Monthly Archives: February 2010

2/23/10 In the End

Tuesday.  I’m nothing if not stubborn.  Okay clean up the coffee you just sputtered all over your desk.  Yes, yes, I know you think I’m kind of stubborn, but really, I’m REALLY stubborn.  The more someone tells me I can’t do something the more determined I am to do it.  Mr. Universe is piling on the challenges but here’s a news flash Mister Mister, I’m not budging, you can either come along for the ride or suffer the wrath of my determination.  (Okay, I’ll admit I just ducked for a second looking for stray lightning bolts.)

Last week I had my first full decent training week.  I say decent because I’m way behind the eight-ball but at least I see the room where the where the eight-ball sits.  I got in all the assigned workouts to the best of my abilities.  That’s all I can ask for.  I was really nervous about Saturday’s training because we had a one-hour team swim and then a three-hour bike.  It had been so long since I had been on my bike for any really length of time I wasn’t really sure that I could make it.  But I did the swim and three and a half hours in the saddle including three really sorry excuses for hill repeats (rest of the team did four, five and I even heard six and an extra 20 miles from one person).  But for me, for where I am now, I was thrilled.  I wasn’t dizzy, I wasn’t faint, okay I wasn’t fast either but it’s okay.  I did it and although my legs were killing me afterwards, I was very happy.  On Sunday I did a two-hour run (using the word “run” as a synonym for jog  nine minutes/walk one minute).  But again I broke the mythical 90-minute barrier and my limiter was my quads from the day before not my system.  My heart rate was appropriate for the effort I was giving all weekend and I can’t adequately explain how absolutely happy that makes me.  This I can work with.  No dizziness, no rapid heart rate, no feeling like I need to lie down for a quick nap in order to get home or worrying if I can even make it back to the car.  No joint pain.  No knee pain.  No mental exhaustion before I even start.  It was very hard but it was doable.  This was a good workout week and I ended with a very solid effort for my level of fitness right now.  I can’t ask for anything more.  “No?  Don’t worry”, says  Mr. Universe, “I have plenty more you can ask for.”

Last week I also had to go to CT to help my parents go get new dentures.  Apparently if you live into your 90’s you actually can wear out your dentures…. They don’t build teeth for my family’s longevity and they both have to go through what I had no idea is quite an ordeal.  So back we went to our new home-away-from-home, UCONN Medical Center.   It takes 2 months to make a proper set of dentures  and they have to go through multiple fittings each.  I immediately came home and flossed my teeth.  I will be upping my the flossing my teeth to three times a day for now on.  I want to fend off dentures as long as possible.   I felt bad that they have to go through all of this at their age but the end result will be for a much better quality of life for the next 100 years that they live because these two are not going anywhere.

I had to go back up to CT yesterday because my Dad was getting clearance from his visiting nurses to be no longer home-bound (yeah!) and I had to take my Mom to yet another doctor for her consult on her hands.  I also needed to play office manager on the medical paperwork that is starting to pile up.  Don’t get me started on our Health Care System in America.  But how do they expect 90 year old people to sift through the mounds of bills and paperwork that come pouring in.  Medicare, supplement coverage, Medicare part B, part D, reimbursement only insurance.  Pay this and we’ll pay you back.  It’s ridiculous.  My Mom needs to have surgery on both of her hands and for the next month or so we will have to have  two more surgeries and more visiting nurses to help her.  So we may actually have two visiting nurses at one time in our house.  One for my dad and one for my mom.  It will be like having an in-house nursing staff.  If this wasn’t so crazy I’d cry so all I can do is shake my head, look up at the sky and say “what else ya got? ’cause that is not enough to break me.” “Oh No?  Don’t worry”, says Mr. Universe, “Just wait.”

Work has been crazy.  Projects coming in from everywhere all at once.  Apparently everyone has ignored my memos to organize their work projects around my training schedule and my parent’s health.   You need what by when?   Just write it down, just write it down.  I’m so grateful for virtual offices and how did we work before the Internet?  I truly do not understand how anyone got anything done in the seventies or before….    My google phone has been furiously delegating all weekend and yesterday as I waited patiently in the doctor’s office with my Mom while trying to figure out when I would get my run and bike in on Tuesday if the rain/snow storm is coming.  Because I’m not giving up just because there is crappy weather, and sick people and too much work, oh and now some lady bugs infesting the house again did I forget to mention that?

So here is how I am handling it all.  I have a new mantra “it will all be good in the end.”  I don’t exactly know where or when the end is, but I just keep repeating that.  “It will all be good in the end.”  Just focus on one thing at a time.  Just the thing in front of you and make lots of lists.  Lots of lists.  I’m not getting upset.  I’m not tracking points but I’m trying to be mindful.  I’m trying to pay attention to what I am doing right here and right now.  Because if I worry about the four hundred items on the lists in front of me I will freak out.  But I’m not going to do that.  I am meditating every day and my meditation practice is getting stronger and stronger and I feel it is really helping me to stay focused and calm.

“Oh really?  Just a reminder that you have bookclub in two days  and you haven’t even bought the book.” Interupts Mr. Universe.

Seriously, if you think that is even going to faze me,  bring it, ’cause I’m not backing down.


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2/19/10 Freaky Friday

Friday.  Strange end to the week.  I followed the Ironman training plan this week, nothing spectacular to report.  I’m still struggling but I’m still here.  I think back to IM year one when I remember saying to a friend that I just couldn’t see how I could get from here (low endurance even lower speed) to there (finishing an Ironman).  I remember her saying “incremental jumps”  it’s not linear.  You’ll find you make jumps in your fitness as you go along.  I’m ready to jump.  Seriously, I can jump any time now….

This weekend I am in the city to train with my team for the first time in a long time.  I’m not sure I remember how to get to the George Washington Bridge or if I have the stamina to ride over it.  I’m packing a metro card just in case.  But I’ve surprised myself in the past.  I’ll get an extra good night sleep tonight and be on the pool deck tomorrow ready to swim and then bike.  One arm in front of the other and then one pedal stroke at a time.

I wasn’t feeling that well at the beginning of the week.  I’m becoming used to waves of not feeling well coming and going with no apparent rhyme or reason.  For two weeks I have been bothered by joint pain.  All over joint pain fingers, wrists, shoulders, hips, knees.  My doc’s only recommendation was to take Tylenol.  I take synthroid and join pain is a side effect.  Lovely.    It wasn’t hurting enough to take pills.  Nothing but a little discomfort but everywhere.  Wednesday it mysteriously disappeared.  Poof, like that.  Gone as strangely as it came.  Freaky.  Each day is a roller coaster ride.  I’m grateful and happy to have full use of my fingers again.  Sometimes when you have a little discomfort when it goes away you realize how good you can feel and it is a little blessing.

I decided to break down and go back to Weight Watchers this morning.  I missed three weeks and if I missed today it would be a month and that was just not acceptable.  I really didn’t want to go.  I haven’t been tracking.  I’ve been back and forth between CT and NYC, not had to time shop or meal plan.  I just knew it was going to be a disaster.  So when she said 4.8 pounds I wasn’t surprised.  I deserved it.  I would start doing better.  When she said congratulations I was taken aback.  Apparently I was 4.8 pounds down.  Wow.  I had no idea!!  I truly thought I was going to be up 5 pounds.  So according to Maggie Math (Maggie is my WW leader) that’s like losing 10 pounds!!  I’ve never bothered to correct her on this formula.  The only thing I have been doing differently is refusing to eat while standing, or in front of the computer or in front of the tv.  I’ve had all of my meals sitting down at my, gasp, dining room table.  It is no longer a shipping and receiving department for running shoes and books, it now has a table cloth, place mat and even has a center piece.  For almost two weeks now I have eaten all of my meals at the table like a civilized person instead of grabbing and going or eating mindlessly while working (my worst habit.)  But now, of course, I’m screwed.  Because I’ve done this for two weeks and lost weight I have to continue to do this and God forbid I actually track my food and plan my meals…. well Hell might just freeze over….

I’m happy we get to ride our bikes outdoors tomorrow.  I just hope I don’t fall over, it’s been awhile since I’ve been outside on my bike.   I’m learning to adjust to all my new schedules.  I’m learning to take extra sleep when I need it.   By hook or by crook I’m going to do this Ironman.  I feel grateful to be able to do anything.  I’m going to take today’s good blessings and run with them….

  • No joint pain for 2 days.
  • Haven’t needed an inhaler in 2 winters now.
  • My heart rate has been stable for a month.
  • My knees are holding up.
  • My family is hanging tough.
  • I have a good job, good home and great friends.
  • I got a parking space by the door to my building.  Now you can’t mess with that!!


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2/15/10 Good Intentions

Monday.  Okay rest week is over.  Dad seems stable.  I’m trying to get there myself.  Doctor said something very interesting to my 91 year old Dad.  He said he could tell he had been an athlete all of his life because of the tone of the muscles in his legs.  Dad hasn’t done any workouts in years but he still has good muscle tone for an old guy.  That’s a good thing I guess.

I think I did okay with my workouts last week.  A little bit of everything, nothing too intense — except for my 1 hour tennis session on Friday that almost killed me.  I went to a different club in CT  to work with a pro who is supposed to be really good.  I told him my goal is workout not technique.  “Go ahead make any comments you want on my form but this is not a chat session”  I said.  He agreed.  I quickly added “but not too hard, I mean it doesn’t have to be crazy.”  He said “too late, can’t back down now.”

We started with some baseline hitting and I had some kind of strange control over the ball.  I have no idea what makes that come or go.  It was like I couldn’t miss.  He didn’t miss either.  I think we hit with one ball for about 50 shots. And then the same on another and another.  It was almost hypnotic.  I was so focused and calm for a change.  I think it was the anonomynity of being there.   Then he got me running.

The idea was simple. Very basic drill I’ve done a billion times. I start at the middle of the baseline.  As he feeds the ball I give a split/step (it’s kind of a little hop thing to get your toes off the ground ready to move) and then I hit a running forehand and shuffle back to the middle.  I don’t split step that well — it’s a little too much plyometrics for me but I try my best.  Repeat until melted into the ground.  Pause, put up hand in surrender.  Repeat to the backhand side.  Spit up a lung on the court.  Now do full court.  Split step, running forehand, shuffle back, split step, running backhand, shuffle back.  Repeat until you cough up your other lung.

Then we do forward and backward running.  Classic 3 ball drill.  Approach shot, split step and hit volley, then overhead smash.  Run backwards to the baseline.  Approach shot, split step and hit volley, then overhead smash.  Run backwards.  Repeat until you cough up your spleen. I’m aware he is not feeding the balls that fast because I’m not that fast.  I’m embarrassed that I’m not faster and I’m sucking wind.  I don’t miss a single ball.  My overheads are shockingly good (I haven’t been hitting many overheads these days) and I have no idea who is hitting these perfect net shots (it’s almost eerie)  but I’m so slow I’m thinking I should borrow my dad’s walker.  I know what flying feet feel like.  These feet are not flying.  Where’s the bounce?  Where’s the movement?  If that had been a game I would have lost.

“You’re jamming your backhand, you have to move further away from the ball! Get some power.”  He yells.  I know I know, but the only way to move further away from the ball is to move my feet and they won’t move.  My knees won’t move.  My toes won’t bounce. I’m either stretching and reaching or cramming . I’m doing 35 in a 65 mph zone. “If you get that front foot forward you’ll get more power in that backhand.”  Yes, yes, I know, but that too would require my feet to actually move.  I try, I try, I’m sucking wind.  I feel the dissappointment from the other side.  I can hear him thinking “yeah, she hits fine but she can’t move.”  Or maybe that’s just me thinking so loudly for the both of us. Why would he even care to judge?  I remember Chrissie Evert’s line from my youth “the hardest part about playing tennis is getting in shape to play tennis.”

Tennis.  My sport. My nemesis.  My friend.  It’s so screwed up.  When I hate it the most seems to be when I’m the best at it.  The harder I try the worse I become.  I’m not even that good at it.  But I’m better at it than other things.  Every lesson of life is illustrated on the tennis court.  Most of the time they are lessons I don’t want to learn.    How you handle yourself in the worst moments shows more about you then how you handle yourself in the best.  Every doubt or fear in your psyche is just laid out in the open for all to see.   Triathlon is better for me.   My expectations are lower. But not by much.

Right now I am reading the most fabulous book.  “Open” by Andre Agassi. I’m loving every word of it.  I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who plays, competes or is just interested in the mental fitness of sports.  I feel like I could eat the book up with a spoon.  I totally understand every feeling he is having even though I don’t have the talent of Andre Agassi’s little toe.  But his relationship to the sport and how his mind works (and doesn’t work) is so kin to me  that it is almost scary.  He really expresses a lot of the mental darkness that accompanies many of us in sports.  The same darkness that follows many of us around in life.  I’m shocked at how candid and real it is.  He doesn’t try to make himself into a good guy at all.  Exposes all of his flaws and weaknesses.  Fascinating.

He talks a lot about desire to win and competition.  For me, he hits so much of it on the head.  The self-judgment, the desire to win, the fear of not winning.  The big difference is playing TO win vs. playing NOT to lose.    A lot of time in triathlon I will say “I’m just trying to finish.”  Which is actually a bad mindset for me.  I understand that I’m not going to win the race but for me it is important to have a goal — something to beat.  Active vs. passive. In triathlon it’s the clock.  There is a big difference for me in saying I just want to finish vs. I want to break 3 hours or 7 hours or whatever the number is.    It’s a different effort, a different mindset, a different satisfaction.  I’m not saying it’s necessarily healthy, but I am saying it’s true for a lot of people.

I’ve had this conversation with so many of my friends who say “I don’t like to compete.”  I’ve said it before and I stand by it.  In my opinion people who say they don’t like to compete (but still sign up for races) are really saying they don’t like to lose.  Yeah well who does?  Losing is hard.   People who don’t really care about competing don’t compete.  They don’t sign up for a race, they just go for a swim, bike or run for the fun of it or the workout.  They don’t join the USTA.   They don’t sign up for a tennis match.  The don’t pin a number on.  They don’t wear a watch and don’t take their splits and they don’t keep score.  And that’s okay!  That’s more than okay.   That’s probably even more mentally healthy.  But if you are putting your toe to the line, be honest about your intentions.  Intend to do the very best you can on that day.  Give your opponent, your course and yourself a worthy adversary.  And above all, whatever the results are be honest enough to know that the results don’t define you, it’s the effort that defines you. As much as it is okay to win, it is okay to lose.  But it is never okay to not try your best.   (This would be a good time to insert some kind of motivational music.)

As much as it kills me to be slower on the tennis court.  I’m on the tennis court.  I’m hitting the ball and tomorrow I’ll be a little better, faster, fitter, smarter.   I’m slower in all my sports right now but that too will change.  Because that’s how it works.  You keep showing up and one day when you least expect it, when you are not waiting for the result but concentrating on the effort, you win in your own definition of the word and it feels great.  Okay I’m watching too much of the Olympics….

How beautiful to dream. But dreams, I tell Gil, in one of our quiet moments, are so damned tiring.”  Andre Agassi in his book “Open.”

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2/11/10 Cottage Cheese vs. Cookies

Thursday.  Last week I took an unplanned sabbatical.  Came back to NYC and basically crashed for the week.  Too tired to do anything.  My Dad seems stable so that was my cue to crash.   I think that is typical.  I don’t have a lot of endurance as it is so the extra mental stress kind of took it’s toll.  A friend of mine put it well when she said (paraphrasing) “you have x amount of energy that is used for physical, mental and spiritual uses.  Just because you aren’t working out doesn’t mean you aren’t using energy.”  I agree.  So last week I did a couple of runs and one very lame and unimpressive session of tennis.  (My friend took pity on me and we just hit.)  I did do some yoga which is strangely becoming a little big of a curious addiction.   But this week I’m back feeling better slowly rumbling.

So how was Kripalu?  Everyone wants to know.  Mark Allen, six-time Ironman Champion and Brant Secunda world renowned shaman of the Huichol Indians held their very well-rehearsed conference on Fit Soul Fit Body at Kripalu.

I like Kripalu.  It is not spa-like at all so if you are looking for a place for pampering I’m not sure if this would be my first choice (although they are famous for the Ayurvedic treatments.)  It is first and foremost for lack of a better word Yoga College.  People take their yoga very seriously at Kripalu.  Everyone is walking around in yoga clothes and people go there to get their yoga certifications (300 and 500 hours of yoga training to get different levels of yoga certification).  At the same time they have a wide variety of conferences going on.  Topics range from diet and nutrition to chanting and meditation.

I went to Kripalu back in June right before my surgery (literally, drove from Kripalu to the hospital).  I went for a rest weekend.  They have classes and activities going on all day that are open to all guests and then there are classes going on that are closed to registered participants only.

There is something calming about Kripalu for me.  It’s almost forced reflection time.  This time I did not stay in the deluxe accommodations, I  stayed in one step down their private rooms with shared bath.  I wasn’t that thrilled about trying this because I normally like camping at the Hilton but I figure if I can make it across the Sahara peeing behind rocks I can share a communal bathroom in the Berkshires.   I was pleasantly surprised with my little room.  Very small, very plain and basic but it was clean and welcoming.   The only furniture was the bed a nightstand and a chair.  But had a sink in the room and open closet.  Of course no t.v. and no internet access.  I cheated a little and had my cell phone with me in my room.  No cell phones allowed in communal rooms except the cafe where you can access internet there.    As soon as I walked into my room I immediately thought “this will be just fine.”  There is something warm about simplicity.

The conference started Friday night.  I was surprised by the appearance of Brant and Mark.  Brant (the Shaman) is rather short and pudgy.  Mark is average height but really skinny and he now looks a lot like Clint Eastwood.  No shock about his being skinny if you have ever seen any of his Ironman videos, I was just surprised that he is still that skinny 20 years later.  There were about 40 people in attendance.  I would say about 6-8 of us were there for Mark Allen, the majority were all there for the Shaman.  Apparently this guy Brant Secunda is a big deal in the Shaman world.  They really have their “show” down pat.  They alternate between talking about Shamanism and Mark’s Ironman.  At first I was leery about the Indian Shamanism stuff.  I have a lot of reservations (no pun intended) about participating in religious rituals.    I’ve had my experiences with both Charismatic Catholics and born-again revival meetings and I’m very gun shy about anything that involves shaking, rattling and rolling.  But by the end of the weekend my impression of Brant Secunda is he is a decent guy.  I can live without the ceremony but I found something about him to be authentic.

I went to see Pema Chodron at Omega this summer.  I fall all over myself in my adoration for her.  Seeing her in person exceeded my expectations.  She is wise,  funny and kind.  I remember leaving Omega thinking how light of spirit she was.  She laughed so much.  Constantly laughing at herself and human nature.  Meditate a little, laugh a little.  Study some sutras, make a funny observation.  Brant Secunda had that same quality.  He laughed a lot.  All of his “disciples” who were there were taking themselves very seriously.  Brant, on the other hand, was cracking jokes the entire weekend.  Do a little blessing, tell a joke.  Heal a little, poke a little fun.  He laughed at himself a lot too.  He had that same light quality that Pema had  that I can’t help but think you get when you see the big picture or have travelled a little further down the road of enlightenment.  Or maybe they had that quality first and then became spiritual leaders.  I guess that is a metaphysical chicken and egg question.

My understanding of shamanism in a nutshell (and please don’t use this as any kind of authority). Shamanism involves a lot of ritual and praying to a lot of different spirits.  You have Mother earth, Father Sun, Grandmother Growth, Big Brother Deer (don’t quote me on any of these, doing it from memory.)   The five directions play a big part too.  East, South, West, North and our heart is the fifth direction.  Basically everything is alive — not just humans and animals but plants, wind, earth and water too.  Through Shamanism you connect with all of these spirits.  And if you do it right you can call this energy to help you because it is all within you.  It’s that whole idea of we are one with the universe.   There is also a lot of folk lore and legend.  A lot of it is hard to take literally you have to have the same faith as those who tell stories like Noah and the Ark or Lot’s wife and the salt shaker.    Okay I’m going to file this under the heading “things I take seriously but not literally.”  I believe in the power of nature.  I’m just not sure my shaking a rattle or building a prayer arrow is doing anything to summon it.

We learned a handful of different Shaman rituals that we can use whenever we need a boost.  In reality it boils down to just praying.  It’s a religion like any other.  They pray, they chant, they sing.  They have a community and lean on one another.   They have ceremonial garb no different than Buddhist Monks wearing robes or priests wearing vestments.  They use rattles, Hare Krishna use tambourines. It’s all the same.  So I learned a couple of nice prayers which believe me, I can use as much as the next person.  You won’t see me doing the deer dance anytime soon but you are not going to see me at a revival meeting either.

As far as Mark’s stories about Ironman went they were pretty good.  I guess first impression was he wasn’t that much more mentally together than I was.  When he would talk about his races he wanted to quit as much as I did.  But he fought through it and the only real difference is that he actually went on to win his races and I just finish.  He said studying with Brant helped him learn to calm him mind.  (No different than meditation helping you to tame the “wild horse.”)  He also talked a lot about finding humility in your training and how hard that was for him.  Yes, I related to that one A LOT.  Learning to be humble and accept where you are not compare yourself to others.  He told a lot of fun training stories.   But by far his best stories had to do with his racing nemesis Dave Scott.

Mark talked a lot about diet and eating (no real new information to share there — eat right and exercise).  He talked about some of the pitfalls of training like not eating more than you worked out.  He told the story about how at the end of his weekly 100 mile bike ride he used to stop at Mrs. Fields cookies and get six of those extra large cookies.  He bought six to last him until the next ride — one a day.  Inevitably he would eat two on the way home and by the end of the day he had eaten all six and had none left for the rest of the week.  (That’s his story to let us know that he is human like the rest of us.)

Then he talked about his race nemesis Dave Scott.  The story goes that Dave Scott was a vegetarian and very devoted to his training and diet.  In order to eat a lot of protein he ate  lot of cottage cheese.  But he was afraid that all the cottage cheese he was eating had too much fat so he used to rinse his cottage cheese!  Okay that’s dedication.  When Mark Allen heard that Dave Scott was rinsing his cottage cheese,  he stopped buying Mrs. Fields Cookies.

Here is a picture of Dave Scott (l) and Mark Allen (r) racing.  I guess if you want to win Kona that’s what you have to put down the cookie and rinse your cottage cheese.  BTW, they are running 6 minute miles during the IM marathon.  6 minute miles?  After swimming 2.4 miles, riding 112 miles at an average speed of 25 mph, they are running 6 minute miles in the marathon.    Deep, deep sigh….

There was a lot of talk about training methods.  Mark Allen is a big fan of “train slow to go fast.”  You can buy his book to read all about his theories.  For me, for right now, I just want to get out there consistently and try to build up my endurance.  I’ll worry about speed next.  If I can make it through a week without crashing that will be an improvement.

This week I’m definitely feeling better.  I’m trying to be diligent about my vitamins especially my Iron.  This week I’m doing all my workouts at a slightly lower pace.  I’m trying to see if I can do more if I train with less intensity.    I’m calling my system “train less to do more.”   I’m going to write a book about it and how I rinse my Avocado pits.


Tate Yurianaka Tate Yurianaka
Camu Ne Iyari, Camu Ne Iyari
Tate Yurianaka

Mother Earth I offer you my heart (here, you have my heart)

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