Monday, April 30, 2012

‎"We become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions." -Aristotle

Spartan Shape Up, Day 283, 284 & 285:

BlogLand, this weekend OWNED my body. And by that, I mean I sweated, grunted, pushed, pulled, climbed, and sweated some more, my way through this weekend. It was AWESOME.
Why no blogging? Well. You will understand when I get to the end of this... Let's just say, I passed out like a dead person by the time I hit my bed on Sunday night.

Day 283, Saturday:

Saturday I was up early and excited and ready to head off to my CrossFit WOD. The morning was particularly cool (VT has been having a weird cold spell?), but nothing my giant super-tough Spartan hoodie couldn't handle. You really get some excellent looks, though, when you're pumping gas with the huge (oversized) hood up on this black sweatshirt, gold aviator sunglasses, spandex capris and innovates. All in black. I must've been quite a sight to see. haha

It seemed that Saturday's WOD would be a CrossFit Hero WOD - "Pheezy":
(for time) 3 Rounds of:
5 Front Squats (50#)
18 Pull Ups (with a big black band)
5 Dead Lifts (95#)
18 Toes to Bar (... or knees to however high I could get them)
5 Push Jerks (50#)
18 Hand Release Push Ups (on my knees)

Okay, so this WOD was okay. It combined some things I'm really horrid at (pull ups), with some things I'm not so bad at (lifting heavy stuff). Although, it was a bit tricky. Saturday classes are big at the gym, usually, particularly this 10:30am spot. Thus, with WOD's that require multiple weighted bars, equipment gets tricky to share. As a result, we had some shared Deadlifts, and you had to use the same bar for your front squats and push jerks. The way this worked for me was that I was deadlifting 95#. I should've gone heavier. The prescribed women's weight for the day was 155#... which I wasn't quite sure if I could handle for the whole workout... so... I elected lighter. 95# was too easy though, in retrospect. WAY too easy. Next time, I will know. I did a 50# bar for the sake of the push jerks (an overhead move), as this is a weaker area for me. Plus, I knew that my upper body strength would be tapped by the other movements.

However. I am happy to report that 50# was still too easy. For real. At the end of the WOD, I could still push that push jerk over my head without severe difficulty. Clearly, it should've been heavier. haha. I'm proud of myself. A couple months ago, I could not have handled a wod like this with a weight over 50#. Now I'm sure it was too light. Go me!

The non-weighted movements were my nemesis in this wod, though. Pull ups are always a struggle. I got through the first 10 in the first round in a row (with the aid of a big, thick, gray ban), and then pretty much had to do sets of 2-3 for the rest of the WOD. It was ugly. I was annoyed. Toes to Bar (or knees to wherever you can get them), was similarly as bad, though slightly better. I found it was not my grip strength here that limited me, but the sheer ability to get my feet up.
You know your WOD has gone horribly wrong when Hand-Release push ups seem like the "break."

I did thoroughly enjoy this WOD, though, and came out a hot, sweaty, smiling mess. Signs of success, I would say!

After CrossFit, I went home, drank a protein shake and made some food. I had to power up... it was then time to go for a hike!

Armed with quite a motley crew of an entourage, my Up-the-Hill running buddy and I led the charge up Spruce Peak. It's a 4.4 mile (roundtrip) hike, with quite a decent elevation gain. In true Spartan Training style, Stacy and I brought our rocks. Grover was happy to leave his station as my front-porch decor and get out for our first rock-walk of the season. Stacy and her new find, "Hurley", would be taking their first stroll, Rock style.

It was good times, BlogLand. I actually had to consciously slow myself down towards the beginning. Walking at a good clip, not wanting to die or thinking I was going to hyperventilate, and being able to pick up/squat and throw my 15-16# rock was quite a feeling. I remember doing this last year... and while it was not "easy" today... it was definitely easier. I was able to keep up a more steady pace, and soldier up that mountain.

Admittedly, we were not able to throw all the way up the mountain, as I had hoped. It did turn into a bit of a rock carry... As it turns out, the cold snap had brought quite a bit of ice and snowy slushiness to the upper regions of the mountain. It is pretty tricky to try and hold your rock with one hand/arm/shoulder and navigate a muddy, slippery, wet, etc. narrow path. I am proud to say that I did not land on my ass at ALL (there was one close call...), and I only put my rock down one time - at the top.

Speaking of the top, it is time to immortalize our fearless crew:

At the top, we stopped for a bit of refreshment... I chowed down some homemade trail mix (nom nom nom, nuts and raisins!), and washed it down with some water and chocolate/PB/Banana protein shake that Stacy pulled out of her bag. EPIC. Let me tell you people, never does a protein shake taste so good, as when you have just completed a crazy crossfit wod, then sweated your ass off heaving a rock up a mountain. So good, protein shake. OM nom nom.

The next task was... down the mountain. Hmm. Yes, BlogLand, I think that in this case, up was actually easier. Slightly bad footing (again, carrying a rock), is a bit easier to manage when you're going up it. You can sort of pull yourself up it with the surrounding trees. DOWN and you're really just trying not to slide on your ass, to your doom.

I think I really want a weight vest, after this. It will be a great way to increase the challenge of hikes, runs, etc. but have a more hands-free experience. Although, in some cases, I suppose that is part of the challenge, right?

I did successfully make it down the mountain, and back into my car, and home the the greatest hot shower ever (remember how I said it was a cold day in VT?!). Sometimes there's really something immensely satisfying as just being tired and standing in the hot water. Ahhh.

Day 284, Sunday:
Despite having a little bit of a later night out last night, I was in no frame of mind to let the workouts slack, with my race so close on the horizon (I can't think about that right now. Hello, Nerves!). It was up early and off to 9am CrossFit. '

The WOD:
6 Rounds for time:
6 Left Arm Kettlebell Snatch
12 Left Arm KB overhead lunges
18 Double Unders
6 Right Arm Kettlebell Snatch
12 Right Arm KB Overhead lunges
18 Double Unders

I am pretty damn happy with my performance on this one, considering I had some pretty hefty upper body exertions yesterday. I did this with a 22# KB, and almost could've gone heavier, I think. The limiting factor was definitely my left arm. I have less strength there, for sure, this showed me.
I also can not (yet) do double unders, so I had to substitute 3x the amount of singles... so... 18 double unders became 54 singles. Yikes.

However, again, I feel like my arms MUST be improving, as I was able to do this one without putting the kettlebell down for extra rests. WAHA! T-Rex arms... you are not long for this world.....

There was nothing too notable about this WOD... somedays, it's just about getting sweaty. Which I did. Quite a lot of. Win!

Today, Day 285:
... was all about resting. I thought about going to CF this morning, but honestly, my body was feeling the recent exertions. I'd done 4 days in a row of solid Wod's, and it was time for a recovery day. Sometimes, you must listen to your body.
I got the official word from the GT today.... I will WOD as normal, but make my last WOD of the week on Wednesday... my only tasks on Thursday and Friday (a travel day), will be to HYDRATE.
.... and try and maintain my sanity for the race day.

With that, I need to go commence resting. My mind has been going like crazy with all this race prep..... it's time to shut it off for the night.

Friday, April 27, 2012

An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises - Mae West

Spartan Shape Up, Day 281 & 282:

So, I have to apologize, BlogLand. I've been combining updates like crazy lately, but I'm just TIRED. I work kind of a weird schedule and by the time all is said and done for the day, well, I choose between Blogging and Sleep. Given my inability to sleep like a regular human, any time my body decides sleep would be a good plan, I just GO WITH IT.

However, I think it's okay, the last couple of WODs were not anything too blazingly exciting:

Day 281:
So, I played with my schedule this week because my body just NEEDED a rest day a little sooner than usual (it was an action packed weekend!), and today ended up being a day for a home-wod. All things considered, with the equipment, etc. that I have now, "Home-WOD" doesn't really limit me anymore. However, my brain was tired, I couldn't think of what I should do, even though I knew it needed to be some sort of strength based wod... so, I did what any reasonable person would do; I consulted the all-knowing fount of knowledge, My GT.

Sometimes, though, consulting the GT is a little bit like passing up the money and taking door number 2. If you just "took the money" and did the straight forward home WOD that you thought of, you'd know exactly what you were getting into, and your potential suffering level. If you take door number 2 from the GT, you'll for sure get SOMEthing.... but you may not enjoy it.
Today... Door number 2.

His decree was that I should do a Power Hour: Push Ups.  Now, for the unfamiliar, a "power hour" wod means that you do something (assigned number of reps, for example) every minute, on the minute, effectively completing 60 rounds of something. He decided that for me, today, it should be Push Ups.


Sorry. My T-Rex arms had a little bit of a temper tantrum when they read that message. When I asked how many per minute (I assumed maybe like... 2... given the fact this is not my strong suit...), he answered: 4. FOUR!?.... I may die. He did give me the caveat that IF I absolutely needed to, I could cut that down as I go, but I better get to at LEAST 200 push ups in the hour (if I completed as instructed, I would get to 240.).

Okay. Challenge accepted. How hard could it be, if I'm only doing 4 at a time? (SOMEday, I swear, I will learn.)

First, I had to prep. I plugged in my phone (timer) and set it up on the floor. Got a glass of water. A pen and paper (have to make notes about progress)..... AND... get something good on TV. By some weird rationale, I decided the Boondock Saints would be appropriate viewing material for this. I figured it was a cult movie that I've seen lots of times, so I wouldn't need to "pay attention", it had an appropriate amount of humor and violence to set the mood and the soundtrack (lots of dropkick murphy's!) would be great push up music.

Here was the only dilemma. I was pretty sure I'd have to do this whole WOD on my knees. I can't do a on-toes "real" push up, really, yet, can I? I figured I better try first.

ELEVEN!!!! ELEVEN, BlogLand. I can do ELEVEN "real" push ups now. Granted, I failed completely after 11, but I got through 11! I used this as my first "minute" and decided to see what I could do from there.

Feeling good from my little victory, I did my first 12 rounds as real (on-toes) push ups. Apparently, I can in fact, do 4 at a time. YAY!!!!!! This is a big victory. Perhaps I better start pushing this a bit more in my WODs. To be honest, I've just been assuming that I still can't do it. Note. to. self.... DON'T ASSUME.

After round/minute 12, I couldn't handle the real push ups anymore and dropped to my knees for the remainder of the hour. I was feeling pretty good about this.... right up until about minute 46 or 47. Then my arms started to get tired, and I started to feel the push ups become way more effort.

Then, crisis struck.

So, minute 48, I'm on my knees busting out my 4 push ups. When you're doing push ups on your knees, your feet are up behind you. While I was struggling with the push ups, I must've started tensing my feet or something and BOOOM!!! triggered a huge seize in my calf. I instantly went into screaming fetal position, while breathing like a woman in labor and trying to force myself to move my leg to work it out, and feeling like it would be better just to cut my leg off.

I massaged it. I whimpered. I cursed. I massaged more. It eased up "enough". I needed to just finish out a few more rounds, then I could foam roll and such to my heart's content. I pushed onward, to the soothing sounds of guns and swearing emanating from the TV.

Minute 60. I survived!!! Although I did this WOD with pants on, my knees got pretty ripped up. I didn't notice it as I was going along, but apparently I rubbed off the first layer of skin on my knees. This is clearly further motivation to continue to chase down the ability to do more real push ups. No rug burns. haha

I went to bed last night expecting to wake up feeling run over by a truck.... but this morning... nothing. My upper body felt fine... Whaaaaaat?! My t-rex arms had no objections this morning?! In the sage words of the GT:
"It's a good thing. Don't question it. We don't judge workouts on soreness."
Touche, GT. Still... it was weird. 240 pushups, and my upper body was FINE today. Weiiiirddd..... Is this what more "in shape" people feel like?!?

Moving on....

Day 282:

Today was 5K training day with a couple of my co-workers. Everyone's working so hard to be ready for our upcoming Corporate Cup 5k in a little less than a month.

Our little trio (and the adorable wee munchkin stroller ride-along!) headed out today, *despite* the crazy weather. Last week, I was in a tank top and sweaty... today, there was a freezing wind and snow in the air. WTF?!

We were all sort of in our head-space today, which is one of the things I have found beneficial about running. It really helps clear the head. You just get into this rhythm and your brain thinks a little more clearly. Plus the happy-endorphins put a better light on most situations. We ran.

Momma decided to push her own munchkin today, so I was freed up to just run. So... I did. I just ran at what was comfortable... which I found was a lot faster than I have been used to running. After the first Ugly Mile of warm up (which is tricking when you're only doing 5K), my legs felt good, my breathing was on target, so I just let loose a little bit. I didn't push my pace, per se, but I just ran a little more to my capabilities. I just let me legs do what they could do.

Finally, as I saw the marker indicating my last mile, my body was feeling all warmed up and ready to go (despite the icy wind!), and since everyone was running at their own pace and space today, I decided it was time to push it and see what my legs could do.

I didn't go all out. I would say I went at about 85% ish for the last mile. I still could've gone faster, but I was pushing the "comfortable" line, into real work. This speed was much faster than I ever thought I could be. And I could maintain it.

I surprised myself a little bit. I can not WAIT to see how I do on my next 5K, between all the sprinting and running and training I've been doing. I should blow all my previous PR's out of the water. Today, I am pretty positive I would've come in under a half and hour. Woot!!! (and no... I didn't officially time it. We had distance markers, and I find that I do better on these regular 5K's if I just relax and run them. )

Upon finishing this run and feeling really awesome about the strides (get it?! hehe) I've made with my running, I text the GT my excitement over this victory. I credited Sprint WOD of Death (Schadenfreude Tuesdays!) with assisting to build this new found speed. He agreed, then added:
"You'll love the day I program 400's into your training."

...... I wanted to die thinking about that (currently, I do 200m repeats).

......... but oddly..... wondered when (with anticipation), I'd get to start tackling that next ungodly challenge....

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward." Victor Kiam

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 279:

Sprints of Death day, BlogLand! uuughhh.

If you've been reading along, you are probably well aware of how much I hate/dread sprint day. Because it's hard. Because they kick my ass. Because "progress" is so small. Because I want to DIE after each round of 40 seconds.
.... but I keep at it, in no small part thanks to the supportive company I've had. I have only had to suffer through Sprints of Death once, by myself. Since then, I've had a cheering section to monitor my safety in the dark, hand my safety pins when I'm losing my pants, and run along side me to kick in my competitive drive. I'm very lucky. :-)

That said, we've renamed Sprints of Death to Schadenfreude Tuesdays. (In case you are unfamiliar: scha-den-freu-de (n). Satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.)
It is a reflection of our shared suffering. There is some comfort to be had in knowing that Sprints sucked that much... but that my friends are also feeling equally as owned by the sprints, and suffering too. When we sit and stretch and drink our protein shakes after our sprints, we laugh at each others painful winces and grimaces, as angry quads wave hello, or tight hamstrings make their presence known. While we take turns whining and rolling on the foam roller, we swap tales of how we felt the day after sprints, etc. It's good times. My legs feel like jelly, or I couldn't walk the next day... but NEITHER. COULD. YOU.  It makes it all a little more bearable. LOL. Schadenfreude!

Overall, sprints went really well for me this week. I improved my times pretty significantly across the board. I'm thrilled. I don't know how much of this is translating over to the rest of my game, but at least I'm making progress here. Sprint times looked like this:
Lap 1: 39.29 (Compared to Last Week: 39.89 or 1st time: 40.3)
Lap 2: 40.07 (Compared to Last Week: 41.84 or 1st time: 41.2)
Lap 3: 44.01 (Compared to Last Week: 44.22 or 1st time: 46.1)
Lap 4: 45.58 (Compared to Last Week: 45.31 or 1st time: 46.4)

The time differences may not seem like a lot... but tenths of a second are huge here. You have no idea how long those tenths of a second are, until you've done sprints. I promise. Plus, the thing I'm most proud of is that my bottom times (the last two sprints) are so much better. I've had bottom times of 48 and 50 seconds. It seems that particularly the last few weeks, I've been able to really keep them more consistent - meaning the time difference between my first sprint and the last one is smaller. I'm taking this to mean that my muscles are getting better at this, and are not wiped out of Oomph so quickly.

AND, just for a little extra bonus fun at the end of our Sprint WOD, I flipped a big giant tire (which happened to be filled with water!!!) 4 times, by myself. Felt like a beast. I wonder how much that bad boy weighs? Hmm...

With that little victory for today, I shall take my leave, BlogLand. I'm crazy tired, and CrossFit will come early tomorrow morning.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The best way out is always through. -Robert Frost

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 277 & 278:

I learned something this weekend, BlogLand... My body is always right, even if my mind says it isn't.

You may notice that I did not blog yesterday (Sunday, Day 277)... I swear, it was with good reason. Mostly, because I could not bring myself to write an entire post about the ridiculousness of Sunday. Here's how it goes in a nutshell. Saturday night, I go out to a shindig with some ladies from work. I eat crap (not crap. Just not the way I usually eat.), I drink too much alcohol. I enjoy myself, but I completely forget about water of any sort. I stay up very late, and roll out of bed (a friend's couch) too early. Upon waking up, I decide that I (all things considered) feel pretty good, and this night of festivities will not throw off the training too much. I'll eat some good stuff, hydrate like mad, and by afternoon, I should be good to GO, right?



What actually happens is you think you're "okay" (just a wee bit tired, right?), and you trot out your door ready to put on 5-6 miles, and you get a grueling, ugly mile and a half in, and your body tells you to go eff yourself. Insert raging calf cramps, general fatigue and achy quads (that hadn't quite recovered from my CrossFit WOD the day before), and you have a recipe for messy. Apparently, at 29, your body just doesn't feel 100% after a night on the town quite as fast....
Nonetheless, I hobble-jogged the 1.5 miles home, for a whopping "long run" day of just barely 3 of the slowest miles you've ever seen.
At least I tried. Right?

So. There's my Blog Of Shame. Onto today's real good WOD!

It was CrossFit morning, this morning! Yay! I fought staying in my nice warm bed, but remembered the importance about all this (fueled by a mini-panic moment about the impending race), and got my butt to the gym... I felt particularly triumphant, because (having cheated and checked out the website from my comfy spot in bed) I knew that today's WOD was a combination of my least favorite stuff, that I struggle with. It was all upper body craziness. BUT, I reminded myself how bad I wanted it ("If you want to be successful, you have to want it MORE than you want to sleep!"), and got my ass to the gym.

After a light warm up (it's true. My warm ups ARE some people's work out. Are "mountain climbers" and push ups part of your "warm up"?) we got down to business: a strength/skill section. Today's evil torture was the Overhead Squat/ Snatch.
Looks like this, if you're unfamiliar:

Yeah. I hate everything about this. Why? Because although I can squat like a champ (more on that later), my shoulders/arms fail me, here, very quickly. I'm working on this, but I find this a little bit frustrating, just because it is difficult for me to perfect.

We worked (lightly weighted, then more usual weight) on form and technique today - which was good. I can always use help, here. Although, apparently, I'm doing pretty well at this one (thanks to hyperfocusing on trying to do it right?). In my class of 6 this morning, the instructor used me as an example, because my squats/position was good. People in my class today seemed to struggle with getting low enough in the squat. That is not my problem. I can get down in that squat, but you should hear my shoulders scream when I keep them "activated" and my arms locked out.

Our instructor did torture us a bit. In the name of working on all the parts of this lift, we sat in full squat stances for hours at a time (... or ten seconds...), held super heavy (... or 4 pound pvc pipe) overhead for EVER.... It was horrid. lol. My hamstrings were tired, before we even started the official WOD. However. As I said, I worked hard - as I know this is a weak area for me. If I am to transform into a superhuman, I must conquer these Achilles Heels, right?

The first part of out WOD was based around this skill development. We did an E2MOTM (Every 2 Min on the Min), consisting of 3 Overhead Squat Snatches (snatch being the means of getting the bar from the floor to over your head).
I was dripping at this point. Convincing my upper body to maintain position and hold 50# over my head is no mean feat.

I did some extras, so my instructor could use my form as an example. I was flattered, but holy crap, my shoulders hated that.

Onto the official WOD! It was a ladder day:
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of:
Pull Ups
Box Jumps
Over head Squats

Yeah. I pay someone to yell me into doing that. I dutifully set up my giant rubber band to help me do my pull ups (I STILL struggle, even with the band.), and I got my box. I eyeballed my bar and "practice" weight. Although this was supposed to be a heavy WOD, my shoulders said this was as heavy as we were going to do, if we intended to do all the reps.

Away we went. The first few sets were okay. Pull ups really sucked (try to be surprised). Following overhead squats with pull ups sucks even more. You know something is seriously wrong with you when box jumps become the "rest" portion of your workout.

Then, somewhere around the 5 rep mark, it started to be real unpleasant. I had to do my (banded!) pull ups in sets of 3 ish, because my upper body just couldn't. My OHS stayed consistent, other than the pain faces I was making, and horrid noises of exertion I was emitting. Whatever. You know YOUR heavy lifting face isn't much better!!

I am happy to report that I finished the whole wod, without having to short any reps. The last few burned and my muscles quivered. But pain is temporary, and I WANT to get better. If I want to get better, then I must PUSH past what is comfortable. The last OHS, with 50# over head, after all that, was decidedly not comfortable. But progress is made outside of your comfort zone....

.... which leads me to my next topic. How the Cosmos must be testing me right now, or something. I just received news from my dear CF gym that their schedule will be shifting around for the summer scheduling. "Cool!" I think to myself, as I pull up the new schedule. Then I proceed to die inside. My 6:45 am class is cancelled. Starting next week, the ONLY classes I will be able to attend during the week are at 5:15 am (I can't even acknowledge that as a real class, that is so early), and 6:15 am. I live 15 minutes away from the gym. What this means is that in order to get to CrossFit during the week, I will have to GET UP at like 5:50 am, twice a week.

...... I have no words for how much I hate that. I was just starting to figure out how to get to the 6:45 am class, and was still struggling. I have no idea how I'm going to get their even earlier. But, sometimes you just can't look at it as an option, but more just an adjustment of the inevitable. In the words of my GT: "Make it happen."
If I want it bad enough... I will find a way.

When I start managing to consistently get myself to a 6:15 am CrossFit class, I will consider the Year of Change a raging success. Not because I've lost 85+ pounds, or lifted big heavy things, or run great distances.... but, I found the hardest battle of all - my very genetic make up. I have a legit sleep disorder... but I will not let it have me. Crack 'O Dawn CrossFit.... Here I come.....

Saturday, April 21, 2012

To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first. ~William Shakespeare

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 276:

Sitting here sipping a blackberry protein shake, dirt under my nails, a pleasant fatigue in my muscles and a smile on my face, I have to tell you about today's WOD, BlogLand.

When I rolled over this morning to check out what today's WOD would be, I was met with a little bit of confusion. On the website for Green Mountain CrossFit at The Confluence, the description was thus:
"FitPark WOD..... 
Complete Seven Functional Movements That You Won't Experience Inside The Gym
*For Time: 
*Bring work gloves if you have them and an adventurous spirit."

Hmm... and what does THAT mean, I wondered. Since this will be my first Spring/Summer at CrossFit, I've had really limited (and by limited, I mean one time) exposure to their FitPark (outdoor WOD space). I had absolutely no idea what this may entail. But, I DID have an adventurous spirit, a desire to get sweaty, and the general feeling that I could tackle whatever they threw at me (with modifications, maybe...). I donned my workout gear and off I went.

Milling around, waiting for the class to begin, I speculated with some of the other victims (hehe) about what the various tasks could be. There was a lot of "stuff" out. Ohhhh my. My T-Rex arms quivered in fear of what they might have to try to do today. My legs have had a couple days off, so they were feeling strong and ready to get to work.

Our fearless (creative!) leader today, Alan explained our WOD to us, while grouping us into waves (for start times. You just can't set 20 people loose on a course!)... After paying careful attention to his helpful hints and notes on form, I formulated a strategy in my head. It was a tiny obstacle race! I thought of it as great prep for my impending Spartan Race (15 days!!!!! AHH!!), to see how my body did with "non-standard" challenges.

And so the waves began. I actually ended up in the last wave going through the course, so I had the advantage (?) of the longest warm up time. Warm-ups consisted of hula-hooping, some time on the rowers and skiers. Basically, the goal was to keep your body moving and getting the muscles warm for your looming effort to come. Let me just note that this was the first time I had hula-hooped since.... uhm.... I was probably about 8. Maybe. Hula-hooping has *never* been my forte, but I seemed to figure it out today. While hula-hooping may have been traditionally viewed as a little girls' sport, I would like to give kudos to the several guys who OWNED the hula hoop today! (you totally kicked my butt.)

As I was getting 'on deck' for my wave, I did have a momentary 3rd person view of the scene in front of me... It was amazing. And I wondered what the "normal" (think pink 5# dumbbells and ellipticals) gym on the other side of the hill would think of this. hehehe...

It was go time!
My first challenge was the Prowler Push. For those who don't know, the Prowler is a weighted sled that you push. It looks like this:

It sort of has skis for feet to help with "steering", but pretty much, you're just pushing this bad boy across the parking lot. Things to consider: You have the drag of the metal on the asphalt. And the push back to the line is UPHILL. Yes. Alan decided we should do this in a sloping parking lot... so your experience (or at least mine), went like this... grab the women's prescribed weight (Yeah! I did the whole WOD as prescribed!), engage my hips and legs and start pushing. "Oh... this isn't so bad. What's the big deal?" I picked up the pace a little bit. My legs were still feeling pretty good with this. Must be all the running hills and sprints and such. The first length was no problemo. Pivot that thing around and settle in to push it back to the line. A few steps in my legs are getting a little tired, but still working... "Wait... is this UPHILL?" .... then pretty much the only thoughts I had were "uuugnngghhhh.... arrrrghhhh... rawwwrrrrr....".  I would like to report that I did successfully push that thing both lengths at a good pace, without having to stop. Go go Gadget, Thunder Thighs!

Finishing that obstacle, I just had to jog myself over to the next. One step, two steps... UHMMmm.... Jello Legs. Yep. They weren't quite ready to trot me over to the next thing. Clearly THAT was the tricky part of the Prowler Push that they don't mention...trying to walk away from it! But, as the Spartan community is fond of saying, "If you can't run, you walk!!"

Onto our next task: 50 sledgehammer hits to a giant tire. It was very nice to keep my legs still for that few minutes. This was a good "recovery" station for me. I just focused on keeping up a consistent rhythm and letting my legs recover a bit, while my upper body did some work. .... 48...49... 50. Next!

Following that, we had a Weighted Palette Pull. This was just a big palette, with something like 45-50# of sandbags on it, with a big loop of rope. You stepped in this rope, got it up around your chest/shoulders and leaned into it. Pull down a length of dirt and grass, turn around and come back. Seems simple enough, right? Yeah. Do this, then tell me how simple it is. However, it was right about this point that I began really appreciating the power and muscle in my lower half. I may be mostly useless with the t-rex arms, but as I put my legs to work in this pull, I reminded myself that there are still things I do well.

Now in a full sweat, I trotted over (my legs were back to mostly functional...) to The Farmers Walk. The farmers walk consisted of two big buckets 2/3 of the way full with dirt/sand. You had to pick up both buckets and walk a course with them. Seeing as how Alan seems to be a Master Torture Developer, our course to carry these buckets involved a long loop that included a very significant set of stairs. Yes. Stairs. 2 big buckets of sand, up a flight of stairs. Yes, I was having fun. This was a little trickier, only because the buckets have those thin, plastic handles. It was mind over matter here, if you could get over the discomfort in your hands, while you did this. The weight wasn't an issue for me, but I was fighting the urge to put them down.

Our next obstacle was the Chain Drag. This was a big 'ol chain set up - I think it would be like the chains you put on a car tire with studs on it, for traction in the snow... except it was tractor-tire sized. It was probably 10 ft (?) long, and pretty heavy. Plus, it's made to help with *traction*. What this means is that it does not SLIDE easily over the grass. You are pulling for all you're worth. I elected to do this one walking backwards, to give my hamstrings a little bit of a break. I did have a little giggle to myself, at this point. Yep, MY workout included dragging a giant chain. Clearly this is where I belong... no endless time on a treadmill to be found here!!

We were in the homestretch at this point. Only two more obstacles.  I ran up the little hill (YEAH legs.) and had to wait my turn to get on to the next task. When the explanation of this one was given, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it as assigned (I thought I'd have to modify it), but I settled down to tackle it anyway. Weighted Plank Rope Pull.  Here's how it went:
Get down into plank position, on your elbows. Reach out with one arm and drag in this (endless!) rope with a 25# sandbag on the end of it. When you got to the sand bag, pick it up, run it back to the start position, come back, wipe sweat that is dripping into your eyeballs, settle down and do it with the other arm. Yep, planking (hello, core!) while using your arm/shoulder/back to haul in this sandbag.
As I said, originally I was skeptical that I'd be able to do this (hold the plank) the whole time, without having to drop to a knee. However, when pushing for a good finish time, and shoulder to shoulder with other people - who doesn't love a little friendly competition? - I found I was focused on hauling that rope in as fast as possible, not on whether I "could" plank or not. I just did it. Plus, I must admit, having our local women's badass, Cady (who Qualified for the CrossFit Regions, thus far, I think!) at the far end of the ropes, yelling encouragement, certainly kept the intensity going.

Finally, the last event... and the one I was dreading the most: Walking Lunges with a 25# Sandbag Overhead. You see, I have taken on this challenge before (last weekend, it was with a weight plate, instead of a sandbag). I know I can do it, but I also know it's REAL ugly, as my arms tire quickly. I can handle the lunges no problem, but my arms just struggle to keep the weight locked out over head. Nonetheless, it was the last obstacle, I was making good time, and certainly, there would be no quitting or copping out on weight now. I'd done it ALL at the prescribed weight (even feeling like I could've gone heavier) on all the other obstacles, I certainly wasn't going to let this last obstacle reduce that victory. EFF you, Overhead Lunges!!!

With that battle mindset at the forefront of my brain, I grabbed my sandbag, did I clean push press over head and set out (added challenge: uneven terrain. This was no flat soccer field, people!). As my shoulders started to burn and I wanted to put that bag down, I just kept telling myself to one or two more steps. Push push. Screaming shoulders. ONE more step. I won't lie, BlogLand, there were definitely breaks that I needed to stop and lower that bag to my chest for a moment. I tried to keep those as short as possible (just 2-3 breaths), before push-pressing that thing over my head again and resuming. I could feel the people behind me coming up on me, so I pushed a little harder. I find when I am starting to tire a bit, tapping into the competition (no matter how friendly) helps me to go a little harder.

... the last 12 feet or so were evil. Mind over matter, I told myself. Cady was again, right at the end, doling out tips and encouragement to get me over the finish line. "Two more steps! Keep it going!!" and I fought the urge to drop that bag.

The most satisfying moment of the day was taking that last lunge step across the finish line, arms angry but still overhead, and dropping that sandbag, with a triumphant call of "TIME!!!"

16:20 (including maybe an extra 30 sec or a minute waiting for my turn on one or two of the obstacles). I BEASTED this WOD, BlogLand. I'm pretty happy with this. AND - most importantly - I had a lot of fun doing it. I think sometimes we forget how to get dirty, play hard and lift heavy. As kids, we did this stuff (well, not quite *this* stuff, but...) for FUN. As adults, we try and stick ourselves on stationary bikes, or endless hours on ellipticals, logging endless miles going nowhere, as we chase our ideal body shapes.

I have discovered in the last year of Change, that it's not about that. It's about being healthy and fit and strong, whatever that means to you, and however my body turns out at the end. Yes, I have giant, bulging quads at the moment. This may not be the "long, lean muscle" that Cosmo or Glamour wants the 20 something population to build to look good in a skirt.... but you know what, I can run 8 miles, deadlift your Dad and squat my body weight. To me, that sounds a whole lot more functional and useful than being able to do 4 million reps with a tiny dumbbell, because you don't want to build "bulk".

My body is building all-around fitness, rather than specific fitness. For instance, what did the planking with weighted rope drag do today? Oh, you mean other than work every muscle in my body?
I have determined that's why I love CrossFit, as a portion of my varied training program. I feel more healthy and fit overall (which comes in handy, like last weekend, when I pulled a stump out of my yard), than just trying to look good in jeans (which, incidentally, are a bit tricky to find when you have treetrunk legs. Ladies you know what I'm talking about).

With that, BlogLand, I shall leave you for a well-earned shower. I just realized I have a haze of dirt all over me from where the dust stuck to the sweat (yum. I know.). I'm gross-tastic.

As a mantra for today, I think I shall leave you all with my favorite video. You are Powerful BEYOND MEASURE:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly." - Shaquille O'Neal

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 273:

Rough day, BlogLand, so this one will be a little more truncated that normal. But at least I'm here. It's like a WOD... sometimes, no matter how much things suck, you just have to show up and get it done.

I rolled over and slept through CrossFit this morning. I can't even express my frustration about that right now. But, I'm working on it. I've got some sleep goals for myself, and I'm trying to adhere to them (she says at 12:52am...).

In light of this, I asked the GT to send me a WOD for when I got home tonight. I was presented with:

100 Box Jumps (with my new 20" Plyo Box)
75 Burpees
50 Kettlebell (35#) Swings.

... for time.

Yeah, that did suck pretty much as much as it sounds like it would.

Box jumps were not too bad, once I got in a rhythm. I managed to figure out how to jump up AND jump down (as opposed to step down), without killing myself, or landing face first on box. This is a plus. First 50-60 of these weren't bad, but then I totally had to do them in 10 jump segments. Just kept moving though.

Onto the burpees. They just suck. Hard. My last 10 were slower than hell, but I refused to "cheat" my burpees. I got chest all the way to the ground, and jumped at the end of each of those 75 burpees. I pretty much wanted to die. This was my slowest, most painful section of the WOD.

Then we finish up with 50 KB swings. You know your WOD is yucky when you realize that 50 KB swings with a moderately heavy KB is the "break" part of it. I did this in two 25 swing segments, with just a tiny breather in between.

I was a hot, sweaty mess after this WOD, but I was proud of myself for having done it. It would've been easy to just come home and not worry about it having "missed" the gym today... but I beasted through it in a respectable time (22.37), I think. I may repeat this WOD next week sometime, as I think I could get a faster time... just must push a little harder......

With that. I'm going to bed. I completed my food log, I blogged, I tracked my WOD.
I'm not feeling funny or witty tonight, and I'm tired. That's a sign.

To bed with me, to run in the morning!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect It's successful outcome." William James

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 272:

It's Tuesday, BlogLand... you know what that means... it's Sprint-WOD day!! *insert a long serious of groans and painful looks here*

Today, despite the fact that I dread it like crazy, every.single.week, promised to be a little less grueling; our group of Crazies for tonight's WOD would be 4 of us, total! And really, the more the merrier in these things. Clearly, if I am suffering, the more people that suffer with me, the less bad I feel? Or something to that effect?

We trotted over to the track to begin our Sprints. My Up-the-Hill buddy would be joining in on the action this week, by starting her short sprints, and my two more-experienced runner buddies would be excellent people for me to chase down in sprints (damn fast bitches.).
Round One: Away we went, feeling pretty good. My legs do really feel like they're catching on to this whole sprinting thing. I managed my best time to date: 39.89 seconds. Woot!

Round Two: After a little huffing and puffing, I felt pretty good still... and we took off for our second sprint. Half way through this one (just as we hit the ugly turn that marks the second 100 meters of our sprint), I remembered why I hate these so much. This was really hard to do. However, having runners running in the lanes next to me, as hard as they could, really propelled me on. A solid time: 41.83.

Round Three: is where the mental game comes in. After I come to a stop in round two, my body is pretty sure that it would really like to be done with this whole game. But yet, I go back for round three. Off we went. I pushed. I chased down the friend in front of me. I grunted with the effort. I hissed out a breath of discomfort and made it across the line: 44.21.

Round Four:... where I'm pretty sure I'm going to die. Thankfully, my run buddies were all very positive about this experience, and were ready to tackle on last sprint. Just 40 more seconds I told myself. I could do anything for 40 seconds. My body was not so sure... I was still huffing and puffing a bit from my last effort, and I find that by round four, I am just barely recovered enough (after a half-track walk) to tackle that last sprint. Fueled on a little friendly competition and the desire to be successfully done, we sprinted off.  I recognized that I didn't feel quite as horrid as I have in the past at the last sprint... but this was still sucking pretty bad. Keep running.
One of my friends was slightly ahead of me. I decided that to propel myself through the last 100m, I was going to catch her. ... or try. I ran just as much as my little legs could go... and I am happy to report I did gain some ground, but crossed the line just afterwards. My mini competition did earn me a "slow" time that I'm happy with, of: 45.30.

In order to celebrate the end of the hell-wod, we did a few giant tire flips for good measure (it's weird that the people I know now consider that "fun"). I would like to report that, although it was challenging, I can totally flip that big tire all by myself. RAWR. I may need to get over there and do some more tire flips and bleacher runs and stuff. Got to mix up the workouts and keep things fresh!

After that, it was home to refuel with some protein smoothies, and roll out the ouchies. Foam roller, why do you hurt so good?

That's pretty much the crazy for today... but I'm mulling over some thoughts for the next couple of days. Number 1, because I've been struggling so much with not losing any weight, under the strict suggestion of the GT, I took my measurements. I wanted to die doing that. But I did it. I wrote them down. Going to blog that soon, and own those numbers. Not quite there ... yet.

Also, I'm frustrated with food. I'm not losing weight (probably why I'm frustrated), and am bored with everything. I think I'm just annoyed with trying so hard and not seeing the continued results. I want a cheeseburger. Instead, I eat ground turkey. Or hummus. HMM.

With that, I'm leaving you for bed. I'm determined to get to crossfit in the morning, as we'll be finding our one rep max at thrusters. Might not be totally accurate for me, given the sprints and such... but who doesn't love some heavy lifting??

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.” Niccolo Machiavelli

Spartan Shape Up, Day 270 & 271:

So, Sunday's (Day 270) so thoroughly finished destroying my body, after Saturday's CrossFit WOD, that today has been deemed a day of rest and one with which to Blog of my adventures. And OH they were of epic proportions. Read on, BlogLand... (You know you want to.).

Sunday found me rolling out of bed feeling mostly like a truck had run over my upper half. Yesterday's lunges were fine with my legs, but my shoulders were weeping at the memory of holding that 30# overhead. Seriously. I went to lift my arm to put my glasses on, and my shoulder groaned. This was only the day after. I dreaded what Day 2 DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) would be like, as day 2 is always twice as bad for me.

Chalking my ouchy achiness up to my stupid t-rex arms, I gathered my partner-in-crime, and fellow Spartan, Sara to begin the day's adventure: Create a Sandbag.

WHY a sandbag, you ask? Well. I needed something heavy to play/run/hike/etc. with, and sand is cheap and easy. Plus, due to it's flowing nature, it is slightly easier to carry for a distance than say a rock, or a log, because it will shape a little more ergonomically to your shoulder(s). Besides, if you've been reading right along, you're probably well aware that "reason" is not always prevalent in my first line of thinking through these things. Sara was on board with this plan... what more did I need?!

A trip to the hardware store for supplies, of course! We wandered into our local small town hardware store and were immediately greeted by the 16-17 year old local-boy-working-parttime-on-Saturday crowd. Although, I decided to have some faith and see just how resourceful this crew could be... after all, they worked here, and I knew what I needed... finding it shouldn't be that hard?


Yes, they sell sand bags. In 60# bags (yeeahh... I'm not that burly.).  I explain to them, great, but I need to make two 30# bags... therefore, you need to find me (You must have them somewhere in this store?!) the plasticy/burlap type of bag that you contain these things in. My area has recently been victim to a lot of flooding, so I made the assumption that making sandbags would be something the hardware store would be familiar with at this point. ..... Apparently, the 16-17 year old population was not, but they were trying really hard. While the one mature gentlemen supervising the young'uns went to procure my sand and bags, the young'uns proved useful gathering the accessories - sturdy zip ties and duct tape. But not just any duct tape... GORILLA TAPE. If nothing else, you can count on a 16 year old boy to be able to advise you how to reach over kill.... even on duct tape. He assured me that Gorilla Tape was the best version out there, and I didn't want any of that pink stuff (oh, but I did.), if I wanted my sandbag to stay together. Incidentally, I had not yet informed him of our purpose for making these sandbags....

... which was why it was really funny when, after ringing us out, head 16 year old #1 proclaims that he'll "carry that out for us" and proceeds to heft (with some sighing) the 60# onto his shoulder and out to my car. Sara and I exchanged some glances (to be fair, we didn't tell him we'd be voluntarily carrying that around later...), but let him feel useful and accomplished. Well done, Team 16... we left the store with all the accouterments we needed for Sandbag construction:
- One 60# bag of tube sand
- Two smaller sand bags
- Zip ties
- Gorilla tape (duct tape on steriods)
- a couple of garbage bags
 After some tricky discussion about what would make the most sturdy, but functional sandbag for workouts, Sara and I got down to business. First, split the 60# tube sand into the two smaller bags (lined with a garbage bag), hopefully evenly.
 With highly technical precision, "weigh" the two bags, hoping that you made them equal.
 .... Decide that they are not even, and since neither one of us wanted to be hiking with an ounce more than the other, begin the "evening it out" process. This proved to be trickier than anticipated...
 ... Especially when the only scale in my house is my WiiFit.  It was really confused why I was weighing my "dog" over and over. This is me, standing on the Wii, holding my "dog", to get it's weight. Repeat at least 5x.
 Finally, as is clearly documented here on my Wii screen (don't laugh, people!! You work with what you have!!), we succeeded in getting them to *exactly* 30# per sandbag. That seemed like a reasonable weight to us, at the time.
 Next, seal your inner garbage bag. In retrospect, something a little more burly than a Glad ForceFlex would've been good here. Hmm. Heavy plastic, perhaps.
 Next, you must "try on" your sandbag before tying it off, to ensure it has enough give for you to be able to adjust it comfortably over your shoulders. Make sure to do this on your front lawn, on a busy street, to keep the town guessing.
 Begin the sealing process. For anyone that has not tried to work with Gorilla Tape, this stuff is monster. It was a workout just trying to pull it off the roll. There were points (especially after it warmed up in the sun) that it took both of us to pull it.
 We elected to seal the bottom (the wide, not zip-tied end) with some extra "tails" so that we could have some hand-holds. Make sure to try your sandbag on an excessive amount of times, so that you can also work in a pre-official wod workout. (You think I'm joking. Pick up and put down 30-60# an unreasonable amount of times. You'll see.)
 Next, the sealed up twin sandbags! Yay! We did trim up the strings and what not after this picture was taken, but you get the idea. No, they're not "pretty", but we were pretty sure they'd stay solid and get the job done.

The TEST PHASE! (or Sunday's WOD):

Having a beautiful day on our hands, Sara and I set out to test our sandy creations on a 5.5 mile loop not far away. The loop is all dirt road, but encompasses a great rolling hills section, as well as about 2 miles of more-or-less flatness.
 You know this is the beginning of our adventure, as Sara still looks particularly happy about this idea. You can just see her saying "YEAH! Sandbag hike!" can't you?
As for me, I slung that 30# sandbag across my shoulders and was immediately reminded of yesterdays CrossFit shenanigans. While my shoulders didn't *hurt* per say, they were certainly a little stiff. But eh, they didn't have to lift the sandbag today, just provide a little structural support while my core and legs did the work.... right?

And so commenced our first sandbag WOD. We tacked a short hill run with our sandbag shortly after our beginning, to test how this was going to work. I would like to report a couple of things: a) when you run with a sandbag, you can't hear anything except the "ocean" in your ears. b) running/jogging/trying to move faster than a walk is deceptively difficult with an additional 30# on your shoulders. 

But on we walked. Up little hill. Down little hill. Up big hill.... up bigger hill... down little hill. And so on and so forth. 

Our first set of comments came from a lovely middle-aged couple that was walking along, and greeted us with smiles (if confusion...). Comments about the weather, a short joke or two about getting a good workout.... and then, once we were thought to be out of earshot, the wife commented to her husband, "We have got to get back into working out - This water bottle is feeling heavy!"

Sara and I chucked to ourselves as we did the Sandbag Shimmy and pressed on (The Sandbag Shimmy is an interesting hop-shake maneuver you develop while carrying a sandbag, to shift the sand to a more comfortable position... generally trying to more evenly distribute it across your shoulders.). 

Upon reaching our halfway marker (2.5ish miles!) we elected to put down our burdens and stretch a minute. Half joking, Sara commented that perhaps we should sprint up that hill right there... ha-ha. In the spirit of a thorough Spartan-worthy workout, I told her that we probably should. No joke. We laughed, decided that if our respective GT's were here, they'd make us do it, and we plotted out the start/end line. Let me just say, after carrying an extra 30# for 2.5 miles or so, an *unweighted* hill sprint feels like a nice break. Ahhh. 

With proper form (something like a deadlift, push press), we donned our sandy friends and continued on. 

The next set of people just looked at us incredulously and said, "Training for something??".... at which point I really just wanted to say something snarky like, No, I really just wander around with a 30# sandbag for FUN...... but then realized that wouldn't be so snarky and funny... because, well.... I do. DAMNIT. haha

After figuring we'd had plenty of a "warm-up" and adjustment phase to figuring out the logistics of carrying our sandbags, we moved into the real work phase of our trek: Telephone pole runs.

Luckily (?) this particular route has a telephone line that runs exactly parallel the road, making for perfect periodic markers. What does this mean when you're trekking with a sandbag - Run intervals, of course! 

Let me tell you, BlogLand. The sandbag multiplies its' weight, the longer you trek. Not unmanageably, but you are certainly aware that you would like to put it down. Instead, you've decided you're doing interval runs with it. Hmm. It was right about this point that I decided I was really thankful for the consistent run program that I've been on, as even with the added weight, I was able to manage these intervals pretty effectively. 

... Until Sara saw a "fun" pit stop. There seemed to be a bit of a pull off, that had a pipe "gate" to stop people from driving into it, about a foot off the ground. Again, in the spirit of a good spartan WOD, she proclaimed this time to do push ups. 

I wanted to die. While I could run with a sandbag, easily enough, my t-rex arms rawr'd just thinking about doing those incline push ups. But Sara had thrown out the challenge, and down we went for 30 of them. 

I admit, I had to put my sandbag under my knees an do knee push ups. My t-rex arms (worsened from the previous day's CF!!), just do not have the oomph to get my whole body mass down and up. This frustrates me to NO END. Sara, however, I am proud to say OWNED those 30 pushups (on her toes!), before prodding me into attempting some real ones of my own. I am happy to say that I struggled through 4. Yes. 4. One at a time, plus a set of 2 at the end. OH yeah. I'm beastly. My arms shook the whole time. I was so annoyed with that, I wanted to scream... but I suppose, at least I could do 4. Really slowly. Must. Stay. Positive.

I put the sandbag back across my shoulders and at least felt powerful again. THIS, I could handle. I declared we do 20 (weighted) squats at this point, as retaliation for that push up suggestion. (yes. I am that vindictive. lol)

We attacked the telephone pole interval runs again. The end was in sight, we were in our last mile... when I noticed the tragic moment....

There was sand running down my right shoulder. I noticed, actually, because it was grinding INTO my shoulder. Not fun. My dear sandbag was bleeding!!

This is the point we discovered that perhaps a Glad ForceFlex kitchen bag is not exactly the liner you want under these circumstances. Hmm. 

Deeming my sandbag's wound non-fatal, on we walked/ran. We finished up our go (cars in sight!!), with an interval sprint. Woot! Probably the most gratifying part was having a very super-fit runner lady, and her friend on a bike, proclaim that they'd been trying to catch up to us, but with our sprint, they had not been able to. WAHA. That's right, we were sprinting with a sandbag. That's how we roll. 

Finally, before calling it a successful WOD, we dropped into 10 more weighted squats... because, hey, who doesn't love squatting with 30# on their shoulders after walk-running it for over 5 miles?

Putting that sandbag down (also known as, "dropping that mo'fo' as fast a possible), was a sweet moment. I felt light again. For a moment.... then we died:

You know you had a great WOD when your finishing pose is the "Exhausted Starfish."

Depositing my as-yet-unnamed sandbag into it's new home in my trunk, we headed for home, when suddenly we had a realization: we had completed a pretty all-encompassing WOD, but we were missing one thing, if we truly wanted to be in touch with our inner Spartan.


After a quick consultation with the remote GT about what would be a good number of burpees to finish the day with, we were given a math problem to solve (You really think you're funny, don't you? lol), including multiplication and square roots. Yeah. After sweating and trekking for the last hour and half or so. FML. Sara and I put our heads together and attempted to figure out the answer to our burpee query. Math done, we figured out that 64 burpees was the apparent suggestion.

Collective Groan.

Everyone hates burpees. Particularly 64 of them.

Sara and I felt pretty awesome about our accomplishment for the day, and decided that we refused to be defeated by our negative thoughts about the burpee. And really, if we just attacked them in small sets, we could work through them.

And we did SEVENTY (yes, 7-0.), just to prove a point.... in sets of 8-10.

Having completed that WOD (and sucking down a protein shake like it was my job, before I had to eat my own arm I was so hungry), I felt pretty accomplished. I did spend a little time reflecting on some things... namely the fact that today I voluntarily carried around an extra 30# for fun and in the name of a workout, while I used to unhappily carry around 80 extra pounds, just because I couldn't (yet) get out of my own way. Wow, how things have changed.

My shoulders are still sore today from all the weekend craziness, but I am marching forward, knowing that I will make progress. I did declare today (Monday, Day 271) Rest Day, however, because my body was really saying that it needed to recover. I struggled to make it to 10pm last night, before passing out cold from sheer overall body fatigue (thank you, Sandbag... that WOD got me the best sleep I've had in weeks!).

With that, BlogLand, again, I'm going to leave you for sleep, and a short session with my foam roller. I am really hoping that my upper-body gets on board with this whole "shape-up" things soon, as the stiffness and ouchies that go with upper-body intense wods really stick around for me. Today, where my tricep connects to my elbow is particularly painful.  Oh, and the fronts of my shoulders. And the tops. And... oh, well, you get the idea.

Lesson of the Day: Spartan the EFF Up, People. You don't need a gym, you don't need fancy equipment (sandbag = >$10), and you definitely do not need all those excuses!
You just need your body, a willingness to work, and a healthy dose of determination.

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle." -Christian D. Larson

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 269:

Saturday was a CrossFit morning for me. It was a beautiful, 70 degree, sunny morning, and we were doing our very first WOD outside for the season (YAY! Outdoor CrossFit FitPark!). After doing a warm-up of partner med-ball tosses (10#) for a few minutes, we ran a quick 400m to get our bodies working and settled down into our WOD. It looked like one that would not feel good the next day, but one that had me pondering something momentous - I *THINK* I can do this WOD prescribed (which, in the CF world means you're doing the WOD exactly as written, with no modifications). The thought of that was a little frightening, but I thought of a lot of the positive vibes that have been thrown my way lately, and decided to not give into doubt. I COULD do this would as prescribed, or I'd collapse in a puddle of my own sweat, from muscle failure, after trying really hard.

The WOD, as written:
- 50ft of walking lunges, with 30# overhead
- 21 Burpees
Repeat 5 times.

Seems simple enough, right? Let me tell you, BlogLand, 30# isn't a whole lot on a general basis, but have you ever tried to hold that (arms locked out straight) overhead for an extended period of time? Not to mention, when you don't have the longest legs in the world to do lunges with, that means MORE time that you must keep this over head to travel 50ft. I should also mention here that if you have T-Rex Arm Syndrome (as I do), that is the LONGEST 50ft of your life, because -particularly in round 4 and 5 - your arms and shoulders are screaming. Seriously, I think I could hear them.

Nonetheless, I positioned myself next to one of the guys that is a CrossFit animal. "Aja, why would you put yourself next to someone that's going to run circles around you, ON PURPOSE?" you ask? Well, because I have determined that those people are extremely good motivation for me. If I'm dying on burpees (I was), but he's doing burpees like a Burpee Machine, then I push a little harder - not necessarily to "keep up" - but because I can probably just do a little more, if he can do that much. Does that make sense? I'm always stretching to be a little closer to those people, then where is comfortable. Find your Crossfit animal, train next to them. Plus, when he finished 5 whole minutes before me, he did burpees in solidarity with me, as I dug deep to finish up. Yeah, CrossFit community!

Having said that, I totally completed the WOD AS WRITTEN!! I did it with the exact amount of weight, did all the burpees, didn't have to modify the lunges, etc. and was met with a time that I was proud of - just over 17 minutes.
I will not lie, the last 50 feet of lunges felt super heavy... not on my beastly bionic legs, but my shoulders (deltoids, the muscle that makes your shoulder round) felt like they were housing battery acid. I was making all sorts of faces and struggling to keep my wobbly weight plate overhead. But I refused to put it down. I made noise. I had to. It was the patented "I'm having an evil workout" scream/grunt. You know, "Aaaaahhhhrrrrrgghh!!!".  But I made it to the end. (and finished with the slowest, but steady, set of 21 burpees.).

I went to pick up my full Nalgene water bottle after class and my arm shook as I tried to get it to my face. I had a feeling that the next day would suck pretty bad (Embrace the Suck!)...

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way." ~Satchel Paige

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 268:

What a DAY, BlogLand. It turned out to be a beautiful Friday here in VT... warm, but not too warm (like March should be), and sunny. FINALLY.

Today was 5K training with a couple of co-workers/friends, since we're preparing to run the Corporate Cup 5K in mid-may. Prizes include company-wide bragging rights, as well as general race feelings of accomplishment. SO, we train on Friday's after work. Luckily, we have access to a great rec path not too far away, that has marked mileage, as well as lovely little scenic rolling hills. The tourists love this place.

Our training trio also had a tiny addition, today - one of the ladies had brought her (SO CUTE.) daughter in the jogging stroller. She had mentioned that pushing the jogging stroller was quite the effort last time she tried it, and it would be great to be able to switch off. Having never tried running with a loaded stroller, I thought to myself (as I often stupidly do), "how hard could it be? It's on wheels, her little girl isn't that big...." so I volunteered to take that duty. Since a 5K is a pretty usual run for me, I figured any added challenge would be a bonus, and would allow my other two buddies (who are just getting back into running) to focus on what they were trying to accomplish. An excellent plan!

(This is where I must temporarily digress and throw a shout out to Spartan Chick Shaina - remember the one I told you passed me last week in my race, pushing a double jogging stroller? Dear Shaina... I was humbled then.... and now.... holy crap, lady, you are a beast. I am proud to say you passed me.)

If you have never tried running and pushing one of these things before, it seems very simple. However, I soon learned that - like most of these workouts - it is anything but. Yes, it glides along nicely, but you are still pushing against constant resistance. Not to be thwarted, I took off my long sleeves ( it got warm fast...), and settled down to -work-.

I got in the swing of things and how to run well with this stroller after about 1/2 mile or so... just as we hit the first "quaint, rolling hill". This is the point at which I learned just how heavy a jogging stroller and 3 (?) year old are, when they have absolutely no forward momentum of their own, and have gravity working against you. They may look cute, but they are 80 pounds (?) of something that is working against you, while you are trying to keep pace and move it up a hill. But it was early in the run, and I navigated this first hill pretty well.

Soon after, I learned that I could maneuver the stroller with one hand on the flat, freeing my other arm up to swing in stride. That helped the situation, allowing me to get into more of a regular motion that my body is used to. I was warm, and I was ON a MISSION now. There was no way I was going to pass off this duty and be defeated by a sporty yellow stroller and a cherubic, blond tiny chicklette.

On we went. I was in the groove. I figured out it was more efficient to just plow up the hills. While I was still having to push the effort, it was over more quickly... and probably, those weighted hill sprints (I think 6 in total?) were good to break up the run and challenge my muscles a bit more.

I did stumble across the best motivator EVER, though. As we jogged along, the Mom, unfettered by stroller, would sometimes get ahead of us. If she got *too* far ahead - meaning I wasn't busting my butt enough - the mad cuteness in the stroller would start saying things like, "Catch Mommy!!!" and "MOMMY WAIT!". Oh God. If that doesn't make you run faster. How could you say no to that!?!
.... As a reward, apparently when I was keeping up the appropriate pace, the wee one would sing pleasantly to herself.

As came back, when I knew we were in the last mile or so, I figured it was time to push it a bit, and really get some good work in. I've slacked a bit this week with other WODs, so time to push. I picked up the pace.
.... which oddly felt good. (WHAT!? Was I having fun?!)
My body felt really strong running today, so I pushed it more. More speed. We were in the last quarter mile.

Can you do sprints pushing a jogging stroller?

.... OH YES you can.

I challenged the Mom of the Wee Cuteness to a sprint. And by that I mean I said (as I trotted out in front), "Don't let me beat you!!!" In retrospect, it was probably a pretty evil thing to do, as both my running buddies were getting tired.... but, I figure, everyone needs a push and a little incentive sometimes, right? I know I do.

We hauled ass. There is no better way to say that. She busted past me, right as we got to the end.... but I maintain that that was because we hit an uphill and I had to push her baby. LOL. Or she was running like something was chasing her. It was GOOD WORK. 5K, in the books for today, no problemo.

I decided, as I was running the last bit of it, I was enjoying the process of running with the added challenge. I think this means that I'm going to have to start running with Extras (weight vest? log? rock? tire?) more often. It was really nice to feel like I was challenged by something outside of my own body.

After mentioning this excellent workout and my revelation about running with weight, I got the most awesome response. Sparta's own Sergeant Sedlak (you remember way back when, when Todd came to try and kill me on the track?), simply commented:

"Where's that girl who couldn't run three miles without walking?"

... annnd.... I had instant teary eyes (Thanks, Todd! geesh. ;-)). I was suddenly reminded very distinctly of how far I had come. I think I really needed that. I remembered very vividly the extreme frustration because I just *couldn't* seem to get over the hump of running straight through a 5K without walking, no matter how often I did it, or how hard I tried. My own brain was sabotaging me somewhere I couldn't find to tackle. I also remember in extreme clarity, the day that I finally accomplished that run, jumping into a giant hug, sweaty and ecstatic, at the finish line of a little 5K with my GT, who had coached me through running the whole thing - even when I was "sure" I could not.
In between those two moments, I found support and help came from everywhere - even places you never expect. Veritable strangers who are willing to meet you at the crack of dawn to help you start seeing yourself in a different light, hordes of online friends who sent messages and tips to me, who'd they'd never met, acquaintances who'd tell me that they were inspired by my determination, a GT who sticks with me through extreme crazy spells, and (a select few) friends who always listened patiently (even when they didn't care or know what I was talking about), about that day's run... Even the completely random strangers who the Cosmos would sporadically have cross my path and cheer me up a hill, or beep support at me running hard in the city.

I have been beyond lucky, BlogLand. Moments like tonight, when I am reminded of my beginnings and the journey it has been, really reinforce that for me. I'm proud of myself. Not necessarily because I ran today, or I ate an apple instead of a cookie, but because I made the decision to DO THIS. And I am.

I'm not where I want to be, yet (and really, can you ever be "there"?), but I'm having one hell of a journey. It's nerve-wracking at times, I doubt myself, I cry because it hurts, I scream because I still struggle, I wonder if I'll ever make progress..... Then I am reminded that I *KNOW* I will make more progress. Because I have. Because of the most odd-ball fabulous support system, ever. Because I'm not a quitter. Because I didn't come this far to turn back now. Because I CAN (and there are not enough Thank Yous, for those of you who've helped me really believe that).

 And I've decided I'm not done, yet.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

“The simplest things are often the truest.” - Richard Bach

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 265, 266, 267:

Oh Blogland. I've been behind on my blogging. Ever just feel like Life is racing along and you're JUST trying to keep up and not get dragged under the wheels? Yeah, that's been this week. However, I'm back, and ready to appropriately chronicle my adventures! (I know you've been waiting with baited breath.)

Day 265:
Today was the dreaded Sprint WOD. I can't tell you how much I do not look forward to this one, Blogland. I DO it, because I know I should and because it's helping me.... but I never, ever look forward to it. However, today was proving to be a little different. Not only would I have my awesome Up-The-Hill buddy coming down to keep my company and motivate me through sprints, we'd also have another running friend of mine, who wanted to come and see what all the fuss was about. GROUP SPRINTS!! Yay!! Somehow, suffering just isn't so bad, when you're suffering with other people.

The three of us set out for a warm up .55 mi jog to our destination. It was nice that the sun is setting a little later each day... I noticed that today was the first time that we weren't setting out in pitch darkness.

Getting to the track, we did our warm-up walking lap and I explained to April, our newest sprint buddy, the simple principle: Sprint (100% effort) for half the track (200m), then walk half the track. Repeat 4 times. Like my initial reaction, she also thought that seemed pretty easy and straight forward.... How hard could it be?

I set up my stopwatch and we were off for lap number 1. My initial few seconds were good - it was great to have someone to race against. Definitely was motivating me to push my speed as much as possible.

.... then.... I started feeling a breeze.
... on my ass.
..... and had three simultaneous thoughts: 1) OMG, I'm LOSING MY PANTS. 2) They can't really fall down, right? Surely I can just keep running. 3) What underwear do I have on today?

Ultimately, I ground to a stop after 13.4 seconds of sprinting, while trying not to drop my phone, but still grope at my pants - which at this point had exposed a large portion of my pasty-white-ass-that-never-sees-the-light-of-day. I am pretty sure that if anyone had looked out the window of the school building we were behind, they would've wondered what that white glowing orb was. Yep, just Aja's butt, as she loses her pants.

Oh yes, BlogLand, fitness, workouts and losing weight is *always* pretty, graceful and very serious.

I collapsed into laughs and walked to catch up with my peeps. I was alternately laughing at the ridiculousness of it (who loses their pants?!?) and perplexed as to how I would handle this. I still had sprints to do, damnit!

It seems that while my UA Allweather tights are okay for consistent speed runs, the fact that they don't have a super tight waist (and they are probably a size too big, now), or a drawstring, seems to really be a problem when sprinting. My muscular gluteus does not want to be contained.

Being a problem solving bunch, one of my ladies had a safety pin. Waha! Defeat goes to you, pants! I thought to myself, as I just folded the waistband and pinned it smaller.  NOW I can get down to business.

Off we went for Actual Sprint #1: I made it through half this sprint, before I felt the safety pin pop and try and stab me to death. However, there was NO WAY I was going to try and start again, so I grabbed my pants with my free hand (phone/stopwatch in the other), and kept running.
Time: 40 seconds (... I accidentally cleared the stopwatch before I knew the exact time, in the flurry of trying to get my pants back where they needed to be. Again.

More problem solving, and this time, we just pinned the back of my pants to my shirt, which I'd tucked in. SURELY that would work. Off we go for Sprint #2. This time, I'm working to chase April. My legs are feeling okay, but they are remembering why I hate this WOD. But, again, in the last third of it, while I did not lose my pants in the back (thank you safety pin), I was losing them off the sides/hips, etc. Not to be thwarted, I just grabbed my pants and kept running. Time: 42.17

Wow, this was good for some laughs. It's hard to be really serious when one of your group members is totally just losing her pants. April was a whole lap ahead of me sprint-wise (she didn't have to save her pants...), so she was starting to feel the evilness that is the Sprints.

On to Sprint #3 and 4. More of the same here. I finally gave in. With the safety pin in the back of my pants, I just ran as hard as I could, with one hand holding my pants up. Probably not as aerodynamic as one would like, but it certainly kept me from focusing quite as much on how I wanted to die at the end of each round. Sprint #3: 44.08 and Sprint #4: 44.6.

I must say, I was pretty damn proud of myself, here. When I reviewed those times, I nearly jumped for joy. While my initial time pretty consistent (although, it may have been faster, I'm not sure), I am getting more consistent over the 4 sprints. There is WAY less of a slow-down factor over all four. When I first started, they went something like 40, 42, 46, 49 or so. Knowing that I'm keeping those times faster (just think of what I could've done, NOT holding my pants!!), definitely makes me feel better about this WOD. I'm seeing progress! Yes!

After standing briefly with the hands-on-knees, "please don't puke" pose, at the end of sprint #4, it was time for tire flips!! 6 big giant tire flips to round out the evening.... but then, it was time to collect my reward.
Remember how on Easter Sunday, my Up the Hill buddy worked up the determination to do her strength WOD, so I told her I'd do a burpee for every minute she worked out (35!)? Well, since she knows how much I hate doing these sprints, she told me she'd do TWO burpees for every second I shaved off last week's time. She ended up with 9 (she did one for my false start!) burpees. I did a few with her in solidarity.

We trotted off home for protein shakes and recovery. However, I've learned my lesson. Apparently my ghetto booty is just too badass to be contained without extreme spandex or a drawstring, during sprint wods. Next time, I will know and plan accordingly... because, quite frankly, no one wants to see that. LOL
(Although, I think this does mean that it's time to acquire more clothes!!)

Now we move onto the next two days.

Epic Fail, BlogLand. I was supposed to go to CrossFit yesterday morning... that didn't happen.  Sleep Fail.
I should've come home and gotten in a strength WOD or SOMEthing... well, that didn't happen either.
And it didn't happen today.

Two days in a row, and I feel a bit off kilter. But MAN, Life has been hitting me hard the last two weeks, and I'm just not bouncing back as quickly as I would like to. There is so much to do, so little time, and I'm SO. TIRED.  (really got to get to bed earlier.)

Having said that, I must also touch on an experience and frustration that I had this morning.

... I got on the scale...

Now, I am not at all obsessive about losing weight, despite my flareups of FCS (Fat Chick Syndrome). However, I do like to use it as a rough progress monitor to keep me on track. I got on the scale this morning and almost threw up. Up a little bit, today. Still in the same 5 pound range that I've been in for MONTHS. At the upper end of it, even.

Now, yes. I know I'm building muscle. I know that I should be looking at how things fit and not how much I weigh, etc. But at the same time, when you're not seeing those changes anywhere, it seems, and definitely not on the tangible scale, it gets really frustrating. I worried I was slipping back. I reminded myself of all the crossfit I've missed recently. Etc. etc.  It was ugly first thing this morning.

But, like so many things, sometimes you just have to let go. Yes, I will be a little more mindful of what's going in my body (maybe there's a lot of extras I don't realize?), and yes, I need to get my butt in gear and stay more consistent with my workouts... but, it is what it is. I can only go FORWARD from here.

With that, it's time to take a deep breath, sleep it off, and get ready to take charge of tomorrow.

Monday, April 9, 2012

"The first and the best victory is to conquer self." Plato

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 263:

Easter Sunday, BlogLand... I *almost* succumbed to the temptation to "call it a holiday," eat myself silly, full of chocolate eggs and jelly beans... but then I happened upon a quote online (which I am frustratingly unable to find at the moment)... It was a picture of a girl flipping a tire, and it simply said, "Holidays are for people that need them."
I decided right there that a) I did not want to have to run off chocolate eggs and jelly beans (I'm sure that'd have to be an extra 4-5 miles this week), and b) I did not need to celebrate a holiday with food, and c) just because it was a holiday, it did not mean that there wasn't 30 minutes or so to get a little movement in.
I STFU and got my butt in gear. Simultaneously, one of my friends was on FB, waffling about the same issue. Before my brain could catch up to my mouth, I told her - "I'll do a burpee for every minute that you work out!"

Where did THAT come from, brain?!

She heartily accepted, and I had found the motivation to begin my self-created WOD for the day. Here's how it went:

- 63 Push Ups (Still working through the One Hundred Push ups, App) on my knees.
- 60 Rows, with 25# dumbbells (30 per side). My back and tri's were starting to feel this one...

Then, to get my cardio moving a bit, I did the every popular,
100 KB (35#) Swings, For Time. Clocked in at 4 min, 55 sec. Pretty comparable to my last attempt, I believe. Boy those last 10-20 really suck, when you're trying to do that with any speed. Ewwww. Who wants to throw up after these? This kid!

Then, after I walked around, drank some water and recovered a bit, I moved onto my other favorite.... Pull Ups!
I have found an ingenious way to do these and work my legs at the same time. I need at least one foot on a stool to be able to work through these. So... I do 10 using one foot as a support, then 10 with the other foot, etc. This way, however many pull ups I do, I also (by proxy) end up doing some (one legged) pistol squats. Yeaahhh multitasking!
Ended up totaling 40 of these.

On to another favorite - Chair dips. My triceps were angry at me for this thought. But since yesterday was race day and my legs were tired... I decided it needed to be arm day today. Dips it was. I ended up doing it in sets like this: 10-10-5-5. Those last two sets are hard with all the body weight I'm still carrying. GRR.

I was officially a hot sweaty mess at this point, when my friend who also got her WOD on, on a holiday clocked in. She finished her WOD in 35 minutes. That meant 35 Burpees for me.

Up and down I went. 10, then 7, then in sets of 3-5, as I could. But I got it done. 35 burpees for an After Party. OH YEAH.

And, since I'm writing this on the following day, I can officially report in and note that my back/arms are unimpressed with yesterday's activities. Actually they're kind of like, WTF was that?! They hate upper body WOD's. So, just to spite them, I just did 10 more (assisted) pull ups. Take that t-rex arms.

I'm tired, so it's off to bed... but lesson of the day. There is no better time than now, to make a new start. So what if it is a holiday?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"To End the trend of obesity, we need to dig deeper and push harder. We need to challenge everyone we know to be part of the solution." - Shaun T

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 262:

It was a RACE DAY today, BlogLand! I was completely psyched for this race, as not only was I hoping for a (somewhat lofty...) PR, but it was going to be the first time I got to meet a whole lot of the Spartan Chicks (and a few of the guys!), that I've "known" on the FB groups, etc. for quite some time.

I signed up to do this race quite a while ago, after finishing the Frosty Knuckle 5K in February - which happens to be put on by the same company. I had such a good time running with the Portsmouth Spartans, Peyton, Amy and Brian, that I knew I'd be back for the next area race: The Tortoise and Hare 10K Run and 3K Walk. However, being the excessively social human that I am, as race day approached and I was getting psyched up for it (It's just part of my process, alright?!), it occurred to me that it would be even MORE fun, with even MORE people. My brain started working... Shortly thereafter, I put up a post on the Spartan Chicks message board, alerting everyone to the race and seeking some buddies. Let me tell you, BlogLand, I could not have asked for a better response. 8-10 of the area ladies jumped on board immediately, expressing their concern for certain obstacles (needing a babysitter, pushing a stroller, having a long drive, getting a new tattoo, or even having never run that distance before), but in true Spartan style, everyone found a way to come out and run and/or support.

After an uneventful (just under 3 hour) drive down to Salisbury, Ma, we located the grounds for the event. This was slated to be a small-ish event, as it was the first annual. Clad in our pink and black (and yes, it was totally a day for bionic pants!), we found another couple of chicks, then another couple more... and soon, a  pink and black group of us ladies had amassed (and some very tolerant and awesome husbands! hehe)
(Sadly, not all are represented... there was a long line for the bathroom, and it was getting close to race time!)
It was just about start time, so we all began clustering at the start of the race. I had BIG PLANS for this race, BlogLand. For my last 10K, that included some good 'ol Vermont hills, I did it in 1:03. I was sure that I might be able to manage this one a bit faster, so decided my goal would be to come in under an hour. Yes, that would mean taking 4 minutes off my time. Yes, that would also mean running sub-10 minute miles, which I have yet to do over great distance... but I figured you need to have a goal, and you never know if you can do it, until you try. And quite frankly, my best times are in races (thank you, competitiveness!), so I figured if I was going to do it anywhere, it would be here. I lined up toward the front of the small pack (the Spartans were a large portion of the 10K'ers! Aroo!) with my pace buddy - Peyton. Peyton had the same goal (come in under an hour), and was familiar with running at the necessary pace. Therefore, I figured if I just didn't lose Peyton, I'd know the pace I needed to be at, as well as have some incentive to keep pushing when it got hard.

When I asked the GT a couple of weeks ago if this was even a realistic goal, he informed me frankly that it would difficult, but it was very possible ("Impossible is nothing!"). As I stood there with all my Chicks around me, getting my game face on, I reviewed the three simple directives the GT gave me:
1.) Warm up a little before you start.
2.) Don't let Peyton out run you.
3.) Suck it up, when it hurts.
This, my friends, is how you know you have the appropriate GT for you. First, they're realistic - not all sunshine and roses. If my GT had told me something like, "Oh, no! You can ABSOLUTELY do that, no problem!" I would've gone into it with a much different mindset. Instead, you'll note he told me to to "suck it up, WHEN it hurts," knowing that it was going to be a really hard push for me, and if I wanted to do it, this is what would need to be done. Also, to add the final touch to our race-plan, he poked at what he knows drives me the most - competition (internally or with others). On a practical level, he knew that Peyton would be running at the pace that I needed to be at, but what he said to me was "don't let [her] out run you." Do you see how that instantly makes it competitive? Mostly the competition would be with myself, though - fighting to keep up the pace and just not lose Peyton, my pacer for the day.

My head was in the right place, my body felt good, I had a plan, and we were off!

The first 2 miles were good. I trotted along with Peyton at well under a 10 min/mile pace. I recognized that it was decidedly not as easy for me as it was for her, but I reminded myself that I didn't sign up for these things because they were "easy." I fought with myself internally during these first two miles, because this was definitely -not- a natural pace for me. I'm pretty comfortable at about a 10 min/mile... but this, was certainly, not that. I huffed and puffed, but reminded myself of all the little things (regulate my breathing!) and told myself that physically I could do this, I just had to get my mind out of the way. We kept running.

My body fought me. I had to let Peyton pull ahead of me, around the first water station. I figured I hadn't lost her, if I could still see her clearly, and I just needed to go a tiny bit slower. I kept running. I was still under a 10 min/mile pace, but it was beginning to feel very hard.

Mile 3 found me running alone, but still pushing hard to keep Peyton in my sights. I could still see her, but I was very aware that I was now starting to lose her - meaning I wasn't keeping up the pace. "Just keep moving" I told myself, and reviewed all my previous training; I knew that my muscles could do this, it was just going to be ugly. I stayed in my rhythm - left, right, left, right, left - and trudged on. My body was screaming. We'd never done this pace before and it was making me extremely aware of it. While I didn't hurt anywhere, per se, I was breathing harder than I usually do, and I felt like my legs just couldn't go at that speed.

Then, the cramp hit.

Yep. Every runner knows that that is one of the single most aggravating events - you're running along, and suddenly, OUCH, big stitch in your side. I kept running through it, putting my arm over my head to try and stretch it out, while taking deep breaths to try and make it go away. It must've been the funniest sight to see, because at this point, we were running on the side of a major roadway. I can not imagine what drivers thought I was doing!

3.5 miles in, and I was struggling harder than I have in quite a long time. I was at the verge of losing Peyton from my sights, if I hadn't already, and I just felt like my body didn't have it in me to continue like this. I was frustrated with my inability to do this, but made the executive decision to walk for 15 seconds to regroup, then pick back up at a pace that I could maintain and just keep going.

At this point, a little more than halfway, the race became really grueling for me. I had genuinely *needed* to walk for those 15 seconds, but as I picked back up into a run, I realized just how much those first 3.5 miles had drained me. I was clearly NOT ready to run at that pace. I kept moving. But, I admit, as I kept moving, I started to spin my wheels in my head at this point - how I wasn't ready to handle that pace and felt I should be, how if I'd not struggled with maintaining the consistency of my training, I'd be better, if I had managed to lose the weight I planned on, this would be more manageable - and so it went.

A few times I mentally checked myself, because I saw the road I was getting myself on. This was no good for the running. I pushed on.

Around mile 4, one of the Spartan Chicks, Shaina - pushing her 2 adorable girls in a stroller - jogged by me with some words of encouragement. I definitely needed those words of encouragement, but (I won't lie) there was a momentary punch to the gut as I got passed by the lady pushing 100 # of adorable kid/stroller. I should be able to do better than this, I thought to myself. I tried to pick up my pace. Keep pushing, I told myself... and "Suck it up, when it hurts". It hurt.

Not too long after, I got passed by the ever-supportive Amy and Brian (you guys are awesome.); I was back to fighting the side cramp that wouldn't go away, and as they passed, Amy informed me she had rolled her troublesome ankle, early on, but was still running. If that's not inspiration, people, I don't know what is. I had started out really strong, but was burning out fast. But if Shaina could do this pushing a stroller and Amy could keep running on her bad ankle, I could certainly at least KEEP MOVING.

Now, I'm not going to lie, BlogLand... I had to walk (15-20 seconds) a total of three times during this race... mostly in the last 2.5 miles. I *had* to. It has been a long time since I really felt like I HAD to walk, but legitimately, it was not mental... my body was just spent. But, I kept at it, the best I could. My run became slower, but it was still a run, and I resigned myself to the fact that I may just need to walk on occasion to get to the end of this beast. My body was telling me that I had not tackled it correctly.

I was reflecting on how I should've done this differently, as I got passed by one more of my Chicks, Jessica, in the last mile. I heard her yelling at me from behind, and picked up my pace a bit with the encouragement... but sometimes, you just ain't got it in you. She passed me, too, with smiles and encouragement (all of you that passed me, you have no idea how much you actually helped me!), and I fought to keep on keepin' on.

At this point, I was really physically done and truly just counting down to find the finish line. I tried to appreciate the scenery and the flatness of the course (thank GOD), but my view was really colored by the fact that I was having to summon up every ounce in me just to keep my feet moving.

Finally, we turned back onto the Ghost trail - what would make up the last 3/4 mile or so of our race. I was almost done. I wanted to finish strong, and in the best time possible. I ran.

I rounded the corner and suddenly saw it in the distance... the Finish Line.... and a crowd of pink and black. My Chicks were there, no matter how slow I went. I was suddenly extremely proud to be part of this group, no matter how grueling this race was for me. Then I heard the shouts of encouragement. That's it, I said to myself, it's time to lay it all out there and "sprint" to the finish. Running with a burst of energy that I'm SURE was sent to me telekenetically by my Spartans, I finished at a renewed pace.

Glancing up at the clock as I crossed the line, I was hit with a pang of disappointment: definitely not under an hour. While I don't have the "official" chip time, the clock showed JUST under 1:07 (Like probably 1:06.58) when I hit the line.

I was so insanely relieved to get to stop, BlogLand. You have no idea. I'm sure anyone that has pushed themselves to a beyond a physical limit knows what I'm talking about. Being able to just stop, without knowing your race time was hanging over your head or there was a finish line to find, was so wonderful. My body was ecstatic.

As I stood there, trying to shake my disappointment (as this time will end up being slower than my first 10K time), I suddenly had a moment of perspective, thanks to the support I found at the finish line. While being handed water and being congratulated on the Finish (on the FINISH, not the time it took me), and reminded how far I'd come, I realized this was just another step in the journey and an opportunity for a learning experience.

I gathered a few extra water bottles and watched for the rest of the pink and black to cross the finish line, and reflected on what I should be learning and taking away from this race:

1.) Yes. I did not hit my goal, but how was I supposed to know if I could do it, if I didn't try?
2.) I learned that I next time I run a 5K race, I'm going to smoke any of my previous times (thank you GT, for noting this point, that I wouldn't have thought of); While I could not YET (YET!) handle the whole 10K at that pace, the first half (5K) was at WELL under a 10 min/mi. SO, in effect, I did PR in a way - I ran the 3 fastest race miles I've ever run, to date.
3.) I learned that it's never about keeping up with someone else, or "winning". It's about doing the absolute best that YOU can do. So what if it took me 1:06 to cross the line? I know that for the first three miles, I attempted something I had know idea if I could do, and for the last half of the race, I beat Old Me in to the ground, as I fought the negative thought trains and urges to walk that used to keep me comfortably on the couch. It was a lovely day, I had great friends waiting for me, and I was RUNNING A 6.2 MILE RACE.
4.) In that same vein, I was running a 10K. Maybe my time goal was a little lofty, but irregardless, it was something that me of 2 years ago would not have even THOUGHT to attempt, much less finished in as good a time as I did. Physically I never would've been able to. Now, physically, this race was pretty damn hard for me, but I could make it until the end, and I was still running. I RAN across the finish line. That is a Victory, no matter how you look at it.
5.) I still have a lot to learn. I need to learn more about pacing. I probably could've run this race faster overall, if I hadn't tried to go so fast in the beginning, and burn out so fast. However, I thought maybe I could push my limits and do it... but, my body reminded me that we are still a work in progress, and I need to still put in some time, before I am able to beat all these goals. No matter what your brain wants to do, there does come a point where your body can't. I currently know where that is, at the moment, and am feeling triumphant that I pushed hard enough, dared enough, put it on the line enough to find out where that was.

I sometimes have trouble putting these things in perspective; My head knows where I *want* to be, and doesn't always allow the necessary time that I will actually need to get there. When I am feeling disappointed in a victory like this, I need to remind myself - I haven't even been running a year in my whole life. I couldn't run 20 seconds 8 months ago. Today, I ran 10K (6.2) miles, in about 1:06 with an average mile time of somewhere just above a 10 min/mile. For a new runner, still carrying the weight that I am, that is pretty effing good. I need to remember that.

Going forward from here, I'll be continuing my run schedule (with the dreaded sprint WODs), making sure to incorporate those long runs 6-7 miles. Also, there will be a distinct focus on my nutrition, because this race reminded me that I really need to get my weight off this plateau (anyone that has battled being overweight knows what I'm talking about... sometimes you can just FEEL it making your life harder. Particularly at mile 4. lol).

Overall, I'm happy. I had a WONDERFUL day with some truly wonderful people. PR's were broken, first timers triumphantly crossed their first 10K finish line, and people did things they weren't sure they could do. A big AROOOOOO!!! to all the Spartans that came out and ran and supported. You have no idea how much it was appreciated.

Finally, since it was The Tortoise and The Hare race, just before Easter........

Post-Race picture with the world's shortest Easter Bunny! (please note the two adorable Spartan Chicklettes to the far right! hehe)

Those, BlogLand, are the hot, sweaty, accomplished smiles of a bunch of ladies Living their life to it's limit, not just letting it happen to them. AROO!