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


Metabolic Training and Reaching New Levels

This morning I went back to my gym to have my cardio point test redone. Last week my trainer wanted to try it with me running faster on a flat surface, which is much more like typical running. The results were difficult to compare to my previous tests, so this morning we were back to a steady pace and increasing incline. The results – my efficiency is continuing to improve.

Looking at my aerobic zones – zone one jumped from a heart rate beats per minute range of 98 – 107 up to 113 – 122. My last test was the end of August, so in two months my easy zone significantly improved. Zone two also improve quite a bit – from 108 – 133 up to 123 – 140. This really helps me on my long and/or easy runs. The goal is to stay in zone two, previously I tried to keep my heart rate around 130 and I have seen my pace get faster while in this zone. Now I can target 135 to 138, run faster, and still be in zone two. Zone three went from 134 – 158 to 141 – 158. What this tells me is my anaerobic threshold remains at 159. I was not surprised, when I do speed work it is not often my heart rate goes much over 158 for any length of time. Now I know I need to kick it up a bit when running speed workouts. Also, in all of my aerobic zones I am burning more fat.

My anaerobic zones four and five did not change, however my peak VO2 (oxygen utilization) increased from 47 to 49 over the two months. For a chart on ranges check this link. Simply put, metabolic training works. I am more efficient, I am running faster at lower heart rates, and I am burning fat – the preferred fuel to burn.

In addition to my assessment test, I finished my run workout which was a few sets of fast running with a brief recovery. In all I ran 4 miles today. These 4 miles took me to a new level in my training too. As of today, October 31st, I have now swam, cycled, and run more meters and miles than all of 2011. And I still have two months to go. I surpassed my swimming distance back in the summer, however in October I surpassed both my cycling and running distances. It continues to amaze me what I am able to accomplish – especially since my athleticism began in my early thirties – when most people are peaking. I mentioned to someone yesterday that the more I experience in life I am learning to never say never. You never know just what might happen…


Float Like a Butterfly

With this being day four of continuous rain, I was happy to have not lost power due to the strong winds last night. My gym also did not lose power, so I dodge a few down trees on my drive there and got in a swim. Lately one of my friends has been sharing swim workout with me, but usually after he has done it. This morning he was swimming at the same time, so I would follow his lead. Being a much faster swimmer than I, we would swim on the same send off interval, only I would swim 25 to 50 meters shorter. The first set I swam 2 x 200 on a 4:30 send off while he swam 250 meters. There was one set of back stroke and breast stroke, I wore my fins so I wouldn’t be so far behind on back stroke. It was going well and I felt I was working harder to keep up.

Then he tells me to swim 2 x 100 IM (individual medley – butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle). I said okay, I will do freestyle in place of butterfly. Well, that did not fly. He persisted that I do butterfly. Never having done the stroke before – ever – I wore my fins and he gave me a few tips. I know the fins made a huge difference, but not only did I swim 25 meters butterfly, I touched the wall only two seconds after my friend. Of course by the time I finished the set he was far ahead of me, but I was thrilled to have tried something the first time and faired well. Me – the struggling swimmer. Hoot Hoot! Several others usually swim at the same time and were not there this morning – you better believe I was texting them after my workout with my little story. In all I swam 3,000 meters. It may not actually be “floating” with such a technical stroke, but I sure was floating like a butterfly for the rest of the day knowing I was able to take on a new challenge.

This evening I was back on the treadmill for a 60 minute easy run. My goal again was to stay in zone two. I was able to run at an 11:35 pace and still have an average heart rate of 130. I started back in December working on improving my cardio aerobic zones and now it is almost November and I am seeing how the long, slow process is  paying off. I used to have to walk more than run to keep my heart rate averaging 130.

Sometimes improvements take a long time to see – in running for me it is a long process to train my body to be more efficient and run faster while maintaining a lower heart rate.  Then there is the butterfly stroke – something I have been very intimidated by for a long time. My form needs a lot of improvement and practice, but I was able to do it well enough to keep up – on my first try. Both long slow improvements and fast results have the same effect on me – I am surprised yet happy that I am able to do it. The long in coming improvements are very meaningful because I worked so hard for it. But a quick success like today gives me the confidence to swim in uncharted waters.



“Location. Location. Location.” A frequently used phrase that most often refers to real estate. Lately it has meant far more to me. Being at the right place at the right time. (rarely, though I wish it would happen more) Being at the wrong place at the right time. (this is my specialty and I learn far more than I wish I had) And being at the wrong place at the wrong time, especially when someone is on my bike when I arrive to spin class. I am a creature of habit and my friend and I have two specific bikes we prefer in the spin class. She has to leave a little early to get to her daughter, so we position by the door. I really like the bike next to her because of the computer. In a room of 60 spin bikes, there are several bike computers that do not work. When I walked into the class, at 5:55 like I always do, the class was filling up fast and two people were on our bikes. Grrr. I made my way to another bike closer to the middle of the room leaving the last end bike for my friend so she could scoot out without climbing over people. Starting into the warm up, the computer would not turn on. At all. I moved over to the next bike. My new heart rate strap was reading fine on the computer, my RPM’s were showing, the watt power meter looked accurate – and I was averaging close to 40 miles per hour. Okay, so one function was off. From the watts I was generating and the RPM’s, I believe the computer was reading double the speed.

This bike I ended up on was located square in the middle – middle row, middle bike. The room has  air fans lining across the front soffit. Where my usual bike is the fans angle out a bit and do not blow directly on me. In the middle it is full on fan action. While I would prefer this when running, I learned today I do not like it while spinning. As soon as I would perspire, the fans would evaporate it. I was working hard but I did not feel as if I got a descent workout it. I was not sweating at all. This combined with a crazy computer recording a 39.8 mile ride in 56 minutes had me a bit high on the anxiety side. Something I have had plenty of lately.

The gloomy, rainy weather does not help improve things, but I am thankful it is not sever. My thoughts are with all of the people on the East Coast coming under Hurricane Sandy today. I am fortunate to have power and the ability to head up and do my Pilates DVD soon and possibly a little yoga/meditation to shed this stress. So I wonder, is being in the right location really all that? Yes when it comes to buying and selling real estate one would argue. But in so many other aspects, changed or “wrong” locations just may help in the learning experience. So I had to change bikes today. As a result I learned a few things – get there even earlier and stay away from the power fans – but also flexibility goes beyond exercise. Anxiety usually comes from reactions to things out of my control. What is, is. Hey, I think I just found a new mantra for stress relief… What is, is.


Rain or Treadmill? That is the Question

While the East Coast prepares for the “perfect storm”, we are having the most imperfect weather here in Ohio. The past two days have been cold and rainy. Not terrible for a day like yesterday when I had two indoor workouts planned. Terrible this morning when I headed out to run 20 miles. I had everything packed up to drive down to the towpath and as I backed my SUV out of the garage I stopped. I just couldn’t do it. By myself, in the cold rain, running 20 miles. I went back inside, loaded my gym bag with indoor running attire, texted my trainer to update her, and I headed to the gym instead.

For anyone who is a distance runner, it is difficult to discern which is worse – running 20 miles is miserable, damp, cold rain or any distance over an hour on a treadmill. I love winter running. Twenty degrees with snow – I would take over a day like today easily. This is the kind of weather that lowers your resistance and welcomes those horrible germs that grow as if the world is a petri dish. So for me, the lesser of two evils is the treadmill. I made it for twelve miles. That is twelve miles on a treadmill. No speed work, steady pace staying in zone two. (My nose just twitched thinking I probably did more running in place than a hamster on a wheel…) It was far more challenging mentally than a run twice the distance outside. I read for the first half and then switched over to up tempo music. I did push it a bit the last three miles to get closer to race pace. At least I felt that the run was productive in working on race pace running on tired legs.

Yesterday my trainer emailed me my running plan for November. Next week my long run is 18 – 20 miles and two weeks after it is 20 – 22 miles. I have already done one 18 mile long run, two 16 mile runs, and a 15 mile run. With the distance I have put in and still have time to get a few long runs in before my race, I feel I will be prepared. My last marathon was in February of 2011 and I set a personal record after only running 17 miles for my longest long run. It was a very tough winter and the sub zero temperatures limited outside long runs. I do remember doing that 17 miler – on a treadmill. The mental preparation makes up sometimes for the shortened physical miles.

Today is another example of how all the planning in the world will not do much good if circumstances out of my control “blow the wind” in a different direction. Friends of mine also ran outside this morning on the towpath. Next week we are holding each other accountable. My friend texted me and said had she known, she would have guilted me into going with her today. You know, that would have worked too. I can plan all I want, outside circumstance can change and influence me, but friends also add a bit of sunshine to a dark day. So next week I know I will get my miles in. Once again, with a little help from my friends.


Concern and the C Word

This morning I woke to a dreary, rainy day. My training plan called for a 40 to 50 minute easy run in zone 2 and then a swim. I ran 40 minutes easy. Usually I go for the longer time when given a choice. Today I felt like taking it a bit easy. Tomorrow is a 20 mile run, so I don’t think cutting 10 minutes off of my run today will hurt. After my run I changed and made my way to the pool for an endurance swim that focuses on maintaining the same pace for all interval distances. I made it two thirds through the swim before my calves and feet started cramping. After completing 2,000 meters I decided to stop. For the swimming I did, I was fairly consistent at swimming a even pace. Next week I will work to add the last 1,000 meters. My cramping I think came as a result of several things. I ran right before, I ran last night, and, as I have mentioned, I have been dealing with stress and anxiety which manifests itself physically in many ways. Most of my concerns have been addressed, and I think my body is releasing the tension – in the form of cramps.

So – the source of my concern – now I am ready to share. Back in July I found a small, but very dark, mole on the back of my upper right thigh. My father has had several cancerous moles removed so I didn’t take this lightly. I went to my dermatologist right away. The technician who saw me did not think it was a concern but told me to keep an eye on it, if it changes to come back. Because of its location, keeping an eye on it would not be easy. I asked if I could have it removed anyway. That was not a problem, but the doctor did not have any openings until October. Since it was not considered a “bad” mole, waiting from July to October was fine. I put it out of my mind until I had to go back in.

A week ago Tuesday I had a full body scan first. This is the second year in a row that I have had this done by a dermatologist. Nothing else looked suspicious so all that was addressed was the mole which did not appear to have changed. This time the doctor looked at it and agreed I am making the right decision. It was by far the darkest mole on my body. I am fair skinned with auburn hair – and I burn easily without sunscreen. The procedure itself did not take long but the wound hurt an entire week. I had to keep it covered, but as anyone reading my blog can tell, it didn’t stop me from training. Waiting for the results was hell. That is the best way to describe it. And I did what everyone says you should not do. I went on the internet. The statistics made me sick. To top it off, the most deadly form of skin cancer is melanoma and usually starts in the form of a very dark mole and women are most likely to get it on their legs. Ugh. It took nine days to get the pathology report back.

I finally got the call Thursday morning. There are basically three broad categories the diagnosis could fall under. Benign, pre cancer, or cancer. I wanted benign, who wouldn’t? I got pre cancer. Within the category of pre cancer it is further broken down to mild, medium, and serious. Mine is officially diagnosed as mild pre cancer and all was removed. I was told there is no reason to be concerned, but I have to go every six months to be checked, especially where the mole was. Later that day I had my stitches out too. I asked more questions – the most important thing I learned that I want to share is that had I not done anything about it, in time it would have grown into cancer. What kind, I don’t know, but in time skin cancers gone unaddressed could be fatal. The anxiety of not knowing what I had is gone, but I am still processing it all. A doctor friend I train with is going to read the pathology report to give me a better understanding. Limbo is misery. Knowledge brings me peace.

A few things to know – first our largest organ is our skin, yet we rarely treat it like such. Prevention in the form of sunscreen, especially multi sport athletes who are in the sun so much, is essential. Anything less than SPF 15 is a waste of money, I use SPF 30 on my body and SPF 55 on my face. Areas that have been burned more than once are more likely to develop cancers – like the top of my legs. Annual dermatology visits are important – they know where to look that we wouldn’t think, not to mention areas that are hard to see. Just a few points:

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidences of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

Please click the link for the complete list and other information at SkinCancer.org.

I write so often about how we only have the day we are given. I want to enjoy each one and live it to its fullest. To be honest, I am selfish too – I want many more days besides today. So much is out of my control, but the things that are within my control, I will do to hopefully bring a tomorrow. Fitness is a wonderful way to keep a body healthy, but so is preventative care -like breast exams, physicals, and yes, dermatology visits too. Unfortunately cancer is not discriminatory. Be careful out there, and look out for your skin.


I’ve Got the Power

Today was framed with endurance workouts. First this morning I had spin class and we did an endurance workout that pushed to our anaerobic threshold. Each set would increase effort and each set lasted longer. By the end I felt I had a good ride. Since I have been attending spin class I have been paying attention to the bike computer. It measures watts, or power output. The higher the watts, the more power per unit time. Lately I have been averaging 20 to 22 miles in an hour to hour and five minute class. My watts range from 180 to over 350, usually averaging in the 250 area.

After seeing how I have done in class, I became curious how to keep track of this and translate it to the road, my speed has not been this fast. I also don’t think I have worked this hard on the road usually. Both my Garmin Edge 500 for my bike and my Garmin 910XT watch measure watts. Finding a power meter is another issue. They are not hard to find, but they are expensive! A decent power meter for a bike runs at least $1,000. I have a good tri bike, racing wheels, and several gadgets, but I draw the line at spending that much for a power meter. Just before giving up on the idea, I called my bike shop and they told me about the Cyclepos Powercal Heart Rate strap. In short it uses heart rate and other data to translate heart rate effort to power output. The margin of error is about 10%, but the cost is also only 10% of the power meter – about $99. I am going to give it a try and see how it works. Hopefully it will be a good training tool to improve my speed on the road.

This evening I had a speed/endurance run – after a mile warm up I ran 4 sets of 6 minutes at half marathon pace followed by 3 minutes of recovery run. My run went well – it was powerful. I was very happy with the pace I was able to sustain, about 10:20 mile pace, and my heart rate stayed in my high zone three. By the time I finished, I was ready to go home, eat dinner and go to bed. The only thing stopping me now from going to bed is the publish button on this blog.

My workouts today were challenging, but I was ready for them. Getting adequate rest is important and so is proper training. Today was hard. Tomorrow is scheduled to be lighter and I am listening. I had considered running a 5K race tomorrow, but I have decided to pass. Sticking with my training plan and working toward the goal of running a strong marathon in December is my top priority. Power – the power measured to know how hard I am working and the power to exercise control. Both are hard – working at maximum power as well as refraining and minimizing power. Both also will help me improve. The key is knowing when to go strong and when to refrain.


My Anniversary

October 25th is a special day for me. In 1999 on this very date I ran my first marathon. Six months earlier I signed up with the Arthritis Foundation’s program Joints In Motion to run a marathon in Dublin, Ireland. I fund raised for the foundation and they trained me to run a marathon. Little did I know it would be a life changing event. Since that day I have completed six marathons, with my seventh to take place is five and a half weeks. As for other races – there have been countless 5Ks, four or five 10Ks, 11 half marathons, eleven 5 miles races, six 5.25 mile races, one 15K, at least 10 sprint triathlons, two olympic triathlons, and four half iron triathlons. All this from the marathon I ran thirteen years ago today that planted the seed for all of the rest.

My training team in Dublin, Ireland 1999. This was taken the day after we completed the marathon.

Not only did I add a huge dimension of fitness and racing to my life, but I have also made life long friends. I still keep in touch with several of the people I met training for the 1999 marathon, along with others I met the year after, and quite a few more along the way. Endurance sports attracts an interesting group. I have met people from all walks of life and each has something valuable to add to the benefit of knowing them. While running and triathlon are considered individual competitor sports, it is far from an isolated sport. There is always someone my pace, faster, and slower. We encourage one another along the way, celebrate each other’s victories, and have compassion when things don’t go as well as expected. I have found wonderful friends along this journey.

To celebrate my anniversary I swam this morning. Thursdays are my active recovery days so I swam a 3,000 meter endurance workout. One thing I want to work on is pacing. I have a strong 100 meter pace, however it diminishes when I swim 200 and 400 meter repeats. Saturday I have a pace workout planned that focuses on maintaining a consistent pace regardless of distance. See, even after thirteen years, there is always something to learn, something to improve upon. Transformation is always taking place. See below.

Just before I crossed the finish like less than a month ago at the finish of the Akron Half Marathon on September 29, 2012

Taken as I approached the finish line in Dublin, Ireland about to be a first time marathoner. October 25, 1999


Feeling Sleepy

This morning was an easy run for 60 minutes in my zone two. With darkness and rain prevailing I had no trouble getting up and out to the gym. My run was good – five miles, time to read, and my heart rate averaged 131, within my zone 2. I felt energized and even had a little time to sit in the sauna.

While I was finishing getting dressed, a woman in the locker had just arrived. She sighed as she started getting ready to go swim and turned to me and asked “Do you ever have one of those days when you just want to stay in bed?” I chuckled, with the rain this morning, I could see her point. I thought about it and realized it had been a while since I have felt that way. Just as a yawn is contagious, so is the suggestion of sleep sometimes. Before lunch I was feeling exhausted and ready for a long nap. Most nights I get 7 hours of sleep, which is sufficient. Last night maybe it was reduced to six and a half hours, but usually that does not bother me. Knowing I have a business meeting this evening, I decided to clear up my desk, tie up loose ends, and head home.

Now, after a two hour nap, I am well rested for my meeting later. As for my resistance training this evening, that will be reduced to a 25 minute Pilates DVD session. I am listening to my body – something I am learning more and more to do. With the erratic weather – hot, cold, damp, wind – germs are growing and flying around. Staying well rested and healthy is my top priority. My marathon training has been increasing in intensity with higher mileage and two speed workouts a week, my body is adapting. Recovery and rest is key. I hate to skip a workout, but I also do not want to risk injury or illness, so I am making modifications.

Now, I wonder how many people reading this have yawned at least once. Contagious isn’t it?


Without Limits

This morning I combined my scheduled tempo run with my cardio point assessment test. My trainer had scheduled a mile warm up, two to three miles tempo running in my zone 4 range, and then a mile cool down. Instead I did just under 3.7 miles with a mask on my face breathing into a machine as I progressed from walking slowly to running full out at 7.4 miles per hour, or 8:06 minute miles pace. Even though toward the end I felt like I was going as hard as I could, the machine said I was at .95 of my maximum utilization. My trainer is still working on the details, but we do know a few things. My VO2 (the volume of oxygen consumed by my cells) hit 53 and my highest heart rate recorded was 166. This may not even be at my anaerobic threshold yet, which is a big advancement from two months ago when it was at a heart rate of 158 and my VO2 peaked at 47. To understand VO2 ranges a good chart can be found here. For my age, anything above 40 is excellent and the average range is 32 to 35. In sum – I am getting more efficient at burning fat while I run and I am getting faster.

When I finished my run it was only 7:00 AM, so I decided to get in the pool and swim. I did a total of 2,500 meters and surprisingly felt good. I was not tired from the run and I didn’t cramp at all. The main set was 2,000 meters that had a little of everything. First I did 5 x 200 meters to get a bit of endurance training in, then the speed work came right after with 4 x 100 meters with each one swimming faster until the 4th was the fastest. Here I was very happy. I went from 2:06 to 1:59 progressively getting faster each time. A little recovery with a 200 meter pull and then the variety segment of the workout began. 4 x 100 IM. That would be individual medley. The first 25 meters should be butterfly, 25 meters backstroke, 25 meters breast stroke, and finishing with 25 meters freestyle. As I commented to Iowa Bob on Saturday – I do not have much of an ability (if any) to do butterfly so I was granted dispensation and swam freestyle for the first 25 meters too. My lifeguard friend who taught me to flip turn will be helping me with the other strokes, including a little butterfly. I figure it is off season for triathlon and swimming so I may as well experiment and get a bit stronger in the process.

After having two good workouts this morning, I am happy to have the evening off and do not feel lazy at all. It was a good day and I learned much. My assessment revealed that my metabolic training is working. Running slow is helping me run more efficiently – and I am getting faster at it. My speed runs are advancing my anaerobic threshold so my faster running is also getting faster. Experimenting in the pool with different strokes is challenging, but I am enjoying it. It gives me something for which to strive. I am also learning just how much I am capable of doing, and not to set limits. I would rather be without limits (at least in my mind) and enjoy the journey to limitless levels.


Back to the Core

My training must be paying off. When I woke up this morning my body was not as sore as I expected after running 16 miles yesterday. Of course I had some stiffness and my quads and hamstrings felt it, especially walking up stairs. But it was not any where as bad as what I have felt previously after long runs. A very encouraging feeling.

Since I felt good, I did not hold back in spin class this morning. It was a speed workout that pushed to my anaerobic threshold. In keeping with the theme, we did a mock up equivalent to the first two stages of the 2012 Tour de France. When ever the choice was given as to increase resistance or pedal faster, I opted to increase resistance and maintain my cadence in the 85 to 95 rpm range. Getting stronger on the hills is my primary goal. It was a challenging class and I felt I accomplished a good ride equivalent. Watching the video of the Tour was cool too. There were several crashes but what I was most surprised to see was two riders were intentionally head butting each other from the side. Who would have thought cycling would be a contact sport…

This evening I did a Pilates DVD. Working on strengthening my core is a challenge, but one I am enjoying. This is my third week using the beginner DVD. Next week I plan on incorporating the intermediate level to keep the challenge going. A strong core is essential for all three sports in triathlon and for general fitness. Not to mention Halloween is approaching and I have candy to hand out. I am sure you are familiar with the process – “one for you, one for you, oh! and one for me.” A stronger core should hide the few extra pieces of candy too.

So there is one topic I feel compelled to address, but only briefly. I am still processing the entire Lance Armstrong doping issue. The evidence is overwhelming. Cycling this morning to the Tour de France and working on my core this evening made me think of this issue. It is the core of who we are that defines us. I am not even going to get into the dope aspect. It is the character issue that is bothering me today. Call it karma, fate, or divine revelation – but what goes around comes around. The truth will alway be revealed. It may be quickly, it may take decades, but it comes out. Lying only causes more damage. Damage to one’s character, damage to those who believed in the liar, and damage to relationships. I am a firm believer in forgiveness, regardless of if someone is asking for it. But trust is another issue. The old adage act now ask for forgiveness later doesn’t always hold water. It is better to act in a way that won’t require forgiveness later – revealing a trustworthy character to the core.