elisariva

Seizing life's joys and challenges physically, mentally, and emotionally.


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I Missed a Goal

Setting goals can be a tricky task – sometimes one goal can impact another. Which is what happened to me in March. My goal with this blog in 2014 is to write an update at least once a month on my training progress and all I am learning as I prepare for my first full Ironman triathlon. I missed March however. Why I missed writing is a result of all I am doing with training plans, work and staying healthy. (Yay!!) So my goal to train for the Ironman impeded my goal to write about it. It is April 1st and I have a few things I am excited to share.

My experience with my coaching group continues to exceed my expectations. I have three swim workouts a week with one that is focused on building my speed and endurance for my first triathlon race this year, Raleigh 70.3 Half Ironman. I am seeing my progress and I surprise myself at my times. Once it was a dream to consistently hold 2:04 per 100 meters. Currently I am holding 1:55 and I would like to improve on that too.

On the bike I have been training so far exclusively on my Computrainer. It is hard. Very hard. However I can tell I am getting stronger. The real test will come in a few days when I get outside and tackle the hills I have feared for a while. Today is a beautiful day and I will be running outside. Hopefully I will have my bike on the road within the week. My coach sets my workouts based on power levels. Honestly – we haven’t even talked about speed yet. Developing power and sustaining target levels is key – the speed will follow. Fortunately I have a power meter on my tri bike so when I get off the trainer I can continue to monitor my progress.

I did run one five mile race in March. It was not a PR. Miles 3 and 4 were challenging with hills and my 5 mile PR race was run last year on a much flatter course. What I am very pleased with is the race I ran in March I ran the three fastest mile splits in any five mile race I have run. Since the hills got me, my coach has me running a challenging hill workout once every week right now on a treadmill. I am seeing improvements already. There are plenty of hills where I live so I am sure I will test out my progress soon.

Beyond workouts, staying healthy is essential to a training plan. Recently I bought a gadget that has helped me far more than I ever expected. I have shared here before that I use myfitnesspal.com to track my eating and exercise. Teaming with it I now wear a fitness tracker. There are several on the market and I have only used one – the Jawbone UP24. These trackers are first targeted to the mainstream market to help them monitor steps, diet, and sleep. I do not rely on it when I workout to track my distances, my Garmin Forerunner 910XT is far better in that area. Where my UP24 band is most helpful is in reminding me to move during the day in my desk bound job and monitoring my sleep. There is much I want to share, however this post would become so long most readers would give up. Instead, I am setting a new goal for April – post weekly (I hope!) and share more about my experience with the Jawbone UP24 as well as my training.

I continue to learn – especially how precious each day is. I am so grateful to be feeling well again. Enjoying life is essential, not every moment is wonderful but it is a moment I am given to make the most of. As a result, a short term goal here or there may be delayed. It is the quality of the days that matter, not the quantity of things accomplished.


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Spring is Near

It is the last day of February and the Spring equinox is twenty days away. This marks the first day of Spring and the turning point when day light hours will begin to exceed night time. As I write, Northeast Ohio is expecting another winter storm this weekend with a total accumulation of up to twelve additional inches of snow with temperatures in single digits at times – courtesy of the Polar Vortex. It is times like this that optimism, patience, and mental toughness are necessary. These dark and cold days will eventually pass and it will warm up to Spring.

Today also marks the end of my first four weeks of training for my 2014 triathlon season.   I began the program knowing I had quite a way to go to first to regain my strength and endurance as well as significantly build on that base to finish two half iron triathlons and a full Ironman triathlon this year. Like the long drawn out winter, I am finding I need to be optimistic, patient, and have mental toughness to believe I will see the training pay off. So in order of the sports – here is how February has gone -

The swim. Early this month I had a swim session with Ed, one of my coaches. He watched me swim and identified a few areas I need to work on. The biggest improvement I will benefit from is on my stroke. My left arm has very good form but my right arm falls short. It didn’t take long for me to feel the difference when I focused on proper form. Three years ago I strained the muscles in my right shoulder blade area in yoga and the lasting effects have left the area weakened. Many of my swims now include drill work and strengthening exercises. I am seeing improvements in my times even though I am working through the pain of strengthening my shoulder. I also met with Heidi and she gave me a workout plan to help strengthen my core and my back/shoulder area.

The bike. I bought a Computrainer in anticipation of cycling inside through the winter. It is far more than a bike trainer – with computer integration, it simulates a multitude of courses. It is very cool, but fun is not a word I would use to describe it. Training is tough, painful at times, and exhausting. My coach Mark reminds me often that is tough and frankly requires an aspect of suffering to get stronger. I am learning that quickly. I did one workout where I had to increase my watts (power) on the bike in three 10 minute intervals with a 3 minute recovery. The third round when I hit the high end of the power I literally felt like I was hauling a horse behind me. That round only lasted five minutes – I am determined to make it through the entire 10 minutes eventually. I am feeling the pains of the strengthening process, especially when I walk upstairs.

The run. I am a detail junkie and I love gadgets to help me gather the details. One handy tool I use is a foot pod to go along with my Garmin Forerunner 910XT watch. It is worn on my running shoe and wirelessly communicates to my watch. With proper calibration it calculates the distance I run on the treadmill as well as counts my steps per minute. A drill I have been given when running fast is to count foot strikes on one foot in a minute with the goal of 95. When I am running fast that is possible to achieve. After looking at my data from the foot pod, my coaches noticed that when I run an easy pace I am loping – running with a long stride for anywhere from 78 to 82 steps a minute on one foot. Loping may work for a horse, but for a runner it is better to be over 90 steps – easy pace or fast. Once I get this down, Mark thinks I could easily shave a minute off my mile time. It is going to take work and won’t come easy.

February has been a tough month, but a very good month. I feel great, the only pain I have is from muscle strain due to training, and I am seeing subtle improvements. So I am optimistic my training will pay off, patient that improvement will come in time, and I am working on my mental toughness which is not only necessary to get through tough workouts but also challenging races. The snow will melt eventually and the weather will warm up – Spring will arrive one day. And I will be able to swim, bike and run outside surrounded by sunshine.


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Year of the Horse

Today January 31,2014 marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Horse. As many of you reading know, last year was not my best year by far. After doing a little research I have learned I was born in the year of the Horse as well. (Since it is a 12 year cycle, that would make me either 36 or 48 on my birthday this March…) I have a feeling this just may be a great year. In December the cause of my pain was identified and earlier this month I was able to “get it taken care of.” I am happy to report I feel great and I am working on gaining my strength back.

Here is what I learned about the Chinese view about the year of the Horse:

“The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Ancient people liked to designate an able person as ‘Qianli Ma’, a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equals 500 meters).”

Seriously – how awesome is that description?!? The horse’s spirit is the ethos of the Chinese people – the character used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a nation. I definitely want to dedicate the year to improving myself while being “bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and ABLE.” As for covering a thousand li a day – that is 310.7 miles! I will in spirit with my big goal of 140.6 miles literally covered on September 28, 2014 at Ironman Chattanooga.

As for my training plan for the Ironman, I toyed with several options from a book plan to online coaching to one on one coaching. After much consideration I found the path and it is one on three coaching – where I am the one. GoFast Endurance Coaching is the result of three great athlete/coaches here in Northeast Ohio that want to not only coach athletes, but see them go faster. Go figure – great concept. Also, I know athletes who work with them and I am by far the slowest, so I am on board with going faster. I will still work with Heidi on strength training, especially core work.

For the first time in almost a year when asked how I am, the answer “great” rolls off my tongue and I mean it. I actually had forgotten how good feeling good feels! Sure there may be problems along the road, hopefully minor, as well as successes to build on, hopefully lots of those. (I can’t take credit for that last phrase, my coach Mark used it in an email!) My building phase of training begins Monday and I plan on blogging about my journey to the finish line in Chattanooga. I am excited for what lies ahead.

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Resolve

In 2012 I made a resolution to blog every day, and on this site I did just that. This year, I wanted to make sure I wrote a post at least once a month. With this post I am accomplishing it as this is my December post. December 31st brings ideas of the future plans and reflections of the year past. I have written many times about seizing the day and enjoying each moment, this is something I continue to embrace but I am not hesitant to wish 2013 farewell. So much happened that really made this year stink. That said, I also have grown so much emotionally and spiritually. Several landmark events have set me on a path that I am anxious to follow.

Reflecting on my fitness accomplishments this past year, I swam 338,738.9 meters (210.5 miles), cycled 1,508.9 miles, ran 707.9 miles, and hiked 16.4 miles for a total of 2,443.7 miles. The same distance from my home to San Francisco. While my distances were less than I had planned this time last year, I am very pleased with what I accomplished.

And now to look forward – the greatest lesson I learned in 2013 is that each day is a gift. My natural instinct is to plan ahead, set goals, and follow the plan. Oh, if life only allowed this to happen! The planning nature in me will most likely remain, however I have learned to first focus on today while glancing up at the horizon. My biggest goal for 2014 is to complete my first Ironman triathlon on September 28th in Chattanooga, TN. With this on the horizon, my training plan beginning in late February will be geared toward this day. My hope is that life occurrences will cooperate.

I usually do make a few resolutions each year, most focused on improving myself in some way. Before I share, I want to look at what it means. Resolution is defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something. Resolve, in a similar manner, is defined as a firm determination to do something. Not only is it a decision, but it is firm and with determination. With that, here are my top three:

  1. Live in the moment each day appreciating it. Each day brings a sunrise, sometimes the clouds hide it, but it does not hide the fact that it exists. There is always something to find joy in each day.
  2. Make the most of each workout, whether a hard one or a recovery, with the focus on making improvements each time.
  3. Learn something each day – from reading, listening, or experiencing.

Of course I have more detailed goals as well, but those can change in the blink of an eye. Regardless of the curve balls that may come my way, I should still be able to maintain these three.

Here is to 2014 – may all reading this have a wonderful year, made up of 365 awesome days!


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Rev3 Florida Recap

I have learned so much this year as a result of the ups and downs I have experienced. One thing that stands out is that I truly believe in the phrase “never say never.” After all I dealt with, by late August I was beginning to think I would never do a triathlon during 2013. Fortunately I was wrong! Earlier this month I was able to travel to Venice, Florida and participate in the Revolution 3 Florida Olympic Distance Triathlon. Five other friends of mine also participated, in all two of us did the Oly and four did the 70.3 “Half Rev”.

Venice, Florida is a wonderful location for a triathlon. Located on the Gulf Coast about an hour north of Fort Meyers, the weather was perfect and the people very welcoming. A retirement community, there was an abundance of seniors happily volunteering at the expo and on race day. I really can’t say a bad thing about the location, a very good choice!

Professional photo by EricWinn.org taken from Rev3 Facebook album.

Professional photo by EricWinn.org taken from Rev3 Facebook album.

Saturday we had to get our bikes set up in transition. Before heading to dinner for pasta and pizza, we stopped and dropped the bikes off. Of all the triathlons I have done, this was by far the most beautiful view for transition.

Transition on the beach.

Transition on the beach.

Race morning went smooth – while I was not able to race earlier this year, I did go to Virginia to support my friends racing Rev3 Williamsburg. I noticed my friends were pretty calm and laid back race morning. Sure there were some race jitters, but they did not allow themselves to be overwhelmed with anxiety. I remembered this and learned from them.  Also being with the same group in Florida helped keep me calm!

The Swim. The water was 76 degrees and wet suit legal for the age groupers. I decided to wear a short john wet suit instead of a full. It is easier to get off and with the warm water I didn’t need the full suit to keep me warm. Not only was the water warm, it was calm! My wave was the very last wave to go, so I had plenty of time to warm up and also watch my friends go off in their waves. Going into the race I was hoping to swim the 1,500 meters in 32 minutes. My swim felt good – I did not feel anxious at all and I was happy to see I was passing a few people that went off in the wave before me. I exited the water and hit lap on my watch as I crossed the time pad, 32:47, not too far off. Out of 66 people in my wave, I was 23rd out of the water – in my age group I was 5th out of 12. All of the work I have put into swimming over the past two years has paid off!

 Transition One. After exiting the water, we had a decent jog to get into transition. I made it to my bike fine, got my wet suit off quickly, took a gel and a puff of my inhaler, and with shoes and helmet on I jogged my bike out of transition. For those reading who are not familiar with the rules of triathlon, there are two that came into play at this point for me. First – a triathlete can not mount the bike until out of transition and past a specific marked line. Second – any assistance taken by a triathlete can result in a penalty or disqualification. Keeping these two rules in mind, I hit the lap button on my watch as I exited transition (4:41 including the jog from the shore into transition) to officially start my bike time and continued to jog my bike to the mount line. My Garmin 910XT has several screens and the one that came up was not the one I wanted to have while I rode. As I jogged my bike I changed screens on my watch and then I felt my left foot slip out from under me. I fell right on my bum – hard. Amazingly my bike did not fall. Several volunteers and medics came running to me. As I jumped up I was yelling “don’t help me!” I didn’t want a penalty and knew I could get up. Without touching me, one medic wanted to make sure I was okay. She asked me my name, if I knew where I was, where I am from, what I am doing, etc… Finally I said “I fell on my ass, not my head. Can I get to the mount line?” She chuckled and walked with me to the mount like. I was a little sore, but I knew I could finish.

 The Bike. As I mounted the bike and rode off, I heard a big cheer from the crowd. I waved and smiled to myself – sympathy cheers for a bum crash. My goal for the bike was to maintain 17 miles per hour. I knew I did not have the strength nor training in to go faster. The course was flat with some wind in places. My first mile was 4:45 thanks to my little fall, but after that I was on a roll. Literally. The volunteers and police along the course were fantastic. My favorite “cheerleader” was an elderly man banging a metal spoon and a loaf pan. Loved it. The actual distance was long, the race organizers acknowledged it. Rather than a true 40 kilometer course (24.85 miles) it was 25.6 miles long.  I entered transition, lapping my watch (and stayed vertical) with 1:30:18 on my watch – 17.01 miles per hour.

 Transition Two. It was much smoother getting in and through transition two! No troubles, I put my bike in the rack, took off my helmet, changed shoes, put my visor on and grabbed my water bottle and a gel. The only thing I regret not doing was grabbing my inhaler too. It was humid and I paid for it on the run. I headed out of transition and hit lap (again staying vertical) with a T2 time of 2:27.

The Run. The sun came out and the wind died down. It was hot and humid! Again, I did not know what to expect with my times since I had a hard time this summer and fall. I would have loved to maintain a pace of 11:30 per mile. A little cramping and difficulty breathing slowed my pace. It didn’t matter – I thought as I ran – “I am doing this! A triathlon in the toughest year I have ever had health wise. Unbelievable!” It was easy to smile, my friends were on the course and I saw them on the run as I did one loop and they did two. I crossed the finish line with a final 10K time of 1:16:28 (12:18 minute miles, yikes!) and an overall time of 3:26:40. I later realized that this time was 46 seconds shy of a personal record – crazy! Technically I could say it was a PR – if the course was a true 40K I would have been 2 minutes faster. It doesn’t matter what the clock read – I finished a race I didn’t think I was going to even start.

Swim, Bike, Run, Fun!

Swim, Bike, Run, Fun!

That evening my friends and I celebrated one friend’s birthday and the finish of a great race. I truly have much to celebrate. It has been a challenging year, but the good far out weighs the bad. The best part? Sharing the experience with friends. Come on, who wouldn’t have fun with this group of people?

Celebration!

Celebration!

Seize the day, that I did. And there are more to come!


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Half Full

After all I have been through and continue to experience this year, I truly didn’t think I would be racing a triathlon this year. Race season for most is over by now. As I write today, October 24th, there is a few inches of snow on the ground. See?

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Back in the Spring I registered for races through November. The last race I did was a five mile race in early April. All of the remaining races I didn’t compete in. Except for the race that is coming up in November. I am registered for a half iron distance triathlon with Revolution 3 in Venice, Florida. I am not at the point to do a half, but I think I have an Olympic distance in me. Fortunately Rev3 has the option to drop to the shorter distance. Of course peer pressure,the good kind, helps. In a few weeks I will be heading down to Florida with five of my friends. Their encouragement has been the key to my motivation. Even if I were in peak shape, I would still be the slowest of the group. Since they are doing the half, I will finish in time to see and cheer for each of them at the finish. My turn to be the encourager!

My expectations are simple – have fun and finish. My swim is strong, how I will do on the bike and run will be determined. I have been able to ride outside a few times and it has gone well. My run is coming along, but building up the aerobic base I lost this year is going to take time. No worries – I am celebrating the fact I can do it.

As for “how am I” – the answer is undetermined as well. Recently I went to the Cleveland Clinic, a world renown hospital system, for a second opinion. They confirmed what my doctors at University Hospitals said – the source of the abdominal pain I am experiencing is unknown. The good news is I have tested negative for all of the bad things. As for treating the pain, the Clinic wants to try nerve blockers. I am not thrilled about long term medication to treat symptoms of an unknown cause. My doctors at UH think like I do and suggested alternative medicine first. I began acupuncture treatment yesterday – so far I have noticed an improvement. I am going in to this with an open mind and willingness to follow the plan. After all it is a 3,000 year old treatment, there has to be some benefits to it.

Some very good news – my running coach Heidi ran the Columbus Marathon this past weekend. She ran a personal best 2:42:08, qualified for the Olympic Time Trials B Standard, AND came in second! She is an incredible inspiration. (Not to mention wonderful coach and very dear friend.) Please check out her blog by clicking on her name and read her report of the race.

There may be snow on the ground (with a lake effect snow warning for the next 24 hours…) and I may not be completely pain free, but there is more to be encouraged by – I am getting out of here soon to race in Florida, what ever is going on inside of me I am still able to train and I am finding some relief. Half empty or half full? Half full for sure.


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Einstein and Iron

To say this year has been a challenging year for me would be a bit of an understatement. In reflection, I am reminded of a quote by Albert Einstein -

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”

Lessons From Yesterday
Since the middle of February I have faced one thing after another as far as my health goes. In total I think I have had four weeks with no issues. For the most part I knew what the ailments were, sometimes how it would be resolved was a mystery, but there was no guessing what was going on. Until now. From mid July through the end of August I dealt with a rather painful issue that thankfully resolved itself. For a week I was cautiously hopeful the tide had changed and I was back to normal. Not so quick – I started feeling pain again and I thought my issue had resurfaced. Nope – this is something else. What it is, is the question. I know a few things that it is not as I have been through several tests and procedures including a few ending in “omy” and “opy”. My medical vocabulary has greatly expanded this year for sure. Beyond that, I have learned much about myself – what matters most, what I am able to tolerate, who truly has my back, and just how much patience I really have. (Learning a lot on how to work on patience…)

Living for Today
As for my fitness, I am able to swim, cycle, and run again. In fact, that is when I feel the least amount of pain. Because of the set backs I have been through, my endurance is greatly reduced – especially on the bike and on the run. I am gradually building back my strength and endurance though. I am able to swim 3,000 meters or run 60 minutes before work and still be alert all day – progress. The idea of two a days makes me want to take a nap, but I am hoping to build up to it in a few weeks.

I have done my fair share of questioning. Not only to healthcare professionals, but also the “why me’s”. What is, is. What it is – well, that will come in time. This is when I have to truly live one day at a time and seize each moment, not just the day. World and local news have shown us how life can change, or end, in the blink of an eye. The little annoyances that once irked me are becoming even smaller. Time is short, I don’t want to waist it on trivial matters. So I am choosing to prioritize what matters most. My training is a huge part of my life and brings me great joy. Being able to train along side my fabulous friends makes the moments priceless. Taking time to share a meal and wonderful conversations with family members and friends – far better than eating on a snack tray and watching TV. Taking a moment to be thankful for the multitude of blessings that have been bestowed on me. Even spending my quiet down time with my furry friends adds seasonings to life.

My Hope For My Tomorrow
Being a planner, I have registered for two races next year.  Just two.  One in June and one in September.  June 1, 2014 is Ironman Raleigh 70.3 – IowaTriBob challenged me to do a race with him and I gladly took on the challenge. It is halfway for both of us as I am in Cleveland and he is in Tampa. I look forward to the experience and meeting Bob and his family in person. On September 28, 2014 – one year from today – I will tackle a challenge I have questioned if I ever could complete – a full Ironman. I have completed four half iron distance triathlons, yet the full 140.6 has seemed so daunting to me. That will change, I am registered for Ironman Chattanooga. Fortunately at least three of my friends will also be taking on the challenge. The training, travel and actual race will be an experience of a lifetime. My goals? Enjoy, apply my abilities, and finish!

I also have many hopes that are out of my control – good health, all my loved ones are with me a year from now, and all that the heart desires. I am going to continue to seeks answers to what could be ailing me, but I will not be brought down by it. As long as I am able to maintain my active lifestyle, I will push on.

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