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Resolutions for 2010

With the new year, and new decade, around the corner, it's that time of year when people start to make resolutions -- things they want to do in 2010, or change, or be better yet. It's a time of hope in a way. And in some ways it's a time of desperation -- something by which the diet industry is often fueled.

But what if we do want to lose weight, get fit and get healthy in 2010?

If you can avoid the bombardment of television ads and shift through the product placement, there are some really good tips available. (See, for instance, the suggestions from Dr. Mehmet Oz in an article in the New York Times.)

But along with every day changes you can make to be healthier in general, if fitness is one of your broad goals for the upcoming year, there is something really powerful about taking part in a big event.

Whether you're singing up for a marathon or Ironman, entering your first 5K or sprint triathlon or gearing up for a charity walk, there is something inherently motivating about registering for an event. Sure you can go sign up for spinning classes or the latest cardio-ab class at the gym. And those are great way to improve your fitness, meet new people, challenge yourself and have fun. But for many people, there needs to be a bigger end goal. It's not about winning a race, but about being part of something bigger, something you maybe thought you couldn't do. It's something that can keep you honest. Something to make you actually go to those spin and cardio-ab classes you registered for in the first place.

And if you're just starting out, don't let the terms "marathon" or "Ironman" frighten you away.

Because there is nothing wrong with training for your first event regardless of what it is. Years ago when I wanted to take some control over my health and fitness I secretly "trained" for a 3-mile charity walk. Creating my own type of training play I went to the gym (or got outside) several times a week for power walking. I added in some weight training for variety and did some yoga to round out my "program." There are plenty of charity events -- from walks to bike rides to swims -- which can serve as a focal point for your fitness goals.

If you're ready to start running, the Couch-to-5K program by Cool Running takes two months to get you to your first 5K with three runs a week. (And it's free.) There are programs available from that range from training for a Boston Marathon qualifying time to a beginner 5K. (Prices for the interactive program run from $20 to $40). You can google running and triathlon training plans and find tons of options online, some free, some affordable, some pricey. But all of the give you a good place to start.

You can also check out local running and triathlon clubs and Western New York is filled with them. For triathlon, there is the Buffalo Triathlon Club, which in the spring begins group workouts, including the ever-important open water swims. Running clubs are plentiful in the area and while Checkers is probably the best known of them all, there are at least five others with regular workouts and gatherings. The links page on offers a pretty complete listing of running clubs in the area.

As you explore what it is you want to tackle, find your race, your training plan and your support crew it's time to take the next step -- telling people. You don't have to tell them that you're going to run your first 5K in 20 minutes or qualify for Boston in your first marathon. You don't have to tell people who will be negative or question you or bring you down. But tell some people close to you, ones who would support you if you said you were going to run naked down the street during the Blue Moon on New Year's Eve. They will not only give you encouragement, but will give you a sense of making it real. That first race isn't just a wish -- it's a resolution that will happen if no other reason than the fact that you want it to happen.

What will you tackle in 2010?

--- Amy Moritz

Race report: Boxing Day 10-miler

The pile of luggage was rather impressive. Two huge bags waited at my front door, along with me, patiently waiting for my friend Sue to arrive.

You would think the trip was an overnighter, but no, we were just going to Hamilton for a few hours, to run the 89th Annual Boxing Day 10-miler in Hamilton. But the weather report wasn't very helpful in planning. It called for a 50 percent chance of rain and/or snow showers (which means they had no idea IF precipitation was going to fall and were less sure what KIND it would be if it did) and light winds. What's a girl to pack? lots of layers and two different kinds of sneakers along with shower gear for afterward. Yup, it looked like I was moving into the James Street YMCA.

My best running buddies, Sue and Herm, were running in the 10-miler, a tradition in Hamilton dating back to 1920. Training for the Miami half marathon next month, it seemed as if the run would fit in perfectly with my workouts. My coach agreed and passport and overstuffed luggage in hand, off to Canada we went.

About 700 people were in the event, including a fair number of those who chose to walk the 10 miles (the walkers began the route half an hour early). The rain had stopped, the wind wasn't a factor and temperatures were cool but not cold. If the rain and snow held off, it could be a pleasant run, weather-wise at least. With little fanfare, the race began (after a guy yelled "Go!" Thankfully there were no long-winded speeches) and off we went.

My goal for the race was to run a strong a tempo pace. But that first mile is often the most difficult. It's easy to get caught up in the speed of the start and forget about running your race. Sue stayed with me for the first mile and we dialed it back, running smart. I checked my Garmin to keep track of our pace and we ran that first mile right about where I wanted to.

But of course, that first half mile included a hill up a bridge.

It wasn't until the day before the race when I read the course description online, which noted the route was scenic but challenging and described a number of hills.

The description was completely accurate.

It took me a long time to get into a rhythm. The course was pretty, taking us along the boathouse and waterfront. That section was mostly flat with a few slight rollers, until we had to climb out of the park.

Then at Mile 5 came a long hill.

At this point, I stopped looking at my Garmin. There was no need. I would not run my tempo pace up this hill. But the good news was, I didn't care. As the negative voices started to chime in my head, I reminded myself that I was strong, that I could do this and that I trusted my fitness. Up the hill I went. And then I found a bit of a groove.

Until that seventh mile when we hit another signifiant hill. For those of you familiar with Chestnut Ridge, think Mother. It was a gradual climb to start, then a curve, then a steeper climb then a STEEP climb. Everyone around me walked. I kept running. Or at least I kept a running motion. I would like to say that I banished doubt in this instance, but I didn't. I didn't think much of anything. I just kept moving forward because eventually, the hill would end.

When the hill did end, we had a lovely water stop. A 20 second walk break to take in some water and off I went as the course continued onto a dirt path. Parts of the wet mud on the trail had iced over. I picked up my pace and rhythm, but it was definitely under speed. The last thing on my agenda was wiping out after Mile 7.

We hit Mile 8 on the trail then turned out onto a residential road. There was a bit of a downhill (a glorious downhill) until we hit, oh look, another hill. Granted, it wasn't a hill of much significance, but it was a pronounced incline. For the first time during the race, my legs started to hurt. But knowing how close I was to that finish line, I kept thinking about a strong and steady pace.

As the route turned back toward downtown Hamilton, I asked a police officer who was kindly controlling traffic if I was close to the end.

"Just up this dumb hill and around the corner," he said with a smile.

Just up the dumb hill I could handle, but he took some artistic license with the "around the corner" part. There were a few turns to end the race, but thankfully they were all downhill. I kicked it in when I could hear the finish line and sprinted hard.

Was I off my goal pace? Yes.

Was I concerned? No.

Ah, that's the feeling of personal growth.

It was the best 10-miler I've done. It was a strong, solid run and I kept the nuttiness that normally creeps into my mind at bay.

It was a hard course, but it was fun. And it is so on my schedule for next year.

The precipitation held off and my choice of clothing turned out to be perfect. (And yet I regretted nothing that I toted along with me.)

And the best part was sharing the day with two good friends ... along with the gingerbread hot chocolate we found on the way out of town.

--- Amy Moritz

Success of a different kind

Perspective is a wonderful gift. And with gratitude to one of my Twitter peeps, I received a story about a great lesson in perspective.

It was an article from the Northern Ohio newspaper The News-Herald about twin sisters who attempted to run from Cincinnati to Cleveland to raise money for The United Way.

But one sister needed to start walking after 30 miles. The other kept running, but after 200 miles her body broke down.

"When I fell down after almost 200 miles, I cried, not only from the pain that reached its peak after almost 48 hours of pain, but because I thought I failed to reach my goal," the paper quoted Sandi Nypaver as saying. "It was just two years ago that this type of 'failure' would spiral me into a deep depression of self-disappointment. Maybe inspiring others doesn't mean that I had to complete the run in four days, maybe it's still believing after the pain had forced me into the ER."

So often we only celebrate the successes.

But what exactly is a success.

The Nypaver sisters recognized that raising money to help a worthy cause was a success in itself, even if they didn't complete their ultramarathon task.

You do the best you can with what you have, with what you know, at the time. Not only do you get a chance to learn yourself, you get the chance to see some magic happen.

Here's wishing for a magical holiday.

--- Amy Moritz

In praise of sleep

Back in my undergraduate days, we had a slogan at the campus newspaper:

Sleep is for the weak.

Surely you've heard variations of the theme, perhaps even invoked one or two as your schedule becomes packed with things you want to do, should do and need to do.

But sometimes, great results come from rethinking how you schedule.

Enter the athlete's best performance-enhancing weapon: sleep.

There has been some research on how getting enough sleep can improve athletic performance.

Now, count professional basketball players among the ranks of athletes who are playing around with the idea of getting more sleep.

A recent article in the New York Times discusses how several NBA teams have eliminated the time-honored tradition of the game-day shoot-around in lieu of letting their players sleep later. 

"You're talking about our players functioning on five or six hours of sleep a day," Boston coach Doc Rivers said in the Times' article. "and that's just not good enough. 

"If you go three, four, five days in a row with less than six hours of sleep, your reaction time is comparable to that of someone legally drunk. You're trying to play a basketball game where just a 10th of a second, a degree off, throws your whole game off."

Will more sleep allow you to win your age group in the next 5K or finish that intermediate distance triathlon in a podium position? Maybe. Maybe not. It won't turn you into an NBA player or an elite level athlete.

But on all fronts, experts seem to say that fitness, nutrition and sleep is a holy health trinity of sorts. If we plan our workouts and plan healthy meals, it makes sense to try and plan some sleep patterns, too.

Put that on my list of New Year's Resolutions: Sleep is for the strong.

--- Amy Moritz

Race report: Freezer 5K

The inaugural 5K in the Cobblestone District didn't begin until 11 a.m. This makes sense from many points of view, including (a) those who want a later starting time, (b) to wait until daylight actually hits downtown Buffalo and (c) to hope that temperatures warm up just a bit.

Frankly, it wasn't my favorite start time. I'm a morning person. The best part about triathlons and long distance races is that they begin wicked early. Heck, if my training run starts at 7 a.m., that's late.

And so on Sunday I had the entire morning to try and get in the mood to run the 5K. On Saturday I had completed my long run in preparation for the half marathon in Miami. That run was a solid hour and 40 minute run complete with tempo intervals. How I would run a 5K race the next day was anybody's guess.

I had thought about wearing a Santa hat for the race, but recalled my problem last year when the polyester hat just got way too hot. (I still think someone could make a nice chunk of change creating costume running gear out of wicking fabric.) Instead, I wore my usual cold gear and hoped for the best.

The race began on Perry Street, went to Michigan and then turned to go around the back side of HSBC Arena. The course crossed over the metro tracks and went down the Erie Basin Marina, to the observation tower, then back. The best part of a course with an out-and-back is getting to see your friends pass you on their return. First in my view was Nick, who was dressed for the occasion in an elf costume. And it was an all-out elf costume, right down to green stripped tights. He did, however, wear his racing flats and after only a month back to running he raced a PR.

My workout for the 5K was to run negative splits -- in other words each mile should be faster than the previous one. After a 10 minute easy warmup, my legs felt pretty good. The race lined up and that first mile felt pretty darn good too. I felt like I was running well but a bit easy.

That was until I hit the first mile mark and saw my time.

I went out too fast. Like an entire minute too fast. The pace I ran my first mile in is what I was striving to run my last mile in.

This was not a good sign.

I tried to hold that pace for the second mile, but ended up running a tad slower. OK, I thought. We can push through this last 1.1 mile hard.

And I did. I ran hard. I concentrated on keeping my form. And my third mile was my fastest.

Crossing the finish line was difficult. Granted, I didn't expect to PR in this race. That wasn't the goal. Still, there was something not pleasant about this race, something about how hard I worked to get what for me was an average time.

It took me some time (and some improved math skills) to realize that there important lessons in that 5K. That it wasn't the time (the dreaded numbers) that mattered the most but the quality of the run. Getting through a hard weekend of running, continuing to run and pound it out instead of stopping and throwing in the towel because the outcomes were less than perfect, is where the real improvement comes into play.

--- Amy Moritz

Beverages of choice

It's the most wonderful time of the year -- for eating lots of junk food.

Generally speaking, most endurance athletes are in the height of their off seasons and, from what I'm told, gaining weight during this time is a good thing. Still, there's a difference between putting a few extra pounds and being incapacitated by food and so like others, I try to balance indulging in cookies, cakes and holiday cheer with healthy eating habits.

But apparently, grabbing a designer water or sports drink for lunch or a mid-afternoon snack might not be such a great idea.

An interesting article on looks broadly at sports drinks, particularly if they help people during exercise.

The bottom line -- yes they can, if you're exercising for a long duration and at high intensities.

But looking at what you're drinking and understanding why is important. Electrolyte drinks, like Gatorade and Powerade, help with hydration and cramping. But they also contain quite a dose of calories and sugar, which, as the article points out, is great if you're leaving it all out on the road, bike or bicycle court but not so good if you're choosing it to go with your lunch.

Enhanced waters offer some hydration benefits, but as far as a drink during exercise goes fails to have enough sodium to help with endurance and recovery. Also, a little known fact, the NCAA apparently banned some varieties of VitaminWater "because their signature ingredients (caffeine, taurine, guarana seed extract, glucosamine, theanine, green tea extract and ECGC) are considered 'impermissible or banned substances' by the association. Normal consumption of these drinks would probably not put an athlete at risk of testing positive for the substance."

Still, good thing I don't have any collegiate eligibility remaining.

The piece also examined coconut water (good for not upsetting stomaches), cherry juice (better for pre- or post-workout), chocolate milk (best post-workout) and plain old water.

As with any piece of training, hydration is trial and error based on what works for you. I like to use Gatorade Endurance for hour-long workouts. Very long bike rides, I switch to Accelerade while after workouts chocolate milk is perhaps my favorite beverage.

I'll try to stick to water with my lunch, though, and get my extra calories from holiday cookies for now.

--- Amy Moritz

Reflections on 2009

Traditionally, December is the month to take stock of the past year, to review the highlights, the lowlights and to begin to plan for the following year. Part of it is calendar-driven. Another part,I believe is weather-driven as the cold drives us inward and the dark mornings and early nightfall drain us of some motivation to leave the house.

Looking back at 2009, Ryan Lamppa notes his top 10 best moments for U.S. Distance Running in 2009 in a posting on

His No. 1 moment -- Meb Keflezighi winning the New York City marathon to break a 27-year draught for American men at the race.

Watching that race (thanks to my brother and sister-in-law and their fancy digital recording device) was one of my highlights of 2009 as was being a spectator at my first Lake Placid Ironman.

My highlights from 2009 of course include finishing my first marathon and my first 70.3 race. But there are other fond memories from 2009 -- setting a 5K PR this summer with the help of my friend Karyn who, as we were on pace to break it, told me, "Hey, you can do anything for five minutes"; traveling to my first "big city" running event in Miami and learning what it was really like to run until my legs couldn't move; refueling with pancakes after long training runs and long training rides; making new friends who are more than just training partners, they are friends who encourage me, pick me up, and celebrate with me.

What were some of your favorite athletic moments of 2009? Now is the time to reflect. After all, 2010 is around the corner, and a new set of goals, challenges and fun await.

--- Amy Moritz

Italian Tour goes to Washington?

It really sound kind of, well, nonsensical.

Let's take the Giro D'Italia, one of professional cycling's three grand tours, and start it in Washington, D.C.

It's kind of like telling the World Series teams to play the first two games in Rome, then come back to the United States to finish the championship.

But Angelo Zomegnan, the Giro's race director, wants to market his event, and the sport, beyond the European boarders. He has been in talks with officials in Washington, D.C. about holding the first two stages of the 21-day cycling race in America's nation's capital in 2012. Riders and their support personnel would then fly back to Italy to resume the race one to two days later.

"Is it crazy? Oh sure yes, I've heard that," Zomegnan said in an article in the New York Times. "But I think it is good to take chances. I don't say why. I say, why not?"

The why not centers first on safety for the riders. The day-by-day grueling physical challenge would not include getting over jet lag.

Then come the logistical issues. The 198 riders along with staff for the tour and the teams would need to fly eight hours across five time zones -- along with their bikes.

Granted American leagues -- including MLB, the NHL and the NFL -- have played games internationally. But as Times reporter Juliet Macur pointed out, cycling is different:

"But none of those sports are quite like the Giro, one of cycling's three Grand Tours -- races that require riders to have nearly superhuman resilience as they endure physical pain day after day for three weeks," Macur writes. "It is a triumph just to make it to the finish. None of the Grand Tours, which include the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, have ever started outside Europe."

Why try to start outside Europe?

Marketing of course. To help grow the sport in North America and gain the attention of the sporting consciousness of American fans and sponsors.

U.S. rider Christian Vande Velde said, "there's a fine line between crazy stupid and crazy spectacular."

Where this idea falls is still to be seen.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at

Winter running

The first snow storm of the season meant some horrible driving in the southern part of Western New York.

But it also posed a question for runners.

Where do I run? Do I do my long weekend run outside, braving the cold and snow? Or do I head to the gym and the treadmill?

In preparing for the half marathon in Miami in January, my weekend runs are getting longer and Saturday's workout called for running in my endurance heart rate zone for an hour and 40 minutes. With work commitments later that day, my run needed to be early in the morning, which would mean running in the dark in 20-degrees with a profound chill in the wind.

It wasn't high on my list of things which get me excited, quite frankly. I warned my friend Sue that I would likely whine the entire run.

Then came the best text message of the night. Sue had made an executive decision to take her run to the gym.

Thank goodness.

So we toiled on the treadmills instead, Sue getting in her 12 mile run, me going for 1:40 and our friend Herm joining us for his 16-mile run. The run was slower for me. Staying in my heart rate zone meant dialing it back a bit on the treadmill. I tend to run faster and with more efficiency on the roads.

But on this particular day, we got a better workout on the treadmill. It wasn't just the cold that drove us inside. In actuality, the temperature and calmness of the morning would have made for a nice outside run. Still, there was safety to be had on the treadmills. While the roads were passable for cars, the ice pockets and snow slush would have made running difficult. It would have caused us to slow down (probably even more than our paces on the treadmill) and it would have caused us to worry more. The last thing any of us needed was an injury, no matter how minor, from slipping on the ice or from trying to avoid slipping on the ice.

That being said, there is a joy to winter running and it can be not only fun but beneficial.

Runner's World recently posted an article about four devices that can help you run in snow and ice safely.

The suggestions range from commercially produced Yak Trax -- a type of snow tire for your shoe -- to making your own "screw shoes" at home.

The other option, when the snow is deep and plentiful, is to substitute your run to go snowshoeing instead.

Sometimes, you just have to embrace the winter.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at

Let the cycling season begin

While 2009 is coming to a close the 2010 cycling season is starting to come together as teams meet for training camps and the personnel trading game enters full swing.

First, we start with Lance Armstrong who in his first press conference as part of the RadioShack team said that the venture was not built around him.

"The days of this team being built around me are done," Armstrong said in an article on Cycling News. "I'm 38 now, I'll be 39 this season -- it would be irresponsible to build it around me. Going into the Tour we have to look at Levi [Leipheimer], [Andreas] Kloden, the tactics, the ideas we use."

48077739_600  Armstrong also showed off the new RadioShack new jersey. The fan reaction on his Twitter page have not been entirely favorable about the design.

Then there was a fair amount of interest generated in the cycling media about the move of sports physiologist Allen Lim from Garmin to RadioShack. Lim gained a presence as part of the Slipstream team, headed by Jonathan Vaughters. With the Slipstream team (under various sponsorship names, most recently Garmin), Lim was part of running a "clean cycling team" but came under fire when Floyd Landis was stripped of his Tour de France title after suspect drug tests.

Plus, there is a rivalry between Vaughters and RadioShack's Armstrong and Johan Bruynell which fuels interest in the switch. Lim said his reason for the switch was that Shack would require less travel and that his role would be not as anyone's coach but as someone helping to hone the cycling craft through science.

Meanwhile Garmin also lost a rider -- Brit Bradley Wiggins left Garmin to join Team Sky, based in his home country. Wiggins was fourth at the Tour de France.

Finally, big time stage racing may be coming to the East Coast. Organizers of the Giro d'Italia have been talking with officials in Washington, D.C. about bringing the first few stages of the race to that city. The talks are still early, but the goal is to bring the race to Washington in 2012.

Ah, drama, fashion concerns and bringing a cycling icon to the United States. Let the cycling season begin.

--- Amy Moritz
Follow Journey to the Finish Line on Twitter at

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