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

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Listen Today

While many people champion the concept of multi-tasking, there are certain things that are best done with full attention and focus. Listening is probably the top of the list. In a conversation, we tend to hear better when our eyes are focused on the person who is speaking. Personally, I have told several jokes based on crazy things I thought I heard because I wasn’t looking right at the person speaking.

This past week I have juggled multi-tasked several things as the holidays approach. As I workout to reach my year end fitness goal, I will catch up on the news or watch the Food Network (way better than the news these days) while I am on the row machine or elliptical. When I am riding my bike on the trainer, I am focused on my iPad while the Peloton instructor leads me through the workout. Then there is my daily yoga. 

I find myself excited when the time comes in the day to do the daily yoga class in my 30 Days of Yoga journey. There is no music, just Adriene talking the yogi through the class. Today I finished day 16 – and each day I am learning to quietly listen to my body. This type of listening is best done when my eyes are closed rather than open. I am focusing within. I am noticing the areas that really ached are loosening, it still hurts to sit crossed legged, but not as deep and I am able to sit a little longer. I also notice through the day I am not sore or stiff when I stand up after sitting for an hour or so at work. I am half way through the month and I am feeling the benefits of my workouts, not just seeing my fitness numbers improve. Speaking of numbers – I am up to 59 on my fitness score, my goal is to cross 60 by the end of the year.

Today I thought how finding stillness is not easy to do if it is not actually scheduled. With the holidays approaching, who has time to be still? This past weekend I had two great opportunities to have quality time with people dear to me. My niece is also my hair stylist and I had a couple hours alone with her. She is a really amazing person and having that time to spend with her is priceless. I also had lunch with a dear cousin who I rarely have one on one time with. We actually had time to learn more about each other. That dedicated time with these awesome ladies made my weekend wonderful. 

As I mentioned last week, we make time for what matters the most to us. So my challenge to you as you go through this busy week, take a few moments to be still. Think of those you care about and haven’t spoken with in a while, breathe deeply, pray, listen to the stillness around you – find that peace that we wish to all in this holiday time. And appreciate the gift of today.


Year’s End Resolution

New Year’s Resolutions are very common. This blog was born from my resolution to write a blog post every day in 2012, and I did it. This year, a group of my friends and I are doing something a little different – we are setting health and fitness goals to reach by the end of this year. We started November 26th after Thanksgiving and set reasonable goals to reach by year’s end. Having friends to hold each other accountable will hopefully increase our success ratio!

My primary goal is to improve my fitness. For those familiar with Training Peaks, I want to raise my fitness score to over 60 by the end of the year. I started out at 54. The quick definition of the fitness score is a rolling 42 day average of my daily stress score calculated by heart rate or power. Basically, it is how hard I train each day. To put it in perspective, when I was at my peak training for the Ironman, my fitness score was 135. When I was at my lowest over the past 12 months this year it was 35. As of December 2nd, my score was 56. fullsizeoutput_4346

My training activities right now consist of swimming, cycling on the trainer, rowing machine, yoga and hopefully skiing soon. To help improve my daily activity level, I decided to add yoga every day. I figure adding 30 minutes of stretching and strengthening will help me with my other activities.

I found a really good website and YouTube channel called Yoga with Adrienne. Adrienne has over 4 million subscriber and she is considered “the people’s yogi“. I find her style refreshing, it is like working out with a friend. No music, no flashy setup, just authentic yoga taught by someone who doesn’t come off intimidating at all. The inventory of free videos is very sizable too. One program she has is called 30 Days of Yoga. Score! A perfect way for me to add yoga daily to help meet my year’s end resolution.

Yesterday was day one. The practice of yoga is more than just stretching and strengthening. Yoga also helps the yogi focus inward, learn more about myself. On day one, by 2 minutes in, I was well aware of something. My hip flexors are screaming tight! All of the activities I do along with sitting at a desk most of the day contribute to the tightening of those muscles. Adrienne said at the beginning of the video that we will start easy. No rush, we have 30 days. We started sitting crossed legged on the floor. Relax. Breathe in. Easy?? Relax?? I am in agony!! How did this happen? I would sit crossed legged frequently as a child. It was not painful. I was trying to follow the video without having to move, but every minute (or 10 seconds maybe) I would have to shift position. One leg out. Sit with both legs out – okay that is cheating. Sit with soles of feet together. I did this shifting for the entire 10 minutes of sitting on the floor. When she finally said to slowly move into table top position, I was so relived I thing I did it in 2 seconds flat.

I made it through the entire 35 minute class. My experience has me determined to complete the 30 days. I hope by the end I will have a little less discomfort (read: less excruciating pain). I know I won’t be a yogi master, it took me more than 30 days to get in this predicament. One self awareness reflection point hit me as I was trying not to focus on how much pain I was in – I miss blogging. I am self aware enough to know daily posts are not possible, however weekly posts are.

Through this year’s end resolution, I want to share my progress to reach my fitness goal, the 30 days of agony yoga, and the life lessons I learn along the way. I hope you, the reader, will enjoy the journey with me.



New Beginnings

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Semisonic Closing Time

Semisonic released Closing Time in March of 1998 and on April 29, 1999 the song really hit a chord in my life. My new beginning began that day when I signed up to run my first marathon to raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation and run in Dublin, Ireland. Little did I know that day would change so much in my life. Endurance sports – specifically running and triathlon – became a huge part of my life. Over the past 17 years I have run 7 marathons, over 15 half marathons, countless 5K races and a few 10K races as well. In triathlon I have completed one full iron distance triathlon and came within 5 miles of another. I also completed 7 half iron distance triathlons, one half iron aqua-bike (swim and bike – no run), three olympic distance triathlons and many sprint triathlons.

This past March I shared that I have developed arthritis in my left foot. The disease that first brought me into running long distance is also the disease that took me out of it.  I took four months off of running early this year and slowly started running a mile to two miles up to three times a week. By mid June I signed up to run a charity 5K with friends. I figured I would see if I could finish – I knew I would not set a personal record, but it would be fun. And it was! And I finished!rftp

With a 5K under my belt without significant pain in my foot, I took on a challenge to race three sprint triathlons and one olympic relay where I swam the first leg this summer. I had a blast – I knew I wasn’t going to place in my age group since my run was not strong at all, so I decided to enjoy the process. Also racing with my friends made it so special.

In March I met with a foot and ankle sports orthopedic surgeon. It was my hope that I would be able to have some type of surgery to alleviate the pain in my foot so I could run. Unfortunately it is not possible. She told me that I was classified with moderate arthritis, not mild, and it is a matter of time before I would decide the pain is too great to run. Throughout summer I would occasionally feel pain as I ran or after, but it was tolerable. After the last triathlon I did in August I knew my running days have ended. By 2.5 miles into the run, the pain was terribly sharp and I was only running an 11:30 minute mile pace. I finished the race and my foot ached for a few days. It was time and I had almost six months to prepare myself for the reality.

My running beginning that began in 1999 had come to an end. I am exploring options to find my next new beginning. What had seemed as a terrible ending has now opened up time for me to expand my fitness horizons.

With the extra time I added yoga to my routine and cycled and swam more. Cycling is so fun! Road riding to me is the most thrilling, however it also involves the most risk. More and more motorist are hitting cyclists and the cyclist is always on the losing end. I also have a mountain bike that I need to take on actual mountain bike trails. I did ride it a bit on a towpath through the parks here in Northeast Ohio. So in addition to racing a few triathlons, I also participated in a few long course area cycling events as well as tool around on the mountain bike. Again – much fun and great exercise!

Yoga is something that I have done off and on over the past six years, however this year it became a regular part of my fitness program. I have benefited tremendously from it – stretching, strengthening and calming. Recently there was a public yoga event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland. I went with a few friends – it was a truly fun and inspiring evening.

Over the years I have worked on my swim to the point I have gone from back of the pack to usually finishing in the top 20% out of the water. Since I am swimming more, I also want to challenge myself to participate in US Masters swim meets. My first was where my strength is – a mile open water swim in Lake Erie. It was a choppy day and I still did well and placed second in my age group.


Almost  a year ago I registered for the inaugural Ironman Ohio 70.3 half iron distance race. Close to 100 members of the Cleveland Triathlon Club also registered. Not being able to race with my friends was difficult to accept, there was no way I could run 13.1 miles. I decided to volunteer at the race in the first transition and also cheer on the course. I have to say, volunteering is so much fun! I was able to be with my friends and cheer them on. Win win.


This past weekend I capped off my racing season by racing in the Revolution 3 half iron distance aqua-bike. Aqua-bike races came to be when the demand to race came from triathletes who can no longer run – just like me. Rev3 does a fantastic job of organizing basically four races that take place at the same time. Both full iron and half iron distance triathlons and aqua-bikes. I was able to race along side my friends after all! One of my friends did the full distance triathlon and we stayed till he crossed the finish line. So I had the opportunity to race and then come back and cheer. Again – win win.

So here I am – my racing season is over and in the past I would be planning out what running races and triathlons are next. Not this time. My new beginning right now is exploring my options.  I enjoyed racing an aqua-bike race and I am sure I will do more. Swimming is still something I want to improve on and compete in a meet or two in a pool setting. I want to get stronger in cycling, but I do not have a desire to race road cycling. This fall I plan to get out on the mountain bike trails and overcome the fears I have of the sport. When the snow falls I want to ski downhill. I haven’t been on downhill skis since I was 16! Cross country skiing is something I have done in the past and I will get my skis out as well.

It is fitting to end this post with quoting the beginning of Closing Time. As I explore the options ahead of me, I am facing a new frontier – opening doors into the world.

Closing time. Open all the doors and let you out into the world.


On the Horizon

Several times over the past few months I have thought it is time to write a new blog post. Every time, including now, I stop short because I just don’t want to address what I am dealing with. Today, however, I find myself on a four hour cross country flight. I could read, but the topic I am going to share keeps going through my mind. Blogging may be motivational to the reader, but at times it is cathartic to the writer. This post just may be a combination of motivation for you and cathartic for me. 

I have not run a mile or more since December 22nd. Anyone who has read my blog in the past knows I am not close to being a fast runner. But it is a passion of mine. Swimming is the sport I am most proficient at of the three – swimming, cycling and running. Have you ever heard of a swimmer’s high? Right. So when things get stressful, I run. When I want to take in the beauty around me, I run. After my iron distance triathlon in October, I took two weeks off from running while my body healed. By early November I was anxious to get back running. I started easy and then built up doing a few speed workouts. I had registered for the Houston half marathon in January and I wanted to get a good base. By mid November I started feeling a sharp pain in my left ankle. It is on the top inside, close to where I had hyperextended it a year earlier. Like most runners do, I ignored it.

The pain didn’t go away. It wasn’t constant but rather showed up after running several miles. I taped it for support – no help. So in mid December I went to see a sports chiropractor. Maybe a bone was out of place. After three weeks of adjustments, nothing changed. Then I went to see my general physician, maybe I had a stress fracture in my ankle. He sent me to a orthopedic foot specialist. I left the specialist’s office in an air cast. While walking in it was a bit cumbersome, I have to say the cast was incredibly comfortable. I wore it for two weeks leading up to an MRI. At this point I had canceled the Houston half marathon and the Shamrock marathon in Virginia Beach in mid March was looking questionable. I was okay with it. I wanted to get strong so I could participate in an half ironman in August and, yes I am a glutton for punishment, I registered for Ironman Maryland (again) in October.

When the orthopedic foot specialist came in the room to give me the results of the MRI I was prepared to hear the worst, which would be a stress fracture. But that wasn’t the worst. I didn’t have a stress fracture. He told me I have arthritis in my ankle. I have sprained my left ankle at least six, if not eight, times since I was a child. He said arthritis was inevitable. He didn’t spend much time with me though. He said if he were me he wouldn’t run, but he doesn’t run anyway. I was given a prescription for orthotics and told if the pain was too bad he could fuse my ankle. What? Not a chance. 

The next day I was on the phone with my general physician. He suggested going to a sports orthopedic doctor and got me in to see one of the best in town – the orthopedist for the Cleveland Browns. This appointment was much more helpful. The doctor examined my ankle, focused on exactly where I felt pain and went through my MRI screen by screen with me. He was looking at it for the first time and as he studied it he pointed to the screen and showed me why I have such sharp pain in one specific spot. I have developed a bone spur on the end of my tibia (main bone in the calf) and it is stabbing my talus (bone at top of the ankle). He looked at me standing and said I pronate significantly (leg and foot roll inward) and that, along with the cartilage deteriorating, had caused the spur to develop. 

What is the solution? He told me orthotics should help correct my pronation, pain management with NSAIDs, and he pointed out the elephant in the room – stop running and start cross training. I told him I was a triathlete and about all of the other training I do. Apparently even sports doctors are puzzled by all that triathletes do and question why not running is a problem. I will say he had a good poker face when I explained my weekly workout schedule. If I wanted to run and could tolerate the pain, he said it wouldn’t make my arthritis worse. I do run the risk of developing a stress fracture in my talus as a result of the spur hitting it while running. He also referred me to his colleague who is a sports orthopedic ankle specialist, a combination of the past two orthopedists I have seen. I knew that if I went to see her, we would be talking surgery. At that point I was not prepared to have surgery as I still wanted to do the two triathlons later this year.

That was January 26th. Since learning about this I have gone through several stages of the five stages of grief. I am past denial now. Denial and bargaining go hand in hand frequently. Oh and depression jumped in the mix now and then. After getting fitted for custom orthotics, I thought I could substitute the elliptical during the week for my week day “runs” and do a long walk/run on the weekend. That plan lasted a week and a half. Even the elliptical hurts at times from the movement and the spur. I would go through bouts of sadness (not lying, I still do) as I was forced to accept my limitations. Bargaining with myself as to what I could do to get to the starting lines of the races, I even considered cortisone shots before the races to mask the pain. 

Acceptance is where I am at now, although sadness rears its face occasionally. I am pulling out of both races. Just typing that sentence has brought tears to my eyes. Great, I am sitting on an airplane trying not to cry. Since I couldn’t go to Houston in January, I have a free ticket to use. Since I am not running a marathon later this month, I have vacation time to use. I decided to fly to San Francisco to visit my friend and go up to Napa Valley. We went together back in December of 2012. I blogged about it here. We are both celebrating big birthdays too. Since I am spilling my guts in this blog, I may as well get it all out there. I am going to turn 50 on Wednesday. My friend’s birthday was in January. Now it may be a little more clear why this has been so hard for me – I am getting old and falling apart! I say that in jest. A little. (At least I am not crying on a plane anymore.) 

I decided to meet with the sports ankle orthopedist. The appointment is scheduled for mid March. If removing the spur will help reduce the pain, I am going to consider surgery. The stabbing pain is beginning to show up during the day, outside of fitness. I am swimming and cycling much more, as well as increasing my weight lifting routine to strengthen bones since I am not running. I am also working with the lifeguard who taught me how to flip turn. Now he is helping me on the other strokes. I have freestyle down, but my butterfly, breast and back are terrible. Maybe I will compete in masters swim meets in the future. I am also considering aquabike races – the swim and bike leg of triathlon. As triathletes age and/or get injured, they still want to compete and aquabike races were born. I am beginning to turn the corner, or page if you will, to see the opportunities that lie ahead. Running took up a lot of my time, I haven’t gone skiing in decades – I may get back into it. Cross country as well as downhill. While the optimism is peeking through, I am not totally there yet. But like the sun at the earliest of dawn, I see it on the distant horizon.


The Third Time is the Charm

I never intended to go just over seven months without writing, however life has been quite busy. All good too! The last I wrote I had decided not to do the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. What ever was causing my heart to act weird (stress most likely) is gone and I also finished my kitchen renovation by May 1st. So what have I been up to? Triathlon training of course!

My season began with Eagleman 70.3 Half Ironman in June in Cambridge, Maryland. I chose that race because I also registered for Ironman Maryland scheduled for October 3rd. Eagleman takes place at the same venue and much of the course overlaps. The swim is in the Choptank River which flows to the Atlantic Ocean. The river is brackish – freshwater river meets saltwater ocean creating semi-salty water – aka brackish. The swim was too warm to be wetsuit legal so I swam in a skin suit. The swim went okay, I don’t mind the saltwater and even though it was choppy I had a respectable time compared to the field. The bike was flat – less than 200 feet gained over 56 miles. Great, right? Well there is also wind. In the end, it was a good bike time for me. One thing that was an issue – it was hot. When I got off the bike it was 89 degrees with 90 percent humidity. Before I got to mile two on the run I had to pull out. I kept getting asthma attacks that I could not keep under control. It was a humbling and frustrating experience. This was my first triathlon since Ironman Chattanooga, and readers know how that went.

I did not give up though. My doctor has me on Advair daily now and it has helped my exercise induced asthma tremendously. I did The Cleveland Triathlon Olympic distance triathlon in July to finally cross a finish line and build some confidence. I took third in my age group – out of six so it was legit! In August I did Steelhead 70.3 Half Ironman and finished with a PR on the course over last year. As my training continued with Ironman Maryland on the horizon, I gained confidence in my ability. I definitely was better prepared and the course suits my strengths better. That said, I still had to fight down the demons in my head about what went wrong at Chattanooga. As September wound down and I began to taper for the race two other forces were gaining strength. The noreaster was building along the east coast and hurricane Joaquin was gaining strength in the south Atlantic. Both were heading toward Maryland. And on September 30th so was I. I loaded my car with my bike and gear and drove from Cleveland to Maryland. When I was five hours into the drive with two hours to go my phone blew up with calls and texts from my friends who were going to meet me there the day before the race to cheer me on. The race was canceled due to the storm.

Time for a brief recap. My first attempt at completing an Ironman was in Chattanooga last year when I had covered 139.3 miles in 15 hours and 14 minute only to be pulled from the course at 10:50 PM because I was just short of the mile 21 cutoff point. (Remember it is a 144.6 course due to a long bike and a finish time less than 17 hours since it is later in the year). My second attempt was Ironman Maryland and the weather canceled the race. Was this ever going to happen??

I pulled off the highway and went into a Dunkin Donuts somewhere in East Maryland and pulled out my laptop. Ironman was saying that the race may be rescheduled for October 17th but it would not be confirmed until Tuesday October 6th. October 17th – all three of my friends who were going to be in Maryland for me could not make it that weekend. One was running the Columbus, Ohio marathon, one had a wedding to attend, and one had the biggest benefit of the year that night for the non-profit she works for. Where were many of my other friends going to be that day? Seven of my triathlon friends were already doing Beach2Battleship (B2B) iron distance triathlon in Wilmington, NC. All of the friends I did Chattanooga with were doing it plus four others. The only reason I didn’t register was I was determined to cross the finish line of an “Ironman” branded race. B2B is a 140.6 long course triathlon but not put on by World Triathlon Corporation the owner of the Ironman brand. Without any regrets I made the decision right there in Dunkin Donuts to register for B2B. There were 160 or so slots still open for the full with a cap of 800. If I was going to race on October 17th, I was going to do it with my friends.

And I did. The third time was the charm. I made it to Wilmington and I crossed the finish line! Of course nothing comes easy, especially with long course triathlon. The swim has become my best of the three sports. This swim was expected to be the fastest they have ever had. It is a point to point in the a channel adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean and wetsuit mandatory. We went off at high tide and the tide was flowing in our direction. What we didn’t expect was 10 to 15 mph winds from the north and we were swimming right into the wind. What the tide pushed forward the wind blew back at times. It was still a very fast swim. When I grabbed the ladder to get out of the water, I looked at my watch and it was 58 minutes. I wanted to check because I knew we had to get out of the wetsuits and run about 200 yards before crossing the time pad. Before I could even get on the dock my left calf seized up into the worst Charlie horse cramp I have ever had. No way – this was not going to stop me from finishing. I had two medics working on my calf to release the spasm before I could stand. It was sore, but I was able to go on. My official swim time was 1:01 and change. The bike was also flat with the wind blowing into us the first 50 miles. The tailwind on the back half helped but wasn’t quite enough to equal out the headwind. I wanted to do the bike between 7:15 and 7:30. I did 7:29 – I will take it. Then on to the run…

I had a plan to do an interval repeat of run 3.5 minutes then walk 30 seconds. It would keep me consistent and get me through. If all went as planned the marathon would take between 6 and 6:30. My calf didn’t like running. After the first 5 miles I knew if I was going to finish the race I was going to have to do the power mall walk. My calf was tightening up and I didn’t want another spasm to take me out. So I went into power walk mode. Walking a marathon is tough. I admire all who do it intentionally. There were a few times I just didn’t know if I could go on. Around mile 15 I saw one of my friends coming toward me. She was at mile 24. She stopped to hug me and could tell I was in a bad place. She told me she would be at the finish for me and then made me promise I would not quit and I would finish. I knew then I would for sure. B2B has a 17 hour time limit, and lets say I got my money’s worth of the race. I did the marathon in 7:35 – 6 minutes longer than my bike time. I crossed the finish line with an official time of 16:35:50. All seven of my friends had finished, showered, and were celebrating at the finish line when I crossed. One friend, the husband of one of my triathlon friends, is a great sport coming to the races supporting and cheering us on. His wife is also the fastest of the bunch. She finished six hours before me. The surprise and exhilaration I felt just past mile 24 is hard to put into words. I looked up and there he was taking my picture to text back to his wife at the finish line. He jumped in next to me and said “I am making sure you finish this f***ing race!” And he did. Running in jeans next to me too!

  On the bike.

 Start of the run, trying not to focus on the pain in my calf.

 My friends celebrating and waiting for me to finish.

Running in with my friend.
  My finish line moment!
 My friend on the left came in fifth woman overall! My friend on the right is the one who made me promise I would finish.

Celebratory hug.
The next morning I was so sore but felt so accomplished. I also had a nice surprise. The local paper did a piece on three women who had switched for various reasons from Ironman Maryland to B2B. I spoke to the reporter on my drive down and met him in person at one of the bike rest stops. He told me the article would be in the paper the next day. What I didn’t know was my picture was on the front page of the sports section!

It turns out Ironman Maryland did take place that day too. It was much colder than in Wilmington and the water there was rough. Ironman ended up cutting the swim short. The athletes who finished did not get to do the full 140.6 distance and the results are marked with asterisks that it was a short swim. My heart goes out to the athletes that toed the line at “Maryland 2.0”, the weather just did not cooperate this year for that race.

For me, Beach2Battleship was the third time and truly was the charm!


Never Say Never?

I am just shy of four weeks out from my next marathon. Back in October the idea of running an early Spring marathon sounded good. With the cold and snow we have had in Northeast Ohio this winter, I am questioning what I was thinking!

Treadmill runs to me are fine in the winter – for week day speed workouts or tempo runs. A few weeks ago I did something I never thought I could do – I ran 16 miles on my treadmill. My mind was as strained as my body when I finished. It was snowing and single digit temperatures outside. I had to get the distance in. The treadmill was the lesser of two evils that day. Fortunately this past weekend I “only” had a 12 mile long run and the weather cooperated – it felt great to run outside. This weekend I have an 18 mile run. Right now the forecast calls for snow but temperatures close to 30, I hope to get it in outside.

After my treadmill 16 mile run I posted my experience on social media saying “Never say never – I just ran 16 miles on a treadmill.” The responses I got were interesting. Some comments were encouraging words, some commented given the conditions it was a good choice, a few commiserated that they too had put in treadmill runs that day, and one friend ran 16 on her treadmill too! One friend did say never – he would never run that long on a treadmill. That same friend has been able to ride 3 hours on his bike trainer – something I question I could do.

More often than not I do think “Never say never” is appropriate. The older (or shall I say more experienced?) I get, the more this is true. I said I would never do another marathon after my fifth one. This next one will be my eighth. Actually number 6 was a February marathon and I said I would never train for a marathon through winter again – so much for that idea. After my first half iron distance triathlon I said I would never do another long course triathlon again. I have now done six.

My experience with running and triathlon has taught me so much about myself – what I truly am capable of, what limits I can surpass, as well as how to listen more closely to my body. And my mind for that matter. I am competitive in the sense I compete against myself to improve. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon or winning my age group is something I never will do do not expect to do. There are a few challenges that I have doubts about right now – mountain biking for one. What the future holds remains to be seen. What I do know is saying it is impossible I will never do.


My Most Meaningful Finisher’s Medal

Receiving a finisher’s medal has become very common lately. I have them from marathons, half iron distance triathlons, and even 5 mile races and sprint triathlons. On a wall in my guest room I have a row of teacup hooks cluttered with finisher’s medals. This past weekend I received another finisher’s medal and it is already hanging on one of the hooks – but it is by far my most meaningful medal.

Most readers familiar with this blog are aware I had a very challenging 2013 with a variety of health issues. Fortunately this year has been my comeback – I have stayed healthy and my training has gone very well. On Sunday June 1st I participated in Ironman Raleigh 70.3. This race was my fifth half iron distance, but first with the Ironman brand. Before I go into the race, I would like to share a few things leading up to it. First – while this was the first race with Ironman that I participated in, it was not the first time registering for an Ironman race. In 2002 I signed up for the inaugural Ironman Wisconsin – yes the full 140.6. I had also battled with bronchitis several times durning training. After finishing the Muncie Endurathon in July (which now is Ironman Muncie 70.3, but wasn’t at the time) my doctor, who also is a triathlete, strongly recommended pulling out of Wisconsin. My body was not recovering well and it could cause more damage. I followed doctor’s orders and pulled out of the race. Last year I registered for Ironman Syracuse 70.3 and with all of my health issues once again I pulled out. I try not to be superstitious, but I can not deny I had trepidations going into Raleigh – was this going to be the year I actually earned an Ironman brand finisher’s medal?

Second – my training leading up to this race was solid. My coaches prepared me very well. I am swimming faster than ever and my run has improved quite a bit as well. My bike is improving – gaining strength there after all I have been through is taking a while. I caught myself a few times when answering my friends’ questions of how did I think I would do in Raleigh. I wanted to say I am sure I would set a personal record – instead I would answer that I have it in me to PR barring any unexpected events.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t so intuitive.

I chose Raleigh for a race venue after a friendly challenge with fellow blogger IowaTriBob. We picked a race location we both could drive to and race. I also have family and friends in the area and knew it would be a fun weekend. On Saturday morning I went to the athlete meeting – the race is point to point with two transitions so I wanted to make sure any questions of logistics were answered. Sitting in the meeting I thought to myself that I finally made it, I was going to finish an Ironman sponsored race. After the meeting I drove my bike out to the lake to set it up at T1 (transition 1). I planned to ride a short ride to make sure all worked well and get my legs going. After a 9 hour drive down the day before, my back was tight and I also wanted to make sure it felt good. It did. Before setting up my bike, I went for a quick shakeout run. Jordan Lake was the swim venue and the access road leading to where transition was set up was narrow with no shoulder. Many triathletes were cycling and running along the road as cars, trucks, and SUVs drove in to set up as well. I ran along the left side of the road and a larger SUV was driving toward me – it became apparent the driver was not going to move over and I didn’t want to get hit by the side mirror – so I stepped a bit to the left and my left foot came down on the edge of the asphalt. I rolled my left ankle, scraped my right knee as I fell, and heard that noise I so dread – pop. I knew I sprained my ankle. The same ankle I sprained rather severely two years ago. This time it was much more mild, but it was still a sprain.

I called my coaches for advice, I texted and called friends for encouragement and prayers. In a snap – literally – my expectations changed from wanting to PR to wanting to finish. My coaches helped talk me through it – I decided to swim and ride for sure and see how I felt when it came time for the run. I could put full weight on the ankle so I knew I could stay upright without issue, how much pain I could tolerate was going to be the test.

Race day – since my perspective changed I was very calm. Just get through this was my focus. Fortunately the water temperature was 75.6 degrees – below the 76.1 cut off for wetsuits. My wetsuit helped me a lot. During my practice swim that morning I felt a little strain sometimes when I kicked. During the swim leg of the race I didn’t kick as strong as I had planned and the wetsuit compensated with buoyancy. My swim went incredibly well – I swam the 1.2 miles in 40:24. I had originally wanted to break 40 minutes but with little kicking, I was very pleased. I also was 32 out of 102 women in my wave. Top third!!

I took my time in transition. The plan was to wear full compression socks for added support on my ankle. Walking and not running, I got to my bike, dried off and put on the socks and my bike gear. The bike course was hilly – most of the time I didn’t feel any strain on my ankle. I know I was more cautious climbing the hills than I would have been had I not had the injury. After 56 miles I entered T2 about 20 minutes slower than I had hoped, but I made it through. Again – I took my time getting my run gear together. I needed the time not only to be gentle on my ankle but also on my mind. I was about to exit transition with a sprained ankle and attempt to run 13.1 miles. I left not knowing for sure if I was going to finish.

On the run I paced myself. The first mile went much better than I expected. I ran without much pain and would walk 15 seconds every several minutes. Just before mile 2 the pain became sharper. From mile 2 through mile 5 I came close to pulling out three times. I would do a pain assessment – it hurt but I asked myself how bad? With all I went through with my health problems last year, I experienced a lot of pain. So much that there actually was one day I was not sure if I would survive the day. But I did. That day taught me I can endure far more than I used to think. My ankle pain was probably a 1 on a scale of 10 with my past experience hitting a 9. I can run/walk through that level of pain. The run course was also very hilly and a double loop. At mile 6.5 I made the turn and knew two things – 1) I had 6.5 more miles of hills ahead to cover and 2) I was going to finish regardless of how long it took. I wanted the finisher’s medal. My coach had asked me the day before how important a finisher’s medal was to me – I told him I am not that big on medals, I have many. On race day with 6.5 miles left my perspective changed. That finisher’s medal represents accomplishing a very difficult race (even when injury free) and my triumph over not completing an Ironman event.

I crossed the finish line and was thrilled to have the finisher’s medal placed over my head. I cried. Instead of a PR, I was 48 seconds faster than Muncie – my slowest half iron triathlon. My fifth 70.3 – my true Half Ironman – was my second slowest and most meaningful. With prayer, encouragement, and trusting in my training – physical as well as mental – I accomplished something I had doubted was possible that morning. Yes, all things are possible.



I Missed a Goal

Setting goals can be a tricky task – sometimes one goal can impact another. Which is what happened to me in March. My goal with this blog in 2014 is to write an update at least once a month on my training progress and all I am learning as I prepare for my first full Ironman triathlon. I missed March however. Why I missed writing is a result of all I am doing with training plans, work and staying healthy. (Yay!!) So my goal to train for the Ironman impeded my goal to write about it. It is April 1st and I have a few things I am excited to share.

My experience with my coaching group continues to exceed my expectations. I have three swim workouts a week with one that is focused on building my speed and endurance for my first triathlon race this year, Raleigh 70.3 Half Ironman. I am seeing my progress and I surprise myself at my times. Once it was a dream to consistently hold 2:04 per 100 meters. Currently I am holding 1:55 and I would like to improve on that too.

On the bike I have been training so far exclusively on my Computrainer. It is hard. Very hard. However I can tell I am getting stronger. The real test will come in a few days when I get outside and tackle the hills I have feared for a while. Today is a beautiful day and I will be running outside. Hopefully I will have my bike on the road within the week. My coach sets my workouts based on power levels. Honestly – we haven’t even talked about speed yet. Developing power and sustaining target levels is key – the speed will follow. Fortunately I have a power meter on my tri bike so when I get off the trainer I can continue to monitor my progress.

I did run one five mile race in March. It was not a PR. Miles 3 and 4 were challenging with hills and my 5 mile PR race was run last year on a much flatter course. What I am very pleased with is the race I ran in March I ran the three fastest mile splits in any five mile race I have run. Since the hills got me, my coach has me running a challenging hill workout once every week right now on a treadmill. I am seeing improvements already. There are plenty of hills where I live so I am sure I will test out my progress soon.

Beyond workouts, staying healthy is essential to a training plan. Recently I bought a gadget that has helped me far more than I ever expected. I have shared here before that I use myfitnesspal.com to track my eating and exercise. Teaming with it I now wear a fitness tracker. There are several on the market and I have only used one – the Jawbone UP24. These trackers are first targeted to the mainstream market to help them monitor steps, diet, and sleep. I do not rely on it when I workout to track my distances, my Garmin Forerunner 910XT is far better in that area. Where my UP24 band is most helpful is in reminding me to move during the day in my desk bound job and monitoring my sleep. There is much I want to share, however this post would become so long most readers would give up. Instead, I am setting a new goal for April – post weekly (I hope!) and share more about my experience with the Jawbone UP24 as well as my training.

I continue to learn – especially how precious each day is. I am so grateful to be feeling well again. Enjoying life is essential, not every moment is wonderful but it is a moment I am given to make the most of. As a result, a short term goal here or there may be delayed. It is the quality of the days that matter, not the quantity of things accomplished.


Year of the Horse

Today January 31,2014 marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, the year of the Horse. As many of you reading know, last year was not my best year by far. After doing a little research I have learned I was born in the year of the Horse as well. (Since it is a 12 year cycle, that would make me either 36 or 48 on my birthday this March…) I have a feeling this just may be a great year. In December the cause of my pain was identified and earlier this month I was able to “get it taken care of.” I am happy to report I feel great and I am working on gaining my strength back.

Here is what I learned about the Chinese view about the year of the Horse:

“The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Ancient people liked to designate an able person as ‘Qianli Ma’, a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equals 500 meters).”

Seriously – how awesome is that description?!? The horse’s spirit is the ethos of the Chinese people – the character used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a nation. I definitely want to dedicate the year to improving myself while being “bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and ABLE.” As for covering a thousand li a day – that is 310.7 miles! I will in spirit with my big goal of 140.6 miles literally covered on September 28, 2014 at Ironman Chattanooga.

As for my training plan for the Ironman, I toyed with several options from a book plan to online coaching to one on one coaching. After much consideration I found the path and it is one on three coaching – where I am the one. GoFast Endurance Coaching is the result of three great athlete/coaches here in Northeast Ohio that want to not only coach athletes, but see them go faster. Go figure – great concept. Also, I know athletes who work with them and I am by far the slowest, so I am on board with going faster. I will still work with Heidi on strength training, especially core work.

For the first time in almost a year when asked how I am, the answer “great” rolls off my tongue and I mean it. I actually had forgotten how good feeling good feels! Sure there may be problems along the road, hopefully minor, as well as successes to build on, hopefully lots of those. (I can’t take credit for that last phrase, my coach Mark used it in an email!) My building phase of training begins Monday and I plan on blogging about my journey to the finish line in Chattanooga. I am excited for what lies ahead.




In 2012 I made a resolution to blog every day, and on this site I did just that. This year, I wanted to make sure I wrote a post at least once a month. With this post I am accomplishing it as this is my December post. December 31st brings ideas of the future plans and reflections of the year past. I have written many times about seizing the day and enjoying each moment, this is something I continue to embrace but I am not hesitant to wish 2013 farewell. So much happened that really made this year stink. That said, I also have grown so much emotionally and spiritually. Several landmark events have set me on a path that I am anxious to follow.

Reflecting on my fitness accomplishments this past year, I swam 338,738.9 meters (210.5 miles), cycled 1,508.9 miles, ran 707.9 miles, and hiked 16.4 miles for a total of 2,443.7 miles. The same distance from my home to San Francisco. While my distances were less than I had planned this time last year, I am very pleased with what I accomplished.

And now to look forward – the greatest lesson I learned in 2013 is that each day is a gift. My natural instinct is to plan ahead, set goals, and follow the plan. Oh, if life only allowed this to happen! The planning nature in me will most likely remain, however I have learned to first focus on today while glancing up at the horizon. My biggest goal for 2014 is to complete my first Ironman triathlon on September 28th in Chattanooga, TN. With this on the horizon, my training plan beginning in late February will be geared toward this day. My hope is that life occurrences will cooperate.

I usually do make a few resolutions each year, most focused on improving myself in some way. Before I share, I want to look at what it means. Resolution is defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something. Resolve, in a similar manner, is defined as a firm determination to do something. Not only is it a decision, but it is firm and with determination. With that, here are my top three:

  1. Live in the moment each day appreciating it. Each day brings a sunrise, sometimes the clouds hide it, but it does not hide the fact that it exists. There is always something to find joy in each day.
  2. Make the most of each workout, whether a hard one or a recovery, with the focus on making improvements each time.
  3. Learn something each day – from reading, listening, or experiencing.

Of course I have more detailed goals as well, but those can change in the blink of an eye. Regardless of the curve balls that may come my way, I should still be able to maintain these three.

Here is to 2014 – may all reading this have a wonderful year, made up of 365 awesome days!