Thursday, February 24, 2011

Definition of Insanity

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  -Albert Einstein

I love this quote.  I repeat it to myself quite often.

I am running a half marathon in Surfside, TX this Saturday and I have another organized bike ride on Sunday.

Yes, I know I just did this last weekend.  And the weekend before.

Why do I do this?  Am I crazy?  I get this all the time.

And to me, the answer is easy.

I do it because I can.

If I lost my legs tomorrow, I would miss that one last run in the sunset.

The sounds of the crunch of leaves in the fall.

The still silence of the winter and the symphony of frogs in the summer.

The sparkling light bouncing on the January naked branches of the trees or the tease of the sun through the leaves on a March day.

The smell of burning wood and yummy dinners cooking as I run through the neighborhood.

The deep conversations with my running buddies as we contemplate the details of our mini soap operas.

The roaming fog on the glass lake moments before a sun rise.

When I bike, I am still a kid racing home before curfew.  The spirit soars.  A sense of freedom.

When my legs struggle and burn as I climb up a hill, I feel a sense of gratitude that they are being used to capacity.

When I swim, I am weightless in the water.  I stretch and feel my body extend and grow as I effortlessly glide through the water.  I am aware of every breath I take.

I run, bike and swim like there will never be another tomorrow, and this is my last day on earth.

I am still young.  As long as I tell myself I am young, I will still be doing this in my 80's.

When I see a 70 year old cross the line of an Ironman triathlon, I tell myself, that will be me.

I remember when I was 20 and in college, and feeling timid over wearing a bikini.  I always thought I could lose a few pounds. I look back on my photos and want to yell at that kid.  All that time I wasted worrying for nothing.  If I could do 20 again, I would not worry over every little imperfection of the body.

So why not start now and cherish every year of my life?

When I am 55, I will remember this 35 year body and smile because I did not hesitate to use it. I will know that I used my body as it is was designed to be used.

I am alive. I am free. I must take advantage of my opportunities.

This weekend, I will be outdoors.  I will run to the sounds of the beach.  I will enjoy the company of my running family and then I will ride my bike again with my friend in the flat lands of Katy.

Yes, this is the same thing I did last weekend. 

And yes, I will do this again and again as long as I can.

Call me crazy?  Then, yes, maybe I am. You gotta love insanity.

Monday, February 21, 2011

No Pain. No Gain. Really?

Well, you may have noticed that there are no more days next to my blog title.

On Friday, I did not wake up at 4:30am for Masters class.  So my streak officially ended at 11.

On Saturday, I struggled to get up to go to the Humble Lions Bike ride, but I did it with no regrets.

Every time I pull into the parking lot of an organized bike ride, I get a surge of energy.  There is something to be said about pulling into a parking lot full of bikers getting set up to ride.  The fog was thick and the morning sun was trying to peek through.  The sounds of bike pumps fill your ears combined with the music of those walking duck-like wearing cycling shoes that making clickety clack notes as they walk through the parking lot.

This is a camaraderie that you don't find at runs and for me, it is like a breath of fresh air. There is a bonding that occurs as you get your bike set up without even having to say a word with hundreds of other riders. 

There is never a rush to get ready because you start, when you start.  Since it is not safe for everyone to start exactly at 8am that even if you are ready to begin, you will still have to wait until your particular wave is permitted to go.  These races are not timed.  So when you finished getting ready, you leisurely make your way to the starting line.

On this ride, I decided to do the 25 mile route.  I am addicted to going as fast as I can, and I knew if we went the 46 mile route, I would really be hurting on the half marathon the next day.  So I played it safe, and let loose.  We rode out to the local park, ate some orange slices and the rode back to the high school.

As we are sitting at our table after the ride, a woman approached us who appeared crippled with a disease.  She asked us if we were riding in the MS 150 and my friend and I who are riding with the Continental Airlines team both nodded yes.  She introduced herself as a woman who is currently living with MS and asked for our names and emails so she could email us a personal thank you.

Since I do not know anyone personally who has been affected with Multiple Sclerosis, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this woman.  I was injected with a dose of reality of why I am training so hard for this race.  It is for beautiful people like this woman who are battling this disease every day.  In the blink of an eye, I have been given more meaning to why I am training so hard every day. Thank you, dear lady.

I had an a couple of hours when I returned home to pack and get ready for my trip to Austin.

Austin.  Wow, some things change, and some things stay the same.

As I remembered, the traffic is still awful in Austin.  We made great time to Austin, only to sit an hour in traffic just to park at the convention center.

Great swag though!  An embroidered messenger bag and a race belt.  Very nice!  It made up for the long wait to pick up our packet.  After a nice dinner, we were back in the hotel and in bed by 9am.

Race day.  I woke up at 5:00am.  I was feeling good but hungry.  I ate a cereal sample from the night before at the expo.  I am thirsty but I did not bring enough water with me.  I try to conserve.  I will regret this later.

At the race, I meet up with the rest of my running buds.  We start out in a circle wrapped around the Capitol building.  We entertain ourselves while it takes us almost 20 minutes to get to the starting line after the gun goes off. Thank goodness we can be very goofy.  The hills start out rolling.  Not too bad...I let it fly after every downhill.  This was so much fun!  But since there were so many people, I was just praying someone did not jump in my way so I would not have take them out.

We are running at a pace I am quite proud of until we hit mile 10.  It is quite warm and my head feels hot.  I lose my running buddy, and with that, went my motivation.  I start walking the hills.  In fact, I am ready to walk the rest of the way in, when I look down at my watch I realize I am on track to break a personal record.  I vow to run the rest of the way.  That is, until I see the next monster hill at about mile 11.5 and now I really want to cry.

You have got to be kidding me.

I try every mental trick in my book, but I still have to walk this monster. I am cursing every hill  and vow to run the whole way but the hills win every time.

I finish with a record time, but I am paying for it today.  It is true when they say, no pain, no gain, right?

So about the 4:30am challenge...I have decided to shelve this one for now. I am happy that I am getting up early now on a regular basis, but I fear I am playing with fire with everything on my plate right now. I have to listen to my body during high stress.  Although, I am so glad I tried this challenge since a few good things come out of this short sprint of a challenge.  Besides continuing with the Masters classes, I have also learned how to silence my bratty alter ego. And that was probably the biggest lesson of all.

Next month, I will focus on drinking more water since that kicked my butt the most yesterday.  I am positive that increasing my water intake will improve my performance.  I just have to create this new habit.  I will work out those details for March.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 11: Burn Out

Work is kicking my butt.  This post will be a short one due to me staring at a computer all day long.

I am not getting home until 7pm.  I am on brain overload and feel burned out.

But nevertheless, I am still reaching my goal of getting up at 4:30am.  

I went spinning this morning, and I made it to Masters yesterday.

Masters class yesterday was definitely better than Monday's class.  I took a day off from exercise on Tuesday and could feel a difference with my energy Wednesday morning.  I felt stronger and my endurance lasted longer.  

My new fins were too tight and hurt my feet.  I exchanged them today and will give them another shot tomorrow morning.  Not quite the "wow" I was hoping for, but at least my fins will not be flying off mid-swim anymore.

I have not run yet this week and I feel paranoid I will lose my running conditioning.  I am tempted to go run tonight but I am drained.  I am running a half marathon in Austin. I would feel better about it if I had more time on my feet.  Oh well, I have done this before and I always end up just fine.  Maybe it will do a body good to have a break from running.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 8: Flirting with an Empty Tank

The day started at 4:30am.

I am back to business.

And business this morning was Masters swimming.

It was a tough class.

Ever have one of those days, where you try to impress someone (and in my case it was Coach D), but no matter how hard you try, he picks you apart?

Elbows not high enough.

Fingers are apart!  You need to keep them together to push against the water. But just a little scoop...not too much (huh?).

Get those arms up!

Kick!  Kick! Kick!

And blah, blah, blah...

And the harder I try focusing on one thing, I neglect something else.  Eye!

I was done before we even started.

Work was tough today, too.  I have a huge deadline tomorrow.  No pressure, really.  And I was so tired today. 3 cups of coffee today to keep me going.  Not good.

But, I did get to spend my lunch break buying new fins at a local swim shop.

My current fins are crap.  They are hard to get on and off with the fancy adjustable heel straps that sometimes fly off mid-swim (ugh!).  Also it is so frustrating when it takes forever and a day to put them on and your swim-mates are already 50 yards ahead of you before you even start.

The lady at the store was so kind and helpful.  She educated me on how to buy a swimsuit and how to care for it.  Apparently, you do NOT want to use laundry soap on Lycra (oops!). Polyester swimsuits are the best...and I noted how much softer they feel on the skin. I bought myself a new kick board and easy fins that slip on and off.   I also found a soap to wash away that stinky chlorine smell.

I am officially revived and ready to go again for Wednesday.

Coach D, bring it on...I am about to knock your fins off with my new and improved new swimming toys.

And all it took was buying new flippers to fill my tank.

I hope this momentum will carry me through the rest of the week. 

Crossing fins.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 7: Minor Adjustment

Wow. What a wonderful weekend but I am drained!

I had to modify my plan a tiny bit. I woke up at 6:30am on Saturday and 5:30am this morning. 

It is not quite "sleeping in" but it is not getting up at 4:30am either.

Waking up to workout out every day of the week has taken a toll on my body and therefore, I have made an executive decision to modify my plan just a bit. 

On weekends, and weekends only, if my body needs extra rest, I will not get up at 4:30am.  I will rest accordingly...but I will not over do it.  I mean, sleeping until 9am will only make the following week more difficult.  It will feel like starting over every time and that will defeat my purpose to adjust my clock.

Next up tomorrow: Masters class at 5am.  Alarm set for 4:30am

I had an amazing 10 mile trail run on Saturday and a fabulous 42 mile bike ride today. The farthest I have ever gone on a bike. Beautiful weather.  It is amazing how using your body to its potential and being out in nature can make one feel so alive.  Weekends are never long enough. 

Here goes another week.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Day 5: I Will Survive

I made it to Friday.  I expected today to be the hardest and it was actually the easiest.

I went to bed late last night due to a jewelery party that I helped to host.

I went to bed mentally preparing for Armageddon in the morning.

Surprisingly, my alter ego barely put up a fight...and I made it to Masters swim class.

Coach D was absent this morning, but his assistant was there.  We took a different direction and focused on details such as pushing off the wall and drills to control our elbows during freestyle.

I finally attempted the flip turn.  We started by just doing somersaults in the deep end.  Over and over.

Then we had to attempt to swim toward the wall and somersault.

This is where I kept chickening out. I would get too close and panic.  Or I would launch too far away.  No successful flip turn today.

Must keep practicing.

So as a result of my 4:30am challenge, I have started each morning this week with a workout.  And I have started the 100 push-up challenge. I can feel  my body is recovering.  I am looking forward to some rest this weekend.  Really wishing I could sleep in tomorrow though...sigh.

The real challenge begins on the weekend.  4:30am.  Ugh.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day 2: A Nap is Kryptonite

Well, I am getting up at 4:30am but I am slipping into another bad habit.

After my workout, I am laying down to sleep for another 30-40 minutes. This is defeating my purpose of getting up and getting going. 

I get a great start...but then I stall out.

This is not supposed to be part of the plan.

Today was speedwork at the track with a running buddy of mine at 5am.  It seemed to be a struggle to run this morning.  I am not sure if it is fatigue related.  I wanted to spin tonight...but I am thinking sleep should be a higher priority tonight.  I do not want to take these mini naps and I do not want to rely on the powers of coffee every single morning.

In my eyes, becoming a morning person means:
  • I will get to work earlier and arriving earlier allows me to come home earlier.
  • I can prepare healthier meals to take with me to work.  If I stop eating out so much, I can support my race habit. (This is very important, you know?)
  • I would like to be more organized.  I want to grab things and go instead of frantically looking around the house or forgetting something at home.  Not being rushed in the morning will assist in this.
  • And most importantly, I need to carve out time to read, to paint and to focus on my spiritual life. I miss these joys in my life, and lately they have all taken a back burner.  I want to incorporate them back into my daily routine.
  • I also want to reach my goal of completing a half workouts must be a priority.
If I can carve out just 30 minutes a day of not sleeping in...that is an extra 182.5 waking hours in a year.  This would be equivalent to adding an additional whole month of full time work (40 hours per week) to my year, but instead of working for an employer, it will be dedicated to doing something I really want to do.

Double these benefits if you save 60 minutes a day, and triple it if you save 90 minutes a day. At the moment, I am on track to save about 90 minutes/day. That’s like getting a free bonus year every decade. And what really attracts me is that I will be able to use this time to do things that I previously didn’t have the time and energy to do. I see it as key to being a success in life.  This is why it is important to me to at least try it.

Therefore, I defeat the entire purpose by taking a nap after my workout. 

At that rate, it will not get any easier.

A new habit will develop and I will still be right where I started.

The cat nap will not be my Kryptonite.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Day 1: Deja Vu

Here we go again...

I woke up angry at my alarm.  I am so amazed at this alter ego that seems to come out in the morning, and man, she is mean! She cusses at me.  She throws things.  She claws and scratches at my psyche...and does whatever she can do to get me to go back to sleep.  No wonder I can not get out of bed.  My alter ego is quite the bully and she spares no expense.

Regardless of the beating, I managed to get my butt up to make it through another grueling swimming workout in Masters class.  I was a few minutes late and I braced myself to get an earful, but surprisingly, the coach did not say a single word. 

On the other hand, my swim mate teased me telling me that she thought I was not going to show this morning and she was already thinking "Oooooh, she is gonna geeeeet it!". 

As requested, I invested in a set of fins. Immediately I had to put those fins on and swim a 400 meter fast freestyle.  So much for the warm up.  I was out of breath and my ankles were complaining.  We did another series of 400's/300's yards of alternating kicks, breaststroke, mermaid back kicks (best way to describe it) and more freestyle. 

Nevertheless, all complaining aside, I survived another class.

The last 300 yards of freestyle the coach asks me if I am ready for a flip turn. 

Seriously?  Already?  I stared back blankly.  Did he not see me almost drown....twice?!?!

Yeah, not so much.

Okay, he says.  Maybe another time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Get Knocked Down

Yeah, I did not make it on Friday with my early morning challenge. 

I woke up.  Everything was iced.  I proceeded to get up and I did not know what to do. 

I laid back down to ponder the possibilities, and naturally, I fell back asleep.

So I have three options on how to deal with this failure.
  1. Scrap the idea completely. Beat myself up and constantly remind myself on what a LOSER I am. (Not ideal, I know)
  2. Skip a day (or 3) and keep on going.
  3. Start all over and make it 30 consecutive days.
I have chosen the final option.   I want to make it 30 days in a row.  I also want more momentum under my belt before I run into another day where I dont know what to do with myself.

So I am back to Masters swim class in the morning. 

And my alarm is set for 4:30am.

Tomorrow will be day 1. Take 2.

I had a wonderful weekend.  It was gorgeous weather and I ran the fastest 5K in years.  What a wonderful feeling! Funny, you get used to a "comfortable" pace when you run.  It really takes effort to push yourself out of the comfort zone.  Your lungs on on fire and everything hurts but to know when you are done, and that you gave it everything you had, makes it all worth it in the end.  I can see a connection on how this works in other aspects of life as well. Hmmmm....

Kingwood Fit had their pasta party last night.  We sat at a table with a couple who have run 67 marathons together and are on track to run 100 by their 40th wedding anniversary in July 2013.  What an inspiration!  That pretty much sealed the deal on my decision to run a full marathon in Houston next year. 

Might as well at least try it once or twice, right? 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 2: Preparing for the Big Storm

Frick! A monkey wrench was just thrown into the mix.

The Masters swim class was canceled tomorrow due to the winter storm.

I did not plan for this at all.  What the heck am I gonna do at 4:30am?

Maybe I will go for run around the long as there is no ice. Or set up my own bootcamp circuit in the garage....

I woke up this morning again as planned.  I went to spin class and ran on the treadmill afterward.  It feels so good to get a good start to the day.  But man, when it hits 9pm...I am soooo exhausted. 

By the way...getting up is the toughest part!  I am hoping that this will get easier.  If not, this is gonna be the longest 30 days ever.  You have NO idea how badly I want to sleep in tomorrow with this beautiful winter storm coming. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 1: Defeating the Inner Child

I did it!! I did it!! I got up at 4:30am and went to my first Masters swim class.

It was so cold and I wanted to stay in my warm cozy bed so badly.  My inner child was cursing me out, kicking, screaming and demanding I crawl back in to bed.  Thankfully, I checked my messages on my phone when I woke up and read all the amazing words of support from my wonderful friends who read about my challenge last night.  

That was all the kick in the butt I needed.  I was up and out the door and freezing my tush off.

The pool was busy.  Every lane had at least two swimmers.  Really?  All these people do this so early?

I introduced my self to Coach D and he placed me in the furthest lane closest to the wall. I jumped in the heated pool (yes, heated, whew!) and started swimming.  

Normally I swim for 500 yards in 30 minutes. Slow and easy. 

Not today...I went the full hour with very little stopping.  He had me freestyle fast, slow, backstroke, breaststroke, and drills with the kick board. My back is sore and my arms ache.  I sure hope it will get easier.  It was tough even with it being a modified workout. I was not allowed to rest more than 30 seconds. 

The coach is from Bulgaria and has a very heavy accent.  My  swim mate (who shared a lane with me) told me he kneeled down next to her, and told her "You know I don' like when you mees practice every Monday. You mees 3 time already. You have to be here every day or I cannot teach you and I have to start all over again." 

Yikes. This coach means business which means, and I better not skip a single class.  

Thank goodness for this challenge. Coach told me I went over 1000 yards in one hour. 

Niiiice.  I like those numbers!

I tell ya...after that appetite has been through the roof all day long!

As expected, I am ready to crash early tonight. I went to bed last night at 10:30pm and I am hoping tonight I will be in bed by 9:30pm.  

Tomorrow is a spinning workout. At least I have more experience with this one and it is way less intimidating.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vegan Challenge Recap

Well, I had to wait a week later to recap the challenge because at the time I was so over it. 

Not the diet per se, but trying to find foods that Charlie will eat.  There were some days where all he ate was popcorn or french fries for dinner.  That was tough to watch.  I was looking forward to the days where I did not have to worry about what he ate anymore.

Now that life is somewhat back to normal, at least diet wise, here are my top 3 reflections:

1.) I lost weight.  Wahoo!  Not a huge number...but 4.5 pounds in 3 weeks. I broke through the 140 barrier.  Now that is a good feeling.  I don't even remember the last time I was under 140.  I think it was over 10 years ago.  A year ago..I was over 165 pounds.  I am now at 138.  I have come a long way, baby.

Side note: I ran the Houston half marathon this past Sunday.  I felt great!  I don't have any injuries and felt strong the whole way.  Afterward, we went to pick up our finisher shirt and I forced myself to request a medium size.  This is when I observed my mental issue.  I still think I am bigger.  I am smaller on the scale and in my clothes, but in my head I am my old size.  As I write this blog, I keep thinking I should have asked for a size large.  I have been a large or extra large for so many years.  A medium fits me...but why can't I accept this and where does this denial come from?

I am still pondering this.

2.) I enjoyed the menu.  I have been eating meat, cheese and eggs again but the food does not taste the same as I remembered.  Pizza is one of my all time favorite foods and I did not even enjoy eating that.  It tasted like salty cardboard.  I keep reverting back to my new veggie favorites.  Every time I eat something with meat, I get an upset stomach.  My stomach keeps rejecting my old foods.  Funny how after your body has been eating clean, your body has little tolerance for junk food.

3.) I am willing and eager to do it again.  There is another 21-day Vegan Challenge in April and I am definitely ready to sign up again.  Now, I have to admit, I have already eaten all my old favorites that I missed and part of me is concerned that I will lose all the awesome results I have gained by reverting to old habits.  So although I have had a free week of eating anything I want, I am ready to go back to my new habits to continue seeing the amazing results of the diet. 

My next challenge for February is switching gears from diet to exercise. 

Two separate challenges actually:  one is mental and the other is physical. 

I have been so afraid to post about these goals because it is two of the hardest challenges I have taken on.

Failure is not an option.

Challenge #1: 
I will wake up at 4:30am every day for 30 days.

I will start on Ground Hog day. (Oh, how I love that day!)

If I need more sleep, I will just have to go to bed earlier. Period.

I am doing this to see if I can become a morning person.  There are many things I can do at the start of everyday that will improve my quality of life.

Challenge #2:
I am going to join a Masters swim program for the month of February.
It is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the YMCA at 5am (hence the 4:30am wake up call).  I am a weak swimmer and I want to complete a Half Ironman triathlon one day.  I have talked to successful swimmers and have read about so many articles that rave about the benefits of a Masters swim group. 

I can do this. 

I am so friggin' scared out of my mind but whenever there is fear, there is an aspect of myself that needs to be examined closer. 

Here goes nothing. 

Again, I will blog my journey.  I may not make it every day this go-round considering my early wake up calls, but I promise I will recap my experience as much as possible.