elisariva

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


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August Goals and the Fountain of Youth

With the turn of the calendar page the end of July is here. As I have done each month, it is time to review my goals for July and look forward to my goals for August. Similar to training with someone helps me give the workout my all, posting my goals helps keep me accountable. Through the year I am learning more and more about goal setting when it come to triathlon. Basically it comes down to what I have the most control over – my workout schedule and intensity – and what I would like to see result from my training. Of course I have time goals for my races, hitting or surpassing those goals depend not just on my training but so many other conditions on race day.

So in review, for July my first goal was to finish my triathlon on July 1st within 1:45. I finished 1:48:30 – close, but not quite there. After assessing my race I determined it was the swim that mostly set me back. My stroke contributed mostly, I was not as efficient with my stroke as I am now. It was that race and then the time trial I did the following week that set me seeking a better way. So far I believe I have found it, so I see the “miss” of my goal as a stepping stone to further improve my ability. My run in that race was also about a minute off. I have spent a month now working with a trainer and I am seeing improvement in my run – more on that shortly. My second goal was to ramp up my cycling mileage – mission accomplished. In June I road 141.3 miles, in July I road 346.3 miles. Almost 2.5 times more in distance. I am seeing the improvement too, I feel stronger and my pace is improving. Now back to running. I started July working with a trainer from my gym. She sets my training schedule, working around my triathlon schedule, and we emailed through the month with results. It worked very well and I am anxious to see how August goes. For July I also ramped up my mileage on the run – I ran 107 miles, compared 56.3 miles in June. It has been almost 4 months since I sprained my ankle and now I ran over 100 miles in July. I am very happy with my training and progress through July.

Tomorrow August begins. A month known for preparation for autumn for many. For me it is preparation for the half iron distance triathlon in September. Before I get to the big race I have a sprint triathlon this weekend. I must say this race is the most special race. It is where triathlon reawakened me and where it was first introduced to my training partner. After a seven year hiatus from triathlon, in June of 2009 I decided to do a sprint triathlon that August. My friend came out to see me race. After the race I knew I wanted to do more and my friend wanted to try – well now she is my training partner and this will be our third year in a row to do this race together, my fourth year back in triathlon. It is also the only sprint I have done three seasons in a row with the same distance so my wish goal is to PR this race. My PR right now is 1:41:40. I am setting 1:35 as my goal. The swim will be a big determinant. The lake is very rough and last year instead of canceling the swim athletes could attempt to swim it or jog with feet in the water – it was that rough. I did a little of both. My swim is much stronger this year – I plan on only swimming. As for my training goals, I want to continue fine tuning my swim to keep the efficiency going I have developed. On the bike I want to get a few more long rides in with 3 mile run in after to get a strong foundation for my big race. And on the run I look forward to the workouts my trainer has set for me. This morning I ran my speed workout covering a total of 6 miles. My 800 repeats were both under 4:30 and my 400 repeats were between 2:05-2:01. The best part – my maximum heart rate was 153, right at my anaerobic threshold. Every other speed workout this month my maximum heart rate ranged from 156 to 159. I am running faster and my heart rate is lower – I am becoming more efficient. Now to get even faster without increasing my heart rate much…

Setting and reviewing goals each month is also another way for recording the passing of time. Today is a landmark day for one of my friends. She is fifty today. Do not let that number fool you. She is a runner too. In the past twelve months she has PR’d the following races: 5K at 20:56, 4 mile at 28:45, 5 mile at 37:25, 10 mile at 1:10:29 and half marathon at 1:38:11. She did not PR the10K or marathon because she didn’t race them in the past twelve month. That said her last marathon was Boston in 2011 at 3:49 and her last 10K was a PR in November 2010 at 46:54. She continues to improve regardless of age. She posted this today “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” So true. We may not all be blessed with physical abilities to improve like my friend has with age, but that does not apply to our minds and our will. Live with a mind set of being forever young, that is the key to finding the fountain of youth.


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Not Alone in a Great Day

A good training day for me is when both workouts in a day go well. A great training day is when it happens for both me and my training partner. Today was a great day. The day started as so many Mondays do, we met at 6:15 to swim. (well maybe 6:23, I was a little late…) The workout was 2,500 meters with a warm up of 6 x 75 meters. My first 75 meters I completed in 1:26 – usually I am 1:30 to 1:33. I did all within 1:26 to 1:28. The main set was made up of intervals of 2 x 200, 100, 2 x 200, 100, 2 x 300. Every time I was staying between 2:02 to 2:04 per 100 meter pace. Wow. My friend is a faster swimmer than I. She is fairly consistent with 1:50 per 100 meters. While I still take longer than her to finish, the gap is narrowing and she doesn’t have to hang in the hot tub waiting for me as long as she used to. We both had good swims this morning. It is very encouraging for me to get closer to her pace and I can see the happiness she has for me to see me progressing.

After work we met to ride along the river like last week. We have a race this weekend, so we only road 20 miles. All season this year she has been frustrated with her cycling pace. She is a good swimmer as well as runner but her bike pace just doesn’t match her ability in the other two sports. I have been frustrated for her as well. We do the same weight workouts included the same weight levels, she has a better aerobic capacity than I do, yet I have been able to significantly out ride her. From training so much with her, I really believe she is able to get more out of the bike. After our ride on Saturday she had mentioned she is having trouble unclipping from her pedals at stops. I suggested she have the pedals adjusted. She also thought she should have a fitting done too. She has been a little uncomfortable on the ride. After her long run Sunday she had the bike fitted. Today we headed out and within the first three miles I looked over my shoulder to see where she was. Last week at the same spot I couldn’t see her. Today she actually startled me, she was right on my wheel. And she stayed there for the 20 mile ride. I loved it. We both couldn’t believe a little adjusting to her bike and she was using the power I knew she had. It made me ride faster too. I wanted to get her to keep up and she did. It was such a great ride to stay together and both be very happy with our pace.

The encouragement of a friend is one of the most meaningful things in life. Yes we have to believe in ourselves to realize our potential, but sometimes the belief starts with a friend pointing it out. Never did my friend tell me she didn’t think I could get faster in the pool. She always has encouraged me when I made advancements and reminded me that life is not linear when I had bad days. To see her joy today when she saw what she was capable of made me feel just as joyful for her. Being able to share our achievements together made today all the more special. This journey through life was not meant to be traveled alone. Friends and loved ones, family by birth or by choice, make each moment special. As Pearl Jam phrased it in Breathe, I am lucky – blessed – to be able to count on both hands the ones that I love. Let’s get counting.


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A Long Run and a World Record

Today was absolutely lovely with plenty of sunshine and cooler temperatures in the low 70’s. I headed out on my long run for 10 miles. Quickly I learned that plenty of sunshine can make 72 degrees seem much hotter than I had thought. Over all my run went very well. The best part was that I was able to keep my heart rate down and pick up my pace. I think I am going to create a new term – ROLF.  Swimming has SWOLF so why can’t running have a score to strive to improve? Keeping in line with the golf score analogy, ROLF would be the sum of average heart rate plus average pace per mile. I don’t know if it will catch on, but for my long run I am currently at 141 (128 + 13) for my score and I want to get to  136.5 (125 + 11.5). Something to strive toward.

After my long run I did 8 excels for 20 seconds each with 20 seconds recovery. After running 10 miles I took time to stretch out and then headed to the road that goes over a dam in my neighborhood. It is nice and flat to run across. I was surprised at how fast I could go, even for just 20 seconds, after running 10 miles. My fastest pace was 6:18 minutes per mile and my fastest steps per minute hit 99. What amazed me was how many runners I know that run in the 6:00 to 7:00 pace for long courses. For me it took all I had to reach that pace and it was only for 20 seconds. I truly respect runners who are able to run at that pace. If I can race long races under 9:00 pace I will be very happy.

As the Olympic games continue, each day brings thrills and surprises. Swimming is one of my favorite sports to watch and we have had plenty of thrills and surprises in just two days. As I started typing this evening I took a break to watch the televised presentation of the medal ceremony for the women’s 100 meter butterfly. Dana Vollmer not only won gold, but she broke the world record. Talk about talent. I must admit, every time I hear the USA national anthem, I get choked up with a tear or two when “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!” The best part was watching Dana sing along. I enjoy watching all athletes from every country compete and give it their best. Seeing my fellow country men and women win gold makes it even more special. Go World.


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Rain, Hills, and a Ride

“Be careful what you wish for.” A very common warning many of us have heard. With the drought that we have been experiencing this summer, rain has been a welcomed occurance. Unless I have a long ride scheduled. This morning I drove to the Cuyahoga National Park to meet my training partner. It had rained most of the night and a storm came through early today. As I drove to the park the rain lightened to a drizzle. Just in case, I brought two pairs of running shorts in the event we decided to get our long run in if the rain came back. While I didn’t go very far in girl scouts, I have learned to be prepared.

By the time we met up, the sun was coming out so we decided to ride. I mapped out a 13 mile loop that has three hills, one is significant, one medium and one not too bad. We ended up riding 4 loops for 52 miles. I had an 8 mile add on loop for 60, but time was running out as well as patience. Good thing we decided it before we started the last loop too. With three miles left on the ride the sky turned dark and I could see on the horizon rain was falling. I did get caught in the rain the last mile but it was just starting and wasn’t pelting down.

As I road the loop I noticed that a few areas in pervious years were challenging were not too bad today. The hill work I have been doing is paying off. The terrain today was much closer to what I will be riding in the race in September, so I was encouraged. Sometimes things that seem like obstacles turn out to be helpful. The rain stayed away for our ride, but also cooled things down and it was perfect to ride – lower 70’s. The hills I ride by my home can be frustrating because they slow me down. As a result I am strong and getting faster. So when hills and rain get in the way, I will conquer them. I won’t let a few bumps in the road or drops of water get me down.


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Let the Games Begin

The day I have waited for is here. The opening of the Olympics. Just tomorrow the swimming events get underway too. What an exciting time. Go USA, Go World. I look forward to the records that will be broken, the narrow wins, and the moving medal ceremonies. As the days pass I am sure there will be many blogs about the events. I look forward to the updates.

This morning I swam outside and unlike on Wednesday, my game was back. I had a great swim. I stayed within the beeps of my tempo trainer, keeping the long stroke going. The main set was a total of 1,800 meters. I was very pleased with my first 400 – I did it in 8:17, just over 2:04 per 100 meters. After that I swam 4 x 100 and those were even better. My first two I came in right on 2:00 and the second two I came in on 1:58. The rest of the main set was a 300, 3×100, 200, and 2×100. All were strong with my worst 100 pace being 2:03. I felt very good and encouraged about my progress. I can only imagine what Olympians feel when they swim 200 meters in half of the time I do – or faster…

This afternoon I had a tempo run to make up from last week. I went to my gym to run on the treadmills there. The workout starts with a two mile warm up, with each half mile I would increase my pace a bit. The goal of the tempo run is to run 3 miles staying in my zone 4 with my heart rate in the 153 to 163 zone. Once I started my 3 mile tempo run it took me a half mile to get to my zone 4. From there I was able to maintain it. It was challenging, but I pushed through. I kept focusing on my quick step and was able to stay between 86 to 90 steps per minute according to my foot pod, which equates to 172 to 180 steps per minute for both feet. Keeping my heart rate within the zone was a focus too. When it would get up to 159 I would back down the pace and when it would get to 153 I would increase it. For the three miles I averaged close to 9:25 per mile pace. For me – that was an Olympic accomplishment.

Little markers of advancement are just as good as medals when the fruits of hard training are visible. I know there will be days when I don’t see it, like on Wednesday, but that is not the norm. Days like today encourage me to go on. Days like Wednesday keep me humble – aware that I am human and set backs are a part of life. Now it is almost time for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. The two weeks to come will show many moments of joy as well as those athletes who experience “the agony of defeat.” But all of the athletes made it there because they train hard and also are gifted. Let’s celebrate all of the athletes’ big, and little, achievements.


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Counting

This morning the heat was on high outside as I headed out for my run. It was over 80 degrees before 7:00 AM. Fortunately it was cloudy, although humid. By the time I hit the mile two mark the rain came. I loved it. It was a light rain, enough to cool me down but not interfere with my run or worse yet, harm my iPhone that was strapped to my arm. Throughout my six mile run the skies would clear then sprinkle again. It was an “easy” run which actually is getting easier. I am getting faster at running slower, if that makes any sense. I was able to keep my heart rate within my target zone, run more, walk less, and run faster.

Since I am working on getting my cadence up to 180 steps per minute I tried a little pacing drill I read about. Just like in dancing it was a “three step” movement. Being able to take three steps a second would get me to 180 steps per minute. So I found myself doing two things: first thinking with each step quickly “One, two, three. One, two, three.” As each foot struck. Second I would strike the ground with determination on the one beat. My watch would show that my steps per minute on one foot ranged between 86 to 90 when I would do this. My pace picked up too. However so would my heart rate, so I would have to slow it down occasionally to bring my heart rate back within my target range. Now I am looking for music that matches the three step beat to help get me going. My only hope is that I don’t start doing a little dancing to the beat when cars are driving by…

Counting has become a common thread in my training. In the pool I am counting strokes with the goal to reduce strokes and reduce time. There actually is a name for this: SWOLF. Google it, I got 1,300,000 results. My Garmin Forerunner 910XT counts it too. It comes from smashing “swimming” and “golf” together and is calculated by adding the time it takes to cover a distance plus the number of strokes. Say I swim 25 meters in 28 seconds taking 24 strokes. My SWOLF for 25 meters is 52. Lower is better, so I should strive to reduce my score, just like in golf. I am counting steps now too on the run, but I want more steps in a minute and I want to run faster. To the best of my knowledge there is not a name for this. (Other than crazy for counting steps on a run.) Fortunately I do not count on the bike, other than the number of rude drivers that pass me.

This also reminds me of lyrics from a song I referenced I while back. “Teach us to count the days. Teach us to make the days count.” And that is what it is all about. Counting days, strokes, steps – are all important to accomplish goals. But also making the days, strokes, steps count. Even though we are in the dog days of summer and the sunlight lasts far longer than the night, days are still short. Each one should count, because each day we are given is the only day we know we have. Encouraging someone getting into fitness, pacing a slower runner just to spend time with a friend, or even just smiling at a stranger walking past – little things that help make it count. And hopefully motivates someone to pass it on.

 


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An Off Day

I have never been one to be early to anything except movies. I am usually right on time, maybe a minute or two late. If I am late, I always call or text who I am meeting to let them know. My training partner is always early. She knows I feel bad about it because I don’t like to keep her waiting. Time after time she has told me she does not mind at all. This morning as I was leaving my house to load my gym bag in the car to meet her at the pool, she called. Her first words were “don’t be mad, I am already here.” I chuckled because I wasn’t mad at all. Her next comment did not make me happy. She goes on to say “the gym is closed, the entire area is without power. I am driving to your house to take a shower.” While I was not happy that I couldn’t swim this morning, I must admit I just love that she is early and will never comment about it again.

Since we didn’t get to swim this morning we decided to swim after work and probably skip the cycle workout that was scheduled this afternoon. There is a good chance of thunderstorms on Friday and we may not get to swim then, so we didn’t want to miss two swims this week. Also, Saturday is looking wonderful and we are riding 60 miles then. By the time I got to work this morning I was ready for a nap. This may sound silly, but I am more awake after a hard workout in the morning. Besides, chlorine in the morning is just as potent as a double espresso. I was a little concerned about swimming after work. Most of my late day swims have been lethargic. Well I was very consistent in my swim this afternoon. Consistently off by 5 to 8 seconds per 100 meters. I was focusing on my tempo trainer, working on my slow but gliding stroke and kicking. I was beginning to think there was some current in the pool pushing me back, but I was just off my game today. We swam 3,000 meters with the main set of 1,900 made up of descending intervals of 550/450/350/250/150/100/50. My average pace was about 2:10 per 100 meters. For a “slow” workout at the end of the day I realized I shouldn’t be too disappointed. When I did my 1,500 time trial that really upset me early this month I averaged 2:09. And it was in the morning and I felt fresh.

Some days, like today, plans don’t always go as expected. No matter how well trained, some workouts are just off. I know I would rather the “off” days be training days and not race days. I have written on flexibility and every time I am challenged to bend I look for the good in it. Today my good is my expectations within just this month have risen in my swim ability. There is always something, even the tiniest, that is good in each day. Seize it and share it.


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Changes and Flexibility

Tuesdays are well known to many runners as speed workout days. This morning was my speed workout as usual. Today I ran a 2 mile warm up and then into 4 x 800 meter repeats. I ran them between 4:23 to 4:26, it was a challenge, but I felt good. Next I ran 4 x 200 meter repeats to get my legs turning quickly – all within 58 seconds to a minute. Since I wear a foot pod when I run I am able to track my steps per minute. Legendary running coach Jack Daniels noted that the most successful long distance runners take 180 steps per minute, or 90 steps per foot. For most of my runs I take 81 to 83 per for or 162 to 166 steps per minute. Running quickly with the 200 repeats helps get my motor skills accustomed to a faster turnover. It is a different way to run for me, but it is working. I did notice today that when I went into my mile cool down my pace slowed and it felt different. Hopefully in time it will become a natural feeling.

This afternoon I lifted weights and felt the fatigue in my legs from my run this morning. I am not sore, at least today. My training partner lifted with me and I introduced her to the new ab workout. I felt the burn when I did mountain climber and again for all sets, 30 seconds is much longer than I had thought. Both of us agree we felt good after, like my run, we shall see if soreness surfaces tomorrow.

No matter how long I am involved in the sports I train for, there is always something new to learn. Something has changed and what was once good (bouncing when stretching) no longer is good (better to hold the stretch). Running shoes went from little support, to many different types of support, back to “minimalist”. Stroke fast when swimming, stroke slow and glide. Carbo load before races has been the popular guide, now some studies suggest it does not make a big difference. Crunches to tighten abdominals has been the norm, now I am learning holding the core in plank poses is more effective. Some of the changes do make a difference, at least for me. I still prefer my stability running shoes, my slower stroke is speeding me up in the pool and my faster cadence is helping me run faster. Holding a stretch is by far better than bounce, and this helps with flexibility. Mental flexibility is also important. Without changing our core beliefs – in sports and in all aspects of life – being flexible to different approaches can do a body, and soul, some good.


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Little Improvements

After a week of training by myself I had a very nice treat today. My training partner, fresh  from vacation, joined me on both my workouts today. This morning we swam 2,500 meters. It was the first time she had seen me do my superman kick drills. I am not making her do them so she is just fine watching me float and kick while she swishes past me. Our main set was 1,900 meters made up of three 500 meter pyramids (25/50/75/100/100/75/50/25) with a 200 meter pull in between. There is something to this Total Immersion technique. I was very consistent with my pace. I did all on a factor of a 2:15/100 send off. My first two 100 meter sets were 2:04 and 2:06 – I didn’t like the 2:06. The next set both were 2:04 and in the third set I came in at 2:03 and 2:04. The lifeguard who taught me to do flip turns commented he could tell my speed is picking up. He asked me if I felt faster. I had to pause because my frame of reference to fast in swimming is associated with out of breath. I wasn’t at all but I could tell I was gliding through the water quicker. I guess I have to adjust my frame of reference.

This afternoon my training partner and I met up after work at the road that runs along the river to ride. It was hot – at least 93 degrees. We decided to tackle the ride. Our big race is September 9th, with the weather this year it is not likely to be the typical cooler temperature in early September that we have experienced in the past. This would be good preparation. We road just shy of 23 miles. I must say, the road has rolling hills, but they are not as difficult to tackle when I start out fresh. In the past I would get to the area after riding 20 miles in the hillier areas. Again my pride was challenged along the ride. I was coming up on a woman riding a mountain bike and I was just about to pass her when I heard a swooshing sound as a man zips right on past both of us. I still passed the woman and reminded myself this is my ride and I am testing my pace. It was a good ride despite the weather, there was plenty of shade along the way as well as a decent wind. I was a bit faster than Saturday’s long ride, so I felt a little progress.

I really enjoyed today. My friend is back, we had good workouts, and I am realizing that little improvements are still improvement. I wish I could improve in a straight line with a positive slope. But training, like life, is much more like the rolling hills I road today, especially the ride back. We had rolling hills, but a net gain in elevation. A much more challenging ride than a down hill ride, but in the end, I am stronger for it.

 


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A Little Company

There was a time when I would gear up for my most challenging workout of the week – my long run. That was thirteen years ago when I was training for my first marathon. Now that triathlon has been entered into the mix, my long run today has become “only 9 miles”. Yes, after riding 52 miles followed by a 2 mile run yesterday, 9 miles is a bit of a relief.

Now, my run was not without challenges today. Primarily the temperature. The moderate climate of yesterday is gone and the heat has returned. Most of my run was in full sun and temperatures between 78 and 83. And then there are the hills. It is also labeled “easy” run, which means staying in my zone two to three being able to keep a conversation. That was put to the test twice along my run as well. Between miles 1 and 2 I ran past a friend’s house and he was out on his run too. He runs in the 8 minute range for easy runs and was kind enough to jog with me while we were climbing the steepest hill on my run. I was able to talk, albeit in a much more winded capacity than he.

I took a different path and went down a side street saying farewell to my brief running companion.  The road is a cul-de-sac and I reemerged on the main road now with 3.25 miles behind me. Running toward me was another friend who is also training for the half iron triathlon I am doing in September. He also did the race I did early this month and is a much faster triathlete than me. After running 9 miles, he crossed the road and ran with me until just before my 4.5 mile turnaround point. It was a bit of a cool down for him, but I did pick up my pace. I would check my GPS and I was running between 9:50 to 10:10 pace and still keeping my heart rate in zone 3, but at the high end. Poor guy, he even walked with me twice when my heart rate crossed 150. I do try to keep my heart rate under 140, so I had to walk twice. While we were running, most of the time I could keep the conversation going. Through the entire 9 miles my heart rate averaged 135 and it maxed at 153, which is right at my current anaerobic threshold. This was my fastest pace running outside while keeping my heart rate down. I was very encouraged.

So much of my training is done by myself. Even though my training partner (who is back from vacation today, happy dance) swims with me, swimming by nature is also a solitary sport. Yesterday on my ride a guy came up next to me and road with me for a couple miles until we went different ways. Today I was able to run a brief period with friends as well. Having the company and brief conversation was a nice break in the action. I enjoy training by myself, it gives me time to think, process everything on my mind and pray too. But also having company, especially with others who appreciate the craziness of the training we do, is a treat. A reminder that I am not alone and there are many others on similar journeys.