Sunday, December 25, 2011

Crazy Train

The other day, I woke up in a crabby mood.  As is usual during the holidays, I felt overwhelmed and stressed out about work and the end-of-the-year craziness.  I had worked late, stayed up too late watching "It's a Wonderful Life" with Doug and the girls and did not feel good.  Rather than just rousing me from that drowsy almost-awake place like it usually does, my alarm jolted me out of bed.  Nevertheless, I sallied forth at 5am for my run.

UGH.  It was horrible.  My feet hurt, my knees hurt, the weird ache in my right bottom cheek flared up, my tummy was upset and I had overdressed so I was hot.  I made it up to the clubhouse, pottied and went on my way. 

I did not feel good enough to exit the neighborhood for my usual loop and bargained with myself about the easiest way to get my miles in.  I ran down to mom and dad's house and dropped off their paper, then headed back towards the clubhouse, thinking I'd just avoid the giant hill and maybe do loops of the regular neighborhood.  Stopped again for the potty.  My tummy was very bad and I started to think I might actually be sick - lots of viruses going around at school right now.  The general malaise that usually only comes with a fever enveloped me.  Rather than attempt any hills at all, I ran back to mom and dad's house (it is mostly flat to their house) and realized that running anywhere without bathroom access was going to be a very, very bad plan.  So, I hit upon the idea of running slowly up to the front of the neighborhood (2 miles uphill) since I could hit the golf course bathroom on my way if necessary.  If I felt good, I would turn around and return home the long way and go by mom/dad's one more time to hit my mileage.  If I continued to feel badly, I could just head straight home.

In addition to the tummy issues, my mind was in a bad place.  I could not erase my frown and the heaviness of being in that bad place made every step irritating.  I was mad at Doug for making ants in trees because it was giving me the GI distress.  I was angry at the work folks for all needing everything done at once.  I was crabby with myself for not being more efficient with my time.  Something had to give.  I gave myself a stern lecture. 

You have to snap out of this! 
Do you remember the T.V. show "Fame," where Debbie Allen says "You want fame?  Well, fame costs.  And right here is where you start paying"?  I told myself a variation:

You want to feel better?  Like a human? Well, you need a run to burn off the bad.  And this is your run.  This is where you make it better.
It was not working.  OK, maybe a little. But then those angry thoughts kept creeping back in to try and pull me down and exacerbate my foulness.

So, feeling a little desperate, I thought of something Rebecca told us at Hot Vinyasa class.

You have two sides, two wings - the feeling and the action.
Identify the emotion you are feeling, take it out and hold it in your hand.  It is good to have feelings.  Everyone has them.  Examine the feeling, its breadth and shape.  Then, YOU decide what to do with it on the action side.

I took the hard, gnarled stub of my frustration and held it in my hand.  It was ugly.  It was muddy green and brown with an irregular knobby shape and needle-like thorns and it smelled like rancid meat.  I rolled it around for a minute and let the points bite my fingers and palm.  I thought about how I could be more productive and how I could have eaten less of the ants in trees.

Then I put the feeling back and kept on with my run.  The run to the front of the neighborhood plan was a good one because the long uphill is rewareded with an easy, non-GI-irritating downhill.  I made it to the front of the neighborhood and while the running part didn't feel any easier and my GI was still protesting mightily, I felt like me again.  Sure, I still had to stop at the dark golf course bathroom and I went home the short way so I didn't get all of my planned miles, but I got most of them and felt better for it.

A year ago, I read The Cranky Princess's exercise logs and Kate from Big Peach's blog posts about yoga and made faces.  Yoga might be good for them, but it was not for me. 

But after that Hot Vinyasa class, I thought, maybe it might be OK.

And this coping skill, the two-wings theory.  It might just prove it.

Or that I'm on the crazy train.  Either way.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


In November, several of my Facebook friends (they are real friends too) and Elena started posting one thing they are thankful for every day or week as a Thanksgiving project.  I could not remember the day of the week for Elena's thankful thing on BT so I just post my things whenever I think of them.

Thanksgiving came and went, but I'm still posting the things. 

Trying to think of a relatively new thing every day (or every couple of days) has been a good exercise.  It makes me stop and notice little happy things where perhaps in the past I would have rushed right by.  I see decorations, pretty trees, how the fish gets excited when he sees me coming.  [I am thinking right now that I should be looking for more of these things]  Looking for the thankful thing makes me look for the bright side of a bad mood, a bad situation, a disappointment, everything.  One morning recently, I got up in a terribly ugly mood.  Everything about me was foul and I just hated myself.  I got on the bike trainer (a stand for the bike so we can ride indoors) and rode my heart out.  I added some extra "personality" minutes the way we used to give the kids personality naps before dinner.  It worked!  That day I was thankful for endorphins and their capacity to smooth the bumps and for Doug for setting up the trainer for me.

A similar thing happened when we got the new Christmas tree.  Our previous tree (both trees are fake, by the way) was a stop-gap measure that we bought when we realized that Annika would be pulling up on or near the tree at her first Christmas.  The potential for disaster was too scary to imagine with a heavy real tree, so we got the fake one, planning to replace it with a "good one" after the holidays.  That was in 2003.  Things don't move fast at our house.  Doug found some trees on sale this year at Sams and brought one home the day after Thanksgiving.  The new tree is more telephone pole-shaped than tent-shaped and it did not make my heart sing.  So, I jumped on my bike and then took a nice, cool run and though the tree had not improved in my estimation, the kids were REALLY excited (jumping up and down) about decorating it.  And that day I was thankful for Dr. Seuss and the Grinch saying that "perhaps Christmas means a little bit more."

It is interesting, though, that most of my thankful things are repeating themes.  My family, running, my family, running, friends, my family, running, work, my family etc. . .   I think, perhaps, that they are so extra-great that I keep coming back to them for my thankful thing.  Then again, it could be because I am subconsciously making up for the years of not thinking of the thankful thing.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Tale of Two Races

WTC v. Rev3 in a subjective race-off

WTC is the World Triathlon Corp.  They own all Ironman races, the Ironman name and all things Ironman.  They charge approximately $700 per full distance race and the races usually sell-out in less than 24 hours.  People choose to do Ironman-branded races because they believe them to be (a) better organized, (b) better supported and (c) bigger, showier, more exciting events than non-Ironman-branded races.  Ironman is not the easiest company to like.  They put on crowded events, disqualify racers if family members cross the finish line with them and take a hard-line with any races that use a name similar to theirs (iron-distance races, for example).  I raced Ironman Louisville last year and they ran out of water at several aid stations in the fourth hour of the bike ride on a day when temperatures reached 95 degrees.  I am not a fan.

Rev3 is Revolution 3, a challenger group that claims to deliver a family-friendly events and a racer-focused experience.  They charge approximately $425 for a full distance race and the races take a long time to sell out.  People do Rev3 races because they believe them to be (a) more fun for the spectators, (b) a lower-key atmosphere and (c) cheaper.  Rev3 is organized by pro triathletes, has great prize purses for the winners of its races, puts finisher photos up on the jumbotron at the finish, encourages family members to run through the finish line and makes personalized nameplates for each racer.  Before this year, I had never done a Rev3 race.  They looked nice, but were not much cheaper than Ironman-branded races, so I thought "meh?  what's the difference?"  However, this year GU sponsored Rev3, so I had the opportunity to race for free.  OK, my race entry was free.  Travel to Knoxville, the hotel and meals we had there were not free.

Rev3 Knoxville Half (race report here)

My only experience of Knoxville prior to the race was a UT/UGA game, that the Dawgs lost miserably.  It was hot, the stadium was steep and crowded, the food was uninspired and we were not impressed.  Driving in for the Rev3 race, though, we saw the other side of town. 

The Sunsphere and World's Fair park were beautiful green expanses along the river and we found a good brewpub for pre-race fueling.  Doug signed the kids up for the Kids Adventure Race (a family scavenger hunt) while I checked myself in.  Then, I joined them for the second half of the race until Dagny got tired and needed to ride on my shoulders. 

The kids practiced running down the finisher's chute in the grassy park where the expo was located.  I met Tyler, king of GU and spent the afternoon hobknobbing with him as we gave out samples of GU to the expo attendees.  Overall, Rev3 had a very welcoming, easy feel.

At the actual race, the swim was pretty cold and the current was challenging.  I just told myself that it was hard for everyone, so I did not stress.  The bike course was hilly!  I knew Knoxville was a mountainous place, but I was slightly under-prepared for all of the climbing on the bike.  This was my first try going easy on the bike, so I just rode along.  Coming off of the bike, I was a little loopy and lost my water bottle and then the jacket for the bottle before I finally started the run.  As you can see, I was a bit discombobulated.

The run was hilly, but not any harder than my neighborhood.  In fact, some of it was in a neat Knoxville neighborhood!  I had a blast and brought it home fast to find Doug, Phat and the Blackmons at the finish.  The kids didn't get to run it in with me because they were having too much fun in the bounce house.

I loved this race and would encourage anyone considering a Rev3 event to give it a try.  It was a lower-key atmosphere than Ironman races.  There was no rush to buy Rev3 branded goods, the expo was not crowded and the race course was not full of spectators.  However, I found this to be a refreshing change from the craziness of Ironman races.  All of the aid stations and other support were exactly where promised and plentifully stocked.  The finishline was exciting and it was very cool to be on the jumbotron.  : )

Ironman Wisconsin Full (race report here)

As anyone who has talked for me for longer than 3 seconds this year knows, we raced Ironman Wisconsin this year in Madison with Team Buttercup, Tom and Doug's awesome family.  If you have never visited Madison, it is just plain awesome.  Doug's family has been telling us this for years, I know, but sometimes we are just slow.  We had a blast checking out all of the cool stuff in and around Madison.  Doug's sister Michelle and brother-in-law John drove up and corralled the kids for us.  Here are my girls checking out the finish line.
Here they are with Owen at the Stube in New Glarus.  New Glarus Brewery is also a must-see.  We also tried Linberger cheese at Baumgartners in Monroe, and toured all of the good restaurants and the farmer's market in downtown Madison.
Here are Doug, Katie, Becky and me at the swim start.  I am on the left, then Becky in the long-sleeve, then Doug and Katie on the right.  We found Karen once we got in the water, so it was a perfect way to start.
Love this photo.  I look tough!  Grrrrr!
Here is John, who tirelessly cheered all day.
Uncle Ray and Aunt Rodonna waiting for the slower racers (me!).
I got to finish with Katie, which was AWESOME!
The gang, minus Doug, who was taking the photo.  Love these ladies.  The kids powered through and were up to watch the last finishers come through at midnight, which was really cool.  I cry every time. 
I loved this race, too.  However, after experiencing Wisconsin, Louisville and the Rev3 Knoxville, I would make the argument that the race-director/owner of an event does not matter as much as the venue.  After Louisville, I was really down on WTC, but Wisconsin was awesome in every way because the town was excited about the race and there were tons of neat things to do there.  Knoxville was great for the same reasons, plus the event venue was fabulous. 

However, the best thing about Madison was the monumentally huge bonus of Doug's family making the trip to support us.  We don't know if there could ever be another race as great as that.  : )

Saturday, November 12, 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I wanted to feel strong for the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon.  My pals at GU gave me an entry for the race, so I wanted to represent!  I wanted to have an easy day on Friday, a good night's sleep and break four hours on Saturday.

Well, a bunch of life happened.  I worked the expo all day on Friday, ate peanuts/bananas/tylenol for lunch with GI issues, and could not sleep because I got another of those sinus headaches.  You are not supposed to take anti-inflammatory medicine prior to a marathon, but I took a LOT.

Here are Nat and Desiree at the expo.  From my place in the GU booth, I got to see all of my peeps come through on Friday and meet a bunch of racers, which was really neat. There was a great energy in the building, even when the traffic had people waiting for two hours to get in.  It was a good expo.

On race morning, Doug dropped Nat, Michelle and I off for the shuttle at 5am, and we made it onto the first bus.  Then, the driver promptly asked if anyone knew the way to the start.  Whaaaa?  But we got there, and dropped our bags and it was fine.  Natalie found some peeps and Michelle and I huddled in the lee of a building to stay warm.  Doug found us, which was doubly-awesome for me.
Michelle and I ducked into the nearest corral for the start and met a couple of nice ladies and then we were off!  I started with my race outfit, a long-sleeved shirt and garbage bag on.  It was that cold and windy!  I started out at a good clip for the first few miles (8:45; 8:12; 8:30).  I joked around with the people around me when I tore my garbage bag off like the Hulk, "you wouldn't like me when I'm angry." 


Sheesh.  Tough crowd!

I ditched the shirt at the first water stop in mile 4 (8:47) and worried that perhaps I was not going to be able to keep up a sub 9 minute per mile pace for the whole race.  I had picked 8:50 as my goal pace after narrowly missing the 4 hour mark at the Publix GA Marathon in March, which was way hillier, but who knew what impact Ironman Wisconsin in September would have on my speed.
I stopped for the potty in mile 5 (10:55).  I'm not fast, but I did find some sanitizer.  I told myself that potty stops are now called the Bachman/Galloway method and tried to relax while I was in there as if it were a planned break.  And, just like our dearly departed Annie-dog, I felt much better after stopping.  I got to see Doug and Amy in the next few miles (8:11; 8:52) and used my emergency Advil to shush the persistent pain in my IT band (should have worn tights!).  We ran through throngs of screaming people downtown and everyone sped up (8:24; 8:38; 8:38), but slowed down again exiting through the neighborhoods, on the highway, and entering the park (8:47; 8:47; 8:46).  Since the band was not playing on the highway, I amused myself by pretending I was Godzilla as I stomped on all of the discarded cups.  GRRRRAAAAHHHH!!!!  Then a guy and I made ourselves into torpedos for better aero-advantage in the wind.

The park, though it was a paradise of extra potties, was a dark place for me.  My body started to hurt and I wondered (like I do in EVERY race) why the heck I was doing this.

While I wallow in the valley of darkness, here are some photos that Doug took of all of the gang. 
Please note that my support tank provides very convenient glove storage in the rear.

Here comes Jerry!

Karen is still smiling.  Honey badger is still asleep.

Katie smiling, as usual.
It turns out that I just missed seeing Doug in the park, because you can see that he caught Karen and Katie and their color-coordinated outfits.  For me, mile 14 was 9:08 and mile 15 was 9:14.  I was convinced for a good half mile that after the mile 15 marker that I had only 9 miles to go.  Whoops!  Guess who had low fuel, despite never deviating from the one GU every 4 miles plan?

Then, I met my new friend Cathy in mile 16 (8:56).  She was looking for a buddy too, so it was perfect  timing.  Cathy raced at Kiawah when Doug and I did in 2009, has registered for this year's Goofy and was also trying to PR by breaking 4 hours!  Yay - tons in common!  We talked nonstop for the next few miles (9:11; 8:57; 8:51) and it was awesome.  I started feeling bad again before mile 20, though, and thought mournfully to myself, "wow, she is too fast for me - I am going to have to let her go."  : (

Seconds after I finished this thought and made the accompanying sad face, Cathy turned to me and said "Steph, this is going to be tough and I will need you to help motivate me to finish." 

AHA!  A job!


It was like a light turning on and I felt instantly better.  Mile 20 was 9:02 and though it still hurt, we climbed out of that stupid valley of darkness.  My GI got a bit uppity in this stretch and I had to stop again in mile 21 (9:57), but remembering how Nat recovered herself and chased Doug down in the Atlanta marathon a few years ago, I used my Bachman/Galloway relaxation trick and told Cathy I would catch up. 

And I meant it.

Mile 22 was much better (8:31).  It was great to have Cathy's pink socks as a beacon and then Doug was there!  He ran with me on the windy highway as we chased Cathy.  It was great!  After Doug dropped off to find the next buddy (he ended up running 17 miles total), I ran a bit with a guy named Gary who was using this race as a training run (he was not even breathing hard!) and he ran with me and helped bridge me up to Cathy.  I was very glad in this stretch that I had been too cheap to ditch my Red Top Rumble gloves and tucked them in my shirt instead, because I wore them on and off for the rest of the race.

Here is Jerry!  First marathon!

Amy ran this stretch with Jerry and her sign!
The remaining miles were tough and they hurt a lot.  Cathy and I cursed at the pain and wished for very loud, make-your-ears-bleed music, but we brought it home with only a little slowdown (8:53; 8:58;  9:00; 9:20) and sprinted in the last 0.2 at 8:20 pace!  WHOO!

Nat and I changed clothes and headed to the finish line to cheer in the finishers. I alternated cheering and tearing up as the racers came through.  It never ceases to move me to see folks when they realize that they have finished and it dawns on them that people like us can do a marathon or an Ironman.

Here is Michelle with her awesome Team Buttercup cheering section.  You can't see John because he was running down the other side of the road taking the photo. 
Here are Nat and I after some freshening up and the application of dry clothes.

I broke 4 hours for a PR and final chip time of 3:55:37, met a new friend, saw Michelle's first marathon and had a great day. : )  Now, to see if I can sign up for next year . . .

Happy Running!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Agenda

No, not The Association.

The Agenda.

It turns out that I have one!

I had no idea.

Let me backtrack.  Last winter, when Doug and I took the girls to run in the Polar Bear Run, some ladies who did not recognize me as a runner remarked in my hearing that the winner of the race must have "an agenda" because she ran the race in capris and a jogbra.  Granted, it was cold that day, but WTH?  Who cares what she was wearing and how does the wearing of a jogbra turn into an agenda?

Anyway, this scene has replayed itself in my mind many times since that day.  I still can't figure out why those ladies thought the winner had an agenda.  And when I think about it, I say (in my head) "She must have an AGEEEENNNNDAAAAAA" in a very ridiculous voice.

Anyway, MY agenda appeared the other day when I was reading my blogs.  Yes, I keep a list of blogs in my Google Reader and new stuff just shows up when the writers post it.  Magic!  Anyway, I was reading along and it turns out that the writer of one blog that I have read since Annika was born (Dooce) has started running.  She wrote about some of her running and her first taste of GU.  And then, I had to reply.  You have to sign up for an account to post a comment and I never have because I never do anything that requires a sign-up.  Not even online shopping.  But I had to do it, because she was talking about RUNNING. 

So, I thought about it a lot that day and realized that I am like that kid in college.  You know, the one who would sit down next to you on the bench outside of the library in college and want to tell you about his best friend Jesus Christ.  If this never happened to you, you either did not go to college in the South or you were never alone in college because it happened to me a LOT.

Anyway, I am that guy!  I want to tell everyone about my best friend, running.  Running has helped me deal with stress (work, taking the bar exam, motherhood).  It has helped me avoid becoming the fat Steph from middle school.  It lets me get outside and see the town or just the neighborhood.  It helps me stop and smell the roses or taste the muscadines (just look at the vines in front of the VG Bistro!).  It helps me remember stuff that I have forgotten.  It helps me forget stuff that has irritated me.  It gives me the patience to do stuff that I don't like.  It lets me think through problems.  It lets me blow of some steam.  It lets me wave and smile at the cops and the neighbors and people I don't even know.  It helps me accept what my body is, but also tells me that I can do more than I thought I could.

Sure, I have bad runs or hard runs or runs where I have to go potty a zillion times or worse, when I can't find an open potty or where I chafe the skin off of my armpits, but every time I am always glad I went and I never return from a run wishing I had not gone.

In all honesty, Doug is my best friend, but running is right up there.  So, when I wave to you from my car or the sidewalk and am happy about my running, it is because running is my friend and I want to share it with you.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Try New Things - Class #5 - Hot Vinyasa Yoga

After the warm yoga experience in Class #4, my yoga-riffic buddies convinced me to try out a vinyasa class.  Apparently, vinyasa is movement-based yoga and each movement flows into the next.  So, we agreed to meet for a Hot Vinyasa class yesterday.

Elena, Karen and Mila are all experienced yoga students, but Michelle joined us and she is about my speed of yoga (remedial).  As is my habit in a new class (OK, in any class), I tried to get on the back row with Michelle, and not one, but two other attendees literally elbowed me out of the way!  Whew, who knew that people were so particular about their yoga locations!  So, I ended up front and center, which is way outside of my comfort zone, but it was probably better since it kept me on my best behavior and in the moment.

We did a warm-up with closed eyes, which was surprisingly relaxing.  It was really more of an ease-in because the room was plenty warm, but we started moving around gradually, which was a nice way to begin.  The instructor did not model the poses for the class, but walked around the room while guiding us with her voice.  While I felt a bit adrift at times when I didn't recognize the pose she meant, it was easy enough to open my eyes and copy what everyone else was doing.  And, while she was guiding us through our warm-up/ease-in the instructor told us about the meaning of the word yoga and gave us some deep thoughts on the idea of unity.  This part, when combined with some other stuff I was thinking about, made me cry.  Luckily, I am used to crying during the songs in church, so I didn't worry too much about it.  I learned that it is not unusal at all to cry in yoga.  The instructor also had a few things to say about accepting your body, which I thought was pretty awesome.  This jibed very well with the varying degrees to which we could perform the poses in the class.  Some could touch their toes, some could not.  Some were on left feet, some on right.  Some could back-bend, some could not.  It was nice to see all of the variations and hear that they were all OK.

The flow class really was about constant movement, which I appreciated.  We moved from pose to pose in a similar order to the sun salutations I remember from my last (only) real yoga class and did a LOT of yoga pushups in between the different poses.  The pushups were very difficult, but even some of the routine stuff like going from downward dog to warrior pose was challenging for me.  I liked this flowing kind of yoga a lot.  It was hard, but relaxing at the same time.  The heat, instead of being an afterthought, really wove in with the class so that while it was gently warm at the beginning of the class, it got oppressive at the end so that it was a complete relief to do the cool-down poses that felt most comfortable.

Our last exercise after the flowing exercises was to join arms for a last stretch (almost a runner's stretch) on each side.  While you'd think that we might have felt silly doing this, it was really nice, except that the lady next to me did not want to touch me.  Not her fault that I am a sweat monster.  The instructor left us with some good thoughts about the duality of emotions and actions, which was a good way to end.

All told, I give Hot Vinyasa an enthusiastic thumbs up.  I would definitely look forward to another class.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Try New Things - Class #4 - Warm Yoga

This class was supposed to be Hot Yoga, but the heaters in the yoga room were on the fritz.  So, we convened in one of the regular exercise studios with the heat turned up.  This provided a warm class (no pulled muscles) but not a hot class (no sweating).  I learned after class that the format of this class is similar to that of a Bikram class, in which you do a set of 26 poses (same poses every week) in a 95-108 degree room separated by rests between poses. 

I really dreaded this class because yoga is just not my thing.  I failed miserably at the class I took with the kickboxing ladies.  I would lie in corpse pose (savasana) and think "wow, I am not burning any calories here" or "how much longer?" or "what do I need to do at work tomorrow" or "maybe I can poke Michelle with my big toe".  Luckily, Mila and Elena (who are good at yoga and way bendier than me) agreed to meet me and Natalie told me what to do in the class. 

I arrived ridiculously early, procured and sanitized a mat, picked up towels, a block and strap and brought iced water with me.  As we went through the poses, the instructor told us to look ourselves in the eyes in the mirror, so it felt like cheating to watch what she was doing to emulate the poses (I still did it).  This class had the soothing music and dim lights, but it lacked a lot of the hippy-dippy stuff that intimidates or irritates some people about yoga.  After I worked through my desire for incense, deep thoughts and encouragement, I realized that if you just want to stretch your body without a lot of fluff, this is the perfect class.  Now, if you could eliminate some of the savasanas (boring!), it would be only an hour and perfect!

Interestingly, I really enjoyed the distractions of the karate class next door (they were breaking boards!) and when one of the other students' teenaged kids were dancing outside the door impatient for her to leave.  On the other hand, as I was struggling to turn my body around for yet another savasana (I am still ridiculously sore in my calves, core and triceps from Total Conditioning on Saturday), I had the nicest thought about the crisp, delicious apple that I had for snack before class.  It was nice to just think about that instead of being embarrassed at how un-bendy I am or how much struggle it took me to get into and out of the savasanas.

So, I give the class a thumbs up, despite the fact that it did not go according to plan and that I still suck at yoga.  It helped me stretch when and parts of my body that I otherwise would not have stretched and that is a good thing.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Try New Things - Class #3 - Total Conditioning

Well, as I type this, my arms are still wet-noodley from this morning's Total Conditioning Class.  It totally kicked my ass.

Total Conditioning is a lot like what I imagine Cross-Fit to be: intervals of strength training (weights), followed by more reps with a bit of cardio or cross-functionality (adding legs while lifting with arms, for example), followed by hard cardio (zone 4 or 5).  Go to the next interval and repeat that process for a full hour.

Before class, I met a nice man who showed me how to set-up my area and advised me to start easy with the weights.  He was really helpful and even checked in after class to see how I did.  LifeTime should buy him a coffee because he was an excellent ambassador.  He needn't have worried about me heeding the weight warning!  I selected the lightest weights (green, which are actually 3lbs and not 1lb like I thought and blue 8lbs that I didn't even touch).  I did go up one level on the bar to the yellow 15lb bar, which was OK.  I selected a red stretch band - huge mistake.  Midway through the first set (not the progression to add cardio), I had to drop it and go without.  My swim muscles are fine, but the rest of my upper body is still downright wimpy.  Seriously.  I had the lowest weights of any person in the class, even the grammies!

As with last week's Strike class, our instructor started early and we warmed up fast. I had tried out the '"floating" elliptical machine on the cardio floor to warm-up for 10 minutes, so I was fine with the fast warm-up.  Apparently, this is what everyone does, because I recognized a lot of the people in the class from the machines around me.  Quickly I realized that wearing my Vibrams had been a mistake.  While they were perfect for Strictly Strength (the instructor even wore them), I found them terrible for the cardio portions of Total Conditioning.  I gazed longingly at the cushy Brooks on the lady and man beside me while I changed some of my cardio to low-impact when my feet started complaining.  If you can run in your Vibrams, though, you could definitely do Total Conditioning in them.  I would have preferred a securely-laced running shoe or flat.

I really enjoyed the progression format of the class and the way you could do the low-impact, medium or hard-core versions of each exercise.  The class was all over the map on the variations, so I didn't feel self-conscious about modifying when I needed to do it.  I don't think the guy next to me was ever doing the same exercise as the instructor!  And the cardio was hella-fun.  I channeled my college step-classes and middle-impacted when my feet didn't want to do the high-impact stuff.  At one point, we did squat-thrusts, then had the option to (a) step up on the step, (b) jump with both feet onto the step, or (c) jump over the step.  At another point we did three two-footed forward jumps in a row, then spun around and jumped back to repeat.  It was awesome.  I was dripping sweat at the end of every cardio interval and it usually took me the whole first lifting set to recover.

Total Conditioning was fabulous.  It allowed me to bring it the way Strike did, but because the lifting was more controlled than my crazy punching, I don't appear to have hurt myself as badly.  I will try it again with shoes next time!  Thumbs Up!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Try New Things - Class #2 - Strictly Strength

Today's class was Strictly Strength with Wendy.  I have never done a strength class, so I had no idea what to expect but was pleasantly surprised.

I have not yet regained a full range of motion after Saturday's Strike! beat-down, but I gave Strictly Strength a try anyway.  To prepare, you set-up a step like in step class, lay out a mat, gather two sets of hand-weights (heavy and light) and a weight bar.  I picked the lightest weights possible (green 1lb and blue 2 or 4lb hand weights and my pal the 6lb pink bar) and set-up my area just like my friend Carolyn did.  Carolyn picked WAY heavier weights than I did.  My ego wanted to get bigger weights (some of the other class members had 9lb weights and a 15lb bar!), but I knew it was better to start low than have to swap out in the middle or drop the weights entirely.

We did a little warm-up, then two rounds of shoulders, chest, lunges, squats, calves, biceps, and triceps.  Last, we did glutes, abs, core and back.  I missed the last bit of this and the stretching because it was 6:15 and I had to leave, which is too bad because I am really good at the core.  However, I was able to do the whole workout, except for a few reps of the lunges and squats when my glutes and quads burst into flames.  Apparently, the exercises that you do in each workout change every time because Wendy mentioned that there would be no pushups today.  The music was good and my only criticism was that I had a hard time following the number of reps.  I think I will get better at this with some practice.

I would definitely do this class again, but I think I might run a few miles first to warm-up and after to cool-down because (a) I am addicted to cardio and (b) I am not young or flexible enough to jump right into the warm-up.

As of today, I hereby change the rating scale to thumbs-up v. thumbs-down instead of N out of 10 because the numbers are very likely to be very Steph-o-centric.  The overall quality of a class should not be evaluated on my foibles.  Other folks may just not like to punch or value the sweating as much as I do.  : )

So, Strictly Strength gets a thumbs-up!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Try New Things Offseason Challenge - Class #1 - Strike!

Climb every mountain

or just try every class at LifeTime Fitness!

Now that my triathlon offseason is here, I was thinking about what I could do to keep in shape and avoid the post-race lbs I put on last year.  So, I was thinking, maybe I could just try out all of the classes at my gym.  The gym has classes all day, every day and I have never tried any of them except for spin.

Class #1 - Strike!

So, this morning, I found a buddy and we gave Strike! a try.  It is basically an aerobic kickboxing class merged in intervals with a strength class.  You select a weighted bar and in between sets of kickboxing you do sets of lifting or sparring moves with it.  The kickboxing took me right back to the classes Corinne, Michelle, Katie and I used to take at Kim Brothers and LA Fitness ten years ago.  SO. MUCH. FUN!

We did lots of punching (which I love), lunges, squats, and cardio.  I picked the lightest bar (pink, of course) and was still dripping sweat for the whole class.  Some of the other ladies had really heavy bars, but I don't think I could have done the whole class with a heavier bar.  The instructor started early and appeared as if she would have kept going if not for the hard stop at 10am.  She gave good directions and played music with a good beat. 

My glutes are sore to the touch and I may not be able to move tomorrow, so I give this class a 10 out of 10.  I will definitely be back.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Brick the Cancer Ride Report

After the 100 Miles to Nowhere event, I swore off of events. I figured that the craziness of the ride was an indication that I was just not ready for primetime and hosting an event is a lot of work for the family, especially if I am riding in the event.
So, when Katie decided that she was going to raise money for Athletes for a Cure so she could do Ironman Wisconsin, I thought we would just donate some money. Those Athletes for Cure folks are doing such good stuff by even mentioning prostate cancer since no one seems to be able to mention a prostate without giggling – I am a sucker for them. Well, the donation turned into “let’s host a party to solicit donations for Katie.” Then Doug did the math and realized that we needed to widen the net. Couple that with the silly brick workouts we had been doing (10 mile Mountain Park bike loop + 3 mile neighborhood run loop) x 3 and voila – another event was born!

Brick the Cancer was held on Saturday, July 30 and we raised over $500 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation via cash and donations on Katie’s site. We planned to ride three circuits of the 30 mile down-to-the-river loop, alternated with running three loops of my street (3 miles with cul-de-sacs) for a total of 90 miles of riding and 9 miles of running. Doug made awesome boiled peanuts and BBQ and we got to ride bikes with a lot of neat folks.

Adam posing for Annika

Barry and his magic shoes.

The Blackmons

Brian - Mr. Speedy.  He was the only other person to ride all 100 miles of the 100 MTN

Cindi - fastest woman alive on platform pedals

Dave, my spin class buddy and superfast marathoner

Katie the Event Girl and awesome Doug, who manned the fort despite having the flu.

Doug's awesome sister Michelle, who is going to Wisconsin with us and who escorted Susan and Lynn on their ride before running with her sweet husband.

Susan and Lynn - their run plan sounds like the most fun ever.  They skip and dance and everything.

Tom.  We are going to convince him to do a triathlon one day.  He is already way faster than me on the bike.

GU donated GU Energy Gels, neat banners and schwag and allowed me to buy event-sized quantities of GU Electrolyte Brew and GU Chomps.
You'd think I would have made my artful arrangement so that you could see the labels on the GU and Chomps, but no.

Brooks Running chipped in some schwag and discounts too and everyone loved the Brooks transition zone in the driveway!

Betcha didn't know that trees and bushes make super bike stands!

Schwag box - choose your own!

My neighbors did not complain, we had a few flat tires and other than both of the crashes that I caused, no one wrecked! Katie and Greg brought their margarita machine and made alcohol-free GU Brew-a-Ritas to cool everyone off,

plus some lovely macaroni and cheese. Becky made awesome cake and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Tom made lemon cake and Karen brought peanut butter crackers to share. It was awesome.

On loop 2, we powered through the flat tire events – good practice to change them!  Then, as we climbed back from the river to the house, the sun turned into a ball of flame.   Doug had to hose Adrienne and Marlin (who, along with my buddy Larry, miraculously appear to have been immune to Annika's awesome photography skills) down to cool them off after they rolled in early after electing not to ride down Stroup Road to visit the goats with us.  Karen loves those silly goats!

This let to our newest running innovation – the hose chair. Some strategically placed holes in the chair, a cup of iced beverage and a hose = instant relief.

After the loop 2 run, Doug packed me zip-lock bags of ice to put in my shorts and all riders refilled our bike bottles with ice and the GU-a-ritas.  As we sallied forth (or ground painfully up the hill, whichever) on loop 3, we decided to do two 10 mile loops instead of a longer loop so that we could come back by the house for more ice.  It was that hot.
This proved to be a genius idea because loop 3 was blazing and miserable.  Luckily, as we came within two miles of home (I had to calculate this later because my math had escaped me by that point in the ride), the heavens opened and it began to pour with rain.  The rain was a welcome relief from the heat and oppressive humidity.  After a few minutes of wrangling, the group elected to run our remaining run loop and then reassess the weather situation.  After an uneventful and rather painful (at least for me) run or run/walk, we called it quits and tucked into the delicious BBQ, cakes and homebrew.
I am very pleased to report that Katie met her fundraising goal and that we are all looking forward to Ironman Wisconsin next week!  YES!
So, I am still pretty amateurish at the event thing, but we had a great time.  Who doesn't enjoy a yard party with a little exercise thrown in for fun?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Brick the Cancer July 30!

What? Another silly workout day at the Bachman house? That's right! It's time for the Brick the Cancer workout to benefit Katie's Athletes for a Cure fundraising.

The fun happens on Saturday, July 30 at 6:30am. Three bike/run loops plus GU, Brew, PB&J, Doug's BBQ and recovery beverages. Ride or run (or not!) as much and at whatever speed you like. Finish in plenty of time to go to Kate's Cake party or the NAMC Braves game or just hang out with the Brown Dogs.

Bring your beach chair and children with bathing suits for sprinkler action.

Details here or let me know your email address so I can add you to the Evite.

Monday, May 30, 2011

100 Miles to Nowhere - Roswell, GA Edition

Or, more accurately, the "Not Quite Ready for Prime-Time Race Direction and Hot as Blazes Edition."

When I signed up for Fatty's challenge, I thought it would be cool to be part of the event and a good excuse to do a nice long ride. Originally, the plan was to do loops of my neighborhood but my partner in crime (Natalie) thought it would be more fun to do a longer loop.

A longer loop.

Of hills.

So, I thought, why not? You get extra credit for doing 100 HILLY miles, right? Brett has a joule and calculated that we actually did 8,333 feet of climbing in our 100 Miles to Nowhere. Regardless, I thought it would be challenging and Natalie and my husband would ride with me and it would be a great day.


It was a great day, but the pie-in-the-sky plans I had for a seamlessly organized and perfect event miraculously did not materialize when I overscheduled by doing the Rev3 Knoxville HIM the weekend before (race report will follow), work got crazy and it turned out that my daughter's First Holy Communion was the day before the event. I was still putting up the directional signs at dawn and screeched into the garage in time to change my shirt and hop on my bike. No shower, no tooth-brushing, no breakfast, no artfully-arranged display of GU and schwag.


Both the City of Roswell and the City of Mountain Park were friendly and accomodating when I asked them about our event. They did not require me to get an event permit and since they were not for a commercial purpose, were small and removed quickly, there was no fee for the signs either. Yes!

Here is the very professional-looking result of my handiwork, which I realized once we were riding, is really small. And hard to see. Next time, I'll have to print them at a sign place. They were really cute, though. I even put "encouragement" signs going up the big hill. Like, "Suck it Up Buttercup" and "You Can Do It!"

One of my many signs indicated a stretch of downhill that was very bumpy. Unfortunately, I failed to heed my thoughtful warning and pinch-flatted my front tire on one of the larger bumps. And, because we had not had time to remove my race wheels from the Rev3 Knoxville HIM, it was a tubular tire, which I've never actually changed. Darnit!

Nat and I successfully wrestled the tire off of my wheel but could not get the valve-extender off.

It turns out that the reason Doug puts my multi-tool in my Bento box when I race is not really to crowd out my GUs. It is because you need the allen wrench to remove the valve-extender from the race wheels. AHA! Nat and I did not figure this out until Brett and then Seth and finally Brian lapped us and stopped to provide advice/assistance.

Apparently, it takes five triathletes to change a tire. (Sorry Nat, for purposes of this discussion, you count as a triathlete).

Luckily, I knew enough to stretch out the tire while Brian removed the extenders for me. Brett helped us get the new tire on and we were back on track. Whew.

During the planning stages, GU stepped in and supplied me with enough GU and Chomps to feed an army. They also said it was OK if I used the Electrolyte Brew that we had left over from the Run at Work Day event. Super! So, we were well-fueled and Doug kept the coolers full of delicious lemon-lime GU Brew and water all day. He also set-up the tents, brought out chairs, boiled peanuts, grilled BBQ, served frosty beverages, handed out water balloons to the kids and kept track of our loop times. See, it was actually super-lucky that he didn't want to ride. Or is just super-smart.

I publicized the event on BT and sent email soliciations for donations to everyone on my phone list and suddenly, my 3-person event rapidly grew into quite a party! There is a secret here, you see. If you put out Doug's beer and BBQ, the people will come. Here is a photo of a guy from Team Awesome, Doug's dad, and my friend Larry. You can see Doug and kids in the background.

In addition to the original six (Brett, Brian and Seth in the fast group with Nat, Kevin and me in the slower group), another twenty-three people showed up to ride at least one loop of the course. It was AWESOME! We raised over $1,000 for Livestrong and the Prostate Cancer Foundation!

It is not to late if you want to donate. Just click the links.

So, back to the ride. Dan and Mindy (Team Carpenter) came down from Athens ride. They are real cyclists and quickly left Nat and me in the dust.

Cindy brought a bunch of work buddies and kicked all of their behinds with five loops (on her platform pedals with no clips!). Here we are in loop 5 or 6.

Shortly after this photo, I ran over a piece of glass and flatted again. I had no repair kit on my bike, of course. After I had run about 1/4 of a mile with the bike, Doug's sister Michelle showed up and drove me back to the house where Nat's brother-in-law, Wes, who is a professional cyclist, changed that tire for me while I took a pit stop. Pretty darn cool. Here are Wes, Pookie and Ryan (Team Awesome).

Then, after one solo loop (the only one of the day!), Neal and Scott joined me for the last two loops. They waited until the heat of the day to ride so that I would not have to do the last bit alone. They rock! Justin made sure we were hydrated and we were on the home stretch.

Scott and I headed out on the final lap together. You can see him behind me, looking decidedly less loopy. He thoughtfully pretended that he wasn't coasting to keep up with my slow pace.

Shortly after the photo, I high-fived Doug on the way out, lost my balance and promptly wiped out in the driveway. Yep. Grace is not my middle name. Might have been a bit loopy also, because it was super hot. But we finished and Scott didn't even mind taking the longer loop home so that I could add back enough miles to make up for the running and car travel.

Final score: 27/28 riders in all. 8,333 feet of climbing. 101.40 miles in 7 hours, 21 minutes, and 36 seconds for a whopping average speed of 13.78 miles an hour and 2,863 calories burned while raising $1,118 for 2 great causes (plus some extra for the Colon Cancer Foundation).

And, because I can't resist photos of my kids and their cousins, are photos from First Communion. It was a beautiful Mass and we had a great party after, too. Team Bachman can throw down.