Monday, December 29, 2008


One of my former students is a lifeguard at the Blacksburg Aquatic Center and when I ran into her there the other day, she challenged me to reconsider my approach to swimming, which is pretty straight-forward and boring - to swim a mile (36 back-and-forth laps). Swimming is not a regular part of my routine, but I've gotten to the pool a few times lately in the hopes that it will give my sore foot a break.

She explained that there is a whole range of other swim-fitness possibilities out there! She participated in the Blacksburg's Aquatic Center's Master's Swimming program and highly recommended it, but I don't have the time or desire to add to an already full schedule! But, through a SparkPeople swimming group, I found a free website called that not only constructs swimming plans, it actually includes the instructions for what each exercise is - key for a novice such as me. You can select the strokes and equipment. I like free and breast. Never learned butterfly and hate how in backstroke you can't see where you are going or when you are about to hit the wall! It concocted a great plan. I printed it, encased it in a ziplock baggie, and off I went. It was a great program and having it there in black and white (rather than in my head) meant no cheating or slacking.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

20 x 200s

Today I ran 20 x 200m (1/2 a track lap) with 200m recoveries. I didn't realize until after I did some research that the 400m lane is typically the inner-most lane; I thought it would be the middle lane and I ran there with cones to help me consistently time things. Anyway, I wore my new Garmin watch which gave me average pace per interval. I wonder how accurate it is on those short distances? I forgot to wear the HR monitor and will do that next time. I posted this run online.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Garmin Forerunner 405 Review

Robert got me the Garmin Forerunner 405 running watch/GPS system that provides the ULTIMATE in logging, tracking, charting. This thing has more bells and whistles than I've had a chance to uncover.

Check out the stats from the family walk:

It took some time to get it up and running since the first thing I managed to do was to change the language setting to some kind of Slavic dialect which made it pretty challenging to follow the English directions to change it back! But now it's very cool. I'm using the most basic functions initially. I just press "training" then "start" and eventually "stop". When I get back to the computer, the watch communicates to the computer via a wireless USB stick. The info is downloaded to the resident application or you can chose to upload it to Garmin's site and make it public.

Things work in the other direction, too. I can program in a specific running workout on the computer, upload it to the watch, and go from there.

Now if I could just program it to deliver a small electric shock when I am about to reach for one of the many, MANY holiday distractions like cookies, cakes, muffins, cheesy things, fatty thing, alcoholic things, etc. Next week, back to logging food on Spark People. I'm ready for some needed discipline in the food department.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

No running for five days

No running until Saturday. Ice, low impact XT, get over this inconvenience and move on.

I watched Without Limits today (thanks JRP) about Steve Prefontaine - a history-making distance runner who died tragically at age 24. Wow. It takes amazing focus, confidence, and pain tolerance to achieve what he did.

I also dabbled in a book about a guy who ran across the US. The scary thing is that I asked myself if, in my wildest dreams, I thought I could do that. My thought was yes.

Friday, December 19, 2008


I don't write much in here about tennis, primarily because it's not something that lends itself to being measured, counted, gauged, or tracked. But this blog has become my filing cabinet for organizing all things related to fitness and tennis is a big part of that.

I play on average 2x/week in the winter - doubles and a group clinic and/or private lesson. I started tennis in earnest almost two years ago. A year ago we got a great pro at Blacksburg Country Club, Bill Woods, who has elevated tennis for the whole BCC crew. He brings great energy and tremendous patience.

Take-aways from recent lessons:
  • slice: lead with butt of racket, finish short, karaoke step to get shoulder turned and low, moving forward through shot.
  • slice serve: toss to the right, hit on outside of ball, target more to middle since ball naturally goes left.
  • topspin serve: back of ball from 8 to 2 o'clock
  • serve: step forward into court, less rotation.
  • groundstrokes: spin (always), close racquet face some and sweep up over, finish the shot, don't get too close to ball, head stays down, hit deep
  • volleys - squeeze racket firmly, step into ball
  • small steps, on toes
  • overhead - turn, keep left hand up, don't get too far under the ball
  • drop shot


Today resulted in 6x800 @ 3:25 each with a walk break in between each interval. Tried to convince myself that this is my new "happy pace." It's certainly a bit easier than the last speed work quite a while ago when I finished topped out at a 3:35.

Foot continues to plague otherwise good runs. No patience for such annoyances.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New exercise

Today's workout included a "new exercise" - two words that, from past experience, invoke a mix of curiosity and fear, not necessarily in that order or in equal proportions.

This little gem involved the Smith machine (barbell on track constraining it to vertical axis only), two stacked steps (think aerobics) and a combination of a lunge and knee-to-the-groin motion. I bravely tried it - a definite quad-buster that left me breathless and sweating. Jake noted that he had no name for it, and after struggling mightily through three sets of ten PER leg, I suggested the moniker of "death". OK, maybe not. But quad-buster would be pretty descriptive. It seems to be pretty effective, I'll grant him that.

Apparently I must have looked like I was having so much fun doing the wall squats/quad-buster/lap of lunges on track/leg extensions/squats that it generated interest and a new client for Jake. Glad that so much good could come from my suffering! LOL!

My quads burn like no other muscle group on my body and I struggle to push through that. I'm reading Lance Armstrong's War by Daniel Coyle, and he writes of one of the riders:
Hamilton had a trick he did when he was at his limit, where he tipped his head back and relaxed into the pain. That was they key not to fight it but to let it become a part of him. Strange, how hardness and softness were so close.

I like it. I'm going to try that.

Residuals from long run; holiday fitness plans

It appears I may have paid a small price for the long run with some right foot issues. I just hate stuff like this and not knowing precisely what the issue is drives me crazy. I don't think I'm doing any damage by pushing forward. I swam on Monday and have not run since Saturday. Tomorrow will be my first outing.

Onto another subject...the holidays. While I am excited for the break, I'm not excited about the loss of structure and routine: food temptations; kids out of school that makes scheduling the gym and running harder; working out alone with no JRP PT for two weeks. My goals for the holidays are:
  • Get back to recording food and crawl into bed early with a good book to avoid evening munchies (graham crackers seem to be the thing and they are high in calories).
  • Drink more water
  • Do more stretching
  • Bump up core work
My weight was back up to 127 -- certainly not bad, but inching out of what feels good on me. I just need to keep things in check over the holidays because I want to be fairly lean heading into the marathon training program.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Now for some poetry....

I get these strange bursts of spontaneous literary inspiration from time to time (usually very early in the morning) causing me to write things like this!


Halfway there, five more, two more, last one, good work.
I’m ready for the trip, I say.
He scouts out destinations, and I hop on board for the ride.
It seems so far, but we don’t talk about that.
We mark time by programs, weeks, days, splits, exercises, sets, reps.
Then rest.

Never me, always we. I am glad for that.
I see limits, assumptions; he, only possibilities.
I coast on that quiet confidence and the milestones tick past.
The layers slowly release and change is revealed.
Architect, coach, counselor, and artist.
Now athlete.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The long run - 25 miles

Today was the day of the lonnnnggggg run. I ran a 5.7 mile loop and had planned to run four or five loops depending on how I felt. I took a 3-5 minute break between loops to refuel, rest up, change out clothing, etc.

Each lap was solid and pretty comfortable at about a 9 minutes/mile pace and I was sure I'd get all 5 laps in. As it was, I pulled out part way through the fifth lap when I detected something potentially slightly amiss in my left knee. I figured I had already pushed way beyond perhaps what I should have and I don't want to risk injury when this was just a trial run. I still logged just over 25 miles so I'm not disappointed, although 28 would have been even cooler.

The interesting thing is that the running itself was fine. However, I didn't realize that the STOPPING running part is the hard part. Once you stop, everything hits at once, and it all hurts - feet, ankles, hips. I feel fairly beat up now. Ibuprofen, ice, nap, stretching, arnica gel - hitting it from all angles.

I needed to do this run for me and no one else. I had to know if I had it in me and didn't want to wait until spring to find out. I suspected that I would hold up, that I could just keep on keeping on. Now I am sure and I know I can do that marathon. Plus the race course looks to be much flatter than what I run on around here.

Things that rattled around in my head:
  • Jake saying that most of running long distances is mental
  • Pam Reed writing that most people can run twice as far as what they think
  • Knowing that people with less conditioning than me can run marathons
  • Keep it steady, but don't use energy trying to go slower. Get in the groove and stay there.
  • Keep the focus straight ahead (I tend only to look about 10' in front of me and I kind of zone out on it.)
I was happy that I never had to have the mental debate about whether or not I should/could keep running. I just did. Much to my surprise, that part took care of itself.

I listened to an episode of Whad'ya Know (NPR) for a few laps, then switched to tunes. I listened to Laura Story's Great God Who Saves probably 20 times. It's so uplifiting and the perfect tempo for a long run:

When I stumble and my faith is small, I will call Your name, great God who saves. And I would have despaired if I had not believed that You would come to me, great God who saves. And in my darkest hour, Your mercy and Your power are reaching out to me, great God who saves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I got this NOVA special from Netflix:

A baker's dozen of self-professed couch potatoes are put through the wringer to become long-distance runners -- and ultimately compete in the Boston Marathon -- in this thought-provoking "Nova" special that puts a fresh twist on reality television. In addition to tracking the would-be athletes' progress over the course of a nine-month training regimen, the program also educates viewers about what's going on inside their bodies.

It was interesting to note that the participants went through a nine-month training program yet it seemed that these runners did not have the comprehensive tailored program that they should have had. They did their weekly long run as a group and had some benchmark medical testing (I'd love to know my VO2 max), but there was no mention of nutrition education, resistance training, stretching, or injury prevention. There were many injuries - and most of the time the response was complete cessation of running. I wonder how necessary that was? And most of the women started the program technically obese, and most finished obese with no significant weight loss. To their credit, all 12 who started the marathon finished - but at what cost I wonder? Finishing times ranged from around 4:20 to 6+. Did they suffer injury or difficult recoveries? Their longest training run was a single 20-miler. Given a 9-month program, that seems like somewhat minimal preparation. It was an enjoyable little documentary though.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Work and life have taken on a volume, intensity, and urgency that I am not accustomed to coping with for such an extended period of time. I am so tired of saying "if I can just make it through this week" because the next one ends up being just the same if not more of a struggle. For instance, today, I ate ALL of my meals IN my car. I ate my oatmeal with berries this morning, then a peanut butter sandwich and apples, and a snack of pretzels, then dinner was a hastily made scrambled egg and cheese burrito in a tomato pesto wrap. All homemade and pretty healthy, but the car???

My running and gym time, although another demand on my time, are KEY to being able to deal. It gives me a structure, an opportunity to feel successful and positive, and the mental side of running has given me a different perspective on life's challenges. As with running, when things are tough, I remind myself that it will get better. The road will flatten or head downhill, the rain will stop, and my energy will be replenished. I'm still heading up that long grade but I'm sticking with it...relaxed and steady. Eventually I'll crest the hill and conditions will improve.

The gym has been a lot of fun lately, partly I guess because I don't have races disrupting things. I do think I am gaining strength and endurance. We are doing some high reps (28-36 on some things) and new exercises - particularly some non-machine things that appeal to the lifting purist in me :-)

I am taking the next two days off (except for a tennis lesson) and then Saturday I plan to do my longest run yet - something approaching marathon distance - to provide a baseline for the next few months. I am excited and of course, nervous because the unknown always makes me nervous. The next two days I need to focus on sleep and carbs. I'd better go work on the first of those two goals now!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I behaved

I did manage to skip the organized half-marathon run, but I happened to be driving by as some of the runners approached the finish. It did look like fun! Good for them!

I ran from Gateway Baptist to Food Time and back - exactly 8 miles - and with a 64 minute time, that was exactly an 8 min/mile pace. I was pleasantly surprised at my pace since I had planned to hang back a bit on this run. That speed seems to put me in my groove. However, my goal for Friday's long run is to run a steady 9 minute mile. I have a 5.7 mile route planned out so that's about 51 minutes per lap. And if I manage to do that four times, that's 22.8 miles. Physically, there is no reason why I can't gut that out and mentally, I refuse to back down. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, December 5, 2008


On facebook today I saw that the VT Tri team was putting on an informal half-marathon from the chapel to the end of the Huckleberry Trail and back. This year it's the Jordan Chang Half Marathon - the winner from the previous year has naming rights! So clever and so cool. It's free but they even offer water stops. I just love the whole idea of this relaxed gathering and would so love to do it. However, I have a big run planned for next Friday (~20 miles) AND I'm completely exhausted AND I did a workout at the gym that had a pretty heavy hamstring focus AND my left foot has been bothering me.

But I really, really want to do it (insert sound of whining adult-acting-like-child here). Jake talked me out of it (for the most part), calling it "ill-advised." I had to place an emergency call to an AA sponsor. Save me from myself. But I can't start deviating now. Plus, if I were him and I put thought into a plan and someone just did whatever they wanted I'd be annoyed.

On a more positive note, I did my sumo deadlifts today for the first time in...well...ages. I didn't do anything heavy, but I miss those lifts that require more in terms of style and technique. I really have to find a way to work those back into my regular routine. Can't say I miss squats too much, but DL and bench are keepers.

Kids are sleeping at Oma's. I have big plans to do ZERO work, watch a movie, and go to bed early to hopefully recharge my batteries.