Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Long weekends are never long enough

I wish that work and fun could trade places so I could have more fun and work less. Unfortunately, the reality is that I have bills to pay and sometimes fun is expensive, so I guess I'll have to keep working to support the activities in my life that I consider fun.

The long weekend was pretty nice. As I mentioned last week, I was beginning to feel the effects of some serious overtraining, so I took a few days off from working out. In addition to needing rest, I figured my iron deficient blood was probably part of the reason I was so tired. Thursday on my way home from work I stopped at Whole Foods and picked up a nice grass fed organic rib eye steak and brought it home for dinner. I seared it on both sides and cooked it to a perfect medium pink inside, just simple salt and pepper to season it and it melted in my mouth. It was delicious!

Friday was the longest day EVER at work. Fridays before a long holiday weekend are usually pretty painfully dull. There wasn't much work to do and it was really quiet. Back in the day when the company was smaller and less corporate, management use to go around on these types of days and tell everyone to leave early. Not anymore. Now we have to stay exactly 8hrs no matter how little work there is to do. Stay busy or pretend to be busy, work-life balance is a nice to have idea they talk about but don't really encourage. I miss the good ole days. I finally escaped and was free for the weekend! I didn't really do much right away, I was just happy to have 72 hours out of my corporate slave shackles. Rest and relaxation was the highest priority.

Saturday morning I attempted to sleep in and made it to about 6:00am. I lounged around for most of the morning and then I got dressed and headed into Boston to pick up my race packet for the Run to Remember Half Marathon. I walked around the expo for a bit and just enjoyed a little people watching while I was there, I mean I had already paid for parking so I might as well hang out for a bit right. Once the novelty of freebies and creepy clown watching (not making fun of people, there really were creepy clowns there) wore off I left. On my way home I stopped at the mall and then Trader Joes. I got some cute new running skirts at Lululemon and stocked up on peanut butter at Trader Joes.

Once I made it home, I did some of what I do best during rest time - baking. One of my friends is doing a body building competition next weekend and has been on a really strict diet in preparation for it so I promised her I would make her cupcakes to enjoy after the competition. I wanted to make sure the recipe I had was good so I made a practice batch. Just plain vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting and all natural sprinkles. I used stone ground whole wheat flour and organic eggs, butter, milk, and vanilla. Once they were done I recruited my neighbor Annie and her daughter Janelle to taste test them for me. They approved. I tasted one too and I have to admit, they are really good.

I went to bed early so I'd be well rested for the race the next day. Sunday I got up early and got dressed, packed my fuel belt, and drove into Boston. Even at 6am it was already just over 70 degrees out with 80% humidity. Not my ideal running conditions, but I wasn't expecting a PR or anything crazy. I never 'race' the Run to Remember. The course is totally flat and probably could be a PR course for me, but for some reason I HATE it. It's a long out and back on Memorial drive and it starts and finishes at the Seaport World Trade Center. It's always hot and humid and I almost always bonk at mile 9 of the course, but I still register for the race every year.

I decided right from the beginning that I was just going to go easy and just enjoy running for 13.1 miles. The first 5 miles my legs felt a little heavy and sluggish, but then something clicked and they suddenly remembered, "oh yeah, this is what we do". I found my stride and got comfortable. For the first time out of the 4 times I've run this race I didn't bonk at mile 9, quite the opposite, I picked up the pace. I found my friend Scott at mile 11, tapped him on the shoulder and said "come on let's finish strong" to which he replied "you're passing me, you little B*$&%". That made me smile. I kept it up and finished strong like I said. I didn't PR, but I finished exactly in the time I was shooting for, 2:10, and I felt great! That was the best part. My energy and motivation had returned, hopefully my speed will be following soon. I recovered with some Mix1 Mango all natural protein drink (it's awesome - try it!) and headed home for a shower and a nap.

Monday, Memorial Day, my plan was to get in a little active recovery on my bike, then I got a text from my friend Cherie inviting me over to hang out by her pool. I merged the two ideas and biked to her house. It felt so good to get on my bike. I made it to her house in really good time too. I thought it might take me close to an hour to get there taking back roads and not knowing exactly how far it was, but it ended up being only about 8.5 miles and it only took me 30minutes. I helped Cherie make some fruit salad with her son Mitchell (who happens to make the best cup of coffee in the world). Kim and Bill and Ryann joined us shortly after we finished the fruit salad. We all cooled off in the pool as the day heated up. It was a great relaxing day just chillin' with great friends. I biked home around 4:30 and hit up the grocery store before retiring to my couch for the evening and setting my alarm clock for another work week.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I totally jinxed myself

I'm super human and I can run marathons and bounce right back with little or no rest between races, etc. etc. Well, I am eating my words now.

Persistent fatigue (physical and mental exhaustion), increased resting heart rate, chronic nagging joint pain (my ankles hurt, they never hurt), lack of motivation, loss of appetite, restless sleep, increased stress, increase RPE, decreased performance (race results getting progressively worse not better), and weight gain (despite healthy diet and exercise routine) = OVERTRAINING!!!!!

The week started off pretty good, I went to the gym Monday and did some upper body strength training and intervals on the elliptical. Tuesday, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day and after work I was thinking of actually getting on my bike for a few miles before the Good Times 5K, but when I got home all I wanted to do was sleep. I had zero motivation and I even thought about skipping the race. I probably should have listened to that little voice in my head and skipped the race, but I didn't.

I went to the race even though I really didn't want to. It was hot and humid and I was feeling sluggish and slow. And to make things worse, I made the mistake of downing an entire bottle of Poland Spring sparkling water before I left the house. I learned in the first mile that carbonated water in your tummy gets shaken up while you run and causes a lot of painful bloating and kinda gross burping. Not fun. I ran the first mile in 8:30, not awful, but not as fast as I know I can run. Then it just went downhill from there, my splits, not the course. I felt like someone tied cinder blocks to my feet and the force of gravity was increasing with every step. A little after the 2 mile marker it started to sprinkle rain drops, at first it felt great because it was so hot out, then the sky really opened up and suddenly we were caught in a monsoon. Thunder and lightning and rain coming down so hard it kinda stung when it hit you. I finished the race in a little over 27 minutes which isn't horrible, but considering my PR for the course is 24:24 and I can run closer to 25 minutes under normal circumstances it was pretty disappointing. It was the metaphorical drop of water that broke the dam.

The next day at work I could barely hold my head up and I was so exhausted I couldn't focus, not to mention I had a headache for the past 2 days that still hadn't gone away even after taking 4 Advil. I haven't been sleeping well and I think it's a combo of work stress and not enough rest between races. I left at 9:00am and went home sick hoping a little rest would help. I slept from 9:30-11:30 and then from 12:00 to 4:30. I can't remember the last time I felt so completely drained.

Time for a break, perhaps a few days of, gasp, rest. Ugghhh, I hate rest. I have a half marathon this weekend, a tri next weekend and the following weekend, and pretty much a race every weekend for the next 8 weeks. Plus, training for Chicago and Goofy will start in June and ramp up over the summer. So, that leaves limited time for rest. It's now or never. I figure I need to listen to my body and give in to the need for some recovery before I get really sick or worse injured. So, the plan for the next few days is to do NOTHING. No running, no cross training, no biking, no strength training. Just rest and relaxing - sounds great to most people, it's torture for me! I'll get through it though and be better off and hopefully stronger after a few days off.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Getting Older is FUN!

I always say, “Age is just a number” and “like a fine wine, I get better with age”. Seriously, life just gets better and better each year. I mean it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, but it certainly is a wild ride that I would pay to hop on again.

I celebrated surviving another year by doing some of my favorite things with some of my favorite people. Wednesday I used a few hours of personal time to take off early from work and go to the Fitness Center’s Resolution Challenge Awards ceremony - the incentive program that ran from New Years to mid-April. Appartently the competition was pretty close and my team came in 2nd. I’m convinced this was for a few reasons, we were tapering for the marathon in April and unable to rack up points towards the end of the challenge and the other team was able to go to all of the lunch time classes offered at the fitness center for huge points and I’m not allowed to attend lunch time classes. Oh well, we all won better health so points are not important.

After the awards ceremony, I went home and did some laundry and relaxed for a bit before going for a birthday run with my friend Kim. I ran to her house and then we did a nice 3 mile run plus an extra mile with her dog Daisy at the end. We averaged something close to 9:30s and felt amazing. She made me some birthday cookies (chocoalte chip with dried cherries) and had a card for me too! By the time I ran home my garmin said I totaled 9 miles for the run, fitting for my 33rd birthday since 3x3=9. I think it’s going to be a great year. I’m pretty sure my numerology number is 3 and my OCD brain likes it so double 3s should be friggin spectacular!

Thursday, work went by painfully slow. I took Friday off so naturally, Thursday dragged and would not end soon enough. Finally, the day was over and it was time to begin a long weekend of awesome all about me-ness. I went for another run with Kim. Slightly shorter, but equally awesome pace-wise. It was cloudy, but hot and humid. Summer really wants to happen, but Mother Nature is continuing her douchey trend for the year and extending the April showers all the way into the end of May. With the run to and from her house I logged about 7.5 miles for the night.

Friday morning I tried to sleep in, but Fat Boy Slim (FBS) works better than an alarm clock and was up at 4am and HUNGRY. When I refused to get out of bed, he started his usual routine of pawing at the blinds in my windows making the most annoying noise in the world, I got up and pulled the blinds out of his reach and crawled back in bed and then he began knocking stuff off my dresser. So, I eventually gave in and got up around 6am. I got up, fed FBS and made myself some tea. Sat on the couch in my PJs and watched the Today show for a few hours until Kathy Lee and whoever her side kick is now came on and then I got dressed and went for a short 6 mile run. I LOVE that 6 miles is what I consider a “short” run.

It was kind of yucky out. Not raining, but drizzling and grey. My shoes and legs were covered in mud (not as much as from Tough Mudder, but still pretty dirty). I took a nice hot shower and steamed up my place so much that the smoke detector went off. I hate it when that happens, but I love steamy hot showers and it happens a lot so I’m used to it. I got dressed and continued the birthday celebrations with a trip to the nail salon with Kim for manicures and pedicures. I haven’t had a mani/pedi probably since I started running. My toenails are always mangled or missing so I never bothered. Plus, I kind of feel bad for the nail technician having to try and paint non-existant nails. They did an amazing job though. My toes haven’t looked this good in years! It’s so nice to look down and not see the black and blue toenails and wonder how long until one falls off. The funniest thing was that I had two different technicians one that did my toes and one that did my fingers and they BOTH commented on the color of my skin asking me if I do spray tanning. I just chuckled and explained I just eat a lot of carrots and sweet potatoes. Perhaps it’s time to cut back so I don’t start to look like George Hamilton.

Nails done, I went home and took a quick nap before getting ready to go out with the Lowell Ladies for more Birthday fun. While I was lounging around, the UPS guy showed up with my me to me present. A new doormat. I know sounds wicked boring and kind of lame, but it’s the coolest door mat EVER! It’s a finish line, tehehe. So every time I come home I’m crossing a finish line. Seriously, I couldn’t think of a more perfect doormat for my front steps. It’s AWESOME!

The hardest part about getting ready for the night was deciding what to wear. We were just going to a small jazz bar in Lowell, but I rarely get the opportunity to dress up – I’m too old for Prom and all of my friends are already married or not getting married soon. I tried on almost every dress in my closet, twice! I still couldn’t decide. So, I texted Nutter and had her come over and help and Cherie came over too. We even sent a picture to a 3rd person that didn’t know me for an outside perspective. It was unanimoius – I rocked the sexy dress for the night and I looked HOT! Put my hair up in a side twisted bun and did a little 40s inspired pin curl on the side and even put on some fire engine red lipstick and liquid liner for extra hot Betty Davis eyes.

We went to a tapas place for a quick bite before the jazz bar – Ole. I wouldn’t recommend it. The food was disappointing at best and the service was horrible. Our waitress was to busy texting to be bothered. She tried to bring us something we didn’t order and forgot to bring us something we DID order and then when she brought the check she rudely informed us that she was done for the night and asked us to settle up so she could leave. And then AGAIN told us she wanted to leave when she brought us the change. We all agreed we will not be going back there again, but at least it gave us a little comedy for the evening.

The jazz club we went to , The Back Page, was really cool. Only about a half mile from my house and I never knew it was there. It was a small club down an alleyway next to one of the canals that runs through downtown Lowell. They had a great cocktail menu that had a nostalgic and local theme to it with drinks like “the Dirty Canal” (a dirty martini) and “the Mill Martini” (regular martini) or “the Dizzy Gillespie” and “ the Berry Goodman”. The band played some Billy Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and everyone had a toe tappin’ knee slappin’ good time.

Saturday morning, Nutter and her friend Christine joined me for a nice 10 miler through Tewksbury and Andover. Although it was near 70 degrees and humid for the first time this year and my body was not acclimated to the heat, after we eased into the run and got into a good rhythm, we maintained a steady 10 minute/mile pace and even picked it up in the last 3 miles running 9:45, 9:30, and 9:20. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and running errands. Oh and waiting to see if the World ended, as some crackpot religious fanatic predicted, it didn’t. No big surprise there.

Sunday, I ran the Lowell Fire Fighters 5K. I also ran to the race and home from the race since it started a mile and a half from my house and there was really no point in driving there and wasting the $4/gallon gas. It was significantly colder than the day before and cloudy again, thanks Mother Nature. I wasn’t trying to break any records considering I ran 10 the day before and I just wanted to have fun and socialize after the race. I finished in about 26 minutes and ran the last 2 miles at 8:00 pace so I’m getting close to my pre-Boston speed and should be ready to tear it up when the Good Times Summer Series begins. Hung out after the race chatting with friends and enjoying the views, what woman doesn’t like firemen? Handlebar mustaches and all, they’re nice to look at. Had to head home when I started to shiver from being sweaty and cold and standing around in the grey windy afternoon air. Spent the rest of my birthday weekend on the couch watching a Criminal Minds marathon. Couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. Can’t wait to see what fun and exciting things I can get myself into in my 33rd year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Birthday to ME!!!!

So far this week has been kinda blah, but that could be because of the weather. It's been cloudy and rainy for pretty much all of May. With sun not appearing in the forecast until Sunday or Monday this week is pretty dreary, but I'm not letting it get me down because today is my BIRTHDAY!!!!

After my lazy day on Sunday, I hit the gym Monday after work and did an hour of intervals on the elliptical and it felt great. I had it on the highest resistance and could have gone higher if the option was available. I was going to do some strength too, but as I've said many times before, strength training is my least favorite thing to do and it's the easiest thing for me to skip. So I skipped it.

Tuesday, I brought my gym stuff to work with the intention of working out a little before the Good Times 5K later in the evening, but after a rather dull day at work, I was lacking motivation to do much of anything. I was even considering bailing on the 5K and spending the night on my couch instead. About two hours before the race I put on my running gear to try and get psyched up to run. Then I got sucked into watching the Fabulous Beekman Boys on TV. It's hilarious and I love it. I looked at my watch at 6:40 and thought "SH*T! I'm gonna miss the race". Jumped off the couch grabbed my key and ran out the door, literally.

I made it. Even though I still wished I was on my couch, I was there and I was going to run. It was drizzling and grey and sort of windy - all around gross. The race started promptly at 7pm and we were off. I did not feel great, but I did OK. I finished in 26:01, faster than the previous week, but still not back to my pre-Boston/Mudder speed. I felt like I was gonna vomit at the finish. Maybe the Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter filled pretzels were a bad idea for pre-race fuel. Especially after the frozen chicken and bean burrito for dinner and the Yasso Frozen Greek yogurt for dessert. :( Lesson learned.

Plan for today is Birthday workout at the gym and hopefully some prizes for the Resolution Challenge incentive program, then a Lowell Ladies run later on complete with Birthday cookies from my friend Kim. Chocolate chip with dried cherries. OMG - they're good. I can't wait. Then there will be lots more Birthday fun this weekend, I'll elaborate on that next week.

I'd love to start biking to work. I had already logged quite a few days by this time last year, but the weather is unpleasant and dangerous so I've been hesitant to try. It would be nice considering gas is $4 a gallon. Plus, I need to get some miles in soon. I noticed on my calendar my first triathlon is only 3 weeks away. I might try to squeeze in some miles this weekend, perhaps 33 miles for my birthday. :)

Work is mimicking the movie "Office Space" lately. I feel like Peter Gibbons just waiting for my meeting with the Bobs. It's not bad, I like what I do, it's just that lingering feeling of we all may not have jobs tomorrow that kind of makes it hard to stay motivated. I'm trying to stay focused and do the work and enjoy the life my paycheck allows me to have until the ax drops. It's out of my hands and all I can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I know whatever happens it will be for the best. Who knows, maybe I'll end up working construction like Peter Gibbons. All I know is I better get some cake because it's MY Birthday! :)

"The ratio of people to cake is too big" - Milton Waddams

Monday, May 16, 2011

Overdue for a lazy day

So, I was really sore after Tough Mudder last week. A lot more sore than I have been after any of the marathons I have run. It's my own fault though. Saturday after the race I felt pretty good aside from being freezing cold and wet. I should have just rested and relaxed on Sunday, but that's not how I roll. I ran a 5K Sunday morning in Somerville. It ended up being kind of a hilly course and my legs were not ready to run anymore hills after Mount Snow. I ran SLOW for me and finished in 28:57 and my legs were toast. I felt like my quads got mauled by a mountain lion.

Monday morning was very painful and walking around work I must have looked like the Tin man in need of a little oil or a small child just learning to walk. My muscles just didn't want to work and I was throwing my legs in front of me with every step and my bones held up the weight of my body, but the muscles just didn't function like they should AND IT HURT. My legs hurt a lot. Normally, I would go to the gym after work and do some strength training and maybe some elliptical intervals, but on Monday I went home and got horizontal on my couch immediately. I couldn't even get down the stairs to my basement to do laundry.

Tuesday I expected to feel better, but I felt WORSE. My quads and glutes were screaming. I took some Advil and hobbled through the day. Good Times 5K would be interesting considering I was having trouble just walking to the start line. I wore my orange Mudder headband to the race, but I didn't feel very badass. I felt more like the wine I bought while I was in VT - "Broke Ass". Anyway, I started the race nice and easy and ran with my friend Zach. He stayed with me for the entire race even though he could have run a lot faster. We both have PRs near 24:30 and are capable of improving, but this night was not the night for a new PR. I just wanted to finish and maybe maintain my place in the standings. I finished in 27:16. Almost as slow as the night after Boston, but amazingly enough, my legs felt better after the run.

Wednesday, the pro photos were up.
Here are some of the best shots of me:





Wednesday afternoon I did 6 mile run with Kim and Nutter. I felt pretty good although my legs were still toast and I could barely keep up with Kim towards the end. She picked up the pace and I almost died. Thursday we did another 6ish and I felt even worse. My legs were not as sore, but I was exhausted. I just had no gas in the tank at all. Not only did I struggle to keep up, but I stopped and walked a bunch of times and almost didn't finish the run. I can't remember feeling that wiped out in a LONG time. It didn't matter how hard I tried, my body wouldn't allow me to take another step.

So, Friday I listened to my body and took a much needed rest day. I decided to go to the mall and get myself a "me to me" birthday gift. My phone has been dying for about a year and I've been procrastinating getting the upgrade. I finally did it. I got an iPhone. I already love it. I don't have an actual iPod except for my shuffle so it will be great to have all my music for traveling to marathons all over the country. Plus, I've heard it has all these other great features called "apps" that I have to figure out how to use now too.

Saturday morning was a Lowell Ladies run. We did a little over 8 miles and I felt great! The rest was exactly what I needed. After the run, I wanted to hang out and chat but I had an appointment with my Acupuncturist for facial rejuvenation (another me to me birthday treat). It's like botox without the harmful bacterial toxins. She works miracles and erases all my wrinkles and makes my skin so smooth and even. It's amazing AND relaxing. It was just what I needed. On my way home from there I stopped at Trader Joes and stocked up on all kinds of yummy stuff. You know when they say not to go shopping hungry, there's a lot of truth to that. I bought so much food. Everything looked so good.

Sunday was dreary and rainy and I was not feeling very motivated. I sort of wanted to go for a run, but at the same time I knew this weekend was the only weekend I didn't have a race or training run planned pretty much for the next 6 months so I decided to take advantage and be totally lazy all day. I stayed in my PJs and sat on the couch and watched TV and movies pretty much all day. I only put pants on to go to the grocery store, but took them off and put my PJs back on as soon as I got home. It was great. I haven't had a day as unproductive as that in a LONG time and it felt pretty good. Maybe this rest thing people talk about isn't so bad.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More Mudder Memories

After we crossed the finish line we were given our Tough Mudder orange headbands, water, bananas, Clif bars, and of course, the free beer (which I gave to Carl). I got a mylar blanket and tried to stop shivering, but I couldn't get the blanket around myself because my hands were full with food and water. This nice couple saw me struggling and shivering and offered to hold all my stuff while I got the blanket on. My hands were so numb I couldn't tie the blanket corners into a knot. I finally got all wrapped up like a frozen burrito and headed over to where Jodie and Carl were standing. Still shivering uncontrollably, I decided to stand by the bonfire to warm up. Even being within inches of a fire I couldn't warm up so as soon as Jodie finished her beer we went to get our bags and change into dry clothes.

On the way to the restrooms at least one medical staff person asked me if I was ok. I don't know what my reply was, but I must have mumbled yes in some form. We made it to the restrooms and there was just one changing room. Jodie went in first and I washed my face off in the sink. I had what Jodie described as a mud goatee. Finally, it was my turn. It felt so good to get the wet muddy clothes off. I was SHOCKED by how much mud I was covered in and in places I didn't think mud could have gotten into based on what I was wearing. Even with capri pants on I had chunks of mud on my thighs and the mud also managed to get in under my tank top and sports bra. It was pretty gross. I cleaned off as best as I could and put my dry clothes on. I was still shivering and I had forgotten my flip flops in my car and really didn't want to put my muddy shoes back on. Jodie was nice enough to go get them from the car for me. While I waited there were two girls in the bathroom making mini-Jacuzzis out of the sinks and washing their feet off. I hopped up on the counter and joined them. It felt AMAZING!!!! My feet actually began to defrost and regain feeling. Jodie returned with my flip flops and we headed back to the finish area to meet up with Carl. I ran to my car to throw my wet clothes in there and get my sweatshirt.

On my way to and from my car two more medical staff asked me if I was ok. I must have really looked like a wreck. I just couldn't stop shivering. It was actually starting to hurt I was shaking so violently. When I made it back to the finish area and found Jodie and Carl we walked around and checked out the event merchandise and then decided maybe some food would help us warm up. Plus, most of the food was indoors which was also a lot warmer. We got in the first line we found, the pizza line. As we were waiting and I continued to shiver, this woman walked up to me and asked me if I drank coffee. I said yes and she handed me a hot cup of green mountain coffee. It was AWESOME!!! I picked out my slices of pizza and waited in line to pay and sipped my free coffee. Just as I got up to the register there was a man trying to just get a bottle of water for his daughter, with about 20 people in line and a thirsty whining little girl I let him go in front of me. After he paid, the woman at the register said I was sweet and I didn't have to pay! Free pizza!

What an amazing end to an already amazing day. After we finished eating we hit the road for the 2 and a half hour drive back home. I couldn't wait to take a hot shower. The whole way we talked about how crazy it was that only hours before we were freaking out about starting Tough Mudder and what had we gotten ourselves into and now we were DONE. We did it and we both conquered our biggest fears. Well done Tough Mudder! It definitely delivered and challenged us in ways that no other event can even come close to doing.

When I got home, I couldn't get into the shower fast enough. Taking my braids out became another obstacle; there was so much mud in my hair my sink went from white to brown in an instant. It then took 3 or 4 swipes with q-tips to get all the mud out of my ears. Kinda gross, but I also used q-tips to get the mud out of my nose, followed up with a rinse using my neti pot. Mud was EVERYWHERE. Finally, I got in the shower and scrubbed off the rest of the mud. I should probably just throw that wash cloth away because it will never be white again. I had to wash my hair twice.

Warm dry pajamas and you would think I'd be ready to pass out, but I was past the point of no return, so exhausted and over tired I couldn't sleep. Plus, I was hungry again. Carl wore his heart rate monitor during the race and said he burned close to 5000 calories. I don't think I burned quite as many considering he's twice my size, but I wouldn't be surprised if I burned close to 3000. I finally fell asleep around 11pm and I had to get up early in the morning to head to Somerville for the MOM's run 5K.

Yeah, I'm crazy, I ran a 5K the day after Tough Mudder. Probably not my smartest idea. But it was for Dana Farber Cancer Research and I felt like I HAD to run it. The course was hillier than I was ready for. My legs just couldn't do anymore climbing. I managed to finish in 28 minutes and change, not bad, but a little slow for me. After the race was over, I grabbed some of the free food they had and drove to the grocery store and then home. On the way, I called my mom to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. As soon as the groceries were put away I crashed on my couch and slept for the rest of the day. A shame, I know, because it was a beautiful day and friends wanted me to go for a run or a bike ride, but I was spent and just wanted to be horizontal for the rest of what was left of the weekend. I slept great and took a rest day Monday to recover a little more. :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Probably the toughest event on the planet"

They're not kidding. Before I get into the dirty details of Tough Mudder let me recap how I 'tapered' for the event. Wednesday, I went to the gym for one last upper body strength circuit and a little cross training on the elliptical. It actually felt good to lift since I hadn't been to the gym in over a week. I bumped up the weight on all the exercises I did which made me feel pretty good about my strength going into the weekend.

Thursday, I was not feeling so motivated and I was a little sore from sitting at my desk most of the day. It was a LONG day with not a whole lot to do and I was bored out of my mind. After work, I went for a run with my friend Kim. We were doing 5 miles and I ran to her house to make it a little over 8 for me. The run to her house felt great and loosened me up a little. It was sunny and cool out, but felt a lot warmer than the thermostat read. Kim and I did a nice out and back from her house and chatted along the way. Those shirts that say running is cheaper than therapy couldn't be more true. Both of us dealing with different stressful things, really needed the sneaker session. We finished the run and she thanked me because she kept up for the first time since having a baby 7 weeks ago and she "felt like a million bucks". I thanked her because the longish run was exactly what I needed to loosen up and get in the right frame of mind for the Tough Mudder race.

Friday, work actually went by pretty fast. I drove home, finished packing and waited for my friend Jodie to arrive. As soon as she did, we hoped in the car and headed for Vermont. Along the way we talked about the race and what to expect and our biggest fears on the course. For Jodie it was the "boa constrictor", a small drainage pipe half submerged in muddy water that you had to crawl through. For me it was the "walk the plank", a 15' high platform that you had to climb onto then jump off of into freezing cold pond water and swim back to shore.

We made it to Brattleboro, VT and checked into our hotel then headed into the downtown area to get some food. Who knew that Brattleboro would be such a hoppin' place on a Friday evening. The local theater only had 3 movies showing and there was really only about a quarter mile stretch of road that I would call the "downtown" area, but it was crowded and bustling with activity. People were playing music in the street and shops were selling merchandise on the sidewalks. As soon as we found a place to park and started walking around I fell in love with the place. Every coffee shop and cafe had signs up that said "organic", "local", "our milk and meat is hormone free", "all Natural", etc. We ate in a sandwich shop called "The Works". I'm pretty sure the entire place was decorated with recycled materials, from reclaimed wood and tile in the floors to old metal tractor seats at the tables AND the food was great too!

After we ate we stopped at a small grocery store/coop before heading back to the hotel to settle in for the night. The store was like my dream grocery store. No conventionally grown produce even available, all organics and all locally grown. Even the wine selection they had included wines made from organic grapes. I got a bottle of "Broke Ass" Malbec from Argentina - figured it would be a fitting drink for post race (even though I don't drink, it was too funny not to buy).

Anyway, we went back to the hotel, settled in and fell asleep watching the Bruins beat the Flyers to advance in the playoffs. I woke up several times throughout the night tossing and turning and anxious about the challenges ahead of us. I had a nightmare that we got there late and several nightmares about the race itself. Then my alarm went off and it was time to get ready to get TOUGH. We ate breakfast and got in the car for the 40 minute drive to the mountain.

As soon as we arrived we were overwhelmed with the excitement in the air and I was still struggling with the decision of what to wear. It was in the mid-50s and cloudy and the forecast called for rain. I knew we would be cold and wet almost instantly so layers wouldn't matter much. I had a tank top on and then a lightweight long sleeve that I could ditch at the start. In triathlons they write your number on your arm and your leg, at Tough Mudder they write it on your forehead. Seemed silly at first, but I guess when you're covered head to toe in mud, the course photographers (and EMTs if needed) need some way to identify you. Here's me and Jodie after face marking.
At 10:00am we lined up at the start and gave the Tough Mudder Pledge - "As a Tough Mudder I pledge that: I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. I do not whine - kids whine. I help my fellow Mudders complete the course. I overcome all fears." And with a blast of smoke and screaming we were off.

The first obstacle was called "death march" and it was basically a 1 mile hike straight up the mountain. Followed by "killa gorilla", hill repeats on a steep slope covered in mud and snow. A short downhill to the next obstacle, "devil's beard", netting to crawl under and try not to get caught up in while descending the steep mountain side. More mud and trail running and we reached Jodie's fear, the "boa constrictor". The tubes were just small enough that you couldn't crawl unless you were super tiny and you had to get on your belly and use your elbows to get through and it was the first of many times throughout the day that we got submerged in cold water. I can't wait to see the photos of us coming out of the dark into the light of a lot more hills and mud to come.

Next up, "tired yet" and "tree hugger", tires and another steep hill to climb. Then Jodie's friend Carl's biggest fear - "the ball shrinker" - a tight rope walk across an ice cold pond that will most definitely take your breath away, but not in a scenic beautiful mountain top view sort of way. We made it across and entered "the mud mile" and I was glad I re-tied my shoes as tight as I possibly could because the mud was thick and I saw more than one person lose a sneaker in it. One of my favorite obstacles was next, "kiss of mud" - a barbed wire crawl with wire only 8" off the ground. Keep your face and butt down or go home with scars. I LOVED IT and the photo of me after should prove it because I was smiling ear to ear.

We climbed up the mountain AGAIN and got to "hold your wood", basically a pile of logs and another climb up a steep slope made a little more challenging because you had to carry one of the logs with you and then bring it back down. Followed by hay bail pyramids and an obstacle called "evil Knievil". At first glance I thought there was no way in hell I would be able to accomplish this one. It was a vert ramp or curve ramp about 12 foot high covered by plexi-glass plastic and mud making it nearly impossible to get up. I stood and watch other people run full speed at it and slip right back down and then there were a few guys that had made it to the top and they were helping other people get over it. So, I figured I might as well try. Worst thing that would happen is I would run full speed at it, face plant on the ramp and slide back down. I ran at it and got almost to the top, grabbed the arms of the guys helping and got my leg up over the edge and I made it! Only problem now was getting down the other side. It was a straight plywood wall with a rope and some hay at the bottom to break your fall. I hesitated, but then grabbed the rope and swung myself over the edge and slid down and we were off and running again. Oh and this is when we saw the 5 mile marker. Only half way done!!!

Over the hills and through the woods, not to grandmother's house but to a spider web of cargo nets and then a house filled with maple syrup that you had to crawl though and then over piles of wood chips and on to my biggest fear - "walk the plank". There were 4 or 5 different platforms and lines of people waiting to climb up onto them and jump off into the freezing cold water. We all picked different lines, I chose the one farthest away from the shore because it was the shortest line, not thinking that I would have to swim the most to get back to shore. At first I didn't think I would even be able to get up onto the platform. There was a wall and a rope and I couldn't pull myself up, but then two men came from behind me and grabbed my heels and hurled me up onto the "plank". Then I thought, "shit, shit, shit, now I'm up here and I have to jump". I tried not to stand there and think about it too long because I knew I would chicken out. I JUMPED!!!!! Holy crap! It was high and there was no way to gauge how long it would take to hit the water and how deep and cold the water was. I got water up my nose and in my mouth and I'm a very strong swimmer, but the shock to your body of the cold water (45 degrees according to the course officials) made it extremely difficult to swim. But, I DID IT! I conquered my fear! And I felt like I was on top of the world. I've never been so cold in my entire life and I do ice baths after my long runs. This was way worse.

More trail running and hills to climb and we reached the under water tunnels, basically very low beams in the grossest muddiest water ever that you had to dunk under. I was on my belly and the gap between the bottom and the beam was probably no more that 18". It smelled like poop and tasted pretty nasty too. I was spitting dirt for the next few miles. We got to the "glacier", a 20 foot tall pile of snow with a huge back up of people trying to climb over it and decided we had seen enough of snow and didn't need to wait 30 or 40 minutes to climb over more. So, we skipped it. None of us felt shame or bad about doing it. It was more about having to stand there waiting than a fear of not being able to complete the obstacle.

The next few obstacles were one right after another. The "gauntlet" - a guy with a fire hose making it difficult for you to climb the already steep, slippery, mud covered hill. "Cliff Hanger" - a steep decent that warned "you may break your ankle on this obstacle, sorry." "Blood Bath" - a dumpster filled with colored ice water and a wall you had to go under to get through to the other side. "Funky Monkey" - monkey bars over a pool of, yup you guessed it, ice water. I watched a guy much bigger and stronger than me slip off the first bar (they were greased) and plunge into the water not very gracefully and I decided to just swim across. This water was by far the coldest. Probably because they built the pool in a hollowed out section of SNOW to keep it nice and chilly for us.

Right after that was the "Berlin walls" - 12 foot barrier walls to climb over. Considering I couldn't feel my hands or feet, I decided not to attempt it. I knew with help from other mudders I COULD do it, but I was worried that I shouldn't do it. I wasn't so concerned about getting over the top of the wall, but more so the drop to the ground from the other side. I didn't want to break my legs or feet. So, we unanimously decided to skip the walls.

After the walls, there were a series of chair lift towers laid down across the course that we had to hurdle and then a maze of fire and smoke we had to run through. Next was "turd's nest" - a cargo net suspended between two platforms about 4' down from the edge of the platform. So, not only was it tricky to get to the net and cross it without getting stuck but getting out and back up onto the platform was really hard too. We made it though and there were only 2 obstacles left between us and dry clothes.

"Greased Lightning" - probably the world's largest slip 'n' slide, down the side of the mountain that landed in a pool of more freezing cold water. Then the obstacle that everyone feared most, "electroshock therapy". At that point though, it was the least scary thing ever because the finish line was only 10 feet beyond it and although I was dripping wet and would conduct electricity very well, I wanted my dry warm clothes more than I feared the electrocution. I ran straight through and managed to avoid shocks until one wire barely grazed my leg upon exiting the obstacle. AND I WAS DONE!!!!!!!!!!! Here we all are shivering and covered in mud, but done with the hellish course that took a little over 4 hours to complete:

I can't wait to see the pro photos from the course and I REALLY hope they got one of me jumping off the plank. I will post them as soon as I get them. Until then I am barely walking and a little battered and bruised, but onto the next event - half marathon in the end of May, Boston's Run to Remember.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How does one taper for Tough Mudder?

4 days to go until I attempt probably the craziest, most challenging, most insane race I've ever done. I'm kinda starting to freak out. What do I wear? Should I carry gels? And a hydration pack? Goggles? Gloves? A helmet? I mean, I have had several concussions(5 or 6, I lost count) in the past, if I take a good hit to the head it could be lights out for me.

In case you are not familiar with what Tough Mudder is, you can check out more details at Toughmudder.com But I'll sum it up for you, 10+ miles of trail running up and down Mount Snow in Vermont, plus ~25 military inspired obstacles designed by the British Special Forces. Some of the obstacles include: barbed wire crawls, cargo nets, 12' barrier walls, tires, underwater tunnels, monkey bars, fire, and last but not least, live electrical wires you have to run through. And I PAID to do it.

You might wonder how to train for such an event. Well, considering much of the last 4 months has been focused on training for the Boston Marathon, I haven't really done a significant amount of training until the last two weeks. I have been doing a lot of upper body strength training and the long runs for the marathon will definitely help me endurance wise, but how can you train for electrocution? And even if there's a way, I don't want to do it. So, in the last two weeks I've been doing the playground workouts and body weight exercises and some upper body strength.

Now with 4 days to go I'm wondering how do I taper for this event??? Avoid falling in mud, cut back on playing with fire, don't jump off of high stuff, skip the monkey bars at the playground? I've done two other similar races (Spartan Race, and Ruckus Boston), but both of those were only about 3 miles long and 10-15 obstacles. This race promises to be way more Badass. I wonder if you could use the race finish time prediction calculators for a race like this. If it took me ~45 minutes to complete the 3 mile course, it should take me roughly two and a half hours to complete Tough Mudder. That IS what they say on the website. If that's the case, I should treat this like a very tough half marathon. I will need a few gels to get through it and they will have water stops on the course (not talking about the icy cold water we will be jumping into).

Now onto the dilema only a girl would struggle with, what to wear...I was thinking it would be wise to wear as little as possible because as soon as I get wet I don't want to be dragging heavy soggy clothes for the rest of the race and wet clothes will be COLD clothes. My original plan was to wear tri shorts and a tank top - Quick drying, aerodynamic, not going to snag on barbed wire, race tested in water and running. Then someone mentioned to me that there will most likely still be snow on the mountain. Now I'm thinking Under Armor might be a better choice, Long sleeves and capri pants - will provide a little bit of a barrier from the mud, fire, and barbed wire and maybe even from the electrical wires. I can't decide!

No matter what, the race is going to be TOUGH. Parts of it are going to be really fun, parts of it are going to hurt a lot, parts of it are going to just pretty much suck balls (excuse my language), but ALL of it will be AWESOME and I can't wait to do it.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"I just go all in"

What a great weekend! Seriously the best running weather anyone could ask for. In the 50s, partly cloudy, with a light breeze. It was absolutely beautiful and wicked busy for me.

Friday afternoon when I got out of work I decided I was due for a rest day. Although it seems like an eternity, I have to remember the marathon was only two weeks ago and I am still recovering (even though my legs are fine and I'm right back to running, minus the long runs, already). So, like any other rest day, I was instantly bored and cured my boredom by baking some cookies. I made chocolate chip and oatmeal awesomeness, then ate about half of them as they were coming out of the oven to make sure they tasted ok. I approved of the overall quality of the cookies and continued to scarf down several more before I passed out from cookie coma on my couch watching some couple's wedding that apparently made the news on Friday.

Saturday morning, I tried to sleep in since I wasn't meeting my friends to run until about 9:30, but my plan backfired. It was so nice out Friday that I slept with the windows open and at about 5:00am there was a bird singing right on the tree outside my bedroom that prevented me from getting the rest I was trying to achieve. Oh well, I got up and had some tea and breakfast and finished up the laundry I had started the night before, oh and of course I had some cookies too. Oatmeal cookies for breakfast are ok because there oatmeal, right?

9:00 rolled around and I was dressed and ready to go. I headed out the door to run to my friend Kim's house for our Saturday morning workout. I planned another fun playground workout for us. This time Shannon decided to join us, all the other Lowell Ladies that usually run with us on Saturday's wussed out as soon as they heard we were doing a bootcamp style workout with the run (to be fair, some had races, family vacations, and longer runs planned). Anyway, for those that are interested here is what we did (1.5 mile run to and from the park for warm up and cool down):
3x10 jumping jacks
3x10 plyo squats
3x10 push ups
3x10 dips
3x10 alternating lunges (10 each leg)
3x10 Burpees
3x10 side kicks (slow and controlled movement, uses balance, coordination, and core stability, plus a little hip flexor action)
3x10 box jumps on picnic table benches about 18-20" high
3x10 invert rows
3x30 second wall sits
Then we went to a grassy section of the park to do abs:
3x30 second planks
3x20 scissor kicks (works the low abs)
3x20 bicycles
3x30 second side planks (each side)

Not a bad workout. Challenging, but not too tough. The run home was definitely slower than the run to the park, but we had fun and that's what really matters. When we got back to Kim's she had mentioned that she wanted to give cookies to the fire station up the street for responding to her house the week before when she left a pot on the stove and went for a walk forgetting the stove was on and nearly burned her house down. She didn't get a chance to make any cookies because her little angel Ryann was a party animal Friday night and refused to go to bed. I wanted to get the cookies I made out of my house so I would stop eating them, so I volunteered to donate them on her behalf. I ran home, got the cookies, drove back and we walked them over to the Fire Station. Needless to say, the guys were very appreciative.

Saturday, was also the day my friend Jenine was having a health fair in Melrose where her fitness studio is. After I showered and ate some lunch I drove down to swing by and check it out. It was great. They had all kinds of vendors there and live entertainment and even managed to organize a flash mob. I'd say it was a huge success and "Healthy Melrose" definitely helped make Melrose a little healthier and educated the community on all of the great resources they have around the neighborhood. Well done Jenine!

By the time I made it home I was exhausted and didn't feel like cooking dinner, so I just had some leftovers. I made some yummy herbed chicken and pasta verde the week before with broccoli, sugar snap peas, and zucchini. It totally hit the spot and put me in a happy food coma for the night.

Sunday I ran the James Joyce Ramble 10K in Dedham. What a fun race! The course was sort of hilly, but wicked pretty. We even ran past a castle! Oh and all along the course they had people dressed in period costumes reading from James Joyce books. I have to admit I couldn't hear them over the 'Eye of the Tiger' blasting in my ears, but it was a pretty cool sight to see. And the after party was clearly what most of the 3000 runners showed up for. Free flowing Harpoon IPA and UFO and live music on a sunny Sunday afternoon, in a word - AWESOME!

I hung out with a group of Greater Lowell Road Runners after the race and laughed so hard my abs still hurt. Many of us had just run Boston and some were tapering for upcoming races, some were just there for the free beer. Either way, there were a lot of great discussions and jokes flying around. As we talked about our marathon experiences, someone started using the analogy of gambling and knowing what cards you're holding and how to play them, referring to race strategy and my response was, "I just go all in!" I know it's not the wisest race strategy and I could be a better runner if I played my cards right, but for now I'm having fun and that's the most important thing. I try to never take myself too seriously. I mean I have high expectations of myself and I do train hard and try to do my best, but my ultimate goal is always to have fun. For example, after the race I changed into a new t-shirt a friend recently bought for me which perfectly illustrates my life philosophy right now: