elisariva

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


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Virtually There

My year end goal of improving my fitness is three weeks away. I am focusing on eating clean – most of the time – and keep to my workout routine.  Swimming is one of my favorite sports and I get to the pool to swim four mornings a week. I am also cycling on my trainer, rowing on a row machine and practicing yoga. While I would enjoy riding my bicycle outside for two hours, the weather this time of year is not cooperating and time management makes it challenging to carve that much time out two to three days a week.

I belong to a wonderful fitness club, but returning after work for a second workout just isn’t as appealing as it was when I was training for an Ironman. Now that fitness is my primary focus, I prefer to workout at home after work. Thanks to technology, it is very easy to find challenging workouts!

For cycling, I have a smart trainer, mine is a Wahoo Kickr Snap. There are several apps to use with a smart trainer – TrainerRoad, Sufferfest, and Zwift are a few. TrainerRoad is a great program when training for a long course triathlon. Sufferfest and Zwift combine interactive workouts with virtual videos.

Then there is Peloton. I am sure most reading this are aware of Peloton, has seen a commercial for a Peloton bike, or even may own one. I have been using the Peloton app along with my bike on the trainer. Fortunately, Peloton offers an app based program that the rider can use with their own bike. While the resistance is a bit different since I am not on the actual bike, it is a virtual spin class that offers a great workout. I am able to ride when I want with prerecorded classes, or participate in a live class. The instructor knows who is riding in the studio and online. Even app users who are not on a Peloton bike are listed. The workout stats do not register like when riding a Peloton bike, but the instructor does know when the app user hits certain milestones. Today was my 50th ride and I rode a live class with one of my favorite instructors, Robin Arzon. I always know her class will be a tough workout and she knows how to motivate and push the class. Her favorite saying is “let’s sweat, with swagger.”

My journey through 30 days of yoga is going well. Today is day 9, and Yoga with Adriene is guiding me through it. The classes vary in length from 10 minutes to 35 minutes and she mixes it up so I am not doing the same thing every day. It is still very challenging to sit crossed legged longer than 5 minutes with pain, but I am making progress. Adriene’s style is so refreshing. She talks the yogi through the movements in a very real way. It is like I am casually doing yoga with a friend.

Both Robin and Adriene know how to connect to the viewer virtually through the camera. It is like I am virtually there with them. I follow both on Instagram – and they follow each other too! I get a kick out of Adriene liking Robin’s pictures and Robin liking Adriene’s. I am not surprised they are linked together on Instagram. Robin is in New York and Adriene is in Austin, TX. Another virtual connection of outstanding instructors.

Frequently I hear people say they would exercise if they had time. I am a firm believer that we make time for what we want to do. Yes, getting to a gym can be difficult, but there are options. I have found two outstanding programs that allow me to workout at home in the evenings. My pets get a little more attention now that I am home earlier and I am able to get a few chores done too. All while I also get a good workout in – and I am virtually there with awesome instructors too.


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Year’s End Resolution

New Year’s Resolutions are very common. This blog was born from my resolution to write a blog post every day in 2012, and I did it. This year, a group of my friends and I are doing something a little different – we are setting health and fitness goals to reach by the end of this year. We started November 26th after Thanksgiving and set reasonable goals to reach by year’s end. Having friends to hold each other accountable will hopefully increase our success ratio!

My primary goal is to improve my fitness. For those familiar with Training Peaks, I want to raise my fitness score to over 60 by the end of the year. I started out at 54. The quick definition of the fitness score is a rolling 42 day average of my daily stress score calculated by heart rate or power. Basically, it is how hard I train each day. To put it in perspective, when I was at my peak training for the Ironman, my fitness score was 135. When I was at my lowest over the past 12 months this year it was 35. As of December 2nd, my score was 56. fullsizeoutput_4346

My training activities right now consist of swimming, cycling on the trainer, rowing machine, yoga and hopefully skiing soon. To help improve my daily activity level, I decided to add yoga every day. I figure adding 30 minutes of stretching and strengthening will help me with my other activities.

I found a really good website and YouTube channel called Yoga with Adrienne. Adrienne has over 4 million subscriber and she is considered “the people’s yogi“. I find her style refreshing, it is like working out with a friend. No music, no flashy setup, just authentic yoga taught by someone who doesn’t come off intimidating at all. The inventory of free videos is very sizable too. One program she has is called 30 Days of Yoga. Score! A perfect way for me to add yoga daily to help meet my year’s end resolution.

Yesterday was day one. The practice of yoga is more than just stretching and strengthening. Yoga also helps the yogi focus inward, learn more about myself. On day one, by 2 minutes in, I was well aware of something. My hip flexors are screaming tight! All of the activities I do along with sitting at a desk most of the day contribute to the tightening of those muscles. Adrienne said at the beginning of the video that we will start easy. No rush, we have 30 days. We started sitting crossed legged on the floor. Relax. Breathe in. Easy?? Relax?? I am in agony!! How did this happen? I would sit crossed legged frequently as a child. It was not painful. I was trying to follow the video without having to move, but every minute (or 10 seconds maybe) I would have to shift position. One leg out. Sit with both legs out – okay that is cheating. Sit with soles of feet together. I did this shifting for the entire 10 minutes of sitting on the floor. When she finally said to slowly move into table top position, I was so relived I thing I did it in 2 seconds flat.

I made it through the entire 35 minute class. My experience has me determined to complete the 30 days. I hope by the end I will have a little less discomfort (read: less excruciating pain). I know I won’t be a yogi master, it took me more than 30 days to get in this predicament. One self awareness reflection point hit me as I was trying not to focus on how much pain I was in – I miss blogging. I am self aware enough to know daily posts are not possible, however weekly posts are.

Through this year’s end resolution, I want to share my progress to reach my fitness goal, the 30 days of agony yoga, and the life lessons I learn along the way. I hope you, the reader, will enjoy the journey with me.

Namaste.


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Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

How do you measure a year? 

This well known song from the Broadway musical Rent recently had a new meaning to me. It has been a full year since June 23, 2017 – I did one of my rare blog posts that day only to come home that evening to find my home filled with smoke. A strong wind blew my neighbor’s willow tree over that took out my neutral power line – causing 240 watts to charge through my house. Many things were destroyed from the surge, but the worst was a small fire that started in my home office. Fortunately the fire was contained, but the smoke filled the house for hours. I was not home when it happened. Small fires most often cause sever smoke damage – I realized that first hand one year ago.

In daylights? In sunsets? In midnights? In cups of coffee? In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?

Since that day, so many things have happened to measuring this past year. I moved out for two weeks – with my two dogs and two cats – while the home was cleaned. Daylights, sunsets, midnights passed and many cups of coffee (and wine) got me through those days. Friends were there for me to share laughter, tears, and even a few honest dissagreements to wake me up from my self-induced myopic view of my strife. I was so consumed with my struggle, I failed to see what a few friends were facing as well.

Reconstruction was a challenge. The contractor that the insurance company suggested I use walked off the job leaving my office with exposed walls, no drywall and so much to be replaced. Fortunately I found an outstanding contractor who was able to finish the work, but on weekends and evenings. The reconstruction was complete on August 19th. Eight weeks after the fire, my home was finally restored. Except for the hundreds of boxes that had to be unpacked.

Before I could open one box, my attention was moved to my father. At 96 years of age, he had been declining in health all year. By August 20th he had in home hospice caring for him and on August 26th, three days before his 97th birthday, he died.

How about love? Measure in love. Seasons of love.

My father lived a long, good life. I was so blessed to have him in my life so long. My mother died in September of 2010. With my father gone, for a while I felt orphaned. Alone in the world. But my parents loved my sister and me deeply. They taught us the meaning of love. My mother was the most selfless person I have ever known.  My father was fiercely loyal. They showed me love is a verb.

After I got my father’s estate in order, I turned back to my home. I set a target date of October 31st to finish unpacking. To hold myself accountable, I scheduled a “FriendsGiving”  dinner the first weekend in November to thank a few close friends who were there for me when I was at my worst. They are definitely units of measurement of love in my life.

Then I rented a 20 yard dumpster and filled it in four days. I cleared out the junk. That was a physical action, but it also sparked an emotional cleansing as well. Toxic relationships are gone. Close friends who I had fallen away from are restored. Life is too short to hold grudges or waste time on things that will never be.

It’s time now to sing out, though the story never ends. Let’s celebrate remember a year in a life of friends.

With the new year of 2018, the past six months have been wonderful. Not that I haven’t had some setbacks. Running is my way of dealing with stress. Even though I shouldn’t run with arthritis in my left foot, I ran anyway. Now my knee is acting up. I haven’t cycled outside all year. But that hasn’t stopped me from working out. I have made modifications and I am in physical therapy. I may be able to run a few miles a week and get my bike on the road before the end of summer.

The good – I learned to ski and love it. Along the way I have also made a few new friends through skiing, I visited a few old friends to go skiing – both in New York and Colorado. I have been sharpening my cooking skills – more on that in future blog posts. I have made time for friends – my vacations are centered around it this year. I want to go visit those dear to me who live far away. Family time is important and last week I was thrilled to celebrate my cousin’s wedding. My extended family has seen each other at funerals more than anything the past few years. Having a wedding to celebrate love was the perfect way to cap off the past five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.

Remember the love. You know the love is a gift from up above. Remember the love. Share love, give love, spray love, measure your life in love.


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We’ll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet…

I last wrote June 23rd with the intent to blog more frequently. I also share I had a swim meet the next day. As you know, I did not blog more frequently – and I also did not make it to the meet. That day was not my best day. I have been hesitant to blog since – recounting what has happened is not fun. And I may be a little superstitious. I have been searching for my “new normal” since then and writing one blog post before the end of the year is on my to do list. I have a little over 7 hours left to get it done.

While I was posting my last blog, unbeknownst to me, a small fire was forming in my house. I came home 8 hours later to a smoke filled house. My neighbor’s tree had fallen due to strong winds and took out power lines. It caused a 240 volt surge to go through my house. The surge alone was terrible – many things died right away including my furnace, garage door opener, dryer and treadmill. The surge also caused a power strip to explode into flames. I am very blessed – it burned out on its own without spreading but smoke filled the house for 8 hours. Another blessing – all of my pets survived. The dogs were in a separate room that the smoke did not reach and my cats ran upstairs and hid under beds. All I care to share now is that it took four months to restore and unpack to get my house back to normal. Recounting more is still too stressful to think of. I look at the experience as a blessing, really. I could have lost everything.

Hesitation to blog again resulted – last time I blogged I had a fire. Would something bad happen again? Good thing I didn’t write yesterday. I had a small incident in my microwave that caused some smoke. I am not going to lie – a little bit of PTSD reared its ugly head. Fortunately a very dear friend was only a text away and she helped me regain focus.

Besides mild PTSD, the event of that night impacted me deeply. The thought that my home could have easily burned to the ground had me question what really is important as far as things go. I also was in the process of sorting through my aunt’s house following her death in April. She had left me the possessions in the house. She and my uncle did not throw much away.  After the fire, I started sorting things and realized it may run in the family.

Family – this has been a heartbreaking year for family as well. First my fur baby family – on April 5th my beloved dog Phoebe crossed the rainbow bridge. She was 14 and a half, blind, had heart disease, but it was cancer that got her in the end. She was a fighter for sure and my first dog ever.  Saying goodbye to here was hard. Then my aunt passed on April 25th. The summer was stressful with reconstruction going on and my 96 year old father’s health continuing to decline. On August 26th, three days before his 97th birthday, my father decided he’d rather  be with my mother and he died.

My blog is intended to be uplifting. I am crying as I write, so I have got to find a turning point soon.

My parents and my aunt only lived a half mile apart. Now with two estates to liquidate, I found a wonderful estate sale company who held joint sales the same weekend in October. My sister helped me a lot with our aunt’s house and we worked together on our parents’ house. One day she commented that neither threw anything out. They stored a lot in the basement.  At first I did not reply to her. I realized I learned from my parents many things. Not throwing anything out was one of them.

After we had my parents’ house on the market and my home was restored, I rented a 20 yard dumpster and filled it in 4 days just cleaning out my basement, garage and shed. It was cathartic. My parents’ house sold and closed a week ago. Now I have a clean slate – and home – to figure out the next phase of my life. I have cared for my parents for 8 years. Finding the new normal will take time.

Two things I am focusing on right now are skiing and cooking. I signed up for skiing classes starting on Wednesday. I haven’t skied downhill since I was a teen. I am also going to designate one night a week to cooking a full meal from some of the wonderful cookbooks I have acquired. Look for posts on these adventures soon.

Tonight I say goodbye – and good riddance – to 2017. Many will sing Auld Lang Syne to welcome in 2018. If anything, I have learned it is the people in our lives that matter most. Not the things. I have always believed love is a verb. The friends who showed love did it with actions that left me speechless and filled with gratitude. I go into 2018 with the thought of taking their cup of kindness offered to me and paying it forward. I look at the terrible things I dealt with in 2017 and realize I am blessed beyond measure. I have lost, but I also have many wonderful people in my life to fill some of the void. My focus for 2018 – share the love in action and enjoy each moment doing things that really matter.

And with that, I will wish you a Happy New Year and head out to meet a dear friend for a few moments.


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Is This Thing Still On?

It has been a long time since I have blogged. I miss it, so it must be time to write again. When I first started blogging in 2012, the theme quickly focused on triathlon, running and endurance sports. Fitness remains a central part of my life and I will continue to write about my experiences. I also am inspired to write about other topics as well. For those of you who have followed my kitchen renovation back in 2015 on my blog Making My Bitchin’ Kitchen, you know I have an awesome kitchen for cooking! As a result, I plan to blog a bit about my culinary successes and trials. I have also faced, and continue to manage, a few challenges. These events are inspiring me to write as well.

My running race days are behind me as I have developed arthritis in my left foot. That does not mean I don’t run on occasion – I do – slowly, with walking, mostly on a treadmill, and secretly. I run just frequently enough to experience the endorphins but not cause pain. I have not told many of my friends that I am a closet runner. I guess the secret is out now…

Running was my go to escape when life got overwhelming, hence my running attempts.

This August, my father will turn 97. It is a blessing to have him in my life this long! It is also heartbreaking to watch him fade away with mid stage Alzheimer’s stealing his mind. He knows who the people in his life are, thankfully. But he has no idea where he is living, despite being in the house he built 51 years ago. I have around the clock care for him so he can stay in his house. Running helps me process. And a glass of wine. Or two. (As soon as typed “wine” I received a call from the Wall Street Journal Wine Club I belong to, honest truth! A fun assorted case is on the way.)

Along with managing my father’s care, I have been working on going through my aunt’s home. She passed away in April. My mother had three brothers, all four of them have passed away. This aunt was married to one of my uncles. She and my father were the last two of their generation in my family. Now it is just my father. My aunt and uncle did not have children, so my sister, cousins and I inherited most of their modest estate. Part of my inheritance includes the home furnishings. Most weekends, after workouts, I go to her house to sort through what to sell, what to keep, and what to donate. This process has changed me. I am learning more of what I really want to keep in my home – I am tossing out a lot of boxes and old stuff!

I believe I have quite a few things going on to inspire a blog post more frequently than I have written in the past. For now, I will share that my swimming, which was by far my slowest back in 2012 of the three sports in triathlon, has become my fastest. I have competed in two Masters swim meets this year and tomorrow I will swim in my third, I am swimming the 1500 meter event. The meet is at Cleveland State University Busbey Natatorium. It is a wonderful and fast pool that will be set up as 50 meters long course. I have been training diligently for this event, let’s hope it pays off!I swim more than any sport – I love being in the water and seeing my pace improve. Stay tuned to read about my meet experience. Since I am so limited in my running ability, swimming has filled the void. And as Dory told Nemo “When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? JUST KEEP SWIMMING.”

 


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New Beginnings

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Semisonic Closing Time

Semisonic released Closing Time in March of 1998 and on April 29, 1999 the song really hit a chord in my life. My new beginning began that day when I signed up to run my first marathon to raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation and run in Dublin, Ireland. Little did I know that day would change so much in my life. Endurance sports – specifically running and triathlon – became a huge part of my life. Over the past 17 years I have run 7 marathons, over 15 half marathons, countless 5K races and a few 10K races as well. In triathlon I have completed one full iron distance triathlon and came within 5 miles of another. I also completed 7 half iron distance triathlons, one half iron aqua-bike (swim and bike – no run), three olympic distance triathlons and many sprint triathlons.

This past March I shared that I have developed arthritis in my left foot. The disease that first brought me into running long distance is also the disease that took me out of it.  I took four months off of running early this year and slowly started running a mile to two miles up to three times a week. By mid June I signed up to run a charity 5K with friends. I figured I would see if I could finish – I knew I would not set a personal record, but it would be fun. And it was! And I finished!rftp

With a 5K under my belt without significant pain in my foot, I took on a challenge to race three sprint triathlons and one olympic relay where I swam the first leg this summer. I had a blast – I knew I wasn’t going to place in my age group since my run was not strong at all, so I decided to enjoy the process. Also racing with my friends made it so special.

In March I met with a foot and ankle sports orthopedic surgeon. It was my hope that I would be able to have some type of surgery to alleviate the pain in my foot so I could run. Unfortunately it is not possible. She told me that I was classified with moderate arthritis, not mild, and it is a matter of time before I would decide the pain is too great to run. Throughout summer I would occasionally feel pain as I ran or after, but it was tolerable. After the last triathlon I did in August I knew my running days have ended. By 2.5 miles into the run, the pain was terribly sharp and I was only running an 11:30 minute mile pace. I finished the race and my foot ached for a few days. It was time and I had almost six months to prepare myself for the reality.

My running beginning that began in 1999 had come to an end. I am exploring options to find my next new beginning. What had seemed as a terrible ending has now opened up time for me to expand my fitness horizons.

With the extra time I added yoga to my routine and cycled and swam more. Cycling is so fun! Road riding to me is the most thrilling, however it also involves the most risk. More and more motorist are hitting cyclists and the cyclist is always on the losing end. I also have a mountain bike that I need to take on actual mountain bike trails. I did ride it a bit on a towpath through the parks here in Northeast Ohio. So in addition to racing a few triathlons, I also participated in a few long course area cycling events as well as tool around on the mountain bike. Again – much fun and great exercise!

Yoga is something that I have done off and on over the past six years, however this year it became a regular part of my fitness program. I have benefited tremendously from it – stretching, strengthening and calming. Recently there was a public yoga event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland. I went with a few friends – it was a truly fun and inspiring evening.

Over the years I have worked on my swim to the point I have gone from back of the pack to usually finishing in the top 20% out of the water. Since I am swimming more, I also want to challenge myself to participate in US Masters swim meets. My first was where my strength is – a mile open water swim in Lake Erie. It was a choppy day and I still did well and placed second in my age group.

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Almost  a year ago I registered for the inaugural Ironman Ohio 70.3 half iron distance race. Close to 100 members of the Cleveland Triathlon Club also registered. Not being able to race with my friends was difficult to accept, there was no way I could run 13.1 miles. I decided to volunteer at the race in the first transition and also cheer on the course. I have to say, volunteering is so much fun! I was able to be with my friends and cheer them on. Win win.

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This past weekend I capped off my racing season by racing in the Revolution 3 half iron distance aqua-bike. Aqua-bike races came to be when the demand to race came from triathletes who can no longer run – just like me. Rev3 does a fantastic job of organizing basically four races that take place at the same time. Both full iron and half iron distance triathlons and aqua-bikes. I was able to race along side my friends after all! One of my friends did the full distance triathlon and we stayed till he crossed the finish line. So I had the opportunity to race and then come back and cheer. Again – win win.

So here I am – my racing season is over and in the past I would be planning out what running races and triathlons are next. Not this time. My new beginning right now is exploring my options.  I enjoyed racing an aqua-bike race and I am sure I will do more. Swimming is still something I want to improve on and compete in a meet or two in a pool setting. I want to get stronger in cycling, but I do not have a desire to race road cycling. This fall I plan to get out on the mountain bike trails and overcome the fears I have of the sport. When the snow falls I want to ski downhill. I haven’t been on downhill skis since I was 16! Cross country skiing is something I have done in the past and I will get my skis out as well.

It is fitting to end this post with quoting the beginning of Closing Time. As I explore the options ahead of me, I am facing a new frontier – opening doors into the world.

Closing time. Open all the doors and let you out into the world.


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On the Horizon

Several times over the past few months I have thought it is time to write a new blog post. Every time, including now, I stop short because I just don’t want to address what I am dealing with. Today, however, I find myself on a four hour cross country flight. I could read, but the topic I am going to share keeps going through my mind. Blogging may be motivational to the reader, but at times it is cathartic to the writer. This post just may be a combination of motivation for you and cathartic for me. 

I have not run a mile or more since December 22nd. Anyone who has read my blog in the past knows I am not close to being a fast runner. But it is a passion of mine. Swimming is the sport I am most proficient at of the three – swimming, cycling and running. Have you ever heard of a swimmer’s high? Right. So when things get stressful, I run. When I want to take in the beauty around me, I run. After my iron distance triathlon in October, I took two weeks off from running while my body healed. By early November I was anxious to get back running. I started easy and then built up doing a few speed workouts. I had registered for the Houston half marathon in January and I wanted to get a good base. By mid November I started feeling a sharp pain in my left ankle. It is on the top inside, close to where I had hyperextended it a year earlier. Like most runners do, I ignored it.

The pain didn’t go away. It wasn’t constant but rather showed up after running several miles. I taped it for support – no help. So in mid December I went to see a sports chiropractor. Maybe a bone was out of place. After three weeks of adjustments, nothing changed. Then I went to see my general physician, maybe I had a stress fracture in my ankle. He sent me to a orthopedic foot specialist. I left the specialist’s office in an air cast. While walking in it was a bit cumbersome, I have to say the cast was incredibly comfortable. I wore it for two weeks leading up to an MRI. At this point I had canceled the Houston half marathon and the Shamrock marathon in Virginia Beach in mid March was looking questionable. I was okay with it. I wanted to get strong so I could participate in an half ironman in August and, yes I am a glutton for punishment, I registered for Ironman Maryland (again) in October.

When the orthopedic foot specialist came in the room to give me the results of the MRI I was prepared to hear the worst, which would be a stress fracture. But that wasn’t the worst. I didn’t have a stress fracture. He told me I have arthritis in my ankle. I have sprained my left ankle at least six, if not eight, times since I was a child. He said arthritis was inevitable. He didn’t spend much time with me though. He said if he were me he wouldn’t run, but he doesn’t run anyway. I was given a prescription for orthotics and told if the pain was too bad he could fuse my ankle. What? Not a chance. 

The next day I was on the phone with my general physician. He suggested going to a sports orthopedic doctor and got me in to see one of the best in town – the orthopedist for the Cleveland Browns. This appointment was much more helpful. The doctor examined my ankle, focused on exactly where I felt pain and went through my MRI screen by screen with me. He was looking at it for the first time and as he studied it he pointed to the screen and showed me why I have such sharp pain in one specific spot. I have developed a bone spur on the end of my tibia (main bone in the calf) and it is stabbing my talus (bone at top of the ankle). He looked at me standing and said I pronate significantly (leg and foot roll inward) and that, along with the cartilage deteriorating, had caused the spur to develop. 

What is the solution? He told me orthotics should help correct my pronation, pain management with NSAIDs, and he pointed out the elephant in the room – stop running and start cross training. I told him I was a triathlete and about all of the other training I do. Apparently even sports doctors are puzzled by all that triathletes do and question why not running is a problem. I will say he had a good poker face when I explained my weekly workout schedule. If I wanted to run and could tolerate the pain, he said it wouldn’t make my arthritis worse. I do run the risk of developing a stress fracture in my talus as a result of the spur hitting it while running. He also referred me to his colleague who is a sports orthopedic ankle specialist, a combination of the past two orthopedists I have seen. I knew that if I went to see her, we would be talking surgery. At that point I was not prepared to have surgery as I still wanted to do the two triathlons later this year.

That was January 26th. Since learning about this I have gone through several stages of the five stages of grief. I am past denial now. Denial and bargaining go hand in hand frequently. Oh and depression jumped in the mix now and then. After getting fitted for custom orthotics, I thought I could substitute the elliptical during the week for my week day “runs” and do a long walk/run on the weekend. That plan lasted a week and a half. Even the elliptical hurts at times from the movement and the spur. I would go through bouts of sadness (not lying, I still do) as I was forced to accept my limitations. Bargaining with myself as to what I could do to get to the starting lines of the races, I even considered cortisone shots before the races to mask the pain. 

Acceptance is where I am at now, although sadness rears its face occasionally. I am pulling out of both races. Just typing that sentence has brought tears to my eyes. Great, I am sitting on an airplane trying not to cry. Since I couldn’t go to Houston in January, I have a free ticket to use. Since I am not running a marathon later this month, I have vacation time to use. I decided to fly to San Francisco to visit my friend and go up to Napa Valley. We went together back in December of 2012. I blogged about it here. We are both celebrating big birthdays too. Since I am spilling my guts in this blog, I may as well get it all out there. I am going to turn 50 on Wednesday. My friend’s birthday was in January. Now it may be a little more clear why this has been so hard for me – I am getting old and falling apart! I say that in jest. A little. (At least I am not crying on a plane anymore.) 

I decided to meet with the sports ankle orthopedist. The appointment is scheduled for mid March. If removing the spur will help reduce the pain, I am going to consider surgery. The stabbing pain is beginning to show up during the day, outside of fitness. I am swimming and cycling much more, as well as increasing my weight lifting routine to strengthen bones since I am not running. I am also working with the lifeguard who taught me how to flip turn. Now he is helping me on the other strokes. I have freestyle down, but my butterfly, breast and back are terrible. Maybe I will compete in masters swim meets in the future. I am also considering aquabike races – the swim and bike leg of triathlon. As triathletes age and/or get injured, they still want to compete and aquabike races were born. I am beginning to turn the corner, or page if you will, to see the opportunities that lie ahead. Running took up a lot of my time, I haven’t gone skiing in decades – I may get back into it. Cross country as well as downhill. While the optimism is peeking through, I am not totally there yet. But like the sun at the earliest of dawn, I see it on the distant horizon.


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The Third Time is the Charm

I never intended to go just over seven months without writing, however life has been quite busy. All good too! The last I wrote I had decided not to do the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. What ever was causing my heart to act weird (stress most likely) is gone and I also finished my kitchen renovation by May 1st. So what have I been up to? Triathlon training of course!

My season began with Eagleman 70.3 Half Ironman in June in Cambridge, Maryland. I chose that race because I also registered for Ironman Maryland scheduled for October 3rd. Eagleman takes place at the same venue and much of the course overlaps. The swim is in the Choptank River which flows to the Atlantic Ocean. The river is brackish – freshwater river meets saltwater ocean creating semi-salty water – aka brackish. The swim was too warm to be wetsuit legal so I swam in a skin suit. The swim went okay, I don’t mind the saltwater and even though it was choppy I had a respectable time compared to the field. The bike was flat – less than 200 feet gained over 56 miles. Great, right? Well there is also wind. In the end, it was a good bike time for me. One thing that was an issue – it was hot. When I got off the bike it was 89 degrees with 90 percent humidity. Before I got to mile two on the run I had to pull out. I kept getting asthma attacks that I could not keep under control. It was a humbling and frustrating experience. This was my first triathlon since Ironman Chattanooga, and readers know how that went.

I did not give up though. My doctor has me on Advair daily now and it has helped my exercise induced asthma tremendously. I did The Cleveland Triathlon Olympic distance triathlon in July to finally cross a finish line and build some confidence. I took third in my age group – out of six so it was legit! In August I did Steelhead 70.3 Half Ironman and finished with a PR on the course over last year. As my training continued with Ironman Maryland on the horizon, I gained confidence in my ability. I definitely was better prepared and the course suits my strengths better. That said, I still had to fight down the demons in my head about what went wrong at Chattanooga. As September wound down and I began to taper for the race two other forces were gaining strength. The noreaster was building along the east coast and hurricane Joaquin was gaining strength in the south Atlantic. Both were heading toward Maryland. And on September 30th so was I. I loaded my car with my bike and gear and drove from Cleveland to Maryland. When I was five hours into the drive with two hours to go my phone blew up with calls and texts from my friends who were going to meet me there the day before the race to cheer me on. The race was canceled due to the storm.

Time for a brief recap. My first attempt at completing an Ironman was in Chattanooga last year when I had covered 139.3 miles in 15 hours and 14 minute only to be pulled from the course at 10:50 PM because I was just short of the mile 21 cutoff point. (Remember it is a 144.6 course due to a long bike and a finish time less than 17 hours since it is later in the year). My second attempt was Ironman Maryland and the weather canceled the race. Was this ever going to happen??

I pulled off the highway and went into a Dunkin Donuts somewhere in East Maryland and pulled out my laptop. Ironman was saying that the race may be rescheduled for October 17th but it would not be confirmed until Tuesday October 6th. October 17th – all three of my friends who were going to be in Maryland for me could not make it that weekend. One was running the Columbus, Ohio marathon, one had a wedding to attend, and one had the biggest benefit of the year that night for the non-profit she works for. Where were many of my other friends going to be that day? Seven of my triathlon friends were already doing Beach2Battleship (B2B) iron distance triathlon in Wilmington, NC. All of the friends I did Chattanooga with were doing it plus four others. The only reason I didn’t register was I was determined to cross the finish line of an “Ironman” branded race. B2B is a 140.6 long course triathlon but not put on by World Triathlon Corporation the owner of the Ironman brand. Without any regrets I made the decision right there in Dunkin Donuts to register for B2B. There were 160 or so slots still open for the full with a cap of 800. If I was going to race on October 17th, I was going to do it with my friends.

And I did. The third time was the charm. I made it to Wilmington and I crossed the finish line! Of course nothing comes easy, especially with long course triathlon. The swim has become my best of the three sports. This swim was expected to be the fastest they have ever had. It is a point to point in the a channel adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and wetsuit mandatory. We went off at high tide and the tide was flowing in our direction. What we didn’t expect was 10 to 15 mph winds from the north and we were swimming right into the wind. What the tide pushed forward the wind blew back at times. It was still a very fast swim. When I grabbed the ladder to get out of the water, I looked at my watch and it was 58 minutes. I wanted to check because I knew we had to get out of the wetsuits and run about 200 yards before crossing the time pad. Before I could even get on the dock my left calf seized up into the worst Charlie horse cramp I have ever had. No way – this was not going to stop me from finishing. I had two medics working on my calf to release the spasm before I could stand. It was sore, but I was able to go on. My official swim time was 1:01 and change. The bike was also flat with the wind blowing into us the first 50 miles. The tailwind on the back half helped but wasn’t quite enough to equal out the headwind. I wanted to do the bike between 7:15 and 7:30. I did 7:29 – I will take it. Then on to the run…

I had a plan to do an interval repeat of run 3.5 minutes then walk 30 seconds. It would keep me consistent and get me through. If all went as planned the marathon would take between 6 and 6:30. My calf didn’t like running. After the first 5 miles I knew if I was going to finish the race I was going to have to do the power mall walk. My calf was tightening up and I didn’t want another spasm to take me out. So I went into power walk mode. Walking a marathon is tough. I admire all who do it intentionally. There were a few times I just didn’t know if I could go on. Around mile 15 I saw one of my friends coming toward me. She was at mile 24. She stopped to hug me and could tell I was in a bad place. She told me she would be at the finish for me and then made me promise I would not quit and I would finish. I knew then I would for sure. B2B has a 17 hour time limit, and lets say I got my money’s worth of the race. I did the marathon in 7:35 – 6 minutes longer than my bike time. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 16:35:50. All seven of my friends had finished, showered, and were celebrating at the finish line when I crossed. One friend, the husband of one of my triathlon friends, is a great sport coming to the races supporting and cheering us on. His wife is also the fastest of the bunch. She finished six hours before me. The surprise and exhilaration I felt just past mile 24 is hard to put into words. I looked up and there he was taking my picture to text back to his wife at the finish line. He jumped in next to me and said “I am making sure you finish this f***ing race!” And he did. Running in jeans next to me too!

  On the bike.

 Start of the run, trying not to focus on the pain in my calf.

 My friends celebrating and waiting for me to finish.

Running in with my friend.
  My finish line moment!
 My friend on the left came in fifth woman overall! My friend on the right is the one who made me promise I would finish.

Celebratory hug.
The next morning I was so sore but felt so accomplished. I also had a nice surprise. The local paper did a piece on three women who had switched for various reasons from Ironman Maryland to B2B. I spoke to the reporter on my drive down and met him in person at one of the bike rest stops. He told me the article would be in the paper the next day. What I didn’t know was my picture was on the front page of the sports section!


It turns out Ironman Maryland did take place that day too. It was much colder than in Wilmington and the water there was rough. Ironman ended up cutting the swim short. The athletes who finished did not get to do the full 140.6 distance and the results are marked with asterisks that it was a short swim. My heart goes out to the athletes that toed the line at “Maryland 2.0”, the weather just did not cooperate this year for that race.

For me, Beach2Battleship was the third time and truly was the charm!


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Change in Plans

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”  – Woody Allen

This quote is funny, but it also is very true. I may make detailed plans, but life goes as God wills and where I end up may be nowhere near where I planned. One would think I learned this lesson well in 2013 – I registered for at least six races that I never made it to the start due to health issues. However I recovered and went on my way. Last year was much better and 2015 started out well.

 Amazing how something can change overnight. 

 I ran the Houston Half Marathon on January 18th and I did well. Regular readers and friends know that I am a gadget and detail junkie. Gadgets that provide detail just make me giddy.  My favorite training and racing gadget is my watch. Well it is much more than a watch. The Garmin Forerunner 920XT is a watch, a GPS, a calorie counter, a swim “measurer”, and among many more things – a heart rate monitor. When I ran Houston my wonderful gadget on my wrist recorded my max heart rate at 158 and my average pace was 10:43. This is accurate from my training history and just two beats below my anaerobic threshold of 160 based on my last test in October. 

I did not run again until January 22nd and that day I ran my marathon goal pace of 10:33 and my max heart rate was 155.  By Tuesday the 27th  I ran 6 by 1 mile repeats with a goal pace of 10:30. My Garmin reported my max heart rate was 186. What? I don’t remember feeling like I was going to exhale blood or cough up a lung. In fact I felt like I could go faster. 

 My first reaction – the heart rate strap must be off. I changed the battery. Same thing happened – max heart rate 174-186.  I changed heart rate straps. Nothing changed. From January 29th through February 26th my max heart rate was between 174 and 186. It got to the point I just ignored it and ran on how I felt. Finally I called Garmin. I tried three different heart rate straps and got the same results. It had to be the watch. It is still under warranty and could be replaced at no charge. Before replacing, the tech asked that I delete a software file and reinstall to see if that fixed it. I did what he said and went for a run. My heart rate maxed at 186. I called Garmin back and they were great. A new watch was in the mail and I had to return mine. I wanted to wait until my replacement came before sending mine back. I was in the middle of marathon training and didn’t want to run without a GPS watch. 

 To keep track of heart rate I bought a basic Polar monitor for $50. It also works in the pool – nice little feature. The next day I went to the gym wearing both the Garmin on my left arm and the Polar on my right. I got on the treadmill and started running. The Polar is detected on the treadmill so I could see my heart rate on the display without looking at my wrist. Within three minutes my heart rate was over 170. For the first time since the end of January I became concerned. I stopped and took my pulse. My count was 110 – which is what the Polar said too. As soon as I stopped running it went from 170 to 110 in 10 seconds. The worst part – I did not feel it. Not at all. Still in denial I switched treadmills. Same thing – I only ran a total of 30 minutes and my heart rate went to 186. That is over three beats a second. I was breathing calmly, not sweating, and I could not feel it. 

 The next day I did an experiment. I ran on my treadmill at home with the Polar on and I brought my pulse oximeter that clips on to my finger. I started running very easy. Within three minutes my heart rate was over 170. The pulse oximeter recorded it too. It maxed at 186. I had the treadmill at 4.4 miles an hour. 

 I called my doctor that day. He is an athlete too. He asked me all the things I had already done. Did I change the battery? Is the strap old? Did I try a Polar instead of Garmin? It did not make sense. He was out of town for two days and asked that I not run, only swim and see what happens. The next day I swam and it maxed at 148. Good. Maybe something with the vertical oscillation was triggering my heart rate? The next day I swam. It went to 186. Stink. I called the doctor – it was a Friday. He wanted to see me on Monday. Sure I was open, I planned to take the day off – it was my birthday. 

 The next call was to my coach. We agreed it would be best to pull out of the marathon. My training was compromised enough. By this point I was not even upset. I want to get to the root of what is going on.  

Over the weekend I did an analysis of what had changed. Was it stress? Let’s see, the week before it started I began taking high doses of ibuprofen for an issue in my hand. I was also concerned it was arthritis. (Turns out it is not) The day after it started is when my kitchen renovation began. I also use my inhaler before every workout as a preventative measure for my exercise induced asthma. It is known to increase heart rate. I stopped using ibuprofen and the inhaler. 

 So on my 49th birthday I went to see my doctor and had a resting EKG. I was picture perfect. The next day I went for blood work – thyroid, electrolytes, and blood count. All were normal. On Thursday I had a stress test – my heart rate maxed at 164 and I felt it. The results were perfect – I am in great shape. So I figured it was the medicine and went back to my routine. 

 Then I ran outside on Sunday. A very easy pace and my heart rate went to 165 while running a 12:00 mile going downhill. How is this possible??  This time I was able to take my pulse count and it was in the 160’s. I did an analysis and the only thing different on Sunday from the day I did the stress test was caffeine. I was caffeine free for 24 hours before the test and had just finished a mug of coffee before heading out the door on Sunday. I am going to try caffeine free before runs and see if it changes. 

 I am perplexed though – I have been drinking coffee before workouts for years. The details show that it changed literally overnight. Stress does not help the situation, so I am focusing on things other than something is wrong. My support system is wonderful, once again I am reminded of how blessed I am to have the networks of friends that I do. The happiness makes my heart skip a beat – and lately that would be a good thing!


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Never Say Never?

I am just shy of four weeks out from my next marathon. Back in October the idea of running an early Spring marathon sounded good. With the cold and snow we have had in Northeast Ohio this winter, I am questioning what I was thinking!

Treadmill runs to me are fine in the winter – for week day speed workouts or tempo runs. A few weeks ago I did something I never thought I could do – I ran 16 miles on my treadmill. My mind was as strained as my body when I finished. It was snowing and single digit temperatures outside. I had to get the distance in. The treadmill was the lesser of two evils that day. Fortunately this past weekend I “only” had a 12 mile long run and the weather cooperated – it felt great to run outside. This weekend I have an 18 mile run. Right now the forecast calls for snow but temperatures close to 30, I hope to get it in outside.

After my treadmill 16 mile run I posted my experience on social media saying “Never say never – I just ran 16 miles on a treadmill.” The responses I got were interesting. Some comments were encouraging words, some commented given the conditions it was a good choice, a few commiserated that they too had put in treadmill runs that day, and one friend ran 16 on her treadmill too! One friend did say never – he would never run that long on a treadmill. That same friend has been able to ride 3 hours on his bike trainer – something I question I could do.

More often than not I do think “Never say never” is appropriate. The older (or shall I say more experienced?) I get, the more this is true. I said I would never do another marathon after my fifth one. This next one will be my eighth. Actually number 6 was a February marathon and I said I would never train for a marathon through winter again – so much for that idea. After my first half iron distance triathlon I said I would never do another long course triathlon again. I have now done six.

My experience with running and triathlon has taught me so much about myself – what I truly am capable of, what limits I can surpass, as well as how to listen more closely to my body. And my mind for that matter. I am competitive in the sense I compete against myself to improve. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon or winning my age group is something I never will do do not expect to do. There are a few challenges that I have doubts about right now – mountain biking for one. What the future holds remains to be seen. What I do know is saying it is impossible I will never do.