Monthly Archives: February 2006

2/27/06 KISS

Monday. Mindfulness.

Yesterday I went out and bought a new set of rollers for training on my bike. I already have a bike trainer, but I don’t feel I am getting the control in my workout that I want. Rollers are much harder to work on — nothing holding you up and you must maintain the balance yourself. It does not give you a strength workout, but makes your bike handling skills much sharper. Everyone at the bike shop was telling me “don’t give up, it’s hard at first. Have a counter or a wall to hold on to.” I read the directions and it too said “don’t give up, it’s hard at first.” I laughed, how hard could this be? I set the rollers up in my hallway where I would have a wall on each side. Ten minutes later after spinning my heart out without ever being able to let go of the wall, I had to get off. It was so hard. My heart was racing. I never once held my balance. I would have just returned it if the guy at the store had not said “just stick with it, one day you’ll get on and you’ll have it. It will just happen.” I decided I would just trust him and give it a few minutes everyday. (Then I jumped on my other bike and did 2 hours on the regular trainer with great relief while watching a movie.)

I’m placing my faith in the belief that I will master the rollers. Mind over matter. It does work. After all last night I had a great lesson in mind/body mastery in tennis while trying once again to control my serve. I mentioned last week the audio book that I had listened to “Body Mind Mastery: Creating Success in Sport and Life ” by Dan Millken. I guess it was a bestseller in print but I had never heard of it. Well I listened to it while driving to CT last weekend and he mentioned something that I took note of and meant to try. He had said when you serve is in a slump and you keep trying to fix it and it just gets worse, stop trying. Simply decide where you want the ball to go, relax, don’t try and just let the ball go there. Well it seemed to work! I know it sounds obvious, but when you are trying to fix something — obvious is the last thing you try.

Last night I had tennis practice with my team. Our matches start at the end of March and I’ll be honest, I was getting worried that my serve slump was getting so bad that I couldn’t put it on anyone to play doubles so I was going to relegate myself to playing singles for the season. There was a time when I think I was a valuable doubles partner mostly for my serve. Hasn’t been that way for almost a year now. Last season I ended the season in July with the worst serving slump known to mankind. You probably read about it Sports Illustrated. It was haunting. It was humiliating. It stunk.

So last night I was playing with three gals I haven’t played with in a long time. We have about 15 gals on the team right now (I’m looking for more) so this particular bunch hadn’t seen me play in awhile. Funny thing about life is the thing that is so haunting and humiliating to you is barely remembered by others. We like to think that everyone is paying attention to our successes and struggles, but the reality is most people are concerned with their own. So nobody (except me) was standing there thinking “here come the double faults.” I just kept my mouth shut and even volunteered to go first.

I took a couple of practice serves and they went in. Usually my practice serves go in. It’s not until I start playing or start “trying” that it starts to crumble. Gee, think you need a PhD in Psychology to figure out my bad serve is all in my head? I know it’s in my head. I know it’s in my toss. What nobody could tell me was how do I get it OUT of my head and how do I FIX my toss??!?!?! If I had a dime for every person who said to me “your toss is off” I’d have box seats at Wimbledon. Brilliant Sherlock. I can see my toss is off — what do I do about it?

I had a couple of coaches over time that gave me some tips and for awhile they worked. Toss the ball at your opponent — it will counteract the ball going over your head. Line your tossing arm up with the net post — that will keep it straight. Move your tossing arm like it is an elevator — straight up and down, never forward and back. Lighter, looser, stronger, firmer. Two fingers, three fingers, no fingers. All worked well when it was first introduced and I still used them all — with no help. The last couple of weeks I was creating all kinds of cues for myself. Back foot parallel to service line. Front foot pointed at net post. Shoulders perpendicular to net. Body weight back, then rock forward. Toss ball light and to the right. Down together, up together. Toss to 1 o’clock. Sweep up on the ball 7 to 2. Loose wrist. Snap coming over the ball. I know every excruciating nuance of serving a darn tennis ball. I know how to hold my arm out straight like Lindsey Davenport, rock back and tilt my foot up. I know how to bounce the ball a cazillion times, adjust my jewelry, find Jesus and bring my arm closer to my body like Mary Pierce. I know how shorten my racquet dip behind my back like Andy Rodick. I know how to deepen my racquet dip like Patrick Rafter and come into the net. I’ve studied them all. I know what’s wrong, I just can’t fix it in myself.

So last night when the game started and I was up to serve. I said okay, I’ll give Mr. body/mind mastery guy’s theory a try. I looked up the middle of the box and said I want the ball to go right there. I didn’t line up my feet. I didn’t pay attention to my rocking sequence, ball height or anything else. I just wanted the ball to go up the middle of the service box. It went out wide. But! It went in!! Okay, I’ll take that. It’s a bit of a crap shoot if you are playing competitive tennis to not be able to control where your serve is going, but in is better than out. The next several serves went the same way. I thought of one thing only — where I wanted the ball to land. I refused to think of whether I was hitting it flat, with slice or topspin. Just in the spot. None of the balls went where I wanted them to go, but they all landed somewhere in the box. I’d live with that. Next thing I knew we won the game. We won my service game!!! Against two very good players. Yahoo!!

And on the evening went. The first two games on my serve the ball still didn’t go exactly where I wanted it to go but it was going in. In! IN!!! That was huge. Then it got even better. By my third service game it was going in AND where I was aiming it. Then I started really nailing it in. Up the middle, out wide. Then aces started coming in. I didn’t double fault the ENTIRE NIGHT!!! Ironically, I can’t even tell you which way my feet were pointing, which way my arms were going, how I was rocking back and forth. All I could tell you was that wherever I was telling that ball to go it was going there. The gals kept saying, “good serve, good serve, good serve,” which usually rattles me, but somehow I just tuned it out. It was just me and the ball. Me telling it where to go and it going there. It was surreal. It was like old times. I know this sounds bizarre, but I could sense the ball was happy. The ball wanted to be told what to do. The ball was cheering, “welcome back.” It was a like good dog. A well trained dog is a happy dog. They like being told what to do. It gives them a sense of comfort and order. I didn’t say anything to the girls. I went to bed shaking my head in disbelief. How? Why?

The dog training analogy is a good one. I know if I would take my dogs (who have passed away now) into the kitchen, look for a clean spot on the floor, try to push their haunches down they would plop all the way down into the ground. Then if I would try to pull up their front legs they would stand all the way up. But what I wanted them to do was put their haunches down and keep their front legs straight and look patiently at me for their next instruction. Instead, with all the pushing and pulling we would both just end up frustrated and mad. Yet, if I would just command them to “SIT” they would do it immediately, effortlessly and feel very proud of themselves. So simple. They knew what I meant and they knew I knew that they knew what I meant. We had communication. It felt good to be in synch with each other.

Why is it so hard to KISS? (Keep It Simple Stupid) I have to make everything into a laundry list of techniques and improvements. I spend so much time plotting, planning and preparing I forget about the just doing. I know this is in no miracle cure, but it the first time in over a year that I have had a full evening of successful, winning service games. Oh yeah, forgot to mention we won every one of my service games last night. On my serve!! The weak link? It was the strong link last night. No double faults. Lots of aces. But more importantly — the ball was going where I wanted it to go. It was so easy it was hard to handle. I can’t tell you how good it feels. It’s like running into an old friend who moved away years ago and you pick right up where you left off. It may leave town again, but now I know that it is not gone forever. It will come back again as long as I don’t try to force it to.

Namaste

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Leonardo da Vinci

No should, No try, No have to.

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2/26/06 Personal Best

Sunday. Well yesterday was all about food so today is all about sport. I promised Andrea that I would go gut-out for the race yesterday — run so hard I would feel like puking. I owe her a big thanks. I ran almost that hard. I felt like I couldn’t go another mile at that pace but I did manage to finish. I ended up having a PB (personal best). I did the Snowflake 4 miler in an 11:19. That’s the best I’ve ever done in any race. (Yes I hit a 10:45 timed mile last Fall but that was just one mile and partly downhill and not listed on a website anywhere so I don’t really count that.) This was 11:19 doing the 4 mile loop in the park including Cat Hill and the smaller hills on the Westside (did not include the big Harlem Hill). My splits were 11:15, 11:15, 11:29 and 11:20. (The 11:29 included Cat Hill). I’m a little surprised quite frankly that I did that well. After all on Tuesday night I killed myself on those two timed miles around the reservoir and I could only muster an 11:50 and a 12:10. That’s a huge difference. Hmmm…. unless someone is not marking miles correctly……

The only thing I was really concentrating on was trying to get “air time.” I read an article in Active.com online magazine about trying to get more lift in your run. (Here is the link to the article). I was really concentrating on trying to spring off my feet so I would spend more time in the air. There were a few moments when I felt like I was doing everything right. I was at a level 8 out of 10 exertion the entire time. Cat Hill was a 9. The last mile I just couldn’t keep it up and actually had to pull back a little. It wasn’t my legs or my knees — it’s my lungs, they just can’t get enough air in there. I know I’ve said it before, but sometimes it feels like they just won’t expand and then all of a sudden POOF they pop open. But that doesn’t usually happen in the first 40 minutes — it usually happens around hour 2. I have to do some research into breathing exercises.

I know 11:19 is still very slow by most people’s standards — still considered jogging by most. The 10 minute mile marker seems to separate the joggers from the runners. It will take me some more time to be breaking that barrier. That’s my big goal — a documented race 5k or better with a 9:59 or better. When that happens I will throw the biggest freakin’ party on the planet. I think it is going to take another two years to get there but that’s okay. I’m moving in the right direction. In May of 2003 I couldn’t run a mile. Hadn’t been on a bike in twenty years and hadn’t swum a lap since I was twelve (I don’t even think playing Marco Polo counts as a lap swim). Since May of 2003 I’ve done 11 triathlons, 30 NYRR races, 5 half marathons, 1 marathon and soon I’ll have another triathlon and my first half ironman under my belt. I feel pretty good about those accomplishments and if I can just get better and better on my running I will qualify for Kona in 2009 (I’ll be 50 and you know age groups work….) I don’t have to make it to Kona because I would be just as happy to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2009, but if I get invited to Hawaii, I’m going.

Everybody had a great race yesterday. I would like to say it was the weather which was good — cold but not windy and a little overcast so no sun, but I’ve had that kind of weather before. Come to think of it Tuesday night was beautiful for running and I didn’t do an 11:15. I don’t know what makes for the convergence of the race stars and cause a perfect day. I had one last April in St. Anthony’s Triathlon. Went in with zero expectations and came out thrilled with my result.

My third year at St. Anthony’s is coming up in April, less than ten weeks away. I’m excited about this race because I think I can do even better. I am better right now than I was a year ago. I’m not any lighter but I’m stronger. In 2004 it took me 4 hours and 13 minutes to do the race. (Swim 48:02, bike 1:40, run/walk in 91:51.) In 2005 I did the race in a triathlon personal best of 3:39 which was huge for me, HUGE. I knocked 5 minutes off my swim 43:28, I knocked FIFTEEN minutes off my bike (thank you spinning class) 1:25:12, and knocked almost 9 minutes off my run 83:37 for a final result of 3:39:02. That’s a total of almost 34 minutes between 2004 and 2005. That’s an amazing for me. (Of course, my 3:39 is still considered slow in the tri world, but I can’t worry about comparing myself to everyone else — only me. There will always be people faster, nothing I can do about that.)

I think it is possible for me to knock some more time off my run this year — I think I can do the run in a solid 12 minute mile which has become my comfortable 10k pace. For the race I will make it my uncomfortable pace (harder to run a 12 after swimming and biking.) That would mean there is a possibility of my breaking 3:30 for St. Anthony’s this year which would make me very happy. One thing my friends who did St. A’s and then the half ironman cautioned me about is to not expect a great race in St. A’s because I will not be tapering for that race. It is really just considered a workout weekend for the half ironman, not a race weekend. This is where being a slowpoke can have an advantage. Since I have so much room for improvement, I can have a workout weekend AND have the possibility of a PR! See, always a silver lining in there!

I guess this is the whole problem for athletes in a nutshell — what makes you peak and how can you manage it? And, how you deal with the disappointment in not peaking at the right time? In our team training they build a deliberate and gradual training program and right before the event we taper off and then come out ready to perform on race day. But it is still just an approximation. There are lots of little factors in the formula for which you can’t plan. You need to gather a lot of data to start tracking patterns. Maintaining this blog has helped me quite a bit in seeing my highs and lows with nutrition, attitude and energy. More than one friend has pointed out regular pitfalls like taking my iron pills, or food backlashes when I’ve let myself get particularly deprived or even exercise burnout — letting myself do too many events at once and then seeing a decrease in performance (like my 14 minute mile the week after the Manhattan Half Marathon).

I thought I had done everything right for the NYC marathon. I just wanted to be under six hours. I did all the workouts training for that marathon. But that morning I woke up not feeling well and it was warmer than usual. I couldn’t plan for that. (Okay, perhaps I could have done a better job on taking my iron pills — so lesson learned). But despite lack of pills, sometimes your best efforts are just thwarted. The really good news is there always another race. The NYC marathon was just my first marathon. Can’t wait to see my PR on my second one (2007). Disney is going to be my first half-ironman not my only one. Just as Lake Placid will be my first ironman, not my only. So no matter what happens (people do fail to finish) I will take that information and put it into my databank and work towards the next one. Even if you fail the first time, simply completing it the second time is a PR!!

I think that process of discovery is what tracking or journaling is all about. Documenting your patterns to help you find all kinds of PBs — athletic, nutritional, spiritual and emotional. This week I’m looking for a lot of PBs — a WW PB, and attitude PB and an emotional PB. That’s the beauty of it all. Within your big journey to the ultimate event day (and I’m not talking about the Ironman), there are lots of opportunities for all types of PBs along the way.

Namaste

“Why aren’t you signed up for the 401K?
I’d never be able to run that far.”

Dilbert

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2/25/06 Mulligatawny Soup

Saturday. I didn’t have to be in the park at 7 a.m. this morning because we are doing the 4 mile race instead. So much more civilized, but undeniably the biggest advantage of working out at 7:30 a.m. is that you are still sleeping through half of it and when you are finished you still have your day left.

Today’s blog is all about food so if you are looking for workout encouragement, tune in tomorrow when I discuss my race. Today I’m writing the addendum to Lance’s book “It’s Not About the Bike” — which is called “It’s about the Food!”

Ugh, true confession time. I went to WW meeting yesterday and I was up 1.6. Exactly what I had lost last week. I really started slipping on my tracking last week. There seems to be a 1:1 correlation between tracking and losing. Track and I lose. Don’t track and I don’t. I started tracking again yesterday. It is so easy to lie to myself if I don’t track.

One of the gals in the WW group is a marathoner. She considers herself a slow runner but she is still faster than me. But, we are both working toward the same goal — faster and fitter. She is working hard at getting faster on the marathon distance — that’s her race. She’s out doing a twenty miler today and boy am I feeling like I got let out of school early today by only having to do 6 miles (4 mile race + we have to do 2 more on our own). Ever since the marathon anything under 13 seems like a vacation.

My WW marathoner friend and I have a lot in common as far as trying to become more fit athletes. We both struggle with the food and have both lost weight and then put a little back on and now are determined to take the rest off. We both continue to go to WW and both are active members of Camp Maggie (our WW leader.) We are both having a problem with consistently tracking. We both do it — on and off. So when Maggie asked her what she had to do to make sure she did her tracking she said “turn it in to you next Friday.” I thought that was bold and courageous. As it turns out it is something people will often do with Maggie and she will review their trackers. I don’t really need anyone to review my tracker — I know what foods are good choices and which ones and which ones are not as good choices. But, I thought the idea of having to turn it in was brilliant. So I decided that I would turn my tracker in to my marathon friend next Friday. Already it helped me a little — just a little.

So I really went overboard yesterday. Why do I do go overboard on non-workout days? Today would be a good day to go overboard but yesterday I didn’t get a chance to workout. I was having company over on Friday night so I had to get ready for them and I had a lot of work/work to do. So after my meeting I was going to go to Sandwich Planet and pick up my chicken salad platter. They make a blackened grilled chicken that actually tastes good. Doesn’t taste like chicken at all so every couple of weeks I try to get it as a protein source. It’s plain, spicy but dry (not oily or anything) and it comes on top of a nice big bed of lettuce and tomato. Very good — easy points. I called and the phone was busy. I was too hungry to wait around for them so I went for an alternate plan. That was mistake number one. I let myself get too hungry to wait for food.

I really wanted to get some form of protein because it had been quite awhile since I had any. So long story short I stopped at the fancy shop Good N Plenty. I got a piece of chicken from them and of course I had to get their avocado salad. I got what I thought were small portions but the chicken turned out to be 7 oz. Eek. The real problem came however when I saw they had Mulligatawny soup. I didn’t even know what that was but they said it was vegetarian so I was good with that. (I can’t eat soups with beef or pork or ham in it — they make me feel ill.) Back to the Mulligatawny…..

So they package everything up and I notice they put a nice roll in the bag with my soup. Did I say “no thanks, I don’t need that?” No, I just looked from side to side to see if the food network was watching, grabbed the handle of my fancy bag and left quickly. So I get home and I weigh everything. I calculate the points of the chicken 6.5 and the avocado 4.5. Eek a little high but for for a good lunch I was willing to spend the points. So here’s the little trick I played on myself. I knew there was a cup of soup so I didn’t look up the points first. I ate it AND the dinner roll first and then looked up the points. So my slightly-heavy lunch of piece of chicken and a little avocado salad (less than 1/4 pound) now included a cup of soup and roll. Guess how many points in mulligatawny soup? 6. Gulp. Guess how many points in that stupid, little, white flour, and tastes-like-nothing roll? 3! So my 10.5 point lunch bumps all the way up to 20 points!! OMG!!! That’s a day’s worth of points just for lunch. I’m screwed.

In that moment I saw the problem. In front of me I didn’t see a days’ worth of calories. I saw a piece of chicken, a little bit of avocado salad, a cup of soup and a roll. That seemed like a certainly hearty lunch but not anything to make me obese. Well already had 6 points for my breakfast (oatmeal, veggie links, raspberries and fat free milk) at 6 a.m. And then I had already had a snack of 2 tsps of peanut butter on a 1 pt English Muffin at 10 a.m. So now it was 1 p.m. and I was having a 20 point lunch and yes I was satisfied and yes I really wouldn’t feel hungry for the rest of the day, but I was already OVER my daily points and GASP, I was having COMPANY that night. Entertaining, food, drink. OMG this could be a disaster!!! But I had just finished pledging not 2 hours earlier to my friend that I would document everything and send it to her at the end of the week. What was I going to turn in? A 9,000 point tracker? I may have a lot of flaws, I may look for a lot of loop holes, but if there is one thing I am is a woman of her word. I promised so I have to do it. Ugh this was going to be embarrassing.

So after working through the afternoon and then dashing around to get my apartment cleaned up I realized I had to go to the store and get some snacks for people. Eight people were coming over to play bridge and I’m sure they would be expecting the usual snacks — cheese, crackers, potato chips, dips, nuts, bridge mix (that’s blows up the computer if you try to calculate the points in that.) What to do? What to do? Didn’t I just have that antipasto tray fiasco last week? OMG, maybe I better become a hermit. I can’t have friends, I can’t entertain. Damn it, I can’t be trusted to eat!!! But my mother raised me to be a good hostess so off I went to Food Emporium.

I walked into the grocery store like I was walking into a heroin den. I was just waiting for some apron clad women to jump out with a tray of cheese and push it in my face luring me with “would you like to try some Boar’s head?” I knew she would be there; she’s there every night trying to trap the unsuspecting victims into her chasm of Colby. I dashed down the paper towel aisle to avoid her. I had to regroup. Think, think, what could I get? What could I serve? I tried to think back to the WW meeting when I talked about the antipasto tray. What had we said? Ah, right, an idea was to only serve food that I would be comfortable eating after everyone left. No bad leftovers. That would mean no chips, no dips, no cheese, and no crackers. Suddenly my mind was blocked. What other foods in the world were there? There were only two food groups that I could thing of — fats and simple carbohydrates. I took a deep breath, squeezed a roll of Charmin (oh c’mon you do it too…) and tried to think my way out of this maze of temptation. What would Maggie say? What would Maggie do?

I started to calm down and I walked back over to the fruits and vegetables nodding graciously but declining to go near the Boar’s head lady. I swear she had a Gold tooth when she smiled at me and for a second I think her eyes were red. I made my way over to the fruit and I thought, well, Apples, I could slice up some apples. So I put them in my basket. Then I found the carrots and I added those to my basket. Then I saw this huge display of strawberries on SALE! Wow, that would look good and look like something luxurious. So I added them to the basket. Then everything started rolling. Not humus but baba ganoush (much less fat in baba ganoush and I think tastes even better). Fat free cool whip topping for the strawberries. And then some little pretzels for the munchies. I was done. That’s enough. Just some things to pick on. Whew. That wasn’t so hard. Right? Right? Almost.

As I’m flying through the store I make it almost to check out when all of a sudden I see Home-Style Seed & Nut nature-crisps 0 gram Trans Fats contains 3000mg of Omega-6 per serving. Wow that sounds healthy! I need something sweet to serve them, right? (Forgetting strawberries in my basket). So I quickly grabbed two small containers and put them in my basket. Just as I had at lunch time — I did it so fast that my conscious mind wouldn’t see what my unconscious mind was doing. Oh I’m so very clever.

I pay for everything, make it home and set up shop for the evening. Everyone shows up. Most people bring something to drink no wine for me — I have a race in the morning and for once THAT was not a problem. One person brought a box of Entenmanns donut holes. Not even a remote temptation for me on those. Those are not even worth my second glance. Too obvious. Too easy. I need the hidden calories. The calories that make you think you are having a normal lunch or a healthy snack. I need 3000mg of Omega-6 calories.

So I keep track of everything that I’m eating and I’m not that hungry so it’s not that bad. I have two small handfuls of pretzels, a couple of apple slices and a couple of strawberries. Oh did I forget to mention I had to try one of the cookies? I almost dropped dead they were so good. Tiny little package. Thin little wafer cookies. They were full of Omega-6 for Chris’s sake. All natural ingredients. How can they taste this good? Then I turned over the box. “Low in Sodium. Made with butter and honey.” BUTTER AND HONEY!!! OMG! How the hell did this contraband make it into my apartment? Oh yeah, I brought it in. Now after putting one in my mouth I look at the back. Serving size 3 pieces. Calories 140. Fat 9g. 9G!! 9 GRAMS!! Fiber 2. I’m screwed. So I put the cookies out and hope that everyone will eat them. I had bought two small packages.

End of the evening I felt pretty good everyone was leaving. I packed up the wine and the donut holes put them in a bag and gave to my skinny friend who eats straight sugar for breakfast. I looked at the leftovers. A couple of carrots. No baba ganoush. No sliced apples left and two little strawberries. How absolutely harmless. Wonderful. Nothing to “reward” myself with after cleaning up. Good night everyone — kisses all around. Great time…. Blah, blah, blah. I head back into the kitchen to clean up and gee, how did I miss it? One box of those cookies left on the counter. One box was eaten the other box was there. Twelve little cookies in the box. The box was the size of a small paperback novel. Twelve little thin crisps in the box. Well you already know the end to this story. I ate the rest of the box didn’t even care. It was after hours. After the party. House rules say I get to eat anything left over. There was no cheese, no bread, and no wine. Damn it, I’m eating the freakin’ cookies. I get to have them. They are for me. Oh Lord, deliver me from myself.

So this morning I get up like the repentant drug addict that I am. I swear I’ll never buy the cookies again. Just give me one more chance. I make my breakfast and I head over to the computer and I have one second to tell the truth. Do I put the box of cookies I ate last night into my tracker? Do I have the nerve to tell my friend at WW that on the same day that I left that meeting and promised to track everything that I ate 48.5 points of food? That’s more than two days worth of points in one day!!! (I do get 35 extra points for the week so TECHNICALLY I was not off program yet — as long as I did not go over the 35 extra points for the rest of the week). But did I have the guts to admit it? She’d never know. I could just lie and not put it down. But you know how this story goes. I’d know. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t lie to her so I wrote it down. Everything. The Mulligatawny Soup, the avocado salad, the dinner roll, the breakfast, the snack, the cookies.

But here’s where the funny part comes in. Now this morning I ate my breakfast at 6 a.m. as I always do. Just a few minutes ago I got up for some coffee and of course I need to check into the fridge to see what was in there. I saw I had a nopudge chocolate bar. Hell that’s not even 1 point I could eat that. But I stopped myself. Do you want to write that in your tracker? Do I need that stupid no pudge bar? Just because it is there and it’s no points and you CAN have it, do you NEED to have it? Can you, just this once, put down the pudge bar and walk away from the kitchen. Then the most amazing thing happened. I said yes. Yes, I can do that. I shut the freezer door and I walked out of the kitchen. Partly because I wanted to be accountable to my friend, but mostly because I wanted to be responsible for myself. Definitely, mostly because I wanted to be responsible for myself.

Namaste

p.s. Okay here’s the bad news about my marathon friend. I also made her a promise that I would try to run so fast today for my 4 miler that I would feel like I had to puke afterwards. No easy jog. Gut-out fast as I can go for 4 miles. I’m very nervous about this. I’ve never done this. I’m more the okay, let’s jog along until all the aches and creaks are out and right before the finish pick it up a little. I told my fast runner friend my pledge she said “that’s always my plan, just pick your vomit target 50 feet beyond the finish line and run toward it — over before you know it.” I don’t know who’s weirder them or me. I mean really I’m just afraid of the Boar’s head lady — how harmless is that?

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2/24/06 Just Missed

Friday. I was reading on one of my newsgroups some guy wrote “I finished in 5 hours and change, I could have finished faster but it got foggy out and I couldn’t see well.” I laughed, that was digging deep into the excuse bin. He couldn’t admit his own limitations and say “I could have finished sooner if I had moved my legs faster” which is equally as true. The lists of reasons why we didn’t perform better can be a mile long. I finished the marathon in 6:20 something. I could have finished faster if it hadn’t been hot out, if I didn’t have a cramp, if I was twenty pounds lighter or if I was twenty years younger. The list of excuses is a mile long. If you are going to make an excuse — make it a good one like you were abducted by aliens and returned to the same place and hour later into the race. Most people with excuses are just amateurs to me because I can outsing anyone in the coulda/woulda/shoulda song. Kind of my own personal national anthem.

With that tune in my head I watched with great interest the women’s Olympic figure skating finals last night. I have been very interested in the Olympics this winter mostly because I have found it very entertaining to watch while riding my bike indoors. Although yesterday I rode outside (in the wind, without glasses, with a tummy ache) I still wanted to watch the women’s finals the old fashioned way — on my tush in popcorn-eating position. So what can I say about my gals Sasha and Irina? I was torn as to which one to root for. I really liked them both. How could they both crumble? (Oh I know how, I’ve been there so many times…)

First I want to say how absolutely amazing it is that these young girls can perform solo in a huge stadium with tens of thousands of people watching them in person and millions upon millions watching at home. It is just themselves, alone, out on the ice. The pressure must be amazing. Even a tennis player has an opponent on the court to help divert some of the attention. But a figure skater is out there all alone with everyone’s eyes on him/her. I don’t think the question is how can they fall? I think the question is how can they NOT fall? Some of these kids are sixteen years old out there performing under this pressure. I find it mind boggling. I can remember playing a singles match out at the National Tennis Center for the playoffs and there were ten people hanging out watching my match — chit chatting with one another, barely paying attention. I found it so distracting I couldn’t play. That plus the sun was in my eyes, and I had a cramp and… and… and… I’m sure there was something else but I can’t remember now since it was a hundred years ago. Pretty sure I lost that match but I had good reasons.

So poor Sasha falls on her tush within minutes of her long program. She gets up and keeps going. Me? I would have just looked for the closest exit and said “thanks, see you in the bar.” She kept going. Those last three minutes of her program must have been excruciatingly painful. The entire stadium feeling sorry for her — skating while knowing millions of people are watching you trying to keep your calm. It makes all of my excuses look soooo pathetic and painfully lame. She really was a class act and she is only 21!!!

After her performance they kept trying to make her break down in the interview. “Sasha? What happened? What made you fall?” I know that girl would have loved to have looked at the interviewer and say “gravity — you jerk” but she didn’t. She just let it go and said “I’m really proud of myself that I picked myself up and continued on with a strong program.” Okay that girl has done some serious mind-conditioning training. Of course what did they write in the papers this morning? Sasha botched it. No matter what positive spin Sasha could put on it, they reduced her to a failure. She had a silver medal in her hand and she was still a failure. What kind of country is this? No wonder people learn to make excuses. I give Sasha great credit that she didn’t list a bunch of reasons. Her leg was taped (which it was), the ice was choppy (probably was), a camera snapped in her eyes (probably did). I could have come up with a big list for her. She just said “I missed.”

I learned a lot by watching these young women act so maturely and beyond their years. I am humbled by their grace under pressure. I never got that kind of training. I’m more the throw-the-racquet-on-the-floor-and-demand-a-new-string-job type. I’m more the throw-the-sneakers-out-with-the-bathwater type. Not fast enough on my bike? Hell it must be the bike, buy a new one. Couldn’t possibly be the extra tonnage swaddling my fancy Italian Leather bike seat. Swimming too slowly? I need a need a new swim video. Running like a penguin? New sneakers, orthotics, accupuncture. How about bending your knees a little and speeding up your footfall? No, no, that’s not it. It must be something else.

If nothing else I took away one fantastic tip from Sasha. The next time I am on the court and I am double faulting away all of my tennis winnings and someone comes up and asks me why I keep double faulting, instead of talking about my bad toss, my racquet speed or bad weight transfer I’m going to look them right in the eye and think of Sasha when I say simply “I missed.”

Namaste

Okay, I have to tell you this joke from my childhood. It is so old I’m sure you have heard it a million times.

A nun and a priest are out on the golf course. The nun is caddying for the priest. The priest takes a putt and misses the hole by a mile. He mutters “oh $hit, I missed.” The nun says “Father, please watch your language.” He apologizes.

The Priest keeps repeating this behavior hole after hole. Putting, missing and swearing “Oh $hit I missed.” The nun’s frustration keeps growing, “Father, PLEASE, don’t swear.” Finally the priest says “you are right Sister.” He repentantly looks up at the sky and humbly offers “if I do it again, may the clouds open up and a bolt of lightening strike me.” The nun just shakes her head.

Finally they are the last hole. The priest aims for his last putt and once again he misses. Before he can stop himself, he stomps his feet and yells out “Oh, $hit I missed!” Suddenly the skies darken, the clouds open up and a bolt of lightening comes crashing out of the sky and strikes the nun dead. The priest looks on in disbelief as he hears coming from the grumbling clouds a deep and resonant voice mutter “Oh $hit, I missed!”

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2/23 Perfection

Thursday. Feeling a bit better today, not 100% but okay. I think by tomorrow I’ll be 100% or 90% at least. Okay, how about 80%? Can I have 80%? Have been taking my vitamins and iron pills the last three days — hopefully they’ll kick in soon.

Tomorrow is WW meeting. I’m not expecting a weight loss this week although I don’t feel like I’ve gained weight I also don’t think I’ve expended more calories than I took in. I didn’t go to swim practice last night based on how drained I was at Pilates yesterday. That makes a record 3 workouts missed in seven days. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. (I missed last Thursday, Sunday and yesterday). I didn’t even think that I would be able to do my Pilates session yesterday but I went anyway. I started to feel a little better about half way through, but right after doing the teaser routine on the Cadillac with the push-through bar (now that is nothing short of torture!) I was drained and I knew I had better stop. My abs were barely responding to my insistence and I was feeling a little woozy.

I really have come to depend on my Pilates session. I think of it more as physical therapy than exercise. It is like an advanced stretching course. I love the fact that I go on Wednesdays after my Tuesday night run. I feel like it puts everything back into alignment and just in case I did not stretch thoroughly on Tuesday after my run (who me?) I know that I will be thoroughly stretched on Wednesday morning. Particularly after doing the leg routines on the reformer, I feel like every little bit that had popped out of place is put back and a little stronger. After a couple of big crack sounds everything seems to be back in place. Then to follow with a Wednesday night swim just seems to be the perfect mid-week workout. I’m sorry to have missed last night but I know I made the right choice.

I can’t say I feel like I am burning calories with Pilates, but I think it is a great core workout. My stomach is much, much stronger and Erica keeps talking about how greatly my flexibility has improved. (I’m going to have to trust her on that one because I just don’t see it.) But as far as my knees and my feet and my hips go, I feel that my Pilates session is training everything to be in proper alignment. I can see a difference when I lie in bed that my legs will be straight now. Last year my masseuse Leslie showed me my how my legs rotated out and for me to try to train them to “sit” straight. I kept trying but they just fell out to the side naturally. Now almost six months into Pilates training my legs can just lie straight — no knees rotating out. I truly believe it has helped me. I’m not faster, but I’m straighter and injury free!!

Today I have to do a brick (bike/run). I have the option of doing it on my trainer as I did on Saturday. My fear is it is not hard enough. I’m going to try to futz with my trainer and make the resistance a little harder because I’m cycling at the 90 rpm but I’m in the hardest gear already. There is nothing to “gear up” to. As for the run I am going to try to run faster today. I think the treadmill could become a great tool for me. If I just set it at a slightly fast pace I won’t have any choice but to learn to run faster. Well, that’s not true, I could still run slowly but then the treadmill might send me flying over the staircase in my gym.

I found a little inspiration from watching Sasha Cohen do her short program in the Olympics. I certainly knew who she was, but I didn’t know all the details of her journey until I saw the little video blurb about her before her performance. My summary of the story is basically she was a perfectionist that tried so hard that she always fell a little short. (That whole push/pull thing from the other day). The harder she tried the farther she fell. That is a frustrating conundrum for a perfectionist (or so I hear, cough, cough). Over a four year period she dropped three coaches only to return to her original coach (who seems like a rather old guy to me). I guess what she finally found after her four years of searching outside that like Dorothy she had the answer in her the whole time. This girl, who is only 21 years old mind you, found the answer was in saying it was okay to not be perfect. She let go. She let go of the idea that she had to be flawless and to find satisfaction in the process instead of the product.

Of course the incredible irony rests in her perfect performance in the short program. It really was pretty incredible. She was last and every skater before her seemed to be so good. The two Americans before her gave great performances. (Although I will say I thought they were technically excellent I didn’t sit up and take much notice.) They seemed so young and technically strong but where was their artistry? But, at the time I watched them I admired their athleticism. How could you get better than that? I couldn’t get into some of those poses standing with two feet on the ground and holding the door jam never mind doing it on skates with one foot and moving at 30 mph. They landed all the jumps and they didn’t make any mistakes, BUT there was a definite lack of the gasp factor. The “whoa, that was art.”

Then the favorite came out, Irina Slutskaya. The 27 year old (and that’s considered elder stateswoman) Russian who has never won the gold. Everyone likes her — even watching her before she got on the ice you knew she was a really nice person. All genuine smiles and just loving what she was doing. After I watched her I thought, “Whoa, that’s an athlete!” She was all muscle and technique. She just came out and gave a great performance. No wonder they think she’ll win the gold — she was something to watch — her love of what she was doing just shone off her like an aura of heat. She took over first place easily. In my mind there was quite a distance between her and the two Japanese who were given a lot of points for technical difficulty.

Finally the last American Sasha Cohen comes out. I really knew very little about this sport and I figured as long as I have watched this much (thank God for Tivo and fast forward) I should finish it. I heard about her coming up short in previous competitions. Her need for perfection. Ho hum, preaching to the choir, I wrote that hymn. But then I heard them say that Sasha had decided after much soul searching that it was okay to not be perfect. I thought this would be interesting to watch. See her have a big hissy fit melt down when she lands flat on her bum. Just kidding, I wasn’t really thinking that but thought it would make for good TV. So of course, the newly enlightened Sasha comes out and just skates her brains out. Flawless, Effortless, Flowing — PERFECT!!

21 years old. 5’2″ weighs 95 lbs. (I’m not kidding — look it up). She’s found enlightenment. Great for her, but what does she have to look forward to? I’d much rather be me — stretch out the journey — leave perfection out there as the unattainable. I’m just kidding. Kinda. I’m happy for her. I’m glad she experienced that moment of letting everything go and finding the flow. She let the inner skater out and became one with the moment. She got out of her own way. Part of me is rooting for the old girl (27 year old Irina), but part of me wants Sasha to go all the way. Show me that she can really let perfection aside and be, well, perfect!

Namaste

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.”
Saint Augustine

Chya! Chew on that one for a few minutes!

Namaste

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2/22/06 Hold on

Wednesday. I am feeling a lot of hormonal fluctuations resulting in a slight depression. I’m sure I’ll be fine in a couple of days, but I may have to go to Juice Generation and pick up one of my secret elixirs to help with a mood boost. I’m overtired, pmsing and feeling at about 2 on the energy scale. I have to keep reminding myself that this is temporary, temporary and by Friday I’ll feel fine again. I did take my iron pills and my vitamins yesterday and today. I will admit that I forgot to bring them with me to CT so I missed a few days that were probably critical days of the month.

Had my yearly mammogram yesterday. Hope all the women over 40 have been getting their yearly mammogram. Seems like such a small preventative measure and so easy to do. Quite frankly I would just feel like a schmuck if I found out I had breast cancer and then had to admit that I never went for a mammogram. Also since a good friend of mine just finished going through treatment for breast cancer I think it would be disrespectful to all the women who have died from breast cancer and to those who conquered it and still live with it to be so lazy about it.

I stopped by my doctor’s office and picked up a copy of my blood tests for my file. I don’t know why I collect them, but I’ve been doing it for years. I was particularly interested in seeing this blood test because it was taken at the end of January after no drinking for a month and I had been taking my vitamins and iron. I was pleased to find everything in good order. My glucose was 81 (normal 65-13), cholesterol was 149 (<200 normal). My iron was on the low side but not dangerous. It was a 60 with a normal range of 34-175. It used to be much worse. It is amazing to me how much preventative testing there is out there. You can know so much about what is going on in your body with a snap of an x-ray or a little blood test. It seems hard to believe that someone was smart enough to figure this all out.

I was starving yesterday and ate a lot of food. I’m okay with it because I was hungry and eating out of hunger and not out of emotion. I just couldn’t stop eating. Finally after I had eaten one of everything (and tracking it) I decided to put an end to my growling stomach by eating an entire bag of carrots. I don’t know if it appeased my hunger as much just fill me up with fiber, but it stopped the eating. Unfortunately, later last night while I was doing my workout a stomach full of carrots was not the best feeling to run with.

Last night we ran 6.8 miles. I did okay but I was definitely feeling a little uninspired toward the end. After warming up for a couple of miles we did timed miles again on the reservoir. I did the first one in 11:52 and the second in 12:10. Not that great, but better than the other weeks when we had hill repeats in there. (What ever happened to my 10:45 from marathon training days?) Funny part was I thought I was really cooking on the second time around. All these tri-lifers (people training for the ironman) kept running by and giving me encouraging words so I thought I was doing great. Go figure. It was a nice night to be running even if I was out there all alone. I didn’t mind it at all.

Today I did my Pilate session and I’m pretty spent. I need to sleep after I get some work out of the way. Just have to hang on a few days longer. Food seems to be okay although last night I felt a real need for chocolate so I had a small bar of dark chocolate. I’m okay with it — felt more medicinal than indulgent. Amazing how your body craves certain foods.

Namaste

Sometimes all you can do is hold on.

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2/21/06 Going with the Flow

Tuesday. Just got back from weekend at home in Ct. Had a good workout on Saturday before I left (which is good news because I didn’t do a thing on Sunday or Monday). On Saturday I did an indoor brick — 70 minutes on my bike 90 rpm the entire time followed by 40 minutes on the treadmill in the gym. It seemed strangely easy. It actually made me a little nervous. Why was this workout so easy? Most likely because there were no hills. I ran at 1% incline and between 4.5/5.0 on the treadmill. It wasn’t my max but it was my FSE (fastest sustainable effort). So I thought I should feel a little exhaustion settling in, but I felt nothing. Not even a pin prick, maybe I was supposed to go for longer? harder? We have a solo brick (aka bike/run) scheduled for Thursday and that is supposed to be 45 bike and 15 minute run. That seems ridiculously easy to me so maybe I will try to do more of the bike at 95-100 rpm and the 15 minute run at 5.0/5.5. If I’m not going to work on distance, work on speed.

Tonight we do speed work in central park. Timed miles including warm-up and cool down I think my course is 6.2 (advanced is 6.9 — big whoop .7 discount!) I feel pretty good today after two days of R&R so maybe tonight I can give it a push and see what I can come up with.

Saturday night my brother and I went to our favorite pub (the kitchen table). After we drank our poor Mom under the table and sent her to bed we polished off quite a bit of a bottle of scotch. I must admit my hard liquor muscles are quite weak (and were not strengthened by the warm-up wine). We were so sick on Sunday that we couldn’t move. It was a total reversion to high school and something I don’t think either of us would do again in the near future. I knew I was going to drink — hard to not drink with my family and after listening to my book on tape “Body Mind Mastery” by Dan Millman I realize that there is no point beating myself up over it — I knew it was going to happen, it happened so now time to move on. Listening to this audiobook was great — it really summarized a lot of what I have been struggling to learn these past couple of years.

A lot of what I am going to say is a gross paraphrase of his book. One of the things he talks about is trying to hard. In my diet, in my serve and in my swim are good examples of the many aspects of my life the author Dan Millman says trying too hard can be counterproductive. It is nature to pull when pushed and push when pulled. The harder you try the worse it gets. So dieters fail after they try so hard only to experience a backlash after deprivation. My serve is suffering because I’m trying to hard. Instead of going with the flow I am trying to force it. I’m pushing so the serve is pulling. Happens to me in the pool all the time. Whenever I try to swim faster I actually swim slower because between the push and pull I go everywhere but forward in the water.

This message of going with the flow has reappeared countless times in my life. I remember my boss at my job one time saying to me “If it is that hard, we are going the wrong way.” (or something like that). Don’t just keep fighting through the brush — look for the clearer path. Oprah has another version of the same thing — if you are following your destiny the universe will rise up to meet you.

Reprimands and recriminations are counter-productive. I’m back home. I’m back on the points tracker. I’m going to workout tonight after work. I am going to try to approach today as day of flow. I am going to try to work with the day, my feelings and my energy and not against it. Positive energy, positive Chi.

Namaste

“Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.”
Dwight David Eisenhower

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