Swimming to TRI … Tips on Surviving the Swim in YOUR First (or Next) Triathlon

Let’s be honest, if you’re swimming laps at your local YMCA, then it’s probably not because you are a diehard lover of the swim.  You have a triathlon on the calendar, right?  Yeah, me too!  And that’s why I’m in the lane right next to you.

lap swimming

Every time I meet a new triathlete, I hear the same story.  They fear the swim.  In today’s world, every parent I know, besides myself, has their kid signed up to be Olympic swimmers on a local swim team.  But in my day, swimming wasn’t all the rage.  Sure we went to the pool in the summer.  We swam in the lake with our friends and family.  But nobody was going to be the next Missy Franklin.  It was a different world when I grew up but it’s those “non swimmers” from my generation who are now creating the newest group of triathletes.  Why?   Cuz we are now middle aged women.  Looking for something that we can call our own.  Something outside the hubby, kids and the J.O.B.  Something just for us.

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And so we sign up for our first triathlon.  We know we can run, been doing that for a few years now, right?  And we learned to ride a bike as a child.  Once you learn, you never forget, right?  The bike may be old, need a tune up or possibly new tires (since the old ones were dry rotted) but it will cover the distance for a sprint triathlon.  So you’re in and registered.  But what about the swim?  Here is everything I know about swimming a TRI.  I’ve never taken lessons but have done a few swim clinics and I always ask advice from lifeguards, swim teachers, swim coaches or high school/college swimmers when I get the chance.  If you’re a swimmer, I’ll probably ask you questions, even if you are my 10 year old niece.  Smile

Triathlon SWIM Tips:

  • Relax.  You’re not going to drown.  And if you think you might drown, please stop reading this and go find a coach!
  • Practice may not make you perfect but it will ease your nerves.  You have to swim before your TRI.  Minimum 1x a week.  More if you have the time.  The more time you spend in the water pre-race, the better.  You will get more comfortable with each swim session. 
  • Get a good swim cap and a tinted pair of goggles.  Start using them in the pool  while practicing so they won’t seem foreign on race day.  Goggles are not required during triathlon but you do want to protect your eyes from other peoples fingers, the water & even the sun (thus the reason for tinted goggles).  Swim caps will be required and provided by the race to distinguish your swim start & age group.
  • There are no rules regarding the type of swim stroke in a triathlon.  You can freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, sidestroke or even dog paddle, as long as you get in and out of the water on your own power.  So if you start to feel panicky while swimming, pull your head out of the water and do a different stroke. 
  • Keep moving in the water.  Triathlon swims normally start in waves, usually by age group.  Each wave is separated by a specified amount of time, anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.    Meaning that groups will start before you and then there will be a group immediately behind you. Keep moving because the faster swimmers from the wave behind you will be upon you (and passing you) before you know it. 
  • Mentally prepare yourself to be around people while swimming.  This won’t be like your lonely practice swims at the Y.  There will be 20-100+ people around you at any given moment. 
  • There will be lifeguards and spotters in the water with or near you.  On boats, paddle boards, wave runners, canoes, etc.  If you cramp or panic, you can hold into a boat/paddle board/buoy for support as long as the lifeguard doesn’t have to actually assist you in any way. 
  • Fastest stroke for most people is freestyle, or front crawl.  Where your face is in the water. 
  • If you tend to swim crooked, try bilateral breathing, where you breathe equally on both sides of your body.  Easier said than done for someone like me.  Bilateral breathing has been a goal of mine for 4 or 5 years and I’m just finally getting it now.  Bilateral breathing tip (from a swim coach at the YMCA of Dekalb) – Use a kick board initially.  Hold the kickboard out in front of your body with straight arms.  Just kick to propel yourself & the board forward, then put your face in the water and practice breathing.  First breath on your strong side, next one on your weak side.  Couple times down and back & you’ll be ready to rock this on your own while practicing your freestyle.  You may get a few partial mouthfuls  of water (at least I do) but it will help even out your stroke and straighten up your swim.
  • Freestyle stroke requires that you lift your head out of the water on occasion to “spot” or check your position in an open water swim.  The most efficient way to spot is to do so right before you breathe.  So lift your eyes slightly out of the water in the front, then turn your head to breathe.  You just need a quick glance to make sure you are still on path.  Example HERE with a video in section #4.
  • If you are in a slip stream of another swimmer, you can just follow along and that will require less spotting (and less energy) on your part, just don’t follow them blindly in the event that they get off course.
  • Some TRIs, have a line or rope that runs between buoys.  If you can find the line and stay on it, you will not need to site because you can just follow that rope.  Sweet!
  • Swim freestyle with a wider arm stance.  Don’t cross your arms in front of your body when you swim.  Most of us ladies, bring our arms over our head and our hand enters the water in front of our head/face.  Wrong.  That’s wasting motion, kinda like running with your arms pumping and crossing in front of your body.  It’s the same thing.  Think wider, almost awkward, swim stroke where your hand enters the water parallel to the body.  Confused?  Hold your arms straight out in front of your body, parallel to the ground.  Like a movie zombie or sleepwalker!  That’s the position of arm entry.  At the side of your ears.  Not in front of your head.

parallel stroke

Source

  • One your hand enters the water, reach in front of you to get the full motion of the stroke, then pull back in the water with loose fingers (not a tightly cupped hand which wastes energy) toward your hip bone.  At the same time your body is rotating for efficiency and to get ready to take a breath.  When you hand gets to where your hip was, the hip should be gone because the body has tilted/rotated.  When I’m in the water, I imagine my hand almost pushing my hip up and out of the way.  Not a perfect example below.  I’d like to see his hip rotate out a bit more on the top pic but still a decent example.

body rotation

Source

Complete diagram of full stroke.

stroke

Source

That’s pretty much everything I know about swimming.  If you have additional tips, please share because I am far from an expert and would love to learn more!!  Know that I’m not fast but I can cover whatever distance.  I’m trying to get to the pool at least 2x a week now.  Still not a lot but better.  I just think about my bilateral breathing, wide arm stance/entry, reaching thru the stroke so as not to cheat myself, and then body rotation where my hand pushes my hip out of the way.  I still need  to work on my flutter kick.  Sometimes I forget to kick.

If you plan to wear a wetsuit in your TRI, watch the first video in this link HERE.  Judy, please watch it cuz I’ll need you to help me get my too small wetsuit on at Steelhead!!!

Other helpful TRI posts: 

** Swimming to TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Hidden Treasurers …. The Spencerville Covered Bridge

I took all of 2014 off cycling due to the sudden move from IL to IN.  The stress of finding a new house while packing up the IL home.  All while working full time.  Being a full time mom with a hubby who had pretty much already moved ahead of us for work.   And let’s not even talk about how crazy long it took to complete the move itself.    I basically didn’t do much last year other than run to maintain sanity, then try not to lose my mind while I wasn’t running ….. and I didn’t even do that very well.  Regardless, since last August, I’ve been running on my country roads here in rural Indiana.   Should be boring, right?

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Wrong.  I’ve had a couple close calls where I was almost struck by unaware motorists.  One time a lady was so close to me that I could have reached into her car and touched her child who was riding passenger.   Did she see me?  Probably not.  Was the sun in her eyes?  Maybe.  Or was she trying to teach me a lesson to “get off the road”.  Possibly.

As a result, I was a bit worried about getting my bike out.  In fact, I was scared.   While running, I’m legally obligated to run facing oncoming vehicular traffic.  While cycling, I’m legally obligated to ride with vehicular traffic.  Blind to what is coming behind me.  Blind to the fact that someone may be unaware that I’m on the road.  On a bike.  Vulnerable.  At His mercy.  If it weren’t for my love of triathlon; I’d probably have left my bike on the trainer again for 2015.  But I’m signed up for Ironman 70.3 Steelhead.  And I must ride.  Outside.  On the road.  In the wind.  Up and down whatever hills I can find.  Alone.

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All of a sudden, I remember how much I love cycling.  How much I love my bike.  How great it is to fly down the hills.  How horrid it is to struggle UP the hills.  How freeing it is to be able to ride for hours on end to parts unknown.  On one of my recent rides, I went looking for something that I had read about, in a small town near my home.  A covered bridge.  Indiana is known for it’s old covered bridges (98 in all) but I had no idea that one was so close to my new home.  The Spencerville Covered Bridge was built in 1873 and it’s a mere 11 miles from my house!

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A hidden historic treasure.  Basically in my backyard.  One that not many locals think about since traffic has long been rerouted away from the bridge to protect it from overuse, modern vehicles and big massive semi trucks that have previously damaged this old girl.   Now she just sits awaiting our arrival.  While I was there multiple people pulled up and snapped pics.   One couple even lingered, looking at this piece of modern day history, walking the interior planks.  There is a small parking area on the east side of the bridge for those who want to do more than just drive by.  If you are in the area, go check it out!

I’m thankful to be back on the bike.  I’ve been trying to ride more and run less.  Easier said than done for this runner.  But I’m enjoying the journey.  Enjoying my bike and the wind in my hair.  I love finding hidden treasures like the Spencerville Covered Bridge.  I enjoy riding new roads and finding new routes, particularly if there are a couple hills on which I can practice climbing and shifting. 

** Get Out and Find YOUR Local Hidden Treasurers!  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Marion Rotary For Shoes Marathon & Hot Weather Running Tips

Marion Rotary For Shoes_logo

Marathon #21 was in the great state of Iowa, in Marion, just north of Cedar Rapids.  It was the Marion Rotary For Shoes Marathon.  And it was hot.  And hilly.  But I had a great group of friends who made the trip with me.  From left, meet Lindsay (Glitter Girl on the Run), Judy F, Amanda W (Get to Goal), Derek, Julie M & myself.

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We also met Kim from Running on the Fly and her friend, Barb (not pictured). 

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The 2015 Marathon for Shoes was held in June for the first time.  The first two years were held the third week in April and apparently the weather both years was crazy cold with either snow or wind/rain/sleet.  So the 2015 edition was pushed out til June and cold it was not.  In fact it was hot.  So hot that most of us would have done a choreographed rain dance had we thought it would produce a cloud or drop of rain from that beautiful blue but steamy sky.  But alas, no rain.

Packet pickup was at a local school gymnasium and there were a handful of vendors.  Nice, friendly people.  Easy packet pick up.  Free parking.  Nike tech shirt as the SWAG.  You could have been in and out with your shirt & number in less than 10 minutes.  But you had to get your packet the night before the race or there was a late pickup fee the morning of the race.

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The race started in front of a local high school at 7am.  Easy, free parking.  A handful of port-o-potties.  Chip timing.  Beautiful blue skies.  The race started on time without much of a production.  We were across the timing mat in less than 30 seconds, along with the half marathoners and a handful of relay runners.  Not a huge race, less than 500 people at the start. 

Then came the hills.  One right after another.  Then a few more. And the never really stopped.  The temps that were in the mid 70s at the start climbed to mid 80s by the finish.  The course was mainly on country roads with some neighborhoods.   There were a couple sections where we ran along busy highways separated from the zooming cars by orange cones.  Highlights were an old cemetery and a small park.   The coolest thing we saw was a piece of art in the form of corn stalks just before mile 7.

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Around mile 7, the half marathoners turned off and it got pretty lonely.  I’ll be honest, I was so thankful to have friends running this race!  We mostly stuck together and just dealt with the hills heat as it came.  Very slowly.  With lots of walking.  Aid stations were every 1.5 miles or so apart.  They offered warm water & watermelon AdvoCare Rehydrate (tasty and way better than traditional sugar laden sport drinks for your body!).  There were lots of people on bikes offering bike support, asking us if we were okay, calling SAG for those who needed a ride and calling 911 for those who dropped.   There were a handful of spectators scattered throughout the 26.2 miles.  The best spectator award goes to a nice couple who put out their sprinkler as we ran thru one of the last neighborhoods.  We were super thankful for that sprinkler and ran thru it like a bunch of 5 year olds.  I think I even squealed with delight!  Winking smile 

Running in high heat and 100% humidity is pretty dangerous.  I wouldn’t recommend it.  However, weather for pre-registered events is an absolute unknown.  There is no way to predict what the day will bring but only what we can do to make our chances to survive the elements a bit better.

Tips for running in the heat:

  • Wear a hat or visor
  • Wear sunscreen to keep your skin from frying
  • Dump water on your head and body to keep yourself as cool as possible
  • Wear light colored clothing
  • Use ice or cold water to increase the rate of cooling
  • Run thru sprinklers or open hydrants, if available
  • Use sponges or cooling towels if the event offers these things
  • Take your time, decrease your pace, and WALK to keep your body temp as even as possible
  • Replace lost salt with salt tablets, electrolyte drinks/gels or by eating salty foods

Bottom line, even if you do all of the above, your rate of success will depend on how your body can ultimately deal with the heat.  Some people handle it much better than others.  Some people can’t handle it at all.  One of my friends still has a headache from the heat and dehydration suffered on Sunday.  Another friend had no idea why we struggled so much because she “loves running in the heat”.   It’s all about your body and how it can adapt to the conditions and that is super hard to predict.

Ultimately, everyone in my group finished, most of us with bragging rights over our new “personal worst” time.  But we finished under our own power because we did what was necessary for us and that meant slowing WAY down to endure the weather.  Here is Judy and I running around the track toward the finish line.  We were two happy campers to have finished another marathon in yet another new state. 

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Being safe always trumps running fast.  It’s certainly not fun but something we all learn over time.  If you ran in Marion on Sunday and are feeling bad about your race, know that only 124 people FINISHED the full, only 243 FINISHED the half and there were only 9 relay teams that crossed that finish line.  Finishing really was winning in Marion IA on Sunday.  Be proud.

Amanda – TooTallFritz

Sunburst Marathon …. 2015

I’ve ran the Sunburst Races multiple times but each time, I’ve ran the half marathon.  It’s definitely the race with the most participants and a manageable distance for me when I’m also training for other events.  The full marathon, is a bit of a push.  Always difficult.  Always taxing.  Always an event where anything can happen.  But I took the gamble for 2015 and threw my cards in for the full.  26.2 here I come … and fortunately, Julie came too.  Smile

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This was our 20th marathon.  Although we haven’t ran all the others together, we have ran a good number together over the course of 2014 & 2015.  So it was a bit of a celebration and we were excited to be on the same number at the same race.

Temps were cool, in the low 60s at the start and climbed to 70 degrees by the finish.   This race is known to be a “hot one” so I was happy about the weather!  The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.  Easy packet pick up the morning of the race.  Easy, free parking!  Cute shirt.  Early 6am start to get the marathoners on their way before things got too busy with the other races.

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Due to the construction at the Notre Dame stadium, both 2014 and this year (2015) boasted new finish line areas and new courses. 

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I thought the course this year was very well laid out.  We saw lots of sites.  Ran various trails & waterfront paths.  And we were mostly shaded, which is a huge bonus!

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As usual, the aid stations were plentiful, approximately every mile in most areas.  There were a couple aid stations that offered GU, wet/cold sponges & bananas.  Nice set up and friendly volunteers.

We ran thru the same neighborhoods as in previous years but didn’t spend so much time “circling” as we had in the past and that made me pretty happy.  I’ll be honest, I had not heard anyone say anything positive about the Sunburst Full from previous years.  Most of the people I know who have ran it previously don’t plan a return trip.  As a result, I was nervous about about the race.   But I think the course change really knocked it out of the park.  There were a couple spots that could still use some improvement but overall I think they really did a great job.  And they added a killer character building hill at the end.  Both the full and the half ran up “Hallelujah Hill”.  Or at least we were supposed to run up it.  Julie and I walked.  She probably could have ran it cuz she is a decent hill runner but I was in walking mode by then.  Smile

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The finish on the Irish Green was much better planned out this year.  There looked to be plenty of space to hang out and wait on friends.  Melanie & Jill were awaiting our finish after their first half at Sunburst so it was nice to see some friendly faces at the finish. 

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#20 is in the DONE column!  Next up, the Marion Rotary for Shoes Marathon in Marion, IA on Sunday! 

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

The Waiting Game …. Cuz I Can’t Fix This

The seasons are always changing.  Things are always happening.  We don’t have control over what happens but we do have control over our reaction.  

in charge

If you are like me, then maybe your reaction, isn’t always thought out.  It might be a bit harder to control the “reaction”.  I’m a fast thinker.  Fast talker.  I sometimes react before my thoughts have fully developed and that isn’t necessarily to my benefit.   I’m an Aries and the sign fits me well. 

Aries

Looking at those adjectives associated with the sign, a couple pop out at me.  Impatient.  Impulsive.  Blunt.  Detached.  I don’t like to wait.  I want to react now.  If something is broken, I want to fix it.  I want to fix things now.  Or yesterday if that’s an option.  It has to happen so let’s just do it.  Now.

ones who find happiness

Yet the older I get, the more I realize that so many things are out of my control.  Especially how others react to a situation.  As an Aries, to me, things are pretty cut and dry.  For others there is wiggle room.  Their reaction is subject to interpretation after I’ve already made my decision and have moved onto the next thing.  They move slower.  They think.  They speak cautiously as if the words they choose are a matter of life and death.  In fact, so slow and so cautiously that I want to pull their words out of their mouth or better yet, tell them what to say.  It’s almost painful for me to await their words and/or reactions.  Sounds dramatic?  It certainly feels that way.  And in so, it makes me …… Impatient.  Impulsive.  Blunt.  And sometimes …. Detached.

I’ve spoken previously about depression (Depression Hurts) and confidence (Strong Enough) issues.  It seems as if there is almost always someone very close to me who is struggling with mental demons of some sort.  I can’t say that I’m immune to those things but I frequently feel detached from them.  More as if I don’t have time for my own mental demons so it’s hard to understand how debilitating they can be for others.  I think God puts these people in my path to keep me humble and to slow me down.  To teach me things about savoring the moment.  To help me realize that some things can’t be fixed now, or yesterday.  To put my impatience on hold because this is something which I can’t control or fix.

I can't fix

I’m at one of these junctures now.  A place where I can’t fix what has gone wrong.  I can’t make someone happy.  I can’t take away their pain.  I can’t make them love themselves.  I can’t make them feel worthy.  Or strong.  Or beautiful.  Or smart.  Or amazing.  Or even normal.  And that sucks.  Miss Fix-It can’t fix this.  So I’ll wait.  And I’ll pull out a few of the better Aries characteristics.  I’ll be strong, optimistic ….. And loving. 

I know people go thru these things every day.  And it’s not fun.  If you’re the one struggling with mental demons that are leaving you feel worthless and alone, go get help.  Talk to someone.  You’re not alone.  If you are the friend, daughter, mother, wife or neighbor to the one struggling, just be there and try not to obsess over the fact that you can’t fix everything.  Don’t take it personally.  Dry those tears and be ready when they need you.  I’ll be waiting it out with you.  Smile

** The Waiting Game ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Adventures In Running ….

I’m am always thankful to be a runner.  Always.  Running has taken me places I would have never gone without it.  Running has introduced me to people I would have never otherwise met, both in person and virtually.   Running has made me realize that I can do things that I never thought possible.  Running is always an adventure, good, bad or indifferent. 

Today I ran a new area. Because I was afraid if I didn’t get my run in early, I wouldn’t get it in at all.  Yeah, it’s been a crazy week!  So I parked the car and ran right after I dropped Michael off at school.  I didn’t drive to familiar territory.  Didn’t want to waste anytime.  I just parked the car and ran.  Visor or no visor?  That was my only thought.  I grabbed the visor because it had been raining all night and more rain was predicted.  Now where am I?  Got my bearings and took off down a long sidewalk that Michael and I always talked about as we passed it every day.  The long sidewalk took me to a country road where I proceeded to run out of Small Town USA.  It was at that moment, less than a 1/2 mile from my car when I realized that I didn’t have my Personal Savers Pepper Spray.  I always take my Wrist Saver on new runs.  On most of my runs to be honest.  But I didn’t want to go back for it.

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When you run in the country, it’s inevitable there will be loose dogs.  It’s only a guess as to whether the loose dog will be friendly or not.  I’ve been bitten 3x by unfriendly dogs so I now assume if a dog is charging me and barking that it will be followed by a bite.  Beware, if your dog charges me, I will spray it with pepper spray.  Not because I want to hurt your dog but because I don’t want your dog to hurt me.  I love dogs.  Have 3 of my own.  But that doesn’t mean I’m stupid and want your dog to bite me.  So ……how long do you think it was before a loose dog saw me?  1.95 miles.  I was in a time crunch so I had planned to run 2 miles out from my car and flip to make the return trip.  Just enough mileage to shake out the tightness from my landscaping duties this week.  But alas I had a potentially crazy dog between me and my car.  UGH!  Said dog didn’t see me until I was almost past his house, then he had to run the long yard to the road to get to me.  By that time, I was far enough past that he didn’t give chase.  Thank goodness.  But he was laying in the yard, by the road, awaiting my return.  What a sweetie, right?  Yeah, probably not.  So I kept running forward to WhoKnowsWhere.  Scenery wasn’t too bad.

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I was immediately thankful that not only am I a runner but a MARATHON runner.  It doesn’t matter that I’m on a road to nowhere, I’ll eventually get back to my car.  I quickly calculated that I was a half marathon or so from my house.  I wasn’t really sure how to get home but I knew the general direction, like as a crow would fly.  Smile  I also knew that my car was just to the right of that creek (pictured above), no more than a mile away across that field.  Worse case scenario I could cross that wet, muddy field.  But let’s just bag that idea for now.  I’m not lost.  I just don’t know exactly where I am at the moment.  I’ll just keep running down this road and see where it takes me.  And that’s when the rain began.   I immediately gave thanks for my visor!  Running in the rain.  Refreshing.  I think.  If I knew how to get back to my car it would be a bit more refreshing.  But alas, I’m a marathon runner.  I’ll get back there eventually.

Fortunately, most country roads are set up in a grid like pattern.  Usually with each segment between intersections being a mile (or so) in length.  I tried to focus on the grid and hope that these roads followed the general rules of country road infrastructure.  I was assuming I could run a rectangle and be back to the car.  That’s why I wasn’t panicked and didn’t feel the need to tromp across that wet, muddy field.  I just didn’t know any of these roads and the north end of “the grid” was the key.  The road eventually curved away from the direction I needed to go but without a cross street/road I just followed along.  It eventually popped me out on a busy road that connects our town and the one where Michael goes to school.  It wasn’t a road that I would normally run (or bike), due to the heavy traffic volume, but at least I knew my location and the direction of my car.  I managed a mile down the busy street.  In the pouring rain.  Trying to look smooth and as if I were enjoying myself.  Ignoring all thoughts of what people must think of this crazy lady (me!) running along a busy road in the rain.  Turned back into town at the first opportunity, the rain eased, and I found my long sidewalk that was the start of this running adventure. 

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All runs are an adventure.  Some are just more interesting than others.  Keep running and keep making memories.  As I see it, I’m just banking stories for the grandkids! 

** Adventures In Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Fox Island …. Ft Wayne, IN

IFox Island Nature Perserve

7324 Yohne Rd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46809

As you  know, I like to explore new trails.  I particularly like ones where I can take the kids and a dog (or two) and get everyone out of the house just stroll along in the fresh air.  Fox Island County Park is one such place.  See excerpt from the Allen County Parks Department webpage below:

Fox Island is a 605 acre park located in southwest Allen County. Within this park, 270 acres are dedicated as State Nature Preserve, which protects areas having unique plants, animals or geographic features. Hundreds of species of animals and plants live at Fox Island because of the relatively natural condition of most of the area, with its habitats of marsh, seasonal ponds, wooded sand dunes, wetland forest, old fields and restored prairie. The park contains the largest contiguous forest in the county and a glacial sand dune

When I moved to Indiana, just north of Fort Wayne, many people suggested I visit Fox Island for running.  After reviewing the maps and website, I was thinking it would be a better place for a family excursion verses a running adventure for myself.  There are 7 miles of short trails winding thru the forest but they are flat and perfect for a family hike.

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The trails never venture too far from a road or intersection.  There are markers throughout the park identifying trails, trees, plants, flowers and even a bit of history.  Some trails are dirt, others grass.

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Wildlife is buzzing on and off the trail.  Perfect destination for the family and most trails are groomed well enough for a 3 wheeled jogging type stroller. 

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And there are bridges.  And a beach on Bowman Lake for playing and swimming (stock photo).  Plus fishing areas.

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Fox Island has a beautiful Nature Center with a classroom, which is available for rental.  We went on a Friday night and if I remember correctly, there was a scrapbooking event in the Nature Center.  I neglected to get a photo of this area because Michael was super excited and starting running toward the docks behind the Nature Center which have a great view of the pond, wildlife and the surrounding trails.  Even if you have a member in your group who isn’t able to walk the trails, you can always drive them to the Nature Center and have a look around in that area without doing much walking.  Very nice. Scenic.  Handicap accessible.  And peaceful unless you have a 5 year old screaming and yelling with excitement

There is an entry fee for Fox Island.  When we were there, nobody was at the gatehouse taking admission but we stopped and dropped our $2 per person fee into the drop box.  I did notice that most were just driving in without paying and while it’s easy to do that, I always try to support these types of forest preserves because I know that funding is hard to come by and I enjoy being able to explore new areas.  Without funds, places like Fox Island will close and be lost to the public.  If you drove in and forgot to leave your entry fee, you can join or make a donation to the Fox Island AllianceWinking smile

See you on the trail!

Amanda – TooTallFritz

Pittsburgh Marathon Review – #RunnerOfSteel

I’m not really sure how I became this “crazy” marathon runner who’s current goal is to run a marathon in each of the 50 states.  If someone had told me 2 years ago that I would be running more than one or two marathons a year, I wouldn’t have believed them.  In fact, I would have thought them to be the “crazy” one.  Somehow, something changed. Maybe it was the fact that I would train so hard for ONE marathon a year and then never get the desired result due to injury, training fatigue, life, stress or weather.  Maybe I woke up one day and decided there were so many great marathons and too little time to run them.  Maybe my kids were driving me crazy and I decided to run more and drink less to blow off steam.  Maybe and most probably, I decided that if I ran more marathons, I could run fewer of those unsupported, boring, long runs.  Yeah, that’s probably it. 

Regardless, I’m on a journey that is taking me places.  Some of those places weren’t exactly on my “must visit” list.  And that makes things interesting in a fun and adventurous way.  On that note, we picked the Pittsburgh Marathon the way that we pick most of our races.   Julie said, “Hey, I’d really like to run a marathon at the end of April or beginning of May.”  I said, “If you wait til the beginning of May, I’ll go with you”.  Then we looked at the marathon calendar and tossed out a couple options.  I saw that Pittsburg was on May 3rd, pulled up google maps and discovered that it’s only 4.5 hours from my new home.  We registered a month in advance because Pittsburgh is in PA and that’s a new state for us.  Done.  Pittsburgh, HERE WE COME!!

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Pittsburgh, we came to find out is the City of Bridges.  I love bridges.  There are varying reports as to the exact number but according to Popular Pittsburgh, there are almost 2,000 bridges in the area!  More bridges than Venice, Italy!  What?  Really?  Check out this article HERE to see some of those amazing bridges and the history behind them. 

Race weekend.  We enter the city and it’s a pleasant surprise.  Nice city.  Lots to see & do.  Great expo.  Bridges, bridges & more bridges.  And hills.  Hello hills!  Smile  Course map below.

PGH Course map

Elevation chart, showing elevation climbs up to 985 ft.  That’s a lot for us Midwestern flatlanders! 

PGH Course map

Regardless, we kinda laughed about the hills cuz what could we do?  Nothing.  No need to ruin the experience by stressing about the course.  We’ll run Pittsburgh the way we run every race, mile by mile with one goal in mind, the finish.

First some sightseeing:  The Strip District for shopping and walking around.   Market Square which we found a little too late, lots of bars, restaurants & shopping.  Home of the Pittsburgh Steelers & Steeler PRIDE everywhere.  University of Pittsburgh.  Carnegie Music Hall & Museum (pic 1 & 2).  The University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning (pic 3).  The Heinz Memorial Chapel (pic 4).

Carnegie Music Hall  IMG_6836  IMG_6842  IMG_6840

Race day came and we were excited and ready to run!  Temps were warm and the sun was shining.  There were 4 corrals.  Staggered start with 5 minutes between corrals.  Start was crowded and we spent the first several miles running on the sidewalks to get around the walkers.

Julie & I_start       start

Then came the bridges and hills.  16th Street Bridge.  9th Street Bridge.  7th Street Bridge.  West End Bridge.  Birmingham Bridge – which isn’t yellow by the way!  It’s green.  Why isn’t the Birmingham Bridge yellow like all the rest? 

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The most difficult hill to climb was at mile 12.  I stopped running the climb about 1/2 way up.  Good decision on my part.  It was too much for my body so I took my time and ate a few of my Sour Patch Kids and watched everyone else struggle up the hill.  Smile  Best downhill was at mile 24.  One LONG downhill that I was thrilled to see, then it flattened out for the last 2 miles to the finish.

Great spectator support by all 13 communities!  I loved the music and bands.  The kids and volunteers.  So many great homeowners put out sprinklers and dug out water guns for the kiddos, fed us oranges, licorice, candy, pretzels, offered beer and handed out water in little dixie cups .  Many thanks to the firefighters who opened the fire hydrants for us!  Temps climbed to 78 degrees and it was full sun, all day long.  I was beyond thankful for the plethora of water stations, ice stations, cold rags, multiple fueling stations that offered either Carb Boom Energy Gel or Pure Protein bars.  This was a great race.  Not easy but a big city race, done right. 

There was never a dull moment.   Pittsburgh, you rocked this marathon and I thank you! 

Numbers: 

  • 14,635 Half Marathon finishers
  • 4,317 Marathon finishers
  • 2,316 5K finishers
  • 1,124 Relay Teams

Nice Shirt & Finishers Medal:

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Great race.  If you’ve been thinking about trying Pittsburgh, I’d highly recommend it.  Expect a big city race with great crowd support and plenty to see while you are pounding out the miles.  Try to take your time and enjoy the city and what it has to offer.  Lots of amazing buildings and homes with beautiful, old architecture.  Go run Pittsburgh!

** Enjoy the Race, No Matter the Terrain ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

A Matter of Healing Thru Rest, Strength Training & Healthy Eating ….

I’m in a lull between The Go! St. Louis Marathon and the Pittsburgh Marathon.  Three weeks between the two races.  The timing was a strategic calculation to allow my body to heal up a bit from St Louis.  It was a good call. But with this being Boston Marathon week, I’m just restless.  I want to run.  I want to run fast. But alas my chiro body says, NO! 

So I’ll just keep thinking about running fast and well, doing what I’ve been doing …. taking care of myself, eating well, stretching, strength training and running easy. 

Run Easy

But I can certainly think about running fast, right?  I’ve reset my Run Less Run Faster app and am ready to go with some targeted workouts once I get the green light.  I certainly don’t want to backslide and aggravate the Plantar Fasciitis DEVIL who is currently napping.  He certainly hasn’t left but I’m feeling better each and every day thanks to a lot of torture over the last 4 months from my new Chiro

So far, this year has consisted of rest, a lot of strength training and a little running.  There have been a lot of kettlebell swings, hand release push-ups, squats, lunges, weighted sit-ups, knees to chest, ab baskets, side to sides and short bursts of strength workouts both in and out of the gym.   All by myself.  I’m really missing my 5am CF crew in IL!   I also miss being able to swing a kettlebell and not have to worry about some unsuspecting gym patron rounding the corner right into my kettlebell improvised CF area.  I miss having certain equipment, like rings for ring rows, a box for box jumps, a wall ball, and a weighted ball for ball slams.  Yes, I actually miss those torturous things and so much more!  But I’ve improvised and been good about doing a minimum of 2 strength workouts each week.  Even if that means I have to skip a run to squeeze it into my day.  I know that a strong body is essential not only to a healthy life but also injury free running.  So strength training is a priority.  In and out of the gym.

CF at Home

I’ve also made a few changes on the food front.  I’ve always been decent about my food choices but things took a turn south last year.  While I normally favor fruits & veggies, my love of carbs took over and I was eating WAY too many cheese quesadillas & flavored Triscuits!    I tried to balance out my carb intake with exercise.  You know that never works but a carb lover can hope, right?  Then I tried to decrease my carbs and up my protein.  That helped temporarily but I quickly tired of protein powders/shakes/smoothies.  And my body didn’t love all that protein either.  Plus I was still craving those junky carbs!   Then one of the books I was listening to last month (Born to Run by Chris McDougall) mentioned a change he had made that helped him control appetite and lose weight.  Salads for breakfast.  What?  Yep, salads for breakfast.  I figured it was worth a try.  I bought some fresh produce, developed an obsession for kale, and started making a humongous salad every morning after I returned from the gym.  I filled my salads with nutritious items, healthy fats, plant proteins and tons of veggies.  Not a wimpy, “diet” salad but real food that would fill me up!  Every day.  Today’s salad below.  Kale, red onion, avocado, yellow pepper, northern beans, tomato, chia seeds, olive oil, balsamic vinegar & sea salt.

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I eat as much of my hearty salad as I want for breakfast and then put the rest in the fridge for lunch.  Guess what.  I’m on week 3 of salads for breakfast.  And I feel good.  Like really good.  I can’t tell you if I’ve lost weight cuz I “Threw Out the Scales” before I started my salad for breakfast regimen.  But I feel good.  And my tummy is happy.  And I’m full.  I’ve replaced most of the cheese quesadillas with healthy carbs like baked sweet potatoes.  Or in a pinch, I eat the Brown Rice Sweet Potato Triscuits.  Smile  Cuz my love of Triscuits goes beyond the scales!  But overall I’m pretty happy right now and feeling way better than I have in about a year.  So I’ll be buying ALL THE PRODUCE and eating lots of greens with a variety of veggies going forward.  I’m not a vegetarian but I’m certainly going to do some more research about food and specifically plant proteins.  And most importantly, I’m going to enjoy feeling good. 

Food You Eat_Ann Wigmore

The point of this post isn’t to start a movement where everyone should eat salads for breakfast but rather to suggest that if you’ve been doing what your doing for a long time and it’s not working  ……. maybe it’s time to try something new.   Be open to change.  If you are tired and run down, what type of food are you using for fuel?  Exercise will always help us feel and look better but the FOOD that goes into our mouth is the main source of our energy and health.   I’m trying to make sure that I’m eating what my body NEEDS rather than what it immediately wants.    As a result, I want less and less of the foods that are “not so good for me”.  I’m still not perfect.  Never will be perfect.  I mean, we have a standing order with the pizza guy for Monday nights but now we get a salad with that pizza too.  Winking smile

If you are struggling, don’t give up.  Cuz that will put you further back than where you are now.  Keep fighting the fight.  Change things up.  Don’t’ forget to Hide the Veggies from the family and yourself in some of your favorite meals.  And please, try to find a way to fall in love with good, clean foods.

eat like crap

** Eat Your Veggies ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Go! St Louis Marathon Review …..

The Go! St. Louis Marathon was my first marathon of 2015.  I had previously skipped the Mississippi Blues & First Light (Mobile, AL) marathons in January, plus a February marathon in Texas, all due to a nasty case of Plantar Fasciitis.  So I was looking forward to St Louis and the new course which guaranteed a “flatter, faster” course. 

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I signed up for this event last year on an early bird special.  Before Ferguson.  Before family friends began telling us about the gang issue(s) in St Louis.  Before my PF took control of my life running.  As the event neared, I ended a running hiatus and started the “Oh Shit” marathon training plan.  You probably haven’t heard of that one but it’s the plan that an experienced runner “may” use when they have been forced to take time off and a marathon “sneaks up” on them.  About the time I started this “plan”, other Go! St Louis marathoners were probably getting ready to taper.   The Plan in its 4 week entirety:

  • Week 1 – March 1   – 10 miles
  • Week 2 – March 8   – 12 miles
  • Week 3 – March 15 – 15 miles
  • Week 4 – March 22 – 20 miles

Yep, that was it, then I “tapered”, i.e. ran normal mileage until the April 12th event.  This is obviously a “do as I say, not as I do” moment.  That’s not a real training plan.  Don’t try it unless you want to cry struggle thru your marathon.  I knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy race for me, I was just planning to finish it and knock another state off my list.  And that I did.  Success.

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Expo – Good location in the Chaifetz Arena which was about 1-2 miles away from most of the host hotels.  Easy to get too.  Lots of metered street parking.  A $5 pay lot.  Small, crowded expo but lots of friendly people & volunteers.

Race Day – Brought us cool temps (55 degrees) and overcast skies.  Yes!  Great start location on Market Street down by the Opera House.  Plenty of space and well marked corrals.  The view wasn’t too bad either.  Smile

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Race started on time and weaved thru downtown St Louis before taking us over the first bridge, where we crossed the Mississippi River into East St. Louis, IL.   Short jaunt on the IL side of the river, then back over a different bridge to head back to MO. 

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The second bridge bounced.  Maybe a suspension type bridge of some sort?  Regardless, it was a very odd feeling and some people even shrieked from surprise.  However, as soon as we were over the bridge we were headed down by the St Louis River Front via Laclede’s Landing.  Ah, The Landing.  The place that I heard so much about before our trip.  We even had one friend warn us to just avoid it “at all costs”.  But on foot, in a marathon, it’s all good.  And it was a beautiful area.  Flowering trees, lots of parking and restaurants/bars galore.  Local rumor is that the gangs have taken over this area and I’m pretty sure that’s a true statement.  There were zero spectators in the area.  And there were several  “young men” walking around various streets dressed exactly the same, even though they weren’t visibly together.  So I’m glad I got to see The Landing in a safe environment and I hope that St Louis is able to reclaim The Landing for the residents and tourists because its worth the fight.

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The first half of the race was great and most of the participants called it a day with the half marathon.  Go! St Louis boasted a net downhill for the first half and it was a nice course with lots of historic sites.  I was particularly impressed with the Budweiser campus.  Neat, and clean.  They even had a Clydesdale out for pics!

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Although that first half had a net downhill, there was a continuous grade, either up or down.  I tried to stay relaxed and slow that first half because I knew the lack of mileage hills would eventually take a toll on my body.  And I was right.  A little “niggle” in my right knee because a major pain in my right hip.  Regardless, I kept powering on, past the half, up the inclines on Market Street, up and down ramps and mini bridges, around the endless turnarounds in the middle of roads, thru Forest Park, past the Forest Park mansions (that were spectacular), and eventually back to the finish.  It wasn’t pretty.  But I made it.  I didn’t hate it.  And my foot held up well.  So I’m happy.

Missouri – DONE!  It was a great race.  Well done.  Nice town that’s working on improvement & restoring old buildings and neighborhoods.  Yes, there are hills.  And bridges.  And ramps.  And lots of pinpoint turns around orange cones in the middle of random roads.  But overall, it’s a good race and one where you’ll see the peeps ahead and behind you so definitely a good one if you have friends who are also running!

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **