Thursday, March 28, 2013

Running for a Cause - Where Fitness Meets The Heart

We run for many reasons. We run to be physically fit. We run to be mentally fit. We run to be free. We run with friends. We run to blow off steam. We run to celebrate things. We run to mourn things. We run to commemorate special things or people. We run to test ourselves and our limits. We run to feel good about ourselves and the world around us. We run to have some time alone for ourselves to think or reflect or just be. All of these reasons are terrific reasons to run. When we run we are better because of it. We make ourselves better physically, mentally and maybe spiritually. Another very good reason to run is to run for a greater purpose, a cause that helps the world be just a little bit better for someone or something.

There are many worthy causes out there from raising funds for cancer survivors and cancer research to autism to helping those less fortunate than us who need shelter or food. Anything we do to help support these causes makes the world a little bit kinder and better for someone. This year I am supporting a very special organization and cause called Girls With Sole (GWS). GWS was started by fellow athlete and Clevelander Liz Ferro. Liz knows firsthand how much running and fitness in general can help to develop a girl's self esteem. 

GWS mentors young girls and women that have been abused or are at risk and helps them to develop self-esteem and a lifelong love of fitness and achievement. With the help of your generous donations, Girls With Sole will provide things like running shoes and clothes, race entry fees, ongoing coaching and mentoring and even a new bike to these well deserving young women. By running the Cleveland Marathon as part of Team Lula, I can help GWS raise funds to help these girls learn the power of fitness and self-esteem. That makes me feel happy inside knowing that my sweat and tears are helping to serve a higher cause beyond myself. I like to call this where fitness meets the heart!

I am proud to be a member of Team Lula for this year's Cleveland Marathon. Please consider making a donation to make the world a little better place for the GWS girls! Any amount from $5-500 helps and is much appreciated! To Donate simply click on the link below, select the amount you wish to give and fill out the form.

Thank you for supporting me and Girls With Sole and their girls! I will think of all of you and the difference we made together as I cross the finish line!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

So You Want to be a Triathlete? Some Tips for Beginners

So you want to be a triathlete huh? It happens! Just as with other endurance sports such as running, some people just catch the tri bug. I'll be the first to admit there is something oddly arousing about jumping into a lake, river or ocean with hundreds or thousands of others and frantically pulling and kicking your way into position! Who wouldn't catch an adrenaline rush from that?

But let's get serious for a second shall we? If you really want to be a triathlete there are some things you should know before you move forward at 2800 mph into this all-consuming lifestyle. Below is my list of beginner tips (please note that although I'm going into my 4th season (3rd full season) of the triathlon sport, I am still learning myself and may still be considered a rookie to some of the badasses of the sport).

What You Need to Know, Do, Buy and Believe to Succeed in Triathlon:

  • Start Small - Do yourself and everyone else a favor and get your feet wet before jumping into a full iron distance triathlon or even a 70.3. This will not be as straight forward as just competing in one sport like running. You may be able to go from a 5K to a half marathon quickly or right to a marathon in running, but succeeding in a triathlon involves more than just putting one foot in front of the other. Start with a sprint and work your way up as you gain experience.
  • A word about Sprints - Do not assume that sprint triathlon is for sissies either! There are plenty of fast, experienced triathletes that like competing in sprints out there. Do your best to stay out of the way if you're new and fumbling around in the water, transition area or anywhere else on the course. 
  • Prerace planning - Triathlon involves more planning than one sport. Prepare for your race at least a day or two in advance. Make a list of everything you need or think you might need and pack your transition bag with those items. Have your bike ready and checked by a bike mechanic either before or at the race to minimize the chance of bike issues. DO NOT FORGET YOUR HELMET or you cannot race. Also don't forget your googles, shoes, etc. And don't forget water and race fuel. At least have a couple of gels even for the sprint. 
  • Learn the Rules - Triathlon is governed by USAT, which has some specific rules such as bike drafting, no headphones, etc that you need to be familiar with. You can be penalized or disqualified from a race for ignoring the rules.
  • Swimming - You will need to have some level of swimming experience - how much depends on your goal but no matter what the goal please dedicate some time to swim in a pool AS WELL AS OPEN WATER before the race. If this is your first swim since you were in middle school or your first time venturing out in the open water you may panic. 
  • Open Water Starts - May be intimidating even for veterans. The initial pace of any swim is fast and anaerobic for the first 100-400m of any race distance as athletes settle in to their desired paces. If you are new to the sport, it's a good idea to start off towards the back on the left or right side of your wave. Try to site the course at least once every 20-30 seconds so you make sure you are not off course and adding to your time in the water. If you feel a body right by you beware you might be kicked or hit accidentally. It does happen.
  • Transitions - Transitions can be flustering and even slow moving for veterans. The only way to get better at these is to practice and try to learn and improve a little each time. Accept that there is a good chance you'll be slow at transitions as a newbie. If you're good at them then you're ahead of the game there. Try to make sure you know where your rack space is and this will help speed things up. Before the race take the time to setup your transition area with your biking and running gear. Remember to take a drink and eat something either in the TA or after you start your ride or run.
  • The Bike - Do not ride on your old rickety ten speed from 20 years ago or your heavy mountain bike unless of course you do not care how you perform on the bike. While you don't have to rush out and buy an expensive carbon triathlon bike, you may want to at least purchase yourself or borrow someone else's trusty road bike. This will help. I recommend using clip in pedals if you are experienced, if not cages will suffice. Pace yourself on the bike. It is very easy to go out hard and either bonk later in the ride or else blow your legs out for the run. Also utilize the time in the saddle to hydrate and fuel. 
  • Running - The run is more difficult than your average run because it is the last of three events. Your legs will feel tired and maybe a little like wet noodles for the first mile or so. You can practice doing bike and run workouts called "Bricks" to help adapt your running to this sensation. As with the bike, it is easy to go out fast on the run especially if you do not pay attention to your pace. It will feel like you are running slow right off the bike when in fact you might be running faster than your planned pace.
  • Training - Try to allow time in your schedule for training for all three sports. You may be better at some sports than others and that is okay and normal just don't neglect the training. The key to success in triathlon is consistent training. As you gain experience and/or obtain help from a coach or mentor you will learn how to train best for your specific goals and life circumstances.
  • Fun & Group Training - Triathletes are a dedicated group of people that like to have fun. This is a social sport so it is likely you will meet many interesting people. It may help to join a local triathlon club such as Cleveland Triathlon Club if you are from Northeast Ohio. Wherever you are there is likely to be a club you can get involved with.
  • Ongoing advice and info - There are a number of sources for learning about and keeping up with the triathlon scene. For beginners there are websites such as and that can help. Magazines like Triathlete are also good sources of info. If you have a local triathlon shop or running and cycling shops you can also look into the resources they have available too. 
I could keep going but this post would end up being pages and pages long. Hopefully this list will steer you in the right direction. If you have questions or want to add any points to this list feel free to leave a comment. Happy triathlon training! It really is a fun and rewarding lifestyle!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Not The Luck of the Irish - But Consistent at This Year's St Malachi Race

Each year right around St. Patrick's Day I get excited. As the winter dies down and the hope of spring appears, I know that it's almost time for the annual St Malachi 5-miler. This 5-mile road race is almost a right of passage into spring for many athletes in Cleveland Ohio. What better way is there to celebrate St. Pat's than to run your butt off for 5 miles and then go drink beer at Irish pub? So this year as with several years previously I headed downtown to do just that.


The start of the race is not until 9:45 and with picking up our packets in advance of the race it was nice to actually "sleep-in" on a race morning. Unfortunately what we woke up to was a blizzard. Eek, this is not good I thought to myself beginning to worry about the footing for the race. In addition the morning was stressful with coordinating a babysitter for the little kids and a practice SAT test for the older one. I was also a teensy bit crabby as a result of the monthly timing of the race. Despite the chaos and challenges, Steve and I got dressed, ate breakfast, got the kids ready and to where they needed to be and hit the road around 8:15.

The drive was messy with snow and slush. We made it downtown around 9 and opted to stay in the warm car for a little while as we got ready. Around 9:15 we headed to the restrooms and got in a 1 mile warm up mostly easy with a few strides. I could tell it was going to be cautious footing. 

The Race:

Trying to catch the guy in front of me as we head towards the finish
Around 9:40 we lined up closer to the front and made small talk with some friends and chatty strangers. Then we were off. The first mile of this race is always fast and this year was no exception. My splits for the first two miles of the race were 6:28 and 7:16 with my 5k time at 21:30 (a 6:56 average pace). My last two miles felt hard as we ran through slush and a snow/sleet mix pelted me in the face. Wrapping up at 35:56 (7:11 pace) it is safe to say my plan to negative split and run sub 7 was unsuccessful this time. Too much shuffling around my feet trying to keep them out of the slush and puddles and I was a little fatigued that last mile going up hill. No luck of the Irish here but I was okay with my performance only being 2 seconds slower than last year. 

Considering all factors I feel like if I had better weather conditions I might have nailed my goal of sub 35. At least I was consistent with last year's performance to finish 9th of 252 in the 30-34 age group and 33/1153 overall female. Aging up next year to 35-39 will help I hope!

Steve had a good race as well finishing in 32:15 (6:27 pace) and placing 5th of 126 in the 45-49 age group and 79th overall.

Post Race:

After the race Steve and I were both wet and cold from the race. We said hi to some friends and headed to the car to change into dry clothes and shoes. Being the awesome husband that he is he helped me pull on my compression socks, which is actually difficult in a car when you have wet feet.

We then headed to McCarthy's to meet up with friends and have a nice, hard-earned beer. I'm happy to say that this year McCarthy's had the Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA! It's always a sweet finish knowing that a beer is just a few minutes away. 

Following the drink we headed back to Mentor and ingested a lot of really tasty but bad food at Melt Bar & Grill along with another tasty IPA. 

Another St. Paddy's day and another St. Malachi race in the books. Good times! 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Strengthen Your Core to Maximize Performance

There are a number of reasons to include core strengthening into your fitness routine and life. We all need this regardless of our individual fitness levels and goals. Quite simply strengthening your core will help with EVERYTHING else you do in sport or in life! And there are many different kinds of workouts you can do to benefit your core so you can make it fun and/or challenging to do these weekly workouts.

The workouts and exercises described below will all add to your core strength. If you are training for specific sports such as running or triathlon some of these exercises may be more suited to your needs. Talk with your coach, personal trainer or athletic peers about what might work best for you.

Weight Training - Weight training is accessible to everyone. You can buy your own dumbbells and train at home or use the machines and dumbbells at your gym. There are endless options here from squats and lunges to curls and presses and rows. As we age weight training becomes even more important for burning fat, toning and strengthening the core and all major muscle groups. Experts recommend weight training a minimum of 2-3 x weekly.

Yoga - There are many different types of yoga out there: Hatha, Vinyassa, Bikram, etc. There are many ways to practice yoga. At home on your own or with a DVD to guide you, at a yoga studio, at your gym if they offer yoga and other community resources that offer yoga such as parks, churches, retailers, etc. The benefits of yoga are usually physical and mental. The postures or "asanas" as yogis call them are great for developing physical strength and balance. The breathing and meditation such as "savasana" are good for mental relaxation and well-being.

Pilates - Pilates is a great workout for developing core fitness. Sometimes done with a swiss ball or other exercise balls and bands, pilates is aimed at targeting certain areas such as the abdominals and hips. As with yoga there are options for pilates training including doing it at home on your own, with a DVD, at a gym or some personal trainers may have pilates equipment such as the "reformer" in their studios.

P90x/Insanity/Etc - Over the last five years or so workout programs such as P90x and Insanity have become popular. These are DVDs that can be done in your home in a gym or dedicated area where you have enough room to workout. The workouts are challenging and include a variety of exercises, weight training and some of the other types of workouts listed in this post such as P90x yoga or plyometrics.

Crossfit - Over the last few years another type of workout called Crossfit has become very popular due to its unique structure and approach to building fitness. Crossfit includes a number of exercises and weight training. There are dedicated Crossfit studios in most major cities now and there are certified Crossfit experts that can help you. You can also look up the Crossfit workouts online and try some of them at home.

Kickboxing - While there is a cardio component to kickboxing there is also a strengthening component as well. The warm up exercises and kicking and punching the bag really works your hips, legs, arms, abs, back and glutes. Kickboxing can be done at a studio or gym or at home with a heavy bag and gloves. It is fast moving and good for relieving stress too and it's fun if you're into that kind of thing.

In terms of performance, most experts recommend including 2-3 core workouts into your routine each week. This can be challenging for runners and triathletes busy training for long-distance events but it is even MORE critical to their performance! These workouts - especially weight training, yoga and pilates - help reduce the risk for injury. At minimum these athletes should plan to incorporate 2-3 of these strength sessions per week into their routines.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

2013 Race Schedule...Finally

It's the beginning of March and I think I've finally nailed down my race schedule for the 2013 season. It was difficult this year for a few reasons. First, starting a new job limits the amount of travel I can do. Not that I'm complaining because I love my new job! Second, I signed up for the Cleveland Full marathon again and this kindof makes triathlon training extra hard since I need to log more run miles than anything else.

Why did I sign up to run a full marathon at the beginning of tri season you ask? I really want to do the full in support of my dear friend Jill who will be making her second attempt as a first time marathoner. Last year she was sidelined with a stress fracture and I was injured too with the whole stress reaction thing (not fun).

Second I am also very excited to be running the marathon as part of Girls With Soles' Team Lula. I am a fundraiser for Girls With Sole because I believe what Liz and the team do is amazing! Please be sure to check them out. And if you can spare a buck or two please help by clicking on the link below:

Finally it's always difficult creating a race schedule until I see how my spring is shaping up. I have a tendency to be injured at this time of the year. I have taken a lot of steps to ensure that does not happen this season so I am cautiously optimistic that things will turn out as I am planning.

What's different about the schedule this year is that I am throwing some trail running into the mix. I really enjoy it - in fact I started the season off with a trail race, which was a blast! So as of now here is the schedule I hope to follow should the running and triathlon gods bestow their grace on me this season:

  • February 10 - Dirty Love 10K - Willoughby Hills, OH 
  • March 16 - St Malachi 5 miler - Cleveland, OH 
  • April 20 - On My Own Two Feet 1/2 Marathon - Kent, OH
  • May 5 - Rev3 Knoxville Olympic Tri - Knoxville, TN
  • May 19 - Cleveland Marathon - Cleveland, OH
  • June 23 - Rev3 Williamsburg Oly Tri - Willamsburg, VA
  • July 7 - Milton Man Olympic Tri - Lake Milton, OH
  • July 20 - Dog Days Century Ride -
  • July 28 - Fairport Harbor Lighthouse Sprint Tri - Fairport Harbor, OH
  • August 11 - The Perfect 10 Miler - Lyndhurt, OH
  • September 8 - Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 Tri - Sandusky, OH
  • September 28 - Akron Marathon Relay - Akron, OH
  • September 29 - Girls With Sole Believe & Achieve Trail 5 or 10K - Kirtland, OH
  • October 13 -  Lake Health Full Marathon - Fairport Harbor, OH
  • November 2 - For the Shirt Ultra (6 or 12 hr run TBD) - Warren, OH
  • November 24 - Fall Classic Half Marathon - Strongsville, OH - maybe
  • November 28 - Painesville Turkey Trot 5K, Painesville, OH
  • December 15 - Santa Shuffle Half Marathon - Sandusky, OH - maybe

So there it is folks. As you can see I will be a busy girl this year! No 140.6 planned at the moment but a good amount of triathlons in there and some trail running too! Of course I am most excited about my Team Rev3 races! I'm hoping my legs hold up well in the fall and if they do I will run a fall marathon with the intent to run my first ultra marathon in December. No 100 miler or anything crazy like that but at least a 50K. Sounds like fun doesn't it?! Here we go 2013!!