Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The race I wasn't supposed to race

Many, many months ago I had it in my head that I could run a sub 1:50 half marathon at BCS (Bryan/College Station) this year. Had my heart truly been in it, I suppose that yes, I could've. That's about an 8:22 pace, and I ran about an 8:30 at 3M at the beginning of the year.

The summer didn't really go as I had planned. My pace suffered as I just wasn't able to tough it out through the heat and humidity quite like I had in 2012. The night trail race I did in August really took it out of me and forced me to refocus a bit. I needed to concentrate on my upcoming marathon and not a new PR. So BCS would then become a "training run"....a fast training run, as I still planned to break 2 hours, but not anything near 8:22 pace.

I traveled to College Station with several of my triathlon group friends and they all assured me that yes, I would be racing this. It was more than a training run and I needed to give it my all. I told them that my best would be breaking 9 min overall pace. I think it appeased them at the time.

The weather leading up to the race was a bit brutal. The morning before was in the mid-20s with winds, bringing the windchill down into the low teens. Thankfully the icy weather was supposed to move out by race morning, with temps right around freezing, but no wind forecasted. Brutal to stand around in while waiting for the race to start, but great for the actual running. I fretted several times about what to wear, but ultimately decided capris and my long sleeve Team Luke's shirt with gloves and a hat would be just fine. I was kind of curious about how my body would respond to the cold and if I'd run faster subconsciously.

I started the race with my training buddies Tony and Paul, but I knew both would jump ahead of me and I'd likely not see them again until the finish. Tony would run under 1:50 and Paul was shooting for sub 2 hours, but I knew he'd be well under that. I thought a 1:57 would be just fine for me. Sure enough, they were gone after about the first half mile. The first 2 miles were exactly as I'd hoped at 9:40 and 9:15. I was running by feel and not checking my pace on my Garmin, but rather just glancing at my mile splits in case I needed to adjust. If they were coming in faster than I thought, but I felt good I wasn't going to intentionally slow down.

Me and Tony at the start. Yes, I made fun of his tights.
There's a little glimpse of Paul behind us, too.

Mile 3 came and went with a little drama. One bridge that we needed to cross hadn't been sanded the night before after we got some unexpected freezing rain, and it was iced over. I had to walk across it so I wouldn't slip. Thankfully I didn't see anyone fall, but it was a little worrisome. I hoped the remaining overpasses would have sand on them, as I knew the temps would never get above freezing during the race and the ice wouldn't have a chance to melt. Surprisingly, that mile still came in at 9:00 even. I thought for sure I'd lost more time by walking, but I must have been running much faster than it felt. This gave me a huge mental boost. I honestly felt great.

The first 5k came in at just under 29 minutes I think. I was trying to pay a little attention to splits, so I could be sure I was increasing my pace enough throughout to hit a 1:57. I was right where I wanted to be. My best racing comes when I start slow and run progressively faster, with my last mile my fastest.

It was after 4 miles that I decided this would be a race after all. I felt great, really great. Already 4 miles in, running 8:45 pace and it felt much slower, knowing I could continually increase my pace as the miles ticked off. Why not race it? It wouldn't be a PR, but I could certainly make it my second fastest half marathon by a long shot.

The middle miles were pretty uneventful. I had warmed up, the spectators were a lot of fun, I chatted here and there with other runners (it was a good feeling to still be able to talk during the race!), and I was amazed anyone was out volunteering for the race in that cold weather.

10k came through in the 55 minute range and I had dropped to under 9 minute overall pace. I just needed to hold onto this for the second half and I'd have my second fastest time. But I really thought I could keep going faster. I concentrated a lot on just making it to the mile markers, by realizing that it was less than an hour of running left, that the A&M campus was pretty fabulous to run through, and there were a lot of college boys hanging around. Hey, whatever gets you through, right?

During mile 8 I started chatting with a few college girls as we ran through campus. At one point, I said "only 5 miles until the beer". They got silent. I realized that they weren't old enough to drink yet. So then I told them only 5 miles until I got to drink their beer.

We went across a timing mat at just under 9 miles and my watch said 1:19. I was definitely having a good race. I hoped to run about 8:20 pace for the remainder of the race. For some reason my poor math skills told me that would give me a 1:56.

During mile 11 I saw Christine come out of the porto-potty and I yelled to her. She and Joe had started ahead of us, and I knew she must have been having a fantastic race to be running sub-9 WITH a potty stop. It took me about a half mile to catch her and as I was passing her, she says to me "What took you so long?" Aw, I love that lady. I also knew that she was not about to let me beat her and I expected that she'd be breathing down my neck for the last couple miles.

I could also see Paul up ahead of me. I honestly tried to speed up just a bit to tuck in right behind him for the rest of the race so we could finish close together, but that man was on a mission. I was afraid of speeding up too much and blowing up at the end as a result, so I played it conservative. I was gaining on him slowly, but we were running out of miles very quickly. He was certainly a really awesome rabbit for me to go after those last couple miles, however. It kept my focus off the fact that I had been running for over 90 minutes and was now running about 8:10 pace.

As we were nearing the last quarter mile I got within about 2 seconds of him and yelled to him, but with his earphones in he couldn't hear me at all. As soon as we passed the 13 mile marker and could see the finish line, that man seriously turned on the afterburners. I tried hard to keep pace but there was absolutely no way I was catching him. This whole time I expected Christine to come cruising by me, but I didn't see her yet.

I glanced at the finish clock and it read 1:56. I was pretty shocked. I hadn't paid much attention to my watch the last couple miles and had no idea I was running a 1:54 race (we started 2 minutes after the gun).

As I crossed the line, I saw my teammates....Tony (1:48), Joe (1:49), and Paul (1:54). Less than 3 minutes after my finish, Christine crossed the line at 1:57. We had all had amazing races. We left it all out there on the course and had run better than expected. Tony tried to complain that he didn't run 1:46 like he really wanted to but I told him to shut up. Joe blew away last year's BCS time by almost 30 minutes. I got a hug from race director Chris Field and the kids from the Down Syndrome Association of Brazos Valley gave us our medals. Perfect finish!

I had no idea I had a 1:54 in me that day, but I was beyond thrilled. And this came 8 days after a strong 20-mile training run.

I need to give myself a little more credit. With my official 1:54:47 I placed 19th in my age group of 180 people, 102 out of 1348 women, 302 out of 2051 overall, and I was 3rd overall and the fastest female out of all 39 year olds. I just didn't expect this at all, and I am still (9 days later) so damn excited. This was my last race in this age group.

I think there's a sub 1:50 in me after all!!

(FYI....I'm already signed up for 2014....THIS IS THE BEST RACE I'VE EVER RUN IN TEXAS!!!)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

TRI again next year

My road to Triathlon has had fits and starts, hasn't really been very easy, has made me ridiculously nervous, but after backing out of my June triathlon, I made a full commitment to do a local one in October. I finally put some real time in on my bike, and hired a friend to help me with my swimming, which needed the most help out of the three disciplines.

The race I chose to do was a 400 yard pool swim (much less anxiety in a pool than open water), a 14 mile bike (not too short, not too long), and a 4 mile run (exactly the right distance for my comfort). It was the third race in a series of sprint triathlons at the Georgetown Rec Center, and many of my triathlon group friends would be competing.

Many weeks leading up to the race included 3 swim workouts, as this was my weakest sport. I focused on my form over and over again, increasing the distance in my workouts, up to 2000 yards, concentrating on getting comfortable enough in the pool to feel okay about 16 laps while people watched me (never really developed a huge amount of comfort, but I knew I was ready). I still have trouble with swimming continuously without much break, but I knew I could focus on improving that before triathlon season next year. Just getting me to finish my first race was the most important thing this year.

I don't have a lot of speed on the bike yet, but I'm fairly comfortable with it and knew I could put real effort into 14 miles without wearing myself out too much for the run. My main focus during the bike portion would be to learn to get comfortable racing around other cyclists and developing some steady speed.

I knew I could kick some butt in the run. I have pretty good legs coming off the bike, and my head is good about thinking "it's ONLY 4 miles." I can maintain an uncomfortable threshold pace for a good hour, so running hard for about 34 minutes wasn't scaring me. Plus, it was a 2-loop course, and that would mentally give me a boost going into the second loop.

Fast forward to the week before the race. That Saturday was my scheduled 16 mile run. I started early before my training group to knock out 8 miles prior to the 8 miles the group would be doing. About 6 miles into the run (in the dark, on an uneven dirt path), I took a very hard spill and hurt myself pretty badly. No muscle strains that I could tell, but I was bleeding very badly and had probably bruised myself up. A 1/2 mile walk to the nearest water fountains and parking lot, and then my running buddy ran back to the cars to bring one back to pick me up.

Right after I fell and got the bleeding to stop

As I assessed the damage in the next two days I started to worry I wouldn't heal up before the triathlon. I was in a lot of pain, I had lost a lot of skin, and the trail rash was awful. I couldn't get into the pool and I couldn't bend my knees enough to bike, plus my hand couldn't handle any pressure on it.

2 days post-fall. Swollen and ouchie.

The bright spot was that my running was okay. I ran three days after the accident and it was one of my best runs in awhile (the weather certainly helped). But I still needed to heal more. Thankfully, by Thursday I was able to swim as my wounds had scabbed over enough and by Friday I had enough mobility to have no trouble on the bike.

Have I mentioned that during all this I have a sick husband I've been trying to avoid for a week?

Now we had to contend with the weather forecast for race day. In the days leading up to the weekend the forecast kept getting worse and worse. It called for steady thunderstorms throughout the weekend and naturally, some pretty bad humidity. I was having trouble with my asthma this month, so that was going to be something to watch for. I was hoping that by Saturday there would be a forecast shift and the rain would either come early, late, or just pass us by (which made me feel guilty, because we really need the rain). As I went to bed Saturday night, after preparing all my race gear, I continued to hold out hope but it wasn't looking good.

Around 2:45 in the morning, I awoke to the thunderstorms and never fell back asleep. The rain wasn't stopping. There's always a chance it can clear enough to race, so I loaded up the car and drove to Georgetown ready to kick some butt anyway. But at this point, I knew in my heart the race would be cancelled.

Sure enough, at 7am the race was cancelled. After reviewing all the weather models, consulting with USAT and the police department, and putting the racers safety first, the race director had to deliver the bad news to us. It was the right call. There was another system coming in around 8am, and we couldn't even start the race until at least 30 minutes after the last strike of lightning (pool rules). By then it would be too late to hold the race.

I admit I almost cried. I really was ready to race, despite all my nerves. I knew that once I got in the pool and calmed down it would have been fine. I probably would've swam faster than expected, I would have had fun out on the bike, and as long as my asthma was kept under check, my race legs would have kicked some major butt on that run course. My first triathlon would've exceeded my expectations and I would've made Georgetown Triathletes (my club) proud.

I didn't realize just how much I wanted it until I didn't get the chance to achieve it.

But it wasn't meant to be. And I'm thankful that we got all this glorious rain.

My Venti Starbucks Mocha enjoyed with my teammates was my consolation prize. I'll take it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Knock that crap off!

As I work with more and more clients and interact with more people on social media regarding fitness, I come across some interesting ideas and beliefs about weight loss. Some are pretty sound, some make total sense, and some....well, frankly, some just make me cringe. While I suppose I could correct some misinformation, I tend to hold back. I don't want to be "that person."

So instead....I'll write a blog post! I'm here to bust some myths about weight loss and get you to think differently about how to achieve your goals. I bet I'll even give you a goal or two you didn't even think you had.

Over the decades we've been bombarded with various weight loss secrets, diets, fads, fitness crazes, and everything in between, that guarantee quick weight loss. They focus solely on WEIGHT LOSS, but as we gain more and more knowledge, fitness professionals know that the number on the scale is only part of the picture.


There are so many times when I wish we could just throw out the scale. I understand it's importance when you are very overweight or obese, but there comes a point where the number becomes very unimportant. I weigh about 10 pounds more than I did in high school. But I'll take that 10 pounds because I'm in far better shape now than I was then....and I can still fit into my cheerleading skirt. You know why? 


A pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. So as you lose body fat and gain lean muscle, you are becoming slimmer, even when you don't see the number on the scale drop. But you're still reaching your goal of becoming slimmer and looking better, right? YES! So who cares about the number of the scale, your BMI, all that crap. BMI does not take into consideration someone who is muscular and athletic, and will shift towards the "overweight" category even though that's ludicrous. It's especially unfair to men, who will typically weigh more at the same height as women because they tend to have more muscle mass.

Is your body hanging onto that last 5 pounds? So what! It probably wants to hold onto it. 


So I basically just told you to gain more muscle to be leaner, and you're wondering what the heck??

If you want to boost your metabolism and look better and leaner, then you must do resistance training. For every pound you lose through diet changes alone, 69% of that pound is fat, while 31% is muscle loss. Add cardio to your diet changes, and you've improved that fat/muscle loss ratio to 78%/22%. If you add in resistance training, that ratio changes to 97% fat loss/3% muscle loss. You've just vastly improved your body's ability to burn fat. Fat is metabolized in muscle, so it makes sense that muscle gain will boost your metabolism. 

Throw out the assumption that heavy weights will make women bulky. Because of the hormonal differences in men and women, specifically testosterone levels, an increase in muscle mass is less in women than in men. You will get STRONGER, but not necessarily bulkier. 

As a side note, in addition to an increase in your metabolic rate, other benefits of resistance training include the following:
  • Increase in functional strength
  • More power and strength for cardiovascular exercise
  • Helps protect joints by taking pressure off of them, which in turn will decrease your risk of degeneration
  • Strengthens the tendons and ligaments, allowing us to perform everyday activities and sports with a decreased risk of injury

As much as we wish it was so simple, it's not about "calories in/calories out" only. Sure, if we consume way too many calories, our body is going to convert that to fat. But if it was only about maintaining a deficit, weight loss wouldn't be so tricky. Way too many people think that in order to boost our weight loss, we need to JUST DO MORE CARDIO! 

First of all, hours upon hours of repetitive cardio will not give you awesome muscle. As a matter of fact, you're going to start burning some of your muscle. Your body will start to adapt to the repetition of the exercise and your metabolism will suffer because of it.

You've seen the "fat burning zone" on cardio machines, right? Ignore it. While it's true that at lower intensities in an aerobic training zone your body will burn a higher percentage of fat versus carbohydrates, if instead you increase the intensity of the exercise, you are actually going to burn far more calories overall (and therefore far more fat). For example, let's say you speed walk for an hour, keeping your heartrate in that "fat burning zone" and burn 400 calories. You may burn about 60% from fat, so 240 fat calories. If you pushed your exercise into a higher intensity and burned 800 calories in that hour, at a 40% fat burn rate, you've just torched 320 fat calories.

When you push your body into bursts of anaerobic activity, you can achieve what is called Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption. In this state, your metabolism remains elevated AFTER exercise, something that strictly aerobic exercise won't do.

Think QUALITY over QUANTITY. An hour of interval-type training, with bursts of higher intensity, will benefit you more in the long run than two hours of lower intensity cardio. If you incorporate high intensity cardio bursts into a resistance training workout, you've just killed two birds with one stone.

Another downfall of too much cardio is the tendency to overcompensate when you refuel. You may end up overeating after a good workout. This is a big problem with endurance athletes. And it leads me to my next myth.


It doesn't matter if you burn off the calories. If you put crap into your body, it's still crap that is in your body. Food processed with God-knows-what is basically poison. If you don't put the right mix of REAL food into your body, you will never experience what your body is truly capable of. We still need the correct ratio of calories from macronutrients - 45-65% carbohydrates, 10-35% protein, and 20-35% fats. Additionally, we need nutrient dense foods - foods that are rich in micronutrients like essential vitamins and minerals.

Imagine how you would feel trying to run for an hour after consuming 800 calories from donuts vs 800 calories from chicken, rice, and vegetables. Still the same number of calories with far different effects on our performance.

Additionally, it's very easy to overestimate how much food we should refuel with after intense exercise. We all need to be prudent in monitoring our input in order to keep the energy balance moving the right direction.

And remember, it's possible to eat more quantity of food and feel full, yet consume a small amount of calories...imagine 200 calories of watermelon versus 200 calories of chocolate. That's a lot of watermelon and will fill you up whereas that small amount of chocolate will likely just leave your hungrier. Quality of Quantity!!


The Atkins Diet really screwed up how we feel about we feel about carbohydrates. Additionally, the introduction of the "fat free" craze screwed up our thoughts on the benefits of fat in our diet.


Keep repeating that to yourself.

A severe restriction of carbohydrates does typically result in early weight loss, mainly due to the excretion of water from our bodies and the suppression of our appetite, leading to fewer calories consumed. But this is not a state that can be maintained over the long term and can have harmful effects on our bodies.

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for our bodies. Take away that source, and you will find your energy will be depleted quickly. You will feel sluggish and not have the ability to perform to your potential. Carbs are also necessary for tissue repair.

If you are concerned about insulin levels, it's important that the majority of your carbohydrate-rich foods are on the low end of the glycemic index. The glycemic index classifies foods on their potential to raise blood glucose. Certain carbohydrates will cause blood glucose to rise and fall more rapidly than others. A more rapid rise and fall may make us feel hungrier more quickly than those foods that fall on the low end of index.

Regarding fats, our bodies absolutely need healthy fats. They are essential for micronutrient absorption, organ and joint protection, and growth and development. You can also derive energy from fats when your glycogen stores have been depleted.

Ignore most "fat-free", "low-fat", "sugar-free" stuff you find in stores. Chances are it's loaded with an excess of sugar, bad fats, or sodium that completely negates any benefit it's trying to emphasize. Choose real, unprocessed food the majority of the time. 


Not if you want to stay healthy over your lifetime, you won't.

It is not recommended that you restrict your calories to less than 1200 calories per day. For a heavy or active person, even that level is too low. Very low-calorie diets are typically deficient in the proper amount of macro- and micronutrients and can lead to malnutrition, poor energy and fatigue, an inability to succeed at any kind of fitness program, and a slowing of your metabolism. You are also at risk for binge eating, which will ultimately sabotage your weight loss goals.

One way to know how many calories your body requires is to calculate your basal metabolic rate, which is the number of calories we would burn if we were completely at rest. Once you know your BMR, you can calculate your basic calorie needs based on your activity level. It's easy to find these calculators online, but here's an example for myself:

At my height, weight, and age my BMR is 1347 calories. I alternate between being moderately active (1.55 multiplier) and very active (1.725 multiplier), so my range for caloric needs to maintain my current weight is 2087-2323 calories. If I want to maintain my current weight, I should not go below these adjusted numbers. Keep in mind, however, that a leaner body mass requires even more calories for maintenance (the formula falls short in calculating for this).

If you want to lose weight, you should plan to cut 300-500 calories per day from your daily energy needs. If you are very obese, you can cut even more calories, but again keep in mind that going below 1200 calories per day is not advised. You can see how much better your diet can become (quantity-wise) if you increase your activity level.

All that being said, I am not a calorie counter at all. I am a firm believer that if you choose fresh, real, healthy, unprocessed food the majority of the time, and don't eat beyond satiety, your caloric input will regulate itself properly.

Just remember, our bodies require fuel to function at their potential. The correct amount, the correct type, and consistently throughout the day.

So, in summary, is there a magic pill or a magic formula that will make the weight fall off with no effort on your part? The answer is NO. If you want to create a healthy, fit lifestyle for yourself and keep your body at a healthy weight (and that number might be higher than you think!), then you must make common sense choices every single day. There are too many myths out there that sound good, but are completely meaningless when stripped down. Sound choices include:

  • Exercise that includes resistance training and higher intensity
  • Food containing ALL the macronutrients and the micronutrients our bodies need to function
  • Enough calories to properly fuel our activities and keep our metabolism efficient
Lastly, stop obsessing about the number on the scale and start obsessing about changing your body composition instead.

Did I change the way you think?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sweat, Swear Words, and Snakes

Let's chalk this one up to another poor choice on my part...

Last year, I had a wild idea to run a night trail race out at Reveille Peak Ranch, a beautiful but crazy technical set of trails out in Burnet, TX. I had been recovering from piriformis syndrome so I controlled myself and signed up for the 10K. I did well, placing 6th and just missing out on an award. I hoped to do the 30K in 2013.

Oh, I signed up for the 30K all right.

And then failed to really train for it. A couple road 10 milers will get me prepared, right??

Cue the major nerves leading up to this race. My only consolation was that I had a couple buddies to run it with and that I was okay with walking as much as I needed. My only goal was to finish before midnight (race start of 7:15pm).

My friend Jamie showed up right before the start with a cooler of after-race drinks and some morale support. He took a few pics of me, Tony (this is all his fault), Todd (another runner friend who loves trail races), and Maxwell (Todd's friend, or as Jamie liked to call him, "Hairy Dude").

The forecast called for low to mid 90s at the race start, dropping to low 80s by midnight. Not exactly pleasant, but not unbearable in the dark. Hydration would be key, and I did very well with that leading up to the race, and during the race as well. My inhaler was probably going to be important, too, and of course I remembered it about a mile into the race (it was back in my car...oops). Watching my footing was high on the list of musts, and with the exception of 3 falls and about 5 near-falls....okay, I sucked at that. Because it was mostly in the dark, I wanted to make sure I was always with someone else. Check!

Can you see the fear??

Typical terrain, coming off a granite dome and onto a dirt trail. Photo credit: Carly Salinas

Great shot of the granite by runner Carly Salinas

Uneventful race start. I planned to run with my friend Tony, my fellow "poor choices are common" running buddy and coach. Todd and I are pretty similar pace on the trails, so we all started together. I led through the single track for the first couple miles at a respectable 11:50 pace, which looking back was too fast of a start (yes, I really just said 11:50 was too fast....this is a TRAIL, people!). Then Tony took over on pacing and so of course we sped up and didn't walk the hilly parts like we'd planned. The heat was already killing me so early in the race. By the time we got to the second aid station at about 4.5 miles, I had overheated and my heartrate had skyrocketed. A ton of icy water over my head and about 3 or 4 minutes of walking and I felt much better. I spent the next 3 miles until the next aid station alternating drinking ice water and pouring it over my head and neck. It worked like a charm.

Mile 1...still happy

I tried so hard to keep my feet up over the rocks, but managed to stumble pretty badly in that first loop. Everything felt okay, however, and we continued on. It was getting dark at this point and was time for our headlamps to be turned on. Now not only are we dealing with the heat and the rocky terrain, but now we are running out of daylight and relying on headlamps to get us through the course accurately and safely.

I told you this was a poor choice.

It was about this time that the people running right in front of us yell "Rattlesnake on the left!". Crap, what???  Sure enough, the telltale sound of a pissed off rattlesnake was very audible. I'm pretty sure my legs sped up A LOT right then. But we passed the snake without incident, although a little bit more freaked out.

See it? Yikes!! Photo by Jason Frankum

When we got to the third aid station, about 1.3 miles from the timing chip and end of Loop 1, my spirits were up a bit. I felt okay, but not great, but with the first loop almost completed I got the mental boost I needed. Tony and I both agreed, however, that it really wasn't any fun.

Halfway done! Todd is right behind me and Tony is on my right

A quick drop off of our shirts (it was damn hot out there) and my iPod (really, what was the point if I needed to constantly be communicating with my fellow runners?), and off we were onto Loop 2. It took us 2:07 to complete the 9.4 mile loop and I estimated that we'd complete Loop 2 in about 2:30. We planned to do a lot more walking in that second loop. My goal was to complete the race by midnight, and we had 2:38 to get that done. It could be tight, but I thought we had a shot at that. Other than that, my only other goals were to not break anything or get bitten by the pissed off rattlesnake.

The aid stations were such a sweet sight in this race. We'd get a refill of ice into our water bottle, they had plenty of water and perfectly mixed sports drinks (diluted, just the way I like them), a ton of food choices (you have no idea how awesome Coke tastes after 3 hours and a ton of sweating), chairs if we needed to sit down, and the best volunteers I think I've ever encountered (it sure seemed that way). There were times, especially when we pulled a couple 19 minute miles, that it was taking forever to get to the next aid station, but in reality they weren't more than about 3.5 miles apart.

I tried to seriously hurt myself during this loop. I don't remember at this point exactly how far into the loop we were, but I took a pretty bad fall and pulled what I thought was an oblique muscle. After about another mile it loosened up but my back started hurting pretty badly and that pain didn't ease up for the rest of the race. (By Sunday afternoon it was clear I had pulled a lat muscle in my back, not too bad but certainly not pleasant). My third fall and last fall was minor, however, so that's good. Tony joked that I was trying to outdo our friend Kalynn for number of falls (she fell 3 times running the 30K with him last year, but drew blood, so she still wins). He might have also said something about needing to find new, less clumsy running friends.

Mr. Rattlesnake got closer to the trail on this one and I was the lucky one to piss him off and have to warn my running buddies. That rattle sound is terrifying when you know it's about a foot away from you and can't see it. We also encountered Mr. Baby Rattlesnake, who Tony managed to JUMP OVER while on the granite. I didn't see him, and this is a good thing, because my scream would have surely made everyone deaf. Speaking of my awesome running buddies, we picked up some new friends during this second loop, including a really sweet girl named Amy who's run a billion ultras...ahhhmazing, plus we paced a 60k'er for a bit as he started out his second loop (they had 12 mile loops). I actually led for several miles during Loop 2, trying to keep a nice steady pace on the dirt tracks and take it easy over the rocky and hilly parts. I wanted to keep us moving comfortably (ha!) but not overdo it. I also had to concentrate on not taking a wrong turn, which meant I would take my eyes off the trail and then stumble as I looked for trail markers. Did I mention how freaking difficult it is to run in the dark with just a headlamp? We leapfrogged with a couple groups of runners and Amy and I both agreed that we really didn't want the group of ladies to beat us. We had Todd with us for about half of the loop, but he must have felt better because he pretty much was out of sight very quickly after the mid-point aid station. Amy took off with a few miles to go as well.

(Side note: I'm sure Amy beat all the ladies we saw, as she finished 6 minutes ahead of me, but I did manage to pass about 3 or 4 of them in the last mile - yay! She almost caught back up to Todd.)

For the last 5 miles of the race, it was pretty much just survival and trying not to fall and hurt myself. My legs were getting very heavy and keeping my feet up was getting exponentially harder with each mile. I had to will my legs to go over the jutting rocks so I didn't trip. I was hot, but I really do think my hydration was on point during this race. I was so good about consistently taking in water and electrolytes, and even though I felt thirsty I think I got the balance right. Nothing was cramping up. I was just fatigued and getting sore, but it wasn't unbearable and I knew I would finish the race. It would be a slow finish, but my body was going to hold up.

Tony and I continued to repeat over and over, however, our new mantra: "This really isn't any fun." I'm going to pretend that I never heard him say fifty billion times, "Why do I let you talk me into these things?" since it was HIM who told ME last year we would do this race. But really, this wasn't any fun. There were swear words. A lot of them.

The last aid station was such a huge relief. Only 1.3 more miles and we would be done. Most of that last stretch is dirt track, with only a few rocks, and even in the dark we could run entire distance. I looked at my Garmin as we left the aid station. 4 hours, 27 minutes...we had 18 more minutes until midnight. It seems like a lot of time for such a short distance, but I knew Tony was even more fatigued than I was and I'm sure he didn't want to run at all. But I had to do it...I just started running after telling him we needed to run so we could beat 4:45. I don't know if he heard me or cared, but I just ran and didn't stop until I crossed that finish line. I knew that he wasn't behind me anymore, and believe me, I felt really bad. He'd probably be pissed I left him, but then again he'd probably also be pissed if I stayed with him and missed my goal.

I crossed the line at 11:58 pm, 4 hours and 43 minutes into the race (placed 17 out of 46 women). After getting my medal and getting my breath back (heck, my final mile was a blazing 12 min pace (ha!), and sure as heck felt like 9:22) I went back out into the finish chute to wait for Tony. A few minutes passed before I could see his green light off in the distance. He crossed about 6 minutes after me and was completely exhausted....and pissed.

(He later wrote on Facebook "Damn good job finishing that bad bitch of a run." I don't there's a better description out there).

It was done, it was crazy, it was exhausting, it took forever, we were filthy and starving and delirious.

And we didn't have any fun.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What we put in is what we get out

The title seems like a very reasonable idea, doesn't it?

The work we put into something is reflective of what we're going to get out of it. If we study hard, we'll likely do well on a test. If we train consistently, we can conquer a race. If we listen to our doctor's advice on recovery from surgery, we can come back stronger than before.

Then why do so many people believe there's a "magic" solution? Why do we try to take shortcuts for quicker gratification? Why do we lament when it seems another person is thinner or more physically gifted than us rather than realizing that maybe they work hard to look or perform the way that they do? And that maybe, just maybe, if we put our all into it, we can achieve something similar?

My family and I visited a church today and the message rang out loud and clear. The main message was that what we put into ourselves is what we'll get out of it, whether it be faith and devotion to God, a healthy diet, exercise, proper guidance to our kids so they grow up to be productive adults, devotion to our marriage so it thrives...the list goes on and on. It's not "magic" because magic doesn't truly exist. Hard, consistent work is what produces real results.

See where I'm going with this? Of course I'm going to apply the concept to a healthy, fit lifestyle.

Do you wish you had a body like her? Do you wish you could finish a marathon like he can? Do you wish you had her strength? Do you wish you could be healthy enough to stop taking all your medications?

How do you think fit people get to where they are? Because they put a lot of hard work into their bodies.

That's the "magic." Every single day, every single week, every single month, all year long, they are working hard. The more consistent they become, the easier that hard work becomes. It becomes their norm, their lifestyle. They aren't trying to find a shortcut or an easy way to find the results. They are putting in the necessary work.

Does this automatically mean they are fanatical about the work? Not at all. You know that becoming obsessive about anything will lead to negative results, and exercise is no exception. I'm sure a lot of people probably think I run everyday, or workout in the gym everyday, for hours upon hours per week. That's not at all the case. I run/bike 3-4 times per week, strength train 2-3 times per week, teach core classes twice per week, and am really trying to get in a swim workout every week. That translates to probably 8 hours per week just depending on what my run/bike mileage is. That's roughly 4-5% of the 168 hours we have in one week.

Puts it into perspective, doesn't it? Hard work for 8 hours per week to be a healthy person. It's working, because I'm happy with my fitness level. So what I'm putting into it is giving me what I want in return. Add in healthy choices in the kitchen and the results are even better.

Whenever I discuss exercise I always have to discuss the importance of REST. What does our body give us if we completely fatigue it over and over again without proper recovery and rest time? It's going to rebel. It will give us what we've put into it, but in a negative way. So part of the hard work is allowing ourselves to rest. I build rest days into every single week. If I didn't, all my hard work would have negative return over time. I never strength or circuit train two days in a row, as my muscles need time to rebuild. I run easy, swim or rest between hard run workouts. You will never find me working out 7 days per week. I'm giving my body rest, so it's giving me strength for my next workout in return.

Hard work also means knowing that you must be consistent. I think this is probably one of the biggest things people struggle with. It's easy to take a week or two off. Or to take a break during travel or vacation. Pretty soon that week will turn into a month, and then we need to start over. I'll allow myself an "easy" week here and there if I've been training especially hard for a race, or I'm sick. But when my body is ready, I get right back into the hard work.

Just remember...even though there is no "magic" involved, that there are no shortcuts, doesn't mean it all has to be overwhelming. Schedule in a few hours per week to focus on your health, every single week, including rest. Over time it will become a habit, the hard work will become the norm, and your body will respond by giving back the fitness level you've always wanted.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A little race catch up

I can't believe it's been 6 weeks since I last blogged. Life does tend to get in the way of free time, and I've let my blog slip. My family and I have been very busy with the end of the school year, my work, and traveling. Now that school is out and I have a couple quiet work weeks ahead, it's time to get back on the computer.

Running continues to go well for me, although my mileage has certainly slipped the last few weeks. I don't even think I hit 10 miles last week, which is very unusual for me. Rather than feel guilty about it, I'm just going to chalk it up to a step back/recovery week and march forward with more miles starting today (as a matter of fact, I ran 5 this morning, when I don't typically run at all on Mondays). Now that the heat is here for the next few months, I expect my pace to drop slightly, but I will continue to push myself and improve my fitness overall.

On April 28 I ran a 5K (IM OK 5K, benefitting the Epilepsy Foundation) that in past years has beaten me up. Two years ago I had an asthma attack during the race, leading me to an exercise and allergy-induced asthma diagnosis. I still ran fairly well, but I missed out on a PR because of the attack. Last year, several runners went off course, including me, and then I was redirected in such a way as to add over a half mile to my race, resulting in a good 6K time....but not so much for a 5K. This year I vowed to do my very best and I hoped to medal in my age group (which was actually 30-39 for this race).

It really was an awesome race. The course is slightly short, and although my 22:40 time is probably not really applicable to a true 5K PR, I'll take it anyway. I went into the race incredibly sore and fatigued from strength training the week before, and actually surprised myself for holding a steady, fast pace for the entire race despite every step hurting. I'd still like to think of the 22:40 as a good reflection of my ability and my time to beat in my next 5K. I managed to get 3rd in my age group, as well, behind two very talented Boston Marathon runners. It was a great feeling and a big confidence booster!

My next race was the Dam Mile in Georgetown on May 15. One excruciating mile across the Georgetown Dam. At 6pm, in May, which means warm temps for sure. Add the 20 mph head- and sidewinds and it was probably going to be a bit of a challenge. But I'd been running well and thought I had a pretty good shot to beat last year's 6:38 time. I was also hoping to place well in the race, although this year there were no medals. Greg was out of town, but the kids came with me to the race and looked forward to also running. I made sure they had good instructions on which heat they would be running in, paired them up with some friends of mine who planned to run in the same heats, and then I was off in my own heat. I tried to settle into that uncomfortable, fast pace right from the beginning, but not too fast. I never looked at my watch and rather just went by what I thought a 6:20-6:30 pace felt like. I was very much hoping I could break 6:30, but the wind was a bit difficult to race against. At the halfway mark I glanced at my watch and saw 3:11. If I could hold that pace I would run a 6:22, much faster than last year.

I didn't quite hold the pace, and definitely felt myself slowing in the last quarter mile. My friends Tony and Chad were right in front of me for most of the race, and as I tried to inch around Tony within that last quarter mile, he put on the afterburners and pretty much left me in the dust. I should've known there was no way he was going to let me beat him. Chad also continued to speed up and I couldn't quite hang with him, either. I crossed the finish line in 6:32, six seconds faster than last year. It wasn't quite the sub-6:30 I was looking for, but considering how windy it was, I was thrilled. A PR is a PR! I ended up as the 10th woman overall out of 46, 43rd out of 120 people overall, and if there had been age group awards, I would've won. I'd call that successful!

My most recent race didn't quite go as planned. I was both excited about and dreading my 30K trail race at Reveille Peak Ranch. Last year, this was my very first trail race and it was pretty incredible....and difficult....and crazy...and of course I signed up again. (Race report here) This time I convinced my friend Tony to sign up as well, and I knew a few other friends would be there, too...Rain, Red, Charles, Emily...lots of friendly faces. Tony had been injured so this race would really test his leg out, but he planned to stick with me so it would definitely be a lot of fun. Well, until I got bitchy. Then it wouldn't be so fun for him. In all honesty I really thought he'd sign up for the 10k, so it was a nice surprise when he pulled the trigger on the big distance.

Just like last year, the course was going to be long, but supposedly not quite as long. I clocked 20.6 miles last year, or about 33K. This year they estimated 19.5 miles total. The temps, however, were going to be much better. Last year loop 3 topped out at 90 degrees. This year, it wouldn't even hit 80 before we finished. Still warm, and there's no shade out on the granite domes, but I'll take 80 over 90 any day of the week. We even got some drizzle before we started. I was excited!

Loop 1 could have certainly gone better. Somehow, while following a couple guys across the granite dome in the middle of the 6.5 mile loop, we managed to double back and repeat about a mile of it. When things started looking familiar, we knew we'd screwed up. We also watched a poor lady break her wrist in a fall. That course will seriously eat you alive. By the time we crossed the timing mat at the end of Loop 1, we had hit 7.5 miles. Our 19.5 mile journey was now going to take us well over 20 miles.

Well...not so fast for me. As we were running on the dirt path leading up the timing mat, I stepped wrong on a rock and rolled my ankle badly. It instantly hurt and was difficult to run on. Not broken, I knew that...but very very sore. I sucked it up for a couple minutes, crossed the timing mat (1 hour, 34 minutes), said three or four swear words under my breath, and decided to run to the first aid station. As we headed off up the hill at the start of Loop 2, I told Tony I had hurt myself and was unsure of my status. My ankle had no range of motion from side to side, but it was okay when we were on dirt. Unfortunately, most of the loop is granite and rocky and requires the ability to move your ankle from side to side.

By the time we got into the first aid station (at 9.3 miles) I called it a day. Tony was fine, so he reluctantly continued on. I felt terrible since I was the one who convinced him to sign up and he had at least 11 more miles to run solo. The medical staff drove me back to the finish area, gave me ice for my very sore ankle, and I tried not to be too pissed off.

The ankle ended up being just fine after a few days. My guess is that I sprained my tibialis anterior muscle. But I was still smart to stop running when I did. Who knows what kind of damage I could've done had I continued on? Red and Emily both got DNF's, so I wasn't alone in my misery while we waited for friends to finish (Tony did great...4:35 and 2nd in his "old man" age group).

I will run out at Reveille Peak Ranch one more time this year, for a night trail race in August. I do plan to conquer that place one day! Until then, I think I'm taking a bit of a racing break. August will be when I start officially marathon training for my sub-4 hour attempt at Houston. Until then, I'll continue to work on speed, will run my weekly long runs, and will hit the gym for strength training at least twice a week. I also teach core strength twice a week at work. My bike needs some attention and I finally started venturing into the lakes for open water swimming. There may just be a triathlon in there sometime before the end of summer.

So what have I committed to in the coming months?

August 24: Captain Karl's Night Trail 30K at Reveille Peak Ranch
October 6: IBM Uptown Classic 10K
October 25-26: Ragnar Tennessee Relay
December 8: Bryan/College Station Half Marathon
January 19: Houston Marathon
February 16: Austin Half Marathon
April 27: San Luis Obispo Marathon

Just reading all that puts a smile on my face.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Not so fast

This will be a quick blog post. I'll just get to the point.

I'm not doing the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon next month.

I have no excuse other than I am not ready, I haven't put the time into my weaker disciplines, I haven't wanted to spend time on them lately, I've let other life events and stresses get in the way, and I would rather wait to do my first triathlon when I'm actually ready than disrespecting the sport with a mediocre attempt.

I will do a triathlon. It just won't be next month.

I'll probably go into a bit more detail later, but for now this will have to do.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying my other sport...running...with trail races and shorter road races throughout the spring and summer. I'll get on my bike more, I'll swim more, and when the time is better I will register for another triathlon.

To all my friends still competing, I'll be out there rooting for you as always.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

What Birthday? I really don't care

I haven't celebrated a birthday since I turned 35.

I don't care if I ever celebrate a birthday again.

No, really...I don't care about my birthday.

Okay, so maybe I care A LITTLE. I like the fact that I'm turning 40 and I actually really wish it was happening sooner rather than 258 days from now. I am looking forward to being in the Masters age group, to being the best version of myself I've ever been DESPITE being 40, and to finally getting past that stupid "Over the Hill" milestone.

But I'm not celebrating. No matter how many times my friends tell me I am celebrating, I'm not. It isn't about them. It's about me and respecting that decision. They might not agree with my reasons but I don't care. You hear that, dear buddies of mine?

I'm not celebrating.

If there is a surprise party for me, I will retreat.

If there are gifts, I will feel uncomfortable.

If I'm told I should WANT to celebrate, I will roll my eyes.

My sister lived to be 37. My celebratory mood towards birthdays ceased at this time. I'm not stuck in my grief, as one might imagine, but I do not want to celebrate regardless.

When I turned 38, I struggled with it. Coincidentally, the Houston Marathon was that very same day and I could think of no better way to "celebrate" that birthday than by running my ass off in a marathon, by focusing only on myself and what I could accomplish rather than giving in to someone else's idea of how I should mark the occasion. I was in complete control of that day and it was the best decision I could have made. I ran my strongest marathon to date that day and I feel like I honored my sister and myself by doing so.

For my 40th birthday, I will have dinner with my family, I will enjoy cake as I always do, and I will travel to Houston again to run my ninth marathon, in a new age group, with a new goal, and with my thoughts on my sister.

That truly is the only way I want to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Am I Unlucky?

I'm going to venture away from my usual posts about fitness and running and delve into something more emotional and personal. So bear with me.

On April 29, 2003, my husband and I lost a very good friend of ours. His name was Dan. He was 30 years old, had been married less than one year, and had an aggressive and deadly form of cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma. Diagnosed at age 28, he lived for less than 2 more years. We struggled with him as he would get good news, and then bad news, as he hurriedly married his sweetheart for fear he would die before they had a chance to be husband and wife, and then we got the phone call from him that he would probably die within the week. We prayed, we cried, we yelled about the unfairness of it all. We traveled to his hospital in Southern California (we lived in Northern California at the time), hoping we'd make it in time to give him one last hug. We did, and it was incredibly difficult to leave his hospital room knowing we'd never see him again.

Dan on his wedding day -May 3, 2002

I think about him all the time. I miss his goofy laugh and his funny stories. I miss his bear hugs (he was 6 foot 5). I miss his friendship and his beautiful heart. I miss being pissed off at him when he drank too much and turned into a teenager again. There aren't a lot of people that come into your life who you know will be there into old age, and when those people are taken so soon it's gut wrenching.

But he's not the only person I've lost in my life. As I look back, it seems like every year, or close to it, someone who I love dies. Sometimes it's expected and a part of the circle of life, like when my grandparents passed away, but sometimes it's sudden and painful and the worst thing in the world, like when my sister suddenly died.

And in all honesty, I think I've had more than my fair share of loss. In my life, I lost a childhood friend at age 6 (to cancer, and I remember it VIVIDLY), a high school friend our senior year (car accident), 3 grandparents (my other grandparent died before I was born), my great grandma, my friend Dan, several uncles, neighbors, and Greg has lost 2 of his grandparents and a teenage cousin since I met him. Our neighborhood has suffered terrible loss as well, with 2 children and young mom dying in recent years. Like I said, we can't go much longer than a year without another loss happening.

I'm just SAD.

Is this more than the normal person? I'm only 39 years old. There will be a lot more loss in the coming years. I'm probably crazy for dwelling on it, but on a day like today it's very difficult to get out of that rut.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finally...another trail race!

Trail racing is not anything like road racing, at least not to me.

I don't go into the race in a competitive mood.
I don't care much about my pace.
I do it to enjoy the outdoors and find solitude...if I spend 10 miles of the race completely alone, that's okay.
Negative splits? Nope, not going to happen, and I don't care.
Walking is perfectly acceptable.

Sunday I ran my first trail race of the year. It was beautiful and perfect and difficult and exhausting and I'm so glad I did it, even as I sit here, two mornings later, stiff and sore and cranky. As a matter of fact, I'm signed up for my next one already.

Rogue Running's Trail Series has been going on for 10 years now. There are three races in the series. Last year I only did the last one (and it was my very first trail race), but this year I wanted to do as many as I could. I had a conflict for the first race, but the last two I'd be able to do. Sunday's race was at Emma Long Park in South Austin. I'd never been down there but heard good things about it. It's a tough course, but there are good stretches of dirt path and it's mostly shaded.

I picked out some Boston Blue and Yellow for the race.


I rode down to the race with my friend, Rain, who was signed up for the 10K but was totally cool with waiting for me to finish the 30K. She's a lot like me in that she loves to spectate and was looking forward to a peaceful morning of race watching and cheering after she was done with her race (which, by the way, she totally rocked! She's one fast and talented lady). I was so happy to be able to hang out with someone I knew as many of the friends who I hoped would be out there were not able to be. I wasn't sure if I'd know anyone! I did end up running into a buddy from Round Rock Fit, and that was a nice surprise.

Courtesy AzulOx Photography

As with all of Rogue's trail races, the course was three 10K loops. Emma Long is very rocky, with lots of elevation gain, lots of twisting and turning, but with dirt paths between the tough parts. I got my bearings on the first loop and was around a lot of the other runners for the first few miles. After the first aid station 3 miles in, we all started spreading out more and before I knew it I was pretty much alone out there. It didn't bother me. The course was well marked and I was enjoying the solitude. I didn't even realize I didn't have my iPod turned on. I focused on where my feet were landing and how the course was marked so I wouldn't get off track. One thing I noticed right away was that there was going to be a lot of shade, even after the sun fully came up. A big difference from Reveille Peak last year, where the sun got brutal on those granite domes. Before I was done with my first loop I was passed by the top 10K runners, who had started 30 minutes after us. Those guys are just insanely fast. I think the winner did it in something like 41 minutes! And he was sweet enough to actually say he was sorry for me having to stop to let him by - seriously, dude, you're WINNING! Go go go!! No apologies. It was cute, though.

That first loop was uneventful and I completed it in 1 hour, 13 minutes. My Garmin showed it a bit short of a 10K and it looked like the race would be about 18 miles even. I was good with that! Reveille Peak was actually 20.6 miles long...I was much happier with a slightly short course than one that was 2 miles off in distance.

These photos from AzulOx Photography are from Loop 1

I slowed a bit during Loop 2, as I had to stop at the aid station to refill and eat a bit, and I didn't want to crash during the third loop. I hadn't run more than 10 miles at a time in over 2 months, and with the slower pace of a trail run, doing 18 miles out here was going to take me longer than 23 miles on the road....a big difference from just 10. Loop 2 was only 3 minutes longer than Loop 1 and I came through the checkpoint at 2 hours, 29 minutes. I was seriously thrilled with this. If I didn't lose too much pace on Loop 3, I would be done in well under 4 hours. I started out assuming it would longer than 4 hours to complete the race. I got a glimpse of Rain as I went through the checkpoint and threw her my gloves (thanks, Rain!!)...yes, it was cool enough at the start to warrant gloves for a few miles!

About to throw my gloves to Rain at the end of Loop 2

I was in such a great mood as I started the third loop. I wasn't dreading it at all and I felt pretty good. Tired, but good. Not a lot of soreness in my legs yet, I hadn't fallen, and I was making good time. My plan for Loop 3 was to keep my current pace (12-13 minutes) until the midpoint aid station and then take a bit of a rest, get something to eat and drink, and head back out for the final 5K push to the end. I still wasn't seeing other runners, except for a two or three I passed up a couple miles into the loop, and that was okay. The solitude gave me time to reflect on why I was out there. I thought of the Boston victims and said some prayers for them, I thought about how lucky I was that I was out there with two strong legs when there were so many people who lost their legs. I just about cried thinking about the Richard family and how much pain they were in as they grieved for their son and helped their little girl recover from amputation, and the mom recover from a brain injury. I thought of the victims in the West plant explosion and how long it would take for that tiny town to recover. Any pain I was feeling was so totally minor and insignificant compared to what all the families were going through after last week's horrendous events. I didn't care how bad I was going to start feeling before I finished...at least I was out there and could do something like this.

The aid station was awesome, and I got to chat a bit with the folks running it and another runner taking a break. And damn, that Coke tasted so good! At 15 miles in, my body was certainly getting tired and sore. But heck, only a 5K left! Piece of cake!!

The last 3.1 miles went by in a breeze, even though miles 14 and 15 were my two slowest of the entire race. When I hit 16 miles I forced myself to pick up my pace on the dirt stretches just a bit more. I wanted to finish strong and do as little walking as I could at this point, although I still took it easy on the rocky ascents. Some of those ascents were pretty steep and required a lot of muscle recruitment...and my quads were definitely getting a bit frustrated.

Looking back at one of the easier inclines

With one mile to go, I began passing people. I admit it was a bit of a boost to pass guys at this point. I certainly wasn't a fast trail runner but I was running steady and wasn't crashing out during this race, and I'm really thrilled about that. To pass a couple guys in the last mile was a boost. As I was nearing the last quarter mile I had my sights on catching one more guy, but couldn't quite reach him before the finish and I think he beat me by about 6 seconds. Overall, I ran that 30K in 3 hours, 47 minutes. Loop 3 was in 1:18, only 2 minutes slower than Loop 2.

Rain immediately greeted me and I was happy to see her! Happy to be done and ready to rest. My friend Charles had finished about 20 minutes before me and was laying on the grass, looking like he wasn't going to be moving anytime soon. The course had really kicked his butt, but he ran well. Rain obliterated the course, running the 10K in 55 minutes! She's very talented and I was very impressed. I'm glad she's not in my age group for road races!

A breakfast taco, a Pepsi, a little rest, a change of clothes, and some peace post-race, and then we were ready to head back home.

No blood...maybe next time!

Seriously a great day! So glad I decided to get out there and just do it!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Funny: Ugly Runner??

In light of this absolute CRAPTASTIC week in the U.S., I'm going to write about something funny.

You know how when you have a website you can check the stats and see the source of your page views? Whether it's from keyword searches, links from other websites, etc? I check my stats occasionally and it always stood out to me that the most popular keyword search was "Ugly Runner."  I had written a blog post a couple years ago about how I thought I had an ugly stride and I figured that's probably where it came from.

For some reason last night I decided to Google "Ugly Runner" and see just where I fell in the search results order.

Nowhere to be found in the search results. Hmmm...interesting.  Where are people seeing my blog?

I click on Images.


I'm going to pretend it doesn't say "related searches: fat runner" right above the images

I am the first image. 


I'm an ugly runner? Well, damn.

So I go back and I actually read the blog post. I had captioned the picture "Ugly" because it showed an ugly stride. It was followed by a picture with a much prettier stride (from that same race, which was a marathon by the way). I changed the caption to "not so pretty." And then noticed further down I actually wrote the words "ugly runner."

Well, so much for trying to get myself off the search results. I gave up.

It's kind of like I'm a celebrity now. Seriously, how many of you can say you're the very first image in a random Google search.

I'm giving out autographs.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Chocolate Cake

I have a huge weakness.

No, it's not necessarily chocolate cake as the title of this blog post might indicate. It's dessert in general, which I refer to collectively as "chocolate cake."

What can I say? I am an endurance runner. I burn a lot of calories on a consistent basis. And dammit, I need that cake sometimes. I don't always feel too guilty about it, which isn't a good thing. I don't eat dessert everyday, which IS a good thing. But I'm thinking it's too much.

I've worked really hard in the last year to change my body composition. I know where I'm at today and I'm pretty happy with it....except for what I refer to as my "chocolate cake layer." In the gym and out on the trails I'm doing everything I can do build lean muscle and keep my fitness level where I want it. I have that part of my regimen down.

But you can't have it all unless you fix the problem in the kitchen.

I told my core class recently, after we ironically talked about dessert before class, that I can help them improve their core muscles and the intensity of some of our workouts is aiding in fat burn, but they are in charge of the final step, which is getting rid of that final layer covering up those increasingly strong muscles. I admitted I have a weakness just like them.

That damn chocolate cake.

One of my favorite fitness quotes is that you can't exercise away a bad diet. If you are still consistently eating too many solid fats, added sugars, processed foods, and fried foods, you must make changes in the kitchen. Making small changes in how you grocery shop, how you cook, and how you eat out, will have huge benefits in the long run. But unless you make those changes, those 6 pack abs just won't be what they could be.

I'm learning like everyone else how to be a better eater. I fail constantly, but I pick myself back up and get back into it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

We Can't Be Stopped...TIR, BSB, and a Cowboy

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite race is, I always say The Texas Independence Relay. Hands down, the most running fun you can have in a weekend. It's not always easy and can be downright miserable at times, but every single minute of it is worth it for the reward of the accomplishment on Sunday afternoon.

This is our 4th year running as Blood Sweat and BEERS. What started out as a random "Sure, I'll join your team" in 2010 has turned into something totally epic and most of us have no plans to stop running it year after year. Every year we lose a member or two and gain new ones, but the mix of friends is always perfect. This year was no exception.

Every year we have me, Captain Tony, Karen, Andrew, Red, and Dan. For the second time Kalynn and Cary joined us. Jeff came back to us after sending wife Wendy with us last year. And lastly, our new members this year were John, Emily, and Mohamed (who planned to come last year but had to back out, and was replaced by Cary, which was a blessing in the end because Cary and Kalynn are little lovebirds now, but that's another story...). Five ladies and seven dudes....PERFECT! Even better, Independence Brewing sponsored us with five...FIVE!!!...cases of beer for the relay.

Is this a race or a party??? YES!!!

The TIR organizers changed up the course a lot this year, taking out several miles in the beginning, allowing more dirt road running, and adding miles in the city of Houston. Sadly, no more Shiner Brewery run, but I think in the end the changes were pretty good. We set out for Gonzales on Friday night to party and get some rest in a hotel before our 10:34 am Saturday start.

Dinner, a party, shenanigans at our hotel (which sounds dirty, but I promise was not), van tagging, and a couple hours of sleep....and we were ready to go Saturday morning. We were split up into two vans. My van included Emily, Jeff, Tony, Kalynn, and Cary. I was excited to get to know Emily. After all, she did say "I brought running shoes, my antipsychotic drugs, and my Bible." She pretty much would fit right in. After a team Prologue of 1.15 miles, we had 40 legs of awesome running ahead of us. I was set to run over 15 miles in 3 legs, while four of our guys were going to do 4 legs and over 20 miles. Should anything happen to any of them there were plenty of us who could pick up the slack (cue foreshadowing here...)

Gotta love Andy-drew

Vans are tagged and ready to go

We ran with our flags for the Prologue as usual....

Red started us off with a bang, running a sub-8 pace 4.2 miler. She planned to run 8:30 pace over the weekend, so we were already off to a great start one leg in.


Poor Captain Tony. This is how he looked when we left him 2 miles into his run, happy as can be.

We drove off to the next exchange. 10 minutes later Kalynn's mom calls us (she was tagging along and checked on Tony on her way to the exchange). She told us he needed us to come back to him because he hurt his hamstring and didn't know if he could finish. Unfortunately we were kind of stuck at the exchange, which was one way and out on a dirt road. To get back to him would take at least 10 or 15 minutes. After trying to figure out the best way to get to him, John decides to just run to him and finish the run for him if necessary. Tony finished the run and still pulled a respectable 8:25 pace, but was certainly injured and likely out for the rest of his legs. Unfortunately, he was one of the 4-leg, 20+ mile runners and we had a lot of rearranging to do.

Red picked up his Leg 14 (6 miles) while I took her Leg 13 (4.13 miles). She's a stronger runner and only had 12 miles total for the weekend, while I had 15 so it made sense to give her more miles. But it also meant that I'd have 3 legs under my belt by Leg 22...not a lot of rest, but doable. I just wasn't going to be pulling any 8:30's, especially after being sick only 5 days before (stomach virus) and underfueled for the week because of that. But I'd do what I could and we'd have a blast regardless.

My first leg was Leg 6, and looking at the elevation chart it looked like it could be a hilly run. It was also getting very warm out at that point since the sun finally decided to peak out. I was looking forward to running on dirt, however...something different! And it couldn't be worse than last year's hilly Leg 3 in 80 degrees...right???

Nope, it pretty much was just as tough. It was my first real exercise since getting sick and I think my body was a bit shocked at it. I didn't have any kind of great pace going, and the leg started out with a long steady climb for about 3/4 of the first mile. The hills kept coming, with another very long steady one during Leg 4. I was maintaining a very good pace on the flats and downhills, but the uphills were just killing me. That long Mile 4 mile did me in for sure and I pulled a 9:38 mile. Surprisingly the sun wasn't really getting to me until about the last half mile and I had the guys give me water to pour on my head. Made a big difference and I pulled through to the end of the 4.74 mile run. I ended up at 9:04 pace for that run and was happy to get the hardest one out of the way. I didn't have any power going up hills so I just hoped the rest of the runs were flatter.

Go Karen Go!!

The team continued to completely kick some major butt. Karen had Leg 7, which is the hilliest leg of the relay (5 good hills in less than 4 miles) and she ran 8:30s. I am always amazed at how strong of a runner Karen is...she continually outperforms year after year and it's so much fun to see. Everyone was running faster than their projected pace (Kalynn ran 7:40s during Leg 4, after injuries have slowed her down the last few months and she only expected to run 9 minute pace!). Well, everyone but me, but I wasn't so worried after seeing how everyone else was doing.

The weather was very warm during late afternoon, getting up into the 80s with full sun. The humidity stayed under control but it was very uncomfortable for our runners. I am seriously amazed that Mohamed ran a 6+ mile leg with no water. He was an absolute rock star. John followed that with his own ridiculous 6+ mile leg. Once he finished Leg 10 in Schulenburg we were now a quarter of the way done with the relay, and already ahead of our projection.

Team work on Leg 9

We were seeing a lot of the same teams at every exchange, including our favorites, The Mullets. Seeing the same teams, of course, also brought out our competitive sides and we were wondering when we were going to start shaking them. As much as we love The Mullets, no way in heck were we going to let them beat us. However, somehow they just kept keeping pace with us - where were these crazy strong runners coming from? I think I'm going to just blame Emily...she whipped out her "Cowboy" (plastic penis on a chain) and I think they just wanted to keep hanging out with her.

Sunset, and my second leg, were coming soon, which meant we'd finally get cooler temps. We'd have a few hours before the cold front and some seriously strong winds hit and we looked forward to some (temporary) perfect running conditions. Leg 13 was my next leg, a 4.13 flat run, and although it was still quite warm at 78 degrees, I didn't have direct sunlight on me anymore, so I wasn't worried about pushing through for a strong run. And that's exactly what I did! I ran very well during that leg, perfect negative splits and an 8:40 overall pace. I felt so much better than during my first leg and it was a big relief.

Cary handing off to me at Exchange 12

Give me a minute....

During part of the night legs, the two vans split off so the team can get some rest. Our van would rest during legs 16-21 and then run legs 22-27. Six van mates for six legs, with one injured runner meant that either Tony needed to run or one of us was running two legs. I had Leg 22 so it made sense for me to pick up leg 27 and then just find someone else to run my last assigned leg (32) the next morning. Tony decided to try to run Leg 25, with Kalynn as back up in case he couldn't finish it. She would then continue on and run her assigned Leg 26.

My Leg 22 (5.43 miles) ended up being a really great leg, although it started off at a pretty slow pace for me. My legs were fatigued and it took about two miles for them to warm up and loosen up enough for me to pick up the pace. I was at about 19 minutes through 2 miles, but managed to get it down to 8:20 pace by Mile 5. The final half mile was at 7:50 pace. I passed 8 runners during this leg, including two that had passed me early on who I then caught up to (including A MULLET!). The weather was fantastic, it was flat, and I was in a zone. Not bad for a 1am run. Overall, I ran 9:02 pace.

Poor Tony made it through Leg 25, but it was really pitiful to watch him limp through it. It was a fast limp, but it was so obvious he was in pain. But he's also stubborn and refused to give in. I do think one of the funniest moments of the weekend happened during this run, however. Back on Saturday morning, Tony noticed a van pull up to the hotel with a handicapped sticker on it - wait...a handicapped sticker on a RUNNING relay van? So being the vocal guy he is, he says to the driver "How did you get that sticker?". As the driver goes to get out of the van, he says "It's one of the benefits of having one leg."

Yes, the dude had one leg and was competing with a handcycle.


Anyway...back to Tony's Gimpy Leg 25. During the beginning of this run, Tony gets startled because the Handcycle One-Legged Dude whizzes by him without a word of warning, which of course sends his leg into spasm. Karma? Probably. As we drive alongside Tony a little bit later, Jeff yells out to him, "Hey, Tony, the One-Legged Guy says you can get a sticker since you only have one leg, too."

Yep, I'm still laughing about this.

Then, a little bit further on the leg, Tony actually passes another runner, albeit one with a very noticeable limp as well. Jeff's next gem of a quote: "Tony's only getting a kill because that guy is more injured than him."

So ends Tony's relay running. But hey, the dude finished almost 10 miles total and I didn't have to kill myself by running both leg 22 and leg 27. My last leg would be Leg 32, through Memorial Park and into downtown Houston sometime on Sunday morning.

This is also when the cold front finally showed up. When Emily started her Leg 26 the weather was perfect. By the time she finished there were cold 20+ mph winds and we were suddenly freezing our butts off. The forecast called for the winds to only get worse as the morning progressed. Oh fun.

I got a little sleep finally for about 45 minutes while Cary ran Leg 27 and before we hooked back up with Van 2. What a glorious 45 minutes that was. I felt much more refreshed and ready to finish this thing out. We're now all back together as a team of 12, with 13 legs to go. My next leg would be in a couple hours and I was both excited and a bit nervous.

It was getting harder and harder to hang out at the exchanges waiting for our teammates because of the winds, but we held on and put up with it. There's nothing worse than having no one waiting for you at an exchange and we just don't let that happen. I did hang back in the van for a couple of the exchanges Sunday morning but I'm out at most of them. But dang, that wind was getting downright brutal. Thankfully it was mostly at our sides and backs while running, so it wasn't having a bad effect on our running.

With the exception of the wind, the weather for my 8am run was looking to be good. I was still nervous, however. This run was changed at the last minute due to construction, and it's through Memorial Park, so the vans couldn't follow me past 2.5 miles. It was a 5.4 mile leg that goes into downtown Houston. I had to make it around the construction, through the park, and then out of the park onto the correct city streets to make it to the exchange at Smith and Clay Streets.

I knew my quads were going to be unhappy when I started this run, and they were definitely sore. I was hoping they'd loosen up, or I was looking at 45+ minutes of pain. I tried to keep a decent pace and not look at my watch. Mile 1 came in at 9:38...not so bad considering how my legs felt, but still pretty slow. I continued to just run by feel and Mile 2 came in at 9:13. Definitely better and it felt slower than that, so maybe there was hope. During Mile 3 I started on the trail through Memorial Park and sure enough, got confused by the construction. I had to run across some dirt to get to the path, and didn't realize this, so I stopped and a nice gentleman directed me in the right direction...thank God...so I was back on my way. This slowed me down a bit for this mile and I was back at 9:30. With only about 2.5 miles to go I pushed the pace a bit more and started feeling much better. My legs weren't quite so sore, although fatigued for sure, and I felt my spirits lift knowing I was almost done. I navigated the rest of the trail no problem, found the changes with no difficulty, and dropped to well under sub-9 minute pace for the next 2 miles. Once I crossed the pedestrian bridge to get into downtown Houston it got confusing again. I had to dodge some traffic to cross several streets and made one wrong turn up Lamar rather than cutting across all the way to Dallas Street. I lost about 20 seconds from that, but once I found myself on Dallas Street I started running 7 minute pace. During that final block on Smith Street to the exchange I actually dropped my pace to 5:30. Yes, 5:30 pace for the final block! Who knew I had that in me after 20 miles of running?

However, was anyone besides Tony and Jeff there to see me run like that? Of course not. And there aren't any pictures to prove it, either! That stupid wind kept everyone cozy in the vans.

We're down to our last 8 legs now, all through Houston to the San Jacinto Monument. Most of them are short legs, so we were going to be done in only a few short hours.

Jeff, Karen ("So where am I going? I didn't even look at the map!"), and Cary flew through their legs at a great pace. Then Emily starts on her Leg 36. She is absolutely cruising, right through the ghetto (oh my gosh, this was the GHETTO....and I might have said it a little loud out the window, oops). She's about to pass another chick runner, is right on her heels, when all of a sudden she stops to puke. Not once but twice. And then what does she do? She just keeps on running like it's no big deal at all that she just heaved during a run.

I knew I liked that girl. She has a Bible and a plastic penis and can hurl and run at the same time. Pretty awesome chick.

FOUR MORE LEGS.  We had our fastest runners out there, running 7 minute miles. It was just flying by and before long we're heading into the park towards the San Jacinto Monument to wait for John to finish the final leg (poor guy had to run directly into the 30 mph wind for the final 3 miles).

We didn't realize that the finish line was moved up about a tenth of a mile from the usual spot and we stopped John at the old finish line, gave him his beer, and then realized...oops, we're not done. But we slowly walked towards the actual finish as a team and only lost a few minutes from our mistake. It was fun to walk across the finish line together.

Our 4th Blood Sweat and BEERS relay, 200 miles, 27 hours, 11 minutes, 8:11 pace.

32nd place out of 145 teams. 14th place in our division of almost 100 teams.

And we beat the Mullets by over an hour.