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


For Auld Lang Syne

To round out the year today, I went to spin class and then swam after. Both workouts were good, although swimming was more challenging than I had expected. I swam a total of 3,200 meters. A group of four of us swam most of the workout together. It was a repeat of 100 meters with varied send offs and objectives. We started with 100 meter free on a 2:10 send off – I stayed at 1:55 with swimming freestyle and pulling I came in at 1:50. Then we did 100’s where the last 25 meters were fast, then the last 50, and so on until all out on 100. Again, I held my own. The last set did me in and also frustrated me. The goal was 10 x 100’s with one 25 meter leg being non-free on a 2:15 send off. There was my shortfall. I knew I couldn’t keep the send off just swimming and adding backstroke. The first set I touched in at 2:13 and then back out two seconds later. I had to put on fins to keep up and I do not prefer to swim with fins. It makes the swim too easy, but it was the only way I could make the 2:15 send off and have 15 to 18 seconds to recover. I finished early with cramps in my legs from the fins and lots of frustration.

In retrospect when I talked with my friend after we finished I should have either asked to extend the send off to 2:20 or only swim 75 meters instead of 100. Truth be told, my pride got in the way. I still feel slow compared to the others and I didn’t want to hold them back. A lesson learned today – I am training to improve my ability and have fun. Sometimes modifications are necessary to allow both to occur. As 2012 winds down, I am reminded that every day brings something to learn. The joy in the day for me was being able to celebrate my friend’s birthday with two strong workouts.

With the end of the year, I have done a little reflecting. My workouts today are good examples of my experience this year. In the past there have been years that I bid a good riddance and never wanted to look back. In retrospect, I have to question was it really the events of the year that made it that way, or how I perceived it? I could easily select events from 2012 in my life to cast gloom – my post on bruises yesterday detailed a few trials in running and triathlon. Additionally I have dealt with a few lost friendships, a bit of heartbreak, and I continue to struggle with a challenge that has been with me for years. But I have also grown so much this year – I am a stronger athlete, I am learning more on how to prepare and race well, I truly have the most thoughtful and caring friends (yes, plural) anyone could ask for, I have joy in my healed heart, and I am setting boundaries to enhance the pleasant interactions in my life and limit the challenges.

There is very little I have control over, but I still have choices. I can focus on the misfortune, cast blame on others for why life is not treating me as I think it should, or make judgements to bring people down. This would lead to a life of sadness, emptiness, and most likely loneliness. What I do have control over is my attitude, how I choose to react, the time I am willing to spend with those most dear to me, and the values I choose to guide me. These are choices I have to make every day – and I am the first to admit I often fall short. Not everything may turn out as I would prefer, but there are lessons in life – I just have to open my eyes and see them as I continue to learn every day. So to answer the question in the well know song we will sing tonight:

Should old acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne?(times gone by)

My answer is no – the memories should be cherished. Both good and bad, the lessons are priceless. Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with many joyful days – seize them.


My Year In Review – Bruises

One of my favorite musical bands is Train. Additionally I have a soft spot for Country music. This year Train released a new album with a song titled Bruises. It has the best of both worlds – the great voice of Patrick Monahan accompanied by a guest Country singer, Ashley Monroe. This song is on my running music playlist and always makes me smile. The music is upbeat, at first hearing one would think the lyrics are sad, but to me they are practical. The chorus sums it up:

These bruises makes for better conversation, loses the vibe that separates. It’s good to let you in again, you’re not alone in how you been. Everybody loses, we all got bruises.

As I review my year, this post is dedicated to the bruises I experienced and shared here on this blog.

I started the year with the goal of learning to do a flip turn. It was not easy. I spent quite a bit of time at the pool jumping up into the water only to hit the bottom of the pool. I rolled to my side, smacked the lane line many times, and inhaled quite a bit of water. The countless failed attempts lead me to seek help from a lifeguard. After my first lesson I over came my fear of tumbling in the water, but I still needed quite a few lessons and hours of practice before I became a decent flip turner. There were physical bruises along the way, but also bruises to my morale. I was determined to overcome my fear – and I did.

In April I went out one evening for a three mile run. It felt good, but I did feel a little tired. On my way back and within a tenth of a mile from my home my left foot came down on a small crack in the asphalt. My ankle rolled and I heard the noise no one wants to hear – a pop. Ten days later I was registered to run a 10 mile race I was hoping to set a personal best in and five weeks later I was registered to run a half marathon. My ankle was sprained and purple with bruises. I did not run for a week. That was one of the hardest things I went through this year. The rush of endorphins from running were greatly missed. I swam through the sprain but had to put my flip turns on hold for several months. I did not run the 10 mile race, but I did make it to the half marathon and finished.

Most of my training the first eight months of the year were focused toward the half iron distance triathlon I completed on September 9th. My swim was very good, all of the time I put in paid off. My bike and run however were hampered by a whole wheat bagel. I have the most routine diet, but for some crazy reason I decided to eat a whole wheat bagel the morning of the race. Having never done this in training, my body did not like it. I dealt with stomach issues on both the bike and the run. What could have been a personal record for me turned out to be my second best time. The bruise here was to my expectations. What set me back was totally under my control. I learned a lot that day.

The next big event of the year for me was the marathon I ran in Sacramento, CA earlier this month. I have worked since July with my running coach and had the potential to run my personal best time and even break five hours. This time what set me back was completely out of my control. A tropical storm from Hawaii came to visit Northern California the same weekend. I ran in a complete downpour and very strong winds for the majority of the marathon. I finished. That alone was a big accomplishment. It was my third fastest out of seven marathons. I left with both physical and emotional pains. Not just the leg pain from running but also some rashes from arm warmers and then there were the doubts I would ever run a marathon again after that experience. It took a good week for the emotional bruises to fade, longer than the physical. I have not given up on the marathon and now have one planned for October of 2013.

Life brings bruises. I only focused on what I experienced in training. There were a whole lot more, let me tell you. We all got bruises – and sometimes it is these experiences that bring people closer together. At the end of the song the duo shares that they want to help each other, but also accept each other the way they are:

I would love to fix it all for you, (I would love to fix you too). Please don’t fix a thing whatever you do.

It is the bruises that make us who we are as much as the joys. And I would not change a thing.


My Year in Review – Team Work

Running and triathlon for the most part are not considered team sports with the occasional exception of relay teams. Over the years I have approached training as an individual activity, primarily because I was slower in running and swimming than most of my friends. This year my experience has been much different. Through my writings I would share my doubts in my abilities and the mantras I have come up with to overcome my doubts. Believe has been my most common and helpful mantra. As my confidence strengthened and my performance improved, I was willing to train with my friends. Over time, I have seen my performance continue to improve and I credit much of it to the influence of training with others. It is a big bonus that they are my friends and not just random people at the gym. The encouragement and camaraderie from others only strengthens my belief that I am able as well as the sense of joy I get from encouraging them.

This morning I woke to about two inches of fresh fallen snow. It wasn’t enough to keep me off the roads for my run. A friend of mine came out to join me. She is a much faster runner and I made sure she knew she could go faster if I was holding her back. She needed an easy run and I enjoyed the company. As a result, she helped push me to run a bit faster than I probably would have and I stayed in my zones two and three. While we ran she even asked why I felt I had to offer the choice to run faster if I was slowing her, she was enjoying the run and wanted to stay with me. I realized I still had a bit of doubt that I am a real runner. Once again, the power of the buddy system came through and brought me to a better place. In all I ran 8 miles and she doubled back to get twelve miles in.

As I chronicled my experiences in my writings, I have grown emotionally as well as strengthened physically. Giving up is much easier to do when no one is aware. As others have read my experiences and shared encouragement, I had a greater sense of responsibility to see it through in my endeavors. Yes, the responsibility was to myself, but I knew others were aware. Reading others’ blogs and the trials and joys they experienced also added to my drive to push. I truly credit this blog to setting the ground work for me to go on and be open to training with my friends. My love of the sport has increased even more as a result of the team work I have found. I had to believe in my ability first and take the leap of faith.



Today is a milestone for me. With this post I have completed 366 posts over 366 days completing a full year, including leap day. On December 29, 2011 I decided to start a blog as a New Year resolution and blog daily. Over the year I have shared my training experiences, the good times, the challenges, the victories, and what I have learned along the way. Adding a motivational spin to my writing did so much for me – I hope anyone reading gained something from my experiences for the good. I have learned so much and I want to share how this blog impacted me, which I will do over the next few days.

For today, I want to share how the blog and those reading have become an additional motivation for me. Knowing I would be writing later in the day about my experiences has helped me look at life in a positive way. There were times I wanted to quit, and I did share my frustrations, but I did push myself to more than I thought I could at times because I knew I had an accountability to those reading. How can I say Believe, look for the good in the day, find the joy – when I was not doing the same? While some reading may think I helped motivate them, the truth is you all reading motivate me to be a better person. Thank you for all you have commented, suggested, shared, and commiserated. When I started this a year ago I never dreamt I would meet so many people I truly consider friends.

A quick recap on my training today – I chose to sleep in a bit and not get up at 4:30 on my last weekday off to go to spin class. I did make it to the gym and I road the spin bike for 45 minutes and felt a good ride was done. Then I went to the pool and swam on my own a 2,000 meter workout. Today was a day to train alone and share with my big training group here on WordPress. I am happy to report that even without my friends pushing me, I was able to stay under 2 minutes per 100 meters for the entire workout. Big Wooo Hooo!

Today, while it is a milestone, it is also just a day in my journey. I have every intention of blogging, hopefully every day, and sharing my experiences. Additionally I look forward to reading the experiences of so many others. Bloggers I have followed just about all year as well and new bloggers sharing their journeys. Just as my training friends have pushed me to improve, so have you bloggers helped me to be motivated and experience greater joy. Here is to another 365 – no leap day this year – and a wonderful journey to share.


Run, Swim, and Lessons In Hydration

The snow has stopped and it is beautiful to see the trees covered with white frosting. The roads also were clear, however I played it safe and ran inside this morning at my gym. While I am confident to stay clear of patches of ice or snow when I run, I have no control over the cars driving in my path. So I did what I am learning so well this year, take control over what I am able and not worry about the rest. One more thing I have to take control over – better hydration. Being off this week, my routine is out of whack and I am not drinking as much as I should. Especially of what I should be drinking, rather than holiday spirits…

My run was to be a steady run in zone two. I had a hard time keeping my heart rate under 140, which is the upper limit for me of zone two. I ran a total of 45 minutes and made sure to drink sports drink throughout the workout. It may have helped a bit, but the amount of replenishing I needed was much greater I am sure. I really wanted to kick up my speed since my heart rate was elevated, but I stayed in the slow zone. In keeping with never regretting a workout, I did not regret it, but it wasn’t my favorite. I know I feel better having run and I also know how to better prepare in the future.

After running indoors I am much warmer than an outside run and I could not wait to cool off in the pool and swim. I met up with a friend to swim – he is the fastest swimmer I swim with but also a very good mentor. After a warm up of 1,000 meters we did two 100 meter IM sets. He is very strong in the butterfly, which is the first stroke of IM and by far my weakest. This is going to take time. I have the motion of the kick down but not the count. It is two kicks per stroke and I am only doing one most of the time. He gave me a few pointers and I will work at it. I swam a total of 2,200 meters – by 2,000 meters into the swim my calves and toes started cramping a bit. Another sign of dehydration.

As I swam, I had to chuckle to myself. A year ago I started swimming five to six times a week to get stronger in my weakest sport of triathlon. Today, I can not say it is my strongest of the three, but I am much stronger. And I really like getting the workout in. Running will always be my first love, but today I was looking forward to swimming while I was still on the treadmill. It just goes to show that no matter how old I am, there is always room to learn, grow, and develop passions for activities I never thought I would enjoy so much. All the more reason to keep an open mind and experience as much as possible that this life has to offer. But make sure to stay hydrated along the way!


Influence of Friends

After reading the weather forecast last night for today, my friends and I decided to meet at 6:15 to swim and get our workout in before the storm was scheduled to hit. Yes, I did not have to work today, but I did not want to spend a day off stuck in snow and traffic. Additionally, I really enjoy swimming with my friends. This morning we had five all together. I swam a total of 3,300 meters. I continue to push myself more to keep pace with the others. Sometimes I do have to pull, but today when I did was swimming my 100 meters in 1:47. When I was swimming freestyle I still was able to stay just under 2 minutes per 100 meters for both the 100 meter repeats and the 200 meter repeats. I finished feeling like I put in a good workout and I feel the benefits from it.

I left the gym about two hours before the storm was supposed to hit, so I headed to Target. On Christmas Eve I helped one of my friends wrap a few gifts. She is very organized and has boxes of assorted wrapping paper and spools and spools of ribbon. These gifts did not have the stick on bows (like the ones I tend to use…) but carefully wrapped around the boxes and tied with care. She inspired me to stock up for next year. And maybe a few years after with the stash I bought. All of the wrapping paper, gift boxes, gift bags, and yes – spools and spools of ribbons were 50% off. The joy of the holiday definitely continued with such a bargain.

As I pulled into my driveway the first flakes of snow began to fall. It is letting up now, but still falling. From my last measurement it looks like there has been eight inches of fresh snow – so far. I have spent most of the day inside now getting things done around the house and spending time with my friend who is visiting. Time with her is always fun and not often enough.

The common thread through my activities today has been my friends. Sometimes we make adjustments for each other (waking at 5:00 on a day off to participate in a group activity), sometimes we inspire each other (my Christmas gifts will be stellar next year!), and sometimes we just make a snow storm a great day to hang out together. This year I have learned a great deal about friendships. Reaping and sowing is a very good summary – I gravitate toward the friends that sow into my life, as I also sow into theirs and the circle goes round and round. We reap the joy we share. Those are the friends I have found and am blessed to experience the joy of life with.


Joy To Last All Year

After a big race I tend to have a bit of the blues that the big event has passed. The same goes for Christmas, if not more so. My celebrations from Christmas Eve through today were truly blessed. Spending time with family and dear friends was wonderful. Good conversations, good food and wine, and thoughtful presents. Nevertheless, there remains the feeling that it is over so quickly after such a build up. Yes, it is only a reminder of the joy we should share year round. But the little magical feeling is not the same come January. I guess I will have to create more thoughtful ways to keep the joyful feeling going…

This morning I did wake to a White Christmas. It was overcast but not too cold, the temperatures hovered around 30 degrees. I had a run scheduled today and since the gym was closed this morning, no swimming was scheduled. My run was invigorating – four miles easy in my zone two. Of course I had Christmas music playing on my headset. It was a great way to start the day. Running in the cold is not a problem for me, the only thing that can be uncomfortable are my fingers so I held on to two Hot Hands hand warmers and I didn’t have a problem at all. The things one learns running in wintery weather.

Ah, the mention of winter. There is never a dull moment. Christmas may be winding down but there is a storm brewing. Beginning tomorrow morning and going through Thursday we are expecting a snow storm to bring a total snow accumulation of 8 to 12 inches. At least I got a run in outside today. Like so much in life, I have no control over the weather. I can only prepare for what I believe is to come and make the best of the situation. I hope you all had a wonderful day with family and friends. Merry Christmas!


‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

With so much to do to celebrate Christmas Eve, I doubt I will have time to write a thoughtful blog. In keeping with my goal of daily blogging, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Today I swam 2,500 meters, although I had planned to swim 3,000. My friend joined me at the gym and she finished her workout before I finished. I chose to stop at 2,500 meters and join her in the hot tub to chat.

My workout, like this post, was abbreviated because I wanted to seize the day and enjoy every minute of the holiday. Living it is what it is all about, especially with family and friends. I hope you all have fabulous moments to seize!


Swimming and Cats and Dogs

As I have shared in writing and pictures, I have five animals. My female cat Molly is 18 years old and still looks and behaves like a kitten. She always slept with me, even after I adopted my first dog Phoebe 10 years ago. Then I adopted my second dog Barnabas eight and a half years ago and everything changed. He wanted to chase Molly and play, her feline instinct told her to run and protect herself. For the past eight years they have had, well, a dog and cat relationship. Since my dogs sleep with me, Molly opted out and would not come in the room. It did break my heart, Molly does not join the dogs and her litter mate Kosey when we are together in the family room. Her fear of Barnabas kept her away. I do not know what changed, but since I have been back from California, Barnabas has not tried to attack her and Molly is no longer fearful of him. As I type I am sitting in bed with Molly on my lap and Barnabas at my right knee. And they get along.

Like my pets, sometimes things can be challenging for a season and then the fog lifts and it is clear. In my swimming, I continue to be amazed at my progress. I have worked hard all year, I changed my stroke this summer to be more efficient, I swam literally hundreds of thousands of meters. Something changed in November and kicked into full gear after I got back from California and my pace has increased significantly. Breaking the 2:00 mark on 100 meters consistently eluded me until just a few weeks ago. Today I broke another barrier – staying at or under 4:00 on 200 meters. I swam with two of my fastest friends today doing a set of 5 x 200 meters on a 4:15 send off. The first one I came in on 3:57 – a big first for me. The second I was at 4:01 and I was breathing hard. I used the pull buoy for the next two – man I wish I could swim as fast as I pull. I was at 3:45 on both of those sets. The fifth I swam without assistance and came in at 4:00 on the nose. I can not credit one thing for my improvement. All I know is the time I put in, the effort to improve my stroke, and most significantly swimming with others who push me all together has helped me get to the place I am at now – and continuing to progress.

I have also written several times that I believe life does not progress in a linear fashion. Sometimes we take two steps forward and one step back. Within the time it took me to hit enter twice and create this paragraph Molly jumped up and Barnabas went on the defense. For a moment, it was raining cats and dogs. I guess it was a step back for a moment. But as Molly just demonstrated as she carefully stepped slowly back into my lap, not giving up and persisting with patience will help reach desired results. She is back in my lap and Barnabas is curled at my right knee. I have been frustrated at times with my plateaus in training. My recent improvements, as well, as my pets are teaching me that progress is out there, it may take time and move slowly, it may require more training and focus, and I may take a step or two back along the way. But I believe I will do it, and that is more than half the battle.

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Getting In the Holiday Spirit

This morning I woke to 5 inches of snow, but clear roads. The temperature was right at 30 degrees so I geared up and ran 9 miles outside. To really get in the Christmas spirit I put on Christmas music for my run. This was the longest I have run since the marathon and it felt great. My pace was good, easy in zone two and I was just under 12:30 pace. Nothing rushed, and that was fine for me today. With Christmas just a few days away, I want to take in every moment. For as much snow as Northeast Ohio gets, it is not often that we get a white Christmas.

The rest of my day was spent getting last minute things done for the holiday and preparing for my house guest. Today my friend arrived from Florida. We went on the cruise together in March. When she comes to town she stays with me. It is always a treat, like having a roommate for a week. She even brought Santa for me:

My Santa visitor

My Santa visitor

Tonight we are celebrating the holiday with friends. Spending time with friends is always fun, at the holiday it is even sweeter. Even though it was cloudy today, the snow brightened up the day and time with friends bring plenty of warmth on this first full day of winter. What could be better?