Sedona Half Marathon

Building my mileage on my weekend long runs has been a challenge this go-round. I’ve been running alone, and my body has rebelled a couple of miles before the end of each one. I hadn’t done a race since December, and I missed the excitement and camaraderie of competitive events. The Sedona course is known for its challenging profile (1000+ feet of elevation gain) as much as its beauty, and I thought it would be a nice addition to my Boston Marathon buildup. My boyfriend Ross would be racing as well, and he makes every run more enjoyable.

wpid-20150131_073604.jpgThe heavy rain the day before had damaged enough of the trail section of the marathon course that the organizers called it off, and the runners were given the option to run the half. The shorter courses were completely paved and would be held as planned.

When we left Flagstaff that morning, we were relieved to see that the rain had stopped. We fueled up the car, stopped at McDonald’s to fuel up Ross, and hit the road. We grooved to a cheerful, catchy tune called “Shantantitty Town” on the way down. We’d heard it several times before, but only just realized that it was about a whorehouse where one of the visitors finds himself “all freckled and speckled.”

We parked downtown and waited for one of the race shuttles to take us to the starting line. We waited and waited… and arrived at the race site with about fifteen minutes to spare. We managed to take care of our pre-race business, check our bags, and take a few starting line pictures before we were sent off. The lingering clouds against the backdrop of the red rocks were spectacular.

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While it was cool at the start, the sun shone warm, and we shed our warm layers before mile two. Luckily, Ross’s shorts had large pockets, and he kindly played pack mule for both of us. I was afraid that we’d get hot, but we stayed pretty comfortable throughout the race.

A few miles in, we were passed by a wiry guy in a Flagstaff singlet. The way he was running, I was surprised that he’d ever been behind us. Then we were passed by more and more people. I mean, it happens, but this seemed like an extreme number. Not that much later, we saw wiry guy running back the other way and realized that he was doing the 10K (they started after us, and I think he won). I decided to pretend that every person who passed us up until the 10K turnaround was doing the shorter race.

wpid-20150131_092803.jpgThe course was almost never flat, and we ran conservatively because of it. When we saw event photographers, we’d hold hands and make silly faces. The aid stations were well-stocked and just frequent enough. There were a decent amount of spectators for a smallish race. We waved at a family and their inert dog, and saw a guy in a green full-body suit. A couple of girls in sparkle skirts and shirts with It’s My/Her 21st Birthday! on the back passed us. They weren’t doing the 10K. The course was an out-and-back, and we started to see the male leaders. Then the female leaders. Ross kept count for about ten of them.

At the turnaround, “Total  Eclipse of the Heart” knocked Shantantitty Town out of my head for about a mile (Turn around…). We still felt pretty good physically and were now facing a stunning rock formation. It was one of those views that would have stopped me in my tracks if 1) I hadn’t been running a race and 2) I wasn’t going to be running toward it for over two miles. I wished that I hadn’t worn my trail shoes. The Half course was completely paved, and I longed for some extra cushioning on the downhills. The inert dog must have summoned the strength to move a few feet only to collapse again.

wpid-20150131_113555.jpgThe eleventh mile was steep. I felt the miles, but also felt like I could push the rest of the race. Ross wasn’t sure, but he tried to hang. This same woman kept passing me and taking walk breaks, during which I overtook her. I just wanted one of us to take the lead and be done with it! I pulled away from Ross in the last mile and kept testing my legs. I felt that old, familiar burn in my lungs and embraced it. I was happy that I was feeling strong, because the final miles of my recent long training runs had devolved into shuffles. I finally left the walk-run lady behind, and turned toward the finish line. There were a couple women ahead of me, and I tried to catch them. I passed one, but couldn’t overtake the other. I finished in 2:01:47, which I was happy with considering the course and my current fitness level. Ross crossed the line eighteen seconds later. It was the only time I’d ever beaten him in a race, and it will probably never happen again.

Once we stopped moving, our sweaty bodies quickly grew chilly again. We grabbed some post-race snacks, chatted with a few friends, and decided to take shuttle back. We waited and waited… Shuttle frequency is my only real complaint about this race. Later we found out that Ross was somehow listed as a 99-year-old, and ended up winning his age group. In his words, “It was the only way I was going win an award.” They mailed it.

Between the views, weather, and being able to share the experience with my sweetie, this race goes down as one of my favorite running memories, and I plan on doing it again.

Race data: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/688216929

Music Monday: Just Be

I am stealing an idea from my blogger friend Jenna and trying out a Music Monday feature. She’s a fiction writer who highlights songs that inspire her creatively, and I’m going to share songs that motivate me to move. Music improves your workouts in several ways, and song tempo is less important than whether you personally find it to be motivational.

My first song choice is something you probably won’t see on a Top Ten Workout Songs list. I teach RPM, and we frequently use trancy, almost soothing music for our speed tracks. The flow and tempo put me in a semi-euphoric state, almost like I am above the effort.

I’m training for a marathon, and my body is constantly reminding me that I am not in the shape I used to be. I was a few miles into my long run recently, feeling irritated with myself and upset with some random life-crap, and this song completely changed my mood. The beginning is the aural equivalent of being submerged in warm water.

The lyrics also remind me to take a break from worrying about what has and what might happen. For many of us, our workouts are one of the few times we get to focus on ourselves. Sometimes results come quickly; more often they don’t. But each step, rep, and class should be celebrated as a choice we made to be good to ourselves. Let’s not forget to enjoy the process.

‘Cause now I know, It’s not so far

To where I go, the hardest part
It’s inside me, I need

To just be

Just be

I’m always interested to hear what you think and what songs motivate you personally.

Marathon Training: A Plan That Fits

As I sit here writing, there are 95 days until the Boston Marathon. This will be my fourth time tackling 26.2. In my earlier attempts, I met my goals of: breaking four hours (3:52:10 – Disney World), qualifying for Boston (3:38:41 – Tucson), and qualifying for Boston by enough to actually get in (3:31:32 – Phoenix). I used the Hanson’s plan for my third marathon, and while I was pleased with the results, I decided to try the FIRST plan this time. Despite very different philosophies, both have successfully guided runners to PRs.

The hallmark of the Hanson’s plan is that their long runs top out at 16 miles, while most prescribe 20 or beyond. The Hanson brothers believe that no one workout is that much more important than another, and that extra-long runs compromise the workouts that follow. They have you run six days per week, which includes an interval workout, a marathon goal pace run (up to 10 miles), and the long run. This leaves 3 easy runs of between 3 and 8 miles, wwpid-20150113_221348-1.jpghere the goal is volume and not speed. The plan may not seem too difficult at the outset, but it’s designed to build cumulative fatigue, and the long runs are meant to simulate the last 16 miles of the race, not the first.

Other than a period when I was injured and relegated to the Step Mill and elliptical, I was able to complete most of my workouts and hit the paces more often than not. My body felt good on race day, and while the last few miles weren’t easy, I wasn’t in agony like I had been with the previous marathon. The training, on the other hand, was a different story. I teach four fitness classes a week (three cycling and one strength), and I also like to get at least one additional strength session as well as an outdoor ride and swim in. I taught the whole time, but toward the end, the supplemental workouts fell by the wayside. It was also physically and mentally draining to work a full day, teach class, and then pound out 5 to 8 miles. I wasn’t enjoying my runs.

The FIRST program, named for the Furman (University) Institute of Running and Scientific Training, is built on 3 runs and 2 cross training sessions per week. Each running workout (speed, tempo, long) is to be run at very specific, challenging pace that adherents have called “tough but doable.” Intense cross training further develops the cardiorespiratory system while allowing the running muscles to recover. They recommend swimming, cycling, and/or rowing because of their dissimilarity to running. This allows the athlete to push the key runs faster than in many other plans. Even the long runs aren’t leisurely jogs. For their Boston-Qualifier version of the 3:30 marathon schedule (8 minute miles), the 20-milers start at 9 minute miles and go down to 8 minute miles by the end of the training cycle. Because I enjoy cross training and want to keep teaching my classes, I think the FIRST plan is a better fit for me.

It will be interesting to see how I improve during the next few months. When I started the Hanson’s plan, I had recently run a half marathon PR. These days, once I pass the 10-mile mark, my legs feel like they’ve been repeatedly flogged with a plastic bat and I fall off pace. Therefore, if this race is slower than my last, I can’t necessarily fault the plan. Still, based on my November 10K time and the charts in the book, I could be capable of a 3:30 marathon, which would be a PR. The target paces are nothing I haven’t hit before, but how quickly will I be able to get my endurance back? Two weeks in, the results have been mixed. I’ll keep you posted.

For more information on these plans, check out Hanson’s Marathon Method or Run Less, Run Faster

A Mostly Nice (and slightly naughty) Holiday Season

Ah, the holidays. When sleeves get longer as days get shorter. The hours are crammed with activities and faces are crammed with edible delights. Each year I strive to strike a balance between enjoying what the season has to offer while not throwing healthy habits to the wind. Here’s how I spent the merry month of December.

For the second year, my boyfriend Ross and I competed in the Anthem Holiday Triathlon. It’s a short, beginner-friendly event, and the men and women race separately. It makes for wpid-dsc00657.jpga long morning, but it also provides a rare opportunity for us to cheer each other on and play photographer. It was snowing when we left Flagstaff and raining in Tucson, but overcast and pleasant at the race site.

The swim is a 200-yard serpentine that’s completed twice. This year they started the oldest swimmers first (last year we organized ourselves by swim times), and the pool got congested very quickly. At one point my lane was so clogged that I stood and walked. People were also resting on the walls between laps, so there were a few times I stopped short and changed direction. I hope they change back next year.

It was windy, which made for an interesting bike ride. It was a three-loop course, complete with climbs and descents. I hadn’t ridden my tri bike much lately, so I stayed out of the aero bars when flying downhill and during the narrow and twisty sections of the course. Ross, who is a beast on the bike, stayed in them the whole time. I was passed by three women, and he wasn’t passed at all.  wpid-dsc00700.jpg

The run is a loop, with a short out-and-back part. The first half is a net downhill, which makes it rough toward the end when you’re already tired. Ross had finished his race in 1:05:29, and I figured I’d be about 10 minutes behind him. My time was 1:15:36. It was nice to see his smiling face at the finish line.

We had decided to relax after the race, and booked a Jacuzzi suite. We ended up with three bathtubs: a Jacuzzi tub in the bedroom itself as well as normal tubs in the two bathrooms. Pretty flippin’ fancy.

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A few days before Christmas, I got a special surprise. As I was getting ready for work, I looked out my back window and did a double-take. The weeds that had overtaken the yard during the rainy season were gone, and several herbs, vegetables, and flowers had been planted. Ross and his parents had come by the day before and transformed my backyard into something beautiful. I can’t wait to prepare meals with food from my own garden. It was by far the best Christmas gift that I’ve ever received.

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On Christmas Eve, my friends Keith and Shokofeh, who head up the Tucson Runners Project, hosted a hot chocolate run on Mt Lemmon. It was chilly when we arrived, but the combination of sunshine and uphill running warmed us quickly. We did 6.6 miles with a couple of other friends while stopping for a couple of picture breaks. Afterwards, we hung out for a while and enjoyed treats, views, and conversation.

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One of my blogger friends, Shannan, tagged me in a cookie recipe challenge. I enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, but I don’t bake that often. In the spirit of my blog, I wanted to make something fairly healthy. I had made black bean brownies in the past, and wanted to see if I could find a bean-based cookie recipe. Google showed me how to make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies with garbanzo beans.

Here are the modifications I made to the basic recipe. I used sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter because it’s a little easier to stir and is already slightly sweet. I replaced half of the honey with liquid stevia, and found the cookies to be sweet but not overpoweringly so. I also multiplied everything by 1.5 to use the full can of wpid-2014-12-30-14.07.02.png.pnggarbanzos. The recipe warned against doubling because it could ruin the blender, but my Ninja Prep Pro handled it with ease. The batter was tasty, and with no eggs, I didn’t have to worry about eating it raw. Confession: I have eaten raw batter that contains eggs. Just one of the ways I live on the edge.

The cookies were a little soft after ten minutes, so I baked them for another two. It didn’t change the texture much, and I decided to stop there rather than risk burning them. The outsides had a hint of normal crisp-cookie texture, but the insides were very soft. I prefer a soft cookie, though, so it wasn’t a big deal. They were delicious and not beany at all. The original recipe is gluten free, and can easily be made vegan and/or sugar free. I would definitely make them again.

My holidays weren’t all exercise and bean cookies, though. I did enjoy some cheesecake, brownies, and chocolate treats. The evil geniuses at Trader Joe’s hooked me with their Taste Test of Caramels. Indulgence meets guessing game? You win this time, TJ’s.

It’s been a wonderful holiday season, and I am grateful for all of the friends and family that I got to celebrate with. I am enjoying some time off work, while I catch up on some R & R and much needed housework. Marathon training has also begun.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to seeing what 2015 brings.

Of course it’s effin’ hard!

I am training for a marathon using the Hanson’s method, and am running more miles and more frequently than ever before. The program is designed to develop cumulative fatigue, and while the longest runs top off at 16 miles, they are meant to simulate the last 16 miles of the race, not the first. 

I was about five miles into a nine-mile goal pace run one morning when I really wanted to slow down. My mind whined, this is haaaard. All of a sudden, something I had read on a triathlon forum popped into my head: Of course it’s effin’ hard. It’s IRONMAN. While I have never trained for an Ironman (and probably never will), I had a “Well, duh!” moment right there.

Marathon training isn’t supposed to be easy. Running a marathon isn’t easy. Neither is any physical endeavor where you are pushing your body beyond where it wants to go. To a person trying to get in shape after years of sedentary life, running to the end of the street is effin’ hard. No matter how fit you are and how much you might love to exercise, there are days when it’s a struggle just to get out the door.

Anyone who decides to tackle a goal knows from the outset there will be a struggles, but the buoyancy of untested enthusiasm can obscure that fact. Once a person is down in the trenches dealing with the nitty-gritty tasks at hand, however, it’s easy to lose sight of why this crazy thing ever seemed like a good idea. A decision must be made whether or not to press on, sometimes multiple times a day. But while the prize is obtained at the end, the true treasure is often found during the journey.

So, I forged ahead with a bit of a smile on my face and finished the workout strong. I have a few more tough training weeks before taper time, and I plan to carry this mindset to the end. Every effin’ step.

Life is pain

Because the “Hard is what makes great.” quote from A League of Their Own would have been too obvious.

Sun Run 10(+)K

Racing season begins! I have a lighter than usual schedule planned leading up to my March marathon, but I can’t swear off completely. I had been really excited to run this race. It seems that 10Ks aren’t very common these days and my 10K PR is out of line with my 5K and half marathon times. I have run this race several times, and while the course is flat and the weather is cool, it falls at a time of year after I have either eased up on my training or recently run a marathon. This year, however, I would be in the middle of a marathon build, which I thought just might translate into a great race.

Unfortunately, I had been battling a calf injury the past couple months. Several of my runs had been replaced with elliptical and step mill sessions and I hadn’t gone faster than a nine-minute mile pace in weeks. I had been feeling good lately, though, so I was ready to come out and see what I could do. Within reason, of course. What kind of pace my body would let me run and, more importantly, hold?

It had been two and a half months since my last SAR race, and it was good to see Imagefamiliar faces. This race is several years old, but the course gets tweaked constantly. While it was a little chilly when I arrived, I shed almost all of my layers by the 9 o’clock start. Bright, sunny, and cool, you could not ask for more perfect running weather. I did an easy warm-up mile and then headed to the start. There was a 5K option that started slightly earlier at a different part of the park, and those runners dashed by just before we were set loose.

I took off at what felt like a good pace and was pleasantly surprised when I clocked my first mile in 7:07. My PR pace was 7:05. Maybe I can do this, I thought and I tried to run a little faster. My calf was a non-issue. As I felt the familiar burn in my legs and lungs, my mental DJ briefly considered Rob Base’s “Joy and Pain”, but then settled on “It Takes Two“. I don’t know all the words, but there is a profane reference to a popular fast food burger. At least the energy level was about what I was looking for.

Former Ragnar teammate Steve F. was ahead of me but in sight. Another Ragnar teammate, Steve O., passed me, but I tried to keep fairly close. I went back and forth with a big guy in a navy tank top a few times. My next splits were 7:11, 7:19, 7:04. I knew I probably wasn’t going to PR, so I adjusted my goal to finish under 45 minutes. Part of the 10K course looped back on itself and it was here that local legend and Olympic Trials runner Craig Curley passed me. I finally pulled away from navy tank. We also started mingling with some of the 5K runners and I could no longer see the Steves. I was now fixated on the song ImagePropane Nightmares as it repeatedly growled, bring it on home.

I came upon a fork I had run by before, and there was a chalk 10K on the road with an arrow pointing straight – the same way I had gone last time. I had run 5.8 miles and thought that if I followed the arrow, the finish line had to be farther away than .4 miles away. Still, I wasn’t sure and there was no instruction to go a different way the second time through, so I went straight. When my watch hit six without a six-mile marker or the finish line anywhere in sight, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach. My friend Keith, who had been done for a little while took a picture and cheered me on while I yelled something like “I went too far!”

My detour had me approaching the finish line from the wrong side, so I cut through the crowd to U-turn into the chute. I figured if anyone said anything, I would point to the 7+ miles displayed on my Garmin. Or just be DQ’ed and be done with it. I was annoyed and in some ways glad that I hadn’t been on the verge of a PR. I know an athlete should know the course, but on the other hand, during a race, I don’t always think clearly.

I ran a few cool down miles with some friends and hung out for a while. One of my friends pointed to a couple of men who were approaching the finish line, one leading the other with a strap. A blind man was running the race. Instant perspective. We all cheered loudly for them.

All in all, it was a great day. I was happy with my 7:14 pace and my calf felt fine. I also felt confident that I would be able to run my marathon without a problem as long as I didn’t go crazy with speed or hills, which my plan doesn’t call for anyway.

Race Data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/429034450

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I wish I remembered what we were talking about here.

Songs That Go the Distance

It’s that time of the marathon training schedule when the long runs are starting to show up. Even though I am doing the Hanson’s Plan and my long runs top out at 16 miles, that’s still about two and a half hours of me and the pavement. For shorter and faster workouts, I like energetic music, but when I’m going long, my tastes change. It’s all about smoothness, and for lack of a better word, flow. Some of it is darnright mellow. Here are some of the songs that I lose myself in.

I have been getting into trance music lately and think it’s great for running. This song travels through a lot of different sounds and moods. The introduction makes me feel like something grand is about to happen.

Hypnotic instrumental opener that draws me into a mental place where everything is about the here and now. And that everything sounds better, looks brighter, and feels… better.

Trancy instrumental that makes me feel like the world is wide open and there for my taking.

One more trance selection. Nice, quick, light cadence, it sounds like running on the road. As the vocals and guitar work their way in and the song progresses, my feet may still be on the ground but my spirit soars through the air.

Throwback to my high school tastes. This song has smooth and flowing by the bucketload. I imagine I am gliding over the road without a care in the world.

Super mellow and introspective. And great for when I do my long runs in the dark.

Oh, now that I’m talking about the dark, I have to mention this song. More trance! Those synthy parts just make me want to move.

So smooth and no one does guitar like Pink Floyd. And aren’t all of us runners just a bunch of earth-bound misfits?

Sometimes you just have to get literal. Hey, it’s what we do every time we head out the door 🙂 I could only find the live version on Youtube. For the album version, go here.

Do you like to run with music? Do you tailor your playlist based on the type of workout? What are some of your favorites?

Tri For Acts of Kindness

The Tri for Acts of Kindness is one of the few pure charity races that I know of in my 1260887_4735832454093_1547911403_n hometown. Every cent made from the race goes directly back into the Shyann Kindness Project, where volunteers distribute gifts at low-income schools and discuss what it means to be kind. The race is held at La Mariposa, where I teach RPM and do my swim workouts, so I feel like I have a home field advantage (eh, not really, but I am used to the extremely shallow pool). I also appreciate any race my travel distance is less than what I will be covering on the course.

The swim is about as short as you will find in a triathlon: a scant 300 yards. As we all lined up according to number, I was happy to see that I would be sharing a lane with my friends Trisha and Gilbert. Things were running a bit behind, so we had a chance to catch up and talk about future race plans. When it was our turn to head to a lane, we launched into a “Who should swim first?” discussion. I ended up starting between Trisha and Gilbert.

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Swim:
5:05 | 300 yards | 01m 41s / 100 yards
Age Group: 3/18
Overall: 35/182
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/376219885

The water was a bit chilly, so I eased in. I went fairly hard because it was such a short swim, but I also felt pretty tired. Some days are just rough. Gilbert ended up passing me quickly, but he’s bad at counting laps (he freely admits this) and didn’t want to get too far ahead. He ended up waiting for me to finish to make sure he had gotten all of his laps in.

I ripped my cap, goggles, and ear plugs off as I ran to transition. I ended up dropping a plug and decided to leave it there. Because this was a hilly course, I wore my regular helmet because I didn’t know how much I’d be in the aero bars. I ran out of transition holding my bike in the air because I had heard of people getting tire punctures from weeds in the grass and I figured better safe than flat.

Bike:
40:07 | 12.5 miles | 18.7 MPH
Age Group: 2/18
Overall: 12/182
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/376219889

The early part of the bike course is really cracked and bumpy. I looked down at my Cateye and noticed that it was displaying miles per hour, but not cadence, which is the reverse of what it has been doing. A few miles in, I dipped down to drink from my aero-bar mounted bottle and it wasn’t there. I found it in the transition area after the race – it had gotten knocked off when I unracked my bike. I was glad that this was just a sprint and figured that I would probably be alright. Still, it was a warm day and dry mouth is no fun.

There were quite a few hills on the course, but I did a pretty good job of staying in the aero bars. I will use the aero helmet next time. My mental DJ was in a mellow mood and the song “Come Together” went through my head. I heard a rattling sound each time I shifted to my small chain ring and the middle gears, so I spent most of the bike leg in the large ring*. There weren’t  a lot of people on the bike course, which made for a much more enjoyable ride. At the turnaround, the more upbeat song “Perfect Day” was now in my head. My legs were feeling affected by the the large gear pedaling.

Run:
23:51 | 3.1 miles | 7:41 minutes/mile
Age Group: 1/20
Overall: 8/182
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/376219905

Gilbert was just ahead of me as I started on the run, but he quickly pulled away. My legs had no oomph. Maybe it was because of the bike, or the heat, or that this was a B race that I wasn’t tapered for. The hills also sapped my energy. It was an out and back, and I counted three women ahead of me on the run. With the staggered starts I didn’t know how far ahead of me they really were, but it’s always good to have targets during a race.

After the turnaround it was mostly downhill, and I was thankful for that. As I turned off the main road and headed back to La Mariposa, there was a blond woman in my sights. My mantra became blond blond blond blond, which morphed into blond Bond blond Bond and led to a vision of Daniel Craig. I ended up passing her. When I knew I was approaching the finish line and sped up, but I couldn’t see it because it was tucked around the bend.Being able to see the finish line really helps to motivate me, but alas…

I ended up passing three people on the run. A man with a Scottish accent who finished just behind me told me that he had been trying to catch me and that I “looked like a runner.” I took that as a compliment.

After the race, I went to the results table, entered my number, and got a nifty receipt printout of my time and splits. I had never seen that at a race before. Then I headed to the resort section of the club and picked up the included breakfast. Yum!

1231240_4735830054033_978586301_nI stayed around for the award ceremony and found out that the only female who beat me was also in my age group (I was 9th overall). They didn’t give special prizes for the overall winners, so I ended up getting a 2nd place medal. It was made out of an old bicycle chain, which I thought was thrifty, creative, and environmentally friendly.

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*I took my bike to the shop, and it turned out it was a case of cockpit error. The bike was fine, I just needed to trim the gear lever on the big ring depending on the sprocket I was using. At least I knew what to do for the next race.

Push-up Challenge Recap

Last month, I attempted a thirty-day push-up challenge. It started with five push-ups and ended with fifty, following a two day on, one day off schedule. I missed two days, but I was able to catch up by using the off day. Five varieties of push-ups were involved. I was able to complete all of the reps, although I always had to drop down to my knees after two diamond push-ups.

It was a fun challenge and easy to fit into a busy schedule. It only took me 3:11 to complete all fifty push-ups. At the end of the month, I re-tested myself to see how many standard push-ups I could do before failure. I went from being able to do 29 before the challenge to 33 after. I had been hoping for larger gains, but that’s still a 13.8% improvement. I think the biggest thing I took away from the challenge is that it’s not too hard to fit a little extra strength work in and I plan on doing so.

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Hotshots Run To Remember (and unofficial reverse duathlon)

During the summer, 19 Arizona firefighters tragically lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Fire, and the Hotshots Run To Remember And Never Forget was created to honor their memory and raise funds for their families. It’s modeled after the Dipsea Race, where runners are started at different times based on age and gender so the faster runners chase the (theoretically, at least) slower ones. The first runners get a 25-minute head start and subsequent groups start at 1-minute intervals. My station in life garnered me an 8-minute advantage. The first 19 finishers would be awarded with numbered T-shirts, and the first to cross the line would receive a beautiful fireman’s axe.

I really needed to get some bike miles in for my upcoming Half Ironman, and because the road to the race has wide bike lanes and few lights, I decided to pedal there. I figured the ride would take me about an hour, so I set my alarm for 4:40. It was still dark when I left, but I had just bought a sweet 500-lumen lamp and was ready for it. The air was thick with humidity.

Going was slow, and I blamed sluggish morning legs. The sky turned a gray-blue as I rode and it was very peaceful. I had packed my running shoes and clothes in a drawstring backpack and it kept shifting to the side, which was a little annoying. There were a couple of stranded bikers on the side of the road a few miles from the park. They asked if I had a spare CO2 cartridge and a patch. This was not their first flat of the day and they had run out. Fortunately, I was able to help and that made me feel extra good about my decision to bike to the race. It took me 1:12:51 to reach the race site (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/372050073), but I still had time to get my number, change into my running clothes and shoes, and suck down a Clif Shot.

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I would be starting at the same time as my friend Amy. Both of us were treating this race as a training run. Then I noticed that she had some Mace attached to her hydration vest. She said it was in case she ran into any hostile critters, but I think she might have been planning to take out the competition…  🙂 The race director kept calling for the different start groups, and most of them were pretty small until it was our turn.

From the start, it felt like I was left in the dust. Enough time had passed since my ride that I didn’t have the rubber-legged feeling I get during a triathlon, but I was definitely feeling its effect. On the plus side, it was still cloudy and there was a nice, refreshing rain. The early part of the race was paved but hilly. There was a working ranch nearby, and the scent of horse hung in the air. The first two miles were run at about 8 minutes a piece, and I was happy with that. Amy was long gone, though. As I ran by one woman she said, “I go to your Body Pump class.” I didn’t recognize her, but it was a fairly large class and it seemed like a lot of the faces change from week to week. It’s silly, but I felt like since I was the instructor that I should be faster.

The staggered start made the passing situation interesting: I was able to pass some people easily and other people were dropping me like a hot potato. My mental DJ was in a cultural mood and had selected Triumphal March from Verdi’s opera Aida for this morning’s festivities.

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Soon it was trail time. I had worn my Saucony Mirages because they were the most stable shoes I owned, but they weren’t really suited for trail running. Parts of the trail were fairly smooth, but in other places several rocks jutted out of the ground. I hit a few of them awkwardly and my ankles yipped but didn’t buckle. I soaked in the surroundings. The musky scent of skunk lingered in the air. In some places, the dirt was a beautiful red color. The skies brought Newton Faulkner’s song “Clouds” to mind.

Stop looking down at the ground
Pick it out of the clouds
No one’s gonna put you down
Just let it out let it out

With the staggered starts, some obviously faster runners came up behind me, and because it was a single-file trail, I had to step to the side and let them pass. It was an interesting challenge to constantly keep adjusting my pace and foot placement, but I am a road racer at heart. I didn’t want to run too fast and risk a fall. The silly, egotistical side of me wished that I had a sign on my back that said “Hey! You do realize I rode my bike here, don’t you?”

A little after the six-mile mark, there was a dramatic steep and rocky climb, and I did something that I don’t think I’ve done in a race since I was in junior high: walk. Post-race reconnaissance revealed that I wasn’t the only one. When I finally reached the top, there was less than a mile remaining. I heard footfalls behind me and this time the Body Pump lady passed. At this point, I was feeling confined by the trail and wishing for an open stretch of road where I could just run the pace I felt like running. It was trail until the end, though, so there was no finishing kick. I ended up finishing 30th taking the handicap start into account and 29th based on raw time. Amy was 16th, and my friends Keith (3) and Steve (10) also finished in the top 19.

Run data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/372050091

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I ate a banana and a Honey Stinger Waffle to fuel up for the ride home. I hadn’t tried the vanilla flavor before and it was outstanding. I hung around for a while and actually started to feel chilly. In Tucson. In September. The ride home was enjoyable and much quicker (http://connect.garmin.com/activity/372050102). It was still cool and there were some large, beautiful white flowers on the side of the road that I hadn’t noticed in the dark. All in all, it was a great morning. While I wasn’t fast, I got a heck of a workout and probably saved a gallon of gas.