Putting Wheels on a Squash is Harder than you Think

I’m just back from an absolutely amazing trip to Walt Disney World to cheer at WDW Marathon Weekend. This was the second year in a row that I went and didn’t race. Last year, I was dealing with a then-undiagnosed injury, so I didn’t really have any emotions tied to not running, but this year, I found myself wanting to be back out on the course. Next year’s 10K is on my birthday – I think it’s a sign.

I also got to attend the Cigna Blogger Event again this year. I really love these events that Cigna puts on. They’re the main sponsor of Marathon Weekend, and I very much appreciate their push towards healthy living.

This year’s focus was preventative care and knowing your 4 health numbers:

  • Blood Pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood Sugar
  • BMI

At the expo, Cigna had their Health Improvement Tour van where you could get a ten minute screening to get these four numbers. Of course, I went. I’m fascinated by biometrics and knowing my numbers. Also, I’ve been working to improve my cholesterol numbers, and I was curious to see how things were looking.

(On the down side, it was my birthday, I was on vacation, and I definitely had been enjoying the Disney snacks.)

The screening was super fast and super easy. The lovely, lovely nurse took my blood pressure, pricked my finger to get a drop of blood to put in a fancy machine, weighed me and measured my height, and also measured my waist circumference.

I wasn’t surprised by the BMI (though I was pleased the scale wasn’t higher), but waist circumference isn’t something that I had considered. Apparently, this measurement is important because belly fat is a good way to estimate the fat around your heart and other organs. Women are at risk with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches and men with a waist circumference of over 40 inches. While I generally try to not worry about weight and BMI as a number and focus on being healthier, my waist measurement is right on the line, so there’s something to work on.

I was pleased by the cholesterol numbers. Don’t get me wrong – they’re still not good, and this is very likely due to heredity. But they’re improving. One thing I really liked here was that the advice focused not on lowering my bad cholesterol (because many of the tips are things I already do), but how to raise my good cholesterol by adding certain things to my diet. I always appreciate advice that is about adding things rather than taking things away.

And thankfully, it wasn’t all bad news. My blood pressure and non-fasting glucose were both in good ranges.

At the Cigna Blogger Event, we got to meet some of the Cigna staff and learn from a dietician about how diet can really improve all of this information. And of course, they always make a point to make learning fun.

After lunch, we got divided into teams and then participated in a Spud Racer event. We had to make a car out of fruits and vegetables and then race them. But it wasn’t just about fun. We had to make a poster and presentation about our assigned health topic. My group got assigned Cholesterol.

I have to say, making a car out of fruits and veggies isn’t easy. Our team went for weight and worked with a butternut squash as a base. This was not the wisest choice, because have you ever tried to chop a butternut squash? Sticking an axle through it is even harder.

After some serious time spent building, we realized that our car was very likely to crash, so we went for beauty over brawn.

We were the only car with green zucchini flames, that’s for sure.

If you’re ever in a spud racer event, the key here is that you want something that will drive straight. The winning car in our competition was actually a simple small zucchini with wheels. Nothing fancy, just simple elegance.

Honestly, that’s probably a metaphor for healthy living, though I didn’t think of it at the time. Keep it simple. You don’t need to do a fancy, expensive diet plan. You don’t need crazy tools or crazy rules. You just need the basics, and I think a lot of us make it too hard for ourselves.

In terms of the presentations, I’d say the winning group was the one who emphasized “Know Your 4,” highlighting the four key health indicators. Excellent work, team!

However, “Out of Our Gourds” didn’t come away empty handed. No, we were awarded the prestigious Lemon Award for our fabulous presentation and car crash and burn (with zucchini flames, of course, no roasted veggies here).

You better believe I wore it proudly

I really enjoyed this event and hope that people take advantage of the Cigna Health Improvement Tour if it visits your area. I promise, it’s almost entirely painless and knowing your health data is so important. Barring that, schedule a visit with your doctor for a physical. Preventative care can save you a ton of stress down the road.

2018 Mileage Review and 2019 Goals

ImageParty / Pixabay

One of my goals for this year was to faithfully log my bike and swim mileage (as well as my run mileage) so that I could set 2019 goals. Until this year, I had no idea how far I biked or swam in a year. This year’s bike miles include outdoor miles and Zwift miles, so it’s not an exact science, but it’s data nonetheless.

So how did I do?

Final 2018 Mileage
Swim – 58.1 miles
Bike – 1651 miles
Run – 314 miles

And you know what? I’m pretty proud of those miles. My run mileage is the lowest it’s been in years, but look at all the miles I got in even with an injury and surgery! I set my goal for the year at 500 miles, and considering that I wasn’t able to run until mid-May and then had to build up from zero, hitting 300 miles is awesome.

Of course, since this year was an aberration, I’m still not sure what good mileage goals might be. So I’m just going to take a guess at a good challenge, try to push myself, but most importantly, have fun and stay healthy and uninjured. I apparently logged activities on Strava 230 days this year. I wonder how many active days I will have in a healthy year!

2019 Mileage Goals
Swim – 75 miles (maybe this will inspire me to actually GO to the pool)
Bike – 2000 miles (this one scares me too)
Run – 500 miles

2019 Goals and Word of the Year

One thing I like to do every year is look back and see how I spent my time, what I thought I would get done and didn’t, and what I want to prioritize in the coming year. I also look ahead at what I have on the calendar. I use all of these things to set some goals for the year. Typically, these goals are focused on bettering myself and the world around me.

This year, I’m also setting a word of the year, something I want to use to help focus my year. I have a number of Coeur teammates who do this every year, and I decided this year, I would too.

For 2019, my word is Challenge. I picked this after reading through some quotes and came across this one: “Don’t limit your challenges, challenge your limits.” This definitely resonated with me, especially when it comes to racing. I often set race goals for myself that I fear I can’t meet but then I end up meeting and beating. The majority of the time, I crush my A goals. To me, that says I’m not setting my challenges high enough. This year, I want to push myself, both in triathlon and in life. I want to see what I can accomplish.

I took a look at my goals for last year and used those as a framework for 2019. I think some were too generic and I need to be more specific. I won’t say these are full on SMART goals, but they’re closer.

Goal 1 – Train and Race Smart at IM 70.3 Ohio
As the race draws closer, I will set specific time goals. Ideally, I would like to crush my 70.3 PR, but isn’t that always the race goal? Truly, the goal is to be smart about training. I want to push myself, but not so hard that I burn out or get injured or sick.

Goal 2 – Cook One New Recipe a Month
I have so many amazing cookbooks, and yet I tend to pick one or two recipes from them and just make them over and over again. I want to try at least one new recipe a month.

Goal 3 – Read More Books
This year, I got really into longform journalism, which is awesome, but it meant that I wasn’t reading as many books as I used to. I want to get back to that (which will also mean not reading from a screen before bed, which is a terrible habit) and track in Goodreads. I am going to try to read 50 books this year, which will include audiobooks. Given the hours of training I have ahead of me, that should be doable.

Goal 4 – Get My Budget to YNAB’s Rule 4
I have been using You Need a Budget for money management for probably around 10 years. The application has changed a lot in those years, but the basic concepts of the budgeting method haven’t. Rule 4 is the basic idea that you live on last month’s income. It helps you build a buffer for when unexpected expenses appear, and it makes monthly budgeting a lot easier. Now, I’m certainly not living paycheck to paycheck, but it’s been a while since I’ve been fully at Rule 4 and I’d like to get back there.

Goal 5 – Lift Heavy Things
When I injured my hip, I gave up on a lot of my workouts, and the big thing that hasn’t fully returned is weightlifting. I’m doing bodyweight workouts and some upper body strength work, but I want to get back to doing my regular weightlifting routine. My plan is to start with once a week and then increase that. I have the ChaLEAN Extreme Program that was popular a number of years back and I really enjoy it. It’s slow, controlled movements, and the workouts are under 45 minutes.

I think these are definitely doable goals, but also goals that will challenge me, especially in terms of time management. Life is busy, but it’s important I prioritize myself.

Training Safely with AfterShokz Trekz Air

Of course, I wore them around the house while doing chores too.

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Trekz Air to review (and one to give away) as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

My first experience with AfterShokz bone conduction headphones wasn’t actually wearing them myself, it was hearing all about them from friends and family. While I’ve never had an issue wearing earbuds, plenty of people find that they hurt their ears, and AfterShokz made a great solution to the problem. I was never sold on the idea, but I did like the added safety feature of having your ears completely unblocked, and thus able to hear all the ambient sounds around you.

What sold me on the product, even before trying them, was racing Space Coast with my sister. She wore her AfterShokz headphones during the race, and she was able to hear her music and still have a conversation with me and I couldn’t hear a single thing from her headphones. I honestly didn’t realize she even had the music on until she commented about a song that was playing. They aren’t lying about the lack of sound leakage.

So of course, when I was offered the chance to try them myself, I was absolutely in. The AfterShokz Trekz Air paired easily to my phone and I immediately tried them out, wearing them around the house as I did chores. It took me a bit to figure out how to best position them on my head, but once I did, I was immediately impressed. The sound quality was incredible and I could still hear what was going on around me.

Of course, I had to test if they were working because I was hearing the sound from the speakers or if it was actually bone conduction. So I put in a pair of earplugs. Yep, still clear as a bell. This technology is awesome.

I’m not sure that these would stay on Minnie’s head when running.

The first opportunity I had to wear them outside was on a rainy day, and I was thankful for the water resistant features. (Though one thing I did miss from my earbuds was that they kept cold water from dripping into my ears! Maybe this is the only downside.)

This is probably a dumb feature to some, but I love the fact that when I’m not wearing them on my head, I can just put them around my neck. Yes, I know this is a feature of all headphones. But after years of earbuds, I was so used to having to deal with something in my hands and getting the cord all tangled up that being able to just put these around my neck as I got ready to head out felt miraculous.

I mostly listen to podcasts and audiobooks when I workout, and I wasn’t sure how well the bone conduction would work, and I did find I had to increase the volume slightly, but other than that, I had no issues at all.

I was really impressed by the strength of the connection between the headphones and my phone. I had my phone charging in the kitchen and was walking around the house with a podcast playing and I only once had some audio dropout when I was a floor away and across the house (of course, my house isn’t that big). Conversely, when using my wireless speaker, I need to keep it in relatively close proximity to my phone (such as across the room) to hold the connection. I’m not sure how this is a useful feature, but it’s good to know that even if I have my phone buried under layers, I’ll still have great sound.

And in the spirit of the holiday season, AfterShokz even sent me a pair to share. I’m looking forward to 70.3 training with Liz, and thanks to these headphones, we can run together, listen to music, and still be able to chat!

I made her go swimming with me on a cold day before I gave these to her. I think it was a well-deserved reward.

So in sum, I’m now an AfterShokz convert. I’m excited to have a better way to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I’m running on the trails in my neighborhood. The single earbud just wasn’t cutting it. Wearing AfterShokz not only gives me better sound quality, but allows me to truly hear what’s going on around me. I look forward to a season of training with them!

2018 Year in Review

I had big plans in 2018, namely to finish a 70.3.

Well, we all know how those plans went. 2018 quickly went off the rails, but I did my best to regroup and reframe my goals. One of my goals was to get healthy and I can successfully say that I did that by rehabbing my hip. I’m back to running pain free, so I consider that a huge win.

January

January was definitely a month of discovery. I started the month with an awesome trip to Disney to cheer for the marathon, but ended the month with a diagnosed labral tear as well as MRI findings showing some sort of mass on my ovary. Unexpected, for sure.

Though I had been working with my PT prior to this (she’s the one who initially suspected the labral tear), at this point, we started doing focused work on my hip.

February

In February I saw an amazing doc who confirmed my super cool ovarian cyst and told me she was going to take it out at the beginning of March. I really appreciated her no-nonsense attitude.

This also began the month of cancelled plans. With the labral tear, racing the Donna half was out. Given that I wasn’t sure what surgery was going to cost me after insurance, I opted to cancel that trip to conserve expenses. Thanks to Southwest’s awesome policies, I transferred that flight to a trip to my parents’ house to see family. Always worth it (and much cheaper lodging too).

March

I started March with surgery. It was not as bad as I feared, save for the fact that we discovered that hydrocodone doesn’t have an effect on me. After surgery, my heart rate was elevated, and when the nurses asked if I was in pain, I said yes, but it wasn’t awful. They gave me more pain meds, which didn’t really help. I just figured the pain made sense. I had just been cut open. It was bearable after all. Turns out with the drugs I had been given, I shouldn’t have been feeling anything. Whoops. I discovered this later, when at home and alternating hydrocodone and ibuprofen, I realized that the ibuprofen helped and the hydrocodone did nothing. (Turns out this is a fun family trait. Thanks, Dad.)

Because of my surgery, I had to step back on some of my PT exercises. My surgeon was great and told me which of my exercises I could do, but it turns out that when your abdomen has been sliced open, you don’t want to do anything where you are leaning or laying such that the weight of your organs is pushing towards those incisions. So I lost a bit of recovery time here.

This was also the second cancelled trip, as I missed out on BDR New Orleans. This month, I also officially pulled out of 70.3 Chattanooga. I didn’t cancel my trip – I was way too excited to spend time with my Coeur teammates. I just knew I wouldn’t be racing.

April

This month, I started easing back into training. All self-guided, but it felt good to be back. I also started pushing my hip rehab now that my incisions were mostly healed.

This was the third missed race of the year – the local National Women’s Half. This one didn’t feel like as much of a loss, since it was a local race.

In April, I also got to see Hamilton with my family! It was even better than I thought it would be, seeing as I knew the soundtrack inside and out.

May

May was a big month. Though I wasn’t racing (fourth missed race of the year), I still traveled to 70.3 Chattanooga with some friends and it was worth every single minute. I don’t know that I could have had more fun. It was awesome to cheer for friends and strangers, help out where needed, and just enjoy the company of friends and my Coeur teammates. I’m so very glad I went and didn’t sit at home feeling sorry for myself.

I also went to see Harry Potter & the Cursed Child with my sister and my cousins – our first of two trips for the year. I wasn’t the biggest Harry Potter fan – I liked the books and movies, but wasn’t into it as much as some of them, but I really loved the play. We saw both parts in one day, and that’s a lot of time in a theater, but it never dragged. Definitely worth the trip.

Finally, in May, I started working with a new coach. Nothing against my old coach, but after a few years of working together, we just weren’t fitting as well as we had been, so I took the opportunity for a new start, knowing that I was spending the year rebuilding.

June

June was a bit of a quiet month, but it was also a month of a lot of training. This was my big push back to running, my big push towards racing. It was a month of a lot of hard work.

July

This was the month I had been working towards. Finally, my first race of the year. I’m so glad that it was Rev3 Williamsburg, a great way to start my season (and sadly, say goodbye to one of my favorite races). I was nervous, since I was still recovering, but it went so incredibly well and proved that all my training and PT was working.

August

Obviously, the Baltic Cruise was the highlight of August. I still can’t believe all of the things we got to see on that trip. I’m still trying to put together a photo book from the trip. Of course, I didn’t even get it close to finished by Christmas! It was worth every single penny spent, and I hope my sister and my cousins and I all get to travel together again in the next few years.

September

Choir started back up this month with our new conductor following two seasons of guest conductors. It was absolutely a change, but a welcome change. I appreciate someone who insists on hard work, but doesn’t ask more than you can give.

This month was also the end of my triathlon season with the Giant Acorn Oly. I had goals for this race, and was really happy with my finish. I managed to PR the course! All my work had paid off. It was a great race that felt incredibly good, and I was sad that my triathlon season was so short, but glad that it was a successful season.

October

October was a bit of a blur. I raced my 11th Army Ten Miler. It certainly wasn’t a fast race, but I raced without pain, which was the whole goal.

We also had a huge choir concert this month, premiering a work that was written in 1917 and had never been performed. It was absolutely exhausting. So many hours spent rehearsing. But when it was all said and done, it was a very cool thing to be a part of, and I’m looking forward to hearing the recordings once they’re complete.

November

I finally made it back to book club (then promptly missed the December meeting). I need to find a way to prioritize this in my schedule – I really like spending time with these ladies!

The month ended with a triumphant return to half marathon racing, nearly a full year since my last 13.1. It was like I wrapped up the past year in a nice bow when I finished that race. The previous year, I was struggling with my hip, and this year, I finished strong.

That was followed by an amazing whirlwind trip to Disney World to see the decorations. It was exhausting and so much fun. Anyone who thinks Disney isn’t for adults is wrong.

December

Finally, a relatively easy month. It’s a month of rest and recovery from an intense year of training. I sang three holiday concerts (still less work than October’s premiere) and am currently spending Christmas with my family, which is the best way to end a great year.