Thursday, August 29, 2013

Want to be more Organized?

I recognize that not everyone is an "organizer".  It has been my experience that people fall on a spectrum at any given moment in their (busy) lives: Over Organized, Organized, Wannabe Organized, and Who gives a #$%& (enter your favorite expletive).  I am Organized.  With a tendency to be Over Organized.  At which point I throw my hands up in the air and fall into Who gives a #$%&.  EXCEPT I don't stay in the land of Who Gives a #$%& for very long.  Mainly because organization goes hand in hand with productivity.  Productivity is important because it allows me to carve out space and time for the things (and people) I love.

Here is what I have learned from riding the Organization spectrum:

1. Don't over organize: yes, it is possible to over organize.  I have been there, done that.  Over organizing adds steps, time, thought, space which minimize the efficacy of the organizational solution.  Over organizing makes it hard to maintain your process and maintenance is KEY. Examples of OVER organization:
  • Archive folders in Outlook: I used to have archive folders in Outlook for my work email categorized by many main topics: my boss, functional areas (Employee Relations, Compensation, Benefits), and by projects.  This was overkill and took extra time to think before I archived.  Why was this over organized? Outlook has a great search feature which would allow me to search words in the To, From, Subject Line, Body, etc.  You could also sort by date, subject line, who the email is from.  Now I just have ONE archive folder per year (i.e. 2013 Archive) and I can easily search within that folder.  If it's in there, I can find it.
  • Closet Organization: Don't you just love when your closet is color coordinated?  All like colors with like colors? NO! This is over organized.  It takes too much time to maintain color distinctions and to think through what to do with patterned tops, etc.  I realize some of you are gasping right now but I maintain a more simple approach works just fine (i.e. pants, tops, sweaters, dresses).
    Color coordinated...No.
2. Don't be a perfectionist (or don't invest a lot of time in the solution): We all like when things look "just so".  Getting things "just so" takes time.  Time that can be better spent doing something you love!
  • I have spent more time than you know making sure my kids have checklists with pretty font, appealing colors, and adorable clip art (if clip art can be adorable). I like things to look pretty and if that is where you want to spend your time...that is fine.  I am not judging.  From my experience, my kids are no more or less likely to follow a checklist because it looks prettier than a black/white checklist (without graphic). They comply with the checklist because they are either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to do so.
    Somewhere in between elaborate
    and a black/white checklist
  • I have also spent a lot of time making sure my organizational components look design magazine worthy.  If you like to do that, again, this is fine.  At some point we have to know the difference between organized, functional and productive.
    Not necessarily making a big splash
    in Better Homes and Gardens but looks clean
3. Don't be inflexible: Finding an organizational solution that works for you may take some time.  
  • You need to be flexible and open minded in your approach.  If something doesn't work, don't get defeated.    I have executed a number of organizational solutions that just did not work.  They didn't perform the way I expected, too hard to maintain, too complex for others to buy in to. You name it.  If at first you don't succeed, try try again.
4. Don't bite off more than you can chew: We ALL do this!! 
  • In a moment of disorganized hysteria, you decide everything is offending you so EVERYTHING needs to addressed NOW.  You turn drawers, closets, bins, and baskets upside down.  Now what do you have?  A big overwhelming mess! You can't see the organization through the piles of debris.  At this point you kick it off to the side and leave it for another day...maybe 6 months down the line.  Sound familiar?  Pick ONE project and execute it flawlessly from thought to finish.  Plan it out.  Mull it over.  Do some research.  Research saves REWORK.
5. Don't over complicate it: 
  • KISS - Keep it Simple Silly!  Everyone in the house, in my case this includes outside caregivers and children, need to be able to understand, get "on-board" with, and execute the organizational strategy.  This is especially challenging with kids.    
  • Most of the time an elegant solution will arise from a simple material.  Clipboards are a favorite of mine.  I have even found clipboards in the $1 section at Target.  Hang said clipboard on a push pin and voila...home office solution success. An added bonus is my kids LOVE clipboards.  If I put a checklist for them on a clipboard, they will follow it.  
  • Simple solutions tend to be friendlier on your pocket book allowing you tackle a multitude of projects.  Like me, I am sure you have no shortage of nooks and crannies that require a keen eye (and a few dollars) to organize.
    Streamlined Workstation
  • Mommy's Command Center!!

Each Clipboard is labeled with
a child's name

Keep Calm and Organize On!
Where do you fall on the Spectrum of Organization? What are some of your favorite solutions? Have a question, ask away!
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Friday, August 23, 2013

6 Happiness Observations

As I was driving in to work this morning my mind was wandering on thoughts of happiness.  I was having an abundance of upbeat, spirited, happy thoughts.  Then I realized this has been my norm lately.  No, not every day is as perky and peppy as today but this is becoming more my norm.

There is a strong part of my personality that likes to drag me to the depths of darkness.  It used to be such a fight to stay on the lighter side of life.  Never was I clinically depressed but I had a way of getting mired in limiting thoughts.  And I have a story, we all do, of times less fortunate and less happy.  Times that were trying, terrifying, and tumultuous.  These weren't times of me being pessimistic.  These were real life, legitimate circumstances for grief.  Like I said, we all have our moments.  Life is not always unicorns and rainbows.

Having my moment has certainly taught me a number of things including having compassion for myself and others.  As well as not judging people for their actions because you never know what is behind those actions.  It has also taught me a lot about happiness and how to generate a flow of intoxicating merriment (too happy?). You get my point.

This morning I started to think about what contributes to my happiness.  What actions should I maintain to ensure continued contentment?  Here are my observations on something as esoteric as happiness:
  • Frame of mind: our thought patterns have an impact on our state of happiness.  There are times when negative thought patterns of doubt, fear, anxiety, regret, guilt, shame, etc creep into our brains.  Find a way to banish these thoughts quickly and don't let them linger.  They are most likely untruths anyway.  Pick a mantra to help you reframe your thoughts.  I love Louise Hay's book You Can Heal Your Life.  In there she suggests some good positive affirmations such as "All is well in my life.  Everything is as it should be."  This is great for irrational anxiety.  When Mommy guilt creeps in, I remind myself of all that I do for and with my children instead of focusing on the one little thing I don't do.  My mother was famous for saying to me "what will it matter in 100 years?"  However, my experience has taught me "what will it matter in 7 days?"  
  • Get enough sleep: I am talking to you ladies!! I am sure men have their sleep issues too but I have girl parts so I am speaking to the ladies.  We try to cram everything we need to do into one day and will stay up all night to do it.  I know for a fact some of you are folding laundry until midnight or straightening up the playroom.  We are also falling into the TV trap.  How many of you are up to all hours watching The Bachelor or some Real Housewives nonsense?  When the to do list runs long, the easiest sacrifice is always sleep.  DON'T do it.  WebMD says average adults need between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep a night.  Depending on where you are in life, you may need more sleep.  I have spent years underestimating the impact of interrupted sleep when my kids wake me up in the middle of the night. Don't cheat yourself, establish a nighttime routine that works for you and gets you into a healthy sleep pattern.
  • Move your body: whatever your jig is, just do it (I know, cliche)! Yoga, walking, zumba, dance, run, weights, etc.  Physical movement and exertion.  Numerous studies have shown that aerobic exercise will increase serotonin and assist in its release.  Studies have shown that yoga works too.  Don't trust me, google it.  In my opinion, exercise is key as it will also help you change your frame of mind AND help you sleep.  It's like a happiness life hack!  Moving your body will also create more body awareness, aid your physical health, and build your self-confidence.  I credit moving my body to resolving most of my mental and physical issues.
  • Eat clean: I am not interested in your dietary dogma (vegetarian, vegan, paleo, fruitarian, etc).  Just eat clean.  Clear out the preservatives, packaged food, artificial flavors/sweeteners, SUGAR, etc.  Eat real food.  Eat whole food. Eat a rainbow everyday.  However you want to say it.  Cut the crap from your diet and you will experience a mood boost almost immediately...well after the initial detox.  It will be well worth the time and effort it takes to clear your pantry.  Oh, and EAT FAT! Healthy fats won't make you fat...they will make you HAPPY (and leaner).  Again, you can google this one but I will give you a link to this article from Psychology Today about increased brain function from eating fat. Also, a good source for nutrition information is Dietician Cassie's website.  She recently appeared on the America's Angriest Trainer podcast with Vinnie Tortorich and Anna Voccino.
  • Take time for yourself: Plain and simple...put you first.  No, you aren't being selfish.  Most likely you spend 80% of your time taking care of others...children, spouses, friends, parents, siblings, pets, houses, clients.  Carve out some time each day to focus on you.  Use your time wisely to exercise, read, journal, meditate, stretch, sip coffee in silence.  Whatever your passion or pleasure is, spend time doing it.  EVERY single day!    Admittedly, I need a lot of time for myself.  I like to take the time to process my thoughts, organize myself, exercise, get enough sleep, eat well.  This all takes time.  I don't feel guilty about the time it may or may not take away from others.  I know I am a better partner, mother, daughter, business partner if I manage my time to ensure proper self care.  You will be more happy, patient, compassionate, creative.  You will be the person YOU want to be not the person everyone expects you to be. You most likely need to start with learning how to say "no" this.  Which leads me to my last observation:
  • Be Authentic: I am happiest being me.  I believe that I operate from a place of benevolent intent, self-truth and do no (intentional) harm to others (or myself).  When I operate from this place inside me, I don't second guess my decisions or worry about how others may perceive my actions.  Here is a list of 25 ways to live more authentically.
I am by no means a "Happiness Expert".  I am just a girl on a journey like many of you.  Based on my experiences, happiness is a way of being, a choice, a desire.  Happiness is within your control and is a direct correlation to how you chose to address the rigors of life.  Command yourself to go forth and be happy. 

Dream big.  Have faith.  Love life. 
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Experiment in Self-Exploration

Sunday ended my second week with an official training plan.  As I mentioned in a previous post, last week was emotionally, mentally, and physically draining.  I spoke about the anxiety I had before every work out. Some of this improved during week two.  The week was less emotional and there was less pre workout anxiety.  

The one thing that didn't get better this week was the physical EXHAUSTION.  It possibly got worse.  Monday was a glorious rest day but the feeling of well restedness was gone by Tuesday's track workout (my new favorite workout).

I bagged my three swims this week due to a nagging shoulder.  Nothing serious.  I went from barely stringing together a few lengths to swimming 2000 yards in three weeks.  Fairly certain Mr. Right Shoulder was having a WTF moment.

Wednesday was a solid 75 minutes of harder efforts on the bike trainer (which I LOVED) and strength training.  I feel like I am nailing (at a beginner level) the track workouts, trainer sessions and strength training.    

By Thursday, a run day, I had brain fog.  I snapped this picture of me at work around 2 pm.  It was becoming increasingly hard for me to concentrate on anything but the mundane and even then...
For the record, I don't sleep at my desk
and don't think sleeping at your desk is
a good idea.
Friday, long run day, was a total shitshow.  I just have to call it what it was.  Lead legs, mental exhaustion and a headache were my hurdles.  It was suppose to be a Zone 2 run but if I ran at Zone 2 pace my legs didn't want to move.  Picking up my pace taxed my heart rate, stressing out an already stressed out system.  I quit the run and felt miserable (emotionally and physically). I realize there is discomfort while running and part of our training is to learn how to embrace the pain and discomfort.  There is a fine line between pushing through discomfort and knowing when you are totally depleted.  My mental game just wasn't there.  I got into bed.  In the middle of the day.  On a weekday...and there I slept for 2.5 hours (No children were harmed in my napping, they were at camp). The only reason why I woke up was because I had to get my eyebrows waxed.  Priorities people! 

Saturday I had a 10-15 mile ride on the road scheduled.  I was really looking forward to this ride because I am eager to get comfortable with my bike on the road.  I was also meeting up with someone I met through social media and blogging.  It was fun to talk family, sport, life, and writing.  Jackie, who blogs over at Muscle Up Mom, is a much stronger rider than I am.  I greatly appreciated her patience while I crept along.  Together we rode 21 miles (more than my plan called out) on a really gorgeous morning.  After refueling and running around with the kids, I found myself in bed AGAIN! I honestly haven't been this tired since I was pregnant.  And NO I am NOT pregnant now.

I would say this was a low point but I was just too exhausted to care for more than a few moments.  I briefly thought of the athletes in my life and their accomplishments.  Then I looked at myself and thought of how I am struggling with a fraction of the training.  My Type A Personality started to flare with indignation.  Deep down I knew the truth.  These athletes have been at this a lot longer than me.  And some are naturally gifted athletes (not me!).  I know they have struggled, plateaued, got injured and still have bad days.  

In the midst of a hate spiral nothing seemed logical.  I took a few deep breaths and reframed my thoughts.  Let's have a moment of honesty, my goals and associated training are just a mechanism of self exploration.  There is no pro card, no prize money, and no front of the pack.  I am not in it to prove anything to anyone except MYSELF.  This is an opportunity to bond with my husband over something that we both find interesting and exciting.  This is an opportunity to expand on what defines me...something other than mother, wife, professional, or Ironwidow.  This is an opportunity to expand on my independence and explore fearlessness.  If my goals come at the expense of my personal happiness, create physical strain, or induce anxiety than the goals need to be reevaluated.

So in the great big world of self improvement and personal change this week was a tremendous success.  It created self awareness and acceptance, the cornerstones of personal growth.

"Above all; To thine own self be true" - William Shakespere

Can't remember where I found this...on Facebook
somewhere.  Truth!

What are your goals? What steps are you taking to achieve them? Any light bulb moments along the way?

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Zone 2 Training Works...But Not Today

Over the last two years or so, the topic of Zone 2 ("Z2") training has been mentioned, discussed and written about all over the web and in almost every endurance sport related podcast.  I (John) have been training with Z2 for the better part of 2013 with tremendous results.  I thought it was worth sharing my experience(s) and how it could help you in your training.

***** Disclaimer: I am not a trained health or fitness professional.  The following is simply my experience with a particular training method. *****

A good place to start is with a definition of Z2 training.  Zone 2 refers to your aerobic heart rate range, and specifically training within that zone.  Typically, endurance athletes use five (5) heart rate zones to identify the level of effort and exertion while training or racing.  You can use a good heart rate zone calculator to find out the upper and lower heart rate limits for each zone.  It is also advisable to recalculate your zones periodically.  Monitor your resting heart rate and then comb through your data for your max effort heart rate (typically from a race).  I would say every 4-6 months would be sufficient.

In order to effectively utilize Z2 training, you must first check your ego at the door and then adjust your perception of a training session.  I used to plan my training by targeting speeds and distances.  "I am going to run 6 miles at an 8 minute/mile pace."  The following week, I would up the mileage a little, and hope to maintain the same pace.  If the pace dropped, I must be having a bad day.  If the pace increased, I must be getting stronger; until I increase the mileage again.

This whole cycle brought me right to the point of mediocrity, also known as a plateau.  I just couldn't go any faster or farther.  The idea of ever running a full marathon was painfully out of reach.  Enter Z2 training.

Check Your Ego At The Door

To get the most out of this system, I realized I needed to be humble.  In the beginning, I averaged 15 minutes/mile on my runs and 15 miles/hour on the bike, much slower than I was "comfortable" with.  Soccer Moms with jogging strollers and teenagers on BMX bikes passed me by on the slightest of inclines.  I had to stop running at that breakneck pace of 15 min/mile to walk for 100 yards.  And when my neighbor was standing in their yard while I shuffled on by, I wanted to bury my head in shame.  Handling the humility of Z2 training was probably the most difficult aspect.  I wanted to bag the whole concept, but thankfully I didn't.

Change Your Perception Of A Training Session

Once I had my ego in check, I had to look at training sessions a little differently.  I was now training by heart rate and time.  Notice, I didn't mention distance or speed.  That's the difference.  I scheduled sessions such as "run for an hour in zone 2" with no regard for distance and/or speed.  I simply had to move my body while keeping my heart rate in the right zone for a specified period of time.

Typically, I will run "out" for 30 minutes and "back" for 30 minutes.  If my heart rate starts to creep toward zone 3, I slow it down a bit to stay in zone 2.  Since I have heart rate alerts on my Garmin device, I set the alert a few beats below the top of zone 2.  This informed me when I was getting close, giving me some time to get my heart rate down before going over the limit.  I still employ this practice today.

My goal was always to get 100% of my training time in zone 2.  Obviously, I spent some in zone 1 as I warmed up and possibly touched zone 3 if I overdid it a little.  Not too much of an issue, because this got better and easier.

Stay Indoors At First

When I started this type of training, I threw away my hatred of the treadmill or bike trainer.  Since it is a much more controlled and static environment, it allowed me to truly hit the target for workouts and trained my body to work more efficiently across larger blocks of time.  A good time of year to really commit to Z2 training is the late fall, going into winter.  Most of my training would be indoors anyway, so I got to make the most of it.

Be Patient

This was not a quick-fix, overnight plan that made me a better endurance athlete in a few weeks.  It took time.  It took a lot of time.  I started to see small benefits in about 3 months.  At about 5 months, I started to see some huge gains.

For example, here is a breakdown of a treadmill run on March 20th:

  • Total Time: 60:00 minutes
  • Zone 1: 03:00 minutes
  • Zone 2: 57:00 minutes
  • Average Pace: 14:22 min/mile
  • Average HR: 124 BPM

A few months later on June 7th (treadmill):
  • Total Time: 90:00 minutes
  • Zone 1: 11:00 minutes
  • Zone 2: 1:19:00 minutes
  • Average Pace: 13:39 min/mile
  • Average HR: 123 BPM

A few weeks ago on August 1st (outside):
  • Total Time: 50:00 minutes
  • Zone 1: 03:00 minutes
  • Zone 2: 47:00 minutes
  • Average Pace: 09:57 min/mile
  • Average HR: 125 BPM

It took 5 months, but I broke a 10 minute mile all in zones 1 and 2.  At this point, I could basically run all day in zone 2, and do it at around a 10 min/mile pace.  That is a huge improvement in my aerobic engine.  I am hoping to be able to run a 3:30:00 marathon by this time next year, all in zone 2.  The progress that I have made thus far, gives me confidence that I can.

Eat More Fat

Another aspect of training that coincides with Z2 training is diet.  When I train in Z2, I am primarily burning fat.  I sparingly trickle small amounts of natural sugar sources when I am training or racing in the higher zones.  By primarily training in Z2 and consuming a lot more fat from healthy sources, my body has become much more metabolically efficient.

I substantially increased my fat intake earlier this year and routinely do 3 and 4 hour training sessions in a fasted state.  I will consume about 150 calories throughout the training session and hydrate with Nuun.  I no longer have a need (or desire) for gels or sugary sports drinks.  Fat as fuel is the way to go.  No bonks, no sugar crashes.

Mix It Up

By no means is this the only training I do.  It is the vast majority of the hours, but I still need to get my body ready to go fast.  I throw in intervals, speed work, hill repeats and strength workouts, but spend most of my time in Z2.  I also found that when I do let the hammer down, I have more horsepower at my disposal.  But I am very careful not to overdo it.  I use Training Effect on my Garmin to limit myself and allow for ample recovery.  You can read more about Training Effect ("TE") here.

This is my HR Zone breakdown for the last 4 months.  Zones 1 and 2
make up over 66% of my total training time.
Avoid Injuries

An added benefit of training the Z2 way is I tend to avoid injuries.  Long gone are the days of pounding my knees and legs into the ground with hours of tempo and threshold efforts.  Training at lower intensities allowed me to focus on form much more often.  I went from a heel-striker to a mid-foot stride in a very short period of time.

I have also incorporated the use of a weight vest during my Z2 runs.  This is a very dangerous practice if not done correctly, so I would not recommend it to newbies or anyone that has not done a ton of research.  I will compose a post on the use of a weight vest in the near future.

I have not had a single injury or even a "niggle" this year, and I can attribute that to extensive Z2 training.

Z2 Versus Maffetone

To the best of my knowledge, and through extensive research, Z2 training and Phil Maffetone's method ("MAF") are essentially the same thing.  They only differ in the zone calculation.  The MAF zone will typically be slightly higher than a Z2.  However, they are both rooted in the same concept of training in your aerobic zone, below the point where your body flips from burning mostly fat to burning mostly carbohydrates.

For most people, Z2 and MAF would be interchangeable with regards to building a solid aerobic base.  I have chosen the Z2 method, but I am sure MAF would have yielded similar results.

Starting Out

When I first started out training with Z2, I had a tremendous difficulty keeping my heart rate in the correct zone.  One little trick that I used was to forget the numbers for a while and train by feel.  I did this by using the way I speak as a gauge.  Before I started a training session (at rest), I would speak my full home address, "123 Main Street, MyTown, New York" in a normal, conversational speed and tone.  I could speak this aloud on one breath when I was at rest.

Once I started the training session, I would periodically recite my address in the same fashion as before.  When I got to a point where I either needed to take a breath mid-sentence, or had to speed it up to get it all out on one breath, I knew I was out of that aerobic zone.  That is when I backed it down a bit to where I could recite it correctly.

Although I would record my heart rate data, it was not the driver of these sessions.  After a few weeks, I could see that data showed improvement.  30% in zone 2, then 35%, then 40% and so on until I was ready to start training BY my heart rate, rather than WITH my heart rate.

What Is The Goal?

Although Z2 training encompasses a large portion of my training volume, I also do a fair amount of hard interval, tempo, threshold and "to failure" training.  With all of these variations, I am able to concurrently build endurance, speed and strength.  So the question is, "what is the goal of Z2 training?"

The main goal of Z2 training is to build a solid aerobic base for endurance activities and events.  The longer the event, the more beneficial Z2 training becomes.  For example, Z2 training has almost no impact on my sprint distance races, a moderate effect on my Olympic distance, a great impact on my 70.3 and will play a HUGE role in my full Ironman next year.

My training goal is to get my Z2 paces to be my expected race paces.  I figure if I can do 75% of each leg in Z2 while achieving my desired race pace, I can drop the hammer for the last 25% and have the horsepower available that others will not.  Effective Z2 training should prevent me from blowing up prior to the finish line.

I have established time goals for Ironman Lake Placid next year.  One of them is to run the marathon segment in 4 hours or less.  That equates to running at a 9:10 pace for 26 miles.  As of this week, I can run at a 9:58 pace for 2+ hours.  With a full year ahead of me, I am very optimistic about meeting or exceeding this goal.  Only time will tell, and I have the time and patience to do it.


For me, a competitive triathlete, Z2 training has been the difference between a "middle-of-the-packer" and the podium.  It is something that anyone can employ with a little discipline and patience.  I have also come to understand that this method is a long-term way of perpetually gaining fitness without the risk of a huge burn out at the end of each season.  It is the perfect method if you are just starting out, have hit a plateau or just want to go longer.

Please follow us, as I will be updating my progress throughout the year.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Weekend Recap: "Step Back" Weekend

I hope you don't find this post too mundane.  I took advantage of having no real plans this weekend to have a "step back" weekend.  A weekend where I can step back from responsibility and obligation.  I needed a weekend where i wasn't on some crazy time schedule rushing from errand to errand.

In preparation for my weekend I made sure to stock up on groceries Thursday night. I also took the opportunity to get a sitter for the kids Friday night and asked my mom to watch them for three hours on Saturday.  On the family whiteboard calendar, I marked "Mommy Nap" on Saturday, this way everyone knew what to expect!

Last week I found myself with an official training plan for my two (very small) fall races.  I have been struggling with achieving the level of performance I want and thought this was a good test case for more focused training.  My plan takes into account my two fall races and...wait for it...wait for it...triathlon season in 2014.  This means I am now training in all three disciplines.  No races or distances have been decided for next year.  I am still trying to find the courage to even acknowledge that I am willing to think about this.  Triathlon was an "I will never" thing for me.  As in, "I will never compete in a triathlon."  Well, like they say "never say never".

Last week was a rough week adapting to a new training schedule which on a few days called for double workouts.  Double workouts on top of working full time, being a mom, having a house to take care of, friends who I want to interact with, etc.  As much as last week was physically draining, it was mentally and emotionally draining.  The anxiety before every workout was palpable. The workouts were far more intricate than the "lazy" workouts I had been doing.  It's interesting how one can be active and lazy at the same time.  I ended the week tired, sore, emotionally bruised but still determined.
Trying to adjust to three workouts
in 24 hours.

Stretching and playing mind games
to get me out the door for my long run

Here are some highlights from a much needed "step back" weekend:
  1. Dinner with friends on Friday night.  It was so nice to get out and have a real sit down meal with familiar faces.  With friends I have known for a while it was easy to relax and soothed my soul.  John and I don't get out much for dinner and we thoroughly enjoyed the restaurant chosen by the group.  We went to Butera's in Smithtown and would recommend it.
  2. Saturday my training plan called for a ride of 10-15 miles on the ROAD!!! Ack! I have had my bike for 10 years and have probably had it on the road 3 or 4 times.  My bike handling skills usually put me on the pavement as I try to unclip from my peddles.  Since we were able to arrange for the kids to go to my moms, John came with me on my ride.  Sometimes I want to kill him under these circumstances but on Saturday I was grateful to have his expertise with me.  He already logged his training for the day and was more than willing to ride to MY plan.  It is hard to train with a spouse (or anyone) who is at a different fitness level than you.  Having a plan ahead of time makes the experience manageable.  John gave me some pointers but for the most part kept the mood light while I clenched my handlebars and swerved everywhere trying to get my water bottle.
    Having fun on our bike ride.
  3. My plan for a nap was actualized when John took the kids to Big A's triathlon camp! I love to nap.  I miss napping.  I miss my kids napping.  Napping is one of my most favorite ever.
  4. Sunday I hit the gym for my weight routine.  Then we headed to the town pool for a swim which allowed me to get in my long swim while hanging with the family.  Big A interrupted me every few laps so this wasn't the most productive workout but it felt good incorporating family time into my workout.
    Sunday's Workout
  5. I tried out a new recipe.  I have been in a major cooking rut and I am determined to make one new recipe a week for a while.  This weekend I made Egg Muffins and I got the recipe here.  This recipe is really adaptable and fun to play with.  I made my egg muffins with spinach and peppers.  We topped them with salsa and guacamole.  A few suggestions: mix the spinach in with the eggs (it makes it easier); use a ladle to spoon egg mixture into muffin tins; and don't forget the step that says spray the muffin liners.  

    Egg Muffins

And hey! It was also John's 40th birthday!!  Whoop Whoop.  We had a quiet celebration with family.  John isn't a center stage kind of guy.  He seems to be rolling with 40 just fine.  Me on the other hand, not so much.
Like fine wine...getting better with age.  Well, he is
more like Scotch but you get the point.
This week will be more adapting to a new training schedule.  I am looking forward to another quiet weekend...and yes, I have already marked "mommy nap" on the calendar.  I also plan on doing some major organizing around the homestead.  I should have some good tips and ideas on next weekend's recap.

What did you do this past weekend? Do you prefer to have lazy weekends or event filled weekends?

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Ironman Lake Placid

I (John) tried to sign up for Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) last July and was unable to grab one of the few slots available when general registration went online.  Not a big issue because I really wasn't sure I was ready to tackle such a big event in only my second year of triathlon.  Knowing how quickly the slots are eaten up, I wanted to make sure that I got in for 2014.  If I didn't, I would have to wait another whole year.

There are only two ways to be guaranteed a spot for the following year.  1) You have to race in the present year (see aforementioned issue about this point of entry) or 2) you can volunteer to work this year's race for 4 hours or more.  If you volunteer for a qualifying shift, you get a bracelet that allows you to register for the next year before the online registration opens.  Well, I chose option 2.

I signed up for a 6-hour shift as a "Finish Line Grabber" from 6pm to midnight (the race cut-off time).  I thought this was a great gig because these are the hours that the bulk of the age-groupers (people like you and me, not the pros or elites) would be muscling down the finishing chute and crossing the line after an 11-17 hour race day.  In addition, I knew several people that were racing, so having the opportunity to see some of my training buddies at the finish would be a great experience.

The slots to race IMLP sell out quickly.  The hotel rooms and lodging options sell out only a few hours later.  By the time I was able to register for the volunteer job, the only place I could stay was a campground 13 miles outside of town.  In fact, they only had "no-hookup" tent sites available.  Basically, you get a piece of dirt, nothing more.  That was OK, because I was planning on doing this solo, and I can rough it pretty well.

Our accommodations for the weekend.
While I was at an open water swim session with some other triathletes, John G mentioned that he was going up to volunteer, but he didn't have a place to stay and there was nothing available.  I said that if he didn't mind a tent and an air mattress, he was welcome to join me.  He accepted the invitation and our plan was in motion.

We drove up after work on Friday night, not getting to the campsite until after 1:00am.  We brought our bikes and planned to ride the bike course (one loop of 56 miles) on Saturday morning.  Since I had to be at a 12:00pm volunteer meeting, we were up-and-at-'em on only 5 hours sleep.  The campground was located right around mile 40 of the bike loop, so we started there and headed into town.

We made the turn onto Route 86 and were stunned at the beauty of the area.  It was absolutely spectacular.  Mountain views, running streams and all the greenery the Adirondack region offers.  We could not have asked for better weather and the skies were a stunning blue.  Our route actually started at the most difficult part of the loop.  We climbed and climbed and climbed some more until we crested Papa Bear (the third of three consecutive climbs just outside of town).  Within a few minutes, we were in the town of Lake Placid, making a stop to pick up another friend who was going to ride with us.

Mirror Lake
It is difficult to put into words the energy and vibe that exists in Lake Placid during Ironman weekend.  There were more bikes than cars, more swimmers than bikes and more runners than swimmers.  It was like going to triathlon heaven.  The crisp air had a slight odor of carbon fiber and BodyGlide.  Mirror Lake (where the swim leg of the race is held) was just that, a mirror.  As you look down the line of race buoys, the mountains reflect their grandeur off the glass-like water.  We made our way toward the high school and Olympic Center area, aka transition.
The Ironman attitude is unmistakable!

Transition was located inside the Olympic Speed Skating Oval.  Around the perimeter were huge tents to be used as a medical station and athlete changing areas.  The size of this event and all the equipment, people and apparatus that comes with it was awe inspiring.  I knew this was a big event, but it is hard to appreciate it from pictures alone.  This was one hell of a production, and Ironman does it well.

We proceeded to complete our 56 mile loop and was able to experience, firsthand, what it will be like to race this event next year.  Although it was a tough course, I had planted in my head that this would be like an Alpe d'Huez-Col du Galibier stage of the Tour de France.  It wasn't, so I was pretty happy about that.  The run course, on the other hand, scares the crap out of me.

After a shower and a nice lunch at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery (highly recommended), John and I attended out volunteer meetings and browsed the expo in the transition area.  A dinner, quick campfire and some calls to home and we turned in early for a busy day at the race.

We got up at 4am (nothing unusual about this for either of us) to get into town by a little after 5.  The entire town is closed off for the race, so we had to park on the side of the road, about a mile out of town.  Not terrible, but it still meant a decent walk to get to our car (aka base camp for the day).  We made our way towards Mirror Lake and the swim start.  We saw a few people we knew who were racing, so we wished them luck and got in position to see all the action.

John Graziano and Scott Leslie just before the swim start.
Later that day, Scott was deemed and "Ironman" by Mike Reilly.
I was a little disappointed that the swim start format had changed.  I wanted to both witness and experience the infamous "mass start" that Ironman events are famous for.  Their new "rolling" start was designed to be safer and hopefully prevent injuries and fatalities, but I am not sure that was the answer.  The chaos of 3100 athletes pouring into the water from the beach was beyond description.  Athletes were running into the lake at full speed and then fighting for position and some open space.  It was just crazy.  We stuck around until the pros started their second lap.  There really isn't much to see when you have thousands of people wearing the same swim caps and black wetsuits.

New "rolling" swim start.  This continued for about
15 minutes until the last athlete was in the water.
We made our way over to the bike out, having the pleasure of seeing Andy Potts (the eventual winner) lead the pack out of T1.  We watched just about every athlete leave T1, despite the dizziness you feel watching everyone whiz by at 20 miles an hour.  Now we had hours to kill before our volunteer shifts started.  We made our way around town, catching the leaders start their second bike lap and the run.

Andy Potts leading the pack out of T1!
Andy still leads the way out of T2.  At this point, he
accumulated over a 10 minute lead.
The women rocked this race also.
John G volunteered as a bike handler from 2-6.  Holy crap did he earn his early registration with that gig!  He was sprinting his ass around transition non-stop, grabbing bikes from the athletes and racking them in their appropriate slot.  High pressure stuff considering these bikes are like family to each athlete, never mind the cost.  He finished his duties just as I started mine at the finish line.

John G in a sea of carbon fiber, earning his 2014 slot.
Andy Potts coming in for the win!
Not your typical pro athlete.  Andy takes time for photos
and autographs with volunteers.  He stuck around for almost an hour.
There are few things that I have done that were as rewarding as working the finish line of this race.  I was honored to be the first person to make contact with an athlete as they completed such a monumental achievement in their life.  Whether it was their first or tenth, they did what it takes.  Although they were brief, my conversations with these folks were inspiring and motivational.  In my short time with them, I learned about their struggles, successes and motivations.  The one thing that struck me was the gratitude EVERYONE crossing that line had for the volunteers.  They all said that volunteers were instrumental in getting them through this challenge and said "Thank You" more often then I could count.  Because I had an opportunity to be more intimate and conversational with each athlete, I feel that I accepted the thanks on behalf of all the volunteers along the way.

"Catchers" working the finish line.
I had the distinct pleasure of "catching" a few people I knew.  That was an added bonus to the day.  Also worth noting is that John G, after working 4 hours as a bike handler, jumped in to help out at the finish line for the next 6 hours!  What a trooper.

At about 11pm, I came to the realization that I had been on my feet all day.  Literally all day.  I had not sat down at all, since 5:30am when we parked the car.  I was both exhausted and energized by the the day's events.  John and I worked till the end, when that last athlete was proclaimed by Mike Reilly to be an "Ironman".  We headed back to the campsite, ready to take on the challenge we just witnessed by signing up for 2014 the next morning.
The infamous Mike Reilly.  Every athlete in an Ironman wants to
hear this man shout their name and proclaim their status as an Ironman.

We waited in line for 2 hours the next morning, meeting even more interesting people along the way, but we made it official.....John and I are now officially in Ironman Training!  Lake Placid 2014, here we come!

The private beach for next year's accommodations.  A slight improvement
over the piece of dirt we had this year.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Weekend Recap: Redemption Road Trip

I wrote about our road trip fail the other month when we went to Vermont.  It took us so very long to get up there and it was torturous with the kids.  By my own admission, I did not plan well.  I had a lot going on at the time and ultimately we probably shouldn't have made the trip at all.  It was mentally and physically draining...not really what vacations should be about.

I owned the fail publicly on the blog and researched some tips (and pinned a few) that could help us in the future.  Today I am happy to report our recent road trip a monumental success.  

Here is what made this trip a great success and a wonderful family memory: 
  •  Prior Proper Planning: two weeks out I started creating a master packing list.  It is very comprehensive since I gave myself time to add items as they came to me.  I spent about 10 minutes a day for two weeks just reviewing the list.  I thought this was a good time to put together a master travel list to use going forward.  As something popped in my head, I made sure to jot it down.  This allowed me to run my "travel errands" throughout a two week period (not the day before!).   The packing list also incorporated all the food items we would need to bring and doubled as a shopping list.  I think the most critical component was not that I created a list but that I did it two weeks out and reviewed it daily.

Lists, Lists, Lists
  • Set Yourself up for Success: I created a To Do List one week out of everything that needed to come together for me to be packed a day or two before we were leaving.  I made sure to delegate tasks to my husband and kids.  This went a long way in keeping my stress levels manageable.
    My gorgeous pipe cleaner bangles
  • Planned Car Activities: we amped up our travel kit.  Normally I bring the kids DS which they never play.  They don't even play them at home.  Somehow I wound up with kids who don't play video games.  Based on the research I did I stocked our travel kit with the following items - drawing pads, dry erase boards, crayons, colored pencils, pipe cleaners, and a deck of cards.  Those pipe cleaners were the best addition.  My kids loved them.  The dry erase boards were another hit.  My 8 year old had fun with Road Trip Bingo.  You can find templates here or make your own.
  • Behavior Modification: I saw a blog post suggesting the use of clothes pins as a visual reminder of behavior.  If behavior was good, the clips were on the visor.  If behavior needed correction, the clips came down from the visor.  I was flabbergasted that this worked so well.  Like all behavior modification techniques, you need to change it up but I think I will get another trip or two out of this one.  I only had to pull the clips down once and they were devastated.  I just went the cheap, easy and undecorated route.  I had these around the house from the $1 section at Target.
    Quick and Easy.  Worked like charm.
  • Splurge for Sanity: - John and I are fiscal conservatives.  We make a conscious effort to be thrifty.  Sometimes in our thriftiness we don't always make the best decisions.  in the past we opted to save $80 (one way) or $160 (round trip) on the ferry.  Long Island has two ferries taking you across Long Island Sound.  This trip we were going from central Long Island to Mystic, Connecticut.  Last year it took us 5 hours due to insane Connecticut  traffic.  This time we "bit the bullet" and splurged on a one way ticket for the Long Island Cross Sound ferry from Orient Point to New London.  OMG - what a difference this made to the trip.  We drove an hour and a half to Orient Point.  Took the ferry for an hour and a half.  Then drove 15 minutes to Mystic.  By far, this is the best way to do this trip from my location.  Going forward we will definitely look to utilize the ferries more often. Note: we would have taken the ferry back but couldn't get a reservation.
    On the Ferry.  Worth every penny.
  • Breathe: I am pretty tightly wound.  I asked John to remind me that we are on vacation.  Making a mental shift allowed me to keep things in perspective.  "We are on vacation" became my mantra.  Pipe cleaners all over the car floor...'We are on vacation".  Kids whining while they try to get comfortable..."We are on vacation".  Little by little I am learning to not take life too seriously.  It is a work in progress.
Breathe..."We are on Vacation"
This was a short trip but it was a lot of fun.  The success we had in the car helped set the stage for a relaxing, adventurous, and enjoyable mini break.  If you are living somewhere near Mystic Connecticut, we recommend staying at the KOA campground in North Stonnington.  They had tons of activities for the kids at the campgrounds, our cabins were clean, the playground and pool kept the kids occupied for hours.  The A Team enjoyed riding their bikes all over the campground.  Mystic Seaport never disappoints.  The Aquarium is also an exciting place to explore.
Little A on the BOUNCY pillow!


Getting frames pronto!

It was a very happy trip.

Melts my heart...when they aren't
killing each other.

Mystic in the rain.

August goal of 5 sun salutations.
 Our next road trip is in October to Washington DC.  Since it will be a longer road trip, I am going to start planning NOW and gather ideas to make it a success.  Vacations that start with me in the right frame of mind are key to everyone's happiness.  I can handle anything life throws at me with enough sleep and proper organization.

Anyone have any good hotels, restaurants, and/or places to go around Washington DC?  Share your road trip secrets with us below.

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