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


Determination Covers Frustration

Today is Tuesday, so it is speed set day in the pool. I am determined to get down the 3,200 meter speed set within the send off times. After a 1,000 meter warmup, the main set is 4×100 on 2:20 with progressive 25 meter sprints. The first 100 I sprint the first 25, second 100 the second 25 and so on. The goal is to come in between 2:05 to 2:10. I am happy to say I nailed it. What changed in a week? I paced myself.

After a 200 pull to recover, 4×200 on 4:30 followed. This is harder for me. First it is 5 seconds faster per 100 than the 4×100. Second it isn’t a progressive sprint, but cumulative. The first 200 I sprint the last 50, then the last 100 until the last 200 is all out. Good news: I did all 4 on 4:30. Bad news: instead of coming in at 4:15, it was 4:20 to 4:27. Another 200 pull and I was back to 4×100 on 2:20 only cumulative. All were within 2:05 coming in, but each should have been faster. Not so much.

It is frustrating to eek by with baby step improvements. It was frustrating to lift weights this evening and deal with the bouncer types throwing the weights on the floor to feel empowered. It is also frustrating to type this on my iPhone… I am at dinner at my gym cafe and I left my iPad at home charging this morning. But in all instances I am determined to accomplish something and I am doing what ever I am able to over come the frustration and/or challenge. But as paper covers rock, determination covers frustration. I will deal with scissors another day…


Trials In Water, On Land, and On Trails

I search for topics to write about while I am training or right after I finish. Sometimes a song will inspire me and sometimes the trial or success I experience is my inspiration. This morning I swam 2,500 meters and it was a very good workout. I kept to all of the time splits I was setting and even exceeded a few. After I finished, I searched for inspiration to write and couldn’t find it. I had a 5 mile run scheduled this evening and figured I would find it then. I put on my layers and my reflector vest and headed outside. By 0.15 miles (according to my Garmin) I found my inspiration.

Before I start the story I am going to say the most important part – the dog is fine. This is not the kind of story any pet lover would want to be hanging on to the end. As I left my drive and started my run I was passed by a minivan heading the same direction that I was running. I turned a corner to go down a cul-de-sac and heard a loud howl, several howls. It was dark but the yard lights and snow illuminated the street enough that I saw the shadow of a dog and a blue flashing LED light close to the ground. I thought the minivan hit the dog and took off at 7:30 minute pace (according to my Garmin again). As I got closer I saw it was a little black terrier and she was fine. More upset than anything that the car didn’t stop to pet her. She was in front of her house and I got her to her family. After my heart came to a normal running pace I realized we put LED lights on our dogs’ collars along with ID tags, but do we take the same precautions for ourselves?

Until June 2011 I have to admit I did not. I have always run in the dark with a reflector vest. My latest one even has LED strips down the front and back. But I did not run with ID. Sure I have my phone with me when I ride and run, but that doesn’t help much if I am not able to use it. As for swimming – where do you put a phone?? In June 2011 I came within 10 feet of a teenager texting and driving up behind me while I was riding my bike up a hill. I heard the breaks and knew there was nothing I could do but pray and keep peddling. Fortunately he stopped before he met my tire. After that I got Road ID. There are two options: regular ID or interactive. I went with interactive. The plate has my name, a web address and 800 number telling first responders to contact and provide a serial and PIN number on the back of the plate. On the site you can enter all the information they would need – insurance, contact numbers, allergies, health conditions, medications, and a comment box. I like the box to enter information for when I travel and who to contact. Calling my sister in Akron, Ohio won’t help much when I am in Jacksonville, FL. Nathan also has the VITAband. I am a sucker for accessories, so I have this one too. It works very much like interactive RoadID but has a cool little feature that you can elect to have a debit card chip in the band to use at tap and pay locations. Good for when I am on the bike. Regardless of the one you choose, wearing ID when training and racing (or even walking a dog) is essential. Please look into it.

Good thing that the dog inspired me to write today. My 5 mile run in the crisp winter air was perfect. I loved every step, especially after running 12 miles on the treadmill Saturday. So even on a good training day, there is still something to share to limit our trials on the trails.

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A Bright Rest

The weather forecast for today called for clouds and snow this morning. I woke to bright sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. Since I ran my long run yesterday, today is an active rest day. Nothing hard, just a 3 mile walk. What a beautiful day to walk too. I first thought I wish I had kept to my schedule, it would have been much better to run outside on a morning like today. Soon into my walk I was glad I was walking. I could take in all that surrounded me, looking up and looking around. Running is not as conducive to looking around, risk of falling is much higher. While it was cold, the wind was calm and the views picturesque.

Not everything goes as forecasted, and what a blessing that is. Today reminded me that my active rest day is a day to take it easy and take in all around me. Six days a week are filled with hard training and business. One day to regenerated and rest is a good thing. Having sunshine in the middle of winter on a rest day is a great thing.


A Mindful Day

Today was a day to exercise my mind as well as my body. I had planned by last night to run my long run today because the weather tomorrow is expected to be snowy all day and today was supposed to be in the upper 30’s. I started the day off by meeting the life guard at the pool at 7 for a flip turn lesson. I am getting better, in fact my imperfect roll that leans left may actually help me flip and roll over. More to come as the week progresses.

When I left the pool I was welcomed outside by snow – and wind. It was not feeling like a great day to run outside, but I know more of the same is on the way tomorrow. I had a few errands to take care of and by early afternoon I listened to my own common sense. Last weekend when the weather was clear, my SUV spun out on a patch of snow three houses down from my own. It startled me and made me realize no matter how careful I am running, cars can slip or lose control in my path. Today was not clear at all and there was enough snow on the roads that I decided to run my 12 mile long run on my treadmill. That is a long time for anyone, but especially when my race pace is hopefully going to be 10:15 – that means I will be running around 11:40 per mile… For 12 miles. In my basement.

I put on a movie and kept the remote near by and got through it. I had moments of shear boredom, but they passed. My body feels good, I have some tightness from the run, but I didn’t have to tackle hills, wind, or cold. My mind had to focus more than if I were outside, which was challenging. My time was good, faster actually than my 11 mile run outside on Sunday. Despite the mind games I had to play to stay focused, it actually was a good run. I prefer outside by far, but sometimes what we want and what we get are not the same. I kept reminding myself why I was doing it, I am training for a race and I am training to improve my speed. I am not running aimlessly.

Two weeks from tomorrow I will be running the half marathon race in Jacksonville. It may be cold at the start, but I can be fairly confident there won’t be snow. And if I am able to run well and have a good day, then these days of training will have all paid off.


Slowly Getting Faster

One of my common sayings is “I am slowly getting faster.” Improving my speed in swimming and running is based so much on aerobic strength as well as endurance. Muscle strength is a part too, but not as much as in cycling. I also can not use tools in racing to get faster on the swim and run like on the bike. My aero helmet and Zipp 808 wheels sure help on the bike, but won’t do me any good in the water. I have to strengthen my lungs and improve my endurance to see improvement. Thanks to genetics, I wasn’t created with the natural abilities of Michael Phelps or Meb Keflezighi. So I have to work hard at getting faster and this is a slow process. But it is working.

It is always encouraging to see my improvement based on my times when I do the same workout. It is even more encouraging when other swimmers I swim next to comment that they can see my improvement. (Apparently they are not passing me as fast as they used to.) Today I swam the endurance swim I did last Friday and definitely saw an improvement in my pace. I had to cut it to 3,000 meters instead of 3,400 due to time constraints, but I could tell the entire time I had improved. I noticed an improvement in my body. I didn’t feel the burn in my arms, and I lifted last night. I didn’t feel exhausted, and I swam 3,000 meters yesterday too. I am still not up to the target paces my friend suggested, but I am getting closer.

In so many aspects of life, the hardest things to do, the most difficult lessons, and the most challenging experiences are the most meaningful. Sure, I wish I could take a supplement to instantly get faster, but it would be taken for granted. I know I will continue to train and compete in triathlons and running events as long as I am able. I have worked and continue to work so hard, I don’t want to lose my momentum. Of course I will continue to keep and seek balance in my life. In training it is not just the workout, but also proper sleep and diet. I won’t always see improvement day after day, but I know there is room for improvement and I will get faster – however slowly it takes.


Climbing Pyramids

Today was a pyramid day, and not just in swimming. I swam 3,000 meters this morning and did three 500 meter pyramids after my 1,000 meter warm up. Between the first two pyramids I pulled for 200 meters to recover and warmed down with a 100 meter pull. A 500 meter pyramid is building up: 25, 50, 75, 100 and down 100, 75, 50, 25 all done on time segments based on 2:20 per 100. I paced myself well and completed all within the time allotment for send off. I felt great, both emotionally and physically. One thing I started doing this week is eating a little more pre workout. I usually have a small container of 0% fat Greek yogurt before I leave for the pool. This week I also added a banana. Nutrition is something I follow very closely. A useful tool I use is my fitness pal. I always hope to learn something new every day and I learned a lot today.

I attended a presentation today by a sports nutritionist about Foods That Energize Your Body. A little information on me – I am thin with a BMI ( body mass index) of 20.5 and I track my calorie burn and intake to maintain my weight. As a triathlete I have to make sure I eat enough to not lose any more weight. Yes, I know how rare it is and I am fortunate, but it can be a problem too. One thing I enjoy on big workout days is a bowl of ice cream. After a 50 mile cycle or longer you may see me at McDonalds ordering a double cheese burger with fries. Me? The health nut? Hey, I figure I need the calories to keep my weight up. Well, I learned a lot to change my mind today. One lesson – added sugar causes swelling, the last thing an athlete needs. Second – happy meals are not so happy. The Davies Happy Meal Project took a look at a burger and fries over a year, yes the same one decomposing over time. It didn’t change much… Also, within an hour of eating a fast food burger the arteries in our body can have impaired function. So, I guess all calories are not created equal, huh?

That leads to another pyramid – the food pyramid. I have done both the 60% carbs, 25% protein, and 15% fat as well as the Zone 40/30/30. Personally I like 40/30/30 better. A trainer phrased it well – we burn what we eat – fat and carbs. As active as I am, I was gaining a little when I ate 60/25/15. And I eat good carbs with high fiber. It all depends on the body and the person. But we do have to pay attention to our nutrition – choosing the pyramid that works best. I didn’t think climbing was part of a triathlete’s training, but climbing pyramids is important. Both in the pool and on the plate.

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Training the Forrest Gump Way

My friend has given me swim workouts and is somewhat of a coach to me, or drill sergeant if you will. Yesterday he told me to pace myself on my swim intervals with the last being the fastest. This morning I swam 2,500 meters and chose a workout that finished with a fast 200 and a fast 100. My times were much better and I felt strong. This reminded me of a quote from Forrest Gump. Forrest had just enlisted and was being questioned by his drill sergeant. Drill Sergeant: “Gump! What is your sole purpose in this army?” Forrest Gump: “To do what ever you tell me, Drill Sergeant!” If only I would just do what my drill sergeant tells me, I will do well. And that is what I did today and he was right.

This afternoon I did another thing Forrest Gump was told to do: “Run, Forrest! Run!” My speed workout was this afternoon, 9×400. It went great and I paced myself. I was able to run my last 400 my fastest. I did what I was told to do.  This may not apply in all aspects of life, we want to question many things. But if you are able to find a good coach who is willing to help, in training it pays off to listen.

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It is humbling when someone you respect shares words of encouragement to keep you going when you are frustrated with your training. It is even more humbling when it is your own words being repeated to you. This morning I did a speed swim set of 3,200 meters total my friend had created for me. After the 1,000 meter warm up I did three sets – 4 x 100 on 2:20, 4 x 200 on 4:30, and 4 x 100 on 2:15. The first two were separated by a 200 pull and then a 200 kick to warm down. There were varied accelerated legs of each with the last 200 and last 100 all out. My first 100 was my fastest. By the end I was exhausted and out of energy. Before I could email my friend with the results I received an email from a mentor who recently took a look at my blog and liked something I wrote on my “About” page. The quote on my email screen read: “It is in overcoming hurdles and barriers that we truly test our limits and abilities. There is much more we are capable of if we only believe in ourselves.”

With that, I knew I had to identify the hurdles that are slowing me down and work hard at overcoming them. I shared with my friend what happened, he gave me better insight into the targeted times I should aim for for each interval. The goal is the very last 100 should be my fastest – not my first. In my desire to be faster, I started all out in the beginning. This was not a time trial, I should be pacing myself. I don’t start a long run by running my fastest pace right out of the door – I have to use the same method with my swimming. Even when doing speed sets.

Then there is that last part of my quote – I am capable of much more than my current ability, I only have to believe in myself. Truthfully, when I was swimming the last 4 x 100 I was looking forward to the warm down. I was not in the moment believing I could do this. Well that is going to change. After I hit stop on my watch, I went back out there and flipped in the water several times. Some flips were spot on and some were a mess. But that was proof positive I can overcome something that is a huge hurdle in my way. And I will crush it.


Perspective and Accomplishment

Perspective can be a funny thing. When I think of a 45 to 50 minute workout, my first reaction is “no problem”. This morning I swam 2,500 meters and came in at 59:29 total including rests. My latest goal has been to complete 2,500 under an hour. Of course now that I have done that a few times my next goal is to break 59 minutes. At no point during my swim did I think “Is this over yet?” My run this evening was for four miles. We are having strong winds with rain and the temperature was 42 and dropping, so I opted for my treadmill. My run also was an easy run. After a quarter mile I was wondering if it was going to continue to be this unexciting. Speed work on a treadmill for 5 miles is fine for me, I enjoy the varied pace and time flies by. Swimming in a pool lap after lap is not a problem. I don’t have music or television like on a treadmill and I am constantly counting in my head the lap I am on. But a continuous pace on a treadmill for four miles was nothing like the joy of running outside. I have a running friend who refers to it as a “dread-mill”. Good word.

Not every workout is going to be thrilling, but as I write this only 15 minutes after I finished running, I can not deny the great feeling I have now that I ran. The endorphins alone made it worth it, not to mention the sense of accomplishment and benefit to my aerobic base by running in my lower zones. During the winter months it can be tempting to skip a workout and sleep in or work later or watch television… fill in the excuse. But for me (and hopefully many reading will be inspired too) the guilt or disappointment in myself if I do skip a workout is far worse than the initial dread of getting up at a ridiculously early time or running on a treadmill. Once the workout is over, I have an accomplishment to celebrate versus a regret that I skipped it.

And speaking of accomplishments – I must share that I feel like a little kid in the pool now making sure I flip in the water several times before my swim starts and after. I am so glad I did not let my fear get the best of me and I kept at it. I still have a way to go to get it down correctly and incorporate it into my actual swim workout. But the worst part is over, I tackled my wall and brought it down.

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Don’t Stop Believin’

Looks can be very deceiving. From outside my window it is a beautiful sunny winter day. Stress the word winter.  The forecast was for a warmer day than yesterday, however the wind changed all that. When I started out on my 11 mile long run it was 28 degrees with a windchill of 19. I dressed in layers and even put two Hot Hands heating packets in my gloves. After the first mile I noticed a few things – first my body was not in the mood for a good run. I was feeling sluggish, my pace was slower than usual and my heart rate was a little higher than usual. Second – the Hot Hands were too much so I put them in my pocket with my Gu and lip balm. Third – my brain kept looking for a way to make the run easier. It is hilly where I run and I was thinking of different paths to take to avoid the hills.

I ended up running the same out and back loop I usually do, but at mile 8 my lower back was screaming at me and now I was thinking of cutting it short and heading home. The way I can rationalize with myself to cut a bad run short is better than rationalizing a reason to go shopping. Once again at mile 9, like my last long run, a motivational song came on that changed my mind. Journey was singing Don’t Stop Believin’ ,  I had to chuckle. As bad as I felt, I knew I was able to complete the run. Believing in myself to reach my goals is something I can not stop doing. While I don’t want to hold on to the feeling of the pain I was in, I do want to remember it is the tough courses that I finish that are the most meaningful.

I also discovered two things from today’s run – the Hot Hands kept the Gu warm and my vanilla Gu tasted like warm vanilla pudding – yum. Second – put the lip balm in the other pocket. It was pure liquid when I took the cap off.  Now I have an excuse to go shopping.