Friday, December 30, 2011

Me versus the majorette

I recently found an 8x10 photo from my days as a majorette at Nitro Junior High School. I scanned it and posted it as my profile pic on Facebook.

I don't spend much time worrying about aging. I've been using quality moisturizers since I was 21, and will continue to do so, I have good genes (my grandmother's skin is softer than mine) and I quit going to the tanning bed years ago.

But when I did the math on how many years it had been since the picture was taken, I let my curiosity take me down a fun road: I wanted to see how much older I really looked.

So, I cropped the majorette picture and juxtaposed it with a mug shot taken of me late this summer.

You can clearly see some aging on the image to the right (above). I wouldn't go so far as to call it a wiser countenance, but definitely one that reveals experience, hardship and certainly plenty of adventure.

I seem to have more freckles today, and I stopped using Sun-In years ago so that the hair color you see today is all natural. And I definitely don't look 14 anymore.

But I don't look 50 either.

The picture was shot 22 years ago. When I consider that, I'm pretty pleased with how the ruggedness of life has treated me. I certainly could have aged much more rapidly these last years.

Of course, because by now speaking of the topic I will have jinxed it, the picture that will be taken of me 22 years from now will undoubtedly reveal a horrid old lady.

I hope you'll still be reading to find out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Free cup of Joe has big payoff

Courtesy Holtfield Station
The drive-through line at Holtfield Coffee Station was moving along pretty quickly as usual. When I reached the microphone, I began placing my order.

"Just a regular cup of coffee, please," I replied after the voice had asked me what I wanted. I frequent this small town treasure so often, sometimes they greet me and tell me to just "go ahead and pull on up," already knowing what I want. It's a "Cheers" kind of moment.

When I reached the window, the manager, Tina, told me that the person in the car in front of me had just paid for my coffee.

"What? Really? You're kidding," I said, my mind now trying to recapture any detail from the vehicle that might clue me in as to who this sweet person was.

"No kidding," Tina said.

With no one behind me and Tina taking care of other business, I noticed someone I knew waiting on his morning beverage inside the store.

"Brent, do you know who that was by chance?" I asked, hollering in at him.

He moved in a little closer to say: "No, I sure don't," but he did try to describe her.

Well, I knew it was a her at least.

Stories are being told by media outlets around our area, including our very own Hillsboro Times-Gazette and Wilmington News Journal, about individuals anonymously paying off the layaway balances of those indebted this holiday season.

Perhaps this lady felt inspired to do something benevolent having read these stories. Perhaps she's the very reason for those stories in the first place. Nonetheless, I may never know who she is and, therefore, certainly never discover why she bought my coffee Tuesday, Dec. 20, but that isn't the point, is it?

Generosity such as hers makes you stop and consider your blessings, brings out humility and greatly inspires you to pay that kindness forward.

Thank you, ma'am, for the coffee. It only cost you $1.29, but it restored my faith in mankind this holiday season. Furthermore, that state of "grateful flabbergastedness" in which your kindness left me was an important reminder of how I feel each time I think about what Jesus did on the cross.

"What? You did that for me? Why, I didn't do anything to deserve that!"

No, I certainly didn't ... and that's the point of Christmas.

Please have a wonderful holiday season, everyone. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 5 things to do when you're a sidelined triathlete

5) Register for a crazy race ... like an Ironman
There is no better time than when you're not training to decide to push your body to the limits. Galvanizing the courage to register for an Ironman is easier when the terrorizing headwind from yesterday's 30-mile bike doesn't remind you of how extreme this sport is.

4) Promise yourself a PR ... right after an injury
You've been out of the game - for a long time. Once the doctor gives you the go ahead, you've stored up enough determination to resolve that the next season is going to rock. Why should your focus just be on remaining injury free? Why shouldn't it include a PR from the get-go?

3) Live with regret
Nothing signifies a hopeful look toward the future like a forlorn expression in the rear view mirror.

2) Blame it on the gear
Pretend that every piece of equipment or gear you don't have could be the one that makes you the triathlete you've always wanted to be ... because we all know time in the saddle has nothing to ultimately do with performance.

1) Blog about being a sidelined triathlete
Hey, there's a gem in every experience ... or non experience.

Clearly Digging for Blog Material

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I've lost it

I knew that being off the last five months because of feet injuries could lead to difficulties getting back in the game; I just didn't believe it could be this difficult.

The pain in my feet comes and goes. Just when I think the pain has left the body, a whisper of its existence reaches out to the soles of my feet. I will finally see the physical therapist. I promise. Really I will.

The least I could do, of course, is to strength train in the interim, right?

Yes. Of course!

I went to the Y on a Monday night three weeks ago and did a little of that. I haven't been back since.

I could also be swimming, too, right?

Yes. Of course!

Unfortunately, my swim suit is ruined and I haven't had the chance to travel an hour to a big city to shop for a replacement.

I have to be brutally honest with myself: I've gotten out of the habit, succumbed to laziness, have lost the fire and motivation to kick butt when it comes to triathlon training and am clearly making excuses.

I think I need to register for a half iron-distance race which will, I guarantee, scare me into getting motivated.

That really is what I'm going to have to do. I've got my eyes on the half-distance portion of the American Triple-T in Portsmouth, OH. I will definitely have more to share with you about that race in an upcoming post, so be on the lookout.

Cheers and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Food, family and a mascot that actually exists

By far my favorite holiday, its Thanksgiving's simple premise that makes it extraordinary: Cook and eat food with family or friends, and a world hushed and settled from its typical hustle and bustle serves as the holiday's backdrop.

No gifts to buy, no elaborate decorating to do ... and, most importantly, no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny.

Those annoying, imaginary mascots have become so ubiquitous during their seasons, they really need to create another word which would mean super-ubiquitous. Kind of like in 9th grade science class when we learned about saturation, only to discover when we flipped to the next page of our textbook, that something called super-saturation exists.


No, Thanksgiving is all about a real animal, a turkey. We kill it, cook it and eat it with people we like, or people we're willing to put up with for a few hours because we love them ... or so I've heard.

Though turkeys are just as synonymous with Thanksgiving as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are with Christmas and Easter, respectively, I take solace knowing that turkeys are, indeed, real, and have an actual connection to their holiday.

For that, and for that alone, the November holiday will always get my thanks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It's like I'm half triathlete, half human

An adorable neighborhood boy, approximately seven-years-old, kept riding by on his bike, his eyes fixed on the black cowboy hat my husband, Gary, had sitting out in our yard sale recently. After a few back and forth trips, Gary walked over to him, placed the hat on his head and told him he could just have it.

His excitement about this unexpected gift prompted him to bike home to his family a few houses down the street and tell everyone the good news - including his brother.

Several minutes later, the two youngsters reappeared, one of whom was grinning ear-to-ear with the oversized cowboy hat atop his head.

They began looking at more of our yard sale items, and the kid with the cowboy hat announced to his brother, not knowing we could hear him, "It's like I'm half cowboy, half human."

Gary and I chuckled as quietly as possible to ourselves and then busted out laughing once they were out of earshot.

Though humorous, what this young fellow said seriously reminded me of how I feel race morning when I don a swim cap, my bare feet planted in the shifting sand of the shallow water in the lake, the race before me weighing heavily on my mind.
Me at my 2nd tri on 9/14/08.
I feel like I'm somebody else, certainly not the makeup-wearing woman clad in a business suit and four-inch heels most days.

There is, indeed, almost a dichotomy of personality. When you're out in the water or on the road, your body sweating, your nose running, your pores collecting dirt from the wind, all while you wear a skin-tight tri suit, you realize something very simple about yourself: Right then, you are just a machine.

It's no wonder heading back to the office the next morning, having curled your hair, put on some lipstick and snapped your pearls around your neck, that you feel like a girl again, the machine put aside until the next race.

But on that particular day, this new cowboy's innocent truth not only caused me to laugh at the moment, but also served as a reminder that whatever half I am, I should never take any portion of it too seriously.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday blog hop

Here is a great way to follow other blogs and for them to learn about and follow you. Just click on this link.

Have a great Monday, everyone.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dear three donuts I ate this morning

You were looking oh so sweet as you peeked through the plastic window in the otherwise green and white Krispy Kreme bag those first two times I passed by you on my way to the coffee.

My plan was to avoid you in my quest to make my fat jeans loose jeans. (A very recent discovery.)

But something happened between breakfast and lunch. It wasn't your doughy allure, though, on that third trip that prompted me to pluck you away from the others. I just got hungry. Plain and simple.

Normally, eating one of your kind has more to do with having a hankerin' for something sweet, a state in which I find myself most of the time.

But today, it was all about business. You were a means to an end, and nothing more. I was able to mollify those hunger pangs and go on to eat an otherwise healthy-in-terms-of-me lunch, dinner and snack.

However, chin up there, donuts. If someone brings more of you in to the office tomorrow, I'll gladly tumble off the wagon and fall into your loving arms again and not give another thought to those jeans.

It's what I do.

Sincerely yours,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quote of the day

This quote always give me chill bumps - every time I read it. It's a great reminder to take a chance, especially during those times when apprehension can become paralyzing.

"You'll always miss 100 percent of the shots you didn't take."

Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The agony and no ecstasy

In February, it was my back. In April, it was my neck. In July, it was my feet. Now, in October, it's my toe.

Yes, my toe, but I'm getting ahead of the story.

My mom purchased plane tickets for her, me and my sister to visit my brother, sister-in-law and niece in February. I was in such agony, I thought I'd have to cancel the night before. My lower back had not hurt that bad in years.

I made it through, barely, with Ibuprofen and muscle relaxers, came back home and saw the doc. She put me on those same drugs, and added Prednisone to the regimen. A few days later, poof! The pain was gone.

In April, I developed a stiff neck associated with stress for an event I was planning. Not unusual for me ... except that when the event was over the pain wasn't. Instead, it was escalating.

I went to the chiropractor for the first time. After an x-ray and MRI, it turns out that I have a bulging disk in my neck.

OK. That's manageable. I ran my second half marathon with a PR in May.

In July, I injured my feet. I believe the culprit was a new pair of wedge high heels (that were a size too big) I'd worn for extended hours while covering the Festival of the Bells.

This has plagued me ever since. Most days, though not horrific, the pain is noticeable.

I ran a 5K on a whim on race day earlier this month and experienced no pain as a result of that decision.

Optimism, though always keeping me going, was finally edging out the darkness and light was at the tunnel's end. I would do some very short runs and bikes to get started back up again.

On what was certain to be one of the last nice days of the year, a perfect opportunity to train, I injured my toe. I'll leave out the details, but suffice it to say it would be extremely foolish of me to stress my foot for the next two months.

All of these injuries have been breaking my triathlon-training heart. I am not using them as an excuse not to train. Indeed, I'm dying to train. My tighter slacks and race-day pictures like these remind me of that all too frequently.

Here's hoping that I can call this the Year of injury, put it in my past and call next year the Year of First-Time Marathoner and First-Time Ironman. Fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A nod to the past

May 1999.
I wrote a eulogy in two hours the night before my dad's funeral which was 11 years ago yesterday. He died on Oct. 17, 2000, just two weeks before his 50th birthday.

I don't spend much time commemorating or celebrating holidays, anniversaries or birthdays. They're just another day of the year to me. When I do spend time reflecting on those days, though ... well, I end up getting sad and blogging about it. :)

I found the eulogy in an old journal recently. I thought I'd share a couple interesting moments from it as I look back on a very sad time in my life 11 years ago. It's a good reminder of the anguish and fog with which those days were filled, but how I've still been able to move forward toward many good things after the biggest tragedy of my life. Thank you, Jesus.


...But then the question came to me: "What was great about my dad and how was he special to me?" All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind regarding his personality, his values and his attitudes.

He always welcomed me in or came in to a room with a lively, yet humble smile, ready to be friendly and take a sincere interest in your life.

...His death has made me realize this: I just enjoyed being in his presence.

Now, I would be remiss if in talking about Dad's life on earth, I didn't talk about his new life with Christ.

I've talked to a few people who've expressed a curiosity pertaining to Dad's salvation, and when I relayed to them that he was saved, they were so at ease.

So, be assured that today, my father is with my Father. Through his sickness, he trusted Christ. Through his death from his sickness, he is with Christ.

I went to King's Island recently, and they've just built the largest, fastest wooden roller coaster in the world. As my friend and I were standing in line waiting to ride, we couldn't help but to stand in awe of the intricate, complex structure which supported the track. It was probably more amazing to behold than the coaster was to ride.

Remembering that support structure, it reminds me of God. In some places, the foundation stood high. In some places, it stood low.

It always met the track where it was; either falling down a dip or going on a straight line high off the ground.

That's exactly what Jesus does: He meets you where you're at, but He also refuses to leave you where you're at.

Jesus met Dad on a steep, unexpected dip called terminal cancer.
Gary, David and me 10-21-11.

But they met.


I've moved on since those days. I've been happily married for nearly 10 years, have awesome step-kids, have the coolest job and remain close to my mom and the rest of my family. The Lord continues to bless me.

Not a day goes by, though, that I don't think of Joe Kiser. Some days, like today, it just bites more than others.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saying goodbye to what would have been my first

Several months ago, I added the Columbus Marathon to my Google Calendar for Oct. 16. I was excited to add it, even typing in parentheses, "First One!"

Sadly, injuries have kept me from being able to train for it. In fact, though I have two half marathons under my belt, I wouldn't have been able to even do the half again this year. I was lucky to have squeezed out a 5K last weekend.

Admittedly, I was envious of my friends who were Tweeting their times at the various points in the race, like I had done the year before. However, it was still cool to be able to congratulate them being a member of the club, so to speak, and understanding the challenge and reward of their training.

So, as I allowed myself those few moments of sadness today looking at my calendar, I truly believe that hope springs eternal in the human breast and nowhere is that more evident in my own outlook.

Today is the first day of the rest of my adventure, and I'm already looking toward next season. I'm definitely eyeing the Flying Pig in May and the Nationwide Columbus next October. Plus, throw in a few triathlons in the mix and 2012 could be quite spectacular.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

No training, no problem

Thirty minutes before the gun went off, I decided to run a 5K.

I had been a part of the organizing committee for the Highland District Hospital Foundation's Inaugural Family Fun 5K and had no plans to run; I was going to help. A half hour before the race started, the RD said there were enough volunteers and said I could run if I'd like. The only running essentials I had on me were my running shoes and iPod (which I realized after the race started was dead).

Well, really what more do you need to run than just a pair of running shoes?

My colleague, the managing editor of The Times-Gazette, Steve Roush, decided last minute to run the race and showed up on site. It was great to see him and we agreed it would be cool to run it together.

Steve told me that it had been four years since he'd run. Having lost several pounds in recent months and owning the eliptical at the Y, he was ready to go, but planned to take it easy.

I've been dealing with some kind of feet injury since July. It's some kind of muscle issue as a result of wearing the wrong pair of new high heels for too long over a three-day period ... I believe. So, I've been taking it very easy on my feet since my last tri on July 30.

Considering everything, teaming up with Steve for the three-mile run was a perfect plan.

We kept the same pace and only walked twice (walking a few yards to sip on some water). I went a little slower than my normal pace, but it was very comfortable and allowed me to soak up the beautiful scenery even more. I felt good the whole race and my feet didn't bother me.

We finished 56 and 57 out of about 120 with an approximate time of 38 minutes.

My hamstrings, quads and abs are sore today ... so are my feet, just not in the exact spot where my pain had been. I'm hoping it's just regular muscle soreness from lack of use.

We'll see.

Of course I'm biased, but this race was awesome. The family-friendly atmosphere was a hit with parents (pony rides, bounce house, pumpkin decorating and 10 and under fun run), the backdrop of the lake was beautiful, it was well-organized, started on time and had plenty of volunteers.

I can't wait until next year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why do you blog?

I'm working on a story for Salt Magazine about why people blog, specifically as it relates to preserving memories. I'll explore my own reasons for blogging in the story, but I was curious as to what compels other bloggers to publicly journal and share their lives.

I can tell you briefly that, for me, it's a way to share my life with family members who live far away; to share my journey with others traveling the same road. Someone once said that friendship happens the moment one person says to the other, "You do that? Me, too!"

It's also a way to leave behind a part of myself someday.

You can answer one or all of my questions. If you're comfortable, you can leave your real name and location.

  1. Why do you blog?
  2. What specifically inspired you to start?
  3. What do you blog about?
  4. Do you ever go off-topic?
  5. Do you consider your blog a way to leave behind a legacy?
  6. Why is blogging a good tool for you to use to preserve who you are and where you've been?
  7. What do you find to be most satisfying about blogging?
  8. What are some surprises you've had from blogging, such as meeting new people, discovering more about yourself, etc.?
  9. Anything else that you would like to add?

Thank you in advance for your answers. Shoot me an email at if you have any questions. I'll be sure and link to the story when it comes out in November.

I'm really looking forward to what you guys have to say!

Friday, September 2, 2011

7 reasons to run with a sippy cup

A lady on Beginner Triathlete posted this recently, and I just had to share it with you. Here are raeray80's reasons why she races with a sippy cup:

7. Carries 10 oz., just enough to take two good sips every five minutes on a 70-80 minute run.

6. Built-in, no-leak silicone valve means no unscrewing of cap, and no push-pull action to manuever with one's teeth to get a drink. Just lift and suck!

5. Spill-proof for a toddler = spill-proof for me! The cap of a dropped sippy cup does not pop off, exploding my precious drink everywhere when my hands get sweaty and I have an "oops."

4. Contoured design makes it easy to carry without a strap.

3. Running with a sippy cup screams confidence. Yeah - that's right, it's a sippy cup. You can stare all you want. I know you wished you'd thought of it. Yeah, keep staring, pointing, laughing at the ridiculous awesomeness that is beholden to me.

2. With so many color options, I can pick my mix 'n match cap and bottle to fit my mood. Am I cheerful? Pink with a yellow top. Patriotic? Red, white and blue. PMS'ing? Environmental? Sleepy? Lazy? The combinations are limitless.

1. Price tag: $1.97. Enough said.

You can click here to read the rest of the forum.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I can't run or bike, but I can ... smile?

Despite tossing my shiniest pennies in the wishing well and pretending I don't have a problem, I feel compelled to publicly confess that my foot injury continues to leave me beleaguered.

Frankly, though, I do believe the triathlon from two weeks ago was not as big of a contributing factor to the decompensating well being of my feet, as was just the general hope that things would get better if I only wore high heels two times a week instead of six, simply took it easy ... and then trying to take it easy only to fail miserably.

Indeed. It is time to reschedule that physical therapy appointment.

Until then, it would be imprudent to train and risk further injury. This weekend's perfect weather, however, stirred up almost enough temptation for me to say, "Aw, forget about it. I'm hitting the pavement."

I did say, "Almost enough."

Currently, I can still walk, though, and my pups must be very thankful for that. During Sunday's late afternoon stroll through the uptown streets of my city, I was living in the moment, choosing to not be upset about this predicament and to soak in the extraordinarily picturesque day at my feet.

It was easy to do.

Passersby must have thought I looked ridiculous, walking a black Great Dane and a Yellow Lab mix with a smile plastered as wide across my face as far as east is to west. How could managing those guys be enjoyable?

Who cares? I was celebrating the gift of a partly sunny, mild and breezy day, and being thankful to God for my life and for the many, many good things in it.

Though I can't run or bike (swimming is probably out, too), I'm going to put aside the racing, negative thoughts that coincide with being inactive during recovery, and appreciate what I am able to do. Perhaps I'll now spend my triathlon training time practicing Yoga and hitting the Y to focus on much-needed strength training.

If the world is going to pass me by as I recover, I might as well smile, wave at it and give it my love.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mourning fading body markings

My race #176.
I hate to admit it, but I become a little sad when my body markings from a triathlon begin their inevitable fade.

After all of the race belts, heart rate monitors and ball caps have been stripped from us, clean, dry clothes have replaced our damp, sporty tri suits and we've moved on to watering the vegetable garden instead of a state park lake watering us, those markings continue to serve as that last reminder that can still cling to us of what we've just accomplished.

During my post-race shower, I do lather-up my arm and calf where a race volunteer painted my race number and age, respectively, on my skin at 6 a.m.; I just don't work hard to completely remove the ink, scrubbing a little less on those spots than on the rest of my body.

Me speaking at a Chamber seminar.
Then, I make sure to at least wear a sleeveless top - a skirt, too, sometimes - to the office the following Monday. "Oops. I thought I got all of that off," I'll say with feigned alarm and indignity after a coworker will have pointed out "some black stuff" on my arm.

They'll now, of course, know to no longer do that.

What that temporary, numerical, black ink does for me after I've switched back to news girl Monday morning, is remind me of something unique and cool I did over the weekend. It reminds me of how different I am in this regard than most people I know; a state of being I used to be frightened of, but one I now warmly embrace in large part because of this sport.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Heck, yeah, I raced ... and it was awesome

Through a series of injuries and intense workload at the office the last year, I've had little time to train or race for a longer distance triathlon.

In fact, I should not have even raced Saturday.

But that sense of invincibility that plagues (er, benefits) us in our youth, reappeared and kept whispering to me, "Eh, it's just a two-mile run. How bad could it be?"

As it turns out, about as bad as I thought, but I'm getting ahead of the story.

At the last minute, I registered for the inaugural (there is no such thing as "first annual," folks) Giant Eagle Multisport Festival's Tri for the Cure at Alum Creek State Park in Columbus, Ohio. This park is the scene of my first triathlon just three short years ago, and holds a very dear place in my heart.

The distances would be very short, and I was ready to give it my all.

With a 250-yard open water swim, 77-degree water temperatures and the best time trial start to which I've been witness, I was down-right eager to get started and to push myself harder than before.

Harder than before ended up meaning just under eight minutes to finish the swim, but as I was recalling those waters three years ago, when I was backstroking and wearing noseplugs, wondering how on earth I'd ever make it to the end, eight minutes for me is standing ovation-worthy.

The seven-mile bike was a lovely course winding us through a perky, well-to-do residential neighborhood and I felt pretty strong most of the ride. I even passed a couple people going up the one and only hill at the end. I told my husband and photographer, Gary, before the race, "I should be done in about 30 minutes." With 29:48 on my HRM coming up on T2, I was spot-on with my prediction.

My legs were heavy, of course, having just come from the bike, so I took it a little easy starting out on the run. Luckily, that feeling was sustained only briefly and I was able to increase my pace.

I was, however, dismayed to see that midway through, part of the run would take place in the grass.

You see, my latest injury has involved my feet and I knew that the rocking on the uneven ground would likely produce pain greater than I had gambled on.

The truth is, after an x-ray revealed no bones were broken, I had been taking it easy - even wearing running shoes to a business casual work environment - as I had been saving up my physical health capital for this race in case I decided to participate at the last minute ... which I clearly did.

So, I was prepared to expend a little of that capital, but that grass run emptied out the bank account slightly more than I'd anticipated.

My main goal for participating in this race trumped my concerns about my feet in the hopes that it would yield a capital gain of another sort: my mental health capital.

Because it's been a year since I've competed in a triathlon - I did manage to squeeze out my first half marathon in October 2010 and run the Flying Pig Half Mary this May - with each passing day I was watching the 2011 tri season pass me by.

Friends were posting race reports online, showing race-day pictures and sharing personal bests. All while I sat on my rear and ate hamburgers and cookies. This is not usually an issue when I'm training, but those calories certainly add up when I'm not.

Frankly, it was depressing.

I needed to get in to the game - albeit briefly - to feel like my old, slow triathlon self again.

However much I may have hurt physically, I more than doubled in feeling good again. It was well worth the trade-off.

Just look at this last photo! This girl couldn't have had a better day ... and my feet are feeling better now, too. All truly is well.


I came in 86/168 overall with a time of 58:08, ranked 142/168 on the 250-yard swim with a time of 7:54, ranked 77/168 on the seven-mile bike with a time of 29:48 and ranked 74/168 on the two-mile run with a time of 17:01.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A change of pace

My latest column for The Times-Gazette:

The annual Festival of the Bells Firecracker 5K is this Saturday and I challenge every runner and walker to come on out for some lighthearted competition through the streets of beautiful uptown Hillsboro.

In case you hadn't heard, the race is being moved from the cross country course at Liberty Park to Hillsboro's uptown streets, and I am really looking forward to the change. I enjoyed running at the park when I competed in the Firecracker two years ago, but a lot of the half-marathons and triathlons in which I compete typically take place on the road. It's what I prefer.

According to Pat Reinholz, the coordinates the Firecracker, I must not have been alone.

Click here to read the rest of my column.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The name I won't let them call me

Me, right, as an unhappy teen.
The slicing, cruel words that formed the blueprint for the first batch of self-esteem that underpinned my teenage and young adult years are unforgettable.

"Stupid! Ugly! Loser! Dumb!"

Whether hurled by the boys or by the girls, to my face or behind my back, I would try for the next several years to shiver, shake and squeeze out of their mold.

Like millions of pieces of gum stuck to my body forming that mold, I would spend time each day, slowly peeling off one sticky little piece of embarrassment and untruth at a time.

Maybe someday I'd be able to see what I really looked like underneath the world's casting and coloring of me.

The great news is that I did. That journey is another blog post, but a new lease on life in college, some maturity that comes through experience and, most importantly, the saving grace of Jesus gave me a much-improved, second batch of self-esteem.

Even with a house full of self-confidence these days, on occasion I hear those words in the air, caught in the breeze between two nearby trees, usually on a cloudy day.

I don't hear them for long.

Me, front center, with friends in Slovakia after college.
It is, however, the word that was never used by the kids that lingers with me most days; like a soft ghost sitting in the corner of my room, her legs crossed, her elbow on the back of the chair and her hand gently resting on the side of her face. "Are you sure?" her gaze seems to ask of me.

That one word they could never cast my way, an arrow of such outrageous fortune that I do everything I can to this day to avoid it being thrown my way by a new cast of characters.

One less word with which to hurt me.

They could never call me fat. If I could at least control that, I would feel ahead of the game ... at least until the next insult.

I was always a skinny kid and young adult. At my heaviest I weighed 140 pounds for about a year in college. I found a way to get motivated and I soon dropped 20 pounds putting me back at Lora size, which is approximately where I remain currently.

You see, if I could stay skinny, that would be one less weapon in their arsenal.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, everyone makes stupid or dumb mistakes, comments, decisions. Loser is a nice general term which covers everything negative you believe to be true about yourself. If you're a bully, it's really a nice catch-all term that I would personally recommend.

Though when someone is thin, fact certainly must reign over opinion. It's rarely in dispute, at least in Flyover Country.

Toyota Olympic Tri on 9/27/09.
It's no secret that I train for triathlons because the workouts are so intense that weight loss/maintenance is nearly inevitable. I also enjoy eating, so I choose to alter my physical activity more than my diet.

I've been able to move past from the things that were said about me in so many ways. I just hadn't realized until recently, upon thinking about graduation during this graduation season, and about my school years, how I'm still living my life because of that one thing unsaid.

I've been able to forgive those kids (they were kids, after all) and I find myself grateful (not happy) at times for those experiences. They've made me tougher.

I'm not proud that I still allow this part of the past to affect my present, especially when considering how much I've been able to leave behind, and care even less what people say about me (90% of the time), but there does exist a silver lining with the cloud.

Though the name they didn't call me might be the underlying compelling for training and racing, it has brought me in to a sport that I have come to love as a big part of my life. I love to run, I enjoy the challenge of swimming for a couple miles and I enjoy the courage cycling for long miles pulls out of your soul.

Now, if I could just find out what that lady ghost wants, I'll have good material for another blog post.

Monday, May 30, 2011

VOTE! How often do you drink from the bottle?

According to a Runners World article posted by, the best way to gauge how much you should drink when training or racing is to ... gulp ... let your thirst be your guide.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

"It's pretty common for athletes to hit at least one or two percent dehydration during endurance events," says Craig Horswill, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. "The body's temperature-regulating mechanism is affected even at one percent dehydration."

It is, therefore, Horswill's (and Gatorade's) opinion that even small amounts of dehydration should be avoided because it will affect performance.

At the other end of the spectrum, overhydrating can be even more dangerous than not drinking enough. Hyponatremia occurs when your fluid intake exceeds your rate of fluid loss from sweating, which results in low blood-sodium levels. Symptoms—nausea, disorientation, muscle weakness—can be similar to dehydration. Giving additional liquids to hyponatremic runners only exacerbates the problem by diluting their blood-salt levels even more, which can lead to coma and, in the worst cases, death.

Be sure and read the entire article for the full story on both sides of the argument, but needless to say, the conclusion that the International Marathon Medical Directors Association released came down to one simple prescription: Drink when you're thirsty.

"The new scientific evidence says that thirst will actually protect athletes from the hazards of both over- and underdrinking," said IMMDA.

Isn't the body a remarkable machine? I have been teased by triathlete friends about dragging along an Aquafina for a 5K, but I know that my body needs it.

I also have a friend that can't consume any liquids at all during a race of any length or she gets nauseous.

It really is about the genetic makeup of each individual and no one-size recommendation fits all.

So, go on, ya'll. Keep teasing me about my 20 ounces, and we'll see who's laughing when I pass you to cross the finish line.

Yeah, I know. That last line made me laugh, too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Mountaineer" wins first place Associated Press award

Me holding the awards.
Stunned was really the best way to describe how I felt when the announcer called my name.

I'm a triathlete. No, let me expand that label. I'm a slow, middle- to back-of-the-pack triathlete. Having my name called for a first-place win has only happened once. (I took first place in my age group at a 5K a couple years ago. I've still got the red University of Dayton prize hat to prove it.)

I've heard my name called during races while crossing the finish line at triathlons - and that was especially meaningful at the end of my first tri, an arduous, reach within your guts and ask God to pull out the courage personal trial - but never for having podium'ed.
First Place Best Blog award.

So, when the announcer at the Associated Press Society of Ohio's annual awards banquet called my name as first place for best blog for the *Division 1 category, I felt very surprised ... and honored. "This only happens to other people" or "Are they sure they didn't mix up the order?" were a couple of the many thoughts buzzing in my head.

I was also fortunate enough to take home a second place win for the news videos I produce (Online Photojournalist), which is also quite an honor.

The last year, 2010, was my first full, calendar year having worked in the newspaper business, and it was also my first year being nominated. Having seen the caliber of submissions and the outstanding work other newspapers around the state produce, I really am humbled to even have been nominated.

Second Place Best Online Photojournalist award.
I'm even humbled to have just been in the room. I have a dream job and the fact that I was sitting in that room on that day having just been honored with those placements, was easily a pinch-me moment.

My husband is a former newspaper editor who won quite a few awards in his day. There is no one I admire more professionally, and it was great to have him by my side.

Gary and me.
I've been a little hesitant to post about the win. I'm just struggling between trying to be humble yet trying to accept a compliment, in this case the awards. Plus, I had to miss church Sunday to attend, so ... you do the mental health math.

But I am never going to win an AP award for the first time again, so I'm sparing a few minutes to type up this post. Maybe this will be one of those moments, just like finishing my first tri, that I can look upon with great fondness and remember how far I've come someday.

However it all can be described, though, I could not be where I am today without Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. Period.

*There are five divisions. Division I: 32 papers; Division II: 23 papers; Division III: 16 papers; Division IV: five papers; Division V: six papers.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A surprising personal best at Sunday's Flying Pig Half Marathon

My finisher's medal.
The whole morning before the race started I was wishing I wasn't there.

I don't mind racing in the rain ... when it's warm, but the weather at today's Flying Pig Marathon/Half Marathon brought cold temperatures (60 F is cold for me anyway) and, though I was dressed for rain, I was utterly dreading it.

As usual, I got to the site extra, extra early. The race started at 6:30 a.m. and I was there at 4 a.m. I just like to have that much room for margin of error and to get a good parking spot. I got ready, took a half-hour nap, then walked to the starting line corrals, or Pig Pens.

It was beginning to rain at that point, a cold rain, one that goes to the bone. As I was walking to my Pen, I stopped a couple times in a porta potty (there was no line and plenty were vacant) to just get away from it.

I toughed it out and got to my Pen, moving my way forward so that I could seek shelter under an overpass. I was not looking forward to racing in this rain. (Have I mentioned that yet?) It was barely 60 degrees and the wind blowing off of the Ohio was certainly not warming things up. I was going to be miserable. I wanted to just get back in my truck and leave.

I didn't even hear the gun go off I was so far back; I just started moving forward with the others. I began walking past people so I could start sooner than later so I could get the race overwith and get out of what was sure to be miserable, rainy conditions.

As I was walking fast, and especially as I began running after crossing the timing chip mat, I was delighted to observe that the rain wasn't nearly as cold as I thought it would be. Indeed, pretty soon I realized how good it felt.

It rained for about the first 45 minutes of the race. Once it died off, I pulled out my iPod and kicked off the music with Adele's Rolling in the Deep.

There were 6-7 hills on the course, a few of which were on bridges. I kept telling myself to take it easy and pace myself because I wanted to be able to report that I ran the entire 13.1 miles...

My race bib.
...And I am happy to report just that!

From mile 7 onward, there were many times when I wanted to take a break and walk. Plus my HR was pretty high. I just slowed down on my run and brought it back to a comfortable mid-170s.

Miles 10-13 were the hardest. You know you're so close, but still have a few miles to run. Thank goodness for the iPod, especially the last mile. It began to rain hard enough to warrant tossing the iPod back into my Fuel Belt, so I did. Pretty soon I realized I absolutely had to have it to get through this last mile, so I pulled it back out. Luckily, the rain turned back into a mist and thanks to R.E.M., Fall Out Boy and Live, I was able to push through.
I picked up my pace the last quarter mile and crossed the Finish Swine.

Second half marathon DONE!

I couldn't believe I'd run the whole thing without even stopping and especially without even stopping to stretch. I think in my first/last HM, I had to walk a little bit on mile 11 or 12, and I stopped multiple times to stretch.

That is probably why I knocked EIGHT MINUTES off my time over my last HM! Woo hoo! I thought for sure that I'd see an additional 15 minutes on my time for this run given how little I'd trained and when you consider the obstacles hills can be. In fact, I told my husband the night before, "I'll be surprised if I come in under three."

Needless to say, I'm very, very pleased with my performance in this race. Most importantly, though, I'm glad to now be home in warm, comfy clothes and already daydreaming about my next race.

That is, of course, always easier to do after a race instead of during.

TOTAL TIME: 2h 40m 09s

OVERALL: 7,342 out of 10,870

DIVISION: 583 out of 985

GENDER: 4,040 out of 6,859

P.S. For those of you who are curious, I did NOT see the streaker that got Tased by the cops. Sorry.

Friday, April 29, 2011

No breaking the 'Piggy' bank for Sunday's half marathon

Poster given as part of my packet.
"...Miles run in practice are like dollars saved in the bank. You can withdraw them when necessary." - Marathoner and author Hal Higdon on Facebook, 3/28/11


It was touch and go for a while, but I'm ready to race the Flying Pig Half Marathon this Sunday, my second half marathon. In fact, I picked up my packet in downtown Cincinnati this evening.

Some recent bouts with back and neck pain have left me unable to properly reinforce - or even rebuild - my capacity for half marathon(ish) distances since I finished my first half in October.

A recent trip to the chiropractor to address said problems left me questioning not only my fitness for the race, but my fitness in general. (A second trip to the doc later confirmed that I was being paranoid. "You mean my head won't fall off anytime soon?")

Since Jan. 1, I have only run 44 miles. Hardly a proper requisite for heading into a half marathon in two days.
A backpack was also part of the packet.

My longest run since my 13.1, half-marathon run in October was Monday ... as in four days ago! It was two hours and 13 minutes' worth of pavement-pounding to reach 10 miles.

I've managed a few six- to seven-mile runs over the months, but I felt that if I could just squeeze-out a 10-miler before race day, I could do the race.

And I did.

I'm a little concerned about not having trained better, but one thing that I've learned above all else in endurance sports is that so much of the challenge is mental ... and I feel more than prepared in that regard.

So, I'm going in with a positive attitude, hoping that the 44 miles I'll be withdrawing from the bank will pay off in a decent (for me) finish line time.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Seeing proof that your body's turned against you

"Can I see?" I asked the doctor behind the half-wall who was looking at the computer, my X-Rays displayed on the screen.

"Sure," he replied, then pointing to the black and white images of my skeleton said: "Most people's necks curve forward and yours is curving slightly backward," or something like that. The exact details didn't matter at that point. You just know you've officially received word that you're messed up.

"Really?" I said, drawing out the word to reveal my fascination.

He went on to point out some other things of interest, some vertebrae tilting and out of alignment (You know? Small stuff.), and said the other doctor would be meeting with me to go in to more depth.

How I ended up in the X-Ray room of a chiropractor's office on a Monday morning was not how I foresaw the beginning of my week, but a recent, unrelenting stiff neck was my cause to be there.

When I get a stiff neck, I usually medicate with Advil, take it easy and in a few days it's gone. When this began to occur, it was a few days before a mayoral debate I was planning for our newspaper, and I just assumed the pain was from stress. Several days later, the pain was still there, traveling outward and getting worse.

I don't know what, in particular, led me to the chiropractor after years of not seeking their consult for back pain that has ailed me for years, but there I was. I'd heard good things about these folks and was just open for a new opportunity for relief.

"Yes, your right hip is higher than your left hip, and your right shoulder is higher than your left," the attending doctor told me before the X-Rays were taken. He tested my range of flexibility and some other basic functions, sent me for the X-Rays, hooked me up to these electrodes on my neck and lower back for 10 minutes and then had me cap-off my morning's activities with a massage.

I'm feeling better, but I'm still sore. I go back in a couple days for a consult and a treatment plan.

I'm registered for the Flying Pig Half Marathon on May 1, and I could probably run it, but it's hard to think about running hard when you've seen the vertebrae in your spine misaligned and wonder how far away you might be from some sort of physical tragedy. (I know I'm probably being somewhat paranoid.) I could walk the 13.1 miles of the race, but I'd be dying to run the whole time.

Here's to hoping these guys have some kind of answer about my spine being out of whack so that the season ahead - to which I'm so looking forward - doesn't become the same.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How gaining a little weight helps you lose it

It was, of course, inevitable.

Eat with abandon and train for first place in the couch potato contest, and the extra pounds you're gaining will announce their presence in a loud - and very unexpected - trumpet call.

"Dum, duh, duh, dummmmmm!"

They creep up quietly, though, hardly noticeable, leading you in to a false sense of security that you can eat anything you want and still look like you're 25-years-old with your 16-year-old self's metabolism still along for the ride.

The pants I snagged from White House Black Market for twenty bucks; on sale from their regular price of $98. Their length was unacceptably long. I would have to spend eight more dollars to get them hemmed, but I was still getting a bargain.

That was October. It wasn't until this past February that I got around to taking them to the seamstress. They were a little snug then, but still felt comfortable.

I plucked them out of my closet last week to wear them and was stunned when I tried putting them on.

"I can't even get these bleepin' pants to button!" I grrrred, standing by my closet, my husband sitting in a nearby room, undoubtedly questioning the veracity of my statement to himself. How many times had he heard that line?

So perhaps I'm the girl who cried fat one too many times, but the evidence was unassailable: The pants I bought five months ago fit then. Now they didn't.

This was the moment, however, for which I'd secretly been waiting. The moment I knew I had to stop imagining that the calories from multiple Frisch's Big Boy platters would not have an effect on my bottom.

This was the moment I knew that I had to get serious about not necessarily eating right, but about quitting eating so doggone wrong.

I'd spent the cold, winter months giving in to the French fries and giving up hope that warm, 30-degree temperatures would soon be headed my way. I'd spent too many extravagant meals believing that past training would still pay off for me today in the same waistline.

So far, so good. I've manged to consume much more water and make healthier choices this past week with surprising ease.

Instead of several "oops" per day, I've manged to cut it down to one or two, hoping they'll all add up soon to one less pant size.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Mountaineer" wins Associated Press award

That's me on the right.
The Associated Press Society of Ohio announced last week that "The Iron Mountaineer" is one of three finalists for Best Blog.

(Here's a link to the full story.)

I am completely humbled and honored - and excited!

I am also pleased to be a finalist for Best Online Photojournalist, as is my colleague John Cropper at the Wilmington News Journal. Meredith Creek, a colleague at The Times-Gazette, is also a finalist in the Best Blog category for her blog "This Side of the Creek."

The Times-Gazette's website, which I administer with my colleagues, is a finalist for Best Website. Congratulations to the Wilmington News Journal and to the Record-Herald on their many nominations, too!

Thank you, thank you to the readers of this blog for taking time to stop by and read my thoughts. Your visits make it all worthwhile!

With gratitude,

- Lora Abernathy

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The top 5 swimming pet peeves

I was visiting a friend's blog earlier today, and she mentioned how annoyed she gets at women who are afraid to get their hair wet in the pool. It served as a source of pet peeve inspiration for me, and I thought I'd share a few of mine when it comes to swimming in the pool.

Please, stop trying to smell good
I'm referring to the men and women who wear cologne or perfume to the pool. When I'm swimming, I get the pleasure of swallowing their Old Spice or Halston when I come up for air. I'd just rather smell any BO they're trying to cover with it. Really.

The splashy flip turn
I've been in lanes next to people who barely move the water when they flip, and then I've been next to others whose splashes are so huge, I wonder if they aren't making some kind of political statement. It doesn't bother me when I'm swimming, but when I'm taking a break at the end of the lane and have to take cover as they approach, that's when it gets annoying.

I haven't mastered the art of a flip turn. Perhaps I don't fully comprehend how difficult barely splashing is to master, and maybe I'm being too judgmental. If that's the case, I'm sure someone will let me know.

Forgetting a key piece of equipment
You gather all of your belongings and gadgets and double-check your bag. You get in your truck. You drive across town to the Y. You trek across the long parking lot - more often than not in extreme cold or extreme heat. You swipe your card and sign in. You walk to the locker room. You find an empty locker. You open your bag only to discover that you should have triple-checked what you brought because you forgot either your goggles or your swim suit.

No problem. You can go for a run on the -- oh, wait. You were wearing high heels and didn't bring your running shoes. Because of time lost, you now no longer have the time to train.

Kids hanging out in the lap lane
If no one is swimming, I don't mind kids doing handstands or chatting about their boyfriends. If they're using the only other empty lane, I'll kindly ask them or their parents if they would mind moving. They move, but not without getting huffy with me like I've done something wrong.

The goggle marks
No matter the type of goggles or how loose I can make them and still seal out the water, I look like a freak for the half hour following my swim. Luckily, I can toss on a pair of shades and usually go straight home after I train.

I'm very fortunate in that I've only had to share a lane a handful of times during the two years I've been going to the Y. I'll take one side and the other individual takes the other. I haven't had any problems with this like I know a lot of other folks do.

Out of all of these pet peeves, though, that first one is easily the one that gets me choked up the most.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Are you in The Black Hole of training?

As a result of my purchase of a bike trainer from Nashbar back in September, I received a one-year subscription to Outside Magazine. I really enjoy the magazine, and though they'll only have an occasional reference to triathlons, I still enjoy a lot of its content and features.

One particular story got my attention.

In this particular issue - which features an always stunning James Franco on the cover - this feature tells the story of Norwegian rower Olaf Tufte as it relates to what is named in the article as The Black Hole.

The premise behind the story, as can be found in its caption, is this: "Middle-of-the-dial efforts produce middle-of-the-pack results."

I'm a complete back-of-the-packer to sometimes middle-of-the-packer ... depending on who shows up on race day. Speed has not been a big priority to me - yet; my focus has been on distance.

Check out the story.  Do you agree with the premise? Do you have any personal experience? I'm really curious.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The quote that's keeping me going

Enough perusing on the Internet on triathlon-related sites would nearly guarantee that you've come across this quote. I believe its meaning underpins the attitude most triathletes have about life and about their training.

As I consider the fright of the Ironman race, especially in these winter days, as training volume is lower and I wonder how I'll ever have the time to build up, this quote is an affirming pick-me-up.

It reminds me to soak in this amazing world God has created and to appreciate all of the blessings in my life - even when the blessing of warm weather is months away.

Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty, well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming: "WOW! What a ride!” - Unknown


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