Friday PSA

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Published on: January 28, 2011

When your trainer greets you with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, and says, “So, can we work your legs hard today?” under no circumstances should you say yes.  Well, not unless practically needing a walker to get around for the next few days appeals to you.

Just trust me on this.

January 1st, take 2: an update

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Published on: January 26, 2011

Just a quick note.

I’m 3 days into my second try at starting my New Year’s resolutions.  And how am I doing?

Not too shabby, actually.  I’ve hit the treadmill every day so far — nothing jaw-dropping, not even close — but I’ve gotten it done despite the fact that I had absolutely no desire to sweat at all.

And you know what?  I felt better for having done it.  Lesson learned?  Perhaps.

My nutrition hasn’t exactly been spot-on, but at least I’m no longer consuming crap like it’s about to be outlawed.  Or heavily taxed.  Even just a little moderation in my diet has trimmed a few pounds off.

So far, so good…

Of course, today I’m close to dead on my feet (or, dead on my ass, since I basically sit in front of a computer all day).  The last thing I want to do is train.  But, sweat I will.  It helps that I have a trainer beatdown scheduled (this is why I pay for someone to inflict pain… it’d be too easy for me to skip otherwise)… and while I’m there, I might as well run a little, right?  Make better use of my time?  Exactly.

I suppose that’s MY state of the union address.  At least for right now.  Let’s see if I can keep this going for a few more days at least…

January 1st, take 2

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Published on: January 23, 2011

I’m big on New Year’s resolutions.  For years now, I’ve taken time as the year changes from old to new, and assess how the previous year went and figure out what I want to do for the next 365 days.  I like having a plan and all that.

Sometimes it feels a bit cliche, but I don’t know – there’s just something about a new year that seems like it’s a good time for a fresh start.  It’s all holiday good cheer and twinkling lights and optimism for the year ahead and it seems like there’s no way the pie-in-the-sky plans will fail.

And then, all of a sudden, it’s mid-January.  Dark.  Cold.  A little depressing, to be perfectly honest.  Not exactly the kind of month that inspires you to be a better person, is it?

I laid out 10 resolutions for myself this year.  Some personal, some race-related, some that address my overall well-being.  And while I’ve got an appointment with myself at the end of every month to review the resolutions and see if I’m heading in the right direction, I thought it might do me some give myself a good mid-month ass-kicking… because, as I said in a previous post, the ice cream is winning.

It seems like every year features some sort of resolve to eat better, lose weight, be more healthy… however it is that I decide to word it for that particular year.  And that hasn’t changed for this year — I’m determined to focus on eating healthy, cutting out processed food and drop some weight by sticking to that. So far this January, I haven’t been doing anything to help myself out here.  Toss in a lot of stress (the whole buying/selling a house thing) and swirl it up with not getting nearly enough sleep (and remember – sleep is The Secret to me being happy) and I can’t seem to stay away from the crap food.  So far it hasn’t really hurt me too much — my weight just seems to bounce around in the same 3-pound range — but this needs to change.  Just think how far along I could be if I had been doing things right?

The other main set of resolutions involve getting faster.  Shaving a few minutes off my half marathon PR.  Finally kicking the marathon curse off my shoulders and going sub-4.  You want to know what helps with all this?  Actual training.  Huh.  Whodda thunk it?  Up until this past week, life has been a big ball of chaos, and time when I wasn’t getting my house ready for market was a rare commodity.  Ironically, running is the one thing that HELPS me deal with stress… and it was (is?) the one thing I wasn’t doing.  And, you know – I love running, but does that stop me from getting into a bad cycle where I don’t run because I’m stressed even though that’s the one thing that would relieve the stress?  Nope – I’m completely capable of being a dumbass, it seems.

So, starting tomorrow (since I’m currently snarfing down a Calzone for dinner), I’m back on the wagon.  I ran this weekend… and even further than a few miles.  I’ll continue this week:  good training sessions, at least 5-6 runs, food decisions geared towards making me feel better.

Because that’s what it’s all about:  it’s not really the losing weight, or the specific race times… it’s about making me feel good about myself and what I’m able to accomplish.  I think I sometimes forget how when you start making decisions that are good for you, that this can steamroll just as easily as the bad stuff can.  And once you get yourself going back in the right direction, that good feeling becomes it’s own self-propelling cycle.

So – hold me to the fire here:  keep me honest, keep me accountable.  I know exactly what I want and what I need to do to get there, I’ve just got to get this butt back in gear.

Right after I finish this calzone.

New recruit

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Published on: January 14, 2011

One of my very favorite things to do is to bring someone new into my world of triathlons and running.  Sometimes they are reluctantly dragged into it, kicking and screaming, quite sure that they’re going to absolutely hate it.  Other times they have no idea what exactly they’re agreeing to but go into it willingly enough, until – of course – they figure out that, um, yea, this might not exactly be fun (let’s just say there was a long night of drinking after a softball game where I talked a friend into doing her first 5k the next morning… picking her up at 5am… hee).

I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the middle of picking up and moving.  And one of the things I’m most excited about is the opportunity I’m going to have to get myself a training partner!  I’ve always talked about how I dislike the solitary aspect of training, and how I’m much more a social-triathlete than a competitive one, so this is like a gift from the training heavens.

Yes – I’m taking in a roommate when I move.  But that’s not who I’m referring to.  By being closer to work, and closer to people who will be able to help out, as soon as I’m settled in?  Yea, I’m getting myself a four-legged training pal.  And I cannot WAIT.

Last time around, my dog was the epitome of lazy:  I would leave him home for 11-12 hours at a time and when I would get home?  He’d look at me from his perch on the couch and cock his head at me as if to say, “Tired?  Wanna nap with me for awhile?”  Yup.  I had the best dog.

But he was never a runner.  And that was my fault – I got him from the pound when he was older and I never took the time to properly train him on leash.  He would be okay walking, but running?  He would either be sprinting ahead or stubbornly stopping to sniff and mark things behind me.

This time around I’m doing it right.  I’m going to make sure I make the effort to train the new recruit to run with me.  Make the new pooch a motivator for me to get off my duff and get outside, too.  Gotta walk the dog, right?

I’ll probably go the same route as last time — go to the pound, find a dog that needs a good home and some lovin’ (and who’s already been house-trained!).  And one that will give me the puppy-dog eyes guilt trip when I’m sitting on the couch, ice cream in hand, instead of pounding out some miles, dog at my side.  My future pup has NO idea that he’ll be one of the few dogs around that will BE the trainer as well as the one being trained!

Yup – I’m indoctrinating the newest breed of triathamutt.  Super Dog!

The ice cream is winning

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Published on: January 11, 2011

You know, the holidays are always tough:  tons of food around and everyone seems to encourage the idea that any sweet imbued with the warm fuzziness of Christmas is calorie-free.  Let me be the first to tell you:  this is not the truth.

Still – I managed to maintain my weight, despite indulging in my fair share of the holiday treats.  I mean, heck – it’s easier to skip dinner than it is to skip the Christmas cookies, right?  Seemed like a fair trade to me, and while not the smartest way to go about things, it worked.

But now that the holidays are over and all sorts of good, healthy resolutions have been made, I thought it would be easy.  At this point last year, I had completely committed to a nutritious lifestyle and was on my way to dropping 10 pounds, just in the month of January.

This year?  Yea, not so much.  Part of the problem is a lack of focus:  I’m in the midst of packing up my house to move to a new place, and I’m overwhelmed and stressed by the whole process.  Now, I’m pretty good at moving stuff — I change houses about every 5 years — but this time seems different.  Between the market being so bad that my house will have to look PERFECT and the fact that I’m drastically downsizing and have to get rid of a ton of stuff, I’m finding myself wandering from room to room, eyes glazed over, too paralyzed with stress to actually be productive and get things done.

Of course, the end result is that I’m not making time to train. I’ve got a very specific deadline for getting the house in order – there isn’t much that gets more priority than this.  And because I’m over-the-top stressed?  Yea, I’m stress eating.  And I made a major mistake:  I brought ice cream into the house (it was a BOGO offer! couldn’t pass it up!) and now I’m consumed with the idea of, well, consuming it.

So, I’m headed in the wrong direction.  I closed out 2010 headed in the right direction but this month has seen the skid marks resulting from the massive braking and reversal of direction I’m doing on all the good stuff.

My goal right now is to try and hold steady for this month.  Just get through this.  Once I actually move (which should be mid-February), I’ll have no excuses.  I’ll be closer to work (saving a LOT of commute time), getting more sleep and no longer stressing about making my house all beautiful and such for the market.  Sounds like perfection, right?

Life will be all butterflies and rainbows (and sidewalks that don’t need to be shoveled by me!) and I can’t wait to be in at a point where everything has no choice but to come together.

And until then?  I can see the light (bright sunlight?) at the end of the tunnel, and I’m just holdin’ on ….

By the wayside

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Published on: January 9, 2011

A triathlete friend of mine recently pulled me aside and asked me, point blank:  “so, are you even a triathlete anymore?  Or have you become a complete wuss and given up on the sport?”

Well, it’s true… I’m certainly not the triathlete I used to be.  In the past two years?  I think I did a total of one triathlon.  And that was an all-women’s sprint triathlon where I could wear my wetsuit (and it was basically a pool swim, even!).

So, yes.  I believe that officially makes me a triathlon wuss.

And I’m not entirely sure that’s something I want to change, either.  It’s well-known in these parts that I’ve got little love for the water.  If I never went swimming again, I don’t think it would bother me one bit.  I’m glad that I overcame my fear of it, and I’m proud of myself for taking on the 1.2 mile half ironman swim in Lake Michigan (twice already!), but don’t know that I feel the need to go back and do it again.

My reasoning goes like this:  I don’t like to swim.  I’m an adult.  I get to make my own decisions, especially about things that are considered “hobbies” in my life.  Therefore, the math looks like this:  don’t like to swim + an adult + make my own decisions = NO SWIMMING!! YAY!!

I suspect I’ll stay active in the sport to some extent, though mostly racing triathlons where I can hack the swim without training (meaning – easy, short, wetsuit-legal swim).  I do like the idea of duathlons, though.  I think the bike cross-training will be good for me, and what’s not to love about a race that allows you to run twice?  Right?!

This is the year that a bunch of my friends are headed to IMWI to race.  There’s a part of me that wanted to be out there with them… but, unfortunately (or fortunately!) there wasn’t another part of me willing to commit to the rather insane hours of training — especially all the time in the pool (I mean, 4500y swims??!  Just kill me now….).  I’m not totally discounting the idea of an Ironman.  But certainly not today.  Or this year.  But – someday.  Perhaps.

This is what I figure:  I spent the last 2 years doing not much racing, not much training.  In the past 4 months or so, my running mojo has definitely returned with a very fun vengeance.  And my interest is certainly piqued at thinking about how much I can improve my bike time in the Metlife Duathlon in June.  And that’s about where my racing desires end.  To be social, I might hop in and do the Subaru sprint triathlon, but that’s as wet as I’ll get this year.

You know, except for all the sweating I’ll be doing.

Drumroll, please…

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Published on: January 7, 2011

I know everyone has been anxiously awaiting hearing about the results of my body fat test (don’t deny it – you’ve been doing nothing but watching your RSS Feeds and Facebook for evidence of a new post about this).  It’s long overdue and I know I’ve owed putting it out here, but….

I have to admit – I’ve been less than ready to publicize those results all over The Interwebz.

First, let me remind you of what my baseline is:  according to my hydrostatic weighing a mere 16 months ago, I was at 21.1% body fat.  Going into this bod pod session, I really wasn’t sure what to expect — hoping for lower (duh), but wouldn’t have been surprised with something either in the same range or a touch higher, even.

So, when the results came back, I was flabbergasted (note: I love that word).  After picking my jaw up from the floor, I immediately started arguing with the technician that this could not possibly be correct.

Any guesses?  No?  Okay – I’ll tell you:  27.7%.

I’m not kidding when I say that I raised a little hell after getting the results — I was seriously confused as to how that could even be in the realm of possibility.  And yes – I understand that the actual number is just an estimation (no matter how you come by it – the only sure-fire accurate method of finding out your body fat percentage is during autopsy.  Which hasn’t yet made it to my option list yet.).  But still.  Right?

Regardless, I put up enough of a stink that I had two athletic trainers in there talking me down.  Even though I didn’t specifically pay for any kind of analysis (psychological, bod pod or otherwise), they were patient and spent a lot of time talking it out with me.  And what conclusion did we come to?

Well, I told them I had been trying to drop weight.  And after months of basically staying at the same place, I decided to drastically cut calories.  See – being a runner, every pound means something.  Actually, it’s been theorized that this “something” actually equates to about 2 seconds a mile.  So – weighing less?  As a runner?  Good thing.

Of course, having a huge calorie deficit everyday (I had been essentially not eating dinner and not even refueling after afternoon workouts) will have some impact:  yes, you will lose weight.  But – the weight you lose?  Probably muscle, not fat.  As the very nice, patient trainers told me, it’s easy to lose weight but hard to lose body fat.

So, what I had been accomplishing with the weeks of only dreaming about pot roast and ice cream for dessert was that my body was using muscle to fuel my body rather than fat stores or food that I was taking in. Which, as it turns out?  Is a bad thing.  The scale might have had kind things to say to me over those weeks, but in fact, I was doing myself more harm than good.  All my training was being undermined by a lack of fuel to rebuild and grow stronger.

And – I know, I know.  How many times have I told someone, “You’re not eating enough!”  I should know better.  Ironically, I wanted a quick fix for losing weight and ultimately it ended up being a way to lose muscle instead (and that was muscle I was working hard to gain!).

Because the nice bod pod people (that has a very alien ring to it, doesn’t it?) were so impressed with my concern about my health (or just were doing anything they could to get me out the door…), they told me that they would go over my test results, plug some numbers into some spreadsheets they had created, and send me a report that would tell me how many calories per day I should be eating and the macro breakdown of those calories.

When I got this piece of information, it was eye-opening:  I was supposed to be eating AT LEAST 1800 calories a day as a baseline, meaning that was my resting metabolic rate (calories I would burn a day doing no training).  And on days when I trained particularly hard, I should compensate with more calories.  During my little adventure to try and lose weight?  I was probably only eating 1000-1200 calories a day.  Tops.  Which also means that on days I trained, I was netting somewhere around 800 calories a day.  SO not healthy. I approached the 1800 kcal mandate with some skepticism, but decided that it couldn’t hurt to try it.

I’ve been following their dietary suggestions now for a two months.  And? Amazingly?  Slowly but surely I’m still dropping weight.  I haven’t been back to take another body fat test, but I’m going to assume that I’m probably headed in a better direction than I was before.

So, while this was a pretty awful experience (“there’s no crying in body fat testing!”), I re-learned a lesson the hard way:  starving yourself isn’t a quick way to anything good.  As an athlete, especially, the body needs fuel and to deny it that nutrition, is asking for bad things to happen.

Just so you know.

Now, go have a cookie!

Lofty?

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Published on: January 4, 2011

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m kind of a goal-oriented person (can I be nominated for Understatement of the Year yet?).  I NEED something out there to work towards.  Because otherwise?  Yea, I don’t actually work at all.

My recent success at the half marathon distance has gotten me thinking about some pretty lofty (for me) goals.  I want to be fitter, stronger, faster and more competitive at 40 (okay, okay… 41 for the racing season) than I was at 30.

(Of course, 10 years ago I was 40 pounds heavier and spent more time on my couch than on my treadmill… so, perhaps my goals aren’t quite so lofty?)

Okay – let me modify slightly:  I want to be more competitive than I was a few years ago, when I was training regularly and in pretty good shape for a 30-something.  I want to prove that 40+ isn’t over the hill.  At least not for this chick.

Here’s what I’m after:

Another half marathon PR.  I’ll be following Hal’s advanced half marathon plan again, hoping that’ll spring me for a sub-1:50 half mary.  Actually, I’m going to shoot for an 8:15m/m pace half marathon (which is 1:48ish), but I’ll settle for anything less than 1:50.

And why is 1:50 such a magic number?  Because that’ll get me into a starting corral for…

The Chicago Marathon!!

Yep – that’s my big A+++ race this year.  I’ve tried the marathon 3 times now.  And haven’t yet really pulled it off to my satisfaction — there’s always been something that’s happened:  injury, intestinal issues, heat wave that got the event CANCELLED when I was at mile 22… you know, the usual.

So… fourth time’s the charm, right?

I’ll be likely jumping on the Hal train for the marathon as well, seeing as how he hasn’t steered me wrong yet (though if it’s a train, is there really much steering involved?  Hmmm).  It’ll be a vigorous, high-mileage plan and I’ve got to admit, Hal’s got me a little scared right now.

Luckily, I don’t have to think about that quite yet.  After all, I’ve got a half marathon PR to go get first, right?

Here we go again

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Published on: January 2, 2011

Another year comes, another resolution to be better about keeping up with this blog.  But, I really, really mean it this time.  Really!

2010 — despite my silence — went out with a bang for me:  a half marathon PR at the Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in December.  Back in October I had talked about how I was following Hal Higdon’s advanced half marathon plan… and that while it seemed to be good at the moment, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to follow through with the rigorous 5-6 days/week of running.  But – as it turns out – my body actually DOES like running that much.  It’s almost like running that much doesn’t give my body a chance to forget how to do it right.  Or something like that.

The race itself?  I couldn’t have asked for better conditions: started out around 50 degrees, absolutely no wind and a flat course, most of which was up and back down the Vegas Strip (lots and LOTS of interesting people to distract you).  I went out at a conservatively fast pace, and felt like I was just flying along for the first 8 miles or so.  And that’s when the race truly started for me.

I got to the 5k-left mark and was struggling; that time in a race where you have to dig down, know that you trained for this, and keep moving forward.  I knew I had a bit of a cushion built in, but not so much that I could slack off.  At this point, all the fun people and distractions?  Not so good.  I’d start looking around and all of a sudden, my pace was a minute slower than it should have been.

Time to focus.

The closer I got to the finish line, the more panicked I became because I kept thinking I had miscalculated somewhere in the last few miles, and I wasn’t going to make it.  Problem is, my legs couldn’t go any faster than what I was doing.  Of course, my oxygen-starved brain wasn’t helping my already-challenged math skills.

So, knowing that I was putting out maximum effort, I stopped looking at my watch and just concentrated on turning my legs over as quickly as I could.  The finish line seemed so far away…

I scanned the horizon, looking for the finish banner, but not seeing it.  I heard the music, knew I couldn’t be far, but WHERE THE HELL WAS THE FINISH LINE??!  I finally realized the joke the race organizers had played on me:  the finish line was actually OFF the Strip.

Once in the parking lot of the Mandalay Bay hotel, I sprinted madly (or – stumbled awkwardly, depending on your viewpoint) for the finish. And managed to eke a 73 second PR (despite the fact that I had already re-calculated myself out of it)!  I left it all out on the course, that’s for sure, and as I drunkenly weaved through the finish area, all I knew is that I had a big, stupid grin on my face.  I DID IT.

Hal made me do it.  And then I went and actually did it.  What a great way to end my season!  And – I have to admit – Hal might be making me do other such outrageous things in the near future…. stay tuned…

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