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

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The Difference

What a difference a day makes. A well know and frequently used phrase that is applicable to me today. After a good night of sleep I felt much better this morning, my headache was gone so I went to the pool. Sometimes I make firm plans to swim with others, sometimes I end up swimming with friends that happen to be there. Today I got to the pool a little later than usually and two others I swim with were in the middle of their workout. After I warmed up 500 meters I joined them for a set of 10 x 100 meter repeats on a 2:10 send off. I swam freestyle while they did various strokes. I should mention that they are two of the fastest swimmers I swim with. I swear one gal is literally part dolphin. I held up well and completed all of the repeats under 2 minutes. Five I swam and five I pulled. When I use the pull buoy I am able to swim 100 meters around 1:50, with out it I was still swimming around 1:56. In all I swam 3,000 meters. I am enjoying the fact that I am seeing such an improvement in my pace. Just a year ago I struggled to do 10 repeats of 100 meters in 2:10, then adding a brief recovery to it. I guess I can also say what a difference a year makes.

This afternoon I ran at the gym. My running coach has given me a plan for the next four weeks that allows for recovery with a few up beat drills. Today was mostly an easy run in my zone 2 for 40 minutes followed by 4 excels for 20 seconds fast to continue teaching my legs to adapt to a quick turnover. When it comes to my running, I could say what a difference a few months make. I started working with my running coach in July and I struggled to get to a slow jog and still stay in my aerobic zone 2. Today I ran between 10:40 and 11:15 pace and stayed in zone 2. Topping it off, I was able to run fast at the end for 20 seconds and only ease to a jog, not a walk, for the 40 second recovery. I have progressed quite a bit in a year when it comes to my running pace and my efficiency.

So what exactly makes a day, month, or year different to the better? Today I did feel much better, but I also had the benefit of others to enhance my day. The improvement I have seen in my swimming and running has come as a result of hard work that was encouraged by others – shared workouts with friends, guidance from a swim coaching video, and coaching from my running coach. I did not just experience the difference on my own. I have run many races using training plans I found off of the internet or read in magazines. These are good resources. The difference is in the application of the plan. Whether it is a group of friends to train with or the benefits of a coach, the motivation that comes from others really makes the difference. Like so much in life, we can go it alone, but we will not receive the full experience that is offered in sharing our lives with friends and loved ones. I am able to smile and laugh when I am alone, but the best belly laughs come when I am in good company. Truly experiencing joy comes from allowing others into you life. And that makes all of the difference.


Time to Be a Friend

During my workouts and through the day I think of what I would like to blog about. This morning I had a good idea during my swim workout. While I was talking with a few ladies in the locker room I began to firm up the topic in my mind. Then the news hit this morning of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT. When children are shot and killed just by being in school, it is heart breaking. When most of them are kindergarteners, tears come easier than words. In light of this, I have decided to stay on my chosen topic, with deeper meaning now.

This morning I got two workouts in and was on my way to work before the tragedy began. I went to spin class and then swam. Several of my friends were in spin, although we were spread through out the room since several of the bike computers do not work. After class, four of us met in the pool and swam a workout together. Having friends around me in spin is encouraging. I tend to work harder knowing I am with others who are pushing it too. Since I started swimming with a group, I am swimming faster. Friends help us. Friends encourage us to be and do our best. Friends are extra support when we can not stand alone. Having good friends also motivate us to be a good friend in return.

In Newtown today there are many people who need the support, encouragement, and prayers of friends. Today is a horrible reminder to count our blessings, appreciate each day we are given, and put our own struggles into perspective. A day like today is one of the most difficult days to find something good. I heard a news commentator say earlier that sometimes the worst actions of a few bring out the best in many. It is my prayer that the best that comes out sticks, because that is the good that we need today.



The body’s ability to adapt and mend is an amazing thing to behold. Eight days ago I ran a marathon, a week ago I was struggling to walk down hill, two days ago I swam 1,000 meters and was ready to finish, and today I went to spin class for an hour covering 20 miles and then swam 2,000 meters right after. The only kink, and it was actually a kink, was in my left quad. When I was pulling in my swim warm up I felt a cramp start. I did most of the swim workout pulling after I did 4 x 50 with kicking. The cramp got worse and I wanted to finish. Even though I didn’t kick, I didn’t take it easy either. I was swimming my 100’s on 1:52 and most of my 50’s on 53 seconds. I even did a 200 without full force and came in at 3:56. That is fast for me. Yes, pulling helps me go faster. I was also giving my lungs a good aerobic workout.

Getting through a swim workout sometimes can be challenging. Today I swam with a friend and it helped both of us get through the workout. There is always a fun element to swimming together on the same timed send off. Being slower than most of the people I swim with, we make adaptions. When I did 4 x 100 on a 2:15 send off, she did 4 x 125. On the even ones when we finished on the same side I would try to glide ahead and feel like I was winning, even though she swam 25 meters farther! Hey, what ever it takes to stay motivated. Once again, the buddy system came through.

This evening I did a Pilates workout. My trainer told me to focus really hard on proper form. I don’t know if it was my focus, a week off, or a combination of both, but I am feeling the workout. As much as the body adapts quickly, it also loses strength when not challenged. Core strength is becoming a bigger focus for me. I am thin and have flat abs – it is surprising that flat does not always mean firm. Holding the positions is challenging and I would love to have a pillow for my head, but that would be defeating the purpose I guess…

In reflecting on my training today and over the past eight days, it is more evident to me than ever that nothing comes easy. Building endurance, strength, and speed take time. The training is always challenging if you truly want to improve. Maintaining, if not building upon, athletic levels is a constant focus. Oh and how parallel is this to life? Relationships, careers, faith – all require time to develop, build and even master. Then there is the constant maintenance – nothing can be left on a shelf and be expected to sustain. Sometimes it requires our own effort, sometimes the help of a coach or mentor, and many times the support of friends. Like the marathon course I ran, nothing is linear. There are always ups and downs, even when billed an “easy course”. Hopefully lessons are learned from what works and what doesn’t. It is a terrible sorrow when the same mistakes are repeated over and over. It is a wonderful joy when advancements are made. Yes, how parallel – in sport and in life. It may not be easy, but I want the path of advancement.


Quality Time

After nearly two weeks away from the pool, I jumped in this morning. As I drove to the pool and thought over my workout, the eager swimmer in me wanted to swim 3,000 meters. The practical recovering marathoner in me took over and talked myself into 2,000 meters. Then the relaxed gal in me who is doing her best to seize the day convinced myself to first enjoy it and second see how I feel. I will swim what I swim.

Since the race the longest I have run in one workout has been 2.5 miles. I did an hour spin class yesterday morning and felt very good. Swimming is different. While it is not as taxing on the body, it definitely works the lungs. My warm up quickly showed me that this was going to be a light swim. I can not express exactly how I felt, I just could tell I was moving a little slower and I was not going to push it. In all I swam 1,000 meters. That is usually my warm up. But I did what I felt was right for me today. Huh – this relaxed attitude is not easy to adapt, but I am liking it.

After my swim my day only got better. I had lunch with two of my girlfriends from my “locker room” family. One lady moved over the summer to a near by town, but too far to come to the gym. Spending time with these ladies was just wonderful. I still marvel at how meeting in the locker room could bring such dear and lasting friendships. By the time I got home it was late afternoon and I had only an hour to get a few things done around the house before I met another friend, also from my gym, for dinner and then we went to see a Christmas concert program at the church I attend. The program rivals anything the Cleveland Orchestra or Trans Siberian Orchestra could do. In fact I believe they did a better live performance of Christmas Eve in Sarajevo than TSO – which I have also seen perform live. The concert was fabulous. Being there with a friend made it special.

With today being my first Saturday back after traveling, I have so much to do around the house. Most I have not done, well – a load of laundry is going now as I write. What I did accomplish today was far more meaningful. I did not stress about “only” swimming 1,000 meters. I enjoyed time with dear friends at lunch. I am very much in the Christmas spirit now after attending the concert and sharing the experience with a friend was an added blessing. In the same spirit that I have written I have never finished a workout and said I wished I hadn’t done it, I can also say I have never regretted letting laundry wait a day so I can spend time with friends who enrich my life. That is quality time.



Off to Napa

One thing I have learned from running marathons is running the next day, as painful as it is, is a great way to get the legs moving and help the healing process. So I headed out this morning for a twenty minute run – in San Francisco. For those unfamiliar with the city, it is very hilly. I started uphill and felt like I was learning to run again. After about a quarter of a mile I got into a rhythm and also had turned downhill, in all I ran about a mile and a half, slowly, including a nice little run uphill on Powell Street back to my hotel. All running, no walking, and I did feel good after my run. My legs are still feeling the run yesterday, but I am able to get around well.

Speaking of getting around, this morning I headed to pick up my friend who lives in San Francisco and we drove off to Napa Valley. What a wonderful escape for a few days after running a marathon. My girlfriend and I have been friends since we were in the eighth grade. Spending time with someone who knows me so well for so long is like coming home. I can be my silly self with her and she with me and we know we are safe and in good company. We started out in Yountville (a town in Napa Valley) for lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Mustards.

The food was wonderful and the scenery just breath taking. After a filling lunch we went to visit a few vineyards. First we went up to St. Clement winery.

The tasting house is up on a hill – which I must admit I winced when I saw how steep it was for me to walk up.

But it was well worth the effort and the view was spectacular from the front porch.


Next we went to Markham Vineyard for a tasting.

The tasting building is next to the original vineyard house that is over a hundred years old. We tasted a Petite Sirah that is “old vine” – the vine was planted in 1910 and still produces grapes for this fabulous wine. Here is a picture of my friend and me in front of the original house.


The third vineyard we visited was Charles Krug and my favorite one today.

What I enjoyed the most was the interaction with the people there. The wines were wonderful, as with the other vineyards too. We really enjoyed our time there learning the history of the vineyard. It is family owned by Peter Mondovi and his sons. Like so many things in life – the products may be great, but how they are presented and the service provided makes all of the difference.

After a fun day exploring Napa we checked into our hotel – a fabulous hotel and spa called Vintage Inn.

Soon we will head to dinner and relax in our lovely room, tomorrow brings another fun day in Napa.

With today being my first day of my recovery month, I must say it is off to a wonderful start. A nice run, plenty of quality time a wonderful friend who knows me inside and out, and a beautiful destination to spend a few days. Yes, I am blessed.


Buddy System

Yesterday I wrote about a very good swim workout that had a lot to do with swimming with my friend. We kept each other going and honest to the workout. In a comment, IowaTriBob mentioned he missed a workout buddy. What a great word to use. Buddy. A quick Google search came up with this description on Wikipedia for “buddy system”:

The buddy system is a procedure in which two people, the “buddies”, operate together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other.

My long run today really fit this description too. I have run the past few long runs on the towpath with my friends who are training for a marathon the week after mine. A more accurate description is we started at the same place, would run into each other along the course, and meet up at the end. Today my girlfriend decided to run with me. She, like so many marathoners, is struggling with a tight IT band. She wanted to get the miles in, but didn’t want to push it on the pace to give her hip a rest. This was my last long run before the race – and it was fantastic. My buddy and I really did operate together as a single unit and we monitored and helped each other. She usually runs close to two minutes per mile faster on long runs than I run. Today I picked up my pace a bit and averaged just under 12:00 minute mile pace for the entire twelve miles. Not only was my pace faster, my average heart rate was 131 and it maxed at 140 – I stayed in zone two the entire time. Not to mention I was able to carry on a conversation the whole run. (We are good buddies that way too, always able to chat it up!) She was able to go on after the twelve and finish with 15 miles. Her longest run since the IT pain started. We helped each other through it.

The description above is also fitting for true friends. As I mentioned earlier this week, life is unpredictable. Having true buddies to monitor and help each other out along the journey is what it is all about. I know when I am with true, good friends it really does feel like we are one unit, one mind. Of course there will always be differences. Variety is the spice of life. But so are true friends. They add just enough seasoning to make life grand.



Rain or Treadmill? That is the Question

While the East Coast prepares for the “perfect storm”, we are having the most imperfect weather here in Ohio. The past two days have been cold and rainy. Not terrible for a day like yesterday when I had two indoor workouts planned. Terrible this morning when I headed out to run 20 miles. I had everything packed up to drive down to the towpath and as I backed my SUV out of the garage I stopped. I just couldn’t do it. By myself, in the cold rain, running 20 miles. I went back inside, loaded my gym bag with indoor running attire, texted my trainer to update her, and I headed to the gym instead.

For anyone who is a distance runner, it is difficult to discern which is worse – running 20 miles is miserable, damp, cold rain or any distance over an hour on a treadmill. I love winter running. Twenty degrees with snow – I would take over a day like today easily. This is the kind of weather that lowers your resistance and welcomes those horrible germs that grow as if the world is a petri dish. So for me, the lesser of two evils is the treadmill. I made it for twelve miles. That is twelve miles on a treadmill. No speed work, steady pace staying in zone two. (My nose just twitched thinking I probably did more running in place than a hamster on a wheel…) It was far more challenging mentally than a run twice the distance outside. I read for the first half and then switched over to up tempo music. I did push it a bit the last three miles to get closer to race pace. At least I felt that the run was productive in working on race pace running on tired legs.

Yesterday my trainer emailed me my running plan for November. Next week my long run is 18 – 20 miles and two weeks after it is 20 – 22 miles. I have already done one 18 mile long run, two 16 mile runs, and a 15 mile run. With the distance I have put in and still have time to get a few long runs in before my race, I feel I will be prepared. My last marathon was in February of 2011 and I set a personal record after only running 17 miles for my longest long run. It was a very tough winter and the sub zero temperatures limited outside long runs. I do remember doing that 17 miler – on a treadmill. The mental preparation makes up sometimes for the shortened physical miles.

Today is another example of how all the planning in the world will not do much good if circumstances out of my control “blow the wind” in a different direction. Friends of mine also ran outside this morning on the towpath. Next week we are holding each other accountable. My friend texted me and said had she known, she would have guilted me into going with her today. You know, that would have worked too. I can plan all I want, outside circumstance can change and influence me, but friends also add a bit of sunshine to a dark day. So next week I know I will get my miles in. Once again, with a little help from my friends.


Modifications, Motivations, and Adaptations

With my race two weeks away, today was supposed to be my last 50 mile bike ride before tapering. I decided to cut it down to 35 miles – I told my friend I would return his car by noon and it is about a 40 minute drive. Unless I started riding by 7:00 when the sun rose, it was going to be a tight schedule. I was grateful for his generosity, so I made a few adjustments. My ride was a very good one. Plenty of hills, plenty of sunshine, and I finished before it got really hot. I finished feeling energized. Anxiety it starting to bubble with only two weeks to go, but I have my training in. After my run tomorrow, I will have swam, cycled, and run farther in training than each leg of the race. Knowing this will come in handy during the race…

This will be my fourth half iron distance triathlon and third year in a row with Revolution 3. Despite my experience and training, I am preparing myself for the self doubt. During the swim in the past two races I distinctively remember thinking within the first 500 meters thinking I can’t do this – I was overwhelmed. Yesterday during my time trial I found myself questioning how I am going to get through this swim in two weeks. That is when I have to dig deep and remind myself all I have been through. Believe I will finish. The training has proved I am capable of completing this.

There is so much I am learning. Not just technique, but ways of motivating and encouraging myself. Adapting when my body tells me to rest. Modifying workouts when priorities take over. And my most recent and important lesson – only lock my car with the key fob in my hand.


The Unexpected Day

I can honestly say the events that happened today I could have never expected. This morning I woke up at 4:30 to go to the pool and felt fatigued before I got out of bed. My resting heart rate was 62 – compared to 44 yesterday morning. After a few snooze button hits nothing changed. I texted my training partner to let her know I was sleeping in and set my alarm for 7:00. Listening to my body is so important and it was telling me to rest. I expected today to be a rest day when I went back to sleep. Boy was I wrong.

I felt a bit better when I got up and dressed for work, but a hazy feeling persisted. Despite feeling tired, I decided to put my swim gear and gym bag in my car and go to the pool after work. My training partner had texted me that she swam the 1,900 meter time trial we had scheduled and she was 3 seconds over her goal time. A good pace and 5 minutes faster than her swim last year in the half iron tri. Her message motivated me to give it a try. All day I felt tired but still made it to the pool to swim. I am glad I did. Despite being tired and dealing with calf cramps the last 500 meters (note to self, don’t wear high heels all day before swimming a 1,900 time trial) I did it in 40:10. I was hoping for 39:59 or better, but under the circumstances I was very happy.

After my swim I wet to a friend’s home for a shopping party – CAbi clothes for those familiar. She lives about 45 minitutes from my home. I planned on picking out what I liked that I saw on line and slipping out early to get to bed. When I discovered I locked my key in my car those plans changed. Ugh. Fortunately a friend who lives close by came to the rescue. He lent me his car to get home tonight. I will take my spare key back tomorrow (after I ride 50 miles on my bike in the morning) and get my car while returning my friend’s car.

So my rest day turned into a long day with a good workout. I could look at the day and think what a mess. But I choose to see it this way – I got to sleep in, swam a very good time trial, spent time with good friends and realized that a good friend is willing to help when I am in need. Yep, life is good.


What Is, Is

Today was a great example of what is, is. I am entitled to my moments, but it will not keep me down. Living in our sorrows is worse than eating a fried fatty diet and not exercising. It kills our soul. I have a healthy strong body and I want the same for my soul. So I will celebrate all that I need, I have. As well as many of the wants. – Me

I wrote that in a post back in February. I was having a bad day and missing my mother. Today was a similar day. And yes, I cried a bit too. Sometimes I just have one of those stressful days that a good conversation with my mother always made it better. As I cried I thought of how I have written many times that even the darkest days have a little joy. I then turned to the mirror on the wall in my basement workout room and saw my mascara was running. “This is supposed to be waterproof!!” I literally yelled out loud. And that made me laugh. So my little chuckle of joy came from a poorly designed tube of mascara. My apologies to my male readers for going a little girly on you today.

This morning I did have a good swim, and I don’t wear mascara to the pool so I didn’t have raccoon eyes. My legs were feeling the effect of my 12 mile run on Saturday and 60 mile ride yesterday. Swimming was a welcomed relief. I met my training partner and we swam 2,500 meters. The main set was made up of six sets of 150 meters, 100 meters, and 50 meters. I am working on the two beat kick that Total Immersion teaches. It is a work in progress but I noticed progress. On all sets I was swimming consistent on a 2:02 per 100 meter pace. So the day started off well, one more joy to focus on.

By the end of the day I noticed my legs still felt fatigued. I realized the last time I felt like this was the day after a big race. In that case I would rest, but I had a ride scheduled this evening. My compromise – ride an hour on my trainer. The weather was turning cloudy and my little issues that upset me cropped up, so riding on my trainer inside and reading a book was the safest thing to do. Along with saving my legs from the burn of the hills in my neighborhood.

After my indoor ride is when I had my “human” stress relief moment, so I would have to say it was mascara that gave me a chuckle to remind myself that what is, truly is. Somedays the joy abounds and we sing with the birds. Other days, like today for me, I acknowledge my challenges, mourn what I need to mourn, and realize that I am stronger for seeing the weaknesses – not ignoring them. Adrienne, now I am going to have to print out my quote and post it in my house. Your comment to my post in February inspired me today. One more joy today – friends I have met through blogging.