About HeyRachey

Regular gal discovers gonzo streak midlife. Likes to push self and go fast. Wants to practice (and turn others on to) strength, endurance, speed and audacious authorship of our lives. Life doesn't stay still. Best we move with it.

Tomorrow We Swim!

The first event of my Broken Ironman happens tomorrow (Wednesday) morning! It’s the Puget Sound Blood Center’s Swim for Life–fundraiser for bone marrow testing and matching. I’ll be swimming from Medina Park to Madison Park 2.25 miles (Okay not quite the Ironman distance of 2.4, but we’re going call it good.) David DeBusk and Tony Zanol will be escorting by kayak and I’ll be swimming with Patty Gustaveson, Michael Lamb, Paul Coldren, Molly Martinez, Margaret Kineke, Christine Stepherson, and a bunch of others. Wish us well and watch for my report soon. As my dad used to say as we nosed the canoe into the V of the rapids, “Once more, into the void!”


An Open Water Swimmer is Born

Evernote Camera Roll 20140725 112839This was a shot of joy. My friend Stokley’s daughter Lavinia (aka Lava) who is 13 and has been a pool swimmer for a few years told me she wanted to try lake swimming. I loaned her a wetsuit and off we went with Stokley paddling the orange kayak escort. Lava was born to it. Duck weed, which sends many pool swimmers into gross-out convulsions, was just laughable to her. Deep water, not an issue. Lurking creatures were just points of curiosity. Since she’s fluent in several strokes, Lava could swim along at a good freestyle pace, and then breast stroke to get a better sighting, and flip over and backstroke to take a little breather. I kept checking to see if she wanted to grab onto a nearby dock for a rest and each time she said, “No I’m fine. The houses look so cool from here!”

Lava says she’s up for more open water, and I can’t wait.

A River Ran Through It – 11-Mile Montana Run


North Fork of the Blackfoot River near Ovando

I can get anxious before training runs. Add a strange location where I don’t know the route; add 90-degree heat, gusty wind and smoke from distant forest fires; add an altitude of 4000 feet and a schedule of events with lots of other people that require I get the run done at a specific time. My obsessive psyche goes a little nuts with each possibility. This was the scenario weekend before last for my 11-mile training run during a trip to Montana for Paul Porte’s 50th birthday.

Paul grew up in Helena and chose the town of Ovando, about an hour west, for his birthday encampment and Blackfoot River flotilla. 40 pals or so in tents around an old farmhouse.

I should learn from this. All my pre-run anxiety was unnecessary. It was one of my top five best run experiences ever, not just for the spectacular vistas, but the fact that nothing (heat, fuel/drink, altitude, or physical issue) caused much, if any, problem.

The Worries, Dispenesed With:


These guys ran up to check me out.

Route. I’d worried about it being hard to know how to map out 11 miles since I didn’t know the roads. I didn’t want to run on a highway. There was no cell phone reception so I couldn’t map the way with my phone. What if the terrain turned out to be mountainous? Well, thanks to Greg Morris for dusting away all those baseless fears. The road by our encampment ran for 30 easily rolling miles through the picture of big sky pastures and foot hills. For a mile or two I ran alongside and then over the Blackfoot itself.

Heat. Though afternoon temperatures did get up to 90, I got out at 7am and it was mid-60s. I was sweating by the end, but it just made me welcome the mounting breeze.

Gusty Wind. See above. It was welcome.

Smoke. There was none. It blew away.

Altitude. I thought for sure this would zap me since I’ve felt weak running at 3000 feet. Maybe it’s the combination of altitude and heat, and since I beat the heat by going early, I could handle the former.


Halfway point 5.5 miles

I returned to the birthday village blissed out, stretched and had some frittata and melon. And immediately began worrying about my upcoming 13-miler in Kansas City.

Run done, I return to the Ovando farmhouse and tent village

Run done, I return to the Ovando farmhouse and tent village

A Cupcake Run + A 60-Mile Ride

Image 6Back in February or so when I decided to commit to doing the three separate events of an Ironman this summer, I knew I was lobbing a freakout to my future self. There would come a time when the training runs, rides and swims would start to load up heavy and I would wonder what I was thinking. It’s mid-July, and cue freakout. The training load hasn’t gotten that heavy yet, but as summer mounts and the event dates are more real, my weekends are somewhat committed. And with summer travels, I have to figure out how to do 11 and 13 mile runs in unfamiliar places like Middle of Nowhere, Montana and Extremely Humid, Missouri respectively.

So far, training for all events is on schedule. In addition to celebrating my birthday this past weekend, I checked off a 9-mile run and a 60-mile ride. For the run, I got a lift from Uber (thanks Hussein!) to Green Lake and met up with Paul and Geoff, who birthday hugged me and ran me most of the way back to my place in Leschi. Our route, for those who know Seattle, traversed some of the city’s great parks and Olmstead routes–Ravenna Blvd, Cowen Park, Burke Gilman Trail, Union Bay Natural Preserve, Montlake Bridge, Foster Island, Arboretum, Azalea Way, Lake Washington Blvd. And the last mile: Madrona Drive–1-mile up hill, hard–to Café Verité for my favorite birthday cupcake–chocolate cake with lavender frosting. (They don’t make these anymore; must pre-order it.)

Image 9

I couldn’t rope any pals into riding 60 miles with me, so I decided to tap a local resource I’ve known about for years, but never used: the Cascade Bicycle Club whose mission is to create a better community through bicycling. Though I had to swallow hard and tuck in the cynicism when I saw a guy in a Star Trek jersey, it was really a great group of people. I can see why they have a little bit of a reputation for being dweebs. Ripe for parody are their big arm signals and calling out of every damn thing on the road: Car back! Runners up! Glass! But it made me a better/safer rider. And I made up some of my own callouts: Aching back! Eagle up! It’s very impressive what CBC does. Hundreds of free group rides a month–all paces and distances, led by volunteers who manage to get large groups of riders safely along. I will definitely be doing more of their rides and donating to the Club in appreciation.

The ride I took started in downtown Renton, went along the Cedar River trail into Hobart, Issaquah Highlands, between Cougar and Tiger mountains, into downtown Issaquah, along Newport Way, Factoria, the I-90 trail, around Mercer Island, south to Seward Park and back to Renton. I yo-yo’ed on and off (mostly off) the 14-16mph group, but it was a good push for me, especially since I was adding 15 miles to my longest ride so far this year. Thanks CBC!

Image 8 Stay Tuned…will she complete an 11-mile run in rural Montana (altitude ~3800′) the morning after a big 50th birthday party? Place your bets.

A Ride and a Run on the Oly Peninsula

photo 1 It’s an annual ritual–July 4th at our friend Annie’s cabin near Quilcene on Hood Canal. And this year, the perfect destination to build a 45-mile training ride around. The first mile (from my house in Leschi up the Yesler hill) may have been the hardest part. Then it’s coasting into downtown, past the long line of cars and the manic glide into the wide mouth of a Washington State ferry.Image 3

The route to Annie’s took me up Bainbridge Island, across Agate Pass and off the highway onto side roads through the Suquammish reservation, past Chief Sealth’s birth place and burial site, Alpaca farms. and across Hood Canal bridge, where Paul Porte arrived to ride the second half with me. It was a hard ride, but much better with a friend. And riding point to point and away from my typical routes is way more engaging.

Image 2 Sunday morning’s workout was a drop-back week for marathon training. After three weeks of progressively longer runs, I take an easier 6-mile run. I drove north and ran from Port Hadlock into Irondale. Modest cottages, mobile homes and tumbling down places with Shetland ponies and ships dry-docked in the yard, and an abandoned Jesus is Lord service station. I never tire of run-exploring a new territory.

Image 1

Easy Runs Take Discipline

Going easy is hard. I blame America. Or some big part of the culture. As I set out on this past weekend’s marathon training run, which was prescribed plainly by the reputable coaches who wrote my program (Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald), as an 8-mile easy pace run, I noticed that I had a hard time keeping it easy. One way I measure pace and effort is number of strides to match an exhale. Four or more strides per exhale is fairly easy. Two strides per exhale is a faster gear.

It’s typical for runners to not spend enough time doing workouts at distinctly different paces. Most recreational runners just go out for a run at the same pace whether they are running two miles or ten miles, no matter where they are in their training for an event. But to improve fitness and prevent injury or to aid in fat burning if you want to do that, you need to run a mix of paces. Marathon training should include a good bit of easy pace running.

So I should know, but I still find it hard to run easy. I kept checking my Garmin and needed to slow myself down by 15-30 seconds per mile. I feel like I should always be pushing. There’s a voice saying “This can’t be doing me any good if it doesn’t feel hard.” There’s a voice saying “I don’t want that other runner to think I’m slow.” There’s a voice saying, “Let’s get this workout over with–plenty of other stuff to do today.”

But I made myself slow it down and finished with a lot of energy. So 8-miler in the bag and ready for tomorrows intense track workout.

First OWS of the Summer

Swim Caps Not Flattering

7:30am, 60 degrees, sprinkles, and calm Lake Washington. Tony Zanol sported the Au Naturel swim cap and Karen O’Connor kept the conversation going.

OWS stands for open-water swim, and I usually do the first one of the season in late May or but it’s taken until late June this year. Thanks to Tony and Karen for getting me out there. We swam about half a mile total, south toward the I-90 bridge and back. Just before this, I’d taught my class, and done quite a bit of upper body strength work. I thought that would have warmed up my arms and set me up for a power swim, but the reverse happened and I felt like I almost didn’t have any arms. In spite of it being late June, it still felt real cold. Rennaud’s Syndrome (temporarily blanched/numb fingers and toes due to cold) attacked my bare feet and hands. But that makes it all the more satisfying to look forward to the hot shower after. How I love an open-water swim! Locomoting through water to get somewhere! Hillsides and homes in quick rhythmic glimpses from water level. And longer intervals of blue green abyss. Blue green abysssss…hillside! Blue green abyssss…boats! Blue green abyss…waterfront home! Blue green abyss…float plane! Abyss…bridge pylons! Love it.

Also this week, a great track workout with a newly assembled band of track stars who are doing my summer speed workout series. We did running guru Matt Fitzgerald’s 600 Breakdown workout: 600m, 500m, 400m, 300m, 200m (at hard pace per distance) with a 300 easy jog recovery after each. Running with the likes of Paul Porte, David Lawrence, Deirdre Doyle, Melanie Wang and Monika Guzikowski we’ll all get faster. (Way to go Monika on her first mile time trial–7:40!)

Kicking Off the Chronicles of Summer 2014

IMG_0173Okay, new idea. Stay with me…

I’ve been a sporadic blogger. That stems partly from my innate lack of discipline, but also from the struggle I’ve had about the voice and the through-line of the content for this blog. I’ve wanted to write about fitness-related topics to convey and interpret information, to educate, to motivate. But that doesn’t always flow naturally. I envy bloggers like my friend Dana Wootton, who writes an excellent food and family blog. She’s taking a break in her writing now, but check out danatreat.com–there’s five plus years’ of great entries, vegetarian recipes and cooking wisdom up there to peruse. Dana’s writing flows beautifully and it feels to me that’s because it’s grounded in her own experiences. Another blogger I admire and love reading (and another friend) is Nicole Nazzaro who writes Every48.com. She’s a professional fitness writer, and her work’s a pleasure to read. She’s also writing about her own experiences–in this case, her goal for the year to do a vigorous workout every 48 hours.

With these writers in the back of my mind, this morning I had an insight about the direction of this blog. It came on the day I (somewhat arbitrarily) began my training for the New York Marathon, which I’ll be running on November 2nd. That marathon is the third event in my Year of Isolated Events of the Ironman (aka I.E.I.!). I plan to do a 2.4 mile swim in late August, a 112 mile cycling event in mid September and then cap it all off with the NY marathon. The insight is I’m going to hijack this blog, at least partly, to report on that journey.

I think for some readers this may be a cue to say “sayonara!”, and I’m sorry if that’s the case. But I think it could actually be a better vehicle for some universal fitness and training themes, (hope, fear, tension, release, expectation, surprise, heart rate, pace, lethargy, burn out, etc) all grounded in a personal narrative. What I hope (and time will tell) is that I’ll be publishing more often, but in smaller dollops. And I’ll still post other non-journey related stuff as it strikes me. So, with that big prologue, here’s today’s entry and the start of the Chronicles.

First official marathon training run! I was feeling pretty fresh coming off a week in Hawaii where I had two short hot, hilly runs, several ocean swims, core work, walking, and plenty of rest. My resting heart rate this morning was an astonishingly low 46bpm, with good variability–a sign of recovery. Today’s run – 7 miles at a moderate pace. Actual average pace was 9:08, which I wish I could say felt moderate. It felt fairly hard. My breathing was more of a tempo rhythm, i.e.; inhale two strides/exhale two strides. (I would count breathing every four strides as a moderate pace.) Felt good to run seven uninterrupted miles though. My route was north along the lake from Leschi to Madison Park and back, which is mostly flat. Body felt good, but lower calves feeling a bit stressed.This seems to be a new thing with me lately and I don’t like it. Post run, I’ll stand in the lake, stretch and do some foam rollering.

My head-space: I’m excited to have this goal out in front of me, but it’s a bit intimidating and poignant. Intimidating in the knowledge that so much can happen on the road to a marathon, with a training season that also includes heavy cycling and swimming and lots of travel and social events to boot. Poignant to run on the next-to-longest day of the year knowing that I’m linking myself to an event that will happen when things are dark, cold, and wet. Where I set my mind this morning was in the Here and Now. How exciting to have a big juicy goal. How glorious to be running along a lake on a sunny June Sunday.

June ‘eed to Be Fitter!

Another month, another chance to play the fitness challenge! This month’s version is called June ‘eed to Be Fitter!, and we’ve iterated and improved.

If you’re new to this, a recap: it doesn’t matter where you are–Seattle, Memphis, San Francisco, Palo Alto, New Orleans, Asheville, wherever. And it’ doesn’t matter what your fitness level–you choose your own activities and activity level goals. Read on to find out how it’s played and to see if it’s your kind of thing.

1. THE CHALLENGE is to do a specific number of minutes of exercise in June. You can choose which level you’re shooting for– 500 minutes (an average of just about 15 minutes a day), 1000 minutes (about 30 minutes a day) or 2000 (about 60 minutes a day). You don’t even have to work out every day, but to stay in the game, you must work out at least once a week, report your minutes every week, and hit the minimum number of minutes for your chosen level by the end of the month. Choose a level that will be a challenge for you- don’t scoop the 500 level just because you can.

2. The FUN & MOTIVATING PART: You can win money! More exercise increases your chances of winning money, but anyone that reaches the minimum for their level gets spiffed and three people in each level get bonus prizes.

3. HOW DO YOU TURN EXERCISE INTO MONEY? Everybody who participates sends me $20 via PayPal. $12 goes into a pot and whoever stays in the game and reaches the base-minute goal by June 30th splits that pot. $3 of each contribution goes into a separate pot, 1/3 of this pot goes to the player with the most minutes logged for that level, 1/3 goes to second place person, and the remaining 1/3 goes to another player who achieved the goal minutes for that level via a random drawing. $5 of each $20 goes to me as the facilitator.

4. WHAT COUNTS: Pretty much ANY aerobic and strength-related activity counts, but a session must be a minimum of 20 minutes of continuous activity. Walk, run, lift weights, yoga, stair-climb, Cross Fit, swim, bike, Wii fit, skate, take a strength class, whatever. Commuting (bike or walk) and yard work count if they meet the 20-minute minimum and steadily keep your heart rate above a moderate level.

You can claim multiple sessions a day. This is a change from our last session. You asked for it, you got it, Toyota.

5. CHECK-INS & MINIMUM LEVELS: You MUST check in on our group Facebook page or email me on the following Sundays June 8th, 15th, 22nd and on Monday June 30th and list your minutes for the week broken out by the day. If you miss a check-in, you’re out. If you go a week with no activity you’re out. This is the honor system, so be honorable.6. You must sign up and submit your entry fee by May 31st. I need at least 10 people per level to sign up in order to do it, and I’d like to get a lot more than that. If you’re interested please email me and I’ll let you know when we reach 10 people and how to submit your entry fee. This is open to all, and the more the better, so please feel free to share with your friends.

Are you in? It’s gonna be fun and motivating. Go for it! You’ll be glad you did.

don't+finishWhat feelings do you associate with letting go of a goal?

  • relief
  • clarity
  • motivation
  • excitement

This isn’t a trick question. A woman I started working with recently set a goal to run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. She’d done half marathons before, but hadn’t been running or exercising much recently. So that was great–I’m always excited for people to have an event to focus their training on. After our first session, she registered for the race and was beginning to get regular running workouts in during the week. But the next two weeks, the workouts were hit and miss. When we met and talked about it, I gave a her an assignment to write down 20 reasons why she wanted to do that race, and finish it strong. My intent was to help her remember her original inspiration and use the list to stay motivated on a daily basis. Several days went by and I didn’t hear from her. Then she said, “oh, right, I’ve got to get you that list…” Then, nothing. When we met for our next session she said, with undeniable clarity and excitement “I realized something! I realized I don’t want to do that race!”

In an unexpected way, the assignment worked. If she found she was trying to come up with reasons why she wanted it, she realized she was burdening herself with a goal she didn’t have passion for. This happens all the time. We change. Our goals change. I used to feel ashamed when something I’d said I wanted no longer fit the bill. I felt like I was being a quitter when that happened. It’s easier to see in other people how right it is to let go of a previous goal even when we’re not sure what might be replacing it.

And sometimes, as was true in this case, the goal served a great purpose, even by being a temporary unfulfilled goal. It served to get her on the road to incorporating daily fitness. She hired me, joined a gym and now has a workout plan. She’ll work on getting faster doing shorter events, which  is better suited to her schedule, family and work-life anyway.

Let this be the reminder that you can drop the out-dated goal if you’ve got one. Get on to greater things, or lesser ones! Really.