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


Trust Believe Run

I made it to Sacramento safely and on time. Actually a little early. My rental car pick up went smoothly and I found the hotel easily last night. So far all is going well. This morning I ran easy for 15 minutes just to get the blood flowing in my legs. It was raining and about the same temperature expected tomorrow – around 58 degrees. This was a good chance to get a feel for what to wear tomorrow. I mapped a route from my hotel to the race finish area and back that was about 1.5 miles round trip. If it is going to be raining at the finish, I want to know exactly how to get back to my hotel as quickly as possible. My run was just over 15 minutes and I have a good feel for the area. As for what to wear, I know long sleeves and a rain jacket will be too much. I was covered but warmed up after a mile. Too much coverage to run 26.2 miles. I am thinking a short sleeve/arm warmer combo with a thin vest will work. The vest has enough pockets for my GU gels and to stash the arm warmers if I get too warm.

After breakfast I headed over to the expo. I am staying at the host hotel and it is perfectly located. The expo is right across the street and the finish area is a half mile away. Marathon expos are my favorite activity the day before a big race. The volunteers are excited to help and the energy of all there is invigorating. We get nice nylon back packs that double as our gear check bags tomorrow. Besides technical running shirts, we also get running gloves and a band that can be used as a headband/head cover/neck warmer. Nice extras to take back. I was surprised that not only are the timing chips worn on the shoe instead of on the back of the bib, the chips are not disposable. They are the hard plastic squares that are secured to your laces. At the finish the volunteers have to cut them off. While at the expo I picked up a few things including a nylon race cap for tomorrow. Yes, I did bring one, but this one matches my vest. It may be raining and windy, but I will still be stylin’!

Despite the weather, race weekend is going very well. The sun did pop out briefly, then the next band of rain moved in. All things considered, I am very pleased with my experience so far. Tomorrow I will take the bus to the start, which is 26.2 miles away. In previous races I have had trouble with race shuttles. They have been late and even never showed up. This is the 30th year for this race on the same course, I certainly hope it is well organized by now on transportation. All I can do now is eat a good dinner and get downstairs in the morning in time to hop on a shuttle. I am confident in my training. Wind and rain are out of my control but not something I haven’t experienced in training before. It is time to trust in my training, believe in myself, and just keep running.


Contingency Plans

This morning my run workout was thirty minutes easy, shake out the legs. I was able to run right within my desired race pace and keep my heart rate right in zone two. Two days before a marathon, this should make me happy. While I am happy at my progress, I still have feeling of trepidation. The latest weather forecast now estimates winds at 23 miles per hour at the start. Coming from the South West, and the point to point course runs South West… I received so many comments of encouragement from my post yesterday that have given me much to think on for motivation. Thanks to Steve at Chasing Fifty, my main mantra will be “Just keep running.” And if all else fails, Jim at Fit Recovery will have me singing with Dory “Just keep swimming.” Let’s hope that is not the case.

Being a planning type A’er, I have a few contingency plans in place. Of course plan A is get to Sacramento and run the race I have been training for all these months. Worst case – my flight to Sacramento from Houston is cancelled and the race is cancelled. My plan B – get to Austin, TX tonight and visit a friend then head to San Francisco on Sunday for the rest of my vacation. Also plan B includes a run alternative. The Jacksonville Marathon in Florida is December 16th. I have enough points to fly free and the race offers same day registration. Not to mention it is a flat course. Then there is plan C – I make it to Sacramento but the race is canceled or the weather prevents me from finishing – Jacksonville is still an option.

To many it may seem silly. I am writing from the plane on my way to Houston and I have already come up with two back up plans. To me, it helps relieve stress. (And I know there are others reading this, nodding their heads, and saying “Amen sister, me too.”) My daily desire is to appreciate the day and all it brings. For me, controlling the things I have control over helps reduce stress and allow me to focus on the now. What do I have control over? Not much, but I do have control over my attitude and how I chose to perceive my surroundings. Back up plans help. The weather – well I live in Northeast Ohio, I get rain and clouds. I can’t control it. But I won’t let it get me down. One thing I know is I will enjoy the days ahead. Rain or shine.


It Never Rains In California?

Today was a complete rest day. Normally I would go to bed by 9:30, which I did last night, and get up around 4:30, which I did not do today. I slept in until 7:15. It felt wonderful. Then I checked my messages. I find a post on Facebook from the California International Marathon that read “Folks! The CIM will NOT be cancelled this weekend. This is a rain or shine event…” The rest of the post just continued to make my stomach flip. I knew that rain was in the forecast, but now I learned that a very heavy rain storm is expected (with high winds) to last from Friday through Sunday. Joy.

Then I received an email from Jill at JoggingJeans at 8:29 this morning. She sent me a link to Team Hoyt. Dick Hoyt had recently been mentioned to her and she wanted to share his story with me. I was familiar with the story but didn’t know his name. His son, Rick, was born a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy. In sum – Dick now competes in running events and triathlons (including several Ironman races) to raise awareness and funds for his charity. Oh and he brings his adult son Rick along with him. The entire race. I read Jill’s email and replied thanking her. The timing was perfect. Aware of the story, I know a little rain (or torrential downpour) is not a huge challenge compared to what Dick Hoyt voluntarily puts himself through for a wonderful cause. Jill replied writing that she watched the video on the site and was struck that Dick is not a young man, he is in his 60’s and still competing. As for the timing of her encouragement, well we both agree there had to be some divine intervention involved.

I was running late this morning since I slept in, so I didn’t take the time to watch the video. All day the weather in California did stay on my mind. I even searched for other marathons in December that are not full that I could run in the even the race actually is cancelled or worse yet I am not able to finish. I knew I wanted to incorporate Jill’s email into this post, so when I finally finished all I needed to do this evening, I watched the video on the web page. Watch it. Please. I was so moved by a video only as long as the song playing. The pictures tell it all.

My perspective has changed for this weekend. My greatest concern now is just having a safe flight in tomorrow to Sacramento. Once I am there, what happens – happens. Strong wind and rain are forecasted, as long as I am able to make it through the race I will do so. Yes I am frustrated that I have trained so much and so hard for this race. I have it in me to set a personal record. The common thread in all reports on the CIM site is “don’t expect a PR in this weather.” Okay…. My goal now is to finish. I have friends I will see both at the race and then I am off to San Francisco and Napa Valley for a few days. What really is important? The quality of my race or the quality of my life with those dear to me? I will take those dear to me.


Heart Rate and Hard Way Learning

This morning I had my last speed run workout before the race this weekend – and it was fantastic. The past four weeks my trainer has me doing fast intervals – today I did four repeats of 1,000 meters with a 200 meter jog in between. On a treadmill I equated it to .62 mile fast and .13 recovery, so four repeats of a total of .75 miles. After a mile warmup run I increased the treadmill to 6.8 (8:49 a mile) and took off. My foot pod tells my Garmin 901XT that I am running closer to 8:20 pace. This has been consistent for the past four weeks. All I know is I am getting my heart rate up to my high zone 3 and into zone 4. When I started this workout four weeks ago I had a hard time maintaining my pace when my heart rate went past my anaerobic threshold (AT) of 158. Today I was sustaining 162 to 164 during the speed intervals. And I felt very good. It did not feel like an easy run, but I did not feel like I was suffering. After the four .75 repeats I did three repeats fast (7.2 on the treadmill or 8:20) for 200 meters with a 200 meter recovery jog. My heart rate peaked at 172. I couldn’t believe it. I was pushing it, but I was not where I thought I was at my max heart rate.

After my workout I reported back to my trainer. Later in December we are going to test again to see where my zones are and if (my hunch) my AT has moved further out. Today was such an encouraging workout. Any running I will do between now and the race on Sunday will be very easy slow runs to shake out my legs. This was just what I needed going into the race to really feel prepared. Now if I could do something about the weather forecast this weekend for Sacramento, I would really be happy. It looks like rain. More things to pack to be prepared…

Yesterday my trainer asked if another athlete she works with could contact me about heart rate monitor training and zone training. He is skeptical about how it could help improve efficiency. I told her I am more than happy to share my experience. It just plain works. I have written about my experience here and I am amazed at how I have improved. Not only am I running faster, I am doing so at lower heart rates and I have also increased my ability to run at very high heart rates. It was not an easy process. Sometimes running (err walking and jogging more at times) slow was more of a challenge than the speed work. Now the slow runs are runs and I am able to do it at a faster pace, so the speed work is the greater challenge. So little in life comes easy. The hard lessons, I have found, are the ones that leave the greatest impact. Far beyond running – in work, relationships, finances, faith,  every aspect of life – the hardest learned lessons are the most rewarding. Some are quick and painful, others bring long suffering until we learn. But the rewards gained are the sweetest.

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Making A List

I am a list writer. It is much less stressful for me to write a list of all I have to do before a big event, say a marathon in California for example. There is so much to prepare, I don’t want to forget a thing, so I make a list. Writing out the list is… the first thing on my mental list right now. Out of town races are exciting, but bring an extra layer of anxiety for me. Not only do I have to pack three different potential racing outfits depending on the weather, I have my vacation clothes to pack as well. Then there are the responsibilities at home that I have to prepare. With three dogs and two cats, just picking up and going is not an option. I have pet sitting arranged and have to prepare their food for while I am gone. List items, so many list items to write and then get busy.

And did I mention my trainer wanted me to really focus on relaxing this week and eliminating stress? Okay – I will put that on the list too. Sometimes that is what our culture has come to, having to schedule time to relax. Remind ourselves to breathe deep. I just took a brief time out to take five deep breaths. (I wanted to time it to see how long it took, but that would be defeating the purpose I guess…) What a difference it made. I do feel more relaxed and it probably took no more than a minute. Honestly, I do not remember the last time I stopped to do that outside of a yoga or Pilates class. A practice I should incorporate more often.

In all of the busyness, I do not want to forget to appreciate the day, those dear to me, and let the other stuff fall into line. This morning I had a short run scheduled in zone two. I was planning on running three to four miles. Last night I made plans to meet a friend for breakfast so I was a little pressed for time this morning. I know I have the training in and tomorrow I have my last speed run workout to do before the race. It also will probably be the last speed workout I do before January too. So this morning I did run, but only a mile and a half. I am keeping my legs and lungs active and that is what matters most this week. I also was able to spend a little quality time with a friend. And that, fortunately, is not something I have to write on a list.


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.



Speeding Up and Slowing Down

This morning I ran a speed workout that is designed to really push my limits. Two weeks ago I did a similar workout where I had two sets fast at 18 minutes. I didn’t quite make it through the entire time, but I definitely felt the effects of the workout. Today’s workout was three sets of nine minutes sustaining upper zone three into zone four, my anaerobic zone. After a mile warm up I set the treadmill at 8:49 minute mile pace, although my foot pod recorded me running closer to 8:30 pace. The first set of nine minutes went well. I barely touched my AT at 158 by the end. In between sets I have a three minute recovery. I walked the recovery – my heart rate would not have fallen below 150 otherwise. The second set I felt the burn more and hit my AT after 7 minutes, I made it through the full 9 minutes and had no problem taking a walking recovery. The final 9 minutes I made it through and hit my AT after about 6:30. It was a push, but I did it. After my recovery I had three sets of 50 seconds very fast – I set it at 8 miles an hour – with a 50 second jog (yes I jogged). The purpose of this part is to get my legs accustomed to running fast when fatigued. And that I was. In all I ran 5.5 miles in 55:43 – including warm up, recoveries and cool down.

The speed workout I did two weeks ago I also pushed into my zone 4 and my lungs were fried all day, even after using my inhaler. Today I did not feel quite as much stress in my lungs and what I did feel passed before lunch. Of course I used my inhaler before this workout too. I am noticing that when I do hard speed workouts I can tell when my body is pushing out my anaerobic threshold (AT). After the marathon I am looking forward to testing again to see if my feeling is correct. It continues to amaze me how in tune I have become with listening to my body.

Part of listening is also acknowledging that I am tapering. As a result, I did Pilates this evening in place of resistance training. Strengthening my core is, well, my core focus. Causing any muscle strain with resistance work this close to the race is a risk I don’t want to take.

Tomorrow I will be able to get a swim in before going to visit my family for Thanksgiving. I will write more tomorrow, but for today I want to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. We have much for which to be thankful. With all of my writing about speed work today, I want to also slow down and appreciate all around me. The tradition in the US of Thanksgiving is a wonderful day to reflect, but each day offers so much – and for that I am very thankful.


New Normal

What a difference a rest day makes. I woke up this morning to head to the pool and felt well rested. My swim went very well. After a warm up of 1,000 meters I did a little speed work to get my heart rate up but not push it. In all I only swam 1,600 meters. The 600 meters of speed work was made up of 4 x 25, 4 x 50 and 4 x 75. I could have added 4 x 100 to make it an even 2,000, but I am tapering. No need to over do it right now. I know come January I will be swimming much more again. What is important is the quality of the workout and that was there. All intervals were done on a send off based on 33 seconds per 25 meters. I came in on the 25’s averaging 26 seconds, 50’s were 56 seconds, and 75’s were 1:28. I know this is a little detailed for some reading, but the point is I am able to swim faster and keep the pace up throughout the workout. Swimming has been my weakest link and seeing improvement gives me so much motivation.

This evening I went from speed to endurance. My run workout was 50 to 70 minutes staying in zone two. I decided to split the difference and run for 60 minutes. I set the treadmill at 12:00 minute mile pace to start. In the past I either move up or more likely down to keep my heart rate in zone two. I was doing just fine at that pace, in fact several times I increased it to 11:45 and 11:30, brining it back to 12:00 when I would get over a heart rate of 140. What really pleased me was when a friend stopped by to chat. He stood in front of my treadmill and we talked for at least 10 minutes based on the distance I covered. The entire time my heart rate stayed around 134 and I carried on a conversation without getting breathless. Again – this may sound small, but for me it is significant. Running is my second weakest link and here again I am seeing good improvement.

The phrase “seeing is believing” is well known. This year as I tackled so many challenges in triathlon I have learned for me sometimes believing leads to seeing. I first had to believe I could do something – I could swim faster, run faster, have longer endurance – and then I did. At first glance, today seemed like a good, normal workout day. As I look deeper I realize that I have a new normal. What seemed so far from reach less than a year ago has become the typical standard. Sometimes believing is seeing, and then a new normal is born.


Hope and Dreams

On my running schedule for today my trainer wrote that if I wanted to take today as a rest day to do it. So I did. This morning I slept in until almost 7:00, after turning the lights off at 9:30 last night. After all of the running I did over the past three days, it felt great to sleep. As I got out of bed I noticed a few things. First, my legs are not as sore as I expected after running twenty miles. Second, my plantar fascia were tight, but loosened up after stretching. Third, I felt something I didn’t expect – my abs were sore. Just goes to show how important a strong core is. As a result, I did do a Pilates workout this evening.

For the most part, today fits in the category of “rest day”. I had to go back through my training log to find out when the last time was that I did not have a cardio workout. It was September 28th, the day before I ran the Akron Half Marathon and just over seven weeks ago. That has to be one of the longest periods I have gone without a rest day. My body had been sending me signals that I needed a day like this, no wonder after seven weeks without a break.

So without a big workout to write about, I came across a quote from a runner that fits for a rest day – Emil Zatopek, famous for what is known as the Zatopek Effect for resting before a big race. He is quoted saying:

An athlete cannot run with money in his pockets. He must run with hope in his heart and dreams in his head.

Whether a person is training to get fit, stay fit, or win the race, this quote holds true. Quite frankly, anyone who has run with change or even a few Gu packs in pockets knows it is annoying. Some of us train for races. Some of us do not need a race to stay motivated. Having hope and dreams, however, makes the journey so much more meaningful.


Let the Taper Begin

As I commented on Facebook today – I ran 35 miles in 48 hours this weekend. I am ready for taper. This morning I ran 20 miles and finished just about 48 hours to the minute from when I started my 10 mile run on Friday. My run this morning went well. As usual, the first mile took sometime to get into the rhythm of the run. It was a beautiful day. The sun beat down. I had my iPod on. I was runnin’. (when Tom Petty came on singing Runnin’ Down A Dream I thought the lyrics were perfect for today!) The day started out on the cooler side with the temperature in the low 30’s. By the time I finished it was closer to 45 degrees. Great for a long run.

As I ran, I was quite pleased with my pace and heart rate. I wanted to target 12:00 to 12:30 pace for my easy run, but also let my heart rate guide me. There were several stretches in the first 11 miles when I would be running 11:30 pace or better. My average heart rate for the entire run was 137, right in zone two. Considering I had run 15 miles between Friday afternoon and yesterday morning, my legs felt strong. Well at least for the first 14 miles. The last six miles were a push. Partly from monotony and partly from fatigue. Long runs like this are good to train my body for the race, but my mind knows better. This will be my seventh marathon and the race has a different vibe that a training run just can not provide. The crowd is not there to cheer (and hold up creative signs – click link to see), other runners are not sharing your pain and excitement, and there is not a finisher’s medal waiting for me at the finish. I did however like my self talk through the last six miles. Rather than convince myself to walk more, I said “push through, the fatigue is not that bad, you can run faster and get this over.” And I did.

Now I begin my taper for the race. I enter into this period with the satisfaction that I have put in the miles. The next two weeks I will still be running, just a bit shorter distances. My focus will also be on proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, stress relief (that will be a fun challenge…) and taking it easier on my cross training activities. All of the variables I am responsible for, I have done and continue to work on. The rest is out of my control. (Step one to stress relief, relinquish control of that I can not control…) I am excited. I am anxious. I am nervous. But I look forward to the experience almost as much as Christmas.  Enjoying each day that leads up to it and the day itself is what I continue to remind myself. Believe and Enjoy – for time passes so quickly.