Saturday, May 30, 2015

Down and Dirty Race Recap May 2015

This was my first time participating in the Down and Dirty Obstacle Race. I'd heard so many good things about this event that I was really excited to compete. There were lots of great things about the race, and it's definitely a race that I'd recommend anyone run.

Registration--  I registered through Groupon, which I don't normally do. I got a great price, VIP parking (more on that later), and had no issues using the code from Groupon to register on the Down and Dirty site. So, here's the sketchy part-- I wasn't able to select the "elite heat" (a more costly, competitive heat) when registering with the Groupon, but I emailed and made arrangements to pay the extra $15 to be transferred into the elite heat. Previously, the website contained information that stated prizes would be awarded to the elite winners. The website has since changed to state "Awards will be given to the top 3 finishers in each division. The top 3 finishers overall will be recognized as well." No longer a mention of prizes. 
VIP- The start was over by those trees.

Elite Heat-- This wording no longer exists on the website. It disappeared sometime between registration being open for the Miami event and the event itself. On the listing of bib numbers and start times emailed out for the race, the elite heat was listed. The day of the race, the only distinction was that we were lined up in the starting corral at the front of the pack. Future racers-- save your money. Age group winners were determined by chip time (time the chip crosses the start and time it crosses the finish), so the only benefit was a front start. And that wasn't really a benefit.

VIP Parking-- At Miami, this didn't really exist. One of the first cars in the lot, I was parked at the end of the lot, farthest from the starting line. And I still paid for parking. **However, I didn't pay for VIP anything, so it was just a sales tool used to sell Groupons, I think.

The Course-- Here's where Down and Dirty nails it. They offer a 3 mile course, a 6 mile course, a brick division (for those who want to go with a backpack and carry bricks) and 2 distances for "Adventure Kids." The obstacles were solid, well-constructed and plentiful. Multiple kinds of walls, hurdles, low-crawl, tires, tunnel, balance beam, sand bag carry, mud pit and a heavy hoist all provided variety during the 6 mile run, which I chose. I don't know if there are penalties for missing any of the obstacles, I was able to successfully complete them all. (According to the website, there are no penalties for skipping an obstacle, except that you won't be allowed to earn a medal.)

The Finish-- The "Event Expo" featured a merchandise tent, a large sponsor area, where you could learn more about Subaru, multiple vendors, a changing tent, showers (complete with shampoo-- hopefully it was environmentally friendly) and post-race food. There was also a free bag check, which was nice. 

Overall-- I was pretty pleased with the experience. The obstacles were challenging, but not so difficult that a first time racer couldn't successfully accomplish. This truly was a course for all fitness levels. And with the Groupon specials, it's a very affordable event.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Do You Have What it Takes?

Something really bothers me... (well, several things, but we'll start here)

I often encounter people in real life who see my posts on social media and say things to me like...

"I can't believe you _____ (fill in the blank with an obstacle course race, CrossFit competition, etc)! I could never do something like that."

That last line. That's what really bothers me. Because it implies that I am special and the speaker is not. That I am stronger, more athletic, more... I'm not sure what. But the truth?

I'm nobody special. I know people who do things a lot more extreme and awesome than I do. People who overcome more real life obstacles than I will ever know. Doing an obstacle course race? It just takes a little training and a whole lot of bravery.

So... do you have what it takes to do a Spartan Race?
You should:

  1. Be able to run. There's a plethora of free running plans available online. I recommend following a plan that will have you run about the distance you are racing. 5k plan for a Sprint. 10k or half marathon plan for a Super. Half marathon or marathon plan for a Beast. Marathon plan for the Ultra Beast.
  2. Do some strength training. Carry heavy stuff (sand bags, logs, big rocks, dumbbells, etc.). Do pull ups, burpees, lunges, planks, deadlifts, burpees, sit ups and squats. And did I mention burpees?
  3. Have courage. This might be most important. You just need to click the registration button and make the decision to sign up. Yes, it's scary. Yes, you might fail some of the obstacles. Yes, you will finish behind lots of people. Yes, you will have more fun than you thought. Yes, you will conquer your fears. Yes, you will be more fit after completing the race. Yes, you will wonder what took you so long to do a Spartan Race.
Really. Everyone can do a Spartan Race. 

You really do have what it takes.

And you really should register for one.

To further convince you: use MEMORIAL through Friday, May 29, 2015 to save up to $40 off any Spartan Race.

AND... enter to win a FREE Spartan Race!

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Struggle is Real

Sometimes my workouts look like this:
(Can't you just feel the adrenaline oozing off the page and through the screen?)

And other times they look like this:

(Oh! The humanity! The calamity! I was too beat to even consider clean & jerks on that day.)

I've been is a slump lately. A conversation with my husband just about sums it up:

Me: I don't want to work out. I feel huge. I think I'm going to take a break from heavy lifting and just go back to running for awhile. I'm getting too big.

Husband: You're just emotional right now because of that time of the month. (fyi: he never makes those types of comments-- so it's been THAT bad)

Me: Well that and... eating my body weight in cake this past weekend probably didn't help.

Husband: You did what?! You ate all the cake?

Me: Well, I didn't eat the whole cake. (And I didn't. I just ate way more garbage food than I typically eat... in a whole entire month... all crammed into 2 days.)

Husband: You can't blame the weights, then. (True. True.)

It's vicious, people. A little hiccup in the hormones led to a little ch-eating led to a downward dip of emotion led to a lot of ch-eating led to more hormone freakishness led to feeling like a slug led to wanting to live like a slug.

Watch a motivational video, you suggest. No, I say.
Get a new playlist, you recommend. Already did, I retort.
Take a rest day. Check.
Get more sleep. Done.
Change up your workout. Maybe.
Drink plenty of water. Already floating.
Do a cleanse. Actually was considering that. (Yet more evidence to suggest it is THAT bad.)

Sometimes All the time, the only way out is through. There's no easy way out of the slump. You just have to move through it. And that's what I'm doing. I'm just doing what I do. 4 out of 4 of my lifting days this week I did not want to train. Actually, the first 2 days of the week I decided to not touch the barbell and just do the LA Fitness workout (a circuit of machines). But thankfully I've made this training thing a habit, and I've got out my training journal, written down the day's program and followed it.

But the biggest factor has been getting the eating back on track. Never underestimate the importance of eating clean.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Women's Health Week

I'm sitting here on Mother's Day and my heart is aching as I think about the amazing Moms I know who have left our world too early. We moms tend to be a selfless bunch, putting everyone else first and ourselves as just an afterthought. And that's partly what we are supposed to do. But most of us carry it too far. We tend to everyone else's well being and neglect our own.

Mothers' Day kicks off the National Women's Health Week. And I'm a little irritated that there hasn't been much info anywhere about it. As a matter of fact, I was informed about National Women's Health Week by Oscar Health Insurance of New Jersey and New York. They created the infographic below to make it easy for women to know the vital checkups needed in every decade of life.

So, I will do what I can to encourage you, Woman, to call your doctor NOW and schedule that appointment that you've been putting off. And once you've done that, here are some actions you should be doing regularly to ensure great overall health:

Physical Health
Exercise Regularly. Move your body in a way that makes you sweaty and happy. You don't have to be in a gym for 2 hours or take an hour long spin class or run 5 miles. Find something active that you love to do and do it. And if you don't think you like to do anything active, remember what you did when you were a kid. Ride a bike. Put on your shoes and just run for a bit. Climb a tree. Play some basketball.

Eat Healthy. Stop dieting. Just eat real food. Vegetables, meat, nuts, seeds, a little fruit. If dairy and whole grains don't make you feel bad, then eat them, too. Enjoy your food-- chew it slowly and savor it. Eat in moderation. If it's processed and packaged, avoid it. You'll be amazed at how much eating well will improve your mood.

Drink Water. Just plain water. I'm amazed when people say they don't like the taste. It doesn't taste like anything-- but that's ok. Your body needs a break from the overly flavored, overly sweetened stuff we're used to consuming. Drinking water will help flush out toxins and revitalize the body.

Sleep More. E-I-G-H-T hours. Just try. Sleep is healing and new studies are showing that lack of sleep can be connected to weight gain and other undesirable consequences.

Mental Health
Read. When was the last time you read something for pleasure? Reading will help occupy your mind, engage your brain and tickle your imagination. Can't handle a 300 page novel? Try some short stories, or venture into the Young Adult (or even younger) section.

Dream. Don't just rely on TV shows to spark thoughts of what could be. Think about what it is you love and what you would like to live. Create your bucket list and begin living it.

Meditate. Just be still. Don't fear silence. Use an app to help you relax and guide you through meditation or find a quiet place to let your thoughts quiet and drift peacefully.

Unplug. Schedule some time away from technology. Turn off your phone (do this every night while you sleep). Go outside and enjoy nature. Visit a local park or nature preserve and take some people with you. Have some real, face-to-face conversation.

Spiritual Health
Thank. Be grateful and be deliberate about it. Some years ago Oprah made the idea of keeping a gratitude journal popular. It does the heart and soul good. Sitting down and setting before you a list of the people and experiences for which you are thankful can improve your mood and set a new tone for the day.

Forgive. Life is too short to hold grudges. There are physical negative implications for unforgiveness.
Love. Don't just do or say it. Show it. Practice kindness. Look for opportunities to share.

Believe. Belief in God allows me to acknowledge that there is a greater force at work in the universe. I am not in control. Evil will ultimately be punished. Good will ultimately be rewarded. And there is a love that is true and pure and real and powerful. I can rest easy knowing that the One powerful enough to create the vastness of the universe and the intricacies of the human body loves and accepts all who love Him.

Find out more about National Women's Health week here.
Call your doctor today and schedule a check up!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Wings for Life World Run Race Review

The Wings for Life World Run is definitely the most unique road race I've done. The event is a charity race with 100% of the entry fee going to spinal cord research. But that's not the only thing that makes the race unique. There's no finish line. Yes, that's right. NO FINISH LINE. I discovered this is both a blessing and a curse.

As its name implies, the race is held in 35 locations around the world, simultaneously. With a giant large screen in the Reunion and After party area, participants were able to view footage of runners from other countries. We could watch to see who was running the farthest and fastest in all races. It really made me feel like I was part of something bigger.

But about that "no finish line"...  Runners begin at the local start time. For the race in Sunrise, Florida, that was 7a.m. Then a half hour later, the "Catcher Car" starts. The car is equipped with a timing device, so that when the car catches the runner, the runner's race is over. Those fast runners could log a half marathon or more; those moving more slowly could run a 5k. It's up to the runner to determine the length of this run.

Before I discovered the goal calculator on the race's website, I posed the question to my 8th grade students... if I run at a 9:45 min/mile pace, how long before the catcher car catches me? They predicted I would be caught at 8:28 a.m. The goal calculator predicted about the same.

Race Start
There was plenty of parking available since the race start and festival area was at the BB&T Center. Registration was quick and easy. Bag check was available and free! Coolers were located everywhere and packed with Red Bull and water. Port-a-potties were plentiful, as well. The race began on time with confetti.

The Course
It's sunny South Florida-- flat and fast, like most courses down here. What's not to love? We even got a break from the heat. Water and electrolyte stations were available frequently, and stations past the 10k (I think) mark also provided fuel such as mini Cliff bars, gels and fruit. I didn't really look at a course map before running because I wasn't quite sure how far I would run. I was happy that I ran far enough that I finished the race where the course looped back around near the start. Although buses were provided to shuttle runners back to the start, once the Catcher Car came by, I walked and jogged the mile or so back to the Reunion and After Party Area.

The Finish
Runners were given water on the bus ride back to the Reunion Area. And upon returning there, we were given a medal, unique to our race location. Fruit and giant cookies were provided, as well as tickets for free beer. The Red Bull and Water was plentiful. And somewhere vouchers were being handed out for free food at the multiple food trucks onsite. (By the time I figured this out, I was just too tired to stand in line-- even for free food.)

My Race
I absolutely loved this race. It was so unique and challenging in a different sort of way. My legs were protesting heavily during the first 5k. The day before I had raced my first non-obstacle, non-mud 5k in two years (the Big Cardio 5K) and had finished in a decent 25:53. For this race, my time at the 5k was 27:20. And it felt like a huge struggle to get that far. The Catcher Car haunted me-- my thoughts kept drifting to "If I stop now and walk, the car will catch me soon, and I can be done." But the endorphins flowed, my legs loosened up, and I was able to clear those distracting thoughts. The 10k came, which meant it was time for a snack-- and that always boosts my mood. I was also pretty happy that I completed the 10k in about 55:57, so I was keeping a fairly solid pace (considering this was more of a long training run than a race for me). My pace was faster than I thought I would be able to maintain.

The longest I've run recently is 8 miles, so around mile 9, I was starting to hit the wall. But that's when my "just for fun" song came on: "Single Ladies" by Beyonce. Now, this isn't typically my kind of music, but on a long run I need something a little peppy and cheerful. And really, it's not about the song; it's about the Saturday Night Live skit featuring Justin Timberlake. That is the image that brightened my mile 9.

My race ended at 10.44 miles. I knew the Catcher Car was approaching. I'd been watching my watch. 8:28 a.m. had come and gone and as the seconds kept ticking away, I kept pushing as hard and as fast as I could. My total run time was about 1:36.