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Thursday, February 19, 2015

You never walk out of the gym and say, 'I shouldn't have gone.' Taylor Kitsch

Yesterday, I went to the gym for the first time in a very long time.

I went armed with A Plan from the GT for a relatively simple workout that I knew I could complete, without getting too fancy. A good transition back into gym life.

I headed out to hit the gym at their slow time of day, as this is particularly popular gym with the after-school/work crowd, and my brain was not ready to deal with that, in addition to my own feelings about getting back to fitness.

My strategy for the day was just to disassociate from all the other people in the gym, retreat to my own little bubble, and get the work done. Cue my new wireless, bluetooth headphones.
Sidenote: for anyone who has NOT tried bluetooth/wireless headphones yet - DO IT. Seriously, it's life-changing freedom from being tethered to your music-providing device.

Earbuds in, "90's Top Tracks" queued up on Spotify (yeah, I figured a throwback to well-known tunes might be fun), and I hit the treadmill for a 10 minute warm up walk.

The gym was relatively quiet and the walking allowed me to get out of my own head a bit and warmed up. Trust me, Blogland, you're your own worst enemy. For me, I knew that task #1 was to stop the nervous and doubtful circles my brain was going in, so I could get in the groove and have a productive workout.

After my warm-up (and rockin' on to some awesome 90's Blink-182 and such), I started in on a workout that looked like this:

4 Sets of 5 Reps, Each:
Standing Military Press (15# DB's)
Stiff Legged Dead Lifts (2, 25# DB's)
DB Row (15# DBs)
Push Ups
Squats (2, 20# DB's)

I actually really like lifting heavy stuff, and it felt really good to get sweaty again. None of this was too hard, or out of my reach... and realistically, I could've done heavier weights, etc. but the goal of today was to just get into the gym and Do. Work.

I'm happy to report that I was able to get through all my sets, feeling good. Then, onto the treadmill for 25 more minutes of walking, followed by 5 minutes or so of stretching.

Once I jumped back on the treadmill for my walking time, I felt good. The gym had started to fill in with the after school crowd and I was feeling a little self conscious. I did spot this one gentleman in the gym I found particularly inspiring. He was a large guy (300-ish pounds) and he came in with a mission. As a trucked along on my incline treadmill, I watched him go from weights to machines and go through his routine, with a steady sort of resolution. He took some breaks in between, but just kept going. I remember when I used to have that kind of dedication, regardless of what anyone else thought, and I wished I'd stopped to thank that guy for reminding me!

So, BlogLand, I'm officially back at it. I've recently (3-4 days ago) transitioned to using a Standing Desk for work time, which has been awesome, too. No more tight hip flexors! On the other side of that though, it's definitely a transition, moving toward standing most of the day. My hips/legs are tiiiiiired. I didn't think I'd need to, but I'm definitely interspersing those sitting breaks.

Today, though, the standing desk was a relief... I woke up stiff and a little sore from working out my legs yesterday, where they haven't really been for a while. Instead of being faced with that awful moment where you have to sit into a chair (complete with the Oowwwwww-groan), I just walked up to my desk and stood there. After an hour or so of standing and moving around, my legs felt 100% improved by the time I needed my sitting break.

For today's activities, I think 30 minutes of light stretching yoga is in my future, then back to the gym tomorrow for Round 2.  I can do this. I've done it before, I'll do it again.... just need to keep telling myself that.



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ~William Faulkner

Hello BlogLand, 

It's definitely been a while. A good friend of mine reminded me that I used to find a lot of freedom in blogging my trials and tribulations of my fitness journey, particularly because it helped me feel like I wasn't going it alone. So, I'm back. I'm starting back at the beginning physically, working through some mental hurdles, but am in it for the long haul. I look forward to re-connecting with the Blog-o-Sphere again, as you all have no idea how much inspiration I took from knowing you'd all be here at the end of the day, while I recounted my tales.... So, as they say.... We will begin... at the beginning.... 
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Vermont (and New England in general) is experiencing one of the harshest winters in recent memory. So for me - someone who's trying to convince herself that getting back into exercise is FUN - outside hasn't been a great option. When you know the run is going to be difficult, you exponentially increase that when you realize that today's high is 2 (literally 2) degrees BEFORE the windchill.
I've found all manner of excuses to not do anything, as a result.

Finally, yesterday, I decided it had to stop.

I realized that I was right back to square 1 again, hating the way I looked, despising the way I felt after minor exertions like climbing stairs, and longing for the days when "hard" was a 14+ mile, 8 hour Spartan Beast..... not a 30 min walk/jog. While I can give you all the legitimate reasons in the world that I find myself back here, I could think of no good reason that I should allow it to continue. If I learned nothing else from my journey a few years ago, it was that I could change things. If I did not do anything, that in and of itself was a choice, and I knew what the result would be: Continued unhappiness. OR... I could make a choice, like a did a few years ago, and decide that I would begin moving forward, however slowly.

So, I joined a gym that was 3.1 miles away from my house. I figured, Step 1: Eliminate the Excuses. If it was "too cold" to walk or run outside, now I could go to the gym.

Included in this membership (I prepaid 4 months to get the special... because again, I figured, no excuses if it was prepaid...), was a "fitness consultation" which was explained to me to be a quick orientation to the gym and a general plan of attack, given to you by a certified trainer. So, hearing the word "free" and always looking to get some advice, I scheduled that immediately - for Today.

Today, as my appointment approached, I was equal parts excited and nervous. It's been a while since I've been in a "traditional" (vs. Crossfit, etc.) gym, but I was looking forward to meeting with a trainer and getting some tips for where to start. For anyone who's gotten fit "AGAIN", it's a really daunting process to know where you WERE.... versus where you ARE.  Personally, I look at things and my brain is still trained to think, "you can totally do that"..... when the reality is far from that.

SO, I gather up my sneakers and water bottle and head off to meet trainer Natalie. Natalie was SUPER PERKY. You know, the kind of person that you can just see the exclamation points when they talk?

Natalie tells me that what we're going to do is determine my baseline, by doing a basic fitness assessment. The words "fitness assessment" strike a bit of fear into the heart of my inner Fat Chick, but I figured that it's fair that Natalie would need a starting line, from which to base my "plan" on. So, I agree and off we went.

..... and then it went straight to hell...

So, all of you who were less than svelte in your youth will probably understand the horror, when I tell you that Natalie's "fitness assessment" was really just a version of that horrid fitness test you had to do once a year in gym class. Public shaming of the fat kids, as I recall it (probably with a bit of a bias..).

First, she had me sit and do the V-sit, or sit and reach, test. Shockingly, I'm not bendy. Whether we want to attribute the tight posterior chain to sitting in an office chair too much, or just my lack of pursuit of flexibility.... nonetheless, my results were dismal. But, with a perky smile, Natalie marked them on her sheet.

Next, we moved on to a wall-sit. Surely, I thought to myself, I'd be able to do better on the wall sit and at least put up a number that would convince her that I was not lying about my former athletic pursuits. I sat until my quads burned and my knees quivered. And then a little longer.
She smiled, and marked that on her sheet.

We moved on to push-ups (standard style, NO knees), where I managed like 1.5 and was thrilled, and then onto a traditional plank, where I again felt like I must've posted a respectable number.

Last, we did a 3 minute step test. Literally, step up and down on this block for 3 minutes, so we can see your active heart rate. Again, I didn't think it was so bad? I had stepped up and down with a steady rhythm for 3 whole minutes, had not keeled over and died... so... victory?

Natalie trots me back to the office to go over the results. This is where my day got super awesome....

Natalie then spent the next 15 minutes telling me that on their scale of "Excellent" to "Very Poor" I had literally hit "Very Poor" across the board. She literally told me my results on EACH exercise, then reiterated it was in the "Very Poor" category and I had some work to do.

Thank you, Natalie. I was unaware that I was ridiculously overweight, needed to work on that, and was currently in a place that already made me feel slightly out of place, being filled with fit people and all. THANK YOU for making that acutely clear and bringing that to my attention. Perhaps it would've gone unnoticed.

But, she tried her A-game in saving the consultation by trying to sell me $1000 worth of personal training sessions.... mostly because the $400 package "might not really be enough to get me totally on track."

Being an expert at sucking up the Inner Fat Chick freak-out, I thanked her for all her help and assured her I would be in touch.

I then ran for the car to have that freak out.

BlogLand, let me be clear. I understand that as a trainer, one might need to get a baseline to understand where your client was and be able to instruct appropriately. However, I'm pretty sure that if you truly wanted to motivate said client - rather than just sell training packages - you might forgo telling them that they're beyond rock bottom. I am 100% certain that the fastest way to get unfit people to NEVER go back to your gym again (even though they are the ones that need to), is to point out just how glaringly unfit they are. Surprise! - they know that. BUT, they have crossed your threshold anyway, and are trying to change that. YOUR job is to then encourage.... not to use your "assessment" time to make them feel defeated before they even start.

After telling me that I scored "very poor" in all categories, Natalie made sure to note that I should work hard, and in a couple of months, I should likely see transition into the "poor" category..... WOOOOOOO. There's motivation for you.  *sigh*

However, although today I have learned that my goal is to go from "very poor" to just "poor", I know I've done much harder things, and I'm much stronger than her wall-sit or step test could measure. (Sidenote: I'm 100% sure I could've back squatted Natalie.)

With that in mind, I contacted my ever-awesome GT (Guru Trainer) for some support and A Plan. Despite Natalie and her hot pink lightning bolt pants, I'll be back at the gym tomorrow. Whatever workout the GT hands out, I'll get it done. I've done it before, survived and will only come back stronger.

So BlogLand, I guess the moral of today's story is.... Whoever or Whatever your "Natalie" is, that may make you feel like you can't...... they lie.

You can. I can. One foot in front of the other.




Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"You are better than you think you are. You can do more than you think you can."

Ragnar Relay: Cape Cod with the NE Spahten Chicks 

Dear Blogland,

This weekend, I finished the single hardest race I've taken on, to date. Harder than the NJ Spartan Super, harder than the Vermont Beast.... harder than my first half marathon..... this weekend, I tackled my first (...and not last) Ragnar Relay, in Cape Cod.

Sometime last November, on a whim, I happened to mention out to Facebook that I thought the Ragnar Relay: Cape Code would be a cool race to do, someday.
Next thing I know, less than 2 weeks later, my home team the NE Spahtens, had run with the idea, formed teams (one chicks only, one guys only and one co-ed), registered..... and was holding me responsible.

Oh. Shit.

However, that was back in November, I was getting back into training and surely I'd be all set, by the time May rolled around, 6 months later. However, alas, Life happened and I was nowhere near where I should've been to start this race, wanted to be, or could've been. I was in a complete flat-out panic. As race day loomed, I reflected on all the training I had not done, all the weight I had not lost, and all the miles I had not logged. I was going to let down my 11 other teammates, I was not going to be able to finish, etc.... you can see where the negative spiral was going. Nonetheless, my team held me to it, and dragged me to the event.
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Start Line: Hull, MA, 5am
After a full work-day on Thursday, I rounded up the Great White Rental Van, picked up my other Vermonters, Stacey and Shelley, and hit the road, bound for Massachusetts. Shortly after beginning our journey, while stopping for a Dunkin' fuel stop, my flip-flop (my only other pair of shoes, other than my race sneakers) died. I immediately assumed that this was not a good omen for the beginning of the journey...

Upon our Late Arrival in Massachusetts (thanks to a lack-luster dinner at Friday's and a quick stop at Target for some new flip flops!), we met up with another of our teammates, April, and crashed quickly to sleep. We hit the pillow just about midnight... expecting the rest of our teammates to arrive at the hotel to rendezvous at 3am. NOT our best plan ever.

Sunrise over the water at the start line!
Alarm clocks off at 3am, and we all groggily pulled on our spandex, before meeting the rest of our 12 person team. Hugs and greetings were exchanged, bags were shuffled, and we piled in to our two mini vans, to head to the start line.

The co-ed team was starting the earliest, at 5am with our team to follow at 6:15am. The energy at the starting line was intense, full of life and positivity, despite the pre-dawn hours.  Our first runner, Tora, took the starting line looking totally bad ass and ready to kill it. The announcer amped up the crowd and sent off the racers to start the clock on our event.... there was no turning back now. I will freely admit, I was a huge ball of nerves and there was absolutely nothing I wanted to do more at this point then run away. Far. Far. Away.

Van 2 Ladies (minus Amy our photographer!) at the crack of dawn.
Looking around at all the teams gathered to send their racers off at the start line, I was the heaviest person there. Although the population of OCR's and other obstacle races is flush with intense athletes, usually, there is a healthy population of weekend warriors, or people in the beginning stages of their fitness journey, who are working for a finish line - not an elite time. Looking around at the Ragnarians, this was NOT the case.... this was a compilation of established runners; I felt out of place, out classed and more unsure than ever, that I had made a good decision showing up.

Ready for my first leg!
None the less, the Van 2 ladies (Amy, Jess, April, Katie, Stacey and myself), piled into our van, to begin our "downtime" while Van 1 (Runners 1-6) ran their first legs. Despite the early morning hours, energy, anticipation and nerves were running high, so no one got any sleep. Instead, we found our first exchange point and got ready to rally.

Sending off Amy (our first runner of the 2nd van) early Friday afternoon, really began the journey for our half of the team. So far, our team was right on our predicted pace, running strong and doing well. I wanted to throw up more and more, as each minute ticked closer to the time I'd have to run. As we passed all the runners on the road, it became increasingly evident to me that I was WAY out of my league. These were not 12-13 minute miler's on the road. These were spandex clad running athletes.

I readied for my first leg, which was to directly follow Katie's epic 12.8 miler (so epic, she got a special medal for it being "wicked hahd"). The weather was overcast, cold and windy - but at least I wouldn't be too hot, right?

I spotted her neon outfit (she's hard to miss...), received the hand-off slap bracelet, and off I went down the road. I knew I could run for at least 6 minutes straight, if I took an easy pace, and I just hoped this was enough to take me out of the eye of most of the crowd gathered at the exchange point.

A scenic Exchange point!
I trotted along, getting honked and screamed at by other passing team vans (it's how you show your support at a Ragnar!), and tried to stay positive. I wasn't running fast, but I was running. Other gazelle-like runners floated by me, passing words of encouragement as they went by. I pushed.... until the effing hills. Isn't Massachusetts supposed to be FLAT? I assure you, it most certainly, is not. My body was saying it was just about time for a walk break, and I didn't want to kill myself on the first couple of hills, will the majority of my 4.5 mile run still ahead of me. Strategy: Walk up the hills, run down them.  Taking a peek at my GPS watch, I was still doing okay, for what I predicted... 13 min mile or under - which seemed reasonable with walk breaks.

4.5 miles wore on and I did my best. Trudge up hill, run down it. Try and run the flat as much as possible. In the last couple of miles, my calves started feeling tight (never a good sign for me), so I did a little extra walking.... and felt pretty crappy about it, watching the gazelle-runners continue to breeze by. Forcing myself into my run intervals, a new complication arose.... my right foot... then also my left foot, went completely numb. Like, you-sat-on-your-foot-too-long numb. Couldn't feel them at all. Could still feel the calf cramps, but the feet were just numb stumps on the end of my legs. I had a little panic about that, walked, rotated my ankles, and returned the feeling to my feet. Started to run again and within a minute, both feet were gone.

Having not experienced this before, I was unsure as how to proceed. My logical brain was telling me that my calf cramps, coupled with foot swelling from running and a chronic ankle injury, and sitting in the car, etc. was just pinching a nerve. However, my emotional brain was freaking out. This was only my first leg, and I wasn't done yet.

Thankfully, I was able to run through the numb feet a bit and saw the "One Mile To Go" sign (a blessing that Ragnar puts on every leg!!), and decided to get the job done. I was rewarded with my leg opening out onto a nice FLAT run on the bike path next to the canal, under the Bourne Bridge. Flat surfaces are much easier to run with numb feet. LOL. I finished under an hour, averaging a 13 min pace, and considered that a success. Surely the other legs would be better?

Nutella and Bagels: Race Fuel!
Van 2 finished up their legs that evening, passing the baton back to Van 1 to take their second round. In the meantime, we were HUNGRY. We located an IHOP, ate our weight in eggs and hashbrowns, and restored ourselves to somewhat human to prep for the rest of the event. We tried to get a bit of napping in, but still, everyone was running on a very small amount of sleep. Here's where our endurance would start to kick in.

Van 1 finished up their second runs around midnight and handed back the baton to us, as our runners set forth into the night, headlamps and blinking tail lights ablaze. I have to say, Ragnar did a great job at marking the course, having police present all night long to help with crossings, and generally, make you feel safe and not alone, as you ran through the wee hours.

As my second run approached, I wasn't feeling too nervous. Even though I was still feeling like the Fat Kid on the block, my next run was a short 2.3 miles, that I was sure I could bang out at the same, consistent pace. 5:30 dawned, and my teammates chucked my groggy self out of the van and set me off of on my supposedly flat, scenic run.

It was a quarter mile in, when my calves locked up, that time. I don't mean "my calves felt tight" or "they were a little crampy".... I mean, they locked up solid, felt like rubber bands pulled to tight... and shortly thereafter, the foot numbness followed. Less than a half a mile in, I was walking, couldn't feel my feet and faced the longest 2 more miles I could think of. Taking a minute to stop and evaluate, I noted that my feet/ankles were super puffy - presumably from sitting in the van so much.  Coupled with the calf cramps (that I'm prone to anyway).... that seemed like a recipe for the foot numbness. Having a reasonable explanation helped my mental state a bit..... but did not help the task at hand.

I looked forward to the scenic route that I would be running through the marshes at dawn, and noted the uneven dirt road, lots of loose gravel, and other obstacles. that running with numb feet didn't seem like a good idea, on. I could just picture me trying to run along, stepping wrong on a rock because I couldn't feel my feet, and rolling an ankle. I had zero idea what to do at this point.... so, I just kept moving. Run where I could, until my feet went numb, walk a bunch. Run again, walk again. My frustration was at an all-time high, as I watched my pace sink slower and slower. The negative self talk started spinning, reminding me that I was in no way ready for this event.

One of the gazelle runners ran by me, while I was walking, and turned to me and said, "c'mon girl! You got this!!"... and I tried to muster a smile, but I was too busy feeling ragingly ashamed. I'd undertrained, over committed and saddled myself with a race that I couldn't handle.

As I rounded the 2 mile mark, with a small .3 to go, I had pretty solidly reached the conclusion that I would not be able to complete my last leg. I was facing another 4.5 mile leg... which, after this epic disaster of a 2.3 mile one, I couldn't find any way in my head to complete. I felt like I was beaten, I'd let everyone and myself down, and I'd have to DNF for the first time in my life.

Last .3 miles, and I rallied as best as I could, trotting into the exchange point, trying to cover up the pain face. I was a solid 10 minutes or more behind my projected finish time, but my teammates were there, cheering and waiting for me, regardless. I passed off my snap-bracelet, barely acknowledging Jess, as I did so, and tried to walk off the cramps and flood of emotion that was suddenly hitting me. Katie asked me how it went, and the best I could do was shake my head, muster a "not good" and try and suck back the tears welling up in my eyes. I choked down a few ibuprofen, stretched a bit, and climbed into the van to deal with my thoughts. Thankfully, my teammates seemed to sense the space I needed, and left me to myself to process for a bit.

At this point, I felt that the only thing I could do was bail out of my last leg, and hope one of my teammates could pick it up for me. I even texted my GT (Guru Trainer), saying that I could not finish, and I was cramping, etc. The situation was bleak, in my head. I'd failed. Yet, not one of my other teammates ever started talking about taking over my leg, or what the plan would be if I could not run. "Not finishing" was simply not an option. We were in this together, we would all finish, one way or another.

I sat in the van reserved, unhappy and lost in my own tangle of thoughts. I'd been in tough spots before, at races, but never really got to the point where I really felt I couldn't do it. This was the time, this was the wall. my last leg was slated to be 4.5 miles of "moderate". That was not an encouraging thought. However, I looked around, and despite tired faces, there were smiles. My team, after being up a solid 24 hours at this point, was still joking, cheering for runners and "tagging" vans with #NES at every opportunity. They were all putting solid efforts into their runs and coming out on top, despite the adversity presented at them.
I could not quit now, I wasn't that person.

Right about that same time, Katie announced that she was feeling pretty good and happy to pace my last leg with me, to help me get through it. I had two legs and some support and a team that didn't care about time. It seems I had no excuses left.

I broke out the Tiger Tail and started rolling my legs. Time to STFU.

For the next 6-7 hours, while 10 other runners ran before me, I stretched, I rolled, I massaged, I walked.... I did everything I could possibly think of to loosen up the legs and get the swelling to go down. Sitting at our last major exchange, waiting for our Van 1 to finish, I stuck on my KT tape, with a little prayer to the running gods, to just get me through this.

While catching a luke-warm shower for the first time in 36 sweaty hours, I adjusted my wardrobe choice, even. Although I was planning on a hot-pink tech tee, I elected to sport a STFU t-shirt, with a spartan helment and "Spartan the *&^* UP!" on the back. It seemed like the right sentiment to be going into this last trial with.

The day was 70, sunny and beautiful, down the far reaches of the Cape, as my last leg drew nearer. I reminded myself that there were a lot of lessons to be learned here, and a lot of things to be thankful for. It was a perfect day, I was with some of my favorite people, I had all the support I could ask for and it was JUST another 4.5 miles for me. (In comparison, some of my teammates had 6 or 9 miles facing them to finish!)
The T-Rex Run, as I started my last leg

Around 3:30 that afternoon, it was Go time. Katie, our neon-clad mileage beast, passed me the baton, and promised to catch up as soon as she had caught her breath, and I set off at a hopeful slow, steady pace.

I was barely around the corner and out of site of the exchange, before my calves went angry. I gritted my teeth and kept going. Shortly after my feet going numb, Katie appeared with a smile and a cheerful outlook, to help me trudge up a few hills. We trekked on, chatting, running whenever I could manage it, walking as needed and generally pushing through. When, out of nowhere, Van 1 (done with their runs for the day) appeared, screaming and yelling and blasting some tunes. After dragging a smile out of me, they drove on a little ways, to greet me with the Rocky theme song. Later, I got an 80's dance break, to Pour some Sugar on Me. LOL. Van 1 ladies, your antics certainly broke up the monotony that could've been the walk-trudge of death. (and we know the other runners loved it!!).

Last leg, trying to rally!
Miraculously, the miles went by. They certainly weren't pretty, nor did they feel good... but they were a means to an end. That "one mile to go" sign was so welcome, as we turned into a small "trail" section, where we found ourselves walking through loose sand. My calves were having NONE of running in loose sand, but we kept plowing forward.

Sprint Beginnings... 
Emerging on the other side of the sand-trail, there was a volunteer with a flag, that loudly proclaimed, "You're almost there! 500 yards to go!" and pointed us around the corner. I have never been so insanely relieved in all my life. I could do anything for that long. Katie and I picked up a jog and rounded the corner. As soon as I could see my team in the distance, something clicked over in my head. We were getting this done, and we'd do it Spartan style - Leave EVERYTHING out on the course. I didn't want to simply trot to the finish and know that there might've been an ounce more that I could've done.... there was a little more in my legs, so it was time to use it.

Cue The Sprint.
Leaving it all on the course, and getting lift-off!

Katie and I picked up into a dead sprint, each of us pushing the other to go just a little faster. I saw Jess, amid the pack of cheering and clapping Spahtens, waiting for the hand off, and charged right at her. Skidding to a stop I snapped the bracelet to her, and paced around, trying to catch my breath. I felt awesome. THAT was how you finish a race, no matter how crappy the rest of it went.

I'd done it. I'd covered the miles, and didn't have to run anymore. All I had to do was cheer my ass off for the 9.6 miler that Jess was going to pull off and bring us to the finish. With no doubt that she could do it, I smiled in satisfaction. We were almost. there.

We rallied our vans and made our way over to the Finish area. I inhaled my free burrito from Boloco and remarked about the cruelty of Ragnar to put the food area UP three small flights of stairs and a small hill. However, the food was pretty tasty and the energy at the finish was awesome.

It wasn't too long when we heard that Jess was a couple miles off. It was time to gather the troops and wait to bring her in. The Chicks were all smiles as we waiting a few hundred yards from the finish, trying to spot our runner off in the distance.

Before long, we spotted her, cresting the last hill and headed towards us. Our cheers - both for Jess's feat and our own personal wins - drowned out the surrounding sounds of Provincetown. She barely slowed as she rounded the last corner and stormed the finish line.... flanked by 11 of the coolest teammates anyone could ever ask for.

Charging the Finish!
After crossing the finish line, tears welled up for some, smiles and hugs spread like wildfire, and medals were handed to us. I think the epicness of what we had just completed as a team, really started to settle on us.

I was slow, fat, undertrained and not ready for this.... but, my team dragged me through. For that, I'll always be grateful. For me, getting this "success" under my belt was the final push to get back to where I was, with training and running and racing. I LOVE the competitiveness of a race, the camaraderie of your team and even the people you don't know, and the irreplaceable experiences that come out of these situations. This race, really hitting bottom and crashing through that dark space in my head reminded me why I chose to get out of it the first time around.
NE Spahten Chicks: 2014

Thanks to the Greatest Team (including the support, hugs and cheering from the Men's and Co-ed team!) ever, I'm motivated and pushing to a goal again.

As for Ragnar.... well... we're going to have to have a rematch. I finished, but in no way near the way I'd like. Next time, I will run more than I walk, I'll feel strong going into it, and I'll run that race the way it's meant to be run. I hear there is the Adirondack version in late September... which sounds like a good goal to train to. Plus, from finishing this Cape Code Ragnar, we'd be eligible for a special double medal (the Docks and Daks medal!). And really, who doesn't love bling?

Again, I'll say, this was the toughest event I've tackled, to date; however, probably one of the most gratifying as well. Sometimes, it is in your darkest places, that you see the light to go on. :-)

Our Van, post race-tagging. Next time, we're all over this!



































Thursday, February 13, 2014

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. –Chinese Proverb

Spartan Shape-Up 2.0, Day 4:

I'm sitting here drinking an abundance of water (so. thirsty), after a wonderful 60 minute massage that the man in my life got me for Valentines day. It was pretty great... it hurt. so. good. Walking in there today, my muscles were a bit stiff and creaky - but it was earned stiffness. Not just the kind you get from sitting around in a chair. Huzzah! This is progress.
Further, I saw this massage lady about 5 weeks ago (Christmas present massage, yes!), and she told me today that she can see that I've gained some muscle and strength - particularly in my quads and hamstrings. GOOD LORD, because there's nothing a T-rex needs more than MORE LEGS.... but, hey, I'll take the gains wherever I can get them. (and more muscle gain=more calorie burn= faster weight loss!)

Allow me to tell you the next chapter in the how-I-got-sore-but-earned-it, this week.

Monday's WOD at Crossfit was awesome, but after some KB swings and deadlifts and such, I'd earned a day off of that sort of thing for a bit of rest. Tuesday was going to be a run day for me, but Life got in the way and it just didn't happen. However, I rallied, and on Tuesday, I found myself back at CrossFit Waterbury for the lunchtime WOD.

(...because this cracks me up.)

A note about lunchtime workouts: I highly recommend them, if you can manage it. I've found that I start my day, get working, and just about the time I need a break, it's lunchtime and I head to my WOD. After that  break and some movement, I feel energized, accomplished and ready to sit back at my desk and tackle the next thing. Good times!

First, we did some Skill Work on Rope Climbs. As many of you know, I have yet to get up an entire rope climb (there was that one time I got halfway up a dry rope, before a workout and not tired...) and it is one of my long-term goals. In theory, I know how to do it - I've watched hundreds of Spartans beast through it, I've watched videos from Navy Seals on the technique, and yet... it eludes me. This is supposed to be a more leg-based activity, if you're doing it correctly, but I've still yet to get it.
Through some patient coaching and demonstration from Robyn, I went for a few solid attempts. Still not there. I can execute the maneuver, but when I go to stand up on my S-hook rope, I slide.
Although, I did learn a new technique for "learning" purposes. Start sitting on a box, put your feet in position, then stand up. This more closely simulates the action you'll be doing when you're actually climbing - bringing your knees up as high as you can, gripping (not pulling) with your hands, and then standing to bring your hips to the rope. I -still- can't really do it.... YET.  You just wait. :-)

Next, we headed on to the WOD:
For Total Working Time:

10 power cleans (55#)
15 Burpee Box Overs
20 OH Walking Lunges (10#)
40 Double Unders or 80 singles
REST 3 Min.
REPEAT
Rest 3 Min.
REPEAT (for a total of 3 rounds). 

So, my total time came in at 23:23, and I was pretty sure the Burpees were going to kill me. Burpee Box Overs, for those that haven't yet experienced this new kind of hell, are ugly.  You do a burpee, stand up, Jump Onto and Over box. That's One. Burpee on the other side of the box.... stand up, jump on box and over.... that's 2.
Fat Chick Syndrome (you've all heard me talk about FCS before?), gets really inflamed during this sort of task. Burpees kill me, cardiovascularly. I'm panting and sweating like I'm about to die (clearly this means I must do more). As such, refusing to quit, I am forced to do them slower. There are points (we've all been there, with The Burpee), where I'm laying on the floor, working on getting up, and start beating myself up over the fact that this would be SO MUCH EASIER if I wasn't the fat kid. Enter FCS. I have spent a lot of the last few years working to change this thought pattern, or at least channel it differently. Now, I get angry and push through. There was a point, during the second round of these burpee box overs, after a particularly sharp pang of FCS, that I pushed a few out quickly and had that dreaded, "am I gonna throw up right now?" moment. Luckily, I moved through that as well.
I guess that's the key to these ugly movements.... JUST. KEEP. MOVING.  It can't go on forever. If you keep chipping away at it, it'll be done. Then, you will feel awesome.
Thankfully, there was an excellent cheering section at CFW for the WOD that kept the positive mojo flowing. Definitely helps!

I was happy that I beasted through the power cleans with some efficiency. I try to remember things like that when I am feeling particularly weak (like while doing burpees). For instance, I might say to myself.... "Hey, so these burpees suck really bad because our spare tire is WAY too big right now... BUT, I owned those power cleans...."  Whatever gets you through, right?

Over Head Walking lunges are not a great favorite of my t-rex self. While the lunges are that bad (although, nothing is that great, after burpees and box jumps...), using my wimpy arms to hold something over my head, arms locked out, is not pretty. However, it had to get done, even if it meant doing two, taking a 3 second break to breathe, and getting back to work.

Here's the moral of the story, BlogLand. It may not be pretty, you may not feel athletic, it may not be as easy as it once was..... but in order to see the results, you have to do the work; as slowly as necessary, as scaled as necessary, as sweaty as necessary.... but you must keep moving.

Tomorrow, I think I'm going to take an easy run to stretch the muscles back out (I'm not sure what is more sore, lingering Crossfit achiness, or the aftermath of a rigorous massage?).... because this weekend is Adventure Weekend with the Man. We're trying SNOWBOARDING!!!! (stay tuned for that update).

Monday, February 10, 2014

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late. - Lee Iacocca”

Spartan Shape Up, 2.0: Day 1

Dear BlogLand,

The time has come. I'm well again (screw you, mono!), I'm cleared of all weird injuries and healing issues (screw you hip and ankle!), and there are no excuses left.

I've been "trying" to get back in shape and get back into the routine for the last month or so.... since that moment where I stepped on the scale (Jan 1) and realized EXACTLY how bad the holiday reckless eating had become (bad. real bad.). We all know how "trying" goes though... "trying" isn't exactly "doing." Trying means that I've acknowledged that there is a problem that needs to be fixed, I have a loose strategy on how to do it, but I haven't quite 100% committed to the arduous task of correcting the situation. However, in that last month or so, I have used that time to take a really thorough self-inventory and figure out where the mental blocks are now, how I can best over come them, what my goals are and where my priorities lie.
One thing that I have learned is, as one of those lucky sort that get to Work From Home (yes, sometimes in yoga pants, allllllll day!), I'm a social person and I desperately need to leave the house on a regular basis and see people. For all my best efforts, instituting a totally at-home workout plan (while cost effective...) was never going to be very successful. I'm a person who loves a group atmosphere, the energy of a crowd and the outside motivation of "other people" to help push me a little harder than I'd go on my own. Struggling to figure out how to make that happen, the solution fell in my lap:

CrossFit Waterbury opened, 12 minutes down the road from me. CrossFit is a activity (sport?) that was instrumental in getting my spartan-self shaped up the first time around, as it is constantly varied, fast paced and has a friendly-yet-competitive atmosphere that I found worked well for me. Also, it's probably the only time a person of my fitness level can do the same workout as that superfit guy.... thanks to the wonders of being able to "scale" each movement to your ability level.

CrossFit Waterbury, boasted a super convenient location (right on the main road!), a cool space (garage doors! yesssss!) and some super friendly, encouraging and supportive owners (Shea! Robyn! woot!). The stars have been aligning, BlogLand. No more room for the excuses that I've been setting up for myself.

The test subjects... there I am! center, back row
So, I took the leap. I suited up all my extra squishiness into the familar spandex and lyrcra, and joined them for their promotional (free!!) week of classes.

Blogland, it's great to report that I had a fantastic time. It's been quite a while since I had *fun* working out. But I did. I chatted with all the other scared newbies, swapped stories about our goals and journeys ahead, and - most of all - felt part of a small community of awesomeness. SOLD.

That feeling of "I-Can" was reignited in me, where I had lost it for the last few months. I'd spent a lot of time at home, feeling out of shape, Fat (yes. I use the F word), defeated and discouraged. What I'd found at CFW was a reminder that I CAN do it.... even if I have to do my push ups on a box, or lift something lighter, or go a little slower. Baby steps are still FORWARD steps.

With that, I ponied up my hard-earned cash and grabbed a membership, so I was ready to go today, on Day 1 of their official opening. Here's how it went:

I hopped in for a lunchtime WOD, which Robyn was leading. I admit, I'd scoped it out last night when they posted the WOD, and was... *gasp* looking forward to it! It was a WOD that would play to my strengths (heavy stuff! Yeah!), and work out some of my weak areas... (t-rex arms, boo!).

After some hip mobility work, which felt AWESOME for a desk jockey (all-day chair sitters... do yourself a favor.. STRETCH!) like myself, we got into the first part of our WOD:
STRENGTH:
Front Squat: 10-8-6-5-5-5 

Starting out light, I practiced my form with the 35# bar to do that initial set of 10. Although squatting is a strength of mine, front squats require some shoulder mobility to perfect that rack position, that I don't yet have. A few suggestions on keeping my elbows up, and I was on my way.  Time to add some weight. I threw on a couple of 10# plates, leaving my total only at 55#. I say "only" because historically this isn't much weight for me. BUT, I'm trying to make good, sensible decisions as I come back to training. I haven't been very active, I have a (theoretically recovered) hip injury that will need to get stronger, I needed to work on that form, and there was a good number of reps there. So, sticking with my 55#, I felt solid working through my ladder sets, keeping my damn elbows up.

Next, we moved onto the first half of the main WOD:
6 Min AMRAP (as many reps as possible):
Odd Minute: Burpees
Even Minute: KB Swings (25# KB for me)

I died inside. It probably looked like I was dying outwardly, too. LOL. Burpees for me, like many Spartans and non-spartans alike, are the enemy. No matter how much practice I have, they continue to suck really badly. Further, when you've reached out-of-shape-again, they suck particularly badly. Nonetheless, I panted and sweat-puddled my way through them, one minute at a time. I was reminded of something a veteran Spartan told me once - "You can do anything for one minute." So, I did. I used the KB swings as my anchor (I like those!), and powered through them, as best as my body could handle. Needless to say, my cardio has some room for improvement, but I logged a solid 87 total burpees and swings in 6 minutes. I also logged several "*pantpantpantnotquitedead* stops" . At some point, I'd love to get through this without having to pause for air.

With 2 minutes for us to catch our  breath, we moved on:

WOD, Part 2:
AMRAP, 6 mins.
4 Deadlifts (75# for me)
6 Push Ups (tall box, for me)
8 Toes-to-Bar (.... knees to 90 degrees for me!)

So, another example of a great scaled WOD.  Deadlifts are something I can do pretty easily, and in retrospect, I should've made these a bit heavier. However, I was still recovering from burpee death and all my brain could handle was Yes.Light.Good.
Further, this T-Rex hates pushups, because I'm quite sure my arms are going to fall off, so I chose to use a box here, instead (maintain good push up form, but relieve your arms of the evil weight!).
Last, toes to bar is a little challenging with a good-sized mid-section in the way, so I went with Knees up as high as I can for some core work.

On we went. I felt awesome plowing through DL's and overall, this wasn't too bad.  I logged 5 solid rounds in 6 minutes, which I was happy with. I was able to keep moving right from one to the other, without a lot of lag for OMGIMDYING breathing in between movements.

Home now, my leg muscles are reminding me that it's been a while since we've done much squatting, swinging or really.... ANYTHING.  I fear that tomorrow and the next day could be a bit challenging when I try to walk up the stairs in my house.... however, I'm going to take that as an affirmation that I did something. I kept trying, and I showed up. VICTORY.

Dear BlogLand.... we begin the journey to fitness, again... but, dare I say... I'm looking forward to it?


“The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” 






Sunday, November 17, 2013

Yoga: "Bullshit rainbow unicorn calisthenics"... or not...

I over actively recovered on Rest Day...

Typically, Sundays are a Rest Day for me, where I sleep in, recharge my batteries and prep for the craziness that will be my life the following week... this week, thanks to the new gym membership, I decided to mix it up a bit and try something different.

I got up early this morning and went to BodyFlow, lead by a high school friend of mine (and fitness inspiration!) Shelley. Supposedly, BodyFlow is supposed to be like Tai-Chi, Pilates and Yoga mushed together. That sounds relaxing and like a good stretch and stuff, doesn't it? Sounds like a great way to start an "active recovery day" right?

....

They  neglect to inform you that you will STILL get your ass handed to you.

When I got there, I was happy to learn that this was a no-shoes class. While I know many of you are grossed out at the thought of going shoe-less in your gym, I generally find shoes confining and was thrilled to "relax" in a yoga class with no shoesies. ahhhhh....

And that, friends, is where the "relaxation" ended.

Having never done this class before, I entered with an open mind, trotting merrily over to get my loaner yoga-mat. After adjusting myself out of the Front and Center spot (ooops!), I felt good about this. Looking around the room, there seemed to be ladies (and one dude!!) of all shapes and sizes, ready to get their BodyFlow on.

The music started, and I was glad to hear some current tunes, just remixed in a way to make them a little more soothing, or with an appropriate back-beat. We began with some tai-chi breathing and I tossed my energy ball (slightly less than gracefully, I think) around the room. I admit, I was envisioning a CrossFit wall ball while doing this... then, when I chastised myself for thinking of it that way, I moved on to a super villian, throwing energy balls..... also not exactly the relaxing image one is hoping for during the tai-chi session. Nonetheless, I hurdled super-powered energy balls around the mirrored room, avoided catching glances of myself in the floor to ceiling mirrors, and took some deep breaths, as we moved into some yoga.

Now, Blogland, I know Yoga is not my special talent. Even at my fittest phases of life, I just.don't.bend. that way. I want to. I try. I put my weight in my heels in my down dogs, and I try and open my chest in twisting triangles, but good lord.... it's just not a natural progression. I continue to try. Thankfully, BodyFlow didn't seem to have TOO many pretzel moves, instead focusing on more strength/balance yoga... which I do kind of like (... maybe because I'm better at it?).

I breathed into my baby cobras and up dogs, and rocked some steady, deep, Warrior 2's.... balance, though I like it, is not an aptitude of mine at the moment, due to some rehab I'm still doing on my ankle. My "tree" pose, looked more like the ever-serene "tree-in-hurricane" where you spend your 2 minutes (or 3 hours. It felt like three hours!), wobbling, re positioning, touching down, wobbling... However, the Physical Therapist recommended that I stand on one foot as much as possible, to help strengthen those ankle support muscles.... sooooo.... tree, star, eagle stuff, it is.

About 2/3 of the way into the class, I had worked up a little sweat from the exertion, and the close quarters of the group, but was feeling relatively strong. Then it happened. A seamless, unassuming, transition of instructors, where the announcement that we'd be doing some Pilates-style core work, happened.
I didn't even have time to think, "how bad could it be?" before I was down in a plank, alternating knee touches, and leaving a lake of sweat pooling directly beneath my brow - furrowed in burning muscles and concentration.
I attempted to power through, but I won't lie - I had breaks. Core is also another area that's not my favorite (thus, underpracticed...), and I definitely don't look graceful doing ab work.

However, I'd like to use this time to comment on people that "phone it in" during group classes. I don't get it. While I FULLY understand the need to modify, take a break, etc.  I do not understand just not trying at all.... why? Because it seemed to hard? You might break a sweat? what?! Isn't that why you're HERE? ..... Dear women that just laid on their bellies looking around all guilty, while the rest of the class (including the women 2x your size) were giving their best effort at "swimming" and working on our back muscles..... you KNOW you're only cheating yourselves, right? Anyway, rant over. Back to Me.

Just about the time I was convinced that my abs were going to go on strike (this would be right around the time I was doing some sort of planking or something, where I was shaking and sweating...), we moved on to the more relaxing stuff.

The room lights were shut off, the music was more calming and we were lead through a little guided relaxation and stretching.
True to what they say in the description, I felt relaxed and had no other thoughts in my mind...... It was nice. A couple minutes where I just chilled out and breathed.

Overall, I had a great time. I was afraid this was going to be a little on the touchy-feely-hippie side, but instead, I ended up getting a nice, calm workout. My (generally tight!) muscles feel stretched out, I was pleasantly tired, and I could see the potential for strength and mobility gains, if I kept coming to class.
Okay, BodyFlow, You Win, I'll be back.
.... I will still be sweaty, whiny and unbendy for a while, but I'll be back.

Following that, I ran home and ate some lunch, and had a little time to relax and rehydrate, before heading out on Sunday Adventures, Part 2.

A couple of my local Spartans (and Spahtens!) Stacey and Hannah had agreed to take on a 5 mile walk around a local scenic pond, with me. They both ran the Fenway Spartan Sprint yesterday, so it was going to be a lovely, relaxing Sunday stroll (it seems like that's how all my intentions *started* today...).
We did have a lovely time, walking around the pond, with my wee dog in tow - and Stacey's Sloshpipe (I think it needs a name). Clocking in around 25#, SloshPipey McPiperson (?) was rotated through us, every mile or so, or after steep hills. It was a nice way to just push our endurance a little more, without extremely upping the intensity. My FitBit clocked me in at 13K steps, at this point in the day! WIN!

Now I'm home, had a great dinner and am EXHAUSTED. Seriously. I don't feel like I did anything particularly "hard" today... but OMG I'm tired. I blame DayLight Savings Time.

With that, I leave you Blogland, for another cup of tea, and then - following shortly thereafter - my bed.

Rest - equally important in the fitness journey!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” – John Wooden

Left foot, Right foot, left foot, right foot...

It's been a good few days, BlogLand, with a distinct theme: Just keep moving. Try something. Anything. Decide to change.

On Thursday morning, I found myself up EARLY and headed out to go walking with my Mom, step-Dad and my Man (and the dog!). My Mom has recently been motivated by a health scare and is taking some significant steps to improve her health, despite the fact that she's 63, a heavy smoker and hasn't been particularly active for the last few years. It wasn't a long walk, maybe a mile and a half, but we (She!) was outside, moving and making a decision to change. I couldn't have been happier to walk along beside - what a great, motivational way to start the day. If my mother, given the physical/mental obstacles she's working with, can get off her couch, I have ZERO excuses to not get my ass in gear and continue down my path towards my fitness goals. For the last few days, I've used this thought as inspiration to go up and down the stairs and extra time, or skip the honey in my tea, or whatever little thing I need to do to stay on track. Blogland, if you learn only one thing from my list of trials and tribulations on my way to success, it's to compile a long list of reasons "why" you're doing what you're doing - especially those that exist outside of yourself. Whether it's the quadruple amputee many people saw take on a Spartan Race earlier this year, or simply your Momma skipping her morning smoke and taking a walk, supplemental motivation and inspiration is all around you. Take note.

Today was another "Run" day for me (I currently still use that term loosely), so I laced up the sneaks, grabbed the dog's leash and off we went. (it's worth noting that it was November 15, in VERMONT, and I was comfortable in capris and a t-shirt.... WTF? Hellooooo Global Warming.).
The Zombie, Run! 5K app is really a saving grace right now. I'm intrigued with the story line, and the workouts are very approachable, while still moving along my run training, that I don't feel like I dread taking them on.
Today went like this:
5 Minute Warm Up Walk
5 Minute Free Form Run (Run/Walk at your discretion)
THEN (5x)
1 minute run
1 minute walk
10 sec of knee lifts/high knees
NEXT
8 minute free form run
2 minutes of guided stretches
8 minute free form run
Walk/cooldown for remainder.

I am happy to report, BlogLand, that I successfully completed this workout as written. I ran every second of the run drills, and I ran a lot of the free form runs, in burst of run/walk. I'm really satisfied at how today went, because I feel like I'm making a bit of progress. A month ago, between rehab and pain and out-of-shapeness, running 1 whole minute (much less repetitively) would've been awful and just not doable. I'm also finding that with the small successes again, I feel motivated to keep going and keep pushing to the next thing. I was missing that for a while - without biting the bullet and getting over the initial unpleasantness, it's impossible to find your small successes. I'm glad I discovered this silly Zombie app, it's definitely easing the way.

Also today, I took another step to help hold myself accountable: I accepted a DietBet challenge. The basic idea of this DietBet is that each participants puts in $15, then has the following 4 weeks to lose 4% of their body weight (for me, this is just under 10 pounds...). If you do, then you go in the winners pool and split the pot of money. If you don't, you lose your cash. I like money and I don't like to lose at anything... SO... this seemed like a doable challenge to keep me moving.

UnHappy Scale Face. :-(
Subsequently, I got on the scale today, to determine my starting weight, etc. for this challenge. I pretty much wanted to die. I saw a number that I SWORE I would never go back to.... but thanks to Life in General and the fact that sometimes, Shit Happens, here I am.

While my initial reaction was one of shame, horror and OMFG ?!!?!?!?!!?!??!?!, I am happy to report that it has passed and I have come to a better place with my thought processes. Basically, it is what it is. It is where I am starting. That's it. It's no reflection on me as a human being, it's not a judgement of how awesome I am, or how much potential I have, it's just a number - one that I can, and will, change.

SO, BlogLand.... Starting today, I have 4 weeks (until December 15) to lose 9.9 pounds. It's on like Donkey Kong.

With that, I leave you all, in order to work on getting a better night's rest. Tomorrow, I'm up early to check out a BodyFlow (yoga/pilates/other?) class and then go take a stroll (5 miles...) around a pond with some Spahtens. It promises to be a good day.

One foot in front of the other.... slow progress is better than no progress!