Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monster Dash 5k and Amelia Earhart Park 10k

I completed a bucket list item yesterday. Well, actually, it wasn't on the bucket list until I was doing it, and I realized that it was a bucket list type thing, so I added it, then promptly checked it off. I began the day running my first 10k trail race and ended the day at a 5k, running from monsters.
Reuters Photo
 In the days leading up to my big weekend, I was getting nervous. Not about the twofer, but about the fact that it might not happen. Hurricane Sandy, spinning off the coast of Florida was threatening to destroy my weekend plans. How dare she! But thankfully, my prayers were answered, and she brought minor wind and rain (and a blessed birthday day off of school!). Race plans were still a go!

Race morning was windy, but dry and cool, and because the trees would be a shelter from the wind, it wasn't even going to be a factor. I drove into the park in complete darkness and tried to ignore the "Trails Closed" sign. The turnout was a small one. The race director, Marlon from the down2earth company wished us his usual "happy thanksgiving," and explained that the course would be a little wet, muddy and full of downed trees branches and other debris. And we were off.

The 10k course meant 2 5k "or so" laps. As I ran, I was once again reminded of my childhood days exploring the 35ish acres of my grandma's property. The mud was not a factor for me. I kept my eyes on the ground before me and set my pace according to what lay under my feet. We raced on a mountain bike path, which means the course was about as hilly as you can find in South Florida (except for the "King of the Hill" race at Vista View park).  My mind remained occupied, being very visual and having a fairly vivid imagination, I "watched" various scenes from The Hunger Games and Snow White and the Huntsman, which we had just seen the night before.

I thought there was only one woman ahead of me, and she was running the half. I passed her and continued on. At some point I realized I was daydreaming a little too much and that's when I started wondering if I could not just be the first woman to finish, but to be the first overall. I kicked it into high gear, knowing that my strong legs give me a big advantage on the inclines. I passed another woman and knew I was the first female. I ran out of race before I could pass anyone else, but was very happy to podium as the 1st woman. I finished in 1:05, less than 1:30 behind the first place male and am kicking myself for daydreaming away too many miles in the middle. However, I am so happy to have earned my first 1st place.

Race #2: The Monster Bash Dash involved a drive up to Orlando. I had won a free entry (Thank you, Active Advantage membership!), so the drive was worth a fun birthday weekend getaway. Our race wave was 6:20 p.m. My running buddy, Justin and I chose that time, thinking it would be getting dark, but wouldn't be too dark. We were both nervous before the race. I was remembering my own middle school days of other birthday "spook walks" through my grandma's woods, getting chased by my dad and friends dressed up in costumes.
Before the Monster Bash Dash 5k
I was surprised that there wasn't a very big turnout. We parked in a cow pasture (Yes, I'm sure-- I saw the evidence!) and had no trouble getting our numbers, t-shirts, and lives (aka flag football belts). There were obstacles visible, and I became a little excited at the prospect of monsters + obstacles. However, at the start we were told to go around the obstacles, and in fact, most of the obstacles were roped off (except the monkey bars, which Justin and I couldn't resist traversing!). We followed the course through trees, shrubs and fields, dodging zombies, dead pirates, demented dolls and various other strange and creepy costumed creatures. Some were actually frightening and some were just silly. It was especially effective when they teamed up-- one or two semi-visible and one or two hiding just beyond. I'm quite sure I set a new PR for my vertical leap after one monster completely caught me off guard.

Justin and I did not survive. Early on, monsters had taken all our flags, so at the finish we were awarded with "I am one of the walking dead" finisher medals. We had an excellent time. Our only regret was that we hadn't chosen a later heat. The sun was just beginning to set as we crossed the finish line (despite our efforts to hasten the darkness by walking some of the course).
Justin's first medal (and it glows in the dark!)
The walking dead

**So, how do you know if you are ready for a 2 race weekend? First check with your doctor to see if you are healthy enough. You should have previously raced both distances. Be sure to train for the twofer-- I currently am used to training twice a day, so it was not a huge shock to my body to add a second race.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. 
 Mark Twain

I'm a much different person than I once was. I was once the quiet kid in class. Now I'm the teacher. I was once the wall-flower at the school dance, too afraid to step onto the floor and dance to the music. Now I'm the lady in the car next to you, dancing with abandon at my favorite song. Once I was afraid to stand out. To take a chance. To be vulnerable. Now I'm... well, I'm still afraid, but I'm learning to ignore my fears and take chances. 

I've decided that life is just to short to play it safe. I want to live passionately. To enjoy each day. To laugh loudly and contagiously. To give everything I have in everything I do. I don't want to plod along, head down, looking up just long enough to check a box on my "To Do" List. 

I'm not talking about blindly gambling life away. I'm talking about blowing the doors off your comfort zone, dismantling the box and exploring life outside of it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

My grandma frequently would give the warning when my younger cousins were around, and we were discussing something secretive: "Little pitchers have big ears." It is one of those things that I wish I could ask her about now. But she left earth way too early, before I married, before I had children. So this has been for years one of those mysterious phrases of hers that I've dusted off and used without understanding. All I knew is that it's something said when the discussion is not meant to be told and children are around. Thanks to Google, I now know that this isn't just a crazy saying unique to my grandma, it's an idiom that's been around since before 1546.
Photo from: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Fun and Nonsense, by Willard Bonte
The phrase contains a truth (although a little buried), that those who are younger are always watching. They are empty vessels, waiting to be filled. It's a warning and an encouragement-- we are leaders, role models to someone. The discussion frequently happens in the media, especially when a professional athlete does something really stupid, and then responds to accusations of being a bad role model with something along the lines of "I never wanted to be a role model." And so the debate goes on: Are they? or Aren't they?

We all are role models. If you are a parent, especially so. If you're not a parent, you are older than lots of people. You may not have achieved personal greatness, but you do have a car, a profession, a driver's license, more life experience than others, which equals a position of authority in many people's eyes. Someone wants to be where you are. to be who you are. Everything we do, say, and think matters. How we react in traffic, in long lines at the grocery stores, when the Christmas bonus comes, or doesn't-- people around us are watching how we react.

Be kind more often. Smile. Love your enemies. Follow the Golden Rule. Never miss an opportunity to be an example by the way you live, and always remember that little pitchers have big ears.
Grandma with the "little pitchers"
*Written in memory of Judith Crutchfield. I can't wait to walk the streets of heaven with you and catch you up on everything you've missed. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where Do I Start?

1. Start where you are. That means right now. Not tomorrow. Not next Monday. Because between now and then, you will find a bazillion reasons why you can't start then, either. Don't wait to lose 10 pounds before you start. As Nike says, "Just Do It." Whatever you are doing now, do more. If you are a couch potato, get up and walk around the neighborhood. If you currently walk a little, walk a little more. If you currently walk a lot, add some running. Check out a Couch to 5k program here.

2. Don't worry about what you look like when you are exercising. Look, we humans are a selfish, pride -filled bunch. The person looking at you is thinking about him/herself, trying to figure out how he/she compares to you. So what if you're not where you want to be, that's why you're working out, right?

3. Do worry about what you are wearing when you are working out. You don't need to wear spandex and a bra top. Please, I want your body covered, especially if I am using that bench after you get up. (I'm not entirely convinced that those sanitizing wipes completely remove the funk.) I recommend dri-fit type material. Cotton can get heavy when filled with sweat (and you should be sweating). Also, invest in a good pair of shoes, especially if you are running. Stores like Marshall's, Ross, and TJMaxx often have great deals on name brand workout gear. However, you are working out, not going to a photo shoot. If it makes you feel good to match perfectly and cake on the make-up, feel free. Just don't expect me to look pretty.

4. Eat right, now. And maybe I mean eat right now. Don't skip meals; as a matter of fact, add some healthy snacks. Just remember, calories taken in must be less than calories burned if you are trying to lose weight. I wrote a blog about diet, K.I.S.S. Don't start tomorrow or Monday. Start right now.

5. Lift heavy things. If you are a woman, you will not start looking like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Women who pack on tons of muscle and begin looking like men, often have some chemical help to do so. Join a gym or hire a trainer, if you've never done strength training before. You must be cleared by a doctor before beginning any new exercise program. And you must be sure to perform the exercises correctly to prevent injury. A great article on the benefits of strength training is here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Mud Dogs Fun Mud Run

There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud. 

I just finished the Mud Dogs' Fun Mud Run. It was a 5k "fun" event. To my knowledge, this was the first mud race held at this venue (Markam Park in Sunrise, Florida), and it was the first race held by the Mud Dogs company. Those two facts combined with a $60 price, made me reluctant to sign up. They ran a $10 off Hurricane Isaac discount, so I signed up. (It was a moment of weakness.) 

I must repeat, this race was advertised as a fun mud run. However, the website did say that the top 3 males and females would earn an award and the winners would earn a free entry in a future race. Naturally, I wanted to win, and thought it might be a possibility-- thinking this would be a small event. 

My heat time was 8:30 a.m., the first of the day. Information via facebook advised racers to arrive an hour early. Information on packet pick up was a little late in coming out. Hopefully for the next races, they will make arrangements and disseminate packet pick up information earlier than the day of. But they also offered packet pick up on race day, so for me this wasn't a big deal.

Race Day:
Yikes! This was my thought as we pulled in the park. Cars were very backed up, and I realized this event was MUCH bigger than I expected. (I also heard people saying that the event was much bigger than the organizers planned, which made total sense to me.) It also explained the slightly bizarre race start. We were told that the timing sensors could only handle 100 people at each start time, so they were taking all 8:30 starters and starting us in 6 minute waves depending on our bib numbers. This was my first indication that timing could go really wrong. I ended up starting at 8:42.
The Course:
The course contained typical OCR obstacles, we ran mostly along the road in the park with only about 1/2 mile on a trail. There was a push up stop (?), a small ditch filled with water, a 4- foot wall (with a step), 3-4 balance beams over little ditches, his and hers sand bag carry, hurdles, a tall wall with rungs to climb, a rope grid to high step through, a tunnel, a low crawl across grass, an incline wall (not very steep) with a jump down into about a foot of muddy water, a giant climbing structure with 2 options-- climb a vertical chain length fence about 8 feet up or take the longer, easier way (I never found out what the long way was) then a climb down into the thickest, nastiest mud I've seen (knee deep for this 5'3" woman), and finally a long wade through muddy water about a foot high-- again the mud made getting in and out tough. The obstacles were good-- they had a variety and were fairly evenly spread out. 

Overall, it was fun, and there was MUD! They had fresh fruit (apples, oranges, and bananas), coconut water, water, fruit/cereal bars, and bagels at the end. They also had a small shower station (room enough for about 20 people at a time). Could there have been improvements? Yes. But I knew going in that this was a first time event.

The Results:
Well, here is where they earn an F. I thought the timing was a little weird. Turns out it was more than weird; it was really messed up. I started at the front of my wave, and no woman passed me. However, they have 2 women coming in before me in my wave. Definitely, they should not have timed the event. I was greatly disappointed when I saw the results (thinking I did so poorly), but then I saw all the feedback on facebook. Lots of people are saying that the times they got were much faster than the time on their own watches/Garmins.  

*Since first writing this blog, the Mud Dogs organization has been working hard to answer everyone's complaints. The timing company has also stepped up and is offering to correct timing errors. I would definitely give this company another chance... but for me the price would have to be lowered. 

Bottom Line:
1. If you sign up for a fun run, then expect a fun run. Don't worry about time.
2. If you are expecting a well organized, smoothly run event, go with an event that has history-- Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Super Hero Scramble, etc.
3. If you want to avoid crowds at obstacles and are trying for your best time, enter the first heat of the day.