The beginnings of a great scramble, kale, onions and bacon.
I heart bacon…and eggs and kale and tomatoes and onions.
Good friends, good workouts and good produce.
So I have been in a bit of a slump for a while. Like I said before, during the holidays I didn’t train the way I wanted to. And then I got sick and was out of commission for over a week. It has left me feeling pretty pathetic and grumpy about Miami. I haven’t had a great workout in over a month.
Then today, things just came back together thank to the above mentioned items. I got back on the paleo wagon last week and suddenly felt much better and more in control of my body. I am very proud to say that Matt and I actually consumed every bit of produce we bought during our grocery shopping last week – nothing went bad before I could get to it and we bought a lot of veggies!
Krista came over for a paleo dinner and a couple drinks (hey, there are some that argue wine is paleo compatible in moderation). She started going to Crossfit Toronto a couple months ago and eating paleo and she has made such a transformation. Not just physically (although she looks pretty hot) but mentally. She if so effing brave and strong! Over dinner we were discussing how although Crossfit is innately challenging you still have to show up and really give it your all to see the results. Going through motions won’t get you any where quickly. She was explaining that she regularly wants to puke (and sometimes does puke) doing her WODs.
It got me thinking, I usually train hard but have I genuinely been giving 100%? When was the last time I wanted to puke during a WOD?
For the month of January the Academy of Lions has paired up with ING Direct Canada for the Friend of Savers programs to offer an Academy of Lions Orientation package with 100% of the proceeds going to the Academy of Lions Foundation. To promote the deal the Academy held a free open WOD at the ING Direct Cafe near Yonge and Dundas Square. I will be honest, I was totally going to pass on going until Krista got wind of it and said we had to go. We have never gone to Crossfit together so we were exciting to tackle the WOD together. So after my 60 minute long run I headed over to the cafe.
The WOD was 20 burpees and 500 metre sprint, 4 rounds for time. Yikes! I haven’t done a burpee since September, haven’t gone to Crossfit since December 17th and just ran 6 miles that morning. My only goal for the day was to have a wanting to puke moment. Yes, you read that correctly. Krista had really got me thinking and I really wanted to experience going so hard I want to puke feeling.
Well, I almost puked during my third set of burpees. It felt great and I pushed hard. So hard I sprinted past two people during the last 500 metre sprint and finished in the top three! Yay! As a prize I got sweatshirt and Krista got a rocking t-shirt! We rock!
For the first time in forever I felt great about my workout. Suddenly I was back and jazzed about training again. Now, was this the best way to taper for Miami? Probably not but mentally it gave me a much needed boost…no seriously, much needed.
So today I am grateful for good friends, good workouts and good produce…And now a good dinner! Paleo orange chicken and cauliflower fried rice. Yum yum yum!
P.S. Matt just surprised me with flowers. Best day ever!
The good news is that being sick has given me lots of time to blog and the cold meds make me believe that sharing my thoughts with wide world of the internet is oh so very important. The bad news is that the only working out I have done is the sad shuffle to the Shoppers Drugmart on my corner to acquire more tissues and Neocitran while trying to avoid the stinkeye of cashiers who look as though they can’t decide whether or not I am a homeless person or not.
So lacking any physical feats to disclose I thought now would be a good time to look at some of the gear I acquired in 2011 and my thoughts on its awesomeness (or lack thereof).
2011 marked my bold exploration into the world of trail running and the realization that it required a little more preparation than slipping on runners and heading out the door. Case in point, you need to slip on the right runners.
I tried my first technical trail run along the Bruce trail at Rattlesnake point in my Mizuno Women’s Wave Alchemy 10s which resulted in a lot of stopping, readjusting and generally being slowed to a hobble to avoid dashing my ankles to pieces.
Now, in fairness to Mizuno these shoes are not designed for trail running and for an incredibly anxious trail runner such as myself they were definitely not the right shoe (I have a deep seeded fear of breaking my ankles on technical downhill trails).
In came my Salomon XT Wings Runners, bam! My first trail runners. Now six months later I can provide a comprehensive review- I love, hate, love them.
I loved these shoes right off the bat. They were easy to break in and I felt an immediate difference wearing them on the trail versus the Mizunos. I think the quicklace system is brilliant, I don’t know why other shoes even bother with laces anymore. These shoes got me through the Spartan Beast and Super. They have been ran in, swum in, plodded through the mud in and shimmied across walls and ropes. And they are still holding up great.
Now there is one thing I hate about them- ever since the very first long trail run I did in them (12 miles) they have irritated the inside of my foot where the ball of the foot meets the arch. Now the initial blisters have to also be blamed on my sock experimentation (I will get to this) but even after they healed every time I run more than 10 miles in them I get blisters and now the blisters are becoming callous like and starting to irritate me even I don’t wear the XT Wings (gross, I know). I love everything else about these shoes but I am not sure if I can commit to another year of blisters in them.
Back to that sock experimentation. I have read nothing but the most rave reviews for Injinji socks. And at I believe $18 CAD, I expected the most amazing socks. Now, I am sure they work for many other people but my feet hated them. The Injinjis plus the the XT Wings equaled the worst blistering I have ever experienced, to the point where I felt kind of hobbled for days after. I have experimented with both the Injinis and XT Wings separately to determine the true culprit and while the Wings certainly played a role, the socks were the primary source of the blistering. Colour me disappointed.
That being said there was one real winner in terms of new gear I purchased this year…basically all the CX-X gear I bought!
Seriously, compression tights changed my life. They keep my legs feeling strong long after my mind has collapsed during my long runs. The Insulator tights (to the right) have kept my legs warmer than ever during in the face of Toronto’s freezing waterfront winds. I cannot wait to take them snowshoeing once I start to feel better. Also, you look super rad when you wear them to the grocery store.
Now other gear was purchased and I have good/bad thoughts about many other items however my sleep sense tingling…time for nap.
The road to hell paved with good intentions and is apparently 26.2 miles long. Okay, I am being a big drama queen cry baby at the moment but I am sick and have had my head royally f*cked with by my doctor recently and am generally feeling self-indulgent. That and I swore to Matt that today would include no physical activity of any kind, just laying in bed and getting better goodness. I also like to mix cold meds so to recap I am sick, grumpy, sleepy and rolling on Neocitran and Buckley’s. And oh, I have a marathon in less than three weeks.
Now before we go any further two points to consider…I make no promises that any of this makes sense, it may just be rambling thoughts. I also make no promises about spelling, syntax or grammar in general. Clear?
I would like to say I have just been a terribly blogger but to be honest December and January thus far have been plagued by that end of the year/beginning of the year craziness/fatigue that derails training, ambitions etc. No excuses, I just haven’t been training the way I would have liked to the last four weeks and there is no one to blame but myself.
However I am trying to relatively reasonable and focus on the fact that while I didn’t manage to squeeze in four runs and 2 cross training sessions every week for the Miami marathon I did manage to run at least twenty miles every week and do some form of cross training every week. And although I had a complete mental breakdown during my twenty-three mile run on Saturday and had to call Ms. Carrie Adams in a fit of snotty tears and only ran 10 miles, I have done a long run every weekend, including a twenty mile run on December 17th. And while my eating has been far from perfect, all my clothes still fit, even the small ones, so I can’t be treating my body that badly.
Now before you get all judgmental (or hell, get judgmental- the Neocitran won’t even let me care) this is for me a big improvement. At this time, for the last four or five winters, I would be at least 10 lbs overweight (and legit overweight, not my muscle mass is causing my BMI to appear high when I am in fact healthy), have not run more than 4 miles in the last two months and usually knee deep in a fit of depressive/anxious hysterics. So am I in shape to run the best effing marathon of my life? Probably not, but I can without a doubt finish this race. Am I healthier, saner, more active and happier than I have ever been in January? You betcha!
And that was the goal of signing up for Miami and that is what I need to remain focused on. I don’t run because I am Ms. Speed Demon, Ms. Endurance or even just Ms. Looks Good in Spandex. I run because it brings a joy, clarity and balance that otherwise my life lacks.
But back to that phone call with Ms. Carrie Adams. This is probably the first time in my life (not just winters) that I have awesome lady friends that I can call in snotty fit about running because they get it. Now don’t get me wrong, I have always had awesome lady friends and have many awesome lady friends who don’t run and they mean the world to me. And in 2012 I will work on expanding my blogging beyond health and capturing some more of their awesome stories. But unless you have trained for these events you can’t really break down the half-brained logic of a panicked runner trying to determine why she couldn’t finish her latest long run and reassure her that it will be okay to take this weekend off and run twenty miles next weekend because two weeks is enough time to taper (see, that barely made sense to me and I was that runner, on that call and wrote this blog). And I called Carrie not just because she is an amazing runner, with way more experience than me and a heart of gold, but because she has seen me in action for six hours during the Beast and probably has a more objective sense of what I am made of than I do myself.
So to recap, 2011 was awesome, I feel really blessed to have met all the amazing people I did and experienced all the fantastic events. 2012 looks to only be better. I have some amazing adventures planned with more awesome ladies (and occasionally Matt) and while Miami may not be a PR for me, I know without a doubt that there are some PRs waiting for me in 2012. I just have to get better, get out of this bed and chase them.
I have been completely negligent in terms of this blog. Yikes!
Doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing stuff. I shaved 5 minutes off my PR at the Niagara Falls Half Marathon on October 23rd. It was an amazing run and really showed me what I am capable of mentally on race day and the benefits of training slow and racing fast.
It also tore up my legs, which slowed down my marathon training for about a month after. My legs just started feeling normal again last week. I have actually been harboring a secret fear that I had injured my left quad. This is a secret, which I only disclosed to my massage therapist (Erin) for fear that if I spoke it out loud it would make it true. However the legs are healing, even as I ramp up my long runs.
I have not been having a lot of mental success with my last two long runs. A 16 mile run felt like it took everything I had in my mental toolbox to finish. The next week was a failed attempt at 18 miles, calling it a day after the cold left my legs numb at mile 15. A recovery week, some speed work and some reading time had me approaching 18 miles take two with a different mindset. Running a marathon is a challenge but more than that it is gift. Sometimes I get too caught up on “pushing through” instead of realizing that where I am right now in my run is exactly where I need to be. Don’t get me wrong, there will be suffering. But that’s a gift in and of it self. In the words of my favorite ultra runner, Lisa Smith-Batchan
“I love the Beast. I actually look forward to the Beast showing up, because every time he does, I handle him better. I get him more under control.”
I posted last week on daily mile about how the reason I struggled so much with longer distances yet felt like I could run a half-marathon in my sleep is that I put my due diligence in with the half. I ran more 10 to 15 mile runs and races this summer and fall than I ever had before so that 13.1 felt merely like some extra time with an old friend. I don’t know the 15+ mile run all that well and it will take time before I get comfortable with it, till I get a better handle on the Beast.
During my 18 mile run I decided to tweak my mentality. Usually I tackle my long runs as a battle of wills, an effort to push my body. I am focused on how tough I will find it before I even begin. This may work for 13.1 miles for me, and probably works for real runners tackling the marathon but I can only run in the hard/pain zone for about two hours right now. So yesterday I changed my mindset. Instead of counting down the miles I had left, I focused on cherishing the present mile and be grateful I had so many miles outside on this beautiful December day. Three miles down? Damn, that means I only had 15 more out here. What a shame as there is no where else I would rather be.
I have to tell you, the miles go by much quicker when you focus on how you don’t want the run to be over versus how tired/cold/sore you are. Granted I was blessed with beautiful weather, minimal wind and new winter running tights but still. At mile six I found a trail I didn’t know and just followed it, an adventure in seeing places and feeling the lake at my side, the sun on my face.
I also celebrated my slowness. Usually I get frustrated because…
So today I celebrated my slowness. It was a gift, the gift of patience. If I could suffer through this lackluster pace on this cold December just imagine what a gift it will be to open my legs and feel some speed (relatively speaking of course) in Miami. Every slow step today will give me the patience and mental strength to endure the pain of fast in January.
And I was eager for the Beast. I knew now that he would come and given my last failed attempt at this distance ended at mile 15 by mile 14 I was antsy for his arrival. Here Beasty Beast, I know you are out there. Come find me. The irony was that now that I was ready, willing, and eager for the Beast, he didn’t come. Not at mile 15, 16, or 17. So I guess this just means I will have to go farther to find him again. Luckily I have a 20 mile run penciled in for two weeks from now.
What is it about Spartan races that make me need to start my blog with “Where do I begin…”. Personally I think everyone should just get out there and run a Spartan race and that way you will all know what I am talking about. Regardless, I don’t know where to begin again, what an amazing race.
Dad and I woke up at 6:30 to catch what I thought was the 10:30 heat of the race (more on that to come).We jumped on the subway, made it the ferry and then took the Staten Island Rail to the Wolfe’s Pond Preserve without a hitch. I decided to finally relent and put my bib number on my forehead in the vain hope that just once I might get a nice race photo. Now this is a lot to ask of Nuvision, as I am not one of those girls that looks cute when racing. Those that have seen me can attest to this. But maybe this race would be different? Of course I am all Sharpied up and then I go to registration, only to find out I have the wrong bib number. D’oh! Okay, I can handle this, I will just use one bib number for timing and one to search for photos. Oh wait, what is that? I am in the 10:00 am heat and it is 9:53. Awesome. But in all seriousness I just found I couldn’t get stressed over this race so I threw back a gel (thank you Carrie) and made my way to the start.
As my new heat was getting ready to take off, we watch Hobie Call come in from the 9:00 am heat to once again win the race. In his honour we did 30 burpees before the race even started. Then it was go time. In Toronto I played in safe and the Beast was soul crushing so the Super Spartan felt like my shot to really see what I could do. I went out hard in the beginning with the aim of getting ahead of as much of my heat as possible, so as to avoid the inevitable line-ups at obstacles. Note to future self: Without line-ups there is no opportunity to recover at obstacles. We left the main racing area and hit the sand right away. Many people immediately gave up on the loose tricky sand and headed to the waters edge for firmer ground but I stuck to my guns. The markers clearly indicated we were suppose to take on the nasty sand and I came to race Spartan style.
After the the usual walls and more walls we made our way back to the main race site and took on…some more walls. Then it was the barbed wire crawl. I don’t know what I have been doing that improved this obstacle so much for me but there was some major chicking going on. I came out strong and took off running.
After some mud, muddy water, mud and more muddy water the course turned into a technical single track. I witnessed some awesome chicking and started to get more into the mood of the race. I settled into a slightly faster than comfortable pace, which I thought I could maintain. Somehow I began to feel cool and calm.
I exited the woods to find the larger walls (8 foot plus), fire jump and cargo net. At this point I also heard two women manically cheering for me. I recognized Carrie and quickly guessed that the second awesome lady must be Lynn, another Spartan chick who I had connected with recently. They had competed in the Hurricane Heat (jealous) and were rocking awesome shirts, medals and big grins. With their cheers I made short work of the walls, chicked a dude who hesitated to charge the fire and chicked even more dudes on the cargo net. As I headed back into the woods, maintain a strong pace I could still hear Carrie and Lynn cheering. Disclaimer: All this strong pace, feeling confident stuff is relatively speaking.
At this point it hit me, I was going to keep pushing on this race. No walking, no resting, just all I had to lay down for 8 miles. Trails turned into a tire carry. The tire carry became a creek traverse. After the creek we were sent through drainage pipes in one direction. Yes, we crawled through drainpipes in Staten Island. This may be why I feel a cold coming on.
After the drainage pipes the race settled into miles of technical muddy trails. Lots of chicking was had. At a certain point I realized I had caught up to Spartans from the 9:30 heat, which was a great feeling. It hit me that this must be what trail racing really feels like; really effing fun, insanely fun, totally rad. I was like a kid and the trails of Wolfe’s Pound were my playground. The miles flew by. Before I knew I was back at the drainpipes, crawling through in the other direction. It hadn’t even occurred to me to walk once; I was having too much fun and felt 100% confident that I was running exactly the race I needed to.
There were more creek crossings, a steep slippery hill and then back to the trails. At this point I was keeping pace with “Mike from Manhattan”, who had run the Hurricane Heat earlier. He told that once I hit the beach the end was near and to keep trucking. We exited the trails, hit the pavement and into a park for the monkey bars and balance beam. Now these were both obstacles that made a fool of me at the Beast. Having only been running for the last the weeks I didn’t see how I could make much progress on them. I would love to say I triumphed and kicked their ass but it was still 60 burpees for me. That being said I felt a definite improvement in both obstacles. At the Beast I fell off before even touching the second monkey bar, and this time I made it halfway across. And on the balance beam I actually made to the second to last angle before fall off. The burpees left me tired but at this point I could see the beach and knew the finish was coming up.
The second sand run was brutal. Every single person around me gave up on running. It was a long stretch of the beach and the sand was loose and deep. I tried walking for about 10 steps and quickly decided
Once again there was some mad chicking going on and all around me I heard voices saying, “We just got chicked!”.
The sand run finished in a concrete block drag and after that it was back towards the main race area. At this point everyone was spent and walking. I will be honest-I didn’t get it. In my mind the end was in sight, this was the time to run and be done with it! I barreled into the spear throw, missed and pounded out thirty burpees. Sprinted to the wall traverse, which being a climber I LOVE. I jumped on my wall with a guy about halfway across on the opposing wall. Ladies, you know I had to chick him.
It was then a dash to the soap wall, which I once again refused to fall off. And then the finish was in sight and it was just the gladiators and I. My thing with the gladiators is this, if you try to run around them, they just trip you with their pugile sticks and I was not there to break a wrist or ankle. So I got down low, looked them dead in the eye, and charged right at them screaming. You may have a pugile stick buddy but I have momentum and a low center of gravity. The crowd at the finish went nuts and I made it past with no problems, finishing the race with my usual manic grin. One hour and 41 minutes later and a top twenty finish in my heat. I felt like a million bucks.
I got to quickly connect with Carrie, Lisa and Maurya after the race. Yet again, you ladies are the best and you rocked my world. You are all totally rad.
The trip to NYC, the race; it was all amazing. Traveling with my dad is the best and I think I will need a follow-up post on the details of our NYC adventures. So more to come, but thank you Spartan Race for another amazing event.
I am in NYC and the Super Spartan is tomorrow! Wins all around.
And I am super pumped because I am here with my dad. My dad is awesome, no jokes. We both share a passion for learning about almost anything and we can happily spend hours discussing everything from public policy to the recipe for the best Puerto Rican beans.
My dad grew up in Brooklyn. His mother immigrated to NYC from Puerto Rico, his father from Cuba. I have aunts, uncles and cousins here and all the stories my dad shared about growing up here. So my excitement is two-fold, not only do I get to race and travel to the greatest city on earth but I get to share this experience with my dad and explore his past.
Thus far we have experienced subway shutdowns, a fire, flooding, pouring rain and being locked out of our hotel and you still can’t wipe the grin off our faces. While the weather isn’t ideal, rain all weekend, we are both committed to having a great time. So bring it on NY!
And so, racing tomorrow. Yeah, I don’t know why I feel so chill about the Spartan Super. Maybe it is because despite having to cut out Crossfit and climbing I know I am still in some of the best shape of my life. Maybe it is because with my shoulder injury I know I can’t go out like an animal on this course. Either way I am excited to race tomorrow but without all the jitters and pressure. And of course I cannot wait to see my Spartan Chicks!