Sunday, February 26, 2012

“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can - there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” -Sarah Caldwell

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 221:

So, I'm preparing for a bit of a trip, BlogLand. In a few short days, I'll be headed out to New Orleans to get on The Rock Boat and sail around sunny, beautiful waters and listen to some great music. Live music is the heartbeat of my soul, and it feels like for the last year or so, budgetary constraints have prevented me from frequenting it like I usually would (My Life-to-Date Concert Count is current upwards of 150. Seriously.). I am anxious for the warm weather, bright sunshine and a change of pace... particularly from days like today.

It was scheduled to be Long Run Day today, which should've been around 8 miles. It was bright, seemingly nice day out, but the temperature was 15 degrees. FIFTEEN. WHYYYYY Vermont, WHYY? Why is it EVERY single Sunday that I want to do a long run, it's frigid? I was also a little concerned about maybe having a repeat of last week's hamstring debacle... And by concerned, I mean I was really actually worried. When it's 15 degrees, I could've gone running, but if my hamstring had pulled that stunt again, I most definitely would've had to actually use my phone to call for a ride, so as not to go seriously hypothermic. Sweaty/mid run body temperatures really plummet as soon as you STOP exerting like that, and the wind is icy... I know this first hand. I also haven't run any great distance since that happened... legitimate concern moved me to vetoing that activity outside today.

Instead, I ran around and did some errands, cleaned my house (my MOTHER will be stopping by to take care of my plants, etc. while I'm gone... it's gotta be ship-shape!) and tried to put together some clothes to take on my trip (BIG THANK YOU to my clothes angels who made this possible, on my tiny budget...).

However, as the night wore on, I knew I had to do SOMEthing. I can't just take a long run day and substitute it for nothing. No Excuses. Eyes on the Prize (Spartan Sprint, T-Minus 69 days???).

Well, the last few runs (since the hamstring incident), I have been noticing some tightness in the backs of my knees and hams... I need to roll and stretch more apparently. SO.... tonight seemed like a good night for Yoga.

Yes. I still hate yoga. Loathe, even. But I do recognize its value in the grand scheme of things. If doing a little yoga here and there will help me prevent some of the muscle craziness that is commonly an issue for me, I'm SOLD.  That hamstring thing was one of the most painful ouchies I've had in the last year, and I am listening to my body and learning to do everything in my power to prevent that from ever happening again!!

P90X Yoga, here we go. Now, I will say, I started real late (10pm), and contemplated ditching it all together... but I figured SOME is better than nothing. So, 35 minutes of P90X Yoga. I did most of the hard poses, and felt good and stretched. There was a ridiculous amount of snap, crackle, poppin' when I moved into Reverse Triangle. I guess this is a good thing. It felt awesome!

On which note, I feel stretched out for once (awwww yeah, hamstrings!), and am hydrating and heading off to bed. Tomorrow morning's CrossFit class looks pretty ugly (Box Jump Burpees?! WHAT!?), but I'll be up early, and getting it done, DAMNIT.

I shall leave you with my thought for today:

‎"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." ~Albert Einstein

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 220:

It's a snow/wind-tastic day, here in VT, BlogLand. The sidewalks seemed to be clear, so in keeping with NO EXCUSES, I gave myself a deadline, when I got up this morning; I had some stuff that needed to get done, but one way or the other, I was running at some point, today.

I had some mundane errands to run first, but then I skipped over to the mall (this is related to training, I swear!). I desperately needed like one more pair of jeans. I'm traveling in less than a week, and the way my body has changed has really wrecked havoc on my wardrobe.

There I was... in the fitting room of Maurices, when an amazing thing happened:
THAT, my friends, is me zipped into (comfortably) a SIZE 14 jean, from a non-plus-size store. SERIOUSLY. To put this in perspective, a year ago I was hitting the top end of a size 24 in pants.
To further the awesomeness, I am not sure I ever even wore this size in high school (Fat Chick Syndrome didn't just develop out of thin air, people!). I didn't even know what to do. I took the pants off, checked the tag on the inside (as there clearly had to be some mistake), then put them back on. Yep. 14. Still Fit. Wow. You better believe I bought those jeans. It's moments like that, that you need to store away for when times get challenging...

I was still moving forward pretty well on my "tiny" jeans-high, and I got my housework, etc. done in record time. Time for a run. Yes, it was snowing, but it wasn't soooo cold, and (still) the sidewalks/roads seemed okay. And it was light out. That was a pleasant change.

Out I went, without a particular plan, other than to mix up the route today. I ran the big long hill of death pretty competently today and circled around some new neighborhoods I'd never considered running. And THEN... when faced with a T in the road, I was proud of my Spartan-worthy decision.... either run up the Big Long Hill of death again, or have to cut the run short(er) and go straight home.... I ran the Big Long Hill AGAIN.
It's still a pretty ugly hill to run, but I did it, ran back down the other side, and ran home. The run had to be shorter today (somewhere to be!), but I feel like two runs at the big hill made up for it. Waha. I even kept up a pretty damn good pace, doing it.
Today's stats:
Time: 30:21 min
Distance: 2.82 mi
Ave Pace: 10:71 min/mi (even WITH 2 runs at the Big Long Hill!)

I feel pretty good about that. Short, but something different for the legs to do.

Although, I did notice on the way home, I was feeling some tightness/tension behind my knee. The GT says I need to stretch and foam roll more... that this is a by product of tight calves (behind knee is the insertion point for the calves) and/ or hamstrings.

He even said the dreaded word...... YOGA. .... ew. But hey, maybe I will grow to love it. It seems to be becoming more and more of a recommended, necessary evil. Argh. I will see what I can figure out... I don't wanna.... but, hey, if it prevents me from having that hamstring seize up again, I will do it!!

On which note, I'm off to foam roll and stretch... and bed. Tomorrow is supposed to be a Long Run day (8 miles, at least), and there's a bunch of snow... soo.. who knows what will happen, but I'll give it a go... oo.. maybe I can get some running snow shoes......

Saturday, February 25, 2012

‎"Some people see things as they are and say "Why." I dream things that never were and say "Why not." ~George Bernard Shaw

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 219:

Anyone that reads my blog regularly must regard me as mildly bi-polar, BlogLand. The truth is, I'm an emotional being (I'm a Cancer, ruled by the water and the moon... shout out to all my fellow crabs! woot woot!) and those emotions can change quickly... particularly when I'm stressed, or left to my own (non-existent) logical capabilities. And really, it's not that have crazy mood swings, it's just that I'm "emotionally spontaneous."

Having said that, Gold Star to anyone who made it through yesterday's post. It was all true, it was all honest and what I was feeling last night, but some how, having the light of day hit it (things are so different in the evening, don't you think?) made it seem a little less daunting.

Plus, although I was freaking out ("emotional spillage"), sometimes I just need to get it all OUT of my head, so that I can look at it more objectively. From a more rational standpoint, and from some exceedingly patient, unruffleable help (seriously, do you know that you're the unfailing Lighthouse for my Tiny Rowboat, on my giant, tumultuous, Emotional Sea, Muffin?), I managed to pick it all up today, and reevaluate. *deep breath*

I have made a lot of progress. I still have 70 days until my first major event. I have the tools at hand to be successful, I must just use them. I think I just needed a breakdown, to reinforce the fact that I needed to recommit 100%. I need to stop looking around at everyone else (and letting their accomplishments make me feel inadequate), realize that I am a lot more capable than I even really realize, STFU and get down to business. I have 70 days to get even more awesome.

In light of that positive upswing, I decided to re-tackle the 7 Min of Burpees challenge tomorrow, and hit 60. Improve upon yesterday's 58.
And because 7 minutes of Burpees is a new kind of hell:

Having said all of that, it's time to move on to the really mentally refreshing run I took this evening. I HAD A BUDDY!! (check her out over here at Immutable and Impossible )!! BlogLand, you have no idea what that does for a social creature like myself. I have "learned" to go it alone, run my own PR's into the ground, chase invisible finish lines and log the miles all by myself, under my own steam and motivation... but it is so much more pleasant when occasionally, you have some company.

It was a perfectly snow-tastic sort of evening. Big, heavy, wet snow fell pretty steadily (at times, quite heavily...), as I left my door around 6pm. It would be a quick (about .66 mile) run over to meet my buddy, and then off we'd be. I should mention that the "quick" .66 mile run also involved a hill sprint. Why? because there was a big hill. What makes things go by faster? Sprinting them. Seemed like a plan.

After a strong sprint, I died for a second at the top of the hill, located my buddy and off we went, looping through various areas of the pretty part of my city. The highlight: jogging the paths in a big cemetery, at dusk. No seriously, it was quiet, the paths were wide, and it was neat.....
To chitter-chatter while out and about really was a refreshing change. My legs felt good, I laughed, ran and laughed and ran some more.
We navigated a long, slow climb on the way home, and I decided I'm going to need to practice and conquer this hill. It's the one that had me almost puking in the crosswalk last week, remember? Oh yeah, Hill... I'm coming for you.

Finally, I found myself parting from my buddy and turning for home. Just .66 miles... I thought I should probably pick up the pace for this. After getting down the now-snow-covered big hill I had sprinted up earlier, I kicked it in gear and sprinted the flat 1/2 mile back to my house. I ran hard until my lungs felt like they might explode, and I ran some more. My tracker seems to think I hit around 7:30 min/mi. or 8 min/mi. at this point. Yeeehaww!! Can't keep that up over a distance, but sometimes, it just feels good to open up and leave it all out there on the sidewalk.

Upon returning home, I figured I better document this experience:

That is a snow-chunk in my hair, snowflakes falling, and an unplowed road in the background. AHHH yes.

Now, I must say, I have not been this soaked coming home from a run, in recent memory. Water-soaked. My hair was tripping, my top layers were drenched.... but it was a relatively warm evening, and I had FUN. I leaped over a hedge, dodged gravestones, did some hill sprints and got my ass in gear... what's not to love?

Total mileage for me tonight, about 3.5 miles. Total benefit tonight's run had on my mental status: Priceless.

With that, I leave you for SleepyLand, my Dears... We shall see what tomorrow will bring...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." ~T.S. Eliot

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 218:

I feel all off kilter, BlogLand. That hamstring thing screwed up my whole "schedule" and now it's all askew. Ack. More on this later.

This morning I got up and (rather than run in the cold ice-rain) decided to do WOD #1 of the CrossFit Open Qualifier... My gym is running them, but I'm not participating, as there are a couple of weekends I can't be there for the competitions... HOWEVER, doesn't mean I can't follow along the WOD's.

WOD #1: 7 minutes of Burpees. Count Reps.

... This is like the 7th layer of Hell in Aja-Land. We all know how much I LOVE and ADORE Burpees (...of Death!). But, I decided since I had copped out (?!) on my run, I better get after this.

Kitchen timer set, music on, Inov-8's on (I learned the hard way that numerous burpees, barefoot, on carpet is a blister-tastic idea...). And off I went.
Now, I recently did a burpee-benchmark at the gym - one full minute of burpees. I rocked 22 burpees in that minute. Of course, that's just one minute. Although, I figured, hey, even if I did 15 in a minute, that puts me at like 105 in 7 minutes... but if I allow for slow-down, maybe like 90 would be a good number to shoot for? That seemed rational to me.


ONLY 58. I chastised myself for stopping to breathe. I was/am disappointed. That was no where NEAR 90. I was frustrated. Could I have done better? Yeah, maybe if I warmed up more, or something, maybe I could've gotten to 65 or something... but I don't see that I could've miraculously pulled out 70, even.
This felt like a GIANT slap with Cold, Hard, Reality.

... I feel like I'm talking a good show, lately, but I'm not delivering.  Or at least not delivering like I should be.

This is what happens in the brain of a competitive person (who has some insecurities around this fitness stuff, anyway), when they "lose" as I did with myself and the burpee challenge.

Suddenly I thought of all the events I'm signed up for and how I'm not ready. How my training for the last two months has been inconsistent (at best) for no reason I would consider adequate (aside from this latest hamstring thing). How I haven't seen the progress I imagined, because I'm not doing the work. How my weight-loss has stopped (am I up a bit!?), because I've gotten slightly less diligent on the food and am not WOD'ing to the point I should be to burn it off.
I thought of the pull ups I still can't do. But haven't been practicing like I planned...
I thought of the morning WOD's I've been sleeping through (and not always making up at night)...
I thought of the events I'm going to be at with a lot of people I don't want to look stupid and unprepared in front of...

I've had plenty of time, but my focus has gotten distracted. I'd blame it on the season... but, excuses don't do anyone any good.

I'm scared, BlogLand. I made all these promises to myself (I'm going to rock a Spartan Race! I'm going to check out CMC! I'm going to do a pull up on my birthday! I'm going to be under 200# by March 15!), and I feel like I'm not going to get there. What happens if I don't make them?

*deep breath*

I went to work. No literally, like my job. Then something crazy happened. Someone asked me to be the 4th on their Relay team for a big marathon up here in May: The Key Bank VT City Marathon. I'd have to run a leg of about 5.5 miles. As a knee-jerk reaction, I said Sure! I'd love to!... and I meant it at the time. How cool would that be?! Run a piece of a marathon (rumor has it I might have the finish leg!)!..... Then I freaked out, in the light of this morning's Epic Fail. I haven't been running consistently. I'm not fast, at all. I don't want to be the Weak Link in the team. (Fat Chick Syndrome flared up HARDCORE) WTF was I THINKING?!

I wanted to throw up a bit. (we're all about honesty here, BlogLand).

What I want to say now is a bunch of inspirational stuff about how I'm re-focused and have my eyes on the prize and all that. But really, I'm still freaking out, internally. About all of this. It's been really hard to go it alone with all of this, lately, and these are the times I need people the worst. When I'm in my own head and saying the wrong things. I know I'll be "fine" at all of this... but I'm not happy with "fine". I have goals, and I want to get to them... but I can't seem to kick my ass the right way, lately.

Argh. Things I'm thinking, right now:
1) ... I think I'm going to spare you all from this one.
2) I need more fitness friends near me. I am pushing hard (am I?) and doing this for me... but as a social creature, always going it ALONE is draining. CrossFit classes are a life-saver here, even though I can't seem to find any outside-of-class opportunities.
3) I feel really worked up about all this, lately. Yes, I stress about theses things, Yes, I put more pressure on myself than maybe I should. Yes, I should relax about this stuff. Sorry, I don't roll like that. I'm going to be worked up, until I can get it sorted out. Need to enlist the GT and get a plan going, so the mind can quiet, stop freaking out, and get back down to business.
4) This probably all sounds like a big ramble-rant, which seems silly, over some BURPEES?
5) I need to go to bed.

On which note, I think I shall conclude tonight's entry with at least a promise to saddle up tomorrow and get back down to business. It's supposed to be some kind of crazy snow-storm, so it may be an at-home WOD night.

No Excuses, Self.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

‎"Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory." ~ William Barclay

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 216:

Good evening, BlogLand. I've been grounded, so to speak, for the last couple of days. This hamstring thing has really, truly SUCKED.

I was going to write last night and fill you all in, but quite frankly, I was a pretty miserable human being, and wasn't sure I could form any remotely post-worthy sentences.

Sunday night, on the recommendation of some people in the know, I get in an ice bath. Let me just point one thing out. I have ice bathed many times before, and can tolerate them like a champ. However, an ice bath, in the middle of winter, when you are not all warmed up from running, is QUITE a different story. PLUS, when you submerge an angry muscle in ice like that, and your body tenses up (I call this the "holy shit, it's COLD" response), that angry muscle gets temporarily angrier, before it goes numb. THAT was intensely unpleasant. My whole left leg quivered and twitched involuntarily, so much so that all the way down to my big toe, and all the way up to my glute. I'm not going to lie, I sat in the ice bath, trying to eat hot chicken soup, with tears running down my face. The pain contributed to that, but I think a lot of it was the frustration of the situation. I was afraid that I had really seriously hurt myself. If I had really seriously hurt myself, then I'd be out of commission for a while, for recovery time. Then I wouldn't make my races... then, and then and then.... *insert crazy mind string of thoughts*.

So, I sat at home and ice bathed and cried, and after I warmed up again, did some bonding time with the foam roller... if I thought the ice bath was bad, the foam roller with the 7th layer of hell. When a muscle hurts to touch with your hand, there is nothing more hellatious than foam rolling it. The ouchiness literally took my breath away. More tears (are we seeing a trend?).
I followed that up with more ibuprofen and sleep.

Monday morning, it was still not good. I went to work.... I sat in an office chair all day.  By 'sat' I mean fidgeted constantly all day. You know what sitting in an office chair does? Presses on your hamstrings. I kid you not, BlogLand, I could feel a pulse in my hamstring. The other awesome part that started on Monday, was the general, all-over ache. My entire left leg. Basically, when that big hamstring muscle gets angry and seizes us, it pulls with it in a chain reaction, things all the way down into your calf, and up into your back. It aches. It pains. It is very uncomfortable.
Home Monday night... More rolling, more ibuprofen, more tears on the floor of my living room, as I try to force myself to roll it out just a little longer.

Today I woke up, feeling about 75-80% with the leg of death. There was a dull ache, and it didn't feel quite right, but it didn't feel super bad either. I took this as a victory. I got smart today, at work, though and ice packed on and off all day. WAHA. Take that, hamstring.

I am about to go foam roll... I am NOT looking forward to that, but it must be done. ("One must do the things one thinks one can not do!")

The GT has vetoed tomorrow's CrossFit WOD. Apparently, things like finding your 1RM at Clean & Jerks, and/or box jump courses, or wall balls, are not things that are conducive to healing hammies.  ARgh.

I feel sore, off kilter, and out of whack. I want to get back to my WOD's.

Tomorrow morning, however, will have a different mission. It's going to be the All Upper Body, All WOD Long time... There's nothing like putting my t-rex arms through some focused torture to make my appreciate my legs when I have them.

Stay Strong, BlogLand.... and do some squats for me!

Monday, February 20, 2012

"Failure will never overtake me, if my determination to succeed is strong enough."

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 214:

... Today was not an awesome day, BlogLand.

I woke up this morning, feeling pretty well rested, and generally good about things (I had a lovely night out, saw a lot of my close friends I hadn't seen in far too long, and was feeling pretty connected to the world, again.). I was even almost excited at the prospect of tackling the challenge of today's scheduled WOD:

Long Run Day. *insert suspenseful music*... 8 miles. EIGHT MILES. That would be a new distance PR. Woot! It's on the training program, as the next step up the latter... It was even going to be a relatively nice day for a run like that... somewhere between 39-41 (that's nice for VT in February!), mostly sunny and not windy. I was good to go.

Got dressed, filled the Camelbak (I find that I am happier if I have water - even just a little - for anything over 5-6 miles), and hit the road. I was off to run at one of my usual out and back spots, mostly because I have yet to scout any new longer loops in the area. I may just have to start sucking it up and running up big hills... it seems that it is impossible to run any great distance around here, without including at least one. Thus, I decided the (only slightly rolling hills) out and back would be good to try the new distance.

Body check: Well, I wasn't 100%, in the sense that my upper body was pretty sure it had been beaten with chains during yesterday's WOD. Thankfully, I don't run with my arms. Leg-wise, I was feeling pretty good... nothing more than the usual on and off (chronic!) tight hamstrings, etc. Nothing a good stretch and a run to get the blood moving wouldn't fix.

... or so I thought.

Geared up, I trotted out. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, angels were singing.... well, okay, slight exaggeration, but you get the idea. It was all good. Typically my first mile (as many people's) is a bit of a warm up and get into the rhythm of things, time. Running was making me feel the stiffness/sore in my back/shoulders a bit more (than just sitting down, for instance), but it was nothing out of the ordinary, or unmanageable. On I trotted.

Since I've stopped running with music, I use this time to really pay attention to my body. I concentrated on my breathing and instituting all the things I've learned along the way... (slooow deep breath... exhale through mouth...) I was still good. Mile two was better than (warm up) mile number one.  All was well in RunLand, and I was pretty sure I was going to beat the crap out of this 8 mile WOD. Challenge accepted.

Mile three passed pretty much the same way. I checked out the scenery, in the late afternoon, of the iced-over pond... enjoyed the slight squishiness of my feet on the semi-melty dirt road... pondered the implications of this unseasonably warm weather we were having.

After the mile 3 marker, I was passing into uncharted territory. I'd never run farther than 3 miles out on this road. It was getting interesting... the slight rolling hills became a little steeper... but hey, nothing this Spartan couldn't deal with. Just shorten the stride a little, keep breathing, and left-right-left, until I was at the top.

All was going according to plan. I was in that tired, because my body's been doing something, but still a lot of Go left in the tank. Checking my mileage, I'd almost hit the halfway mark, so decided that at the top of that next little incline, I'd stop, sip a bit of water, and run back (some downhill! Yay!). It seemed so blissfully simple.

I started up the little incline. Left-right-left, controlled breathing... and just as I made the last little energy push to the top...



I stopped at the top. There had been some sort of tight, weird pain behind my left knee.  Hmm. No biggie, I thought... I'll just walk for 30 seconds or so, stretch it out, and off I'll go. It still didn't feel 100%, but I figured it was nothing, and kept moving.

30 seconds were over, so I picked up an easy jog again. Hmm. The angels had stopped singing, and I'm pretty sure the birds were no longer singing. However, the sun was still out, and I was halfway to my new goal! My behind the knee was feeling a little tight, but "okay"... It'll stretch out, I continued to tell myself.

About a quarter mile later, I found myself walking again. It had gotten angry. It seemed better when I walked. HMM. No problem, I thought to myself. Maybe this wasn't going to be a new time PR, but I could just intersperse a few more walk breaks here and there, and it'd be fine. There wasn't really any pain (just a tightness) while I was walking.

So, I picked up a jog again. Didn't make it a quarter mile. Walked. Tried one more time, got three steps. Tried again. Three steps. Walk.

I kept walking, while I tried to figure out WTF to do next, and WTF was going on. I noticed that whenever my foot hit a rut in the road, or a slant/unevenness, I began to feel the tight ouch, too.
No angels singing, No birds chirping, and the sun was no longer shining.

I was going to have to walk the rest of the way to the car. I checked the mileage. My GPS had failed, for some reason. Maybe that was a weird sort of cosmic blessing, that I didn't have to know how long that walk was.... but I do know it was over 3 miles, and more like 3.5.

This had now reached immensely frustrating. I had a PLAN for today. My body clearly did not share that. I was *walking* (... and beginning to limp), when I should've been running. I do 4 miles on a usual Tuesday (literally.), this had not constituted a Long Run. I did not have TIME for this body-rebellion!

I pulled the sleeves on my layers down. The sun was beginning to set, and the exercise-body-warmth was beginning to dissipate.

I walk/limped and fumed. WHY was this happening? What was this pain, exactly. Here's the conclusion I began to reach... I have tight hamstrings, naturally. I'm aware of this, and trying to work on it. I also did a WOD yesterday that had a significant amount of deadlifts, as well as some clean & jerks - all things that would work those hamstrings. I had been feeling a little stiff, but nothing I had noted as particularly out of the ordinary (when you WOD 5-6x a week, in weird ways, you get used to a certain low-level stiffness happening pretty regularly, as you body tries to work it out). I think, though, that the combination of factors, plus a few little inclines, had pushed my hamstring's tolerance over the edge. It seized, emphatically, letting me know exactly what was up. Now think about it... when your hamstring contracts, what is it going to pull with it? Some sort of tendon/ligament that it's attached to, in the back of your knee - exactly where I was feeling pain. (I'm not a PT, or anything, thus I know nothing about this, and must speculate.)

I kept walking as briskly as possible, and retracted my hands into my sleeves. My body was no longer producing running-heat, and it was beginning to get chilly, walking by this water...

Interestingly, that would explain why it got harder and harder to run, but walking wasn't soo bad. Everytime I'd try to pick up a run, your hamstrings have to contract to do that. Bam. OUCH. Everytime you step on something uneven, and your leg muscles step into stabilize you... BAM. OUCH.

Great. The road stretched ever on and my car was not in sight.

This would be a great moment to throw out a little trivia: You know what's not warm? Your sweaty running clothes, that are really one-layer less than the day's temp calls for... because you were going to be RUNNING and producing heat. When you're walking, and the sun is officially setting... it begins to get very, very COLD.

I was wholly uncomfortable. I was freezing my ass off (despite putting up my oh-so-warm hood on the top, light running layer), my fingers were surely frozen, and my shoulders, back and my legs, (the right one had begun to follow suit, to a lesser degree) were hurting.

I just kept walking. What choice did I have? I wasn't at the car yet. I determined walking was probably the best plan for the legs, too... keep the blood flowing. Plus, there was really no one to call. And it felt stupid. I could walk the remaining 3 miles... how long could that take?

My car was the most welcome sight, as I reached it over 40 minutes after I'd started walking at mile 4. Those were the LONGest, most difficult 4 miles that I have done in a long time. I was shivering, trying to ignore the leg discomfort, and trying to talk myself out of the extreme frustration level I was reaching being unable to finish my WOD, just because my body inexplicably decided to revolt. I winced, as I tried to delicately lower myself into my car for the 15 minute drive home (with the heater cranked up).

Getting home, I struggled and groaned to get out of the car. My legs felt totally locked up. AWESOME. I hobbled around the house making dinner, and trying to psych myself up to what I knew was inevitable  -  a session with my foam roller. It had to help, right?

I ate dinner and eyed my foam roller. It seems so unassuming.

20 minutes later found me alone on the floor of my living room, rolling back and forth on the roller, on my hamstrings, hot tears of pain and frustration soaking my shirt. Awesome. This was downright PAIN... not just the usual stiff-ouchy. My hamstrings had really orchestrated a good one, this time. I had to do the rolling in short bursts, because it was taking my breath away with the pain. This was new. I am usually a tank for this sort of thing. What's a little pain?.... but this hurt. A LOT.

And, really, I'm not going to lie, BlogLand... after I did all the rolling that I could handle (including some shots to my back and shoulders, for good measure), I just starfished on the floor and had a little bit of a tear session. I hurt, no one could tell me why, it felt like pain that wasn't going to go away over night, I had JUST gotten my training schedule back on track and now it would be screwed again, my race (s) are approaching quickly and I didn't have time for this! and, oh, IT HURT. Like, 8-9 on the pain scale, every time I rolled over it. And I was alone. Sometimes you just want someone there when you're not 100% to hug you, tell you it's going to be alright, and provide a voice of reason/solution.

I rallied and got up (slowly) and managed to get my dishes done, anyway. I'm just one big ball of sore, and sitting in hard chairs is really not awesome. Dear Hamstrings, EFF OFF. HOW could you DO this to me!?! Is this payback for last week's Yoga????

And here's where you find me... I pondered if I should think about CF in the morning... but there are Thrusters on the WOD.... We will have to see if this fixes itself overnight. I'm thinking no, as right now, I'm uncomfortable sitting in a wooden chair, pressing on my hamstrings.

Damn it.

I guess the morale of tonight's story is just that, well... Not every day is going to be a PR. You're going to have a bad day. You may have a bad week, even. You may have a run you don't finish, or one you don't do as well as you usually do. But guess what, at least you were out there, right? As least your head's still in the game. The mind must be strong first... then the body will have no choice but to follow.

With that... I head off to hit the pillow and try to reset my brain. If my training schedule gets disrupted... so be it. There is always tomorrow, and the next day.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it ." ~ Maya Angelou

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 213:

It was CrossFit day, today, BlogLand! I had the best of intentions to go to the early (not-crowded) class... but then I was like WTF. It's Saturday, I'm sleeping in, because I CAN. 10:30 class it is.

The problem with 10:30 class in Mid-February, is people are still really enthusiastic about their New Year's get-in-shape resolutions. There was the usual influx of new people at the start of the year, and they seem to be really packing up the weekend classes. 10:30 class was packed to capacity (there's only so many bars/clips/kettlebells), that they had to turn people away (always sign up in advance!!).

I looked at the whiteboard that lists the day's WOD. My soul died, and my T-Rex arms twinged in anticipation of the torture to follow. Yes. I do this for fun, because I enjoy it. I don't know why people don't get that? LOL

Today was a CF named WOD: "Desforges"... which we decided to make into a partner WOD, for ease of equipment:
5 ROUNDS (for time):
12 Deadlifts
20 Pull ups
12 Clean and Jerks
20 Toes to Bar

... try not to die. LOL Also, to make this a partner WOD, One person would start deadlifts, while the other started pull ups. If you finished before your partner... BURPEES. Then Switch. Then do the same for the next two movements. Again, try not to die.

So, as you may have guessed, I needed to modify this a little. (The key to success is modifying to where you are challenged, but can still complete!) Here's how it went.

I was rolling with a 100# deadlift, because that's where my partner needed to be. I also wasn't sure about the 5 rounds of it, and I knew that the other exercises were going to kill me. SO... I was okay with a little lighter than capacity. However, in retrospect, this needed to be heavier, as I was still pulling this just fine at round 5.

As I moved onto pull-ups, I took a deep breath and had to STFU. I HATE these. I am so insanely bad at them that I get insanely frustrated that some days I can not just will myself into doing them. Lately, at Crossfit, I've been trying to do them with the support bands, because I feel that it challenges me more, than jumping pull ups (also, I noted I have the tendency to 'cheat' a jumping pull up, when I get tired). So, I got my giant band and pushed over my box to jump off of. I did not want to do this part. I started. So there is no misrepresentation here, I do these in sets of like... 3. That is how hard they are for me, even with the band. I also determined, in this first set, that 20 was going to be too many for me to handle competently. Adjust on the fly. I ended up doing both the non-lifting maneuvers at 15 reps each. Modify!!
I sweated. I gritted my teeth. I finished 15.

On to clean and jerks. Again, my partner could only handle lesser weights, so I ended up with a 45# set up. Decidedly not enough. Even though this is one of my weaker (overhead! argh!) movements, 45# is still way to light. Even after 5 rounds. Same situation as the deadlift - I was still easily getting through 12 at a time at the end of the last round.

Lastly, it was on to Toes to Bar. Yeah. Not there YET. The next downgrade from that is Knees to Elbows.... Still not quite there. SOoo... I do some sort of ungraceful modified version of that. Where I hang there, panting, arms screaming, trying not to die, and pull my knees up as far as I can (hopefully beyond the 90 degree angle, but not always). It's real not pretty. This is one of those exercises that I just suck it up and do my best.

So, 5 rounds of this was a bit of a bear. Only because the upper body movements (pull ups, toes to bar) are so exceedingly difficult. You know your WOD is bad when Deadlifts and Clean and Jerks are the "rest" phases. LOL. But, I got through this, motivated by the fact that my partner was pushing as well. She had the opposite struggle - the weights were hard for her, where she could do pull ups more easily than I.

I'm not gonna lie here, BlogLand... in the last round of pull ups, I wanted to quit, well before 15. I got about 5 in (a set of 2 and a set of 3), and was tired, my muscles were pretty spent, and I hated it. But then I had to remind myself that growth and progress only come when you're out of your comfort zone (which I was. Quite squarely.).  I pushed through the rest. The last five were in sets of 1... but I completed it, which was the most important thing to me. I didn't want to cheat and short my set. That doesn't help anyone.

I am happy to report that I finished in 30 minutes and change. YEAH. Rawr.

I can also report that today (I'm actually finishing this post the next day), I am sore as hell. LOL. I am actually not feeling the deadlifts, I don't think, but my Lats, from doing pull ups. Your Lats run a large portion of your back, and I am quite certain that mine are rebelling at the moment. I must figure out a way to stretch these bad boys. Hmm. Or Foam Roll. Oh god. That could be painful.

Anyway, today's Lesson: Even when it sucks, or you're bad at it, or you hate it.... (in the legendary words of the Spartan ladies).... EMBRACE THE SUCK. You only have limits if you institute them.

Sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sow a character, and you reap a destiny. George Dana Boardman

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 212:

212. I got stuck at that weight, not too long ago. Yep, that was the first thought that came to my mind, BlogLand... Which brings us nicely into tonight's topic: My Fat Ass, and the stir it causes when I clad it in spandex compression wear and trot it around town, gettin' sweaty on a Friday night.

... perhaps that was a little much, all at once. But I will get back to that. I think we shall begin from the beginning of the Thought-Train.

I have been away for a few days. Not really "away", but mentally checked out. My sleep habits are crashing again, life stress has been creeping in... stupid stuff. However, I felt a bit relieved when I saw this quote, yesterday:
"My 'worst' day is better than you on your best day."
And I don't mean that in a malicious way, or even directed at anyone other than Old Me. It just caused me to stop and pause. On my "Bad" days now (like the last few), I still stuck to my healthy eating, I still planned how to proactively get out of the slump, I still looked forward to my next CrossFit session. Even on a "bad" day, my head was still in the game. Old Me, on a good day, could not even fathom these things. Sometimes (just SOMEtimes), you need to cut yourself some slack. You're not going to be perfect. You're human. Despite your best efforts, you may not get to WOD 6x a week, 2x day. Things happen. Life happens. Look at the changes you've made. I eat very little processed carbs now - even on my bad days, I'm going a little extra crazy on the strawberries that are in my house..... Not chips or fries, or chocolate. That, in and of itself, is a victorious battle.
(“The most important of life's battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul.” David McKay)

Alright. Let's get to today. 

BlogLand, my name is Aja, and it's been three days since my last WOD. 

I didn't feel like running today. I wanted to sit on my couch. I knew that that was decidedly the wrong answer. I laced up my shoes and decided I'd get out there for a bit, even if I didn't do the scheduled 4.5 miles. Needed to get out there. I'm under 80 days before my first Spartan, and the CMC is not far after... My ass needs to get re-focused and in gear. 
However, I think we've entered the "WORK" phases of my Training. Maybe this is really the mental part. Because I'm in better shape, I find that progress notches are getting more difficult to achieve, as well as spaced farther and farther apart. As someone who excels with a lot of feedback and visible achievement, this is getting trickier. My weight loss, while still steadily down, has slowed a bit (working on that), too. Not that I am deterred from my goal(s), but motivation can be hard to maintain, when you don't have those proverbial "gold stars" to look forward to. And it's hard now. LOL. 
Not that it wasn't always hard, in different ways (running 1 minute was exceedingly hard at one point), but now the next things are legit challenging endeavors. For example. It is very possible that in the next six weeks, if I stick to my training schedule, as planned, I will be running long runs that are over 10 miles. I do it because it's hard, and I want to... but no one will ever tell you that 10 miles (no matter how much you enjoy running) is "easy". Or Pull Ups. I'm STILL working on pull ups. No gold star there yet. I'm pretty sure 50% of the world can't do them... but I want to. Must. Keep. Doing. Work. 
Morale of the Story: It's not always "fun". You may go through stretches where it's just a WOD, and the victory is having gotten up and done it. But in the end, it will all be worth it. I believe that, truly, even if sometimes I need that reminder.

Now, let's get on to the more interesting stuff. I went running tonight (shocking. I know.). Incidentally, I was carrying my hot pink mini-mace - a Valentine's present (nothing says lovin' like a self-defense weapon). It was also a refreshing change to be dressed in much thinner layers. It was a balmy 37 degrees here, when I hit the sidewalk. Ohhh yeaaah.... Heat Wave in Vermont!

I started out doing my usual route, but I was fueled with a little mental chaos, and my inner Spartan challenged me to push harder, to clear my mind. Deviating from/adding to my usual route, I starting pushing up a long, slow hill. I should add that I started this hill at mile 2.5 out of a 5 mile round trip. Surprisingly, I charged up that damn thing (go go Gadget, Emotion-Fueled Running!). I didn't stop, not once, for the whole long incline. Although I was breathing pretty hard when I hit the top, it still felt in control. Like, my lungs were on fire, *but* I didn't feel like I was going to die (ahh... the distinctions I make these days... lol). AND, I am happy to report that my legs felt pretty good. Yeehaw. 
Although, I stopped at the top of the hill to wait for the crosswalk. My first rookie mistake. Should've just kept running, somehow. It was a long light, and I had to stop and stand for a few minutes. I was glad for the break, after that ridiculous hill, but then a wave hit me and I assumed The Position. Exercises enthusiasts world-wide are familiar with this pose:
- Bent at waist
- Hands on knees, clutching, white-knuckled
- Head drooping low, between tight shoulders... 
... begin dry heaving (or really try not to). 

Yeah. Because I'm that awesome. There is nothing like standing at an intersection, waiting for a crosswalk light, trying not to throw up. OH yeah. My cool factor is exponential. It's a good thing that I don't so much care what people think, these days (more on that later). 
The crosswalk tweets, and with an "Uuuuughhh..." and a successful round of puke-prevention, I trotted across the street. It felt better to get moving again. Thankfully, this time, it was slightly down hill a little while for recovery's sake. 

I soldiered on at a pretty solid pace. As I hit the last half mile home, I experienced The Event. 

I was tired and sweaty (cut me some slack, I'd just run almost 5 miles, at a good pace and up a hill!), and jogging along. Black, ugly car, packed with 4-5 young idiots of both genders, drives by me. Proceeds to slow down, roll down windows and yell some bullshit about my "FAT ASS," among other commentary. I internally "grr" to myself, but keep running. Isolated incident, right? WRONG. I was the lucky recipient of no less than TWO MORE drive-by hecklings by these jerks. 

First, I have two things to say here. 1) My ass is no longer fat. In fact, it does not jiggle, nor does it look half bad in my compression wear. Big shout outs go to squats for that one. 2) WTF!? Don't you have better things to do?!

Here's the thing, though, BlogLand. Old Me was a big part of my life. I'd say say the better part of my pre-teen-adult life has been spent significantly overweight and varying points of out of shape. When you live that way or grow up that way, you get harassed. While completely ridiculous and unacceptable, to me, it seems to just come with the territory. No one in middle school wants the fat, non-athletic girl on their team in basketball. Yeah. I remember those things. I remember *exactly* what it feels like to line up in that cold school gym, on the red line, waiting while teams were picked, and resigning yourself to the fact that you were going to be last. Oh, and the pinny/jersey thing that everyone would get to identify their team - that wasn't going to fit. Yes, I totally wanted to wear it just around my neck. OH and yes, I will absolutely spend the entire class trying to figure out how to blend seamlessly into this wall, make myself disappear, and avoid the ball at all costs. Maybe, at least then, Their gaze and obvious knowledge of my incompetency, would pass by. 

Yeah. Those experiences don't ever leave you, BlogLand, but they don't need to define you. At least that's what I'm learning as an Adult in Fitness-Recovery. That may be who I *was* (wave at Old Me!), but it isn't who I am. I'm still not in great shape. There are parts of me that jiggle (as I'm sure you're aware after my previous, scantily clad post. LOL), but you know what? They're me. And this Honey Badger don't give a shit. 

Why? Because I know who I am. I know what's important to me. Quite frankly, the opinion of people I do not know, do not care to know, are not in my life, who I probably will never see again, who happen to be driving by the street I'm running on, DO. NOT. MATTER.  

Further, I was out running. You want to talk about my FAT ASS (yes, all in caps, because that's how it was yelled out the window to me), I'd like to see you keep up with my fat ass on today's run. Shall we do that hill again? Maybe we should discuss the WOD I'm in for tomorrow at CrossFit? Guess what? No matter how slow I go, I'm passing EVERYONE on the couch (or in this case, trollin' in their car). 

I'm not going to lie, as a chronic sufferer of FCS (Fat Chick Syndrome), the first time I heard that tonight, it hit me like a ton of bricks and mentally derailed me for 30 seconds or so. I was immediately 13 and in gym class all over again. Or 10 and on the bus. Or 16 and at lunch. Flashback to those feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy all over again. 

The difference is now, I am almost 30 and have learned a few things along the way. Coping techniques, reframing strategies, whatever you want to call them. Instead, I get angry. I get angry for all the kids that are getting bullied. I get angry for all the versions of me that stuck out that kind of harassment, waiting for better days. I get angry for every single person who has had to be the take the stupid bullshit from some insecure projecting bully, and not had the ability to stand up for themselves. I get angry because now, I can see it with clarity for what it is - absolutely unfair and completely unnecessary projection of someone else's baggage. 
That is a lot of Angry Aja. But there's a lot of crazy Irish/Scottish tempers in these genes... we're not exactly know for our temperance. 

Having said that, in my Old Age, I'm also learning how best to handle that. I know that the thing that those bullies want most is your reaction. So don't give it to them. Whether it's the drive-by heckler, or the girl who looks down her nose at you at the gym - don't give them the satisfaction of effecting your life in any way. USE that negative energy that they have pushed out at you, and turn it to your advantage. Tonight, I ran harder. I ran old, insecure, not-feeling-pretty, I-can't-do-this, me right into the ground. 

Why? Because I am chasing down my finish line, and the important people will be crossing it with me and/or cheering from the side of it. The hecklers, whether literal like tonight's car-troupe, or more metaphorical, like the friends who won't support you, or the family that sabotages you, will all be left behind in the worst way - to wonder what they, too, might have been. 

Incidentally, here are tonight's run stats:
Time: 51:34 min.
Distance: 4.74 mi. 
Average Pace: 10:53 min/mi.

I would like to extend a big THANK YOU, to the carful of idiots. You propelled this FAT ASS to my new personal PR of speed, over that distance. I'd yet to break 11 min/mi. for anything over 3.5 miles, and thanks to you and the impetus your infantile idiocy provided me, I finally cracked that. 

I'm off to bed to sleep soundly, knowing that in just a couple months, I'll be crossing a literal finish line - having jumped fire, battled gladiators and all of my own demons - side-by-side with the people that helped me dream it and reach it..... while you, poor car trolls, will be making your next loop around Barre.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"It is confidence in our bodies, minds and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures, new directions to grow in, and new lessons to learn - which is what life is all about." ~Oprah

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 209:

Happy Valentine's Day, BlogLand!

I did my best to remain blissfully neutral about this holiday, this year. As a hopeless romantic, it is a veritable tragedy to be alone on such a day. In recent history, it's been... not everything I wanted it to be. However, in keeping with the Life Transformation I've been working on for the last 209 days, I really wanted to try and turn that around this year. I didn't want to say that I was going to be "happy", but I wanted to appreciate what I did have a little more, and love the person that I am as an individual.

Confession time! I don't have a WOD to report on today. Nope. I went to get out of bed for a run this morning, and I'm pretty sure my quads were still seized from last night's inadvertent cycling adventures. I got up and stretched. And stretched some more... and decided that MAYBE a run wasn't going to be the best plan, if I ever wanted to walk again. More stretching. And breakfast. Om nom nom.

Then I went off to work. Being a Chocolate-Candy-Coated holiday, it was sugar and sweets and candy and cupcakes, etc. EVERYWHERE. Literally. There was a cupcake with M&M's on it ON my desk when I got there, and shortly thereafter, my boss came around with goodie bags for everyone filled with Reese's cups, beautiful strawberry cupcakes with pink swirl frosting, and twizzlers. OH my. Then someone else brought in brownies. Some Andes mints.... and the list goes on. Seriously, it reached ridiculous proportions.

.... I tried. I ate one bite of the brownie. I licked the frosting off the cupcakes (the frosting is the best part). I gave away some of my candy.

I think I still ate more sugar/general crap today than I have in the last 6 months put together. Subsequently, I feel like BLEEEH. (imagine that). I recognize this as Old Me's previous state of being... but Me 2.0 is like, EWWww. Seriously. Where is my lean protein and veg.
Don't get me wrong, BlogLand... I still eat that stuff, here and there. I love to bake. I adore chocolate.... but not in those kind of proportions. And what I had today, really, was nothing like the amounts I could've put back at various times.
Now, I feel sick. Ew.

HOWEVER. Today is all about Love. SO... with that reflection, I would like to tip my hat to the ladies over at the Spartan Chicks FB Group. The idea today was to post current body shots of oneself in their spandex - LOVE the skin you're in.  Basically, no matter what size, shape or place in your journey you are at, how alone you are at Valentine's day, or whatever the case may be.... take a good look at yourself and realize that you're some kind of awesome, and perfectly imperfect. Really take stock of the hard work you've put in and SEE the changes (not just gloss them over by focusing on the "trouble spots").

I'm not going to lie, BlogLand. I find what I'm about to do a little more than terrifying. I'm going to post my pictures for you. But, I figure hey... I can't just preach to you how you should do it, without taking my own advice. *gulp*

Valentine's Day, Self Appreciation, 02/14/2012

 So.... There you have it. That feels horribly exposing, probably because I've spent 90% of my life being told (by society, etc.) that I wasn't good enough. I was too fat, too tall, not pretty, SOMEthing. 
I've spent the better part of the last year trying to retrain myself into not being scared of walking into a gym, taking up crossfit, or entering a race, for fear of being judged, looked down upon,or being the slow kid dragging everyone down.
... but I have done all those things. Because I've done all those things, I've lost over 80#, am refinding myself and my love of life, and learning to appreciate my new, *strong* body. 
I'll never be a tiny, delicate person... but you know what? Crossfitting with some cool people has taught me to appreciate my crazy tree trunk thighs - they make squatting easier. My giant hands have better grip on the weight bars. My height makes those box jumps a little easier. 
It's all in how you look at it, BlogLand. I still see a LOT of my journey still left to go.... but I am starting to at least be able to appreciate how far I have come. Nope, there's no abs in those pictures above... YET. But you know what? Those guns up there are learning to do a pull up. (Have you bought your tickets to this Gun Show? BAM! hahaha)

This year, I dedicate my Valentine's Day to my body and where it's going to take me. As gifts I'll fuel you with healthy food (mostly), and for our next date, I heard that CrossFit was having an excellent class.... Body, you and me are in it together for the long haul. I suppose it's time we learn to accept our differences. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." ~Albert Einstein

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 208:

Since my quads have seized up completely (slight exaggeration), I thought I'd sit down and write tonight's post, BlogLand.

It all started with a well-meaning intention... but as they say, "The best laid plans of mice and men..."
So, I was working an early shift at work today, allowing me to get out early, and make it to the gym to do my run on the treadmill... which would be a nice change and a great luxury to not have to run outside in the COLD. I packed my gear in the morning, and away I went.

Getting to the gym tonight, I geared up and walked into the equipment room that has the bikes and treadmills. As I set foot onto one treadmill, I was informed by one of the two ladies in the room that I couldn't use the treadmill... apparently there was a 'group ride' scheduled for that time slot (last minute change), and the treadmills were too noisy..... but she told me I was more than welcome to join, if I wanted.

We eyed each other skeptically. I'm sure she thought I didn't look like a "cyclist" ... and I was trying to decide what kind of new hell this was going to be. Because OH YES, I was doing it. Why? Mostly because I needed to get my WOD in, and she looked at me like I couldn't. Had to prove someone wrong.

She explained to me it was an "endurance ride" today... The three of us would do four segments of 5K (3.1 miles) hard. In between those, you were allowed to rest (but keep peddling) at a slower speed/less resistance for 5 minutes. The idea was also to maintain or improve upon your 5K time, each round.

How bad could it be?

Plus, it was behind a closed door, and there were only three of us... if I died, the shame would be minimal. haha

I mounted the crazy high-tech bike.... seriously... what happened to streamers, baskets and ones you backpeddled to stop??

Off we went... My ride looked something like this (I can't remember exacts, but):

Interval 1: 10 min 5K
Interval 2: 5 min "rest"
Interval 3: 9 min 5K
Interval 4: 5 min "rest"
Interval 5: 8:30 min 5K
Interval 6: 5 min "rest"
Interval 7: 8:10 min 5K

It was an odd workout.... I didn't find myself breathing all that hard, but my legs were feeling the effort... particularly the last 1/2 mile. Holy Moly. That was the longest half mile EVER. My legs were burning. My quads, in particular, felt like they were circulating acid. But, I was not going to be defeated by a BIKE, when I hadn't died by Kettlebell, tire, med ball, burpee, etc.

At the end of that (approx 50 minutes), I got off the bike. My ass was pretty numb, but my legs still felt okay. I guess all that running has certainly helped in more areas than I thought!

However... I find myself at home, absentmindedly massaging the (quad?) muscle just above and to the inside of my knee. OW. That muscle is tired. And is working on sore, pretty quickly.

While this was not the WOD I planned for today... I'm considering this one a success. I tried something I've never done before (even though I was a little apprehensive to do it....), and I did it to the best of my abilities. Which, all things considered, was pretty good. I had some decent times, rode with a respectable resistance, and felt like I could still walk when I got off the bike. VICTORY!

Now, BlogLand... not to worry. I don't forsee myself doing that too often. I wasn't so much a fan of the bike. It was nice to mix it up... but I'm not sure that needs to be a regular thing. But hey, never say never.

In the meantime, thank you, Cosmos, for dropping me into a random cycling class, to further challenge my boundaries, limitations and abilities. I never thought I would be caught DEAD in a situation like that...

With that... I sleep. Valentine's morning run tomorrow. Think I might drive a town over just to see the decorations as I run....

... that is, if my quads are still functional in the morning... HMM.

Monday, February 13, 2012

‎"When you get right down to the root of the meaning of the word "succeed," you find that it simply means to follow through." ~F. W. Nichol~

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 205-207:
(Also known as The Weekend of Awesomeness)

WHEW. As much as I hate Sunday nights, Blogland, as they
indicate Monday is shortly arriving, this has been a full weekend. Day 205 (Friday) was a break of sorts... it involved me going to work really early (this is fascinating stuff, I know), then getting right in my car after work (5pm) and making a trek to Portsmouth, NH (2:45 hrs) to meet up with one of my Spartan Chicks (Hi Peyton!). I won't bore you with the phone/GPS malfunction (... just because it's plugged in, apparently doesn't mean it's charging...) and the lesson I learned about how reliant we are on our mobile devices, but nonetheless, I arrived safe and sound, if a little later than anticipated.

Me and Ellie, part of the welcome committee!
First, I would like to take this moment to recognize how awesome Spartan People are proving to be. Seriously. Yes, I drove to a total strangers house for a sleepover, to head to a race. No, Mom, she was not a serial killer. In fact, I was welcomed with a great dinner, fabulous conversation, an adorable furry critter (seriously. I'm stealing your dog), and more than open arms. More importantly, we talked about our "weird" hobbies - running in New England cold, learning to deal with Spandex, and race-entry anxiety - without any judgement. That, I'm learning, is hard to come by... it seems that there is a select few people that will be supportive if your hobbies go off the traditional grid. To meet people that not only respect, but advocate, your interests is invaluable. This is the second instance of this untold Spartan Hospitality... I'm sensing a trend here. :-)

My arrival was also greeted with a gift, complete with a big pink bow:
Yep, that's a BIG TIRE... with a bow. In fact, I later worked out that that is a 32# SUV tire, to be specific. Who doesn't love presents like that? Except when they get you in trouble.... More on that later.

Currently, I'm pondering names for this new workout buddy. All suggestions will be considered. :-)

After a long drive, and some great conversation, I hit the pillow hard and the next thing I knew, it was RACE MORNING!! EE!! (I don't care how big or little the races are, whenever competition is involved, I am like a kid at Christmas.)

Fueled on some Oatmeal (YUM. I think it's been 6 months since I've had oatmeal. lol) and excellent coffee, we met the rest of our race entourage and headed down to Salisbury, MA. Our destination: The Frosty Knuckle 5K.

Contrary to what the name implied, it was an unseasonably warm 38 degrees (seriously, this northern dweller had *no* idea what sort of layering to do for that. Did I need shorts?! I wondered.), and a perfectly lovely day. The race description promised a flat, scenic course, with "part" on the beach. WOO! It's been a couple solid months of training since my last 5K, and I've made some big leaps since then, so I was thinking this would be an awesome new PR. FLAT course!!! We just don't have that in VT.
.... little did I know.... *insert scary music*...

We gathered at the starting area, staring out at the beach and ocean. That's my favorite thing ever. I love the ocean so much... it was a weirdly calming way to get ready for a race. The announcer gave us the rundown and said something about "half" the race being on the beach. I raised an eyebrow ("half" is much different than "part"), but figured I'd work it out when I got there.

We got the go, and took off at a steady pace down some totally flat roads around Salisbury (seriously. I thought I was running on the "flat" in VT... not so. lol.). I felt awesome. The temperature was comfortable, there was no icy wind in my face, I was running with some awesome people (shout out to Amy & Brian!) and was ready to kick the ass of this Frosty Knuckle. After a half mile or so, my hostess, Peyton began pulling away. She's definitely significantly faster paced than I, but I found this working to my advantage; while I could not keep up with her, I found myself running just a smidge faster than was "comfortable" to keep her in my sights. I highly recommend finding a running buddy that might be slightly faster. This experience showed me that maybe I could be a little faster than I think, if I push the comfort zone... HMM. Things to ponder.

Anyway, we ran down the road and I surveyed the people around me, as the pack thinned out. There were all kinds: The crowd in the joke costumes, who dropped back quickly, the 60+ year old Asian woman in her baseball capped that went by me like I was standing still, the high school girl with her bouncy pony tail and iPod... it was an interesting cross section.

I ran. I started passing people. I internally thanked my GT for pushing me on distances, and the mountains of VT for crafting some good lungs and legs. Rawr. I was in this one to win it.

... then we turned the corner to The Beach.

Through a sandy parking lot we ran, then a flagger directed us to the beach. My legs were pumping at a good pace across the black top, and as I put one foot, then two, into the sand, I felt ALL momentum leave my body. I heard myself grunt unhappily outloud. I pressed on. I haven't been doing heavy squats for nothing. Surely these legs were good for something?

My plan became simple: surely the sand must be more compacted down near the water's edge. I struggled, but worked my way down. It may have been mildly better. A wave came in and chased me back up the beach a bit. Let's take this moment to talk about the beach, why don't we. The Beach (of Death) was not only soft and sandy (made worse by the churning up of the racers before you), but on a slight downward incline to the water (meaning you were running across the incline. Not easy.), and complemented by small rolling sand hills.

I was determined to keep running.

My feet slid into the sand, sideways down the incline, and generally found no traction. It was like running through jello. I trotted back down toward the water. Not much better. Back up toward the softer beach. I was on sheer mental Will at this point. I could feel the energy just sapping from my body. Running in sand is a new kind of evil.

I ran back down to the water's edge, and something very freeing happened. A beautiful big wave came in, and I turned my head for a moment to admire it.... completely forgetting that I was running on the wet sand at the edge of the water. I got soaked half way up my calves with freezing salt water. I heard "ohh....'s" from the other racers, who'd all been avoiding it. But really, what did I care? The footing was marginally firmer, wet shoes for a couple miles couldn't be any more uncomfortable than sand-filled shoes, and really... I was pretty sure wet feet were the least of my troubles at that point.
I would like to note that I was running in my Inov-8's, which was an excellent choice. They were super light, and didn't hold the water at all. No wet-feet friction blisters for me!

I trotted on a little more. I felt my triumphant mile time running right out of my hands. I admit... I walked for 20 seconds. Then ran some more. Struggled, fought, cursed every grain of sand... and walked for 20 more seconds. Back to running... then down to a 20 second walk.

It may have been the single most frustrating run I have ever experienced, to date.

Imagine this: You know you're trained up for this, your legs feel great and strong, you're halfway through to your best time yet, and then you just can't move forward, no matter how much you fight. Right, Left, Right, Left.... you've only moved forward inches, it seems.

NOT FUN. It was the single longest 1.75 miles of my LIFE. I was angry. I reminded myself it was out of my control, and just continued to fight on, to the best of my abilities. It didn't feel like enough at several points. Every time I walked, I felt disappointed. By hey... I don't train in sand, and that shit is HARD to run in.

As we got to the end of the beach, I saw it. The Finish Line. I needed to get through a little more sand, then I had a SUPER short sprint on some pavement, then my torture would be done. I dig deep. There was a woman in a tutu in front of me, and I was DETERMINED I was not to be beat by a tutu.

I beasted through the sand... my feet were sinking, I was sliding... but I just keep trying to move my legs faster. I hit the pavement, and without all the crazy resistance, my legs had no idea what to do. Coordination and functioning were a little out the window for a second or two... but then, I focused. Spotted the clock... AND tutu lady.

Sprint to the end was on. It was a short one, but my legs were SO happy to not be in the sand, that they rewarded me. Tutu lady prematurely threw her hands up in triumph, as she neared the line, thinking she had zipped past me..... little did she know, I had crept up on her. She almost punched me in the eye. But then again, I am told that as I ducked her flung out arm, I almost elbowed her in the gut.... But I can neither confirm nor deny that. I made it over that finish line, and felt the rush of accomplishment (and I beat you, tutu lady!). WOO!!! FINISH LINE!!

I confess, at this moment, I did assume the hands-on-knees, try not to die, reassure yourself that you don't have to throw up, posture. Running 1.75 miles on the beach, trying to keep the pace up, really had ruined my life. However, all was not lost. Race stats were:

Distance: 3.5 miles (1.75 down the beach)
Time: 42:03
Ave. Pace: 12:01

By FAR not my fastest time... but then again, I've never run down a beach before. SO... I'm considering this a success. Pushed myself in a new way, didn't die, and crossed the finish line at a pace that a year ago I would've only dreamed of (that I now consider horrifically slow).

Dear Frosty Knuckle 5K... Flat course my ass. You were a beast of a short course. OW.

I'll spare you the details of the post-race recovery, but like every good recovering racer, it involved coconut water, beer, chili and beach pizza. And coffee. OM nom nom.

This race just went to prove something for me, that really hit home as I was frustrated and angry trying to run on the beach. Most of this training and competing is a mental exercise. I had only my own limitations to beat. So what if my legs were burning? The answer, always push harder. Who knows what you're capable of, unless you try?

L-R: Amy, Peyton and I,
Beach-Hell survivors with free t-shirt swag!
(It has a snowflake in beer bottles, on the back. lol!)

Home to VT greeted me with a cold snap... Today (Sunday) was supposed to be my Long Run day at 7.5 miles. We had a windchill advisory for double-digit negative temps, advising everyone to stay inside. Running was probably not the best choice.

HOWEVER. I had a new 32# tire, and a real creative GT on the line. New WOD for the day, on the fly. And I quote:
GT: 50 Overhead Squats then keep it overhead until I text you. 
Me: LOL... with my tire?!
GT: Yep
Me: Okay... should I text you when I'm done my 50 squats then?
GT: Nope, just hang out with it over head until I text. Might want to do it in front of tv....3.2.1. GO.

Seemed simple enough. I pressed the tire up overhead, compensating for the wobble (Lesson of the day: Hold tire evenly to prevent forward-back wobble), and confronted my arch nemesis: the Overhead Squat. You see, those of us with arms of the t-rex variety, struggle with this a little more than the norm.... but hey, it was only 32#, right? No problemo.

I finished my squats with only a slight pause at halfway to readjust my grip on the tire. So far, so good. I hadn't dropped it on my head, and I was still feeling good to go. I moved onto the second part of the WOD.... keep it over head. Again, seemed simple enough. I stood there with my tire-halo looming. I paced around my living room, trying to distract myself from the burning in my shoulders. I thought of my CrossFit training... "engage your shoulders". They were on fire, in response.
I breathed and paced. Ow, ow OW.
WTF was the GT with the stop-text??

I briefly thought it might be a good idea to sit on the couch with a tire over head. Not so. You're much more unstable, causing more muscle-compensations for the non-balanced tire.

I stood back up and caught my reflection in my giant picture windows... Yep, I was just chilling, holding a tire over my head. I laughed, and my back muscles began to pump acid. Eh, it was all good. I could handle it.

Another few minutes went by... I wondered if the GT had forgotten me. I had to bring the tire down to my chest, for a wee break. I decided letting it touch the floor wasn't acceptable, but my t-rex arms had to have a rest.

Completed a good-form push press and it was back up. I stood.

It was at this point that I had an interesting thought. My arms and back were burning like hell and beginning to quiver... at which point I realized that I have lost almost the equivalent of 3 of these tires. I am not longer carrying that weight around. Now I hold it over my head for "fun"... really gives a new meaning to having a "spare tire..."

I had to lower my tire again for a second. This was starting to get to the mental-push stage.

Push press to overhead tire hold... stand. burn. quiver. Grit teeth.


I have never been so excited to hear a text message come in, in all my life.

After reviewing the WOD with the GT, I laughed out loud (for realz... not just an LOL), when I read this part:

GT: I briefly thought maybe I shouldn't let it go on for 22 minutes...

LOL. People wonder why I've made so many great strides in the last year or so... it's from things like this. Just people believing that you can, or challenging you to see just how far you can go. He could've stopped me at 10 minutes.... but, how much of a challenge would that have been? What would I have learned? It was in the last 2 minutes that I found my "fight"... as I thought about my weight loss journey, and how much harder THAT was, than the burning in my shoulders. Would I have gotten to that place of reflection, if 10 minutes had been "good enough"?

With that, I think I'll take my leave. My brain is tired, my upper body is beginning to feel the fun it had with today's tire, and tomorrow's back to the grind...

Whew. What a weekend. Can we do that again??

Friday, February 10, 2012

"It's not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you." ~Zig Ziglar

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 204:

"My candle burns at both ends It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends - It gives a lovely light."
 ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

This is my quote of the moment, BlogLand. I have been running around crazy time... my sleep tracker says I'm averaging 6 hours of sleep a night (which means some nights, I'm sleeping less than that), and my brain has been going a million miles an hour. Yesterday, I admit, I came home, sat down for a couple minutes.... and the next thing I knew, I woke up several hours later. Yeah, no WOD that day. But I'm okay with that. Sometimes, you need to let your body dictate what's up. I figure that I worked out 5 of the last 7 days, so I'm still pretty on track. 

Today, however, I was determined. *HAD* to get up and run before work, as there would be no time after, and tomorrow there's no WOD, as I'm leaving work and driving to NH to meet up with one of my fellow Spartan Chicks - as we're RACING on Saturday!!

SO. This morning, I struggled (mornings. ugh.), but managed to drag myself out of bed with enough time for a run. In the interest of time, and the boredom I'm experiencing with my usual loop, I decided to do something a little different: Go back to where I started running. The place where it all began is a bike path a little ways away from my house... only difference this time, is I planned to run the extra mile TO the path, which happens to be up two pretty sizeable, long hills. I figured if I couldn't run as *long*, I should at least make it *hard*. 

Off I went. Nothing like 17 degrees to get you moving in the morning! I approached the first hill - that I used to walk as a warmup - and put my head down and KILLED that hill. No change in my pace, just kept moving. At the top of that (shorter) one, my run flattens out a bit, allowing me to catch my breath... which, surprisingly, was not that bad. I still felt pretty good. WOO. I was feeling kind of awesome, as I thought back on how 6 months ago, I puffed walking up that hill, and I had just RUN up it. 

Keep your goals in mind, and keep chasing them, folks... you WILL get there. 

Next, I navigated a little snowy/icy interlude and found myself at the bottom of The Hill. It's a LONG, 45+ degree incline. I started up... about halfway,  it got "hard". Well... welcome to Training, I told myself. If it was easy, everyone would do it. As I felt myself flagging a bit, a car started coming up the hill... I decided I couldn't look like a defeated runner, so I picked up the pace and raced the car in my head (whatever gets you there, right?). Next thing I know, I was at the top of the hill. .... AND STILL ABLE TO RUN. I didn't get to the top and have to do the hands-to-knees, or stop, or walk (I wanted to, a bit... but...)... I just kept running. This is a HUGE victory for me. I was proud of myself. 

After that, I traversed the icy/snowy/uneven terrain of the path. I will be all set when winter is over, let me just say. *sigh*
It killed my mile times, as there were times I had to trot along carefully, on the edge of the snowy path. However, stats were:
Time: 34:39 min
Distance: 2.97 mi
Ave Pace: 11:40 min/mi 

I was happy with that run today. The hills really helped me feel better about things. I was having a little Spartan anxiety, of late... Mostly because I realized that my first Spartan Race is 87 days away...*gulp*... however, the words I'm going to keep in mind, from a very wise Guru of mine:

"In 87 days you can move mountains. A 5 mile Spartan Race doesn't stand a chance."

So... tomorrow I'll be MIA, BlogLand (try not to miss me). Saturday, however, is my Frosty Knuckle 5K+ in Salisbury, MA. I'm soooo stoked. Not only am I anxious to see how well I can do on a flat course, now that I'm down a few more pounds, have been running more, am stronger, etc..... BUT, I also get to meet some more Spartan Ladies (Hi Peyton! Hi Daron!).
Not to worry. I will photo-document. :-)

Wish me some fast feet!!! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

‎"Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict." ~William E. Channing

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 202:

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood today, BlogLand. Although, I was forced to sit at my desk and look at the sunshine all day. The window was open, though... Seriously, February in Vermont and the window was open. Just try and tell me there's no such thing as Global Warming...!

Anyway, I was scheduled for a run when I got home tonight, but ended up late at work, "quick" errand turned into a "long" errand, and the next thing I knew it was 8:45pm before I got home. Not going running THAT late (Plus, as many of you may have seen on FB... My mother *forbade* me from going out running right then, as it wasn't 'safe', etc. ... Yes, I'm almost 30. Yes. I did not go running. Mom said NO.... and I'm old enough to know she's probably right.).

SO... was trying to think of something different that I could do, inside my house. I've been feeling really stiff and tight the last few days, particularly in my (chronic!) hamstrings, so my brain seemed to think it was a good day to try a little Yoga. How hard can that be? a nice 90 minute stretching session, right?

I pop in the P90X: Yoga DVD... Yeah, I'm a beast. None of this starter Yoga... Taking it right up to the X level. OH yeah.

The first 10-15 minutes were alright... felt like some nice stretches, got my blood moving a bit... something about a sun salutation, some downward dog (my hamstrings were NOT a fan of that).... then P90X guy apparently seemed to think we were good to go, and we started into "runner's poses" and "warrior".... I was still feeling pretty badass... I'm like, OH yeah, Yoga... I got you. I squat all the time, my tree truck legs can handle this warrior thing... Oh yeah.... breaaaathe... no problemo.

... then the sequences began to get longer... each restart of the set (is the vinyasa the part where I collapse to the floor only to be told to push up and start again?!) became an effort....

So, I reminded myself of the really "hard" things I do in my other workouts... Burpees, heavy squats... surely this was no where NEAR that level of difficulty. Stop sweating, I told myself, and power through.

... "open your chest and reach straight up to the sky"... p90x guy says.... I feel the sweat running into my eyeball. It burns. I picture what this pose should look like in my head, and I fight to get my hand no where NEAR vertical. Dear Shoulder... LET Go. I reeaaach.... "10 more seconds" he says... I somehow survive that, only to be told that we're going to get back down to the floor, and then back up again for the other side... ("down to plank, push up, downward dog.....")

I tried to embrace the tearing sound that I was sure I could hear in every micro-muscle fiber. Tiny micro-muscle screaming. I'm sure of it.

45 minutes in. Halfway.

I'm not going to lie, BlogLand... It was here that I pondered if I could stop. Surely 45 minutes of Yoga was sufficient? I was not enjoying this. Then a feeling of pre-emptive guilt washed over me. QUIT? I was going to QUIT?... was the yoga going to kill me? probably not. Could I push through and just do my best? Yes. Yes I could. STFU.

Thankfully, I had given myself that pep talk right in the nick of time. Shortly after that, we did some sort of weird twisty, human pretzel thing, which involved a warrior pose, then a twisted torso, then me reaching between my legs somehow and managing to clasp my hands................

........ or..... NOT.

I swear, my fingers almost touched. Hahaha... I actually did have to pause at this moment to laugh, as I realized how ridiculous I must look to the cars going by (I have giant living room windows).  I was sweating like I'd just run a marathon, my face was FAR from serene, and I think every muscle in my body was quivering as I fought to find and maintain my balance.
Things were tearing, I know they were. haha

And so I fought the Yoga battle.... we moved onto Balance Poses. This is decidedly a weak area for me... while I have a lot of strength, I have also had a lot of ankle injuries in my life - standing on one foot is a big challenge for me, especially when I'm tired. The concept of standing on one foot, sticking the other one straight out and grabbing it was... not happening. But I wobbled, fell over, and persevered.
I AM happy to report that I can almost successfully do a crane, though (not for a whole minute, but hey.). Rawr. That made me feel strong again, for 30 seconds or so, in an otherwise generally incompetent hour and a half.

As we wound to a close, P90X guy says we're going to get into a few of the special extras.... which turned out to be some extra yoga-ab stuff... EFF you, P90X guy. I was useless through most of those (but tried). Just 10 more seconds.... Do you have any idea how long that is, sometimes?! OH my.

Although, I did find a blissful moment at the end... Corpse Pose.

Yep. Lay flat on your back, non-moving, and relaxing your whole body (Crossfitters may recognize this as the Crossfit, Starfish Death Pose). I MASTERED that bad boy.

However, I will admit... My muscled are stretched right out. My hams and quads, that are usually super tight and stiff actually feel somewhat mobile. I heard more cracks and pops during this yoga than is probably humanly healthy.... But I feel pretty good. Oddly relaxed. WEIRD.

By relaxed, I may mean completely exhausted.... but, hey, whatever gets you to sleep, right?

The Net Result: 90 minutes of Yoga sucked tremendously. I'm bad at it. REAL BAD. (Aja does not do Human Pretzel well.)
... but my body feels better.

Will I do it again? Yeah... maybe once a week? Try and squeeze a bit of yoga in once a week to stretch things out a bit, seems reasonable...

... but I am MUCH more looking forward to the new lifting program that the GT says he's got in store for me.... WAHAHA. I lift heavy things, and put them down again...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A winning effort begins with preparation. ~ Joe Gibbs

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 201:

I woke up stiff and sore today, BlogLand. Between Saturday's CrossFit squats, and yesterday's Long (for me) Run, my legs and hips were pretty done. I got up this morning to go to CrossFit (Triumph! I got up!), felt like my body was telling me something, and decided I needed to evaluate the situation. I checked out the CF WOD for today. It involved Heavy Over Head SQUATS. Like, today we were supposed to find our one rep max, and do a WOD involving a lot of squatting.

I swear I felt my hamstring quiver in fear.

It was one of those conflicting moments. I *wanted* to go to CF... but I heard my body saying something else. Despite whatever schedule you may have, sometimes you just need to pay attention to how you feel. So, today, I elected to mix it up a bit. After a bit of debate, I settled on...

P90X: Plyometrics.

Yeah. I willingly put myself through that. haha...

Basically, Plyo is something I know I should add in a little more frequently, but am not a big fan of (who is, really?), so I don't. Today seemed like a good day... it would get my muscles moving, pump the blood around, get the heart rate up, etc. It was going to be way less painful than going for a run, or going to heavy, weighted squat CrossFit.

... or was it? It was Plyo.

So, I popped in the DVD with much fear. You see, the last time I attempted these DVD's I was about 60#'s heavier, was not anywhere near as cardiovascularly fit, etc... it was a BAD time. I was dying, through most of it. And unable to complete most of it. Old Me put those DVD's at the bottom of the stack.
However, today, I was pleasantly surprised. I was *working*... and really glad I hadn't eaten a big breakfast... but I was keeping up with the video. KEEPING UP. Not missing reps. Not having to stop.

Little Victories, baby.

I did take a couple of the exercises down to the lower impact version, as I do sometimes have some issues with my knee and it's lack of squishy cartilage. But I committed to all the exercises and jumped, leaped, exploded and everything.

I did die inside when Jump Squats came up on the screen. By "die inside" I mean, I swear to you, I heard my quads, hams, and adductors cry out in anticipatory pain. Audibly. I swear it.
But I squatted. I pushed through it. (You can do anything for 30 seconds, right?) That is not to say I didn't wince and groan and ponder if I COULD die from the burning sensation in my legs... but....

I admit,  it did feel good to stretch it out and warm up those muscles a bit. I still hate Plyo.

BUT, victories for today: I did the whole plyo DVD without missing reps or stopping. I got up at the "early" time. I stayed on the WOD schedule, without missing a day.

YAY. One Day at a Time.

And now, I'm tired. Tomorrow, I need to bust out a cool 4 miles before work... ahhh yeaaahh....