Lessons on the mat: Returning to yoga

As you know, I have return10752679_10154872912445533_172990208_oed to the practice of yoga this fall. If you look at the yoga practice link at the top of the blog you can see some of the places where I have been practicing.  As I have traveled this fall I have looked for studios and have experienced several wonderful teachers.

I am still working to establish a regular practice again. I am getting there but I am also still swimming and working on strength work with Sam.  I have not been on my bike in weeks and I don’t think I have run a single step since Augusta. Racing and triathlon currently hold little interest for me. That may change and I may want to race again.  I am uncertain what will happen, however.

Yoga is teaching me patience with my body that is not quite as flexible as I would like it to be. Some days are better than others and I see small signs of progress.  But there is no timeline in yoga. Learning and becoming comfortable is poses takes as long as it takes. I am also practicing release and quieting my mind that is often overburdened with a list of things to do and interrupted too frequently by email and other demands of technology. I have been struggling to write about what I am learning by returning to my yoga practice.    I am finding challenges and peace in my practice. I am finding that I am willing to accept where I am more readily and not be competitive with those who are more advanced in their practice. I am sure that I will find a way to share more as my practice develops.


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A working refrigerator: when it is more than meets the eye

I have been without a working refrigerator for at least a month.  Actually, probably longer. The freezer has not been working for a while and the refrigerator has been iffy. I finally connected with my friend Michael a few weeks to confirm that the compressor was going and would need replacing as well as some other parts. Even then there was no guarantee about how long it would last. This refrigerator had already been repaired after my house was struck by lightning a few years ago. It was time to replace it.

I make big decisions all the time but replacing a refrigerator stopped me in my tracks.  How was I supposed to figure out the size? Cubic feet?? What does that tell me?  I needed to measure the dimensions to figure out the size that I needed to fit in the space in my kitchen. I have listened to friends tell me about their trials and errors with getting the right size refrigerators.  It had to match my other appliances.  That was the easiest part.  While it wasn’t working right I could not rely on it to store food that I needed in order to eat well. That in and of itself should have gotten me to a store to buy a new one. But it didn’t.

I finally looked at various models and sizes online and stopped at Lowe’s earlier this week.  But I still didn’t buy one because refrigerators are expensive and what would I do about delivery?  Deliveries, repairs, and other work at my house are the bane of my existence since I work Monday – Friday with little flexibility to be home to sit around and wait for people who provide any kind of services.

20141115_212727On Friday I was talking to a friend about my refrigerator issue. His response was “it’s a problem to solve.”  He asked me what the real issue was and I finally realized that replacing my refrigerator put me one step closer to putting my house on the market. This is something I have been talking about and contemplating.  I need to put the house on the market in order for some other things to happen. As much as I want the change, it is still insanely frightening in many ways.  I bought the refrigerator on Friday on the way home from work.  It was on sale and I got an extra $100  off because there was a small scratch on it that I noticed.  The refrigerator was delivered today and my old one hauled away.  Now the wall next to the refrigerator finally needs to be painted but I am one step closer to the house going on the market. I now also have no excuse not to get back to my better eating habits. I thought the delivery was going to take place this afternoon so I could cook this evening but I did not have the refrigerator in place until after 8 pm. So I will cook tomorrow.  I have a new red lentil and kale soup to try as well as a beet salad. Those two items, along with other healthy food,  will get me back on my path.  Now to tackle my bookshelves.



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Challenge update

One and a half out of three. I have been keeping up with the Bala Yoga Challenge.  My exercise routine is fairly well back on track.  My diet is getting there, if I could only get to the grocery store. The National Novel Writing effort is not going well at all.

Keep on going.

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November challenges

One challenge would be plenty, but I have four challenges lined up for November.  I guess my month “off” was just what I needed to get going again.  So, here they are:

1. Get back to my regular exercise routine.  October was my month to kind of relax and take it easy after a pretty hard driving few years of training.  I had not slowed down much (other than when I was forced to by illness). I was tired and my body and mind just needed some down time.  It’s been nice but I am ready to get going again and Sam has given me a schedule that should kick things into gear.  I am still not really ready to commit to races though the HIM Augusta/IM Florida package got me a bit excited.  No, I did not sign up for the double.

2.  Get my diet back on track.  Travel, schedule, not exercising much – all of these have impacted my diet the past month or so.  By diet I no longer mean diet with a capital D, but the way I now normally eat. I have been making due in October.  I need to resume cooking, planning and eating healthier again.

november challenges

3. #balayogachallenge  The yoga studio that I went to in Kirkland, Washington has a 30 day challenge for November.  Even though I don’t live near enough to practice there, I am going to play along with the challenge.  There is a theme for each day and the goal is to post a photo related to the theme and also focus on the theme for the day.  I think it will be a good thing for November and will motivate me to continue my practice.

4. Finally, I am taking the National Novel Writing Challenge this year.  I’ve thought about it in the past but I have never done it. I am going to make an attempt.  It may not be a novel.  I may resurrect the children’s books that I began when I worked with Sue Stauffacher several years ago or I may concentrate on writing stories that have been floating in my head and getting gummed up.  Who knows what I will come up with?



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Last time to the lake and other thoughts on a month of rest

Today was the final open water swim of the season. Days are getting shorter, the water is getting colder, and it is time to take a few months off from the open water. I will miss it and the Tribe, my friends who I swim with each week.  Today I really needed to swim. My back was bothering me a little for some reason and I knew just getting in the lake would fix that.  At first I was going to wear my wetsuit like most of the rest of the group.  But the water was 74 degrees and I just didn’t want to hassle with the wetsuit.  So I went in without.  74 may sound warm, but it is enough to shock you when you first dive in.  It took a few minutes to get acclimated but then I was fine.

I don’t usually backstroke in the lake, but today I did for a short distance.  It’s a different perspective and certainly different than backstroking in the pool and looking at the rafters.  It took a little while to find my pace and rhythm today and relaxing with the backstroke helped. I resumed freestyle. I stretched out, aligned my core and felt the wonder of my stroke pulling the water back towards my body as I moved forward.

lk tuscaloosa

October has truly been an off month this year. I was tired from a hectic schedule of training and racing over the past year.  I have not done much since Augusta and it is really time to get back on track.  I’ve enjoyed a bit of a break though. I have not felt bad when I didn’t train for a day or two.  I’ve slept in, read books, shopped, caught up on a few things.  I resumed my yoga practice after 8 years of not practicing yoga.  It has been good for body and soul.  I am still working out kinks in my poses and re-learning but it is coming along.  I’ve ridden my bike a few times, been in the pool,  and started lifting weights again.  I think I have only attempted one run since Augusta. I have no real desire to sign up for even a 5k right now.  Obviously, it was time for a break.

But, as I said, breaks come to an end and I need to get back to work.  Not training can only last so long for me these days before I start to also feel the negative impact of not feeling as good and of struggling with weight again.  So, come November, I will be back on my schedule though I am in no rush to race for a while.  I’ll enjoy a few more days of rest.

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Transitions and inversions: Life is wonderful

I have recently re-discovered my yoga practice.  It is a wonderful joy and I am loving re-engaging with my practice and with the way my body feels and moves in yoga. While I was in Washington, D.C.  I took a class and was fortunate enough to discover a workshop on the shoulder joint that Chrissy Carter was leading on Saturday before I left.  I do wish I had found it earlier so I could have attended more sessions.

studio dc

On Thursday evening the teacher told us the theme of the class was transitions.  I almost laughed.  That seems to be my life right now – one large, long transition for the past few months.  I have gone from one end to the other, thinking I knew what was ahead in my life only to find that I was totally wrong.  That is what often makes life wonderful – not knowing what lies ahead.

It seems that I have also been practicing inversions quite a bit.  (Here are two  articles I found that lists benefits of inversions.)  Inversions turn us upside down. Everything looks different, therefore opening up new perspectives.  Practiced correctly and under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher, they are truly beneficial.

The workshop on the shoulder joint was truly fascinating and enlightening.  In this kind of workshop you often have to get up and close and personal with someone you don’t know in order to really learn.  The benefit is that most people who come to a workshop like this know and expect that.  Tracing the shoulder joint, understanding more about how it works and moves has already been beneficial in my continued yoga practice as well as in the pool.  This adds a dimension to what I have already learned about my stroke, breath and alignment.

One of the wonderful surprises of returning to practice after the other training I have been doing is that some poses that I was never able to do seem easier.  I have moved into pigeon pose on more than one occasion without the difficulty that I recall having years ago.  This is a hip opener, an area of my body that is notoriously tight which has caused problems when I run.

There are many poses that continue to keep me humble though.  I will probably never  be able to do a handstand due to my vision issues.  There are other poses that I am working on as well. It’s all a learning process and a wonderful journey.  I am glad to be back on the mat.

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Augusta Half Ironman: A few more miles to go

I did not quite make it to the finish line as I had hoped.  66.2 miles is much farther than I have ever gone though. There were many things that went right on Sunday and the months leading up to Sunday.  I’ll concentrate on those factors for the most part.


In early June I received a text from none other than Jeff Spires, our favorite TriAugusta ambassador.  Jeff wanted to know if I had a place to stay during the race because the Butler family were offering me a place to stay.  Jeff connected me with Kim and we exchanged information and made arrangements to meet when I was in town for Gatorfest. I felt truly blessed by such a kind offer and even more so after meeting the family and spending the weekend at their home.  This was the first race where I actually had a tri sherpa. I was so appreciative of being dropped off and having help gathering everything after the race without having to walk a mile carrying my gear.  They were also on the run route cheering.  Lily is quite skilled with a bullhorn :)

butler familyThe photo includes Nick, Eddie (who ran as part of a relay team this year), Lily and Jack.  I am sorry that I did not get a photo of Kim.  I look forward to seeing everyone again when I return to Augusta.


Anyone who participates in triathlons knows the amount of preparation involved.  There is a lot of preparation, training, revising, refining, etc.  My preparation involved training for several months,  figuring out the right nutrition for this year, packing, re-packing, taking things out and packing again, and, finally, the few days before the race.

My overall preparation was not as consistent and smooth as I had hoped.  Early in 2014 I was sick for several weeks and my training all but stopped.  In August and September my attention turned to helping my sister who was ill.  I was away from home and training for almost 2 weeks. My training was put aside, other than going to some yoga classes primarily for relaxation, and I considered not going to Augusta because I didn’t feel that I was really prepared enough.  I knew I had enough training overall and since my only goal was finishing, I decided to do the race.

One thing that I did figure out was my nutritional plan.  This has been the most difficult part of my longer races and rides.  This year I finally figured out how to carry a water bottle on the run. It is not as easy as it might sound to non-runners. It is essential for me. I also started using Skratch Labs about a year ago and switched from gels and other supplements to real food.  Before I left Tuscaloosa I made a batch of peanut butter and jelly rice cakes, wrapped them up (still not as pretty as Kim Bragg, but I am getting better).  I also determined how much Skratch Labs I would need, got the packets ready, and decided that I would carry two water bottles on my bike and stop at each aid station to refill the bottles with water and Skratch Labs.  I decided to use not only the raspberry but also the rehydration mix during the ride.  Before the race I had a bottle of mango hyper hydration mix.   On the run and right before the swim I did use Hammer gels.   My only nutrition mistake was taking a Bonk Breaker on the run since I didn’t have quite enough of my own stuff with me. Never again. I know I don’t like Bonk Breakers.

I also planned my breakfast and tried to pay attention to my nutrition leading up to race day.  The difficult thing about not working out for periods of time is that my weight creeps up.  I did put on some weight before the race and that made things more difficult overall.   Getting my weight back to normal will be the focus of my training the next few months.

dinner 2014

Friends 20140926_195630

I can’t say enough about the wonderful friends I have made through the Augusta group.   IMG_224235604438531 (By the way, who can name the common factor in these photos?)  We ate a lot, laughed, encouraged one20140927_183516 another, had fun.   This is pretty much the way it goes with this group.  On the course there were lots of shouts of encouragement from many people and to many people.  There are first time half Ironman competitors and seasoned veterans in the group. There are so many more fantastic friends.  This year the group was split between Augusta and Chattanoog since  number of people who were at Augusta last year competed in the full Ironman this year.  It was a great day in both places.

Race day

Sunday, September 28 was race day.   I was up at 4 a.m. and Kim and I left the house shortly before 5.  She was volunteering at the morning bag drop off but took me as close to transition as possible on the way. I set up the rest of my transition area, got my tires pumped, talked to a few folks, and headed out to the swim start – only to turn back to transition since I had my glasses on.  My plan had been to say to Lisa Hughes, “Lisa, don’t let me leave with my glasses on” but I forgot to ask her to help me out.  By the time I made it back to the bus line, it was pretty long so I walked to the swim start.  That had been my original plan anyway.  It is a good way to clear my head and get mentally prepared for the day.

On Friday there had been a practice swim that was a bit tough.  The water was cold, the weeds were near the surface, and the swim was just slow.  I didn’t worry a lot about it but it wasn’t the practice swim I had wanted – or many others had wanted either. Sunday morning was different though.  Water had been released so the weeds were not near the surface. The river looked fast though it was not as fast as last year.  I was in the 5th wave so I did not have a long time to stand around and wait.  I decided to sit on the dock and wait for the back of the pack before I took off.

My swim was smooth and steady.  I stayed a bit over, but not close to shore.  I was fairly straight down the river and did not get hit or kicked or punched much.  A few times when I was looking for my next landmark one of the kayakers asked if I needed help. No, I am just looking for a marker for my progress.

My time was slightly slower than last year though the river was not as fast.  My overall swim was much better though.  All the open water swims that I have had since last September have helped me become more comfortable in the water.  As you can see from the swim exit,  I am quite happy.


Transition was slower than I anticipated but I wasn’t concerned about that either.  I took time to do what I needed to, even though I did put my cycling gloves on inside out.  I had to fix that at the first aid station because they were driving me crazy.

Getting out on the bike took a minute.  My shoe was not fastened and I needed to get that right before I took off.  It was nice to see Glen on the hill and hear his words of encouragement. I started off in the right gear and got going pretty easily.  I have ridden and driven the course so I was ready for it.  Getting to the first aid station was pretty smooth.  I decided I would spend around 3 minutes at each of the aid stations. (My race, my plan.  Hush.)  This gave me time to take care of my water bottles, get a salt tab, and anything else I needed to do.  At the second aid station I let a young girl pour water on my head.  She was enjoying doing this for cyclists and it felt pretty good even though it was not terribly hot.

This year what I call the washboard road didn’t bother me. I was ready so I didn’t stop multiple times, thinking I had a flat tire.  The two mile hill came and went.  I wasn’t fast going up but I didn’t get off my bike.  I slowed enough at thebike2 hairpin turn not to crash.  The steep downhill was 36 mph, but I missed getting up the steep mile 47 hill because I didn’t drop my big ring fast enough. It just made me laugh. The end was uneventful and I once again enjoyed the cloverleaf getting back to Sand Bar Ferry.


My time was a bit slower than last year but we had a head wind and I took the time to stop and take care of my nutrition at the three aid stations.  I did not stop a number of times along the way as I had the first year.  The ride was very enjoyable and I used the time to scan my body and make sure I was in alignment.  My guess is about 2,000 people passed me. Many of my friends passed me and called out as they did.  I called out to others as much as I could.  The weather was beautiful and it was a great day to ride.

I made it to T2 right about the time I predicted that I would.  I must have looked wobbly because one of the volunteers asked if I was ok.  I was.  T2 was slower than planned as well.  I had a harder time with my shoes than I thought I would have.   I also chose the wrong pair to wear, as it turned out.  Though the shoes look the same.  The pair on the left, which I wore on Sunday, cut into my right foot.

shoe choicesI knew my run would suffer because I had not been running.  Still, I thought I had far runmore than enough time to complete the run, even if I walked most of it.  I had my water and nutrition this year.  The run starts out on a slight uphill and then the rest is totally flat.  I walked up the hill and thought I could begin running once I reach the flat part.  I never really ran much of the course though.  I simply could not get started.  This year I stopped at every aid station and took water and an orange or banana.  I was making it down Greene Street in a decent, though not fantastic, time.  Friends on their second loops were passing me and we called back and forth.  Broad Street is the best part of this course because there are so many people out cheering for the runners.  Once I passed the corner where I was pulled off the course last year I felt a great sense of relief and I kept on going.  I made it down to the end of Broad and turned to head back.  The course passes the finish line and continues for the second loop. I could hear names being called at the finish, including some I knew.  I kept going. The most difficult part of this race is continuing down Reynolds past the turn for the finish line.  There isn’t much out there and there are not spectators, at least not by the time I got there.  There were a lot of people coming back from transition with their bikes and gear which only made me feel worse.  Eventually I made the turn back to go to the second time on Greene Street.  The aid stations were being dismantled by the time I got to Greene Street but there was still water and I moved a box to get a banana to stick in my jersey in case I needed it later.

Greene Street is really long when there are not many other runners on it.  I still saw people I knew though and they were making good progress towards the finish.  I was really dragging and feeling bad when I heard someone call my name.  I didn’t stop because IIwas just trying to keep moving.  But Allison Crow caught me and started going along with me, encouraging me and helping me make it a little farther.  She had already finished.  I met Allison last year and consider her one of my Augusta friends.   A police officer gave me water and the medics were at the corner where I finally knew I could not go any farther.  My knee was bothering me  quite a bit and I had nothing else in me.  I really did not want to meet the medical team again this year, but I did.

At the start of the run my back was bothering me but it quit hurting at some point and then my right foot started hurting due to the shoe problem.  This was what finally ended my run.  I was also having difficulty breathing but was able to visualize to help with that.   I made it 66.2 miles this year, 4.1 miles short of the finish line but still farther than I have made it in the past.

Medical tent medal

I was taken to the medical tent and checked out.  They gave me ice for me knee and Allison called Kim to tell her where I was.  The medical tent was also being dismantled by the time I arrived but there were still people there.  I saw the woman I had leapfrogged with on the bike finish the race.  The medical tent volunteers had been given finisher’s medals but one volunteer came to me and handed me his.  He said I had gone much farther today than he had and that I should have it. While it is a finisher medal, I know I didn’t finish the race on Sunday.  But the gesture and kindness made me cry and touched me.  I will cherish that medal until I earn my own finisher’s medal at Augusta next year.


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