Monthly Archives: March 2012

3/31/2012 Happiness is an Unplugged Turtle

Saturday.  Just came back from my  2 hour run with about 20 people!  To the average onlooker it may have looked like I was running in the snow/rain all by myself along a river trail but inside my head it was crowded!

First person who came along with me was my friend Amy.  As I was getting dressed to go out I had taken the time to charge my garmin, charge my cell phone, download a playlist to said cellphone.  I was ready to rock n roll when I realized I had forgotten to bring my headphones with me to CT.  Arggh, this was going to be painful without music and then my friend Amy’s face popped into my head “I don’t run with music.”  Hmm, could I do a long run, gasp, running to my own heart beat?  It had been a long time, I wasn’t sure.

As I was about to don my garmin 301xt which would happily tell me when to take my walk breaks and how far I will have run and how slow I would be running, another face popped up in my head.  Coach Lisa.  “Dump the watch!”  What?  Why?  “Stop timing everything you do.  Stop worrying about how fast or slow you are going, just go enjoy your run.”  Sacrilege!  Actually, it’s not that Lisa always wanted me to run without a watch, it was just one race in particular a long time ago.  I had gotten to the point where I was so obsessed with how fast/slow I was going I was living my my watch and it was driving me (and her) crazy.  She made me run a 10k race without my watch.  It had been liberating and scary at the same time. Acknowledging my obsession compulsive nature, I gingerly placed my garmin 310xt on my dresser and headed out the door.  Could I do this?  No cell phone/camera/mp3 player?  No watch beeping and buzzing to tell me when to stop and go?  No pace calculator reminding me when to pick it up?  No Rock Mafia? Could I actually run for 2 hours 100% unplugged?

Well the answer is yes.  I had an awesome run.  I felt good.  I felt blessed.  It was snowing when I started, turned into a kind of snowy/sleet and finally a snowy rain.  I had my old trilife cycling jacket.  That thing is indestructible.  No force of nature gets through it. Running hat with buff over it kept my head dry.  Running tights over trishorts was just the right amount of warm with wool knee socks.  I had two light zippered layers underneath and felt 100% comfy the entire run.  Last day of march and it was 37 degrees and snowing…(in CT).

I could hear my feet stomping the ground.  “Run quietly.”  Ah there was Coach Shifu making a quick appearance.  I tried to get my feet to be quiet.  I admit I looked over my shoulder for a second to make sure he wasn’t sneaking up on me.  He always had a great talent for sneaking up on me because I couldn’t hear him running.  There was some noise due to the rain but I was able to soften my foot strike to make it less loud.  Another thing music had been drowning out.

The next person who joined me on my run was my friend Belladonna.  She had been telling me how she had run a lower loop of the park the night before.  Without stopping?  I asked.  Without stopping she said. First run she had done in a long time and that was a very good start.  Hmmm.  When was the last time I ran a mile or mile and half without stopping?  It had been a long time and I am so used to my 2/1 or 3/1 that I wasn’t sure I could do it.  But I thought maybe I could pick a mile in my run today and see if I could do it.

I thought for sure I would be bored with no music.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.  I found it freeing.  I had time to really think out some issues in my head.  I found I thought about the running LESS than I normally did.  Coach Hola’s face popped up and ran with me for a bit.  “Don’t run with music, you change your pace to the music and you don’t learn to pace yourself.”  Yeah, yeah, you told me that back in 2005 and I didn’t listen to you then but I could give it a try.  Do you know what I discovered?  I run too fast!  (I know the irony is not lost on me.)  The reason I need to keep taking these walk breaks is I’m legitimately out of breath at the end of two minutes.  I start out slow and then I just keep my feet counting faster and faster until I’m out of breath and have to stop to catch my breath.  When did this start happening?  I don’t know, it was being covered up by the music I had been listening to and my watch beeping every two minutes or three minutes for me to walk.  I listen to really fast paced music and my feet want to go fast but my conditioning is not there yet.

I decided to do a test.  Slow wayyy down and see how long you can go before you have to stop.  Turns out I could go 9 minutes and then I had to stop.   Why did I have to stop?  Because I started running too fast again!  Wow, what a revelation.  All of my pacing skills that I used to be so proud of were gone, gone, gone. 

Then Arnold Schwarzenegger joined me for a bit.  (This was Arnold pre-cheating on Maria.)  There is some movie (comedy) where he plays a cop.  He’s running after a criminal and he catches up to the criminal who is running his absolute hardest but is losing steam.  Arnold is pumping his arms easily and kind of jogging next to the crook and says “I could do this all day.”  I don’t remember the name of the movie but I remember watching him and thinking “yeah, that’s how I want to run, easy but strong and I can do it all day.”  I have to get my pre-cheating Schwarzenegger swagger back.

That’s when Matt Damon showed up.  When I’m trying to slow my cadence down I think of Matt Damon in the movie Invictus.  They are a bunch of soccer players in South Africa and they have all these scenes where they are warming up as a group and running easy but faster than I’ll ever run.  They have a much longer stride length than I have but they make it look so easy.  So I try to slow down and run like them, less cadence, a longer more loping stride. 

That’s when Coach Jay showed up.  He’s telling me to stop worrying about speed.  “Imprint that cadence.  The speed will come later.  I don’t care if everyone laughs at me and passes me in the park, I’m just imprinting that cadence, later on the stride will come.”  Sorry Matt, gotta let you go and I’m back to turnover, turnover, turnover.  All that thinking about turnovers made me realize I didn’t eat breakfast and I start thinking about what I’m going to eat afterwards.

I was at mile marker 6.5 and decided to just see how long it would take me to run slowly to mile marker 7.  Ugh 7 minutes exactly. Yes I could have done it faster, but I also could have kept going.  That’s a 14 minute mile.  I was running faster last week with a walk break in there.  I can run faster but I can’t keep it up.  As I was debating which was better — faster with the walk breaks or slower with none, that’s when Coach Scott showed up.  For a moment I was transported back to Lake Placid Memorial Day camp 2007.  I’m pedaling my bike from Wilmington back to the Bears (hills in Lake Placid).  I was pedaling against a head wind and feeling quite deflated.  Coach Scott pedals up to me and asks how I’m doing.  “I feel like a turtle” I said.  “A happy turtle?”  he asks.  I laugh and said “yes, a happy turtle.”  “Well that’s what counts.”  And that’s when I realized what is different over the last couple of weeks.  Yes I’m slower than a molasses/honey drip race.  But I don’t care.  I’m happy.  I’m a turtle but I’m a happy turtle.  Every day that I get out there I’m seeing small improvements.  I’m feeling my endurance return.  I’m feeling my recovery return. That makes me happy.

That’s when I saw Marlie, my tennis coach, pop up for a little bit.  “Fitness is not demonstrated in your workout, it’s demonstrated in your recovery.”  And that’s what I am feeling.  It’s not that I am doing such a great job during any of my workouts or races so far.  Believe me, I’m slower than I’ve ever been, but I’m not wiped out for five days.  I was able to train for an Ironman in 2010.  But every time I had one good workout I had five days of being wiped out.  I never felt like I could rebound.  I would feel good and try to push and then I would get sick again.  But now I feel like I can push and run for 2 hours, come home, take a shower and my day is not over, it’s just getting started.  That’s the difference.  And that makes me happy.

Tomorrow we have a long team ride somewhere out in New Jersey.  My first project will be to not get lost getting there.  Second project will be to try to keep up.  Third project will be to not get lost while riding.  That may not be so easy.  But I’m feeling optimistic.  I’ll ready for the challenge.  I’m ready to get my turtle on.

Namaste

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3/26/12 Learning to Take the Good with The Bad

Monday.  First “big” workout of the season this past weekend.  In quotes because those were the coach’s words. In my mind I have had several big workouts already.  But I was interested to find out what he called a big workout since I can find going to the mailbox an effort at times.

Last weekend I rode to Nyack and back for 53 miles from door to door.  My legs were fine but my arms and neck were not happy with my bad posture on the bike.  Apparently sitting rigidly upright and pushing on the handlebars without moving positions takes its toll after a couple of hours.  The next day we were to run 10-12 miles.  I couldn’t get my legs to run.  I ended up walking 12 miles.  Granted the last 6 of them were walked faster than I run because I met up with a galloway friend who is an awesome speed walker but I didn’t get any running in.

So I wasn’t holding out much hope for this weekend’s “big” workout.  The workout turned out to be repeats of hill repeats.  He wouldn’t tell us how many because he didn’t want us to adjust our efforts.  It could be one, it could be…..  (Yeah I knew it wouldn’t be one).  Start at Ross dock.  High Cadence up to the first circle.  (Sorry I don’t have high cadence going up that hill, it is just a slog.)   Time trial to the next traffic light.  I’m surprised how nobody is really time trialling.  I’m in aero, big chain ring, it’s mostly downhillish kind of, why wouldn’t I go for it?  At the next traffic circle attack the hill to the top.  Ergh, yeah, that’s a hard hill, my attack brings out some groans from deep within my bike or it might have bee me, I’m not sure exactly where the sounds came from.  Down to the bottom of Ross Dock.  Repeat.

Second time I think I’m doing better.  Flying past everyone on the time trial (hmm, he SAID time trial why is nobody time trialling?)   Get to the attack hill and I’m really trying to attack but it comes out as an asthma attack and I’m wheezing my way to the top.  Back down to the Bottom of Ross dock.  Repeat.

Third time he is adding insult to injury because he is videotaping us come up the hill.  He wants to see what happens to our form when we get tired.  Shoot me.  Now it is on camera and I am not comfortable but I try to spin and smile.  I grumble something as I pass by.  I start my time trial.  Whoa Nelly.  My legs are not happy.  But I push as much as I can.  I am not happy.  My attack on the next hill is pathetic.  Back Down to the bottom. I already know there is another one coming because I can tell by the guys coming down in front of me on their return as I am muddling through.  Back down the hill. Repeat.

Up again. Now I’ve lost my rabbits, I’m just hanging on.  This can’t keep going on.  How much longer?  What time is it?  Aren’t there some Geneva Convention laws against this?  My time trialling has dissolved into I don’t give a fig and just let me finish.  One of the gals catches up to me on the way back and I weakly ask, how many more do you think?  She doesn’t know but we discover we both like Trader Joe’s almond butter with toasted flax seeds.

At the bottom of Ross Dock he makes us spin around him and then says, “okay now you can go all the way to the top, I’ll meet you at Ranger’s station.”  I’m pretty sure I can’t make it.   I weakly climb up Ross Dock — seriously old lady with that walking stick if you beat me up this hill I will hurt you.  I don’t even attempt the time trial part, when I hit the attack hill,  I mutter “I surrender, you win.”  And then I continue on towards Ranger Station.  I resent every downhill because I know I will have to climb even more to get up to the top.  I’m trying desperately to remember which hill is the last one.  I can’t remember.  It’s just torture. I’m yelling at myself for choosing Mont Tremblant for my Ironman, what’s wrong with Arizona?  Why? Why? Why?

Just as I am about to decide I need a break I see some guy in a red TL outfit come flying down the hill.  Then another, then another.  Oh crap it’s my old team and they are coming down the hill.  Then it’s people I know, it’s good to see their faces but I am surely dying on this hill and what a sorry way to say goodbye!  I am looking for a place to stop.  I have to catch my breath or my dignity or something.  I am right at the steepest part.  I can see the rock I have to get to but I just don’t know how I am going to get there.  Right then my old swim coach comes down the hill with a hearty smile and hello.  “C’mon, is that all you got?”  He’s joking with me and it was very good natured but I don’t have enough oxygen to yell so he doesn’t even get to hear my reply.  “This?  This is WAYY more than I got.  My got is long gone.”   But they saved me from stopping.  I couldn’t stop in front of them.  I seriously would have let myself keel over and die on the spot before I would stop my bike in front of my old team.   And then I was over that little steep lip and it now it was just normal climbing again. So it was my old team that came out of nowhere to help me get up that awful final part of the climb to Ranger’s Station when my lungs had nothing left.

When I reached ranger station a couple of the guys are already there.  I’m thinking we get to go home now.  Enough.  No, the coach wants us to ride out to meet him at State Line.  Are you kidding me?  There’s only one thing that happens out at State Line and it is not good.  A couple of the gals come up the hill and announce they are finished.  I declare that I too am done and there is no way I can continue on.  I try to lead a revolt but I know if one of these guys heads out to State Line I am going to have to go with them.  I really, really hate that competitive streak that makes me do things I don’t want to do.  The gals all turn left and head home.  I go with the four guys and head to state line.  There we are told to do two repeats of State Line hill and we would be done.  The funny part was, I wasn’t dying anywhere near as much on this hill as I was on that last climb.  I just resigned myself to suffer.    Then we were done and the coach says the magic words.  “Okay, go home.”

I am worried that I won’t make it home (I did not drive, I rode my bike from home).  But as I get up the next hill and hit the flats I’m kind of surprised.  I’m okay.  I hunker down into aero and start pedaling.  I couldn’t believe it.  I really was okay.  I was riding, dare I even say it?  Alright.  My cadence was decent.  I wasn’t exhausted.  I had air in my lungs.  The wheezing had subsided.  I really couldn’t figure it out, why was I okay all of a sudden?  I think I did my nutrition right (two bottles of inifit but extra water at Ranger Station).  I rode all the way home and my final distance was almost the same as it had been the week before 56 miles.  Just more hills.

This week I decided to try some of the recovery drink I bought from Infinit.  I was thirty so it went down easily.  I made some pasta with red sauce (which is what I seem to crave whenever I am riding down Riverside Drive) with some eggplant.  I sat down, ate my lunch and then ten minutes later I couldn’t move.  OUCH!!! My legs were killing me.  Getting up or down was so painful.  My knees were hurting.  I decided to watch a movie and put ice packs on my knees.  We were supposed to run 9-12 miles the next day.   No way.  No how.  Forget it.  I’m too old.  I couldn’t do it last week and my bike ride had been much easier. I had kept all the ice packs from when I did that cooler cleanse and I was just putting them on my knees, on my quads, on my calves.   Getting up was painful.    This is too much.   Finally when it was time for bed I popped 4 Aleve and went to bed and hoped for the best.

The next morning I got up ready for my version of the walk of shame — hobbling to the bathroom with bad knees.  Shocker of all shockers, I was fine.  All the pain from the previous day.  Gone.  Poof, just like that. Nothing hurt.  Not my quads, not my calves, not my knees.  I was shocked.  I packed up my bags and hit the road to CT.  I would do my run up there.

To end this story.  I ran 10 miles yesterday.  I had the best run of my year so far.  It was still a run/walk but I had zero pain.  My running portions were faster than I had run in several years.  My humor was excellent.  My mindset was great.  I was enjoying every minute of it.  I was running much faster than I had in Florida (granted Florida was 80 degrees and this was 47).    I honestly didn’t know who or what had taken over my body?  What was it?  Was it the Infinit Recovery drink?  Was it the ice packs?  Was it the Aleve before bed?  Was it the 7 pounds I lost? I didn’t push into longer run segments.  I just kept to my run/walk schedule but instead of finishing a mile in 15 minutes I was finishing in 13:30 including my walking just because I was running faster.  I thought my garmin was lying to me but the trail I was running on had mile markers and they agreed with the garmin. I really don’t understand it but maybe sometimes just when you think it is going to be all bad, a sprout of good pops up like the forsythia in our back yard telling you “have faith, Spring is here, it’s not always going to suck.”

Namaste

Some pictures from yesterday’s run:

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3/17/12 How Do You Stay Tough?

Friday.  I received yet another an email from a former teammate who is suffering from the indignity of injury.   She asked me “how do you stay tough when the going gets tough?” What a great question, it must be because I get that question a lot.  But I always laugh to myself, why ask me?  What do I do when the going gets tough?  Well anyone who reads my blog knows I whine a lot.  I bemoan a past that really wasn’t a real picture of reality.  I second guess myself.  I compare myself to everyone else out there regardless of their age, fitness, athletic history.  I yell at myself for not being fitter, faster and more steadfast in my workouts.  I perfect the art of self-flagellation.  Well, at least I used to do a lot of that.  And then when I have finished wasting all that time, I lace up my shoes and start again.   If I have one piece of advice for anyone it is worry is a big fat waste of time.  Worry doesn’t make you faster, it doesn’t make you strong and most of all Worry doesn’t effect the outcome.  Save yourself a lot of strife and put worry on the shelf.

I am continually surprised when people think I am “tough.”  Even my coach say my toughness is one of my strengths.  Really?  I don’t see it.

If they mean tough as getting back up again, I guess I do that.   If tough is dealing with disappointment, I guess I am tough.  I have come to expect disappointment and now success is such a surprise now that I am having a blast with any little victory. Starting over  is something I do a hundred times a day.   And if that is what tough is then okay, maybe I’m tough.   Above all else I have learned that the opportunity to start again does not come on Monday, or at the next workout.  It starts in this very instance to change the way I think.   I change my existence by how I perceive my existence.

I also think being tough is being smart.  Working out injured is not tough or smart.  Sometimes the smarter, tougher thing to do is less.  Can’t get a full bike workout in?  Climb up a couple of flights of stairs.  Can’t do an entire swim workout?  Just get to the pool and do 15 minutes of drills (and I guarantee you’ll do 25).  You don’t have to be perfect.  It only took me 7 years to learn that.  Save yourself some time and just understand that now.

I guess I usually think I can squeeze one more second or one more inch and if I can’t do it one way I’ll do it another.   And sometimes a wall or a couple of cyclists or a bunch of muscle spasms or some pesky cancer cells get in your way.  You have to learn to swerve.  Something gets in your way, find another way around it.  There is always a substitute.  Might not be perfect but then what really is?

When the going gets tough, first you push and test the strength of the wall. When the wall pushes back, LEAN.  Don’t push back.  Lean, dodge, be flexible.  You will get a lot more out of being flexible then pushing back hard.  This is the number one lesson I have learned.  The harder  you push the harder the wall pushes back. Be flexible.  Don’t put all your emotions in one basket.  Diversify your interests.

Stop shoulding all over yourself.  I should be here by now.  I should beat him.  I should do more.  I should, I should, I should.  When my Dad had his heart attack and I was trying to be all things to all people and pulling my hair out worried about all the workouts I should be doing but wasn’t, Coach Shifu told me to take a two week break from working out.  Of course you know what happened.  As soon as I had permission to not work out, I had a bunch of great workouts! I was putting so much pressure on myself that I didn’t workout AND I felt guilty about it.  At least forgive yourself so you don’t hit yourself twice.

You are never as weak as you think you are, and you are probably not as strong as you remember you were.  We all remember our fitness from when we finished our last race.  I have to think to remember my struggling up a hill at Memorial Day camp, or crying the first time I put a backpack on and realizing I had to run with all my food in there.  We don’t really get strong until race day.  Up until then we are a bunch of wannabes.  But our memory is tricky.  We just remember how beautiful our baby turned out, we don’t remember the nine months of pregnancy and labor.

Meditating has tried to teach me to lean. One way to lean is to forgive. That’s the hardest for me.  I am my own toughest task master but I am learning a little forgiveness here creates strength elsewhere.  Sometimes if you just forgive yourself for being human and of mortal flesh and let yourself rest a little you come back stronger.  Works for your head too.

Your entire self-worth as an athlete is not wrapped up into one day or even one event.  My former coach Lisa said to me after my accident in Lake Placid,  if you haven’t had a bad race you haven’t raced enough.  My friend Melissa said after I got pulled from the bike course in Canada that if anyone races as much as I do I was sure to see all sides of the race world — the finish line, the PR’s and even the SAG wagon.  That is all part of the experience.

I will say this.  I am tougher because of my struggles.  Downtime helps you focus on the long game.  This is a long game.  If you are in this for one race, okay, I get it, all your eggs are in one basket and you will never race again.  But really  most endurance athletes are not in it for one race.  They are in it for a lifestyle.  Focus on long-term goals.  If your long term goal is to be fit and fighting at fifty, don’t worry so much about taking a month to let your muscles heal at say thirty.

So I guess that’s my formula for how to stay tough when the going gets tough.  Don’t be so tough.  Take a step back.  Learn to swerve and learn to lean.  Laugh at yourself.  When you feel like everyone has left you behind say thank you for some me-time.  One thing I can promise you, there is always someone in a worse boat than yours.  Be grateful.  Yes that would be my final formula.  Swerve, Lean, forgive, be grateful and in every moment start again.  That’s how you stay tough when the going gets tough.  So I hear.

Namaste

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3/12/12 Sarasota

Monday.  Well I finished the Sarasota Half.  I will say I had a very good time and I recorded probably my slowest 1/2 marathon time (or darn close) but I was close to what I planned.  I wanted to do a jog/walk and keep it under 15 minute miles which I calculated to be 3 hours and 15 minutes.  My official time was 3 hours 16 minutes 22 seconds which turned out to be a 14:58 pace.  On target, although not exactly how I thought I would get there.

I chose this race to come do a race with my friend Melissa who moved down to Sarasota from NYC some years ago.  Melissa and I did our very first triathlon together in 2003 and we’ve been best of buddies since.  We’ve done a bunch of races together even, including our epic trip to Alaska for the midnight half marathon and visit to Denali.  Though she is a fastie fast, I overlook that because she is also kind, nice and supportive.  This race would also be a good training run for me and help me acclimate to the weather next month for St. Anthony’s.  So I hopped Jet Blue (nice airline) and my brother put me up at his fancy club where he is a member and I would never get to stay otherwise.

I wasn’t worried about this race because I wasn’t racing it.  My goal was time on my feet, feel good at the end (no bonking, no dizziness, no pulling over into a coma, no imaginary conversations with Country Singers.)  I would say I met all the criteria.  Above all else, the fact that I can do this without feeling dizzy makes me very happy.  Racing will come soon enough.

The Sarasota Half Marathon is a very well run and friendly race.  No pretense here.  Cheers for the fastie fasts ( a nice flat course if you want to PR tho warm) and plenty of cheers and water for the walkers.  A totally walker-friendly course.  Plenty of water.

One tiny drawback is that it fell on Daylight Savings time.  So the 7 am start was a body clock of 6 am and I like to be up 2 hours before a race so 5 am was my 4 am).  I flew in the day before which maybe next time I would give myself one extra day to get a good night’s sleep but it was only  a half marathon and I wasn’t trying to “race” it so day before was just fine.

I didn’t have an exact strategy going in but I knew I would be good for ten miles of run/walking.  I thought I would start out with a mile walkwarmup until I woke up and found it HOT and HUMID.  I was actually shocked.  It was cool and breezy when I went to bed and I woke up to a sauna.  No way could I run in this weather.  I could barely breathe.  I quickly changed my strategy to a walk plan and hoped that I wouldn’t pass out.

The first 5 miles of this race are up and over two bridges around St. Armand’s circle and back over the two bridges. The rest of the course would be flat.  The incline on the bridges was not that tough.  I got into a powerwalk right from the start and was surprised to be passing all the walkers.  I looked at my watch and I was doing an even 15 minute mile which is not even my fastest power walk (I can do an even 14 minute mile power walk but not the crazy 11 minute mile power walks I see some people do.)

I had to jog a few times to get past blocks of walkers and find a spot.  Coming down the first bridge my legs started running on their own and I reprimanded them that I was in no shape to be running in this heat and the last thing I wanted was a heart attack so early in the season.  Down the second bridge I said okay, you can run but when you hit the flats you have to walk.  It’s just too hot.  I was actually having fun because I was passing all the walkers and thought this might become my new sport — until white tshirt lady passed me.

There was nothing descript about white t shirt lady.  She was about 5′ 6″, wearing a loose long white tshirt over baggy shorts, short black hair.  She didn’t even have a logo on her tshirt.  I think it might have even been, gasp, cotton.  For 30 minutes into the race I’ve done nothing but pass walkers and this woman cruises by me effortlessly.  She’s not even pumping her arms.  She doesn’t have the official power walk waddle happening.  She’s just walking like she is going to the post office and quietly cruising by everyone.  I’m doing the big arm pump, my best hip swing that I see all the race walkers doing, imagining my new career as a professional race walker and she is sailing by me like I’m a palm tree.  Harumph.  I try to follow her foot fall.  It doesn’t seem that fast but darn it if I can’t keep it going.  It must be her stride is shorter.  So I shorten my stride and try to keep up.  Nope I’m losing her.  I resort to the only thing I can think of, I run to catch up to her.  I’m out of breath fast. I’m keeping my eye on you lady.  I have to run to catch up with her.  But I can’t maintain that.  She is walking a  12 minute mile and that would be my race pace.  I can’t race this, I’m not in shape.  I have to let her go.  But when I look up we have covered 5 miles.

The sun rises and we are back on flat land.  As we turn the corner the sun has risen and we are met with an ocean breeze.  The temperature has dropped at least 15 degrees.  It was, dare I say it?  Lovely running weather.  It was shaded, cool and flat.  Darn it!@!!  Even I am going to have run this .  Sigh.  I searched for any excuse but there was none.  So I started doing my regular run/walk and now my legs were warmed up and I was feeling pretty good. I kept that going for about 4 miles until the shade ended and then I started walking in the sun and getting quickly overheated.  (St. Anthony’s here I come next month).  In the shade I recovered and would do a run/walk.  I have a band of about 20 people who were doing the exact same thing.  For the last 3-4 miles it was all the same people, power walking, recovery walking, jogging when we could.  I’d pass them, they’d pass me.  We started smiling at one another.  Then we started encouraging one another.  We started working with one another.  It started to get hot.  One person would start jogging and we’d all start.  Then we’d all walk.  We had a big group all kind of spread out over the equivalent of a city block.  Faces fading then reappearing.

The last mile was hot.  No shade.  No breeze but now we were just sailing on get-er-done juice.  I adopted some 62 year old woman who seemed in fantastic shape except for the knee wraps. (Or did she adopt me?)  She’s super friendly and had been my exact pace for 2 miles.  We walked the same pace and ran the same pace.  She encouraged me and I encouraged her.  We made a good team.  We saw my friend Melissa at the 12.5 mile marker and she started yelling at me to run harder.  I told her she had to run with me and yell at me if she wanted me to run.  I told her she was being too nice.  But there was the finish line and I was done.  I wasn’t hurting.  I wasn’t in pain.  It was, dare I say?  Somewhat enjoyable?

Although I wasn’t tired from the race I had a lot of mental fatigue from life stress and I chilled on the beach until it rained and then did a few errands.  I felt terribly guilty all afternoon that I didn’t feel like I had run a half marathon (probably because I didn’t).  I thought I should have felt sorer.

Back in NYC, before I came down, I had booked some tennis.  I’m staying at Long Boat Key Club.  This area is known as Tennis Land.  Bolleteri tennis camp which produced all the great tennis players is up the road.  The Colony is a famous tennis resort as well (on the same stretch.)  Back in 2005 I had visited my folks here and got a tremendous workout from some touring pros.  So I booked some sessions.

I woke up the morning with a sore butt.  I guess all that power walking used some different muscles.  Now I feel like I did a half marathon.  My quads are a little tired but my butt is REALLY sore.  I now have to get dressed and be on the court at 8 a.m for a literal ass kicking.  I am going to be so embarrassed.  I’m supposed to be a good tennis player.  As I hobble onto the court  I’m going to be humiliated.  And then I get to repeat that joy tomorrow and wednesday as well (but by then my butt shouldn’t still hurt so I should be okay)  I can already tell you what is going to happen.  They are going to tell me I have to get low to the ball.  I’m going to tell them my butt hurts and I can’t bend my legs.  Then they are going to make me do squats to warm up my legs and then I’m going to cry.

Oh and then I have to an open water swim and a do a bike.  This is training camp.  But a really pretty one. Pass the Aleve please.

Namaste

This is view from my fancy room thanks to my generous brother.  Nicest race accomodations I’ve ever had.  And btw, you can see your toes in that water.

Me and Melissa before the race start, one of many similar pictures from Florida, Memphis, Alaska, we’ve been all over the place racing together.  I’ll put together a Connie and Melissa photo montage one of these days:

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3/5/12 Top of the Rock

Sunday.  Well I finished!  66 flights of stairs up to the top of Rockefeller Center. My 2012 season is underway!  As usual, what I thought would happen didn’t.  I thought I would fly through the first 30 flights no problem and then be crawling up the last 36.   So my strategy was to do the opposite, start slow and finish fast. I had a great hill workout (in the gym) on Thursday and really noticed the difference in my overall strength.  I thought it might happen again this morning, I would come out pumped and ready to hit the stairs and then peter out.  It didn’t work quite that way.

I had very little sleep.  Okay no sleep, but I kept reminding myself that didn’t matter for one day — I would nap later.  I was nervous that I would be doing the stairs with crowds of people around me.  It wasn’t like that at all.  It was a staggered start.  First there were waves of about 150 people (our wave went off at 6:45) and then they sent each of us off every 5 seconds or so.  So there was nobody crowded around me.  The stairs were wide but the stairs were not even.  Some flights had bigger landings.  Some flights seemed to have more stairs.  I got into a zone quickly. For most of the climb, I was alone.  Great volunteers at each landing clapping and cheering which was nice.  I didn’t get grumpy as I sometimes do when I’m suffering and someone is a little too cheery.  I was able to maintain a smile.

I thought the first 30 would really be no problem.  I have been doing the stairmaster at the gym, climbing the stairs in my building.  Squats are my friend. I was sure the first 30 flights would seem okay.  But this morning my legs felt dead right out of the box.  (I had a 15 minute walk over and a few stretches).  The first flight I thought “I’m in trouble. Flight 1 is hard, what are numbers 26, 36, 46, 56 and 66 going to feel like?”  But it didn’t get worse, it just stayed that hard the entire time. I was slow — slower than I have been in my own building.  My legs were heavy and I was tired.  But my legs were working.  Quads, quads, quads. One in front of the other.  I got into a even, slow pace and just kept going. I felt I had plenty of room on the stairs and I did not feel pressure to go faster or slower. I was definitely breathing hard.  Could I have gone a little faster?  Yes, but I really didn’t know how I would feel at the end so I was saving up.  Turns out that would be my pace for the entire climb.

Several duos passed me only to reappear again at the water stops.  There were two stops where you could get water.  I didn’t stop.  I just kept plodding along.  Some who passed me earlier passed me again.  Then the same thing happened at the second water stop. This was because they were stopping at the water stops but I just kept going.  I really didn’t think it was going to take me more than 30 minutes so I figured I could do without water for that long.

I did slow down on a couple of the landings just to catch my breath and let my heart rate lower a bit and then I was able to resume.  In retrospect I probably could have just maintained the higher heart rate but I’m still testing that out and figured better safe than sorry.   I still don’t know how much I can really push.  The next thing I knew I heard the screaming and I was at the top.  I don’t remember much of the last 20 flights.  I just went into a zone.  But I felt the same effort at the end as I did at the begin.  Labored.

But here is why I really do feel good about the climb.  This was my 2012 kick off event and I did okay.  Yes I would have liked to have been faster (26 minutes), but no matter what my time was I would have thought I would have liked to have been faster. I said I wanted to be under 30 minutes and I was under 30 minutes.   Unlike 2010 and 2011 which were just one bad event after another, filled with races I had no business doing.  Today I had no dizziness.  I did not feel like I was going to faint or have to pull over and slip into a coma.  My lungs were working appropriately hard.  They were not burning, just working.  My heart rate felt at the appropriate effort — beating hard but not in my throat and not feeling like it was going to come out of my chest.  My knees did not hurt.  I did not have a single cramp.  If this is my first event of the season and my physical responses at the remaining events are all appropriate to my effort I am going to be very happy.  I feel all my medications are at the right dosage.  I feel all my energy levels are appropriate for my level of fitness at this time and place.  For this I am extremely grateful.

And here is the biggest reason I feel good about this climb.  I’ve raised over $2,100 so far and hoping to reach $2,500 by April 4th when they close the donations page.  I still have a few people who have said they will donate and I have a matching corporate donation coming. My heart is made lighter by the generosity of my friends. Not just in their reaching down into their pockets but also in their reaching out and sharing their own stories of MS.  I was drawn to this event by the challenge but became more determined by the cause.  I had four people in particular for whom I was climbing.  My very first childhood friend Robbin and her mother both diagnosed with MS.  My friend Cass who has been suffering with MS for years and has fought so valiantly to stay strong while both of her sons were also diagnosed with other debilitating diseases.  And my teammate Nacho who fought with MS is now leading this team of athletes to the top.  But then people started donating and telling me about their family members lost to MS, their friends and family still suffering from the disease.  I had no idea so many people I knew were being effected by this disease.  But this event gave a voice to all these people to speak and say “me too, let’s do something about it.”  Now I was climbing in honor of a longer list, children of friends, Uncles,  Fathers, cousins, training partners and neighbors.

As the donations and stories started to pour in, my heart became a little overwhelmed.   On February 29th (Leap Day), I ended up being the number one fundraiser for the event on that single day and they gave me four tickets to the top of the Rock, which I will use as incentive for another fundraiser.  And then I found out that I may actually make the “elite” list of top 66 fundraisers.  They honor the top 66 fundraisers the following year by putting their names on the different floors and give them other acknowledgements.  As I was passing the thirtieth floor it had my former teammate Bec’s name up there as being one of the top 66 fundraisers last year.  I would be really honored to make the top 66 and how cool would it be if my name is on the wall next year and I get them to print “RUMBLE” for my friends who are running?  But I have to wait to see how everyone’s fundraising pans out.  Of course that would mean I have to go back next year but that would be a great goal!  Raise more money and be faster?  Dare I even think it?

There were a lot of people with MS at the event in crutches and wheelchairs thanking everyone.  As I was about to leave a guy in yellow volunteer shirt sat in his wheelchair with a huge smile on his face — simply beaming. He looked me right in the eyes, with grateful acknowledgement and said “Thank you.”  I was really struck by his total appreciation while he sat in his wheelchair not able to participate as a climber.  I said “no problem” of course but all I could think was, No thank you, I got more out of this than I gave and next year I will try to make sure it is the other way around.

And to top it all off?  I still went out and ran 7 miles toward my Ironman training.  It was supposed to be 10 but it got cold and I’m old and sometimes you just have to say that was a good day and have some steamed dumplings with your friend.

Next stop on the comeback tour:  Sarasota Half Marathon.  Not racing it, just seeing if I can finish 13.1 doing a run/walk without fading.

Namaste

My fundraising page stays open for another couple of weeks.  This is the link to the page http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?px=1772148&fr_id=17407&pg=personal.

This is a picture of me and some of my teammates from Team Nacho.  They have all trained with me for Ironman as well.   Endurance sports — the gift that keeps on giving!!

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