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


Influence of Friends

After a very good night of sleep I awoke feeling so much better than yesterday. Knowing I had three workouts ahead of me today, I didn’t push it too hard in spin class. That was not easy. A good friend of mine was on the bike in front of me and I could see her computer during the entire class. She was pushing hard. We would both be at the same RPMs but I would average 18 miles per hour while she was cranking 22 to 25 miles per hour. I had to keep reminding myself that I had a run workout tonight and I am running a half marathon in 8 weeks. My first priority right now is on my running. But I still have goals to aspire to – on the bike it is to catch my friend. A wonderful form of peer pressure.

After spin I headed to the pool for a 2,000 meter swim. Four of us swam together a workout of building sets of 50/100/200 meters. For the 50’s and 100’s I would alternate pulling and swimming. Again, I didn’t want to push it. For the 200’s I pulled. We did them on a four minute send off. I wanted enough recovery time between intervals. What really pleased me was each time I swam without the pull buoy I maintained under a minute pace for the 50’s and under 1:57 for the 100’s. I was in the wall lane and breath to my right going out and to my left returning – as a result I was able to see the other three swimmers. This really helps me pick up my pace. I want to stay with my friend who swims close to my pace and speed up to see where the faster swimmers are. I also get to glimpse at their swim technique and pick up pointers. I guess I could say it is another form of positive peer pressure too.

At work today I was talking with a fellow runner. He asked me a sincere question that was valid. He asked if part of the reason I am not a faster runner is mental. I could not deny it is part of what is holding me back. For my run this evening I was to run two repeats of ten minutes at my half marathon goal pace. My best half marathon was 2:19 so I calculated the pace for a 2:15. After a two mile warm up tonight at the gym I increased the pace to 10:20 mile pace. Five minutes in, my heart rare was at 148-150. It should be in the upper 150’s. I increased to 10:10, then 10:00, then 9:50, and finally to 9:40. I was able to hold the pace and my heart rate never crossed over 158. The second set I started at 10:00 and went up to 9:40. Had my friend not questioned me today, I don’t know if I would have pushed as hard as I did.

In sport and in life, having friends to challenge us, support us, and help us see our potential truly adds to the joy in life. Sure, a person can go it alone. Loneliness, frustration and missed potential are much more probable however. I am blessed to have several friends in my life. To quote Pearl Jam, I am lucky “to count on both hands the ones that I love.” That is part of the beauty of friends. Unlike family, we get to choose them. Having good ones helps us be good ones. And round and round it goes.


Yet Still I Learn

Last night when I went to bed I knew I was not going to swim this morning. I was feeling fatigued and opted for a little extra sleep. Even after eight hours of sleep, I woke this morning wishing I could go back to bed. I do not hurt, my body temperature is normal, and I haven’t sneezed in a few days even with all of the chlorine I subject myself to. I was just tired. The feeling lingered through the day. I had a run scheduled this afternoon and I thought about texting my coach and asking her what she thought about running tonight. I didn’t after all, thinking I was just wimping out. After work I drove home instead of to the gym and thought if I took a nap I could run after on my treadmill in my basement. When I got home I had several boxes delivered so I got out of the car and picked them up. When I returned there was a text message from my running coach: “How are you feeling??” I just love her. It was as if she knew what was going on. We ran into each other at the gym Tuesday morning and I told her about how tired I was on Monday. I replied with my plan to nap then run, then asked if she thought I should rest all together and run tomorrow evening instead. Her response: “I think you should completely rest today. Your body is telling you something.”

This week I have had two interactions with both my triathlon coach and my running coach that have convinced me of the importance of having a coach. After I gave my tri coach the evil eye when he insisted I rest one day a week right now, his response was interesting. He said that most self coached athletes train too hard on easy days and not hard enough on hard days. As a result, often the athlete plateaus and does not reach full potential. Like a child going from one parent to the other to get their way, I asked my running coach what she thought. She agreed with him. Drats.  The truth of this is setting in today too. A comment from Heidi at Maternal Media to my post yesterday was ironic. She said she was amazed at how I forge on day in and day out. Well Heidi, today I didn’t forge. But I know I am doing it for my own good. My body is telling me something. And as much as I have learned to listen to my body, sometimes an interpreter is needed in the form of a coach. I am pushing harder than I have on my hard workouts but I am not fully following the lower intensity suggested for my easy workouts in swimming and cycling. As a result of my packed schedule, I am not lifting as much as my training schedule suggests. I am paying these professionals to guide me, it is time I listen.

The will is an interesting thing. “Strong willed” can describe a dedicated person who never gives up. It also can describe a stubborn person who never gives up. Sometimes I am both. What I do know is that when I reach a point of exhaustion like I have today, I am willing to surrender my will. Triathlon and running continue to teach me so much – how to take care of myself physically, how to eat and hydrate properly, and also how to take care of my mind. Sometimes they all collide. Sometimes it takes a coach – or two – to get me back on track in the process of continuing to learn.


Colorful Ending

I created a name for people who crowd the gym in January to “get in shape” – New Year’s Resolutioners. These are the people filled with gusto in January proclaiming their commitment to lose weight, exercise, and get it shape – for real this time. And it lasts three to four weeks before the snooze button wins over and the crowds thin out. Each year there are also several who win the battle and become regulars. Unfortunately there are not many, although it does reduce the traffic and crowds at the gym… This morning they were out in force when I arrived at the pool at 6:15 AM. Every lane in the 5 lane lap pool had at least one swimmer. By the time I changed and made it out to the pool some where leaving as we arrived. I swam with up to five friends this morning and we all had to share lanes at some point. Three to four of us followed the same workout and we were very close in pace. It was fun and challenging to push to keep up. My fatigue from not resting is showing and I was just a few feet back in most of the sets. I still swam a strong workout of 2,800 meters.

This evening I road a spin bike for a 50 minute workout my coach gave me. A continuation from this morning with the crowd, all but two bikes were filled. Fortunately the one I got on had a working computer. Many of the cycle workouts I have been given are focused on getting me used to riding at 90 rotations per minute (RPM) along with different intensities. This is beneficial in both training my legs how quickly to turn over and developing strength to push faster. As I ride more, I want to monitor my progress not just in speed by strength. This is accomplished from a power meter. The spin bikes have them, how accurate they are remains a question. I also have been researching a power meter for my bike. Finding the right one is tough – first they are expensive and second which type. I tried the heart rate strap method and it did not work well. So I am in research mode and will report my findings when I find them.

Yesterday I mentioned I drive to and from the gym in the dark. Today was a bit stressful and I was looking forward to cycling to reduce some stress. What I did not expect was to see the most beautiful sunset as I got on the bike – inside the gym. I adjusted the settings on the bike to my height and began to pedal. I looked up and through the large window this is what I saw:


It was one of the most beautiful sunsets I have seen. A quick Google search taught me that the midwest winters tend to have the most colorful sunsets. It also said that most likely the same time I saw this sky, the Rockies probably had a beautiful deep blue late afternoon sky. Regardless of how it came to be, it was a lovely reminder to look up. Even something little like a breathtaking sunset offers a ray of joy in the day. It was the perfect ending to behold on a not so perfect day.



Sleep is Definitely Not Overrated

Who ever said “sleep is overrated” most definitely was not an endurance athlete. Last night I was sound asleep by 9:30, Molly the kitty was on the other side of my closed bedroom door, and I slept sound until 4:30 this morning. It was seven hours of bliss. I actually snoozed a few times and didn’t get out of bed until close to 5:00. I know – slug… But it felt fabulous. The rest gave me energy and I met up with three other friends to swim this morning. I covered 3,000 meters total. We are incorporating more longer sets for endurance. This workout had 4 repeats in total of 400 meters, 200 meters, and 100 meters. To make the send off time of 8:00 for the 400 I had to use the pull buoy. Getting my pace up without pulling is going to be difficult, but I am determined to do it. I finished feeling good – I am a bit sore from the weight workout yesterday, but I was alert and well rested.

This evening I ran a mostly easy run for endurance – five miles staying in zone 2 followed by 8 fast sprints for 50 seconds with a minute recovery in between. I am getting used to covering the treadmill display with a towel and just running. I only need to monitor my Garmin to see my heart rate and distance. I have a foot pod that is fairly accurate at calculating my distance. I ignore my pace and make sure I am within my zone two heart range. This was a much better run than on Sunday – I think the need for rest was starting that morning. I maintained a pace in Zone 2 and never had to walk. It felt great to keep running. For the five miles my heart rate averaged 133 – right where I wanted it. The sprints at the end were fun. My heart rate only maxed at 153 – I will ask my running coach if I should be running harder to get closer to my anaerobic threshold of 162. By the time I finished I still felt strong, still sore from lifting, but I made it through the day.

After I ran I stopped in the pool area to talk briefly with my triathlon coach. I told him about my run on Saturday feeling fatigued and how tired I was yesterday. Which is when he reminded me that he has scheduled Mondays as my rest day. Of course my reaction was to ask “that is optional, right?”. Wrong. He is adamant that I take a rest day with the intensity of my training. His argument is that if I keep pushing I will plateau and not reach my full potential. I am still mulling this over. Of course I hired him to coach me and help me improve. I probably should listen to him – after I check to see if I can at least lift on Mondays…

One thing I have noticed – during these winter days when sun light hours are limited and in Northeast Ohio the light hours are frequently drab and cloud covered, I rarely get to see daylight beyond my office window. I am out the door before sunrise for a workout and back at the gym as the sun is setting. My drive home is as dark as my drive out in the morning. Living this cycle day in and day out sometimes blinds me from that which I write about and sub-titled this blog – seizing the day. In order to do so, I need to be alert, well rested, and aware. Aware of the beauty of each day, not just the scheduling of each hour. For each minute is a blessing – and more than just counting my days, I want to make my days count.


To a New Day

I spent some time today searching through quotes to write this post from. I have several good ones, but they are not applicable to what I have experienced the past two days. Yes, much to Jill’s surprise this morning she woke to find I did not write yesterday. And it was not even a rest day. Actually far from it. I was up yesterday by 6:30 to get to the gym and cycle. I did a challenging workout my coach gave me. My focus on the bike is to build strength and keep my cadence up. I finished the workout feeling I put my all into the hour. After a quick change I was in the pool and swam 2,700 meters. It was an endurance swim with repeats from 200 meters to 400 meters and a few fast 100’s mixed in. By the time I was done I was ready for a nap. Alas, it did not happen. I had much to do throughout the day. By the time I got home it was after 4 in the afternoon and taking a nap would only disrupt my sleep overnight. With still more to do, I finally went to bed exhausted – without making time to write a blog entry.

This morning I woke and felt good, still a bit tired, but I made it to 6:00 AM spin class. I nearly accomplished something this morning in spin class I never thought possible. I almost fell asleep while spinning 90 RPMs. So much for the coffee. I finished class feeling more tired than when I started – a rare occurrence. Thinking a swim would help, I headed to the pool. Crazy – I know. For the first time I was glad two of my friends did not make it to swim this morning. I would have felt compelled to swim hard. My girlfriend who was swimming asked how I was and when I told her I wanted to go back to bed she was relieved – she was just as tired as I. Must be something in the air. We both swam easy on our own. After 800 meters I finished. My last 100 meters I felt like I was pushing hard only to touch in at 2:04. The first time in weeks I was not under 2:00 in a main set. At lunch I did manage to meet a friend to lift. I know I need to get back in to my strength routine and having the accountability of a training partner helps. She is very strong too, let me tell you. I think my arms may not move in the morning… I also did some lower body work too. Not bad for being in desperate need of a nap since 1:00 yesterday afternoon.

So now I am home and will be heading to bed very early. I have checked my heart rate several times and it is low – I am not over worked. Heck I almost fell asleep during a workout this morning. Sometimes the only cure is sleep. Caffeine, endorphins, nor chlorine can cure the need for sleep when it is necessary. In retrospect I do not think I would do anything differently the past two days. Sometimes I am more tired having not worked out in the morning. It is more getting to bed on time (as well as putting my cat out in the hall when she wants to play at midnight) that will cure my need for sleep. So it comes back to priorities. I can beat myself up because I wasted time talking to a friend when I could have done laundry, or just accept that it is what it is and start fresh tomorrow. Ah! And now I have a purpose to share a quote.

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.

-Eleanor Roosevelt

So Jill – and all reading – here is to a new day. May we find the strength to get through it and celebrate new thoughts to share our joy and our light.


Some Days Require Flexibility

Sometimes circumstances create an environment where it is beneficial to be flexible. Today was a day that required flexibility – even though it is mid-January in Northeast Ohio the temperature by 9:00 this morning was 50 degrees. Such a glorious rare occurrence, I had to run outside! Usually I would head to the gym on Saturday morning to cycle and then swim. The forecast for tomorrow is calling for rain, a perfect day to workout inside – so I switched up my workouts to take advantage of the beautiful morning.

My run itself went well, but I do feel a little fatigued running in my hilly neighborhood. It also was a little challenging to stay in my zone two without a brief walk every mile. My goal was to keep my heart rate average in the low 130’s. When ever I approached 138 I would slow my pace and if it didn’t pull back I took a brief walking break until my heart rate dropped to 120, then I would be back to my run pace.

The hardest part remains the pride issue. I am very capable of running without walking, and running at a faster pace, but my heart rate jumps into my zone three. Twice I saw other runners while I was walking and I felt I owed them an explanation for my lame walking, it was a character developing exercise to not say anything and just smile as they passed. The good news is that despite my excruciating slow pace, I still managed to keep my average pace under 13 minute miles. Just typing that was hard! I know I can run long in the 11 minute range, but it would help my ego far more than my efficiency. As I chugged along on this beautiful morning, I kept telling myself that it is making me stronger and I will see the results of my efforts within a few weeks.

Flexibility came into play in more than one way today. The good kind – changing my weekend workouts to take advantage of the beautiful weather. Then there is the challenging kind – being flexible with my expectations. Believing I am able also requires patience as I build the base to get to the next level.



After my workouts today I have come up with two more goals. Yesterday I mentioned my coach wants to work with me to develop my strength on the bike. My first new goal is that I now want to as well. (I almost typed”want to too”, but that reads so funny….) Spin class this morning was challenging. We did several long intervals riding out of the saddle increasing RPM’s from 70 up to 100. I was working hard and really felt my exertion level was close to my anaerobic threshold. My maximum watt output reached around 160 and my heart rate peaked at 144. I should be able to work much harder – and thus begins my strength focus on the bike.

My second goal is in the pool – no surprise there since I have been swimming so much. Today I swam with four others after spin class and one set was 400 meters increasing pace with each 100 meters. I guess I should say two of us swam 400, one swam 450, and two swam 500. I really like that we are able to adjust the distances so we start and finish around the same times. To keep pace I swam with a pull buoy – and I swam well. I came in on 7:15 – about 1:48 per 100 meters. This week I have been able to consistently swim without a pull buoy both 100 meters and 200 meters keeping my pace under 2:00 per 100. Now I want to lose the pull buoy and work on keeping the pace for longer repeats – 300 and 400 meters to start. Improving my pace for longer endurance set is my focus – goal two is to consistently swim 400 meters averaging under 2:00 per 100 meters. If I can pull at a 1:48 pace, I should be able to swim at a 1:55 pace.

As I typed the last sentence in the above paragraph a voice in me said “can you believe you just wrote that?” As much as I focus on Believing I am able, there remains a counter voice inside of me casting doubt. Like John Nash in A Beautiful Mind who learned to ignore the figments of his imagination that followed him everywhere, I may have to learn to ignore the counter voice. In time it will go away. I no longer question my ability to flip turn – heck I am even getting better at flipping with my eyes open now. Recently I have been focusing on Empowerment – it has become an overused word, but in its core it means to give power or authority to; to promote self-actualization. When interacting with people it is helpful to keep in mind – communications sometimes breakdown when a person yields power or authority to someone not deserving. Understanding how to communicate successfully while maintain one’s own empowerment is a learned skill. Likewise, I too must maintain my empowerment in my training – I will not yield to the voice (in my head or doubts of anyone else) that I am not able. The voice that is yielded to is the voice with the power and authority. My voice of “Believing I am able” will trump the doubting counter voice any day.


No Cruise Control

Listening to my body is a learned talent and I am getting better at it. Knowing I was in need of more sleep, I decided to sleep in until 6:00 this morning – and still made it to the pool. I felt so refreshed after getting about seven and a half hours of sleep. I didn’t even hear my cat as she came and went through the night. I was surprised as I drove to the gym at a time I consider late that it was still dark. Apparently the sun isn’t rising before 7:30 yet… Just the other morning as I was about to leave for work a lady who goes to the 9:00 water aerobics class asked if I saw the beautiful sunrise that morning. I chuckled and told her I am swimming before the sun rises. Today I was able to see the sky brighten as I swam my 3,200 meter endurance workout. A new building has gone up next to the gym which is actually west of the pool, but the building is mirrored so the sun bounces off of it and reflects into the pool. It was a nice winter treat to have sun shine beam down on me while I swam. As for my pace – even swimming on my own without my friends to push me, I still kept to under 2:00 per 100 meter pace through out the workout. The workout most certainly was a good one.

This evening I ran an easy run with the goal of staying in my zone two range for 52 minutes and then kicking it up to zone three for the last eight minutes. After my test this week, it was a challenge. I had to target my heart rate well in the zone two range, not at the edge of zone three. This requires a slow pace and I did not even want to look at it. Even though I knew what the treadmill was set at, I covered the display screen with a towel and just ran. I checked my watch periodically to make sure I didn’t elevate my heart rate above 138. My goal was 130, but I settled in for an average of 134. A few times I even slowed to a quick walk to get my heart rate down. Oh, this is reminiscent of slow runs not too far gone by… But I know I am doing the right thing to improve my aerobic base. I sure enjoyed the last eight minutes when I could kick up the pace and feel like I was really running.

On my way out I stopped to talk with my triathlon coach – he was at the pool leading a Masters swim class. My heart rate zones on the bike are lower than running, which is to be expected. However the norm is five to maybe 10 beats lower. I am closer to 25 to 30. He wants to do an assessment on a spin bike with a power meter. He thinks I may need to work on my leg strength on the bike and get my heart rate up while pushing a strong wattage. Joy – more hard training lies ahead. I know it will be tough. I have been through literally miles and miles of swimming to get to the pace I am at now. My running continues to provide some challenges both mentally and physically to improve. And now what was once my strongest sport of the three requires more effort to reach new levels. Isn’t there anything in life where cruise control works? Apparently not – the best lessons come from the hardest efforts. Sometimes it is in sport that hard effort is needed to see progress. Sometimes it is in relationships, work, or faith. Regardless of sport or other aspects of life, occasionally more work is necessary (weight lifting, wind sprints, swim repeats, and anything else to fill in the blank with other aspects of life) and occasionally stepping out of your own way and ignoring the pace that things are moving is the only way to see progress. Frequently both are necessary and like listening to my body, it takes time to master the talent. It is challenging either way and well worth the effort for the lessons learned.



Last week was an intense training week for me – the longest I have had in two months and I am feeling it this week. I am not sore, I am tired. It doesn’t help that I have not slept as much as I should this week either. Last night I did get adequate sleep but most of today I have been dragging. This morning I was up early and at the pool to swim with my friends. I had every intention of swimming at least 3,000 meters and I started off well too. After a warm up we did 4 x 200 meters on a 4:30 send off. I swam each one, no pulling, and everyone I came in under four minutes. The third one was my fastest at 3:51. I had a mixed feeling of shock and happiness. I was swimming hard, but not full-out-cause-an-asthma-attack hard. That is where the shock came from. Happiness from knowing I could do it. Next up was a set of 8 x 100 meters. We broke them up with the first four on 2:10 then the last four on 2:05. I used the pull buoy for the last four so I could get at least 10 seconds to recover. Again, I stayed under two minutes swimming the 100’s. Pulling I am able to break 1:50. Then came the 8 x 50 meters along with a turn in fate…

We started out with the first four on 1:05 – I could do it. The last four were on a minute. I tried the first one swimming to see if I could keep up. As I was swimming the last 25 meters, my right calf started cramping. Badly. For the next 50 I used the pull buoy but the cramp got worse. Much worse. I was done. And in pain. Not the good ache, but the kind you pray stops soon pain. I got out of the pool and sat on the deck. The lifeguard had to help me by pressing in the spasm that was on the side of my calf and was working its way up my hamstring too. Trigger pressure really helps relieve the spasm, but the process is as painful as the spasm. It took everything in me to not tear up. I was able to hobble to the hot tub and work it out while I watched my friends finish the workout. That was hard – I wanted to do more but I had to settle for 2,300 meters. Fortunately the pain is gone. Being an analytical person, I have been assessing the cause. I may have been a little dehydrated, but not much, I am good at drinking water. I was swimming hard and I could have been out of energy, but I had only been swimming a total on 50 minutes. Over worked from last week doesn’t help and I am dealing with a mildly stressful issue too. It could be a combination. It could just not have been my day.

Speaking of not my day, I just accidentally hit publish. Sorry to all who received an unfinished post with no title! So not ever day will be a Yabba Dabba Do day. But it is still a good day. What I was able to swim I swam well, best yet for 200’s actually. This evening offers promise too with fun dinner plans ahead. What is left of the day, I will seize – and be grateful to have the day to seize.


Metabolic Testing Review and Mental Challenge

This morning I met with my running coach to have my latest Cardio Point test done. The test measures my progress with the metabolic training I have been doing since July. The program is explained in my report fairly well:

Your unique metabolic measurements create a personalized framework for your exercise program. Each zone is defined by heart rate beats per minute and is created according to your body’s current fitness ability. Your zones will change as your fitness progresses.

Two measured points matter most within your zone framework: base, most efficient point of fat utilization, and threshold, most inefficient point of fat utilization. Pushing above and below base and threshold enables you to work harder with less effort.

I want to share this because my results are interesting today. Since I began the program I have seen significant improvement. Both my aerobic base and anaerobic threshold have improved. Frequently I would mention how difficult it is to run slow to stay in my zone two range. Recently Jim at Fit Recovery questioned wouldn’t all zones improve if you worked hard in one, say zone three. Well I can now answer this question from experience. No. Not at all. With that I will first share the “interesting” part of my test results. Since my last assessment on October 31st I have been running my slow runs right at the point where zone two and zone three meet. The last test had my zone two range from 123 – 140 and zone three from 141 – 158. For the most part my average heart rate for my zone two training would be 138 to 141. I should have been focusing more in the 128 to 133 range. As a result, the test today showed my aerobic base shrank a little. About 5 beats in zones one through three. My zone two is now 118-139 and zone three is 140 – 161. The good news is that my fat burn is increasing and that is the desired goal, burn more fat than carbs. So by training a little too hard on my easy runs, I did not help my zones, I actually hurt them.

Ah but there is good news. Notice my upper end of zone three?? Yes – 161, that means I have pushed my anaerobic threshold out to 162 from 159. This is important because I am able to go faster with a higher heart rate and still burn some fat and not all carbs. When a body goes anaerobic only carbs are being burned, oxygen is reaching its maximum capacity, and this level can not be sustained for long. My speed work did its job. Now my focus is to rebuild my aerobic base – translation: quit worrying about how fast I am going and just look at my heart rate – and also continue with my speed work to further improve my anaerobic threshold.

There is a third objective to add to my running – work on my head. While my legs, lungs, and heart are improving I am still hesitant to believe I am capable of going much faster. I had this discussion with my coach right before getting on the treadmill. She proceeded with the test and kept increasing my pace. In the past we have not gone past a 10 minute mile pace before she started increasing the incline. Today she took it up to 9:13 minute mile pace. I am wearing a mask that covers my nose and mouth and I can not talk. After increasing my pace she looked at me and asked if I am okay with a grin. My heart rate was at 133, so I obviously could handle it even though my head was telling me it was too fast. I stayed at that pace for another five minutes while she took the incline from 0% up to 6%. I was surprised at how long I was able to hold the pace while climbing uphill. Now I am wondering how fast I can go on the flats when I do my speed work. So I am back to my mantra I adopted a year ago – Believe. My mental challenges are set – curb my pride to run slower and Believe in my ability and run faster. Exercising both body and mind.