Friday, May 31, 2013

Marathoning, K. V. Switzer

This weekend I will be marathoning for my first time ever.

Well... sort of.  Technically, I won't be finishing a marathon.  I'm just volunteering at the Minneapolis Marathon with some community center friends. 

See that blue oval right here?  That is where I'll spend my early Sunday AM:

As I gear up for the event, and wonder if I'll ever be inspired (well, actually, crazy) enough to marathon myself, I've been pondering something over the last week or so...

Did you know women used to be banned from distance running?

"Even in the Olympics, women were not allowed to run more than a half-mile lest, it was believed, they would risk their femininity and reproductive health. The most alarmist officials warned that a woman who ran a more ambitious distance might cause her uterus to fall out."

WOAH!  Wait, wait, wait.  My uterus might fall out?  NO WONDER why mile 11 sucks so much for me on a half marathon!!!  LOL!

Ok, but seriously though. 

The other week, I watched two very interesting movies about marathon running.  I highly suggest you watch them, even if you're not a runner.  It will help you understand the insanity that is marathoning.

The first video I watched was by NOVA.  They took a group of sedentary adults who "at the most go bowling", and over the course of 40 weeks train them to run a marathon.  We're talking the whole gamut - old, ill, overweight, out of shape... and they all do it.  AMAZING!

"NOVA - Marathon Challenge"

The second video I watched was by a group of film makers who wanted to capture the story of what it's like to be a marathoner.  They follow a small handful of adults training for the Chicago marathon.  You meet top elites down through a senior who keeps running just because he can.  The story is terrific, and will be sequeled by the filmmakers soon... I'm looking forward to that!

"The Spirit of the Marathon"

Anyhow!  Back to the topic of this post.  Women in distance running.

In watching the above two movies, I learned something that really shouldn't surprise me.  Apparently women were not allowed to compete in distance running back in the day.

Well, technically, they weren't "banned".  They were just not ... shall we say... "encouraged".

Here's in part why:

In the early 1900's, women were eager to compete in the Olympics, but were only allowed to participate in limited categories.  However, over about 20 years of Olympic gatherings (let's say from 1900-1920ish), women were proving to be good in tennis and other various sports.  As a result, in 1928 women were allowed to compete in track and field events for the first time.

Unfortunately, 1928 was an extremely hot year for summer sports, and many women fainted after completing the 800-meter.  Because of this high exhaustion rate, it was assumed that women could not handle the physical requirements of distance running.  Therefore, women's distance running events were removed from the Olympics until 1960.

(No events were removed from the program when some male Olympians also had heat related issues, hmmm...)

Since running was not on the program at an Olympic level, a trickle down happened - it became an accepted standard that women didn't (or shouldn't) run.

And this is where it gets interesting.  Because guess what?  Women like to run.  Duh!

And that's where the ladies start to fight the establishment.  GUUURRRLLL power!

I'll start by saying: yes, I'm sure there are other groundbreaking women runners out there (IE Julia Chase-Brand), but since the above two videos included a bit about K. V. Switzer, and because I find her story about Boston amusing, I'm going to focus on her.  For now, at least.

To set the scene, let's imagine the year is 1967.  The Boston Marathon is nearing. 

(Off topic - wow, the Boston Marathon sure has a different meaning after this year.  My thoughts are still with everyone at the race on that day.)

Anyway, 1967.  Of course, in those days, the idea of women running a 26.2-mile distance is completely foreign.  So, the Boston rulebook doesn't even mention that women competitors are not allowed. 

Since the rules do not specifically say no, 19 year old running enthusiast Kathrine Switzer, who has trained with runs as long as 30 miles, registers for the Boston Marathon. 

Registration surprisingly goes without a hitch - apparently Kathrine was in school for journalism at the time, and was in the habit of signing her name as K. V. Switzer.  "I thought K.V. Switzer was a very cool signature," she said. "Like J.D. Salinger."  Number 261 is assigned to one K. V. Switzer.  (Note: I privately wonder if she did use the K.V. to ensure the gender neutrality of her application... they did not require a gender identification on the forms back then like they did now, but the name Kathrine would surely give her away before race day - regardless, good for her for working the system). 

Even race day starts without much ado.  Of course people NOTICE there's a woman on course, but no one is stopping her.  Kathrine makes it to about mile two, running with her boyfriend Tom Miller, before her gender even becomes an issue. 

And then...


In a rage, race director Jock Semple came lunging at Kathrine. He got his hands on her shoulders and screamed "Give me those numbers and get the hell out of my race!" The wild look in his eyes still haunts Switzer. "Seeing that face scared the s--- out of me," she said.

But before the race director could rip off Kathrine's numbers, her boyfriend Tom (a 235-pound football player), laid a cross-body block on Semple, sending him to the side of the road in a heap.

While Kathrine was not harmed by the attack, and was able to complete the race, she spent the rest of her run in a cloud of personal misery and embarrassment before coming to terms with the attack.  "While I was running, I had been kind of blaming women for not knowing how wonderful running and sports could be," she said. "And then I realized it wasn't their fault. They didn't have opportunities. I'd been really lucky. It was kind of this 'Eureka!' moment."

Kathrine finished with a time of 4 hours 20 minutes.  And before she could even feel her sore muscles that evening, the above photos were being blasted all over the press.

The fiasco helped put women runners on the map, but it was Kathrine's years of legwork afterward that led the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to add a women's marathon to the Games' program. 

First, not only did she return to Boston when women were officially welcomed in 1972, additionally she began setting major records.  She won the 1974 New York City Marathon and ran a personal best of 2:51 at Boston in 1975.

Then, a couple of years later, a top Avon executive who'd read about Kathrine's running invited her to look over a proposal for a women-only marathon in Atlanta. Kathrine blew it out, rewriting it into a 40-page report, proposing a multicity (and eventually international) road racing series for women. The Avon International Running Circuit was born. Women came out by the thousands to compete.

The series was crucial to getting the marathon into the Olympic Games, because a sport has to be contested in 25 countries and on three continents before it can be considered. In 1981, with the success of the Avon circuit as proof of the sport's viability, the IOC voted to include a women's marathon in the 1984 Games.

Finally, women could officially run!  And we all sighed with relief.  Maybe our uteruses (uteri?) weren't so much at risk after all.

It's thanks to women like Kathrine that I'm able to do what I do today... run, and have fun with it.  I really admire her for her groundbreaking at Boston in 1967.

And in case you're wondering - as of 2012, Kathrine plans to run Boston in 2017, marking the 50th anniversary of her big day.  But at least this time, she won't have to worry about someone else stealing her numbers!

***If you'd like to read more information, or to see where I sourced some of the above, please see this article:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Get Lucky 7K 2013 (Slip-n-slide)

Get Lucky 7K (4.25 miles)
Average Pace 12:53/mile **read below

Ta-Da!  It's St. Paddy's Day weekend.  Besides drinking green beer and making a general ass of oneself wearing ridiculous green accessories, what's to do in the Twin Cities?

Team Ortho's Get Lucky 7K, that's what!

To set the stage: after telling my sister what fun I had last year at Get Lucky, I somehow managed to talk her into doing this as her first ever running race.  WHAT?!  Lil sis' is going to start running?!  WOW!

For about 6 months prior to this race, I helped my sister (who recently gave birth to her second child, btw) follow a general couch to 5K program.  Well, technically, we'll call it couch to 7K, since this was actually a 7K race.

On the week of the race, my sister was ready to go!  She had trained up to running a 7K in just under 50:00, so I figured I'd run with her to help keep spirits up and maybe we'd finish somewhere around the 45:00 mark.

But then, bad news.  Ice storm hits.  Ugh!  Last year's race was 80 degrees and sunny.  WTF!  This sucks!

Well, we'd already paid the race entry and signed up for the shuttle bus running from my local community center, so ... what do you do?!  Just suck it up!

Since it was my sister's first race, and being that packet pickup is an interesting experience, I had my sister come down the night before for a little fun.  Off to packet pickup we went.  And in true Team Ortho style, there was lots of... activity...?  Is that what you'd call a bunch of hunky guys walking around with their shirts off?  *wink* 

I'll just put that free "Men of Women Rock" calendar over here for safe keeping...


What was I talking about now?

Oops.  Oh yeah, right, race recap.

So we do the pick up, get our bibs and chips, and check out the swag.  And I have to say, even though Team Ortho races are a bit on the expensive side, the swag IS pretty cool.  Though I preferred last year's green sweatshirt, this year's wasn't too shabby:

Bib?  Check.  Chip?  Check.  Swag?  Check.  Ok, enough oogling of half naked men.  We headed home with our gear and attempt to get a good night's sleep for the big day.

OMG!  6 am?  Is it really time to get up?  UGH!  My least favorite thing about race day.  If only we could sleep in until noon.  Oh well.

After donning our spectacular gear (me in a glitter-tastic dress, and sis in coordinating spandex pants), we head off to catch our bus.  I know many of the folks on board from various community center happenings, so as we get situated in our seats, I try to get my sister introduced to a few folks.

Pretty soon the bus is packed:

Look at that sea of green!  You can see my sister an I in the third row, left.  I'm diligently checking my cellphone for who knows what.  Running tunes, maybe? 

Oh, no!  I know.  I was posting our selfies to Facebook.  LOL!

The shuttle was a blast, as usual.  We played some various games, prizes were awarded.  Soon enough, we arrived at our destination.  Our cold, cold destination.  We all unloaded and headed towards the start.

Now, to be fair, with such a huge crowd (I think I read around 10,000 runners at this 7K), it's pretty much expected that you're gonna have a wait to cross the start.  But we waited almost 45 minutes. There were actually people finishing the race before we even started. That's a bit ridiculous, especially when you factor in the frigid temps.  I think it was in the 20s?!  I don't know, I stopped thinking about it when I lost feeling in my toes and my pinky fingers wouldn't bend.

Whatever.  We finally are released to run... or more accurately, slip and slide.  Yee haw, those roads were icy!  Before we even cleared mile one, my sister and I see a guy fall in what I call "Home Alone style"... you know, where your feet shoot straight out from underneath you, and you land flat on your back?

Yeah, I'm a child of the 80's, coming of age in the 90's.  Deal with it.

Judging the cracking sound of his fall, I was seriously worried this guy was hurt.  But he hopped up and kept running.  I hope to this day that he was actually OK, and not just running away out of shame.

Needless to say, seeing this slip encouraged both my sister and I to walk when things seemed just too icy.  So, 45:00 goes out the window, and we do a responsible run/walk the entire length of the course.  Mostly running, but stopping to walk when the ice is too slick or the conditions seem too dangerous.  (Yeah, running on icy cobblestones?  No thanks!)

We enjoy the race as much as we can in our frozen state, and I finally start to feel like I'm unthawing around mile three.  But by then, we're almost back to the bus, so what's the point?!

Together we snicker at all the silly costumes on course, and when things get tough for my sister, I provide motivation.  We make it to about mile four before my sister starts to run out of steam.

But have no fear, the community center runners are here!  Two lovely ladies on our bus find us in the crowd (our outfits were pretty... identifiable... given the green sparkle spandex).  They manage to talk enough motivation into the both of us to get us running to the finish line.  We grab our medals and snack bags, and skedaddle back to the bus before our buns start to freeze again.

And although Team Ortho's on course photographers suck (I still can't find any of the photos we posed for on course, and I know my bib number was fully visible), I was at least able to crop a crappy image of my sister finishing her first running race.  I'm so proud of her!

Note her green sparkle leggings.  Like I said earlier, I was in a matching dress, just off her left shoulder... unfortunately blocked by the tutu.

Not to worry, though.  We managed to forget all our frozen race angst when the bus took us to Cooper's Pub.  And why not?  Our race bib DID include a coupon for one free post race beer!  Huzzah!

And that's how race bib # 26 ended up in my collection. It reads "Get Lucky, #2072".  While it was no PR and no cakewalk, it doesn't matter.  I'm just happy my sister caught the racing bug!

Here's to another race soon!

Monday, May 27, 2013

All My ... Races!

I believe in celebrating the victories in life, no matter how small.  That being said, today I'm going to celebrate all the races I've competed in over the last four years. 

You can view my race times here:

Or, if you'd rather stay on my blog, here's the list!


New Prague 5K
     Race #1, Bib Collection #1, Finish Time 36:00, Pace Per Mile 11:35 5K PR 2010 #1

Lederhosenlauf 5K
     Race #2, Bib Collection #2, Finish Time 37:20, Pace Per Mile 12:00

Chaska Rotary Polio 5K
     Race #3, Bib Collection #3, Finish Time 35:40, Pace Per Mile 11:15 5K PR 2010 #2

Lifetime Torchlight 5K
     Race #4, Bib Collection #4, Finish Time 40:00 (estimated)

Gopher to Badger 5K
     Race #5, Bib MIA, Finish Time 39:47, Pace Per Mile 12:48 **injured on course

MN State Fair Milk Run 5K
     Race #6, Bib Collection #5, Finish Time 40:29, Pace Per Mile 13:01  **injury from previous 5K

Average 5K finish time: 38:12
Average pace: 12:07
Total miles raced: 19


New Prague 5K
     Race #7, Bib Collection #6 , Finish Time 33:00, Pace Per Mile 10:37 5K PR 2011 #1
          (3 minutes faster than pace in 2010)

Carlyle Sherstad 5K
     Race #8, Bib Collection #7, Finish Time 33:01, Pace Per Mile 10:37

Rainbow Run 5K
     Race #9, Bib Collection #8, Finish Time 33:15, Pace Per Mile 10:42

Siren Freedom 5K
     Race #10, Bib Collection #9, Finish Time 32:41, Pace Per Mile 10:31 5K PR 2011 #2

Shakopee Derby Days 5K
     Race #11, Bib Collection #10, Finish Time 36:18, Pace Per Mile 11:41 **extreme heat

Crosby Serpent Run 5K
     Race #12, No Bib Provided, Finish Time 30:15, Pace Per Mile 9:45 5K PR 2011 #3

Lake Run 5K
     Race #13, Bib Collection #11, Finish Time 30:45, Pace Per Mile 9:54 **2nd in age category

Average 5K finish time: 32:20 (improvement of almost 6:00 over 2010)
Average pace: 10:24 (improvement of almost 2:00 over 2010)
Total miles raced: 22


Get Lucky 7K
     Race #14, Bib Collection #12 , Finish Time 48:23, Pace Per Mile 11:07  7K PR OVERALL

New Prague 5K
     Race #15, Bib Collection #13, Finish Time 30:26, Pace Per Mile 9:47
          (2:30 minutes faster than pace in 2011, 5:30 minutes faster than pace in 2010)

Carlyle Sherstad 5K
      Race #16, Bib Collection #14, Finish Time 31:07, Pace Per Mile 10:00
           (2 minutes faster than pace in 2011)

Rainbow Run 4K (revised course)
      Race #17, Bib Collection #15, Finish Time 30:00 (estimated)

Time to Fly 5K
      Race #18, Bib Collection #16, Finish Time 31:47, Pace Per Mile 10:13

Color Run 5K
     Race #19, Bib Collection #17, Finish Time 30:00 (estimated)

Crosby Serpent Run 5K
     Race #20, No Bib Provided, Finish Time 29:56, Pace Per Mile 9:40  5K PR 2012
            (19 seconds faster than pace in 2011)

Lake Run 5K
     Race #21, Bib Collection #18, Finish Time 30:32, Pace Per Mile 9:49
          (13 seconds faster than pace in 2011)

Steamboat Days 5K
     Race #22, Bib Collection #19, Finish Time 30:34, Pace Per Mile 9:50

Iron Girl Du (run 2, bike 23, run 2)
     Race #23, Bib Collection #20, Finish Time 2:26:56  DU PR 2012

Monster Dash Half Marathon
     Race #24, Bib Collection #21, Finish Time 2:43:41, Pace Per Mile 12:29  HALF PR 2012

Average 5K finish time: 30:37 (improvement of almost 2:00 over 2011, 8:00 over 2010)
Average pace: 9:50 (improvement of 30 seconds over 2011, almost 2:30 over 2010)
Total miles raced: 45 ran, 23 biked

See all my race summaries in my blog... I'm going to back log everything from the start of 2013, and try to keep up with blogging everything moving forward.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hell-oooo Headbands

I realized on my workout fashion post awhile back that I forgot to mention one very important workout accessory everyone needs... a good headband!

Yes, even you dudes!  Join the party.

(Note: if you want to read an awesome blog about someone who ran the Boston Marathon, click on the above photo.)

Anyway, I've become a HUGE fan of spandex headbands like this:

Basic Brown Stretch Non Slip Headband Multi-Colored Sparkly Stretch Headband Pink and Purple Zebra Print Stretch Headband

The best part about these is... well, really, two things. 

(1) They wick the sweat from your forehead down around the back side of your head - meaning, no sweat in your eyes. 

(2) If you line them up so they just graze your hairline/forehead, they perfectly hug your head and don't slip! 

I've worn these things through super intense cardio/plyometric sessions, running half marathons, bike commuting, and even to a duathalon.  Not a single slip.

And when you're done, just hand wash in the sink and drip dry.  Even better, they dry quick - wash before bed and they'll be ready to wear again in the morning!

I've got an assortment of these from various sellers, as well as a few I've made myself.  But just for a quick link ... since I know you're going to DIE if you don't buy one now... here's a great seller from MN:

Happy shopping, and enjoy your Memorial Weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

3500 Calories

Maybe you already know this. 

3500 calories = 1 lb of body fat

What does that mean?  To lose a pound at your weigh in next week, you need to:

    (A) Eat 3500 calories less per week
    (B) Burn an additional 3500 calories over the week
    (C) Or complete some combination of both A&B above

My preference? Working out, duh!

(Disclaimer: hopefully you're not trying to just burn off spaghetti, nachos and a cookie.  Fruits and veggies, folks, fruits and veggies).

Honestly, I think working out is the easiest of the options to incorporate into your daily routine.  All you have to do is get out there and move your fanny.  And don't get all intimidated, thinking you have to be like me and sign up for a half marathon!  Keep it simple.  Take a walk around the block, do some gardening.  Anything, really!  Just get up off your butt.

Calories Burned During Physical Activity (estimated)

For the below calorie burns, assume the person is about 5’ 8”, 180 lbs

Walking 3-4mph, 30 minutes – 200 calories
Swimming Easy/Moderate Pace, 30 minutes – 200 calories
Biking 10-12mph, 20 minutes – 200 calories
Downhill Skiing, 20 minutes – 200 calories
Yoga, 45 minutes – 200 calories

Let's apply the above to your daily life... if you add a 30 minute leisurely walk to your routine each day, within a week you would burn 1400 calories.  You could do that over your lunch hour, and still have time to eat too!  Not hard at all, right?

Then, maybe on Saturday you want to get outside and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.  Hop on your bike and go for an hour ride around the neighborhood.  There's another 600 calories.  Already to 2000, and you haven't even broken a sweat!  See how quickly even little changes add up? 

Now I bet you're saying - hey, that's only 2000 calories.  I thought you said I needed to eliminate 3500 to lose a pound?

Yep, I did!  And here's another easy way to do it!

Food Awareness

Most people consume calories throughout the day that they don't even think about.  Let's call these "hollow calories". 

What are "hollow calories?"

Consider this... how many times have you walked past the office candy dish and grabbed a couple of pieces of candy without even thinking about it?  Were you hungry?  Did it make you feel full afterwards?  I bet the answer to both of those questions is "no".

Or how about your liquid caloric intake?  How many times during the week do you drink regular sodas, juice or even alcoholic beverages?  Are any of those beverages consumed because you are thirsty, and could you substitute water?  I bet the answer here is "yes".

So, how hard would it be to eliminate a few of these "hollow calories" from your diet?  You got it - not hard at all!

Here are some calorie fun facts for you to consider (again, estimated):

Regular Soda – 200 calories per can
Beer – 100-200 calories per pint
Candy Bar – 200-300 calories each
Snack Bag of Chips – 200-300 calories
2-3 Slices of Cheese on Burger/Sandwich – 100-200 calories

Eliminate 1 serving per day:
   7 days x 200 calories = 1400 calories / week (just under ½ lb)

Eliminate 2 servings per day:
   7 days x 400 calories = 2800 calories / week (almost 1 lb!)

Hardly any work, right?  And you're not feeling hungry or deprived either!

...Ok, so I lost track.  Where are we in working towards that 3500 calorie goal?  Let's see... what have we done so far?  Oh, right:

     (1) Do a 30 minute leisurely walk each day, burn 1400 calories
     (2) On Saturday, enjoy the sunshine during an hour long bike ride, burn 600 calories
     (3) Eliminate 1 serving per day of "hollow calories", eliminate 1400 calories

Hmmm, time for math:  1400 + 600 + 1400 = 3400

Wow!  Look at that!  With very little work, you've pretty much lost a pound.

Think you can do it?  I do!  Give it a try!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wichita Dog-N-Jog 5K 2013 (D@mn Weiners)

As promised, here's a bonus post for today due to the rain cancellation of the Race Chaska event.  Enjoy!


Dog-N-Jog Wichita

Wichita, KS Dog-N-Jog 5K (3.1 miles)
Average Pace 9:17/mile

Back in April, the whole fam-dam-ly drove down to Wichita, Kansas in honor of my "cousin's" wedding (technically he's my 2nd cousin, but due to an age gap, he's more like a cousin to me).

Wow, 9 hours in a Jetta with only 1 stop for gas and fast food (gross).  That sure was fun.  Hour 7 was particularly enjoyable when hubby missed an exit while I was yelling the whole time "Get over, there's room, there's room!".

Yes, we drove in silence for about an hour after that.  A wee bit too much together time, me thinks.  LOL!

Anyhow, hubby and I eventually made amends.  Then, sure enough, we rolled into the parking lot of our temporary home and unloaded from the car.  Best Western, here we come!

Admittedly, with all the travel 1 day before gun time, I didn't exactly set myself up for success on this race.  Although I've finally broke through on my training and achieved a sub 28 minute 5K pace the week before, I was simply exhausted after my long trip in the car and not being able to sleep in my own bed.  To make matters worse, I didn't exactly have the diet of a champion pre-race day (perhaps Dave and Wendy will disagree, but my statement still stands).

So, race day comes.  The buzzer goes off and out of bed I go. 

I'd like to add here that I drove across the way from the hotel to pick up some bananas, my preferred pre-race meal.  My only option at 6am was a 24 hour Wal-Mart.  I'll sum that up by saying you haven't lived until you've shopped at the Wichita Wal-Mart at 6am. 

Two questions arose out of that visit:
(1) Who shops for shoes at Wal-Mart, as a family, at 6am?
(2) Why is everyone staring at me - haven't they seen someone wearing spandex who actually uses it to work out?

I digress.

Since I knew my family was going to be looking for something to do pre-wedding, I had extended an invitation to them to join in on the racing fun as well.  I actually had a few takers - my brother in law, sister in law (who sat the race out due to a broken toe) and another one of my cousins took their place at the finish line to cheer us runners on:

As the name of this race hints, there were two types of competitors in this race.  Humans... and dogs!  I've never participated in a race that allowed animals before, so lining up at the start line was hysterical.  Dogs were chasing each other around, yipping, and rolling in the grass.  I even got a chuckle seeing a wiener dog at the start - imagine those little legs traveling over 3 miles, LOL!  I wondered if the owner would end up carrying the wiener by the halfway point.

All the sudden, when it was time to get serious and await the gun, I couldn't tell who was more anxious to get a better time - the humans or the dogs!  This part wasn't exactly organized, though, and all the sudden the gun went of with no warning.  Ok, here we go, I guess!

The course was quite nice.  We ran the long loop around Sedgwick County Park, passing through some wooded areas, around various small ponds, and I think I saw a playground or two on the far side of the course. 

Despite being travel weary, and the cold winds making my muscles feel tight, I was keeping a pretty good pace. My Nike+ told me when I hit mile 1, and I couldn't believe it had passed by so quick, until... that damn wiener dog passed me.  WHAT!  I couldn't believe it!  Those little legs were going a million miles an hour!

My nemesis, the wiener:

Around mile 2 my muscles started to burn.  I was temped to let my pace drop down, but I was so determined to PR that I couldn't do it.  I pushed myself as hard as I could given the circumstances and kept going.

Somewhere along the course I lost my brother and soon to be sister in law, who are dedicated runners.  I enjoyed racing them, although they both kicked my ass.

**I was slightly less humiliated by my wiener beating when I found out my brother got passed by 'em, too.  And yes, I just said weiner beating.

As I pulled into the finish, I realized I had used up all my steam on course and couldn't manage my usual superman sprint through the finish gate.  But when I saw 29:XX on the clock, I was happy enough.  And I got a few good chuckles in as I watched dogs confusedly run up to the finish line after me.  They weren't quite sure what to think of the ticker-tape flags, and often ran under them instead of between them and towards the finish gate.  One dog even excitedly bounded past the finish and jumped into a kiddie swimming pool filled with bottled water (I think he must have thought he earned a post-race swim).  Super cute!

As we watched the post 30 minute runners drift in, we eagerly awaited one last family member.  Although she started at the back of the group and I didn't even see her cross the start, I'm so proud of my sister who ran, too - she's been training really hard for the last 6-8 months to become a runner, and she finally got to run her first 5K!

As she came into the finish, we debated hanging around for the post race celebration.  But, breakfast hunger pains got the best of us and we cut out.  Besides, we had to go back to the hotel and freshen up.  After all, we had a wedding to go to!

And that's how race bib # 23 ended up in my collection. It's a generic one, so it just reads "RoadID, #265".  But generic or not, I raced a 5K PR at this one, and that's something I can be proud of.

Here's to another race soon, but maybe without the wiener!

Race Chaska 5K 2013 (Rain & Thunder & Lightning, Oh My)

Race Chaska 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 0:00/mile

Well, that was a bummer!  After hours of rain early Saturday morning, with lots of thunder and lightening, the Race Chaska events were cancelled.

My first ever rain out! 

Admittedly, though, I was pretty glad.  The rain was coming down so heavy at times that I could hardly see the houses across the way from the community center.  And I was really NOT looking forward to running in that.

After debating for awhile if I should keep this one or not, due to the cancellation... I decided screw it - my first ever rain out.  It's worth the memory.  So... Race bib # 27 is now in my collection. It reads "Race Chaska RUN, #5011" (with an extra Run100 sticker, of course).

Here's to another race soon... but thankfully not for awhile!  I'm looking forward to a break for a few weeks while I finish out my Run100 challenge and fire up for bike commuting season.

OH!  And since this was a boring one, watch in a few seconds for a bonus posting.  I'm working on catching up on recaps from races earlier this season, so I'll publish one of those instead.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ready, Setty, Volunteer! Run Chaska This Weekend

Last Friday, I mentioned the upcoming Chaska 5K/10K/Kid's Run.  Have you signed up yet?!  If not, just show up on race day, they should have open registration available.

Fab race swag includes this (oooh-la-la, a performance tshirt):

Come on!  It's a local event, I better see you ... you'll be sure to see me, since I'm volunteering at the check-in and then running the 5K!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Diet-Schmiet! My Journey into a Healthy Lifestyle

It's no big surprise that I'm extremely active.

What does seem to take many people by surprise, though, is to hear about who I was just 3-4 years ago.



I've changed so much in the last few years that this actually happened: a group of old coworkers coordinated a goodbye happy hour for someone moving out of state.  Since I showed up a bit later than the rest of the group, I simply plopped down in an open seat and started listening in on the conversation.  I sat across from one of the girls who wasn't involved in the party planning and didn't know I was coming, someone I used to see every day at the office for years... she didn't realize it was me for almost 20 minutes, until someone finally said "Hey, Natalie..."  The look on her face when she realized who I was... it was priceless.  True story.

And whenever people see photos, or hear me talk about where I've been, and how far I've come, they ask me ... how?  Or, more frequently it's posed as a question I absolutely hate : "What's your secret".

And when I hear that question, I always internally want to scream:

Honestly, I think we all know the ultimate truth - keeping a healthy body weight isn't about magic coffee, or counting points, or the latest workout craze.  It's about eating healthy food and getting off your butt once in awhile.

But when you're the me of 3-4 years ago, pictured above in the green sweater vest and weighing 240 lbs, it seems so hard!  To think about totally quitting fast food, avoiding a glass (or bottle) of wine after a bad day at work, stopping at 1 or 2 slices of pizza instead of 4 or 5... or even worse, trying to haul your 240 lb carcass to the gym after the most exhausting day at the office... just thinking about those changes make you want to quit, and you haven't even started.

So, how did I do it?

Well, I suppose like most life changes, mine started with a huge push.



In May of 2009, I joined the ranks of many Americans out there and became unemployed.  I was scared to death.  Not only did I have to figure out where my next paycheck would come from, I also had to face the fact that I was going to be stuck at home ... alone ... a lot. 

At 240 lbs, knowing that I was likely to spend my next few weeks, months, or years sitting at home depressed, bored and with nothing better to do than eat... I panicked.  I already knew I was too heavy, and I knew being lonely and depressed was only going to drive me to eat more than I already was.  Not to mention turning 30 years old was just around the corner for me, and my father developed type two diabetes in his late 30's after years of being overweight himself.

In attempt to calm my nerves, I cut a deal with myself.  I was no longer going to eat because something sounded good, or because I wanted it.  I was only going to eat when I was actually hungry.

At first, that seems like such an inconsequential decision.  I mean, of course if I want to eat, it's because I'm hungry... otherwise I wouldn't want to eat, right?  But it was amazing.  In the first few weeks after I made that agreement with myself, I started to realize that most times I was eating because I thought I wanted something.  Not because I was truly hungry.

For example: one of my biggest cravings every day was salty snacks (IE potato chips).  So for the next week, every time I wanted potato chips, I said to myself two things:
    (1) Am I hungry?
    (2) Am I REALLY hungry?  Because I can have a banana, or some baby carrots, or...
Like magic, after thinking about it for a few seconds, I wasn't so hungry.

And so began my life change.  By simply realizing the difference between a craving and true hunger, from May to October of 2009, I dropped around 10-15 lbs without any other lifestyle changes.  All I did was question why I wanted to eat what I thought I wanted to eat.

Then came the snow.  Because I do live in Minnesota, after all, and it was creeping into November.  So my husband suggested that since I had the time off (being unemployed), maybe I spend some time getting out of the house.  So off to Buck Hill I went.  Two to three days a week, inbetween turning the world upside down looking for jobs and attending unsuccessful job interviews, I headed to Buck Hill. 

Pretty soon, I was literally skiing my ass off, and everyone was starting to notice.

All winter long I kept up my "awareness" of what I was eating, and continued to ski.  And as the snow started to melt, my confidence started to go up as well.  Everyone was telling me how great I looked, and I realized... wow, this isn't so hard.  All I had to do was be a little more aware of what I eat and get off my butt and do something fun.



With my small success in 2009, I started to think maybe this weight loss thing didn't have to be so hard.  If I made a few more small changes in addition to skiing and being aware of what I was eating, I could be even healthier. 

That's when I decided I wanted to run a 5K.  As the snow melted, I changed my time spent skiing into time spent running the local community center track.  As race day neared, I hoped I'd be ready.

At about 215 lbs, I ran my first ever race.  And I did run, the entire way!  So what if it was a finish time of over 36 minutes.  I did it.  I couldn't believe it.

I still have that race bib hung up where I see it every morning.  "New Prague 5K, #2023, 2010". 

Feeling happy that I could do it, I decided to run a few more races.  From spring 2010 to the following fall, I ran a total of 5 races, all at a 5K distance.  My "training" was running a 5K distance on the track 2-3 times each week, with a race about once every 3-5 weeks.  I started that spring around 215 lbs and by the time I finally got a temp job that July, I was just about to clear the 200 lb mark.



Although I continued to remain active, somewhere in spring 2011 I hit the dreaded plateau.  I was being mindful of what I ate, and I was working out, but my weight loss tapered off.  At around 200 lbs, I didn't want to stall out.

I really thought about what I was doing and tried to decide how to keep the good times rolling.  I realized that although I was being mindful of what I ate, I was not really eating totally healthy.  I shifted my emphasis away from asking "am I really hungry", and instead focused on ensuring I was eating my 5 a day (fruits and veggies).  I also made sure I was working out at least 3-4 days per week.

Slowly but surely I lost more weight.  By the time I decided to give up my temp job for a full time permanent position in another office, I was about 185.  It was funny to turn in my ID badge to my boss, because even she looked at it and said "wow, it doesn't even look like you, what a difference".



At 185, I was feeling great!  I had trimmed my 5K pace from 36 minutes to about 30-31 minutes, and I was starting to have serious fun with it.  Introducing... (drum roll)... costumes!

However, as my running improved, my personal life declined.

I spent the next 6 months in a major disaster.  The job I decided to take as a replacement for my temp position was not a good fit.  It was consuming all my free time and I had no work/life balance.  At first I started missing a work out here or there.  Then it was at least once a week, or maybe twice.  My weight started to creep back up to 190.

I knew that if I wanted to keep my health (not to mention my sanity), I needed to find a new job.  I committed myself to keeping as healthy as possible, and dedicated any free time I could to finding something else for work. Which didn't take long, thank goodness!

Upon accepting my new position, I was finally free!  I honed my workout routine, which was now 4-5 days per week, and decided to train for my first duathalon and half marathon.

My weight dropped back down to 185, and then 180. 

People started coming to me on a regular basis asking about weight loss.  I really started to wonder why it was I was so successful and why others struggled.  A friend of mine put it best when she said "You realized staying healthy is hard.  You have to eat right, and bust your ass.  You're working your ass off.  But, you look happy doing it!"

She was right.  I was happy doing it.  After I completed my training and crossed the finish line for both my duathalon and half marathon, I decided to share my happiness with others and pursued getting my group fitness certification.



Although I completed my group fitness training at the end of 2012, I was not yet actively teaching since there were no openings at my preferred gym.  So, to fill my time, I started to read more about nutrition, vegetarianism and veganism.  I've always admired the healthy aspects of leading a mostly vegan lifestyle, but debated if I could ever sacrifice cheese.  I am a good MN/WI girl at heart, after all!

I decided my new years resolution was to attempt a month of living dairy free, while keeping up my emphasis on fruits and veggies, and continuing to work out.  It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought, and although I did not stay totally dairy free after my "test" month, I now find myself eating much less cheese and dairy than I used to.

Just after I finished my dairy experiment, a position opened at the gym, and I began teaching group fitness.  Which more or less takes me to where I am today.  I absolutely love teaching group fitness.  I can't believe it's a job... I feel like I'm 6 years old again and getting paid to play a game of Simon Says.

Given that my muscles continue to grow and my waist continues to shrink, my focus has shifted away from the number on the scale.  I now focus on trying to achieve a lean body, and workout 5-6 days a week.  My fitness routine includes running, biking, group fitness/cardio classes, hot yoga, and even the occasional lap swim (much to my own surprise, since a bad swimming accident as a child pretty much kept me out of the deep end for many, many years).

I try to encourage those around me to be active.  I listen to what they have personal interests in, and then suggest physical activities that relate to that - because let's face it: if you don't enjoy it, you're not going to do it long term.

I am also a part of the Health & Wellness committee at work, and have developed a reputation for being the "health food nut" and "crazy bike commuter" of the office.  I truly work at leading a healthy lifestyle all day long.

And now, whenever someone comes to me and asks "what's your secret", I repeat the following mantra:



Monday, May 13, 2013

Adventure Tri - Bike, Paddle, Run 2013 (Ice-tacular)

Adventure Triathlon (18 mile bike, 3 mile paddle, 8 mile run)
Team Time - 3:50:51.232
My Average Pace 11:58/mile (I think this is actually wrong, more below)

While you were all either sleeping in or enjoying the warmth and comfort of being indoors this past Saturday, I was being my usual idiot self... and staring at a start line waiting to hear a gun go off.

But unlike the usual, I wasn't standing behind the start.  My husband was.  Say whaaaa???

Somehow, a few months back, I managed to talk my mother in law and my husband into splitting the Adventure Triathlon in Grantsburg, WI with me.  And at the time it sounded like loads of fun.  Get a team together, enjoy the camaraderie, add a dash of competition... what's not to like?

Oh... I don't know... how about 30 degree weather, 40MPH wind gusts, and rain/sleet/snow/hail?  I kid you not.  Worst. Race-weather. Ever!

First of all, let me introduce to you what I now call team Cobb Squared (our results said Cobb, Cobb, Cobb in the name line, and it kinda made me laugh):

Some general information about the start of the race:

First, I should say that 2013 was the inaugural year for the Adventure Tri, and it unfortunately showed.  While overall the race was a great experience, and the volunteers were fabulous, there were lots of things that I hope they fix for next year. 

One of the major concerns I had was about last minute tweaks to the race course - lots of initial mistakes were made in judging distance of each leg, difficulty of the terrain, etc., and this lead to lots of revisions to course information on the week leading up to the race.  And, I still wonder at the actual distances we traveled... especially given my Nike+ estimated I ran 9.5 miles... more on this later.  Additionally, I was actually honestly worried that some folks didn't understand how hard the course was... I saw someone trying to use an old school 10 speed Schwinn bike with skinny tires on an off road gravel course.  Yikes!  (In case you're wondering, yes, Schwinn did make it to the transition point).  I'm sure the race coordinators will perfect the race route next year and get this ironed out.  So, no big deal.

One other thing which could really use some help, and will be easy for them to fix for next year, was check-in.  It was pretty disorganized, with racers roaming around trying to figure out what to do.  I think if they just separate out tables (IE check in at one table, get bib numbers at the next, etc), and put up some signs, things should be fine next year.

But anyhow!  Enough bad news bears.  Let's talk the actual race!

As I said, I managed to talk my "mates" into being a 3 person team.  So, as my MIL and I were wiggling around trying to keep warm, my husband wheeled over to the start as part of wave #4 and awaited the gun (we were placed in the last wave based on our anticipated finish time):


And they're off!


As my husband wheeled off into the sunrise, MIL/FIL and I hopped into the car and drove to the first transition point to await the arrival of the bikers, post 18 mile journey.

Unfortunately, as we drove to transition, and not even 10 minutes into the bike ride, it started to dump sleet.  My poor husband.  All I could think is "I wish he would have worn some pants, too".  (Note the bike shorts above).  I felt even worse about this later when I heard a girl roll into transition and say "I was afraid to use only one hand to steer while I reached for my water bottle because I thought I'd be blown of my bike."  Whoops.  Not exactly a good day to be on a bike.

Since I wasn't on the bike course, I can't say much about what it was like.  But, my husband informed me that while he wasn't a fan of literally having a layer of ice on him as he biked, and that the 40MPH winds were not exactly his cup of tea, it was actually a nice gravel bike course.  And that it was also a great spot for people who like to bird watch.  He recommended we head back and check it out some time... in nicer weather, of course.

And despite the sleet, in the last 5-6 miles of the course, the sun finally started to peek out.  So, my husband had somewhat "defrosted" as he rolled into transition.  Hoorah:


Cobb Squared whipped through transition - I grabbed hubby's bike and they ran off to get my MIL in the kayak:


Actually, this transition point was pretty organized.  Some minor improvements (IE better signage as to where to place bikes and boats, and some better restrictions on where spectators should park cars), and next year this place will be perfect!

As my MIL paddled off down the St. Croix River, FIL/hubby and I hopped into the car and drove to the second transition point, awaiting her post 3-4 mile journey.  (I'm still not entirely clear how long the paddle portion was due to the constant course updates by race organizers.)

Just in case we were getting our hopes up that weather was improving, only minutes into MIL starting her race portion, the skies opened up again.  And this time, it was BAD.  Heavy downpour of mostly rain with some sleet/snow, which lasted a good 10-15 minutes.  I can't imagine how miserable that was on the river.  I heard the current was very fast due to the high waters this year, and MIL said the wind gusts actually turned her sideways a few times.  Scary.

I'm not sure if this portion of the course was good or not, since the poor conditions seemed to keep everyone focused on just staying afloat.  Yuck!


Worth noting - the second transition area was somewhat of a disorganized mess.  On a positive note, the volunteers here were great.  They worked HARD to make sure you got out of your boat and up the stairs quickly and safely... and even helped carry boats!!  But, there were lots of spectators just wandering and getting in the way of racers, and I think race officials actually missed some team transition splits because of it.  If anything, I hope race organizers work to better organize  this transition point for next year. 

Regardless, MIL made it to transition in no time, and then it was my turn.  Woot!

My portion of the run started down a short wooded trail, through a parking lot which I assume is one of the boat access points for the St. Croix, and then down a trail in Governor Knowles State Forest.  Eeek - this was quite the trail.  Up, down, up down, rocks, rocks, mud and more rocks.  I am definitely NOT used to trail running.  It was challenging and also a little scary.  With my bad ankles, I'm always afraid I'm going to roll them (as I seem to do at least a few times a year).  My time definitely suffered in this portion, I estimate I walked about 25% due to the rugged terrain... and the giant cliff at the end didn't help, LOL!

Even though I'm not a trail runner fan, I sure was glad for the trees when the next round of sleet started.  I managed to stay mostly dry under the canopy as the storm passed through.  And I was also glad that the trail was VERY well marked by race coordinators - spray painted arrows in the grass, plastic ties in the trees and cones / signs ensured you didn't stray off the beaten path.

Two miles in, the course climbed out of the forest/river valley and onto a country road.  That's where the first water stop was.  Wow the people were nice!  They even offered to take my jacket to the finish line, which I shed after a few minutes into the run and was carrying in my hand.  I opted to keep the jacket in case another sleet storm blew in, skipped the water with a "thanks", and kept on going.

The rest of the race from 2 through 7 or 8 was your typical back country road.  Some flats, some rollers and some more challenging hills, but nothing too drastic.  At mile 4, the water stop folks were lots of fun, as were the folks at the final water stop who cheered "only 1.5 miles to go... ONLY (lol, lol, lol)".  Too funny.

At some point along the run, I saw a guy cheering in the grass.  At first I saw him about 1/2 mile in the distance, and thought "gee that's nice"... until I saw him grab the ass of a guy running buy, LOL!  Then I thought "well... that's nice as long as I'm not next".  HAHAHA!  When I got closer I saw the guy had a bike and helmet, so I assume he had biked backwards on course to find out how his teammate was fairing.  BTW, major props to this guy.  He whole heartedly cheered everyone on, even me.  Twice.  Although the second time he cheered me on was when he was biking past me to catch up to his buddy again, and it somewhat scared the shit out of me since I wasn't expecting it.  LOL!

---- This is where I'll insert my soap box comment on race distance.  I'm almost 100% positive this was closer to a 9 mile run.  While I'll admit my Nike+ isn't 100% accurate to distance, I know it's not off by 1.5 miles on an 8 mile run.  When you factor in that I was delayed getting the distance meter started, and I missed recording the first 1/4 to 1/2 mile as I ran and pushed buttons at the same time...well, something just doesn't make sense. My Nike+ was telling me 9.5+/- miles at the finish.  I'd be even willing to accept this course was 9 miles or 8.5 (maybe).  But this was definitely not an 8 mile course.  So I don't buy my 11:58/mile pace for a hot second.  End soap box. ----

Somewhere around mile 6, I began to admit to myself that running this just 5 days after a half marathon (and still teaching aerobics class on Tuesday, running 5 miles on Wednesday, and doing hot yoga on Thursday) MAAAYYYY have not been my wisest decision in life.  But, thinking back to the water stop I took at mile 9 in the half, and how my knee locked up when I was resting, I resolved to just keep running.

Then the hail started.  And more 40MPH gusts.  OMG!  Ugh.  I actually started yelling at the wind.  Like that would make it stop, LOL!

But, as if the gods knew I was nearing the finish line, the weather calmed down,  and I realized I was back in Grantsburg.  I only had about 1/2 mile left on course... all down hill, and no more hail.  Wahoo!

The husband, who lost track of time and wasn't sure when I'd wander in, diligently watched for me in the wind and hail (despite still being frozen post race himself):


And before you knew it, there I was:


The finish line was a bit confusing - I think I was supposed to run down the center of the street, but it was open to traffic and cars were all over the place.  I opted to run the grassy shoulder on the side of the road, and then down the hill into the park. 

Finally, as I have many times before, I stomped on the finish mat with gusto.  Victory!

Race bib # 26 is now in my collection. It reads "Tortoise & Hare Timing, #990".
I can officially say not even hail and 40MPH will make me quit, and since this is my first ever "8 mile" (LOL) distance, I can still claim PR at 1:35:42.109.

Here's to another race soon... actually, AGAIN next weekend.  At least it's only a 5K this time!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Glutton for Punishment

As if running the hilly hell last weekend wasn't enough, here's what's in store for me the rest of this month:
This is a team event for me.  My husband is doing the 18 mile bike, followed by a 3-4 mile kayak ride by my mother in law, and I'll finish out the race with an 8 mile trail run.  Wish me luck!
A local event, maybe I'll see you there?  Other options include a10K distance and a kids program.  You'll see me volunteering at the check-in!  (page 38)
It's amazing to think that 3 years ago, I could hardly even run... and now, I'm CHOOSING to run 100 miles in the month of May.  Good thing I got myself a new pair of shoes on Wednesday night, I'll be needing them!

And of course... I'll still be teaching TBC (total body conditioning), attending my regular hot yoga classes, and hopefully sneaking in some bike commuting soon.

Care to join me in some activities?  Let me know!