elisariva

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


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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.

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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.

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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.


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One Day At A Time

With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am a planner. As a triathlete, it is necessary to have a few races planned in order to train properly. That said, I may have made a few too many presumptions scheduling races all the way through November. While I look forward to events to come, I remind myself to focus on today. Seize the day – the underlying theme of this blog. Additionally, I do not want to dwell on the past. Yes, it is important to remember lessons from the past in order to not repeat mistakes – however a brief glance is all that is needed.

Since I am living for today and not dwelling on the past, all I care to share is the past few weeks have not gone anywhere near as planned. The good news is today is a better day and the future looks bright and promising. I have had to make changes in my plans – I will not participate in either of the two triathlons I had scheduled this month. Hopefully I will complete two to three races this summer. A phrase that has come up quite a bit over the past two weeks is “One day at a time.”

One day at a time is all I have been able to focus on lately. Thankfully, each day is looking even better. Rest has taken the place of training, hence the absence of my writing – I do not want to change the theme of this blog from my life lessons learned from training as an average age group triathlete. I plan to return to training within the next few days – slowly.  I have missed the endorphin rush and I am eager to return.

My brief glance back over the past two weeks has taught me each day is truly a gift and should be cherished. So much can change in the blink of an eye. I am sure I will keep setting goals, but those goals most certainly will change as life goes on around me. And I will enjoy the experience – one day at a time.


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Mixing Things Up

Keeping swim workouts creative and fun is not always the easiest thing to do. I have water proof spiral books filled with workouts, several workouts a friend has given me, and I have even found a few good workouts from fellow bloggers. But like meal planning, the same workouts – or recipes – over and over get dull. U.S. Masters Swimming is an organization for adult swimmers who want to continue to swim with groups and also for those who want to continue competing in swim meets long after high school and college. They also have an abundance of workouts on their web site available for members. Membership is a very reasonable cost, so I joined. The workouts alone are worth the cost, not to mention access to many more swim practices around town if I wish to participate.

This morning I did what so many swimmers do, I got out my zip lock baggie with my workout in it and headed into the pool. I met up with my friend who swims just a bit faster than I – except for kicking – she whips me there. The workout was 3,100 meters – I cut 100 meters off because I forgot my inhaler and jumped out of the pool during warm up to go get it. Swimming hard really does push my lungs and the inhaler helps me quite a bit. The variety of the sets was a welcomed change. We did a little of everything – kick sets, pull sets, different strokes, and different distances. Swimming with others continues to push me to swim faster and get stronger. Part of the workout we were joined by our strongest swimmer, she really adds a good dimension to the workout. I am able to watch her style underwater when she is doing different strokes since she is ahead of me – her form is very good and gives me a good example of what to focus on in my form.

Routines have many benefits – I have my assigned days for specific workouts and it gives me structure. Mixing it up within the workouts makes it exciting and interesting. My days tend to have quite a bit of structure in all aspects, but I also make efforts to mix it up where possible. Today I made a few calls and sent a few texts to friends I haven’t been in touch with for a while. Hearing their voices and reading what they are up to also adds an element of excitement to life. Since this is my recovery month, running on Wednesday evenings is optional. Today I opted out and finished the last of my gift shopping. Flexibility, mixing things up, doing things just a little differently within a routine – all help make life interesting and add excitement. Something I need to remember not just at the holidays, but all year long. Adding to the joy in life to seize each day.


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Attitude

From reading my writings, it is fairly evident that I prefer to look at life in as positive of a light as I am able. This does not mean I haven’t experienced my fair share of disappointments. Far from it. I choose to look at the lessons learned and how each experience can benefit me and those I come in contact with. One thing though, since the late 1980’s Christmas time is usually a much more sad time to me than joyous. Yes, I do rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas. However, as a result of a few hard knocks over the years, I tend to be melancholy. This has never stopped me from decorating, sending out picture cards with my pets on them (hey, I get plenty of smiling families and children, so I send out adorable dogs and cats), and enjoying the family gatherings. I am happy to say that this year is much different. First, my tree still only has lights on it. That is it. No ornaments, tree skirt, or trim. By now my entire house should be decorated to the hilt. That will happen by this weekend. Second, and most importantly, I am truly feeling joy.

Nothing significantly transforming has occurred to remove any of my fears or doubt. It may even be this blog – I am learning more and more how to look at life in the “half full” lens. I truly have wonderful friends, and an abundance of them. That is a hefty blessing for me to count. All the more reason to feel joy rather than sadness. I wanted to share this today, because frankly today was a repeat of yesterday. I had an awesome swim this morning – 3,000 meters and I swam with three other friends. We all did the same workout. Two swimmers are fast and another buddy and I are, well let’s say, moderate. This evening I put on my lighted vest and head lamp and ran three miles through a different street to take in more lights. As I type right now, I am grinning. It was a great run.

On to paragraph three and what is my motivational take away? Attitude. It truly is everything. Yes, I could write a list of things that have happened this year that should give me complete justification to stay in bed the rest of the year. That won’t do me a bit of good. For as many bad things I have experienced, I am able to easily name many more good. And there in is where I choose to focus. The first few weeks following the super storm that hit the East Coast, I heard several people comment about troubles in their lives and then quickly follow it with saying “but in light of what so many people are experiencing on the East Coast, this is nothing.” A running friend of mine has told me when I lament about how slow I am, that there is always someone faster and someone slower. It is how we choose to look at life. I was blessed to wake up this morning. I was doubly blessed to have a repeat great day. That I will most definitely seize.


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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.

 


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Spicy

Travel is a passion of mine.  The actual activity of traveling however, can be hit or miss with me. Lately when I fly, my return journey home has involved less than pleasurable activities. Food poisoning tops the list and that has happened to me twice the day I left. The more common occurrences have involved delays, missed flights, and missed baggage. Yesterday I got the trifecta of common occurrences. After being delayed in traffic and missing my original flight, I hurried through San Francisco airport and barely made it to my plane to Houston. It was a long way to rush through the airport and fortunately my suitcase made it onto my plane with me. When I finally arrived in Cleveland after a layover in Houston that was close to two hours, my suitcase remained in Houston. I did receive it today, but it amazes me how the airline was unable to transport my bag ten gates away to my connecting flight within two hours when it made it within thirty minutes on my first flight.

When I was rushing through the airport in San Francisco I realized as I approached my gate that I did not feel any soreness in my legs at all. I had run a marathon less than 72 hours prior and all of the aches and soreness had passed. My friend Jim at Fit Recovery was surprised to read that I ran the day after the marathon to speed up recovery. He is also a believer in active recovery and after thinking about it, he said it made sense. I learned from my first running coach that it is helpful to get out and run, jog, jog/walk a mile or two the day after a marathon. It may hurt and feel awkward, but it helps the body recover. I ran a mile and a half the day after and 2.5 miles the next day. With travel yesterday I did not workout and today I ran a very easy 1.7 miles. Today I happened to ready the post I wrote three days after I did the half iron distance triathlon in September. I commented that after I took two complete days off I was still a little sore the third day. That was not the case this time and I ran twice the distance. (Yes, no swimming and cycling this time, but it is usually the running that causes the most pain.) So I am even more a believer now in an easy run to help recover from long endurance activities.

The only part of me that continues to hurt as a result of the race are my arms. Yes, I ran a marathon and my arms still hurt – where I chaffed from the arm warmers. It really is bad and today I broke down and bought Desitin on the suggestion of my friend I traveled with in Napa. She is a nurse and a mom and she is right. I may smell like a baby’s bottom right now, but I have found relief. The things one learns from sports…

My travel experiences and my race experiences have many joyful and memorable activities. Weather, lost luggage, sore legs, and chaffing may cause a few bumps in the road – but in reflection it only seasons the experiences. I enjoyed my time immensely and I also learned a few things I will do different next time. (Did you pick up on that? I said next time, I think there just may be a next time running a marathon…)  Part of seizing the day includes the good and the bumps in the road. All help add to the spice of life.

 


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Don’t Wait

Don’t wait. Life is unpredictable.

That was a written in a text I received yesterday morning from a friend I swim with. I had sent out several “Happy Thanksgiving” messages and he and I were chatting a bit after I swam. He had run the local Turkey Trot that morning and now is considering a marathon after a few years off. Being a distance swimmer first, he is also looking into a 10 mile swim next summer. That is something I can not imagine, nor do I have the desire to attempt. I did share with him something I have not even written in my blog yet. This past Monday the 19th Ironman Arizona in Tempe had open registration online for the very few spots available. I went online just when registration opened and I was able to apply. I saw the words “your spot will be held for 15 minutes while you complete the application” and I started slowing down my typing. I have been considering a full Ironman triathlon, but my initial plan has been to do it in 2014. In the end I decided to wait. I would like to do another marathon next year as well as at least one century bike ride before I commit. When I told my friend I stopped the registration process because I wanted to wait, he replied “Don’t wait. Life is unpredictable.”

The race filled up within an hour, so I know I am not going to do it. There is a small part of me that has not completely committed to participating in a full Ironman triathlon. The distances are daunting – 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles running. All must be completed within 17 hours. I think I could complete it within 14 hours or so, but still the idea is overwhelming to me right now. Not to mention the training commitment. What I do know is that I have to be completely committed to the task before I register. That is what held me back. Still my friend’s words resonate within me.

This morning I ran 5 miles easy. I took today off from work, so I was able to sleep in and run while the sun was shining. I tackled the hills in my neighborhood and ran the 5 miles in just under an hour and kept my heart rate average at 133. My efficiency is certainly improving. I did not run with music but rather took in the experience both in sight and sound. And my mind rolled over those words. Don’t wait. Life is unpredictable. I do not regret waiting for the Ironman registration. But I want to remember these five words for so much that comes my way. Life is unpredictable. I want to continue with triathlon and running for as long as I am able and take on challenging races when I know it is right. More than just in sport, I don’t want to hold back sharing my appreciation for those in my life, experiencing things I have on my wish list, and taking in the beauty of each day. I know I do not want to have regrets because I waited when I could seize the day – today.


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An Endorphin Filled Day

Today was bookended by two really good workouts. This morning I went to spin class for an endurance workout that pushed close to my anaerobic threshold, but not quite. The workout is probably as close to road riding as it gets, I finished feeling that I really did put the miles in. My focus is to build strength and endurance for the Syracuse Half Ironman in June. I know it is a while off, however the first 11 miles of the ride gains close to 1,100 feet in elevation. I can use all of the preparation I can get.

This afternoon I had a run workout. For a Friday, this was a speed workout which in a first. After a mile warm up I went into 6 by half mile repeats running fast enough to get into my zone four. In between was a quarter mile recovery jog. Next week I am taking another assessment test to see how I have progressed with my metabolic training. I am anxious to see the results. Today I was running my half mile repeats between 6.5 to 6.7 miles per hour on the treadmill, which translates to 9:13 to 8:57 minute miles. I finished the set feeling like I put in a hard workout, but I also knew I could have gone faster. Next up was 3 by 200 meter fast sets with 200 meter recoveries to get my legs moving quickly after a hard workout, these I did at 7.5 to 8.0 or 8:00 to 7:30 minute miles. Wow, my legs can go that fast! Even if it is for a short distance, I finished feeling strong.

Endurance in the morning and speed work in the afternoon – a day of workouts that has left me with a feeling of accomplishment and knowing I will sleep well tonight. I am breathing well too. Despite the cloudy and damp day, the endorphins running through my veins are like liquid sunshine. I am in a good mood and little could dampen my day. When I got home this evening and walked my dogs outside, I took one look at the yard and instantly thought two things. First, no wonder autumn is also called fall – the leaves have mostly fallen and all I see is orange, red, and yellow on the ground. I believe there is grass under there somewhere. Second, my thought was “boy, am I thankful I have a yard service.” With all of my workouts, the thought of raking or even carrying a leaf blower is just about the only thing that could out weigh my endorphin high. Now for dinner, a movie, and then a good night’s sleep. A great day to seize.


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Fleeting and Precious

For the past few weeks my Wednesday morning workout has been a speed run workout, which is a change from my old routine of swimming on Wednesdays. This morning I had a more intensified modification of the workout I have done twice, in fact the workout that showed my first serious signs of exercise induced asthma. In the past I did one minute speed excels followed by a minute jog recovery repeating 12 times. Today it was six repeats of two minutes each. And the final two were at a 4% incline. I loved it. Hard speed workouts leave me with such a feeling of accomplishment. Especially when my inhaler works, like today, and my lungs don’t give out on me. My heart rate peaked at 166, well into my zone 4 and two beats from my all out zone five. Next week I am taking another assessment test to see where my aerobic and anaerobic zones are. After this morning’s run, I am anxious to see.

This afternoon began my new resistance workout. In place of my long standing workout of a  series of weight lifting exercises for most of the major muscle groups, my trainer has me doing very different exercises. Most are just using my body as resistance and also centered around core strengthening and stability. There are a few lunges for legs and I finish with chin ups. Yep, chin ups. I am using the assisted chin up machine that helps reduce the weight of my body, so right now I am doing three sets of ten chin ups with about half of my body weight as resistance. Boy I can not wait for the day when it is unassisted and I am doing it with my entire body weight. That day will come.

Anxious to see the results of my assessment next week and looking forward to the day when I am strong enough to do chin ups are good short and long term goals and aspirations to have. And in keeping with the overriding theme of this blog, I can not forget about living for today. Seizing the moments I have while they are here. I made the most of my workouts today and truly enjoyed the challenges. I also keep this in mind through out my day in all of my other activities and at work. My goal is to not take any moment for granted, for time is fleeting. Or as a friend and fellow blogger shared today Life is Precious. I have referred to Jim and his blog Fit Recovery several times. Please take the time to click the link to his entry today. It is worth the time to read it. Life is precious, time is short. Avoid taking the Scarlet O’Hara way to put off the things that matter until tomorrow, it may never come. As Jim says – Live Like You Mean It.


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An Aquatic Day

After five days in a row of running, today was an off day. Of course I chose to cross train and I swam. My legs are feeling the fatigue from running 15 miles of rolling hills yesterday, so a swim was a nice break for my legs. This morning I swam 3,000 meters with the main set of 2,500 in one big pyramid that I read about from The Holistic Triathlete. This was a good workout and challenged my endurance. I can tell coming off of the half iron race I am still in recovery mode. My pace was a little slower than where I was before the race. The workout gave me a good bench mark to monitor my strength and improvement. Something to think about as I just keep swimming…

Which leads to my next aquatic event today. One of my mantras in the pool I snagged from an internet search when I found a clip of Dora from Finding Nemo. She was singing “just keep swimming…” and I thought it would be a good mantra. I had not thought of it on my own because I have not seen the entire movie. Hey – I do not have children so many of these movies go under my radar. Well that is changing this evening. Shortly I am meeting my training partner to see the movie – in 3D. Another thing I have yet to participate in. So tonight will be a big night of firsts for me.

For the most part, there is something so peaceful about the water. The rare exceptions are when there are rip tide warnings and six foot swells. But swimming in the pool and calm waters bring a feeling of peace to me. The water (and my ear plugs) block out much of the noise surrounding me. I do not have hills to conquer. I am free to swim and let my mind go.  Today is a good day to find peaceful feelings. I mentioned yesterday that today is the second anniversary of my mother’s passing. It is also the same date that my training partner’s mother passed away, 16 years ago. What an odd, but special, thing to share. So we will find laughter today in the movie and I will reflect on the peaceful feeling I have from the water. Once again finding joy in a day that could so easily bring sadness. Seize the day while it is here.