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

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Appreciating Days

It is the end of August – the year is two thirds over and with Labor Day weekend, summer is unofficially over. One more week until my race, which marks the end of triathlon season for me. Wow, time is just flashing by. My taper is in full swing, I swam 2,000 meters this morning. Just a few repeats of 300’s, 200’s, and 100’s. I am fighting the thoughts that I should do more – but this is taper. As summer is winding down, so too is my intense training until race day.

With the end of August and the welcome of September, it is time to review goals and set new ones. My August goals began with my sprint race expectations – I wanted to complete it in 1:35 – it in did 1:35:26 according to the official time. It was a bitter sweet achievement. I was very happy with my swim. The conditions were utterly terrible. I stayed consistent with my stroke and made it through. Horrifically, a first time triathlete, unfamiliar with such tough water, drown. He was a young father and his family was there on the beach. So with my achievement, I will also have the sadness of tragedy. My training goals were to continue my efficiency improvement in swimming, that I have been able to do. My feeling of accomplishment is so strong. Swimming has been by far my weakest link. To see the improvement I have made in such a short time gives me further hope. In cycling I wanted to get my long rides in and a little running after to acclimate my legs. I was able to get two 50 mile rides and a 60 mile ride in with running after. I feel prepared. My running goals were to continue to work with my trainer and focus on faster paces at lower heart rate zones. My test last week showed I have done just that. Again, encouragement in my second weakest sport.

Now on to September. On September 9th I will participate in my fourth half iron distance triathlon, the third year in a row on the same course. Overall I would love to break 6:30. Last year I was at 6:51. By segments: the swim my goal time is 40 minutes or better, the bike I hope to average 17.5 miles per hour for a time of 3:12, and the run would be thrilling to complete in 2:25 or better. Transitions are also where I have to pick up the pace. Once the race is over I will have a few days rest and then my marathon training begins. Note – my sister recently told me moss sure doesn’t grow under my feet. Reading what I do, I see her point. I have a half marathon race on September 29th in my home town of Akron. It is a well organized and attended race, I look forward to it. Will it be a PR? I would like to, I set my PR in February at 2:19:19. To break that seven months later would be nice. As for my training, I will be focusing on running but I can not give up the pool. I plan on swimming two to three times a week. If my schedule allows, I do want to get out on the bike or on my stationary bike at least once a week.

With so much to do and only 30 days in September to do it, I must remember that it is made up of 30 individual days. I am learning more and more that while my calendar lists the workouts for the day, sometimes circumstances will require modifications. I want to appreciate each day, each loved one, and each experience – good and bad. There is always something to learn. Which reminds me of one more goal – to go the entire month without locking my key in my car… unlike July and August.

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Listening To My Heart

I have been good at listening to my body, but it doesn’t mean I have to like what I hear. This morning my resting heart rate was 64. That is what it is when I am strolling, not laying in bed. I really wanted to get my tempo run in before work, but I knew that was not the smartest thing to do when I clearly needed rest. So I slept a bit more.

It didn’t help. All morning I was dragging and wanted to go back to bed. I had several important meetings at work today, so I relied on caffeine to get me through. I was able to leave after my meetings and get to the gym. I ran a modified tempo run – a mile warm up and four miles at my target race pace for the triathlon, between 10:45 and 11:00 minute pace. After a total of five miles I walked a quarter mile cool down. I was tired during my run, but it still felt good. My heart rate stayed in the upper end of my zone three, which is what I was going for. All in all I felt good during the run.

After I headed outside and took a nap in the sun by the pool. It closes Monday, so I am literally soaking it in while it lasts. When I awoke I glanced at my heart rate monitor – 87. I am napping and my heart rate is almost double what is should be. I am sure my tiredness coupled with the caffeine is at fault. Oh and maybe the run…

So now I will be able to get to bed early and hopefully get the rest I need. Even though I was a bit out of it today – I had a good run, I got to nap in the sun, and made a new friend as a result of one of my meetings. See, each day has good parts. All I have to do is look for it.


Food For Thought

It seems that nutrition has been a popular topic I have come across lately. My trainer recommended a book to read on nutritional periodization, a fellow blogger Bgddy Jim and I trade somewhat opposing ideas on nutrition, and then today at work we had another lunch meeting with a nutritionist from The Cleveland Clinic. The irony here is that all three sources do not line up. The nutritionist from the Clinic targets more the “average” person, not athlete, and stresses how no added sugar and very little sodium is the way to go. Bgddy Jim – bless his heart – is all for Whoppers, onion rings and sugar sodas. Don’t laugh – he is an incredible cyclist, at least 6 foot tall and under 160 pounds. (sorry if I am off on the stats, but think very athletic, muscular and no fat). The book on nutritional periodization, which is focused on endurance athletes, targets lean protein, carbs mostly from fruits and vegetables, and whole grains when exercise is at peak. The author also stresses the need for sodium and some simple sugars during exercise.

I have been eating mostly in line with the book titled Nutrition Periodization for Athletes by Bob Seebohar. Sorry Jim – I don’t eat meat anymore, never was an onion ring fan, although I will admit I drank a diet Coke today because I had a long drive and was sleepy… With the amount of exercise I do, sodium for me is a necessity. I sweat it out faster than I can replace it. Since I made the changes, I have noticed improvements. I do think it has helped improve my metabolism which my test last week noted. As for added sugar – in endurance sports longer than 90 minutes, refueling is essential and sports gels, energy bars, and chews are simple sugars that do the trick.

My training today began with my swim – my last 2,500 meter distance swim before the race. The main set was the familiar 19 x 100 meter repeats. I averaged 2:03 per 100 meters. If I am able to keep that pace in the race, it will be a great swim. This evening I really wanted to get a ride in. I got home close to 7:00 after all I had to do, so I made it to the basement to get a quick ride in and give my legs some exercise. While I am tapering, I don’t want my muscles to forget what they have to do in the race soon. Preparation is more than exercise too – metal preparation I have worked quite a bit on, and nutrition has also played a part.

There is so much to noodle on when it comes to nutrition. (haha, pun intended) How ridged to be? I play by the 90/10 rule. Most of the time (90%) I am spot on good and follow the rules. But there is the 10% time when I indulge a bit – a little ice cream, reduced fat kettle potato chips (gasp! yes it is true), and a nice glass of wine… or two. But don’t forget the Ms. Type A Detail Junky I am – I keep track of ever calorie burned and consumed on My Fitness Pal. A little something to keep me in line, because I want to enjoy each day – just not over do it.


Positive Slope

Every day has something good in it. The thought actually crossed my mind to repeat that phrase over and over like a student in detention would write on a chalk board. Repetition causes …. Belief.  Ah there is the word – Believe. And I do believe this to be true. My good thing today was the start of my day – my run. I just saw a picture a friend shared on Facebook “I really regret that run. – Said no one. Ever” For me this is true. This morning I ran my speed workout on the treadmill at my gym. A two mile warm up followed by 6 x 400 (quarter mile) repeats – all I did between 2:05 down to 2:00. This was followed by 8 x 200 pick ups that I ran all around 53 seconds. My cool down was a mile. I felt good the entire time. Even a treadmill run gives me energy, which I needed today.

Nothing terrible happened today, I just was not in the mood for today. Because of my refrigerator delivery, I had to juggle things around which ended with me coming home from work after 7:00 – no ride tonight. The plan now is to get a ride in tomorrow evening and on Thursday. It is frustrating when the things I have to do get in the way of the things I want, and enjoy, to do. When I looked up the quote on running it linked me to another page on Facebook filled with motivational sayings. One that struck me is “Your life is your message to the world. Make it inspiriting.” At first thought it gave me images of never complaining, living a life of meaning, travel, happiness. But that is fiction, not life.

Things we have to do are not always inspiring. However how we go about it and what we choose to focus on can be inspiring. And like reality as apposed to fiction, I am far from perfect in this category as well.  So much is out of my control, very little actually is in my control. That is not easy for me, type A with controlling tendencies, to accept. But like in my swimming and running, I am improving. I may have off days and be stagnant or even reverse course a bit. But the net affect is a positive slope. Positive slopes lead to improvement and advancement, and that is inspiring. (and we thought geometry would never be applicable after high school…)


Excitement in Anticipation

My official taper has begun. As if the weather forecast knew I had flexibility in my schedule this week, the skies opened up and rained shortly after I finished my swim outside this morning and continued all day. As a result, I am moving by cycling workout from tonight to tomorrow. The weather looks better and I am happy to have the evening off after my roller coaster weekend. This morning we swam 2,500 meters with a main set of 1,800 meters made up of 6 repeats each of 150, 100, and 50 meters. Doesn’t sound like much of a taper, but it is. We are starting gradually…. I was very happy with my pace, more encouragement to bank in my “you can do this” self chant.

Anticipation comes with tapering for a race, at least for me. My busy schedule is slowing and I await the big event I have been training for all year. I spent all winter and a good amount of spring swimming five to six times a week to get stronger, cycling hills and hills to prepare my legs for the bike, and I have run – through a sprained ankle too – to develop stronger legs and lungs for an improved run. I also love running in and of itself – there are many running races on my schedule this year. But this is one of my biggest races in the year and all of the training has brought me to these two weeks of tapering and anticipation.

“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting” – Andy Warhol

“…but without excitement, you have nothing. You’re cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what’s coming.” – Nicholas Sparks, “Three Weeks With My Brother”

I did a little research on Good Reads and found these quotes. Two very different people, yet both saw the excitement in the anticipation. Rather than fret and develop nerves over what is to come, I will enjoy the excitement of these two weeks. Because in a blink of an eye, or rather 6 and a half hours or more, it will be over. Of course I will be planning my next big race within 24 hours of crossing the finish… But all the more to create excitement for what is to come and enjoy each day as I live it.

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Roll With It

When life is too much, roll with it, baby
Don’t stop and lose your touch, oh no, baby – Steve Winwood

Mr. Winwood released Roll With It the year I graduated from college. And 24 years later I am here to tell you that I did just that – I rolled with it. Yesterday afternoon I came home to find a puddle in front of my freezer in my kitchen. At first glance I thought I had left the freezer door ajar, so I threw out what was thawed and ruined, turned the temperate on high and made sure the door was shut. Odd thing though – the refrigerator side was also feeling a not as cool as it should. Playing it safe, I took my dairy and perishables out and put them in my back up refrigerator in the garage. A must for anyone – it comes in handy for more than storing extra beer and wine. This morning I awoke to find more puddles and a room temperature refrigerator/freezer. Well, it is 10 years old and my research shows that most last 8 to 14 years. I emptied it out and tossed the food out so it wouldn’t smell. Not the best pre-long run preparation…

By the time I headed out to run it was 9:30 – an hour and a half later than I had hoped. My scheduled distance was 14, I knew it was going to be tough. I had to be back by noon to get ready to visit my family. Today was beautiful – but hot – not a cloud in the sky and already in the 70’s when I started my run. I am developing a theory that heat increases the steepness of hills. Because the hills I run regularly seemed bigger today. I kept a good pace for my “easy” run and planned to loop back by my home between 7 to 10 miles to refill my sports drink. I made it back at mile 9 and decided to run on my flat treadmill in my cool basement for the remainder of my run. In the end I ran 12.5 miles. Time was running out. As I wrote my trainer today, if I had more time and was running on the flat towpath it would have been a fine run. I was still pleased with my pace today considering the conditions – 13:15. My easy run pace has been between 12:30 and 13:30 since I started targeting my zone 2 heart rate.

So what was so important that I had to finish early to visit my family? Today we celebrated my father’s 92nd birthday. His actual birthday is on Wednesday, but today was the best day for everyone to get together. When he was born refrigerators were “ice boxes” and powered by ice more often than electricity. To still have it in him to get around and celebrate his birthday with family is a celebration well worth missing the last mile and a half of my run.

On my way home I stopped at the appliance store and my new refrigerator will be delivered on Tuesday. So much has happened this weekend, rolling with it is about all I am able to do. Fretting over locking a key in my car, dealing with a dead refrigerator, and cramming in two long workouts won’t do me a bit of good. If anything it would rob me of my pleasures, like the quality time with family. And after all, spending time with family, friends and loved ones is the best way to pass time. Fortunately through out my trials this weekend I had several opportunities to “roll with it” in great company.


Modifications, Motivations, and Adaptations

With my race two weeks away, today was supposed to be my last 50 mile bike ride before tapering. I decided to cut it down to 35 miles – I told my friend I would return his car by noon and it is about a 40 minute drive. Unless I started riding by 7:00 when the sun rose, it was going to be a tight schedule. I was grateful for his generosity, so I made a few adjustments. My ride was a very good one. Plenty of hills, plenty of sunshine, and I finished before it got really hot. I finished feeling energized. Anxiety it starting to bubble with only two weeks to go, but I have my training in. After my run tomorrow, I will have swam, cycled, and run farther in training than each leg of the race. Knowing this will come in handy during the race…

This will be my fourth half iron distance triathlon and third year in a row with Revolution 3. Despite my experience and training, I am preparing myself for the self doubt. During the swim in the past two races I distinctively remember thinking within the first 500 meters thinking I can’t do this – I was overwhelmed. Yesterday during my time trial I found myself questioning how I am going to get through this swim in two weeks. That is when I have to dig deep and remind myself all I have been through. Believe I will finish. The training has proved I am capable of completing this.

There is so much I am learning. Not just technique, but ways of motivating and encouraging myself. Adapting when my body tells me to rest. Modifying workouts when priorities take over. And my most recent and important lesson – only lock my car with the key fob in my hand.


The Unexpected Day

I can honestly say the events that happened today I could have never expected. This morning I woke up at 4:30 to go to the pool and felt fatigued before I got out of bed. My resting heart rate was 62 – compared to 44 yesterday morning. After a few snooze button hits nothing changed. I texted my training partner to let her know I was sleeping in and set my alarm for 7:00. Listening to my body is so important and it was telling me to rest. I expected today to be a rest day when I went back to sleep. Boy was I wrong.

I felt a bit better when I got up and dressed for work, but a hazy feeling persisted. Despite feeling tired, I decided to put my swim gear and gym bag in my car and go to the pool after work. My training partner had texted me that she swam the 1,900 meter time trial we had scheduled and she was 3 seconds over her goal time. A good pace and 5 minutes faster than her swim last year in the half iron tri. Her message motivated me to give it a try. All day I felt tired but still made it to the pool to swim. I am glad I did. Despite being tired and dealing with calf cramps the last 500 meters (note to self, don’t wear high heels all day before swimming a 1,900 time trial) I did it in 40:10. I was hoping for 39:59 or better, but under the circumstances I was very happy.

After my swim I wet to a friend’s home for a shopping party – CAbi clothes for those familiar. She lives about 45 minitutes from my home. I planned on picking out what I liked that I saw on line and slipping out early to get to bed. When I discovered I locked my key in my car those plans changed. Ugh. Fortunately a friend who lives close by came to the rescue. He lent me his car to get home tonight. I will take my spare key back tomorrow (after I ride 50 miles on my bike in the morning) and get my car while returning my friend’s car.

So my rest day turned into a long day with a good workout. I could look at the day and think what a mess. But I choose to see it this way – I got to sleep in, swam a very good time trial, spent time with good friends and realized that a good friend is willing to help when I am in need. Yep, life is good.

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My Mantra Is Working

Believe. That is my mantra. I chose it because frankly I have trouble sometimes believing that I am enough. That I have the ability, that I am able to swim, cycle, and run faster. Oh and many more remains on the list, but for now I am sticking to triathlon. My workouts the past week have given my more confidence. Reasons to Believe. Now, being the detail junky I am, I have the data to back up that I am improving.

This morning I had a follow up cardio point test that measures my exercise metabolic rate. My heart rate zones are measured as to where my aerobic base is, by anaerobic threshold, and my VO2 max. Since I started working with my trainer July 1st, I have can tell I am improving. The best sign is that I don’t feel as spent when I am at certain heart rate levels. Today I put on the funny green mask that has a tube to breath in to and ran on a treadmill while she kept increasing the incline. It took about 13 minutes, and I was very happy to hit the cool down phase. My last test was June 12 and I wrote about it then. Click the date to see how that went. Since July 1st I have been training to accomplish two things: run slow to improve my aerobic base and run fast to improve my anaerobic threshold. The data confirms – I have done both. I still have improvement to make. I think we all have room for improvement somewhere until we die. But I was so happy to see how far I have come in such a short time.

First my aerobic base. I have been running my easy runs with the goal of staying in my zone 2. That was determined in June to be a heart rate range of  101 to 121. As I have lamented here, it was difficult to do. Many times I had to walk to keep my heart rate low. Most runs, if not all, I focused on keeping my heart rate under 130. I would go above 121 so quickly, I was not going to be running much. I also was not burning as much fat as I should. I was burning more carbs. In June my zone 2 showed about 40% to 36% of the calories I burned was in fat, the rest in carbs. Today I have moved my zone 2 up to a heart rate range of 108 to 133 and I burn 48% to 33% of my calories in fat. This is a big improvement for me. And I proved it this evening – I ran 6 miles on the treadmill and ran the entire time keeping my average heart rate at 134 – just one beat above my zone 2. I know I have more “easy” running to do to get faster going “easy”. Seeing the agony of running slow is helping me, made it all the more encouraging.

Now my anaerobic threshold. This is the point where your body just about stops burning fat and now only burns carbs. In June that was at a heart rate of 152 for me. Today – 158. My zone 4 went from a range of 153 to 162 now up to a range of 159 to 168. On Tuesday when my heart rate hit 162 I thought I as peaking. According to my June results I was. Based on my results today – that is where I should be trying to hold my speed and tempo workouts. All this improvement in just six weeks. Wow.  Finally my peak VO2 – the volume of oxygen consumed by my cells. The higher the peak rate it, the more efficient my body is at burning fat. In June it was at 46, this morning it was at 52. I am burning more fat! This is important because the more fat I can burn at higher intensities, the easier my workouts should feel.

I know faith is defined as believing in things unseen. Faith is the key to Believe. But I can not deny that having a few statistics to back me up helps. It gives me greater faith to believe I am able. I was created to be enough as I am. Unfortunately life experiences sometimes chip away at our belief that that is true. By drowning out the negative influences, surrounding myself with people of positive influences, and yes Believing I am able – I am growing. And as long as I have breath, there will be room to grow. That is something to Believe in.


What the Day Gives Us

Buying new pillows is not something I would consider a potential issue three weeks before a race. I was wrong. I set up new memory foam pillows last night that are a bit fuller than my old ones. While I am sure I will adapt, I had a very difficult time sleeping last night. On a night I was exhausted and so desperately wanted to sleep. I woke up this morning feeling tired, but I knew I could get my swim workout in. I just wasn’t sure how well I would do. It is Wednesday and my training partner and I planned to do a 3,000 meter workout with the main set of 1,900 meters with descending sets of 550/450/350/250/150/100/50. Well, I am happy to say I did well considering my lack of sleep. I consistently averaged 2:04 per 100 meters. The pace I hope to keep at minimum in the race. Again, more encouragement that I have the training in.

Before lunch I was ready to go back to bed rather than work. I think I could have slept just fine on my new pillows at that point too. However I am not independently wealthy so I had to stay at work. My energy level increased at the day progressed, thanks to proper nutrition, hydration, and Speed Stack (my 250 milligram caffein energy drink). One thing I did know by the end of the day was that I was not going to ride outside on the hills. It was a beautiful day to be outside, but I was not sharp enough to have a good ride. Additionally, when I got to the pool this morning I could feel the fatigue in my legs from my speed workout yesterday. Although my quads were aching, I was a bit happy considering I cut the workout short. A sign I did work hard for the time I ran. To keep my legs loose and keep my fitness level up for the race, I did ride for a bit on my trainer this evening.  Sometimes adjustments have to be made and at this point my main concern is injury prevention. Oh and sleep too…

Sometimes something that looks good, like full and fluffy pillows, actually takes some time to adjust and starts off with discomfort. Sometimes something that appears challenging and uneasy, like a long swim on little sleep or a speed run workout also on little sleep, actually helps build more confidence which in turn helps me feel good about my progress. Some days give us mixed signals that we still learn from. Some days are great days. Some days are not so great, but there is always something good in the day. I have shared quotes by John Bingham in previous posts, and this one is worth repeating:

What distinguishes those of us at the starting line from those of us on the couch is that we learn through running to take what the day gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will can tolerate.