Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Heart 2009.

I hardly ever pay attention to our weekly paid-time-off report. I never use all of my vacation time, can't remember the last time I took a sick day and haven't quite figured out how to best use my allotted "personal" hours.

But I took a few minutes to browse the report earlier this week and discovered that I had a few "personal" hours to burn before the use-it-or-lose-it deadline -- today.

Normally, I wouldn't mind losing out on those hours. Instead, as a treat to myself, I decided I'd finally zero out those hours and use them in a way I really enjoyed.

The morning started out as a lazy one, me sleeping in a bit and taking my time. An outdoor run was on my agenda - a way to beat the four days of snow they're calling for - but I wasn't going to rush it.

Shortly after 9 a.m., I donned my winter running gear, clipped on my iPod and headed out into the brisk December air.

Despite the fact that it can get really cold or be a bit treacherous, I like running in winter. Sounds seem somehow muffled, even more so after a fresh powdery snowfall. I never pass any other runners, cyclists or even people walking their dog. Everyone seems to huddle indoors and hibernate.

It's just me and footsteps. I love it. (Although I also like the first spring-like day when signs of life and other runners finally start to appear.)

Today's run felt much better, which was a big relief after I struggled through my last one. I was beginning to have doubts about wheth
er I'd be ready for an upcoming winter half-marathon after my last run.

I found myself reflecting on the year and scrolling through snapshots in my head -- the marathon finish, bike rides and runs, the triathlon relay, hikes and waterfalls, the places I've been, laughs with friends and special moments with TC.

It all makes me smile.

I've really accomplished a lot this year, not just in terms of miles that I've logged (but I did a lot of those, too) or the races I've run or t
he checklist of want-to's I've ticked off throughout the year.

I can't think of anything, not one thing, I'd change about this year.

The memories I have as I look back at the year make me smile subconsciously - and I think I was outwardly grinning at times on this morning's run. When I reached the dirt road that would lead me closer to home, I actually found myself singing along with my iPod. (For those who are wondering, singing is NOT my forte -- and remember I already mentioned how quiet it was. But i didn't care.)

It was a year in which the sky seemed a little bluer, the grass a little greener, the sun a little brighter. The smiles were a little wider an
d the laughs a little louder.

Maybe it's just me?

I'm thankful I took those hours to myself to look back at where I've been. After all, isn't the best way to get where you want to look at where you've been? There's always something to learn, good or bad.

Luckily for me, it was a year full of good.

I reached my condo complex at 8.25 miles. No way, I thought, I wasn't going to finish like that. Not today.
Like a crazy person, I make the turn and headed down the street a bit, turned around and ran back.

I reached my place (for the second time) at 8.8 miles. Nope, not yet.

I passed by my driveway, put a few extra footsteps in - including a trip through the parking lot - and ended my run at 9.09 miles.

Ending 2009 with 9.09 miles. Pretty cool.

When I later logged into my computer, Facebook asked me if I wanted to create a collage of my 2009 pictures. Sure, why not? (Even though I'm generally not a fan of many Facebook apps.)

What it generated was near-perfect - and posted below - a smile-inducing collage of snapshots of friends and good memories.
Like I said in the caption I posted on Facebook, I Heart 2009. But watch out, 2010, you've got a lot to live up to...

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Virtual Team

One of the coolest things about exploring the world of Twitter, blogging, Facebook and the other social media outlets is that you realize that you're not alone.

There's always someone out there pulling for you, cheering you on, supporting you. There's always someone working toward something, just like you are.

I admit that I haven't jumped all the way in to this Twitter-verse yet, just dipped my toe in and watched others swim from afar.

And watched them achieve. Again and again. And again.

I am impressed by what they do -- not only by what they accomplish, but by the support and camaraderie they demonstrate. Remember, most of them have never even met. It's likely they may never meet.

Every I time I do venture a little something -- a comment, a blog post, a call for advice -- it makes me want more. It makes me think I can do more.

In the list of today's Tweets was a real gem, the kind I couldn't take my eyes off of and the kind that reminds me why I love runners.

A fellow runner, known to most only by her Twitter name, was working toward completing 1,000 miles for the year. A group of enthusiastic, supportive runners joined in to help, some offering to complete 105 miles by the end of the month - just as this other runner had to do to get to the 1,000-mile mark,

They didn't just run. They shared their runs, their thoughts and their encouragement - all in video format. How incredibly moving and, well, totally cool.

It's been Tweeted and shared (via Daily Mile - something else I think I'll work with in 2010) by a few people. I'll share one of them here, perhaps a semi-plagiarized version of something someone else posted, I'm not sure.

The funny thing is, in this online community of running friends, it's not considered stealing. It's considering sharing. And now it's my turn. Enjoy.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The 12.5-Step Program

Every once in a while, amid the slew of online newsletters, blogs and other websites that get dumped into our inboxes each day, there's a little something that hits things right on.

Today's insight is brought to you by
Jeffrey Gitomer, an author and trainer focusing on sales, customer loyalty, and personal development. Here are his 12.5 steps to commit to achieve.

1. Today, not tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes, especially where change or breaking a habit is concerned.

2. Develop a passion or an anger about your present situation. The only way to make the goal a reality is to get determined and create the inner energy.

3. Do it for the most important person in the world…YOU! Don’t do this for or against anyone but yourself.

4. Write down your exact plan. Detail both the actions you must take, and the rewards for achievement.

5. Set a time frame. The end is as important as the beginning.

6. Determine the daily dose. Just figure out what you need to achieve each day, and do that.

7. Look for substitutes (placebos or pacifiers). If you have to quit something, get a diversion to take your mind off of temptation.

8. Don’t quit just because you slip. If you fall off the (achievement) wagon, get back on.

9. Post your goals and achievements. Post-it note your goals on your bathroom mirror. After you achieve them, take them down and post them on your bedroom mirror. Look at your success every day.

10. It’s a day-by-day process. And if you do your daily bit-of-achievement, the passing weeks will bring you the prize.

11. Change other habits, so that one is not overpowering the other. Goals require change. Take the opportunity to make a few more.

12. Celebrate your victory. Ring bells, drink champagne from the winners cup, PARTY!

12.5 Grim reality is having a crisis occur that forces the commitment to be made. This can be anywhere from bombing the World Trade Center, to having a massive heart attack. Where crisis is not the best place to have commitment occur, it is certainly the best place to show how to take immediate action.

For the rest of Jeffrey Gitomer's post, click here.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Treadmill Training Syndrome

As previously mentioned, I've really wimped out this winter when it comes to weather. It seems like the slightest snow, cold or wind is a perfect opportunity (or excuse?) for me to hit the treadmill. Or sometimes skip a run all together.

After a Christmas weekend of seemingly endless piles of food, I knew I had to get out and run. And run and run. I wanted a decent run that I felt good about. In my mind, I was shooting for double-digits.

I had the best intentions of getting up and heading over to practice with the team - another thing I've skipped a lot lately - but I didn't even have to open my eyes when the alarm went off to hear the rain outside my window. No practice for me.

Still, the need to run hung over me. I did a few things around the house and waited for the rain to let up a bit. Eventually, it did.

I headed out for an 8-miler on a similar route that TC and I did on Thanksgiving Day. (I could have bumped it up to 10 miles if I hadn't waited so long. Daylight wouldn't be on my side for this one.)

The first few miles of the route were familiar - and a particular favorite of mine during marathon training. The roads bring me by the airport, have some good-sized inclines that make me work and then wind along some country-ish roads with little traffic. I really do enjoy the quiet of the countryside during my runs - and being able to run without the added worry of dodging cars is always a plus.

As I made my way up the first hill, I found myself breathing harder than I normally word. I was definitely working harder. I struggled to make it to the top of the hill that I used to cruise up without much trouble.

Suddenly, at that moment, I realized I'd fallen victim to treadmill training syndrome.

Running on the treadmill provides me the ability to work on my speed and push myself to be a little faster. But it also provides a super-flat -- and unrealistic -- running surface. When I run outside, after all, the road beneath me is not moving and propelling me forward. I have to rely on my muscles to do that.

And certainly even the flatest of flat courses still have inclines.

I huffed and puffed my way through the next mile or so, telling myself that it would eventually get easier. I'd eventually find my rhythm like I always did.

To some extent, I fell into a rhythm and running did seem more natural after a while. But it didn't feel as easy as it used to - mind you, not that long ago.

I once read that if you train for a marathon and take three weeks off without running, it's like you never trained. Now, I don't know whether that's true - but based on my feelings during yesterday's run, I'd imagine it's pretty accurate.

It's almost like I'm starting over - a hard thing to be facing as we go into the winter months. As much as I didn't like struggling through yesterday's 8-miler, it was a good wake-up call about focusing, at least a little bit, on getting in a few more outdoor runs.

I'll take it easy and slow - just like I'm starting from scratch - building up my miles and pace, while continuing to supplement my training with spin class and some speed workouts on the treadmill.

The good thing is I know I can get there. After all, I've been there before.


Week 6: Ho, Ho, Ho

  • Weight: 142.0 lbs
  • Week Gain/Loss: +1 lbs
  • Total Gain/Loss: -2.5 lbs
  • Activities: 11m running, 14m bike
  • Notes: Wasn't at all surprised to step on the scale this morning and see it tick up another pound. This week consisted of a 4-day Christmas stint, traveling from house to house, with seemingly endless amounts of food. I certainly would rather have had lost a pound, but I'm much more content to have chosen to have a happy, relaxing holiday with family without obsessing over what I was eating and worrying about losing that pound. Well worth it. And, although the scale is moving in the wrong direction, it's also giving me a good kick in the pants - and motivation to get back on track with what I'm eating. Hopefully I'll see those results soon.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Hills Are Alive

I've been making a real effort to get to spin class at least once a week lately - and, patting myself of the back a little here, I'm proud to report that I've been six out of the past seven Tuesdays.

Not too bad at all, considering it's always a mad dash for me to make it to class by 5:30 p.m. I've often wondered whether the sprint I do from the parking garage to the gym, down the stairs to the locker room and back up three flights to the spin room could count as a warm-up.

If you've never been to a spin class, I totally recommend checking one out. The hour usually flies by - thanks to upbeat music, changes in positions and pace and lively motivation from an instructor and fellow classmates. It's nothing like riding a stationary bike.

Yesterday's class was particularly sweat-producing.

There were only a handful of us there, and our instructor decided that we were going to work off all of the holiday snacks and dinners that we might be facing in the next few days.

The workout included three hills - three very long, tough hills. Each hill lasted three songs. Do some math, yes, those are long hills!

Spinners can control the hills to account for their own ability or motivation by adjusting the tension lever on the bike. Yesterday, as I thought about the trays of cookies and sweets that I've been surrounded by lately, I cranked up the tension more than I normally would and set out for a "hilly" ride.

At points, my legs burned - the good kind of burn that I feel when I'm going up "real" hills - and I struggled to keep the pedals turning. Yep, the same way I do on a big hill outside. At times, I was tempted to adjust the tension lever down a bit - but I told myself that I couldn't do that on a real hill, so I wouldn't allow myself to do it there either. At least, on my stable inside bike, I didn't have the possibility of toppling over if the hill got too difficult.

It was a great workout, one that left my legs slightly shaky at the end - and just the kind that's needed the week of Christmas. Probably after Christmas, too.


Shared Soap?

I've passed this sign several times in the YMCA locker room. It really makes me wonder ... why were there ever shared bars of soap?

Monday, December 21, 2009

On My Way To Denver

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some initial thoughts on my goals for 2010. I'd like to consider that a work-in-progress - because, still a week away from the New Year, I'm already ready to add to the list.

Over the weekend I tallied up my training miles since I started tracking things on July 1. Since then, I've logged 429 miles of running and 488 miles of biking. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself, especially considering it's only six months of tracking.

Those numbers prompted me to wonder what might be possible - and practical - for next year.

My first instinct was to shoot for 1,000 each of running and biking. Then I quickly remembered how much time and effort I put into training for my marathon - and still racked up less than 500 miles for the second half of the year.

It would be a stretch for me to reach 1,000 miles of running - without training for a marathon (which is not totally out of the question, by the way), but more importantly without giving up some of the many biking miles I plan on for next year.

It's not a trade-off I'm willing to accept.

On that note, I think a pretty decent increase in my bike miles can be expected. Remember, one of my goals is to ride a century. As TC pointed out, I'd accomplish one-tenth of my 1,000-mile goal in one day. Who knows how many training miles go into something like that. I estimate that I put in about 700 miles on my bike this year - my first bike season - without much effort or focus on bike miles.

I've decided a better approach is one that combines my efforts to focus on both running and biking next year.

In 2010, I will log 2,000 miles.

Yes, 2,000 miles. If I did them end-to-end in trip format (wouldn't that be fun!?), I could get from my New Hampshire home to Denver, Colorado. How cool to think about it in those terms!

It might turn out that the miles end up with a 1,000 run/1,000 bike split - unlikely, but still possible. I predict it will be some other combination of 2,000 miles, probably more bike than running because it's simply just easier to add up miles when you're putting in 20-30 at a time.

It will be fun and interesting to sit here at this time next year and see how it all shakes out.

I'm pretty confident, barring any unforeseen circumstances, that I'll accomplish what I set my mind to (I usually do, don't I?). Of course these things just don't happen by themselves. It will take some thought to put together a plan to achieve some of these goals. And the will to stick to the plan.

Details coming soon. In the meantime, I'll be open to comments, feedback and suggestions.

Wish me luck! Colorado, here I come... figuratively speaking, unfortunately.


Week 6: Christmas Cookie Culprits

  • Weight: 141.5 lbs
  • Week Gain/Loss: +.5 lbs
  • Total Gain/Loss: -3.0 lbs
  • Activities: 16m run, 16m bike
  • Notes: I wasn't expecting any great loss this week - in fact, quite satisfied about being up only a half-pound. I guess I feel like I just wasn't as focused. With a more-than-busy week at work, tables of Christmas cookies around the building and some holiday drinks with friends last week, I'm glad it was only a half pound. (I confess to having a cookie-only lunch last week during a particularly busy day - when I was also conveniently hosting a building-wide cookie party.) Still feeling good about where I am and about where I'm going.
  • I'd like to share some words I received from a reader of this blog:
    We as a society focus a lot on "numbers" as a metric about personal and professional success. I personally do not believe in that unwritten philosophy because I think it truly hinders success. It's more important and empowering to create and make changes to feel better, stronger and happier.
Couldn't agree more... even though I'll continue my weekly weigh-ins, goals and tracking chart.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Winter Wimp?

I didn't used to be a weather wimp. I swear.

Need proof? I offer up the nine-miler I did in single-digit temps. Or the New Year's Day sub-zero race. Or a couple of February half-marathons on the coast. Or countless other wind-whipping, teeth-chattering routes.

I have plenty of tough-it-out examples. But not lately.

For some unexplained reason, I've slacked off a bit when it comes to winter running this season. I think that, mentally, I just wasn't ready to admit winter was here - despite the fact that Mother Nature dumped several inches of snow on us last week.

That's not to say that I haven't run. In fact, I think I've put in some more productive, better runs on the treadmill in the past couple of weeks than any outdoor run I would have done. I know they've been good for me, and I feel a notable improvement in my running already. My form is better, my speed is faster and I really push myself.

Still, I was itching to get outside this weekend.

I needed a change in scenery - actually, I needed any scenery at all - and I needed to feel the air on my face, experience the sunshine, hear the sounds of barking dogs and passing cars. I needed real changes in elevation, not just simulated ones on the treadmill. I needed to feel like I was actually going somewhere.

The weather forecast called for chilly starts to the weekend mornings and some pretty decent winds. (I've never seen a weather graphic with just three blue lines, but apparently that's the accepted symbol for gusty.)

Gusty and blustery. Perfect. Just what I need to step out of my wimpiness with a bang. (Although I must confess to waiting until a little bit later in the day, when the sun was a little brighter and warmer, to get out there.)

I bundled up in my running tights, a turtleneck, a fleece, gloves and a hat and started down my six-mile loop.

Apparently I'd forgotten how quickly your body heats up. Less than a mile in, I was shedding my gloves and debating whether to keep on my fleece for the rest of the run. As a turned corners and was hit head-on with some wind, I decided to keep the jacket on and played my on-again-off-again game with my gloves for the remaining five miles.

I trotted along at what felt like a decent pace, stepping carefully along the side of the road that was lined with snowbanks and, at times, patches of ice.

I made it back in about an hour - warm on the inside and slightly frosty on the parts with exposed skin, most notably my now-rosy cheeks. The ends of my hair, which poked out from under my hat and dangled along my neck, were crispy with frozen sweat.

Frozen sweat, rosy cheeks and a six-miler in the winter. Just what I was looking for. Welcome (back) to winter running.


Week 5: Not About The Numbers

  • Weight: 141.0 lbs
  • Week Gain/Loss: 0 lbs
  • Total Gain/Loss: -3.5 lbs
  • Activities: 21m running
  • Notes: I didn't see any change on the scale this week and I'm totally okay with it. Really. The reason? I'm actually beginning to feel smaller. I know it's only 3.5 pounds and there's a definite chance that it's in my head, but I'm starting to notice my clothes fitting a little looser and my body taking on a better shape. For the first time, perhaps ever, I wasn't worried about what the number on the scale was going to be this morning. I feel better about myself already and that's what counts.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Confession

I've did something this weekend that I can never remember doing - at least not in the two years since I started running.

I didn't run. At all. Not one step.

I seriously cannot remember the last time - or whether there was a "last time" - that I had a weekend without running.

Admittedly, I feel a little guilty about the back-to-back blank boxes on my training chart - especially on a weekend when I have more time and daylight to get in good runs.

But I'm not going to try to justify my weekend off with any excuses. Sure, I had a work commitment that kept me busy for most of Saturday and filled my Sunday with some enjoyable personal time, but I really had plenty of opportunity to get a run in.

In fact, I had the best intentions of running, even having a 10-miler planned for Saturday and a shorter run on Sunday.

Instead, I spent the those hours I usually spend running like most of my peers probably do - sleeping in, easing into the day and staying inside on a cold, icy morning.

And that's okay. I might even say it was a nice change. (Although I don't expect it to become a habit.)


Week 4: Down Another

  • Weight: 141.0 lbs
  • Week Gain/Loss: -1.0 lbs
  • Total Gain/Loss: -3.5 lbs
  • Activities: 13m running, 16m biking/spin

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Less Is More

At the height of marathon training, I averaged around 25-30 running miles a week. On good weeks, I was also able to add in some cycling miles.

After the marathon, I started fresh with a brand-new tracking chart - the old-fashioned paper kind that I fill in with a pen, opting (for once) to forgo the fancy online options. Having it staring me square in the face when I walk by my fridge is a good reminder to get out there and run. (Plus, doing the calculations is good for my math skills.)

It's been one month since I crossed the Finish Line and started over. As expected, in that month my average weekly mileage has dipped a bit. Last week, for example, I got in a mere 17 miles of running and another 18 or so on the bike.

But I'm not worried.

I'm finding a new-found focus on the kinds of runs I'm doing and have been sure to add some speed workouts on the Dreadmill - if I have to be on the Dreadmill, I might as well make the most of it.

The other evening I put in five miles in the gym. Normally, a five-miler wouldn't be much effort. Perhaps I should say, I wouldn't have put in much effort.

During the summer months, I would have plodded along easily, taking in the sights, letting my mind wander and relax. (I realize that isn't always a bad thing, and I'll be sure to have runs like that from time to time.)

The same was true for longer runs. People think I'm crazy when I casually said I'd be running 13 or 15 miles. Sure, it's a great accomplishment and takes a lot of work to get to that point - but once you've conditioned your body to get there, putting in those miles is the easy part.

I remember countless times that Shawnna and I would meet up for double-digit runs, chatting and laughing every step of the way. The movement, our legs moving in that running motion we've come accustomed to, was almost natural and unnoticed. It didn't even seem to be about running sometimes.

The marathon is behind me. I've proven to myself that I can do it. I realize now that I need to step up the effort to bring me to the next level - whatever that may be.

It's been a complete mental shift for me, from just trying to rack up mileage and build endurance to focusing on quality workouts.

My treadmill workout now consists of five or six miles - but instead of trucking along at a constant speed, I've been sure to include some intervals. I've been sure to bring the speed up to a level that makes me work.

I force in a few quarter-mile intervals at speeds that I never thought I'd be able to do. At times, most times, those quarter-miles feel harder than any 13-miler I've done.

It feels good - like it always does when you do something you didn't think you'd be able to.

Sometimes it's not about the number of miles you've run. It's about what you've done with those miles. Sometimes less is more.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2010's Checklist

People usually wait until January 1 to set out their resolutions for the year. I figure I'll get a month's head-start on everyone.

With the marathon challenge fully behind me, I'm finding myself facing those post-marathon "what's next" feelings that everyone warned me about.

After being so focused on attaining a difficult goal, they said, you'll find yourself looking for something new. It's true, marathon training required a lot of focus, a lot of dedication and, quite simply, a lot of time.

I had a specific training schedule - an easy reference chart to see what I should be planning for the day, week or upcoming months.

Without that now, I feel a slight sense of ... well, quite honestly, it's a hard feeling to explain. It's almost as if there's a void, as if I'm longing to know what I'm supposed to be doing and a need to consciously work toward a tangible goal.

I know I should just relax and enjoy the time without obligations or pressure to achieve, but instead I'll offer up my 2010 to-do's:
  • Run a sub-2-hour half-marathon.
  • Complete a Century Ride.
  • Incorporate one speed/interval session into weekly routine.
  • Get at least one pre-work run in each week.
  • Drop 10 pounds (and keep it off).
  • Enjoy 2010 as much as I did 2009.
Happy (early) New Year.