Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back in the Saddle again

I headed out to Silver Comet this weekend eager to try out my new hydration pack on a long bike ride, and good thing I had it!  It turned out to be mid-90s for most of my ride.  The trees along the trail helped to keep it shady, but in the sun, it was hot, hot, hot.
My Chariot.
My hydration pack came in super handy!  I ended up riding two 15 mile loops, and with 2L of water in my pack and gatorade in my bottles, I never had to stop to refill.  The water actually stayed pretty cool in the pack, so that helped keep me from melting.  I had a great ride and enjoyed the day.  Sadly, the batteries in my bike computer died about 1/2 mile in, but since I have used the trail for many a long run, I knew enough landmarks along the way to judge my mileage.

My new hydration pack is great!  It fit nice and snug without chaffing or sliding around.  In fact, I never noticed it during my ride, which is the way gear should be.  I was able to fit my camera, cell phone, keys, and 4 different types of fuel (I need options) in the pocket with plenty of space to spare! Overall it served its purpose.  I came with tired legs and clear pee.

How was everyone's weekend?  Any excitement to report?
Hope you had a good weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fuelin' up Friday: New Gear and reader question!

This weekend I'm planning a long bike ride and I can think of no better way to try out my new gear!  Now, no one guessed what it was (or really no one tried to guess), but I hinted it had to do with my favorite topic: Fuel!  As I mentioned last week, CSN stores gave me the opportunity to review a piece of gear for them and its a new High Sierra Soaker 70 hydration pack!
Just think of all the fuel it can hold! 
I've used a fuel belt in the past for my long runs, but I've been dreaming of getting a hydration pack for long bike rides, hikes, and any runs with my furry roommate.  I am super excited about this one because not only can it hold 2L of water (I drink a lot of water), but there is a pouch for my snacks (and also roommates snacks when she comes along)!  No more fuel in the sports bra!  Ok, who am I kidding?! There will always be fuel in the sports bra, but at least I have a new place to stash my keys, camera, and cellphone.  The pack also has a mesh flap to hold your bike helmet when not in use.
So handy!
That's right, no more walking around like a dork with my helmet on when I ride my bike places! Stay tuned for a full review on Monday!

And now a quick fuel question from AJH over at Age Groups Rock. She too has been dealing with injury rehab, so stop on over, give her a shout out, and enjoy her lovely photos of VT!
Q: Do you use Gu? I have been trying to figure out how not to make that messy. I am a klutz and have trouble opening it on the run and it is sticky too. 
 A: I don't use Gu brand because I have trouble with the consistency (too thick), but I do use powergels (a little more liquidy i.e. messy). I too am a huge klutz and usually end-up with gel on my hands, face, shirt, and, upon occasion, pig-tails.  I've kind of accepted that messy is just part of my fueling process (sorry, that's not much help).  I've had trouble opening them as well esp when they have been riding around in my sweaty sports bra for an hour. I've found that nicking the side of the 'neck' part of the package just a little (not enough for the gel to actually come out or you will have a HUGE mess in your sportsbra after a few miles, trust me!) makes them worlds easier to open come fuelin' time.  It give you just enough leverage to rip it open. Hope that helps, and thanks for the questions!

Good luck on your weekend adventures!
Anyone have big plans this weekend?
Happy weekend to all!

Monday, September 13, 2010

and it's good for 6!

This weekend I decided to try out the ol' IT band with a little longer run.  Up till this point in my IT band recovery I hadn't attempted any run longer that 5k, but with a successful brick workout last week, I was eager to see what it could do.  I headed back out to Silver Comet on Saturday, with visions of 6 miles in my head.

Though it wasn't pretty or fast, I managed to complete the 6 without any major IT band pain!  However, my fitness, or lack there of, really showed.  I was dragging for the last two miles, but happy as can be when I finished it. I had a few minor aches and pains afterwards, but nothing worse than expected.  I kept it light on Sunday with some dog walking and strength training.
Still smiles after struggling through 6!

High point: long run success!  6 miles in the books.

Low point: Dragging my behind through those last two miles!  It was only 4 months ago when I could drag my behind through 20 miles.  Hopefully those days return!

I'm definitely at the point where I need to add in extra cross training to bring my fitness up to snuff, and continue on with the strength training.

How was everyone's weekend?  Any training successes/struggles to report?
Happy Monday!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fuelin' up Friday

Last weekend during my brick workout, I decided to mix it up a little for my transition fuel. Instead of using a 'traditional' exercise food, I tried fruit leather (or fruit strips or roll-ups, whatever you want to call them). I keep a stash of them in my desk at work for a quick pick me ups, so I thought it might be worth trying on the go. In addition to being portable, they contains carbs, sodium, and potassium (though not nearly in the quantities found in energy gels) and many brands are all natural.

Good: I had no trouble taking it down! I went with Ripened Raspberry and it was yummy! I did not have any tummy trouble or barfy feelings during my run. I did drink water, but that was more due to being a bit thirsty at the end of my bike ride. No trouble with the package, and its a perfect snack size.

Not as good: I could definitely see it be a sticky mess on a hot day or if carried in a sports bra, but given the fact I ate it without trouble, I may be willing to deal with that. Also, some brands have a high fiber content, so I need to be careful when purchasing or consuming on long runs!

Overall: I thinks it another good option for short and mid-length runs, as well as bike rides. They are a possibility for long runs, it would just depend how many I would need to eat!

Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Coming soon: New gear review!

I'm sure that many of you who circulate around the blog world are familiar with CSN stores, and I've been lucky enough to have the opportunity to review a piece of gear for them! For those of you who don't know, CSN stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from coffee tables to exercise equipment (including foam rollers for pesky IT bands) to pet supplies for the good dog in your life (jury is still out if dear roommate is a good dog). Pretty much everything can be found at CSN stores. Check it out!

Now I don't want to give away all the details (anticipation is good for you), but the piece of gear I get to review has to do with one of my favorite topics! Any guesses? No, not Howl-o-ween costumes, though they always make me laugh.
I think my monster would look great in this one! (Credit)
No, not school supplies either. I finished up grad school in May. Other guesses? None?
I guess you'll have to wait till next week to find out!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Brick by brick

As I continue to chug away at Operation regain my fitness, I've got some good news to report!

Last week I managed runs on back to back days (I know, its the little things at this point) with no pain or soreness! The first day I ran a nice 3 miler and felt fairly strong throughout. On the second day, I headed out to Silver Comet trail for a nice Brick workout. I decided to go with sprint tri distances to make sure I didn't overdo it and headed out for 12 delightful miles on my bike, followed by a nice 5k run. I love riding my bike out at comet because the trail just goes on and on (it goes all the way to Alabama, but I don't go quite that far yet) and it doesn't feel like the city at all. The weather was great and the trail was abuzz with athletes of all types making the most of it. Overall, it was one of my best training days since the IT band injury and I am really hopeful to start adding on a little mileage on my run this weekend. The baby-steps method seems to be working pretty well and I am very happy with my progress. I've continued to stretch and do some targeted strength training.

I think I have to give a little shout-out to my old friend Mother Nature for providing me with an entire weekend of temps in the 80's! It was even in the 60's when I started my bike ride on Saturday! This northerner thought it was Festivus in September. Needless to say, I think Mother Nature and I have made up.

Hope you all are having a good week!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fuelin' up Friday: Gatorade Prime

I finally got the chance this week to try the Gatorade Prime that I mentioned a couple of weeks back. I woke up Monday a little sore and tired from helping a friend lug a couch down 3 flights of stairs (AKA 'strength training'), so I needed a little pick me up before my run that morning. Though it wasn't going be a long run, I knew a little boost would help my overall feeling and intensity during the run.

Taste: Somewhere in between concentrated gatorade and melted popsicle. I tried the fruit punch flavor and while I didn't have any problems with the taste exactly, I did have trouble with the volume/taste combo. The packet is 4 ounces, which is a whole lot of melted popsicle/sugar syrup to take down. Even though I am a girl with a major sweet tooth, it was just too much for me and I only ended up taking a little over half before I headed out on my run.

Energy boost: I definitely noticed the effects during my run. I had that extra bounce in my step, which is really saying something given my current fitness situation. However, with 23 grams of sugar, I'm not sure this would be my fuel choice at the start of a 20 mile run. I do think that its the perfect choice before a speed/track workout, 5k PR attempt, or a short/mid-length tempo run. Maybe thats why they've picked Mr. Bolt as their poster boy!

Overall: Good! I never retched once while drinking it and I would definitely try it again, but I don't think its the solution to my marathon fueling troubles. I think its a good option to get a quick boost before a high energy/intensity workout.

Happy Weekend!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Easin' back into it

Operation regain fitness is going well. So far the plan is to run 3 times a week, with no run really over 3 miles or so. I figure that is enough to get everything loose for a good stretch without risking over exerting or piling it on too quick. I hope to add in 1 or 2 days of cross-training as my schedule allows.
Saturday I went for a nice, but rather sweaty, 3 miler. The weather is doing its part to keep my milage in check (90+ degree heat with 80 percent humidity for Saturday's 3. I missed you too Mother nature) and I seem to return home after each run looking like a tomato (sorry, no pictures). Either way it feels good to sweat and I never regret getting out there no matter how sluggish my pace. No major soreness or pains to report so far. I make sure not to run on consecutive days in an attempt to ease my IT band back into running rhythm.

Keep your fingers crossed!
Happy Monday!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hot child in the city.

Thanks for all the well wishes about the new apt! So far I am really liking it and am very happy with the move.

Its been a bit hot here in the south lately making it a little more challenging to reclaim my fitness. To make matters worse, the only thing I was running last week was a temperature, making it seem even hotter (106 heat index + fever+flu=sweating while sitting still). I managed/was forced to get in a daily dog walk and I am exciting about the new running routes in my new hood. I'm back to moderate good health this week, and I will probably venture out for some sort of run/walk today.

Does anyone have any tips for returning to fitness after injury or illness? I've set a few goals for late fall (nothing drastic, just races I'd like to complete), so I'm just going to take it slow with short outings for a few weeks. Any advice is welcome!

Happy Monday!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Movin' on up....

Sorry for the TV timeout, but Roommate and I have been moving this past week or 'strength training' as I like to call it. Then it took us a few extra days to set up the internets and locate the camera cord, but we are back in business. I know, excuses, excuses, but I took a few pics to keep you entertained. Here's what our past week has looked like:
First load over. Yep, I can fit a lot of junk in my trunk.

The ATL did not get my request for cool weather during moving week.

Roommate doing her part to help. I believe she was testing the couch to make sure it made it through the move.

Brother came down for the weekend to help/celebrate his birthday. I am totally telling mom that he knows how to vacuum.

War wounds from moving! That should really make the IT band feel better.

All in all the move went very well. It really isn't a huge change (less than 2 miles), but far enough that I get to explore new running terrain (its not a runnable 2 miles, no sidewalks and busy traffic). I'll post a few shots of the new 'hood this week as I begin to explore it on foot.

Hope everyone is having a good start to the week!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fuelin' up Friday

Fuelin' up Friday has returned! I'm sure you are all starving from the lay-off!

After a little thinking (no, I did not hurt myself), I realized that in 2 of my recent races (race 1, race 2), both of which were very warm, I puked after eating energy gels. I know! I thought we had solved the problem too, but it appears that I have trouble tolerating the energy slime when I'm hot. So its back to the drawing board for more options.

Recently I saw one of the gatorade ads for their "series" products with Usain Bolt bouncing around on the track pre work-out, and I thought I might give them a shot so I̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶ ̶f̶i̶n̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶b̶r̶e̶a̶k̶ ̶1̶0̶ ̶s̶e̶c̶o̶n̶d̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶1̶0̶0̶m̶ ̶d̶a̶s̶h̶ I can stop puking.
A friend found them recently at the local grocery and got one for me to try (Three Cheers for friends who are sick of hearing my race-vomit stories). Though my current running mileage doesn't exactly warrant fueling at this point, I think I will try it out before one of my long bike work-outs. It's supposed to be used prior to work-out not during, and I when I got my hands on it I realized why. It's a full 4oz! Almost the size of a juice box. If I stuck two of those in my bra, I would be a C-cup and have no room left for my keys, ID, phone, and camera. Either way, I'm excited to give it a try. It contains 25g of carbs (about the same as most gels) but I am hoping it has a better taste/texture.

Happy Friday to all! Have a good weekend!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Testing 1, 2 (Miles). Testing

Quick catch up:
After the untimely and quite vicious bout of ITBS (no, not IBS as I had to reassure people), I ended up taking the last 6 weeks off with NO RUNNING! It was a tough decision, but with all the trouble I was having and with everything I read about ITBS, rest is really the best medicine. Since it was the beginning of summer/inferno season here in Hotlanta, I figured a break could be good. I did try to cross-train as was comfortable (like my foray into the circus), but my real focus was on complete IT band healing. I didn't want to be battling the problem on and off for 6 months. Dear roommate did help out by dragging me around the neighborhood each morning like she was on a mission and luckily I was uninjured by her squirrel hunting adventures. In summary, my fitness took a beating.

Present Day:
I went out for my first 2 mile test run today and everything seems to be working fine, (except maybe my fitness). My goal was for the day was 2 miles in about 20 minutes. I really wanted to make sure I took it easy and didn't run around like I had just escaped from jail or something. I also went at 3:30pm which may sound nuts to many of you, but I knew if I was uncomfortably hot (I am a Northern trapped in a Southern world), I wouldn't last more than 2 miles and I wouldn't push too hard.
How you doin'? Yep, still look bloody.
After reintroducing myself to my garmin and bloody sneakers, I was off. I tried to run the flattest route I have around so I could keep my stride and footing consistent. Things went well as a whole. I stuck close to my desired pace (19:06) and was extra aware of my footfalls. I did resemble a tomato when I got home and there are definitely things jiggling in places I don't remember jiggling before, but I didn't notice my IT band once during the run! I put in some gentle stretching and tennis ball time once I got home. Overall, its good to be back.

How's everyone's summer training going?
Happy Monday to all!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fuelin' up Friday: 21 gels and a Deep Fried turkey

Ok, I promise a more regular return to blogging. Between time off for my IT band and life chaos, I have slacked on the blogging. I won't bore you with the details, but I think things are settling down (famous last words?).

Since I'm always a fan of some healthy competition, le Tour de France, and amazing feats of eating, I leave you with this video on a Friday (care of Specialized bikes). The funniest part is these guys are currently placed 1st and 2nd in the tour. All I have to say is 21 gels and a Deep fried Turkey makes Andy my hero. I'll be pumped when I can take down 2 gels in one race.

Happy Friday to All!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Adventures in Cross-training: Circus Class

After a very busy spring in both running and life, I decided I would tone things down for a month or so to give my body sometime to rest and my IT band sometime to heal. This was actually the plan prior to the IT band flare up, but it became a 'must-do' afterward. Since I don't sit still well and tend to get a bit ornery when not exercising, I decided to look for alternative forms of exercise that don't involve a running/walking motion. So I signed up for Circus class.

I can hear your confusion from here: What the heck is Circus class? No, no we didn't learn how to cram 14 clowns in a VW bug or balance on top of elephants (though that would have been cool), but we did learn a variety of circus techniques and tricks. I did have to resist constantly making circus jokes, and got most of them out in the car ride there (no the did not mime all the instructions to us).

Let me start at the beginning. The local Circus Arts Institute had a trial special a few months ago where you could learn some circus basics and get to know what they offer (90 minute class for $16? You're speaking my grad-student language). Being a lover of all things non-traditional and unusual, I signed up right away, but due to scheduling (thesis and racing), I just got around to going.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of my actually experience because I needed both of my hands while hanging upside down from the trapeze, but I have googled some good examples of what I learned and tried. They basically let us try everything in the place to give us an idea of everything you can learn, so of course, I tried everything (even the juggling).

Individual basics: Included things like juggling, tight-wire walking, and balance boards. Great for reaction time, stability work, and core work.

Body Balancing: This was a series of balancing acts with a partner or group. We built various forms of pyramids and aerial balancing tricks. They are really fun and its all about knowing just how to balance and what body parts to balance on. It was a great strength and balance workout and it was really fun to see what crazy shapes we could form.
Not the party trick you try after a few drinks.(credit)
Spanish web: Similar to the rope you used to climb in gym class, but it has a loop at the top and is a lot softer. It was a little challenging to get used to the inch-worm style climbing, but cool none the less. Great for strength and flexibility.
Yep, I looked just like this. (Credit)
Low Trapeze: This was the item I most wanted to try. It was super fun. We learned how to swing up, balance on each leg, swing down into a birds nest, and dismount. Great for balance, strength, and general sense of fun.
We did not wear outfits like this. (credit)
Overall, I really enjoyed circus class. It is a great core, stability, strength, and flexibility workout. There is a whole series you can take to learn more tricks and advanced moves, and they are really good about letting people advance at their own pace. If I end of staying in the ATL (life is ever changing which is why I have been such a poor blogger), I definitely will think about using it as a strength and flexibility workout.

Happy Monday to all!

Warrior Dash: Hooters vs. Raisins

When I first heard about Warrior Dash, I couldn't resist. Run 3 miles through all the crazy obstacles (cargo net, crawling through mud, run through tires and a wall of fire) you always wanted to try, but never knew where you could. So as soon as I convinced a few friends to sign up with me, the next question became obvious: What does one wear to warrior dash?
The entire Wizard of Oz foursome was there.
After going through all the possible comical items you could roll around in mud in, we settled on Hooters waitresses for runability and laughability. No offense to any of the Hooters girls, but they don't seem like the type to run around and get muddy. So after a bit more serious thinking (grad school is over and I have some free brain cells), I decided it would be more appropriate if my friend went as a Hooters girl and I was a Raisins girl due to our, um, physical attributes, or lack there of in my case.
Pre-race still clean.

Customer Service is key.

Race day did not disappoint. Warrior Dash took place in the mountains of North Georgia. We were informed at the start that the course was within 10 miles of where Deliverance was filmed, so if we hear banjos, we should run faster. The costumes were plentiful (including: men in full suits, many warriors/Braveheart lookalikes/men in chainmail, a guy in a full cheerleading costume) and the crowd was very good spirited. We even got a few shout-out for our outfits.
Where's Waldo? He is at Warrior Dash of course!

The race consisted of a 3ish mile run with a myriad of challenges along the way including walking planks over water, swim/wade through water, running through tires, jumping over walls, rope climb up an embankment, climb up/down a cargo net, climb over abandoned cars, trail running, slide down a muddy hillside, military crawl under barbed wire through mud, swim/roll over logs in water, and jump through two walls of fire. Hmm, I think I got them all.
Not so clean coming out from the mud pit/barbed wire crawl.

Last Challenge: Wall of fire and then sprint to the finish.

To add to the Goofiness of the event, Warrior helmets are part of the race packet and every (of age) competitor gets a free beer at the finish. There is live music and food at the finish, as well as a jumbo-tron showing live footage of the mud crawl under barbed wire.
In my usual post-race location: at the snacks!

Festivities throughout the day.
Overall, Warrior Dash is fun and silly, nothing to take too seriously because the course conditions change throughout the day a make a big difference. Its a great event to do with a group and definitely something that all abilities can enjoy. We all had fun throughout the course, hanging out, enjoying a sunny day in the mountains, and watching the other warriors earn their beer (there are waves starting every half hour). For some odd reason they still chip time the event (I'm pretty sure I PR'ed my mud pit crawl), but I think there was some sort of awards for speed and best beard.

Lesson from Warrior Dashing:
1. Rolling around in the mud and running through an obstacle course is good cross training.
2. Dont wear anything you actually like, shoes included. Your clothes with never be the same. Props to the Folks at Warrior Dash for realizing this and having a charity there taking shoe donations.
3. The strap thing I wore for my IT band at Ragnar works. I definitely felt a little iffy without it.
4. North Georgia is actually kind of pretty. Its still not the north, but it was nice to be out of the city.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ragnar Relay NY: Our Team's story

Ok, so now that I've gone over the basics of Ragnar NY, here the details about our team's journey.
By the end, we were definitely Ragnasty!
Our team was quite the mix of people from all over the country. To be honest, I hadn't met three members of our 6 person team until the day I buckled into the van, but there is really no better way to get to know someone then to be tucked in a van with them for 48 hrs without showering or sleeping. Luckily enough, our team got along great. We had a few obstacles that could have created conflict, but somehow our low key attitudes and high degree of sarcasm won over and we all had a great time. I think your team members are really one of the most important part of Ragnar. Oh, and I guess, lots of advil, biofreeze, snacks, and of course Febreze!
I was 'recruited' to the team (I guess crazy females are hard to find?) because my brother was on the team as well. He and I had previously run NYC marathon together, so I knew what to expect from him: no training but a good performance. He is one of those people that doesn't really get around to training and complains that you are forcing him to do 'crazy things', but somehow pulls out a solid race. The only thing that makes me not totally hate him for this is that he is always wildly sore afterward. Maybe one of these days I will dedicate a post to his 'training theories'.
Handing off some water and fuel to the brother.
The first few legs went well enough for our team. As it worked out, the three boys ran first in the rotation followed by the ladies. I started things out for the ladies with the longest leg of the whole relay (16.6 miles) as my first leg. Unfortunately, the weather was unusually hot for NY in May and I ended up starting my leg at 3pm in 85+ heat, not ideal long run conditions. It is well known that I am a true northern that melts like butter in the heat (no, 9 years in the south has not changed this), so I was a little worried, but I filled up my fuel belt and hit the road. Also of worry was my recent IT band issue. I had not run since Flying Pig Half Marathon to help rest/recover, but I had only been able to walk up/down stair for a few days at this point. Because of the hilliness of the course I decided to try out a little strap thing which ended up working like a charm and I had very little IT band pain on the uphill portions!
Chugging along during my first leg.
The heat really did a number on me during the leg. I ended up tossing the van my fuel belt several times for a refill, as I just couldn't seem to get my body temp down. The van took great care of me and served as speedy bar tenders. I don't know if it was sitting in the van for 5 hours before the run, the odd time of day, or the heat, but I really couldn't seem to hit stride throughout the run. I gutted it out to a nice uphill finish and figured a good meal would put me back in business.
The brother helping me up the last hill of the 16 miler.

Yep, bloody toes returned!
I gobbled down a sandwich that the team had waiting for me and drank a gatorade, but it didn't settle for long. I ended up barfing and to make it worse, 2 of my team members joined me. We run as a team, and we barf as a team. Luckily, the other two seemed to recover quickly, while I continued to yak on and off for about 4 more hours. I was still unable to hold down fluids by the time my next double came around (around 1am) and it was time for the team to pull together.
Midnight stop at a quick stop. Would have been more appropriate if it was called 'Got the Runs'.
Since I had yet to successfully refuel from my 16 miler and several of the team members were hitting the pepto hard, it was decided that we would change it up and run each leg as singles (we exchanged runners at the end of every leg like the 12 person teams did). This allowed us to have shorter legs, but still the same total mileage. The second goal was to get me back to health so I could be back in the rotation in the late legs, when everyone would be tired.
The next few hours weren't pretty, but we got it done and in good spirits. I took over as minivan driver to help provide rest and by early morning was starting to hold down drinks and snacks. I pulled it together and they assigned me the finishing stretch into the finish line.
Wearing the zebra skirt gave me the extra kick to the finish.
We finished in style as a group. They all met me about 100 feet from the line and hobbled across with me. They handed out some very heavy medals that actually double as bottle openers! The Ragnar folks really know their demographic. Celebration included pitchers of beer and showers for all. Though we had our share of obstacles, our team really pulled together. By the time we piled into the car the next morning for the drive to Boston, chatter had already turned to 'which relay we were doing next'. After all, a few of us still need a little Ragnar redemption.
Nope, even foot torture didn't make me barf again. Thanks for the support guys.
Lessons from Ragnar:
1. Your relationship with your team is vital, not only for the fun, but because at some point over the 180 miles, something will go wrong and you all will need to work it out.
2. Sleep is not important and showers are equally overrated.
3. The best training method would be to run 10 miles, take a catnap in a closet, run another 10 miles, stay up all night driving a minivan, and then run your last ten. If you can comfortably complete that workout, you will love Ragnar.

Hope you all are having a good week!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ragnar Relay NY: General Race Review

Sorry for the delay, but I've included lots of photos to make it up to you all!
I really don't even know where to begin describing Ragnar. Summarizing 180 miles of running and everything that goes with it is really difficult, but I'll do my best. I'll do a second post with details about our team's race, this is more general info. Feel free to ask questions if I leave anything out!
There were free Tats in the race packet. We even Tattooed the van.
Ragnar Relay NY started in Woodstock and wound its way through the Hudson River Valley ending in Dobbs Ferry. The course was beautiful albeit a little on the hilly side (I think almost every leg finished uphill) marching through country roads, parks, trails, small towns, and residential areas (a great little change for a girl stuck in the city).
Wait, I have to run up that?
Ok, it was worth running up!
Oh, look water.
With over 200 teams registered, it was far bigger than I expected but remarkably well organized. I can only imagine the logistics of marking out the course, positioning volunteers at every exchange, and ensuring that everyone had a good time, but the Ragnar folks did it! Teams ranged from 6 (Ultra teams) to 12 members (normal, 'sane' folks), with a whole variety of abilities, energy, and team creativity (spirit was big on the course).
Each wave start consisted of about 15 teams in order to stagger them out along the course.
There were 36 legs total in the race ranging in distance from 2.7 miles to 8.3, each rated for distance and elevation change from 'easy' to 'very difficult'. Each runner ran 3 legs (Ultra runners ran 2 legs back-to-back 3 times), and while not running, runners were responsible for cheering along other runners and tending to the needs of their team member on the course. I was a member of a mixed ultra team (3 guys, 3 girls), that was heavy on the sarcasm and sass. If you can't take the heat, don't get in our minivan.
Like a Glove.
It quickly became obvious to us at the start that there was a big difference between 6 and 12 person teams, more than just the mileage. 12 person teams were heavy on the spirit, costumes, and themes (this is NOT to say they were any less serious runners), while 6 person teams were a little more subdued, possibly conserving energy for what was to come.
This entire team dress up as Pre.
With a 6 person team, you only have one van (12 person teams have 2 vans, so people can take a break) and the team is awake the entire time. Its a bit exhausting to put it nicely. Either way, both types of teams were in for the experience of a lifetime and far more time in a van than is healthy. The race itself is like a rolling party and its very social. Along the course we were constantly leap frogging other teams, running into them at exchanges, and cheering for them on the course. It made it fun to have more than one van honking and cheering for you as they went by.
Ragnar is a blast. Our team had a few snafus along the way (I'll get to the details in my next post), and we still had a great time! We even were trying to pick out our next one while still jammed in the van. That should speak volumes for what the race was like.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Lazy Blogger

Ok, I know I owe you all a lot of updates. Its been a big few weeks both in running (2 races to report on) and life (grad school is o-v-e-r!), so I apologize for the laziness. Good news is that everything is calming down and I can return to 'normal' life, though I am not really sure what that is anymore!

So as a little teaser, here is some of the excitement that is coming your way:
1. Ragnar Relay recap! This might have to be a double.
2. Warrior Dash recap. I think I have finally got all of the mud off my body. That stuff sure likes to hide.
3. Alternative forms of Cross training! Let's just say I'm not sure any of you have thought of this one.

Until then, here are a few words of encouragement from the locals in North Georgia!
Not sure this is the last thing you want to see before heading out on Warrior Dash.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May Madness.... Why should March have all the fun?

So I am deep in the heart of my May Madness of racing (3 races, 4 weekends, 40+ miles of racing, which wouldn't be such a big deal if thesis hadn't killed my training) and I am prepping for the biggest one: Ragnar Relay. To be honest the last race is just a silly victory lap with Viking helmets, but I'm still counting it.

Tomorrow we depart from peaceful Maine (up here for my bi-annual visit with the family) and head to Boston to pick up the remaining team members (we're a ragtag bunch coming from all over the country). The relay begins in Woodstock NY and, in a most fitting weather report, rain is in the forecast. Hopefully it’s not a reenactment of the original Woodstock, But alas, we will still be a bunch of nuts riding around in a van for several days, as we wonder through upstate New York.

My poor running shoes can't handle another day like this!


In fact we are 6 nuts. Special enough to think needing an extra 6 runners was unnecessary. Something we may come to regret. Since we are 6 we each get to run back-to-back legs three times during the race totally 25 to 36 miles per person for the entire relay. Nothing too crazy, but I can only imagine how I will feel crawling out of the van for my last leg. I am lucky enough that my first leg is my longest (16miles) and they get progressive shorter each time. Hopefully my IT band appreciates this fact.

All in all, I am very excited for the weekend and hope to have some exciting running tales to tell when I return.

Hope you have a good weekend!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Flying Pig Half Marathon Race Report

I know what you're thinking, "Flying Pig wasn't on your race calendar?!" Yep, you're right. It was a late addition. A crazy idea that once planted in my mind, I couldn't get out. So off I went to Cincy for the weekend to get in some miles and learn the real meaning of racing in the rain.

Flying Pig Half was on Sunday May 2 (Sorry for the epically slow race report), right in the heart of the mid-west crazy rain storms/flash flooding (yes, mother nature still has it out for me). After hearing such wonderful things about the race, the fans, and the support, I was determined to not let a few sprinkles (or inches of rain) ruin the weekend. Upon my arrival in Cincy, the first thing I noticed is the overwhelming commitment to the theme. Everything is Pig and the whole city is behind it! The newscast is all Pig related stories. Everywhere you turn there is a sign supporting the Pig or wishing runners luck, and the support continued through out the weekend. Everyone, from fans, race volunteers, and even runners, is dressed in their best pig related fashions (ears, tails, tutus, whatever). A-plus for spirit at this one.

Unfortunately, When pigs fly, EB does not. I had a pretty bad flare up of ITBS early in the race, so I mainly tried to enjoy the course, the fans, and survive to the finish because I had a much faster friend stuck waiting in the rain for me to hobble across the line. The flash-flooding during the race didn't help things, but definitely made for an unique experience. At the time the gun fired, rain was coming down at about an inch an hour and there was stong lightening in the area. Soaked doesnt even begin to describe how I felt starting this race. Before I even made it to the starting area, I had stepped in several deep puddles on accident and my clothes were already soaked through. It was just that bad and there was nothing you could do about it. The good news is that when my feet are that wet, they don't bleed, so I guess that was a bonus. Check out the race website for some great pics of the rain! The race photogs didn't even take pics in the early miles, but once the rain started to calm down they caught a few shots.
Pre-race enjoying the sprinkles, er, monsoon.
Expo: Its a Big one. Even with well over 15,000 participants this race still offers a lot for each runner. The expo was a bit crowded, but really, when are they not? You could still move around and see/get everything that you needed. In addition this year, the Pig was a Runner's world challenge race (they have some fun videos and pics) and I literally ran into Bart Yasso at the expo (he has rocking calves). The race shwagg was impressive (dri-fit Shirt, Duffle bag, and official race poster) especially since the race was not anymore expensive than usual ($60 if you register early).

Race: The course isn't easy, which kind of surprised me given how many first timers and run/walkers were there. The course is challenging, but not impossible. The early miles include several bridges and quick visit to Kentucky, but thats basically the warm-up for the middle section. From miles 6-9.5 you climb steadily uphill. The good news is that this is where the heart of the fans are. Even in the flood conditions, there were tons of people along course cheering, ringing cowbells and proudly waving posters (covered in clear trashbags to survive the elements). I can only imagine how amazing they are in good weather! Once you conquer the hills, you are quickly shot back down them in under 2 miles, which is tons of fun for speed reasons, but murder if you have ITBS. From there its flat into the finish. My one complaint about the race was the lack of official corrals at the start. It was simply the honor system, which with a race this big, never works out well. I found it hard to find the pace signs at the start, but this may have been due to the insane weather at the start and the fact I had my head down looking for puddles. I didnt hang around much post race to check out the party because of the weather, but I've heard its a good one.

Overall: I really enjoyed the race! I know that sounds crazy considering the weather and my inability to walk up stairs for 4 days afterward, but its really well done. The commitment of the volunteers, the fans, and the whole city is excellent! I hope to do it again and see everything the Pig has to offer in good weather.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oh, so THAT'S my IT band!

So after the issues I faced at Talladega Half Marathon, I ended up with a little ITBS (so much for trying to not run on the banked curves). I have never had any IT band trouble in the past, but it is definitely one of those items that you know as soon as you feel it. I spent two weeks afterwards warming it up with easy/light runs, lots of stretching, and resting it as needed. I had a little residual tightness in my hamstring, but for the most part I thought I was back in business. I put it to the test Sunday with another half marathon (Race Report coming soon!), and unfortunately it looks like things are not all better. I have been sticking to a strict regimen of RICE for the past 48hrs and have already seen some good improvements. I'm having no trouble stretching the top near my hip, but does anyone have any recommendations to stretch down closer to the insertion at the knee? That is where I am having the most pain. I have been using one of lovely roommate's toys to stretch it out, but would like some other ways to get at it. Any recs?
Weapon of ITBS recovery
All ideas are welcome!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

'Dega Baby

Sorry for the delay folks, but finally a race report!

Last Sunday I ran the Talladega 21000 Half Marathon in Alabama (Yes, that Talladega). The race was in rural Alabama (cue banjos) and highly Nascar themed as the course literally took you on, around, over, under, and through the middle of a Nascar track. I'll admit, I know close to nothing about Nascar, except that they are very good at making left hand turns, so I picked the race purely for the novelty and people watching. Good news: I wasn't disappointed.
As a northern, I am still highly amused by the south (and occasionally afraid of it). In order to fit in (not look like a total Yankee), I decided a nice John Deere trucker hat was essential race attire. Let's be honest, nothing runs like a Deere and evidently at this race that includes me (but we'll get to that later). The race is a small one (1200 runner cap) and is in its second year. Runners really get to see all aspects of the track, including parking in the infield and pre-race church services in the Sprint Cup Garage (this is the deep south after all).

Pre-race smiles, check out the bank!

As we wondering out on to the track for the start, I realized that some of the other runners really embraced the 'nascar/festive' element of the race and dressed accordingly:

There isn't enough body glide in this world for me to run in that.
These costumes (yes they were costumes) were hilarious. Multiple pairs of jorts, a wolf shirt, two nascar cut off tees, carefully designed facial hair, and even a faux tramp stamp. Delightful! One of them even pounded a PBR as he came across the line. Several runners had registered as Ricky Bobby, which made the finish line announcing more entertaining (and Here comes Ricky Bobby up to the line).
We started at turn 4, and let me tell you the bank is CRAZY! People basically had to climb up to the walls:

Walk to the start.

We ran through this tunnel on our way back onto the track.
Check out how tall the corners are!

The race started with a nice 'runners start your engines' and then we were off. The first two miles were around the track and included lots of 'rubbing is racing' jokes from the runners. We ran on the lower part of the track for the corners (otherwise it would have been inhumane). After two miles we exited the track and ran around the grounds for the next 5 miles. It was actually a nice course around country roads, so it was a nice change from the city. It was around mile 2 that the sun really started to shine. Pre-race was chilly (50s), but I had an overwhelming fear that it could get hot, and boy did it ever. It was in the 70s for most of the race and it was one of the first really hot days we had had. I carried my fuelbelt for the race purely for this reason. Unfortunately, I had pretty bad middle 4 miles (including 1 bathroom stop, 1 round of vomiting, and 2 walk breaks). I knew early on it wasn't my day, and given the week I had leading up to the race, it was no surprise (Note to self: sleeping 3 hours a night and surviving off coffee for a week is NOT appropriate race prep!). But alas, I stuck with it and was determined to finish.

Around mile 7 we came back over the track running through the grandstands (we even had access to real toilets which I enjoyed!), and then around the top of the banked corners, which was a pretty crazy perspective. At mile 10, we can up under the track and ran through the infield and back on to the track. At this point, I was in full meltdown mode, and as I was soaking myself down at the water stop I noticed one of the jorts characters was about to catch me. That was enough motivation for me to pull it together and run the last three miles in solid. I did partake in the beer stop at mile 11, because when in Alabama, you drink beer from dixie cups.
There was no way he was beating me!
I ended up finishing in 1:57:47, which pretty much shocked my running socks off me. I had great training runs leading up to the race and knew I was ready, but figured with my physical disaster, I would be dragging across the line. Overall, the race was a lot of fun with a great post-race party including live music, southern bbq, and delightfully cold beer. I am happy I ran the race and stuck with it to the end. Hopefully I will be back next year for a little revenge on the course!

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