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

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Out Like a Lion

The end of March is here. I started the month with the hope of becoming stronger, a stronger lion of sorts. I am happy to say I am seeing improvements. My running is definitely stronger and my swimming has improved as well. In keeping with stronger, I did increase my weights for lifting this month too. I upped my goals halfway through the month. I set a personal best in my five mile race and I am pushing it a bit more in my running. In swimming I wanted to swim all my workouts with flip turns. Not only am I doing that, I started flipping with the pull buoy yesterday. That is a bit of challenge, but I like it. I am pushing through with my swim distance and speed. I hope to see an improvement and I will know soon enough when I do my time trials for April next week.

April will be here tomorrow – time is flying by. My goals in fitness for April are three (rather fitting for a triathlete). I have a ten mile race at the end of April and I hope to set a personal record. It is very likely I will, so I am going to kick it up a notch and hope to break 1:43. I tend to feel under pressure when I put a time goal out there, it just may be what I need to make it happen. My second goal is in cycling, I want to get back on the bike. I have missed it so. I plan on riding on Saturday mornings beginning April 7th. If the weather is bad, my gym has two morning spin classes I can substitute riding outside with. My active rest day will morph into only one swim on Friday. The third goal in swimming is to keep improving my pace. This is going to be challenging and I plan to look into specific workouts to improve my endurance. Time goal? Well, I want to determine that after I see how my 100 and 1500 meter time trials go this week. I would like to be at 1:45 or less on the 100 and 30:00 or better on the 1500. This week will give me greater clarity.

I was reminded this week that life is not linear. I will make progress, sometimes in leaps and bounds and sometimes in baby steps. I also will experience momentary stagnation and the occasional back slide. I have learned that I can not beat myself up over it. Progress comes from assessment. What did I do well? Where can I improve? What needs to change or stop? After all, I am a work in progress… and I am loving the journey.


Two a Day

Two workouts in one day is a common occurrence for me, however two swims in one day is new to me. I have done it five times in the past two months, including today. Each time I go into the second swim thinking I am too tired to do this. Each time I come out thinking I am so glad I did it. Today I almost convinced myself to swim in the morning tomorrow instead because thunderstorms were in the area. When the time came to leave work the rain had cleared. I have to laugh at my reasoning: I was tired and thought if I get the swim in today, I can sleep in a bit more tomorrow. So off to the pool I went. I swam 3,000 meters this morning and 1,900 meters this evening. My intent was to swim 2,000 but my tired brain lost track and I missed a 100 meter interval. Oops.

The whole purpose of the second swim is to get six swims in one week in. I only plan on doing this through April and then resume a normal (?) training plan of only three to five swims in a week. I have seen an improvement in my pace, efficiency, and overall speed. That said, I am aware of where I have to work the most on improving. Endurance. My 50 meter and 100 meter repeats are fairly consistent. Add in the 200 meter repeats and I slow down more than I would like. This gives me a good review to work with and know what I need to work on. Swimming all these workouts has not only helped me become stronger, it has honed in on where I need to improve.

Regardless of the task – a workout, house chore, bill to pay – there will always be things we don’t want to do. Excuses can be made and the can kicked down the road, but eventually it catches up with us. Weight gain, disappointing race results, dirty house or late notice – something will force us into action. Once the task is taken on and accomplished, often the resulting reaction is similar to my second swim – I am so glad I did it. I hope you find this motivating, because I sure have. Now I am going to spend some time this weekend on those house chores I keep putting off….


Making Strides

Today’s workouts both convinced me I am making progress, or strides if you will. First in the pool. I swam another speed workout and noticed my pace is improving and I am nailing my flip turns. The swim this morning was the first one that I really felt like my flips in the main set were “official”. Coupled with my improved times, I am gaining confidence that my time trials next week should at least meet my times for March. Of course I want to improve on my time, I am concerned the flips right now might hold me back a second or two.

I didn’t get as much sleep last night as I would have preferred. I usually get 7 hours but I was up later than planned and I only got 6 hours. By the time I was finished swimming 3,000 meters, I was feeling the lack of the extra hour sleep. After work my plan was to run 5 miles. I suited up, headed out, and was committed to a nice easy run. I ran fast on Tuesday so a steady run today fit right in. I kept an eye on my Garmin and noticed my heart rate was staying steady in the mid 130’s. For me, that meant a pace probably over 12 minutes a mile about five months ago. Even with the hills I run on my 5 mile course, I was pacing between 11:30 and 11:45. When I finished the 5 miles I was very happy to have run an 11:36 average pace and my heart rate averaged 135. What really surprised me was my maximum heart rate was 142 – and I ran up hill. On Tuesday when I ran harder on the same course, I my average heart rate was 142 and maximum was 153. I am making strides in running for sure.

My lack of sleep did not slow me down and when I finished running my good ol’ endorphins kicked in. Now I am hoping to get to sleep earlier tonight. Hopefully this will all wear off and I will sleep sound. Days like today are so encouraging for my training. I was not looking for a strong performance in swimming or in running. When it came to the run, I just wanted to have it done. Then I saw my results. My hard work at training and perseverance is showing up now. Paces that used to be my all out, tough to maintain are beginning to be my typical averages. More encouragement to keep at it. Oh but wouldn’t it be nice to have a training plan to persevere for sleeping? Now that would be making huge strides.


A Lesson From Vampire Fiction

This morning my endurance swim workout did just that, tested my endurance. It was a 2,500 meter swim with a 1,800 main set made up of 6 repeats of 150 meters, 100 meters, and 50 meters. The goal is to increase the pace every two sets within the 6 repeats. I did my flip turns through my warm up and the 150’s. By my second 100 I was flopping all over the place exhausted so I stopped flip turns for the last 4 100’s and picked it back up on the 50’s. It occurred to me while I was swimming, I had to just keep swimming. If this were open water and I had 1.2 miles to swim, I had to go forward or quit. With no good reason to quit, I pushed on. I was forced to be strong.

At lunch today I pulled out my Kindle app on my iPhone and snuck in a little reading. I am almost finished with the book I read on vacation. The last thing I expected to read was a quote that defined my workout this morning, but there it was on my screen:

Sometimes the fact that you were forced to be strong was enough to actually turn you into what you had to be. – JR Ward from Lover Avenged

How is that for multiple applications? My vampire romance fiction book taught me a lesson in swimming.  In a triathlon, the swim is in open water. The majority of a triathlete’s training is done in a pool with walls to push off of, a floor to put your feet down on, and 25 to 50 meters at most to consider if you want to stop. This is not the case in open water. You look for the next buoy and keep swimming. Many people become overwhelmed and start swimming breast stroke, back stroke, or even tread water for a bit. More often than not, they pull it together and finish. When it is time to give up, the kayak comes for you. If you don’t want to ride in a kayak, then you have to get the swim training in and turn into what you have to be – a distance swimmer.

This also goes back to what I have believed for a while now. We are capable of so much more if we only put our all into it with determination and practice. It is not easy, the hardest and best lessons aren’t. When forced to be strong, we truly can be come what we have to be – for me – a triathlete determined to swim 1.2 miles under 40 minutes.

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Just Keep Swimming, I Won’t Give Up

My mantras are working. This morning I swam a speed workout, it is Tuesday after all. I did my standard 1,000 meter warm up and went into 18×100 meter repeats with progressing speed and increasing interval times for recovery. I did all of them with flip turns – I was not able to break 2:00 with the flips, but I am doing it. I have to admit I got a little frustrated. My times are a bit slower since I am still getting the rhythm of the flip down. I also did not do speed work for over a week, so I have some making up to do. My “Just keep swimming” song from Finding Nemo came in handy. It got me through and I was very happy to have completed 3,000 meters. I am a work in progress and my progress so far has been good. No as I just keep swimming I hope to see more progress.

This evening I ran 5 miles. The weather was perfect – lower 50’s and a setting sun. I wore my Brooks PureCadence minimalist shoes and have been adapting well. My pace was strong – faster than I usually run my 5 mile course. With that said, at mile 2 I hit the steepest hill on  my run. At that point the thought of making it a 4 mile run was enticing. I still had more hill to run, I was considering my options. Then Dory started singing in my head. “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” Which is funny for a run. I quickly changed channels in my mind (no iPod on this run) and thought of Jason Mraz I Won’t Give Up.  Now this is a love song that I think every woman would love to hear, but the title also helped me get through the hill and finish the 5 miles. Plus I sang the song in my head and it is one of my very favorites. Extra motivation.

Children’s movie songs or adult love songs, if it works to get me through and help me take my training to the next level, than I am all for it. Motivation comes from so many sources. Music is a big influence for me. Searching for what motivates me is also part of the journey. Stretching my limits, finding motivation to carry me, and seeing my improvement are elements of what the journey is about. And after all, isn’t that the best part?


Back in the Swim of Things

After a week away from a 25 meter pool, it was good to be back at my gym. I remembered my flip turns and have them down well. Getting control of my breathing is the next step. One thing I know for sure, swimming in an 11 meter pool really cut down my endurance! I noticed a difference in my pace this morning, I swam 2,000 meters and was ready for bed. Too bad I had to go to work. I am sure some of it is from travel, some the elevation change, and some from not swimming as intensely last week. Tomorrow I plan on doing my speed workout and hope to have my distance back up over 3,000 meters.

I am also working on a mantra just for swimming. “Believe” is helping me most in running. Now that I know I am capable of flip turns and improving my time, I want to focus on something to get me through the hard swims. The swims where I have to push it to get to the next level. “Push”? I am not sure, when I stroke I am pulling the water more than pushing. “Keep On”? Maybe, there are times when I just want to call it quits after so many sets. I even googled “swimming mantras” and came up with “long and strong”, “you’re long, you’re lean, you’re in control”, and my favorite that I am going to try tomorrow from Finding Nemo “Just keep swimming“. Really, Dory the fish has it right – “when life gets you down you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, swimming swimming.” So when my lack of speed gets me down I will just keep swimming. Swimming. Swimming.

Besides, who wants to be a Mr. Grumpy Gills?


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‘Mid Pleasures and Palaces Though I May Roam

My Sunday began as so many do, I ran my long run this morning. Ten miles through the hills of my town. In the past when I have run after returning from a vacation at sea level, I feel lethargic and as if I have lead in my legs. This time I had actually ran at sea, not just sea level. As I ran today, I felt very good – Spring is in full bloom and the temperature in the low 50’s. Within the first mile I first noticed I had energy – then I noticed I felt that I was still at sea. For the entire 10 miles I felts the waves of the ocean as if I was running on the ship deck. I was not aware of the motion while on the ship, but when back on land I guess it takes times to get my “land legs” back. I didn’t feel sick and I just went with the “flow”. My run was quite nice too, my pace faster than my last long run on land, but not quite as fast as when I was on the nice flat surface of the ship.

When I returned last night I was greeted by three wet noses waiting for me and I couldn’t think of a better welcome committee. My two cats were happy too, once they knew I was back to stay. The pets are in good hands when I travel and it is as if they were on vacation too. After my run today I went to visit my father. We had a good meal together and I told him all about my vacation. Since my mother’s passing, he has been lonely. At 91, he is happy to have the company of family and  hear about my adventures. He thinks I am crazy for zip lining, but laughed at my description. I told him about my dolphin swim and that I hope to have the pictures to show him.  And I shared my success stories in the casino. He, after all, taught me his favorite game – craps. It was a good visit and I like to see him smile.

I had a wonderful week of relaxation, adventure, and fun times. It is good to be back and in my routine.  And as the song continues – Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home!


All Good Things…

…must come to an end. Titling today’s blog entry was a toss up between my selected title and “Murphy’s Law”. What should I expect after “A Perfect Day”? We docked this morning in Florida but had to have our packed luggage outside our cabin last night. I scrambled to get everything packed leaving the essentials for the morning to take in my carry on bag. We made it out and through customs quickly and waited for our ride to my friend’s home. On the way home we talked about all we saw and did. When it came to my dolphin adventure, my heart sank. I left the CD with the pictures of me and the dolphin on the ship. First sign of a not so perfect day. I called Royal Caribbean and gave them the information down to where I knew it was in the cabin, I will know by Wednesday if they found it and will be mailing it to me. I am going to contact the park in Cozumel also to see if the pictures are on file. Next we headed to the beach for my last day in the sun. While things were not going wonderfully, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day for a beach visit. On the way we stopped to ship back a few purchase I made at the duty free shops. FedEx taught mr something today. Alcohol can not be shipped from private parties. Second sign. I bought the packaging materials, bubble wrapped my bottles and placed them in a box with plenty of packing peanuts. Now I have two baggage items to check in… After a nice little dinner we stopped back at my friend’s to copy my pictures to here computer. Neither of us saw the box checked “delete when transferred” before hitting transfer on my waterproof camera. The one with more dolphin pictures… Sign number three.

While today may not be a perfect day, I still had a wonderful vacation, a great last day at the beach and memories to last a lifetime. I have hope my CD will be recovered and returned, I am at the airport waiting for my flight and my two bags are checked (one for free thanks to my Chase Explorer card), and my friend is working right now on a zip file of my pictures to email me before I land at home. Today was also a rest day, so I didn’t have a workout scheduled. I think my heart has done enough racing today anyway. Tonight I will be home and tomorrow I have a long run scheduled. Not every day is a perfect day. But every day is a gift – and there is something good in every day. Ah – I just received an email from my friend – with my pictures.


A Perfect Day

Today is a perfect day for my last full day at sea. If this had been a typical Friday, I would have been up by 4:30 to get to the pool. Today I awoke at 7:00 and was at the ship’s sport pool by 7:45. I swam what I calculated to be 1,700 meters before meeting my friend. We went up for breakfast and ate at the ship’s solarium cafe. My typical Friday swim would be at least 3,000 meters and I would be in the locker room eating a cheese stick and hard boiled egg while I dressed. I spent the rest of the morning reading poolside. A nice breeze and warm sunshine my surroundings while I escaped in the world of Vampire fiction only JR Ward can so captivatingly write. We ate lunch outside at the Wipeout Cafe with a surfer motif, again, just a few steps from the pool. At home I would be eating at my desk while I get a few things done at work.

I am back poolside, in the sun and taking a break from reading while I write. Could a day get any better? I am spending vacation time with one of my best friends I don’t get to see often enough since we live in different states. Life is grand experiencing such a wonderful cruise with a friend who gets me, doesn’t judge me if I don’t wear my makeup to the pool, shares the same chuckles with me when we see a woman tanning in a thong she has no business wearing in public, and makes me want to say “yes” when people ask if we are sisters. I know my training schedule (even on vacation) is not close to the typical person who exercises and my love of blogging takes up time too. I had to laugh when I told her at breakfast I am done for the day with my workouts. Her eyes widened and she said “get your blog done at the pool and then the rest of the day is mine!” We didn’t make it to the hot tub last night because her scuba adventure wore her out. My casino adventure was quite successful and she wants to give it a try, so we are going to do both tonight.

As I said, today is a perfect day for my last full day at sea. Yes, the weather is lovely. Of course I am enjoying the vacation of a lighter training schedule. All I have seen and experienced will providing life long memories. But sharing it with a wonderful friend makes it the best. Life truly is grand. Very grand.


Swimming With a Dolphin

Today we docked at Cozumel, Mexico. Of all of the sight seeing and activities available, the Dolphin Push, Pull & Swim with Manatee Interaction was an adventure I couldn’t resist. I met the tour group soon after we docked and headed to Chankanaab Park. The dolphins are such happy creatures, I felt it was contagious. We were standing on a platform in the water while the dolphin, named Titiche, swam by so we could pet him. Then he swam by with his belly up for belly rubs. I kept laughing at how interactive the dolphin was. It was very obvious he liked the attention and praise. After the initial acquaintance it was time to take the relationship to the next level. I shook hands with the dolphin while he stood up out of the water, then tapped his nose. Now we bonded and I got a kiss on the check from him and even got a smooch on the lips. Fresh guy for a salt water creature. Now for the push and pull part of the adventure. I swam out in the water and held on to a boogy board, next thing I felt was a push on my foot and Titiche was pushing me on the board with his snout. Very fun! One more time I swam out in the water and this time the dolphin came up on his belly offering me his fins like hands and pulled me back. It was as if I was holding on to aero bars on my bike. Another fun ride. After saying farewell to Titiche we headed to another pier and onto another platform in the water. Next a manatee swam by and allowed us to pet him. Another interesting creature who stays under water most of the time since manatees are only able to see under water. All in all in was a fabulous experience and my new under water camera came in handy.

Before returning to the ship, I found a nice beach in the park and was able to snorkel a bit. I captured several good pictures of the beautiful fish. After that I caught a few sun rays and took in the surroundings while reclining on a beach chair. The water is so clear and reflects the blue sky in a breathtaking view. Once I returned to the ship I met up with my friend who went scuba diving and out we went to help the local economy. After a few nice purchases we are back on the ship and I will run three miles shortly.

Tomorrow we are at sea and return to Florida Saturday morning. Time has flown by as fast as the zip line experience, but what an experience it is. This week I have been seizing the day, each day and moment at a time. I still have more time to enjoy vacation, and that I will do. First this afternoon my run and then dinner. Of course a stop in the casino too. My friend has been hinting about hitting the hot tub before bed, and what a night cap that will be.