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


Challenged But Not Defeated

I recently came across Gibson’s Daily Running Quotes on Facebook. The name says it all. Wednesday afternoon the following quote was posted:

“It’s not all been rosy; I’ve had difficult situations where I’ve failed. But when you fail you learn a lot about yourself and come back stronger. The message is: life need not have limits. Having an opportunity in life is important but what defines you is what you do with that opportunity.”

– Richard Whitehead, British double leg amputee and Paralympic gold medalist

Oh and by the way, Whitehead is currently in the process of running 40 marathons in 40 days to raise money for Sarcoma UK and Scope. After the quote, the following picture is posted:

challenged no defeated

The quote in the picture is what caught my attention when it comes to my current situation. Whitehead’s quote brings motivation to life on many levels.

During my workouts this week I accepted two realities that are challenges, but not defeats. I am no longer able to ride the stationary bike or swim until my health situation is resolved. I haven’t been able to ride on the roads for a few weeks, so giving up the stationary bike was not hard to accept. Not being able to swim – that is a bitter pill to swallow. Swimming has been my most challenging sport and I have come to love being in the water. I have spent so much time in the pool working on stroke, efficiency, and endurance that I feel invigorated just jumping in.

It is not a defeat at all though. It is a temporary reality I have to accept if I want to come back stronger. I certainly am learning a lot about myself through this – while my physical strength is affected my will and resolve have grown stronger. “What am I supposed to learn from this challenge?” has become a daily thought and I learn something new every day.

Challenges and limitations as much as successes and strengths all bring opportunity. Whitehead nailed it by saying “what defines you is what you do with that opportunity.” Accepting defeat is definitely one thing that will not define me. Even if I am not able to experience the opportunity from the water. For now.


Two Steps Forward…

A treadmill can be a necessary evil to many runners. For winter speed work and tempo runs I have accepted the “mill” as a tool to help me accomplish a goal. Even when I am going nowhere spinning my wheels. There are also times when I find myself outside running yet feeling like I am spinning my wheels. My run Sunday started just that way. I had a lot on my mind, mostly issues I thought I had left in the past. With less than a mile logged on my Garmin, I knew I had to find a way to change my thought process or it was going to be a “going nowhere” run.

At my 1.15 mile mark along my run I pass the home of one of my dearest friends. To my joyous surprise her car was parked in her drive – I had expected her to be out running. I decided to swing by and vent my frustrations to her. Being the awesome friend she is, she threw on her running clothes and ran the rest of my run with me. We talked over my issue, we talked about her busy schedule, we talked about my health issues and some of the expectations to resolve this soon, and we ran together. This was so special to me on so many levels. I was touched that she ran with me – at my slow pace. She is capable of running an easy run at least two to three minutes per mile faster than me. She listened, she empathized, and she ran. We left our frustrations on the pavement behind us with every step.

Part of what had been disturbing me was I have moved past the issue that out of no where was sucking the joy out of me again. My friend reminded me that sometimes after two steps forward there can be one step back. Fortunately I was able to make it a very short step back and be on my merry way forward. I wish I could say the same for my training volume…

Slowing down when I am already a relatively slow athlete is not something I happily embrace. On the other hand, I have learned to listen to my body before it starts screaming at me. Until my healthy situation is resolved, I have to stop cycling all together. Swimming and running I am able to do, but I have had to reduce the intensity both in the pool and on the run. Five miles seems to be my threshold lately running and speed and tempo runs are shelved for a while. A bit of a step back, but I know it is only for a relatively short time.

Progress is often considered to be something that can be measured. Unfortunately life is not linear, so neither will progress move in one direction. Sometimes just treading water is progress if it prevents a back slide. Sometimes taking slow steps forward with the encouragement of a friend, despite the looming clouds of life, becomes the two steps forward to see the sun peeking over the horizon.

Sunrise on Lake Erie - my friend took this just before an open water swim practice.

Sunrise on Lake Erie – my friend took this just before an open water swim practice.


True Grit

The publishers of Runner’s World Magazine also publish a magazine titled Prevention. More women may be familiar with it than men – the target market is focused toward “mature” women. Regardless of age or sex, it does offer quite a bit of helpful information about exercise, nutrition, and life balance. In fact the sub title each month reads “Love Your Whole Life.” Who could argue with that phrase?

I just received my September issue of Prevention and at the back there is a section called “Postscript” that features a motivational quote. For September it is titled “Toughen Up”. The quote says that working out is more than physical, that:

…It’s a powerful tool for gaining confidence, willpower and grit. Grit is that inner toughness that gets you through life’s hiccups and heartbreaks. It gives you strength to push through the impossible…

Now, more readers may be familiar with the movie True Grit. The original with John Wayne as well as the remake with Jeff Bridges. Both played Rooster Cogburn who had True Grit – meaning courage and strength of mind.

Whether a motivational quote to workout or a description of a person – grit has to come from within. Inner toughness, strength of mind, courage, even faith – all forces that can only come from within a person. Heck, even The Wizard of Oz couldn’t give the lion courage, only show him where to find it. Like muscle, grit has to be exercised to be built up and strengthened. I do see the correlation between working out building a body as well as confidence, willpower, grit. Each time a swim stroke is improved, a hill climbed on a bike, or a speed workout at the track accomplished – the body and mind are strengthened. With that, the next challenge doesn’t always seem as daunting. The body has done it before and the courage (in heart as well as mind) is there as well.

Life leads us down paths that offer the opportunities to toughen up. Hiccups, heartbreaks, or hills – inner toughness – true grit – will give me strength to push through.


Pacing to The Beat of a Different Drummer… Or Tempo Trainer… Or iPod

Pace yourself – two words every athlete has heard, regardless if it is a newbie or experienced professional. Frequently it is said by someone other than one’s self. When it comes from within, it usually takes longer to admit. For me, I have heard it from both sources, however it took me a while to catch up.

In early June I had what I thought was a brief set back. By early July I was at a point that I was able to build back my endurance and strength. My running coach modified my training plan accordingly. I was pacing myself based on the thought all was back to normal. By mid July that changed. The last five weeks I have slowly come to accept I have to pace myself according to how I feel. I could no longer keep pace with my expectations.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Henry David Thoreau

This quote truly frames what I had to do. In order to change my pace in swimming, I had to go back to my tempo trainer. This little device has become my drummer. Through trial and error I have come to learn that when swimming freestyle taking a stroke every 1.15 seconds is optimal for me – given all of my variables. I had slowed my stroke down when I first used the tempo trainer last year, however I stopped using it and swimming with others has influenced my pace a bit. Too fast of a turnover stroke or body rotation is not good for me right now. If I want to stay in the pool, I have to slow down – my stroke at least. Water is a very different medium than land – a slow efficient stroke done properly actually helps the swimmer go faster. A bonus is I am consistent with my times now and the numbers geek in me loves it. I count my strokes, keeping pace to the beep of the tempo trainer, and work on elongating my glide. To consistently break 2 minutes per 100 meters I need to keep my strokes to 22 or less. I am between 22 and 24 right now.

My little drummer/tempo trainer

Running is a little different for me. My endurance was basically decimated and I thought I could jump back in right away. I was covering the distance, however my pace was far slower than I expected. My long runs were building from 7 to 10 miles and I got to the point I dreaded my long run, I just didn’t have the gas in me. I had to accept that my long run had to start at 5 miles. I wanted 10… Once I convinced myself I had to – yes – pace myself, I began enjoying running again. My iPod nano also has become a good running partner. I have heard the arguments for and against running with music and I have run both ways. Lately, playing music has helps keep my pace going and motivates me on.

my current podcast preference

My different drummer is telling me to pace myself based on my current abilities and situation. These are unchartered waters for me. I have always had a race on the calendar that dictated my pace. Now my calendar has switched from month (or year) view to day view. One more reminder to seize the day, it is all that is in view.

My choice of drums


Awful Hole

Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?

-Clarence, It’s A Wonderful Life


This quote came to mind to me today after pondering a comment on my last post by Leela. She mentioned that my daily posts of inspiration are a big part of her day. What surprised me was that I had to approve her comment. I have my settings such that I only have to approve a new commenter. If you have commented before and I approved you, you are able to comment again without my having to approve the comment. I was so touched that she was inspired by my blog. When I received her comment it was on my iPhone during a busy day. I responded and when I got home to my Mac laptop I checked out her blog. Blog 2 is the title and it took me only a moment to realize I know her. And love her writing! She had a very creative blog in the past – there was a specific mission to that blog and when she achieved it she deleted the blog. Well, Leela is a very good writer and has a creative wit – I am thrilled she has returned with Blog 2.

I missed her writing – the wit, the honesty, her way of calling a spade a spade. Once again Clarence’s quote came to mind and now it was a two way street. We both have touched each other’s lives through our blogs and our absences left a hole. In a way, my return is a bit of a blog 2 as well. I am motivated to continue to write about “seizing life’s joys and challenges physically, mentally, and emotionally.” Much of this in the past has been in relation to my triathlon training, and that will continue as well. But – let’s call a spade a spade – I am facing some challenges right now – physically and emotionally for sure. My physical challenges have limited my love for swimming, cycling and running – which can be an emotional downer. Pain is a big downer too I might add. As a result, I want to really focus on living one day at a time – seizing the day. Good and bad.

Since my last post I have been able to swim (it was only cut short by 200 meters due to some sharp pains), cycle on a spin bike (while reading Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno – great way to pass 45 minutes on a stationary bike) and this morning I ran at the track and completed my entire (modified) speed workout. It is frustrating that modifications have to be made, but endorphins are still endorphins and friends are still friends. I swam with one of the best, was encourage by another after my spin, and ran track with yet one more fabulous lady. (Although she is way faster. She ran with me for my 800 speed set – which was part of her warm up!)

There are moments I am just plain exhausted – emotionally. I am getting plenty of rest and eating right. Which actual adds to the frustration and exhaustion because I am fastidious about my diet and exercise yet I am dealing with a health concern. But, I also consider myself blessed beyond measure. Literally by the grace of God I am able to focus on the fact this will be resolved – how is still part of a blur – but it will and I am at peace with it. I have also had to slow down a bit – literally and figuratively – and it has reinforced the meaning of seizing the day – all I have that is certain is today.

With that, I am all the more motivated to write, because each life truly touches so many others – through blogs, friendly encouragement, and so much more I look forward to experiencing.


Time To Write Again

Frequently I start a post and have no idea what I am about to write. Today that has never rang truer. As the words unfold we both will experience something new.

First, I do feel obligated to address my absence. I prefer to keep the details private, a few close friends and bloggers know. When I last wrote two months ago I had been through a rough patch. I had written “…today is a better day and the future looks bright and promising.” This was true – until the other shoe dropped. Let’s just say this has not been my year. Yes, it is health related. No, it is not terminal. Yes, it is painful. The resolution remains a blur, but I am beginning to gain focus. A common subject I write about is finding joy in every day. The past two months have challenged me on this, but I continue to believe there is joy in even the darkest days.

Second, I am able to train – or shall I say workout? Training conjures images of a race that I am preparing for in the future. While there still are three races I am registered for, getting to the start line is part of the blur. I truly am living one day at a time now. Swimming and running I am able to do, although with a few limitations. Cycling, unfortunately, has been confined to a spin bike. Weight lifting and resistance training are shelved for now. I am grateful to be able to sweat, get my heart rate up, and release those wonderful endorphins.

Third, my friends continue to amaze me with their awesomeness. It would take a months worth of post to explain how awesome they are to me. I am blessed.

Well – there it is. My post. Any more and I will go from misty eyed to falling tears. I miss writing. My motivation is returning. I hope to be back to my regular writing. As with endorphins, writing releases happiness in my brain.

Before signing off, I do want to share some of my joy. I have written many times about my running coach (and dear friend) but never mentioned her name. Well, Heidi has entered the blog world and I want to share her awesomeness with you. Her blog is Heidi Jo Green and I am plugging her purely out of the love in my heart. She is getting her blog up and running and soon you too may want to seek her as a coach!

Thank you all for reading, I have missed you.

With Heidi at the Rock and Roll Half Marathon DC in March.