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


Contingency Plans

This morning my run workout was thirty minutes easy, shake out the legs. I was able to run right within my desired race pace and keep my heart rate right in zone two. Two days before a marathon, this should make me happy. While I am happy at my progress, I still have feeling of trepidation. The latest weather forecast now estimates winds at 23 miles per hour at the start. Coming from the South West, and the point to point course runs South West… I received so many comments of encouragement from my post yesterday that have given me much to think on for motivation. Thanks to Steve at Chasing Fifty, my main mantra will be “Just keep running.” And if all else fails, Jim at Fit Recovery will have me singing with Dory “Just keep swimming.” Let’s hope that is not the case.

Being a planning type A’er, I have a few contingency plans in place. Of course plan A is get to Sacramento and run the race I have been training for all these months. Worst case – my flight to Sacramento from Houston is cancelled and the race is cancelled. My plan B – get to Austin, TX tonight and visit a friend then head to San Francisco on Sunday for the rest of my vacation. Also plan B includes a run alternative. The Jacksonville Marathon in Florida is December 16th. I have enough points to fly free and the race offers same day registration. Not to mention it is a flat course. Then there is plan C – I make it to Sacramento but the race is canceled or the weather prevents me from finishing – Jacksonville is still an option.

To many it may seem silly. I am writing from the plane on my way to Houston and I have already come up with two back up plans. To me, it helps relieve stress. (And I know there are others reading this, nodding their heads, and saying “Amen sister, me too.”) My daily desire is to appreciate the day and all it brings. For me, controlling the things I have control over helps reduce stress and allow me to focus on the now. What do I have control over? Not much, but I do have control over my attitude and how I chose to perceive my surroundings. Back up plans help. The weather – well I live in Northeast Ohio, I get rain and clouds. I can’t control it. But I won’t let it get me down. One thing I know is I will enjoy the days ahead. Rain or shine.


It Never Rains In California?

Today was a complete rest day. Normally I would go to bed by 9:30, which I did last night, and get up around 4:30, which I did not do today. I slept in until 7:15. It felt wonderful. Then I checked my messages. I find a post on Facebook from the California International Marathon that read “Folks! The CIM will NOT be cancelled this weekend. This is a rain or shine event…” The rest of the post just continued to make my stomach flip. I knew that rain was in the forecast, but now I learned that a very heavy rain storm is expected (with high winds) to last from Friday through Sunday. Joy.

Then I received an email from Jill at JoggingJeans at 8:29 this morning. She sent me a link to Team Hoyt. Dick Hoyt had recently been mentioned to her and she wanted to share his story with me. I was familiar with the story but didn’t know his name. His son, Rick, was born a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. In sum – Dick now competes in running events and triathlons (including several Ironman races) to raise awareness and funds for his charity. Oh and he brings his adult son Rick along with him. The entire race. I read Jill’s email and replied thanking her. The timing was perfect. Aware of the story, I know a little rain (or torrential downpour) is not a huge challenge compared to what Dick Hoyt voluntarily puts himself through for a wonderful cause. Jill replied writing that she watched the video on the site and was struck that Dick is not a young man, he is in his 60’s and still competing. As for the timing of her encouragement, well we both agree there had to be some divine intervention involved.

I was running late this morning since I slept in, so I didn’t take the time to watch the video. All day the weather in California did stay on my mind. I even searched for other marathons in December that are not full that I could run in the even the race actually is cancelled or worse yet I am not able to finish. I knew I wanted to incorporate Jill’s email into this post, so when I finally finished all I needed to do this evening, I watched the video on the web page. Watch it. Please. I was so moved by a video only as long as the song playing. The pictures tell it all.

My perspective has changed for this weekend. My greatest concern now is just having a safe flight in tomorrow to Sacramento. Once I am there, what happens – happens. Strong wind and rain are forecasted, as long as I am able to make it through the race I will do so. Yes I am frustrated that I have trained so much and so hard for this race. I have it in me to set a personal record. The common thread in all reports on the CIM site is “don’t expect a PR in this weather.” Okay…. My goal now is to finish. I have friends I will see both at the race and then I am off to San Francisco and Napa Valley for a few days. What really is important? The quality of my race or the quality of my life with those dear to me? I will take those dear to me.


Heart Rate and Hard Way Learning

This morning I had my last speed run workout before the race this weekend – and it was fantastic. The past four weeks my trainer has me doing fast intervals – today I did four repeats of 1,000 meters with a 200 meter jog in between. On a treadmill I equated it to .62 mile fast and .13 recovery, so four repeats of a total of .75 miles. After a mile warmup run I increased the treadmill to 6.8 (8:49 a mile) and took off. My foot pod tells my Garmin 901XT that I am running closer to 8:20 pace. This has been consistent for the past four weeks. All I know is I am getting my heart rate up to my high zone 3 and into zone 4. When I started this workout four weeks ago I had a hard time maintaining my pace when my heart rate went past my anaerobic threshold (AT) of 158. Today I was sustaining 162 to 164 during the speed intervals. And I felt very good. It did not feel like an easy run, but I did not feel like I was suffering. After the four .75 repeats I did three repeats fast (7.2 on the treadmill or 8:20) for 200 meters with a 200 meter recovery jog. My heart rate peaked at 172. I couldn’t believe it. I was pushing it, but I was not where I thought I was at my max heart rate.

After my workout I reported back to my trainer. Later in December we are going to test again to see where my zones are and if (my hunch) my AT has moved further out. Today was such an encouraging workout. Any running I will do between now and the race on Sunday will be very easy slow runs to shake out my legs. This was just what I needed going into the race to really feel prepared. Now if I could do something about the weather forecast this weekend for Sacramento, I would really be happy. It looks like rain. More things to pack to be prepared…

Yesterday my trainer asked if another athlete she works with could contact me about heart rate monitor training and zone training. He is skeptical about how it could help improve efficiency. I told her I am more than happy to share my experience. It just plain works. I have written about my experience here and I am amazed at how I have improved. Not only am I running faster, I am doing so at lower heart rates and I have also increased my ability to run at very high heart rates. It was not an easy process. Sometimes running (err walking and jogging more at times) slow was more of a challenge than the speed work. Now the slow runs are runs and I am able to do it at a faster pace, so the speed work is the greater challenge. So little in life comes easy. The hard lessons, I have found, are the ones that leave the greatest impact. Far beyond running – in work, relationships, finances, faith,  every aspect of life – the hardest learned lessons are the most rewarding. Some are quick and painful, others bring long suffering until we learn. But the rewards gained are the sweetest.

Leave a comment

Making A List

I am a list writer. It is much less stressful for me to write a list of all I have to do before a big event, say a marathon in California for example. There is so much to prepare, I don’t want to forget a thing, so I make a list. Writing out the list is… the first thing on my mental list right now. Out of town races are exciting, but bring an extra layer of anxiety for me. Not only do I have to pack three different potential racing outfits depending on the weather, I have my vacation clothes to pack as well. Then there are the responsibilities at home that I have to prepare. With three dogs and two cats, just picking up and going is not an option. I have pet sitting arranged and have to prepare their food for while I am gone. List items, so many list items to write and then get busy.

And did I mention my trainer wanted me to really focus on relaxing this week and eliminating stress? Okay – I will put that on the list too. Sometimes that is what our culture has come to, having to schedule time to relax. Remind ourselves to breathe deep. I just took a brief time out to take five deep breaths. (I wanted to time it to see how long it took, but that would be defeating the purpose I guess…) What a difference it made. I do feel more relaxed and it probably took no more than a minute. Honestly, I do not remember the last time I stopped to do that outside of a yoga or Pilates class. A practice I should incorporate more often.

In all of the busyness, I do not want to forget to appreciate the day, those dear to me, and let the other stuff fall into line. This morning I had a short run scheduled in zone two. I was planning on running three to four miles. Last night I made plans to meet a friend for breakfast so I was a little pressed for time this morning. I know I have the training in and tomorrow I have my last speed run workout to do before the race. It also will probably be the last speed workout I do before January too. So this morning I did run, but only a mile and a half. I am keeping my legs and lungs active and that is what matters most this week. I also was able to spend a little quality time with a friend. And that, fortunately, is not something I have to write on a list.


Shaken, Not Stirred at Dawn…With a Twist

This morning was my last swim before the race this weekend. And I only swam 1,000 meters. My pace was good, I have a feeling I have kicked it up a notch. The last few swims I have seen my times have consistently improved over what was my former “average” pace. When I get back from the marathon and focus a bit more on swimming I will see if my hunch is correct.

So what to write about on a day when I only swim 1,000 meters? What I have been doing the past few days with all of my extra time, of course. I have seen a two movies in two nights and they are very different, yet have a similar thread. A twist. No worries – there are no spoilers for those who haven’t seen the movies yet. First I saw the latest James Bond film Skyfall. Great with action and adventure, and yes a twist in the end. One I quite enjoyed. Then tonight I saw the final movie of The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 2. Now I have read the books too and the movies have stayed very close to the books. But this movie has a twist too – and I was very surprised at how far it went from the book. I can not say I enjoyed watching the twist, but I appreciated it and liked the movie as far as sticking to the book goes in the end. Something else to know about me – I have a fear of falling (not heights) and excessive violence makes me cover my eyes. BOTH movies brought this out in me too. At one point I came very close to hiding my head in my friend’s shoulder. Which move? I will leave that open for guessing.

And now how this relates to life. Reality is the best author of twists I believe. Good and bad. A few things I have learned as a result of life’s twists – 1) the story is not over until life is over and 2) never say never. Which really are closely related – or shall I say twisted together. Sometimes in sport an injury can take the hope of being a strong runner or triathlete out of view. Then the story continues and in time new heights are reached. I truly believed I would never be able to do a flip turn in the pool. Today I not only flipped the entire workout, I only came up short from the wall once. (That story is not over yet either). Relationships I thought could never happen turn into wonderful friendships. Some who appeared to be friends turn out to have different motives. Again, never say never and those stories are not over either. Some of life’s twists shake us up, stir us around, and possibly break us down. But what I know for sure, the sky is not falling and each day brings a new dawn.


Buddy System

Yesterday I wrote about a very good swim workout that had a lot to do with swimming with my friend. We kept each other going and honest to the workout. In a comment, IowaTriBob mentioned he missed a workout buddy. What a great word to use. Buddy. A quick Google search came up with this description on Wikipedia for “buddy system”:

The buddy system is a procedure in which two people, the “buddies”, operate together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other.

My long run today really fit this description too. I have run the past few long runs on the towpath with my friends who are training for a marathon the week after mine. A more accurate description is we started at the same place, would run into each other along the course, and meet up at the end. Today my girlfriend decided to run with me. She, like so many marathoners, is struggling with a tight IT band. She wanted to get the miles in, but didn’t want to push it on the pace to give her hip a rest. This was my last long run before the race – and it was fantastic. My buddy and I really did operate together as a single unit and we monitored and helped each other. She usually runs close to two minutes per mile faster on long runs than I run. Today I picked up my pace a bit and averaged just under 12:00 minute mile pace for the entire twelve miles. Not only was my pace faster, my average heart rate was 131 and it maxed at 140 – I stayed in zone two the entire time. Not to mention I was able to carry on a conversation the whole run. (We are good buddies that way too, always able to chat it up!) She was able to go on after the twelve and finish with 15 miles. Her longest run since the IT pain started. We helped each other through it.

The description above is also fitting for true friends. As I mentioned earlier this week, life is unpredictable. Having true buddies to monitor and help each other out along the journey is what it is all about. I know when I am with true, good friends it really does feel like we are one unit, one mind. Of course there will always be differences. Variety is the spice of life. But so are true friends. They add just enough seasoning to make life grand.



A Good Day of Workouts and to Choose Light

The first real snow fall of the season started last night. Fortunately it was enough to make everything look pretty, but not enough to require snow plowing. I decided to run at the gym since it was an easy run and I planned a swim after. My run was very good – I stayed in zone 2 and averaged 11:50 minutes per mile – not to far from my desired race pace. I only ran 3.5 miles, it is taper time and I still had the swim after.

I swam with a friend of mine who is just a bit faster than I. Oh what a difference swimming a workout with some is! We both were able to keep to the interval times and I usually touched in a few seconds after she did. When we did 100 meter repeats pulling I was touching in between 1:49 and 1:55 – that was great. Then we did full freestyle sets of 200, 100, and 50 meters. My 200’s were 4:08 and 4:06 – negative splits – at a pace I was very happy with. My 100’s were in the range of 1:58 and 2:04 and my 50’s were from 55 to 1:01. Swimming with someone helps keep me honest to the workout and pushing harder than if I were swimming alone. In all I swam 2,800 meters. A very good effort and enjoyable swim.

My afternoon was very fun too – despite the sad outcome. I went to a football watching gathering that is a rare occurrence in my neck of the woods, the majority of the people there were cheering for my alma mater – The University of Michigan. This game against OSU is a big one and Michigan has not had the best luck over the past decade. And today kept the sad tradition going. Regardless, it was a good game and I really enjoyed sharing it with fellow Wolverines while I live in Ohio. I don’t know if some OSU fans realize just how cruel they can be. The irony is that my friends who actually went to OSU are far kinder than other fans. It is a game. I know I went to a fine university. There were plenty of years when the tables were turned.

Which reminds me of a phrase on the front page at Cast Light I want to share:

We have a choice to be positive or negative. We can cast light or cast shadows. Alway choose light.

So as a friend just reminded me, focus on the good and the positive. And always choose light.


Don’t Wait

Don’t wait. Life is unpredictable.

That was a written in a text I received yesterday morning from a friend I swim with. I had sent out several “Happy Thanksgiving” messages and he and I were chatting a bit after I swam. He had run the local Turkey Trot that morning and now is considering a marathon after a few years off. Being a distance swimmer first, he is also looking into a 10 mile swim next summer. That is something I can not imagine, nor do I have the desire to attempt. I did share with him something I have not even written in my blog yet. This past Monday the 19th Ironman Arizona in Tempe had open registration online for the very few spots available. I went online just when registration opened and I was able to apply. I saw the words “your spot will be held for 15 minutes while you complete the application” and I started slowing down my typing. I have been considering a full Ironman triathlon, but my initial plan has been to do it in 2014. In the end I decided to wait. I would like to do another marathon next year as well as at least one century bike ride before I commit. When I told my friend I stopped the registration process because I wanted to wait, he replied “Don’t wait. Life is unpredictable.”

The race filled up within an hour, so I know I am not going to do it. There is a small part of me that has not completely committed to participating in a full Ironman triathlon. The distances are daunting – 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles running. All must be completed within 17 hours. I think I could complete it within 14 hours or so, but still the idea is overwhelming to me right now. Not to mention the training commitment. What I do know is that I have to be completely committed to the task before I register. That is what held me back. Still my friend’s words resonate within me.

This morning I ran 5 miles easy. I took today off from work, so I was able to sleep in and run while the sun was shining. I tackled the hills in my neighborhood and ran the 5 miles in just under an hour and kept my heart rate average at 133. My efficiency is certainly improving. I did not run with music but rather took in the experience both in sight and sound. And my mind rolled over those words. Don’t wait. Life is unpredictable. I do not regret waiting for the Ironman registration. But I want to remember these five words for so much that comes my way. Life is unpredictable. I want to continue with triathlon and running for as long as I am able and take on challenging races when I know it is right. More than just in sport, I don’t want to hold back sharing my appreciation for those in my life, experiencing things I have on my wish list, and taking in the beauty of each day. I know I do not want to have regrets because I waited when I could seize the day – today.


Give Thanks

I am thankful for many things – one little thing is that my gym was open this morning, so I was able to get a swim in. At first I planned to swim 3,000 meters, it is my only workout today and I will be eating a feast later on. Then I remembered that I am tapering and I will burn off plenty calories through the week to compensate for one larger than normal meal. So I swam 2,000 meters instead. Good thing too because more people were in the pool than on a Saturday morning. I think I was not the only one with the idea of a pre-feast workout. My workout was an endurance swim and I am so pleased to see even my pace for 200’s, 300’s and 400’s is improving too.

Now for the meaty part of what I am thankful for today – time to talk turkey. (I just had to get that in today!) With this being Thanksgiving, I do want to express my gratitude to all of those I have met this year through blogging. It started December 30th as my New Year’s Resolution to set up a blog and write daily. So far, I haven’t missed a day. I never imagined all that I would gain from this experience. So many of you have offered so much encouragement to me. Reading about life experiences, successes, disappointments, funny stories, and many expressed opinions has been a great motivation. I miss several blogs I follow when someone hasn’t written in a while. (Speaking of, Ms. Hippie Itch, I miss reading your creative experiences!) The variety of writers is amazing too. Not just fellow athletes, but fabulous cooks, business minded people, faithful believers, and even a dating journey to follow. My life is richer for knowing you all.

Yes, I am very thankful for my wonderful family, friends, career, and this great nation I live in. There are so many things for which to give thanks. Even the blessing to breath in fresh air today. So I wish you all a truly wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. Enjoy every moment, good or bad. For they are the only moments we know we have.


Speeding Up and Slowing Down

This morning I ran a speed workout that is designed to really push my limits. Two weeks ago I did a similar workout where I had two sets fast at 18 minutes. I didn’t quite make it through the entire time, but I definitely felt the effects of the workout. Today’s workout was three sets of nine minutes sustaining upper zone three into zone four, my anaerobic zone. After a mile warm up I set the treadmill at 8:49 minute mile pace, although my foot pod recorded me running closer to 8:30 pace. The first set of nine minutes went well. I barely touched my AT at 158 by the end. In between sets I have a three minute recovery. I walked the recovery – my heart rate would not have fallen below 150 otherwise. The second set I felt the burn more and hit my AT after 7 minutes, I made it through the full 9 minutes and had no problem taking a walking recovery. The final 9 minutes I made it through and hit my AT after about 6:30. It was a push, but I did it. After my recovery I had three sets of 50 seconds very fast – I set it at 8 miles an hour – with a 50 second jog (yes I jogged). The purpose of this part is to get my legs accustomed to running fast when fatigued. And that I was. In all I ran 5.5 miles in 55:43 – including warm up, recoveries and cool down.

The speed workout I did two weeks ago I also pushed into my zone 4 and my lungs were fried all day, even after using my inhaler. Today I did not feel quite as much stress in my lungs and what I did feel passed before lunch. Of course I used my inhaler before this workout too. I am noticing that when I do hard speed workouts I can tell when my body is pushing out my anaerobic threshold (AT). After the marathon I am looking forward to testing again to see if my feeling is correct. It continues to amaze me how in tune I have become with listening to my body.

Part of listening is also acknowledging that I am tapering. As a result, I did Pilates this evening in place of resistance training. Strengthening my core is, well, my core focus. Causing any muscle strain with resistance work this close to the race is a risk I don’t want to take.

Tomorrow I will be able to get a swim in before going to visit my family for Thanksgiving. I will write more tomorrow, but for today I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. We have much for which to be thankful. With all of my writing about speed work today, I want to also slow down and appreciate all around me. The tradition in the US of Thanksgiving is a wonderful day to reflect, but each day offers so much – and for that I am very thankful.