Personal Bests

  • 04/07 Boston Marathon3:33:22
  • 10/08 Hartford Half Marathon 1:46:23
  • 09/06 New Haven Road Race 20K 1:36:47
  • 08/04 Deary 5-M Road Race - my 1st race ever 39:37
  • 11/06 VMG 5K 21:05
  • 07/06 Boombox Mile 6:12

Breaking The Tape

Upcoming Races 2010

Stay Tuned!

Not Watching

A few weeks ago, I met my Running Partner (RP) (yes, I totally stole that abbreviation from you Jon!) for our weekly long run. I stood in her driveway and finished donning my gear while my Garmin quickly found the satellites. I quickly slapped it on my wrist and pressed ’start’ as we headed out the driveway and down the street.

We were running a particularly hilly route, especially for the first half of the run. I forced myself to not look at the watch and just focused on getting up the hills. It was a cold, windy morning and we were chatting non-stop for mile after mile. Well, actually my RP was doing most of the chatting…I was nodding and grunting ‘uh huh’ while trying to not lose chunks of my lung as we pushed up the steep inclines.

Somewhere around mile 9-ish, my RP stopped for a quick break. As is customary whenever my feet stop moving, I pressed ’stop’ on my watch. I heard a beep and looked down at the display to see how we were doing. At that moment, my brain froze in utter confusion. The watch reported that we had been running for 7 seconds and had traversed a only a few feet.

Wait. What?

My brain quickly unfroze in HORROR as I realized that the watch had never actually started when I pressed ’start’ in the driveway. However, much more interesting to note is the fact that I had never even looked at it until the run was almost over. The only reason I even knew that we were at the mile 9-ish mark is because it took 3 miles to finish the planned 12 mile route (now that the Garmin was actually STARTED). My RP didn’t wear a watch, so she had no data to share with me. I was completely data-less, for no good reason.

I. Never. Even. Looked. Can you believe it? I still cannot.

I am still in a state of shock because it just doesn’t seem feasible that I didn’t pay ANY attention. I am a number cruncher. I check my pace frequently. I love to download data from my Garmin and pour over the information in search of revealling patterns. I’m always hopeful to spot glimmers of improvement but most days, I am simply hoping to not be slower than than the previous run. On days when my Garmin has not been charged and ready to go, I have to wear a watch. I just HAVE to know details about my run. I feel restless, awkward, and uncomfortable when I am not able to somehow collect objective information. It’s unnerving to be data-less.

Sure, I could wax poetic about how I may be having a breakthrough in my running and I that I no longer feel constrained by the numbers on my wrist. Maybe a new path is being forged by this Running Chick, and I’ll be freed of the pressure to meet my own expectations.

Or maybe, I just need to remember to actually look at my watch when I press start, or else I’ll wind up in some therapist’s office, crying on the couch about feeling like a puzzle with a missing piece.

MCM 2009 – Strategies and Analysis

One of the great things about running a marathon is the lessons to be learned once the sweat has been wiped away and the muscle soreness has subsided. Now that I can navigate the stairs again without crying, it’s time to take a deeper look at my race.

Pre-existing Condition(s)

It’s been two and a half years since I’ve run a marathon. Since then, I’ve been taking classes, changing careers, adjusting to new schedules, missing yoga, sleeping less, eating worse, gaining five pounds and have felt perpetually stressed out. This combination has created a less than perfect foundation for me to build my training, and I knew that going in to this endeavor. However, I didn’t have a true appreciation for how unhealthy I had become over the past two years until it was too late.

Training Schedule

I used the same schedule that my coach had put together for me for the Hartford Marathon in 2006, with some minor adjustments. I figured if I could handle that schedule, then I could run my BQ time of 3:45 or better. I nailed every workout for the first 16 weeks of training. Over the last three weeks, I skipped the speed workouts and one or two other smaller mileage runs. I had been feeling so tired and rundown, that is seemed more prudent to get some extra rest and recovery than squeeze in those last few workouts.

Nutrition and Hydration

During training, I experimented with the timing of my meals prior to my long runs. I had read somewhere that the meal you had a lunch the day before a long run or race was the more important meal, so I was interested to see if that would work for me. I started having pasta for lunch and then a lighter dinner the day before the long run. I tried to apply that same logic the day before race day, however I ran into a few unanticipated problems with ‘meal management’ being away from home.

On race day, I knew there might some trouble later in the day when I made too many trips to the portalets before the race started. I was experiencing some GI issues that were usual for me on race morning. My tummy felt a little ‘off’ but I convinced myself that it was just nerves. At mile 5, I had to choke down the first Gu, forcing myself to eat it. I think I was only able to get one more Gu down, somewhere past the halfway mark; after that my stomach was not remotely interested. I should have tried to eat more, but I just couldn’t do it.

The marathon had water stops about every 2 miles, which was new for me. I have become accustomed to more frequent stops, and I use them as a reminder to drink from my Fuel Belt (Accelerade and Gatorade Endurance). It wasn’t until too late that I realized I wasn’t drinking often enough. (Even in my every day life, my hydration has been decreased overall which has had a cumulative effort).

Aftermath

Body Glide saved me from blisters on my toes and from chafing in the usual spots. It didn’t save me from the chafing in the unusual spots, like my lower back where my Fuel Belt was rubbing or my hip where my ID in my key pocket was rubbing. I earned the obligatory black toe nails – one on each foot. Although one was already black from the Hartford Half Marathon a few weeks ago. I suspect that I may be saying ‘Goodbye’ to that particular toe nail.

Rest, Recovery, and Return to the Roads

Here’s the honest truth: this was my fifth marathon, and it felt as bad as my first. I wasn’t disappointed in my finish time, but I was disappointed with how I felt. I expected to be feeling strong over the last few miles, and to be able to finish with a kick. Instead, I felt completely wrecked and it was so frustrating.

I waited four days before running again, and those four miles were tough – I was still sore and tired. I tried again two days after that, with similar results. My muscles would throb afterward and I felt tight all over. I took the hint, and took all of last week off completely. I ran 5 miles on Saturday, and it felt moderately better, but I still felt sore and achey afterwards. I was stumped.

Then I realized the ONE thing that was different. Over the winter, I took 5-6 weeks off from running and stopped using my orthotics due to an ankle injury. I never put my orthotics back in my shoes, as I seemed to be ‘fine’ without them. Could it be that simple?

I wore them for my next run on Sunday, and it was like finding my legs again. No aches or pains, during or after. Apparently, the months of training without the orthotics caught up with me on marathon day and were the last piece of the puzzle in my perfect storm.

The mileage will stay in the 25-30 miles a week from now until December. Then I’ll decide about running Boston this year, or exercising the option to run next year (that’s the bonus of qualifying in late October – you have a two year window).

MCM 2009 – Always Earned, Never Given

The last time I tried to run a ‘destination’ marathon, I flew across the country to San Diego, caught “The Ick” and was unable to run the race. My second attempt at a ‘destination’ marathon found me at the start line of the Marine Corp Marathon this past Sunday morning. This is my very lengthy account of that adventure.

Friday evening: I dashed out of work, drove home, grabbed my bag and was at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I called my former coach and when he asked what my goal was for the race, I replied “I guess I’m shooting for a 3:40″ in a very non-committed kind of way. Behind my half-hearted statement, the truth was this: I wanted to re-qualify for Boston, so I had to run at least a 3:45, and technically I had trained for a 3:30. I was content to just see what would happen if all the right pieces fell into place, without any pressure.

The flight was late, but uneventful and I was at the hotel by 10 p.m. Jeanne had left me a message with instructions on where to meet her in the morning so we could ride to the expo together.

Saturday: A whirlwind day of text messages, phone calls and logistical details. A metro ride with Jeanne to the expo, a visit to a Starbucks in Chinatown and a quick visit to the National Portrait Gallery to soak up some free art. I felt so cosmopolitan and cultured. Then it was off to a late lunch where we met up with my friend Kirsten and her hubby and two young kids. I feasted like glutton on pasta with sausage and peppers and a delicious salad. (I think I scared Jeanne with my appetite. Honestly, I scared myself a little.)

Just as we stepped out of the restaurant, our hotel shuttle was passing by, so it was a rushed goodbye with Jeanne, but at least we have a picture that proves that we were together.

After some quiet time back at the hotel, Kristen came by and we watched ‘Spirit of the Marathon’ to get motivated for the journey to come. I found it odd that I wasn’t feeling more nervous or stressed about the race. It just felt like another run.

I wasn’t hungry for dinner, but we made our way down to the hotel dining room around 7:00 p.m. I had a turkey club sandwich with a handful of french fries. Looking back now, that might not have been a great choice; I should have asked for a special order of grilled chicken, rice and a small salad or side of veggies.

Sleep was typically elusive, as it always is the night before a race. I fell asleep after midnight and woke up every 30 minutes or so. I’ve spent the past two years sleep deprived, so this wasn’t a big concern for me, but it was another piece of the plan that didn’t fall into place.

Race morning went like clockwork. Getting to the Runner’s Village was a breeze and breezy with mild winds blowing. I was grateful for the ‘throw-away’ sweats and long-sleeved tee that I had worn, as it was a little chilly in the pre-dawn hour. The most impressive thing to me: the sheer number of port-a-potties. I was amazed, and it was just a wonderful sight to see all those little boxes lined up next to each other. I didn’t wait more that 5-10 minutes to use one.

On the way to the start line, there was a final dash into the woods. As I was finishing up my business, a man comes rushing in to the woods RIGHT NEXT TO ME. There was plenty of other places – trees, bushes, tall grass – that he could have chosen, yet he chose my spot. Sigh.

As we pushed our way through the crowds to get to our place in the pack, we could hear the announcer “Two more minutes to the wheelchair start” and then “Five more minutes to the marathon start”. We kept pressing forward, watching for our Pace Group signs – Kristen looking for 3:45 and me for 3:40. We found 3:50, but couldn’t find either one of ours. We didn’t want to line up much further up in the corral and get caught up in the faster pace, so we stayed put, standing near other runners who said they were trying for the same paces that we were. Kristen was nervous about not being with the pace group, so I silently decided that I would try to pace her for the the first 10K or so, and then I would pick up my pace so we could each run our own race.

BOOM! The howitzer fired, marking the start of the race, and 4 minutes later, we crossed the official start line. The first mile was as slow as expected as we all navigated around each other, trying to find our paces and spaces in the sea of runners. The spectators were wonderful, with loud cheers, bright signs and lots of cow bells. That remained the standard for most of the race – crowds on and off the course.

At the end of the first 5K, I had adjusted our pace so we were right on track:
5K in 00:26:27 (NET). Pace: 8:30. Predicted: 3:43:03. Since my Garmin is not 100% accurate, I was finding it difficult to gauge our actual pace. By the time we crossed the 10K mark, I had picked up the pace to my intended race pace, and Kristen was running strong right next to me: 10K in 00:52:16 (NET). Pace: 8:24. Predicted: 3:40:31.

As we passed through Georgetown and I soaked up the energy from the spectators, I laughed when I saw a sign that said “That’s not sweat…it’s your fat cells crying.” Brilliant. I felt a surge of adrenaline. It was wonderful.

From there, things started to get weird. Somewhere around Mile 9, my right calf muscle started to cramp, and felt like it was just on the verge of a full fledged Charlie horse. I stopped to try to stretch it, with unsuccessful results, and continued on, hoping that it would work itself out. It never did (and four days later it’s the only part of me that’s still sore). I was still pacing us at MY pace, and not Kristen’s: 15K in 01:18:16 (NET). Pace: 8:23. Predicted: 3:40:06. I began to worry about being a bad pace leader.

We were heading out towards Haines Point and crowd support was beginning to get sparse. There were some Kappa Sigma brothers cheering VERY loudly, and I smiled to myself as I thought ‘They’re no Wellesley Scream Tunnel but they’ll do in a pinch.’

Kristen mentioned that she needed to slow the pace down a little. I tried to slow down, and I thought I actually did slow down, but the next time I looked over my shoulder for her, she was further back. By the halfway point, we were officially separated: 20K in 01:44:26 (NET). Pace: 8:24. Predicted: 3:40:20 and Half in 01:50:17 (NET). Pace: 8:24. Predicted: 3:40:34.

I passed by an older woman (age in the late 60’s, early 70’s) and took note of her MCM t-shirt which read “Always earned. Never given.” Just as I was about to make a comment, I heard a Marine tell her that he loved her shirt. I turned and agreed with him, and he said “If only we could get Generation M to learn that.” I responded with a hearty “Yes, sir!”

At this point, I knew trouble was on the horizon. I wasn’t drinking enough, and I’d only eaten two Gu gels. My stomach wasn’t remotely interested in food. My right calf was still tight and the outside of my left knee was quickly following suit. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so tired so early in the race. I distracted myself by watching spectators and forced myself to smile as much as possible. Once in a while I would look around and remember that I was in our nation’s capital as a monument would pop into view. My pace stayed steady: 25K in 02:10:11 (NET). Pace: 8:22. Predicted: 3:39:42.

Passing by the Lincoln Memorial was overwhelming – the significance of the structure and the size and energy of the crowd really picked up my spirits again. I smiled when I heard someone yell “I have a dream!” The long trip around the mall rewarded me with a Jeanne-sighting and got me through to mile 20. I was sorely unprepared for ‘beating the bridge’ as I didn’t realize that I would be running on a highway for nearly two miles. I was digging deep into my soul over that stupid bridge, and my pace had already started to slow: 30K in 02:36:40 (NET). Pace: 8:35. Predicted: 3:45:10.

The final miles were tougher than I imagined they would be, and having Marines handing me water at the aid stations was motivating, serving as a constant reminder that if they could make tremendous personal sacrifices and endure, I could run a few measly miles through some discomfort. Crystal City was a blur, with the highlights being: the smell of beer from a make-shift water stop, a young woman vomiting in the pachysandra and the self-made promise of walking through the remaining water stops.

I nearly sobbed when I realized that we had to get back onto the highway for the final stretch to the finish. There were no spectators, and it reminded me of a war scene, with runners walking, shuffling, and even sitting down on the side of the road, with their heads hanging low. My feet felt like they were dragging through molasses as I plodded along. I felt discouraged by my inability to pick up the pace, as I had finished most of my long training runs at 8:00-8:10 min/mile pace. Where was my reserve tank of gas?

Finally, the highway ended and the crowds began to swell again. As I passed by the Marines lining the course, I almost asked one of them to run me in. This was the first time I would be approaching a finish line without having had a friend run along side of me for at least the last 6 miles.

In an instant, I spot Jeanne and she runs out onto the course with her camera, randomly snapping away. She asks “How do you feel?!” and I mumbled “I’ve got nothing left to give. Where is the finish line?” She says “Haven’t you passed the Mile 26 mark yet?” No. I hadn’t. And I really, really wanted to,

And then I did. My reward? An uphill finish, with a sharp right hand turn. As I rounded the corner, I slowed to take one, two steps…then dug deeper and pushed forward as the crowd cheered their loudest. I didn’t care who they were cheering for…at the moment, it was all for me. Finish in 03:43:58 (NET). Pace: 8:32.

I crossed the finish, came to a dead stop with hands on my knees and garnered the attention of about 5 handsome young men in uniform. I kept saying “I’m OK. I just need to stop running.” I straightened up, shuffled forward in a daze and had a space blanket draped over my shoulders. A few steps further, and yet another Marine was placing my medal around my neck. As I said ‘Thank you, sir’ I felt the words catch in my throat and fought back tears. I felt completely engulfed by my emotions and struggled to keep them hidden. A glimpse of the Marine Corp Memorial nearly sent me over the edge, and a phone call home to my husband left me hyperventilating.

Jeanne spotted me through the fence and shouted encouraging words to me, something about me qualifying for Boston. Slowly, I wound my way through the crowd and out onto the street. I started to look around for a medical tent, as I was suddenly overcome with nausea and some potential GI distress. After a few moments of sitting on a curb, I recovered enough to shuffle over to the baggage trucks, where Jeanne and I were reunited. She produced a magical band aid from somewhere in her bag, and helped me apply it to my bloody toe. She carried my bags for me, rubbed my shoulders and helped calm me down. In those moments, she went from being a bloggy-friend to being family, and I will be forever grateful.

The rest of the adventure involves finding my friend Kristen at the beer tent, a long bus ride, a search for a taxi, a narrowly missed late check-out fees, a shower in the hotel’s fitness center locker room, a beer and burger at the hotel bar with fellow racers, and a flight back home.

Now the question remains: Boston 2010 or 2011?

Smiles and Frowns from My Favorite Race

Labor Day (Sept. 7th) was the seventh time I’ve had the pleasure of running the New Haven Road Race 20K. There were smiles and frowns that day:

Smiles:

I had the pleasure of sharing my drive down to the race with one of my new training partners – she’s lively and funny and darn good company in the car and on the roads. Our incessant chatter helped to keep those race day butterflies under control.

I was able to catch up with all my Bloggy-Runner friends – always great to see familiar faces and swap stories. It may be a year between visits, but we seems to reconnect as if we just saw each other last week.

We had absolutely PERFECT racing weather. This was the best weather I can recall in all seven years that I’ve been on the course.

The little old ladies were on the bridge in their traditional spot, sitting in their old-school aluminum lawn chairs. They are always there, every single year, cheering for everyone like each runner is leading the pack. I don’t know what I will do if those ladies are ever NOT on the bridge.

Another annual tradition was honored as chocolate truffles were passed around after race as we gathered in our lopsided circle on the grass. The truffles were made by this guy, of course. YUM.

And the final high point of the day – a PR by 43 seconds.

Frowns:

My super-secret bathroom was ‘under construction’ which meant I had to wait in the looong Porta-Potty line.

The beer line was so loooong that I actually decided that I would not drink my favorite beer of the whole summer (the brand of beer itself is not my favorite, just the act of having that cold cup of delicious beer at the end of that race.)

However, the very worst moment of all: when I realized that I had lost my Garmin Forerunner 305, given to me as a gift by my coach and containing all my mile splits for the day.

Overall, I’d say that the day ‘broke even’ and I can live with the results.

Since then, I’ve run a half-marathon (in the pouring rain) as part of a 22-mile training run and have registered for another half-marathon for this coming weekend. The training is quickly coming to a close and it’s just a few more weeks until I get to run in our nations capital!

The Goods

I’m thrilled to report that a few good things have been happening around here lately:

Free is Good

About a month ago, I received an email from a marketing company, offering me the opportunity to try out a Moving Comfort sports bra of my choosing. After carefully considering their offer for about 10 seconds, I responded with a hearty “YES PLEASE!” because 1) sports bras are not cheap and 2) I already own and cherish a Moving Comfort bra that I wear for yoga and cycling, so I was confident that they would come through with a good running bra.

Disaster *almost* struck when I received an email stating that my selected bra was not available and that the “experts” at Moving Comfort had selected a comparable bra for me in a similar style…and in a size that I was POSITIVE would not fit me. When I received the Phoebe bra in cornflower color, I quickly learned how the “experts” earned their titles – it was a perfect fit. (Please note, if I was ordering this bra for myself without expert help…I would have had to return it because I would have selected a size that was too small for me.)

I wore it twice – once during a very, very humid and warm 4 mile run and then again during a less humid 18 mile run. My requirements fr a sports bra are simple: no chafing, no bouncing, good wicking, and able to be removed from underneath a shirt. The bra exceeded my performance expectations and then some.

Good Fun in the Sun

I would be remiss if I did not follow up to my previous post about the race I love to hate. I did participate in the race and survived to tell the tale. I have to admit, this was probably the ‘best’ weather out of all three years of my participation. It was hot. It was SUNNY. But it wasn’t humid, and that made the course a little more bearable.

I started the race with the mindset of “It’s just a training run” and stayed relaxed for the first 6 miles, chatting with my friends. But then my legs took over and my dreams of being a supportive runner to my partners were dashed as I just couldn’t contain my energy. They urged me to go on without them, so I picked up the pace for the second half of the race. I admit that I felt guilty for leaving my friends behind as I kept passing runners wilting in the heat. However, it was quite a boost to my confidence to be able to pick up the pace, finish strong and not feel completely wasted at the finish line. My last mile clocked in at 7:47, and that was after 18 other miles already under my belt for the day.

The best part of the day was hanging out with my wonderful friends afterwards, including this guy who flew in from Florida the night before and then spent half of the first day of his vacation baking in the sun with us. His post about the race is a Must Read.

Good Times

Finally, I’ll make a brief mention of my marathon training: It’s right on track [pun totally intended]. I’ve been able to hit my weekly goal miles and times without difficulty. [knock on wood, please]. The funny thing is – I don’t really have an actual race goal yet. My marathon partner wants us to ‘run our own races’ … so that leaves me wondering what my pace should be for Marathon #5. I may just wait until race day and see what happens. I have no aspirations for a PR this year so the pressure is off from that perspective. Luckily, I’ve got at least 8 more long runs to mull it over with my training partners.

The Race I Love To Hate

Runner-friends who know me well have heard me rant, rave, whine, complain and cry about how much I hate, despise, and loathe running in the heat. I find absolutely no joy in sweat-soaked slogs through humidity laden air whilst baking under a blazing sun. I try my hardest not to race during the summer months, especially since most races start at 8:00-9:00 a.m. which is when I try to be DONE running, not just STARTING. You get the picture.

Back in 2006, I ran the John J Kelley 11.6 mile race for the first time, but the race has been around for 47 years. It attracts all sorts of big names and running legends, yet it’s a smaller race with absolutely no entrance fee. Plus, it starts and ends at the beach which is always an added bonus, especially for the spectators that get dragged along to these events. Sounds perfect, right?

I had a great race that day, but it was unbelievably hot and uncomfortable, as it usually is in August in New England. Looking back at my race report, it seems that I was willing to overlook the heat and intended to add that race to my list of ‘favorites.’ I missed the race in 2007, but a fellow blogger coaxed me back in 2008. My race did not go quite as well last year, between the heat and the Swim With the Car Key Fob incident. I truly suffered on the course, falling apart for miles 8, 9 and 10 and barely redeeming myself in the last mile.

Interestingly, I seem to have selective amnesia about the true pain that the race causes me because I find myself with plans to head down there again on Saturday for this year’s installment. Of course, after a summer of cooler temperatures, low humidity and rain, it seems that summer has decided to finally arrive, just in time to deliver another smack down to me, most likely at the same mile 8 marker. I’m not ready for the heat but I have a different strategy this year: I don’t care about my finishing time.

I’m going to use the race as part of my planned 19-mile training run, and will be running it with my marathon-partner. I don’t usually use races as ‘training’ fodder but it fit perfectly into the schedule, and it’s a great meeting place for me and my partner. As an added bonus, there may be another blogger there. So we’ll run it in at a relaxed pace and enjoy the summer day. I won’t embrace the heat, but maybe I can at least be cordial with it for one day.

Out and Back

Oh the suspense of the last eight weeks!

Here’s a quick recap for those of you with busy lives who want the quick-and-dirty: I just started running again about three weeks ago after five weeks of no running at all. I’ve withdrawn from the Half Iron and registered for the Marine Corp Marathon. (I’ll still be going to the Mooseman Half-Iron to cheer for and support my friends/bloggers.)

Ultimately, I’m not meant to race in the month of June. Out of the past four years, I’ve planned three different June races and had to scratch each one off the list for one reason or another.

The first lesson from this story: recognize a pattern and learn from it. Note to self: no more BIG races in June (I’ll bet I said this last June too).

Second lesson from this story: it takes an incredible amount of energy, motivation and will-power to start a new career and simultaneously train for a triathlon while rehabbing from an injury.

Honestly, when I embarked on this journey towards the Half Iron, I thought that it would be a good way to keep my spirits up over the long winter and serve as something positive to focus on. However, it seems that a few things went awry:

1) I didn’t factor in how exhausted I would feel during the first few months of working as a physical therapist assistant. I took for granted how much ‘rest’ I was getting at my previous desk-job…all that sitting, drinking water and eating while sitting down – I had no idea that would be a luxury in my new career! Being on my feet all day, talking to people constantly, manipulating body parts and *gasp* THINKING…well, it just leaves me wiped out.

2) I thought I would be working in a town that had easier access to a swimming pool. I envisioned myself stopping for a swim on the way to work or on the way home. That did not turn out to be true. I thought I could at least make it to a 8:00 pm swim class twice a week. That also did not turn out to be true…going back out in the winter weather to go swimming at night, and then being totally WIRED for hours afterwards? Not. Fun. I’d walk into work like a zombie the next morning. I dreaded going to the pool.

3) I certainly didn’t factor in a five-weeks-no-running injury. It didn’t just take a toll on my training plan, it also took a toll on my confidence and mental well-being. I define myself as a RUNNER first, a CYCLIST second and I only swim because I have to. Taking ‘running’ out of the equation just sent me into a downward spiral which led to a endless circle of no motivation, missed workouts and massive guilt (lather, rinse, repeat).

There you have it – the excuses, the rationale, the reasons. It was tough to admit I couldn’t pull it together AGAIN, but as I’ve said before, there are often more lessons to be learned in failing than there are in succeeding.

Therefore rather than focus all on ME for my next race, I’m helping a friend reach her Boston Qualifying time at the Marine Corp Marathon. Back in 2006-2007 when I reached that goal through the help of others, I promised myself that I would ‘pay it forward’ someday and help someone else achieve their dream. Back to running, back to my roots and it’s time to turn the focus outwards rather than in. Onward.

Rebel Without a Schedule

I’ve got this little race planned for June…something about a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride, and a13.1 mile run. I have the physical capacity to complete each of the three components separately without a problem. Attempting to do them all on the same day, well…that’s the challenge, isn’t it?

Usually, when I undertake a new and bigger challenge, I spend hours researching different training plans, collecting ideas and advice from as many sources as possible and then I piece together the perfect plan. I’ve even been known to enlist the help of a coach when necessary.

This time, as I started gathering all the information, I realized that nothing really fit my style. I was looking for a beginner-to-intermediate program, with the focus evenly split on all three disciplines, maybe even a little heavier towards biking and running. To complicate matters, my daily routine has been changing on a weekly basis making it difficult to establish a solid routine that I could rely on week-by-week.

Therefore, my plan is to have no formal plan. Instead, I decided to just do this: swim – 2 days a week; bike/spin 2-3 days a week; run 4-5 days a week. Increase distances as needed, scale back every few weeks to get some extra rest, and try to schedule at least one day a week of total rest. Eat, sleep, hydrate.

How is the un-formal plan going? Truthfully, I don’t think I’ve had a single week where I’ve hit every workout. I’ve missed a few swim sessions, and I am struggling to get on the bike trainer twice a week (and I’ve yet to make it past 40 minutes). To complicate matters, I’ve managed to develop some type of tendon/joint/bursa inflammation in my ankle, so running has been non-existent for over a week now. Drastic measures may be taken to remedy *that* situation.

I’m not worried. Yet. But this non-program program needs to shape up soon, or I’ll be watching the race from the sidelines.

Staying Afloat

The half Ironman training is officially underway, and I have again been reminded of the power of training with other people.

The best addition to my training schedule has been signing up for a Master’s swim class. For the uninitiated, ‘Master’s’ does not mean ‘old people’ or ‘people who have mastered swimming’. In our class, it simple means ‘people over the age of 18.’

I was feeling nervous and intimated about attending the first class – all those people in the pool with me at the same time! Sharing a lane with people faster than me! Plus, it had been months since I’d been in the pool and it always takes me a few swim sessions to get back into the swimming-groove.

I was pleasantly surprised to see some familiar faces, and even managed to get myself invited into a lane with two young women who could actually interpret the foreign looking language that outlined our workout for the night.

There were three workouts to select from, as announced by the swim coach: 2300 yards, 2700 yards and 3200 yards. I nearly choked when she read off those distances, as I had never completely more than 1800 yards and that was a the peak of my triathlon training, probably two years ago. What had I gotten myself into?

My lane-mates selected the 2700 yard workout and assured me that we would complete it in the allotted 90 minutes. I was extremely skeptical, especially when I noticed that the ‘warm up’ yardage was longer than my entire last workout in a pool. The first few laps were lung searing and I repeatedly questioned my sanity. I wondered if I could I get a refund.

Somehow I managed to make it through the whole workout, even attempting the backstroke for the first time (it was ugly). I was absolutely stunned when I climbed out of the pool and realized that I had just covered 1.5 miles in the water. I turned to my lane-mates and told them that I never would have persevered if it were not for their presence and encouragement. They admitted to feeling the same way, and our little swimming sisterhood was born.

Now, if I could only figure out how to get myself on the bicycle a little more, I’d feel much better about this latest adventure.

Doin’ The Limbo

Been quiet around here, huh?

Did you ever find yourself in limbo, dancing in that odd space in between life changing events? One moment ends and then a blank screen pops up with a little spinning hour glass. You know that a new screen will appear eventually, but it’s impossible to tell how long the hour glass will keep spinning. So you wait, staring intently…barely breathing.

My new screen appeared today. I can now move on to the next steps. I can now breathe again. I can end this dance with flourish and grab my next partner as the music changes.

I completed my degree to become a physical therapist assistant. I secured a job in an orthopedic/sports medicine out-patient physical therapy clinic. I’m (mostly) prepared for my license examination. I started my training for my first half-Ironman. I joined a swim class and swam farther than ever before in the very first class. I’m shopping for wet suits and snow shoes.

As my life finds it’s new routine, I hope to be here more often. I hope you can join me!