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


New Normal

What a difference a rest day makes. I woke up this morning to head to the pool and felt well rested. My swim went very well. After a warm up of 1,000 meters I did a little speed work to get my heart rate up but not push it. In all I only swam 1,600 meters. The 600 meters of speed work was made up of 4 x 25, 4 x 50 and 4 x 75. I could have added 4 x 100 to make it an even 2,000, but I am tapering. No need to over do it right now. I know come January I will be swimming much more again. What is important is the quality of the workout and that was there. All intervals were done on a send off based on 33 seconds per 25 meters. I came in on the 25’s averaging 26 seconds, 50’s were 56 seconds, and 75’s were 1:28. I know this is a little detailed for some reading, but the point is I am able to swim faster and keep the pace up throughout the workout. Swimming has been my weakest link and seeing improvement gives me so much motivation.

This evening I went from speed to endurance. My run workout was 50 to 70 minutes staying in zone two. I decided to split the difference and run for 60 minutes. I set the treadmill at 12:00 minute mile pace to start. In the past I either move up or more likely down to keep my heart rate in zone two. I was doing just fine at that pace, in fact several times I increased it to 11:45 and 11:30, brining it back to 12:00 when I would get over a heart rate of 140. What really pleased me was when a friend stopped by to chat. He stood in front of my treadmill and we talked for at least 10 minutes based on the distance I covered. The entire time my heart rate stayed around 134 and I carried on a conversation without getting breathless. Again – this may sound small, but for me it is significant. Running is my second weakest link and here again I am seeing good improvement.

The phrase “seeing is believing” is well known. This year as I tackled so many challenges in triathlon I have learned for me sometimes believing leads to seeing. I first had to believe I could do something – I could swim faster, run faster, have longer endurance – and then I did. At first glance, today seemed like a good, normal workout day. As I look deeper I realize that I have a new normal. What seemed so far from reach less than a year ago has become the typical standard. Sometimes believing is seeing, and then a new normal is born.


Hope and Dreams

On my running schedule for today my trainer wrote that if I wanted to take today as a rest day to do it. So I did. This morning I slept in until almost 7:00, after turning the lights off at 9:30 last night. After all of the running I did over the past three days, it felt great to sleep. As I got out of bed I noticed a few things. First, my legs are not as sore as I expected after running twenty miles. Second, my plantar fascia were tight, but loosened up after stretching. Third, I felt something I didn’t expect – my abs were sore. Just goes to show how important a strong core is. As a result, I did do a Pilates workout this evening.

For the most part, today fits in the category of “rest day”. I had to go back through my training log to find out when the last time was that I did not have a cardio workout. It was September 28th, the day before I ran the Akron Half Marathon and just over seven weeks ago. That has to be one of the longest periods I have gone without a rest day. My body had been sending me signals that I needed a day like this, no wonder after seven weeks without a break.

So without a big workout to write about, I came across a quote from a runner that fits for a rest day – Emil Zatopek, famous for what is known as the Zatopek Effect for resting before a big race. He is quoted saying:

An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.

Whether a person is training to get fit, stay fit, or win the race, this quote holds true. Quite frankly, anyone who has run with change or even a few Gu packs in pockets knows it is annoying. Some of us train for races. Some of us do not need a race to stay motivated. Having hope and dreams, however, makes the journey so much more meaningful.


Let the Taper Begin

As I commented on Facebook today – I ran 35 miles in 48 hours this weekend. I am ready for taper. This morning I ran 20 miles and finished just about 48 hours to the minute from when I started my 10 mile run on Friday. My run this morning went well. As usual, the first mile took sometime to get into the rhythm of the run. It was a beautiful day. The sun beat down. I had my iPod on. I was runnin’. (when Tom Petty came on singing Runnin’ Down A Dream I thought the lyrics were perfect for today!) The day started out on the cooler side with the temperature in the low 30’s. By the time I finished it was closer to 45 degrees. Great for a long run.

As I ran, I was quite pleased with my pace and heart rate. I wanted to target 12:00 to 12:30 pace for my easy run, but also let my heart rate guide me. There were several stretches in the first 11 miles when I would be running 11:30 pace or better. My average heart rate for the entire run was 137, right in zone two. Considering I had run 15 miles between Friday afternoon and yesterday morning, my legs felt strong. Well at least for the first 14 miles. The last six miles were a push. Partly from monotony and partly from fatigue. Long runs like this are good to train my body for the race, but my mind knows better. This will be my seventh marathon and the race has a different vibe that a training run just can not provide. The crowd is not there to cheer (and hold up creative signs – click link to see), other runners are not sharing your pain and excitement, and there is not a finisher’s medal waiting for me at the finish. I did however like my self talk through the last six miles. Rather than convince myself to walk more, I said “push through, the fatigue is not that bad, you can run faster and get this over.” And I did.

Now I begin my taper for the race. I enter into this period with the satisfaction that I have put in the miles. The next two weeks I will still be running, just a bit shorter distances. My focus will also be on proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, stress relief (that will be a fun challenge…) and taking it easier on my cross training activities. All of the variables I am responsible for, I have done and continue to work on. The rest is out of my control. (Step one to stress relief, relinquish control of that I can not control…) I am excited. I am anxious. I am nervous. But I look forward to the experience almost as much as Christmas.  Enjoying each day that leads up to it and the day itself is what I continue to remind myself. Believe and Enjoy – for time passes so quickly.



This morning I decided to skip swimming and just do my 70 minute easy run. My resting heart rate was still a little elevated, so I didn’t want to over do it. Today is beautiful with plenty of sunshine. When I started out on my run it was still in the 30’s but the cooler air didn’t bother me. I was texting this morning with a friend who is originally from the south, she asked if I ran in this cold weather. Being a native Ohioan, this isn’t so cold to me! With the proper clothing and layers I will run outside even in the teens. How far is another issue. Under twenty degrees any run over eight to ten miles is a little uncomfortable…

So I ran my 70 minutes in the cooler weather through the hills of my neighborhood. I took a look at the course map for my marathon and just before mile 11 it enters an area referred to as San Juan Hills. There is one decent climb about a quarter mile long and picks up 70 feet in elevation. My regular route at home covers a very similar type hill, so I made sure to focus on it today. Even though I was running easy and staying in zone two, I was able to take the hill at a 12:00 pace. After my great run yesterday I still felt good today and ran at a good pace while keeping my heart rate down. My greatest hope is the positive energy I am feeling right now is there in two weeks when I run my marathon!

Preparation – so much requires it. What to wear – for a training run – to condition my body for my race. I have been experimenting with different types of fuel for the run. I think chocolate Gu is the winner. What to drink – lemon lime Nuun is working. To supplement with electrolyte caps or not? I think so. And last week I added compression knee socks, whether they make a difference or not, my legs love the feeling! As children when we wanted to run, we just ran. Now I “just run” when I am chasing after my Maltese dog and a hawk is circling. While I am doing so much to prepare for the event, I also want to take in the pure joy of running. My runs yesterday and this morning were easy to do – everything just clicked. And in this thought I have created one more mantra to add to Believe. Enjoy.


A Good Run Thanks To Chocolate

I slept in today and absolutely relished every extra minute of sleep. That said, when I took my resting heart rate when I woke up it was around 60 – which is elevated for me. Usually it is anywhere from 44 to 51. This is a sign of over worked and need for rest. Being able to get over eight hours of sleep last night helps. My hope through the day was that it would be enough to get me through my run this afternoon.

My training schedule for today was a medium long run of 10 to 12 miles with 5 to 7 miles at my marathon goal race pace. The weather forecast all week indicated that today was going to be sunny and pleasant. The last thing I wanted to do was run that long on a treadmill. The second last thing I wanted to do was run in the dark. I decided to take a half day off and I drove down to the towpath. The day was lovely. Sunny, mild temperatures in the upper 40’s, and little to no wind. I started out on the trail with the intention of running 12 miles. With the sun setting so early, I was concerned when I left that I may not make it back before sunset. The towpath is in a heavily wooded area and there are no lights. As I started my run the first three miles were supposed to be warm up.  Within the first mile my legs felt heavy and my heart rate was spiking quickly. I thought I was still fatigued and questioned if I was going to complete this run.

At the end of mile two I made a few decisions. I was going for 10 miles and would target miles three through seven as the race pace miles. That would get me 5 miles in at race pace. After that I would see how I felt and decide if I was going to run a total of 7 miles at race pace, or cool down in a slow jog for three miles. As soon as I picked up the pace everything changed. I felt better, in fact it was hard to hold back my pace. I wanted to start at 11:30 pace and eventually increase to 11:00. Miles three and four I did just under 11:30 each and then picked it up. Mile five I did in 11:01 and felt great. My average heart rate was around 146, which is low zone three for me. At the five mile turn around I ate a chocolate Gu. This is about 25 mg of caffeine in it for a little extra energy. Well it was rocket fuel for me. Miles six and seven I ran 10:51 each on the nose and my average heart rate dropped to 144. I was surprised at how great I felt after dragging the first two miles. I knew after running five miles at race pace I was going for seven. Miles eight and nine felt just as good and were in 11:08 and 11:11. The last mile back I took easy as my cool down. Again, I had to focus on slowing down for recovery. I could have kept going at race pace.

On my way home I stopped at the Fleet Feet running store that is close to the towpath and loaded up on chocolate Gu. Hey, if it works, go with it. Chocolate seems to be the cure all to so many of life’s woes… I can only hope race day goes as well as the seven miles I ran today at race pace. In spite of the wonderful run, I am reminding myself that I am showing signs of fatigue. Usually I run and swim on Saturdays. The swim is questionable right now, I want to see how I feel in the morning. I have just over two weeks to go. Every activity and every day will have an impact on how well I will be prepared and rested for race day.

I am very pleased that I pushed through the initial fatigue and did not give up. Sometimes I have to go through the storms to get to the sunshine. (I heard that on the radio today, it fits) The point is, not everything is going to be smooth sailing. If fact some of the best accomplishments come after plenty of shedding of sweat and tears. (no blood, thank you…) So a day like today really helps me – I will remember how great my run went after I pushed on. This memory also will help get me through far more than just a run. All part of learning how to live this life to the fullest each day.


The Need For Zzz’s

My goal is to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. When I do, I operate quite well with my busy schedule. Considering I usually wake up at 4:30, it has taken some time for me to develop the habit of getting to bed by 9:00 so I am asleep by 9:30. The reaction I get when friends call at 9:40 – “oh, I woke you?” is funny. Most people have the 10:00 cut off time to call. Last night I was turning my Kindle off and the lights by 9:30 and on my way to sleep. This morning? I could have slept all day. I managed to get up by 5:00 and still get to the pool. Coffee and chlorine usually work wonders in waking me up. Not so much today. After my swim I still needed another cup of coffee to get going.

Fortunately today was my active rest day, so I only swam 2,000 meters. Despite my sleepy state of mind, my body was still working well. I ended my workout with 2 x 100 fast. And I was able to do just that – both were 1:57. For me, that is fast. Because I did get a good night of sleep, I did well through the day and the fog lifted. But I find it odd, even after sleeping 7 solid hours, I was so tired this morning. Then I remembered I am peaking in my marathon training and my body is requiring more rest. I am almost giddy knowing I can sleep in tomorrow morning. In geek athlete language that translates to 6:30. Maybe even 7:00. Normally on a Friday morning I am on my spin bike pedaling away at that time. I have a medium long run tomorrow afternoon, so that is my primary focus.

Knowing what to do and actually doing it is a struggle of the ages. Here I am typing after 10:00 in the evening. I did more today because I didn’t have a workout in the evening and I get to sleep in. Well, I won’t get much more extra sleep if I don’t get to bed soon. Unfortunately sleep is not like reading a book – it is not easy to catch up on. But developing the discipline to do what I know I should do, well that is my work in progress and I am progressing. One day – and night – at a time.




I have gone from counting down weeks until my marathon to counting down days. Eighteen. Once again perspective is everything. If I had to wait eighteen days for an order from Amazon I would think that is a very long time. Knowing I will be running 26.2 miles in eighteen days seems like it is too soon. Way too soon. My immediate positive self talk is to remind myself I have the training in. I have run several long runs longer than when I trained for my last marathon and that one I set a personal best record. I still have one more twenty mile run this weekend to condition my body. Knowing this helps. A little. I am also encouraged because I received a text today from a friend in San Francisco who will definitely be there to cheer me on. To all reading this who have cheered friends on at races – from 5K to marathon – it means SO much.

My workout this morning was a speed run. After a two mile warm up I ran 12 one minute repeats fast with a one minute jog in between followed by a one mile cool down. I chose 6.8 again on the treadmill, which is close to a 8:50 minute mile pace. I was able to sustain the pace for all of the repeats and I even kicked it up to 7.2 for the twelfth one. I have two more speed workouts before the race – in eighteen days. The goal of those will be similar to what I did last week, a few repeats of long intervals. Again, I will probably target 6.8. This is my stepping stone to my next goal 5K time. Notice I said stepping stone. I do not have a “goal” pace I want to achieve. That is limiting, I would rather see how fast I get over time. But I know the next step is to break 9:00 pace. (Ah, nine, half of 18)

This evening I did my new resistance workout. I have many more step ups, side steps down, lunges, side crunches, and balancing acts than ever. Gone are my chin ups (sad) but in place are several repeats of one arm lat pull downs while sitting on a stability ball. My core darn well better have a six pack by the time I am finished with these core exercises. There it is again – six, a third of eighteen. (Hint – I am a numbers person through and through)

As I count down the days, I also want to remember to enjoy each day as it comes. Living for “one day”, whether it is one day soon or one day maybe, is dangerous. Life passes by and goes unnoticed. So I will also look at today and make it count. It sure was a jam packed day when I look at all I did in between workouts. For today, my eighteen will be made up of the number of only a fraction of people and blessings I am grateful to have in my life. That is an eighteen that neither too long or too short. It is just right.


Have To Do vs Want To Do

I wrote back in August  that it is frustrating when things I have to do get in the way of things I want, and enjoy, to do. Well I had a bit of that today and as I result I am writing this post at what should be my bed time. My day started out with a swim – I chose to swim 2,000 meters as I am focusing more and more right now on my running. I don’t want to wear myself down from swimming or cycling. The swim workout was good – outside of my warm up and recovery sets I swam a total of 7 x 100 meter repeats and all but two were within 1:58 and 1:59. The other two were 2:00 on the nose. I was not focusing on speed as much as consistency and endurance. I want to build my strength to where I am able to swim 2:00 or better per 100 meters for long distances. So the morning workout went well.

As my morning progressed I hit a few snags but I am dealing with it well. What I had forgotten was I had a seminar today close to downtown Cleveland from 2:00 until 7:00. I live in the far out suburbs that are borderline rural for a reason – I am not a fan of the congestion in the city. My office is about as far into town as I care to go – and this meeting was another 15 miles further into town. I looked at the agenda and decided to cut out after the speakers and before dinner. This was something I committed to do and I did benefit from it, but it did get in the way of what I really wanted to do – run. I am very fortunate to have a career that gives me flexibility and I have created a system where my time usually starts at 4:30. Tonight it was 6:00. And then I had to drive through rush hour (hours?) traffic to the gym.

Between the frustration of my schedule modification and my little morning snags, I had stress that needed to be burned. Here is where control and self discipline come in handy. My run was 50 to 70 minutes easy. I was a race horse chomping at the bit to take off and run my stress off. But no – I had to focus on staying in zone two. Well, maybe a little into zone three. Of course KISS was the first song on my iPod playing New York Groove. Oh I wanted to pick it up with the beat! Alas, I behaved and ran for a total of 60 minutes and five miles. The way I felt, I probably could have ran up to 7 miles in the same time. My heart rate would have been through the roof and my inhaler emptied though.

So back to the frustration of things I have to do getting in the way of things I want, and enjoy, to do. Work is something that has to come first as long as I want to continue to afford my lifestyle. But I also learned today that when I finally got to do what I want and enjoy to do – running – I still had to heed to something that was in my best interest to do. Run slow despite my wanting to burn that treadmill up. There is a method to what my trainer has set up for me. Exercising not just my body, but also my discipline to adhere to the plan, will help me in the long run to enjoy what I love to do even more.


Monday Monday…

As the song goes … can’t trust that day… I woke up this morning and headed to the gym with 60 degrees and wind. Ah, that wind blew in rain and cold temperatures by the afternoon. Dark, rainy days are bad enough. When it happens on a Monday, well it seems even more dreary. Fortunately the sun looks like it will be shining by tomorrow afternoon (after a 40% chance of snow) and it should stick around until Sunday. The sun, not the snow. There, I already found my something good to look forward to.

When I got to spin class my friend asked how my long run went yesterday. I told her it went well and I felt good enough for cycling. That was before I got on the bike. I did not hurt, but my legs felt like bricks as I started pedaling. The fatigue from pushing race pace yesterday was showing. I took it easy in class – I gave myself two choices. A) if I am to keep up with the RPMs that the instructor suggested, I would have to reduce the tension to the point where there was barely any resistance. Or B) add enough resistance to feel I am working out but reduce the RPMs my 5 to 10. I chose B. I worked up a good sweat, got my heart rate in zones two and three, but I still didn’t hit the speed or watts I have in the past. I keep reminding myself that the marathon is the most important thing to focus on right now, this workout does not have to be all out. In fact later today I checked in with my trainer and she agrees – Friday I have a 10 to 12 mile run with up to 7 of the miles at my goal race pace – no spinning on Friday. Just running.

This evening I did my intermediate Pilates DVD. The slightly more intense moves definitely make a difference. The more I do it, the more I like it. Mixing things up and trying different routines has opened up so many opportunities. I have had a light banter going with another blogger over at Fit Recovery about yoga. Specifically if it is just a girly “foo foo” activity or is it for real men too. I will leave it up to him to discover if it is for him or not, but I do miss it. I hope to get back to a few yoga classes after the marathon. My gym even has a class that is a Yoga/Pilates Fusion class. The opportunities seem limitless…

Monday, Monday… sometimes it just works out that way. Today was not a typical Monday, but lately I am not sure what typical is. The day was dark and dreary. I sometimes prefer snow – at least the white flakes brighten things up. But I did enjoy all I did today, even if I didn’t push as hard as I would have liked in cycle class. Some days are strong, other require a bit more active rest. Sometimes it just works out that way.

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Perspective and Success

When I started training for my first marathon 13 years ago I started with absolutely no running base at all. I remember the thrill I had when I ran my first 9 mile training run. I couldn’t believe I was able to run (and walk a bit) that far. As my training progressed, I reached the “real” long runs that were 14 to 20 miles long. Every other week the coach scheduled a shorter long run of 12 miles in between the longer runs. By the end of my training my thought process – or perspective – had completely changed. I went from marveling at running 9 miles to looking at my training scheduled and actually saying “I only have 12 miles to run.”

That was 13 years ago. Today I had a shorter long run of 14 miles and I was so excited that it was all I had to run. That perspective just keeps changing. It wasn’t easy though. The first nine miles were run at my marathon goal pace. The California International Marathon (CIM) has a net elevation loss of 320 feet, but the race organizers stress it is not a downhill course. The first half has several rolling hills and it is important to pace yourself. After talking it over with my trainer, my plan is to run 11:30 pace the first half and then pick it up to 11:00 pace the second half. My primary goal is to finish and set a PR. My previous PR is 5:19:19, I am targeting 5:00. If I break 5:00 I will be thrilled.

Today I ran out and back on the towpath on a section that picks up about 80 feet in elevation the first half. So the first 7 miles I was consistent at keeping 11:30 pace. I felt good and my heart rate stayed in the upper zone two lower zone three range. At the turn around I picked up the pace as the elevation was slightly decreasing and was able to keep 11:08 pace for miles 8 and 9.  A good trial run at race pace and I was pleased. The last 5 miles I took a bit easier, but I still finished strong and with my goal time for the day.

Several bloggers who are newer to running and triathlon have expressed similar amazement at their accomplishments and commented that they don’t even think of doing the distances I haven done this year. I remind them that it is only a matter of time before they are on this side of the curve. A good friend of mine has told me for years that there is always someone faster and someone slower. I still consider myself slow, I just have decent endurance. But I am getting faster – according to my standards and my perspective. And that is what it is all about. Yes I participate in races. My biggest rival is myself. Thousands of people participate in races like CIM, but only six people really receive the official honors – the top three men and women. There is expected to be 8,000 runners in this race. Of that, 7,994 participants just want to do their best. Well maybe 7,990, I always feel so bad for the fourth and fifth finishers… But my point is it only matters how I do to me. I may be dead last in my age group, but if I set a personal record – I am thrilled. What matters is the bar I set for myself in life, not the judgement of anyone else. That is part of seizing the day.