2015 training for heart & brain


Resolutions are such bunk. What better way to start off a new year than setting ourselves up for failure?! And yet, thanks to radio and television programs which drone on about resolutions, resolutions seem unavoidable. It’s no surprise many of us buy into the idea that we must dramatically change our life. Why do we torture ourselves so?!

Sure, a new year definitely brings with it the idea of renewal, rebirth, rejuvenation, but let’s tone it down a little, folks. Let’s reframe those resolutions.

First, pause. Take a few moments for silence. Turn off the tv or radio, step away from the computer, put down the Smart Phone or tablet, and listen to the quiet . . . then search your heart. Chances are you know what changes you need to consider. Notice I wrote “consider,” not “start.” For me, just acknowledging and thinking about a specific issue I’m struggling with is a hard enough “start.”

While I’m not a big follower of self-help gurus, I’ve learned some of their notions are pretty spot-on. Take, for instance, the idea that most changes we make in our lives do not come easily. To change, we first must want it.

Another truism gurus spout is being steady with one’s progress. While quick results definitely feed that baby within who “wants what she wants and she wants it NOW,” real results come from taking a slower, more focused and conservative approach to change.

In 2014 I identified four goals I wanted to complete: the spring Hawkeye 50k trail run in Solon, the annual Cornbelt 24-Hour-Run in May, the Racine, Wis., Ironman 70.3 in July and by year’s end, lose 30 pounds. Three out of four ain’t bad.

The 50k was awful, but I finished. The 24-Hour-Run was a joyful riot and I’m definitely doing it again. The half Ironman was amazing so I’m doing that again, too. But the weight loss? Hmmmmm.

Food, per se, is not the enemy, it’s what I eat. For the record, I love garbage. Chips, candy and pastries? Deep fried anything, heavy cream sauces and extra cheese? Bring it!

I’m 8 pounds lighter going into 2015 and while that’s far from the 30 I’d hoped to drop, it’s been a year of learning how hunger, boredom and anxiety play into how and what I eat. In the past year, I’ve really begun to experience the power food holds over me.

A year ago I embarked on a 90-day candy experiment in which I cut candy from my diet. Are there times when I’ll eat candy? Sure, but I don’t consider it a daily or even weekly component of what I put in my mouth.

I did a couple of cleanses and food challenges and through them, am gaining a better understanding of portion size, calorie count and that if I string together too many days “good” eating, I get really, super grumpy.

I’m seeing I will never achieve eating perfection and that it’s ok to have days where I “blow it” and eat anything and everything. What matters is how I follow up those junk days. When I refocus my senses, allow my body to feel hunger and provide necessary structure for my eating, I don’t feel like a failure.

I bought the book “100 Days of Real Food” by Lisa Leake and am realizing the importance of cooking, and that preparing a box of Hamburger Helper does not constitute cooking. I and my family don’t need to drown our veggies in cheese or our pasta in heavy sauces.

I guess I’m growing more mindful of the impact healthy and unhealthy food has on me and my family, and that I don’t have to be so black and white about my food choices. It’s ok to indulge so long as the Big Picture focuses on better health.

Early last month I discovered hot tea. I’ve always wanted to be a tea drinker, but coffee has been my standard go-to. Then one morning I dropped a tea bag in hot water and “Bam! I’ve been doing it every morning since. Does that mean I don’t drink coffee? Heck no! As with candy, I’m totally game for coffee, but I don’t need it.

For 2015 my goals include losing 20 pounds, shaving at least 30 minutes off my Ironman time and focusing less on racing and more on increasing strength and balance. And not just in a physical sense.

As evidenced by Linda Watson’s column last week, change is in full swing at The Observer and who knows where that change will take us. It seems prudent, at the very least, that I slow down and focus on each day. How can I make it better, not just for myself, but for my family and those around me?

I pared down my calendar of events. Instead of four marathons, I’ll just do two. Instead of a race every weekend, just one or two a month. And with both kids in middle school, include them in my training with spins in the basement and hikes at Maquoketa Caves, Scott County Park and the dirt tracks of the Paul Skeffington Memorial Trail.

My 11-year-old son and I like to joke about our 1-pack abs, but when I spin on my bike in the basement or bust out 300 crunches, I want my kids to understand it’s not about the size of my jeans or what I look like. It’s about function. I cannot run or bike or swim or anything if my body doesn’t function properly, which brings me back to food. We can exercise 8 hours a day, but if we’re not eating well, we won’t function.

At Casa Reed Murrell, we don’t diet. We train—our brains, to crave healthier food and our bodies, to live stronger. We’re far from perfect, but we’re moving forward.

If I gleaned anything from my 2014 calendar it was that more is not necessarily a good thing. So I invite you to step into some silence and meditate on what your heart and body are trying to tell you. What is it that needs altering in your life? Maybe it’s nixing Coke, maybe it’s removing a game from your Smart Phone, maybe it’s adding more Down Time to your life.

Whatever your gut is telling you, I promise you change is possible.


Originally published 3 January 2015 in The Observer.

Beatles tribute hits Vegas jackpot


It was a moment of weakness when I registered for the Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon last spring. Friends were signing up & the early-bird registration was quite affordable at $125. So with thoughtless fingers, I completed my online registration.

I had no business doing so, for several reasons: A) I did a Rock & Roll half marathon in Chicago in 2010 and given the high price tag, it should’ve been fabulous. It wasn’t. Neither awful nor awesome, the “meh” attitude with which I was left me caused me to swear off future Rock & Roll events.

vegas mom & dadMy second mistake was forgetting I’ve never had a desire to visit Sin City, ever. It’s hot, it’s crowded, I don’t drink, I try not to smoke and I don’t gamble.

Then I figured it could be a short getaway for my husband and I . . . until Marty was lured to Florida for a week of golf with his brother-in-law. Then, as the event grew nearer, the friend I planned to travel with opted to drop out.

When I told my mom about the event and my predicament, she said her and Dad wouldn’t mind going back to Las Vegas since their last visit had been 25 years ago.

So I booked a package deal through Allegiant Air for the three of us. Flying out of Moline Friday afternoon and returning Monday, we had rooms at The Mirage and complimentary tickets to the Cirque du Soleil Beatles LOVE show for Friday night.

Because I’d never expected to visit Vegas, I was ignorant of its geography and really only knew it sat in the desert. I didn’t realize it was surrounded by the attractive red rock of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Sitting sandwiched like an eight-year-old between her parents, our flight out was cramped, noisy, but incredibly smooth. (Our return was opposite in every way: I’d selected seats with extra leg room, the 7 a.m. departure was quiet, but both the take-off and landing were a bit bumpy.)

Arriving in Las Vegas mid-afternoon we were able to check-in to our hotel, collect our tickets for the 9:30 show that evening and visit the race expo for my bib number and swag all before supper.

Having left Dad back at the hotel, Mom and I tackled the expo by ourselves. Try as I might to avoid having my picture taken, Mother insisted I stand before an expo sign. Ugh. But as fate would have it, while Mom attempted to take said picture, some people began walking in front of me. Turned out these random strangers were friends from the Cedar Rapids/North Liberty area who I didn’t know would be there! It was estimated 40,000 runners participated in the Saturday and Sunday events and there I stood with a gaggle of buddies as if we were at some local Iowa race!

Mom marveled at the size of the packet pickup and number of vendors. While I normally loathe expos because of the crowds, seeing Mom sample nibbles of mint chocolate chip PowerBars and snatch up free samples of organic Hemp Pro protein powder, it was totally worth it.

Plus, we both got suckered into purchasing hand lotion. As the vendor massaged the aloe cream into Mom’s hands, she said the magic words, “It won’t wash off, no matter how many times you wash your hands.” Mom, being a nurse, immediately said, “We’ll take two.”

Following the expo, we grabbed Dad and enjoyed a massive buffet at the hotel. If I was still drinking, it would’ve been a steal at $35 a head because all-you-can-drink wine and beer was included. That said, I attempted to eat my weight in sushi, shrimp and chocolate . . . not the best move considering how tired we were feeling and still had the Beatles show to see at 9:30 (11:30 our time).

But what a show!!! I had absolutely no idea the sensory overload we were in for. Premiering back in 2006, much of the music featured came from the Beatles psychedelic album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The songs and voice overs of John, Paul, George and Ringo were acted out with the acrobatic prowess of the famed Cirque du Soleil troupe.

Done “in the round” with the audience circling the stage, our nose bleed seats from above gave us a bird’s eye view of EVERYTHING! Whether it was trapeze artists swinging from a ceiling dripping with twinkling lights to the sound of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” or bubbling, billowing fabric slithering from a rising bed and covering the audience 20 rows deep during “Within You Without You,” the three of us agreed you simply didn’t know where to look!

From all directions came colors and movement and sounds. No wonder the people sitting next me had seen the show seven times! Every song was a different scene offering weird, eye-popping, candy-colored costumes. We were riveted by the roller skaters zipping and flipping over half-pipe skate ramps to the song, “Help!” and transfixed by the floating jelly fishes bobbing from their bungee cords during “Octopus’s Garden.”

I could go on, but no words, no photos will ever do this 90-minute show justice! That, alone, made the trip worth it.

Tune in next week for two vastly different tours of the Las Vegas Strip!


Originally published 22 November 2014 in The Observer.

Vegas 26.2 proves too great a challenge


I’d traveled to Vegas to run the Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon. My husband couldn’t join me so Mom and Dad opted to go!

It’d been 25 years since they last visited Sin City. A lot has changed. We spent much of Saturday morning and afternoon walking the Strip. I booked us at The Mirage because not only did I think Mom and Dad would enjoy it, but the marathon finished there. Little did I know it was also seated at the north end of the Strip.

Strolling south we visited casinos in Harrah’s, the Flamingo, New York New York and the Monte Carlo. There were crystal chandeliers, hot pink leather seats and gorgeous silver Audis waiting to be won. Absent were the tuxedo’ed James Bond-types.

~vegas marathonThough the casinos were mostly the same, Mom and Dad both admitted disappointment with how lavish and outlandish the Strip had become. The old Vegas was gone, replaced with extravagant shops like Prada, Tom Ford and Guicci. It’s truly like a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.

We had supper at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill inside Harrah’s. With hard-working waitresses in cowboy hats and chaps, Mom and I giggled watching tables of middle aged men drool over the in-your-face breasts and butts, ignoring their poor dates.

The rest of the evening and much of Sunday I hung out in my room while Mom and Dad roamed around. The anxiety I normally feel before a marathon was amped up even more because it was a night event. Start time: 4:30 p.m.

When I joined Mom and Dad for coffee and muffins Sunday morning and again for lunch, I kept telling them, “This wait is killing me!” As with many runners, I’m used to a morning routine of coffee, breakfast, race. This was a mind game of waiting. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t relax, couldn’t calm down. Despite it being my 12th marathon, it felt like my first.

Ever since my first in 2010 when I saw a runner wearing a tall Eiffel Tower cage, I knew I wanted to run in costume. Since then I’ve acquired all sorts of tutus and shirts and tights. For Vegas, I decided to go with a holiday theme: red tulle skirt, black capri tights, candy-cane striped socks, a Santa hat, elf collar and a green t-shirt that read “Santa’s coming? I know him!” from the movie Elf.

Some people think I do it for attention, but I dress up to give other people a laugh and this costume didn’t disappoint. While waiting for the race to start, a gaggle of Santas passed through my start corral so I shouted, “Santa! I know him!”

When the Santas turned around and greeted me, I turned to my race mates and screamed, “They know me!” That’s all it took for a few of us to start swapping Elf movie quotes. Still, we were in for a long wait and though the majority of runners were doing the half, even they were antsy to get going.

I was assigned Corral 28 based on an estimated finish of 4:40—a tad hopeful, but not impossible given my marathon PR is 4:32. But this was the first I’d run with a required finish time of five hours or less. That, alone, does a number on the psyche.

Though the race started at 4:30 p.m., it wasn’t until 5:10 that I go rolling and by the second mile I knew I was in trouble. Whether it was the long wait to start, the previous day’s walking or the evening timeframe, I could tell I was pushing too hard and getting nowhere. I felt like I was in quicksand.

As the course ran along the Strip, I took in the lights, but worried. I spotted my parents and Hi-5’ed Dad, not stopping to talk. Off and on, I ran with a Quad City friend who was doing the half.

Around the ninth mile, she veered toward her finish while the full course headed to Fremont Street, which was a delight! With a massive video screen canopying the pedestrian mall, crowds lined the race course and Hi-5’ed us as we went through. I noticed my face was having trouble smiling. My cheeks wouldn’t work!

And then it happened. Just before Mile 14, as I trailed runners taking the course’s left turn, several race officials walked onto the course and formed a human barricade. I’d missed the cutoff. Me and everyone behind me were denied further progress.

I heard one runner shout at the race officials, pleading he be allowed to continue. No dice. We’d run the first half too slow. They’d turned us around and sent us back to the finish.

This was on an out-and-back portion of the course so we blended in with other runners who’d already circled through the portion we hadn’t.

I felt a weird mix of angst and relief. Like a neon billboard, the thought that crowded out all others was: “This would be my first DNF (Did Not Finish).”

I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong. My training was solid, the course was flat, the temperature was perfect and yet none of that matter. It was a race in which things just didn’t come together.

As the course took runners back through Fremont Street I tried to smile and wave. When I headed toward the finish, I palmed the many hands sticking out. I felt like a poser, but couldn’t find another way off the course. I headed down the finisher’s chute and over the finish line. Weird.

I spotted a half marathoner sitting along the edge, pulling out a cigarette. I nearly joined him. I felt gross, on the inside.

After my parents found me, their faces falling when I told them what happened, I went to my room and messaged friends of the failure. It wasn’t long for a Facebook comment to pop up from one of my dearest friends, Observer-alum Shelly Seifert, “Your children are watching how you deal with this.”

BOOM!

Does it get any more real than that?

There is way too much heartache in this world to let a little ol’ marathon get me down. Besides, I have no regrets! It was a great way to see the city and a fabulous experience with my parents!

For all the junk that chokes my Facebook newsfeed, recently a friend posted an article by runner Dane Rauschenberg, “Six Ways You Can Succeed in Running.” No. 6 on the list was “Remember How Lucky You Are.”

“. . . the main and best thing about running is that you get to do it. . . You are traversing the world, one foot at a time . . . there are thousands who wished they had it so easy. Don’t take it for granted.”

And I don’t intend to. Hopefully Thursday I ran my fifth Turkey Trot in Davenport. Tonight, my son Maclane and I will done costumes for Clinton’s Symphony of Lights 5k at Eagle Point Park. Tomorrow I plan to strap on a headlamp and join my Cornbelt buddies for a 6 a.m. long run along Bettendorf’s Duck Creek Bike Path.


Originally published 29 November 2014 in The Observer.

Break in heat lends to running reflections


For reasons purely selfish, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week’s weather. From the cooler temperatures and clouds to the light rains and breezes, this week has been a welcome respite.

I am someone who will never complain about winter and even though our past cold season was rather long, I tolerate cold much better than heat, which is why my race calendar has dropped off significantly.

Following the Cornbelt 24-Hour-Run the first weekend in May, I skipped a few events and went back at it Memorial Day weekend with the MedCity Marathon in Rochester, Minn., where my most recent fear was confirmed: being jipped out of a spring and tossed right into the lion’s den of SUMMER. Grrr.

It was a quick trip, just 21 hours from arrival to departure, and unfortunately the cloudless morning allowed temps to climb into the 80s. Both half and full marathon runners were bussed from Rochester to the race start in Byron. With the first half spent on county roads, the course rolled past gorgeous farm land that even included a few buffalo corralled in a small pasture.

2014-05-31 23.53.57I rarely spend much time studying a race course and while I knew Rochester had an impressive trail system, I didn’t think the course would join it. But it did, and I found myself struggling to focus on the “here and now” of 2014 vs. the summer of 2011 when my dad, Tom Reed, was at the Mayo Clinic for nearly a month following surgery for lung cancer.

In 2011, the thoracic nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital printed off maps of the trail system which offered me regular sojourns into nature and the chance to worry and fret and cry safely away from Dad’s bedside.

To say the least, it felt a little sad to be back on those trails.

While the lovely volunteers were wonderfully peppy, the heat continued to climb which did little for my spirits. What really helped were the three different times people offered coolers full of ice cubes which I’d drop into the back of my shirt, stuff under my ball cap and hold in my hands.

I was frustrated. Not only did I not have the proper equipment with me i.e. a sweat rag, but I had yet to mentally acclimate to the challenge of heat. Heck, I was still running in jackets and gloves just a few weeks before!

Then there was the little issue of course markings as a few areas during the last several miles lacked both volunteers, traffic cones and paint. I followed those in front of me and was lucky they knew the way. Later on at the finish line, I saw fellow Cornbelt member, Chet Doyle of Rock Island approach the finish from the opposite direction. After he came back around through the chute, he said a few ill-marked turns cost him dearly in more time and mileage. Ugh!

I’d hoped to finish in under 5 hours, nothing too crazy, but still respectable. However, given the memories that were haunting me, the heat that was grilling me and the tentative progress along a few confusing areas, 5 hours began to slip away.

Despite this there was still fun to be had. With a couple of different places on the course in which you’d meet runners headed back at you, I got to enjoy one of my absolute favorite things: Hi-5’ing!

Running buddy Bennie Rheeder of Cedar Rapids taught me to never pass up an opportunity to Hi-5 a kid, but I’d argue it’s even more fun when you’re just a few miles from the finish and you’re tired and hurting and the tank is on empty, to have fellow runners scream and cheer at each other while swapping palm sweat!

Eventually I made it to the finish line in 5:13:08. Given all the circumstances, I was just happy to be done and sitting in my air conditioned car!

I really haven’t pushed myself since then. My son Maclane and I walked the Color the Quads 5k May 31st which, having run the event last year, is a much dirtier experience as a walker.

If you’ve never heard of a “color run” it’s when several color stations are positioned along the course where hoards of volunteers spray you with blue- or red- or green- or yellow-dyed corn starch. It gives you rainbow nose candy and blue ear wax, perfect for an 11-year-old boy whose nickname is “Fluffy.”

Even though we walked it, the heat was high and left me exhausted, which brings me back to the blessed weather break that I thoroughly enjoyed this week!

With breeze enough to keep the bugs away and cooler temps to keep my sweat at bay, I armed myself with a power drill and, with the help of Moira and Maclane, modified their swingset!

Gone is the rocking horse attachment on which neither child could fit. By moving Moira’s single, painfully narrow swing to one end and drilling fresh holes through the top at the other, the three of us found ourselves gathered ‘round the swingset, enjoying the gentle sway of our new porch swing!

And isn’t that what summer break is about? Not so much grueling races, but having fun and knocking out little projects . . . and then taking a little break in the swing.


Originally published 14 June 2014 in The Observer.