It has been a busy two months!

One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. in one scene, Inigo Montoya is trying to tell Westley everything that had happened to him since he died (well, mostly dead) and was brought back to life (by Miracle Max).  He starts with "Let me explain." Then says "No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

That pretty much explains this post.  So much has happened since my last post on May 12th.  Goal progress, race plans, life changes, etc.  But rather than creating a bunch of posts on each, I decided to 'sum up' the key events and try not to fall behind again.

NOTE: I say 'sum up' but as I write all this stuff down, this post is becoming rather long.  So my apologies for the length.  I will break it into sections so you can skip what doesn't interest you.

Chicago Ragnar Relay

One of my best race experiences of 2014 was participating in the Ragnar Relay race from Madison WI to Chicago IL. 197 miles over 34 consecutive hours starting on June 6th at 8AM.  I was the co-captain of a 12-member running team made up members and friends representing the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. Part of our goal was fundraising and our team raised over $6,000 for our charity, the Episcopal Relief and Development, in the process.  The most important part of this race is your team.  If you have a fun, energetic, supportive team, then Ragnar is guaranteed to be a blast!!!

What an experience!  We had two vans with 6 runners, and each runner was assigned 3 legs of the 36 total legs that made up the relay race.  The total mileage for my 3 legs of the race came to just under 19 miles (a few others had higher).  I came into the race with an injury -- my lower back had been strained earlier in May.  So while I did not run very well/fast due to pain, I still had a wonderful time!

A lot of logistics and planning goes into a race like this.  Jennifer (the 'real' captain) and I worked hard to plan for all the supplies needed, the travel, hotel rooms, runner leg assignments, etc for the race.  We also had to find volunteers to work for the race organizers, as well as a driver and safety officer for each van.  It helped that we had a great team and everyone really chipped in with ideas/suggestions to make the whole thing 'work'.

The race works like this: the runners in one van would each run their leg, then they get to rest while the runners in the second van take over and run their legs of the race.  So every six legs, the vans would leap-frog.  The 'off' van could then go get food, rest, etc before meeting at the next major exchange point.  Some legs were on trails, some on bike paths, but most were on streets.  There were plenty of hills to go around.  And running at night was particularly interesting (yep, we ran through the night).

Teams have a runner on the road at all times for the entire race.  Needless to say, with the driving between 'exchanges' (runner transition 'relay' points). finding places to eat, and all the energy, jokes, excitement, and snacking (gotta keep refueling and hydrating), there was not a whole lot of time for sleeping.  I think I got a total of 4 hours of sleep between Friday morning and Saturday evening.

Our van had the last runner who crossed the Finish Line.  But all 11 of us were waiting for her right before the Finish so we all were able to join her and run to the Finish Line as a team.  It was an awesome moment! And one of the best races ever!  Thanks Jennifer for making this opportunity happen, and thanks to the drivers, safety officers, volunteers, and all the team members for making this so amazing!  I will definitely be doing this race again!

Getting serious about Cycling

One of my goals for 2014 was to work on cycling. I wanted to do this for two reasons.  First, I wanted to have a cross-training activity to balance out my running.  Second, I want to run a triathlon race someday; so I started using the stationary bikes at LifeTime Fitness, logging 242 miles since January.

On June 20th, I went out with my running partners to cycling stores to look at road bikes.  Man, good bikes are expensive.  The bikes you buy at the department stores are poorly made using junk materials (which is why they are so inexpensive).  So the challenge was finding a good bike that I could afford.  And, I found one!  I am now a proud owner of a silver Trek 7.2FX!

I love riding this bike!  Of course, I have had to get the necessary gear to go along with it (bike sensors, gloves, helmet, shorts, bike pump, tools, etc.)  Why is it that everything I like to do costs money!

One of the things I hope to do with the bike is to travel around the area more, explore the various bike paths, and generally go places where I might want to run in the future.  At least with the bike, I can explore those routes much more quickly and can decide whether running them would be fun or not. Plus I can scope out things like water sources, bathroom options, safety, etc.  I have already started to do this.

I have already fallen off the bike once (my poor left shoulder and pride are still recovering) but that has not deterred me from hopping on for a ride whenever I get the opportunity.  Since June 20th, I have ridden over 65 miles on the bike.  That brings my total cycling miles to-date for 2014 is 307. As I continue to train on the bike, I hope to get to the point where I can ride for at least 36 miles in one trip (the farthest trip I have ridden on my bike thus far is 12 miles).  Eventually, I want to get that number up to 60 miles so I can do a century ride (100K) or maybe even something like RAGBRAI.

Bringing back the FUN!

Last year, I got a little burnt out from racing after running 22 races and basically being in a 'training mode' for the entire year.  It was hard getting motivated to do more training at the beginning of 2014 as I prepared for the Los Angeles Marathon.  It felt more like a 'task'.

Between that, and the very cold winter (which required a lot of treadmill training), I just wasn't 'feeling it'.  And training solo all the time wasn't helping either.  After my May marathon, I kinda took a break -- both to heal my sore back and to 'rest'.  I wanted to be ready for Ragnar in June.

But now, the fun is definitely back!  Just from the previous two sections, you can get the sense that I am smiling again!  Running and riding are bringing me joy, and I love that!  I recently went on a 10-day vacation with my son to Michigan for a family reunion of sorts.  During that time, I ran, biked, and swam for 65 miles -- all with a smile on my face.  Yes, it was training, but it was also a ton of fun! My earlier training doldrums are gone and my running is once again feeding my soul!

Working with a Coach

This year I decided to do something different.  For the past two years, I have created my own training schedule.  And it worked out pretty well.  Lots of PRs, lots of races without injury, lots of miles.  But I felt that I needed something more.  More discipline; more accountability; more diversification in workouts; a different perspective on achieving my goals.

So I hired Meghan as my coach.  Meghan was the person who got me into running in the first place, and who had developed the training plans that got me from completing my first 5K to my first Half Marathon.  She is a two-time IRONMAN Finisher and an amazing Personal Trainer.

So beginning in June, she has been preparing my weekly workout schedules.  It is a wonderful change!  She has incorporated strength training (twice a week), cycling, and running to generate a well-rounded program with good amounts of cross-training.  Meghan utilizes heartrate zone training rather than just looking at mileage, so this is a bit different for me.

My weekly running mileage is less than this time last year. I only run 3-4 times a week.  But the cycling component is adding about 20 miles/week all by itself.  So overall, my total monthly mileage is much higher.  I can feel that I am improving and getting more fit.  I cannot wait to see how I do at the Air Force Marathon in September.

On the Health Front

I continue to stay active, leading a healthier lifestyle.  Between my running, walking, and cycling, I have already racked up over 800 miles and countless hours for 2014. I have run 3 Full Marathons, 1 10K, 2 5Ks, and Ragnar.  I have 1 Full, 5 Half, and 3 5Ks scheduled for the remainder of 2014 so I will continue to remain active and busy.

My goal for this year is to lose 20 pounds.  Well, this is still a work-in-progress.  I have lost about 4 pounds since May.  Well, I have lost more than that, but I keep managing to gain the losses back again.  I hate losing the same 2-3 pounds over and over again.

So with a 'net loss' of 4 pounds, I am at least making progress. I need to be more disciplined with my eating habits.  Losing 20 pounds will happen this year!  I can definitely tell the difference in my running between now and last fall when I weighed less.

Since I got rid of all my 'fat' clothes, the only direction my weight is allowed to go is DOWN.  I am not buying bigger clothes ever again.

On a real positive note, my Type 2 Diabetes is fully under control.  My last full checkup in April showed my hbA1c down to 5.6 and my blood sugar levels are normal.  All my bloodwork looks great!  This is so encouraging!

Triathlon Musings

Yes, I have finally said it!  I want to do a triathlon one day... maybe even next year!  I would love to do a Sprint Tri distance (500-750m swim, 12M bike, 5K run). Training for a Tri takes a lot of time and effort, and I really have to work on my swim endurance.  But it is something I want to work towards next year.

In May, with the encouragement of my coach, I participated in a LifeTime Tri Clinic where we swam for whatever distance we wanted in the pool, biked 8 miles, and ran a 5K.  I did better than I had expected, and I actually enjoyed it!  I saw that the Marine Corps have a Sprint Tri in August.  I might shoot for that next summer.

I am definitely not looking to become an IRONMAN like my coach, and perhaps the Sprint Tri will be a 'one and done' for me.  But you never can tell about these things.  A friend of mine, Rose, just completed her first Half IRONMAN last weekend.  How amazing is that!?  But first things first.  I have to complete a Tri sometime.

Upcoming Races

Since I first posted this year's race schedule, I have had to make some changes.  My basement flooded while I was away on vacation and the cost to get it taken care of ended up coming out of my own pocket (no thanks to our insurance company who failed to accept our claim).  So between that, and a few other unexpected events coming up, I have had to cancel a couple of out-of-state races.  So I have added a few 'local' races instead (local means I can drive there and have ways to minimize costs).  Hey, life happens and sometimes you just have to make adjustments.

My key upcoming races are:

Rock-n-Roll series:  I am running the Rock-n-Roll Chicago 5K and Half Marathon this weekend with lots of friends.  This is more of a training long run for me.  So it is all about the 'fun'.  My racing team partner Kipp from Indiana is coming up here to run with me which will be awesome!  I also have the Rock-n-Roll Cleveland Half Marathon set for October, which will earn me a special medal called the "Midwest Best".  Gotta like that!

Air Force Marathon: This has turned into my "A" race for the season.  I am running this with my friend Kipp as well.  I have been looking forward to this race for a year.  At some point, I hope to run each of the Armed Forces marathons.  Last year was Marine Corps. This year: Air Force!

Space Coast Half Marathon: This is the second in the Big Bang 5 Series of this race.  My plan is to run all five consecutive years of this race and earn a total of 7 medals.  I love the space program so running this Florida race is a no-brainer.  The only downside is that it is always scheduled over Thanksgiving weekend.

Disney in 2015: Next January, I will be running four Disney races over 9 days.  The Goofy Challenge (a Half Marathon and Full Marathon on consecutive days) during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, and the inaugural Rebel Challenge (a 10K and Half Marathon on consecutive days) during the Disneyland Star Wars Weekend.  Two parks on two coasts over two weekends, earning me my second Disney Coast-to-Coast Challenge medal as well.  Seven Disney medals in nine days.  Sweet!


WELL, you are all caught up on the craziness that is my life.  As interesting things happen, or new topics come to my mind, I will keep posting them here.  Hopefully, on a more regular basis so you won't have to read one of these ridiculously long posts again.

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