Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Everyday I'm Shufflin': Shamrock Shuffle and Week Three

There's something that can be said about running a race. Whether it's the first or the fiftieth there's always a level of excitement that rushes over you. It usually starts the night before when you say to yourself, "Yea, I'm not gonna workout today," or "Just a short workout" which turns into 2 hours. When I first started running I was all into the 'Dos and Don'ts' of racing. The funny thing is that there seems to be a mixed consensus on what you really should or shouldn't be doing. So let me say this much: EveryBODY is different. So the first race I ran was back in 2009, and I actually entered it alone and it was a 5k. The day before I didn't workout and I crammed down a ton of pasta. I'm sure many of you have heard of the concept of carbo-loading. Well what I have come to find is that you can definitely over-load on the carbs and it doesn't provide you so much with fuel and energy as it does weight you down and slow down your time. But as a rookie I didn't know that. As I got more serious into racing I found that carbo-loading can actually be done with more than just pasta. And again, because everyone's body is different these are just things that you have to experiment with on your own. But when I was training for a half marathon, the week before I started increasing my carb intake a bit. However, since I wasn't used to eating like that I would find myself carbo-passed out about hour after eating. So what can I tie this all together with? Well for me, and for my body, taking in carbs is important, but just as important as balancing in the other food groups, especially protein since I'm a veg-head. But I think this is something that everyone has to figure out on their own--they have to over eat or eat the wrong things so they can figure out what the good stuff is for them.

So Sunday 3/25 was the 2012 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, and technically my first race of the season. Needless to say I was crazy-stupid-excited about it. I even went to Target and bought Shamrock knee-high socks....because I'm cool like that--->
So the week before the race (Week 3) things didn't really change up and I don't run every day so I wasn't worried. In the back of my head though I did think about my knee, which every now and again when I go for a long distance run will act up. But I have settled on the fact that this is how it is as a long distance runner. Typically the night before a race I try to go to bed early and I try to drink a decent amount of water and oh yea, I try to lay everything out for the morning. In this case I was 0 for 3. I ended up going to a friend's place on the north side and didn't end up getting home until close to midnight...which is when I decided that I turned into a pumpkin and would just get everything together in the morning. (Word of advice: even if you don't get stuff together the night before, take 2 minutes before you pass out and make a list of everything you need in the morning because trying to remember that one thing you said to yourself 'I'll remember' right before you doze off is slim to none of happening).

So the next morning I wake up probably around 6am. I, like many others, have a race morning routine. I have to get up at least an hour and a half before I have to leave. Mostly so I can have a cup of coffee. If you know me you know I have at least one cup of coffee everyday....in fact I think half of the things I own smell like coffee from the many, "Oh crap!" moments that I have spilled and splashed. However, as any regular coffee drinker knows it will dehydrate you. So the minute I finish that last sip I'm pounding down water and emptying my bladder 3 or 4 times before I walk out the door. It's a process.

So the day before, when I went to go pick up my packet, I was a half hour late and the expo had already ended. At which point I had a stink and ran up to the first person I saw with a tag and gave them the old, "Iwasrunninglateandireallyneedmyracepacket....ATLEASTTHEBIB!!!" haha or at least that's probably how it sounded to him because he looked at me like I was crazy. After a second of letting that digest he said to me, "Ok, let me see what I can do." Well lucky for my, my bib was already packed up so this poor guy had to go in and reassign me a bib. Basically I owe him for helping me out because I don't know how I'd run without the bib. The funny thing about this all is that I apparently missed the part were the race had two wave starts. How do you miss that Sam it's all over the website?! Yea well it happened. I was on the metra with my friend Shauna and she asked me what corral I was in and when I showed her my bib she laughed at me and goes, "Oh hunny you are in the first wave, you're supposed to start at 8:30".....It was 8:24. We both busted out in laughter.

When we got off the train I of course had to pee, AGAIN. And I had to check my bag AND get into my corral before 9:15. Shniiikee. Well first things first, hit up the port-a-johns. If you've run any race before you know that the lines for those things are wicked! But mostly populated by the female population because the guys, yea they just drop their drawers and find a bush....no shame. But I have to admit I found myself in that line twice before I even made it to my corral...really!? In between that I tried to go check my bag. I got over to the area I thought was mine and found out it was the bag check for the second wave. Even though I was running the second wave I had a first wave bib, so now I had 20 minutes and I had to book my butt all the way across Grant Park to give them my damn bag. But wait it gets better, when I get over there what do they tell me, "Actually this check area is closed, you'll have to go drop it in the second wave area." ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? I didn't even think twice about this, I simply turned around and sprinted back across Grant Park and walked up to one of the volunteers in the tent. i figured since it worked so well yesterday I might as well try my panicked voice again, "canyoupleasetakemybagtheyclosedmybagcheckandineedtogettomycorralpleaseohpleaseohplease!?" Males must really be dumbfounded when this happens because this guy, much like the other gave me a blank stare and was like, "Umm ok". As soon as I got the green light I took off towards the corral entrance.

Let me break this down for you, my corral was D, which as I have made apparent, started in the first wave. So I was going to do my best to get up to the front of the line to get in a good pace group. The problem? The volunteers were closing off the corral entrances. So each time I would get up to the front of a corral...H.....G....F.....there would be a nice, thin yellow rope with a volunteer staring at you with a face of, "Don't even think about going under this rope." Well lady you're gonna have to catch me, alright. With the help of some of the people in the E corral I made it across. (It was one of those moments when they knew I was gonna go for it and they stared her down, waited for her to look aside and yelled, "Now, now NOW!" So I made it up front.....but not just up front I was one of the first people in the line. How exciting right? I was one of the first few people out of the gate, I got to hear and watch the air horn and it was amazing!

The run itself was crazy-invigorating! I have to say I love this course because it's the first 5ish miles of the marathon, which I will be running in a few months!!! But also because it goes through downtown Chicago. The only really bad part about the course are the potholes....you catch your foot in one of those bad boys and you are going DOWN!

At the first water stop I ended up doing something regrettable...I drank the gateraid. Now you have to understand this, gateraid and I, we just can't seem to get it right. My first half marathon, after drinking the gateraid on the course I couldn't keep it down after I finished. At last years marathon I didn't drink it, I dehydrated and was deficient in electrolites.....there's just no winning. So I decided to do a quick swig, threw the cup in my face and whatever I caught in my mouth I'd drink, and then I followed it with a cup of water. About a half mile later my stomach was cramping. I was so frustrated, the pain was getting worse and my time was slowing. But I wanted to set a PR on this race from last year, so when I hit the turn on Michigan Ave I let it rip. Pushing through the stomach cramp, which was probably also in part due to the large crowd of people cheering us on. Right before I got to the hill on Roosevelt road I noticed this lady in front of me, she had a shirt on that said, "I don't sweat, I sparkle." (Side note: whenever I run a race there are three things I look at/for: 1) funny sayings on shirts/shorts 2) Ironman tattoos (which I found one guy with one at this race!!) 3) a person to pace/chase. I had a nice chuckle when I read her shirt and decided that she had a pretty good stride going so she was going to be my chase. i strutted my stuff all the way up the hill, and reached the final stretch. Sprint time. The finish is always the hardest because you're putting out all you have when you're almost out of gas. But Ms. Sparkle sweat kept me going. I finished right behind her and as I was cooling down, grabbing water and a banana, I walked up to her and told her I liked her shirt and that she was my pacer. We had a little chat and found out she was chasing one of the other ladies in front of her. Us runners, we're so alike.

After the race I tried to find some of the other people I knew running but it was almost impossible. So I gave up and hopped on the L. Later that day I checked the results of my run and even though I thought my pace had slowed significantly, I had still taken 54 seconds off my time from last year. What an accomplishment. It feels good to meet the first part of my goal (which I blogged about earlier: I want to beat all of the times for the races I ran last year.) I think a lot of this is in part due to the IM training because it has made me feel stronger and more fit, which in turn improves my running. I'm looking forward to the Soldier Field 10 miler, that's the next big one, hoping to take a full 60 seconds off that one :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

ABSolutely Active: Week Two

I never used to be as into working out, running, lifting, or any physical activity until about 3 years ago. I was the type of person that would put whatever she wanted into her mouth and have no regret of it. I never stepped foot into the gym and running a mile was a huge deal to me. It seemed to playing out well enough because I was content with being lazy. What I wasn't content with was how I looked and the way I felt. Now many girls do this anyways but I would ALWAYS look at another girl who was smaller than me, more in shape than me and think 'Why does she get to look like that' or 'I would give anything to look like that'. But at that point in my life I was not in a place to take on the amount of work it would take to make a difference. Yet I was constantly drowning in my negative self-esteem and bottled up thoughts of how life could be so much different if I were smaller. When my mom passed away in 2009 I found myself really anxious with a lot of emotion that I needed to get rid of. One of my friends suggested that I start running, it worked for them whenever they were stressed out. I instantly thought, 'Yea well you're a skinny little thing, it must be easy for you'. they told me it's not speed or distance, it's about yourself and how you feel during and afterward. So why not. When I was in high school I would walk the mile most times, but I had finished it. At least if I put forth the motivation that I was going to attempt to run I could try and push past a 13 minute walking mile pace. I have to admit it was really hard to get into running because of how much of a mental sport it is. There is need to want to go farther and faster than the last time you ran. But sometimes your body just can't handle that. So I would get down on myself for not being able to do more. But what kept me going was how refreshed I felt when I was done. When I went out for a run, as I laced up my shoes and pulled back my hair I was carrying all of this negative weight with me. By the time I came back and was cooling down I had shed it all off of me. Looking back on all of that I never thought I would be the person I am today or even look the way I do. I used to be almost 200lbs, I wore a size 12/14 pants and there were times when my neck and chin were the same thing. After I started running I dropped a bit of weight and I started to feel good about myself. I got down to a size 10 and had more confidence. But then I let myself go again and it was a constant battle over how I looked and how I wanted to look as I teeter-tottered with my weight. There came a point though, my breaking point, when I just said, 'I can't take this anymore, I WILL BE SKINNY!" I went balls to the wall deep in putting together workouts and took a different approach to my diet that I began to see change. But not just any change, from the time I started in December 2010 to the time I completed the marathon in October 2011 I was down to 150lbs, wore a size 4 jeans and felt AMAZING!

It takes so much time though, and a hell of motivation to believe in yourself that you will one day reach the point you want. Telling yourself that every workout adds up to something feels pointless when results aren't immediate. In fact, even though I had worked my way down to this size there were still things I wasn't happy with: I wanted a flat stomach (in fact all my life all I have ever wanted is some ab definition), more definition in my arms....basically I wanted to be more toned and I wasn't getting these results from endurance workouts. Sure it's impressive to be able to run for 2 or 3 hours but what I need for the goal I had set were more explosive workouts. Which is when I met Jillian Micheals. Well, sort of. My boss's wife had talked to me about Jillian's new video, ripped in 30. She said, 'Sam go get it from Target, I think it's what you're looking for and it's only $10'. Why not? 10 bucks, 30 days and 20 minute workouts, how do you beat that? So I started this 30 day workout and was quite impressed with how much it kicked my butt! I mean I was sweating...no DRIPPING in sweat by the time I was done. The mix of 3 minutes strength, 2 minutes, cardio and one minute abs with the constant movement really takes a lot out of you. Not to mention, Jillian is a beast and there are times when I found myself yelling at my computer screen but I loved her work ethic and her drive. At the end of the program, which was Friday (3/30/12) I could see a difference in my body and I WAS ECSTATIC!!!! My legs, arms and shoulders were more defined and dare I say, I could see a bit of ab definition!!!! Those types of results are exactly what I wanted and knowing that I can reach that point makes me want to keep going and accomplish more! I mean looking at these pictures I put in these posts I already look like half of me. The first two are from my first and second year of undergrad (2008 & 2009). So really it's not all that much time that it took to get to this place, rather it's believing that you can achieve more than you already have.

So week two into my training and I am feeling great, well minus the bit of soreness and fatigue of my muscles, but I made sure to always put the vitamins and nutrients back into my body. I am using protein shakes, vitamins, flax oil, amino acids and glutamine supplements to help my body recover. Also, half of working out is also in the diet, so foods like bananas, soy yogurt, almond milk, and veggies have been staples in my intake. At this point the only thing really dragging me down in my workouts was the fact that I still didn't have my racing bike and I was still doing my bikes inside on a stationary bike. I must have some kind of somethin' to sit on a tri bike that doesn't move for 90minutes at a time and then still have motivation to run or do a core workout. yuck. But my coach emailed me one night and sent me the link to what is now my bike. For the price and the fact that it was new, I bought it instantly. Now it was just a game of waiting for it to come in, and figuring out how in the heck I was going to assemble it. Good thing my brother knows a thing or two about bikes. :)

I finished the week off strong, looking forward to the Shamrock Shuffle on Sunday and the first race of the season. The biggest hurdle for me in this week was moving my workouts around. I had to decide how much time I had and was it enough to get in a workout. There's also the bit that the pool I swim in is only open at certain times of the day. So I reached out to my coach for some assistance. She said it would be ok to move around some of the workouts but that if it came down to it, it won't kill me to skip one every once in a while....as long it's not a long bike ride. Coming to terms with that is more of a struggle than trying to fit in the workout....but I'm workin' it out :)

Week One: Patient, Persistence && Time Management

April 1st. I have officially been training for my Half Ironman for three weeks now....but obviously have failed miserable at keeping up with blogging. So here's my attempt at updating three weeks work of pain, sweat and hard work:

"Be Patient and Strong; someday this pain will be useful to you"--This is one of my all-time favorite quotes. The first time I heard it was about a year ago while I was interning in a charter school. One of my coworkers and I were discussing favorite quotes and that was the one she used. I fell in love with it because it could be applied throughout the things I have and continue to face in my life....(I love it so much that I wrote it on my dry-erase board so that it's the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning).
<----Morning Motivation!!! :)

The other thing is that the whole idea behind the quote is striking--patience and strength, what a combination. Strength, so I have come to find, develops over time, and can only be obtained through hard work and persistence. Patience and Persistence. Somewhat oximoronic right? Being patient is never something I have been good at but being persistent, well that's one of my specialties! Waiting for things to fall into place is difficult, probably because I don't have any control in the situation. But continuing to put the effort and energy in to something offers that little extra something that motivates you to want to keep pushing and telling yourself you can accomplish whatever it is you want.

The first week of training was really successful I think. Granted the over-achiever in me was beyond ecstatic to start working out harder, longer and with more intensity. The basic outline of my workout schedule looked like this:

Monday: Swim & Core
Tuesday: Brick (Bike and Run)
Wednesday: Swim & Run
Thursday: Bike & Core
Friday: Rest (yea right--yoga)
Saturday: Bike & Run
Sunday: Run & Core

Nothing I wasn't familiar with already, before I started I was doing at least two workouts a day already so there wasn't much of a challenge there. The hard part now came in when I had to fit longer time slots into my day....oh yea and the core, the core is something else. Let me just say, a core workout will beat up your body but you will feel so great afterward! My first day I had core one, which looks like this:

Jump Rope Sequence: (complete 2x)

-1 min. regular jump rope

-1 min. left leg

-1 min. right leg

-1 min double jump

-1 min regular


Main Set: (complete 3x--45 seconds rest between sets)

-1 min. tuck jumps

-1 min. split squat jumps

-1 min. vertical jumps

-45 seconds lateral jump-left

-45 seconds lateral jump-right

-30 seconds tricept dips.

Abs & Stretch

So basically I save that workout until the end so I can push hard and fully enjoy the fact that I can't move and I'm drowning in my sweat....yum! The other thing that I had to figure out was balance. At this point I was two weeks into my Jillian Micheal's ripped and 30 workouts and I wasn't about to give up on that! Oh and one more thing, there's no way I could stop lifting. Alright so now I have workouts for my IM and a need to finish this program and lift. Geeeesh. It was hard and it still is but time management has really been key this first week and continues to be a highlight. Not only do I need to find time to fit in the workouts but I also need to consider the time needed for stretching and relaxing, on top of the other activities going on in my life like school and work and internship....Needless to say I was beginning to feel like the ring leader of my very own three ring circus. But balance will naturally occur with organization, time management, and drive. Drive to wake up everyday before the sun, eat the right foods and take care of yourself. I have to say that when that balancing happens there is such a strong sense of pride that overcomes, like "Yes, I work up this morning, went to work, did my workouts, sat through class and now am applying for jobs. Look at me go!" How egotistical right? Well whatever, you have believe the best in yourself and that every bit you put in is worth the final outcome. 16 weeks of hard work will pay off when I cross that finish line. I'll think back to every moment when I was working out and wanted to stop or how much pain my body was in and it will feel soooo good. That burn that hurts so good and makes you feel fabulous! :)