runner

Revisited: One Year of Running

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{NOTE: 12/13/2013} I plan to write a new blog this afternoon, but I wanted to repost this entry from July for anyone who may be a new follower/reader.  I’ve been so focused lately on how far I have to go on my journey that I’m not appreciating enough where I came from.  Here’s my  Flashback Friday, if you will.  Happy reading!

Today is the one year anniversary of my first run.  I have been a runner for one whole freaking year.  Amazing.

Running completely changed my life.  Looking back over the past year, everything I’ve done, all of the things I never imagined I would do… I’m feeling pretty smug after looking through pictures and seeing all I’ve accomplished.  Seriously, is this person me?

Let’s do a recap…

I was never thin, skinny, athletic… I was always the “fat girl,” at least I was in my head.  I was bigger than my classmates, bigger than my boyfriends, bigger than my mom.  Just BIGGER.  I became a mom and for a while, just let myself go.

I watched a lot of TV, sat on the couch knitting, barely went outside and didn’t like exercise.  You guys… I was über boring.

About 4 years ago…

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Oi.  That’s a wake up call.  I was 22.  Do I look 22?  No.  I was mistaken for being in my 30s quite often.  I was probably around 250 pounds?  Not sure.  I really avoided the scale back then.

It was over two years ago that I saw a picture of myself at my mom’s wedding and said ENOUGH!

Read the rest of this entry »

Bad Apple Ultra

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After completing a half marathon without stopping and running a sub 30 minute 5k, is the next step a full marathon?  No, not in my world.  Instead, I decided a 12 hour ultra marathon would be the next step.

I originally heard about the Bad Apple Ultra from a high school friend.  I liked the Facebook page, decided it might be a future goal, then back logged it in my head for what I thought might be a few YEARS down the road.  Well, I like to impulsively undertake things for which I haven’t trained properly and when my schedule was empty on the day of this race I just couldn’t resist.

15 months ago, a quarter mile was impossible.  When I moved up to a 5k, it was torture.  35 (or more) minutes of running?!  I just want it to be over with!  Nearly 7 hours on the Xtreme Muck Ruck obstacle course was mental brutality last June. Recently, increasing to over 2.5 hours of continuous running on a course for a half marathon was intimidating.  However after running my second half without stopping a couple weeks ago, even running carrying my water through aid stations, I felt like I could go forever mentally.  Take that mental barriers!

There were three time choices for this event:  3, 6 or 12 hours.  I debated between the 6 and 12 hours, taking into account that I’ve already been on a course for over 6 hours before and that I have planned a few endurance challenges for next year.   Choosing the long race seemed like the best choice.

The race was held at Klackle Orchards in Greenville, MI on a 4 mile loop.  When I pictured the orchard, I imagined it to be rustic and rural.  It was actually on the main highway going through town and less than a mile from our hotel.  It was very convenient and despite being on the highway, the course turned out to be pleasantly secluded.  More about that later.

We registered the night before the race, so we didn’t have to worry about it in the morning.  I was slightly disappointed in the race shirt.  Being my first ultra, I was hoping for something really cool that I’d love to wear.   I love the logo, I love red… but I really dislike white race shirts.  I think most people agree.  People just don’t like wearing white t-shirts.

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First take, hands covering logo and very dorky. Second take, crazy eye. Boom.

I organized my gear in the hotel room.  All of my food (EPIC bars, bananas, apples, protein pancakes, almonds) went in one bag, then I had a hydration backpack filled with gear (gloves, mittens, headband, headlamp, race belt, extra dry socks, shirts and coat),  another bag with our post race clothes and a plastic bag with two extra pairs of shoes.

The race started at 6:00am on Saturday.  I ate a banana and a couple protein pancakes  before heading to the race. (FYI, I made the pancakes at home with only protein powder, bananas and egg.)  We arrived onsite and arranged our bags on tables under the event tent.  Headlamp on, adjusted my shoelaces, gloves on and I was ready to go.

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A little scared and excited!
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Receiving some last minute course information from the race director, Ben.  Picture from the Bad Apple Ultra Facebook.

My original strategy was to run a 4 mile loop, walk a loop, repeat for 12 hours.  Being an endurance race, rather than speed focused, Dion decided to keep his pace slower and we could run the first loop together.

The course started in the main area of the orchard.  We ran through an area where orchard patrons would later be occupying, but it never proved to be a problem.  The course continued up and down rows of apple trees, through some wooded areas and single tracks, back into the orchard.  The variety in terrain and scenery was nice.

There was a low chance of rain that morning, so naturally the first two hours of the race were in a light chilly rain.  I didn’t want to wear contacts that day, because I knew it was suppose to be windy.  I figured with that amount of time outside, they’d get pretty dry and probably irritate me.  Part way through the first lap, I couldn’t see from the rain and my glasses fogging so I had to ask Dion to take the lead (he normally lets me lead to set pace when we run together) .

After the first lap, Dion kept running and I began my walking lap.  Still raining, my glasses were spotted and fogging.  Since I was walking now instead of running, I figured following the course wouldn’t be a problem.  I was wrong.  Thankfully, I didn’t get too lost.  There was a section that turned to the right, then left, and left again… so I imagine Oklahoma, flip the state horizontally and you get this…

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Course was suppose to be the red line, but I missed the turn. The purple line is where I went.

Luckily, the row I was in ran back into the course so I didn’t get very lost in the dark and rain!  And I probably only missed less than a quarter mile of the trail.  This is around where I met Teri.  She was running off and on and we ended up by each other.  Not sure how we even started talking but we discovered that our goals for the race were similar.  We both thought wanted to rotate between running and walking and we both wanted to get at least 32 miles so it would be a real ultra (over 50k or 31 miles).

The second lap went by fast having someone to talk with and it turned out we had very similar back stories (formerly overweight, started running in 2012, two kids, among other things).

We checked out the mile 2 aid station on the way that I had skipped the first time through.  It was stocked with “ultra runner foods” a.k.a. junk food.  Apparently, ultra runners like to fuel with cookies, oreos, pretzels and lots of things I don’t eat anymore.  For this exact reason, I brought my own food.  There were double chocolate chip cookies at this aid station that I literally was eyeing ALL DAY.  Later in the day, they have grilled cheese sandwiches (which looked delicious), boiled potatoes and a plate of salt to dip them in (YES, these were awesome) and chicken broth (I probably had about 3/4 of a cup through the day).

I can’t remember exactly what I fueled with between each lap.  I kind of winged it and tried to have something different every time through.  I believe I had a turkey, almond and cranberry EPIC bar after the second lap and a banana.  Throughout the day, I consumed 3 EPIC bars, 2 apples, 2 more bananas, a handful of almonds, a couple potato chips and about 10 M&Ms in addition to the potatoes and broth.  I’d say that was pretty good given all the stuff I could have cheated with there!

Teri and I ended up running lap 3 and walking lap 4.

As we came in from our 4th lap it was 10:12am.  16 miles in 4 hours and 12 minutes isn’t shabby!  We were half way to our goal and had only used a third of the time we had.  Piece of cake.

Beginning the 5th lap, we decided to take it easy.  There was plenty of time to finish.  We ran here and there, but walked most of that lap, as well as lap 6 and 7.

We talked quite a bit and enjoyed the scenary.  Also stopped a few times for pictures.

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16 miles down and half way to my goal.
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“Hey, these pumpkin wagons are awesome!”
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“Let’s take pictures!”

On one of the laps, we met Ben, the race director, off the trail taking pictures of runners.  Of course, we were walking and had to remedy that for photos…

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Who isn’t smiling over 16 miles into an ultra?

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After lap 7, I took a good break at the base camp aid station.  Dion came in soon after having just completed his 8th lap.  His 9th lap happened to be a walking lap (he started rotating after 20 miles).  It was likely to be my last lap and I was excited that after beginning together, I would finish with him too.  Teri headed out on her own, while I waited for Dion to refuel.

At the end of the 8th lap, I decided I wanted to run the last stretch.  At this point, all of my joints were aching and the bottom of my feet hurt especially bad, but I wanted to finish like I started… running.

I reached base camp at 4:27pm finishing my first ultra, 32 miles, in 10 hours and 27 minutes.  There was still an hour and a half for me to go back out, finish a lap and possibly come in under 12 hours to go back out for a bonus lap.  That would have given me 40 miles, but I knew that I needed to stop.  I had reached my goal.

Dion left for his 10th and final lap, intending to run as much of it as possible.  I went to the car for a blanket, grabbed some food and waited.  Closing in on 12 hours, I began to see some people who left base camp AFTER Dion.  I was getting a little worried that he may have injured himself, because if he was running he would have been back by now.

I decided to head out and see if he was coming close to the finish line.  Probably less than a quarter mile out, I could see him running down the trail.  I waited for him then ran behind him to the finish.  He made his goal of 40 miles in just under 12 hours.

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The medal was unique which I really liked it!

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The only suggestion I have would be separate medals for each event and maybe a nice ribbon instead of a chain.  Perhaps the ribbons could have the year on them too.

I almost forgot to mention the volunteers were phenomenal!  They were in the cold all day serving the racers warm broth, making sandwiches, recording our lap times and asking if we needed anything.

The race director was awesome!  He was constantly on the go, making sure stations were stocked and the race was running properly.  Ben marked the course wonderfully with pie plates on stakes as well as  little orange flags with reflectors.  Had it not been for my darn glasses, I wouldn’t have gotten lost on the second lap.  That was my fault.  I emailed him for my lap times after the results were posted and he promptly emailed them to me as well as the pictures he took of me.  I’ve never had a race director reply so quickly.  Great job, Ben!

My first ultra experience was definitely positive and I’m EXTREMELY excited to come back next year with bigger goals.  Maybe 48-52 miles next time!

Capital City River Run Half Marathon

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I left off with Saturday morning Bikram yoga class, but don’t believe I touched much on Friday’s workout in that post.

According to my training plan, Friday is leg day.  Now, I assume my trainer did this to give ample recovery time over the weekend.  Saturday is abs and cardio and Sunday is rest.

Silly runner that I am, it did not occur to me that weekends are for racing and long runs, this being my first week on the training plan.  It crossed my mind mid-week that I might want to do it earlier, but hey, I’m a moron rebel.

Back to Friday, I go to the gym in the morning and only make it halfway through my new leg routine.  Wow, that took me longer than I thought.  Decide to head back to the gym for Round 2 Friday night with my amazing boyfriend.

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I finished legs and bothered him with pictures.

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I’m kind of obsessed.  Luckily, he understands why I document nearly everything and completely supports all of my madness.  I’ll spare you more sappiness.

So, leg day completed in two sessions on Friday, Bikram yoga Saturday morning… legs TIGHT and sore after that and all night.  Amazing boyfriend steps in to massage my aching legs for me without asking him to do so (I know you’re jealous now).  I’m so lucky.

Sunday morning.  Big race day.  Seriously, BIG.  I hadn’t ran more than 8 miles in a session prior to this race.  I hadn’t done enough long runs or even short runs.  I was sore from the weekend and definitely not prepared but figured, what the heck, I can do this.

We were actually planning to do a different race in the Upper Peninsula, but plans had to change due to some car problems I needed to deal with.  Ironically the race that ended up being the same weekend, the Capital City River Run, was a race I had hoped to do 3 years earlier.  Summer of 2010, I thought I would go to the gym and start running and lose all this weight and run a half marathon.  Well, that lasted like two weeks and I fell off the wagon again.  Whoops.  It was sort of spectacular that it was going to end up being my first half after all.

This was my first race with pacers, which was really convenient.  I decided to start off with the 10:30/mile pacer.  It looked like all of the pacers were actually pairs of people, I assume to have a back up.  Pacers dressed in costumes (pirates and hockey players were a couple) and they had little signs to hold up through the race, as well as signs pinned to their costumes.

And a quick pre-race selfie…

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Dion started the race next to me, but quickly moved through the crowd after the start to join the 9:00/mile group.

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See me in the left side of the start photo… (No, I didn’t purchase the pictures, cannot afford $8 per picture. Sorry timeframephoto.com. Get mad at me if you want, but at least you get credit.)

I didn’t develop a race strategy until after the race started.   I decided to run to each aid station (which were all about 1.5-2 miles apart), take a short walk, drink some water and then run to the next.  I had a map of the route, folded in my armband and referenced it every now and then to know how far I had to go.

I felt really good for the first half of the race and my strategy was going well.  I even ran the first 6.2 miles (10k) faster (1:07:30) than my only 10k finish time (1:10:31).  At the midpoint though, my legs started aching.  It was starting to get really difficult to run.  I averaged about 10:30-40 miles for the first half and I was proud of that.  Now, I was slowing way down though.  Walking a lot more.  Hurting and feeling like this race would last forever.

Then I’d talk myself up and say, “The more you run or at least speed walk, the faster you’ll reach the finish line.”  So I walked a lot, fast, and ran as much as I could.

Another good distraction was signs placed throughout the course with science facts on them.  Pretty fun to keep your mind from focusing on the pain.

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Made sure I was at least running by the photographer!

I tried to think of the race in intervals still, breaking it up by aid stations.  Just make it to the next.  Then the last one was less than a mile from the finish, heck yes!

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I made it most of the last segment running.  I knew I just wanted the race to be over and have that medal around my neck.

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I am not photogenic when I run. That lady is definitely stealing the show.

All I could think after I crossed the finish line was  Medal. Banana. Water.

My goal was to run it under 2:45:00.  Unfortunately, I again missed a goal, but at least it wasn’t by a whole lot.  I finish at 2:49:58, at 12:58/mile.  To meet my goal, I would have had to average 24 seconds less per mile.

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Overall, I’m happy with the finish.  It was my first half.  I should have prepared more with longer runs.  I shouldn’t have done Bikram the day before or leg day two days before… BUT you live and you learn and I have a whole lot of shoulda, woulda, couldas in my past.  I’ll have more half marathons and hopefully all of them are faster than my first.

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One Year of Running

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Today is the one year anniversary of my first run.  I have been a runner for one whole freaking year.  Amazing.

Running completely changed my life.  Looking back over the past year, everything I’ve done, all of the things I never imagined I would do… I’m feeling pretty smug after looking through pictures and seeing all I’ve accomplished.  Seriously, is this person me?

Let’s do a recap…

I was never thin, skinny, athletic… I was always the “fat girl,” at least I was in my head.  I was bigger than my classmates, bigger than my boyfriends, bigger than my mom.  Just BIGGER.  I became a mom and for a while, just let myself go.

I watched a lot of TV, sat on the couch knitting, barely went outside and didn’t like exercise.  You guys… I was über boring.

About 4 years ago…

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Oi.  That’s a wake up call.  I was 22.  Do I look 22?  No.  I was mistaken for being in my 30s quite often.  I was probably around 250 pounds?  Not sure.  I really avoided the scale back then.

It was over two years ago that I saw a picture of myself at my mom’s wedding and said ENOUGH!

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I had such a hard time getting dressed that day because nothing fit.  I felt like a busted can of biscuits, as people like to say.

I started eating better (not the best though) and getting more active (not a whole lot), but I lost some weight, about 20 pounds.

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Then I signed up for the Xtreme Muck Ruck, an obstacle course/mud run.  It was totally out of my comfort zone.  Running.  Dirt.  4 miles?!  Not my thing.  But I wanted to push myself to try things I hadn’t done before.

I was talking to a girlfriend about it and how I had to start running.  She wanted to start running as well.  In her living room that night, we made a plan to start the Couch to 5k training program the next morning at 4AM!  It was the only time that worked for both of us.  We chose a 5k that was 3 weeks away and decided to accelerate the program to do it.

So, on that day, July 25, 2012, I became a runner.  I could barely make it 1/4 mile without feeling like death was rushing over me, but I became a runner.

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Three weeks later, I finished my first 5k with a time of 36:21.  On a side note, doing C25K in 3 weeks is not a good idea.  It’s suppose to take 9 weeks.

I was hooked after the first 5k and signed up for another the next week.

Soon after was Xtreme Muck Ruck.

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I completed the 4 mile course in about 1:20:00.  Not fast at all.  But I attempted every obstacle and ran through the Bug Zapper (conductive rope hooked to a car battery, pulsing current!).  AND I enjoyed the mud!

Again, I was hooked and signed up for Warrior Dash the next weekend.

With the new year, I decided I wanted to give triathlons a shot.  (I started working for 3 Disciplines Racing in the spring to get free racing and perks.)

I became a swimmer.

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I had never learned proper swimming techniques, so I signed up for a swim class at the YMCA.

Somewhere in there, I did a polar plunge…

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And I became a cyclist.

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I sold my engagement ring to buy my first road bike (With my husband’s consent, but little did I know things would be changing on the home front soon).

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My first ride.

I also started some weightlifting, which I’ve been enjoying more and more recently.

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End of May back progress.

In April, I asked my husband to move out.  No need for details if you don’t already know, but it was time for us to separate.

May was a difficult month with little gym/workout access and time.  But I was still determined to move forward.  This is part of who I am now.

I returned to Xtreme Muck Ruck in June to take on a greater challenge than the 4 mile course.  They added Club 247.  Complete the 2, 4 and 7 mile course consecutively for a total of 13 miles to be part of it.  ACCEPTED.

That race kicked my ass mentally.  But made it through, including 3 more times through the Bug Zapper.

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If that wasn’t enough, I signed up for my first Tough Mudder the following weekend.

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A 12 miler.  No biggie.

And the following weekend was my first sprint triathlon.

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I considered the triathlon a success when I completed my first open water swim during the race!  I attempted one prior to the race at another lake and failed.  I was so worried about not making it through.

This past weekend, I finished my first Spartan Race.

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In a Spartan Race, you get punished for failed obstacles with 30 burpees.  Legit shit.

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Oh and I ran the race in my sports bra.  First time ever running in only my sports bra.

Also, did I mention that I started eating a paleo based diet?

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Munching on my favorite cashew based paleo waffles.

Paleo has drastically reduced the irritation in my gut (IBS).  It has been a huge help in battling my stress eating and food addictions.

One of the biggest things I have gained this year is confidence.  I feel more beautiful, stronger and more athletic than I ever have in my life.  I never feel like I am enough.  I’m learning to deal with that feeling, because I should be enough.  For myself, for anyone.

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I want to show my boys how to be healthy and fit.  I want to be the best role model I can be for them.

Anything that I think I cannot accomplish today, I now have the mentality that I will probably be able to someday.  I make plans for bigger things.  For pushing harder.  For being better.

Accomplishments from July 25, 2012 to July 25, 2013:

  • Run Total = 370.49 miles
  • Bike Total = 464.8 miles
  • Swim Total = 20, 550 meters
  • 5k Race Total = 13
  • 5k Personal Record from 36:21 to 31:08
  • Obstacle Course Race Total = 6
  • Triathlons = 2
  • Weight Loss Total = 50 pounds (since March of 2011)

Next year… Half Ironman Triathlon, Marathon, Ultramarathon, Skydiving, Spartan Trifecta…

No fucking limits.

P.S. Huge thank you to my supportive family and friends.  I couldn’t be where I am without you.  So very grateful for the people in my life.