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


Details, Battle Marks, and Joy

This morning was perfect for a run – 52 degrees, no wind, light cloud coverage as the sun peeks through. I ran five miles as an easy run. Living where I do, “easy” means running a bit slower through hills. I was happy with my easy pace but even more so with my heart rate. I was able to keep my average heart rate at 134. In September last year I started focusing on improving my aerobic zones. I had run hard for most of my run and as a result my body would quickly jump to my anaerobic zone. My assessment tests also showed I wasn’t burning much fat. In September I focused more on heart rate – back then averaging 134 meant I was running slowly at 12:45 minute miles. Today I averaged 11:50 – slow, but a faster slow.

There are so many details and technical aspects to training. One would think “just go out and do it.” After all, isn’t that what Nike says? There are, however, things that we should focus on. If we don’t, something will happen and force us to notice. Injury, plateau pace, or even worse slowing down. Even though I work on the details, I still enjoy the activities. The fresh crisp air this morning on my run, the thrill of a downhill ride on my bike as well as the feeling of accomplishment of a climb, and the beauty of an early morning swim outside. I don’t ever want to get tunnel vision. As my friend has reminded me, I race because I train. I want to enjoy the experience of training, not just the thrill of the finish line.

In addition to the details, there are a few side effects. Battle wounds or scars or triathlon. Many runners, myself included, deal with the occasional purple toe nails. Sorry guys, us ladies have the advantage of dark toe nail polish! Heck, I have even painted skin where the nail once was…. Then there is the trade mark right greased calf cyclist have. A temporary mark, but a sign of a rider. My favorite is something I have mentioned before – the smell of chlorine on my skin hours after a swim. Call us crazy, but I don’t know a swimmer who doesn’t enjoy the scent. In an instant I am transported back to the pool.

Technical details, battle marks, and the joy of training – all important and integral to triathlon. And something I would hate to give up.


A New Milestone

Earlier this week I indicated I had a goal to reach in swimming by the end of May. I knew today would be the day I crossed that milestone. I met my training partner to swim this morning at 6:15. As we walked in I felt the cool air and was not sure if we could swim outside or not. Sometimes the outdoor pool is closed if it is below 65 degrees outside. My heart sunk when we walked into the pool ready to swim. The indoor pool was packed. All five lanes had at least one swimmer and we couldn’t find two lanes we could split and swim next to eachother. Then I looked up …. Something I have to keep reminding myself to do.

The sign on the far wall, the window wall and outside door, read “Outdoor Pool Open”. Hoot hoot! We headed to the door and I even set the alarm off trying to open the door before the lifeguard unlocked it. Hey, the sign said open. Apparently she just put it up. So outside we went and had a great swim workout. I swam 2,700 meters and my times are back to where I was swimming in March – before I plateaued and before my injury. In fact one 200 meter set and one 100 meter set was faster than before. Hoot hoot! And it was outside. And I reached a new milestone. Today, May 30th, year to date I have now swam a total of 247,877.4 meters. In the entire calendar year of 2011 I swam 247,847.6 meters. That is 154 miles. In five months I swam what took me an entire year last year.

Now I have no intention of swimming as much over the next five months. I spent the first four months of this year focusing on my swim because it is my weakest sport of the three. Even though it is not my strongest sport, I love swimming and will continue to swim year round, long after triathlon season ends. I am very happy with all of the effort I put in because I am seeing my improvement – and I continue to improve. This afternoon I will ride, I have a 20 mile bike ride on my training schedule. While cycling is my strongest sport, I am still shedding my winter legs and need to work a bit on getting my speed back.

So what is my next milestone? Well… I am not sure if this is next on the calendar, but I am determined to see it happen this year. My next weakest sport – running. A fellow blogger wrote today about setting goals and writing them down. How appropriate for me to read today. I have a training plan designed to take me all the way to December 2nd. Why December 2nd? Well yesterday I made a commitment. I registered for the California International Marathon in Sacramento on December 2nd. This will be my seventh marathon, and hopefully my fastest. It is a point to point course starting at an elevation of 366 feet and finishing at an elevation of 26 feet. So after my half iron distance triathlon on Spetember 9th, I can say it is all down hill from there. And in running, that is a good thing.


Warm Summer Sounds

It is amazing how warm weather and the opening of outdoor pools ushers summer in regardless of the calendar. Instinctively I have adapted to my “summer routine”. Tuesdays are my run days – either speed work or tempo in the morning. My afternoons are weight lifting. Same as last week, what is different is I am able to sit by the outdoor pool after lifting and read. What is new – I am now blogging by the pool as well. So as I write I am listening to the splash of swimmers’ strokes and the water flowing down the slides. Summer sounds.

My run workout this morning was a tempo run. I find tempo more challenging than speed sets. With speed I have equal recovery time even though I run faster than tempo. Tempo is a build and steady maintain – I kept telling myself this is what makes me stronger as I pushed through the 45 minute run. In the end I felt good – pleased with my pace and happy with accomplishing a tough run. The treadmill is a necessary evil for me on Tuesdays. I am able to pace better than running outside or on a track. My weight workout this afternoon was our first time lifting in three weeks – back to the adaptation stage of one set of 12-15 reps. My training partner and I finished earlier than usual as a result, giving me extra time to read and blog pool side. And here is my view:


So while the calendar still says May, the sounds, temperatures, and activities say summer to me. Somedays, like today, can bring stresses and challenges outside of my training. But a good workout, time with my dear friend and training partner and a few moments in the sun “listening” to summer bring so much brightness. More than just the warmth of the sun.


A Memorial Day

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me. -Lee Greenwood

Today is memorial day in the US. Being a Federal Holiday, just about everyone not in the retail or restaurant business has the day off. I am grateful for the men and women in our armed forces who died in the on going fight to maintain our freedom. Something that is far from free, they paid the greatest price, they paid with their lives.

Since I did have the day off, I was able to get a few good workouts in and some down time as well. This morning I met my training partner at the gym – at 9:30. Usually we are on the way to work before this time. Well she is, I am just leaving the gym truth be told… The outdoor pool opened this weekend and it was a hot day with plenty of sunshine. We got our workout in swimming outside. The pool is also 25 meters long but a bit deeper. May be it a coincidence, but I swim faster in the outdoor pool. We did an endurance set for a total of 2,700 meters. After a hot tub chat, also outside, she headed home and I went back to the pool. My intention was to get catch some sun and read, but I also wanted to get a bit more swimming in. I have a goal I want to reach by the end of May – more on that later this week. So I swam 800 more meters in between reading and sunning myself.

This afternoon I was able to get a ride in. I only road 15 miles, it was over 90 degrees even at 5:30, and it was along the same route I road on Saturday. It was windy again today, but this time it was coming from the south. My ride out was tough. There is a stretch where I usually am able to ride 22 miles per hour for nearly a mile after coming off of a nice hill. Today riding into the wind I was pushing to average 16 miles per hour. But oh was it fun on the ride back. With the wind at my back I was actually getting up to 17 to 18 miles per hour on inclines. It was a good quick ride to end a lovely, hot day.

So my day off was a very good day. I don’t just see it as a vacation day, but a day to appreciate the freedoms I have of living in a free country. What I blessing and something to never take for granted.


Hometown Race

This morning I slept until 7:00, the first time I have ever slept that late on a race day with a morning race. Having picked up my bib yesterday and living four miles from the race start, there was not much preparation to do before a 9:00 gun time. The weather forecast was spot on – cloudy early and the sun started shining by 8:00. A good friend of mine lives right in the center of the village, so I parked at his house. I mapped a route that I ran to warm up, exactly .75 mile. This race is known to have many locals jump in and run without registering, as a result it is also know to run out of water at the water stops. I brought a hand held bottle I use for long runs so it wouldn’t be an issue. My warm up run went well and I was in the starting area with 15 minutes to spare.

The sun was shining bright and I was trying to stay in the shade as much as possible before the start. From what I can tell, there were close to 2,000 runners and walkers, and that was just for the 5.25 mile race. There was also a mile fun run that started at the same time. The road was packed and I took a place in the pack about a third of the way deep. The first half mile I had to be very alert. Did I mention it was packed?! Dodging walkers, joggers and stroller runners is a challenge when a four lane wide road is filled with over 2,000 runners. Oh, and the first two miles is up hill 200 feet. Fortunately the run went through mostly tree shaded streets. There is one road that is not very tree lined and I was happy to see the clouds roll in when I made the turn onto the road. Once I cleared that street and turned to the final street, which is tree lined, the sun came out. Most of the race had neighbors outside cheering us on. Some even offered water, both to drink and hoses to cool us down. The young children with super soakers and the elderly lady with a small plant mister were my favorites.

I really didn’t know what to expect with my pace for this race. Having run the half marathon last weekend, still recovering from my ankle sprain, and the heat and hills – I knew I wanted to average under 11:00 per mile pace. The last five mile race I ran in March I was right at 10:00 pace, but it was flatter, cooler, and it was before my injury. I did well during the first two miles in the hills. Dodging the people didn’t seem to slow me. I was faster the first three miles from what my GPS reflects. Pacing is something I know I need to work on. As I approached the last quarter mile I really wanted to beat 57 minutes. I was quite happy as I crossed the finish line with an overall time of 56:52. My average pace was 10:49, and as a friend pointed out – there are not many 5.25 mile races and I have only walked this race before, so it was a PR. After drinking a bottle of water, I headed back down another route I planned and ran a mile to reach seven miles today.

After the race a friend of mine and her boyfriend hosted a brunch at his home. It was the perfect way to unwind – good company, conversation, food and beverages. Living in Chagrin Falls, especially during the Blossom Time festival, has the best of both worlds. Small town quaintness yet so close to a big city. Participating in the run, walking through the village, and spending time with friends make the day so special. I am fortunate to live in a great community, a blessing I most certainly will not take for granted.


A Ride, A Run and Believing

Today I was back on my bike and it sure felt good. I road 25 miles and the first half was a breeze. Literally. Even though I was riding rolling hills, I kept a very good pace riding close to 17 miles in the first hour. I turned around at the half way point and discovered two things. The wind most certainly was at my back. And while it was rolling hills, it rolled more down hill apparently. Between the wind and the hills my second half return was not quite as speedy, however I managed to average 15.8 miles per hour. I am pleased. Each ride I am getting faster and I have been riding alone mostly. In cycling peer pressure is a good thing and helps improve pace. Riding with others is next up on my list.

After my ride I quickly changed into my running shoes. Well as quickly as I could with my stabilization brace on my ankle, remembered to remove my helmet and gloves and headed out for a mile run. On the return at about .75 miles I remembered I didn’t take my electrolyte supplements. The reminder was the subtle cramp I felt forming in my quads. This is something I am doing everything to prevent. Both legs cramped up in my last half iron triathlon around the .75 mile mark off the bike. It didn’t happen the year before,  I remembered to take more electrolytes and I wore compression sleeves on my calves. Last year I didn’t take as many supplements and didn’t wear the sleeves. I am going to add both in my training next week and see if it makes a difference.

The weather today was warm, but most of my ride was overcast. Perfect for racing. Tomorrow I run the 5.25 mile race. Of course the weather is forecasting mostly cloudy until 8:00 AM, mostly sunny from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM and then a higher chance of clouds and rain after 11:00 AM. The race starts at 9:00 AM – right in the middle of the hot sun. My hope is that the forecast is as reliable as it has been and the clouds will last longer. Regardless of a ride, a run, a brick workout or a race – there are things I can control and things I can not. My preparation, rest, fuel, hydration, supplements and attire are up to me. The weather and many other things are out of my hands. Does that stop me from being nervous? Of course not, it is a race. I always get pre-race nerves. However I have faith and I Believe. Regardless of the weather and the results, I will enjoy the event. It is my hometown race, many friends will be there and we are celebrating together afterwards. What could be better?

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Blossoming Into Summer

After nearly six weeks of pampering my sprained ankle I ventured into the pool without an ankle brace. I also brought my fins for a kick set. I am back! My swim this morning was a very good one. I did my usual 1,000 meter warm up which included 200 meters of kicking. It felt good, my ankle was a little strained at first, but adapted quickly. I also incorporated my flip turns. I swam a total of 2,500 meters.

Over the past six weeks I have noticed my times were a bit slower than before my injury. I am sure I was a bit more gentle on my ankle, but this morning everything was in sync. My main set included two 500 meter pyramids – building up 25 – 50 – 75 – 100 meters and then back down. My times were all within my goal times – before my injury. Seeing my times was so encouraging to me. Swimming continues to be the most challenging sport in triathlon for me to see large improvements. This morning was just what I needed.

With Memorial Day weekend here, so too is the unofficial start of Summer. My hometown celebrates with a weekend long event called Blossom Time. Everything a Norman Rockwell style town would have – hot air balloon races, a carnival with rides, parades, bands and of course a 5.25 mile race on Sunday morning. A runner living in Chagrin Falls has little excuse not to participate in the race, so far be it from me to not support my local community. I will be running in the race on Sunday. Notice I didn’t write “racing on Sunday.” I am incorporating it into my 7 mile long run scheduled for Sunday.

With my ankle improving, my swim back to normal, and running a race this weekend – I too feel that I am “Blossoming” as Summer approaches. I have been down with not being able to do all I want to do, now that is changing and just in time for summer. The responsible voice is reminding me to take it carefully – within the realm of enjoying Summer training of course. Seize the day – because time slips away just like hour glass sand… And that is what I intend to do.

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Training with The Princess Bride

Today was my catch up day – I got my ride in on my stationary bike this morning and I ran this afternoon. While the ride was a good workout, it just is nothing like cycling outside. The most enjoyable part of my ride this morning was watching the first 45 minutes of one of my all time favorite movies The Princess Bride. It is a motivating love story to watch while cycling. “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” He trained all his life and repeated that mantra to be the best swordsman in order to avenge his father’s death. That is determination.

My run this evening was dragging. I know, another movie quote “Inconceivable!” I much prefer running in the morning with the crisp early morning air, my legs are fresh, and it energizes me through the day. This evening I felt sluggish, it was hot, and the air was heavy with humidity. But it still was a run, and that is a good thing. I am energized, yet I know I will be able to sleep well. And soon.

What I like most about the movie is that even though it has a happy ending, there was plenty of struggles, doubts, and challenges along with humor and thrilling moments, very much like training. We go through challenges swimming as if we are amongst eels, climb hills on our bikes that could be cliffs of insanity, and running through what seems like the fire swamps being chased by ROUSes. But there are the victorious moments, when our hard training has paid off, we conquer our fears, and cross the finish line. And that is a happy ending that is the result of determination and not just a wish.

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Zzzzzz Or Lack There Of

I have written before on the importance of sleep. My inspiration to write on sleep comes when I suffer from deprivation of it, such as today. Last night I had the opportunity to have dinner with a new friend and I was out later than usual for a week night. Here comes the pathetic part – I was home and in bed by 11:00. Usually by 11:00 at night I have been sleeping for at least an hour and a half. Since this was a swim morning with my training partner, I was up by 4:45 to get to the pool in time to meet her. So instead of my usual seven to eight hours of sleep, I had about five and a half.

When swimming 2,500 meters in the morning, I have found five and a half hours of sleep is not sufficient. Today was proof. I did have a good swim, in fact we compared our times today from May last year and we both are considerably faster. And last year we were swimming most of our swim sets with fins. Now it is all body power. I did swim most of my swim without my ankle brace too. My fatigue set in later in the morning and no amount of caffein was going to change it. As a result, my cycle workout that I should have done this evening outside in the beautiful weather now will take place on a stationary tomorrow morning.

Flexibility is important within my training schedule, or I may never have a social life, however I am committed to my training and I do not like it when I skip a workout. Fortunately this is a recovery week, so I won’t completely miss a workout, I am just juggling things around a bit. As for the recovery part – my lack of sleep is not helping there. I don’t think lost sleep can be made up, but I have no intentions of losing any more.  Enjoying each day is so important to me, despite my sleepiness, I had a good swim, chatted with my dear friend in the hot tub after, appreciated the beautiful sunshine today and now I am going to seize the night – and sleep.


Peaking is Believing

This morning I went to the gym with the intention of running my speed intervals. I wasn’t quite sure if I would be able to run that hard considering my quads were still burning when I woke up. I figured I would warm up and decide if I would run what I had scheduled or swap with Thursday’s easy 4 mile run. When I hit the treadmill starting at a very easy pace, I quickly thought – nope this is an easy run day. My legs hurt.

But I am not one to throw in the towel quickly. So I thought I would give it one try at a 400 speed lap. I learned something this morning. Running faster does not hurt as much as jogging when recovering from a race. So I ran. I had a good workout – 7 sets of quarter mile repeats, or close to 400 meters, with approximately 200 meter walking recoveries in between. I was progressively faster with each set, starting at 6.8 (8:50 minute mile) and increasing each time by 0.1 for the first 5, reaching 7.2 (8:20 minute mile). The last two were also at 7.2. I am breaking a mental as well as physical barrier. Believing I can run fast is starting to move that long distance from my head to my heart. I also shared my training results with my running friend who helped me set this plan up. If I don’t get the belief to my heart, I think he will pound it in. I am working on my own believing, thank you.

Sometimes it really takes at least a peak to believe. The adage “seeing is believing” doesn’t help much with blind faith, but with running it sure gives me greater hope that I will continue to progress. Having a workout like today, two days after a half marathon race, proves that my little hidden doubts are wrong. I. Am. Able. It will take persistence, hard work, and staying healthy – all three I intend to do. Runners have a saying “Even a bad day with a run is better than a good day without a run.” Well today was both – a good day with a good run. And I believe I will have many more.