Sunday, June 28, 2015

Last Minute Long Runs and the DNF

DNF = Did Not Finish. But sometimes can also mean: Did Not Fail.

The first is a literal definition of how one physically completed (or did not) a race or other event. The second definition is a mindset. Some of us (me included) cannot accept failure. And typically, if the goal of any race or event you start, the goal is to finish. Therefore, not finishing would be, by definition, failure. And I just can't accept that for myself. (I'm speaking truth for me, not accusing anyone else of failure-- I'm just hard on myself.) 

But then life and circumstances come in and suddenly my Failure becomes Education. Here's the story:

Weekend baseball tournaments for my son are ramping up at the exact time my mileage is really ramping up in my training plan to get me ready for World's Toughest Mudder. Typically long runs are Sunday, Saturday if they need to be. I take it easy on Saturday, carbing up a little to ready myself to go long.

Halfway through my rest and carb day yesterday, my son's game that was supposed to be at 5pm (perfect for a long run morning) was moved to 8am. My options? Up at 3:30am to run from 4:00 to 6:30. Wait until evening and run after a 3 hour car ride home. Or go when we got back to the hotel and be out from 6:30pm to 9 that night. I opted for the latter.

After all, WTM begins at 2pm, so I will have to figure out how to fuel before the event. How to deal with darkness falling. How to handle a body that feels like it needs to be sleeping instead of working. And the most important-- how to deal with a mind that is screaming like a 2 year old, "No! I don't want to keep going!"

Long story short-- I set out to do 14 miles. I called my husband at 11.5 and asked my husband to come get me in another mile. (Typically, he ignores such requests-- see "That Time I called my Husband in the Middle of a Marathon", but he had a dinner to get to.) 

My body was just done. It was probably a combo of increased mileage, time of day (night), fueling, having sat in the sun for 5 hours earlier in the day. I was really struggling with feeling sick, heavy legs on the verge of cramping and just general end of the long run feelings. I walked, which I rarely do on any run. I tried all the typical thoughts that usually help, but the ones like, "I cannot finish this" kept trying to override everything else. And my Knight in an Acadia came riding in to save the day.

Here's what I learned, and why I'm calling this a DNFail:

I have a loooooong way to go. I have to figure out how to tell my brain to shut up and keep moving forward for WTM in Vegas, when it's dark and cold, and I'm miserable. Fueling is critical, and it's vital I get that figured out as well. I'm still a long way away from 50 miles.

Here's a list of Top Ten Reasons to DNF in an Ultra Marathon from Wild Defined (and the source of this picture:)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mud Runs and Other Scary Things

Yes, I had to write it. Mostly for my Mom, who (like all moms) never stops worrying about her kid.

The sensational headlines read something like this...

"Woman Loses Eyesight due to Flesh-eating Bacteria from Mud Run"

It's true. Read about it in this article at Obstacle News.

Mud Runs and Obstacle Course Races can be dangerous. So can driving a car, walking across the street and eating at a restaurant. Is that a bit of an exaggeration? Yes. I'm just trying to make a point. We encounter some measure of risk daily; we just usually don't think about it. Yes, racing an event with mud and obstacles comes with an element of danger, but it also comes with large amounts of fun, excitement and adventure. (And you will sign a waiver to do these events.)

Will I quit doing these events? No. Will I continue to be careful and protect myself? Absolutely. When training for and doing these events, there is always a balance of carefulness and recklessness. I always take the following precautions:

1. Choose Your Race Wisely-- The larger the organization putting on the race, the more safety and health precautions there might be. Organizations like Spartan, Tough Mudder, Savage and BattleFrog produce dozens of events each year. They build quality obstacles, manage courses well and tend to have plenty of volunteers and medical personnel on site.  Obviously, that doesn't eliminate all risk-- most have water obstacles and involve climbing tall structures. That's not to say smaller companies produce unsafe races-- I've done several quality small events. But I've also done several small poor quality events.

2. Run Your Race Mindfully-- The course is marked. Obstacles are built. Follow the course and do the obstacles. HOWEVER, you are the boss of you. If you don't feel like you can safely complete the obstacle, take the penalty (if there is one) and skip the obstacle. If you feel like the obstacle is unsafe, skip the obstacle. If you just have a feeling that something's not quite right, skip the obstacle. As you approach each obstacle, watch the people in front of you. How are they tackling it? Think through how you will complete it. Then pay attention to every foot and hand hold. Be careful, especially where there is mud. Most slips and falls I've had have been because I've gotten a little too cocky and been a little too sure of myself. Pride really does go before the fall. Leave your ego in the car.

3. Clean Yourself Thoroughly-- Most races involving mud will have a shower area. Take advantage and hose yourself off as thoroughly as possible. Bring clean, dry clothes to change into, but remember-- you are still far from clean. Just because you can no longer see the mud and dirt, doesn't mean it's not there. I usually bring baby wipes and a small first aid kit so that I can clean and treat any cuts immediately. I don't advise staying around the festival or post race party for hours on end. Stay awhile, refuel and enjoy yourself, but go home and take a proper shower. Re-treat those cuts and scrapes at home. And for Pete's sake-- do not drink your free beer(s) and drive home!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Heavy. #WTM2015 Training Week 3

Fasten your seat belts, People. This could get random.

Just to catch you up. I'm currently training for World's Toughest Mudder. I've never done anything even close to that distance, so I'm feeling a bit like I'm blindfolded walking through a room full of legos.

My week 1 and week 2.

A beautiful alignment of training plans happened this week-- a step down in mileage on my running plan (yeah!) and heavy week in the strength training plan (boo!). Overall, it was a good week. I've had two really good weeks of training. I'm feeling strong and eating well.

I thought I'd share some great articles I've run across this week--

Are You an Under-eater? 8 Signs You're Not Eating Enough
Typically I do not ever fall under this category. But in an effort to lose the 5 lbs of almond butter and cashews I've added to my hips and belly, I've been tracking my macros with My Fitness Pal. And thanks to the increase in mileage, I've been getting that sweet little message at the end of the day: "If you continued to eat like this you'd be XXX lbs in 5 weeks!"

However, under-eating can be a problem. It can cause us to hold onto fat instead of losing it, problems with sleeping, moodiness and other nasty little side effects. Check out the article, as well as Rob Wolf's podcast, where I learned about the article.

Beyond 5/3/1 Program 1.1 
Picture from T-Nation
I've been following Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program for about 2 years now. My goal was to become stronger so that I could be a Rx competitor in Crossfit competitions. This program works. It should come with a money back guarantee. If you follow the program, you will make gains. (I'm assuming you are healthy, are eating right and sleeping well, too.) I do the main lifts 4 days a week and add accessory work of my own.

This article breaks down the program, gives a little info about supplements and has some classic Wendler quotes (with colorful language).

Running on Empty
Overtraining. I think most people will never come close to overtraining. Mostly we suffer from under-recovering or not properly eating and sleeping so that our bodies have the opportunity to repair themselves. Semantics? Maybe. Overtraining is very real and can lead to some serious health problems. This article covers the basics.

Week 3 WTM2015 Training:
Monday-- snatch practice (from blocks) 2x3 @ 65lbs, 3x3 @ 75lbs. Box squats 5@155lbs, 5@165, 3@175, 3@185, 2x1@195. Front squats 5x5 @ 100, 110, 120, 130, 140 (these were too light). For time: 10-8-6-4-2 tire flips, good mornings and leg curls. Then lateral jumps over a step (think step aerobics) 30 seconds on/30 seconds rest x 5.
Tuesday-- 3 easy miles (AM). Cleans (from the blocks) 3x3 @85lbs, 3x3 @ 95, 2x3 @105. Bench 5@115, 5@120, 3@130, 3@ 140 and 1@150, 10@105-- with 5 chest to bar pull ups between sets. Rounds: incline db bench press 15, 10, 8, 6; sled pull and push 30 yds; burpee box jumps 15, 10, 8, 6; wipers 30.
Wednesday-- 2.5 mile ruck w/ 2 bricks (AM). Favorite workout of the week-- it wrecked me for 2 days. Start the clock. Part 1-- 21-15-9 Thrusters (65lbs) and KB swings (44lbs). At 10:00:00, Part 2-- 12 rounds of 12 hang squat cleans (65lbs), 12 push ups. Then Part 3-- 9-6-3 front squats (115lbs) and Dips. 45:00 time cap.
Thursday-- 3.3 easy miles (AM). 15 box jumps and 15 seated box jumps. Deadlifts 5@ 215, 5@ 230, 3@ 245, 3@ 260, 1@275, 10@ 215. 30 minutes of easy stretching yoga.
Friday-- Dumbbell snatches 3x5 @ 45lbs. Strict press 5@ 65 and 75lbs, 3@ 75 and 80, 2x1@ 85, 10@ 65. Clean and jerk 5@ 115 and 120, 3@130 and 135, couldn't get 140-- 3 pulls. In rounds: 5-4-3-2-1 wall walks and 20 tire flips. Evening Oly class-- 2x5 clean pulls @ 95, focusing on form and pull. Hang cleans 2x5 @ 95, focusing on form. Hang snatches 5@ 65, 5@ 75, 5@85. 5 legless rope climbs, 30 overhead lunges.
Saturday-- 400 M run, 5 clean and press of 45lb plate, 10 yd plate push on football field; 4x 400 M run, 5 clean and press, 20 yd push; 400 M run, 5 clean and press, 10 yd push. 100 yd plate push.
Sunday-- Approximately 10 miles, with 20 minutes of hills in the middle. 1 hour, 49 mins total run.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Men's Health Week

As important as it was for me to blog about Women's Health Week, I feel it's even more vital for me to write about Men's Health Week.

Many of the important men in my life have the deadly habit of NOT visiting the doctor. Ever.

But it's NOT manly. It's not being a tough guy. It's being ignorant. Not knowing what's going on in your body doesn't mean you won't get sick or that you aren't sick. (And that goes for all of us... so, women-- did you make your appointments during Women's Health Week?)

Women, I'm not quite sure what you have to do to get your man (be it husband, boyfriend, father, brother or grandpa) to the doctor for a check up, but do it. Sadly, I've lost my father-in-law to cancer and my grandfather to heart disease. Neither had a history of regular check ups or taking care of their own bodies. They did much for everyone else, but their own health wasn't high enough on their "honey do" list.

The best thing you can do for the people you love is to take care of your body!

Check out this great infographic that provides a Roadmap to Men's Health:
Once again, I'm grateful for Oscar Health Insurance of NJ and NY, who provided this great info-- and the reminder that Men's Health Week is June 21- 27. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015


As I'm getting older, I'm realizing just how important recovery is. I think I would say that it's just as important as the work you're putting in. Lack of proper rest can lead to a whole bunch of bad stuff-- sleeplessness, lack of energy, a foggy brain, headaches, body aches, being injury prone, and a lack of motivation.

If you're experiencing those symptoms, you're not necessarily overtraining-- you just may not be properly taking care of yourself. First of all visit your doctor and get a check up. Then ask yourself:

1. Am I getting enough sleep? Strangely enough, an inability to sleep can be caused by not getting enough sleep. Weird. If you're having trouble sleeping...

  • Check your caffeine. Remember that caffeine can be hidden in food or drinks you might not consider: decaf coffee, soda, chocolate (which means anything with chocolate in it-- hot chocolate, chocolate ice cream, etc.), and pain relievers. 
  • Limit your screen time before bed. The light from your computer, tv, tablet (or even the lights in the room) can trick your body into thinking it's time to stay awake. 
2. How's my stress level? Normal every day stress in your life can cause your body to react negatively. Your body produces cortisol in reaction to stress, whether it's from too much training or too many demands at work. Cortisol is actually designed to help your body, but in America today we're surrounded by stressors, so cortisol has become the enemy. If you're too stressed...
  • Put yourself in time out. Spend some quiet time meditating, reading, or taking a nap. It's ok to just do nothing. Really. 
  • Set priorities. You cannot do everything. Do what you can and forget the rest. Focus on the essential.
3. What's on my plate? Look, it's not about having a bikini body. It's about having a body that functions the way it was created to. Taste should not rule your food choices. We have become slaves to our appetites. I recently saw a meme posted, depicting a bowl of Oreos in milk with a spoon-- like cereal. It said something like, "Because I'm an adult. That's why." Can I just say... children make choices based on appetite and desire. Adults make choices based on logic and reason. 
  • Eat whole foods. If it comes in a box or a bag or has more than 1 ingredient, it's processed. The majority of what you're eating should be meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Eat dairy if it makes you happy-- just remember it's not in its original state when you get it at the grocery store.  
  • Stop treating yourself with food. You're not a dog. (And stop treating your dog with food-- did you know we have a pet obesity problem, too?) I'm not saying never have a treat or a cheat-- I eat big a few times a week-- just don't become Gollum. 

I could go on. But those are the Big 3. I think most people could solve lots of health problems (physical and mental) by taking care of those things (and exercising, of course).

WTM 2015 Training Week 2
So, yes, today's post was written courtesy of a massive headache I've had. I typically don't get headaches, so when I do, I know there's a problem. I also don't take pain relievers, except on rare occasions before bed if I'm extra sore from training or competing. I've upped my workouts in the last 2 weeks-- mostly in duration, so I'm focusing on getting the nutrition in check and taking a rest day.
Wednesday's work

For this week...
Monday-- Cleans and bench day with some accessory work.
Tuesday-- 3 mile run in the a.m. Box squats and accessory work in the p.m.
Wednesday-- Bike and swim in the a.m. Long WOD followed by a short, heavy ruck in the p.m.
Thursday-- 6 miles. (And the beginning of the headache. I think it was brought on by Wednesday's work.)
Friday--Deadlifts, clean and jerk and strict presses, with 100 sledge hammers to the tire for fun.
Saturday-- 13 mile run.
Sunday-- REST! And horseback riding!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

World's Toughest Mudder Training: Week 1

This might be the first of my weekly posts for WTM preparation. I say "might" because even I may get sick of reading about my training. I expect there to be many ups and downs-- both figuratively and literally. The terrain on the Vegas course is apparently no joke and very different from flat South Florida.

World's Toughest Mudder = 24 hours of a 5 mile loop course, containing 20-25 Tough Mudder obstacles (monkey bars, rings, electric shock, walls, cliff jump). It's in Vegas, in November, which means a hot day and a cold night. Wetsuit cold.

I've never done anything like this. I'm currently training more like a powerlifting Crossfitter than an ultra-runner. All signs seem to indicate that ultra-runners are better suited to this event than powerlifters. (Duh.) Time to tweak overhaul my training.

I've just finished week 1:

Sunday-- long run. My goal was 10 miles, but I took the scenic route and logged somewhere between 10 and 11, for a total of 1:46 of running. It felt really good-- must have been the previous night's chips and salsa.

Monday-- warm-up row of 2,000 total meters broken into intervals. Power snatches and box squats. Superset of dumbbell walking lunges and leg curls. Then 5 rounds of 5 tire flips, 15 windshield wipers, 10 wall balls.

Tuesday-- 3 mile slow and easy run (AM). Cleans and bench. Superset of wide pulldowns and incline dumbbell bench press. Then 3 rounds of 5 hang cleans, 8 pull ups, 10 barbell curls, 12 overhead triceps extensions (PM).

Wednesday-- 2000 M row broken into intervals. Plus another 2000 M over about 90 mins of time as I was coaching. 200 yd. 60 lb. heavy bag carry. 2 x 30 yd. sled pull and push with 3 plates (185 lbs.). 200 double unders. (3 min. rest) 10 min AMRAP of 10 burpees, 20 wall balls. (5 min. rest) 2 mile heavy bag carry with partner (handing off heavy bag).

Thursday-- 6 mile run (AM). 5 rounds of 20 ab machine crunches, 10 kettle bell swings (PM). 20 min. easy bike ride (PM #2).

Friday-- 20 box jumps to warm up. Power and Hang snatches. Strict press and dead lifts.

Saturday-- 1 mile ruck (2 bricks). Not quite death by lunges-- 10 mins. of lunges w/ EMOM of 20 air squats. 1/2 mile ruck. Then in rounds: Burpee pull ups 20, 15, 10, 5. Sit ups 20, 15, 10, 5. Box jumps 5, 10, 15, 20. 1 mile ruck.

My plan moving forward--

  • Follow an ultra-marathon training plan
  • Strength train 3 days a week 
  • 3 days of longer, endurance training sessions
  • Swim
  • ???
OH! I almost forgot-- I'm in need of a crew. Someone(s) to hang out in my tent/along the course to make sure I eat, hydrate, get enough sodium and to just generally kick me in butt, mentally. My husband is going along for the trip, but I'm not sure it would be good for either of us for him to crew me. Although, when he tells me to go, I keep moving.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

National Running Day

June 3, 2015

Happy National Running Day!
What's that? You say. Apparently it's a day where everyone is supposed to go out and run. And love running. There's a whole website devoted to it: Actually, in perusing the website, I learned that you are supposed to gather a bunch of friends and run. And register with Charity Miles so that the miles you move earn donations for charity. That's pretty cool.

I'm not running today.

But I will commit to finally finishing my training plan today. That is, finishing writing out my training plan. There's this event I'm going to do. A little thing called World's Toughest Mudder. (Every time I say it, my stomach drops about as much as it did when I jumped from Walk the Plank in my first and only Tough Mudder back in 2013.)

World's Toughest Mudder, if you don't know, is 24 hours of a Tough Mudder. In Vegas (the trick to getting the hubby to go). In November. More specifically, it's 24 hours of 5 mile desert loops of 20-25 of the most challenging obstacles around. That would be 24 hours non-stop. (There goes my stomach again.)

I'm actually not really concerned about the running part. I can train to be on my feet for 50 miles and more. It's the obstacles. Last year there was a 35 foot cliff jump. And the running thing (it's just not as scary as the obstacles). I'm currently logging 20ish miles a week with a long run of about 10. That's a long way from where I need to be. And one thing I've learned by experience in the past few years-- you can't rush training.

Planning is key. I'm working on that now-- researching training, the course, packing lists, etc. I'll keep you updated.

Meanwhile-- on this National Running Day, move your feet. And find a race to do-- something that elicits equal parts excitement and fear.