Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 18, 2009

Claire Walters: Crunch time for training


Five weeks before the marathon, essentially the equivalent of running final exams, wouldn't be my first choice for travel, mainly because all of the distractions that make keeping up with a training regimen difficult.

Nevertheless, I'm spending this week in northeast Ohio, visiting my parents, brother and sister, who made the trip from Asheville, N.C.

One distraction I'm encountering is the fact that there never seems to be enough time to accomplish everything. For me, this has come in the form of juggling training and various family obligations while trying to squeeze in time for friends, too.

In addition, I find interruptions in my running routine kind of disconcerting and often struggle to stay on track when I'm out of town. There's something comforting about running a familiar path, and knowing exactly how far there is to go to the finish line.

On the other hand, it can be refreshing to try out new routes. The Web site has been a handy tool on that front. It includes a map feature on which you literally can map your run as far as distance, pace and calories burned.

An even more helpful feature when you're in unfamiliar territory is a message board where other runners upload runs, thereby helping identify desirable routes in the area.

Traveling also comes with various culinary distractions; it's inevitable I will eat things I never would dream of putting in my mouth while at home. This time around those things include about seven slices of my favorite Briar Hill pizza and some oh-so tempting caramel Easter eggs from the local chocolate shop.

And, when visiting Mom, there are constant queries regarding hunger and endless offers to cook.

Chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast? Why, yes, thank you. (It definitely would be rude to refuse.)

Unfortunately, such a diet has led to some depressing feelings of un-fitness.

Ah, fitness -- such a vague, amorphous term.

Since undertaking this marathon training program in early January, I've been feeling relatively fit, strong, etc.

So it was with supreme over-confidence that I tried out my parents' new Wii Fit, a gaming system that features various activities designed to improve balance, cardiovascular fitness and strength. The Wii Fit first subjects users to a body test, which involves calculating weight, body mass index and balance to determine a user's "Fit Age."

Let's just say that my "Fit Age" differs slightly from my actual age. Specifically, the unforgivably tactless Wii Fit informed me I am 18 years older than I should be, fitness-wise, much to my family's amusement and my chagrin.

To add insult to injury, the Wii also identified me as "unbalanced." (Though that designation, at least, is not a surprise given my undeniably klutzy tendencies.)

Feeling a natural urge to redeem myself in the fitness arena and prove that smug machine wrong, I set off on my training run of the day, a quick 4-miler.

My parents' new (to me) home is located in one of those inexplicably winding subdivisions seemingly designed to trap unsuspecting wanderers in suburbia for all of eternity. I thought my mom was joking when she asked whether my cell phone had GPS.

As it turns out, I should have taken her a little more seriously. About two hours and endless wrong turns later, I stumbled home. Now my family is questioning my mental fitness as well as the physical.

All in all, a great week for family and a terrible one for fitness. With only five weeks to go until the race, there is no more time for distractions. It's crunch time.

Record-Eagle copy editor and first-time marathon runner Claire Walters is chronicling her training experiences in a bi-weekly column as she prepares for the May 23 Bayshore Marathon. Readers also can follow her progress by reading her blog at The blog contains her training schedule and log, and she invites advice and comments from other runners.