Sunday, March 19, 2017

First Part of March Training Update

It's been a good month so far. I am back to feeling strong, managing through any pain in my hip, and trying new things that push me outside of my comfort zone and hopefully to being a better athlete. I'm writing today after a weekend high of a long, tough bike ride and a fast half marathon time with the whole city of Atlanta. I am feeling really optimistic for the next part of training and thankful for all the people that I have in my corner.

Wednesday, March 1 - AM 3200 m swim + PM 1:10 trainer ride

Wednesdays have tended to be my workout of the week with long days and doubles. This one was no exception! The swim workout in the morning involved a lot of drill work and in the evening I did a ride on the trainer that was tough for me mentally. I didn't really feel like doing it and it was a struggle to get myself to focus so I was proud that I even did the ride at all. I'm not one to skip things but sometimes I am really tempted.

I rode next to the open door while there was a thunderstorm outside and listened to podcasts about real life murders. Good times in the life of training.

Thursday, March 2 - AM 4 mile run + PM 1:15 trainer ride

The morning run was great and I ran with my friend Heather who lives in the same building as I do. It was pretty awesome to just meet someone right outside our front doors and go for a morning run on the beltline, chatting the whole time and return to the same place. Super easy and fun! We've been running together in groups for a while but my first time really running and chatting with Heather, so I enjoyed that. My pace felt slow and not super fast but with a tough effort, so I was disappointed with that but happy with the run overall.

In the evening, I was back on the trainer and had a hard time getting focused but just stuck it out and got it done. I felt off both nights on the trainer this week but oh well. It's still amazing to me that I am able to get myself to spend so much time on the dang thing!

I also was able to find a way to squeeze in some midday extra workout while doing a wall sit waiting for the microwave to heat up my food. It's the little things!

Friday, March 3 - PM 3000m swim + 30 minutes strength

Since I was feeling tired from the past two days, I let myself sleep in on Friday morning. Instead of getting up for swim practice, I went to the gym in the evening and did a short strength workout and then did my swim workout on my own. It was a really tough workout and I had to modify it a bit but was proud of myself for getting it done and pushing hard - even while working out in the pool solo.

Part of the reason I moved my swim to the evening was also because I was attending an event there in the evening. We had a party at the gym and so I actually was there way into the evening that night.I love my gym and all the things that they do for the members there! I felt really strong and good about myself this evening and enjoyed taking not-the-normal-gym-selfies that I usually take.

Saturday, March 4 - Bike ride for 2:45 at Stone Mountain

You guys know the stories here. I had a tough bike doing loops at Stone Mountain for a total of 39.3 miles. I was proud of myself for mentally turning it around and changing my attitude, but it was a tough day!

Sunday, March 5 - Trail run for 1:30 at Kennesaw Mountain

This was my second time returning to Kennesaw Mountain for trail run and it went so much better. I pulled back on pace, went in better prepared, and enjoyed the moment I was in. Such a better time and was proud of myself for turning a tough experience into a good one.

Monday, March 6 - AM 4000m swim + PM 50 minute trainer ride

Monday started out tough with a long morning swim and a trainer ride in the evening. Planning ahead that I wouldn't be able to do much working out in the coming weekend, we kept a loaded week of workouts on the agenda. I felt good in the water but was exhausted by the end. There was a lot of pulling and drillwork involved so it was a lot of time in the water, but I was proud to have hit a milestone of 4000m.

In the evening, I felt strong on the trainer ride and wiped some of that exhaustion from the morning and the week before away. My legs felt heavy at the end but it went by fast. I was a sweaty mess at the end which means it is a good ride to me!

Tuesday, March 7 - AM Track workout (4.88 miles) + PM 45 minutes trainer ride

I started the morning at the track for the ITL Track Tuesday workout and I really enjoyed it and felt like I crushed the workout. The group running the Publix Half Marathon were told to run 3x1600 with a 400 recovery in between. You were to do the first at tempo pace, then 10K pace, then 5K pace. I felt like I really crushed the workout and did my miles in 8:00/7:42/7:23 and was so proud! I also loved that pre-daylight saving day, it was light out at the end of the track workout and I could actually see people around me.

In the evening, my workout seemed to take forever, even though it was only 45 minutes. It dragged on and on and I was worried I would crash but didn't too hard I don't think. Still was able to push a bit but was definitely feeling the fatigue from the double workouts after the tough weekend workouts.

Wednesday, March 8 - 2700 M morning swim

Not much to say here. Just got it done on a tired body.

Thursday, March 9 - 8 mile run

Since I was traveling home that evening, I did my longer run for the weekend on Thursday. It was my last workout in Atlanta before heading home. The goal was to take it super easy so I ran a number of the miles with my coach and with a few other friends in Brookhaven on Thursday morning. I enjoyed exploring a new route and finishing with Starbucks had me feeling very nostalgic for the days of running with Jess, Aubrey, Carley and Daniella in New York!

Friday, March 10 - 1 hour Peloton ride

I flew to New Hampshire the day before and had the day off of work to spend with my sister and her kids. Before spending the weekend wrangling babies, I was able to get in a 1 hour Peloton ride on my mom's bike. She had recommended a new trainer for me to try whose name was Jen and she went to Syracuse! I did one of her pre-recorded rides which was fun as she had good music to sing-a-long to and referenced my favorite school a number of times.

When I finished, I felt really proud of myself of the work I have been putting in and the dedication I've shown to my goals. My plan for the year was to "Focus" on my goals and I really feel like I have been, and having fun and balance with it. I felt good in my tri shorts this morning.

Saturday, March 11 - Rest day

Much needed!!! Although maybe I should have tracked the laps I ran around my sisters house chasing around my niece and nephew while babysitting!

Sunday, March 12 - 45 minutes strength

Another light day with just a 45 minute body weight workout in the basement that I stole while the babies slept. I was nervous about taking a full weekend off but after how this weekend went, I feel like it did me well and was happy for the break.

Monday, March 13 - PM 3800M swim + 30 minute run

After flying back to Atlanta on Monday morning, I headed into the office, then from the office to the gym. I was tired but it turned out that the workout was exactly what I needed. I was able to work out some frustration and anxiety in the pool and the 30 minute run flew by. I had to hold myself back because my coach's instructions were to take it very easy. I felt great in the water, was breathing heavy even after doing the workout alone, and the run was a fun mixup to go right from the pool to the treadmill. I felt very thankful to have fitness on this day!

Tuesday, March 14 - ITL Track Tuesday (3.58 miles)

This was a shorter track workout than usually since the group is tapering down for the Publix Half and Full Marathon this weekend. It felt strange to have a shorter workout but gave me time to do my stretching right away after the workout. I started to feel a bit nervous for the Publix Half Marathon on Tuesday and spent portions of the rest of the day trying to figure out a plan for it with my coach. I was unsure if I should taper down or keep going with tough workouts. I wanted to run the race well but also didn't want to skimp on other workouts for the week. I was unsure of what to do.

Oh and because of the time change, I was back to not being able to see anyone in the morning!

Wednesday, March 15 - AM 3300M swim + PM 50 minute trainer ride

I really liked the swim workout we did this morning with some fast 100s in the mix. Not a lot of the super fast people were at the pool this morning so it was just me and one other person who were doing them on the tougher time set. I was proud of myself for sticking with it and pushing it with the guys in the pool.

In the evening I had a 50 minute trainer ride that was pretty uneventful.  It included a pyramid workout and went by pretty fast. Besides that it was odd to be on the trainer with the sun out, it was a fairly normal workout Wednesday for me!

Thursday, March 16 - 4 mile easy run

I attended the Brookhaven morning run with ITL and had a great 4 mile run with one of the other athletes. I held back keeping it truly easy and enjoyed the conversation.  Following the run I did "strides" in the parking lot with some of the others finishing their workout.  These easy runs are usually between 10:00-10:30 pace for me and this one was no different!

Friday, March 17 - Rest day!

Felt a little odd to have a week with so many rest days, but I had a big weekend ahead!

Saturday, March 18 - 65 mile bike ride at Tour de Pike

Cold, rainy, windy - but so proud! I rode 65 miles at the Tour de Pike, which was an organized group ride in Concord, GA. Apparently half the people didn't even show up because of the weather forecast and others dropped out of the longer distance rides when the rain started.

This was my first real experience riding in the rain. I had a really hard time shifting my gears on my left side because my fingers were numb and slipping on the gear. I was nervous going into aero because the wind was bad and the roads were slippery. Plus, a lot of the roads we rode on had heavy car traffic and I just didn't feel comfortable. I was alone for a majority of the ride and it was tough mentally as I have been riding based off of time lately and the switch back to distance threw me off a bit. However, I got it done and I was super proud of myself.

I broke the ride into chunks based off of time. I tried to stay in the moment and comfortable on the bike. I enjoyed that I was riding in a new place with different scenery and it was actually quite beautiful when you could see through the rain. I distracted myself by trying to wiggle my toes and see if I could feel them. And I broke up the time by the number of different rest stops they had throughout the route. I found to keep pace with anyone I would see in my path and I rode for a while with one of the other ITL women who was about my pace.

For a while, I thought about dropping down but convinced myself to keep going knowing how good I would feel at the end of the weekend. I was really proud that I stuck it out and it was a really fun day. I carpooled with a friend, there was food and warm bathrooms at the end, and I had great conversation and got to know people better and at a different level. It was a tough but awesome training day!

Sunday, March 19 - 13.1 miles at Publix Half Marathon

A new PR!!! So, so happy. Such a fun day and one of my favorite races of the year that brings out the entire Atlanta running community. I ran the 13.1 miles in 1:55:55 and couldn't be happier. Full blog to come on the race!

I am feeling so positive going into the next part of training and could not have been happier with the past weekend. (I guess I could have done without that rain...)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Turning it around

I mentioned to one of my friends today that I feel like my Instagram posts have been really preachy/emotional lately and asked her if she thought it was weird. As much as I try to just post what inspires me and what I feel moved to share, I sometimes get self conscious about what I post. One of the reasons that I post things there and here, is because I love looking back at my evolution and I use the posts as a way to track my own progress and look back. Both my physical progress and my mental progress with training, body image, goals, etc. and my evolution as a runner.

This morning I also spent time talking to a different friend and giving her advice on her first half marathon. It's getting to a point for me where I have to stop and put myself back in the place of being a beginner runner as I know I have evolved so much over the years. I love the fact that I have that documented. And I love the fact that years into this journey, I am still learning and evolving and growing mentally through a physical sport.

This past weekend was one where I felt like I learned a lot and was as much a challenge mentally for me as it was physically. I finished the weekend feeling really proud of myself, not for the paces or speeds that I had on my run or bike ride, but for some of the mental aspects of my weekend of training.

First, on Saturday, I joined the ITL group bike ride in the morning which was taking place at Stone Mountain. This is literally, as the name describes, a stone mountain about 30 minutes from Atlanta that I have been to a few times - a couple times to go up to the top and once to run around the mountain on a 5-mile loop around. I had never been there to ride my bike there before, but I was not particularly looking forward to the ride for a couple reasons.

First, because I knew that it would just consist of a bunch of 5-mile loops. And on a day where I was planning more than 40 miles, that didn't seem too exciting to me. Second, the weather dropped back to being cooler in the mornings and after being spoiled with warm weather rides in shorts the past couple weeks, it was back down to the 30s for the start of the ride. In addition, a number of the people whom I have come to expect to see at the rides I knew wouldn't be there since lots of people were out of town this weekend. When I arrived, I grumbled a bit to myself even more having to pay to park. Which in reality, isn't a huge deal, but I was just in a bad mind space already and almost just looking for things to complain about since I did not want to be there and riding that morning.

We started at 9:00 a.m. and all went out as a group on the first loop. Quickly, I was in the back and then lost the group all together as it takes me a while to warm up, especially on hills, which I am not super strong at to begin with. And the loop around Stone Mountain is hilly all around. After the first loop around, the group turned and reversed the other way so I was able to see the group pass and wave, and one person who was not too far ahead of me waited for me before turning herself. But then I dropped behind her pretty quick again.

And for the next hour, I was riding by myself. I've gotten used to having some company on the ITL rides, which I really enjoy, so as I did these 3 loops around and around, I found myself in a really bad mental state. I found myself mentally complaining about everything and couldn't get out of my mind that I just didn't want to be there doing what I was doing. I was too warm when I was climbing and then too cold when I was going downhill. My toes were numb. There were too many walkers/runners in the bike path. The path was covered in these weird hard spiky things from the trees that I had to avoid. It was hilly. It was repetitive. There were bumps in the road. Everything was annoying to me and I was just not having it.

However, at some point I recognized this and I remember some of what I have been learning about mindfulness. I have been working really hard lately learning and practicing mindfulness and living in the moment. People who live in the moment and practice mindfulness tend to be happier because they are not living with anxiety and worry over the future or stress and regret over the past. Time is spent appreciating the exact moment you are living in in the world and not wishing your time away. And a key elements to mindfulness is recognizing that you are in control of your thoughts and how you react/respond to the world around you. I know all this may sound a little more hokey than I usually am, but it is something that I have been studying and practicing a lot over the past few months and it really resonates with me.

I've even been using it while in traffic! Instead of wishing I was whereever I am trying to get to, I focus on the music, the sky, the lights and colors around me, the peace inside my car, the forced slow down in an otherwise busy life, etc. And believe it or not, it actually works and I feel happier rather than getting angry and everything around me.

So I recognized I was in a bad mental space and decided I needed to turn it around. I flipped a switch for myself and decided to apply this lesson to my bike ride.

I focused on the feeling of the cold air on me as I went downhill, the noises of the people walking and running, the views of the trees and the lake, the feel of the sunshine on my body, and I focused on appreciating that I have the means and ability to be out exercising. That I am healthy and able to be active and have the funds/means to be spending my Saturday mornings out riding.

I stopped thinking about the fact my speed or how much further I had to go but thought about all of these things and focused on being in the moment and enjoying it for what it was. I also decided to turn around literally as well and looped backwards to try and run into some of the other riders in my group. I came across two of the women who I usually am around the same pace with, and turned back around when I crossed them, to try and hang behind them for a little bit. Riding with friends makes such a difference to me in terms of enjoyment and I also usually push myself a bit harder having someone to chase.

And you know what? Making these changes made all of the difference in my ride. The second half of the bike ride was so much more enjoyable and although my pace was the slowest it has been in a while, I was so proud of myself when I finished. It was a big accomplishment for me and not just my triathlon training but in my mindfulness practice to be able to recognize and reverse this mindset, truly turning it completely around mid-ride.

The mental victories during training continued into Sunday, when I had a 90 minute run on the trails at Kennesaw Mountain scheduled. I had run on the trails for the first time the weekend before and was so nervous to go back this week because I now had the awareness of how hard it was! The week before I finished the run feeling totally beaten up and exhausted. It was really tough to run at the mountain and it caught me by surprise a bit. Although I had been nervous going for the first time, it was because I didn't know what to expect. Now I was nervous because I knew to expect a tough run!

So, I decided to change my mindset about the run. I decided not to make it about my pace or time and totally drop any ego or expectations I had there. I made the goal to just enjoy the workout and feel good during the run, so also decided to pay extra attention to the details such as nutrition. The week before I had eaten a smaller pre-run breakfast than what I normally do, so I went back to my traditional breakfast of cereal. I also hadn't brought any water or Gu Chews with me the week before, so I was sure to bring my hydration belt with water, Gatorade and my nutrition-of-choice, Gu Chews.

I also applied the reminder I had from the day before of how much more enjoyable things are when I exercise with someone and stuck with one of the other girls whose pace was similar to mine. I didn't look at my watch the whole time, just enjoyed the conversation and ran at a pace where we could chat and converse easily. I had a great time and the first half of my run where we stuck together went by so fast. We had different workout plans so I turned back earlier than she did and I already knew that I was feeling so much better than I was the week before at this point.

On the way back I enjoyed the solitude. I worked to keep my HR and breathing under control. I paid attention to the colors and the sounds and how I was feeling. I ate my nutrition and I drank my water. I took off a layer when I started to feel too warm. I felt strong and I felt energized and I felt thrilled that I felt both of those ways! I finished the run feeling literally 100 times better than the week before. I felt like I could have kept going and was tempted to do so, but stopped at what my coach had advised me to do. I was so happy though at how good I felt and was amazed at what a difference it was from the week before.

My pace was slower than it has been lately on both the bike and the run. But I felt so proud of my weekend. As a runner and an athlete, a lot of what we do is based off of time - always wanting to go faster or harder and chasing PRs and average paces, etc. I always advise others just starting out not to worry about pace - to slow down - focus on the basics - drop your ego - etc. But I sometimes forget that in my own running as I work towards a goal and want to be able to measure progress.

I was reminded this weekend that sometimes progress doesn't come in the form of numbers. I was reminded how much it matters to have proper nutrition before and during (as well as after) a workout. I was reminded of what got me hooked on running regularly and made training fun for me - which was doing it with friends. And how enjoyable it is to run/ride and get to know someone at the same time, and how much easier words seem to flow while exercising. I was reminded that just because something scares you doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it or try it again if it was hard the first time. And of course, I was reminded of just how much you control your own mindset and the thoughts in your own head.

On Saturday I was more tempted than I have been in a while to just give up on the ride and call it quits, figuring "This is good enough for today!"

I really wanted to. But I didn't.

Instead I turned it around. Literally and figuratively. And I am really proud of myself for that.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

End of February training recap

We are officially into March, guys! I can't believe how fast the first two months of the year went by. I know people say that all the time but it feels like time is speeding towards my first race of the year, Chattanooga Half Ironman. I have two more full months of training before we enter into May and race month. It's exciting and a bit daunting because I feel like I have more work to do. March will fly by I am sure and then it will just me one more month until the race! In addition to wondering if I have enough time to improve before Chattanooga, I am also already now starting to think, "What other triathlons should I put on my calendar?" I want to try and stay focused on this race and this goal and keeping my mind in the game.

Tuesday, February 21 - Morning 45 minute run (4.5 miles at 10:03 min/mile)

I started my Tuesday with a solo run from my apartment on the Beltline. The weather was nice and made me excited for the coming spring. I also am anxious for brighter mornings so I don't have to run with a flashlight in my hand! I felt particularly frustrated at the end of this run because I felt like I was running at a faster pace than 10:00 minute miles, but that was in fact what I ended up with.

Wednesday, February 22 - Morning 3400 swim + 1 hour trainer ride

Wednesdays tend to be my longer workouts of the week with a morning and an evening workout. I started the day at the pool and I had a great morning in the water. Swimming felt smooth and easy and my mind zoned out and just got the workout done. I felt like I could have swum forever and wanted to get even more laps in but had to get out to get to work for an in-person meeting that started at 8:00 a.m.

In the evening, I spent an hour on the bike trainer doing an interval workout from my coach that had me drenched in sweat. Not that I am ever not sweaty on the trainer, but this day I felt like I pushed myself particularly hard and my HR was high and it was a sweaty ride! While my hip has been recovering, my coach had stopped giving me single leg drills on the bike but today they returned and were just as frustratingly tough as they have been all along!

Just because I haven't written about Syracuse on the blog much - I must say that after the workout, I went out to watch the amazing Syracuse win against Duke. It was SO GOOD and totally loved every moment of it.

Thurs., February 23 - AM 50 minutes strength + PM 1 hr bike ride outdoors (16.55 mph)

Thursday ended up being a day of doubles as well, and tiring in a different way. Since I have been trying to focus more on strength training, I have been pulling in help from all over to build up some good workouts that I can do. I spent Thursday morning working through a series of exercises that had been put together for me by one of the trainers at my gym who I used to do a small group training with. The workout included lunges, squats, leg press, chest press, bicep curls, rows, and planks. I proudly, proudly wore my Syracuse gear to the gym in the morning!!

In the evening, I moved my bike ride outdoors for my first outdoor weeknight ride of the year. We had some unseasonably warm weather with a 75 degree day, so I met with my friend Kristin at the Silver Comet Trail to do an hour long ride. We chatted throughout the bike ride and it was a great way to enjoy a nice evening. We ended up doing 17.36 miles in 1:02:55 for an average pace of 16.55 mph. One random thing that happened while on the ride was that a couple of older men at one point rode up really close behind us to draft off of us for a bit. This is common for cyclists, but for triathletes who are not allowed to draft, it is not a normal thing to practice and therefore something I am not used to. It made me so uncomfortable to have them riding so close behind me and as we came up to some walkers we all needed to go around, the men dinged their little bell, which caught me off guard and I almost rode off the road, not sure where to go.

I slowed down a bit to let the men get ahead of us because I was feeling really skirmish afterwards and didn't want to be riding closeby to anyone. I was happy to have gotten in time with my friend and a good workout in one evening. The pace I was happy about as well because it made me feel like maybe last Sunday's ride wasn't a complete fluke!

Friday, February 24 - 3200 M swim

I was the only person in the pool this morning and the actual workout plan ended at 2500 M. I decided to keep it going and did an extra set of the workout and an extra 200 cool down. Unlike Wednesday, I didn't feel like I could swim forever. After two days of doubles I was tired. I forced myself to do the extra work and get a little more in because I figured, why not?

Saturday, February 25 - 2:30 hour bike ride (42.06 miles at 16.69 mph)

I went out to Cartersville with the ITL group this morning again and was a little nervous because the weather was chillier than it has been lately and because I wanted to see if I could maintain the same speeds I had been riding. The first hour I felt good and my pace averaged 17.3 mph!!

But from there on the morning got tougher and I felt really tired and hard to pedal.

Apparently the wind picked up and that's what made it a lot harder, but man I struggled through the second half and was just so happy to be done! At the very end of the bike ride, there is an out-and-back portion that we do and it was so windy! I am never really sure if it wind or not that I am feeling, which may sound stupid. I usually just assume I am a weak rider, but there were cross winds that even the strongest people and coaches were complaining about. And at one point at the end I was riding downhill and felt like I was riding uphill the wind was blowing so hard. I was very happy to be done and very happy to see a pace in the high 16s!! Even with the wind!! At some points I felt like I was going so slow, so I was still really happy with that number!  I swear, if I ever see an average pace in the 18s, I would freak out.

After the bike ride on Saturday, I went from there right to do a few errands. I first went to a local triathlon store to try on some of their kits so I could learn what size I should order. I have SUCH a hard time trying to decide what sizes to get for these things. I know that you are supposed to order them tight but I just can't handle them tighter past a certain point. This year I decided that I want to race in the team tri kit for the group I have been training with for the first two months of the year. Even though it's only been 2 months, I already feel very much a part of the organization. I tested out some sizes before placing my order.

Sunday, February 26 - 1:30 hour trail run at Kennesaw Mountain (8.5 miles at 10:38 min/mile)

This morning I joined one of the group runs with the group I am now coaching with, ITL. Every Sunday they do their long runs as trail runs at Kennesaw Mountain. I have avoided going so far because I have never done a trail run and that intimidated me, and also because their Sunday runs are at 7:30 a.m. and with the winter temperatures, I haven't seen the need to get myself out of bed that early on a Sunday for a run yet! However, today I made it happen and joined the group.

Man. Nobody told me how hard these trail runs were. It really wore me out! I only was supposed to do a 75 minute run but ended up going 90 minutes because I was pushing to get through a hill before turning around. I was on an uphill climb when I was halfway through my allotted time and figured "Let me just get to the top and then I will turn around." But man, that top never seemed to come! I eventually hit a sign that served as my turnaround point and then the entire way back was brutal.

My whole body felt tired and that it was taking every ounce of energy to go every step. The smile I have in the picture above is my pain face smile. I ended up walking up a few of the hills when my body was moving so slow it was basically crawling and walking anyways. It was a tough run but I can see how doing it over and over will make you stronger. For me, at the end of this workout, all I wanted was to lay on my couch the rest of the day! The weather had dropped back down after the few warm days we had and I was cold, in need of food, and dead tired. Was proud of myself for getting over the fear and making my way out to the trail!

I celebrated with food with some of my training partners.

Monday, February 27 - 30 minute core power class + 40 minutes strength

I went to the gym after work and started by joining the 30 minute core power class that one of the trainers offers. I have been a couple times before and it is almost like a joke for me to go because I can barely accomplish anything that they do in the class. However, my 2017 goals are to do more of the things I don't like - which include this type of core work. And I am not going to get better at it if I don't keep working at it, right?  I spent way too many years of my life just saying "Oh I can't run."

So I did the 30 minutes of core class then went into the workout my coach had given me that included some burpees, lunges, planks, and a number of exercises to strengthen the muscles around my hip. He increased the number of lunges that he gave me to me from when he'd been giving me this type of work the past couple of weeks and I was cursing him while I was doing the workout!!  By the time I finished the lunges my legs were shaking.

As hard as this type of stuff is for me to force myself to do, I really do love it and I am happy that I am working this into my routine for training. I think it is going to make a lot of difference for me if I can continue it throughout all of my training. Moving forward, I may want to write a blog about all the "extra" stuff I've been doing and trying to focus on more lately.

The other most exciting part of my workout is that I had a new cute workout top. I have been wanting a top like this for forever, but never found one that I felt looked cute or had the right support. I picked this up from Target clearance a couple weeks ago and was excited to test it out and see if in addition to being cute, it was supportive and able to do its job during a workout. I fully loved everything about this top and it is my new favorite for non-running workouts!

I felt really strong and cute at the gym on Monday and felt so good about that. I posted a picture to Instagram even though it was a bit outside my comfort zone to post a pic just because I felt like I looked cute (and strong) but wanted to practice a bit more self love lately.

Tuesday, February 28 - ITL Track Tuesday (yay!) for 5.12 miles @ 9:01 average pace

Tuesday morning I returned back to the ITL Tuesday morning track workouts for the first time since the day I had really hurt my hip and had to stop! It was really, really nice to be back! I had used the analogy that I felt like when I was running/working out that I was doing it on "egg shells" and just trying to be careful not to hurt something. The few runs I did I held back a lot.

This morning was the first time I tried to put a little more power behind my run and did some intervals of 1200s where I pushed a bit harder the first 400 then eased into tempo pace. I felt good about my paces at the end of the workout.  For the 4 1200s I did they were at 8:10, 8:14, 8:06, 8:04 paces. I know it isn't where I need to be, but it is decent for me.  AND I DIDN'T HAVE ANY PAIN!

It felt good to be able to put a little oomph behind my runs and I was excited to be back at track. I can't wait to do more of this and see how it improves my running.

And that is February for you!! I hope you had a great month. I am entering into March feeling healthy and strong and hoping to give it my best. Hope you have a great start to your month!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Doing the scary thing

Last July, I opened up on the blog about something that I had always frankly tried to keep a secret. Although there are certain topics of my life that have always been off-limits and are not things I write about, there was one thing I held back on - not for reasons of privacy - but because of embarrassment.

And that, for me, has been my struggle with psoriasis.

You all had the most amazing reactions and responses when back in July 2015 I opened up about my skin condition (actually auto-immune disorder), my story and the phases I have gone through in my years of living with it. I talked about the various treatments I've tried and how I came to a point of accepting it. It felt liberating and I was overwhelmed with the positive feedback I received. But then, in the time since then, I have never mentioned it again.

In the year and a half since I posted that entry, I have done my best to stop some of the behaviors I had done in the past - such as cropping or deleting photos where my skin is appearing.  But I realize that I have never come back and talked about it, and some events in the past week have inspired me to do so.

So, how has my skin been since then? Well, there are waves where it is better than other times and my flares ups are not as apparent. The summers certainly help, although it by no means goes away completely. Despite my best efforts, I have still not found anything that seems to help at all. Some days I don't notice it, and some days I am horribly uncomfortable - just wearing clothing is painful and irritating and my skin itches and burns. It is hard to tell what affects beyond sometimes the weather.

So, have have I been mentally with it? Well, I wish I could say that the embarrassment and worry of what people think has gone away or that it has become easier to answer prying questions. But that wouldn't be completely true. However, on the positive side, I have not let it stop me from doing anything that I love as I continue to push myself physically with marathons, triathlons, and new adventures. But I do often feel embarrassed or ashamed and at times hold back on doing certain things or wearing certain clothes because of my skin. For example, I would never right now wear a dress or a short sleeved shirt on a date. I won't go swim with new groups of people because of my skin. And I am afraid to try new nail salons for pedicures, wondering if I will be turned away as I have been before.

Back in November right after NYC Marathon and a particularly rough period of time with my skin - lots of discomfort, pain, and a few embarrassing moments - I made the decision to give inject-able medications for psoriasis a second try. My dermatologist whom I loved, had left her practice, so I found a new dermatologist in Atlanta and began the process of getting approved by my health insurance. After weeks of working to get bloodwork done, submitting applications, originally getting denied, and then submitting an appeal - I found out on December 27th that I was approved... Only to then have my prescription medication change on January 1st and have to redo the approval.

Finally it all went through and last week, on Tuesday, February 21st - I received a packaged in the mail filled with ice packs and one small single use pre-filled dose of medication to inject into my body.

This was my second time trying an inject-able medication and although it was a different brand, I expected the appearance and the experience of if to be the same. In the past, the medication was self administered with a sort of pen looking device, where you never actually saw the needle. You held it up to your skin, pressed a button, and it would shoot down the needle then retract it. As someone who gets queesy at the sight of needles - this really helped me to be comfortable enough with the process to try it out.

When I opened the package on Tuesday, I was expecting the same experience. BUT, much to my surprise, what I opened up from that package was in no way hiding from what it was - a needle - and what I opened was a straight syringe. And it honestly scared the crap out of me.

When I opened the package, my stomach dropped a bit and I wasn't sure what to do because this device was brand new to me. I close my eyes during medical scenes of movies or TV shows. I turn away and do not look when getting bloodwork done or shots in a doctors office. I am not comfortable with medical topics and certainly am not the type of person to willingly stick needles into my body.

But here's the thing. There's a reason why I am writing about this on the blog today and it isn't just because I wanted to give you all an update about my skin and about my fear of needles.

This is a blog primarily about my adventures in sport - running and triathlon - and how that intersects with my life. And that's why I decided to write about this experience of opening up this package and being so scared at what I had to do.

The thing is - that I know how to face my fears. 

I know how to get through things that challenge or scare me. I know that I can handle things if I approach them in the right way and if have the right support. I have learned these things over the years through my efforts of marathon, triathlon, and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone with sports. Sticking myself with a needle is as much outside of my comfort zone as physically clipping and attaching my feet to my bicycle and rolling down the side of the road with traffic once felt.

My ability to handle scary things has improved so much over the years and I contributed much of that to sports. As much as it scared me, I without even thinking of it, went into a mode of figuring out how to handle the situation in much the same way I take on a lot of my athletic things that scare me.

So what did I do?

Well, first I made sure that what I was doing would be safe and got as much information as I could. I called my dermatologist. And I called the manufacturer of the drug. And I called the pharmacy that delivered the drug. I got more information and talked through instructions of what I should do and what options were available to me. Did I need to have training on how to inject this? Should I talk to my dermatologist? Is there anything I needed to be aware of with this type of injection and process?

Once I felt comfortable with the fact that I COULD do this on my own (medically.) I reached out to a series of friends and relied on my support network. And through talking to them, I made another big step - and that was simply, deciding that I WAS going to give myself the shot that evening.

Sometimes, just deciding you are going to do something is the hardest part. For me, I like registering for races because it is a definitive way of saying "I am going to do this." But sometimes things aren't as solid as a race registration, but you still just have to make up your mind mentally. "I am going to go on this bike ride even if it is 30 degrees out when start." or "I am going to try running on the trails tomorrow." and then you just take the fact that you decided to do something - and you do what you need to do to prepare for.

So once I decided I was doing it, I prepped for that. I made sure I had the things I needed. I watched a number of tutorial videos online. And I called in additional support from friends.

In my last post I wrote about my trip to Switzerland, I said at the end, "Maybe others can do [some things] on their own - but I am the kind of person who needs support and that's what works for me." I've also said many times before, that the support of friends has been critical to a lot of the training and races I have done.

I had three good friends who were giving me advice and support, but in order to actually execute on giving myself the shot - I also asked Brick if she would come over to be there for me. Brick has been at my first Olympic distance triathlon, my first Half Ironman, and she was there to support me as I gave myself my first shot with the needle. She came over, we watched a YouTube tutorial together, I gathered my supplies, then she helped walk me through step by step what I needed to do and I willingly stuck a needle into my stomach to administer the medication.

[Photo taken after I used the shot]
And you know what? It really wasn't that bad.

It was over in seconds, I barely felt it, and there wasn't even a drop of blood. Life continued on and that was that.

Now, of course, I write about this whole situation a lot more calmly and confidently than it actually was in the moment. I let my emotions take ahold of me a bit throughout the afternoon. I tried to procrastinate and avoid doing the shot even when Brick was here. And I felt a bit uneasy about it all throughout the rest of the night. But, I did it. Like anything, nerves are normal. Sometimes our emotions do get the best of us. And much like I tried to procrastinate giving the shot by suddenly having to wash all my dishes, I've often tried to procrastinate scary workouts by sitting in my car as long as possible! But what remains the same is that I got the scary thing done and I felt better about it afterwards.

So anyways, that's my little psoriasis update for you today, mixed in with a real life example/lesson of how all this crazy sporting stuff I do makes me a better person in every day life. How the lessons I learn by tackling a new type of race or new distance, can be applied to other areas. And also a story about how my friends are the absolute best support system around and always come through for me when I really need them. Thank you.

It will be a few weeks/month or so until I know if this medication will have actually done anything for me. But I am proud of myself for overcoming this first step. I never will intend for this to be a medical blog or to talk about psoriasis much in depth, but if you have any questions about it - please reach out and I would be happy to talk more.

Hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Switzerland visit and proud moments

Last month I had the awesome opportunity with work to travel to Zurich, Switzerland for some meetings. When I first found out about the trip, I was so excited. I know it probably sounds a bit spoiled but it had been about 2 years since I had been to Europe and was really anxious to go back. Although I have loved the trips to new places, my most recent travel has all been really halfway around the world to Asia, Australia, and Middle East. Going back to Europe, which has its own unique charm and feel, I was very excited for.

In addition, I was a little bit anxious. I had committed to myself that I would start 2017 off hard with dedicated training, eating healthy, and getting ready for my races this year. The plan for 2017 was to focus and I was a little worried I would get derailed immediately with a trip to Europe the 2nd week of the year.

However, with the awesome help and encouragement of my nutritionist and my coach, I left for Switzerland on a Sunday evening after getting in a full weekend's worth of workouts.  Even the first 24 hours into the trip, I was following my plan exactly and I felt really confident in the week ahead.

Traveling to Switzerland was nostalgic for me.  I had been to Switzerland once before, which was one of the first weekends and one of the only weekend trips I did when I studied abroad in college. It had been almost 10 years exactly since I had been to Switzerland. When I went that first time it was for a weekend to Interlocken, where I arrived on a bus, stayed in a hostel, had no money for any sort of excursions beyond that, and no exaggeration - had packed a backpack entirely full of wine juice boxes. I drank most of the weekend and made new friends and had one of the most memorable and funny weekends of my entire life on that trip to Interlocken, Switzerland

Ten years later, traveling on business, staying in a hotel, and packing business clothes - it felt like an entirely new experience and I was excited for it and humored by the juxtaposition between now and the last time I visited.

I arrived on a Monday afternoon after connecting at CDG in Paris, and was able to check into my hotel and then meet my friend Jess for dinner. One of the girls that I started with at the same time at GE has since moved to Zurich and I was excited to be able to reunite with her, and also be a part of a week of meetings with her, since we had never worked directly together even though we've both been at the company the same number of years.

Jess walked me through one of the older neighborhoods in Zurich, which was quiet on a Monday evening, but still adorable and charming with the lingering holiday lights still up in early January and a layer of snow on the ground. We ate at a Zurich style restaurant and I ordered a meat dish covered in a delicious mushroom gravy that was apparently a local specialty. It was amazing and I devoured it.

After dinner I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some yogurts and protein drinks to have throughout the week and then returned to the hotel to head to bed. I had committed to working out every morning and wanted to start the week off to a good start.

The office where we actually worked was in Baden, Switzerland, which meant I would take an 18 minute train ride every morning from Zurich to Baden with Jess and head in to the office there. It was really fun to take a train commute and the fresh snow made everything really beautiful. I fell in love with Zurich almost instantly and was so happy to be back in Europe again because it just has such a special feeling to it that I absolutely love.

The work week was busy with long days and dinners in the evenings but I just overall felt so happy on this trip being there. The trains always ran on time, people were helpful, and everything felt clean and safe in Zurich.

One of the things I love about Europe is that it is so easy to get to other places! On Wednesday, we actually took a day trip from Zurich, Switzerland to Belfort, France via a 2-hour train that ran smoothly and on time and was so simple to use. Belfort is home to one of our company's manufacturing facilities, which was extremely cool to see. We ate an amazing 3-course long French lunch and wandered around Belfort a little bit (in the rain unfortunately) in the afternoon before taking our train back to Switzerland.

Switzerland is nestled in between Germany and France so there is an interesting mix of cultures there and the official language they speak is Swiss German. Being that Switzerland is not a part of the European Union, there are things that are unique to that country - such as the outlets and the currency, the Swiss francs. I was able to make it through the week without having to buy a specific Swiss outlet adapter or taking out any cash by being able to borrow from friends and use my European adapter in my hotel room. But the fact that Switzerland is not a part of the EU was something that I had completely forgotten about until I arrived there!

One thing that I will say about the Swiss is that they have perfected the ways to eat melted cheese. I was able to eat fondue and raclette while I was there and I have to say that I prefer raclette entirely over fondue, but my goodness are they both delicious.

Friday after the end of the work day, I checked out of my hotel and moved over the apartment that my friend Jess lives in with her husband. He unfortunately was not in town, but it was also nice to have a girls weekend just with Jess. On Friday evening we joined a group of coworkers/friends for a nice dinner out and lots of wine that was so fun and felt cozy and warm as snow fell outside. Jess has a great group of ex-pats who have turned into friends, including someone who I used to work with back in 2008-2009 in Upstate NY who is now living in Zurich and a friend of Jess's! We all walked home after a full meal of delicious food and lots of wine. The snow falling made for a beautiful backdrop and lots of fun in a snow fight.

It was funny to me because the weekend before, we had a chance of snow in Atlanta that caused the whole city to shut down basically. But in Switzerland and other places where it is common, it's just part of what you do every day!

On Saturday, I started the day by going for a run and a workout at my hotel gym (see older post for details on that) and I finished the run around Lake Zurich and imagining what it would be like to be there in the warmer months. There is an Ironman race there, so it may be something I need to put on my list for the future!

After finishing up my workout, Jess and I spent the day wandering around the city stopping only for lunch, coffee, chocolate, and to wander into a few shops. It was a delicious but tiring day, so we hung out a bit at her apartment after being out all day, before heading over to another coworker/friend/expat's house for an amazing dinner of more raclette.  That cheese is like crack, I swear. It was sooo sooo good and so kind of our friend to host. I loved Saturday night!

There was less wine and wasn't as late as the night before though, as we were all getting up early in the morning to head out to go skiing! I was so excited that we were able to fit this in on the trip because being able to ski in the Alps just feels like a bucket list type of thing. I am not a big skiier, but this intrigued me for sure. I've only ever skiied in the Northeast so this was my first time at a big mountain and the views were breathtaking.

When we first arrived it was a bit of a white out and you could hardly see, but when the clouds would move away I would gasp and just have to stop skiing and stare for a little to take it all in. I'm sure that was extremely annoying to the people that I was skiing with but I couldn't help it. It was just too much to take in while also trying not to lose balance and fall off a mountain!

I was lucky that I was able to have a mix of gear that I brought, borrowed, and rented. Which had me looking a bit dorky but it all worked. I brought clothing and a neck warmer/ear covers, I borrowed snow pants from Jess's friend (they were too big but that's okay), I borrowed goggles and gloves from another one of Jess's friends, and I rented a ski jacket, skis and ski boots, and a helmet.

Unfortunately, Jess hurt herself on one of the first runs, which was really scary and my first time seeing ski patrol have to take someone down the mountain. She was unsure of exactly to what extent she'd hurt herself and didn't want to leave the mountain so we continued to ski while she rested in the lodge for the afternoon. We joined for lunch and after the day of skiing for a beer. I really enjoy skiing but things like this scare me a lot! I felt so bad for her and it reinforced me to ski extremely cautiously, as I always do - skiing with my skis in "pizza" and zig zagging extremely slowly down the mountain. When the sun was not out, it was really scary because everything just looked completely white and you couldn't tell if there were bumps or grooves in the snow.

We spent the evening actually going to the Swiss version of urgent care to have Jess's knee X-rayed and while there weren't any initial results of an injury, she found out later she tore her ACL, which is terrible. I was glad that I was there to help!

Overall, it was an incredible trip to Zurich that I am really, really proud of. It was a great week professionally as well as perfectly. I went into the week with a plan. I researched what would be available for me to exercise and where there were grocery stores. I worked out every single day while I was there - even on the weekends and even with early mornings and even with obstacles in the way. I prepped food ahead of time and brought healthy snacks with me and picked up a few more at the grocery store. I drank more espresso then I ever have to avoid the high fat milk in their lattes and cappucinos and I didn't have any of the random pastries that I was tempted to eat when I would walk by them.

But I also tried new foods and didn't hold back from having multiple servings of cheese raclette. I drank wine without stressing about it. I ate the Zurich style meat dish and sopped up the gravy with bread. I tried chocolates from 2 different chocolate shops we walked by and I didn't feel like I missed out on anything throughout the week. I feel like this trip is what life should be like. Looking back, I don't feel like I missed out on anything. I didn't feel like I did when I was there either. I came back feeling healthy and strong and HAPPY - not bloated and regretful. It was the most successful business travel I feel like I have ever had and certainly the most successful international trip I ever have had.

Sometimes I feel dorky when I think about the fact that I have a "coach" and a "nutritionist" - like, who am I?  Who do I think I am with a team of people that I pay to support me. It seems silly and over the top and I felt that way even as I wrote that at the beginning of this blog entry.

But then again, when I get to the end of this blog entry (and if any of you have as well) and I write about how happy I felt coming back and how good it was to have an international trip and still enjoy myself and indulge but also do it smartly while maintaining my overall life and fitness and health goals... it makes it all feel worth it. Maybe others can live balanced healthy lives on their own, but I am the kind of person who needs a support team and that's what works for me. I checked in with my coach and my nutritionist every day and it helped me stay on track. I felt in control and in charge and HAPPY during and after the trip. And that's worth it to me.  Switzerland in January was an incredible adventure and amazing week!