Friday, November 16, 2012

A Valiant Attempt...

I was having lunch with a friend the other day, when the topic of my new diet came up. We were eating some chicken caesar salad when he asked what I planned to accomplish by going on South Beach. I told him that I wanted to get healthier overall and hopefully lose some weight in the process. I started to tell him about how I went on South Beach about two years ago and lost a crap-ton of weight, when he, being the type to love word-play, jokingly asked, "Oh? Did you find it?"

And yes, yes I had. In fact, that was the problem and my entire reason behind going on it again! Two years ago, right after I graduated from college, I started a new health regimen that involved the South Beach Diet, Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred, and my first pass at my Couch-to-5k program. I got addicted to fitness magazines and spent most of my time obsessing over workouts and meal planning... and it totally paid off. Within four months, I lost about 30 pounds, dropped two clothes sizes, and for the first time ever, was able to go into the dressing rooms of Forever 21 without crying (just kidding, I didn't always cry, sometimes I just complained loudly and obnoxiously). More than that, though, I finally felt strong and confident.

After a while, however, I grew complacent and started to fall out of my healthy habits. Where I had grown accustomed to eating some delicious apple salad or baked chicken for dinner, I gradually, then predominantly, started turning back to fast food. Where I had been working out and running nightly, I started playing more video games and going out to movies or bars. Now, over a year and a half later, I've completely undone my progress from before. I've found all the weight I lost.

All thanks to Nancy Drew and the Case of the Missing Cheeseburger

And so, having decided that it was definitely time to act, I started the South Beach Diet again on Monday. When I tried this in February, it only lasted a few days before I thought I was going to die. I had been drinking a lot of soda, so I kind of forgot to eat (like, legitimately forgot - not an eating disorder thing). By the time I realized I was ravenously hungry, I couldn't eat anything comfortably because my stomach was so full of Diet Coke. I was so nauseated and terrified that I quit the program that day. This time, I'm already on day 5 and haven't felt like vomiting even once! Improvement!

I think the big difference is that I'm trying to be more realistic this time around. I know that I'm going to screw up (heck, I already have a couple times thanks to freaking dinner meetings and Thanksgiving potlucks at work), but I keep reminding myself that one mistake doesn't mean I should give up, nor should it be an excuse to splurge too much. I also know that if I never indulge in anything, I'll make myself miserable and end up binging on junk sooner or later. Going in with the mindset that I don't have to be perfect but that I do need to make a valiant effort is proving to be very helpful and has kept me motivated.

In addition to South Beach, I'm planning on really stepping up my game in the activity department. I've signed up for a race in January that I'll start training for here shortly. Also, a friend from my kickboxing class and I both decided to get Groupons for Jazzercise, which I'm pretty pumped about.

Although, I'd really prefer to do Jazz Kwon Do

Now, if I can just start getting up early to run or do yoga before work, I'd be set!

Does anyone else ever feel so hungry they want to vomit? It doesn't make sense to me, but that's how I feel sometimes. Do you have any tips on how I can start getting up earlier that don't involve me going to bed earlier? Anyone have any leotards and leg warmers that I can borrow for Jazzercise?

Friday, November 9, 2012

"I'm majoring in Mechanical Engineering and getting a minor in Robin Hood."

I'll be honest. Over the past month, I have not been keeping up with my fitness regimen. This is due to a number of factors including laziness, injury, Halloween-themed events throughout the month, and a lot of time spent crafting. I made a Daisy Duck Halloween costume for myself and a Jane Jetson one for my friend. They're pretty awesome. Read all about it, here!

But in between stabbing myself with pins, watching horror movies, and carving pumpkins, I did manage to pick up a new hobby, archery!

I used to be so jealous of my friend, Caitlin, who took archery lessons while we were in high school. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. A couple years later, when I was perusing the catalog of available physical education classes I could take to satisfy my kinesiology credits in college, I saw that archery was an option and got super excited. When I told my sister about it, she relayed to me a tale of a former classmate of hers. He had arranged it so that all of his electives were Robin Hood themed (Archery, Fencing, Medieval History, English Folklore, etc.). Whenever someone asked him what he was studying, he would say, "I'm majoring in Mechanical Engineering and getting a minor in Robin Hood."

Anyway, that must have been the best semester of my life, at least from a P.E. standpoint (badminton, speed-walking, and self-defense had nothing on archery). I think one of my favorite parts of that class was that my friend Daniel was taking it at the same time. Because he was left-handed and I was right-handed, sometimes we would shoot back-to-back and pretend we were in a movie. Hannah and I had even planned out what the movie poster would look like - Daniel and I would be shooting arrows from a canoe that was being driven by a crazed looking Chase (who was in a canoeing class at the time), while Josh, the villain, hang-glided in wearing steam punk goggles. In the background, we'd see Hannah drying glasses behind the bar at her saloon. Without realizing it until now, I think we were going for a Wild Wild West feel (also, this reminds me that Hannah and I haven't talked to Daniel, Chase, or Josh in forever... we should get on that).

After that semester ended, I had no idea how to keep up with archery, and I kind of forgot about it intermittently. Every year or so, I would go to one of those sporting goods stores and check out their bows, arrows, targets, and hay bales, but I'm pretty sure my parents would be upset if I started bringing large eye-sores to their house, and apartment complexes usually frown on  openly wielding weapons. Weird, right?

Enter Groupon.

When I least suspected it, there was a Groupon available for archery lessons and range shooting. Hannah and I redeemed the offer only a couple weeks after it expired, which sadly, was earlier than usual!

Not too shabby for my first day!
She didn't change clothes halfway through the outing,
these two pictures were taken on different days.
We had such a blast that we both ended up getting one-year memberships that include equipment! I've already been back a few times. It's very close to my parent's house, which is across town from my apartment, so sometimes I'll go shoot until my fingers hurt then spend the afternoon with my family.

Have you ever done archery? Has Groupon come through for you like that? What kinds of movie posters or album covers did you and your friends pretend to be a part of?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Great Taco Run

After two months of arduous training (you know, a few trips out jogging each week), it was finally time for the highly anticipated Great Taco Run. I was very excited about this race, because while I am usually kind of nervous before races, I actually felt prepared this time. Thanks to my somewhat success two weeks earlier at the Tour des Fleurs and the fact that for the first time ever I actually made it to week 8 in my Couch-to-5k program, I was actually pretty confident and hopeful about how this race would turn out.

I prepped the night before by eating a bunch of tacos with my family (because it is called the Great Taco Run). Once I got home after dinner, I laid out my clothes for the next morning, along with all of the crap I'd need to bring with me (purse, race bib, granola bar, etc.), and actually got into bed pretty early. I tossed and turned for a long while before starting to finally drift off to sleep...

... and was shaken awake by an earthquake.

I'd never felt an earthquake before, so I was naturally very startled. It was all the more unsettling because I had been in that weird pre-sleep stage where I wasn't sure what had happened and thought I might be either under attack or insane (until I felt the after-shock, that is). But after that ordeal, it took me forever to fall asleep again.

As it turned out, the lack of sleep wasn't going to be my biggest problem during the race. The rain that morning proved to be a much bigger impediment. As Hannah, Jeff, Liz and I headed to the race, there were only a few sprinkles, but by the time we finished the 5k and were heading towards the post-race taco frenzy, it was raining much harder. It never poured down, but we were soaked through regardless. The rain itself didn't really bother me until my socks started to get wet - I cannot stand it when my feet get wet, except in very controlled situations (showers and swimming pools).

Unfortunately, the rain had slowed us down enough that by the time we made it to the post-race taco frenzy, they were almost entirely out of tacos. With only one booth still serving (that had a huge line and was just Taco Bueno) and both Hannah and I shivering because of how cold we were, we decided to leave and get a celebratory brunch. In keeping with the spirit of things, I ordered breakfast tacos.

Race time - 46:52

Because it was raining, I decided to leave my phone/camera in the car.
Instead, I thought I'd just steal this blurry picture off the internet of
two of the participants who were there dressed as tacos.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's not you, it's me.

Dear Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola Companies,

I regret to inform you of a decision that has recently been made that may affect your revenue and bottom-line projections for the foreseeable future. Despite being an avid supporter and frequent customer of your diet beverages for the past fourteen years (and of your non-diet beverages for years before that), I have decided to go a different direction with my life, or at least, the beverage drinking aspects of my life.

It's not you, it's me. I hope you believe me when I say that I have the utmost respect for you and what you offer to the public. Long have I defended you against the slanderous cries of naysayers on health-themed witch hunts. Long have I refused to put stock in the rumors perpetrated against that sweet sweet aspartame.

More than once have I turned towards your products in a time of need looking for comfort and consolation, and they did not disappoint. You've always been there for me, but I'm afraid that I can't be there for you anymore.

The simple truth of the matter is that I just love your sodas too much. I can't get enough of them. To quote Singin' in the Rain, if I may, "All I do is dream of you the whole night through. With the dawn, I still go on dreaming of you. You're every thought, you're everything, you're every song I ever sing. Summer, Winter, Autumn, and Spring."

I love them so much that it hurts. Sometimes literally, sometimes not. Sometimes to the point where I get frequent headaches - either from not drinking any water and being dehydrated or from going a day without soda and suffering from caffeine withdrawal. Other times, just so far as to make any excuse to get myself a soda - usually resulting in me buying fast food meals that I don't particularly want just because I didn't have any sodas at home.

I've grown dependent on those cans and bottles and have finally realized that that's an unhealthy relationship to be in.

And so, after much deliberation and soul-searching, I think it would be best for me to cut my ties completely.

Someday, maybe, I'll be able to reintroduce your delicious beverages into my life again without going overboard, but for the time being, I think it's safest if I kept my distance.

I'll miss you.



P.S. Don't worry, in all likelihood, I'll be back soon.

Do you have any not-actually-that-terrible vices that you're trying to give up? Have you questioned why Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola would read a letter together? Is there any situation in life to which Singin' in the Rain doesn't pertain?

And for your entertainment, the youtube clip of the aforementioned song from Singin' in the Rain.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The 2012 Tour Des Fleurs 10k/20k

As you may recall, a little over a month ago, I re-embarked on a Couch-to-5k program that would get me ready for the Great Taco Run. Well, what better way to train for a 5k than by running a 10k?

What's that, you say? Running a 10k as part of my training for a 5k is a dumb plan? Well, I couldn't agree more... but I did it anyway! How could I pass up an opportunity to race on a lake-side course through an arboretum?! Can you imagine a prettier run?! More importantly, I got to register for free because my company is a corporate sponsor of the Arboretum! It really was a no-brainer. Obviously, I just had to sign up for the annual Tour Des Fleurs!

I knew that I wouldn't be able to run the whole thing, so rather than push myself too hard, I just used the race as further motivation to keep up with my fitness/training regimen.

Which is different from a fitness regiment, as pictured here
(and discussed in this article).
On the night before, however, I felt that it was crucial to prepare as best as I could:
First, I drank lot of soda. Then, I helped my sister make cookies. I then ate a large steak, as most athletes do, and followed it up
with a bunch of birthday sweets (for my brother-in-law's birthday). After dinner, I went home and began assembling a playlist to listen to during
the race, and did some hard core research on running 10k races. What kind of research? Well, I watched the episode of the New Girl where Zooey Deschanel ran a 10k, then the episode of Up All Night where they all ran a 10k, and because I wasn't finished assembling my playlist, ended the evening watching the race episode of the New Girl again. 

After that, I was terrified that my race would be like this...

Maya Rudolph and Megan Mullaly seem so unhappy.
Up All Night
or worse, like this...

Being dragged across a finish line while I shout "MY SHOES
ARE FILLED WITH BLOOD" is unfortunately the only way I
could probably have anything in common with Zooey Deschanel
... other than the bangs, of course.
The New Girl
Despite my nerves, I actually got a pretty good night's sleep (like, at least five hours or something), woke up early, and made it to the race with plenty of time to spare. There, I met up with my co-worker, Robert, and headed towards the starting line.

Because Robert is a much more experienced runner than I am, he was giving me some of the tips that he uses during races (pace myself, listen to music, hydrate, etc.). Then, we started talking about our goals for the race. His goal was to beat his time from last year. My goal was to not cry. Well, that's what I said, at least. My real goals were to run at least two of the miles (which is what Maddy and I did at my most successful race - the Hot Chocolate Run) and to finish in less than an hour and a half. 

After turning on my brand spankin' new playlist (which is pretty fantastic and includes such hits as "Josie and the Pussycats" by Josie and the Pussycats and "Snakes on a Plane" by Cobra Starship) and stashing my phone in my fanny pack (I'm pretty cool), I counted down with everyone else and started running.

As I crossed the start line and passed the drum-line from a nearby high school's marching band, I already felt tired and was just certain that this run was going to be terrible, but after a few minutes, everything got easier (maybe warming up actually is important)! I kept running, right past a trio that had set up and was playing music for us, with an aim of running the first mile without stopping. As I approached the mile marker, I realized that I still felt pretty great and decided to keep running. Before I knew it, I had run the first two miles without stopping (I'm kidding, I was painfully aware of how far I'd run without stopping the entire time -
but I did get two miles before slowing to a walk). Once I saw that Mile 2 marker, nothing could keep a smile off my face. I decided right then that even if I ended up not being able to run another step and had to crawl across the finish line, I would call this race a success.

I recovered pretty quickly while I was walking, but I didn't want to push myself too much, so I decided to walk the rest of the third mile. While doing that, I took the opportunity to live-tweet my progress (but since I don't actually have a Twitter account, this involved just texting Hannah), and took some blurry pictures with my phone!

Here are a bunch of runners ahead of me!
And here are the runners that were so far ahead of me that
they were already looping back!
I was very impressed with this lady who was participating
in an athletic wheel-chair. She must have arms of steel!
Her friend's mobile elliptical bike was pretty cool, too.

Then we hit this... why there is a traffic jam in the middle of
a 10k course, I have absolutely no idea.

Anyway, I had decided to start running again at the fourth mile, which, to my utter dismay, started halfway up a terribly steep hill. Once again, when I started running, it was very difficult. I didn't think I'd be able to go much farther before slowing to a walk, but much like at the beginning of the race, I was fine after a few minutes. So fine, in fact, that when I hit the start of the fifth mile (where I had planned on slowing to a walk again), I kept running and didn't slow down for another mile! That's four miles of running so far that day!

I will admit, though, that I was running at a very slow pace (roughly 12.5 minutes/mile), which meant that anyone who was running at all could pass me. Some people even went so far as to pass me at least ten times. It's actually kind of funny, Robert had told me that morning that one of his tricks it to pick someone out in the crowd and make it his goal to pass them. If he then slowed his pace and his target passed him back, he would redouble his efforts. I'm pretty sure that is what this one girl was doing to me, because it seemed like she was always either walking or passing me for about a mile and a half of the race. Don't worry, in the end, I finished ahead of her (maybe... I don't actually know).

I slowed to a walk again at mile 6. After recovering a bit, I heard music ahead through the trees. "It must be the finish line music," I thought to myself as I sped up to a run. Unfortunately, much like at the Firefly Run, I was tricked into thinking it was the home stretch. The music I heard was only that trio that I mentioned earlier playing a cover of the Kinks! But oh well, even though the finish line was considerably farther away than I had thought it was, I kept running until the end. Eventually, I reached the real finish line in under an hour and a half! And up the hill to the after party I went.

And what an after party it was! It'll never cease to amaze me how much unhealthy food they cram into fitness-themed after parties. I decided to partake in a complementary slice of pizza from the Pizza Hut booth...

This is what fitness looks like.
... and some froyo from the I Heart Yogurt tent.

The Arboretum is featuring a Chihuly exhibit
for a few months!
I then pocketed (or fanny-packed) a chocolate-chip cookie from Tiff's Treats, decided to forego the apples and bananas, and left to meet up with my friend Mark for a post-race brunch!

The Results: Way better than I expected!

Total Race Time - 1:28:21
Place - 1268 out of 1393 (top 91.03%)
Total Time Spent Running - 1 hour and 2 minutes (previous record - 30 minutes)
Longest Time spent Running Continuously - 25 minutes (previous record - 15 minutes)
Total Distance Run - roughly 4.5 miles (previous record - 2 miles)
Farthest distance run continuously - 2 miles (previous record - just over 1 mile)

I may have come in the bottom 10%, but I'm pretty excited that I almost doubled all of my previous records for running.

The Aftermath:
Oh gee whiz! I was extremely sore Saturday evening (poor Teddy Westside had to deal with me complaining a lot)... then I slept most of Sunday! But all in all, I'm no worse for the wear, a little more prepared for my upcoming 5k.

Are you ever surprised by the sheer amount of junk food at fitness events? What do you do to prepare for races? Do you like my very stylish fanny-pack?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I like to run at night for many reasons:

  1. I dislike the sunlight. Not in the way that a vampire or emo kid dislikes the sunlight - I won't turn to ash, sparkle, or write bad poetry because of it - but in the way that a fair-skinned girl who gets overheated way too easily dislikes the sunlight. I like when the sunlight keeps things alive and well-lit, but not when it causes me to be even slightly (sunlightly?) uncomfortable.
  2. The streets and sidewalks are less crowded. The vast majority of exercisers are out during the day, leaving me free to roam the night (again, not like a vampire).
  3. It's usually my best bet at free-time. If I could ever get up early enough, I'd probably like morning running as well, but I don't. My mornings are usually spent over-sleeping, and I tend to overbook myself in the evenings. As a result, sometimes, the only time I can run at all is at night.
  4. Bunnies.

In my neighborhood, there are so many bunnies, and I only see them when I'm running at night! My guess is that they're at least semi-nocturnal or something, but as I know absolutely nothing about animals, I'm probably making that up. Hannah would know, she knows a ton about animals. Google would also know, probably. I don't plan on consulting either and will continue to speculate wildly (I also assume that they have laser eyes and all are Wiccan).

They're so cute. With each bunny I see, my run improves exponentially (not my skill at running, just the running experience in general). I've seen some other animals, too (a possum and a rat!), but they're significantly less cute. Even the family of cats I come across regularly can't compare to bunnies.

My favorite part is that they'll see me coming and hop away to avoid me. But much like how cartoon characters never to veer off the tracks when trying to outrun a train, the bunnies will hop along the sidewalk right in front of me for a while not understanding why I'm following them... thus maximizing the duration of my bunny-watching. They're so cute.

Here are a bunch of pictures from the Google Image search I just did for bunnies! Yay!

And just because... here is one of a duckling!

Photo courtesy of my friend at Walquist Photography.
Check out her Facebook page!
UPDATE - Teddy Westside sent me this very relevant youtube clip that I think we all need to see.

So really, what's the deal with bunnies... are they nighttime creatures or are these encounters flukes?

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Last Friday, I finally decided to redeem my Groupon for 10 yoga classes, just in time for National Yoga Month (which was totally planned and not just because I realized on Thursday that the Groupon in question was set to expire this week).

Knowing that I should probably start small (and because I wanted to cram in as many classes as I could before my punch-card expired), I went to the studio's Stress-Less Yoga class right after work. By the end of the class, I realized why yoga was so great... it is the only type of exercise that you can fall asleep during and it be okay. Because it was the toned-down stress-less class, about two-thirds of the class were spent doing pretty easy stretches and breathing exercises. For the last third of class, though, we were instructed to sit comfortably against a wall, close our eyes, and meditate. "Breathe deeply, in and out," our instructor said, "and with each breath, count backwards from 108." I have no idea why she chose 108, but if you've ever tried to close your eyes and count backwards, especially after a long day at work, you know how easy it is to completely zone out. I lost my place more than a few times. Also, just to be clear, when I say that I lost my place and zoned out, I really mean that I fell asleep. In my defense, counting backwards with closed eyes is one of the first tricks I ever learned to help me fall asleep. Mix that with my tendency to not get enough sleep regularly, and it's really no surprise that an unexpected nap was the outcome. But that's the beauty of yoga. If I fell asleep weight lifting or riding a bicycle, it would end very poorly, but yoga is different.

I've gone to three more classes since then (Core & More, Beginner Yoga, and Morning Yoga), and am happy to report that I was actually able to stay awake through the entirety of one of them!

The Core & More class that I went to on Saturday was not at all what I was expecting. It wasn't so much a yoga class but an overall strength and fitness class. We did ab work, leg work, more ab work, light weight lifting, stretching, and a little bit more ab work. Our instructor ended the class by having us "hold a plank position for just a minute, because I'll go easy on you this week" (which is why I was unable to fall asleep this time). It was brutal. We did wall sits, bridges, and those sit ups where you keep transferring a ball between your feet and your hands (but with a foam brick instead). About halfway through, I realized that going on an extra long run/walk beforehand was probably a bad plan (but good news, I had finished up Week 4 in the Couch-To-5K program). It was awesome, though. Even if I had trouble with all of the moves, I felt so powerful (albeit drained) afterwards. After class ended, despite being exhausted, I decided to stay for the next class as well, Beginner Yoga.

I was very excited about Beginner Yoga, as it would be the first to involve actual yoga poses and would teach me some basic technique. We didn't do anything very advanced or difficult (obviously, because it was the beginner class), but I learned a lot about proper form and such. Apparently, they focus on a different thing each week, and the focus of that class was our thighs. Throughout all of our poses, we were supposed to imagine our thighs rolling inward or something. If I'm being honest, that imagery kind of creeped me out. At best, I could only picture moving skin rolls, and as my mind wandered more (as it's apt to do), I started picturing weird waterfalls or gelatin or amorphos blobs that would have the ability to make their actual legs roll away. It was just a little disturbing to me (don't worry, I realize that that's not normal and that most people would have a less worrysome reaction). But anyway, once I got over that, I realized that telling us to "roll our thighs inward" was basically the instructors way of making sure we kept our hips squared at all times. By literally shifting our legs to move our thighs inward, we square our hips. It took almost an entire class of me picturing ridiculous things and getting weirded out by those mental images to figure out such a simple concept. Once I realized that, everything made so much more sense! My tendency to shift my hips is probably one of the reasons doing yoga at home never really worked for me. Keeping your hips squared helps increase your flexibility and stability, and also makes your core stronger. Who knew? After working on these poses for a while, our instructor then had us lie down on our mats so that we could do some yoga thing with a term I couldn't understand and didn't bother asking about. She turned on soft music and told us to close our eyes. As predicted, I fell asleep. This time I fell asleep hard enough to have actual dreams (where Teddy Westside, Regina Phalange, and I were playing Settlers of Catan). Regardless, even though I probably looked like Liz Lemon after her first week of yoga, the instructor was very supportive and encouraging and kept me motivated throughout the class.

Here she is showing off her Downward Dog.

The last class I did was on Tuesday (and since my punch-card expired on Wednesday, it was the last I would get out of that Groupon). It was at the unreasonably early hour of 5:30AM. Considering that I am usually late to work because I can't drag myself out of bed until 7:30, a mere half hour before work is supposed to start, I'm surprised I was actually able to make it. Despite the hour, though, this class was awesome. It was more crowded than I would have expected for 5:30, but not so crowded that I couldn't pick out a spot with plenty of room. Also, because the instructor didn't know me and I was obviously new to yoga, she gave me a lot of help getting my form right for all the poses. This was an all-levels class, so it was a bit more difficult than the beginner class on Saturday, and it was fantastic. Obviously, there were some poses I couldn't quite do yet (like when she wanted us to do hand stands against the wall), but for each move, she knew of modifications to fit any expertise level. We ended the class by lying down on our mats with our eyes closed while the instructor turned off the lights at 6:15 in the morning (it's like they're daring us to not fall asleep). I really liked that the class got me up and ready for the day. I left the studio and got back to my apartment a full 45 minutes before I would have usually woken up. As a result, I was actually early for work! I tried going back yesterday, but ended up sleeping through my alarm. Alas!

I would really like to continue with yoga. Now that my Groupon is up, I may even get a membership.

Have you ever tried yoga? How early do you get up in the mornings? Is it bad that when I would do yoga at home, I decided to not care about the breathing and stuff and instead ate M&Ms while mid-pose?

Friday, August 31, 2012

"You're leveling up your bodies!"

I've made no secret of the fact that for the vast majority of my time on this planet, I have utterly despised running.


Over the past couple years, however, I've been trying my darnedest to change that (if you replace "trying my darnedest" with "occasionally starting then shortly thereafter quitting running programs"). With each attempt, I've noticed that in spite of myself, I'm actually improving as a runner. I may not be able to run as long or far as I could last March (when I could run almost twenty minutes at a time - a huge accomplishment for me), but at least I can finish my Week 4 run from my couch-to-5k program with relative ease. It wasn't long ago that merely jogging for a minute or two would leave me unable to breathe and riddled with stitches, so being able to run for 5 minutes at a time without whimpering, developing blisters, or getting that weird itchy leg syndrome* is kind of a big deal! In fact, since restarting my program a few weeks ago, the only obstacle/show stopper I've had to deal with has been the insect that flew into my eye mid-run last night (and people say my eye phobia is irrational... pshaw). Much to my surprise, I've been able to progress through the program rather quickly this time around, and have actually enjoyed going out for my late night jaunts (I only run late at night because the rest of the time I am either asleep or the earth is plagued with summer sunlight).

What I'm trying to say, is that I no longer find running unbearable.

But for years, I avoided running (along with most other exercise) at all costs. Like Robert Brockway says in his article 4 Stunning Revelations An Idiot Has About Running, "the only way I was running anywhere was if there was a lion behind me and an ice cream truck in front of me."

Actually, a lot of his article rang true with me. That's actually the only reason that I decided to post about running again today... I just really wanted to share the hilarity of this article. I've included a few of his gems below

Re: being teased in school for not being as athletic in gym class as the others:
"Exercise was forever cemented in my mind as 'that weird thing pretty people do with their limbs sometimes'"

Re: wearing fitness attire for the first time:
"Legs [are] capable of extending beyond 15 degrees," and "non-running shoes are like clumsy foot prisons"

Re: runner's high:
"Runner's aren't all lying scumbags!"

Re: seeing improvement:
"I'm going to phrase it in the most awkward, nerdy and embarrassing way that I can think of, so as to make you feel as bad about yourselves as possible: You're leveling up your bodies" ... "And don't worry: any day now, I'll be in good enough shape to beat myself up for that analogy."

I really like this article because not only has it been one of the very few fitness-related ones I've seen on, but it's very relate-able for those of us who are still in the very beginning stages of the running cycle. Go check it out!

*Note: the itchy leg syndrome I refer to is that itchy feeling you can get when running or walking after long periods of inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle - it's caused by the capillaries in our muscles expanding to meet the demand for increased blood flow. Thanks, Google!


After uploading this post, Teddy Westside was kind enough to send me this comic from that fits quite nicely. See it for yourself here!

"I haven't had the patience for RPGs in a long time."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jenny and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Bike Ride

I think it's funny when companies' attempts to be progressive or environmentally conscious turn out to just be wasteful. Take the LEED Certification of buildings, for example. New buildings* can become LEED certified (which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) by meeting a set criteria of requirements involving energy efficiency, lean building practices, recycling (both during construction and after completion), environmental quality controls, the use of environmentally safe products, etc. This is all well and good. Being more environmentally conscious and energy efficient is great! But it doesn't stop there. If you don't want to settle for simply being LEED Certified, you can try to reach the next levels of certification of LEED Silver, Gold, or Platinum. Once companies aim for these higher levels of certification, they can sometimes start adding random features to their buildings just for the sake of marking another check box. Did you know that you get credit towards LEED certification if you set up information centers that describe and explain how you became (or since it's before the fact, will become) LEED certified? It can be as simple as installing plaques describing the energy efficient systems or recycling programs or whatever or as complex as installing interactive monitor stations. Maybe it's just me, but if the end goal is sustainability and efficiency, that seems counter-productive. 

And while I hate to admit it, I'm pretty sure that my company's desire to certify the new headquarters as LEED Gold is the only reason that we have locker rooms and gym facilities. Don't get me wrong, I love that we have a gym and locker rooms, but other than the occasional yoga break during lunch time, I've never used them. I'll occasionally see someone in there when I'm passing through on the way to the parking lot, but it's mostly vacant. It's a nice perk, but sometimes I wonder if it was worth it. But by far, one of the easiest ways to get extra points towards certification is by installing bike racks on the property. It doesn't matter that my office is in the middle of a highly industrial area. It doesn't matter that it's surrounded by highways and other high-traffic roads, rife with unruly 18-wheelers, with no shoulders and few sidewalks**. It doesn't matter that these bike racks never get used (I've been at this office for a year and a half and have yet to see one bike), we have them now because we needed them for our LEED Gold status (I assume). I even tried to make them useful, once, but even though I live extremely close to work now, my one attempt at biking there was fraught with terror and was disastrously unsuccessful. 

That's right, that entire rant of an intro was just a super long, rambling segue into an anecdote about a terrible bike ride. 


Being that I now live pretty close to my office, I thought it would be a good idea (for the environment, my personal health, and my fuel budget) if I started cycling to work. I had done some light google-mapping and found what looked to be the perfect route. It went almost directly from my apartment to the office and, best of all, didn't involve any actual roads (which considering how inexperienced at cycling I am, I really need). It seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, when I tried to actually make the trip, it turned out to be just that. 

As I followed the route, I found that only half of it was on any type of pavement, and the rest on this weird gravel/rock combo. While that wouldn't normally present a problem for experienced mountain bikers or people in motor vehicles, it was terrible for the inept cyclist that I am. Not only that, but there were a lot of hills (well, North Texas' version of hills) that my legs just couldn't handle. Then, when I was already getting wary of how on earth I'd be able to ride that gravel road each morning, I ran into a gate toting "Do Not Enter" signs. Being the ne'er-do-well that I am, I heroically climbed under the barricade and continued on my way. I couldn't get much farther, though, because I the path dead-ended at a power plant that didn't show up on the map. It was surrounded by barbed wire, and despite my lurking around (with a security camera following me all the while), I couldn't find a way around it. The worst part? The fact that I could see my office not too far off with absolutely no way to get there.

Can you imagine me parking this at work? Keep in
mind, I work in the construction industry. 

I can't blame all the problems with my ride on the route, though. I made a few errors myself, the biggest one being that I didn't have a bike (oops). I had to go to my old apartment (only 2 months after moving out), break into the garage (by casually following someone else's car in), and snatch my old bike from the clutches of the parking garage bike rack. After I got that squared away, I still had to deal with the overwhelming heat, a minimal amount of water (because apparently two water bottles weren't enough for mid-day in August), my general fear of riding bikes (seriously, it's a little bit terrifying), and my out of shape legs. 

Furthermore, because I ran out of water and was unable to refill at my office as I had planned, I had to make a detour on my way back (to bring me by the Jack-in-the-Box where I could get some water), which led me atop a weird valley-crest and through a swamp. Gross.

And with that, I gave up all hope of ever giving those bike racks at my office purpose. They will forever just be a waste.

Do you bike to work? Are you willing to ride on roads with actual cars and trucks? Do you like that I go to fast-food restaurants in the middle of a workout?

*New Construction is only one of many categories in which a structure can attain LEED certification - there are also categories for renovations, existing buildings, tenant spaces, community planning, ongoing maintenance, etc., each with their own set of requirements. 

**I realize that cyclists can ride in actual lanes on actual roads, but would you really want to be the biker holding up a bunch of speeding, angry 18-wheelers?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The 2012 Warrior Dash - Are You a Warrior?

I think it's needless to say that no one has ever considered me a warrior. I'm pretty obviously wimpy (despite what my kickboxing instructor says in an apparent attempt to placate me) and, as I've said before, scared of basically everything. A couple months ago, however, I participated in the Warrior Dash, and tried my darnedest to be just that, a warrior!

Well... I would have tried my darnedest to be just that had I bothered to do any training whatsoever (I hadn't even been running once since the Firefly Run a few weeks prior). To top it off, I for some reason thought it would be a good idea to get donuts and kolaches for everyone that morning. Turns out that they probably weren't the best pre-run meal.

After eating our nutritious breakfast, we all piled into the car and headed out to the site. We parked, boarded the shuttles (which were some pretty fancy school buses, complete with seat belts and a number of people saying things like "in my day, we rode the school bus with no seat belts uphill through the snow"), and arrived at the event. We checked our bags, carefully avoiding the already muddied participants, and decided to catch a peek at some of the action before our wave started.

Spectators were able to watch the very end of the course, which afforded us a pretty good view of the fire that we would be jumping over and the mud that we would be crawling through later. What surprised me in watching some of the earlier waves finish was how many racers were completely adverse to the idea of submerging themselves in mud. We must have watched half a dozen different people try to walk through it daintily (which is difficult with the barbed wire suspended just above the pit) or try to completely bypass it, apparently hoping that the multitude of bystanders and the announcer just plain wouldn't notice (which we obviously did). I'm not saying that swimming neck deep in mud is my favorite thing in the world (more like top 8), but it was basically the only thing I knew about the Warrior Dash going in. I knew there would be running and obstacles and a mud pit that we'd have to crawl/swim through. They advertise the mud pit extensively. Every promotional picture is of someone covered head to toe in mud. How were these racers so surprised that there would be mud? Also, as I learned later when doing the course myself, it wasn't like this was the first mud they'd encountered in the race. They had already gone through a lot of muddy areas and swam across a lake! But whatever...

After watching those mud-hating pansies for a while, Maddy, Sue and I made our way over to the start corral. After a few pictures with the start line announcer (that he insisted on taking and we never actually saw), a quick performance of the Macarena from Maddy and me (you're welcome, everyone), and a countdown, we were off! Our first obstacle (though not technically an obstacle) was to run up and down a bunch of hills. Hundreds of them (or maybe like 8). It was terrible, and it was not long before I realized just how little training I'd done for the dash (or just how many donuts and kolaches I'd eaten that morning). I ran as far as I could, but had to start walking after the first few hills.

Our first actual obstacle was the planks, where we walked up an angled plank with rungs, walked across a narrower plank, then walked down another angled plank. Piece of cake. Maddy and I started running again afterwards, but I couldn't go too far before having to slow to a walk. I told Maddy that she could go on without me if she wanted, as I suspect that she could have still run more, but she's pretty great, so she walked with me. Next, we came to a series of trenches topped with barbed wire that we had to crawl through. A lot of people just kind of crouched and walked through them, but not realizing that was a viable option, I crawled on my hands and knees. Let me tell you, muddy rocks are very uncomfortable on the knees. Farther down the trail, we arrived at the fire poles. Here, we had to climb up these giant steps (where I kind of felt like my baby nephew when he tries going up normal steps), then slide down the fire pole. This was the first actually frightening obstacle that we encountered, because the pole was very high. I never even used to slide down the fire poles at my elementary school playground, even though I was more than half as tall as they were, because the concept frightened me so. Maddy encouraged me though, assuring me that it was easy and not scary and as long as I held on it would be fine. Eventually, I manned up and slid safely to the ground (but without doing the reverse pinwheel that I had learned in those two pole dancing classes I took), and we continued on our way.

Next up were the over/unders, the climb-up/slide-down, and the horizontal cargo net (I'm really good at naming things). The over/unders were just like they sound. We jumped over a fence, then crawled under a fence, and repeated a bunch of times. Unfortunately, I am not strong enough to do that action movie thing where you jump up and leap over kind of on your side...


so instead, I just had to jump up and awkwardly hoist myself over each wall...

... gallantly.

At the climb-up/slide-down, we climbed up some beams, and, you guessed it, slid down the other side. That one was a little scary because it was a very steep slide from a high starting point (but mostly scary because the sliding process pulled up my shirt - good news, because I dress in layers, I was able to avoid flashing everyone). At the horizontal cargo net, we climbed up a net to an elevated, horizontal portion, then made our way across it. Most people crawled on all fours across, making sure to stabilize themselves by keeping their feet on the joints; I, on the other hand, just rolled across. I heard some remarks about it being an easy way out or whatever, but as far as I see it, rolling was an efficient and effective way of reaching the same end without actually cutting any corners.

Then, we waded through some crotch-deep muddy water and nearly fell multiple times on very slippery mud, before arriving at the lake. We waded in and hopped down the drop off so that we were about chest-deep in the water, at which point I realized that I could no longer breathe. Apparently, my body went into mini-shock or something due to the cold temperature of the water (something that happened to a large percentage of the participants I talked to afterwards). It was very unpleasant, but Maddy told me to keep taking slow, easy breaths until I acclimated again. Don't worry, I lived (or did I? ooOOooOOoo - because I would be the lame kind of ghost that spends her time blogging). We crossed the lake, climbed over the weird buoy barriers in the middle, and emerged on the other side to continue on our way. Only 5 more obstacles to go!

Slap an ectoplasmic hair bow on there and this is
basically what I would be like
Next were the vertical cargo net, the repelling wall, and the lava pit (seriously, Maddy, if you can think of any better, more descriptive names for these obstacles, I would really appreciate it). At the vertical cargo net, we climbed up and over the same material that I had rolled across earlier like a ladder. At the repelling wall, we held a rope and used it to help us walk up a wall before climbing down the other side. That obstacle wouldn't have been scary if not for the fact that since everyone had just been through the lake, all of the foot holds were covered in slippery mud, but we made it unscathed and no worse for the wear. The lava pit wall was fun, because while I don't think it was their intent, I pretended there was a lava pit beneath me. It was a wall with a tiny foothold ledge and one rope spanning the distance at the top set above a muddy, swampy pit. The number and location of other people on the wall would determine the tautness and sturdiness of the rope we were holding onto, which made it interesting. We made it across (without being burnt to a crisp by the imaginary lava) and headed towards the finale.

Before we could reach the finish line, however, we had to complete the final two obstacles, the very same ones that I had been watching from the sidelines earlier: the fire jump and mud pit. Although I had been a little nervous that I'd be the first person in the history of the Warrior Dash to trip on a rock or something and fall face first into the fire (classic Jenny), it turns out that my fears were unfounded, as I leaped safely over the flames without any dying at all (yay). Finally, it was time for the mud pit. Unlike most of the other mud we had encountered that day, which was usually a few inches of very slippery mud that would suction your feet in and trap you, this was basically a two feet deep pool of muddy water. As a result, I was able to basically float on the top, using just my arms to pull me the whole way. The only two actual dangers of this obstacle were the barbed wire covering the pit (which was easy to avoid if you just got in the mud normally... it was pretty much only the people that must have forgotten this was a mud run and tried to avoid the mud as much as possible by walking upright that could potentially have gotten hurt) and the rocks and stuff that were at the bottom (which I'm pretty sure we all scraped up our legs on a lot).

We emerged from the mud, covered from neck to toe (because even though I knew it was inevitable to get covered, I still had no intention of submerging my head and face as well), and made it to the finish line to get our medals! Hooray!

We met up with Jeff, Liz, and Sue (Jeff and Liz had been in the wave before ours) and made a bee line to fire hose station to get hosed off. After changing into some relatively mud free clothes and donating our muddy disgusting shoes to their we'll-clean-these-up-and-give-them-to-people-who-need-shoes program (or alternatively, their we-know-you-never-want-to-handle-these-shoes-again-so-we'll-take-them-off-your-hands program), we donned our free warrior hats began the actual main event of the day, eating turkey legs and day drinking.

We enjoyed the live bands (with hilarious backup dancers) and saw a number of costumed competitors.

We also made some friends, Disney princess style.

This is only one of many butterflies that hung out with
us all afternoon. They were very friendly.
After getting sufficiently sunburned to prove to our friends and co-workers that we did actually come here, we started the long drive home. Never had a long shower and nap on the couch been so refreshing.

So how did we do?
It took me 1:03:51 to finish the course, which puts me in the top 84.6%.
It's not as fast as I would have liked, but with no training, a lot of breakfast, and ample amounts of terror, my time was not as terrible as I was expecting.

From left to right: Liz, Sue, Jeff, Maddy, and me
Have you ever done an adventure race? Did you ever watch Danny Phantom? Are you totally jealous of our hats?

P.S. Maddy, thanks for pacing yourself to me when I couldn't run anymore or took forever to finish the obstacles. I know that you could have finished the dash much faster had I not been slowing you down, and I appreciate it.