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!
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