Saturday, August 27, 2011

Run strong

That's the point of every race, really: to finish strong. Today's was truly a testament to that, because who wouldn't run strong with this incredible group of women (and a few good men) out there running with them?

Today, the Salsalicious Racers, a group of us from Salsa/Funk class at the gym, participated in the Root Awakening 5K in Hoffman Estates. Root Awakening is an organization dedicated to ending famine in Somalia. As if that weren't reason enough to run, we agreed to have breakfast afterward. Does it get any better than that?

I had a great run. Slow, yes, but my best race yet. 5K in 44:28.0. Yes, this is the first time I've completed a 5K in less than 45 minutes. It's also 55 seconds faster than my last personal record (the Long Grove St. Paddy's Day run, where I did 45:23.1.)

So yeah, I'm feeling pretty good about that. But not as good as I feel about the amazing friends who joined me in this race. There were marathoners and first-timers, and everything in between. There was even an official photographer (thanks, Roger!) and a cowbell ringing when I crossed the finish line! (Thanks, Sven!)

I felt good right from the start. Twice during the race, my Achilles reminded me of its presence, gently but firmly. "Hey," it seemed to say, "don't forget about me. I'm not perfect, but if you treat me right, I'll treat you right." So I did, and it did.

This was the first race I've done where I ended feeling like I could continue. I didn't want to, mind you, but I felt like I could. Going into the for-real training for the 15K and half-marathon, that's important. And if today taught me one thing, it's to believe in the plan and stick with it. Running eight minutes and walking two gave me the breaks I needed to get to the finish line with a smile on my face. (And apparently a hunger that could only be satisfied by a corned beef hash omelette.)

Esther, Jamie, Linda, Isabel, Kathy, Elizabeth, Eileen and me, plus the menfolk
and Eileen's daughter Emily in the front row.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Slip-ups and scales and puppy dog tails

Okay, mostly slip-ups and scales, although I do think if I had a dog, I'd enjoy running a bit more.

Rough week, even if I do admit to having yet another wild cherry brain freeze float at the water park. It is ice cold deliciousness. I cannot seem to enjoy my lounge chair without it!

While at Raging Waves, I wore my "backup" swimsuit; the one that is a little too small but I keep it in my gym bag for emergencies, like when I forget to bring a suit and want to get in the water. Well, I had my suit from last year, and I wanted to wear it just one more time, but the suit had other ideas. The elastic had lost its boing and I had to wear the small one. It fit almost perfectly; who knew? That was a grand feeling.

Since I last posted, I feel like I've turned a page, in a way. I've stepped up my consistency in running, getting all three training runs in last week and increasing my run interval to eight minutes. This is a big deal to me, because that means in a 30-minute run, I'm actually running 24 minutes. Holler.

This Saturday I'll be running a 5K, and I have another scheduled on my birthday. I can't believe this is me ... when did I become the girl who chooses to RUN on her birthday? Seriously. It's a little crazy. But I like it.

Oh, scales ... that's right, I weighed in last night. 208.4, which is down almost three pounds from my last weigh-in but not sure that counts because that was fully clothed and covered in sweat. My plan now is weighing every Tuesday after my classes, because I rarely miss a Tuesday, so I'll always have scale access. The good news is, this weight is just one pound above what my scale weighed me before it gave up the ghost. So, I'm almost at the weight I thought I was all along. At least on this scale.

I'm pleased, and feeling pretty good about that. Not sure I'll get under 200 by the end of summer, but that's okay. All progress counts, right?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weighing, running and working out the kinks

Ya know what? I'm tan. I'm a bronze chicky for the first time in a long time, because I have not missed an opportunity to get out in the sunshine. I haven't been stupid about it, like back in the day when baby oil and iodine were the suntan oil of choice. No, I'm dousing myself with SPF 30, and getting outside! It feels good. It's another way that I am physically different.

Other changes come a bit more slowly. I weighed in on Friday of last week and it said 210.6. That's down .8 from the previous week, but then again, my weigh-in the previus week was on Wednesday. So that's less than a pound in more than a week. Not the preferred result, but I'll take it.

I have to admit, it's a struggle lately. I feel hungry pretty much all the time. So I try to squeeze in as many workouts as I can - walking at lunch, and being active most nights - in an attempt to compensate for the food. Still, most days, I am over my calorie allotment. My goal, lately, is just to not go over by too much. That seems doable.

Running, too, has been a challenge. With the Muddy Buddy (and subsequent recovery) followed by Showcase weekend and the rehearsals leading up to that, it was hard to find the time to stick with the program. But there is good news; I have definitely improved where endurance is concerned. I am now running seven-minute intervals (last week it was six) with two-minute walk intervals in between. I head out in my neighborhood, and basically turn around when I'm about 16 minutes into the workout. Walk two, run seven, repeat. Last night I did a little under two and a half miles in roughly 37 minutes; this is progress. As I like to say, I will always be among the slowest of runners, but I will also always be faster than everyone still on the couch. And when you factor in the run intervals, that means that in 37 minutes, and a little more than three full run intervals, I ran 25 minutes. Yeah; that's huge. (I have to admit, though, the last five were tough!)

I'm having some hip pain, and I think it's my IT band pulling on the hip itself. So there's more foam rolling involved, in addition to my calves. Sometimes I swear I spend more time warming up, stretching and cooling down than I do actually running. (This is not necessarily a bad thing.)

Physical therapy continues to go well, but I hate that I can't run the way I'd like to. My Achilles causes me to alter my gait, and this is likely taking a toll on the rest of my body. Next week at physical therapy, we're going to do a video gait analysis, and see where we stand. Or rather, run.

Goals as we continue this week:

  • Get in two additional runs at the 2:7 interval, and see if I can progress to 2:8 next week.

  • Two strength training classes.

  • Two yoga classes.

  • Stretch twice a day.

  • Foam roll once a day, twice for the IT bands.

  • Planks - one minute a day.

  • Return to daily push-ups, as many as I can do.
That's a lot. It's also doable. HIT IT!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Weigh-in Woes

My scale went belly-up.

The worst part is, I didn't realize it! Remember all that time I spent holding firm at 207.4? Yeah. Maybe not so much. I would "trick" it by getting on with my gym bag, and then get back on and it would weigh my wildly differently. Okay, I've accepted that.

And I've thrown out my scale.

So now what?

We weigh at the gym. Either on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, when I'm there for class, I will get on the scale there. Which I did last night. The verdict.


What? I'm over 210, again? Fuck.

Okay. It's just knowledge, and every scale weighs differently. This is just a measurement, and it's a way to establish where I am right now; a place to jump from. And I've jumped back into logging the calories, too; feels good. It's important! It doesn't help that I'm constantly hungry. But I'm pounding water and planning meals ... should make it a little easier.

When Mom said it was tough to lose the older you got, she wasn't kidding!

The thing I need to remember is, I've already done something remarkable. How many people set off to lose weight and get healthy, and the hit this place - this spot where nothing seems to move - before they've made any progress at all? I've made incredible progress. I've re-established what my body is, and what it's capable of. I am (mostly) happy in my body right now, just as it is. From here, there's only greater joy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Apples-to-Apples Comparison

This was me, with my friend Mike, finishing Muddy Buddy on August 1, 2010.This is me, with the same friend, finishing Muddy Buddy in 2011.
Yeah. I'm a little proud of that.

The Muddy Experience - more race information

My last post was chock-full of information on the Muddy Buddy experience, but didn't get into a lot of race-specific information. While this may bore the living crap out of you, it's important for me to get this all down in writing, so that next year, I have something to compare it to. We'll go over the 5.7 mile course, leg by leg. Sound boring? Stop reading. Here goes.

Sunday morning came early - 4 a.m., to be exact. I crawled out of bed and into my gear - capri workout pants, good sports bra and a hot pink tech tee. (I always wear pink for races; makes it easy for others to find me, post-race.) Put on my crummy shoes, after inserting my heel lifts, and I was almost ready to go. Just had to stop in the kitchen to feed the cat, take my morning supplements and drink a glass of water. Christ, did I want coffee, but I didn't want to have to stop to poop half way to Gilberts, so I headed out the door.

First stop: the bank. Needed a little money in case we went out for breakfast afterward.

Second stop: Dunkin Donuts. Needed a little sustenenance for the race, and I'd totally forgotten to grab a Luna bar.

And off I went. Funny how little traffic there is at 4:45 a.m. I arrived at Indian Hills Farm in Gilberts, IL when the sun was not quite all the way up yet. Time to put the front wheel on the bike and meet up with Mike. He got there a little before I did, and met me at my car. Soon, we were on our way to the official race grounds.

We registered, picked up our t-shirts, met up with John and Linda and I had my pre-race meltdown. Soon, it was time to line up! I was taking the first running leg, and Mike was biking (the opposite of how we did it last year). The bikes took off first, and then the airhorn sounded for the runners ... and off we went.

Right away, I took my spot in the back of the pack. Soon, everyone was pulling away and I was on my own. But that's okay; not in it to win it, folks, just trying to finish. I was feeling great for about the first half mile, running (slowly) consistently, and then my calf told me to stop. The knots tightened up and just would not (knot?) let go, so I took it at a walk. I limped for awhile, and at that point I knew it was early enough in the race that I had to make a decision: finish, or quit. Easy choice; I pressed onward, being careful of my form so I didn't get injured.

I arrived at the first obstacle, the low wall climb. I knew this one from last year, so up I went, no issues whatsoever. Up, up, and over. Then it was time to find my bike, drink some water and head down the path. WATER! God, did it ever taste good! It was about 85 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, so it was damn hot. Splashed a little water on my head, downed a couple glasses, and got on the bike. (Mile marker 1.1).

And got OFF the bike. SHIT! Off-road biking is fucking hard, pardon my French. Hilly, muddy, bumpy, difficult. Walking the bike was really my only sane option. At one point, John RAN past me. He started 12 minutes after me, and passed me on my biking leg! How is that fair? Shortly, Linda caught up to me, too, on the bike. She dismounted and decided to walk it, too. (Mental note to self: you have to train for off-road riding, or you might as well accept the fact that you'll be walking the bike.) Together, we approached the second obstacle, with our partners waiting to cheer us ever forward! What great guys! This obstacle was a maze you had to crouch down to enter; not a big deal. The fog machine at the end was pretty gross, though. We came through the other side, stopped for more water, and headed off on our second running leg. (Mile marker 2.1).

Run? Screw you. We'll walk this leg, thanks. My calf was screaming at me, and Linda was tuckered out from the cycling, so we did our best speed-walk together. It was nice to have someone to chat with and compare notes. We came across our first "hurdle", which technically we were meant to jump over. I took a moment, acknowledged the hurdle, thanked it for being there ... and walked around it. (Blissfully, however, the hurdled was in the shade. Time to catch our breath.)

We made it to Obstacle 3 - the Military Assault Course. Stupid inflatable piece of SHIT! Couldn't get my footing, so there was no way I was getting into this glorified bouncy house. I walked around, and it's a good thing, because Linda made it through only to discover that someone had bled all over the inside! Hello, blood-born pathogens? Glad I bypassed that bad boy. More water, then time to get back on the bike. (Mile marker 3.1).

Hills! The hills are alive with the sound of me panting and crying! I did as well as I could, but ultimately got back off the bike. Smart thing, really, because this leg of the journey included a hill like none other. Swear to sweet Jesus, just walking up it - and knowing I'd eventually have to go down the other side - scared the crap out of me. At this point, I met up with a woman who told me she was Buddied up with her sister, whose partner backed out at the last minute; that's how she ended up here! So with no training, she was doing her best. She asked if this was my first time, probably because I looked like a total novice dragging the bike up the hill, and I said no, I had done the race last year, too. "Is it always this hard?" she wanted to know. Um, yeah; if it were easy, they'd call it "Shopping."

When I reached the top of Killer Mountain, I looked down, and there were John, Linda and Mike, cheering me on! John and Linda waited for me, when they could have pressed on and gotten ahead in the race. Seriously, I have incredible friends. Mike had a glass of water for me, and I drank it down while he got on the bike and took off. Then it was time to tackle Slide for your Life. It's a 20-foot inflatable slide you have to climb to get to. Climb 20 feet of cargo net? Sure; I got that. Up ... up ... up I went. Linda, not being a fan of heights, was not happy with this obstacle. I waited for her at the top, and we slid down together ... WHEE! We were on the last leg of the race, running. (Mile marker 4.3.)

Time to do our best walk/run combo. We stepped up our walk to really push forward and make up for lost time, knowing the guys would be waiting for us at the end. Not much talking now, just trying to finish strong! Trudge ... breathe ... and there it was, the bike drop off. Only one more obstacle before the Mud Pit!

I met up with Michael, and we ran for the Buddy Blockade, a high wallk you had to climb over using ropes. I got halfway up and banged my elbow pretty badly. I know when to say when, and it was time. I circumvented the wall, ran through tires, and it was time to approach the mud.

Mike reminded me to loosen my wedding ring, so I was SURE to lose it, and sploosh - in we went! I must admit, it felt GOOD to get in there after the hot sun! We laughed and sputtered the whole way, until we crawled out and ran for the finish line. (Mile marker 5.7.)

We got our medals, and wandered over to see Stephen, Lorna, Adam and Robyn, who had come to cheer John and Linda on. What a rush to have finished! What a mess we were! Not for long, though; it only took us a few minutes to make our way to the pond, and jump right in. No better way to rinse off the mud!

It was a tiring morning. It quite literally wiped me out. (Seriously, I was in bed by 8 p.m. that night!) But what an experience. What a series of intense moments. I did it!

Time: 1:34:54, about 11 and a half minutes faster than 2010. YAY!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Race Report - Muddy Buddy 2011

It's a weird and wonderful feeling to go back to the beginning. And yet, that's very much how it felt to return to Muddy Buddy for the 2011 race.

The first race I ever did was Muddy Buddy 2010; it has officially been one year since I caught the race bug. Curious how that went? Read about it here.

I've been at it a year, folks - this quest for fitness that manifests itself in activities I never thought I'd try. It was a year ago that I, for the first time, decided to try something I'd previously left to the crazies. A year ago, I began to ask more of myself. Over the course of that year, a lot has changed. A lot of healing has taken place. It's been incredible.

This year, my partner and co-work, Mike, and I were joined by another team - gym friends Linda and John. Here are the four of us, pre-race. So clean and happy ... that wouldn't last for long!
Last year, I remember the announcements on the loudspeaker reminding us to take off any jewelry we didn't want to lose in the mud pit. So, naturally, I wore my wedding ring on race day. It seems fitting to me that I should let go of this particular bit of silver at the event that left me with more faith in myself than anything else I've done in my entire life.

And whaddya know ... I lost it in the mud pit. (You'll pardon the dregs of my post-race breakfast in the background!)

All in all, it was a tough, awesome race. Mike and I shaved over 11 minutes off of our time from 2010 (coming in at 1:34:54 in 2011, over our time of 1:46:28 in 2010). We're still among the slowest teams (which is not unexpected, because I am old) but we have a ton of fun out there. Sure, the average team finishes in under an hour, but we are SO NOT AVERAGE! No matter what, we finished, upright ... and we got our medals.Yes, ladies and gents, this is the face of unbridaled joy, brought on by race-related bling.

To my partners in grime, Mike, Linda and John, I say an intense "Thank you"! Your encouragement and generosity makes every sore muscle, every bit of mud (I found dirt behind my ear today after taking a shower and two baths yesterday!) and every scrape (I beat my calves to hell running into the bike pedals when I walked the bike) worth it. So ... how's 'bout we hit it again in 2012?