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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366

Today is a milestone for me. With this post I have completed 366 posts over 366 days completing a full year, including leap day. On December 29, 2011 I decided to start a blog as a New Year resolution and blog daily. Over the year I have shared my training experiences, the good times, the challenges, the victories, and what I have learned along the way. Adding a motivational spin to my writing did so much for me – I hope anyone reading gained something from my experiences for the good. I have learned so much and I want to share how this blog impacted me, which I will do over the next few days.

For today, I want to share how the blog and those reading have become an additional motivation for me. Knowing I would be writing later in the day about my experiences has helped me look at life in a positive way. There were times I wanted to quit, and I did share my frustrations, but I did push myself to more than I thought I could at times because I knew I had an accountability to those reading. How can I say Believe, look for the good in the day, find the joy – when I was not doing the same? While some reading may think I helped motivate them, the truth is you all reading motivate me to be a better person. Thank you for all you have commented, suggested, shared, and commiserated. When I started this a year ago I never dreamt I would meet so many people I truly consider friends.

A quick recap on my training today – I chose to sleep in a bit and not get up at 4:30 on my last weekday off to go to spin class. I did make it to the gym and I road the spin bike for 45 minutes and felt a good ride was done. Then I went to the pool and swam on my own a 2,000 meter workout. Today was a day to train alone and share with my big training group here on WordPress. I am happy to report that even without my friends pushing me, I was able to stay under 2 minutes per 100 meters for the entire workout. Big Wooo Hooo!

Today, while it is a milestone, it is also just a day in my journey. I have every intention of blogging, hopefully every day, and sharing my experiences. Additionally I look forward to reading the experiences of so many others. Bloggers I have followed just about all year as well and new bloggers sharing their journeys. Just as my training friends have pushed me to improve, so have you bloggers helped me to be motivated and experience greater joy. Here is to another 365 – no leap day this year – and a wonderful journey to share.


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November

My workout this morning to welcome November was a swim. Thursdays are my active recovery days, so I wanted to make the best of my only workout today. I swam the 3,000 meter workout that I only was able to get two thirds through on Saturday. A nice endurance swim with a main set of 100, 200, and 300 meter sets and a good start to the new month.

With this being the first of the month – it is time to take a quick look back at October and look forward to all that is in store for November. For October my goals were to run the 10K and set a PR hopefully finishing under an hour. Well, I did PR – but the sub hour time still eludes me. I beat my previous time by my huge three seconds and that was a celebration for sure. Sometimes it is the little things that make the big impacts. My running program for October was centered on my marathon training. All went as planned except for the shortened long run this past Sunday. In training I planned on adding Pilates and resistance training. As I have written, that has occurred. I really enjoy Pilates too. Strengthening my physical core is also reminding me to keep my spiritual/mental/emotional core strong and in check. The resistance program is going well. I can feel the changes and the chin ups, well, are just down right empowering.  Swimming – I have been able to swim three times a week as planned. I love it. While I continue to work on my form and pace, I am making sure to fine tune my flip turns. I started the year just wanting to learn how to do it. I want to finish the year with it close to mastered. Adding backstroke, breaststroke, and even butterfly was not planned but a welcomed addition to my training. And finally spinning – I have been going twice a week and I am feeling stronger. This was a tough hurdle for me at first since I did not favor a class environment over the roads. Fortunately I found a class that works and is as close to road riding as it comes.

So now on to November. I do not have any races scheduled this month. A first since February. I am consider a 5K the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It is called the Pigskin Classic and runs on the same day as the Ohio State – Michigan football game. Yes I live in Ohio, but I am a Michigan graduate and bleed maize and blue. This race is the weekend before the marathon, so I will play it by ear. In running my entire focus is on my training and tapering for the marathon on December 2nd. I will continue with Pilates and resistance training up until a week before the race. As for swimming, I will keep with three times a week until I leave for California. Spinning I will continue twice a week until the week before the race. The focus is on fresh legs then to run my race.

I find it almost therapeutic to take a moment to reflect on goals, accomplishments, and “works in progress” as well as looking forward. Living each day for all it is worth is my goal. Having plans for the days helps me relax and enjoy the day. I am learning to be flexible along the way too. Sometimes the goals are missed, sometimes greater ends are reached, and sometimes the day goes as planned. At least in training…


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Worth It

Active rest. Something I continue to struggle with. Intellectually I know it is necessary. Just as the body needs sleep, so does it need a day when workouts are less intense. Thursdays are my active rest days and I find it hard to hold back. Despite what I know to be true, my body and mind wants to push hard, to feed itself happy endorphins. Will I completely overcome this? Probably not, but what I choose to do versus what I want to do is where discernment and discipline come in to play.

Today I chose to do what I know to be the right thing. I swam this morning an endurance workout that didn’t push myself too hard. Swimming after two days of running including a hard speed workout yesterday is a nice recovery for my legs. I have to admit I did feel the strain in my hamstrings this morning, staying with a swim and not adding running or cycling today was a welcome relief. Unfortunately I did not swim quite as long as I had planned. As I have mentioned, changing routines or adding a new activity to my routine is not the easiest thing to do. I have adapted well to my new schedule. What I am still getting accustomed to is using my inhaler before swimming or a hard run. This morning I was in the middle of my warm up and noticed I was breathing harder than I should – oops, forgot to use the inhaler. So with swim cap on and dripping wet I dashed into the locker room to get it. It did help, but as I progressed in the workout I did start coughing. Regulating breathing and coughing while swimming is not the easiest thing to do. In all, I swam 2,200 meters and despite my breathing, I was very pleased with my pace.

Because I did not have a workout this afternoon, I had a little extra time on my hands so I made homemade energy bars that are quite good. Only four ingredients too – bonus. Dates, almonds, dark chocolate, and almond butter. Oh, and no baking either – just whirl in the food processor, pack in the pan, and refrigerate. Since I switched to smoothies before my workout, I am not very hungry after my workout. I know I need something to “revive in 45” – a saying at my gym to take in some carbs, protein, and fat within 45 minutes of a workout. This bar has just enough to hold me over until I have my oatmeal at my office. I may not have to workout twice in active rest days, but I have to do something to feel like I am contributing to my fitness…

Discernment and discipline. Knowing what is the right thing to do and then doing it consistently. Easy to write, difficult to adhere to. But just like I  see improvements in my fitness as a result of my discipline in training and discerning what to do, I will also see the improvement in my will to yield to what I know to be best. And on that note – here is a quote of wisdom I like –

“I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.” – Mae West

 


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A Mixed Up Tail Wagging Day

In keeping with the adage “if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” I mixed a few things up today. As I continue to experiment with what to eat on days that have less intense workouts, today began with trying out a new smoothie. I finally had a chance to sit down and watch Forks Over Knives this weekend and it has a very compelling argument to eat a whole food plant based diet. I do want to dedicate a post to this topic, but I am not prepared yet. All I will share today is what I decided to put in my smoothie. I started with coconut milk, added raw plant based protein powder, a banana, frozen cranberries, a little bit of almond butter, two chopped dates, and a packet of stevia.

My findings – It tasted very good and I was energized for my run. I had an easy 45 minute run this morning on the treadmill staying in zone 2. Usually after a workout I am hungry and would eat a hard cooked egg and cheese stick while I got dressed. Since I am considering cutting out animal products, I brought a snack baggie of walnuts, dried cranberries and raisins. I didn’t need them. I was not hungry, yet not bloated at all. The calories were a bit more than I would normally have when only running 45 minutes, but is was a good day to experiment and since I didn’t need to eat after, I figure I didn’t over eat.

My next mix up today was my workout. I don’t usually run on Mondays. Since my race was Saturday and I swam yesterday, today was a run. It was a nice change of pace. Being an easy run, I got my book out and read while I ran. I also had instrumental music playing to override the noise of the treadmill. Mondays going forward will be non run days, but it was a nice change today. Starting next week I am adding pilates on Mondays as my second workout. I shake my head and chuckle that I feel a bit lazy today since I only have one workout. Not sure if that is sad, neurotic, or typical of an endurance athlete. Another change today in that I am still on a bit of an active rest.

One experience I had today I would like to share. When I got home from work I had to quickly cancel the social plans I had as I found my dog Phoebe in pain with something that didn’t look very good on her back end. Fortunately my veterinarian has an office just a mile up the street and stays open until 6:00. They are all too familiar with Phoebe’s health issues – blind and has heart disease. They agreed to see her right away. After examining her, it was diagnosed an abscess as a result of a bacterial infection. Completely independent from her other health concerns and fortunately nothing serious. Something to know about Phoebe, she has an attitude and does not like to be messed with. At least with the little things. This little girl was wagging her tail and giving kisses while she was being probed and prodded. The vet told me she was one of the best behaved pups to have to go through the procedure to treat it. Oh, to have the outlook of my pup.  Her day was mixed up too – instead of getting dinner when I got home followed by a biscuit, she had to have her bum lanced and drained. When the going gets tough, she looks at the bright side and wags her tail.


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That Pre-Race Feeling

Pre-race nerves are something that does not go away regardless of how many races I have run. I actually thought that my first race after triathlon season wouldn’t be too bad. There are no fears of drowning, getting a flat tire, or crashing my bike. All I have to do is run. So much for that thought. Today by 4:00 in the afternoon I felt myself start to tighten up and my stomach start to flutter. At first I thought it was just emotions of nostalgia. My home town is Akron, Ohio and the race winds through many areas I am so familiar with. Within a half hour I knew it was race nerves, my mind was wandering to thoughts of what to wear, how to prepare for the weather (cool enough for short sleeves or wear a tank?) and I was strategizing on how to get everything done and be in bed early tonight.

My day did not start off with a concern at all, thankfully. I slept in and took my time getting dressed. I drove down to the expo to pick up my race packet and peruse the displays. In the end I did what I always do at local race expos – check out what all of the vendors have and then go to my running store’s tent (Fleet Feet) and buy things there. Since I was so close, I stopped in to visit with my dad too. The marathon course crosses the street I grew up on and where he lives to this day. When I ran the full marathon in 2003, my parents were at the corner cheering me on. I didn’t think to tell them not to expect a chipper, fresh runner – it is just past the mile 20 marker. My mother wanted to know if I wanted to go home and rest. With six miles to go, I told her to hop in the car and meet me at the finish, no way was I stopping. That memory crept up today while I was visiting my dad, right about when my pre-race nerves kicked in.

With this race being (only!) a half marathon and I am at home, I can only imagine what I will be dealing with in December when I fly across the country to run a full marathon. But for now, nerves included, I enjoyed today. Going to my hometown, seeing some of my old stomping grounds, spending time with my dad – all part of my roots. And in order to grow – in wisdom, strength, and confidence – strong roots are very helpful. Now to put all of my training to the test and show Akron what I’ve got…


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Kayaking, Running, and Swimming All Wrapped Up

For me, waking at 6:30 is sleeping in – just what I did this morning. After getting a few things together I headed down for breakfast and then out to the docks. It was still in the upper 40’s when I got to the little lake here to go kayaking. I had on layers, so I came prepared. It was an absolutely beautiful morning – the sun was shining, the wind was still and the waters calm. The mist off the lake was captivating. I took picture and will have them up soon, I used my waterproof camera and my new HD Pro Hero (a very cool video camera) strapped to my chest. It was a good upper body workout but also calming. I went at my own pace, enjoying the surroundings. All around the lake are cranberry groves – several times my kayak got up close and personal with the bushes too… Water lilies also sprung up here and there. I did see one live creature jump out of the water, but I never identified it. The lake is dotted with fake mallards – for a slalom course. I tried a few turns, a very technical course. I enjoyed the challenge of a sport I do not do often. Variety and change really does spice things up.

After kayaking, I changed and headed out to the path that winds along the property for a run. I did not have a run scheduled, but my Sunday long run was on Saturday and my Saturday 45 minute easy run didn’t happen. So today I ran 35 minutes easy. I am in the mountains and even the paved trail her has two good hills. It is only a mile long, so I ran it three times. So “easy” still had six hills to climb. A mantra I use occasionally but snicker at is “hills make you stronger”. Ya, ya…

After lunch and a little reading I decided to swim a bit. The pool here is a “fitness” pool. Translation – fitness class. It is warmer, about 84 degrees, and only 13 yards long. It brought back memories of lap swimming in the pool on the ship six months ago. After 1,000 yards I decided this is taper week for the half marathon and I had a few good workouts today, so I headed outside to the heated year round hot tub. When it is 58 degrees outside, sitting is a steamy hot tub is extra special. It even has a cascading waterfall. Very cool. After the hot tub, I took in the sauna and steam room with eucalyptus. All in preparation for my up coming spa treatment – a body wrap. Being cocooned with lavender oil and aloe is a wonderful treat. Having a scalp and foot massage while wrapped in aromatic oils is incredible. I love a good foot massage, after running as much as I have, it was divine. See why I am so drawn to spas?

After a wonderful dinner I am back again sitting outside by the fire pit recounting my day on this blog. I can honestly say I haven’t a care in the world while I am here. Stress is gone, I feel the peace that surpasses all understanding, and I am appreciating every moment. One of the most attractive things for me in a destination spa is the all inclusive environment. There is no need to leave for anything unlike staying at a hotel. It is almost an escape from the outside world, my little slice of peace and carefree solitude. I know what awaits outside these boundaries. But while I am here, I am in my own peaceful place. Rejuvenating and recharging to face all that is outside with a brighter perspective. Sometimes getting away for it all, puts it all into a clear perspective. And I believe I can take it on.


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Autumn Run

Today is the official first day of autumn – my favorite season. I welcomed in the changing of seasons with a run – 18 miles to be exact. Running in nature seemed appropriate so I went to the towpath to run. It also is much, much flatter than my neighborhood. The weather was perfect – after rain most of the night the clouds lingered it was in the mid to upper 50’s. It is so nice to run and the only traffic to deal with is made up of runners, hikers, and cyclists. The path winds along the Cuyahoga River and a canopy of trees covers the majority of the path. A beautiful display of nature showing its autumn colors emerging from the green.

As for my run, it went better than last week’s long run. The flatter terrain made a huge difference. I have not trained for a marathon in over a year and a half and I am noticing fatigue is setting in around mile 12. I have run several half marathons a year over the past three years, so I am used to the distance. With a little over two months to go, I am hoping I will acclimate more to the longer distances. It is also motivation to extend a few of my long runs throughout the year to the 15 – 18 mile range. My pace was better than last week too, by ten seconds a mile. Not having hills to climb certainly made a difference. I also took an electrolyte supplement every hour and a half. By the end of my run my legs were not nearly as sore as last week. Considering I ran three miles farther, was faster and not as sore as last week, I am quite happy.

During the run, by mile 15 I would have thoughts cross my mind of doubt. Despite all I have been through and achieved, still self doubt crops up. What is different now is I have the knowledge from experience to override those doubts. Just like bad habits – they don’t really go away, we just learn better habits to replace them with – doubts will most likely be there. Replacing doubts with thoughts of encouragement will get easier the more I accomplish challenging tasks. Just like my body will physically adjust to longer runs the more I do them, so too will my mind. Because after I finished today, no doubts remained and I reveled in the feeling of accomplishment. A wonderful way to enjoy this first day of autumn.


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Turning Point

I have been anxious to run fast to see how I am progressing. This morning I had that opportunity. My run workout was to run 4 x 5 minute intervals at my desired half marathon race pace with a three minute recovery between sets. After a mile warm up I set the treadmill at 5.8 (10:20 per mile) and stared my five minutes. This pace would equate to a 2:15 half marathon. I noticed a two things as I ran. First my foot pod was recording my pace faster – 9:50 per mile. It is calibrated to the GPS and my stride, so I tend to believe it over the treadmill. Second, regardless of 9:50 or 10:20 pace, I felt good. For all four intervals too. My heart rate stayed in my high zone three, not crossing my AT.

My run workout this morning truly was a turning point for me. I have seen assessment results indicating I am improving. A few runs have shown I could run faster based on my heart rate. But today it all came into alignment. I have not felt this good, this confident, about my running before. Ever. Yes, there is always room for improvement. But for today I am celebrating. Gone are my doubts, the voices in my head that I should give up, and the comparisons to others. This is my little slice of celebration today.

So many things in life are out of our control. People will disappoint us, outcomes sometimes are not what we want, and frankly some things aren’t fair and people can be selfish and mean. I have no control over any of it. But I can control my mind’s focus, my attitude, and where I choose to align myself. I choose to focus on the good, not waste my time on toxic things, and BELIEVE in improvement and the talents I have been blessed with. And I have friends who encourage me, what could be better? On that note – here is a picture of a bracelet my friend gave me. She also did the Rev3 half (rocked it too) and was in the picture with me in front of the semi. What a wonderful reminder.

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Progress

Yesterday I felt the effects of my run workout in my lungs. Today I felt it in my legs. Despite all of the running I have done, the targeted workouts to improve my strength really get to the areas where I am weak. I run hills in my neighborhood on a regular basis, yet a few sprints on an incline on the treadmill burned my legs today. Quads, hamstrings, glutes – you name it. Knowing that I would need a recovery day, my trainer scheduled today as a non run day. So this morning I swam.

I still feel my body is building back up after the race. Monday I had a good swim of 3,000 meters although I was off pace a bit. This morning I went to the pool with a speed workout in my mind that my friend created for me back in January. I wasn’t sure just how far I would swim. In its entirety the workout is 3,200 meters. After a few modifications and viewing how I felt I cut it to 2,000 meters. Most of the trimming was in the warm up, recoveries, and cool down. The main set had three separate intervals and I did two. I only cut out 400 meters of the main set. It has been a while since I have done an intense speed set and I felt it. Hence the distance modifications. What I was very happy about was the pace I was swimming. When the set was first created for me the goal was to swim my 100’s in 2:05 to 2:10 and my 200’s in 4:15 to 4:20. This morning I swam 2:02 to 2:04 for my 100’s and 4:10 to 4:12 for my 200’s. I remember all too well how I dreaded doing 200 repeats in a speed set. This morning it just was not an issue. Progress.

This afternoon I met my trainer to mix up my resistance training. She wants to target my weak areas to improve my strength in running. For as much as I workout, it became very evident where my weaknesses are. At one point she even commented that for as much as I train, she is happy that my weaknesses haven’t caused injuries. My response was “a sprained ankle was enough, I am happy too.” All but one exercise she showed me involved using my own body at resistance or just adding an elastic band. A modified chin up on a weigh machine was the only machine and weight plates used in the workout. Just as I felt the effects of yesterday’s run this morning, I am sure my body will feel tomorrow the strain from today. Again, that would show progress.

Swimming on a Thursday morning and changing a resistance routine after almost two years is a big step for me. I get into routines – comfort zones – and sometimes resist the idea of change. When I wrote earlier about change, I did not realize how much foreshadowing it actually evoked. I am reminded of the familiar quote “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you keep on getting what you’ve always got.” I want to improve. So change is necessary. And that leads to progress.