Thursday, December 22, 2011

Trying to Stay Positive

Saw the podiatrist yesterday, and while he is happy with my progress I must say I am not. Nine weeks after surgery, I still have not received clearance to do anything of high impact. This bothers me, because I had thought when he said "eight weeks" it meant I could run again after eight weeks; turns out, it's that I can walk again. Running is still out of the question.
He says the x-rays look great, that when he used to perform the same surgery and didn't connect the bones with a plate, it was four months in a cast. I was out of a cast at four weeks. Yeah, yeah; yada, yada. Not what I wanted to hear regardless.
Now, I have great faith in this doctor. He knows exactly what I want to do with my feet, and he respects that. So I know he is only telling me the right thing, but that doesn't mean I have to like it (insert whine here).
Naturally, upon hearing the news, I did what every triathlete does--I cried a little and then looked at the calendar, working backwards from my A race (in this case Ironman 70.3 Steelhead on Aug. 19) to make sure I would have enough time to train. The training plans I have perused say it takes 20 weeks to train sufficiently for that distance--1.2-mile swim; 56-mile bike; 13.1-mile run. So that puts me at April 1 to really get down to work.
So, with the doctor saying the normal recovery time from this type of surgery is 4-6 months, that means in February, at the earliest, I can start running again. I know I can do the training; that's not the part I'm bummed about.
It's that I can't take a run for another six weeks, and that I feel my quads turning to flab with every run missed. Until I can start with the 2-mile walk/runs, I will work on my swimming (and that should put me ahead when training really starts). I've gotten in four 500-meter swims in the last two weeks, and I intend to ramp that up after Christmas.
I continue with physical therapy, and that's going well--he has me biking for 12 minutes (recumbent bike) and working on calf strength. What's lacking still is flexibility in the big toe, and I have a feeling that will return when I'm cleared to run!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let's Get Physical

I had my first physical therapy session yesterday afternoon, and while it felt uncomfortable at times, it was wonderful watching the blood rush to my foot; it meant progress was being made!
Eric at Carey & Daley measured the flexion angle of my big toe, which is not even near where it needs to be for effective running. But, hey, I was there, which means I'm yet another day closer to getting back doing what my body is craving.
I have to admit I haven't been a very nice patient lately--my days consist of sitting in the shower, driving to work, sitting at work, driving home or to the store (where I sit on a scooter), standing for 30 minutes or so while preparing and/or cleaning up after dinner), sitting some more and then lying down for 8 hours. Not exactly a prescription for good health.
The incredibly warm November we had didn't help my mood either. No cyclist wants to let 60-degree days pass them by when the late-year temperature usually hovers around 40. I go to the garage and gaze at my bike and then go back inside, only to sit some more.
I have been doing upper body weight work and trying to maintain my core strong, and that's something, though I'm sure the kids think I look ridiculous with my Herman Munster boot on one foot, a workout shoe on the other.
I found the date for next year's Mid-Winter Blues Run at Beaver Lake (Feb. 5). Believe me, if I can even walk that 3.1 miles I won't be feeling the blues at all! Until then, I'm looking at twice-weekly PT sessions, when I will work on flexibility and strength in the toes and ankle, Eric will massage out the edema and then he'll hook my foot up to an electro-charge machine (or whatever it's called), to send stimuli directly to the tissue to hasten healing.
I must admit the foot is sore today, but it's a "good" sore, similar to what you feel after a race run hard. And that's the best I can do right now.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Change of Pace

I have always been in awe of my best friend, Melinda Whittin Group, because from 10th grade, she knew what career path she wanted to pursue--pharmacy. And more than 30 years later, she still works as a pharmacist. It's just something I was never able to figure out in high school, or for the first two years of college.
I remember my father saying once that a lot of people don't know what they want to do until they're 39. And the piece of advice I give my children (and step-children) regarding their careers is to be sure you choose what you love, because you have to get up and go to work every day.
Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVE my job. I have always had a knack for reading, writing, grammar and spelling. I'm a good problem-solver; I like to plan issues 6-10 weeks out at a time.
At the same time, I have always been athletic, always been active, always wondered if I should have chosen to be a gym teacher. Well, that's not going to happen at my age (and with children in college and yet to go to college), so I'm considering the next best thing: getting certified to be a personal trainer.
It would be especially satisfying working with women older than 40, since that is really when my athletic "career" began. In my 20s I ran races, and in my 20s I started lifting weights, but the two were more recreational. I also taught some aerobics classes. After continuing to work out at home in my 30s when my children were young, I began really running again at age 42, when the kids were old enough to be on their own while I left the house for an hour, then two, and then three (during marathon training). And that's when I discovered that not only do I love to run, I more enjoy competing (especially because I'm pretty good at it).
So, with the realization that it's never too late to chase a dream, and to mine an aspect of your life that you currently do only for yourself, I'm seriously thinking about signing up for this certification.
And once I establish myself as a personal trainer, or fitness instructor, or lifestyle coach, it doesn't have to supplant my other career choice: editor of the most awesome weekly newspaper I know. And I could be making a visible difference in someone's life--helping her meet her potential, whether it's through weight loss, running a 5K or improving overall health. And that would be cool indeed!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Four-Hour Energy

After a substantial hiatus from long-distance racing, I registered for the Empire State Marathon, scheduled for Oct. 21, 2012. This will be my third marathon, but the first with wisdom and the experience gained from two previous attempts.
Many of us, I'm sure, decide to race those 26.2 miles with the goal of qualifying for the storied Boston Marathon. That's a laudable goal for sure, and many of my friend have succeeded at it, multiple times. Alas, I am not one of the lucky ones.
My first marathon experience, Mohawk-Hudson, in 2006, was an exercise in reality (I won't say futility because I did finish, albeit a good 26 minutes off my goal). First marathons teach us a lot about ourselves, our preparation (or lack thereof), our nutrition (or lack thereof), and what we can do better the next time. Turns out, quite a bit.
During the grinding 16-week training regimen I topped out at a long run of 20 miles. I made reservations at the official race hotel, and the literature had said it would be open before the race for breakfast. NOT!
A table with bananas was all I saw, and I nearly stole one I was so desperate for some sort of fuel, but I relented and paid the usurious price of $1.50 for one stinking banana. Thus "fueled," I boarded the bus to the starting line in Schenectady, and prayed for the best.
All went well until mile 17, when the meager nutrients from the banana (and whatever I had eaten the day before) had been depleted and my 8:30 pace fell off a cliff.
So, armed with what I had learned from Marathon No. 1, I began the training cycle in 2007 for the Indianapolis Marathon. My long run that time topped out at 23, and I ordered a pace tattoo, which helps you track where you need to be timewise at each mile. A bonus was that my sister lives in Indy, so it was a built-in vacation. Will and I drove out, I slept like a rock the night before, got up and ate and ate and ate (advantages of staying with a family member). It was an absolutely gorgeous day and I felt great, too great, it turns out. My pace was way too fast for the first half (8-minute miles). My sister Jodie warned me I was ahead of pace, so I tried to slow down, really, I did. Well, at mile 18 I had no choice. I thought I had left that wall in suburban Albany!
Still, I was running so strong up until that point that with a mile to go, I had 7 minutes in which to qualify for Boston. Yeah, right. I finished well, but at 4:03:24, thereby missing Boston by. . . oh, I'd rather not think about it.
Then a series of injuries convinced me to back off the marathons, until this year, that is. With two foot surgeries behind me, an answer for and way to manage a nagging hamstring, and the realization that I likely won't qualify for Boston--and who cares if I don't?--I find myself facing another 26.2 miles.
I have nearly 11 months to train for it, tons of support all around (from family, to running buddies, to co-workers), and the beauty of having to drive 10 minutes (instead of 10 hours) to the starting line on race day.
I'll report on my progress, which will be gradual, as the calendar unfolds. And I can't wait to get going!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Progress Edition

After my right foot surgery of last December, I wrote down nothing, which means I remember very little. Not to detail every gory moment here, but I want to let folks who may be contemplating the same surgery--bunionectomy--to stop thinking about it, stop being scared about it, and get it done! A few months of no activity traded for years of no pain while running--it's a bargain I have been willing to make, twice.
It's been exactly two weeks. By day 10 I was off the Percocet. I was a bit shocked that the doctor prescribed 50--in fact, that scared me a little because last year I think (remember, I didn't write it down), he gave me a mere 30, and I used them all. Anyway, the intense pain subsided after 30 hours, just like last time, but occasional twinges made it difficult to sleep.
I returned to work Monday, Oct. 31, and came home exhausted but it was so much better than sitting around the house.
Everyone knows I'm an active person, at least when I'm not on crutches. It's been tough, though I will admit to doing upper body work every other day the last few weeks. I don't want that core going soft!
On Tuesday, day 12, the doc removed the stitches, and I was able to wash my foot--such a mundane pleasure! It's tough bathing and not getting an entire limb wet. He put me in a Herman Munster boot--heavy metal base, six strips of Velcro--and though he called it walking boot he doesn't want me walking for two more weeks. At least it comes off so I can sleep relatively comfortably. And he wants me wiggling my toes--especially the big toe which bore the brunt of the surgery. It's quite stiff and looks to me like an overcooked knockwurst.
I see him again in three weeks for X-rays and an assessment of how well the bones have healed. Maybe I can swim the Friday after Thanksgiving??? We'll see.
I have already signed up for a 70.3 half ironman in August and am hopeful I can race the Bluegrass Ramble, a half marathon in Madrid, NY, in late June.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How Am I Doin'?

For most folks, assessing their goals for the year just passed takes place at the end of that year; that way, the slate is wiped clean for Jan. 1. Since my training year has essentially ended, I thought this would be the perfect time to see how I did.
I laid out 10 goals at the beginning of 2011, and I met 7 of them. Not too bad, but room for improvement looms as large as an Olympic-sized pool.
I celebrate these successes: Curtail drinking. Wine is my friend; wine is my enemy. I really like a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. I wanted to use my Oct. 20 surgery as a turning point. How could I possibly boast of improved nutrition, when fermented grape juice was part of the equation? I stopped drinking liquor in college and hardly touch beer (unless it's a really hot summer day), so it makes sense that wine was next. This is a struggle I know will continue, my father's alcoholic tendencies partially to blame.
Speaking of nutrition, I improved there, adding more protein to my diet. A problem I continue to have, though, is swallowing a huge vitamin every day. Not only do I taste it for hours, but I wonder if I really need to take it, based on reports I hear and read. I did better with Vitamin D, especially important to a petite white woman with a diagnosis of osteopenia. I enjoyed competing in different races/different places, something I hope to continue. Yoga: Once a week; no problem there! Strength training: twice a week; ditto! Lose 5-10 pounds: I lost 6 of the pounds that piled on during my last surgery recuperation, so I consider that a success.
Now for where I still need to improve:
Run another marathon. That just wasn't going to happen in 2011, much as I wanted it to, and honestly I'll have to think long and hard if the effort and wear and tear on my body will be worth trying in 2012. A corollary to that is to run 35 miles a week. My thought was to compromise between a pedestrian 25 miles and ridiculous 50 miles (necessary to train for a marathon). Again, a possible goal for 2012. Swim 4 times a week; I got up to 3. Time is the enemy of the triathlete who works full-time, raises a family and wants to sleep 8 hours a night.
As for the last, the portion of my training that receives the most neglect: rest/recover. I had hoped to do nothing every 10 days but I found myself sneaking in an easy swim or light weight workout on that vital day. I really, really need to improve there.
So there you have it. Soon I will write about 10 goals for 2012. But first, a nap.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Long-Range Planning

It's been awhile since my last post. Guess I have been feeling melancholy at my physical breakdown at the end of race season. My left foot wouldn't let me run much past an hour or 6-7 miles, and I didn't see any reason to push it, other than stupid pride. One of the smartest moves I made was to drop out of the ARC half marathon because my foot just wouldn't let me continue.
Looking back at my 2011 race results, it is pretty obvious where I wasn't putting in the work. Not that I didn't want to, but I just couldn't. On Oct. 20, my awesome podiatrist, Dr. William Dutch, removed the bunion on my left foot, cleaned out the mess of arthritis he found and tried to salvage what he could, knowing what my plans are for 2012 and beyond. It's nice to have found a doctor who respects you, and does his best to get you healthy enough to do what you want with your ever-precious feet.
I am on crutches for four weeks, then gradually transitioning back into shoes. Physical therapy is inevitable, a pain, but it reaps benefits. I would love to run next year's, but I doubt I can handle 10 miles by May 6.
Facing my 51st birthday in April, I am trying to be realistic about what my body can handle, knowing full well that you can train it to do just about anything. I enjoyed volunteering at this year's, and intend to run that race next year, damn it!
So, here are my goals for 2012:
1. Start swimming by Jan. 1.
2. Start running by Feb. 1.
3. Back to yoga, as soon as possible. I find that the older I get, the more flexibility I lose; hence, the joys that are yoga.
4. Start biking as soon as the weather allows.
I have already registered for a half-ironman triathlon, Aug. 19, in Michigan, Dr. Dutch assures me I will have plenty of time in with training so I can compete. So I am planning my races leading up to that tri, a few sprints and an Olympic distance before the big 70.3.
With both feet finally fixed, I anticipate making big strides with my training, and having quality seasons each year from now on.
The bottom line is I love to compete; I love seeing my friends; and I love finding out what my body is capable of. The challenge is part of the appeal, feeling sore the next day means my body worked hard, and the few days rest gives me a chance to reflect on my effort and look forward to the next training challenge.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Water, Water Everywhere

Upstate New York triathletes are decidedly blessed with the healthy number of waterways in which to compete. I made it a fitness goal this year to compete in different places, and it's truly remarkable the number of choices out there.
Yesterday, July 31, I raced the Delta Lake Triathlon, and already it's near the top of my favorites list. Growing up in Vernon, I remember that my mother took us kids there during the summer, like so many Syracusans go to Green Lakes. Life is interesting in that I returned there to race a triathlon (something that never would have crossed my mind as a 10-year-old).
Racing north of Rome got me thinking of all the terrific lakes and other bodies of water I have swum in, and am still scheduled to swim in this summer. There are many others I have yet to get to that I'm sure many of my readers have already competed in.
I can cross these off my list: the Niagara River (weedy), Jamesville Reservoir (chilly), Lake Ontario (wavy), Oneida (shallow), and the Finger Lakes known as Seneca, Skaneateles and Keuka (I'm racing in Cayuga Lake this Sunday). That leaves many others I'm considering for the future--Tupper Lake, Fourth Lake, Cazenovia Lake, Owasco Lake, Canandaigua Lake (but NEVER Lake Placid; no Ironman for me!).
In fact, we travel so much for these triathlons that it got me thinking about what a shame it is we aren't able to stay home to race in our hometown Onondaga Lake. A duathlon would work--biking and running routes are well established--but swimming? While Onondaga is cleaner than it's been in many generations, there's still a stigma about the lake that was so beloved of Hiawatha that many of us just can't get past.
So as much as the thought of racing a triathlon in the lake I was swimming in as a child never occurred to me--but it happened--I will dream that one day local triathletes don't need to rise at 4 a.m. to get to that day's race. They can mosey over to Onondaga Lake and christen it in all its newfound, clean glory!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Races

It was the best of times; it was the best of times.
The last two Sundays I ran two very different 15K races. I didn't even come close to my best time at the distance, but it really doesn't matter. I was so struck by the contrast in the races that midway through the run on July 17 I thought I'd blog about it.
The July 10 race was the world-famous Boilermaker (I had to chuckle when I saw the typo on the cover of the official race program calling the race "world renouned"), a 9.3-mile romp through the streets of Utica. The July 17 race, the Forest Frolic, featured 9.3 miles along the Finger Lakes Trail east of Virgil.
The most treacherous part of the Boilermaker was trying to avoid the water cups hasty runners strew in their wake. The Forest Frolic presented one big trip-o-rama, around divots, through streams, over what seemed like a million fallen trees, orocks jutting out of the forest floor and roots, glorious roots, just waiting to grab a toe so a stumble became inevitable.
Both races present spectacle. The Boilermaker's is man-made, with musical acts every half-mile, runners wearing crazy garb, eager kids begging you to grab the popsicle they're handing out at mile 5, all the beer you can drink at the end party (something I never do; not that I don't like beer, just not at 10 in the morning). The Forest Frolic's appeal was all-natural--lush greenery at the forest edge, a stand of pink-tinted Norway spruce for a half-mile or so, soft pine-needle trails to cushion the feet (when the rocks and roots weren't so threatening).
About halfway in to the Forest Frolic, a runner came up behind me and we got talking about how this race differs so much from the Boilermaker. "Sure," he said, "but I could go for a popsicle about now."
Every year I tell myself I don't need to head to Utica, yet nearly every year I find myself there with 10,000 runners, waiting for that cannon to go off. There's just something compelling about racing for fun, not for time.
But I discovered that the Forest Frolic offers plenty of reasons to return to Virgil year after year. The miles I spent running alone, feeling like the only person out there (which I wasn't), felt strangely soothing. I kept thinking about Daniel Day-Lewis and The Last of the Mohicans, and the likelihood that I was running on centuries-old Indian trails. While the day was gradually warming up to near-record heat, I never felt overwhelmed by the temperature. At one point, a German-accented runner came up behind me, as we entered the aforementioned pink forest and said, "This is God's air conditioning, ja?"
Indeed. By the way, I beat that guy, not by much, but I beat him.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reflections Got the Better of Me

I am a mere four races into race season and I have already learned more about where I stand, recovery-wise, than I probably care to. It's always easy, right after crossing the finish line, to dissect what went wrong, to focus on the negative. Perhaps that trait is what makes competitive people brush themselves off and try, try again. Within 24 hours, however, I also discover that there is much to celebrate about each and every race performance, knowing there is a way to do better the next time.
So here are my reflections on my race season to date.
Du the Lakes Duathlon. I had no idea what to expect 4-1/2 months after foot surgery, so I signed up for this race to find out. What a disappointment! But then, after I calmed down and looked at my split times, I was able to pinpoint why I was 6 minutes slower than last year at the same race. The bike was the same, essentially, time-wise, perhaps a few seconds different. But each mile of the six total miles run took me one minute more to complete, which adds up to 6 minutes. How humbling to discover that I had lost a full minute-per-mile off my race pace, from 8 minutes to 9. The solution: More speedwork.
Buffalo Half Marathon. I signed up for this race for a few reasons--I love half marathons, I enjoyed the race last year (even though a train stopped a bunch of us at mile 10), and it gave us a chance to visit the grandkids (and their parents, of course!). What a disaster. Like triathlons, you really can't fake the training for a half. Thirteen miles is a long way to run regardless, and quickly becomes even longer if you haven't trained for it. I completed an 11-miler three weeks out, and convinced myself it was enough. Well, first the left foot hurt, then the right foot (surgery foot), then the hamstring. I stopped to walk. I stopped to stretch. I told myself I had run a half marathon with a dislocated toe in the Syracuse Half Ironman triathlon a mere six months before. It didn't matter. It was a failure. I was so bummed out I didn't run at all the week after, which probably contributed to. . .
Paige's Butterfly Run success at the 5K! My wishful-thinking goal was 25 minutes; my realistic goal was 27 minutes. With my feet cooperating and a conscious effort to lengthen my stride to keep the hamstring loose, I crossed the line in 25:05. Happy! Successful! First in my age group. Woo-hoo!
Keuka Lake Sprint Triathlon. I clearly had no idea how my terrific run of the day before would affect my performance in my favorite triathlon of the year. But I didn't really care either. I was so happy to be getting ready for the first tri of the season that I just put my all into it. The swim went OK. I have resolved from now on to start at the front of the swim pack. Why lag behind when I pass half the field, and only get frustrated with the breast-strokers who kick to the side? The bike wasn't as fast as I felt. The run--ugh. I developed shin splints; I never develop shin splints. I turned on the pace with a mile to go, actually passing some folks as I neared the finish line. It wasn't my best effort, but it was an effort, and I was so glad to have finished. I can't wait to return to Keuka Lake next year.
Next up is a 7.7-mile cross country race at Green Lakes State Park on Sunday. Just trying to mix things up! Then serious training for the July 31 Delta Lake Olympic distance tri begins the following day. Yesterday, after Keuka, I went to to devise and print out a training plan for the next seven weeks. Other than the Boilermaker, I have no other races scheduled. This wasn't deliberate, but now with this newfound push, I'm glad I will have no distractions as I prepare for the 1500-meter swim, 25-mile bike and 10K run. Now, let's hope the rain holds off!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Making Progress

Not being a fan of New Year's resolutions, when it turned 2011 I decided to log some fitness goals for the year. I truly had no idea how well I would progress since I chose these goals two weeks after foot surgery and I couldn't predict my recovery. Well, I'm pleased to say that I've recovered exceptionally well from a bunionectomy and dislocation repair, even though I'll need similar work on my left foot. But that'll keep until after marathon season.
Accountability is half the battle with goals (and resolutions, for that matter) and while I won't bore my readers with all my goals I will report on my success or failure in achieving certain ones. I'll assign a letter grade to better define how I'm doing.
Pay better attention to diet. Some of that comes naturally for me the fitter I become; I just crave junk food less and less. That said, sweets are killer for me, and it doesn't help when my husband likes to give me candy (no complaints, mind you!). Specifically I have been drinking more water and eating more protein. Supplements are still a sticking point. I'm reluctant to have a multi-vitamin at the same time I down a calcium and a Vitamin D pill. So that has been spotty at best. B.
Run another marathon. Haha! Check with me in mid-October after the Bay State Marathon I'm scheduled to run. Incomplete.
Compete in different races/different places. Traveling across Upstate New York to race has become a series of mini-vacations for me, yet another reason to mix things up. For 2011, I have signed up for these new races: Delta Lake Triathlon, outside Rome; Cayuga Lake Triathlon, outside Ithaca; Turning Stone Half-Marathon. A.
Strength train twice a week. I love lifting weights, but when it's sooooo nice outside, I'd rather be on my bike. Still, I'm needing to work on my hamstring strength if I intend to race a strongly as possible this year. A.
Swim four times a week. This is tough to do around work and end-of-year kid schedules. The best I've done is three times a week. C.
Run 35 miles a week. This week past I got to almost 30 miles, and I've deliberately built gradually from my post-op layoff or else risk injury. When I'm gearing up for the Oct. 16 marathon, however, 35-mile weeks will become a must. I'll likely drop one bike a week to make up that distance. B.
Rest every 10 days. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I have one thing to say about that: F.
With 7 months to go in the year, I'll check back in and see how I'm doing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Little Help for My Friends

Last Sunday, I experienced something completely different for me--I volunteered at the Mountain Goat instead of running it. This 10-mile jaunt up and down some of the toughest hills in Syracuse is one of my favorite races. This year, nearly 3,000 runners participated, but not me.
I sat this one out because I didn't know how well prepared I would be after my Dec. 16 foot surgery. I was able to complete the entire course on April 16, during one of the Goat training runs, but it wasn't exactly in a stellar time. Still, once I knew I could run the 10-miler, the early (less expensive) registration deadline had passed.
I felt sad, but got over it and my husband and I signed up to direct traffic for the race. At first, we thought we would be at the entrance to Thornden Park, at about mile 7.5. But we got moved to mile 6.5 to what I consider the toughest portion of the race--near the crest of the Colvin Street hill near Lorraine Avenue. It really was awe-inspiring watching runners as they approached, adjusted and eventually conquered that hill. My hat's off to every one of you!
It also was fun watching my friends go by (sorry that I missed some of you), and cheering them on. Now I know what it feels like to be able to give, instead of receive, encouragement.
I have always made it a point to thank volunteers at all the races I have run. We really enjoyed helping out on Sunday, and now I realize even more how vital volunteers are to all the races. I know my running friends love to run races. But I would encourage every one of you to look at your calendar and identify a race you aren't running; then sign up to help out. You'll be glad you did!
Anyway, now that April has passed (though it feels like November this morning), here are my training numbers for the month. They aren't quite half-ironman training numbers, but I'm getting there:
Monthly totals:
Swim: 17428.70 Yd - 4h 57m 57s
Bike: 205.21 Mi - 14h 34m 05s
Run: 75.55 Mi - 11h 56m 18s
Strength: 6h 04m
Sport (mostly yoga): 6h 24m

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Celebrity Skin

When I became editor of the Syracuse New Times 11 years ago, I told my children--who were 10 and 8 at the time--that I would be more accessible to them, while at the same time working more hours a week (by virtue of sitting at a desk instead of working in the field). I explained that the job was more high profile than reporting. @Will Keene responded by asking if I was famous. I doubt that, but my position certainly garners attention, if only because it's listed No. 2 on the masthead.
I love just about every aspect of my job--it's one of the most interesting jobs I've ever held. Part of the not-at-all-dull aspect of it is that I have been asked, because the job is high profile, to participate in some interesting promotions.
I have golfed at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, and received some constructive coaching from a golf pro. I have played street hockey with and against the Syracuse Crunch, even scoring an assist and watching @Wayne Mahar get incredibly frustrated at breaking his expensive goalie stick.
For many years I participated in the Girl Scout cookie eating contest, downing a record three thin mints in a minute. Not my strongest suit, I'll grant you that. It was fun having @Amy Robbins introduce me by saying, "She may be little, but she's tough." In fact, after Amy introduced me thusly, my son caught me before I got on stage and said, "See! I told you you were famous!"
Today I officiated at the most unusual event yet, an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for simultaneous changing of cloth diapers. Zoo public relations director @Lorrell Kenney Walter recommended me for this task because of my so-called fame. Um, OK. This was an Earth Day event, one that called attention to the needless use of disposable diapers. Think about that word: "disposable." These days it's more important than ever to use cloth diapers, what with shrinking landfill space and an invigorated appreciation for our environment. In fact, both @Georgia Keene and her brother survived babyhood wearing cloth diapers.
While 60 babies and their diaper-changers were registered for this event, 35 participated, including fellow triathlete @Jennifer Bakerville-Burrows and her cutie-patootie baby. At 12:30 p.m., almost three dozen diapers were changed and, it is hoped, Syracuse is now in the record books for something other than snowfall and basketball.
I can't wait for the next adventure my celebrity brings me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Decade, Not Decayed

Today, at 10:17 p.m., I turn 50 years old. In the life of a runner, it's a big deal to enter a new age group. In the life of a woman, 50 is just a big deal. Still, I feel better today than I did at 30; I'm sure it has a lot to do with child-rearing sleep deprivation and lack of any time to exercise adequately and eat properly. I emerged from the funk when I turned 40 and, frankly, things have improved ever since. Herewith, in no particular order (because who can prioritize such things?), are the milestones of my 40s, both good and bad.
1. I saw my two children through graduation from high school and into college.
2. I ran my first, and then my second, marathon, coming tantalizing close to qualifying for Boston the second time around.
3. I broke my left foot and had surgery on my right foot, the former revealing that, not only do I possess an incredible tolerance for pain, but osteopenia is a problem I have and there is little I can do about it--I am white and small-boned after all.
4. After many niggling injuries, I concluded that I needed to stop training exclusively for marathons and diversify. As a result, I discovered the joys, challenges, aches and pains, and ultimate triumphs of triathlon. After two years of training, I completed the Syracuse 70.3 Half-Ironman an hour faster than I thought I would.
5. I drank too much wine.
6. I met and married my incredibly supportive husband, who stands at the finish line, camera in hand, at all of my races. Being a stepmother is a challenge I have yet to master, but I haven't given up!
7. I found a cyst in my right breast that, after a sonogram, was deemed to be benign. Phew!
8. I developed some incredible friendships with women who have seen me through my fitness challenges and goals; among them: @Jade Barth Mills, @Patty Hendry and @Mary Fitzgibbons Klee.
9. I became a grandmother twice; OK, a step-grandmother, but still. . .
10. I ran a 6:59 mile three years ago in the Festival of Races.
11. After losing 30 pounds in 2004, I uncovered the muscles I had worked so hard to sculpt in my 30s. I had finally learned portion control.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pain, No Gain

It's remarkable how tolerant of pain I have become. I don't know if the ability to zone out when things hurt is the mark of a successful endurance athlete, but I have many friends who experience the same effect. Still, I'm not sure that's so good either--I turned a stress fracture into a full-blown second metatarsal break from ignoring the pain.
Here's what I'm talking about: This morning I went to the track. I detest track work in the moment, but once I'm done and then when I experience the benefits of around-and-around I'm glad I did it. Because it had been awhile (and I'm still technically recovering from foot surgery), I went easy: 4 x 400, with 400 recoveries, after a mile warmup, and then a half-mile cooldown. My goal was to complete each fast lap in under 2 minutes, and I reached that goal--1:58, 1:58, 1:59 and 1:54. It felt good to be done!
When I returned home to log my workout I was curious to see the last time I had been to the track. It was June! But there was a notation in that log entry about my toe hurting so badly that I was going to call my ortho about enduring a second cortisone shot. Uh-oh. I had forgotten how much that second toe had really started to hurt me, but considering I eventually laid off the track for nine months, my sensible self was clearly trying to protect my foot from even more pain.
The point is that even though pain tolerance is a strength of mine (though not something really to brag about), I clearly had had enough a full six months before I finally got that foot and toe fixed (and this would be the right foot, not the left foot I broke in 2007). I guess the lesson is to listen to yourself, even if you don't like what you have to say.
And now for something sort of different: The folks at have asked me to link some of their products from my blog to their website. My daughter tells me she has done the P90X workout and it kicked her butt, but that it's a quality workout all the same. I urge you to check it out (and the other workouts) for yourself--it's never too late to get into shape. They include the P90X2, the Tai Cheng and the 10 Minute Trainer.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday, Sunny Day

Today is a beautiful and sunny day, with still some early-spring chill in the air. It's only 40 degrees or so, but the sunshine goes a long way toward lifting the mood.
Today was also the third training run in the Mountain Goat Race series of trainers. It's been terrific watching 700 or so runners invade downtown Syracuse at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday to practice running up some of the toughest race hills to be found anywhere.
The Museum of Science and Technology graciously hosts all of us runners, and two Syracuse police officers help control traffic. A shout-out to them especially.
Today was also the longest run I've attempted since probably before Thanksgiving. About mile 5 I started to conk out, but I kept at it for the full 7 (ongoing congestion issues didn't make things any easier).
Then it was breakfast with my husband at one of our favorite diners before returning home to all the usual Saturday stuff--laundry, cleaning, etc., etc. Still, Saturday is by far my favorite day of the week.
I am also nearing the end of my 10-week session of yoga classes. I will continue to practice, as they say, at home, especially since I'll be 50 in nine days. Flexibility is fleeting, but it's also vital to my continued performance as an endurance athlete.
Anyway, now that it is April 2, time to post the training numbers for March.

Bike: 2h 07m 27s - 27.72 Mi
Run: 11h 19m 36s - 71.05 Mi
Swim: 3h 01m 51s - 11646.98 Yd
Strength: 9h 39m
Kettlebell: 45m
Stability Ball: 55m
Yoga: 5h 34m

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sick of Being Sick

Nothing can stop you deader in your training tracks than an illness. Now, I'm not talking major sickness here (thank goodness), but just that pesky cold or sinus infection that makes it difficult to breathe.
I have never figured out how to be sick graciously, that is, without whining, and I doubt I'm going to start now. I was feeling really good about my training--although I've biked only twice because of lingering cold and snow--and was gearing up to run the 7-mile Mountain Goat training run this Saturday (I still could do that, just not well). But swimming is out of the question. I'm really struggling to breathe and plunging myself underwater for 20-30 minutes just won't cut it.
Speaking of swimming, that was coming along, well, swimmingly. I have gotten up to three times a week (sometimes four), with the Friday swim alternating with a 2000M for endurance and a speed workout. I have been getting to the pool every Monday at 3 (which works out well with work obligations), but that didn't happen yesterday.
I had been toying with running the Hall of Fame half-marathon, May 22 in Utica, but not really running this week might just make that out of the question (boo-hoo).
So how do I cope when I'm sick?
The answer is not very well.
Yesterday I went to the Sudafed website, where you can indicate your symptoms and they'll suggest the variation of their product that will attack those symptoms. That was fine until I went to the drugstore nearest my office and they didn't have that version. So I bought the store brand, which provided me some relief.
I cannot take an antihistamine since I am one of those very few who get the frantic side-effect. It makes my heart race and I can't sleep. Not good.
I'm hopeful this is a cold, and that I'll start feeling better tomorrow, which would be day 7 of feeling poorly. If I don't feel better by Friday, I'll call my doctor, though I'm not a fan of antibiotics.
All I can do, restlessly and with very little patience, is wait it out.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Teach Your Children

My daughter is about to graduate from college and accept one of two offers to pursue her master's degree. She has always been a conscientious, hard-working student. I stopped asking pretty early on if she had done her homework, because she always did. But this isn't so much a blog about Georgia the ace student, as it is about the educational choices I (and her dad) made for her.
Both of the kids were educated in private institutions (until college, a fact I find interesting). As the oldest, Georgia went to private kindergarten, with a graduating class of seven. Once Will was old enough to enter preschool and Georgia first grade, we switched them to St. Matthew's, a quality Catholic school that is, sadly, no longer.
The decision of a non-Catholic family to send their children to a parochial school was not made lightly, or without a lot of financial sacrifice (non-Catholics pay a higher tuition rate). We knew the kids would be OK at the neighborhood city elementary school (but we weren't keen on the mile-long walk expected of first-graders), yet what hung us up was the middle school situation. Frankly, at the time, it wasn't all that great.
Finances were such that we could afford Catholic school, so we enrolled the kids, telling them they didn't have to take the Catholic canon to heart, but to embrace the spirituality of what was being said.
But back to kindergarten. It was suggested to me that Georgia should skip first grade. I barely considered it--the answer was no. I didn't want to pull her from her peer group; skipping a grade would mean she'd always be the youngest.
Then in first grade, they wanted to enroll her in a gifted program. (Do they even have gifted programs anymore?) I don't like the idea of labeling a kid, good or bad, smart or slow, and especially not my kid! This is a child who, even by age 6, I could tell put way too much pressure on herself. What would thrusting her into a competitive gifted program do to that self-motivation? I was afraid it would turn her into a neurotic wreck.
If she is truly gifted, I thought, let it manifest itself in high school, when grades really matter. Now, I don't know if Georgia is gifted or not, but I do know that the decision to let her studiousness emerge on her terms was one of the best I made for her. Within a week of being accepted at SUNY Oswego, we received a letter, outlining her $4,000 a year scholarship. Then came the letter inviting her into the honors program (which she still is part of). Last week we found out she won the Outstanding Senior in Zoology award, worth several hundred dollars. And she is weighing two offers, from SUNY ESF, and SUNY Buffalo, all with stipends, fellowships and enough other money attached so the master's will be earned, at no cost.
Guess the investment made in Catholic school literally paid off.

Monday, February 28, 2011

February's Training

The worst month of the year became the best so far for 2011 because I was cleared for all cardio activity, "as tolerated," the doctor warned. So I've been running slowly 3 days a week, trying to add mileage as my foot allows. Swelling remains, and it won't go down as quickly as it would were I not pounding it with my 3-mile jogs. I ice the foot the evenings I have run in the morning.
The physical therpist reports that the fascia underneath the big toe that was operated on is tight--to be expected--and she massages it the two times a week I see her.
As for strength training, I've increased both the amount of weight I'm lifting twice a week as well as the number of exercises--for example, last week I added lunges and forearm curls. And I'm adding back my FIRM DVDs, especially the kettlebell workout I received for Chistmas.
I moved up a level in yoga, to Kripalu beginner 2, and while many of the moves are too basic for me, I remember that I'm there to get my stiff body back into pliable, not-prone-to-injury shape. All yoga feels good! And the 75-minute class has become a highlight of my week.
Today, because the hubby was home and could get the little one on the bus, I was able to swim early today at a city pool which opens from 7 to 9 a.m. for lap swimmers. Although the pool is the farthest away from the house, this presents a terrific option. Because I pay $3 to swim each time, I will never swim just 800 meters; today I topped out at the half Ironman distance of 2000M, and I was pleased. I am limited, however, to swimming there only when that littlest girl is with her mother and I don't have to get her on the bus. Until then, the Swim-p3 underwater sort-of iPod makes the 40 minutes in the pool even more tolerable.

My goals for March:
1. When the weather allows, get out on my bike.
2. Add drills to one swim per week, striving to perfect my form and increase speed.
3. Build, by the end of the month, my weekly run total to 25 miles.
4. "Graduate" from physical therapy.

My training for February:

Swim: 7874.02 Yd - 2h 27m 21s
Run: 23.28 Mi - 4h 08m 29s
Strength: 8h 02m
Sports (mostly yoga): 8h 22m

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Best Children's Books

I always read (past tense) to my children, who are now adults. Will and I were even finishing up the Wizard of Oz series when he was 12 or so. And I always expected my children to read. The two kids had their own library card from since they were about 5. In the years of reading bedtime stories to them, several favorites rose to the top of the “read again” list. Which got me thinking about our absolute favorites. The books listed here aren't necessarily the “best” children's books, because, really what does “best” mean anyway? That's the beauty of books—if one doesn't resonate, there's another one waiting on the bookshelf. But these are the books my kids asked me to read over and over.

When I remarried, and “inherited” a young reader, I was pleased that I had these, and hundreds of other, books that my youngest step-daughter could discover. And once my two biological children set up their own households, I will be equally pleased to help them populate their personal libraries with the iconic books of their childhoods.

So here, in no particular order, are the Top 10 Books in the childhoods of @Georgia Keene and @William Keene.

1. Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown. Such a simply told, soft, bedtime story. Besides, anyone who can romanticize “a bowl full of mush” is an all right writer in my book.
2. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. A naughty boy is sent to his room without his supper, and summons up a wild imaginarium of all sorts of creatures, creatures he can command, until his dinner shows up after all. Let the wild rumpus begin!
3. Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon. A baby bat gets lost and lands in a nest of birds, until she finds her way back home. The illustrations of how each species adapts the other's habits—baby birds hanging upside-down from the outside of the nest—are priceless. A wonderful story of maternal love.
4. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and just about any other story written by Beatrix Potter. Young Peter is so handsome in his blue-velvet vest, yet he can be oh, so naughty.
5. Strega Nona, by Tomie DePaola. A truly wonderful story of what happens when you don't follow the rules. Big Anthony gets his fill of pasta, that's for sure!
6. The Amelia Bedelia series, by Peggy Parish. So well-meaning in her manner, but Amelia Bedelia takes every request literally, with results that make any 6-year-old giggle.
7. Similarly, Bernard Wiseman's Morris the Moose, another silly character, wonderfully drawn, who just can't figure out why, when he has one head, his buddy Boris the Bear asks to check a fever on his forehead.
8. Curious George by Margret and H.A. Rey. These books are rather politically incorrect by today's standards, but what child can't relate to wanting to test out every item he or she was told not to. George just can't help himself!
9. Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel. Like the Morris the Moose books, these stories of best friends were written especially for first readers. And their adventures are pretty special too.
10. And, finally, anything by Dr. Seuss. Who can resist The Cat in the Hat; Green Eggs and Ham; One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish or If I Ran the Zoo? There is such depth to the poetry of Seuss, and children always respond to the lyrical nature of the writing. And you gotta love Thing 1 and Thing 2!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Just Move Already!

I am not a big gadget person, nor am I too familiar with all the options available with our Verizon FIOS service. However, in looking for a movie to watch last night with the On Demand feature, I discovered a whole bunch of free workouts on Exercise TV. And that leads me to the point of this blog.
With so much fitness information and so many resources available, there is really no excuse for those healthy enough for exercise to do just that, at very little cost. You don't need the gym (though some snowy mornings I do miss the elliptical trainers). And this is in no way a criticism of the gym--if it's what gets you motivated to get some exercise, then great. Frankly, it just got too costly for us to maintain a membership. I was using the gym for twice a week strength training, core using a stability ball and balance work on the Bosu. In winter it was nice to have that cardio equipment a short drive away. But once we canceled the membership, there was no looking back.
My husband found a stability ball at Target for $10, and we bought a Bosu online for $50. I have accumulated all manner of strength-training equipment--plate weights, dumbbells, a barbell, two kettlebells, ankle weights--over my 25 years of working out. So there really was no reason to keep paying the gym.
And when it comes to swimming for triathlon training, I urge everyone to seek out free or low-cost options: they are out there! My pool of choice, which I will not name for fear it'll no longer be a best-kept secret, costs nothing and offers plenty of adult and open swim times Monday through Saturday.
So, what's my point? It's that you can find low- or no-cost exercise options just about anywhere. Add library DVDs, magazines and books for all sorts of workouts, and you really have no excuse.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Weather or Not

I know I can be a real grump, but this latest "storm of the century" nonsense is the last straw. Now, the ride in this morning was a bit icy, but nothing a cautious driver can't handle. At this hour (9:45 a.m.) there is no precipitation whatsoever. So, why all the cancellations? Why closings that were announced yesterday afternoon? Why do people get all riled up and believe the hype?
Now, a few of the local meterologists are friends of mine. I think they're terrific people, and there's one (@Mike Brookins) who I wish I could beat in a triathlon. I also know that meteorology is a science, albeit an inexact science and the capriciousness of wind can make all the difference in the world when it comes to what amount of snow will fall where.
But still. . . aren't all those high-tech gizmos and gadgets supposed to help devise more accurate forecasts? What is the point of triple-doppler radar if it only serves to put everyone on heightened alert and force the cancellation of school in the face of an inexact science?
Here's a novel idea, dear readers. By all means, listen to the forecast, tune in to some of the nation's finest meteorologists. But after you do, don't worry about it! Carry on with your day as planned! Don't buy into the hype! Just be sure your car is full of gas, you have an emergency kit in the trunk and your cell phone is charged.
Besides, what's a little snow to a Central New Yorker? Better yet, define "little."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Back to Work!

January was the month I slowly regained some level of fitness, though fortunately I didn't lose it all through the recovery from foot surgery. I am still not up to speed, but I am thankful I was able to get back to strength training as early as I did.
I started the month with a 15-minute weight session (upper body only, of course), and built up gradually from there so that my most recent session--Jan. 30--took 45 minutes. Each week I add a new move, both upper and lower body. I also added yoga in the form of a weekly class, which began Jan. 26, and started swimming on Jan. 24. Yesterday, Jan. 31, I swam 700 meters.
It feels terrific to be able to move reasonably well in the water. Once I can run again, I know that will be more difficult, as it requires more pounding on the body. When you swim you glide; ahhh.
Today is my first physical therapy session. The podiatrist knows how eager I am to get running and biking again, and he has set me up with the Syracuse University men's basketball team's PT. For that I am ever grateful.
My original goal was to be able to run on my birthday--April 11. But now I'm thinking March 1 is reasonable.
Until then, I will keep lifting, stretching and swimming, and eating better. Here are my totals for the month:

Monthly totals:
Swim: 2624.67 Yd - 49m 19s
Strength: 8h 15m
Sports (yoga, etc.): 2h 01m

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yoga Bear

Took my first yoga class last night in years--I usually practice at home with a DVD, but Living Social had a great deal at a local studio. I couldn't resist 10 classes for $30; $3 a class, are you kidding?
When my daughter was 10 or so, we signed up for yoga and enjoyed many weeks of relaxation. Part of my goal with her was teaching her how to calm herself when she felt stressed. She has always been hard on herself, and expects much from herself, and tends to panic in the face of a lot of homework--she's still like that in some ways (gee, where did she get those traits from? I can't imagine!). But I remember reminding her about her "yoga breath" as a way to calm herself down. Wonder if she remembers that?
It is beginner kripalu, which felt sort of basic. I know all the poses, but the continuing lack of flexibility in my foot means I can't hold them very long or very well. So it was a good choice.
And it was 75 minutes of pure bliss--forced calm breathing, the aroma of incense, relaxing music. Ahhhhh.
About midway through the class I said to the guy next to me, "I love yoga; it's so simple." He laughed: "Simple?" I think he misconstrued my meaning. Yoga is simple, in that it is not complex, but in no way is it easy!!!
I look forward to next Wednesday's class, a day after physical therapy, when my foot should be even less swollen and more pliable.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I find when I feel like I have nothing to say, there actually is a lot to write about. So, some general observations for the week.
1. The podiatrist pulled the pin out of my second toe on Tuesday, with tool-box type pliers stored in a sanitized bag, like dental implements.
2. We just had a debate about the spelling of "pliers." Depends on the dictionary, apparently.
3. On Wednesday, I did yoga for the first time in 6 weeks, hoping it would help with pliability (ha ha) in my foot; it worked! So now I am looking forward to joining a weekly yoga class on Wednesdays.
4. Never underestimate the joy of inserting a damp, warm washcloth between your toes, and moving it back and forth.
5. The school districts were stupid on Friday, closing early and canceling activities based on a snow-warning forecast that never materialized.
6. My hat's off to the hardy souls brave enough to run the Chilly Chili 5K tomorrow in Cazenovia; chilly, indeed! I will be there in spirit.
7. Sometimes you and your spouse really need to get away, even if for overnight, to recharge your relationship.
8. Winters are made more tolerable by in-season, juicy citrus fruits.
9. I really love pizza.
10. Going swimming this Monday for the first time in 6 weeks is going to feel like reconnecting with an old friend.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Boot Scootin'

I have been unable to use my right foot for nearly 5 weeks now, due to surgery. When I finally felt up to getting out and about, my first retail visit was to Wegmans. Since then I have shopped at other local retailers--the mall, Macy's, Price Chopper, Wal-Mart, Target, BJs.
At the same time, winter-wet floors are treacherous for people using crutches--slip, sliding away and all that. So, I have been getting around on those electric scooters you normally see "old" folks driving.
A sociologist could do a fascinating study of: human beings respecting the scooter rider, avoiding the scooter rider, refusing to move for the scooter rider, staring at the scooter rider. Now I know I don't fit the normal profile of a scooter rider, but do people really think I'm just taking a joy ride?
I have a new-found appreciation for people who use wheelchairs for their mode of transportation, and how various stores are easier to get around than others.
It's interesting to me, also, that different stores' scooters operate better or worse than their competitors'. All of them possess a quite-loud reverse warning beep, and all of them stop too suddenly. That was a lesson learned when I nearly got rear-ended by a tailgating cart-shopper at Wegmans on New Year's Eve! I have since learned to finesse the stop by easing my grip off the "go" lever.
By far the best scooter I've driven was at Target--this baby tooled right along, nice and smooth, so fast my 19-year-old son had trouble keeping up. This was a scooter that screamed, "respect the driver."
Wal-Mart's, on the other hand, dribbed and drabbed, making those behind you annoyed at how slowly you were traveling (are we really surprised I would get looks at Wal-Mart?). Hey, it's not the driver's fault the dang thing doesn't go fast! Oh, and I had my funniest mishap at Wal-Mart. Check out the photo!
In less than a week I won't be needing the Amigo, as the scooter brand is called, but I will leave its seat with a greater awe for those who depend on them for hunter-gathering eggs, milk and coffee.