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


Motivation in Practice

Today I had two workouts that really needed motivation to complete. First in the pool – I swam with two of my friends. Actually they were swimming for a while when I got in. After a warm up we did part of my workout together. They are both faster than I, but it was still motivating to have the company. The swim was a long one – a total of 3,300 meters. The main set was a very long pyramid. Increasing by 100 meters from 100 up to 500 and back down. The first three repeats I swam strong. The 100 I touched in at 1:53, the 200 in 3:58 and the 300 in 5:59. All of them I broke 2:00 per 100 and the first I believe on a 300 meter set. The purpose of this workout is pacing and muscle endurance. And after the 300 my pace declined along with my endurance. The 400 was slower, the 500 a bit slower, and then my friends finished their swim workout. I was left with the remainder to swim on my own. Instead of counting with each stroke I was repeating “just keep swimming, break through” in my head. I made it through. Odd though, when I finished I felt I had been slow overall. Then I logged in my swim and discovered my overall pace including recovery time was one of my fastest.

This evening I ran 6.5 miles on the treadmill at the gym. Five of the miles were run at my goal half marathon pace. Again, a very challenging workout. Pushing myself to finish strong and not quit early was hard to do. I knew if I made it through the entire workout the next run, my long run, I will have additional motivation to go the distance. My head is getting in the game again. I finished the entire workout and felt good. Both physically as well as mentally.

My swim and my run today were both reminders that the core of my motivation has to come from within me. I enjoy training with my friends, but I also have to have the drive inside to get through the tough workouts on my own. Today I did just that and as an added bonus I was able to hold a pace both in the pool and on the run that I didn’t think I could do a year ago. Never say never, huh? Believing in myself, trusting the abilities I have been blessed with, and breaking through the tough workouts are talking me to new levels. And I am excited to see where I will go.


Finding Motivation

This morning I was back in the pool and was able to get 3,200 meters in. I swam with my friend who swims the same pace as I swim. We did a lot of 100 meter repeats – the goal was to maintain a set pace with only 5 seconds recovery for the first 10 then pick up the pace by 5 seconds but take 10 seconds to recover and then another 5 seconds faster with a 15 second recovery. At first I really had to hold back, and then the pace caught up with me, I had to push to make the times toward the end. I really enjoy swimming with my friend because we both have different moments when one excels versus the other and we motivate each other to pick it up. I tend to push off a bit stronger on the third length and she has an incredible ability to kick it in the last 12 to 15 meters. Just when I am feeling the desire to cruise into the wall I see her edging up on me. Another example of how the buddy system works. No slacking allowed!  As for the workout, I liked they way it helps train my body and mind to maintain a consistent pace over a long distance.

My cycle workout this afternoon also was geared toward endurance and tempo. After warming up for 10 minutes my goal was to ride a moderately flat course and maintain 85 to 95 rotations per minute keeping my heart rate in my zone 3. First, I am still trying to figure out where my zones are on the bike, I know they are much lower than when I run. I went by my perceived exertion and I think I maintained the right level – for 50 minutes. That is a long time to ride a bike going nowhere. Fortunately I had music on and I read. Keeping the pace and the speed I wanted was a bit challenging at times, but I remembered my new mantra – Push Through. I finished feeling good and knowing I put in a good effort. I must say, cycling alone today without a buddy or in a class was a bit more challenging than swimming this morning with a buddy. I know when the weather improves and I hit the streets I will most likely experience the same thing – hopefully I will be able to join a few group rides each week to have other riders that keep the motivation going.

Today  I emailed with my coaches about scheduling races for both running and triathlon. My running coach shared with me a few ideas for motivation and conquering the psychological challenges that come with harder training. I will not always have others training with me, especially in running, and I have to find a way to push through. One suggestion she had was that she wears motivational rubber bracelets during workouts to glance at to remind her to keep on. I really like the idea – especially if I wear it on my left arm next to my Garmin 910XT. The detail junky in me looks at my watch frequently in all sports to monitor my time, my heart rate, my pace – you name it. I found a company on the web that will manufacture personalized bracelets, no minimum order, free shipping, and with a promo code I got them for $6.79 each. I ordered three – “Break Through”, “Believe”, and “Trust”. I was able to pick the words, Break Through and Believe are two common mantras of mine now. I thought of “Just Keep Swimming” and “I Am Able”, but I decided to go with “Trust”. Trust my training, my ability, my will to continue, and so much more. I won’t always have a buddy to keep me motivated, but I can have a reminder to glance at that comes close to pushing me on.

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Quality Over Quantity

Irony is one of my favorite forms of humor. Irony in life really makes me chuckle. Just yesterday I wrote about “focusing on what is right in front of me.” Today I went to the eye doctor for my check up and, as always, I had my eyes dilated. Now I can not focus on anything right in front of me very well. See the irony? Ah, there I go again with “see”…

My morning started off with every good intention of swimming 3,600 meters. I got to the pool around 6:35 and was ready to swim by 6:45. I swam the first part of the warm up, which was 100 meters. And that was the extent of my swimming distance this morning. I was thrilled when I touched in too – my first 100 meters to warm up I did in 1:57. It felt easy. No, I did not decide to stop while I was ahead. In the lane next to me was one of my friends that I swim with. I have referred to her in the past as being part dolphin – and I am not kidding. She is not only fast in the pool, but elegant. When I am able, I like to be in the lane next to her to see her swim and hopefully pick up pointers. When I finished my 100 she was finishing a set too. Recently she had commented that she has watched my stroke and my flip and has a few suggestions. We chatted for a bit and then she showed me a few drills, made a few comments, and I flipped and flipped. My flip itself is okay. How I approach the wall, when I hit the wall, and how I push off of the wall is where I need work. But the actual somersault is okay. Who would have thought a flip turn could be as technical (and challenging to master) as a golf swing… Before I knew it, we had been in the water over 40 minutes. I was not disappointed at all that I did not get the quantity of meters in. It was great quality time spent with a friend and learning how to improve my technique.

This afternoon I had a speed run scheduled. Even as I write now, I still have a headache from having my eyes dilated. Running at home on my treadmill was my only plan. When it came time I just wanted to go to bed. After texting my coach and modifying the workout, I decided to give it a go. I cut the warm up in half, did 6 repeats at a fast pace for 90 seconds with 90 seconds recovery and jogged out a half mile. The actual workout called for 6 to 8 repeats. I stayed within the range for the workout and managed to get the quality part of the run in. When originally looking at the workout I expected to run 6 miles, I ran 3. Again, I am not disappointed. I got the run in, I was very pleased with my pace – I stayed at a 9:13 minute mile pace for the sprints and my heart rate maxed at 156 – still under my anaerobic threshold of 162. I sent the results to my running coach and she was fine with the modifications I made.

Quality over quantity was my theme today. I tend to want to get the most distances in. Every once in a while it is good to have some quality time. My friend suggested just swimming without counting how far. (Aghast! That is like running without a watch!) But I know I should try it. I should mention that my fast swimming friend is 20 years younger than I, and my running coach is just over 18 years younger. One of the things I love about athletics – triathlon and running specifically – is that it is the great equalizer. Age, profession, background – none of it matters. There is much to be learned from the stronger athletes. That does not necessarily mean the oldest or most experienced racer. In the pool my friend can easily swim a 1:10 for 100 meters and my running coach trains at mile repeats of 6:00 per mile. The quality of their guidance far out ways the quantity of their years.


Clear as Pea Soup

Today was my rest day. Choosing to focus on the word rest, I slept until 7:00. For a week day, that is very late for me. Of course it did not go without interruption – my cat got a few pokes in, my alarm went off at 5:15 (hit snooze), and a friend texted me early to see if I was going to cycle class. Fortunately I have no problem going back to sleep, so I felt very rested this morning. After work I did try a new yoga class at a very popular yoga studio in town. I have heard good things about it, so it was worth checking out. This class is an hour long and is called Vinyasa Yoga Basics. Well, it was not so basic. I felt I got a good stretch in. The instructor was quite good leading us through the moves. At the beginning the instructor said to find the meaningful word (mantra?) to focus on through the class and possibly into activities in life. Mine was my new mantra – Break Through.

Yoga is helping me slow down once or twice a week and let the tension go. I am also able to clear my mind and focus on what matters. As for some of the more challenging poses, Break Through really helped. With running and cycling, there are areas in my legs, hips, and back that are very tight. Holding a few positions for “five breaths” (these yogis breathe much slower than I…) can take me to the point I want to break down, quit, stop. That is when Break Through came into play. For me the chair pose (Jim in Sanskrit it is called Utkatasana, take note) is very hard to hold. Running and cycling are hard on my quads, holding a chair seated position with no chair creates a feeling a fire. Break Through. And I did. As I mentioned yesterday, balance is an issue for me. I positioned myself where I thought was the back of the class so I was close to the window wall. I was in the front. So when I would come up into chair pose my face was about arm distance from the shear blinds covering the window. The depth perception was way off and made it difficult to focus. After the fourth time I figured where to cast my eyes so it wasn’t an optical illusion. I learned to look closer than farther away.

After class I headed home. The extreme cold has gone for now and we are experiencing a bit of freezing rain and temperatures in the upper 30’s to lower 40’s. With very cold snow on the ground and the sun had set it was a perfect blend for fog. Pea soup thick fog. Driving home, up and down hills through mostly dark country roads, I had to focus up close. The visibility was no more than 50 feet and I am being generous. I know these roads like the back of my hand, yet I had trouble judging when the road would bend because of the thick fog. My perception was off just like in yoga class. As I drove home I thought how today’s experiences are good to remember. I go through life at a quick pace – there is always somewhere to be, something to do, people to meet. Resting, breathing deeply, clearing my mind and focusing on what is right in front of me is something I need to work on. All too often planning details for events far off clouds enjoying the little things that are happening in the present. Sometimes pea soup thick fog is just what I need to Break Through and remember to enjoy, and seize, today.


Break Down to Break Through

I am getting into a routine on Sundays that I am liking quite a bit. My morning starts with my cycle workout my coach has given me. Today was for an hour but it was geared to mimic hill climbing. Something I need to spend time doing – the Syracuse 70.3 climbs 1,000 feet over the first 11 miles. I pushed myself and hit higher heart rate levels on the bike that I have not seen in a while. After cycling I changed and headed to the pool to swim. This morning I met up with one of my friends who is very fast. He had already started his workout so we did our own workouts, stopped to chat a bit in between, and finished around the same time. I only swam 1,200 meters. Today I really felt the effects of cycling hard and my lungs and legs did not want to push too much. That said, I did swim my fastest 600 meters – I did it in 12:14 – just a hair over 2:02 per 100 meters. My goal is to go long distance averaging under 2:00 minutes. I am getting close. Also – no pull buoy at all today. So with fatigued legs and lungs I still had a strong swim.

After swimming I changed and headed up to the yoga studio. For the second week in a row two other girlfriends met up with me. While yoga is a very individual practice, sharing the experience with friends makes it much more meaningful and fun. Balance is not my strongest ability, I have a 20 degree C curve in my lower spine. Even mild scoliosis can really mess up balance. As a result, my friends and I bump into each other occasionally. Today I almost punched one friend in the nose and the other went tumbling into the mirror on her own ability. (I had nothing to do with it, honest.) Additionally, the instructor of this class makes sure to add a meaningful theme to the practice. Last week she shared the quote from Mother Teresa. Today she started with a comment that penetrates through so much in life, not just yoga. She said that there are moments when something becomes so stressful (a yoga stretch, a swim sprint, climbing a huge hill on a bike, running a pace faster than ever, a work situation, a relationship…) that you reach a point where you have to break down in order to break through.There comes a time when enough is enough – when the stress breaks you down and you push on and break through.  In my training right now it is in my running, as my friend pointed out to me. I didn’t think about it right away, but she is right. I am struggling and I have to break through. Two months ago I was running 15 to 20 miles for my long run and I can not find it in me to get over 10 miles right now.

Adding yoga to my routine was something I wanted to do to improve my flexibility and strength. I had not planned on gaining insight and perspective too – not every instructor is the same. Fortunately I have found a class that is challenging my body and mind. Mantras are a center part of my training. When it gets tough I turn to them. Believe. Just Keep Swimming. I Am Able. Now I have one more to add, and it will help far beyond a workout – Break Through.




Learning my limitations can be humbling. Today it was just frustrating. With the cold spell we have been experiencing, my exercise induced asthma has been a bit more provoked. Running outside when the temperatures are below 25 causes issues. My frustration sets in because I enjoy running on a cold morning when the wind is not too bad and the snow is freshly fallen. This morning when I was scheduled to run it was hovering around 22 degrees and I knew if I wanted to get my long run in it was going to be inside. I also had to get my dogs to the groomer early, so after dropping them off I headed to my gym which was just up the street.

Frustrated with having to run inside, I made the best of it by setting my iPod on a good mix of music and bringing my iPad to read while I ran. (Next Apple needs to make an iTread – a treadmill with music and iPad built in.) Last week I ran eight miles for my long run. My long runs have been tough for me to push through lately. With the half marathon seven weeks away I want to keep adding to my long run, so my goal was at least 9 miles. The first five miles went well, I held a good pace and kept my heart rate in zone two. Being on a treadmill for so long, the people on the machines around me kept changing. Just after mile five the guy no one wants to get on a treadmill near by got on the treadmill two down from me. Yes, the guy who thought he should put on cologne before exercising. I could not believe my luck. Yesterday morning in the pool I was struck in the sniffer by a gal who was wearing perfume swimming – at 7 AM in the morning! I don’t know if my sense of smell is heightened when exercising, but I am very aware when an aromatic person is near by. After about a half mile of running in a cloud of cologne I could not take it any more so I changed treadmills. Fortunately my gym is enormous and I was able to move three rows up and two machines over. No more odors. I ran 9 miles in total. I am not sure which was harder – running indoors and getting brain drain or the soreness in my hamstrings. The soreness lingers still but my brain as recovered. Next week I am bringing my inhaler if it is still this cold and running outside.

Life requires flexibility and adaptation. Which stirs in my mind the phrase “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” A runner longs, if you will, for the long run. Limitations such as asthma required a little flexibility today. My longing to run outside was modified. Then I had to make a few adjustments to improve my environment… I am a planner – life in my eyes is more enjoyable with some organization and plans. My plans however do not always go as … planned. So what is a gal to do? I was not going to stay home and not run or throw in the towel and head to the locker room when the cologne wearing man came by. I adapted. I had a good run, I enjoyed the day, and my pups look fabulous.




The extreme cold – and snow – continues to linger but it has not stopped me. Quite the contrary, I have been so busy this week I missed writing twice. I am happy to report I have been busy with the good stuff – training and enjoying a little leisure time. (I had almost forgotten what that was…) Yesterday morning I ran at the gym and did a tempo run. Like last Friday, I was scheduled to do two repeats of 10 minutes at my half marathon goal pace. I was able to keep a 9:50 to 9:40 minute mile pace. My heart rate stayed in my upper zone three without going anaerobic. If I am able to keep this pace in Washington DC in March I will be thrilled. As I have admitted, it is my mind that will be the biggest hill to climb, so to speak. I saw the elevation profile today for the race and there is about a 220 foot gain over five miles between miles 2.75 and 7.75. It doesn’t sound too bad, but enough to give me the jitters. Once the weather breaks I will get outside and run the hills for strength and preparation.

This morning I made it to spin class and then swam after. I noticed I am regaining some strength on the bike – it was a challenging class and I was able to push it over 220 on the power watts measure and over 21 miles per hour when we had 60 to 90 second long hard intervals. How accurate the computer on the bike is remains in question, but it is the best gauge I have to go off of right now. What I can tell is I am getting stronger. In the pool we had five swimmers. After a warm up we did 8 x 200 meter repeats on 4:30. I swam the odd sets and pulled the evens. When I swam I stayed around 3:52 to 3:54 for the 200 meters. Pulling I was at 3:46 – my next goal to accomplish is swimming without the pull buoy. I have been working on limiting pulling and today helped. Soon I won’t need it at all, but I may need my inhaler close by…

Faster running, cycling, and swimming. I am getting stronger. Yes, I am getting stronger physically. But I am also believing I am able to improve beyond where I am now as I have learned from where I used to be. As my friend questioned me, it is possible I have had the ability longer than I have realized, I just had to believe in myself. I am my worst critic. A song I have been listening to while working out lately is Unbreakable by Fireflight. The opening verse is:

Where are the people that accused me?
The ones who beat me down and bruised me
They hide just out of sight
Can’t face me in the light
They’ll return but I’ll be stronger

In this case it is me. The voice, or voices (committee?), that doubt my ability. And while I believe today that I am stronger, that I can and will achieve new goals, those voices will return. But that is where faith comes into play. Where I have to believe. Believe in the unseen. The second verse goes on:

Sometimes it’s hard to just keep going
But faith is moving without knowing
Can I trust what I can’t see?
To reach my destiny
I want to take control but I know better

Ha – I want to take control – sound familiar? Faith is moving without knowing. Yes, I have to trust what I can’t see. The last part of the song she sings “forget the fear, it’s just a crutch”. Yep, it sure is. But with faith, believing in the skills I have been blessed with, I am unbreakable. All I need to do is just trust.


Frozen Isn’t So Bad

Over the past 36 hours I have swam 5,500 meters, ran 6.7 miles, and cycled 17.7 miles all under the roof of my gym. We are experiencing an extreme cold wave here in the Midwest with highs around 15. Running and cycling for me are best done inside. How some people are able to ride outside year round, like All Seasons Cyclist, continue to amaze me. I feel an asthma attack coming at the thought of it.

These cold spells usually last a week and then normal cold weather returns with 20’s and 30’s. For those who have spent any time in a cold climate, there are a few things that stir the senses and evoke memories. I went to college in Ann Arbor (yep, Go Blue!) and it would get just as cold. There is a specific sound made walking on snow in below 10 degree temperatures. A unique squeak that at the first sound my mind goes back to Ann Arbor walking across campus to class as the wind blows. My neighbors burn wood in their fireplace all winter long – I love walking outside and taking in the scent of the smoke piping out of the chimney. I can’t help but grin at the peaceful feeling it brings.

Beyond sounds and scents, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. Or more. I live on the outskirts of a quaint village called Chagrin Falls. The name of course comes from the Chagrin River that flows through the center of town and is broken in several places by beautiful waterfalls. I enjoy looking at the falls all through the year. The town itself brings memories of simpler times gone by. Today a dear friend of mine took a picture of the partially frozen falls that is beyond words.


With all of my training inside, rising before the sun and returning after it sets, I have to remind myself to take in the little things that are so easily overlooked. Joy can be found in any day. From the squeak of the snow, to the scent of wood burning in a fireplace, to viewing the beauty of the frozen winter around me. As I have written before, just look up, look around, listen, and breathe deep.



Today was a rest day for me. The intensity of my training has ramped up to the point where I am willing to rest one day. Wanting to do something I went to a yoga class. I am learning that swimming does not strengthen all of my arm and chest muscles – I am sore after two days of yoga class. Standing on my hands in downward facing dog can do wonders for these muscles…

I really do not have much to write today, so I want to share a quote –

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

With today being Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I thought it would be a good thing to reflect on something he said. In sport, relationships, business, and personal life we will all face challenges and controversy. How one stands, or manages those times, speaks volumes to the character of the person. When things are going well, it is easy to shine like a diamond. Taking a stand against injustice is never easy. But it is better to stand than sit or fall.



The weather has been very erratic lately – either typical January snow and cold or balmy 50’s and 60’s. This weekend I experienced both within less than 48 hours. Saturday was mild with temperatures in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s so I decided to get my long run in, rather than today which has been windy and in the low 20’s. My run yesterday was not as wonderful as my run on Friday evening – which I had finished a mere 17 hours earlier. I ran eight miles – I wanted to do 12 – and it took everything in me to get through the eight. By four miles in my legs were burning as if I had run a half marathon hard. And I was starving. I ate properly and hydrated. I think I am lacking enough sodium and calories in my drink. Nuun works well for my week day training, but I am going to go back to Accelerade for my long runs and see if I notice a difference.

Today’s workouts were fabulous. I was at the gym by 7:00 AM and on the spin bike for a long workout. My coach designs workouts that are challenging and change things up at least every five minutes so it doesn’t get boring. Good thing too – I was on the bike for 1:45 – yes nearly two hours. I am noticing that my anaerobic threshold on the bike needs a lot of work. When I push my heart rate over 135 to 140 I have difficulty holding it for more than 5 minutes. Like the speed intervals I do running, I will have to continue with speed intervals on the bike to improve. After my workout I changed and headed to the pool. This is surprising to me now – I absolutely love swimming. A year ago I kept at it to get better because it is the first leg in triathlon. Now I could stay in the pool for hours. This morning I did a 2,500 meter swim that had both long sets pulling 300 meters as well as speed sets of 50 meter repeats. Of the five lanes during the hour, I swam with seven friends at one point or another. We all did our own workouts, but it was fun to see everyone. For such a solitary sport, I have made many friends at the pool.

After swimming (yes it was only 10:45 by the time I headed to the locker room) I changed into my yoga clothes, grabbed my mat, and headed to the yoga room with my friend. We had been looking forward to this yoga class all week. Both of us dealt with stressful issues this week and 75 minutes to stretch, strengthen, and unwind was just what we needed. Yoga is so much more than just a physical activity. I am able to release all of the busy-ness that crowds my mind. Sometimes the issues I have buried the deepest come up. As my friend suggested, treat those thoughts like waves in the ocean. They float in, crash, then retreat back out. (Now Jim is reading this either laughing at the girly-ness or actually contemplating trying a class one day…) The class was a Vinyasa class in a heated room over 85 degrees. We keep moving through most of the class and the warmth helps release muscles. Additionally it increases perspiration – I could smell the chlorine from my swim a bit, always makes me smile at the scent of chlorine.

During a long stretch the instructor (named Christina – Jim she is very Western…) read a quote from Mother Teresa that touched me:

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

-Mother Teresa

With all of the stresses I have experienced this week along with all that is going on in our country and the world, this quote is a good reminder. Heck, the Lance Armstrong brouhaha this past week covered the first three phrases. Then there is the tragedy with the Algerian hostage crisis this past week which leaves me saddened at what has become of things. Then I hear this quote. For in the end, it is between me and my God. So I will strive to live a life forgiving, being kind, honest, happy, doing good and giving my best. That is all that matters anyway.