Thursday, March 31, 2011

Getting out

Working Out: 2000 yards in the pool.

Getting Out: Impersonating a writer in a coffee shop and managed to connect with writers in a coffee shop--published authors, even. Here's to getting out and being in the right place at the right time!

Dining Out: Leadership awards dinner with my husband. Best Quote of the night: A speaker mentioned that a member of his team wasn't present because his healthy newborn son arrived three weeks early so, the employee, "like his team, delivers a quality product ahead of schedule."
Worst Quote of the night: A guy was talking about how much he loved skiing in Colorado, especially in Vail because of the great skiing set in such an awesome town--"because there are bars, restaurants, shopping and spas, so the ladies like it there too because there's so much to do." My reply? "Uh, like ski?"

Wiped Out: Between 8:30 AM and 10:30 PM I was home for a total of 90 minutes. It's been a long day and the end of a very long week.

I'm Out!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sweet treat

After yesterday's savory soup, thought I'd share a sweet treat with you: Ginger-Spiced Pumpkin Muffins. I experiment by adding dark chocolate chips, golden raisins or berries: cranberry, blueberry or raspberry.

Take any recipe and make it healthy (I like to say, "healthify") by swapping olive oil for butter, applesauce for oil, plain yogurt for sour cream and mayo, whole wheat flour instead of white, and add flaxseed to anything!


Ginger-Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. salt
1 T ground flaxseed
1 egg, beaten
1 c. skim milk
1/2 can 100% pumpkin
1/2 t. orange zest

Preheat oven to 375. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients separately and combine with dry mix.
Cook 12 muffins 15-17 mins. Cook mini muffins 12-15 mins.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You are what you eat

If I were to review my blog to determine the word I use the most, you might think it would be "exercise" or "fitness" but my guess is that it would be "food." I seem to write about food a lot and it's probably because food is such a big part of our lives.

Food is essential to sustain life, but eating also takes place for social reasons and enjoyment. Here in America, land of plenty, we have the convenience of mega-grocery stores that carry a tremendous variety of foods, regardless of the season or climate of our region. Bananas in Maryland? Sure. Blueberries in January? Why not?

I recently joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in an effort to eat locally and seasonally. It's also important to me to support local farmers and to feed my family organic foods as often as possible; I am a true believer in the "you are what you eat" philosophy. On road trips, it is not unusual to see people putting premium gas in their cars while filling their own bodies with French fries and soda. Things that make you go hmmm.

Though the 2011 CSA program started just four weeks ago, I've already been introduced to and used so many vegetables that I would otherwise pass right by in the store: turnips, cabbage, Swiss chard, parsnips, kale and a variety of squash, all of which have been in cold storage since they were harvested locally in the fall. (With the exception of a few hot-house grown items.) Each week, the CSA provides recipes to go along with their offerings so members will know how to prepare, cook and store their bounty.

Kale, onions and yams were plentiful at last week's CSA pick up so I tried one of the new recipes: White Bean and Kale Soup. It was delicious! Even my non-vegetarian husband liked it, and my kids, while they didn't rave about it, ate it without complaint. (I am lucky that my kids are such adventurous eaters, but I have been exposing them to a wide variety of foods since the day they cut their teeth so they are used to me putting odd and unusual things on their plates. Though some dishes are more well-received than others, they always eat it.)

I have had a few requests to share this recipe, so here it is. Bon appetit!

White Bean and Kale Soup

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 3 cups chopped kale
  • 1 small garnet yam, peeled and diced (1 cup)
  • 1 Tbs. smoked sweet paprika, plus more for garnish
  • 1 Tbs. curry powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 15.5-oz. cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed, divided
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar


1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 8 minutes, or until lightly caramelized, stirring often.

2. Add kale, and cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until wilted. Stir in yam, paprika, curry powder, and bay leaf; cook 1 minute more, or until fragrant.

3. Add broth, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 30 minutes, or until kale and yam are tender. Purée 1 cup beans with 3/4 cup water in blender or food processor. Add purée and remaining beans to soup. Simmer 10 minutes, then stir in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each serving with paprika. Serves 6.

Per SERVING: Calories: 165, Protein: 9g, Total fat: 2.5g, Saturated fat: 0.5g, Carbs: 34g, Cholesterol: mg, Sodium: 543mg, Fiber: 10g, Sugars: 7g

Monday, March 28, 2011

Build muscle, burn calories

My husband and I recently celebrated our 15th anniversary at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. When we honeymooned at such a place, I came home 10 pounds heavier. As previously established in this column, I gain weight just by looking at food and I exercise, among other reasons, so I can eat. Though I have been through many quirky food phases, I have never been on a diet. I simply enjoy food too much.

So, in an effort to avoid piling on the pounds in the "all you can eat and drink" environment, I packed my running shoes and goggles and planned to stay as active as possible on vacation. With such noble visions in my head, we set off for our tropical paradise.

From the moment I set foot in the Dominican, all thoughts of exercising vanished as I reveled in the warmth and sunshine of the tropics. The sanctuary-themed resort, with its flowing white curtains and incense-scented air, inspired feelings of peace and tranquility rather than energy and motivation.

In honor of our anniversary, we were upgraded to a villa that included 24-hour room service and a stocked mini-bar and, thus, began our campaign of all-inclusive indulgence sans exercise.

We enjoyed breakfasts of made-to-order omelets and freshly baked pastries. Lunches and dinners were festivals of seafood, sauces, appetizers and side dishes, and were always followed by rich desserts. The frothy, beach cocktails began flowing at noon and, for happy hour, we drank beer on our private deck and feasted on nachos. During the five days we were there, we managed one long walk and played one game of pingpong. My running shoes and goggles never left the suitcase.

When, sadly, it was time to return to the real world of cold and snow and chores and regular workouts, I dreaded stepping on the scale. I don't make a habit of weighing myself regularly, but I do own a scale so I can keep tabs on my weight. With just eight weeks to go before my first triathlon of the season, I was terrified I'd find myself carrying an extra ten pounds on my frame.

To my surprise and delight, the scale hadn't budged! Despite the excessive calories and lack of exercise, I didn't gain a single pound on vacation. I have written before about my scale being "stuck" no matter what I do, but I was shocked to escape unscathed this time. While I'm certain a regular lifestyle of such indulgence would quickly catch up with me, I've decided to credit this short-term free pass to the regular strength training I've added to my workouts over the past six months. Since muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, even when you're at rest, I'm hoping it's extra muscle that helped me torch the additional calories even when I wasn't exercising.

Whatever the reason, I am happy to have enjoyed a guilt-free week of relaxation and indulgence, but you can bet I will be adding extra reps and sets to my strength-training routines in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Find what works for you

Today I went for a 4-mile run and was a full minute-per-mile slower that what I averaged when I ran to Panera on Friday. I'm never quite sure what makes the difference from day to day, but at this point I'm thinking maybe when I'm running I should wear a baseball cap with an extra long brim and dangle a mini-bagel off the end of it.

Finding that "thing" that works is slippery and elusive; a game of trial and error requiring flexibility and creativity. So, challenge yourself to find something that gets you going this week and go with it for as long as it's working for you. When it loses its allure, it's time to try something else.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Will run for bagels

Working out has to be fun; it can't be all work and no play. So today, when I was invited to join a group of women from my neighborhood for coffee at Panera, I decided to get creative. Instead of driving to Panera to socialize and caffeinate before my run, I had a better idea . . .

Panera is only two miles from my house. Why drive there(and burn gas and emit fossil fuels) when I can run? So, that's what I did. To up the fun factor, I recruited another friend to run too, and a third friend decided to walk. Together, the three of us left our cars in our driveways and made our way to Panera on our own power. I got to run, I got to save money on gas and I got to have coffee and bagels with my friends. Win-win.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's the little things that matter

Life is marked by the big things, the milestones: Turning 16, 21 & 40; graduating from high school and college; getting a job, getting married and starting a family. But it's the little things that are the pulse of life, that ones that make your heart beat faster and make you happier; the ones that make a difference.

Like waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking, sweet kisses from your five-year-old that leave little wet spots on your cheek, your dog's wagging tail when she greets you, the first daffodil of spring, reconnecting with childhood friends who knew you before you knew yourself. The small things are the ones that change your life and give meaning to the milestones.

I was thinking about this today while I was swimming laps because, really, you've got to do something with your mind, something to entertain yourself, as you swim back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth some more.

I once was on a master's swim team at a time when I'd been a lifeguard, but never a swimmer. My coach, my husband, and fellow teammates offered many tips and drills to help improve my stroke, form and technique. Like a sponge, I soaked up every bit of advice that was offered. Gradually, lap after humbling lap, I indeed became a swimmer. I even swam across the Chesapeake Bay. Twice.

Now here I am again, ten years later, swimming back and forth once more. But this time, I entered the pool a swimmer, my goal no longer to learn the basics but to fine tune; to swim better, faster, and I'm finding that the tiniest things have the biggest impact.

One day I was doing backstroke kick and my coach and another swimmer were watching me, brows furrowed. They were trying to figure out what was wrong with my kick; why I wasn't faster and more efficient. (I often wonder that myself!). Then came the "aha!" moment when the other swimmer figured it out. "Your hips are too high," she said. "Pull your hips down a little and you'll go much faster--less effort, better stroke."

So I did. I pulled my hips down the tiniest bit and it made all the difference. I swam the next set faster and it was easier. After all these years, all I had to do was move my hips about an inch. The little things.

Little changes have made a big difference for me in other sports,too. In running, changing my stride and finding the right shoes have allowed me to return to running and remain injury-free.

On the bike, painful "hot spots" in my feet were resolved by shifting my cleats a mere quarter inch. Small change, huge difference.

In triathlon, as in life, it really is the little things that matter.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Despite the gloomy, rainy morning, I pulled on my workout clothes and headed to my Monday morning spin class, just as I do every Monday morning. That class is among the toughest 50 minutes of my week and there are many Mondays I’d rather do anything than go to that class, but I go. Every week. Barring illness, injury or emergency, you will find me at that spin class, same place, same time, every week; legs churning, sweat flying, casting furtive glances at the clock every few minutes and wishing for that hour to end. But, when all is said and done, I’m always glad I went.

A friend recently asked me about motivation. To me, motivation is what inspires you to act or to make a positive change. It is definitely not a “one size fits all” recipe. People are motivated for different reasons. Some people want to achieve a specific goal, such as fitting into a smaller pair of jeans or weighing 20 pounds less by a certain date. For me, it’s more process-oriented. I like to see my performance times improve from week to week; I aim to swim harder, ride longer, run faster, and be the best I can be at whatever it is I’m trying to do. When I compete in a triathlon, I can’t control the field of competitors, but I can control my own performance and the only way to improve from year to year is to train hard for months in advance. Ultimately, I am always only racing against myself. To do this requires more than motivation; it also requires commitment, which is a whole different subject.

Being motivated to exercise is one thing; actually doing it is another. My workouts are scheduled in my calendar just like any other appointment and it is non-negotiable. To further improve my chances of success, I prep my gear the night before; I pack my gym bag, fill water bottles, and put it all by the door. My workout clothes are next to my bed so when my alarm goes off I can get up and change right into the appropriate gear for that day’s activity. Looking the part is half the battle; it puts you in the right frame of mind for the task at hand. Set a workout schedule and stick to it. If it rains on your running day, make sure you have proper gear to battle the elements or be prepared to take your show indoors. Also, don’t let those invites to coffee at Panera or a post-work happy hour divert you from your plan; either decline the invite or get your workout in first. Coffee can serve as a pre-workout boost (if you go easy on the bagels), but who wants to run after two glasses of wine and a plate of nachos?

So, once you make a commitment to yourself, then it’s time to work on the motivation piece so you can stick to it and see results. Here is my Top 20 list of what motivates me to keep going day after day:

1) Challenging myself.

2) Improving my race times, improving myself. Improving.

3) Anyone faster than me.

4) Passing the person in front of me.

5) My husband. Life partner and training partner. He inspires me every day to be a better person, and a better athlete.

6) Being a positive role model for my daughters.

7) The Iron Man (and other endurance races).

8) The Wall at Savageman.

9) Kick-ass female athletes like Dara Torres, Chrissie Wellington and Lindsey Vonn.

10) My friends (you know who you are).

11) Being more fit at 40 than I was in my 20s.

12) Rock hard abs (the quest for).

13) New adventures

14) The finish line; and the journey to get there.

15) Becoming stronger and faster.

16) Camaraderie among my fellow racers and athletes.

17) Excitement of the race, and thrill of the chase.

18) Eating everything I want (in moderation. Most of the time).

19) Having the blood pressure of a teenager.

20) Being healthy and feeling good.

What motivates you?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Funny Feet

When I was in Kindergarten, we learned the alphabet with the help of little inflatable figures called the "letter people." Mr. M had a Munching Mouth. S was Super Socks, and F was Funny Feet.

These days, it seems that it's me, rather than "Mr. F," who has "Funny Feet."

I love my Vibram Five Fingers. I've had them for over a year now and I try to wear them as much as I can, though whenever I wear them in public I am guaranteed some strange looks and sideways glances. Braver souls actually stop me and ask lots of questions about my funky footwear.

Today was no exception. It was a great family day. My husband and I took our girls to the park for a Maple Syrup Festival. We saw a demonstration of maple trees being tapped and the sap being boiled down to syrup. Then we enjoyed pancakes with pure Maryland Maple Syrup and live music, before hitting the trails for a long hike to a waterfall.

A typical family fun day, with one exception: every ten minutes or so someone stopped me to ask about my shoes. The number one question . . . "Are they comfortable?" The answer; yes! The most comfortable pair of "shoes" I own. Other common questions:"Do you like them?" and "Where did you get them?" Less open-minded individuals often comment that they look "weird" or "funny." Women often admit they wouldn't wear them out of the house while the guys, especially the athletic types, mention that they've been thinking about trying a pair.

"Barefoot-style" running verses shod running is a hot topic in running circles these days. There are arguments for and against on both sides of the debate and I did a lot of research before choosing to buy a pair. So, for the purpose of this post, I will give my point of view on the topic.

The popularity of super-padded running shoes has weakened our feet, thereby requiring super-padded shoes.

While training for a metric marathon in late 2008, I developed a nasty case of plantar fasciitis in both feet. Rest and two months of physical therapy did not improve the condition. In desperation, I did two things: 1) sought acupuncture for treatment, and 2) bought a pair of VFF's to strengthen my feet and ankles, and to adjust my running style. More recently, I've added another item to this list: 3) read Chi Running.

I will save the details of each of these actions for another time but, in short:

1) Acupuncture is what finally healed my feet and allowed me to get back to running. (Another alternative form of healing I endorse!)

2) When I returned to running, I did it slowly and used the VFFs to perfect my form. As the character Guillermo said in season six of Weeds while wearing VFF's; "I wear them to connect with the earth and avoid heel strike." If you heel strike when you run, you are bound to end up with PF or knee problems; it's just a matter of time.
3) I read Chi Running to better understand how to run with the proper form and alignment. It's a little "woo woo" at times, but worth the read. Even the gals at RLAM stand behind its concepts.

So, if you want to do something good for your body and great for your feet, get yourself a pair of VFFs and start wearing them around town. I guarantee you will attract more attention than when you wear your favorite strappy heels.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

One of those days

I am out of sorts today and I can't quite pinpoint why, but I have a whole list of suspects:

I'm tired. I haven't gotten enough sleep this week. Usually I look forward to the weekends as a time when I can catch up a bit, but now that spring sports have started and, along with it, Saturday morning practices, the alarms were set this morning as they are on every other day.

Coffee fix failed. On the weekends, especially when I'm tired, I look forward to sitting down with a cuppa to relax and let the caffeine work its magic. Sometimes I will read a book, or sit outside on the deck or have "coffee time" with my husband--a time for us to connect, discuss plans for the day, etc. Well, no go today. The house was like Grand Central . . . the kids were crazy, the phone constantly ringing, someone needing something every five minutes--snacks, playdates, lunch, a nurse, a referee, clean laundry, library books, earthquake protection. I finally gave up.

By then I was hungry. I tried for so long to achieve just a few minutes of peace that the coffee buzz on an empty stomach left me jittery. I fixed lunch and ate it quickly, hoping I could at least manage an uninterrupted lunch. No such luck today; I would have needed to hide in the closet!

Eating while agitated didn't sit well with my stomach. I need a stress-busting workout now more than ever but will first have to wait for my food to settle. Meanwhile, I love my children dearly, but if I hear the word "Mommy" one more time in the next few minutes, well, earthquake protection may indeed be necessary in this house.

Friday, March 18, 2011

First day of the next six months

Today was the first day of the next six months; the first ride of many . . .

A few highlights from today's 28-miler:

1. I survived

2. The bug did not. First ride, first bug kill of the season. But, don't feel too bad for the little bugger; its parting from this life did not go unnoticed. No, when one of those critters with an exoskeleton meets its end on your face, you notice.

3. Groundhogs are lazy. Deer and squirrels are frantic when you startle them and dash around in a crazed panic before, inevitably, darting right in front of you on a collision course. The groundhog I encountered today was quite the opposite, happily munching its lunch on the shoulder of the road when I came upon it. I think it actually glared at me before finally deciding to mosey out of the way.

So, speaking of food (for those who care to know):


Breakfast: "Power Oatmeal"

1/2 c. old-fashioned oats + 1 c. water, nuked for 3 mins.
1 T. ground flaxseed
1/2 c berries
1 T. almond butter
1 T. olive oil
1 T. sliced raw almonds
Honey, Cinnamon & Turmeric to taste
Soy or Almond milk as needed.

Approx 500 calories: oats/whole grain, omegas, berries, protein, carbs! Does a training body good.

Pre-Ride Snack:

Honey Whole Wheat toast with almond butter and honey.
Coffee. Lots of coffee.

Post-Ride Recovery:

Whey protein powder drink
Dried fruit

Post-Ride Lunch:
Brown rice, lentils, black beans w/salmon, cheese, olive oil and almonds.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Seek Alternatives

Today was a good day, if I overlook the fact that I had to start it by dishing out some tough love to my oldest daughter, and ended it with a garage full of rocks, grass and dirt, courtesy of my younger two.

But, in-between, I enjoyed a challenging swim class, a long hike on a beautiful day and, probably best of all, a massage. Yes, a massage.

I am a huge believer in the healing properties of massage therapy, which, among many benefits, increases circulation and joint flexibility, improves the body's immune system, relaxes overused muscles, releases endorphins and reduces stress. I'm all for any practice that supports and encourages healthy living and decreases the need for medication, from practicing yoga, to eating organic foods.

For as long as I can remember, I have always avoided medications, including seemingly harmless over-the-counter varieties such as Advil and Tylenol. Unfortunately, when I entered my twenties, I had my first migraine and I'd never experienced anything like it. Imagine having a headache so bad that it makes you vomit, creates blind spots in your vision and even the tiniest noise or ray of sunlight is like a lightning bolt through your brain. My mother and both of my grandmothers had migraines, so I definitely had the genetic predisposition for them. My husband's mother and grandmother also had them so I fear that my daughters are doomed!

Thankfully, migraines were rare for me until I hit my mid-30s, at which point they became chronic. Suddenly I was having them monthly, then bi-weekly, then weekly, until I was having several each week. They were completely disruptive and debilitating, and when one hit, I was unable to care for my young children. I couldn't continue to live like that so I consulted a doctor and even had an MRI to rule out the possibility of a more serious condition. The MRI was negative and over a period of time, my doctor and I were unable to pinpoint a consistent trigger. For many migraine sufferers, headaches can be triggered by any number of things, from sunlight and glare, to hormone fluctuations, changes in the weather and barometric pressure, and even foods such as chocolate, wine and coffee.

My doctor armed me with some very powerful drugs to take at the onset of a migraine to try and halt its progression, but ultimately he recommended daily/lifelong meds--anti-seizure drugs!--as a preventative measure. Other drugs that are commonly prescribed to treat migraines include beta-and-calcium channel-blockers used for high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat, anti-depressants, antihistamines that influence serotonin activity, and even Botox to relax neck muscles, all of which are serious, systemic substances that affect your body's chemistry and have numerous known and unknown side effects.

While I do realize the importance of western medical practices and respect that many lives have been saved through the miracle of modern medicine, surely there is a safer, easier and better way to treat non life-threatening conditions such as migraines; it's called massage therapy. (Botox to relax neck muscles. Really??)

When faced with the option of taking anti-seizure drugs for the rest of my life, I researched alternative methods and decided to try massage therapy, which even my doctor supported. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I found a practitioner who was willing to come to my home and I received weekly treatments for the first month, before reducing my treatments to bi-weekly and then monthly.

Since I started massage therapy several years ago, I can count on one hand the number of migraines I've had, and the only side effect has been that I feel great! (Popping a pill could never offer the same sense of well-being and relaxation.)

Though massage therapy may be the oldest and simplest form of medical care known, it is unfortunately still viewed by many in modern society as a luxury, an indulgent form of pampering, rather than for its healing benefits.

So, before you turn to drugs to treat what ails you, I urge you to research the many alternative and holistic options available.

Resources and suggested reading:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Let the training begin?

When I was pregnant and fretting over the weight I was gaining, well-meaning friends would assure me that I would eventually lose the weight, but the key was to be patient and not put too much pressure on myself to lose it too quickly. The refrain I heard over and over again was "nine months up, nine months down."

With my first race of the season just two months away, I find myself reflecting on these words of wisdom and realizing that I am out of time.

When I wrapped up the 2010 season in October, I was determined to give myself a break. I needed a break. I imagined what I'd do with my newfound free time when I could finally scale back on my training. The problem was, I couldn't.

In October, I was still at the peak of my physical fitness and I'd worked really hard to get there--six months of training six days a week, sometimes up to three or four hours a day--and I didn't want to lose it.

Physical fitness is fluid and fragile and sometimes elusive--so hard to gain, yet so easy to lose; the inverse of body weight. I wanted to hold on to it tightly and never let it go. I imagined my fitness as a handful of water carefully cupped in my palms, my fingers squeezed together to prevent any of it from escaping. Should my attention be diverted for just a moment, I might risk allowing a crack to form and all of it, my effort, my fitness, would simply trickle away.

This all might sound a little crazy, but after six months of intense training, not only was it part of my daily routine, it was part of me; part of who I was and part of how I identified myself. I enjoyed the rush of endorphins after a good workout; I think I'd become addicted to it. I also liked being able to eat anything I wanted without gaining weight. Cutting back on exercise with the holidays looming seemed like a dangerous and foolish thing to do. I thought of all the Christmas cookies and chocolates and pumpkin pie that were headed my way and I could picture my thighs growing with each bite.

Letting go was hard to do, but I knew it had to be done. Mentally, I needed a break. My spirit probably needed it too. But, mostly, my body needed time to rest, heal and recover.

Slowly, I began to cut back on my training schedule and went through the same type of withdraw one might experience when giving up caffeine; I was grumpy, guilty, tired and agitated--a condition often only remedied by getting some exercise.

Thankfully, the festive time of year helped to distract me from my plight. We had family in town and running was replaced by hiking in the park; swimming was replaced by snow tubing. The cold temperatures forced me off of my bike and into the house where I rediscovered the joy of watching movies and playing card games, of simply relaxing.

Don't get me wrong, I never stopped working out altogether, but I did eventually tone it down. I gave myself permission to skip a workout and not feel too guilty about it. In fact, I just returned from a long, relaxing vacation to the Dominican Republic where I ate and drank all I wanted and didn't exercise once during the entire five days I was there. And it felt great! I finally managed to purposely, consciously, blow off my workouts without an ounce of guilt.

But here's the thing: it took me at least three full months to get to this point and now that I'm here, it's time to start training again. Will I need three full months to recover the necessary fitness, determination, motivation and energy? Will three months down require three months up? If so, I have my work cut out for me.

My focus is gone, along with some of my endurance. My mental motivation has turned to mush. I know it's inside of me somewhere, but locating it at this moment might be a bit like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. I'm not even sure what it looks like anymore. And, unfortunately, I am out of time.

The first race of my 2011 triathlon season is just eight weeks away--a full six weeks earlier than I've started my season in past years, and at twice the distance of my usual first race. So, literally, I hope jumping back into training mode really will be just like riding a bike.

I'm back to working out six days a week again: Spinning on Monday, swimming on Tuesdays and Thursdays, yoga on Wednesdays, running on Fridays and Sundays, and lifting three times a week. But on Friday, it's official: with the weather expected to be sunny and 72 degrees, my husband and I will break out the bikes and hit the road for a hilly 30-mile ride; the very same ride I crashed my bike on at the start of the 2010 season, and I still have the scar on my knee to prove it.

Sure, we've had the bikes out once or twice already to take advantage of an unexpectedly, unseasonably warm day here or there. But those were just joy rides--15 or so miles to simply feel the wind in my hair. But starting Friday, it's on! For better or worse, let the training begin!