Archive for the ‘exercise record’ Category

Updates!

Posted: August 25, 2013 in exercise record, races
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It’s been over 2 months since my last post.  Life has been really busy, and my summer vacation nonexistent!

I moved into an apartment downtown on July 1, and love it so far.  It has its quirks, but there’s a clawfoot tub, large porch, new stove, and gigantic closets to fill with gear and crafting stuff.  I also get primo parking right next to my entrance because the landlady was worried that another tenant might hit the MINI if I parked it with everyone else.  I’ve established a 4-mile running route that begins in the city, then travels up to my old favorite, Elmwood Cemetery.  I do two loops up there, and head back down, with a couple loops to add distance along the way.  It’s pretty flat, with just Washington Street for elevation gain.

In August, I finally got Steve to do a Spartan race with me!  We corralled 3 other friends to go with us for their first time, too.  I’m proud to say that they not only finished it, but did so without major injury!  It took us a while, but that’s the risk you take when running with various fitness levels – everyone waits for everyone else to finish the obstacle/burpees, regardless of how quickly any one person completed it.  I didn’t run this one for time, and I don’t think I ever will – it’s just a fun course with limited distance.

I’m also signed up (officially!) for my trifecta races this year!  I used some volunteer codes I’d earned, and paid under $31 for both the NJ Super and the VT Beast combined.  I also regrettably won’t be running with my Battle Buddy and Spartan Inspiration, Aja, who is rehabbing from injury (and just kicked Mono.  Seriously).  So, I’ll be fishing for a battle buddy among the NE Spahtens, and giving it my best AROO in spite of changes in expectation.  I’m not too worried, as the Spahtens encompass a WIDE range of abilities, so I’ll definitely find good people!

And on the subject of NE Spahtens, yesterday I joined the team down in Wrentham, MA for the F.I.T. Challenge OCR.  They’ve been talking to the director, Robb McCoy, for a few months and have helped him craft what ended up being a great event.  Although originally billed as being a Mud Challenge 5k, the mud didn’t end up happening, which wasn’t a big deal.  What DID happen was a solidly organized event (logistics of parking, porta-potties, DJ, registration, food, medals, volunteers, results, etc were flawless) with numerous safe, accessible (within reason), and fun obstacles.  Robb teamed up with the local CrossFit to bring in a legitimate Atlas Carry, sledgehammer swings w/ tires, weighted tire pulls, and box jumps – all at various points along the course.  As in CrossFit, these were scaleable – different weights, lighter hammers, lower boxes.  The 8′ walls had strong side supports, an imbedded board for a step, and solid construction all around.  Robb even threw in a 10′ wall, though it was built like a ladder – those afraid of the height could go under the top bar instead of making the frightening transfer at the very top.  The beauty of this obstacle though, is that it CAN be done independently even if you’re not able to do the 8′ walls solo – being built like a ladder, it has graduated “rungs” to use all the way up.  Well done, Mr. McCoy. The one part that disappointed me was in the lack of promised zombies.  In an effort to drum up interest in their race, a local Zombie Challenge race volunteered to have their zombies be an obstacle at the F.I.T. Challenge.  We made it to the Zombie Zone, but no Zombies appeared.  Again, not a deal-breaker, and likely not Robb’s fault.  It just would have been fun.  Other obstacles included a sandbag carry, tube crawl, unders, overs, and throughs, grippy monkey bars (that I scaled only by sitting on the shoulders of another Spahten on my second loop – Ha!), the blazing sun, and a jump into two industrial containers of water (think dumpster, without the “gross”) connected by cargo net.  I ran it once in about an hour, then swung back around to walk it as an “honor guard” for the Mother of Spahten Sandy Rhee (“Mama Hen”).  I upped the weight on all the obstacles for this round, and had a great time walking, helping, and talking to the other Spahtens.  It was a great day, and I went home with a pretty sweet medal.

Challenge - COMPLETE!

Challenge – COMPLETE!

Finally, after all the excitement, I have one day of Inservice left before opening my classroom to my very first class of 5th and 6th graders.  I’m nervous, under-prepared, but absolutely ready to tackle the year.  September will be insanely busy, as every weekend is filled with races or LARPing.  I’ll update the blog as I can, but I make no promises until closer to Halloween!!

AAAAAROO!

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For the last year or so of college, I would wake up on the first day of the weekend with “Saturday’s a Rugby Day,” on my mind, whether or not I was scheduled to play – it’s one of those phrases that gets ingrained into your thought process.  It was nice to get up and moving for a game, or to head to the fitness center knowing that just across campus, the team was kicking ass.  I’d never been an active person; sports were exclusive and stressful when I was kid, and it was much easier to escape into a book for the hours of the weekends than to lace up and head out somewhere for a hike.  Rugby was a surprise while I was at Castleton – I joined initially because it looked do-able (no one was intimidatingly fit, and I’ve always had strong legs), and because someone told me I wouldn’t be able to.  That tiny doubt made me motivated – I spent almost every early morning doing cardio in the gym, and pushed through practices.

Proof that I was cool with getting muddy waaay back in '06

Proof that I was cool with getting muddy waaay back in ’06

Sports thinking doesn’t come naturally to me, so while I was pretty good at simple plays and the basic gameplay, I never rose to become a star player.  But that was fine – I enjoyed the physical aspect of practices, and the team camaraderie kept me going when I thought I was done.  Unfortunately, as it tends to do, Life got in the way.  I needed to spend more time on studies and student teaching my senior year,  so the fitness piece of my day got further obstructed.

After college, Saturdays devolved into a mash of retail hours and couch-potato-ing.  While sleeping-in was nice, I’d get to Sunday night feeling unfulfilled and, let’s face it, lazy.  The days of Rugby games were long gone, and the elliptical in the back room of my apartment was a non-motivating beast of overly squeaky gears and creaking parts – nothing makes you feel Fat Chick Syndrome quite like exercise equipment screaming under your weight.

Then the mind-shift happened.  I’d been following Aja’s progress for a few weeks, and struggling through my own 3-4  weekly weight routines and cardio, and I realized what I needed to do.  I started running outside.  My first run was ugly, but I beat that first tiny goal.  I kept it up, and weeks flew by.  I signed up for races, completed Spartans, and did the best thing I could:

I reclaimed Saturdays.

Looking back over my calendar for 2012, I have more filled Saturdays than ever before in my lifetime.  There are the expected geeky weekends here and there, but also more races, hikes, runs, and other active events than bear counting.  By the time I reach Sunday night, I feel accomplished and motivated.  Sunday mornings can be a little lazy, because I’ve likely done something borderline-epic the day before.  This Saturday was an excellent example, as I spent a few hours trekking through a training run along Shale Hill Adventure Farm‘s obstacle course (ORTC: Obstacle Course Training Center).

www.shalehilladventure.com

At first look, Shale Hill is this unassuming plot of land in the middle of South West Vermont farm country.  Driving along the road, you can easily convince yourself that it’s just another hilly cow pasture dotted with hay bales.  But in true VT spirit and ingenuity, this 100+ acre property holds some of the most challenging terrain and obstacles that any Spartan or Tough Mudder can handle.  The brainchild of Super-Fit-Dude Rob Butler, Shale Hill’s winter training run was harder than any OCR I’ve tackled to date.  Keeping in mind that at my fitness level, ALL OCRs are tough, this one is in a separate class.  Despite the challenging obstacles (some of which I’ll talk about in a sec), the course was downright fun.  It’s understood that climbing a fire pole in January is hard.  Climbing over a 15′-20′ cargo net (nicknamed “The Abacus” for its unique construction) is frightening in dry weather, and sometimes you just don’t have the “spring” to hop over a hay bale after sliding through 3 miles of shin-high snow.  You do your best, and enjoy the successes where they come – carrying a log, a snow-filled bucket, and a frozen sandbag through hilly, snowy terrain; climbing up a notched log on a rope higher than you thought you could; getting one rung higher on a wide-spaced rope ladder than you planned; climbing the steep uphills (over and over and over); owning the hercules hoist like it’s your job; getting across a wet traverse wall that’s longer than any spartan wall.

Five miles of laughing with a mixed level group, watching technique, and supporting each attempt is invigorating and addictive.  Sliding on my ass down steep snowy inclines (in nothing but cheap waterproof pants, goretex shoes and winter road running gear) was one of the unexpected highlights of the day.  The course was hard, the obstacles challenging (steep uphill monkey bars? tarzan swing? again, climbing UP a fire pole?), but the whole experience was exciting.  I’m pumped to return in two weeks for the 8-hour Benson Polar Bear Challenge – Crazy Rob has some mysterious new obstacles planned, and some great scaling options in the works for the traverse wall and hay bales.  My goal is to get a minimum of 2 laps done, and get to the third, where it’s rumored you’ll be able to run the course in reverse (SCORE!).  I’ll have a hefty number of penalty chips to take to the finish line of each lap, but beating the rest of the course will be worth every push up, burpee, or other random activity I’ll be forced to own up to.

Looking ahead, I’m definitely checking-in to see how the Shale Hill race series matches up to my Spartan/Larping/Road race schedule – if you buy a season pass, you’ll get a number of ORTC training passes included.  This course has epic obstacles, and a great mentality of encouraging you to train up to that level – I plan to get down to Benson as often as wallet and calendar allow this summer to take advantage of that.

Looks like 2013’s Saturdays are numbered.  Just like they oughtta be.

A week or so ago, I realized that I’d run a Halloween race, a Thanksgiving race, and planned a New Years race, but couldn’t find a Christmas race or fun run.  I truly enjoyed getting up early on Thanksgiving to head out for a 5k (or rather, I enjoyed being able to say later “Yeah, I already ran today!”), and wanted to continue the tradition of Healthy Things On Holidays.  A few musing comments on Facebook later, and I wound up creating a Christmas Morning Festive Run for myself and whomever else decided to show.  The idea was to dress in red/white/green/bells/etc. and just merrily tromp around the city and residential areas of Barre early on Christmas Day.  I whipped up some race bibs and bought Santa hats, and came up with a rough route in my head.

Snazzy!

Preview of the bibs from this year’s fun run!

Christmas morning dawned, and it was cheerfully snowing and frighteningly cold.  Five of us appeared (in various states of groggy) at the high school, somehow still willing to tackle the weather.  We slid around the parking lot long enough to pin our numbers, don our hats, and take a few posed pre-run photos.

Brrrr!

Posing outside the high school and freezing our collective buns off!

Yes, I bought those candycane socks specifically for is run.  Be jealous.  Colleen and Catherine got a jump on next year’s theme by sporting the most glorious Ugly Christmas Sweatshirts.  We were all quite the ridiculous sight, for sure.

Starting line shenanigans complete, we sucked it up and headed out.  First up: West Patterson Hill of Doom.  I figured this would be a great way to warm up quick, and would get the worst incline out of the way before we got really chilled and tired.  Hilariously, we made it partway up and had to slow down to avoid the sheets of ice hiding under the new powder.  The ice found us at various later points along the run, occasionally causing someone to shout a warning “Iyyyeeep!”  We ran through a neighborhood, and down into the city.

Festive Run 2012Stacey, Colleen, and Catherine running down Washington Street.

Festive Run 2012
Stacey, Colleen, and Catherine running down Washington Street.

At this point, we started noticing more and more groggy drivers on the roads, many of whom slowed down to wave/honk/stare/holler at us as we jingled down the streets.  Some shouted Merry Christmas, some just looked at us like we were completely nuts.  Well, it was a Merry Christmas, and the cold and ice and our determination to finish probably does plop us onto the “Wacko” end of life’s spectrum, so we waved back and continued on.

Our loop took us all the way downtown and back, finishing up with a nice flat mile or so.  As we turned in to the school’s parking lot, my sister and I BOTH managed to slip on the ice and fall while goofily singing triumphant finish-line music (note: it is never a good idea to pantomime slow-motion running while actually running over glare ice…whooops).

So, our first annual Festive Run was a success, and we plan to do it again next year.

Additionally, I got the chance to try out my brand-new Inov8 Terrafly Goretex shoes – and boy are they fantastic!  While the sticky rubber failed me over hidden ice, the waterproof lining kept my feet nicely dry, and the added midsole material helped keep the cold from seeping through my soles.  I think I’ll invest in some waterproof runner-friendly gaiters and ice spikes, just so I can keep wearing them this winter.  Super comfortable and true to size – I’m happy!

Christmas itself was pretty satisfying – I saw family and friends, ate very good food, saw a movie, and opened a slew of excellent presents – not the least of which were a Garmin Forerunner GPS watch and heartrate monitor (from my mom and fiancee), and a (virtual) fully-paid registration for the Benson Polar Bear obstacle race at the end of January (thanks, Aja)!  I received a second GPS watch (whoops), and exchanged it for Dick’s store credit and a couple pairs of winter running tights.

In all, this Christmas was super excellent.  I am definitely well on my way to becoming a Better Human, and the holidays seem to be a great time for me to demonstrate it.

So here’s to finishing the year strong – AROO!

 

This week marks a couple very cool accomplishments for me, fitness-wise.  I’ve made it to crossfit for both of my 6:15 WODs (Tuesdays & Thursdays), my Delicate Lady Hands have started peeling after pull-ups (sign of callouses forming?  I hope so!), and I had my first dork-moment-of-klutzy-injury, also at crossfit this morning: I bent down to grab my abmat, and CLONK, slammed my forehead into one of the new bar rack/hook things.  My forehead is in this whole lovely half-swollen blotchy red situation at the moment.  I feel like a super winner.

However, this morning was pretty good all told.  I did the hop-over-your partner’s legs/arms warmup quickly (“junkyard dogs”), my lifting form is spot-on (wooo thrusters!), to the point where I was commended publicly for it, and I’m getting pretty good at figuring out what my “working weight” should be for various WODs.

My rep counts aren’t fabulous, but I have to remind myself that I’m just starting out – I can’t expect to be pumping out the same speed and quantity as the regulars when I’ve got good (and safe) form to focus on.  That said, I definitely feel the WOD when I’m done (and for the two days following).

So here’s to callouses, bruises, and sore muscles – Beast-in-progress!

I’ve often heard obstacle racers talk about how their friends and family “just don’t get it” when it comes to OCRs – why would you choose to scramble through mud trenches, crawl under barbed wire, or attempt to swing across monkey bars – all during a race?

It’s one of those interests that are truly person-specific; there are some people who live for the adrenaline rush of succeeding in the face of physical challenges, and those people will seek to fulfill the need repeatedly.  They tend to be happiest when a challenge looms before them or just behind them, ground into the dirt behind the finish line.  The flipside is that they have trouble communicating this joy in a way that others understand it; they are frequently met with utter disbelief, shock, or outright laughter when describing a recent challenge.  Equally fit people cannot fathom the draw of a sport where bruises are a badge of honor.

Ready for the nerdery? I’ve found a surprisingly similar reaction to LARPing – Live Action Role Playing.  Whether it’s the stigma of having had to do cheesy roleplaying skits in guidance class in middle school, the idea that adults Just Don’t Dress Up and Pretend, or the image of a bespectacled acne-riddled forty-something sequestered in his mother’s basement with miniature dragons – people often “just don’t get it.”  Why would a successful, career-minded, mature adult go off to “play knights” with other adults…in COSTUME no less?

The answer is the same as the one I give for OCR: it’s a chance where I can be something more than myself, something stronger, better, faster.  In OCR, I challenge my physical limits in ways that I can’t demonstrate every day.  I prove that I can pump out mile after muddy mile without stopping.  In larp, I can protect people – save lives with a sword or a surgeon’s tools – things I can’t do in life.  I can take a simple challenge: outlaws are attacking an innocent, and I can deal justice without fear.  I can swing a sword or shoot a gun like a trained professional.

Whether non-geeks understand it or not, I love strutting out onto a battlefield straight-backed and determined. I love knowing that I look intimidating in knee-high boots and a military corset, and that I can deal a mighty amount of damage to my adversary.  And in racing/running/crossfit it’s the same: I love standing at the starting line/the crosswalk/the gym confidently, going through the steps like a trained professional.  I look capable and strong in a tech tee and spandex – not your average New Years Resolution bandwagoner.  I know that I can finish the challenges ahead, and that I may even break my own records.

So I say to the doubters of either interest: Do not malign the thing that shows me my own power – In these moments I am paying homage to the miracles that are my body and my mind.

***

Heavy musings aside (phew), I spent this past weekend running full-on through snowy woods and fields, my heart racing with exertion and terror.

The event was a 1930s Horror (HP Lovecraft, specifically) Larp, where the underlying goal of all players was to survive the event with your mind and body intact.  Over the course of 24 hours (no sleep allowed unless you wished to risk creatures murdering you while you slept) we were beset by zombies, gun-wielding cultists, and a barrage of nightmare creatures (all played convincingly enough to make me forget the real humans underneath), so that only about 10 players remained by 8:30am Sunday morning.

The greatest parts of this were the woods chases at night and the deadly battles that ensued when we could not run any longer.  The creatures were cunning; our barricaded safe havens did not remain so for long, and many times we survivors had to retreat into the woods, running with whatever weapons or precious items we might need as a pack of screaming wildlings slavered at our heels.  We hid in the shadows of trees, betrayed by our dark clothing on the bright moonlit snow.  I can remember hanging on to a cold trunk, cringing as a creature’s deathly shrieks wailed over my thundering heartbeat, knowing that I was an all-too visible lump at the base of a tree.  I remember gathering my few belongings and racing deep into the woods – vaulting clumsily over rocks and fallen tree trunks as an ancient creature tore through the crowd behind me, running faster than I’d thought was possible.

The weekend was a glorious exercise in terrifying survival tactics – running, hiding, sleeping in the lull between attacks, relying on comrades to watch the door, protecting them when they need to solve a puzzle that will get you out safely, and fighting with whatever is nearby (our group made and brought croquet mallets, which came in handy when we couldn’t shoot our enemies).  I was so terrified at one point that I could not defend myself as a creature loomed over me, about to strike a killing blow.  I survived that encounter, only to fall and be devoured mere minutes before our fellows managed to escape.  I was proud to have survived so very long, thanks to my actual speed and endurance in running.

I would not have been able to make it through the night if we had played this a year ago – I credit my near-survival to the many training hours and OCRs I’ve been through since February.  I fear less now – injury, exhaustion, and sore muscles are all signs of a busy weekend.

I am closer to the strength of the characters I play now than I ever could have imagined before.

Quick Update:  I made it to crossfit twice this week – Tuesday and Thursday, and I am definitely starting to feel it this morning.  My traps are tight and creaky, my hamstrings are stiff, my abs hurt when I twist my torso to one side, and lifting my arms is a hilarious challenge.

Complaints aside, I am super proud of what this muscle soreness means for me: I’m getting it done.  I even made it to crossfit on Thursday on my own – no buddy – and to one of the hardest WODs I’ve ever tackled:

9 rounds (5 scaled) of 9 movements, 9 reps each  –

[not in this order below]
9 burpees
9 wall balls
9 box jumps
9 push ups
9 KB swings
9 pull ups
9 toes-to-bar (knees-to-chest for me!)
9 ball slams
9 squats
This is a direct hit to my Nervous Newbie character – not only did I get my butt there solo, I was the only lady in a class of Fit Dudes.  I held my own though, and in 40 minutes made it through 4.5 rounds of the workout, while my WOD classmates only made it through about 6 rounds each in that time.  Now, I know I shouldn’t compare, but it’s nice to see that despite how Not Fit I felt while doing it, my overall pace wasn’t terribly slower than anyone else’s.  I also have a goal to work toward the next time this sucker comes up: do at least the 5 rounds in 40 minutes, and work up to all 9 rounds.

I’m off to another geeky weekend this afternoon, too – the sort-of-once-a-year-larp Lovecraft Legacies – I’ll be hiding in the freezing cold woods, fending off tentacled nightmare creatures, shooting zombies, and defending myself with a foam croquet mallet (yes. we made those).  It promises to be an excellent and creep-filled weekend!

Onward!

My longest race of the year (and possibly the final one, depending on what comes up this month) is complete.  I managed it with an avg pace of 12:20/mile, and don’t seem to have permanently injured my IT band – WIN.

The race itself was lovely.  The course was, by Vermont standards, delightfully flat, the weather was alternately sunny/warm and cool/breezy, and the scenery was varied and beautiful.  The crowd on the road was a myriad of bright colors – every hue from highlighter orange, vivid yellows, to bright purples and blues – nearly a thousand women turned out to run or walk.

The miles seemed to fly past.  Before I knew it, we were trotting up to mile 9 and I felt pretty good.  Tired and annoyed at the obligatory tiny-rock-in-my-shoe, and fighting a bit of a tight IT band, I had busted out a few healthy sub-11-minute-miles up to that point (according to the timer my sister kept on her watch and the marked distance).  However, as we crested the hill at mile marker 9, I felt the telltale angry ITB tug on my knee, and my stunning progress so far was shot.  I cringed for a tenth of a mile, then had to stop and stretch.  In the heat of the moment, with so many runners flying past and my sister urging me on, I ignored the hamstring stretch I usually rely on and merely loosened up my quads.  I hobbled along like this for another tenth of a mile, until I decided to suck it up and just speed walk it out.

I’m not going to lie, folks; Mile 9-10 was UGLY.  I was mad at the pain, angry with my crappy pace, and frustrated at the well-meant encouragement to just push through the pain.  I couldn’t run.  I tried, but the pain was just too intense to ignore, and I was worried that I could be seriously injuring myself by ignoring it.  So when mile 10 slowly came up and the cheering crowd loomed ahead, I forced myself to stop and stretch my hamstrings.  I let my hands dangle near my ankles and just pressed slowly into the stretch, willing my leg muscles to let go.  Additionally, I hiked-up my CW-X tights to fit my knee more appropriately.  And, miracle of miracles, my knee felt better.  Still stiff and cranky, but I could RUN on it.  Not the earlier sub-11-minute-mile pace, but closer to a real running speed than before.

The rest of the race wasn’t perfect or particularly pretty for me – I had to stop and stretch every so often, and speed walk a half mile at some point – but I DID IT. I told myself at mile 10: “It’s just an easy 5k from here on out.  Just a 5k.  I eat 5Ks for breakfast!”

So when we rounded the final corner into town, I sucked up my last reserves and ran over the finish line, stomping on the timing pad triumphantly, and grabbing my finisher’s medal.

The Finisher’s Medal!

Before I reveal what happened next, let me remind the world that I’m not a publicly emotional person.  I keep my feelings to myself and only my closest friends.  Well, once I had walked-off the finish line jitters and slowed my heart rate, I stopped in the finishers area and stood still for a moment.  The whole journey came crashing down on me at that point – the failures in years past, the day in February where I decided to change my life, all the races prior, and all of the support and encouragement I’d received up to that very second.

I cried.  My breath came in short gasps, and tears streamed down my face.  I had done it.  I had completed a half marathon –  a half MARATHON. 13.1 miles of sweat, pain, and momentous effort.  13.1 miles of proof that I had succeeded.

Kristen and Me, at the finish line.

Dazedly, my sister and I accepted some tasty free samples from powerbar, a tub of Greek yogurt from stonyfield, and headed over to the food tent.  There, we were given (for free) the best cup of chicken noodle soup I have ever eaten, and a slice of baguette.  After nomming our reward lunch, we grabbed a few more freebies and headed to the cars.

It was as we descended the uneven grass by the middle school fields that I remembered the tiny playground we spied on the way to registration.  Cringing in pain at my still-too-stiff ITB, I walked over to what I will think of as the greatest cargo net of all time:

the dodecahedron creepy eyeball jungle gym cargo net.

And what do you think I did?  Well, I Spartaned-up and climbed that sucker, vowing the whole time to start budgeting for one of my own.

So, as I sit at my work computer, icing a sore left foot, and stretching a stiff right knee (all while wearing the medal I earned the heck out of), I can’t help but think of the journey so far.  It hasn’t been fast, but it has been a sure-footed climb to the top.  I’ve pushed through illness, injury, doubt, and frustration.  And as I reach the top of this particular hill, I realize in true Spartan spirit…

There’s always another mountain, so another mountain I shall climb.