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


Pride, Crutches and Confidence

Pride can be a terrible thing and can get in the way of progress. I thought I could learn a flip turn on my own, when that didn’t work I put my pride aside and asked a lifeguard to help me. We met at the pool this morning and he asked me to first try to flip from a standing position in the middle of the pool. I did my usual jump, turn, struggle and stand. Then he asked me if I can do a somersault on land, I told him I have been doing them since I was 4 years old. He then had a simple yet brilliant idea. He showed me how to mimic a somersault in the pool by using the lane line rope as my “ground”.  I held on to the rope, jumped and flipped right over. Feeling like a 4 year old again, I looked at him and said “I wanna do it again!” So I flipped a few times over the rope. Then he said what I hate hearing – “time to lose the crutch.” That was what my friend told me when I had to stop swimming with fins.

Crutches are helpful, if not necessary, when we are weak and need them to develop our strength. But once the strength takes root, we have to lose the crutch or we will stay in a weakened condition. So just like giving up my fins, I stepped away from the rope. Standing in the middle of the pool like I had only moments before, I jumped and flipped right over. Yep, me – I did it. And I did it again and again. So much that I lost count so I have taken down the flip attempt counter to the right of this page.  I also am able to swim into a flip. Just not right up to the wall. But that day is coming soon. Every morning this coming week when I swim I will make sure to flip in the water and even try to get closer to the wall during warm up and cool down swims. Next Saturday we are working on flipping and pushing off the wall. It actually is a bit more strenuous at first than I thought. Using my arms to propel me causes me to roll more to my left side. When I hold a floating noodle behind me and flip, I am forced to use my abdominals and not my arms and I flip straight every time. So that will be a big focus for me this week.

I told my friend who has insisted I get the flip down that today was a big step for me. Deep down I feared that I was never going to be able to get the flip turn down. The reply coming through the telephone was loud and direct: “What have I told you? You have got to stop thinking like that.” Yes, I really have to believe I can do it. I have to have the confidence that I can succeed at flip turns, improve my times, and reach (if not even surpass) my goals.


Swimming Uphill

Today I swam a 3,400 meter workout my friend suggest I do. It was very well thought out and the send off times were based on what I have done in my 100 meter and 1,500 meter time trials. The warm up was the now standard 1,000 meters of 500 swim, 300 pull, and 200 kick. The main set totaled 2,000 meters: 4×100 on 2:15, 1×400 on 9:00, 4×100 on 2:10, 1×400 on 9:00 and 4×100 on 2:05. Cool down was 400 pull. When I saw the main set, I did cringe at the last 4×100 on 2:05. I struggled to get all 6 100’s in on 2:10 on Tuesday. The overall time per 100 meters of the main set is 2:12. I averaged that when I did the 1,500 time trial. Unfortunately that was not the case today. My average for the main set was 2:18. I knew after the first 4×100 this was not going to be my best time. I felt as if I was swimming uphill. There is so much I can attribute it to: this is my first week of 5 swims, the older man sharing the lane with me was slower and I had to avoid bumping him, I lifted last night…. I could go on. It was just not my day. I have said before, I have to work hard at improvement. The hand I have been dealt is uneven, my passion for triathlon and my natural ability are not equal.

Motivation is what keeps me going. Today was a hard one to dig deep, but I did. And I was given a good reminder why. A fellow blogger posted an amazing story today. Please check out Manage Better Now and read about Sister Madonna Buder. I don’t want to butcher my friend’s wonderful writing, but the summary is she is a nun who holds the record as the oldest to complete an Ironman race. She has completed 45 Ironman Distances. There have also been races she didn’t complete, but she has not given up. She plans to compete this year in the 80+ age group. Some days are just not going to be the best, I mentioned that on Monday. It is my nature to analyze why it didn’t go well and what can be done to improve. I also have to be pleased that I did it, and now I have a bench mark to improve upon.

Not every workout will be an improvement of the last. Life is not that linear. We have slopes and curves and the lines are sometimes broken. But we still get from point A to point B. How we do it, what we learn from it, and how we pass it on is up to us. I am determined to make the best of it and be grateful for friends who take time to coach me and inspire me.



One definition of Determination by Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary is “a firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end.” Well, until I can get my end up and over in the pool, my determination is firm and fixed to flip.  I cut my swim workout short this morning (my first Thursday swim as I build to ultimately 6 swim workouts a week) to practice flip turns. Which first begins with the ability to flip in the pool. Five attempts, zero completions. One senior woman water walking and watching me said it looked like I made it half way around on one attempt. I wanted to get my swim in so I could get to work at a decent hour. After five attempts, I headed for the lap lanes.

My swim went well for the most part, I only swam 1,600 meters. After a 600 warmup of 200 swim/pull/kick I went into two sets of a pyramid. It is more challenging than it looks on paper. First is to build with 25 meters, then 50, 75 and 100. Then you go back down 100, 75, 50 and 25. Each done on a time set equal to 1:10 per 50 – so 35 seconds, 1:10, 1:45. 2:20 and back down. After the first 500 I pulled for 100 meters to get a little break in. I started the second pyramid and at the peak with the first 100 two women who swim much slower than I joined my lane and wanted to circle swim. I had mixed emotions. Most of me didn’t want to share the lane especially when I would stop and wait for the next send off and they kept asking if I was done yet. But there was a little part of me that felt super fast as I lapped past them during my set. Now I know how all of those fast swimmers feel when they pass me. To get the workout finished I only did one 100 on the second set finishing with only 400 that set and a total of 1,600.

This afternoon I lifted weights and got home as quickly as I could. We had a big snow storm come through this afternoon and it was ugly out. I also decided today that I need help. Saturday morning I am working with one of the lifeguards at the pool to get the flip down. I can not explain why, but when it comes to flipping over I choke every time.  I truly am determined because I learned to do it almost 3 years ago. I didn’t keep at it and that I regret. The only barrier in my way right now is myself, and I will get around it and not lose sight of my goal. Just like this picture shows…



I am learning the importance of sleep. That may sound silly, but it is true. We all know that if an active person like myself tries to get by on 4 hours of sleep night after night burnout is inevitable. Common wisdom says eight hours of sleep is ideal. Well I get up between 4:30 and 5:00 every morning, so I would have to be asleep by 8:30 every evening. (Yikes, that is 15 minutes away as I type and I haven’t eaten dinner yet!) Usually I get 6 to 7 hours of sleep. Last night was closer to 5 and I felt it today.

This morning I swam 2,500 meters and it was a good workout. I was very pleased with my overall time. I wasn’t too sluggish during the day, but I felt the drag. One thing my training partner and I have found is Speed Stack by ABB Performance. It is an energy drink with only 5 calories and 250 milligrams of caffeine. It is not like coffee, no heart rush or shakes, you are just alert and awake. First thing in the morning I love my coffee and the wonderful sound of a Keurig. Mid day drowsiness is better addressed with Speed Stack. Today was a day for a Speed Stack. I try to limit my consumption to only when I really need a pick up. Days like today when I have a run workout in the evening after a swim in the morning usually fit the bill. I ran 5 miles this evening on the treadmill which included a mile warm up 8 x 400 between 7.0 and 7.5 with a 200 walk in between sets. I ended with .75 mile at 10 minute pace and a .25 mile jog cool down. Once again a good workout I was very pleased with.

Speed Stack aside though, nothing compares to a good night of sleep. I am approaching 8:30 so I doubt it will be 8 hours, but I will do my best to get 7. How much is enough is determined like so many other things I encounter – the answer is in listening to my body and then taking my own advice. But don’t ever expect me to give up my Keurig.


Progress and Lessons

I am making progress. This morning I swam 3,000 meters. Since I ran my long run yesterday, I was not sure how well I would hold up today. For the most part I did well. After my 1,000 meter warmup, I did my Tuesday 6 x 100 on 2:10. I was able to do all 6 on a 2:10 send off. The 6th one just made it in time as my hand hit the wall at 2:10. I was feeling a little fatigued so I went into a 200 pull. After 150 meters, I got out the band. If you have ever seen a guppy swim, then you can picture what I looked like. But I was able to do two 25 meter lengths with just the band on my ankles and my arms pulling with all of the strength and speed I could muster. That band is hard and I see where it is hailed as a great way to strengthen your stroke. I did a 200 kick after that and went into 5 x 200 with the goal to complete each on a 4:30 send off coming in at 4:15. Not so much. The first two I did on 4:30, but neither did I come in on 4:15. The last three? 4:45. My arms were fried. Lesson one today – do the band pull set last, not before another fast set.

With 3,000 meters behind me I decided to add to my attempts at flipping.  Three attempts, zero completions. The last one almost counted. I was able to flip to some degree but ended up standing facing 3 o’clock with the goal to be facing 12 where I started. I watched a few videos on flips, one suggesting using a floating noodle to hold on to so the arms are not directing the swim but rather abdominal strength. Two friends have suggested swimming into it instead of standing first. One friend insists I am over thinking it and just have to do it, the fear part – just forget it. Me over think? Is there such a thing? Just forget fear – have I mentioned I have close to a photographic memory? Forgetting is something I wish I could do. So lesson two today – just do it.

After work my training partner and I lifted. We are making progress there too. The adaption phase of getting back into lifting after a few weeks off is an easy progress and we both agreed we could increase the weight a bit and go for 15 reps instead of twelve. After we were done lifting I had my massage. The focus was on my back and shoulders. After I paid to have pain inflicted on me (although it was very helpful and productive) I learned two more lessons. Lesson three today – I need to stretch more. Everywhere. Lesson four today – my lower back pain is a result of my hip flexers being so tight. Yes, the area in the front where the leg meets the hip is tight and is pulling around to the back causing my lower back pain. So the song about the leg bone is connected to the hip bone… is very accurate.

In looking at what I have learned today, I realize there is much to be learned by errors, miscalculations, and failed attempts. Through these lessons I hope to right my wrongs and further increase my progress. One day (step or flip) at a time.

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It’s Something Unpredictable, But in the End is Right

Today I ran my long run of 11 miles. The weather was warmer than yesterday – up to 41 degrees, but cloudy. I had a good run and was pleased with my pace. The half marathon in Jacksonville is four weeks away. My friend and I are running in the 26.2 with Donna Finish Breast Cancer Marathon and Half Marathon in Jacksonville, FL. Just before mile 9 today on my run Green Day’s song Good Riddance came on my Pandora station. It is more commonly known as Time of Your Life. The song has been a favorite of mine and reminds me of running. When I signed up for my first marathon with the Arthritis Foundation in 1999, the local chapter played this song in a video highlighting the marathon in Dublin, Ireland the year before.

As I ran I had to smile as I listened to the song. The first verse: “Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go. So make the best of this test and don’t ask why. It’s not a question but a lesson learned in time.” This applies to so much in life. Last year we ran the full marathon in Jacksonville. My training partner is a breast cancer survivor, almost 11 years now. She inspires me with all she has accomplished despite the challenges she has faced. Time, and the events in our lives, directs us where to go. Where we chose to go is another thing, and we learn so much from the lessons of life. I know I have learned from my choices to not ask why, but learn to make the best choices.

In running, as in life, so much (if not all) is unpredictable. No matter how well trained we are, we are going to have a bad day. The hope is that bad day is not a race day. Some days everything just falls into place and the run flies by. That is the hope for race day. And some days, like today, the run goes well even though the wind was blowing and the clouds were out more than the sun. But in the end it was right. It was the right run. And living each day to its fullest – having the time of my life.


Flip Flop

Today was a Flip Flop day in more ways than one. First, my training partner suggested on Friday that we flip our Sunday long run with our Monday swim workout after looking at the weather forecast. She is so smart. The temperature was 7 degrees at 7:00 AM this morning and I was happy to know I was heading to the pool and not outside to run 11 miles. We swam 2500 meters and I was very pleased with my time. Since it is Sunday, we had extra time after our swim and my friend was kind enough to work with me on flip turns. My second flip that turned into a flop. Not only is she smart, she has the patience of Job. And a good sense of humor. I spent more time standing in the pool pontificating about the impending flip than actually trying it. The first try I hit the bottom of the pool with my hands, did a very ungraceful handstand with feet out of the water and ended facing in the opposite direction. Not very encouraging. I would make her flip in the water and watch her under water. Looks simple enough. I have done this before successfully, but ever since I met the bottom of the pool a few weeks ago I freeze when I attempt it. And that is what I did the second try. Not much better and the hot tub was looking so inviting.

I have to find a way to overcome my fear. I also think it is a control issue. I like to be in control. Turning upside down in water is an out of control feeling for me. So I have decided to add to my side bar list of distance completed year to date the number of attempts at a flip and the number of successes. This is something I respond well to – pressure. If I put it out there, I will develop the determination to succeed.

Monday workouts also include a shorter, easy run. Since this is Monday’s workout today, I ran 5 miles this afternoon. It had warmed up to 26 degrees and the sun was out, so I put on the layers, my music, and yes – in January – my sunglasses and went out for a 5 mile run. I loved every minute of it. It was the perfect top off to the day. I remember not too many years ago it was difficult for me to run 5 miles without taking a walking break. Now I run an easy 5 miles straight through at a pace much faster than my fastest running pace a few years ago. This run was confirmation I will look back at this post one day and wonder why I thought a flip turn was so hard to do.

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Learning to Rest

Something is wrong when I get 10 hours of great sleep, walk two miles on my treadmill and feel guilty that I didn’t work hard enough. Ah, “active rest” days can be stressful to an on the go Type A. Saturdays are my active rest day, due to the cold and blowing snow this morning I chose to walk inside on my treadmill. In the past I have walked outside – and I usually walk 3 miles. Because I slept in today I only had time for two miles, I didn’t want to be late for my manicure and pedicure appointment. Yes, I pamper myself occasionally.

In “Zoned Out” I mentioned the importance of spending quality time training in each of the five fitness heart rate zones. I didn’t do this for over a year and the result of my overtraining caused my fat burning aerobic zones to diminish. I did more harm than good. In order to develop my zones 1 and 2, I have to spend time training in them. My zone 1 is so low, all I can do is walk and practice yoga. I am doing more than training my body to burn fat in these zones, I am teaching my mind to appreciate the benefits of rest. It isn’t easy. Then again, if things were easy we wouldn’t grow. Challenges teach me about myself and how I can benefit from change. (I actually cringed a little when I wrote that last sentence.)

Learning to rest, like learning to swim with a band or do a flip turn, take time and practice. And patience.


Sink Or Swim

Swimming drills in workouts help improve stroke control, body positioning, and propulsion. A friend recently shared a link to Coach Joel Filliol’s Top 20 Rules for Faster Triathlon Swimming which can be found at www.joelfilliol.blogspot.com. As I read through it, I learned from Rule 11 to “use a band frequently.” Now I was pretty sure he was not referring to music. With a little inquiring, I found out it is a band worn at the ankles durning a pull set. The objective is to improve body positioning and propulsion and train the swimmer to catch more water.

I found an ankle band and worked it into my workout this morning, I started with a 1,000 meter warm up of 500 swim, 300 pull, and 200 kick. Next was 10 x 100 on a 2:15 send off coming in on 2:05. I was able to accomplish this on the first 4, the last 6 were closer to 2:07 – 2:10. Since this will be my routine Friday morning swim, I am excited to see the improvement in this set over time. Next up I did 300 pull and worked the band into the set. First I did 200 with the band and a pull buoy. Piece of cake. For the next 100 I took out the pull buoy and swam approximately 5 meters before my back end sunk like a rock. Wow, that band is really tough. Now I know why it is suggested to swim with the band in 25 meter sets resting in between. The band forces the swimmer to find a way to catch water to keep afloat or you go down faster than the Titanic. Seriously. After my weak attempt to band pull for 100 meters, I then kicked for 200 and finished with 10 x 50 meters on 1:10. I was able to do 5 within the time but the last 5 were on 1:15. Once again, I am looking forward to seeing my improvement.

But what I am really looking forward to most is mastering that darn band. When swimming with it I have to not be concerned about my total overall swim time for that workout. It will take time, effort, and patience – but I will do it. And then there is that issue with flip turns… I have to get the passion in me to master a flip turn too…

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Time for the Heating Pad

This morning I woke up feeling good and hit the tread mill. I had a great 5 mile run which included 7 x 400 (quarter mile) speed intervals at 7.0, which is about 8:30 per mile pace, for the first 4 and at 7.5 or 8 minute pace for the last 3. As I have mentioned before, I am not fast, so that was a fast set for me. I had a mile warm up, walked 200 in between intervals, and ran a little tempo pace to finish it off. I felt great. My lungs were pushed enough to feel my anaerobic threshold was tested but I didn’t feel fried. With all of the swimming I have been doing at faster paces, I can feel the improvement it is having on my ability to push faster in running too. Bonus.

After I dressed and was ready to leave for the day, my lower back decided to tighten a bit and has been achey. It is the oddest thing, I am not limited at all in my movement or flexibility, I did my weight workout this evening and felt good. I feel the tension when I lean forward, but the further I bend, it goes away. So I am taking some Advil and the heating pad is warming up for me.

An important lesson I have learned is to listen to my body. I don’t want to push it, but I also am not going to wimp out. I have every intention of swimming tomorrow morning – a 3,000 meter workout – but I will pace myself accordingly. Oh, and I scheduled a massage for Tuesday evening. Big Bonus.