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.

Easy Peasy Lemmon Squeezy

“Have you ridden Mt. Lemmon?” If you’re a cyclist in Tucson, you will be asked. I had always answered with a resounding “No.” The challenge of going up intrigued me. Coming down, not so much. I was a skittish biker. A Cautious Carla. A white-knuckled brake squeezer. A girl who got so frustrated with herself that the phrase “poopy puppy” would spring to mind during rides. But even puppies mature, and after about two years of riding, I decided it was time to squeeze the Lemmon.

The Tucson Tri Girls have a yearly summer tradition of going a little further up the mountain every week until the whole (or half) climb is conquered. My cyclist friend Rafael was also game to join me, so I decided it was as good a time to try as any. I had missed the first few rides, and the goal for that weekend was Milepost 17.

I met Rafael at a school parking lot and we rode to Milepost 0. We checked in and got smiley stickers for our helmets (people who collected a sticker from each ride would get a special memento at the end of the series). There are certainly steeper climbs around town, but Mt. Lemmon provides a long, mostly steady incline with a few downhills. There are also a few sharper climbs mixed in. I started at a moderate, even effort and quickly shifted down to my granny gear. To my surprise, we passed a quite a few people on our way up. Rafael (who was riding a fixed-gear bike!) had to turn around early to go to work, so I continued on my own. Locally-headquartered Tri Sports was parked halfway up, and they provided hydration and snacks. I topped off my water bottle and grabbed some Gu Chomps and a sample-sized European Chamois Butter (European = menthol in this case) packet. I ended up eating my own Honey Stinger waffle and decided to save everything else for another time.

After chatting with some folks, it was time to climb again. I was now in pine country, and their sharp, clean scent hung in the air. For the most part, all you could see was the road ahead, but there were some spots with amazing views of the city below. It’s a tremendous feeling to look down and see how far you’ve climbed. There was a sign saying that the camp ground was a mile away, but somehow I missed the turnoff. I decided to keep riding and make it an even 20 miles up, and luckily I found it on the way back. The Tri Girls had provided bagels, Z Bars, fruit, cookies, coffee, and more. I took my refueling very seriously because I didn’t want them to have to lug too much food back down the mountain. I was pretty sweaty and it was cool enough up there that I started to feel a little chilly.

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The way down was surprisingly enjoyable. There were some times when I rode the brakes, but I always felt in control. Some riders really push it going down, and they whizzed by me. Coasting was fine with me. I also stopped more than once to take some pictures.

Ride data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/352753406

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Two weeks later, it was time for the Full Lemmon: Cookie Cabin (Milepost 25) or bust! Rafael joined me again, along with some of his other friends. I met a guy named Bill and mentioned that I was more of a triathlete than a cyclist. He asked if I knew one of the other triathletes in the group, but said that maybe I wouldn’t because she was in her thirties. I told him that I was as well, and he said that he had thought I was twenty-something (he was well into his fifties). I asked if it was because I was wearing sunglasses. He said it was the legs. Anyhow, it’s always nice when people think you look younger than you are. Thank you exercise.

The SAG stop was at Windy Point this week. It was a really hot day, and I probably guzzled a quart of water in under a minute. It’s amazing how quickly I can drink after a good sweat session Then I grabbed a banana and smeared peanut butter on it.

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I hung around for a while, drank some more, and reapplied sunscreen before heading back up. The extra seven miles made a big difference, despite a long downhill toward the end. My legs quivered as I dismounted at the Cookie Cabin. It was closed, so I had to make do with one of the energy bars that I had brought. Even at the summit, there was no escaping the heat this week.

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I didn’t see any Tri Girls, so I decided to head back down on my own. It had already been a very long ride. I saw a deer on the way down and got off my bike to take a picture, but a car went by and the deer leapt over the side of the mountain before I could. I also realized that I had left a water bottle at Windy Point, and thankfully it was still there on my way back. By the time I finished, my back was sore and I was stinky and starving, but still smiling.

Climbing the mountain had been unthinkable to me for so long that I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I could try to wax eloquent here, but I feel a song coming on instead…

Ride data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/360555541

 

Mountain Man Triathlon (Olympic Distance)

The Mountain Man Triathlon in Flagstaff, Arizona bills itself as “The Toughest Race You’ll Ever Love.” Something about altitude. And a hill. I had done it last year, and was looking forward to testing my mettle on the course again. I was also faster, more experienced, and perhaps most importantly, I had better gear. After the tube and tire fiasco at the previous month’s triathlon, I had made sure to take care of everything bike-related well before the night of the race. The latex tubes were in my tires, and I was able to use both race wheels.

The night before the race, my husband and I headed to Picazzo’s. I had a delicious Greek salad and a whole-grain crust pizza. Several other triathletes were carbo-loading there as well. Afterwards, we headed to Target. I needed berries and granola for my breakfast yogurt, and if a few other things happened to find their way into my cart, well, far be it from me to throw them out. We had planned on walking around downtown, but decided to head back to our room and watch Trouble With The Curve (purchased at said Target) instead.

I woke up a little after four, ate my yogurt breakfast, sipped black tea, and let Ted sleep for another half hour. He got up without too much urging, and we quickly loaded the car and headed toward Lake Mary. The mountain air was delightfully cool, and I wore a sweatshirt and yoga pants over my tri clothes. We parked off the side of the road as instructed, and made our way toward the transition area.

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Some races assign racks by number, but this isn’t one of them. Trying to find a spot to slip your bike in can be a little tricky, but I’ve never had a big problem. Sometimes, however, I do have a problem getting the number onto my bike using the twist ties provided. Aerodynamic frames have funny shapes. My friend Jeff says that he staples his number on, and I might just have to do that myself next time.

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Hmm… Will this way work?

After everything was set up, I had plenty of time to eat some more, use the port-o-potties (the lines weren’t bad), and don my wetsuit. My wave was assigned golden caps, and I think they look as snazzy as latex head covers can possibly look. My time here last year was 2:44:57 and my goal for this race was to go under 2:40.

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Swim (does not include time to reach timing mat) http://connect.garmin.com/activity/357513147
00:30:20 | 1640.42 yards | 01m 50s / 100 yards
Age Group: 4/13
Overall: 85/278

The water was a bit chilly, as we stood half-submerged waiting for the start. I positioned myself about a third of the way back. Once we started, it was a mass of flailing limbs and brown, churning water. I knew from past experience that the first few minutes of the swim would feel awful thanks to the altitude, but knowing didn’t make it any easier. I felt like my lungs had shriveled up and I just had to keep telling myself that the feeling would pass and to keep going. My upper body felt powerless, and it was all I could do to weakly paddle forward. There had also been some turmoil in my personal life over the past month, and while I had gotten my workouts in, they certainly hadn’t been stellar. It would be interesting to see how this DSC03353race unfolded. I threw in a breaststroke every so often as I tried to sight, and I had to re-align myself more than once. The crowd had thinned by the time I reached the first buoy, so I was able to make a tight turn. I was also breathing much better by this time, but my stroke still felt weak.  

As I turned around the last buoy to head to the ramp, I was nearly blinded by the glare of the sun off the water. I could make out swimmers ahead of me, but not much else. I kept popping up to sight, but I couldn’t see the exit. It felt like I was never going to get out of this lake. I kept going, and swam right into a volunteer who was there to keep people from hitting a reef. At least the finish was in sight now. I was disappointed with my 30+ minute swim because it was slower than last year. I know I wasted a lot of time zigging and zagging. Still, there was a lot of race left, so I ran toward the transition, cursing the pebbles along way.

Transition 1 http://connect.garmin.com/activity/357513149

I scarfed a Z Bar and applied some sunscreen. In the process of unracking my bike, I knocked my aero bottle out of its cage, so I had to re-rack and put it back. I know my official transition time of 3:29 is slow, but since according to my Garmin I went all the way to Africa, I’d say that it was pretty fast. Seriously, check out the link. What up, Garmin? Atmospheric disturbance?

Bike http://connect.garmin.com/activity/357513150
01:14:09 | 24.85 miles | 20.05 mile/hr
Age Group: 3/13
Overall: 85/278

Bike Course

The bike course is kind of an oxymoron: hilly, but fast. It’s an out-and-back, with most of the climbing taking place in the first half. Some people seriously fly on the way back, DSC03376hitting speeds of 50+ miles per hour. I had decided to leave my aero helmet at home because I didn’t know if I’d be riding mostly upright on the hilly parts. I knew the first part of the course was pretty flat, so I settled into my aero bars and rode at a controlled, fast-ish pace. My bike computer was showing cadence, but not speed. I am ashamed to say that the song going through my head at this point was Ke$sha’s “We Are Who We Are.” My only excuse is that it was in the RPM release that I was teaching that week. At least some of the lyrics were motivating.

Tonight we’re going har-har-h-h-h hard
Just like the world is our-our-ah-ah-ah ours!
We’re tearing it apar-par-par-pa-pa-pa part
You know we’re superstars
We R who we R

The lake and mountain scenery was gorgeous. It seemed like I wasn’t too far into the bike leg, when I saw the lead men coming back the other way. They had gotten an earlier start, but still. One of them was wearing nothing but a Speedo. Not so gorgeous.

I remember being challenged by the climbs last year, so when I hit the biggest hill of the day and it didn’t seem too hard, I wondered if it was the hill I remembered. I ended up passing my friend Shannon on this climb. His swim had been really rough as well. I was getting passed by people, but it seemed like a lot fewer than usual in my Olympic distance racing experience. I hadn’t heard any auto-lap beeps (I have it set for five mile increments on the bike), but I think that’s because the Garmin still had me in Africa. 

I finally reached the turn-around and knew that time-wise I was over halfway there. I back-and-forthed with a sixty-year old woman for a while. I eventually took the lead, but I was seriously impressed with her. I wanted to shout out the cheer from the audition scene from Bring It On: “Awesome! Oh wow! Like totally freak me out!” I decided to save my lungs, though. 

When I got to the long downhill, I remember thinking, This is what had me shaking in my spandex last year? It really didn’t seem scary at all, even though I reached 39.7 miles per hour. My hip flexors bothered me a bit, but I was mostly able to ignore it. I had decided get all of my bike-time calories in liquid form, and had Body Armor sports drink in my aero bottle. It tasted great. So much better than the mass-produced “ades”.

I was really pleased with my bike. I had taken over eight minutes off of last year’s time, but more importantly, I was happy that I was a much stronger and more confident rider. Improvements come slowly sometimes, but they do come. Next year, I’m bringing my aero helmet.

Transistion 2 http://connect.garmin.com/activity/357513156

I applied more sunscreen. 1:51, officially.

Run http://connect.garmin.com/activity/357513161
00:46:00 | 6.2 miles | 7:25 min/mile
Age Group: 3/13
Overall: 35/278

RunCourse

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Taking a tight turn running downhill

I will spare you a thousand words describing the course, and let the picture above speak for me. It’s very flat – until it’s not. I felt confident that finishing under 2:40 was well within my reach. I tried flipping through my Garmin screens to get a sense of what my instantaneous pace was, but got nothing useful (it still had me in Africa). So, I just ran by feel, which is what I normally do anyway. Still, I like peek at my pace and check my splits. There was a pebble in my shoe, but I decided I to ignore it.

Hill time. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other… There were kids with super soakers at the switchback, and I waved at them and hoped they’d let me have it. They obliged. I didn’t feel like I was running fast, but I kept passing people. I saw my friend Jeff, and we gave each other hollers. I was losing feeling in my left foot, and Linkin Park’s “Numb” started coursing through my head. At least I no longer felt the pebble.

After the hill, there’s a brief section on a dirt road, then it’s turn around and head on back. I was looking forward to screaming down that hill. I gave Shannon a wave as he made his way up. It was warming up, but at least I was in the home stretch now. Finally, it was back to the flats. When I hit the one mile mark, I knew that I would easily surpass my time goal. Feeling started to return to my foot.

I felt the cumulative physical effort of the race, but I was nowhere near as mentally exhausted as I had been in my previous Olympic triathlons. I saw two women ahead of me, and made it my goal to catch them. Concentrating on Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out” had worked well for my last tri, so my mind went there again. I passed one woman. Digging deeper. The finish line was in sight, and I passed the second. I managed a little kick-lette, and I heard “Michael Kaseler from Tucson” over the loud speaker. Michael? Well, keep running, Michael. I crossed the line and the woman that I had passed was close behind. No one had passed me during the run.

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Even though my swim wasn’t great, I was very pleased with this race. I had knocked over eight minutes off of last year’s time, and felt so much stronger and more confident in my abilities as a triathlete.

Final time: 2:36:31
Overall: 59 / 278
Age Group: 3 / 13

A 30-Day Push

It seems I can’t turn around these days without hearing about some sort of fitness or diet challenge. 90 days, 30 days, planks, squats, shake-drinking, clean-eating, detoxing, boxing… While I am not a fan of quick-fixes or fads, short-term goals like these can help provide focus that translates into long-term habits (I think my next challenge needs to be going for a whole paragraph without using a hyphen!). Still, none of these challenges piqued my interest.

I had seen seen the site http://www.hundredpushups.com before, but I think I would be as challenged mentally as physically to complete it. Honestly, my mind tends to get bored with the exercise before my body gives out. Then I found this push-up challenge. You build to 50 push-ups, but five different variations are involved. That should help with the mental aspect. Plus, the variations are more challenging that the straight-up variety.

I did the first day today, which consisted of one rep of each kind. It went easily except for the diamond push-up; I barely completed the single rep. I will probably need to do kneesies on that one as the challenge progresses. I also conducted a baseline test to see how many straight push-ups I could do before failure (29). It will be interesting to see what that number is at the end of the month. Hello, September. I am prepared to PUSH myself.

Will all of these push-ups make me into a Mean Girl?

As an aside, my friends at http://weshallhavepie.com/ have started their own September Skinny Jeans Challenge. Hop on over to their site if you’d like some ideas on healthy eating (A hyphen-free paragraph! Oh, wait… Crud.).

Do you have any September goals?

How I Survived My Summer Offseason

In some parts of the world, the summer months are ripe with races. In my neck of the desert, where midday temperatures routinely top one hundred degrees, formal racing opportunities dwindle. For others, the downtime comes when the ground is buried under crunchy layers of white stuff. Still, there are plenty of ways for a even the most ardent race-a-holic to stay motivated and well-trained during the inhospitable seasons.

Get Out of Dodge:

Is the weather awful? Go somewhere where it isn’t! Destination races can be a lot of fun. This summer, I cooled off in San Francisco and Flagstaff. Last year I ran a half marathon in Disneyland. Make like a kid and head to a sports camp. I’ve had great times at running camp. Incidentally, my hometown of Tucson is home to several triathlon camps during the winter months. Consider a fitness spa vacation to both sweat and unwind.

Alternative Events:

While there are fewer formal races, I’m fortunate that my city provides a few weekday events during the summer weeks. My favorite is the local aquathlon series (800 yard pool swim, 3 mile run). The swim can get a little crazy, as we circle swim three or four to a lane. Swimmers are assigned lanes based on an a submitted start time, but some estimates are better than others. I know my times vary from week to week. Some days, it’s like bumper boats, and other times things go… just swimmingly. Then it’s pop out of the water, put your shoes on, and run three laps around a park path, weaving through walkers, bikers, and oblivious children. This particular summer was a lot of fun for me, as both my run and swim times improved since last year. I also had some great sprint-to-the-finish battles and even managed to win a few. They are relatively small events, and you get to know some folks pretty well by the end of the summer.

One other thing I like to hit at least once during the summer is an all-comer’s track meet. There are several youth track clubs that participate as well as full-grown folks. I like to do mile time trials occasionally to gauge my fitness, and it’s fun to do them in a competitive setting. If that means getting beaten by an eight year-old, so be it. My mile PR dropped to 6:07 this summer.

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Now, if your offseason happens during the winter, you might find snowshoe races, cross country skiing, indoor or winter triathlons in your area.

Just do it anyway:

Some folks just decide to suck it up and race. One local running event company hosts a “Run With The Roosters”, which starts at 5:05 AM. I passed on that, but I did take part in an evening 5K and a sprint triathlon. With racing getting more popular these past few years, I have noticed that there are several events to pick from, even during the dog days of summer. If extreme weather is just one more challenge you’d like to take on, there are events like “The Hottest Race on Earth” just for you.

Well, my offseason is rapidly drawing to a close. Starting with an 8-miler on Labor Day, I have eight more races packed in to next two months. I’m eagerly anticipating my times dropping with the temperature.

San Francisco Half Marathon (A Race to Love)

Racing opportunities thin out during the summer in southern Arizona, so I kept my eyes open for events in cooler locales. I had several friends who were heading up to the San Francisco Marathon and Half Marathon, and I decided to join them. My husband Ted and I volunteered to drive our fuel-efficient Hyundai Elantra and Keith and Monica were game to travel with us. We decided to break the 880-ish mile trip into two days with a stopover in Bakersfield.

We crammed ourselves, luggage, and a couple week’s worth of snacks into the car, and waved goodbye to hundred-degree temperatures for a few days. Before we even left town, we ended up doubling back for sunglasses and a cell phone (the names of the forgetful parties have been withheld). A harbinger of other things to come… Finally, we were on out way, and our GPS (hereafter referred to as Dot) was plugged in and ready to navigate.

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Driving was pretty uneventful for a while, which is a good thing. We broke into our snacks and talked about our goals for the race. Monica wanted to break two hours. Keith, who averages over a marathon a month, had set a PR of 3:01:18 a few weeks ago and was feeling good. Personally, I was just wanting to go under 1:45 (My PR is 1:40:03). I knew it was a hilly course, and my training had been very short-distance focused lately. I had met my goal of breaking 21 minutes in a 5K and simply looking forward to getting out of town and having fun. We stopped in Phoenix for lunch and took few more pit stops along the way. It’s funny, no matter how much food you pack for a trip, you always want to buy more. Monica bought some gummy octopi, which led to her sharing this video with all of us: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=astISOttCQ0. Warning: Watch only if you like obnoxious things.

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Standing outside the General Patton museum at a California rest stop.

Keith brought his Sirius radio, and we listened to some classic rock and old school, “new wave” alternative music while it was sunny out. As night fell, our moods mellowed, and we dialed in Sirius XM Love. Easy 70’s tunes abounded, which was fine for everyone except Ted. Then it happened. The moment that set the tone for the rest of the trip. Minnie Ripperton. Loving you. Tweeting birds. La la la la! La la la la! La la la la la la la la la! Doo doo doo doo doo! And… ahh ahh ahh ahh ahh! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kE0pwJ5PMDg Yes, we sang. And it sounded awful. Runner’s lungs are not necessarily singer’s lungs. Our vocal chords strained and sputtered. But there was lots and lots of love in the car, and we dubbed this the road trip of love to the city of love. We were still feeling it when we arrived at our Bakersfield Super 8 super late that night.

Keith, Monica, and I met in the morning for an easy five-miler before we hit the road again. It was slightly cooler than in Tucson, which was nice. After we hit the road, Keith handed us his iPhone so we could hook it up to the auxiliary, and Minnie’s high notes poured through the speakers. The miles rolled by, and I gave Dot the expo address and she dutifully took us to Treasure Island. We saw a marina with a lot of expensive boats, but nothing that looked like a convention center. Then I realized that I had chosen the wrong zip code. Oops. We made our way back over the bridge and right into the heart of downtown San Francisco. Dot did her best to guide us, but the GPS signal frequently got lost amid the tall buildings, so some of her instructions weren’t very timely.

We were about to give up on the expo for that day and just head to the motel, when we passed several people carrying marathon bags and saw the convention center. When we arrived, we decided to split up so we could each look at what we wanted to. I started searching my purse for my phone to make sure I had everyone’s number, and I couldn’t find it. I frantically emptied my whole purse on the floor,and it wasn’t there. This amused some people… Ted had his phone, so he was stuck with me for a while.

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Yeah… I keep a lot of stuff in there.

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To paraphrase Templeton the rat from the first animated Charlotte’s Web movie, the expo was a veritable smorgasbord, and I tried almost everything. Bars, snacks, bars, drinks, chews, bars… Apparel, massagers, hydration systems, and all the usual stuff was present. I ended up buying a Tiger Tail and some sunglasses. Keith, who is an Ambassador for the race, met up with his fellow Ambassadors at their booth. He was also interviewed by a local news station because he had been at the Boston Marathon. We also messed around at the TRX station. Photo ops abounded.

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Because Keith was an ambassador, he was invited to a special dinner at a Thai restaurant and we were able to come as guests. The food was delicious and plentiful. After dinner, we walked around by the waterfront. The Bay Bridge was lit up beautifully. I had brought my sweater, but I still felt chilly.

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We decided to drive around so we could see the Golden Gate bridge and get a feel for the course, which went right over it. When we turned around in the little park, the bottom of the car scraped on something, and one of the underguard thingamajigs came loose (are you overwhelmed by my automotive knowledge?). Ted and Keith wrestled with it for a while, and were eventually able to completely detach it. More Minnie was needed… Ah, feel the love.

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We spent the next day at the Expo, and then Ted, Monica, and I took a side trip to Sports Basement, where I scooped up some running and tri gear and Ted got a free beer. Then we stopped at Trader Joe’s for some lunch salads and more snacks. I ended up finding my phone in one of my other bags. Who knows why I had put it there instead of my purse.

We decided that it would be fun to go to Little Italy for our pre-race dinner, so we piled into the car (people who live in the area might be laughing at us right about now). All of the parking lots in the area were full. Roads were blocked off due to some kind of street fair. Dot sounded annoyed as she repeatedly told us she was “Recalculating.” Traffic was congested. Dot faded in and out, and gave us our directions after we had already passed the turns. We drove up and down some of those crazy, steep hills that you see in the movies. An hour and a half later, we returned to the motel and ate pizza at a place across the street. I ended up having a veggie pizza sub and a salad.

It was another really cold evening, and I was regretting not bringing warmer bottoms to the race. I decided to ask the front desk for trash bags, figuring I could wear them to keep warm before the start. The desk guy raised his eyebrows, but gave me the bags. Monica kindly gave me a pair of throwaway gloves and let me borrow one of her fleece jackets. I had at least had the foresight to bring some tube sock “arm warmers” to toss.

I set my alarm for 3:20 the next morning. Bruce and Terri, who are also from Tucson but were staying elsewhere, kindly offered to drive me and Keith to the start. Ted was going to drive Monica to her start because she was running the second half of the course and didn’t have to get up as early. Bruce and Terri were also having problems with their GPS, but we made our way to the start in plenty of time. Security looked through our bags, but it didn’t take very long. It was a cool morning, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. With my extra layers and garbage bag, I was completely fine.

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*******************Skip if you don’t care about potty stuff********************************

Being an Ambassador, Keith was able to wait inside a restaurant and drink nice beverages and use plumbed toilets. Meanwhile, I made my way to the port-o-potties, and thankfully didn’t have to wait in line. If you have read my other race reports, you might have picked up on the fact that when it comes to the solid stuff, I usually have to go early and go often. This morning, nothing. Not at the hotel. Not in the plastic blue facility. Not even after taking a caffeinated Clif shot. It must have been that pizza sub. I don’t normally eat white bread. I knew that white flour can be used to make paste. Add some gummy cheese, and well, you get the point.

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I put Monica’s fleece in my gear check bag and headed toward the second corral. The air was cool, but I was fine in my tank and arm warmers. I also chucked my trash bag. It was crowded at the beginning, but I didn’t have to weave too much. My mental DJ cued up Republica’s “Ready to Go”.

It’s a crack, I’m back yeah standing
On the rooftops shouting out,
Baby I’m ready to go!

Because I wasn’t feeling the need to be aggressive in this race, I was fine with a slow start. I hit the first mile mark in 8:16. We ran along the waterfront, which was beautiful. The next couple miles were just under 8 minutes, then in the 7:40 range. The aroma of sourdough permeated the air. There was a steep climb as we approached the bridge. Now, My Chemical Romance’s “Famous Last Words” coursed through my head. I am not afraid to keep on living… That mile was run in 8:36.

Now for the highlight of the course: running on the Golden Gate Bridge. While it was still crowded and I needed to make sure I didn’t crash into anyone, I made sure to look to the side from time to time and take in the view. I had discarded the “arm warmers” and gloves by this time. The air was cool, but it felt wonderful. I saw Keith making his way back across the bridge around mile seven. There was some gentle ascending and descending, but I didn’t feel like it made that much difference in my pace or effort. At the end of the bridge, we ran into the park for the turn-around and then ran back across. A live band played some classic southern-style rock. I was feeling really, really good and decided I’d try to push the pace a little. Cascada’s “San Francisco” was in my head now. I had recently taught it in RPM, and well, I was in San Francisco. At least “Loving You” did not make an appearance. 

19913_4294477140486_1286549467_nAfter leaving the bridge, we headed inland a bit. After a sharp ascent, there was a nice view of the houses below. Then it was time to fly down a long, steep hill.  The last couple of miles were more up and down, emphasis on the up. I was still feeling good, and cranked up my effort and started passing some people. I saw someone with a sign that said “Lauf, Micha, Lauf!” I speak a little bit of German, and pretended that the sign was specifically encouraging me to run.

264894_4294477260489_1691156455_nAs I approached the finish line, I was passed by one person, and I decided to see if I could reel him in. I dug in and went for it, and I got him. My chip time was 1:43:17, and I was really happy with it. Ted and Monica had been able to see everything from the sidelines and got some great shots.

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Behind the guy in gray…

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Not anymore

I met up with Ted and Monica and got my dry clothes at bag check. While the weather 1005875_3280320263584_1794908932_nhad been perfect for running, it was a bit cool for just standing around. I picked up some Greek yogurt at the finish, which was delicious. I appreciated that they provided something with some protein. Soon it was time for Monica to line up for the Second Half, and Ted a I took a long walk to the car and drove to the finish line. 

Keith finished his marathon in an impressive 3:03:49, while Monica was happy with her 2:06:12. Bruce gutted out a 4:55:32 for his fifth marathon this year. I never saw one of our other Tucson friends, Brian, on the trip, but I saw that he won his age group with a 1:23:46. I ended up seventh in my age group of 431, which was a pleasant surprise. We headed to Pizza Orgasmica for some post-race fueling. Was it as good as it sounds? A lady doesn’t eat and tell 😉

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After lunch, it was back into the car and we headed to Bakersfield. When we asked Dot to take us to a Mexican restaurant that had been recommended by a local, she led us to a cemetery. Tall buildings weren’t the problem this time, so we banished her to the glove box for the rest of trip. On the way home, we refueled at a Love’s (where else?) travel stop.

This race was one where I was able to simply enjoy being a runner. I came into it without any real expectations, pressure, or plans. I just let my body do what it felt like doing and enjoyed the moment. Sometimes the fact that running is a celebration of being healthy and alive can get lost in the splits and mileage logs. Any day that I can move on my own power in a new and beautiful place is a good day indeed.

Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/329579065

ROOB Workouts

Some folks pop out of bed with a gleam in their eyes and a spring in their step. Not so me. Some days the roll out of bed (ROOB) is practically literal. Maybe I should attach a ramp to the bed so I don’t hit the floor so hard. Anyhow, due to life’s demands, sometimes AM workouts are the only option. Here are some ways to survive, if not always thrive, in the wee hours.

Injury Risk and Diminished Performance

Your core temperature runs cooler in the morning, which can increase the risk of injury. And then there’s fighting that feeling of grogginess… A longer warm-up can help counteract these factors.

My paces in the morning are slower than they are in the afternoon or evening, and I am not alone. This can be improved somewhat by making morning exercise a habit. If you happen to enjoy racing, it’s good to train in the morning at least occasionally since most events are held early in the day. The effect is much less pronounced when performing a simple and/or less strenuous activity, such as walking.

Fueling and Fat Burn

Will working out in the morning on an empty stomach help me burn more fat? I’ve read the cases both for and against it. Some physique competitors swear by it, saying that being glycogen-depleted (like you are first thing in the morning) leads to greater fat burning. However, recent research says that you won’t be able to exercise as long and/or hard on an empty stomach, which negates the benefit. Total calories burned are more important than whether they come from glycogen or fat stores.

Logistics come into play as well. If you’re already waking up long before you want to, you’ll probably don’t want to sit around waiting for your food to digest before beginning your workout. When deciding what and when to eat, the type of workout affects my decision. In general, if I am doing an shorter, easier workout, I’ll do it on an empty stomach. If it’s an intense interval workout or it’s going to last for more than an hour, I’d rather be fueled so I can perform at a higher level. I am personally a big fan of Choclate Cherry Clif Shots on days when I wake up and head right out the door to workout. They digest quickly and the caffeine helps wake me up. If I have to spend some time traveling to a gym or running route, I’ll have something quick and solid like a Luna bar*.

Getting Your Feet On The Ground

Of course, none of this matters if you stay nestled under the sheets. Here are some ideas for those mornings when it feels like Lilliputians have bound you to your mattress with invisible threads during the night.

Will Gulliver be skipping his long run this morning?

  • Move your alarm clock across the room. The first step out of bed is the hardest.
  • Make plans to meet a friend. No one wants to be the one who bailed.
  • Make a commitment on a site like http://www.stickk.com/, where you will have to pay an amount of your choosing to a self-designated beneficiary if you fail to meet your goals.
  • Register for an event. Having a set date where you will be putting your fitness on the line is great motivation. If you have a rival, even better. Picture her wide awake and getting her sweat on.
  • Think about starting the day with a feeling of accomplishment rather than regret.

While I am still a night owl at heart, I have come to appreciate the cool, freshness in the air that only exists in the morning. Speaking of which, I’d better get to bed. I have an early date with my running shoes tomorrow.

*I am not sponsored by the Clif Bar company, but I am more than willing to be 🙂

Meet Me Downtown 5K

It was the final Southern Arizona Roadrunners race before the summer break, so why not embrace the hundred-degree heat and have an evening race while the sun is still out? Two thousand and thirty four people besides myself evidently thought this was a fine idea. I arrived around five to help with registration, and it was a good thing because the table was swamped with people signing up at the event. We were only accepting cash and check, and constantly having to answer “I don’t know,” when people asked where the nearest ATM was. A free mile run was also being held, and several people signed up for that as well. I saw a few people from my office building at the race, which was a nice surprise.

We were partially shaded as we worked the tables, but definitely felt the heat. Standing and sweating for an hour and a half before a race probably isn’t the best thing to do, but sometimes you have to take one for the team. We got some relief volunteers with about twenty minutes to start, so I dropped my stuff off in the car and managed to get a warm-up mile in (“warm-up” sounds funny on a day like this). I really had to pee, but with the lines at the port-o-potties, I knew there was no way I’d make it in time.

Waiting in the crowd for the race to start was extra toasty. Something about being around all of those warm bodies? I could also feel the heat from the asphalt seeping through the bottoms of my shoes. This race was the first leg of the Gabe Zimmerman Triple Crown. Gabe was a local runner who had been killed in the January 8th shooting targeting Gabby Giffords. Gabe’s father thanked the crowd for for coming out and encouraged everyone to have a great race. It was a poignant reminder to appreciate every day that we’re able to do the things we love and see the people we love.

The course was flat and would probably be very fast if this race was held at a cooler time of year. Still, last year I was only two seconds off my PR at this race (21:27), so I was hopeful that I could do well again. My new PR, which I had just set three weeks ago, was 20:43. I took off at what felt like a good pace, and navigated the congestion. Some of the downtown residents sprayed us down with hoses, which provided welcome (if brief) relief. The song “Running On Empty” rattled around my head, but I pushed it out in favor of “Running Down A Dream.” It was only the first mile, for crying out loud! This eventually gave way to “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Hot? Yes! Sticky? Yes! Sweet? Eh, maybe.

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After the first mile, I started passing several wilting people. The split was 6:47, which was not quite my 6:40 PR pace. I resigned myself to the fact that a new best would probably not be forthcoming today. I passed Ragnar teammate Steve O., and I hit the next mile at 6:54. Bah! I did some back-and-forth with a girl wearing aquamarine. While the course was relatively flat, there was a definite incline toward the end and I felt every inch. I heard someone cheer for me, but I wasn’t sure who. At least I didn’t feel the urge to pee anymore.

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I mustered up a kick at the end, but it wasn’t much. I had been involved in a hard-fought rundown at the end of the aquathlon a few days before, and had managed to scrape out the lead. It was one of those rare, fun, amazing, yet agonizing times where I wasn’t sure how I was able to run with the force that I had. I think my brain was feeling a little rebellious and not wanting to go there again so soon. So, in the final straightaway, I was passed by aquamarine, Steve O., and a few other guys. Crud! I was a little disappointed in myself, but my heart rate was also a little on the high side for the end of a 5K, so maybe I had given most of what I could for that day. My chip time was 21:15, which was good enough for second in my age group after the overall winners were taken out of the age group ranks.

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Race data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/321775031