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Sunday, February 27, 2011

A First--Of Sorts

I don't know what it is about the treadmill, but completing 3 miles under 30 minutes has been impossible since I started running almost two years ago. Maybe it's the monotony of running in place, the scenery not changing. More likely, it's my mindset sabotaging any attempt at running faster than the comfortable 12 minute mile. Let's face it--12 minute miles are quite easy and very doable. I'm living proof of this. I've been doing them for nearly two years now.

The thing is, if I'm going to truly improve my sprint tri time, if I'm going to truly improve my overall fitness, I have to go outside my comfort zone. Even now, as I think about leaving what I'm comfortable with and expending more effort, a feeling of dread fills me. It's like a shot of adrenaline coursing through me, making me hesitate and ask why do this if I don't have to? I have no answer to this question other than I need to prove to myself that I can accomplish more, that more being consistent sub 10 minute miles. So I made a pact with myself a couple of weeks ago: no more 12 minute miles. Ever.

I started with 11 minute miles and found they weren't so difficult after all. Then I started adding in a 10:40 mile here, a 10:20 mile there. This past week, I added in 10:00 miles. And a 9:40 mile. This evening, I started with a 10:00 mile then walked for 5 minutes at 4 mph. I upped the speed from there and ran a 9:20 mile. After another 5 minutes at 4 mph I set the speed at 8:54 and ran a half mile. Five more minutes at 4 mph helped me settle in to finish up a last half mile at 8:20. In the end, I ran 3 miles in 27:50. While I did have the walk breaks, I realized I can find it within to push myself.

I know I still have a ways to go to truly run three consecutive sub 10 minute miles, but I'm getting there. And I will get there.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Running on Fumes

This past week I upped the mileage with both cycling and running to the point that today, as I was running my second mile, I was toast. The fatigue set in and I just couldn't find the gumption to do the third mile. On the spinner, I hit mile eight and called it quits. From there I went to the weight circuit, completed one lower body round, and said enough. To finish up the day, I got in two sets of ab exercises. At that point, I had nothing left in the tank.

Now, as I look back over the stats for the past four weeks, I understand why I'm tired. This past week I managed 51 miles between the running and the spinning. The closest I came to this kind of mileage was four weeks ago with 27 miles. The week leading up to the stair climb I only had 5 miles since I was focusing on using the stair climber and the elliptical. I also got away from my six meals a day this past week. I returned to the three meals simply because I had a lot on my schedule with work and it was just easier to eat three times rather than six. Not eating while increasing the mileage isn't a good combination.

Trying to juggle all the little things in life gets complicated, and to make things easier, sometimes the most important elements get pushed to the side. Thankfully the extra duties I took on at work are over, so I can get back to a more manageable schedule this week. After this week I have the pleasure of spring break week, which will help even further with overcoming this fatigue. At least that's the plan.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Nice Surprise

When I finished my last climb Saturday and returned to the basement to give the chip to the timing people, Hubby asked me how many climbs I finished. I said 7. He gave me that little smile that says I'm doing some wishful thinking then replied, "I think you only did 5." I was devastated. I really, really wanted to have finished 7 climbs. I wallowed in my sadness for a few minutes, thinking maybe I goofed up on my counts, but to have added two extra climbs in was just more than my fairly logical brain could handle. Could I have been that off? After showering and packing up to head home, we returned to the ballroom to get something to eat and to check the results. What was posted on the bulletin board made me a little happier. I was listed as having completed 6 climbs. Part of my disappointment dissipated upon seeing this, and during the drive home, I made some peace with not having accomplished my goal of 7 climbs.

All day yesterday I waited for the official results to be posted. Finally, later in the evening, I found the results. I scrolled down, trying to find my name, and I finally found me at having finished 119th out of 416 participants. I'll take that, I thought, happy with being near the top 25%. Of the women in my age bracket, I finished 10th out of 20+. Again, I thought not a bad showing considering I'd never completed a climb before. Overall, the sadness from not having completed 7 climbs became overshadowed by having done well in general.

Today, I received the "official" official results for the Ultimate climb directly from the timing company. I scrolled down to the 6 climbs category to look at my times for each climb. My name wasn't there. I looked at the 5 climbs category, and my name wasn't there. I scrolled up to the 7 climbs category. There, in the third place slot, was my name with the times for each of my climbs. I double checked everything to be sure it was really me--my name, my bib number, my age, my gender. Yes, I truly had completed 7 climbs. Just as I had thought on Saturday.
 
Place  No.  Ult.C     Name     Age   S 1stclim 2ndclim 3rdclim 4thclim 5thclim 6thclim 7thclim Total 

3        38     X        Jennifer C  46    F    4:58    7:06     6:19       6:13    6:38       6:22    6:21   43:57 


I did achieve both of my goals, and while this may not seem like a big deal, knowing that I actually did accomplish what I set out to do, that I found it within myself to keep going though my head and body were asking for some relief, means a lot to me. I've struggled with getting past the negative thoughts, the desire to just stop. Knowing I didn't give in on Saturday, knowing all the practice of positive thinking I've been working on to improve my performance show me I truly do have the strength to accomplish even more.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Next Up: Miller Zoo Stampede

Now that the stair climb is over, my thoughts are turning to the next event on the calendar, a 5k. And I'm actually looking forward to it.

Since December, I've been working on the my mental state more than I've been working on my physical state. The physical is in a good place right now with being able to run a 5k without any trouble. The form is improving, the endurance is increasing, and the speed is there to tap into. The mental state, though, has a tough time seeing all of these things as positives. I did a lot of self-reflection through November, even taking the month off, and made one big decision. That decision is I will participate in 5k events, sprint tri events, and cycling events, but only for personal enjoyment, not to try and prove something to anyone, especially myself. Being a perfectionist as well as highly competitive, this was a difficult step for me to take.

Getting back to training in December, I started slowly, running and cycling on the trainer almost everyday. In January, with the new rec center opening, I was able to add swimming, cross training, and weights. I've been mixing up the training a lot, not doing any one type of workout every single day. The mixing it up has done wonders for me; I feel more physically fit now than I have since starting this whole lifestyle change two years ago. Liking the changes the physical conditioning is offering, I went to work on the mental conditioning. I began reading works focusing on the psychology of running specifically, and with each workout I've been concentrating on pulling myself back to center when my mind begins to wander, going to negative thoughts. Yesterday, the bringing myself back to center kicked in when I needed it most. What that did for me, spurring me on to try and achieve my goal, showed me how crucial the mental game is.

Now I'm looking forward to the Miller Zoo Stampede, my first 5k for the year. I'm going into it with a couple of goals: finishing sub-30 minutes, which I know already I can do since I did it once before, but even more importantly, simply enjoying the run, the benefits it offers to my health and sense of well-being.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Stair Climb Results

The afterglow of having participated in an event with hundreds of others, everyone smiling, laughing, encouraging each other on, and generally just coming together for a cause never ceases to amaze me. It's such a good feeling, and I just want to wrap myself in it for days.

The Hilton: 32 Floors of Pain
I was ready well before my 8 am start time, so Hubby and I went to the check-in desk. Even though my stomach was churning from nerves, I forced myself to eat a banana and drink some Powerade. I've been working on the eating and drinking before and during my workouts, and I've seen such improvement in my performance that I didn't want to let the nerves change that for today. I knew I probably hadn't eaten enough with just the one piece of fruit, but I couldn't do any more than that. I was able to continue sipping water, though, and I made sure to continue drinking the entire event. I used to be really bad about this, so I'm happy with this aspect of my stair climb today.

Just before 8, the event organizers gathered all the Ultimate climbers, took us to the basement, and gave us our chips. We then lined up, with the truly elite climbers at the front. Within a few minutes, they were off for their first climb to the top, a total of 32 floors since we were starting in the basement. My number was 38. By the time I had reached the front of the line, the first three had already come back down and started up again. Truly impressive. Then it was my turn. I started off, trying not to go too fast and trying to settle into a nice, comfortable rhythm. I passed a couple of people, which made me think hey, this isn't so bad. That thought didn't last long, though. Maybe another floor or so. By the time I hit the 20th floor, I was wondering if I was going to be able to do an hour's worth of climbing. At the 25th floor, I knew I only had 5 more floors to go, and to my surprise, my mantra kicked in all by itself. It was enough to divert my attention from my burning lungs and my legs that felt like they had weights attached to them.

I didn't know what my first climb time was until I finished my fourth climb. When I entered the elevator for the ride back down, the attendant gave me the results sheet. I found my name and beside it was the time 4:58. I really wanted to jump up and down and hug the attendant and anyone else in the elevator, but I kept my composure and basked in the knowledge that I had met my sub-5 minute goal. I had been entertaining the idea of stopping after the fourth climb, but now, knowing I had actually completed one of my goals, I knew I had to go for my second: 7 climbs.

I went up a fifth time, returned to the basement, and saw I only had time for one more climb. I started up, thinking about my past hour of climbing and was happy with what I had accomplished. I wasn't going to get the 7th climb in, but I was okay with that. Just having kept going when I really wanted to stop was the only prize I needed.

My First Medal Ever
The stair climb was tough, but I'll do another one, and I'll definitely do the American Lung Association Fight For Air Climb again next year.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Happy, Happy Day

Yesterday, around 2 in the afternoon, I was checking my email, not really paying attention to the one I opened as I was talking to Hubby at the same time. We were chatting, my eyes scanning the opening of the email, and all the sudden I saw the word submission. My mind went on alert status. I went back to the beginning of the email to read it through slowly.

The first three lines were the usual Dear JK, thank you for your submission to, we appreciate you thinking of us. The next line then said the words all authors want to hear: your piece has been selected for publication. At that point, I threw my hands in the air and waved them around, telling Hubby my happy news. The next paragraph, though, is what really warmed me through: "We have received a large number of amazing submissions for this issue and the selection process was very challenging. Your entry stood out as a high quality creation. Kudos for a job well done." How nice is that?!?

Nothing else in the world mattered for the rest of the day, and even now, I'm still flying high on having another short story accepted for publication. People have told me all my life that I write well, but until an editor says so, nothing a parent, a friend, a spouse, or even a professor says carries much weight.

Oh happy day . . .

Sunday, February 13, 2011

And the Results Are: I Am Definitely Delusional

So I had no clue what real stair climbing was going to be like. A girl has the right to be delusional every now and then, doesn't she?

I climbed real stairs today, and rather than do the parking garage, Hubby took me to the newest hotel in town, the one with 9 floors. The stairwell was a balmy 68 degrees, so I didn't have to bundle up, and after a kiss for good luck, I began stairclimbing while Hubby went to take the elevator to the top floor. One minute nineteen seconds later, I was at the top. I beat Hubby to the 9th floor landing by a good five seconds.

We took the elevator back down, walked to the stairwell, and I set off again. This time I pushed it a bit more to see if I could better my one-nineteen. At the 9th floor landing I punched the stopwatch: 1:10. Once again, I beat Hubby by a good margin.

We repeated this process three more times. The third time I slowed down to see what my time would be if I mimicked somewhat the pace I use on the stairstepper. I reached the 9th floor in 1:29. The fourth and fifth times I finished at 1:12 and 1:15 respectively.

Given today's results, my revised goal is to finish the first 30 floors in under 5 minutes. That's the only ascend that counts towards the overall results for the stair climb, and though I won't have the breaks like I did today since I could only do nine floors at a time, I do think I can complete the 30 floors in a strong way. After that, I have an hour to complete as many ascends as I can. I'm still going to shoot for seven ascends, but I'll be happy with six, even five.

Maybe four . . ..

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Delusional?

One week remains before my stair climbing event. The nerves are starting to kick in. As this event will be the first of its kind for me, I have no idea what to expect. I've been stairstepping, but the machine can't truly prepare me for actual, most likely concrete, stationary stairs. I need real stairs this week to get a better sense of what's in store. I lamented my need for real stairs to my friend, and she suggested I run the stairs in one of the parking garages here in town. Brilliant! Why hadn't I thought of this? And from where I was sitting across from her at the coffee shop, looking out the window, I saw the perfect parking garage. Tomorrow its stairs shall be mine.

I do think I've made fitness gains training for this event. I was able to go 40 minutes today at a speed I couldn't do four weeks ago. From the stairstepper, I went to the elliptical for an additional 20 minutes, getting in 1.7 miles, the farthest I've been able to do in a 20 minute period. Looking at this improvement, I believed I was ready to set a goal for the stair climbing event: 7 ascends of the 30 floors in an hour. Hubby thinks I'm crazy to think I can accomplish 7 in an hour, but I'm going to stick with this goal. Being a newbie at this, I may be completely and utterly in la-la land. But, as the old saying goes, no guts no glory.

Perhaps what I should do is reserve the right to change my goal. Tomorrow's parking garage stair climb will give me a better idea of where I really am with my stairclimbing abilities, so yeah, I think I'll wait.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Okay, I'm Ready to Say Enough With the Cold and Winter

The Hubby has had a cold that makes him sound like someone's trying to use a chainsaw to cut down a flagpole. The Middle Child has had strep throat, so badly that he has to spit green, gooey gunk into a bowl by the side of his bed, except before said bowl was placed by his bed, he spit said green, gooey gunk onto the carpet as he became too dizzy upon sitting up to make it to the bathroom sink. Being amidst all the coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing, and green, gooey gunk, I've made sure to wash my hands often, disinfect surfaces, and even hold my breath at times to avoid becoming ill myself. Unfortunately, I feel the beginnings of something in the works. My throat and chest have the tell-tale signs of what I'm hoping is merely a cold.

I did manage to get a workout in this morning, and it wasn't too shabby a workout given the circumstances. A little over four miles running and a little over eight miles on the spinner brought on a good sweat, so maybe I can purge whatever is trying to take hold.

I'm a winter loving person, but honestly, with all the illnesses going around, with all the stale air inside the house and at work, I'm ready to say it's time for some spring freshness.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quieting the Intruders

Timothy Noakes' Law 12 in The Lore of Running suggests, "It may be that success in running is ultimately determined not so much by training the body as by training the mind." Speaking for myself, I truly believe this to be true. For nearly two years, I've been experiencing improvement in my overall fitness level. I started out barely making it through 10 minutes of a 45 minute workout DVD. At the end of my first 90 day period, that same DVD was cake. Then I started running. I worked my way to three miles and completed my first 5k. I wasn't in love with running, but I liked the health improvements I was experiencing because of it. After the 5k, I turned to training for a sprint tri. While training, I realized I absolutely love cycling and began cycling as many days a week as I could, racking up the miles. It didn't take long for me to dream of finishing a century ride. For some reason, though, I still want to be a runner, and running continues to torment me even though I'm in much better shape now than I was way back when I started. When I read Noakes' Law 12, I admitted that for me, my problem with running is all mental.  

So as I ran this morning, I made a conscious effort to keep my head and shoulders relaxed, and to keep my mind focused on the running, not letting all kinds of extraneous thoughts creep in. When negative feelings about last evening's swim tried to wriggle their way in, I brought myself back to center by telling myself the swim was over, and it had actually gone well with no calves cramping, no feet cramping, and a lot less rest between laps. When worries over having everything ready for classes today surfaced, I gently pushed them aside, telling them go away, classes are all set. Student work had been read and responded to. Handouts are ready to copy once I arrive to work. Classes will be good. When the notion to stop after three miles tried to take over the plan to run five, I zoned in on the students outside the large windows, bundled up against the cold as they walked to class. Some wore hoodies. Some wore parkas. Almost all had boots on to trudge through the snow. I did manage to get the planned five miles in, and I did manage to stay focused more often than not, but the effort to quiet the intruders was taxing.

I'm sure the battle will continue, but I'm up to the challenge of getting beyond this love/hate relationship I have with running. One day, it will simply be a love relationship.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Background Music

Annoying or okay? Too much for a blog or a nice touch if it doesn't overwhelm and play constantly?

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Sushi Kind of Day

Since I usually fix a meal for myself that is different than what the rest of the family eats, I've been trying some new creations. This afternoon, I decided to try sushi. I gathered up the rice, the sweet potato, the cucumber, and the avocado and went to work.

First Sushi Attempt
Being a sushi newbie, I found I didn't have a couple of things on hand that are needed to create sushi rolls. Seems a really important tool is the bamboo mat. I improvised by using a clean dish towel with a piece of plastic wrap on top. I also didn't have enough rice vinegar, so I had to use a bit of white vinegar, which I don't think made all that much difference in the end. Working with what I had, after making two rolls, I decided to save the rest of my wraps for another go in the near future, after I purchase a bamboo mat.

In all, the sushi turned out okay. Though the rolls were on the loose side, the ingredients were delicious. I'm eager to try other ingredients, so I'll definitely take another shot at the sushi roll soon.

In the workout department, I got a solid 5.1 miles in today between the elliptical and the treadmill. Getting going was the most difficult part after swimming so late in the evening yesterday, then turning around and going back less than 12 hours later. Got it done, though, and felt strong through miles 4 and 5. I'm working on the mental aspect of running now since I think I have the form in pretty good shape. I read the other day that elite athletes focus on one thing while they run, a mantra of sorts. The suggestion was to create one's own mantra and repeat it over and over while running. While I haven't really come up with a mantra I'm eager to shout to the world, I tried zoning in on a light at the end of the building and pretending it was the finish line, telling myself, "Almost there, almost there." Awhile back I saw where someone writes on her hand, "Suck it up, Buttercup," but that's not mine, and it's not as positive as I'd like my mantra to be. The focusing I managed today helped me run 11 minute miles. I'll take that for now.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snowshoe Fun

After digging out our driveway, which was actually fun since all of us were outside, taking turns at shoveling, I finally put on the snowshoes I bought two years ago. Yes, two years ago. I've longed to get out and walk across snowdrifts, but the previous two winters, Mother Nature decided snowdrifts weren't a part of the plan for where I live. This year, since November, I've been asking Mother Nature to please, please, please let this winter be the winter I could finally wear my shiny pink aluminum snowshoes. The lovely Crone, and I say that in all honest adoration, must have heard me, for snowdrifts and snow piled high from the snow plows are now mine for the walking.

I fastened the snowshoes to my boots and set off across the street to first conquer the long drift against the building used to store desks, chairs, and other miscellaneous items for the school district. The drift was about five feet high, and from the front looked very packed. Upon reaching the top, however, I found out not much support was offered on the other side. I almost stepped into nothingness. For a few seconds, I stood at the top of the drift, reveling in my snowshoe prowess.

From the top of the drift I made my way into the biting wind. With ease I shoed along the top of the snow ledge piled along the edge of the street. An older gentleman walking in the middle of the street smiled up at me as he approached and said, "I used to do that a long, long time ago. Still looks like fun." I assured him it was and we parted ways.

At the end of the street, I turned and made my way a block south. People shoveling drives, a cab driver hanging out on a side street in case someone in the area needed a lift, and a squirrel nibbling on some seed in a bird feeder watched as I made easy work of the three feet deep snow.

I turned on a side street and headed back towards home. With the wind at my back and the sun on my face, I shoed easily past apartment buildings with drives still unplowed. Several cars parked near the buildings had snow drifted halfway up, completely covering the lower part of the doors. The owners, I mused, have a lot of digging ahead of them.

As I rounded the curve that would take me back to my warm house, I met a man coming from the other direction. At first, judging from the look on his face, he didn't quite get what I had strapped to my boots. Then his face brightened, and with a laugh he said, "Now that's the way to get around." I nodded, saying the shoes rock.

I arrived home feeling like a true wilderness explorer.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

While a Blizzard Rages Beyond Closed Window Shades

I bit the bullet and signed up for the Boiler Sprint Tri. I found this event late last year, bookmarked it, and waited for the site to update to show this year's event. A few weeks ago, all the info was posted for the April 2, 2011 sprint tri. Today, as I'm sitting home from work because of the blizzard currently raging outside, as I'm thinking of warmer days, springtime, and flowers, I thought the time was perfect to register for the tri. I now have my receipt in hand. Going back to my alma mater for a sprint tri, the first one for the season, will be a hoot.

On a more serious note, a fellow cyclist/runner/athlete needs our help.If you scroll down the page a bit, you'll see on the right-hand side "Donate to Help Alison Delgado." Ms. Delgado is recovering from a very serious cycling accident, and to help defray medical costs, a fund was created for those who wish to donate. This year, I decided I'm going to make donations to causes I truly believe in. This is one of them. As a cyclist, I know each time I go out a chance of getting hit exists. I hope it never happens, but I also hope in the event that it does that people I don't know will help if they can. Thankfully, I can give to Alison. I can't offer much, but I know that if everyone who sees her story just gives a little, it won't take long before she and her husband can breathe easier, knowing medical bills aren't weighing them down.

Now I'm contemplating filling out the form for another sprint tri scheduled for mid April. I'm not sure where the sudden desire to do sprint tri's is coming from, but I think I gotta go with the urge and see where it takes me. At this rate, my summer's going to be full before April even gets here.