Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

(NOT SO) WORDLESS WEDNESDAY

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

THE RACE I ALMOST “WON”


Saturday, I will be running the 10k Nike Human Race, held at Candlestone Inn in Belding, a small town northeast of Grand Rapids. I haven’t run here in probably 20 years, at another 5k/10k race. A few things stand out in my mind about that race so many years ago.

The race I ran in this town 20 years ago was a 5k. There was also a 10k but I preferred the 5k distance. At that time, I was running 5k races in the low 20 minute range, and I had become particularly strong at that distance due to running with my son in his stroller most of the summer. At that time, we didn’t have the fancy jogging strollers. No, I was pushing him in a type similar to the Gracos they still have now, with the swivel wheels, etc. Nothing aerodynamic about this buggy, but it was all I had and once again I was ahead of the curve running with a baby in a stroller. Needless to say, the uphills were a total grind, but it did pay off in faster race times. I still remember my son saying as I was gasping for air, “Run faster Mommy.” And even though I was running way faster than I do now, I still had to slow down some on the corners to avoid a rollover accident.

I don’t remember the name of the race, but I know it started and finished at one of the local elementary schools, put on by veteran runners, whose names I don’t remember and have to wonder if they are still running or even alive any more. A group of us from my gym were regulars at the area races, racing probably at least every other weekend, and one woman probably most weekends. She was young, unmarried, no kids, and was fast. She could easily win a race outright and otherwise won her age group every time. She too preferred the 5k distance.

The 10k started 15 minutes ahead of the 5k, and I don’t remember anyone who probably did the 10k, although I’m sure if they said they were there, I’d remember. I didn’t see anyone from my age group lined up for the 5k, but while I raced frequently, I still did not know everyone in my age group either, and there was always the chance someone would move into a new age group at any given race, or even cheat. And being 20 years ago, I honestly don’t remember every detail of this race, but there are some that are clear and stand out in my mind.

It was finally time for the 5k race to start. No chips back then, probably someone with a whistle or starter’s pistol starting the race, and pins to hold our numbers on. Race belts were not known to me then. I didn’t even own a water bottle or holder!

Off we went, down a long, winding driveway leading from the school to the street. I was running at a fast enough pace to be close to the front, but still not fast enough to see the lead runners by the time they reached the street. Sue, the fast one, was up front with the fast guys.

Once I reached the street, the lead group could no longer be seen, even though I was with the next group behind them. At that point in the race, you are raring to go, and not thinking of anything but one foot in front of the other, trying to get a good start and fall into a good pace. I don’t think the race course was marked by arrows on the road, which would explain one thing significant that happened. Since there was a 10k and a 5k race, at some point there was a split for the 5k. Volunteers or maybe a police officer pointed the way and we went wherever they pointed.

The race was held, as I remember, in mid to late September, one of those early fall days where the nights are cold and the days can be bright, sunny, and even quite warm. Those are the types of days when the bees can’t quite figure out what to do: they become lethargic during the cold nights, but become crazy and almost frantic once the sun comes out and starts warming the day. At probably the last mile of the race, a bee flew under my sunglasses. I whipped them off and shooed it away before it stung me, then regained my composure to continue on with the race. I was almost done, I remember that, and didn’t want to stop. My time was going to be okay, not great, but okay.

As I was approaching the school, the end of the race, I knew I had to dig in and climb that hill back up to the finish line. Just as I turned onto the hill, one of the volunteers starts clapping and cheering. “Good job! First woman!” I’m thinking it must be the first 10k woman so steal a glance behind me. No one coming except some guys. I’m puzzled. As I get closer to the volunteer he again yells out, “Great job first woman, right up to the finish. You’re almost there!” At this point I’m thinking, is he talking to me??

I dig in and push to the finish. My time was under 23 min. but don’t remember the exact time. No one says much at the finish line except congratulations, etc. At this point, I'm wondering how it was possible I won this race. I'm definitely wondering what happened to Sue.

I head into the school to recover and cool down and wait for the awards. It’s the usual scene after a race, with people discussing their races, their times, whether they were disappointed or pleased, etc. Back then, there were no elaborate post race spreads. We probably had popsicles, maybe apples or oranges, and water. That was it. Good enough.

Eventually, the results were posted. I didn’t try to push my way into the crowd initially but hung back waiting to see if I really did win the women's race. In the back of my mind I still didn't believe it and figured there was a mistake somewhere. Still, I never expected what happened next. Sue, the fast one, came over to me and said, “They have you winning the race! But I should have won because they directed us onto the 10k course and we were probably 2.5 miles into the race before someone discovered it and sent us back to follow the 5k course. So I probably ran more than 5 miles today.”

I was stunned and don’t even remember what I said. I do remember the huge trophies for the winners. Apparently, the mistake was reported to the race director, some further calculations were done, and my trophy was stripped from my possession! I did end up winning my age group that day, receiving one of those generic medals I’m sure everyone has somewhere in their race memorabilia.

The next thing I clearly remember is another woman in my age group, supposedly, who took second. I remember standing up and saying to someone because I was so outraged, “She’s not in my AG! She’s in the one below me!” To this day, I still run into this woman, and to this day she continues to switch between one age group and the next, apparently whenever it works to her advantage. Even though I’ve reported her, nothing has ever been done. And she has never dared to "beat" me when doing her switches because she knows I know.

My after thoughts on the race that day, which really occurred to me today for the first time. Even though there was a mistake in course directions, technically I did win the women’s race and should have been awarded the first place trophy. There is no way to accurately or truthfully determine what the times of the wayward runners would have been had they actually followed the 5k course. And while it wasn’t their fault, neither was it mine. Oh well, easy come, easy go. Had I thought this clearly back then, who knows? I didn't feel I deserved it based on my time. If this happened today, would I feel differently?

I don’t expect tomorrow’s race to even remotely resemble that day, but I hope the course is just as beautiful and challenging as it was back then. I will just run my pace and hopefully enjoy the day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SHADOWY FIGURES



Running in the early morning hours are my favorite. Those hours between 5 am and 7 am are when I seem to run my best because I feel my best. Running in the dark or semi-dark going to light is also when I run my calmest. Not much in the way of distractions when you can only see to the next street light. It also heightens your awareness of your surroundings—that rustling in the bushes—could that be a cat, raccoon, or even a skunk??; the sound of water running into the sewer before even hearing the sprinklers spilling water into the streets; the rattling of a dog’s collar as it trots along with its walker; the distant sound of the bakery ovens which you don't hear when traffic starts, along with the aroma of fresh baked breads and other pastries. These are just some of the things I enjoy in those pre-dawn runs.

Then there are those shadowy figures that you see approaching, either walking or running, with or without pets. You see them cross the street under the street lights, but they have no faces at that hour. They are part of that anonymous world of the early morning darkness, and I’m surprised at how many of us there usually are.

Today seemed particularly dark. No stars were visible, and even with the moon in its almost full phase, the clouds obliterated any illumination it might have provided. Instead, just a hazy shadow could be seen in the still dark sky. Leaving from my driveway, I could already see someone a block or more away who turned just as I got closer and disappeared before I turned the corner. On I went another few blocks, only again to see someone walking a dog who, once passing under the street light, also disappeared into the night.

But today what I found unusually disturbing was the cyclist in completely dark clothing with no light or reflector that I nearly ran into before I heard the spinning of his gears and couldn’t believe how close a call that was. Its hard to imagine someone not making themselves seen in that kind of dimness. Fortunately I had my blinking light on.

And then a nice surprise. Less than a block later, along came two young boys out for a morning run. Never have I seen them or anyone that age at that time of day. Made me wonder what their goal was and whether they would keep up the early morning runs.

At one point, I thought I heard footsteps behind me, but it was only my own. And all too soon, the run was over and it was time to head off to the corporate world.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

LIKE A GHOST TOWN

For the first time in the nearly 30 years I have worked for this firm, we are faced with layoffs and cutbacks. Some of it was due to overstaffing for so long, but when its a boom time, you always keep the good people around in case of emergency, regardless of how unbusy they were on a regular basis.

While I have been working on trial preparation for months, the trial starts Monday, and I'm officially off the case until maybe something post-trial, if necessary. That too is being handled mainly by a Chicago lawfirm, since the trial will be held there, and we are only second chair, not necessitating the need for a full staff to be there other than the 2 main attorneys.

So I go back to twiddling my thumbs most days. I can't remember there ever being any lack of work for this extended of a period. And its not just because the work isn't there. It all goes back to clients laying off, clients going out of business themselves, and clients not paying their bills. The office is starting to look like a ghost town, even during the day.

Our biggest growth period was over the past 6 previous years, and during that time they also decided to rennovate the entire office, spending big bucks, expanding from the 3 floors when I first started to 5 floors, as well as basement and main level space shared by the bank that holds our lease. We have slowly crowded out other tenants so that now there are only 4 tenants in the building.

But with all the layoffs and doom and gloom around here, our once full floors are dwindling down to only being 1/3 to half full. On my floor alone, there have been 7 people let go for various reasons, including attorneys, paralegals, and other non professional staff. The same is pretty much true for the other floors. People are running scared.

What makes me the most disappointed in all this is the seeminly lack of value that is being placed on long-time employees. Everyone is on equal footing, so no positions are safe. If your job becomes eliminated, rather than absorb them somewhere else--anywhere else--they let people go.

Not only that, I have been BEGGING for a year for projects and repeatedly am passed over by attorneys needing work. And when a few projects come along, everyone is fighting over them like seagulls at the beach when someone throws out some chips. Scrambling more or less.

So I bide my time, waiting for the big projects to come back or at least some idea of security. With the possibility of having no job hanging over everyone's head all the time, I have to say that is one reason I have not actively trained for many races, not wanting to have to spend the money on the fees or travel. Yes, I know, I took a vacation recently, but that had been planned since last year. I couldn't let the mood around here ruin that.

But, looking on the bright side, that hasn't been all bad! I have to say my semi-retirement--maybe hiatus is a better word--from racing this year has been a lot more fun than I was allowing myself to think. For the first time in over 20 years, I have been free to plan weekends far in advance, instead of having to work around races, tapering, and recovery. I am ALWAYS training, just not for any particular race.

Usually I feel "obligated" to consider some spring, summer, and fall race, but this year I am just going with the flow. For once it feels good to not feel guilty about not doing the local marathon or half (although I still may do the half if I can get in a few good long runs), and my attitude toward mileage or race times is "whatever I do is good enough." Its a liberating feeling!

Who knows about next year. I keep getting asked repeatedly if I will do another IM. I would like to--love to--if I didn't have to do all that bike training! But that's inevitable, so if its going to happen, I need to get a new attitude about that. I have not been on my road bike since August, instead started up off road riding, which I am finding much more to my liking. Just the mountain bike itself is so much more enjoyable than the road bike! I'm still pretty much a chicken on any steep downslopes, sandy areas, or unknown terrain, and still haven't mastered the technique to get up steep embankments, but again, its that "whatever" attitude that has set in. I'm enoying myself.

All this of course is to be taken with a grain of salt, since a change of attitude can happen at any time!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

MYSTERY RUNNER



For years, I’ve seen him running in all kinds of weather: hot, humid, cold, rainy. While I am riding my bike around the Kent Trails near and around the river, I see him running, faithfully, day in, day out, week in, week out. Years ago, it was two young Hispanic men running, always wearing sweats and long sleeves or maybe a short sleeved shirt depending on how hot it was. At first, they didn’t even wear running shoes, just some sort of black athletic shoe.

Over the years, the two have been reduced to one, for reasons unknown to me. I don’t know who this guy is, how old he is, although he looks fairly young, what he does for a living, where he lives, or why he runs. All I do know is he runs consistently, possibly every night in the non-snowy months, and judging from the route he takes, probably anywhere from 4-6 miles.

And this year he has evolved to wearing running shoes and using an iPod. Considering I’ve been seeing him out there for at least the past 10-12 years, I have to wonder if he ever enters any races in the area, but not knowing his name, I can’t check any results.

Instead, he remains a mystery, but he reminds me every time I see him that running is not for elites, or any specific age, race, or culture. You don't even have special clothes or shoes if you really want to do it. It is a universal way to find yourself and enjoy nature, and that clearly looks like what he is doing every time I see him.






Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

EARLY MORNING RISING

A while ago, I posted the question: If you had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to work out or train, would you? Most of the answers were yes! a few were if I had to, and a couple were definitely no. Joining up with the early morning swim group, 4:30 a.m. became more of a necessity than a choice. Not that I had to get up at 4:30, but I’m a morning dawdler so like to get up at least a half hour earlier than necessary so I can have that time to waste.

But as the weeks go on, I’m finding as long as I go to bed early enough, I don’t mind waking up that early, during the work week at least, and actually can’t wait to get up to swim on the days we meet. It also guarantees being up and out early enough to get in at least a short run on those days as well, in an attempt to not only beat the heat but get to work on time.

To me, there is nothing more magical than being outside in the early morning hour or so before dawn. It is quiet. The weather is usually calm. There is no one to see the look on your face as you deal with the humidity, gut out a hard set of intervals, or even the peaceful calm I feel when running in the early morning hours. Summer of course is my favorite time, and obviously the easiest, but even in the winter, with the calm in the hours before dawn, even the coldest and snowiest days its not so bad. It beats the treadmill any day.

This summer has been extremely great, even with the high humidity we have had. Its more like running through a cool sauna, where the sweat beads up on your arms, rolls down your chin and neck, and puddles around you if you stop. But after, I feel cleansed, rejuvenated, ready to start the day.

And its surprising just how many people are out running or even biking at that hour, not to mention all the dog walkers. As we pass each other, we silently nod, and go on our way, sharing that bond if only briefly.

I am going to miss the early morning swims once the weather turns or it gets too dark to see in the morning, but I hope I continue on with the early morning runs, because I am finding that is my best time of day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

HO HUM
Its been one of those ho hum weeks at work, so what better time to finally get a chance to update my blog??
I have been extremely lax this summer about blogging, either because of being busy at work or its been just too darned hot at home to want to sit next to a hot laptop computer besides other than for brief Facebook updates.
The hot weather, something we've all been experiencing it seems. And without air conditioning at home, it becomes an extra challenge. But I do believe it helps tolerate the heat more when I am in it. There's little difference in going out for a run in the heat than spending the evening cooking or doing chores. After a while it all blurs together into one big sweat fest.
Wednesday, however, was possibly the worst running day I remember in even my far distant memory. At predawn, not only was it in the 70s, but the humidity was 95%, and there was absolutely no wind. I honestly could not breathe. But I managed to get in about 7 miles (and I'm calling it 7 no matter how far it was!) with a lot of walking. I was out of breath almost from the first block to the last step.
Despite the heat this summer, I still have vivid memories of last summer's cold wave, for lack of a better description. While it was lovely for long endurance training, it pretty much went by in a blur, with only one or two trips to the beach because it was too darned chilly to sit there and the water too icy to swim. Waste of time. So hot as it is, I still do not believe in global warming. I believe that God controls the weather and its not something man or even Mother Nature can alter. So I'll get off my soapbox now that I've stated my opinion.
Not trying to be pessimistic about this sauna like weather, because for me to really complain would compare to cutting off my tongue, since facing the alternative is 100% worse, the theory for predicting how snowy Michigan winter will be goes back to the summer weather. The more hot days we have, and the longer Lake Michigan stays warm apparently affects when the lake will freeze. The longer it does not freeze, the more "lake effect" snow we will get. To prove this theory, at least going back last year, when we had a very cool summer and the lake waters stayed pretty icy, the lake froze early and we had a fairly mild winder, with more steady temperatures and only half the average amount of snow. I don't know how this works exactly, other than with the lake frozen, the clouds cannot suck up any additional moisture, so by the time a snowstorm reaches landfall, it breaks up pretty quickly. Others, who normally don't get any or much snow, ended up with our weather fronts and got dumped on. So, considering this theory is true or holds true for this year at least, we are in for one heck of a winter! Which is why I am going to soak up all the heat and humidity I can now so I have something fond to look back on when I'm trudging through the snow next winter.
And all this talk about snow is sure to take your mind off the heat. Enjoy it while you can!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

THE EARTH BENEATH MY FEET—
MORE ON BAREFOOT RUNNING


It sure seems to be the fastest growing “fad” in running these days. More and more I am seeing people around town running barefoot, in the neighborhood and at races. One guy at a race recently said he had run 63 marathons—all barefoot. We even have a Barefoot Triathlon on the roster this year, so you can see it might be here to stay for a while at least. Not so sure how winter will change that, but I know they make some shoes specifically for winter.

For me, I have been running in Nike Free 500s since March. These are a more traditional type running shoe, but totally unstructured, with soft sides that remind you of putting on slippers, but with a firm yet flexible rubber sole.



After having run barefoot on the beach while in the Dominican Republic, while I knew I wouldn’t go that route once I got home, I did immediately go out and buy the Nikes, and have been loving them ever since. I honestly can say I am enjoying running more than I have in over 10 years.

Mainly this year, by my own choice, I have been running shorter distances with more intensity, so they work great for that, but I have also used them in one sprint tri, and finally, just recently, on a 6.5 mile trail run, working up to running a half marathon distance trail run in late August. Here’s what I am finding with the Nikes that I did not think about initially and never would have guessed about: on trails they are far more responsive in handling rocks, roots, up hills, and steep down hills. On grass, they are more responsive when you come across an unseen divot or uneven terrain. And why do you think that is? I don’t have any scientific answer but only my own opinion, and that is that when wearing more structured shoes, with orthotics as well, often I could not feel a rock or indentation or a root that was only partially exposed until I actually stepped on it, and that usually caused me to roll an ankle, trip, or lose my balance somewhat. With my Nikes, I am more fully able to feel the earth beneath my feet so to speak. The flex grooves in the soles of the shoe allow the soles to flex with everything under foot so I feel a lot more stability than ever before. I absolutely got to hating trail running because every time I did, I rolled an ankle. So far, so good. I’m not saying I’ll never trip over something again, because I’m just not that coordinated. I am just hoping the shoes will allow me more stability to keep me from many of the unplanned spills I seem to have on trails.

One article I have read, by Phil Maffetone, athletic trainer to triathlete Mark Allen, can be found here. This backs up my findings as well.

One thing worth noting from this article is that structured shoes force the foot to land on the heel when running, when the natural inclination is to land mid to forefoot. Running barefoot you would never land on your heel naturally, and I think this is mainly because the heel cannot withstand the impact of thousands of footstrikes when running any distance, particularly a long distance like a marathon. The padding is in the front of the foot for a reason. The article also notes that running with shoes with a thick heel (like most athletic shoes) is actually the cause of more trips and falls.

"When wearing thick soles, the body can’t make these important and intricate adjustments as well to the surface stress. This poor communication between the foot and the brain is referred to as diminished kinesthetic sense of foot position. While kinesthetic sense normally declines with age and is a contributing factor to the frequency of falls that occur in later life, many of today’s young athletes wearing thick sports shoes show significantly reduced kinesthetic sense similar to or worse than an elderly patient! (These same sports shoes, studies show, often worn by middle aged and older, inactive people also increase the risk of falls and hip fractures.)"

The only drawback I am finding to these shoes is that because the flex grooves on the soles are so deep, when running on rocky trails I pick up a lot of stones that have to be picked out by hand or with a stick, and running in mud they tend to cake up entirely in the grooves. If I ran through any manure, I might be in deep doo doo! I also can feel rocks, so sometimes my feet are a little sensitive to that, but I figure as time goes on I will not notice it as much.

Another thing I have noticed with my running is that with my feet lighter by a considerable amount, I am able to run faster and pick my feet up easier as well. And my feet when really going barefoot aren’t nearly as sensitive. I used to walk like a cripple when I didn’t have shoes on because it was like my feet were deformed from wearing the structured shoes for so many years. And they would ache then when the bones tried to go naturally when barefoot, so I rarely did, pretty much wearing shoes every hour I was awake. And its not like I go barefoot outside much, if at all, but I can at least walk through the house without having to put on a pair of sandals or other hard soled shoes.

All in all, I am hoping this fad catches on and stays so I can find the same pair of shoes when I am ready to buy my next pair. You know how that always works. As soon as you find a shoe you love, they discontinue it or “improve” it.

In the meantime, I really do need to get rid of my new, in the box, pair of regular shoes I bought before I tried these. Anyone? Make me an offer.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

EARLY MORNING SWIMS






The alarm goes off at 5 am, but usually I am awake well before that time. I don't know if its anticipation for the workout ahead or just gets to be a cycle that isn't broken until these early morning swim workouts stop.


The swims are in the lake near my house, a short 10 minutes or less drive in the early morning hours. The traffic lights are still on the blink cycle when we head to the park, the sun is not yet up, but the sky is beginning to lighten, giving the promise of another day.


Mondays, Wednesdays, and most Fridays a group meets for a swim, and some of us run after. We arrive just before sunup, some slipping into wetsuits, others go without. There is a faster first group and then me, one of the slowest, in a second group. But this year I have Don to swim with me, and not training for anything himself, he has no personal agenda requiring him to stay with the fast guys and gals. My problem isn't that I'm slow, although I am slower than most, its my inability to see in the not quite light. Added to that the size of the lake. The closest place to site to is over 1/2 mile away, and while some of the houses have night lights on that give you something to focus on, by the time the sun is fully up, about 10 minutes into the swim, these lights go out.


The park itself is quite beautiful, the lake a rather large, inland lake, with a public access boat launch, with most of the rest of the lake inhabited by some of the more wealthy citizens in the area, living in homes like these, like the $7.5 million mansion below. Oh yeah, its for real, and maybe you heard about Dr. Stokes who owned the house? Suffice it to say, he's now living off the State of Michigan in a penitentiary somewhere nearby.



This one's for sale, and quite cheap too: $270,000.



Years ago, back when my mom was a kid, Reeds Lake was known for this on the water amusement park-beach area, similar to Coney Island, called Ramona Park back then:


(Photos from historical society pages.) The park, which provided fun and recreation for families for decades, closed down sometime in the 1950s.
The park has been rennovated in recent years, and now has some lovely paths, landscaping, and lots of mature trees. Its the venue of the local triathlon held in September, and many other races in the area throughout the year take place right near here , with some going around the lake, which is about 4.2 miles around.




The benches you see at the end of this path is where we meet. The reasons we swim so early are two-fold: (1) most of us have to get to work and (2) the lake is a "no wake" zone until 7 am, meaning no boats with motors allowed to wake up lake residents I would imagine. That gives us a window of time of about 50 minutes before the boats start lining up to hit the water. Occasionally some do enter the water early, and its astonishing how vulnerable I feel out in the middle of the lake when I hear a motor somewhere nearby.

Another thing about this lake is that there is no public swimming, yet a group of triathletes started this early morning group swim about 3 years ago, and so far no one has said anything to us, although I'm waiting for the day the local cops show up and kick us out for good or write us up.

And, while we start out in the semi-light of the day, by the time we finish it more often than not looks like this.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

LUNG POWER

I know I mentioned a few months ago the PACE program (Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion) and how I had been experimenting with using this to get in better shape and attempt to burn off the excess pounds that had turned to fat after the IM. A short description of the program means lots of interval training that progressively gets harder and faster. The end result of this is to gain increased strength without even lifting weights, improving body composition by burning fat rather than hanging on to fat through hours and hours of aerobic exercise, and last but not least building lung capacity.

It has been proven that by the time you're 50, you've lost 40% of your breathing capacity. As you age, cells in your lungs start to die off faster than you replace them – causing your lungs to shrink. That's bad news for your strength, stamina and disease-fighting power. Researching this theory and the PACE program has led me to some different ideas of what's healthy in exercise and what is not. From my own perspective, I found out that hours and hours and endless hours of "aerobic" exercise really left me not as healthy or as strong as I was before I took on all these endurance events. What I noticed most was the loss of lung power. It was so obvious. I was finding myself getting slower and slower on my runs, not able to maintain a fast pace on the bike, and while I could swim endlessly--at an aerobic pace of course--I was unable to kick it up a notch or two or three like I attempted to do during masters swim classes. That was almost a total waste of time, since I got no faster in the 3 months of twice a week workouts than I was before I started, and only left me totally frustrated.

Its always easier blaming these problems on getting older, but I found out it was much more. While I was getting older, my body--especially my lungs--were aging faster and faster with the type of exercise that has been recommended for decades now as being the best thing for you. For me, it wasn't.

I realize and understand the importance and need for endurance training--if you are going to be doing endurance events. Otherwise? A complete waste of time, at least according to the new way of thinking about exercise.

I had had a clue about the high intensity interval training as long as 4 years ago, but until I actually backed off on the long endurance stuff for a while and worked at improving my cardiovascular system by practing the PACE method, I did not see the true benefits.

Now, after 3 months, all my workouts have become so much easier. I am not out of breath on group open water swims, nor was I during my recent triathlon; I am finally able to pump harder on the bike to the point where my race pace was over 16 mph, much, much faster than anytime in the past 4 years; and while I am still working on developing a faster run, my mile pace has dropped and I am actually able to sprint at the end of the workouts without the lung bursting fatigue I suffered just 4 months ago. And I believe I have better immunity as well, after being sick on and off all winter with respiratory ailments. My stamina has also improved.

So I believe there is something to not only increasing but maintaining lung power as you age. You have to believe it when you see the athletes who stay fast and competitive within their age groups even into their 50s and 60s and beyond. I don't believe they could stay on top with lungs that were losing power as they aged.

I guess what I'm saying is while endurance events are obviously here to stay which necessitate training for endurance as well, it certainly can be beneficial if you could spend a month or two rebuilding your lung power and then maintaining it with a once a week fast workout or race. I have to wonder how much better we might all do adding in some serious interval work.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

DOUBLE TIME TRIATHLON, Sat. June 12, 2010


All it took was one little sprint tri to get me motivated again. I truly had forgotten how much fun these sprint races can be. Not only fun but they can provide you with a serious workout without having to spend your entire day doing them--a serious workout but where you can still get right back to normal living afterwards.

Saturday it was the Double Time Triathlon, an inaugural event. For some reason, I was totally mistaken as to the format of the race, thinking it was a double triathlon. I have done those before so I didn't think anything of it. Instead, according to others, the “double time” only meant you were supposed to go fast. When I found this out, I wondered if I should be there. I used to be a lot faster, but with all the things that have gotten in my way the last 4 or 5 years, fast went out of my vocabulary and my body.

For the past few months, I have been working on doing faster workouts, but still I have been hesitant to sign up for anything, afraid I would not meet my expectations. This would be my test.

Because I learned I would only be doing a sprint tri and not a nearly full Olympic distance tri, my game plan changed—in a hurry—since I didn’t find out until I was waiting for my swim heat to start it was only a sprint. In truth, I was relieved. The weather was questionable, with the possibility of thunder storms, and it was already hot and muggy, but thankfully heavily overcast. If I only had to do this once, great!

The swim was only 400 yards, so there was no way I would put on a wetsuit for this distance in this temperature, but I had also wondered why so many others had them on. One woman even had swim booties on! The water wasn’t that cold, maybe 70-72, which is mild for Michigan at this time of year considering we had almost a week with nights in the 40s and a lot of heavy rain a couple of times as well. My second thought was: are these people really going to put their wetsuits on for the second loop? Once I realized there was only one loop, I could see why they would wear a wetsuit. I still didn't mind not having one.

The field was small, about 250, and being a sprint that included every type of person and every type of bike you can imagine. We’ve all done them, so you know what I mean. And typically, with these sprint races, the transition was chaotic, and I found it nearly impossible to find a spot for my bike on any rack. Eventually I had to crowd in. Since I wasn't control of when we arrived at the race, I had no control over this as well.

The women were in the 3rd heat, and soon we were entering the water. I hadn’t been in fully to get used to the temperature so used the pre-swim time to test the goggles and get over that initial “take my breath away” feeling. Then, the starting horn went off. I was near the front and hoped no one was going to run me over, but it went fairly smooth almost immediately—for the first 30 seconds anyway. Then, someone grabbled onto my leg, I gave a swift kick, and off came the chip. Dang! Just focus and swim. Nothing you can do now, I told myself.

I noticed I had no panic on this swim. It wasn’t horribly crowded anyway, but that never mattered in the past. If anyone was swimming next to me or even near me, it threw me off completely. Instead, I stayed calm and focused. Even when I pretty much got wedged between a breaststroker and someone doggie paddling, but doing the frog kick. So I had legs on both sides of me kicking and elbows a little too close to my face until I finally managed to pull ahead. After that, it was just trying to keep as straight of a line as possible to the first buoy and then head to the second, and then in. Once I was heading for shore, I was pretty much by myself until all of a sudden some guy—obviously in a relay—came along side of me, and as big and wide open as that swimming area was, he managed to smack me so hard on my hand I felt like I had punched someone with my knuckles. That brought my head out of the water and I yelled at him to get away from me. He apologized but didn’t seem too quick to move away. I did break free from him and then it was smooth sailing to the finish. Without the chip, I have no splits but my watch time said swim time with running through to transition was about 9:23. Okay, not bad, just okay. I did tell the timers when I went over the first mat that I had lost my chip and gave them my number.

I was a little deflated here because I wondered if it would even matter what I did or whether my race would even count without my chip. I decided not to take on a defeatist attitude and just continued to try to do my best.

Transitions are always a time where I am seriously lacking in the ability to hurry. I feel like I am going 100 mph but my transitions are generally in the 3-5 minute range, and that was the same this time. I left transition with my bike and got to the timing mats—again telling them I lost my chip—in 12:55, so about 3.5 minutes. What do I do that takes so long? I like to be organized, but I truly don’t know, but this time my holdup was just not having enough room to move around in. And the humidity, making it impossible to get the feet dry enough to get socks on properly. Oh well. Off I go.

About the same time I was leaving transition, 3 young boys were heading out as well. They should have been in the heat before me, and while they didn’t look like triathletes, there was no way I was going to let them get ahead of me if I could help it. So I cranked it up and passed them like they were standing still. Now if I could only do that to someone who mattered!

The course was described as mostly flat and fast. Let’s hope was all I could think. I was surprised to see my competitiveness start kicking in and my average pace increasing, much faster than I figured it might. By doing this, I was able to pass some people at least, and not just other women. I was a little annoyed at myself that so many women had beat me on the swim, but it could easily have been caused from my slow transition. By the time I reached the first of only 2 “hills” my average speed had reached 17.2 mph. Whoa! For me that is fast. But it felt easy enough. Now if I could just hold on. There wasn’t anyone that close behind me, and I could see I was approaching another woman ahead, so I kept cranking as hard as I possibly could deciding this race was going to be all about the bike for me.

The only other hill was at about 9 miles. It wasn’t much but I underestimated it and found myself getting caught off guard and slowing down considerably. By now, my average speed, while having slowed some, was still considerably faster than I have gone in a long time. But suddenly, another woman passes me, and I find I am unable to respond. I’m cranking as hard as possible yet seeming to stand still. This was in a patch where the pavement was extremely rough, and my tires were not gliding along like they had before. I kept close to her but darn it if she didn’t get a burst of speed every time I got close enough to consider passing. And then I slightly underestimated the finish line. I was thinking as we turned into the side street that that was the finish line, when in fact we still had more than a mile to go. Yikes! I was unclipped and everything.

The other woman was just ahead but the pavement was smooth and flat so I put on a couple of gears and put my head down and cranked until I passed her.

Back at transition, I again told them I lost my chip. I don’t remember what my time was here, maybe about 52 minutes, but I really don’t remember. It was quite a ways to the bike racks from the street where we dismounted, and down a steep hill so again, I’m not sure what my time was in transition, but I’m sure it was slow as usual.

I had packed everything in plastic bags in case it rained so that slowed me some, but the worst was when I discovered my shoes were tied! In double knots! Drat, I totally forgot about putting different laces in and didn't even notice they were still tied from the last time I wore them. Had I just untied them I might have saved at least 30 seconds! Totally out of practice here!

The run out started where the swim in was, so we ran across grass for quite a ways until we got to the street. I was finding it extremely difficult to breathe or catch my breath, having side stiches on both sides, both from the humidity and my hard effort on the bike. So I just slowly, and I mean slowly, jogged for a couple of minutes then picked up the pace for a couple of minutes, then slowed, then fast until I got over this. I never fully got over that but had to keep pushing on.

The whole race took place at a mobile home lake community so the swim was in the lake and the run wound through the park, through people’s yards, back onto pavement, trails, fields, and grass. A true cross country experience. I was doing fairly well with time until I again underestimated what the mileage was until the finish area, not really knowing for sure how long the run was, but also thinking you never know if it’s a true 5k, 3 miles, or something else. Once we reached the grass where the run out started, I assumed, wrongly, that that would be the last sprint to the finish. So I sprinted, pushing myself way out of my comfort zone, only to find out as I neared the bike in chutes that this was not the finish, as it turned out, it was a true 5k, and that we had another mile or so to go! That about killed me so I found myself walking here again to get my breath. That’s when I saw Don watching the race and wandering around, and he said he’d just see me at the finish. Which he completely missed becaused he thought the run was 4 miles.

Once I got my breath, I also discovered my momentum was starting to lag. After pushing myself as hard as I did on the bike and on that stupidly calculated sprint, I was tired! But I have learned a new trick I can do (this may not be your thing so don’t necessarily try it in a race), and that is to sprint hard for 30 seconds, then walk 30. I can keep this up for a mile or two, and I can almost keep the same pace as if I were just running a moderately slow pace, the difference being I keep motivated instead of giving in to fatigue. It keeps me focused too. So I figured it couldn’t hurt my time much. I had already killed it on that sprint, so the thing now was to just hold on to the finish. The last mile was by far the most challenging, as it included an uphill part on trails, then a run through a muddy field, onto another muddy gravel road, to another muddy field, then through that field, before heading back to the gravel road and back to the paved trail to the finish, which also was on grass. On my last sprint to the finish, I wondered again if any of this would count. As I found out, when I entered the finish chute I told them I had lost my chip, gave them my number, and they said they were waiting for me! Yes, I would actually have an actual time. No splits, but what can you do.

Fast forward to awards, and I took 3rd in my AG, actually beating someone. Finish time: 1:34:xx.

I still have some work to do, both on my transitions and getting better control on the run so I can continue to push the pace but hold on longer, even after pushing the pace on the bike.

I firmly believe these shorter sprint workouts are what keeps people fast, and that it is definitely the longer races that slow you down. But I also know that’s how those things work, and if you want to be fast, you have to do more of the shorter races. If you want to go for the glory, there are plenty of long races that fit that category.

Now I can’t wait to do another one!

Monday, June 14, 2010

THIS IS WHO I AM
It suddenly occurred to me (after all these years?) last weekend when we went on a bike outing with a group from my club. Not knowing what to expect, but mainly expecting to be bringing up the rear as usual, I told Don he at least might have some more challenging people to ride with. While there were a few faster people, the majority ended up being leisure or recreational riders; in fact, only half of the attendees even had helmets! So for once, I was not bringing up the rear but managed to ride just slightly behind the lead group. My odometer said 24.4 miles, and it was a challenging as well as beautiful course that took us through a few small suburbs of the Grand Rapids area, an area I have never ridden in, out in dairy farm country, then along the Thornapple River, through a swan sancuary, a beautiful bike path along the river, and even along a highway. And no helmets for these people. Not too smart! But we had a great time after at a cookout and had use of the host's lake, which included swimming and boating.
Afterward, talking with some of the leisure people, it soon occurred to me that this was a whole new concept to them; most had never ridden that far and none did it on a regular basis. Just the idea of regular biking was so foreign to them, one woman even said "well I won't have to do any spinning for a month now!" And she's in good shape otherwise.
When I said, "oh we do this every weekend," people were impressed, but at least they didn't say we were crazy. It occurred to me then that this is what I do on weekends. I don't go to garage sales, camping, flea markets, or the other things people do or don't do on weekends. I do triathlons or running races. This is how I pick most of my friends; this is where most of my social life (other than family) revolves around. My kids and other family members finally realize this. I have been doing this stuff for over 20 years. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that this is who I am. Yet, until just recently, I didn't fully think this way myself.
Yes, I admitted I did triathlons. Yes, I admitted I ran some races. But I never fully admitted that this is my hobby as well as a part of my life.
My fairly new daughter-in-law has had a difficult time understanding this. Last year, while they prepared for their wedding, and while I trained for my IM at the same time (they were a week apart), every weekend I had to spend training long hours. So many weekends she wanted me to do things for/with her and I was not available. Even after the race was over, and I was on vacation, the great part of vacations for me was being able to run/bike/swim every day, or as much as I wanted. When she heard this, she said "but you were on vacation. You were supposed to be relaxing." But I was relaxing, was what I tried to convey to her. She still doesn't get it fully, but she is starting to realize this is what I do; this is who I am.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

LOOK WHAT I GET FOR COMPLAINING!

After nearly 4 months of doing almost nothing at workon a daily basis, suddenly things are picking up. A trial in the fall is starting its prep work, and while I am glad to get the work, it once again means missing lunches and workouts because things come up at the last minute and you can only juggle so much in a day. So its either back to those early (5:30 am) workouts or taking a chance on missing out on one altogether.

I had hoped to catch up on the last 2 weeks, but it has been a hectic last 2 weeks at work, and while technically I haven't missed too many planned workouts, I have replaced those missed by sprinting up the steps when I need to go to another floor or hitting the track or spin bike for short high intensity workouts.

Despite the craptacular weather we've had (rain, rain, tornadoes, flooding, washing out of trails and roads), I have managed to get at least 3 or 4 quality rides in outside but not much in the way of swimming. My shoulder has been acting up again, and while swimming itself isn't the problem, arm placement is, and of course the extension of my arm during the stroke only aggravates the scapula actually.

So tomorrow hopefully I can still do wordless Wednesday, and hopefully at some point this week I'll catch up on my workouts and other parts of my daily life. In the meantime, I must finish gulping my lunch or forego another one.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

UPDATE ON "BAREFOOT" RUNNING







Enough time has gone by for me to formulate an opinion on the barefoot running craze that seems to be taking over. Every day, I am seeing more and more Internet articles on the phenomenon, as well as facebook entries, since Vibrams is my "friend" on facebook. More and more events are popping up as well.

As a reminder, when I first started this type of training, it was truly barefoot, while on vacation in the Dominican Republic. The beach there offered the best possible chance to start this, but for me it didn't go quite as well as I would have liked initially. I pulled something on the top of one foot that led to some pain and discomfort running for a few weeks, to the point where I was afraid at first I had a stress fracture. But fortunately, that wasn't it.

My feet were decidedly weak in that I have been running with orthotics or custom made inserts for most of my running years of 22 years now, as well as shoes designed to correct anything that seemed to be a problem for me. Initially, I started out with just the basic running shoe, no frills, no arch support, no motion control, no stability, nothing. I pretty much didn't have any problems other than a stress fracture from running too much in the beginning, and that led to seeing an orthopedist who recommended orthotics for the first time.

Then and now, orthotics were horribly expensive, and at that time while I did buy orthotics, it was a huge stretch of my budget to do so. And the type recommended for me at that time were made out of a cork-like material. I assumed they would last forever, so was terribly surprised and disappointed when after only 6 months they no longer gave me the cushioning or responsiveness I needed or was expecting, and found out later that 6 months truly was the life of that type of orthotic. The end result with wearing those longer than they were designed to accommodate was severe hamstring strains. So while one injury healed, another formed.


Because I could not afford another pair of orthotics any time soon, I sought to correct my supposed biomechanical deficiencies with shoes designed to correct overpronation, which I was told I had, which I didn't. As you can imagine, that led to other aches and pains cropping up. Everything was blamed on just running itself, and while that was likely part of the whole injury equation, it wasn't the entire cause. Needless to say, I spent years trying to figure out what kind of shoe I needed, eventually settling on Brooks Adrenaline, along with custom made inserts. I thought I had the problems solved, but basically my body/feet just adapted to the shoes and inserts.

Anyway, fast forward to now and the attempt to run barefoot. While it didn't entirely work with me to go completely barefoot then, I did end up buying the Nike Free 5.0 shoes. These are the Nike brand of barefoot running type shoe.

So here's my take on these: I love them. Going back and forth with these and my old favorites, these have become the clear winner in shoe of choice. The uppers are as soft as a slipper, and wearing them they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. The soles have flex grooves from toe to heel, so even with some slight overpronation problem, the shoe allows natural movement without restriction. I still have some instability issues in my ankles, but I'm positive that comes from babying my feet for so many years. All the info suggests with time the bones and ligaments will adjust to this type of running.

After years and years of searching, I thought I had found my perfect shoe, which until now I had. But clearly this barefoot concept has benefited me more than hurt me, and its going to be really difficult going back to my old shoes, if I ever do. Which leads me to say:

For sale. New, never taken out of the box, Brooks Adrenaline shoes, size 10.5.

Monday, May 24, 2010

WELL, THAT DIDN'T LAST LONG!


That feeling of being unfocused, unmotivated. Who knew it would only take the click of the "submit" button to get me out of my funk? Part of it was having the right event come along, which it did, in the form of an email from a fellow triathlete turned race director.
Its the Double Time triathlon. A sprint tri with an added twist of doing it twice. Once you finish the run, you hop in the water and start all over again.
I did one of these many years ago, similar distances, so its not as hard as it sounds. Other than once you get back in the water you don't want to get out again. But it is a new event, being capped at 250 people, and so I thought why not?
Already, my workouts have taken on the feeling of training. Now the workouts are for a purpose other than fitness.
Another purpose to my workouts is to put some quality into them, instead of just going through the motions as a means to an end. I'm quite capable of running, biking, or swimming endlessly, but the purpose of those types of workouts was to not blow up. Now I am pushing myself harder to see how far I can get before I blow up and then planning on working from that.
And I've complained forever about not being faster or being able to get faster on the bike. Yesterday I did two things different. First, we raised my bike seat just slightly, maybe a 1/4 inch raise. I've been bothered from aching knees since late last season, and then all through my race last year. I figured it was an accumulation of all the biking workouts I had done for months, but it continued to plague me this season as well, even after a long break from road biking. Since it didn't happen on my spin bike, only on my road bike, I knew something had to be changed there. What I noticed mainly was I just felt like I was sitting too low and using my quads for pedaling instead of the entire leg. Who knew just that small increase would make such a difference!
Second, once I could see my pace better than the last probably 20 bike rides I have been on, without much more effort, I started pushing the pace somewhat. This is huge for me, as what is a hard pace for me is just a cruising pace for most others. Still, I found myself overall for the 24.2 mile bike ride with an increased speed of .7 mph faster. Not huge but for me it was a breakthrough. I am hoping this continues, and the hard effort was not impossible. And this was even without bike shoes that I forgot!
So maybe all these factors are encouraging to me to get out of my comfort zone and see if I can bring back some of the thrill that goes along with a race, something I have felt severely lacking for a long, long time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

UNFOCUSED





IT MIGHT BE FANTASY, BUT I’D RATHER BE ON VACATION


I am having a very hard time this year getting focused on what races I want to do this year because I’m thinking a little part of me wants to do none. And that for me is a first in over 20 years. For the first time since I started running back in 1988, I do not have a full year agenda for running or triathlons.

Part of it is, I am sure, all the mandatory training I did last year. And while some of the benefits of that should have carried over to the new year, the motivational part did not. Its not that I’m not motivated to stay in shape or work out. Its just that I do not have a goal race or races I am working towards. I’ve reached all my athletic goals except qualifying for Boston, but I’m not sure that will ever happen. I’m okay with that mostly, but a small part of me feels guilty too, like I should be using all that newly acquired iron power to excel over last year.

But I’ve also reached a different stage in my life, to a point where I want to enjoy each day and not feel pressured to train just because I hastily signed up for a race that I probably wanted to do but wished I didn’t have to specifically train for.

Its truly hard to break old habits, especially ones that have been over 20 years in the making, so I still work out most days—now because I want to. I enjoy the brief encounters on Facebook also, meaning I can still keep up with everyone’s accomplishments on a regular basis but am not necessarily compelled to blog about my daily routine.

Last week, on vacation in Florida, I couldn’t help realize how much I really enjoyed being on vacation, being in the great weather and sunshine, having a laid back routine with no set agenda until getting up for the day. And I certainly couldn’t help enjoy being away from work that for the past few months has offered me absolutely no stimulation. Due to a lot of changes around here, my daily work routine consists of either scrambling for work to keep busy or waiting for someone to give me something to do. There is no longer that daily list of tasks to be performed or ongoing projects to look forward to, so the days drag into endless tedium. And that certainly does nothing for my mood during the work day and leaves me with little to no motivation toward the job, as well as the constant fear of not having a job, like so many others recently. These days, its like being between a rock and a hard place when you don’t like your job, because on the one hand you can’t just quit because here in Michigan especially there is little to nothing out there, and if there is its not going to pay what I make now, and wanting to try something new but being fearful because of being low person on the totem pole.

Instead of getting up at 5 am to work out because of the need to fit everything into a day, my workout times have occurred a lot of times during lunch hour because it’s a way to shorten the work day, or after work with Don, who is now running regularly again and I know its me who keeps him motivated there, so I hate to not organize my day for noon or after work runs.

So I continue to mull over what the rest of my year will be regarding racing. Right now, since my one unreached goal is Boston, I really feel I need to give myself this year to work on my running more and see where I am at the end of the summer or maybe mid September and stop torturing myself looking at races I am not that inclined to do. Its like window shopping though, because I enjoy looking at different races, venues, courses, etc. and dreaming of being at that particular race but then not registering for anything.

Part of me here too is not being ready to quite push myself to the level I want to be at. Because I know I’m not there yet and don’t want to be totally disappointed that I’m not. But another part of me wants to get out there and just do something to see how I do. Ambiguous, I know, but that’s how I’m feeling right now.



WORDLESS WEDNESDAY

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY


WHERE IN THE WORLD AM I? CATCHING UP
I haven’t had much to say lately, so have been lax in updating my blog. Unlike last year, when I was spending countless hours training and when I had lots of time to think of things to say, this year my training has taken a new focus, at least for a while. Shorter, more intense workouts, usually done after work, and usually with someone or at least doing the same workouts on the track.

I do like track running, and I do like running faster. I finally gave up all hope of ever seeing a decent 5k time last year training long slow distance all the time, but now have been actively working on making a comeback, so to speak. Its been a struggle, but the legs are starting to come around. Having Don to run with again has helped tremendously.

Also, working out in the evenings or lunch hours makes a huge difference in my “free” time away from the job. Not having to get up at 5 am or earlier most days, I am enjoying the luxury of sleeping in—until at least 6:30 some days!—eating breakfast at home, and not having to pack a steamer trunk of food and workout clothes every day and haul that to work with me in the wee hours of the morning.

Weekends here haven’t been conducive to many outside bike rides either, with rainy and windy weekends nearly every week, making me glad once again of not needing to get those long bike rides in. Instead, we have invested in spin bikes, so that has also been an alternate way to work out, in the evening, at home, again eliminating the need to get up at o’dark thirty for those morning spin workouts. There’s no place like home.

I have also been experimenting with cooking and different ways to eat, often spending hours scouring recipes, reading info about, specifically, the wonders of coconut oil, and many recipes relating to its use. It was something I needed to acquire a taste for, and now use it in practically everything I eat, as well as using it on my skin. In the process of learning about coconut products, I am experimenting with gluten free cooking as well. Not that I have known problem with gluten, but going without it hasn’t hurt me at all either.

On the job front, as with many employers, cutbacks and job restructuring has found its way into my life, and the work I was doing in past years has literally either dried up or shifted elsewhere, leaving me in a constant state of boredom and/or scrambling for work, with not much prospect of a change any time soon, if ever. This is a law firm. We will always have work. But the way we are handling it now has totally changed, due mostly to economic conditions of our clients. Looking elsewhere is a hard decision even if there was an abundance of choices, because of the years spent on the job here and the benefits either earned or acquired. That in and of itself makes it hard to go elsewhere at this stage in my life. But I am always open to reinventing myself if necessary.

And then there has been the almost constant problem with my laptop computer, with one problem or another needing to be fixed in order to just use it. I have just recently gotten that fixed again, but in the process nearly everything I had stored was wiped out, so I need to start rebuilding all those favorites I have acquired in the last three years. Windows Vista? Don’t go there.

What races I will do this year and in the future still have not formulated in my mind or found their way on paper. Not only can I not decide what I want to do, I seem to be questioning the need to do some things based on cost and travel expenses involved in that process. I am not so quick to click the “submit” button without taking into account the cost of the race, the need for travel, and how much all that will cost, making me far more selective than any time in my life. I used to run a race every other weekend and not bat an eye at the cost, even in my poorest days, because I had such a need to compete and that was truly my only outlet or entertainment for many years. Now I am also weighing the time needed for training against the rest of my life, so that’s also a factor in making me think twice about the next event.
Then there's Facebook, which has allowed me, thankfully, to catch up on everyone quickly without the need to wait for the old dinosaur PC to awaken from its coma so I can read blogs--not that I don't like reading, just haven't been able to spend much time doing that and have lost all the links on my laptop.

And family life has always been busy and hectic so no need to recap on that. The fact that I can actually participate this year is almost a novelty after cutting myself off from the everyday things last year due to training and job responsibilities.

Coming up: a trip to Florida with my daughter and her kids. We likely won’t be hitting all the theme parks (thank God!) because we’ve been there, done that before, but are looking for relaxation and some unique things to do, like a manatee cruise? Or Gatorland for the boys? Probably at least Sea World, but other than that, spending time together.

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there! I will try to post pics from Florida (if the laptop holds out!) and maybe will have some time for updating also. See you all soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BAREFOOT RUNNING


Another thing I’ve been doing for the past few weeks is getting into “barefoot” running. For me, that hasn't exactly meant totally barefoot, but it has meant running in a less structured shoe. There are a few models out there right now, and most shoe brands have something they are either working on or are already being sold.

The barefoot running idea started for me when we were in Dominican Republic and were able to run on the beach. I didn’t even think of going barefoot, but Don said why not? However, klutz that I am, that idea only lasted a couple of days for me. Somehow, I did something to my foot that reminded me of about ½ turn less than a full sprain. The pain was mostly on the top of the foot near the ankle, but really no swelling or bruising, just soreness and later stiffness. Not having shoes on when this happened, however, I feel was less traumatic than having shoes on, since I have sprained my ankle or turned it pretty hard enough times that I know how it feels. And the fact that I can’t recall at all when it happened makes me think I was lucky this time.

You may be thinking too that it wasn’t very smart to be going barefoot, and maybe for me this is partially true, since I rarely, if ever, go barefoot, making my feet fairly sensitive to anything other than shoes or if with running shoes something with custom made insoles besides.

But that really was the only problem I encountered and as I said it appears the injury was much less traumatic than had I been wearing shoes.

When we got back from the trip, wearing shoes was really weird again. And Don had a hard time readjusting, since for the past couple of years he has had a lot of problems with Achilles since rupturing the tendon, and has been unable to run much, if at all most of the time. However, running barefoot for him posed absolutely no problem whatsoever and in fact he progressed quite rapidly over the week we did it, pulling away from me with no effort. (That more than likely was due to my foot stiffness and inability to push off, so that's my excuse.)

Of course that meant he would go right out and buy Vibrams because that’s how he is. They are weird looking to be sure, but he loves them. I decided after a week or so that I really needed to get something lighter and maybe less structured with the hope that my ankle/foot would clear up faster, since even walking with my regular running shoes was uncomfortable. The shoes felt restrictive, that’s about the only way to describe them, after running barefoot for almost a week.

There was also another new shoe on the market, the Nike Free 5.0, which after comparing both the Vibram and the Nike Free, I chose the Nike Free.

And free it is. Free from the heaviness and restrictiveness of regular running shoes. They are made to resemble almost barefoot running, definitely a step up from racing flats, yet lightweight and very comfortable. They do not accommodate my custom orthotics, but that would probably be contrary to the barefoot feeling if I continued to load these shoes up with all the paraphernalia I have been using.

And the barefoot running craze is here for now at least. If you haven’t read the pros and cons on this idea, here is a link so you can get more information and form your own conclusions.

Obviously, these shoes are not intended for running marathons, or any long distances in fact, unless you really have adjusted to them for a long time, and even then I can’t make a recommendation. What I do know is that for the distances I have been forced to run lately because of the foot problem (which is almost healed up by the way), they are quite adequate and I’m sure being able to do some running has been better than none, and doing the PACE workouts has not required more than 30-35 min. of running at any one time either. How they feel are light and as comfortable as a pair of slippers. And I can finally wear some of my cute "Sock Guy" socks I have either bought or gotten from races that I haven't been able to wear with my regular shoes and orthotics because they were too thin.


And the bright pink is an attention getter. I could almost swear they glowed in the dark.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

WHAT I'VE BEEN UP TO


I know I hinted at a new way of thinking and working out, at least for me, and at least for now. After a full year of training for IM last year, I really needed to take a step back, and a look ahead, to decide what I wanted to do for this year.


At first, I had a lot of lofty ideas, as I think is typical after every monumental physical event we challenge ourselves to accomplish. Suddenly, we think we can do anything, and maybe some can. After a few months of struggling with illness, headaches, and just a general inability to get back in the groove of training for anything specific, I started looking for answers on how to turn things around.


One of the ideas that I kept finding over and over was the fact that maybe all that long endurance training wasn't exactly beneficial to my health. I wasn't sleeping good. I wasn't losing any weight, despite training 12-15 hours a week, and in fact gained some, and many sources indicated this was normal but yet not normal.


So really then, what was the answer? How could I get back to feeling and looking good again? Was there life after Ironman?


One of the sources I read was Rediscover Your Native Fitness--Pace, by Al Sears, MD. I could relate to a lot of things I read, and so far I have not found any resources about this man that indicate he is a quack. I'm not saying I agree with everything he says about fitness, but a lot of what I read made sense for me. The philosophy he teaches is that we are not made to be doing long, steady state endurance workouts, and in fact they may be detrimental to long life.


My heart wanted to say, how can that be? But my mind, and common sense, started making me really wonder. Take for example this quote:


"We in the modern West are out of condition but in a different way than most people think. To complicate matters, without an understanding of the cause of the problem, pundits have advocated the wrong solutions. We can divide the most popular modern exercise advice into
three categories:

1) “Cardio”
2) Weight training and
3) Aerobics.
All three are simply wrong and ineffective. Practice these misconceived notions long enough and they will further rob you of the native fitness you were built to enjoy."


So what did he mean by this? In his words: "Routinely forcing your body to perform the same continuous cardiovascular challenge, by repeating the same movement, at the same rate, thousands of times over, without variation, and without rest, is unnatural. This type of demand could have occurred rarely, but not in the daily environment of native societies in balance with their surroundings." And "Forced, continuous, endurance exercise induces your heart
and lungs to 'downsize' because smaller allows you to go further… more efficiently… with less rest… and less fuel."

Since what we have been trained to believe--as an example the LSD theory "long slow distance" was the best way to train ourselves to run marathons or do Ironman distance races, or even shorter, it has become a popular fitness craze. We all think we are doing something "healthy" for ourselves, when, according to many sources I have read recently, quite the opposite is true.


Take for example the recent (and not so recent) deaths of "conditioned" runners at marathons and even half marathons. Or maybe one of the more well known "advocates" of long endurance running, Jim Fixx, the popular 70s fitness guru. Fixx claimed that the secret to heart health and long life was endurance running – up until he died of a heart attack – while running.


Sears goes on to say: "Heart attacks don’t occur because of a lack of endurance. They occur when there is a sudden increase in cardiac demand that exceeds your heart’s capacity. Giving up your heart’s reserve capacity to adapt to unnatural bouts of continuous prolonged duration only increases your risk of sudden cardiac death. A ground-breaking study of long-distance runners showed that after a workout, the blood levels and oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides increased. They also found that prolonged running disrupted the balance
of blood thinners and thickeners, elevating inflammatory factors and clotting levels – both signs of heart distress."


"And it’s bad for your bones too. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that long-distance runners had reduced bone mass. This is
true for both men and women – although women had an increased risk for osteoporosis as well.
Long-duration exercisers showed signs of heart distress, increased LDL, cholesterol & triglycerides, increased oxidation of cholesterol, elevated clotting & inflammation factors,
loss of bone density and increased risk of osteoporosis."


I could go on and on, and it wasn't just this author who caught my attention. There were several others.


The dilemma here, of course, is that's what we all do and have been doing for years, either because we like doing races which then require us to train to complete these races, or we feel--and have been led to believe--it is the healthy thing to do for our hearts and longevity.


Things that have disturbed me in the past couple of years which have led me to wonder about all this endurance training and what benefits it really produce were the fact that so many people in my own personal experience who have been long distance runners for many years or multiple time Ironman finishers were starting to get debilitating or even fatal diseases.


How can this be when we all of this has practically guaranteed we would be exempt from the everyday diseases that afflict the population NOT exercising? Take for example these people that come quickly to my mind: a multiple Ironman finisher (and record holder at a couple of the IM races) dies from brain cancer; 5 men develop prostate cancer; others develop seizures and thyroid disease; and then there are all the degenerative problems many face as they have aged; and many more stories. These are just people I know!


From my own personal standpoint, I have been running for over 20 years. I have mild osteoporosis. Seems odd, since I always have taken calcium supplements, and more importantly have been running which supposedly helped with bone density. To be fair, I do have dense bones in most areas, but there are a few which show signs of degeneration. That too, to be fair, can be hereditary and age related, but it does make me wonder. What disturbed me most, however, was my inability since IM to lose ANY weight and was feeling frumpy if that's a good description. Running and biking more was not making any difference at all, and unless I "dieted" strictly--meaning no goodies, drinks, or even going out to eat, I would actually gain weight. And again, you're thinking maybe something is out of balance, or I had something medically going on that caused this. A checkup made no sense: blood pressure was up; cholesterol was up (but HDL was great), etc. Everything was bad in my estimation, bad for someone who had just gone through this enormous physical feat, bad for someone who "took care of" myself. So was this the problem?


I know, you could say the odds were in their and my favor that we all will get some sort of disease in our lifetime, but isn't that what we are hoping to avoid with all this exercise? Don't we all think we will be the lucky ones to escape these modern day afflictions?


I was confused and deflated.


Without going into a lot more detail, and if you are still following along, here is what I have been doing for the past 5 weeks, and which I said I would report on after enough time had passed for me to make some definite conclusions.


I have been following the PACE program, which is basically shorter burts of high intensity exertion followed by equal or longer segments of recovery. I started out quite simply with a 1 minute exertion followed by a 1 minute rest, doing 10 repetitions, for a total of 20 minutes. I wore my heart rate monitor to follow my progress. That was week 1 and 2. I didn't do a whole lot else those weeks either. Week 3 was on vacation and having a little more time and being rested I changed the routine to 3 minutes of exertion followed by 2 minutes of recovery, 2 exertion, 2 recovery, etc. down to 2 final sprints of 30 and 20 seconds, with recovery between. Week 4 was the same.


Week 5 I started doing some bike routines as well and some hills and track work. Week 6 I will do a mile time trial to see where I am at, and hopefully will see an faster mile time. But I am not just doing this to get faster. If that is a side effect, I'll take that too. I am trying to actually strengthen my heart and lungs and burn fat and get back into the shape I think I should be in.


After 5 weeks, I have dropped 10 pounds, have lost 3 inches on my waistline, am sleeping better, have better energy, and hopefully have gone down in body fat percentage, another bonus of shorter bursts of exertion. Its called the afterburn, which means fat burning after workouts rather than during, which hapens with steady state endurance exercise, and which, according to all sources I have been reading, causes the body to then produce more fat since it is confused into thinking that while you exercise it needs fat.


The controversy here is that if I want to continue to do long distance races, I either have to go back to the old way of endurance training or find an alternative way to accomplish this. So far, I am still searching for a new way of doing things. And I am not trying to sell anyone here on anything, just giving an opinion based on my own personal experiences and research. There still is nothing wrong with going for a run or bike ride because we enjoy it or even because we are training. But I do believe if I venture into more long distance races I will attempt to come up with some way to train that gets me not only better results for my finishing time but that leaves me in better shape than I am now. That's my bottom line.