Monday, January 27, 2014

I am a Spartan!!!

I completed a Spartan Sprint Race this weekend!!!  The husband (hereafter, "G")got talked into this insanity about 6 months ago by a friend. Since it got him inspired to start working out again, I was totally supportive. I agreed to do it with them, figured it couldn't be all that bad since it is advertised as "3+ Miles and 15+ Obstacles". I ran occasionally at that point, though usually only 2-3 miles at a time. But I put together a plan to increase my distance, and was confident I'd be able to handle whatever "3+" meant to them.

Admittedly, I didn't train for the obstacles portion at all. I mean, I'm reasonably strong and fit, though I've never really done any weight training, and I make it to boot camp at least once or twice a month. How bad could some mud and a couple of walls be?! Obviously, I didn't do any real research on what they meant by 'obstacles'.

Holy Crap.

(*Note this might not all be exact, it's to the best of my recollection as to the order of events, but I think I might have been delusional at parts.) 

Race starts. Immediately through some netting stuff low to the ground. I'm the mama to small children. I am a master of the bear crawl. This is no problem. Then we're crisscrossing a stream bed. Scratchy shrubbery on the sides. Fallen trees to get over. Lots of slick mud. (The husband loses his shoe at one point - thankfully he found it right away.)

Up a steep hill and over a series of not too high walls. I'm okay with this.

Down a hill to a water crossing. Just across a finger of the lake. Not a big deal til you're into it, and realize there is no bottom, just a vast sucking cesspool of primordial slime that grabs hold and won't let go. I was sunk in up to just below my knees and managing to slog along until I tried to help a guy off to my right who was really stuck. He used my shoulder as a leverage point to push himself up out of the goo... And pushed me down til I was stuck in mud up to my mid-thighs, with the water at armpit level. At that point, I gave serious thought to panicking. (Did I mention I had gotten separated from G - and the rest of my team - at this point?) Thankfully, some guy reached out a hand from where he had gotten a foothold on solid land, and I was able to use his arm to drag myself out of the muck. I helped another few people out myself, and then was on my way.

I was pretty sure that my husband and one of our other team members was a bit ahead of me, so I was running as fast as I could in order to catch them - I know I'm a faster runner than he is, and figured I would be able to catch him in less than a mile. (The other two guys had gotten ahead of us at the lost shoe incident, and they're serious runners, so I had no expectation of catching them again!)

Over a big bridge. Climb up, ladder style, across on 2x4s with large spaces between them, climb down, ladder style. Not bad at all, though I was wondering how the hubby did, since he's not really a fan of heights.

More running, more hills. Now, instead of mud and water, it's chokingly dusty. Blech. No water stations.

Crawl under barbed wire, over rocky ground pocked with holes full of water and random bumps that bring you dangerously close to the barbs. Made it through easily (other than a few feet to the head from other racers), one of the few obstacles where being smaller is a great advantage - lots of the bigger guys were getting really torn up!

Monkey bars. Almost fell off with 3 to go, fingers were so tired and cramping, but pulled through. I was really very proud of myself on that one - I had to gut it out. Many, many people were falling. I was kinda sad that G wasn't there to see me!

Ah hah! Finally caught up to G and our friend. Turns out they thought that I had gotten ahead of them, and were pushing to catch up... I think we somehow took different twists & turns in the stream bed area. I caught them because the sandbag carry had a big ol' line. You had to grab a sandbag, walk up a super steep section of single track, and then back down the other side to deposit your sandbag for the next folks. There were plenty of bags, but the going was so slow on the hill that racers were backing up. (Wasn't too hard, though - think of carrying your too large toddler around when he decides he's tired and won't walk anymore at the zoo/amusement park/etc.)

The traverse wall. We practiced this in the morning where they had some test obstacles set up. I got advice from a guy who has done the race before. Worked perfectly in practice. Didn't factor in the wet hands, the mud-covered shoes, the shaking of the wall from having some 6 or 7 other racers jumping around on it at the same time as I was... I made it to the second to last block, and my hands slipped and I fell off. Dammit. 30 burpees. Then G fell off right behind me, so we were able to share our misery. (But not as much misery as the guy who fell off and broke his ankle while we were doing burpees. That was not fun to watch.)

And running again... Then the spear throw. G and our friend both actually stuck it, which rumor says never happens. So I was alone in my burpees, since my spear barely hit the wooden frame. But they are awesome guys, and they each did 10 so I only had to do 10!

Incline wall. I was worried, but no problem. Rope climb - also no problem in our morning practice session, but with wet, muddy rope and wet, muddy hands and tired arms, I only made it halfway up before I slipped back down. Buck Furpees! 3 sets in a row!

More running, the rope wall. We had heard this was hellish because of how slick with mud it got. Somehow, I made it over with ease! Then a tire flip (pretty easy, would totally trade a few more rounds of that for some of the other obstacles!), some uneven height logs you had to walk across the tops of - that most of the guys ran across and required me to jump from one to the next, catching my balance on one foot on each - before finally getting to the second water station. I actually had a dehydration headache by then, not to speak of the amount of dirt between my teeth!

Then the most hellish obstacle of all. These cinder blocks (like what you use as a footer for a deck?), with a length of chain attached. Drag it up a hill that is all soft dirt. You can't get a good foothold, and the weight of the block keeps causing it to bury itself in the dirt as you drag it. Oh, and the air is just full of dust that everyone is kicking up. Awful. It might have taken me 20 minutes just to get the block up the hill by myself. G totally saved me and came back down when I was only halfway up - he had already gotten his block to the top, and came back to help me drag mine. I was able to get it back down by myself, though heaving it back into the box for the next racers almost did me in!

Okay. Up a ridiculously steep, long, monster hill. Single track. People stopped all along, sucking wind, puking, sitting. Saw a guy standing off to the side with his foot all torn up - he had lost a shoe in one of the earlier sections and had been running since with only one shoe one. Wow.

Top of the hill, 8 ft wooden wall to clear. They pointed out a couple of blocks off to one side that they said women were allowed to use. Normally I refuse concessions to my gender, but we were far past being so principled. I used the blocks and got over. The husband (who is not a particularly tall guy) actually ran, jumped, caught hold of the top with his fingertips, and managed to pull himself over. I was totally impressed.

A bit more than a mile more of running - including a very painful, steep, dusty downhill that almost killed what was left of my knees - and we were into the finish area. Had to use a pulley and rope to pull another of those cinder blocks up in the air, that was actually pretty easy. Then a section of muddy berms with water in between. Excessively cold water - I think they were pumping it in, since the earlier stream/lake water wasn't nearly as cold. Really cold. And you didn't know how many there were, so you'd get across (seriously, I basically jumped from the berm to the middle of the water and then swam the remainder each time because it was fairly deep) and scratch your way up the mud to be horrified to see yet another one in front of you... The final one required that you duck under a wooden wall that went down into the water. I had to put my face in that nasty foul dirty water (it was totally brown, no visibility), and that was no fun.

But then all that was left was the fire jump (great photo opp, but not really a challenge) and the gladiator guys with those padded stick things. They were pretty nice, probably after taking one look at us they decided not to push us over the edge!

We think it ended up being about 5 miles and some 18ish obstacles. Way harder than I expected. Way more than I had prepared myself for. And tons of fun, and we're looking forward to doing another one! In fact, G wants to do the Super next time - I think that's supposedly 8+ miles and 20+ obstacles - ugh!

The bodily damage wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. A little stiff in the shoulders and arms the day after, mostly gone today (the second day). Legs feel fine... I mean, outside of the loss of some skin on my left shin and a nasty bruise on my right knee.  (These pictures don't do it justice, but they'll give you an idea.) Oh, and lots of little cuts all over my hands & fingers. Those probably hurt the most!!!

I was really pretty happy with what I chose to wear: running shoes (though those minimalist toe ones might be great, I don't have any); capri running tights (definitely saved my legs, especially my knees, further damage; a sports bra and then a fitted spaghetti strap lycra style top. If we do another one, I will definitely try out wearing gloves - for grip, mostly, though protection from some of the cuts and scrapes would be nice, too! But my biggest learning... upper body training. Good lord, hauling my own ass up and over things is hard work!

Have you done a Spartan? Any other obstacle race? What was your experience? Want to do another one? What are your lessons learned?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Awesome App!!!

Guys, you have to check out this texting app out... I read about it somewhere, it is free, so I thought I'd give it a try. And I LOVE it.


Mighty Text

So, the basic deal is that you install this app on your phone, then you can use any browser and go to their site, log in, and read and respond to your texts.  For someone like me, who gets quite a few texts in a day and is almost always in front of or very near a computer, it's awesome!

This is the 'Power View', which allows me to see my most recent text conversations in one view. This way I can keep track of multiple conversations easily.

I don't have to find and pick up my phone every time I hear the beep. I don't have to sit there and type a long response on that tiny screen (or give a half-assed answer because I don't want to type!). I just type in my browser, using my computer keyboard. I can answer faster, fewer typos, less distracting to the work I was already doing on the computer... I truly think it has been a productivity boost for me!

At any rate, I highly recommend that you check it out. (I'm not getting any money from them to promote the app, I promise. I'm just telling you that I find it incredibly useful.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Week After...

We survived vacation.

It appears we hit the perfect week - the northeast was frozen solid the week before we were there, and they got hit again the day after we left. Thank goodness!!! (It was actually pretty warm while we were there - I even went running a few times and didn't die!)

Now we're slogging through the first week back. You know that week - everyone is overtired and off schedule, kids have completely forgotten the whole school routine, there's no food in the house... Good times!

Of course, the rest of the world is rude enough to not slow down to let us catch up. Baby Girl had gymnastics practice the first day (and today), Baby Boy has the usual gymnastics practice, plus his Little League assessments (we missed the regular one because they rescheduled it - after we had already booked our trip... so he's the only kid getting assessed today. Hope that doesn't make him too nervous!), then this coming weekend is a doozy.

Saturday, we're all in the SoCal Spartan Race. (If you're not familiar with this series, check out the insanity at The husband and I race with some friends in the mid-morning, then the kids are doing the junior one in early afternoon. My only goal, honestly, is to cross the finish line on my feet, and in time to be there for the kids' start. I'd also like to run their course with them (they're still so little, even though they think they're tough and I'm sure they're actually capable of doing it all by themselves), but I don't know if I'll be allowed?! (Or in any condition to do so?!)  I have to admit... I'm scared. Running 3 miles, no problem. Some of those obstacles, holy hell.  Ack!

Oh, then... Sunday. Birthday party for a neighbor kid in the morning, and then Baby Boy has a gymnastics meet in the evening. It's a big one. We definitely wouldn't have signed him up for the Spartan Race if we knew the schedule at the time... But he's insistent that he do the race. And his gymnastics coach is totally freaking out about him getting hurt. Good times, people, good times.

Also found out this morning that I'm supposed to bring a 'treat' to work tomorrow. I can't wrap my head around actually baking tonight, so I'm leaning toward salsa and chips. I make this salsa all the time to bring with to parties, and people LOVE it.  Hey, in fact, you might love it! Here's the recipe:

14oz can diced tomatoes
10oz can Rotel (the "original" flavor one)
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno (seed it for less spicy, leave the seeds for more heat), diced
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
handful of cilantro
lime juice (1 lime worth, or a splash if you have to use bottled)

Throw it all in the blender, pulse til you get the desired consistency. I leave mine in the refrigerator overnight to let the flavors meld, but you can certainly serve it immediately!

It's what I think of as 'restaurant style', in terms of flavor/consistency/look:

Let me know what you think of it!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Review of the FitBit Flex

I got a FitBit for Christmas!
The girlie, she is so glad!
I got a FitBit for Christmas,
Cuz my kids and hubby are rad!

Strange that the songwriters association of America hasn't been knocking down my door...

The husband knew that I had been researching the various trackers, and decided that the FitBit would be best for me. So he and the kids got me one for Christmas! Yay!

I do love a gadget, and a gadget that helps me keep track of exercise is even better! I've had lots of fun figuring it out, obsessing over my dashboard, and determining what makes sense for me to keep an eye on.  Here's my assessment of the pros and cons, in case this is helpful to others. (Note that I'm not getting paid for this - I chose the FitBit Flex myself from the available options, I paid for it myself, and these observations are my personal opinion!)

The Downside
It's pretty unattractive. Baby girl insisted they get the slate one for me, because it was "better" than the black. (Of those two options, I probably would have preferred the black, to be honest. But I appreciate her thinking about the fashion aspect.) It's obviously a piece of equipment, not a piece of jewelry. So I am the sort that won't try to hide it and will get the orange or lime or pink band in time, I'm sure. (I also think there's a huge potential market for folks to make more 'jewelry-looking' bracelets that have a slot for the tracker, if you're the crafty entrepreneurial sort who can figure that out!)

 It doesn't do a good job of tracking activity that doesn't involve a lot of arm motion or coverage of distance. For me, that means that huffing and puffing and sweating my way through Tabata circuits barely gets me a blip in activity. Yoga doesn't show up at all. I would image the same would be true of biking or spinning, though I don't do those so I'm not sure. It does record running on a treadmill. I haven't tested ellipticalling (is that a word?) yet. It does, however, give credit for activities that involve a whole lot of arm motion and not much exertion - for me, that means my staff meeting (I wave my arms around wildly as I talk, apparently!) and folding laundry are relative active high points of my day.

Here's an example. This is yesterday. At around 6pm, I ran 3.5ish miles on the treadmill. Then I went and did a 30 minute ab workout that nearly killed me. Then I did a 20 minute Tabata workout. It was about 730pm when I finished working out.  But all you really see is the half hour run. Which is fine, so long as I can look at my calorie burn for the day and know I probably actually did more than that. (Which is how I justified going for chile verde and a beer at about 830pm!)  :)

The food logging is not very good. I think it's the food database they use - it has weird measurements, and it isn't easy to use the search to find the product you want to log. I end up entering a 'new food' from scratch a lot of the time so that I can just put in what I'm eating and the calories the label shows! I used to use Noom, and I think their food logging was a million times better. I don't have experience with any others, though, so not sure what's the 'norm' in this area.

The Upside
You don't have to take it off. It can go in the shower, etc. This is good for someone like me who would likely always forget to put it back on!

The sleep tracking is interesting. I don't have sleep issues (outside of never getting enough of it!), but it's still cool to see the trend of how long I sleep, when I wake up during the night, how much I'm restless, etc. I think if you had some issues with sleep, this could really help you pinpoint what was going on.

The calorie burning may not be exact, but I think it's extremely useful as a trend. And I like the fact that it tracks calories in vs calories out... I figure that if I'm logging my own food and doing similar activities every day, even if neither is being perfectly tracked, I should get a great idea of the day in, day out trend for me! And it does make me move a bit more... I have the lights set to track my progress on calories burned (vs steps - I have no problem getting in the required steps each day), and it really inspires me to take a lap around the office building or go the long way to the printer or run upstairs to talk to the kids rather than yelling from the bottom of the stairs when I'm only showing 2 lights and it's getting later in the day!

The silent alarm is AWESOME. This was not a feature that caused me to pick the FitBit. I didn't really think anything of it, to be honest. But I love love love it. LOVE it. It wakes me up, no problem. But it doesn't shock me awake the way my other alarms do. Just a much better way to wake up!  Also, one of the kids will end up in bed with us at least once a week. When that happens, I used to wake up every 5-10 minutes in the early morning hours to check the time so I could turn the alarm off before it went off, so it wouldn't wake them up. It made for very crappy sleep!  I don't worry now - they don't even twitch when the Silent Alarm goes off, even if they're lying against/on top of me!

All in all, it does what I wanted it to do. I'm very, very happy that I got the FitBit Flex. I will anxiously watch for new bands and new features!

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Any questions for those of you considering a FitBit, I'll do my best to answer!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Office Lunch Sabotage

I pack my own lunch to take to work every day. (And a bunch of snacks, too, since I'm pretty much always hungry!) I try to keep it fairly healthy. I figure it's more than worth the time it takes each morning, since it allows me to control nutrition & calories, and also saves quite a bit of money over going out to eat.

The problem is that at least once a week, there's a lunch at work. Either a meeting that's scheduled during lunch time so they order in, or some lunch 'event' like someone's birthday or something and everyone is going out. I never quite know what to do. The lunch meeting is a little easier - it depends on who is in it, but I usually feel fairly comfortable with either eating before and telling them I'm all set, or bringing my packed lunch to the meeting and eating that. (But it's hard to stick to that, since they usually order something - like pizza - that smells a heck of a lot more appetizing than what I brought!)

The eating out one is SO hard for me, though... I don't feel like I can decline every one. Then I'm not part of the team, folks think I've got an issue with someone, whatever. But so many of the places we go, it's nearly impossible to find something healthy on the menu!  This week, we went to a nearby chain Mexican place. First, everyone is mowing on chips and salsa. So hard to keep my hands out of the bowl that was right in front of me, tantalizing me with its delicious greasy salty smell!  Second, the only - and I mean ONLY - item on the menu listed as 'fit and healthy' (or whatever they call it) was one salad. They had 3 or 4 salads, but the other three didn't make the healthy choice cut. (How do they make a salad bad for you???!!) So I ordered that, and then was so jealous as I watched everyone else dig into chile rellenos, chimichangas, etc.

I think that maybe next time, I'll eat a snack right before we go, so I'm not so hungry to begin with. What else can I do, though? I survived this week, but my willpower is not always so strong!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Running in the Cold?!

You may have heard - most of the country is in some hellish deep freeze right now. YOU are probably in some hellish deep freeze right now. And I am sorry about that, my friends, I really am.  It probably won't make you feel any better, but it was 47 when I went running this morning. That's really pretty damn cold for a wimpy Southern Californian!!!

But. Next week we head to the northeast for a week of visiting the families. I'm in a really good rhythm with working out right now, and I don't want to take the whole week off, but I can't even fathom how I might be able to run outside. It's 6 there right now. Six freakin' degrees.  That's not accounting for the windchill.

So help me out, friends of the interwebs. You all definitely have more experience than I do at cold weather. What do I wear? Lots of layers? One heavy jacket over a long sleeved tee? Tights under yoga pants?? Should I wrap a scarf over my mouth? Do you wear your regular running shoes? How long is it safe to be outside?

(I promise I'm not completely clueless about cold - I grew up out there. But I wasn't a runner, I played indoor team sports. So I have no idea if it's dangerous to run below a certain temp, how to prepare for it, etc.)

Also -what are some good alternate workouts that you like? I'm happy to do some cardio/circuit type stuff, but it has to be something I can do in a house with no equipment...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Enjoying the Moments

Late last year, I made a commitment to myself to focus on becoming a better runner. Though I was an athlete all my life, I never enjoyed running. Even when I was in great shape, I didn't like to do long runs - it wasn't hard, I just found it terribly boring.  But now that I'm old, it's a great form of exercise, and I'm trying to refocus myself to think of it as quiet time with myself... So I started following an actual training plan rather than just my old 'run a couple miles once or twice a week' approach, and signed up for a few races to force myself to focus.

Anyway.  I ran my first 5k of the year yesterday. While I didn't do quite as well as I had hoped, I did break the 9 minute/mile average pace goal that I had set. But, even better, I felt great!  The run was down at the bay, so it was nice and flat and had good views. I made a point to look around while I ran, enjoy the scenery and the feel of the cool ocean air, and think about how great it felt to be out and moving. Nothing hurt, I didn't feel too tired.  Awesome! (Perhaps I enjoyed too much and would have run a bit faster if I had pushed a bit harder, but it was a really great feeling and a wonderful way to start out the new year!)

My focus for this month is to notice the moments. To lift my head up from the details and the daily grind and take in the awesome that is all around me. To sift through the chaos and enjoy the moments. To smell those flowers on my early morning run. To see the kids' smiles as they're whipping through the house with their friends, destroying everything in their paths. To relax into the hug from the husband.

Yesterday I promised J that I would be home from the 5k in time to take him to gymnastics practice. On the way to the gym, I told him I was going to do groceries and other errands while he was there, and Daddy or I would be back to pick him up. He asked me to come in and watch the first rotation of practice (they work on each piece of equipment during the 3 hours). I said I would... We got inside to be told the coaches had decided to go 4 hours instead of 3. Encroaching on a birthday party we were scheduled to attend after practice, but okay. Then warmups lasted an hour. Then the first routine they worked on was floor - J came out to tell me he didn't want me to leave after that, he really wanted me to watch high bar, which was up after floor. The old me might have said no. After all, I had errands to run. And still needed a shower before the birthday party, since I was all sweaty and stinky. And my phone battery was dying. And on and on and on. But I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the importance of moments. He won't always want Mama around. He is so proud of himself, and he works really hard on these routines and wants to see me being proud of him, too. And I smiled, and told him I'd stay through high bar. And the grin as he ran back to his team was worth every minute of changing up my plans and watching him for 2 hours, instead.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

One Per Month

After my post on my views about making resolutions, I continued to read around the interwebs about other folks' plans... And I heard from a couple people an idea that makes great sense to me. And it will even work with my 'resolution' to stop planning to do stuff and just do it!

I am going to try to institute a focus each month. I think if I do this successfully, a month could make a habit of some of these focus points. Then I can move on to target something new, but not lose the benefits of doing the previous, know what I mean?!

So the challenge now is to decide on my focus for January. (I think I'm going to have to admit that as much as it might be fun to sit down and bang out a list of 12 for the year, that's going to end up a waste of time because life changes and I'll change my mind or be in need of something different once those later months get here!)

Becoming a better runner?

My eating habits?

Family adventures?


Hmmm... I am going to try to have something picked by the end of next week! Would love any suggestions you wish to throw my way!