Eat a quick Pop Tart (my favorite pre-ride snack) and get out the door for an endurance ride with my boyfriend. It’s unusual for us to head out this late but we are greeted with plenty of sun and dry roads after a rainy morning. We ride for three straight hours and 50 miles to Nyack and back. I have a banana, an “Ah, Fudge Nuts!” Picky bar, and an orange mango nuun performance tab. It finally feels like fall. At 51 degrees, I wear my neoprene shoe covers and Rapha thermal long-sleeved jersey for the first time this season.

5:45 p.m.: Arrive home and have a frozen burrito. I shower, foam roll, and head out the door an hour later for a Kona viewing party at a triathlete friend’s place. I’m the first to break into the cheese and veggie board, filling up on manchego, brie, crackers, peppers, cucumbers, and almonds. I can tell I didn’t drink enough on the ride because I’m chugging Lacroix. As soon as I get home, I realize I didn’t eat much protein, so I make chicken breast and frozen waffles for a quick homestyle meal at 11 p.m.

11:30 p.m.: Belly full, lights out!

Sunday

8:30 a.m.: I have a run planned with my coach’s wife in Van Cortlandt Park so I have a frozen blueberry waffle.

9 a.m.: Buy a bottled water from a newsstand before getting on the subway. I think it’s so absurd to purchase bottled water when we have the best tap water in NYC, but it’s just as absurd to start a run without having drunk any water because I’m too stubborn to spend $2 to dig myself out of a dehydrated hole.

10:30 a.m.: Run eight miles easy with my coach’s wife and another club teammate. We are going at an 8:30-9:00 pace, which is 1:00-1:30 slower than I’m used to, but my hamstring feels fine and it really won’t benefit me more from a cardiovascular standpoint to run any faster. I soak in the quality time with friends and the beautiful weather: low 50s and sunny.

3 p.m.: Get back to the Upper East Side and do a quick change and turnaround to head to Rapha to shop for winter gear. I improvised my winter cycling gear last winter by wearing running tights over cycling bib shorts, but since I plan on doing more winter riding, I think it’s worth investing in a quality jacket and thermal-lined bib shorts. I start to overheat trying these on so I know they’ll work great!

5 p.m.: Dinner reservation at Little Owl. I rarely splurge on fancy dinners, but I predict some good news at work and want to have a date night with my boyfriend. It didn’t feel like just the two of us at dinner, however, because tourists were taking pictures in our direction the whole time! While I wish I could say my professional triathlete status has started to attract a fan base, it’s the 20-year-old TV show, Friends, that used to show the restaurant building as its location. Someday!

I order golden beets with bib lettuce (the best lettuce because it’s silky and crunchy), half of a fall-off-the-bone lamb shank, and sea bass with mushroom risotto. We pick up a Molly’s cupcake to share for dessert.

8 p.m.: Arrive home and immediately cook. The timing of cooking right after dining out sounds crazy, but I have a chicken breast marinating and fresh pasta that I don’t want to go bad. I don’t mind the urgency of cooking tonight because it absolves me of having to get creative. If all I had was fresh fish and mozzarella cheese about to perish, I’d probably find a way to make them work as a meal.

9 p.m.: I get a little hungry so I make popcorn with my popcorn maker. It’s probably the least likely appliance to have in an NYC apartment, but I actually use it frequently! I prep banana coconut overnight oats for breakfast tomorrow and write content for my personal website before bed.

To keep up with more weeks in Nicole’s life, follow her here.

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