Fitness Firsts – Running Club and Hill Workout

Last week I had two fitness firsts – I ran with a running club for the first time, and I did a legit hill workout on the treadmill.

One of my co-workers was nice enough to invite me to run with his club last Sunday – the L-Street Running Club. They’re in the middle of their fall marathon training season, so they do a long run every Sunday. Last Sunday’s course was 14 miles! As you know, if you’ve been reading my blog, the farthest I’ve ever run is 13.3 miles, so naturally I was a little nervous about committing to 14. Also, I hadn’t done a long run in 2 weeks, since I gave myself a little break after my half on August 5. Nonetheless, I figured it was a good opportunity and I should give it a shot.

It turned out to be a really great experience. My co-worker ran with me for about 10 miles. I usually run alone, so I wasn’t sure that I’d like running with other people. What if I wheezed too loudly? What if I was too slow or *gasp* needed to walk? What if he wanted to talk the whole way? Well, none of those things happened. We chatted a little along the way but not so much that I couldn’t catch my breath. We kept up a solid 10 min/mile pace for the most part and I felt really good so it wasn’t hard for me to stick with that pace, and I wasn’t even wheezing that much. It was actually nice to have someone to talk to, and it made the miles go by faster. Also, running with someone took a lot of the mental gymnastics out of it for me. When I run alone, the devil on my shoulder constantly tells me to walk – “Your knee hurts, you should probably walk. You have a stomach cramp, you really shouldn’t run through that. You seem tired, why not slow down and catch your breath.” When I was running with my co-worker, of COURSE I wasn’t going to walk. It wasn’t even an option. So the devil on my shoulder was mostly silent, and it was glorious. The miles just flew by.

The course was mapped out ahead of time, and it went all through Boston, including a few miles on my usual running route along the Charles. We started in Southie, went all through the waterfront area, past Faneuil Hall, around the Garden, along the Cambridge and then Boston sides of the river, past the Public Garden, and then back through Southie. It was early in the morning (7:30) so there wasn’t much traffic. It was a lot of fun to run through some different parts of the city like that. And the club had 4-5 water stops set up for us along the way, which was awesome. They’re running 20 miles tomorrow so I think I’ll pass on that, but I’ll definitely consider joining the club if I ever decide to run a marathon (not likely).

Here’s the map from the run. My moving pace was closer to 10 min/mile than this shows…the slower miles had water breaks. I did walk up a couple brutal hills at the very end so that didn’t help either. Overall I was really proud of how well I did, especially since it was my longest run ever!

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Then, I ran an intense (for me) hill workout on the treadmill on Wednesday. I never run hills so this is totally new for me. I had never once put the treadmill on an incline until this month, and I was just testing the waters with it prior to this Wednesday. I had a 6 mile run planned, and I wasn’t really sure I was going to incorporate the hill intervals until I got going. This is what I ended up doing:

1 mile warmup, 0 incline, 6 mph
5 intervals of 0.5 miles at 3.0 incline followed by 0.5 miles at 0 incline, 6mph

The last two hills were super hard. I covered 405 vertical feet over the course of this workout. I was pretty proud of myself for doing that. It was one of the harder self-directed workouts I’ve done. I’m running the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco in October, and the hills on that course are insane. If it’s the same as last year, there are two ~300ft hills in the middle of the course, and they look almost vertical. It’s going to be really hard. Soooo I figured it was in my own best interest to start including some hills in my workouts. I have to find somewhere to run hills outside, but the treadmill will do for now.

We’re moving into cooler late summer/early fall weather here in Boston, which is perfect running weather. I’m pretty excited about that!

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon

Hello friends! Sorry for not posting in so long. I’ve just been enjoying my summer while trying to keep up with half marathon training. I haven’t felt the need to analyze or discuss my eating, and my training hasn’t been too exciting, and I don’t want to come on here just to brag about my weekends (that’s what FB and twitter are for, amiright?). So, I’ve been a little quiet lately, but I haven’t completely abandoned the blog!

On August 5, I did do something blog-worthy – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin Half Marathon. I traveled to Dublin with 2 of my friends and we arrived on Aug 2/3 (some of us had travel issues getting there, but I won’t bore you with that). We had a couple days to enjoy Dublin before the race. We did the Guinness tour, the Jameson tour, and a pub crawl. We also went to the race expo, and had a delicious meal at the Hard Rock Cafe on Sunday night before the race. I had the mac and cheese, and I think it was the first time I’d had mac and cheese all year! Crazy!

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The race was awesome. We started at St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin, ran along the River Liffey for a little bit, and then went into Phoenix Park. We were in the park for about 5 miles, and it was absolutely beautiful. Then we came back out onto the streets of Dublin. It’s always fun to run through a new city, in the early morning, when the streets are all shut down. It’s a great way to see a city, in my opinion, and one of my favorite things about my new running hobby. The weather was perfect for running – low 60’s and cloudy with no rain.

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Since it was a Rock ‘n’ Roll race, there were stages set up at every mile mark. A few of them had bands and a few of them had DJ’s. The live entertainment is a nice touch, but you really can only hear each band for a few seconds, so it’s not that big of a deal. There were also water stops every ~2 miles, and two of them had gatorade along with water, and they also had Gu at the 7-mile stop. I walked through all the water stops (I can’t drink while I’m running) and I forced myself to eat the Gu even though I wasn’t “hungry” per se. I did feel great throughout the entire race so that was probably a good call! I don’t think walking through the water stops hurts my time, either.

What did hurt my time, on the other hand, was that I desperately needed to pee at about the 4 mile mark. I found a port-a-potty with only one person in line so I got in line behind her. She went in there, seemed to take forever, and then she actually got STUCK trying to come out. Can you believe that?! So the whole stop took 2-3 minutes! I was so mad. I tried to make up some time in the next few miles, and my splits were actually good for the next few miles, but in the end I couldn’t make up the whole 2-3 minutes and my overall time was 37 seconds slower than the Nike Women’s half. BOO. I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed, just because I felt so good that day that I should have been able to get a PR, easily. Oh well, it was still a great day, and then I got to enjoy a victory Guinness afterwards!

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Please note my awesome sunglasses (the three of us all wore them – gotta represent!) and the kick-ass medal in the shape of a guitar. It’s the little things.

We spent the rest of the week in London before heading home. We did a lot more sightseeing (and a lot less drinking) than in Dublin. We did a bus tour, the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and the National Gallery. We also walked around in Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Regent’s Park. We had dinner in a couple different English pubs where I had a real steak and ale pie, and fish and chips. These are not things I would usually eat at home, but when in Rome, right?

My next big race is the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco. I made the mistake of googling the race course and now I’m so scared of the hills. I knew it would be hilly, but the elevation map from last year’s race is just terrifying. There are two huge hills that go straight up to almost 300 feet in elevation without a break. There are also several smaller hills along the way. I might die. On the plus side, this realization has provided me some motivation to try to drop a few pounds between now and Oct 20. The less mass I have to lug up those hills, the better! I’ll take motivation wherever I can find it!

Worst Selfie Ever

I’ll get to the selfie a little bit later.. don’t worry, it will be worth the wait! Anyway, I’ve been having a busy summer so far and I haven’t had as much time to blog, but I’m going to try to get back to writing at least once a week.

I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this year for the first time – Farmer Dave’s CSA. This is Week 3 of 20. So far it’s been mostly different kinds of lettuce, zucchini, beets, and some herbs. Here’s a picture of the Week 1 crop:

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And here’s a picture of the lovely kale chips I made last week. They turned out great, so great that I ate them all that same day. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say that they’re a great replacement for potato chips, because they’re totally different. But they are their own type of crunchy, salty deliciousness, and I’ll definitely be making them again! (partly because I don’t know what else to do with kale.)

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I didn’t know what everything in the Week 3 box was, so I had to rely on my facebook friends to play “Guess that Herb.” It turned out one was actually spinach (not an herb) and the other one was sage. Thank god for facebook!

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So my next half marathon is only 5 weeks away (Aug 5). I have no idea how that came up so quickly. I’ve been running 20+ miles each week since my last half, but I haven’t been doing enough long runs, and now I’m struggling to get my endurance back up. I’ve also been running on the treadmill way too much because the weather has been gross around here lately (lots of rain, leading to lots of mud, and hot/humid weather). I’ve also had a couple of incidents during my last two long runs that affected my performance.

Last weekend I set out to do a 10 mile run along the Charles. I was trying to take a pre-workout selfie with my iPhone, like an idiot, and then my hands got tangled up in the headphone cords and I ended up dropping the phone.. right into the river! It was fenced in and probably several feet deep so the phone was a goner. Of course I was beside myself and I drove straight to the Apple store to get a new phone.. but it was 8:30am and they weren’t open yet. So then I drove BACK to the river to run, and I managed to make it 8 miles with no music, no GPS, no idea how fast I was going or how far I had gone, and it was terrible! (Yes, I’m addicted to my phone.) I walked a few times because I figured it didn’t matter.. my time wasn’t being recorded anyway! I was just in a really bad mental state.

Then this weekend, I headed out for a 9 mile run along a different part of the Charles. For those of you who are familiar with it, I was doing the Anderson Footbridge – Mt. Auburn Street loop. About 4 miles into it, something got in my eye and it swelled almost completely closed! I looked at it in my iPhone camera and it looked like I had been punched in the face, no joke. So I had to cut my run short. I did have to get back to my car, so I ended up running 5.5 miles. I was so disappointed because not only did I not really do a long run that week, but I also fell short of my goal of 100 miles in June. I did run 97 miles in June which is still pretty good, but I really wanted to get over the 100! My eye was bothering me all weekend.. what a nightmare!

So, I’m just trying not to get too discouraged by all that. I only have a month left to train for my next half, so I need to get my long runs back up quick. Maybe I should find a different spot to run since the Charles isn’t agreeing with me lately!

Superhero Scramble

Last Saturday I did the Superhero Scramble. It was at the Amesbury Sports Park in MA. It was INSANE – one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There was a huge rain storm the night before so the course was extremely muddy. I know the mud is part of the “charm,” such as it is, but since this was my first obstacle course race, it was a little much for me!

Here’s a picture of my team – The Incredibles. Some of us are friends from the gym, and some of us met for the first time on Saturday. I’m front and center with the blonde pigtails.

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Below is a picture of the beginning (and end) of the course. You can see a wave of people running up the first hill. The race starts by running up the hill, back down, and back up again. We guessed that was to put some distance between the faster runners and the slower runners to avoid bunching at the obstacles. I’m sure it helped, but there was still a lot of bunching at the obstacles. Towards the top left, you can see the slide which was supposed to be one of the last obstacles. Unfortunately, due to the weather, the slide was no longer running when we finished the race. Boo.

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There were about 20 obstacles on the course – a cargo net climb, 20-foot (ish) jump into muddy water, about 4 patches of barbed wire to crawl under, rope climb, balance beam, tires to run through, sand bag to carry, a series of walls to climb over (the highest about 6-7 feet), rings to grab and swing across a muddy pond, and probably a few others that I can’t remember. If you tried and failed an obstacle, or if you opted out, you had to do 10 dizzy bats and 10 burpees. They weren’t really enforcing the penalties though. We went through the whole thing as a team and helped each other through the obstacles. There were a few that I couldn’t do, namely the rope climb, rings, and a couple of the higher walls. If I ever decide to do one of these races again, I will really need to work on my upper body strength!

Aside from the obstacles, the whole course was super hilly and muddy. The entire first mile was up a very steep, muddy hill. That was bad enough, and then we hit the downhill. It was so slippery that it was impossible to run or even walk. I tried to walk for a while by staying to the side (where it was more dry) and holding on to trees, but ultimately I ended up sliding down a large part of it on my butt. All pride had gone out the window by that point. It was actually nice when the trail was open and dry enough that I could run freely. Those moments were few and far between!

I’m not sure I would do another one of these races. I was talking to a girl who has done lots of them and she said this was the most dangerous one she had done because of the weather conditions. I guess if that’s the case, I would consider doing another one. I liked the obstacles and I didn’t mind the terrain except for the mud on the trails. I didn’t mind getting muddy during the obstacles – the only part I really hated was having to run up and down those steep hills and worrying I was going to fall and hurt myself. I’ve been putting so much effort into my training that I would be really upset if I had to stop because of something as stupid as an obstacle course race.

The team aspect was really fun, though. It’s been a while since I participated in a real team event, and I did enjoy the feeling of being part of a team, and I met some cool new people and I had a good time with my friends from the gym. After the race we all hosed down, changed into clean clothes, and sat around on the grass (turf?) for a while drinking beer and eating fried food and enjoying the sun, and that part was really nice. So it was a good day, overall, minus the harrowing conditions on some of the trails.

The medal is also pretty cool, bringing my medal count up to 4 for the year, plus one Tiffany’s necklace. Woohoo!

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Toughest Week So Far

So, last week was really tough. I’m very proud to say that I did manage to run my 20 miles, but that’s all I did for the week. Four of those 20 miles were during the Superhero Scramble, which was so hard that those should count as 20 miles unto themselves! I’ll write a separate post about the scramble – I haven’t listed out all my workouts for the past 2 weeks so that’s what this post is about, along with the second half of my trip to New Mexico last week.

My last post described the first two days of my stay in Soccoro, NM. The last three days were even tougher. Wednesday was a somewhat normal work schedule.. we worked from about 7am – 2pm and then had dinner at 4pm. We ate at the Bodega, which was really good. We shared the Potachos, which are basically nachos with potato chips instead of tortilla chips. I had never heard of this before so I figured I should try it, and it was good! Work paid for our drinks so I had a couple, but I was back at the hotel in bed by about 7pm. I stayed up until halfway through the third period of the Bruins game and then went to sleep, even though the game was tied, which pained me greatly. But I had to get up at 1:30am again on Thursday, so I needed the sleep!

Thursday was our mission – a live test of the upgraded Patriot PAC3 missile. I had never seen a live firing before so it was really cool to see, and totally worth getting up at 1:30 in the morning. Of course, it was only cool for about 5 minutes and then the rest of the 12-hour day was pretty boring. We were on site until about 4pm, preparing data for a 1pm meeting and then sitting through the meeting. I was exhausted by then and I saw a lot of droopy eyelids during the meeeting, so I know I wasn’t the only one! 

After our work day finally ended, we went to dinner at the Bodega again, and then we had to drive up to Albuquerque, which was about a 70 mile drive. The scenery was really beautiful, but I was so tired and I just wanted to go to bed! I checked into my hotel and returned my rental car and promptly went to bed, around 8pm. I had to get up at 5am for my flight home to Boston. Luckily my travel day on Friday was uneventful and I was home by 3pm, in time to rest up to watch the Bruins complete their sweep of the Penguins! Yes!

So, needless to say, I did not work out at all on Weds-Fri last week. I don’t even know how I could have if I wanted to, with that schedule. I could have squeezed in a run on Friday afternoon when I was home, but I was just so tired I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I did run 5 miles on Sunday though, bringing my total for the week up to 20.. woohoo! I’m very proud of that, given everything else that went on last week.

Here’s the rundown of my workouts for the past 2 weeks:

  • Monday (May 27) – 5 miles outside
  • Tuesday – 2 mile run + spin class
  • Wednesday – rest day
  • Thursday – 4 mile run + bodypump
  • Friday – 1 mile swim 
  • Saturday – 7 miles outside
  • Sunday – 3 miles outside
  • Monday (June 3) – 6 miles inside
  • Tuesday – 5 miles inside
  • Wednesday – nothing
  • Thursday – nothing
  • Friday – nothing
  • Saturday – Superhero Scramble (4 miles)
  • Sunday – 5 miles outside

I forgot to mention my 1 mile swim a couple weeks ago. My body was feeling pretty stiff and sore so I thought a swim would help me loosen up. Also, that was the super hot weekend so it felt great to get in the pool. I ended up swimming a whole mile, which is a really long swim (for me, anyway). It took about 45 minutes at a leisurely pace. It was nice.. it had been a long time since I swam.

Anyway, my trip last week was a great experience and I’m happy and grateful that I was able to go and participate in the test. At the same time, I’m so happy that it’s over and I’m home and I can get back to a normal routine this week. Of course, I already have 2 social events planned after work this week (dinner with a friend who is in town from CA, and a benefit for a cause that’s important to me, and also just happens to be the launch of a new beer). But, I already banged out 7 miles today so I’m off to a good start for the week!

Travel Challenges

Today is my second day here in Socorro, NM. So far it hasn’t been all that bad. I got to the hotel around 2pm yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the treadmill was entirely serviceable, which is not always the case in hotel gyms. I was actually pretty anxious about that since there’s no way I’m running outside in this desert weather. Here’s a picture of the accommodations:

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The week has been challenging, like I thought it would be. Yesterday was a long day since I had to get up at 5am for my flight, and travel is always a little tiring. My flight landed around 12:30pm and then I had over an hour drive to the hotel. Then I met my co-workers for a meal around 4pm (dinner, I guess?) and a quick trip to Walmart to stock up for the week. I had a salmon salad for dinner and it was really good, and didn’t fill me up too much before my workout. After all that, I finally headed over to the fitness center and banged out a 6 mile run on the treadmill. I was really happy my run went as well as it did, after such a long day!

This morning I had to get up at 1:30am to meet everyone for work! We’re here for a test on the White Sands Missile Range, and today was the dry run. The first meeting on the base was at 3am. Needless to say, today was a weird day. I started off all prepared, with lots of water and a cooler bag full of healthy food:

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Unfortunately I hit a few snags along the way. I noticed that my Paleo Pack (beef jerky) looked a little funny, like there was some mold in there. I didn’t want to mess with that so I just threw it away, which left me down a protein serving for the day. There are limited options for food on the base – in other words, the options are limited to what you bring in with you. One of my colleagues had brought a whole box of breakfast burritos for everybody, so I ended up having one of those for breakfast, since I didn’t know how long I’d be on the base and I didn’t want to end up hungry later in the day. It was a little frustrating since I’d gone to so much trouble to bring all the food I would need for the day! (or so I thought). Oh well.. overall it was still a much healthier travel day than I have had in the past!

We left work around 1pm and went to “dinner,” which is what happens when you wake up at 1:30am, have breakfast at 4am, and have lunch at 9am. I came back to my room and napped for a couple hours and woke up feeling somewhat normal, so I headed back to my new friend the fitness center, and ran 5 miles on the treadmill. So that’s 11 miles down for the week already! My plan is to take tomorrow off, run 5 miles on Thursday, and then I’ll have the 4 miles for the Superman Scramble on Saturday, and then I should be good for the week, running-wise. If I can fit in some cross-training on Friday or Sunday, I will, but I’m not going to stress out about it. It will be a miracle just to get my 20 miles in on this crazy week! I am looking forward to getting back to a more normal gym schedule next week, that’s for sure.

The Hot Hot Heat

(The weather, not the band.) It’s HOT here in Boston. I love the summer, and I don’t mind the heat (despite my sweating problem), but I have found that I do not enjoy running in the heat! No surprise there, really, but my run today was downright awful. Not only was it hot, but there was no breeze, it was very humid, and there didn’t seem to be much shade. It was just miserable all around. I set out to do 10 miles, but I only made it 7 miles, and I had to walk a few times. My pace was 30-60 seconds slower per mile than I’ve been running lately. It feels like a failure, but I know I shouldn’t see it that way. Seven miles is still pretty damn good, and it’s at least 6 miles more than I could run in early January!

Now I have to run at least 2 miles tomorrow to hit my 20 miles/week for the week, which is a bummer because I hadn’t planned on running tomorrow. Oh well, 2 miles is no big deal, and it will be cooler out tomorrow morning too. At least I have another day in the week.. if this had happened on a Sunday I would have to run those 2 miles on the treadmill later in the day, and that would suck! I guess that sounds kind of psycho of me, but once I set a goal, I’m determined to meet it! 

I leave for White Sands Missile Range, bright and early on Monday morning. I’ll be staying in Socorro, NM until Thursday night, then staying in Albuquerque on Thursday night and flying home on Friday morning. I looked up the hotel and there is supposedly a treadmill in the fitness center. I really hope that is the case, since I couldn’t find any local gyms, and I’m not sure I want to run outside in the desert, especially since I’m going to be working odd hours this week. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

As soon as I get back from my trip, I’m running in the Superhero Scramble on Saturday. My trainer Ed has put together a team of at least 12 people. It looks like it should be fun. There are a few obstacles that scare me (the rings and the rope climb, to name two of them), but it’s a team thing and I’m sure I’ll be okay. I am pretty bad-ass, after all (ha ha).

Unfortunately the course for the Superhero Scramble is only about 4 miles, so that means I have to run 16 miles either while I’m on travel next week, or next Sunday. I have a feeling I’m going to be a little sore on Sunday, plus I’m going to the Red Sox game at 1:30, so ideally I wouldn’t run at all on Sunday. That means I have to get those miles all in while I’m on travel and working odd hours, which sounds daunting. Next week is going to be a really tough week.