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Measuring success in the pool

By now, February is becoming a drag. It's the shortest month, yet seems like the longest path from winter to spring. The days are getting longer, Outdoor runs are a bit more bearable. And thoughts are turning toward spring and early summer races.

Since running and cycling pretty much are just about getting in the miles and perhaps working on some drills at the moment, this can be a great time for a swim focus. Of course for me, all year is a good time for a swim focus as I continue to get comfortable in the water and learn how to propel myself more efficiently, and hopefully a bit faster, in preparation for the 2010 season.

I have returned to working with Swim Master Greg, who in one masters swim session already gave me two corrections which have made a difference in the way I feel in the water. He was able to take video of my stroke and frankly, I could not believe what I was doing with my arms in the water. An adjustment and focusing on my arm placement, the catch and following through on my stroke have already made a difference -- the most important being in how I feel moving through the water.

Joining a group for swim workouts is a great tool. It not only gives you a social aspect to the sport but it allows someone with knowledge to learn your stroke and be able to help you make corrections.

You can find nine other tips on how to improve your swim in 2010 in this article from Austin Fit Magazine and if you're relatively new to swimming and are bummed by looking at your times to measure success, check out this article from Tri Swim Coach on other ways to gauge your progress in the pool.

--- Amy Moritz

Running for more birthdays

As most people, I have several friends and family members who have confronted cancer. Some have triumphed. Some have struggled. Some have lost the battle. One dear friend of mine has been turning "50" since I met her several years ago. Why? Because she wasn't sure if she would make it to 50. It makes her birthday a celebration of not just another year on the planet, but another year of success and health and happiness and, well, life. It makes the American Cancer Society's campaign as the official sponsor of birthdays pretty meaningful.

While my race calendar is pretty full for 2010, the idea of running for a bigger goal in the future is high on my to-do list. And while there are many worthy charities, a recent partnership between the American Cancer Society and the Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series already has me excited. 

Since 1996, athletes have raised money for the American Cancer Society through endurance events under the "Charity Runner" program. The organization revamped its program, branding it "DetermiNation" and has partnered with events across the country. Runners are required to raise a minimum amount of funds for the American Cancer Society in order to participate in the event. In return, they receive training, support and VIP amenities on race day.

The Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series began in 1998 as a way to incorporate live music during the race and places bands at each mile marker along the 26.2-mile route.

In this partnership, three Rock 'n Roll Marathons and 1/2 marathons will be branded for the benefit of the American Cancer Society -- Seattle (June), Chicago (August) and New Orleans (February 2011). Additionally, the American Cancer Society will be the preferred charity for the Rock 'n Roll events in Denver, Los Angeles, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Jose and Virginia Beach.

For more information on the DetermiNation program, visit the American Cancer Society website while info on the Rock 'n Roll marathon series can be found here.

--- Amy Moritz
For thoughts on last night's episode of The Biggest Loser, visit

Race report: ING Miami Half Marathon

The walk from the hotel to the starting corrals was less than a mile. It was 5:30 in the morning. By the time my friend Sue and I made our way into the starting gates, we were already sweating.

This was going to be one long run.

The ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon experienced one of its hottest and most humid days in its eight-year history. Humidity at the start of the race, at 6:15 a.m., was 93 percent. I trained my long runs in hot, sweaty gyms on treadmills but unless I moved the treadmill into the sauna there was no way to prepare for a 13.1 mile race in this kind of weather conditions -- at least while training in Buffalo in January.

We started the race with the intention to run hard and run smart. And survive.

P2040164  Sue stayed with me for the first four miles and we kept a solid, moderate pace. At every water stop I took in water and gatorade and every 35 minutes or so took a gel. I worked hard. I kept a positive attitude. I felt qualitatively stronger, fitter and more prepared that last year. Whereas last year I started to ache in the eighth mile, I didn't start to really struggle until the 10th mile. My legs held out longer.

But when it fell apart, it fell apart hard. By Mile No. 10 I started to experience the chills -- a sure sign that my body was being deeply affected by the humidity.

By Mile 11 my quads were done. With less than a mile until my finish line, my legs ... just ... would ... not ... go ... faster. Despite my mental toughness. Despite my cardiovascular fitness. Everything had been sucked out of my body.

I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 13 minutes -- slower than my time from last year and below my desired outcome I had set for this race during my training. The pain, the dehydration, the disappointment in my time all came out in tears in the finisher's chute. This would take some recovery time.

Perspective and reflection came in the few extra days of relaxation and vacation in Miami.

What was so frustrating, so disappointing, was that the result did not match my effort.

As I replayed the race in my head, there was no instance I could point to that I did anything wrong. No place where I could have picked up the pace, no place where I went out too fast and burned myself out for later. Perhaps I should have had a heavier hand with the gatorade rather than diluting it with water, but that would only have made me hurt less and perhaps gained me a minute. My mental chatter was strong and positive, quickly shouting down the whispers of doubt that came through my mind. I was prepared. I was strong.

I controlled everything I could. And so in essence I did achieve my goal. I did everything that was within my power. The outcome, the final time, that was not in my control.

Sometimes the result, the outcome, doesn't match up with your effort. It happens.

And so in the end, I'm pretty darn happy with the race -- because I ran strong, I ran tough and I finished.

On to the next challenge. And probably an early sign-up for the 2011 ING Miami Half Marathon. I still have some unfinished business in South Florida.

--- Amy Moritz