Friday, February 26, 2010

17.42 To 100

I finally logged my first miles of the week last night. Yes, on Thursday.

It's unusual, lately at least, for me to take three consecutive days off from running - but a head/chest cold had me down for the count earlier in the week and I've been juggling a steady stream of evening commitments and all-around stressful work events this week.

Just excuses, really. But sometimes, life gets in the way.

Even with my low mileage week - which sits at only 4 miles so far - I'm well on my way to meeting my 100-mile goal for the month. Although I've kept my monthly mileage up since the marathon, I don't think I've had a 100-mile month since November. (And 26.2 of those, more than a quarter of the miles, came on one day.)

I signed up for the "100 Miles in February" challenge as a way to keep me personally motivated to focus on some decent long runs (although the impending half-marathon on my calendar should have been enough to do that).

More importantly, the 100 Mile Challenge would make me focus on mid-week runs - the runs that are harder to squeeze in than any of the long weekend runs. You know, the ones that mean waking up early or pushing dinner until later to get a run in.

Last night's run puts me at 82.58 miles for the month. Just 17.42 to go.

The Hyannis Half on Sunday will eat up 13.1 of those. So essentially, I've got 4.32 miles to run either today or tomorrow.

No problem.

Team practice on Saturday - a perfect opportunity to get in those miles. In fact, one of my "mentees" (gotta be a better word than that), Matt, pledged to run the 4.32 with me after I logged my "17.42 to 100" run on my Daily Mile profile last night. (Hey - aren't I supposed to be inspiring and helping him?)

It goes without saying that the support of Daily Milers is incredible - perfect strangers eagerly jumping in to encourage, pledge miles and, in the case of Matt, actually run them with me.

I'll be thinking of them as I hit that 100-mile mark - which, if all goes as planned, will come just as I'm crossing the Finish Line in Hyannis on Sunday.

If I'm doing that anywhere around the 2:05 mark (which would give me a new PR), I'll be thrilled and ready to celebrate.

And most likely thinking about my next challenge.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Reality Check

We had our first training session with the New Team last weekend - and, as usual, I came away feeling re-energized and inspired by such a great group of people taking on the task of running and fundraising.

Despite it being only the first week,
the group already seemed to bond well, sharing laughs and jabs in the pre-run routine and along the route. One of the things I like about Team In Training is that it brings together people who might otherwise have no reason to meet. And things just seem to click.

The run schedule ranged from two to five miles, depending on what event you're training for, so I joined in with the five-mile crowd.

Unlike some of the TnT teams I've started with, this one is particularly advanced.

Many of them have already run marathons or half-marathons. (Kudos to those who are doing it again - and raising more money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.) For many of them, their pace is already impressive. To be honest, I know some of them will leave me in the dust as their training progresses.

This morning, I received a copy of an email that was sent to Coach Geno from one of our new athletes.

In the interest of space and to protect the innocent, I won't share all of its contents here. Essentially, the writer questioned whether she would stick with TnT because she felt the physical bar might be set a little to high.

She described herself as coming "off the couch" and "very out of shape" -- although, in my brief interaction with her, I think she certainly is above the level of some of the previous athletes I've seen. I'll note that all of those athletes (yes, I consider them all athletes) successfully finished their events.

She admitted to struggling through the two miles assigned to her on the first week, even noting that her running buddy came away with such pain that she visited a doctor later in the week.

Adding to the problem, she felt, was the lack of focus on stretching and warm-up.

Excellent point. Excellent.

Coach Geno admits to being a non-stretcher - and he's been lucky enough to avoid injury. I guess, to some extent, I have to. I've said this before, stretching is my weakness. And trust me, I pay the price. My body tightens up overnight and takes time to work itself out during the first part of my runs.

More than a few times, I've recruited help from TC to work out the particularly knotty spots.

I chuckled when I was asked to lead the stretching routine - because it's something that I all-too-often just gloss over. Most of the time, I ignore it completely.

The email today made me realize that I -- and perhaps all of us leading up the team -- shouldn't pass on our bad habits to these new runners. Perhaps, in this case, a new team member could teach the mentors a thing or two.

My response to Coach Geno was as follows:

I think it's probably a good reminder that we should be telling everyone what they should be doing in terms of stretching, etc. (I know I pay for my lack of stretching, so it's a good reminder for me, too!)

We need to stress that everyone needs to go at their own pace - even if that means walking. I think our team is a little unique in that a lot of them are "ahead" of training in a lot of ways.

It can be intimidating -- I can tell you I probably would have been intimidated on the first day, coming to the team as a non-runner like I did.

Perhaps we can have someone come in and do a stretching clinic before the run?

Also, with the Seacoast Team, we did a warm-up lap (usually a 1/4 mile), slow and steady, before we headed out. We could probably do that around the campus?

I think her feedback is pretty valid and I'm sure she's feeling a bit overwhelmed/intimidated.

It might be helpful, too, to have either me or Shawnna talk to her... to share our stories on a personal level... I think both of us started from the ground-level not too long ago.... and I think she'd be surprised to see that we're really not that different from her... they CAN do this ... just need a little confidence and training at their own level.

Just my two cents.

What I hope she realizes is that she's gotten to the heart of what the training part of TnT is about - it's about taking non-athletes and training them to do something they didn't think they could do.

Equally as important, I hope her email reminds us (the coach, mentors and fellow teammates) that not everybody starts as "an athlete."

I know I didn't! She might be surprised to learn that on my first day of training, I had the same 2-miler on my training schedule -- and I walked/ran the whole thing. There was NO WAY I could have run the whole thing. And that's totally okay.

We'll all get to there eventually -- whether that means becoming "an athlete" or "a runner" or just crossing the finish line with a smile -- a
nd we'll all get there together.

It's what being part of a team is all about.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More Than Just Ketchup and Olympics

The older I get, the more I realize I'm turning into my mother.

I suddenly love the Winter Olympics, watching them ever
y night, keeping up with the who's-whos and medal counts and even audibly cheering during a nail-biting finish of men's cross-country skiing. Yes, I was cheering for cross-country skiing.

Earlier today, I caught myself putting ketchup on my eggs that I made for lunch.

We (nearly my entire family) used to cringe when we'd see my
mom squirting ketchup on eggs - and would tease her incessantly for memorizing the Olympic television schedule, keeping up-to-date on the key athletes and staying awake in middle-of-the-night hours to watch her favorite events.

Now, with ketchup and Olympics - and those are examples from this week alone - I realize
I'm becoming a carbon copy of my mother.

Don't get me wrong, I love my
mother dearly. She's probably the strongest, most determined, independent, smart woman I know.

I think she had to grow up fast, after her mother died when my mom was 16, and took on a lot of family responsibilities because my dad's job had him on th
e road the majority of the time. She put her career on hold to care for her children, to be there for them, and selflessly moved wherever my dad's job would take us.

I owe a lot of who I am - especially the parts I really like - to my mom leading by example.

Long ago, we nicknamed my mom "Bear." I can't remember exactly where this came from, but I believe it came fro
m some form of "Mama Bear." I also believe it came from my mom's tendency to turn into a "bear" when the kids weren't picking up their stuff, listening to her or doing that whole list of things kids do to aggravate their moms.

Somewhere in high school, I was christened with the nickname "Cubs" - a mini version of my mom. To the best of my recollection, that nickname wasn't given to me because I was independent or strong or smart. It was given to me by my younger brother and sister who claimed that I was "just like mom" when left in charge of the house when my parents went away. (I don't believe they meant that as a compliment at the time.)

Still, I'm proud to be a Cub.

There are times, however, that being like my mom scares me a bit. Not a bit - it scares me a lot. It scares m
e not like horror movies or roller coasters scare me. It scares me to my inner being, a kind of terrifying fear you bury deep inside you.

See, I want to be like her in nearly every way - with one huge, glaring exception.

For the past 20-plu
s years, I've watched Rheumatoid Arthritis ravage and literally chip away at my mom's body.

It started when she was 30 with a sharp pain in her arm. Since then, she's endured two knee replacements and two hip replacements - in her 40s and 50s - and
the doctors now have given the okay for shoulder replaceme
nts and surgeries on both ankles. If she wants, they'll rebuild her fingers and hands. (Virtually a bionic woman!)

The problem with Rheumatoid Arthritis is that is breaks down the joints to the point of replacements - then, finding that it can't attack the new, manufactured one, just moves to another joint in the body.

I remember my mom riding bikes with the family, painlessly going on family vacations, taking horseback lessons with us and even dancing at a fraternity party during Mom's Weekend at my college (not that long ago, really!).

I remember when her disease wasn't physically debilitating.

These days, my mom struggles with the most simple day-to-day activities. Imagine not being able to tie your shoes, reach dishes from the cabinet, brush your hair, cook dinner, or just get in and out of a chair. The list of can't-do's is long.

Really, reall
y long.

Last week, someone at Daily Mile issued a challenge (sometimes I can't keep up with all the challenges out there!) to write a blog post about someone who's inspired you to run.

The list of people who have influenced and inspired me is long - check this post about how I dedicated each of my marathon miles in
November - but near the top of that list is my mom. (I have often wished I'd written more about her on my marathon dedication post, but it was already getting long and nearly unreadable.)

She influences me by not only supporting me in ways she probably doesn't even know - passing along her mental strength, determi
nation and downright stubbornness - and encourages me in her own, often unsaid, way to keep running and pursuing the things that make me happiest in life.

I'm including
a few pics with this post - a family photo (sans not-yet-born baby bro) from long ago, a pic from my sister's wedding (although surely some of you think that bride could pass as me), a pic from the Finish Line of my marathon and the most recent family photo taken at my brother's engagement party a few weekends ago.

I can only hope that keeping up my healthy lifestyle and focusing on run
ning can help me escape the disease that's taken over my mom's life.

toid arthritis is genetic, so I don't know how much a healthy lifestyle and exercise can help me avoid it - fingers crossed that the genes I picked up from my dad's side of the family win out! - but I know that it can't make it any worse and, hopefully, could possibly lessen the effects if that dreaded day should come and affect me.

At the very least, it re
minds me to appreciate every step I can take. And to keep going for as long as I can.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Changing of the Guard

When I attended Info Night a couple of weeks ago, I was introduced to Coach Bob - a relatively no-nonsense kind of guy who promised to train us well for upcoming races.

Coach Bob, a "real life" swim coach and Team In Training triathlon coach, fell into the TNT run coach position after interest in the triathlon program lagged.

Honestly, I was excited about training with him - especially when he talked about training "above" the level of the race course. (Although I'm "just" as mentor and not training for a specific event, undoubtedly I'll get a lot of the benefits that the team gets during training.)

A few days later, I got a text from Coach Jack telling me that there had been a change. The tri team was big enough to stay in New Hampshire, so TNT needed another Manchester coach. (Big teams - a good problem to have!)

They found one in Geno.

You may recall Geno as one who offered me countless tidbits of advice and support during my marathon training. (Remember, I wrote about him as a Second Coach, here.) Knowing his background and attitude, Jack and I had suggested he contact TNT about getting involved.

I have confidence that Geno will train the team well - will believe in us and push us to places we didn't think we could go. He brings to the table a list of running history - including 50- and 100-mile runs - and, above all, a level of enthusiasm and support that will be key to helping the team cross the finish line.

And I'm pretty sure they'll cross with smiles.

I'll close this post as I have in the past, with some words of wisdom from Geno. He shared these in the first email from the team last week - and they're very similar to the advice he gave me during my marathon training. (In fact, the first one is printed out and posted on my bulletin board as a reminder.)

1) The body will do whatever the mind tells it to.

2) Water is to the muscles like oil is to an engine.

3) It doesn't matter if you run or walk. The distance is still the same. The important thing is to reach your goal.


Looking forward to getting to know my teammates more - all 18+ of them - along with the reconnecting with some of the mentors I already know. It's gonna be a great season.

And it starts Saturday! Bring it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Unveiling The "Old Me"

It might come as no surprise that sometimes - a lot of times, actually - I get frustrated with my body, its shape and that dang higher-than-I-want number it produces when I step on the scale.

I've outlined my internal battle to be at peace with my weight a few times (probably most profoundly and bluntly in this post from July 2008). It's surely an ongoing mental struggle for me, one that most times I think I'm winning by finally coming to terms with the healthy, happy body I have now. (Yes, I actually believe that I have a happy, healthy body now. Really.)

But sometimes, and always when I least expect it, that
feeling creeps up again and pulls me kicking and screaming into those shadows of self-doubt and insecurity. These days I'm only momentarily in that place, thankfully, but I'm most decidedly there.

Like earlier this week, when as I was adjusting my
spin bike before class, I glanced down and noticed the tiniest pair of cycling shoes on the ground. I did a double-take. They were the smallest pair of shoes I'd ever seen. Do they let kids in this class, I thought. Yes, they were that small.

Soon, a stick-thin, but fit woman came over to claim the sh
oes and mount the bike. Keep in mind that I noted in my last post that I worked hard and pushed myself in that spin class, and I know that I couldn't do that if I wasn't "in shape," but I couldn't help but sneaking a peek at the woman next to me from time to time.

Next to her, I felt like a giant on the bike, like I was one of those huge circus bears riding a miniature bicycle in a side-show stunt.

Confession time: I tend to look down at my legs or glance at my arms as I'm spinning. I like to watch my muscles work and notice the increased definition I see from class to class. Usually, it helps motivate me and feel good. And I also tend to look at the people around me - look at their muscles, body shape. And, of course, compare.

With Tiny Toes beside me, I felt just plain big - like I was bubbling over my Spandex bike shorts and jiggling and shaking as I rode. If my shorts are a size small, what size does this woman wear, I wondered.

There was not an ounce of fat on her, and her "pointy" knees and muscles seemed to be in all the right places. To top it off, she didn't seem to sweat a drop.

As contradictory as this may seem, I actually don't aspire to be like her. She was too small, too thin - and I suspect, has just as many issues with body image as I do. Maybe more. (I'm really just basing that statement on the fact that her body type was exactly like others I know who are over-the-top obsessed with what they eat and how much they work out. It literally controls their lives.)

I've worked hard to not let a focus on weight control my li
fe - the trade-off, I suppose, is that I don't have the body I want. I know if I just really focused and cut back on some of the things I eat and just generally paid better attention, I'd get closer to having the body I want. (Or would I? A topic for another time, perhaps.)

Even more important to me than the number on the scale or the size of my clothes, is that I maintain a balance in life - balancing the enjoyment of l
ife (which includes things like eating out and having drinks with friends) - and having a happy, healthy body.

This morning, I came across a Tweet that caught my eye. "Everyone has a story," it said, "here's mine." It linked to this blog post, written by a woman who battled the ups and downs of weight before finally grabbing hold and focusing on what's important.

I think I can learn a lot from her - not the least of which is to
take a look at how far I've come from the lifestyle (and pant size) I had in the past. Like her, I've decided to post some of the photos from my college years (when I was probably my heaviest) alongside some of my more recent pics.

I debated sharing these, as I'd like to hide that "old"
me somewhere in the past and "untag" her from the Facebook pages these appear on - that chubby girl who never went to prom, always went solo to college date functions and, let's be honest, was the fat friend in the group.

But instead of hiding her and totally forgetting about her,
I'll embrace her and learn from her. Still, make no mistake, I'm solidly leaving her in the past.

Pictures below from 1994-1997 time frame...

(In pic above, I'm on the far right in the hat.)

(In pic above, I'm on the far left in the backrow.)

And a few pics from the past year....

(In pic above, that's me, second from right)


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I'm Gonna Get You Sucka(s)

When I'm riding my "real" bike I still need to concentrate on shifting, staying upright, unclipping at stops -- you know, all of those important things. Things that, hopefully, will become second-nature soon.

But when I'm spinning, I can let my mind wander. It helps pass the hour, not to mention helps me concentrate on something other than the 20+ other people in the way-too-hot room who are sweating and huffing and puffing around me.

Sometimes my wandering mind thinks about work projects, other times it focuses on something more personal. Last night, I honed in on three specific things:

1. Mt.
Uncanoonuc (pictured here)
2. Devil's Hill at Newfound Lake
3. Some meanie of a hill on the Bow Road race route.

These three bumps really got the best of me last summer - bringing me through all of my gears until, faced with the only other option of toppling over in the roadway, I was forced to unclip and do the Walk of Shame to the top of the hills.

I have big plans for my riding this summer. With my first season under my belt, I hope that this summer will mean more mileage and strength - and most importantly, confidence on two wheels.

I'm certainly no die-hard rider, so there's no way I'm getting out there in the winter - slippery roads, frigid temps, road shoulders piled in snow are not for me - definitely no place for a rookie rider.

In a small attempt to keep up my riding and cross-training during the off-season, I've made my best efforts to get to spin class once a week.

My somewhat consistent attendance is starting to pay off, I think, as I pushed myself through last night's class to reach my highest resistance yet. And generally speaking, my resistance for all parts of the class is significantly higher than it used to be.

Last night, I was determined to hit the resistance goal I had in my head - and I did. Phew. It wasn't easy - but thinking of the Walk(s) of Shame and those three hills that got me last season, I was able to push the pedals a little harder than I normally would have.

My final class stats were 18.6 miles in 1:09 (the extra nine minutes coming from the pre-class warm-up) at an average 16.2 mph pace, which I was pleased with - especially given my focus on the higher resistance.

Needless to say, my legs definitely felt the burn and had that good-kind-of-ache for the rest of the night - the kind that I'm going to need to feel a lot of if I'm going to drag myself up those suckers in a few months.

(Photo credit: