Monthly Archives: December 2008

12/31/08 Ringing in the New Year

Wednesday.  Last day of 2008 I felt I should make a final entry before closing out the books or the blog as the case may be.

All in all has been a good year — a recovery year.  I’ll look back and think it is the year that I finally finished Ironman and set some crazy goals for the future.  I learned a lot about myself and the healing power of time and friends.  I didn’t accomplish a lot of what I wanted to do but somehow found myself further down the road of self-discovery than I had planned.  What’s that line from Kung Fu Panda? “‘One often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it.”

I’m not making any real New Year’s resolutions because anyone who knows me knows that I make them all year long.   But some things I want to focus on for 2009 include:

  • Forgivness (within myself as well as toward others.)  It’s okay to be imperfect and if  nothing else it is more interesting.
  • Goal setting is very important but flexibility will serve me better in the “long run.”  Nothing is carved in stone.
  • I’m not a spring chicken anymore but sometimes it’s good to be a wily old hen.  I want to learn to appreciate my strengths and capitalize on them.  I’m not the fastest but I am very tenacious.   To continue with the theme of stealing movie quotes –“I’m older and have better insurance.”  (Fried Green Tomatoes — Go Towanda!).
  • Strengthen my mind/body connection.   I’ve said it a million times without struggle there is no growth.  But I think true growth comes from the struggle in the mind.  All the external stuff is fleeting.
  • Practice an open heart.  Nuf said.

Today was my last workout for 2008.  I had fight club.  Is there something poetic in that?  Don’t know but I did more crunches in that hour than I’ve done all year.  We learned a new kick combo — the crescent kick into the roundhouse kick.  Not really sure how it would work in a real fight but it was freeing to let your legs just whip around.  Wha ha!!

Yesterday was my last yoga class of 2008.  It went okay,  I couldn’t do a wheel so that’s definitely on my target list.  Last night was my last run of 2008.  Was a little less than spectacular.  I ran with the Ironman team for a little over an hour.  I had to cut it short because I was feeling some knee discomfort and I just didn’t want to push beyond what I needed to. I guess I can look at it as ending 2008 on a less than good run or wait until 2009 and comment on my improvement over last year.  Glass half full or half empty — your choice.

I think it is appropriate to end with a funny conversation I had with my housekeeper, Krystyna.  She attempts to keep me organized and is soo patient with me.  Her English is not that good but between my bad Russian, my good English, her bad Russian, and her good Polish we manage to communicate just fine.  She’s manages to work around all of my sporting equipment, computers and piles of… what the heck are all of these papers for anyway?  She never complains and just works around my chaos.

Today was funny.  Krystyna put her foot down.  My dining table/mail room was covered in boxes of running shoes that I am returning.  I have been trying out a bunch of different shoes looking for that perfect pair to get me blister-free through the desert.   She explained to me in very broken English that today of all days I cannot have the shoes on the table.  Even though they were in boxes, she had to put them on the floor.  “Shoes on the table mean you’ll be poor.  If you’re poor, I’m poor so no shoes on the table.”  And she meant it.  It really took me aback for a second.  Are you serious?  It’s 2009, do you really believe that shoes on the table mean I’m going to be poor?  I thought about it for the second and said, “what the heck, put the shoes on the floor, I’m willing to risky poverty for myself but I’m not willing to risk poverty for you.”  She seemed so relieved to be able to put the shoes on the floor.

So many thoughts went through my mind.  I’ve had different shoes on my table for about two months now.  They come and they go as I’ve been trying different shoes (Zappos free shipping).  Why now?  Today it was so important for her to actually say something?  It’s not like I had a hat on the bed or anything as dangerous as that.  I guess we all have our threshholds.  We’re willing to put up with discomfort until the critical point.  Krystyna reached her critical point.  This is the New Year.  We CANNOT start the New Year with shoes on our table.    It’s a symbol, a gesture of intention.

Maybe you don’t have shoes on your table but you have that one thing that has been bugging you all year that you haven’t been able to get to.  Tomorrow is the day you get to start anew.  Tabula Rasa — clean slate.  It’s our calendar Mulligan.  (Golf term for a do-over).  Anything that you want to correct you get to say ‘well that was last year, this is this year.’  That one thing you are no longer willing to put up with now gets dealt with.

So for me, I’m taking my New Year Mulligan.  I’m putting the shoes on the floor and I’m hoping my friends take their Mulligan’s too.  A simple gesture.  Remind someone that you love them.  Remind yourself that you love yourself.  Your sports are just sports, your friends and family are life.  Maybe I’m not where I wanted to be but I sure am happy with where I am.

Namaste and Happy New Year

To end the year I will give my two favorite (albeit overused quotes).  These two quote will get you into a lot of good trouble but will provide a lot of amusement for 2009:

“You must do the thing you think you cannot.”Eleanor Roosevelt

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been” George Eliot

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12/29/08 Dora The Explorer

Monday. Gasp how did that happen again? I swear I’ve been updating my blog in my head, just haven’t had time to actually put fingertips to keyboard. Been busy… running.

I think this week was the most running I’ve ever done in a week. I don’t have actual mileage because I was going by time not distance (thank goodness because I might be really depressed to see how little mileage I got in). I clocked in a good 11.5 hours of running/power walking. That doesn’t count my yoga, core, swimming and non-biking I have done as well. (I will get back on the bike shortly.)

Tuesday was probably my best run of the week. I did a yoga class in the morning and then did 1.5 down by the river really working on my speed. I have been using my fancy new Garmin 305 but I don’t really understand how it calculates your speed. Sometimes it is just plain wrong. It clocked me going a sub 10 minute mile which I know is not right (even though I was working really hard the fastest I’ve ever gone is a 10:09). Granted it only said 9:52 for a few seconds and then popped back up to 10 something.  Then another time when I was really working hard (as close to flying as I get) it said I was doing a 13 minute mile which was just not true. That said it was helpful to keep me honest. Whenever I saw it creeping up to a 12 I started to work much harder to keep it down in the 10’s and 11’s. It doesn’t feel as clunky as I thought it would but it runs out of battery very quickly.

Wednesday’s run was pathetic and we’ll just chalk that up to a bad night’s sleep.

Thursday was Christmas. Drove to CT to have holiday with my family. Very low key.

Friday was my first of three weekend runs. I only had to do 1.5 hours the first day but I was supposed to find varied terrain. I figured the rails-to-trails trail would be covered in snow so I headed down to Avon for a run. I had my Yak Trax and was pretty pleased with how I was moving through the snow. It wasn’t that bad. A little icy but cruncy so it gave a little. After about a half hour my legs were really starting to burn because I had to lift them so high to get out of the ice. Desperation is the mother-in-law of diversion. For as many times I have run that trail I have never noticed a dirt road running along side it. As soon as I found an exit off the trail I jumped onto the dirt road. Ahhh, relief. And wonderment…. I couldn’t believe what I found.

Apparently there is a whole little world below the rails-to-trails. I saw trails going in different directions. It looked like a marsh or bird sanctuary or something. I was so excited. I stopped to look at a map they had posted and some guy came along to give me advice. He showed me where I could snowshoe for miles along the river that was just beyond the marshes (not now because the snow was all melting). Then he pointed the other direction where I could get about 4 miles of running in on dirt trail if it doesn’t get flooded out. I was so excited!! I asked him to snap my picture (don’t worry workout timer is off). And then I snapped a couple others.

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I was so happy to discover this new area — had been there all along and I had been just sticking to the rails-to-trails.  It will give a new dimension to my running workouts.  I went out a little further down the trail until I heard a very loud and uncomfortably close gun shot.  I got scared and turned around and ran back.  I forgot there were a lot of hunters up in CT and I’m not sure if it is legal for them to be still hunting but since they had the gun and I didn’t I decided to run back to the car.  Funny how a little gunshot will make you run faster over the snow and I didn’t really care that my butt was hurting!! lol  All in all a decent run and I put in the 1.5 hours.

On Saturday my run stunk.  I had to do 2.5 hours.  I did it but it took every ounce of whateverness in me to get me to move.  I went to the West Hartford reservoir with the hills (one is flat and one is hilly)  I had planned on warming up on the paved roads there and then moving to the trails.  I was moving so slowly on the paved roads I thought I might fall over backwards.  My Garmin kept telling me I was doing 13 minute miles and I believed it. It took everythign I had to get it down to a 12 something.

Of course I found a little side road and Dora the Explorer that I am I had to go investigate.  Turned out to be a beast of a hill but I wanted to see where it ended up.  Water tanks.  That’s where it ended up, water tanks.  Great, I climbed a St. Croix worthy hill for water tanks and then I had to run back down.  Only problem was it was so steep that I had to snake my way down.  I was feeling the downhills in my knees but they were holding up once I got back onto flat.  Saturday was not my finest hour.  I’m chalking it up to a bad night’s sleep.  But I did the 2.5 because 2.5 was assigned.

I stretched and stretched and stretched Saturday night because I knew I had a 4 hour run on Sunday and if I didn’t do something it was going to be painful.  As it turns out it was painful anyway.

In my search for new and interesting places to run with varied terrains for MDS, I had sent away to McLean Game refuge in Granby CT.  I used to ride my bike past there and a friend had recommended that I might enjoy running the trails.  They mailed me a map with miles of trails (each trail was rather short, about 2-3 miles but there were lots of them).  So I decided that I would put on my Dora hat and yak trax and head out there. 

At first it was pretty good, the trails were packed down by so many people walking (and it looked like x-country skiing) that I was making my way through fairly well.  I was keeping the jog alive and was thankful that I had stretched so much the night before.  Every time I came to a junction I kept going left figuring that would help me find my way back (but all the trails were well marked and they had signs.)  Why oh why couldn’t I just keep going with that system?  About 30 minutes into my nice, long easy run pace I come across a sign.  Go left to the pine forest.  Go right to the summit.  Summit?  Summit?  What’s that?  Let’s go explore!  I was going to rue that idea.  I wanted someone to take my picture but nobody was around.  (Seems all the families out for walks with their dogs didn’t go this far into the woods which should have been a signal).  So dweeb that I am I took my own picture with my cell phone.  I think it came out very Blair Witch Project which as it turns out was appropriate for this run.

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I start heading up a hill.  The trails did not seem quite so packed down now and every step was into a deep hard slush (kind of like a mountain made of sno-cones.)  I was not able to run  as I was for the first half hour.  Not to worry, these trails are not very long, whereever it leads it can’t be more than 2 miles….  Famous last words.  When I get to the top of the hill I think I’ve reached the summit.  Later that came to be the funniest notion of the day.  I was so proud of myself that I snapped this little picture of the hill that I “summitted.”

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I thought they should have put a bench or something to mark the spot but okay whatever, let’s see how to head back down.  But wait, the trail keeps going.  Hmm, I wonder where it goes.  I try my best to run more on the flatter section until I see another white sign that says “Summit” with an arrow.  Oh, chapstick.  That wasn’t the summit, the summit is up there somewhere.  What to do?  What to do?  I’ve come this far but it’s more hiking than running and snow is about 8 inches deep slush (but my trail shoes are keeping my feet dry).  What the heck I said.  If you’ve come this far you have to keep going….

And so I kept going and going and going and going.  It seemed forever (though I’m sure if I came back in the Spring it would feel like nothing.)  It was the deep plod into the slush and then the effort to drag my legs up and out of the slush to make the next step.  It wasn’t totally wet slush it was like mashed potatoes.  It felt like I was walking in buckets of mashed potatoes….

I paused to take another shot of my climb thusfar.
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There was more climbing to do. Now I couldn’t turn back. I was too invested. I had to keep going. It had to be soon. The map doesn’t show anything that far. And it really wasn’t that far it was just steep and potatoey…. Maybe it was 3 miles at the most. But it felt like 30….

Finally I saw a change in terrain. This has to be the summit. I took this final shot before my camera gave out (cell phone cameras) The shot of the actual summit probably wouldn’t have come out anyway because it just looked like a big mound of trees straight up. But this is the last big of trail before it turns and is flat. There would be a view at the top but the entire valley had been blanketed in an eery, thick fog so for me I had to take comfort in knowing that anywhere I looked there was no more climbing up to be done.

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(The top of the summit was all muddy because the snow had turned to a stream that was trickling down the side of the hill.)

Now that I had reached the summit and my butt was burning and my quads were shaking it was time to get the heck out of the woods. I tried to make up as much time as I could going back down but I fear I wasn’t much faster going down. There was just no good place to set my feet. (I was thinking I was getting a lot of ankle strengthening exercise in.)

Finally back down to some level ground I saw the sign for the pine forest. I should have gone there in the first place. I headed there. And then I got lost on something called the Werbitzkas loop. Loop being the operative word. When you find yourself going back over the same trail a second time every tree and stump looks very Blair Witch project. There were no people on the Werbitzkas loop and I was seeing some very large paw prints. Must be a bear, dogs can’t have paw prints that big. I comforted myself saying bears were hibernating and would not be out in the dead of winter. Unless they were woken by the false spring and are very, very hungry….. I started to run even though my legs were burning. Get me out of these freakin’ woods!!!!

Finally I hit the parking lot. 2 hours and 15 minutes from when I started. What?!?!? I have another 1 hour and 45 minutes to go?!?! Shoot me. I couldn’t go back into the woods, I didn’t want to ride on route 10, I had to go the bathroom. So I took a break and drove to the bathroom and around to the back roads the other side of the refuge. I parked my car there and began my long and tedious run of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Those might have been the longest minutes I’ve ever run. I did 1 hour on the roads, walking every little uphill and then running the flats and downhills. My legs were tired. I was tired. I was out of my Infinit formula so I was eating weird sugary things from the gas station and they were making me ill. It was starting to get dark. I didn’t want to be on the road. Oh Lo, the only thing left to do was go back into the woods for the final 45 minutes.

Now it was near dusky. The fog that had been haunting the valley all morning was snuggling in for the night. There were only a few cars left and everyone I saw was wearing a black jacket with a hood. They all looked like serial woodsmen and I didn’t want to be there. I tried to follow a couple up a trail leading back to the pine forest. I stopped when I came upon a hill and saw the gal slipping backwards and the guy grab her wrist to stop her from falling. Yeah, I won’t be going that way. I headed back down to the flats. There was only one place left to go, back to the dreaded Werbitzkas loop. Back to my Blair Witch Project. I was able to run a little on that trail because it was flat and not so covered in snow. I ran along the stream for about 15 minutes and then I gave up. I came back and declared my workout finished at 3:45.

I know I have a little problem with taking all my workout assignments so very literally. But this has been my formula from day one of a endurance event training. Back in 2003 when I signed up for my first tri I vowed that I would do everything they said to do on my training plan. If I didn’t cross the finish line it would not be because I didn’t do the work. It would be a flaw in their training plan. As it turns out I crossed the finish line.

I had the same strategy for my first marathon. Whatever they said to do I did it. Every inch, every minute. I crossed the finish line — it wasn’t pretty but I crossed it.

When it came time for Ironman training that was my same mantra. If they said 20 minutes out and back I did 20. Not 19, not 19.4, I did 20. I never did 21 either. (Which was very funny the first time I found myself running with a teammate and my time was up. I just stopped and started walking. She asked why not run to the end of the path. I said because I didn’t have to. I’ve loosened up a little on the running extra.)

So the real reason I was disappointed with my workout yesterday was not that I didn’t get a good workout, of course I did, I have the sore butt and shaking quads to prove it. But the assignment was a 4 hour run on varied terrain. I did a 3:45 rike. Mostly hike. So now if I don’t finish MDS I’ll know who to blame…. Werbitzkas….

Namaste

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12/21/08 It’s Coldest Before the Thaw

Monday.  Wrapped up a fairly decent week.  Thursday night I made it to run practice — only a few of the very hardy and only 1 of my regular running crew made it.  We did hill repeats via running the underpass hill then up and back down the “bowl” on the westside of the park.  Then we repeated the whole thing 4 times.   Although I was dead last, I was really surprised that I didn’t totally stink.  I made special note as I was going up that hill on which sometimes it feels like I’m going backwards that I was making it up the hill and it wasn’t total pain.  It wasn’t easy but I was doing better than I thought I would.  I was able to give it a real effort.  Let’s put it this way, I’ve done MUCH worse.

Friday I had yoga class.  I jumped on the rowing machine for 10 minutes before class.  I think that helped me to loosen up a little because I did a little better in class.  I still struggle with so many of the poses — they make it look so easy but I find so much of it hard — I’m lacking either the strength or the flexibilty but I keep trying.  We were doing a lot of poses that were hard on my knees so I had to modify almost all of that sequence.  We all had blankets to put under our knees and I thought everything was okay until I felt my knee go pop in the bad way and had to stretch to get it to feel semi normal.  I finished the class but I didn’t have time to go back up to the rowing machine to pop it back in, was just going to have to work it out.  I did get to the pool for a quick review of my swim stroke. I swam for about 20 minutes.

WW went okay, I didn’t lose any weight but I didn’t gain either — I stayed just the same.  That’s okay sometimes I feel like just fending off weight gain during December is a success.

I was nervous about Saturday’s workout.   I had to do a 4.5 hour run and it was a key workout.  I had to hit the time.  Last weekend I had a disaster run and it had been so cold out — I only made it 2.5 hours before my knee gave out and I bailed.  The weather forecast for this weekend was worse than the previous.  I was looking at 13 degrees with wind chill.  I had the option to take my workout indoors but who can run 4.5 hours on a treadmill?

We were supposed to start with the team swim at 6 a.m. and follow it with the 15k (~9 mile) race in the park.  I didn’t want to miss the swim because I had been working on my stroke and wanted to get any tips from the coaches (okay maybe I wanted to hear someone say “wow! you’ve really worked on that!).  New York Road Runners was thinking about canceling the race because of the cold and icy road conditions.  I had to do a lot more than 9 miles, 4 1/2 hours would be about 20 miles for me (if I just ran it straight).  How was I going to do the swim, get my body temperature back up and into the park and do the run without getting cold?  I was really troubled by the memory of last weekend.

Finally I decided I had to give up on the swim.  The best way to make it through was to bundle up, find my Yak Trax (contraptions you can put on your shoes and prevent slipping and get a grip on the icy path) and head out to the park.  I was dressed in too many layers but I figured better to be able to take off than put on something you don’t have.

I started my run from home.  I was worried I wasn’t going to make it 4.5 hours so I decide to start running as soon as I left the door.  The streets were in bad condition and I was happy to have my yak trax to keep a grip.  Thankfully there were very few people out so I was able to run pretty much the whole way to the park.

I got to the park and it didn’t seem that cold.  It certainly didn’t feel like 13 degrees and I didn’t even feel a wind.  I started running on a path leading into the wooded section of the park.  I was immediately impressed with how easy it was to run on the path with the Yak Trax.  I was also relieved to have a different route.  I started to meander down the paths through the park — sometimes running in little circles and not even caring that it would normally seem extremely inefficient to me.  I found my way up through poets walk, down by Bethesda Terrace and into the boat house.  So far I had not run at all on the roads and I decided to try to see how long I could continue.

Behind the boathouse was  little road that looked like a service road.  I started to head up to it.   At the start of the road was a large map that said it was the start of the “Ramble.”  The map showed trails going every which way into the woods.  I thought what the heck?  I had to kill 4.5 hours, as good a time as any to start to explore the more unknown sections of the park.

As soon as I entered the Ramble I fell in love with it.  It was really beautiful — not just because the ground and tree branches were covered with snow but because it was so quiet and peaceful.  Non of the normal weekend hub bub of the park.  No tourists, no horses and carriages, no runners.  Just me and the occasional dog walker who would look up annoyed as I was clearly the intruder plodding through their sanctuary.  I decided an extra friendly hello was going to be my passport.  I was in a good mood and willing to share.

I ran up and down path after path learning my way around.  The southern routes  ended up by the water.  The northern ones meandered over towards Belvedere castle.   I started to explore some of the western trails and decided to head back before I got too discombobulated.   Then I saw a staircase leading up to Belvedere castle.  Stairs, hmm, I bet some coach somewhere would want me to run up those so I tried.  Due to the ice, I ended up just walking up them but with as mucho gusto as I could muster without falling.  I ran down the path and found myself on the oval.  I knew where I was — this was where we do that ugly workout of 1/2 mile and 1/4 mile intervals for speed work.  I was happy keep my little run alive.

Then I saw the running race was in fact going on.  The actual race had been cancelled and they changed it to a “fun run.”  I saw the runners coming down the westside.  I got the brilliant idea that I would run over there and go find my friend Mo.  I ran opposite the race and saw a lot of friendly faces.  Everyone was cheery and nobody seemed miserable at all.  I thought the weather was fine (although I had yet to unzip any of my layers and I was very happy to be wearing my lobster claw gloves for the first time ever on a run.)

I found Mo near the reservoir and ran with her for about 5 miles or so until the end of the race route.  That was a nice diversion for about an hour and I was thrilled to find that I had used up over 2 hours of my run time already.  Only 2 and half hours to go.

I left Mo and ran back down to see if I could find any more runners to run in or cheer for.  I didn’t recognize anyone.  I found myself at the bottom of Cat Hill and at the boat house.   The Ramble was calling me again.  There were so many trails on that map, I had done only about 8 of them so far, there were another 10 more to do at least.  So I headed back up into the woods.

After a bit I ended back up at the castle stairs and went up them again and down into the oval.  I found my way onto the bridle path and just kept running and running.  I went up to 102nd on the path and looped back down around the reservoir.  I looked at my watch and I had hit 3 hours.  It felt like Christmas.  I got so excited.  3 hours!!  3 hours and I wasn’t close to tired.  Nothing hurt.  No knee popping or scraping.  3 hours!!  I felt a surge of energy take over and I ran back up t0 102nd street.  I was deliberately staying off the road and anytime I could run in the actual snow I would.  (Remembering Lisa said running in the snow would feel more like running in the sand.)

I paid no attention to my route.  I didn’t really care.  I ran down sidewalks, across the baseball field. Plowed or not I didn’t care.  I saw another set of stairs on the side of the field leading up a little hill.  I ran (well, marched) up those too.  I was deliberately picking the hardest routes I could find.  The icier, the rockier the chunkier the better.  I knew with 100% certainty I was doing a good workout route for MDS.

The time was flying by.  For the last loops I just kept to the bridle path around the reservoir.  Every time I looked at my watch another 15 minutes had gone by.  3:30, 3:45, 4 hours!!!  And no pain!! Nothing.  Not even a whimper.  I was walking maybe 1 minute every 20 minutes or so.  I let the terrain dictate when a good walk point appeared but I didn’t want to walk to long because I was afraid I would get cold.   I was giddy.  I was high.  I couldn’t believe that I was running over such craggy terain and not caring a bit.  I started doing an inventory of everything that was going right:

My knees did not hurt.  Wow. No popping, no scraping.

My New Balance 909 running shoes that I had bought to try for MDS were working great.  (Occurred to me that maybe that had something to do with my knees feeling good?)  They also have some kind of water repellent feature that were keeping my feet dry. http://www.nbwebexpress.com/newbalanceWT909OR.htm.   I bought them a size wider because that was the recommendation for running in the desert.   (I guess your feet swell and you have to have enough room for bandages and such.)  I hadn’t really been in love with them on the shorter runs I had tried them on, but now after 4 hours I was beginning to understand their appeal.

I was wearing smartwool ski socks.  I thought they would have fallen down and become annoying.  They weren’t falling down.  They weren’t causing blisters.  My feet were warm and dry.  They made my running shoes fit better and my calves were warm.

My new Infinit formula was still tasting great at 4 hours and I felt 100% fine.  The guy at Infinit adjusted my Ironman formula and took out some of the protein I had in there (he said didn’t recommend that for ultra running over days).  I had plenty of calories and my stomach felt fine. (I haven’t been able to take any solid foods or even gus after 2 hours of running so I think I’m going to be an all liquid lunch in the desert).

I dressed properly.  I was dressed with a lot of layers and felt fine.  There is a lot to be said for warmth.

I loved my Yak Trax.  Charlee bought these for me last year when we were doing trail running in New Paltz. Not once did I feel off balance.  I ran over ice and it didn’t matter if it was smooth or chopped up.  I felt very secure.  (Although I did see more than one other runner running the trails with just plain old running shoes and I was wondering how they were doing it — I would have been too nervous.)

From head to toe I had no complaints.  I was feeling great and I was going to hit my key workout time of 4.5 hours.

At 4:29:22 I hit Columbus Circle.  I did it.  4.5 hours with NO PROBLEM.    I felt so good I couldn’t believe it.  I felt strong.  I felt healthy.  And I was pain free.  I wanted to tell someone, anyone.  I kept looking around for someone but it was just a bunch of tourists. Oh well, I decided walked to Westerly to do my grocery shopping.

On the way home from the grocery store I started to get cold.  I had a bag of groceries in each hand.  I started to walk faster to try to get warm.  Finally I just decided to run with the groceries.  “Now you’re just showing off” I said to myself.   I felt so good I felt like shouting.  I was experiencing a high like my Thursday morning chasing Jac and Ally around the park endorphin high.  Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever had runner’s high.  This was a new experience for me.

I came home, I stretched, I felt fine — more than fine.   Honestly I could have run more if I had to.  Granted I wasn’t running race pace or anything, but my new fancy schmancy Forerunner 305 said I was running 13 minute miles when I was out on the trails.  That’s not terrible for me at all.  Of course I couldn’t help but think why couldn’t I have felt like this on marathon day?  But I guess that’s how it goes.  Sometimes it’s your day.  Sometimes everything just clicks.  One week you are huddling under an electric blanket tasting the salt from your tears.  The next week you are making a guest appearance as Rumble Girl and nobody to witness it except for a few dogs in the rambles.

I took Sunday off because I had several holiday get-togethers.  I decided not to berate myself and would get on my trainer on Monday instead.

This morning the strangest thing happened.  I felt really good.  I got down on the floor and did 50 situps.  I never get down on the floor to do my core work — that’s what power yoga and fight club is for. Then I did 25 reverse crunches and 25 crossing crunches.  I attempted pushups but there is some bone still sticking in my shoulder so I can’t really do those but I tried to do 10.  I was able, however, to do the plank.  I did the plank it 5 times.  Then I did 30 seconds of wall squat (squat while leaning your back against the wall.)  I did that only 3 times because I felt my knee popping.

Then I decided to go for it.  In my yoga class they do a modification of a handstand.  You stand with your back toward a wall and go into downward facing dog.  Then you lift your feet up against the wall to go into the beginning of a handstand.  I have been too scared to try this in class.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it.  I have visions of my shoulders just collapsing under the weight.  The instructor keeps saying it is not that hard, not that hard.  Yeah well this is the same guy who was trying to get us to hop around the room while in a plank position!!!

I don’t know what got into me but I decided this morning I was going to try it.  I know for most people this is no big deal but for me this was huge.  I did it!!  I couldn’t believe it, but I got both feet up on the wall.  I couldn’t hold it that long — maybe I did 15 seconds before I got scared and came back down.  For me it is more scary than actually hard, but I did it.  And then I did it again!!    It’s not as hard as a pushup but it’s harder than the plank. (At least for me.)  I found this site with a perfect demonstration of it.  http://www.healthline.com/blogs/exercise_fitness/2008/05/fast-fitness-easy-handstand-for-balance.html It’s scary at first but it counts as an inversion which is supposed to be very good for you (we always have to end our yoga sessions with five minutes of inversion.)

Progress comes in little steps not in big leaps.  And sometimes the little steps are with the help of a wall.

Namaste

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12/18/08 Back to Basics

Wednesday.  Feeling okay.  I’m cautiously proud of my health for being able to fight off a cold that was trying to take hold this week.   On Monday I had the tickle in the back of my throat.  I felt run down and vulnerable to catching something.  I kept drinking Emergen-C and popping echinacea and drinking lots of tea.  Finally I did something really radical on Monday.  I rested.  I went to visit my friend Sunshine with her beautiful new baby Brendan.  We went for a VERY leisurely walk through the Park and enjoyed the unusually warm weather.  That was the extent of my workout for Monday. Basically nothing.

Picture of me and the cute little munchkin:

connieandbrendan

By Tuesday I decided whatever was trying to settle in gave up and was moving on.  Too many vitamins in this body for it to take hold.    I work too hard to be healthy, to be knocked out by a cold would seem so unjust.  I was nervous about hitting the gym (I think gyms and hospitals are two of the most germ infested places on the planet).  I always make sure to wipe down the machines before I touch them (as well as after) because I really doubt half the people wipe the machines at all.  This time of year the gym just has to be a big germ fest.

I had a mini review workout of my big gym workout from Sunday.  One thing I noticed  almost immediately after my gym workout (rowing machine, stairmaster, elliptical, treadmill and the pool) was my knees felt markedly better.  Stronger.  I started with the rowing machine.  I don’t know what it is about the rowing machine but it does something to my knees.  I can’t explain other than it kind of puts them back into alignment.  It’s the same reason I love my pilates reformer  — it puts my joints back on track.  They happier almost immediately.

You’d think with knowing the magical restorative powers of the rowing machine that I would be down there every day (or on my reformer at least).   I know it sounds lame, but I just forget.  I remember making this discovery back in 2005 training for Firmman out in Rhode Island.  My left knee was totally out of joint and I couldn’t do much.  I got on the rowing machine, did about 20 rows and all of a sudden I felt and heard my left knee go “pop” and it was back in place, all the pain was gone and the next day I was running like there had never been a problem.  I believe the term for this is popping problem “trick knee.”  (This has nothing to do with my generic arthritis.)

I remember making the discovery again year 1 of Ironman training.  They had us doing a lot of the same kind of work — stairmaster, rowing machine.  I remember feeling stronger.  I remember feeling surprised that I had forgotten about his wonder machine.  Then I moved on to other training and slowly forgot about them once again.

Last year was just a weird training year because I was so focused on my shoulder and other recovery that I missed a lot of the stuff I did year 1.  I understand why I forgot about the rowing machine.  I would not have been able to do the rowing machine.  My shoulder wouldn’t have been able to handle the pulling.

On Saturday as I rowed and rowed I made mental note “boy I should do this more.”   Then I noted “hmm, I’ve said this before, several times.”  Why don’t I remember these simple things?

When I got on the stairmaster I remembered why I avoid that little machine.  It’s hard!!  But again almost immediately I felt all the muscles around my knees were engaged in a strengthening kind of way.  I just felt them getting stronger.  It’s probably the same benefit other people get from doing squats and lunges but I can’t really do those without feeling pain in my knees.   Basically the rowing machine and stairmaster and reformer let me do the same work but without having to support my full weight.   I noticed when doing the rowing machine that the angle of my legs and hips go into the angle of a very deep squat.  A depth I would never really get down into.

So why don’t I remember to do these things?   Probably for the same reason I don’t remember I need to get my racquet back and early.  Probably for the same reason I don’t remember that I have to grocery shop EVERY week.   It boils down to constantly reminding myself of the fundamentals.  Why some actions become habit and other actions don’t?    And why is for me that the actions that do become habitual are the ones I don’t want?   It’s not that I’m not a creature of habit, I’m just a creature of bad habits.

Last week at WW they “revealed” the new momentum plan.   The new 5 steps for success are attend a weekly meeting, PLAN what you are going to eat, TRACK what you eat, weigh in once a week and be more active.   Okay, what’s so new about that?  Those are the basics and we should all know those by now.  But we forget.  We start to feel a little more confident.  We start to learn fancier shots so we are working on our slice approach instead of getting our racquet back and early.   We start worrying about our speed and forget about our form.  We start to worry about pulling the water and forget that we have to draw our hand close to our body and not flip it backwards during our crawl.   We forget the basics in our attempts to get better.  Isn’t that an irony?  The most important actions that will help us succeed are the ones we overlook and must relearn over and over again.

In meditation we talk a lot about “beginner’s mind.”  The idea is every day you start your meditation like it is your first time.  No expectations of being excellent or more “meditative” than the day before.  Every day is start at the beginning.    Start where you are.  Like in tennis, I used to hate warming up with mini tennis.  Let’s just hit and hit hard coming out of the box.  I’m older now and a lot wiser.   I am more than happy to start with a warm up and reacquaint myself with the ball and the stroke and what makes them connect and spin.   In swimming I find I swim so much better if I start with a few laps of drills and focus on one or two items instead of six.  In running it literally takes me 40 minutes to get warmed up.  I don’t judge anything about my workout anymore until the first 40 minutes have passed.  I just start out reacquainting myself with breathing and relaxing.  Inevitably I feel differently.

Food works the same way.  Every day starts with a blank page.  A new menu plan.  Points used starts at zero.     I can get very fancy with my analytical spreadsheets calculating the percentage of fat/fiber/calories and percentages.  I love to get involved in reading which foods are super foods and fight free radicals.  But the bottom line is if I have not bought the foods and chopped the foods it really doesn’t matter what the macro/micro nutrient breakdown is.  I have to make it before I can eat it.

Beginner mind.  Every day start I get to start fresh and every day I get to relearn all the same darn things I’ve learned over and over again in my life.   It’s like that movie Ground Hog’s day.  You build and build on what you know and hope you build into a better person.   Who knows?  One day I may wake up and jump on the rowing machine without being told.  Meanwhile I need some reminders.

Namaste

I  read this wonderful quote from Oprah’s magazine that I have put up on my desktop.

I must begin again, and again I / must begin. Every time I lose, / I win and must begin again.
—Joyce Sutpen

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12/15/08 Momentum

Monday.  Momentum Monday.  Last week was a strange blend of exhaustion and rediscovery.  All in all I think the week left me positioned for a fresh new start.

Friday was my Weight Watchers (WW) meeting.  I was eager to go to hear all about the new  “Momentum” plan.  To be honest I’m not sure why they are calling it that because it sounds to me more like what we used to call the “Flore” plan.

WW used to have 2 plans, FLEX or CORE.  With FLEX  all food is assigned a point value based on calories, fat and fiber.  You are given a fixed number of points per day and you must track each point.  It is called FLEX because you can eat whatever foods you want you just have to track it.  You were still given and extra 35 points per week to use however you wanted — all at once or spread out.

With the CORE plan,  on the other hand, you were only able to eat foods on the CORE list.  The big bonus to CORE is you didn’t have to write down what you ate.  As long as you stayed with the CORE foods (think unprocessed foods)  you were good.  Easy right?  Well not exactly because you had to really concentrate on your “hunger meter” and make sure you didn’t overeat anything.  You also got the extra 35 points a week to have splurge items or non-CORE foods.

There were many people like myself who floated back and forth between FLEX (that’s when I was tracking) and CORE (when I wasn’t and pretending that I was eating CORE foods.)  I would often say that when I grew up I wanted to eat only CORE foods on the FLEX plan.  I knew in my heart that would be the healthiest way to eat.  When I didn’t track points I would easily slip into eating beyond my hunger.  But following straight CORE meant all the Ezekiel breads and rice I like to eat had to come out of my 35 extra points and where would that leave me for drinking any wine?     I wanted my points and to eat CORE too.   So that is what we jokingly called “FLORE” when you couldn’t say you really followed CORE or FLEX, kind of a combo of both.

Regardless of which plan you were following you were also supposed to follow daily the 8 healthy guidelines:  5 servings of fruits and veggies per day, 2 servings of milk products, 6 glasses of water, 2 tsps of oil, vitamin/mineral supplement daily, whole grains whenever possible, daily activity, limit sugar and alcohol.  (Yeah, easier said than done.)

So the Momentum plan is similar to FLORE.  The CORE plan has been replaced with the “Filling Foods” list and you must track points now regardless of what kinds of foods you choose.  The guidelines have also been upped to have a 9th one that is 1-2 serving of lean protein per day.

So those are the basics of the plan, now we are to pick filling foods and count the points.  Sounds easy right?  Yeah, right, like the Chris McCormack said on the Ironman video this weekend, “If it was easy everybody would do it.”  This is hard work and not to be trivialized.  Of course there is a lot more to the plan but I’m not going to reveal the entire book here.

The idea of the Momentum plan is to start looking at every meal and looking to see how you can substitute more filling foods for existing ones.  I’ll give a good example.  This morning I grabbed a soy yogurt, a cup of mixed berries, an ezekiel english muffin and 1 tbls of almond butter.  Here’s my problem.  Even reading that I think, that’s plenty.  Unfortunately that came to 10.5 points which is almost half of my daily points. (I get 24 points a day).  It is even more disturbing that after eating my breakfast I immediately started to think “what else can I eat because that was not enough for me.”  The good news is every minute is a chance to learn and do better.

THE QUEST BECOMES MORE FOOD FOR FEWER POINTS.  That’s the whole name of the game.  That stupid soy yogurt which was not even remotely satisfying cost me 4 points.  Not worth it.   There are lots of other foods I could have chosen (like yesterday’s tofu scramble) which is a lot more food for fewer points.  Of course this all makes sense but there is no way, for me at least, to do this without planning out my meals and making sure I have the foods I need and want in my fridge.  (Arggh, there’s the rub, I have to do that darn shopping and chopping.)  The choices have to be available in order to make them. Granted I do get extra points every day for my exercise but as I read somewhere it doesn’t help you to lose weight if you run 4 miles a day but eat 10 miles a day.

Ironically after my Oprah Opus (geesh based on comments on that entry, quite a few Oprah fans out there), it turns out that I did lose 2.5 pounds last week despite my laments.  Now the kicker will be to do it again this week (ignoring the fact that I went out to eat last night and ate way too much.)

My workouts this weekend didn’t go so well.  I was feeling overtired during the week.   I completed ditched running on Thursday.  They cancelled practice at the last minute and I just couldn’t summon whatever was needed to get myself down to the gym after 6 p.m.  That’s the most crowded time.  Of course that’s not the real reason because my bike is set up on the trainer in the living room and I could have easily just jumped on that.  Bottom line I was tired and burnt out.  So I did nothing but exercise my feeling guilty muscle.

Friday I did get to the pool and I’ve been working really hard on getting rid of that weird hitch in my right shoulder.  I do it correctly as long as I think about pretending to pull my hand out of my pocket.  If I start focusing on anything else (like rotating my hips or catching the water) my arm flips back to avoid the forward rotation.  Bizarre because now after a couple of sessions in the pool it’s doesn’t even hurt or make that clicking noise.  Pure muscle memory of avoidance.

Saturday was a terrible workout.  Terrible.  I was supposed to hit 4 hours and twenty minutes.  I got to 2 hours and 30 my right knee gave out.    It went out of joint like the old days (not the more recent scraping pain of NYC Marathon).  I knew if I just kept walking it would probably go back into joint but I couldn’t take the cold.  Up until that point I was doing short walk breaks so I never really got cold.  But when I had to walk for more than 2 minutes I couldn’t do it.  It was too cold.  Within 10 minutes I think I was starting hypothermia — no exaggeration.  I didn’t feel right.  I ran into Delacorte theater to try to warm up.  Within five minutes I was on the subway home.  I couldn’t even wait for a cab.  It was not good.  I spent the afternoon under the electric blanket again.

When I emerged from my baby blanket, I wrote  my marathon coach Lisa to  tell her what a loser I was and I couldn’t do it and boo hoo hoo how was I going to get on my bike and ride in the cold the next day?  Slap me, what kind of Ironman talks like that?  Of course she put me in the gym on Sunday and gave me a great workout to do.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  I did the rowing machine, the stairmaster, the elliptical, the treadmill and the pool.  I really felt that my knees wanted to be strengthened and it was a great confidence builder because I did everything and some of it I even did well.  Okay maybe all is not lost.

Last year at this time with Ironman we were doing stairmaster once a week and I was doing Pilates once a week.  I think this might be the missing link for me.  I’m being so careful about not doing lunges or anything to hurt my knees that I think my knees are weaker.  I think I need to strengthen them up.  It doesn’t make sense to me that my knees would get weak because I’ve never stopped working out, but I have stopped pilates which did all that knee strengthening and the stairmaster.  So that’s my new plan, start weight training my knees (ah duh, you were supposed to be doing that anyway).  I know, I know but there are so many things on my list that I let some things slide —  okay I’m not perfect — or even close!  It’s just like food, a lot of choices you have to think and make the right ones.  What’s the most value I can get for my exercise buck?

The Momentum plan came at a good time for me.  I needed something new to spark me into the New Year, and into my new MDS training.   I had an extra message from the universe when at the end of the meeting I turned around to see my very first Weight Watcher leader (who I adored) was in the back of the room.  It was almost as good as seeing Tina Turner walk into the room for me — I actually am embarassed to say I acted like a groupie when I saw her.  She had retired 1 year after I started weight watchers and I was heart broken when she left.

On my very first meeting with her back in January of 2004 she really got to me about sticking with it.  I knew if I have any strength it is my tenacity.  I may be slow, I may old, I may procrastinate, I may be a million things but I am not a quitter.  Tenacity is my middle name.  I will stick with something until I get the result even if I go around in circles a million times to get there.  If  I really want something, by hook or by crook I will get it.  That day Marianne, the leader, made us raise our hands and pledge “I will not quit.”  It sounds corny, but that meant something to me.   I meant it.  I still mean it.  I will not quit.  I’m definitely taking the spice route to get there, but I will get there.

Namaste

“If you’re coasting, you’re either losing momentum or else you’re headed downhill.”

Joan Welsh

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12/11/08 Dear Oprah

Thursday.

Dear Oprah,

Yesterday I read an article about you in the Daily News.  Splashed across the front page (underneath the Illinois Governor Senate seat scandal) were printed the words “Oprah loses battle of the bulge.”  Of course I snapped up the issue already angry that this newspaper would print something so mean about my beloved Oprah.  I was surprised to find that they were merely reporting what you wrote in your own magazine.  It appears you wrote that, yes, in fact you had put back 40 pounds and you weren’t happy about it.  I read the article you wrote and I appreciated all of the insight you have gained over your years of struggling with your weight.

In his book “The Seat of the Soul” (which I learned about from you) Gary Zukav has a passage about addiction.  I’m too lazy to go look up the quote right now but it was something to the effect that we are blessed when we have to fight an addiction because through the struggle we get closer to our spiritual self.  (You always ask people on your show “what is the one thing you know to be true?”  If you asked me that question I would say “without struggle there is no growth.)

Yesterday was a bad day for me too.  I picked up the newspaper and felt an immediate kinship with you.  “Oh lo, I know how you feel.”  I said upon reading the paper.  I have been feeling so defeated, so fed-up (pun intended) and all around cheated.  This whole battle of the bulge is just so unfair.  I’m sick of fighting it.  I’m sick of working, working, working at it and going nowhere but the occasional up and down.  I want to give up.   Of course I won’t but I want to.

Unlike you I don’t hate working out.  I do hate the gym and that kind of exercise where I feel like a gerbil.  But I do like sports and activities that are game like.  I used to be very athletic as a young woman and then I got involved in my career and partying in New York City in the 80’s.  I think anyone who lived in New York City in the 80’s will know what kind of partying I was doing but I felt I had everything.  I had a good job, worked hard, partied harder.  I did remember joining a gym one time with a co-worker. I think we had our body fat measured and then went for a beer to discuss.  I half-heartedly picked up a tennis racquet every once in a while but really my fitness was so destroyed that any hopes of ever “really” playing again were long gone.   Eventually I tossed my tennis racquets into the old barn in CT and never looked back.

In 1996 I returned to playing tennis.  I was grossly out of shape and some might say I had no business being on the tennis court.  But at least it was some movement.  It was a sad reunion with a sport I used to love.  I couldn’t move like I used to when I was younger and all I could do was barrel a forehand to end a point instead of running down a ball.  But I started to move and I met some lifelong friends and two years later I quit smoking.  (Oh yeah,  I was overweight AND smoked… a lot!  Can we wiki “addictive personality”?)

In 2003  I joined Team in Training to train for triathlon and  raise money for the Leukemia Society.  My very first day of practice I was at my all time heaviest weight of my life.  I’ll probably never forget that day.  I had no idea what was ahead of me but the sadder part for me was I had no idea how I had gone so far down the road without knowing where I was.  How did I get there?  Where had I gotten lost?

I remember when you trained for your marathon when you turned 40.  I had been very hopeful watching that process and celebrated your success when you crossed the finish line. I kept saying to myself  “if Oprah can do a Marathon, I can do this triathlon.” (Though you were in a lot better shape when you did your marathon than I was when I did my triathlon.)  I had a lot of rude awakenings that year.  I couldn’t swim a lap in the pool  (I could barely make it to the end of our 25 meter pool.)  I had never run a mile in my life.  I used to ride my bike a lot when I was a teenager, but my last bike was a 1975 Rould.  (I remember that bike fondly).

Ignorance is sometimes a good thing.  Had I REALLY understood what I was undertaking I probably would never had done it.  If I met someone today who was in the shape I was in and told me they wanted to do a triathlon, I might suggest they start with a walk program.  But I don’t work that way.  I would have quit a walk program.  I need to be thrown into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim — so literally that’s what I did.  I need the fear factor.  In a way it was a good thing I didn’t know what I was getting myself into because I would not be where I am today — or at least on my way to where I want to be.

One thing lead to another and I won’t bore you with the details but suffice to say I went on to do triathlon after triathlon.  I completed countless running races and swim races too.  I was never fast, I’m a certified “back-of-the-packer.”  Unfortunately, unlike many back-of-the- packers, I never felt satisfied.  I never felt that just finishing was “good enough.”   I know this is backwards thinking but I would always think  “Oh well, if I can do it, it must not be that hard.”  I would seek out the next level, the impossible. In a way I was searching for the boundary. How far can I go before I can’t?

10ks, half-marathons, marathons. Olympic distance triathlons, half-ironmans, the full Ironman (this past July in Lake Placid).   I signed up for so many events that I can’t even count them at this point.  May 2009 will be 6 years since I went to my first day of practice with TNT.  I’m a different person in so many ways but in one big way I am still the same.  I struggle every freakin’ day with my weight.  You would think after 6 years, SIX YEARS, of swimming, biking, running further and further I would have lost all my weight.   Nope.  Not even close.

I can’t say I haven’t had some success.  I joined Weight Watchers 5 years ago (this January will be my 5 year anniversary).  I got up to 50 pounds lost (like you I’ve put some back on almost 15 pounds of it but I have kept 35 off).   I’ve learned a lot in the last 5 years.  Like you (and most overweight people) I know more about food, calories and how to lose weight than many graduate students in school for nutrition.  Want to know how to lose weight?  Ask a fat person.  They’ve done every program out there and lost weight doing them.  Want to know how to keep weight off?  Not so easy to find someone to ask.  Only about 20% of people who lose weight that win that battle.

This week I have definitely been feeling the losing battle.  In some moment of naivety I signed up for a race called the Marathon des Sables.  I’m going to drag my fat ass 150 miles across the Sahara Desert in a little over 3 months from now.  Every day I get on the scale desperately waiting for the little number to go down because I don’t want to be in the desert carrying this weight around.  Heck I’ll even settle for just losing the 15 pounds I put on after Ironman but every day that number stays the same.  (I adopted a charity called Abundant Waters and I will be running to raise money for them so I have an extra motivation for finishing this race.)

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk and looked up at a poster I have on my wall of the Marathon des Sables.  The poster is supposed to keep me motivated and on track. All of a sudden my chin just dropped and I let out a terribly insane sounding laugh.  “Are you FREAKIN’ NUTS!??!”  I said to myself.  “Do you have any idea what you are doing?”    Nope, not a clue was the only response I could come up with.

I was tired yesterday too.  I have been working out hours every day.   Tuesday I did a yoga class and ran for an hour and half.  I felt old.  I’ve been following my training plan and even more (I keep trying to play tennis even though I know in my heart that has to be put on the shelf again — long story about why I don’t want to do that.)  This morning I ended up missing my Fight Club workout and my outdoor cycling workout (which I never do).  I did my trainer and I went to a tennis clinic that was very hard but in a good way.  When I came home I was groaning like an old out-of-shape woman just bending down to pick up something.  I felt defeated.  Shouldn’t I be spry at this point?  Shouldn’t my knees feel younger?  Darn it all, SHOULDN”T I BE SKINNY?!?!!?  I DESERVE to be skinny.  Not fair.

Then I saw your article and I felt I wanted to write to you to tell you that I understand.  I look to you as someone who is a fighter.  You are someone who understands the struggle and I need someone like you out there fighting the good fight.  Believe me there are plenty of skinny people who want to tell me how to lose weight but I don’t want to hear from person who has never struggled with weight all their life that all you have to do is a eat a salad and have a piece of lean chicken or fruit.

I don’t hate skinny people.  Some of my best friends are skinny people.  It’s not their fault they have fast metabolisms and are genetically programmed to run a six minute mile.  But skinny people will never understand the battle of the bulge as much as they claim to be in a love triangle with Ben and Jerry.   That’s why I can listen to my Weight Watcher’s leader who stands before me a fit and trim tiny person because she’s lost 72 pounds to get there.  I know she knows what the fight is like. If someone has gone from a size 6 to a size 4 I am truly happy for them but I don’t think they truly understand what I am talking about.   For those people who found simply saying no to the afternoon cookie dropped them right back down to a size 0, bully for you but we are not speaking the same language.  We are not even on the same planet.

There are people who treat food merely as caloric sustenance and have no idea of the myriad of other purposes food can provide.  When it comes to soothing emotions, food is a cheap medication.  Boredom, frustration, depression, happiness, sadness — personally, I don’t discriminate when it comes to emotional eating.  I can find a food for any feeling —  my favorites do seem to be exhaustion and procrastination though I often dabble in camaraderie. To be honest, I don’t even think I do that much emotional eating. (Obviously I must because otherwise this is just a huge, cruel joke of my DNA.)  I don’t eat sweets, I don’t eat any animal products.  I thought getting rid of cheese alone would turn me into a waif.  Nope.  Nothing, nada.  My sneaky body finds the calories somehow.

I don’t want to just give up either.  I don’t want to become one of those people who settles for being fat and says “it’s who I am and I love myself just the way I am.”  I’m sorry but for me that’s a load of crap.  I think you can love your soul and the essence of who you are and I do love the inner me, but that extra 20 pounds in my butt?  Love it?  I don’t even want to go to the movies with it.

So I guess I just want to say that as I read this article you wrote in your magazine, I get it. We are more alike than not. I get that this journey to fitness it is more a spiritual journey than a physical one. I understand that every once in awhile we get tired of the struggle.  We need a rest from the fight.  But we rest, we get up and we continue on.  And, above all I applaud your bravery in telling your story because you help a lot of people like me.

I guess my  inner struggle is one of the reasons I keep taking on these feats that seem undoable — I want something to physically match the emotional and spiritual effort I undertake — not just in weight loss but in all my self-discovery efforts.  And, maybe, just maybe, if I can cross 150 miles in the 120 degree temperatures in the desert carrying all my own supplies on my back and sleeping in the sand for five nights, then maybe, just maybe I can lose 2 freakin pounds this week.

Oprah, keep the faith. I am with you in spirit.

Namaste

[This is a fictional letter to Oprah Winfrey.]

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12/8/08 Within Myself

Monday. Geesh, another weekly recap.  I don’t know where the time goes to but I do know that it seems like every minute is either working out or working. (I do appreciate the inquiries  –I’m here and I’m working hard.)

Last Monday I took a total rest day.  Needed it.

Tues and Wed were hard workouts for me this week. I had 1.5 hour run at 80-85% on Tuesday followed by tennis with my tennis buddy John. I worked really hard during my run and I was really tired by the end of tennis. (Of course it didn’t help that I was out late at the Tina Turner concert and I drank too much wine for a Monday night.) When the bell rang I was happy to get off the court.

Wednesday we had bike practice. That went well — overgearing intervals. I love my East side overgearing intervals, that’s probably the most fun I have in any bike practice. I like to hammer. I really miss chasing Ally and Jac around though. They were a lot of fun and I was always worried either they were going to catch me or I was hopelessly trying to catch them. It made the workout that much more challenging.  Nothing wrong with a little chase to get you working hard.

After bike practice I went to a tennis clinic. I was not running this one, I was participating in it. Four good players and our coach was a former-top ten player Tim Mayotte. It was intense. He had us moving non stop and running down balls that I would never be able to get. I was taking mental notes for any drills that I could use in any clinics I would run. Most of the drills were too advanced for the people I usually work with but if I got an advanced group sometime I would have some fun drills to pull out of my pocket.

The clinic was fun in a “doesn’t have to be fun to be fun**” way. (**Trilife coach saying.) When this famous tennis player is standing behind you yelling that you can “get that ball” I was 18 again trying desperately to do anything to get to it (or was I trying to get his approval? Not sure.) I stopped short of diving to get it which I would have done to dig out a shot 30 years ago. (I’m too old for crash landings now.) I did actually get to some of them and once again discovered that old truth — you can get more balls than you think if you just try. I was officially burnt out by the end of the session. 1.5 hour bike + 1.5 hard tennis workout = very tired me.

I missed fight club, was just too tired. But that’s okay I got a lot of workout in and I worked hard. If I had not done the Monday night Tina Turner concert I think I would have been fine. (I can party or I can workout, too old to do both.)

Thursday at lunch I got into the pool for a little while and did some drills and finished with a few 400’s. Total time only 1/2 hour but it was really focused. Then I soaked in the jacuzzi for 15 minutes and stretched. (My tip for doing all those deep lunges and stretches that hurt my joints on land is to do them in the water.)

Thursday night we had an EASY recovery run around the reservoir. I really wanted to do one more loop. The fast guys got to do three, I only got to do 2 and I felt a little ripped off. I know it is recovery but I still would have liked to have had just a little longer out there. I was just getting going and they had us stop and do core work. Argh, core work. I didn’t do that well at all. Felt the impingement in my shoulder (maybe a little weight training might help.) I tried be extra careful on the squats and lunges — I don’t want my marathon coach getting made at me for wrecking my knees. So I did those kind half-heartedly and only as far as I didn’t feel it in my knees (not very far.)

Basically all my joints are sensitive. My muscles are ready to rumble but my joints are thinking of taking up crocheting.

Friday was another day off. All appointments and acupuncture. No workout and I was okay with that knowing the weekend I had coming ahead.

Saturday we had swim practice at 6 a.m. That went well (as did last week’s). Unfortunately a terrible habit I had acquired after my accident of turning my arm sidewise as I lift over my shoulder has returned. Arggh!! I had worked so hard to get rid of that and when I wasn’t looking it snuck back in. “Pretend like you are pulling your hand out of your pocket” the coach tells me. I do. I pull the money out of my pocket, flip it backwards over my shoulder and then throw my arm over my head. Oh boy, what a mess.

As soon as I did it correctly I felt a little something in my shoulder. It is amazing to me how the body (and mind) will work around avoiding the unpleasant.  I see so many weird little hitches that people have in the swimming, biking, running and tennis. We’re all a mess with little niggling injuries taking us out of form.

After swim I got my bike and rode out to meet the team over the George Washington Bridge. When Sylvia (my road bike) and I got there we were a little disappointed to find it was just fast kids with their race bikes. Am I the only person bringing out their clunker for winter training? There was no way I was going to be able to keep up with this crew so I resigned myself to a long, cold (35 degree), solo workout. I went ahead of everyone. They passed me on the one legged drills.

One of my former teammates was riding with me and we were chatting. All of a sudden I got a flat. Ugh. There were a lot of cyclists getting flats out there. (Part of me thinks the anti-cycling drivers deliberately throw glass out their car windows…)

I found a sunny spot to fix my flat. The flat made me VERY nervous. I did not want to be stuck out in New Jersey in that cold with a flat. Of course I timed myself to see how long it took to change the flat. 14 minutes and it was the front tire. Eek, that’s terrible but I was extra cautious because I did want to have to change it twice. I wanted it to be perfect the first time. I fixed the flat and continued on to do the workout. (A real sense of empowerment when you fix your own flat and it works and you can keep riding!)

Some fast cyclist guy passed me and said good morning. I said hey and kept trugging along. Next thing I know I had caught up to him. We started chatting. I told him about my flat and my team was up ahead but even without the flat I would never catch them because they were too fast. I complained about my old clunker of a bike and that I needed a new one. “Train within yourself.” he said “There is nothing wrong with that bike. Give up your ego and learn to ride faster on that bike. It doesn’t matter how fast they are work within yourself. I’m a cat 2 cyclist and right now all of these cat 3 and 4 cyclists are blowing past me. They are training too hard. I just stick to my workout and I don’t worry about what they are doing.” We rode together for awhile and he let me go ahead downhill in front of him.

When he rode next to me I said “yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m a cat 12 cyclist.” (I have no idea what any categories are in cycling or even high high/low the numbers go.) He laughed and said the numbers don’t go that low (high?). And then he said “based on your ability to ride in a straight line I’d say you ride more like a cat 3 cyclist.” Really? Really? I took it as a huge compliment even though I had no idea what it meant? (Validation seeking again?!?!) Do cat 4 cyclists not ride in a straight line? Is riding in a straight line any part of the criteria for classification? (I highly doubt it.) Was he just making a joke and I wasn’t getting it?

I think he was trying to say that I handled my bike well. But he only got to ride with me on the flats and downhills — he didn’t get to see me lumbering uphill. How starved I am for validation. I kept thinking someday I want to be a “real” cat 3 cyclist. (Note to self to look up what that even means.)  Oy.

Labels. Why do we even care about them them? He’s a marathoner. He’s a sub 4 marathoner. She’s a sub 5 half ironman. And? What does that mean? Do they get extra life points or something? It’s the same thing in tennis. I get so sick of people asking about ratings. Are you a 4.0 or a 5.0?  Yes that 2.5 just beat you Mr. Fancy Pant 5.0.  Because the 2.5 showed up and worked hard and you just lost focus.  Who cares? Let’s play, have a good time and do our best. Let’s leave the labels behind.

So I’m riding along with this “Cat 2” cyclist and thinking I’m all that and then some for keeping up with him and having a conversation. Then he says he has to start his next interval as soon as I said good bye — whooooosh, he was gone. I had to laugh. I’m working hard and he’s doing recovery. Oh, the ego is a funny thing. Here I had been worried about keeping up with the fast kids (they weren’t worried about me). I was trying to calculate my cycling rating when I have never even been in a bike race (or at least in one that counts). I wouldn’t know the difference between a cat 2 and a cat nap. How absolutely silly. Who cares? This is December. I am nowhere near racing season. I don’t even know when racing season is.  I am less than a hack.  I’m a hackette.  Now is the time to be building endurance and working on technique. That guy was right — just train within yourself.

This is not the time to be comparing myself to others. And who cares anyway? By the time I got to the bottom of State Line Hill most everyone was broken up and…. training by themselves! I cut the ride short due to the cold so total ride time was about 3 1/4 hours. It was too cold. But I really felt it was worthwhile because the universe sent me a little messenger via that guy on the bike. It really doesn’t matter if you are out with the team or by yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are out on a fancy racing bike or an old clunker. What matters is my foot is clipped into the pedal and every stroke is my best stroke.  MY best stroke.  I lace up my running shoe and I get out there. I put on my goggles and try to fix that hitch.

Sunday I had a 4 hour run workout. It was not a 4 hour non-stop run. I have walk breaks in there and the intensities vary. I felt kind of creaky for the first 1 1/2. But then from 1 1/2 to 3 when I was running longer periods and picking up the pace I felt good. The last hour was not my finest but I finished doing exactly what the workout said to do. I only managed to do 17 miles in 4 hours which is not that fabulous but considering there was walking in there I’m okay with it. Considering I did it and I didn’t bonk, I’m okay with it. I trained within myself and although I could spend a lot of time wondering how do I compare with other people doing MDS, the bottom line it is going to be me and my knees, my feet and my heart out in the desert. I’m not going be using anyone else’s equipment.

Namaste

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