Posts Tagged ‘training’

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).

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.

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!


I’ve said that the All Women’s Half Marathon would be my last race for the year, and up until this morning I was pretty sure I couldn’t make it to any additional races before January.  That said, I’ve already scheduled my first OCR for next year: The Benson Polar Bear, which I’ll be running with the Massachusetts-based group, the NE Spahtens (Yes, said like a true Bostonian).  That’s on deck for late January, so I have some time to try out winter footwear and various layers of gear.

In the meantime, however, it seems I’ll ALSO be running yet another 5k, this one on Thanksgiving morning in Barre Town (right up near the elementary school I attended as a wee chunky child).  It’s called the Gobble Wobble Turkey Trot, and it’s early enough so that I can run in the morning, then clean up and EAT ALL THE FOOD with my lovely family later that day.  I’m missing the logical follow-up race (due to a previously-scheduled Lovecraft LARP weekend in Charlton, MA): The Santa 5k in Burlington – they GIVE you a Santa suit to run in, beard included.  This 5k will definitely be on my radar for next year though.

In other news, I seem to have tweaked my LEFT IT band into grouchiness, so extra stretching, rolling, and warming-up will be on the menu whenever I need to get out for a run.  I need to be careful with the health of my body at this point – I’m pushing harder and in new ways than before, and I’m going to start feeling it if I rush it.

SO…the winter forecast is: stretch, roll, run, crossfit, train, eat clean(er), fuel smart, and keep up the momentum.  I’m 3 months out from my 1-year anniversary of Getting Shit Done, and I intend to see dramatic results!


Alright folks, I sucked it up and I did it: I started CrossFit!  Our gym requires new members to go through four 2-hour orientation classes, wherein they teach the basics that come up during WODs and classes, and ensure that you know how to safely and properly complete each exercise.  The training is completely hands-on, and they wrap-up with a solid workout so you can see how it feels to AMRAP (“as many rounds as possible” in a given time), or do a set number of reps “for time.”

I’ve been to two of these, and I’ve learned different lifts with a bar (and weight), kettlebell technique, and some other basic CrossFit standards.

I realized right off that while I am not in great shape, the past few months have really increased my body awareness and my general strength.  My squats are great, I can keep my back in good form when lifting, I have great form and speed while doing box-jumps, I’m able to push myself while keeping in mind my own pacing needs, and I’ve already started developing good stabilizer muscles from the various exercises I’ve tackled since February.

I feel good.  I feel like I have a ton of work to do from here on out, but I feel good.

So, intro courses should be finished in two to three weeks, then I’ll be getting up early twice a week to tackle WODs with my Beast Coach, Aja. Yep, she’s now the Beast Coach – that person who is further along the path but headed toward the same goals: strength and overall badassery. Whether it’s being able to run a Half Marathon, beating a certain time goal for the Spartan Beast, or proving to the nay-sayers that YES, I CAN LIFT THAT HEAVY OBJECT, WATCH ME DO MULTIPLE REPS, everyone’s goal path needs a Coach – to stand as an example of what’s ahead, to remind you what’s possible, and to kick your ass off whatever plateau you eventually find yourself on.

I’ve also started logging food, using the MyFitnessPal app. I figure it’s time to start paying closer attention to nutrition and fueling now that I’ve got the exercise piece knocked out solid.  The past 2 days have been fine goal-wise, though it is nearly impossible to accurately log any foods that I didn’t make myself (or find in a conveniently-labeled package).  This winter will be a big one for crock-pot leftovers and cooking 5 meals on Sunday night (then sticking ’em in the freezer)!

So all in all, life is busy and I’m super excited to start going to CrossFit for real.  I’ve got a couple races left this year (one easy 5k with my coworkers, and my Half Marathon in Newburyport MA in November), and PLENTY to tackle before January.

First Up: Go To Bed Before midnight tonight!

Twice in a row now, I’ve completely busted my 12min/mile goal pace in my 5k training!  I’m stoked, and setting new goals all over.

Before the details though, just a quick recap:

I’m now officially moved-in to my Dad’s house up the hill.  The place is literally 1 steep mile uphill from my cemetery loop, which means I’ve got some great training coming up, and unfortunately, a little more driving for the sake of safety after late-night runs.  I’ve done a 1 mile loop, a 2 mile loop, and a 2.5 mile trek to test the hills down and back up, and I can honestly say that the 12:30 avg pace I clocked is a proud number (those bitches are STEEP).  More practice is in my future!

Fast forward a bit: Thursday I broke down and decided to really fork out the money for a quality pair of sneakers (I’ve been running in a pair of mid-quality men’s asics gel something, and the time has come to get a ladies’ pair that fits my size 11 hoof).  After scouring the local shoe stores and finding precisely zilch in my size and performance level, I headed up to Dick’s in Williston.  To my surprise, not only was the kid working not obnoxious, but he seemed to have a solid understanding of the stock on hand.  I told him what I’m looking for, and we quickly ruled out Brooks and Mizuno (sadface) due to their slim sizing.  He grabbed a couple Asics with neutral stride and I test-hopped around for a bit.  Lucky for me, the top-of-the-line, glorious dark grey with purple pair was on sale for about $35, and I fell for them.

Pranced around the house after purchasing, and took them for a spin the next evening.


Friday afternoon’s run began pretty slow, as I was worried about potential new-shoe blisters and whatnot.  Mile 1 was about 12:30: not bad.  I stepped it up a bit, so the avg pace at 2 miles dropped to 12:12.  Cool.  The playlist seemed to refuse my request for some power-tunage (Mumford and Sons = triumphant choruses of triumph) until I was about to start the last loop (each loop is .5miles).  Cue insane burst of speed.

No, really, it was insane.  I went from an avg pace of 2:12, to hearing the automated gps lady telling me I’d busted out an OVERALL AVERAGE of 11:42.

Let me tell you, the first time you’re running for distance on a flat track, and you hear that ELEVEN spoken…it’s like the heavens open up, just for you.  I whooped like a loonie, and pelted the last tenth mile.  I ended up with an overall pace of 11:51min/mile over 3.2 miles due to needing to walk & stop the gps tracker (techfail), but still am pretty proud.

I went out again this morning to beast out a 3.1, and managed 11:46 overall – no techfail.

Tomorrow morning is another run – my goal at this point is to practice that energy-saving first mile, so that when the race comes around next week, I don’t burn out all my energy a the beginning.

So, overall things are great.  The cat is happy in the new house, I’ve got a 5k on lock next week, and I’ve told enough people about the Spartan Sprint in June that it is now impossible for me to chicken out.

It’s like my run buddy’s trainer said, in response to her Inner Fat Kid getting scared: “It’s a good thing your Outer Badass is making the decisions.”

Dear Upper Body Muscles,
Thought I’d give you the heads-up: I may be getting wrangled into a Spartan Sprint in the near future. There will be no more slack-off strength routines or wasted cardio/runs where I come home and merely stretch before crashing. We will practice climbing ropes, walls, etc in preparation. I will squat with added weight, carry Heavy Things, and achieve ultimate badassery. Why? Because it’s time.  Because I made a decision back in February to make this shit happen, and I haven’t failed in the 9 weeks since.  Because it’s time to make the outside match the inside Hero I know I am.

So, Upper Body, you have been warned.



PS: perks include: better LARP combat skills, cooler clothes, and an increased ability to survive the Zombie Apocalypse.

Woohoo! I’ve been so busy killing workouts and getting ready to move, I haven’t had time to update (whoops). Here goes:

  • Nearly done Couch to 5k! Currently wrapping up week 8, running 28 minutes straight! I’ve been running the cool-downs too, so really I’m running 30+ straight! Holy crap!
  • Organized a group to do a local 5k race in May, and I WILL run it. Corporate Cup: Here I Come.
  • My plan is to finish c25k, then run 3.1 miles 3-5 days/week until race day. THEN, I’ll start working up to a 10k. Summer races are calling!
  • When I move back to my father’s house, I’ll be living a series of hills higher than my current apartment – I plan to keep up Tuesday night sprints with my running buddy, which means I’ll be training on those steep mothers regularly!  I won’t quit or take the car down just because of some elevation – nosirree! Hill training, here I come!


So that’s the simplified version. Life is crazy – I’m working out 6 days a week for the first time ever – REALLY working out. I love it. I have huge support from friends, my sister (a self-affirmed gym junkie), and various coworkers (even my retired 6th grade Language Arts teacher throws the occasional FB “like” my way – how awesome is that?) – it’s an incredible thing to reflect upon. I enjoy running for the first time in my life. No weather can stop me! I run in the cold, the rain, the sun, and the snow – I’m like the post office: delivering myself to badassery.

I am so proud of myself.

I’ll end with this little image from the other morning:

I headed out at 6:15am for my morning c25k date. 20 degree air prickled at my eyes and exposed fingers as I made the first snow-crunching cemetery circuit. Steel grey and heavy, the clouds hung low overhead.  Round I went, never walking, until my calves burned and screamed, but with 8 minutes left, I had to keep going.  As I stumbled slowly up the uneven dirt path, rounding a corner onto blessed (if dangerously icy) pavement, I thought I’d had it.  I needed to walk, to rest my aching legs.  

But I kept going.  I lifted my chin to glance at the passing stones – grey granite, blue-green metal, soft white marble – and the stoic beauty of the scene and the magnitude of my efforts so far became clear.  I was running, outside in the winter, for my own enjoyment for the first time in my life.  I breathed deep – frigid lungfuls jarring me awake again.  I rounded the corner faster than before.  Suddenly, I let out a triumphant whoop as sunlight crashed from the sky, illuminating my path in delicious golden splendor.  I pelted the final 2 minutes like the real runner I knew I’d become – laughing and grinning like a loon.

Moments like that make all the sweat, aches, bruises, and laundry worth it (Yes – laundry. Not everything can be glamorous in making oneself badass, you know)!